An obvious starting point for a lecture on Reputation and Reputation Management is the CIPR's statement that:
Public relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour...
Well, yes... until you start thinking about how you might more precisely define "reputation". For a start, it is not fact. Philip Young does not have "a reputation for being a man" - that is a broadly accepted truth. He does not have a "reputation" of being a lecturer at the University but will have a reputation for his teaching. So reputation involves opinion, it is a qualitative assessment; I can't have a reputation for being tall or short, but I can (and no doubt do!) have a reputation for being interesting or boring, and probably both.
Individual students will have opinions on my teaching and pooled opinions might become a reputation, and this might be held - and shared - by students who never expereinced my teaching. So far, so good, but how does this square with academic writing on PR as a reputation management? In Rethinking Public Relations 2nd Ed Kevin Moloney claims, helpfully, that "(reputation) is perception with judgment".
But just before this he suggests: “Corporate reputation is... The perception of an organisation or group by those other parties after their experience of it.”
Harder. Do you have to experience something to be aware of its reputation? What if someone says to you "I went to the George & Dragon last night - what a great pub." Perhaps you had never even heard of the George & Dragon before this conversation, let alone experienced it - are you are now aware of its reputation? Or just of one person's opinion? If several unconnected people were to mention it favourably, would you begin to appreciate a positive reputation.
So we must see reputation as an aggregation of individual perceptions and judgments. But a different set of people could create an entirely differenmt reputation for the pub. And it is possible that neither 'reputation' accords with your own judgment, should you go on to visit the George yourself.