Reputation is not black and white. It is not even a single plane of existence. Your reputation falls on numerous different perspectives, venues, and considerations. It’s easy for a guild to say “yea, everyone knows we’re good” – but what really defines good? What you may consider to be a qualifying factor of endearment may in fact make another person yawn. While you can never fully control how you are perceived, you can influence it by understanding the psychology of how it affects you.
Consider your reputation as a shield. Polish it, keep it kept, and it will provide a buffer for most minor inconveniences, such as random guilds looking to pick on someone, or being the root of the blame randomly for failing a world boss with your faction. Throw away that priority of keeping awareness of your reputation, and you quickly find yourself at the end of whatever frustrations other players in your server have. Your faction not doing well? Who cares if it wasn’t your guild’s fault, guess who’s getting the blame. Its naturally much easier for people to express their frustrations and blame those who are already known to be “bad”, as there is less guilt involved. Everyone else says that guild is trash and wastes everyone’s time, so they must be at fault for this too.
Before getting into specifics, there are a few key things a growing guild should always be adept and prepared for. The first is failure. Everyone fails, whether it be a big siege, or a major PvE raid, and that’s ok. What is not ok is simply allowing the failure to fester in the minds of not only your own guild, but your audience. Yes, that’s right, you have an audience, like it or not. You will start to build up your reputation first by properly acknowledging mistakes, developing patterns of being respectful about how to get better. There is absolutely a right way and a wrong way to deal with failure, and it’s important to not only your reputation, but even the continued solid structure of your guild to make sure its dealt with properly. We all joke and pretend we have these perfect sitdowns after a loss and intelligently discuss what went wrong and right, but the reality is most of the time the resulting meeting is a mess. Who cares right? Its a private meeting?. Well, its not. Even the first 5 minutes of how you handled it gets passed to the officers, which then get asked by members, which then branch out externally, and it goes from there. You want the message to be “yea, we bombed, but we discussed some cool things for next time”, not “everyone was yelling at each other and I think John left the guild”. Your first failures – which everyone has – define your initial reputation.
The second major generator of your reputation is probably the most obvious – your victories. Your victories are special though, they allow you to define yourself. When you win a siege, do you want to be known for being humble and polite, or loud and full of trash-talking? There are benefits to both, I am not discarding either. The point is that victories, even smaller, are what allow you to mold your reputation even internally.
It is a powerful position to be in that you hold a solid reputation. It can and will protect you from probing eyes, and those with daggers looking for weaknesses. To start, the easiest way for newer guilds to build reputation with the community at-large is through generosity. It is hard to find faults and think poorly of a guild who selflessly helps out, even if their influence is but a drop in the bigger scheme of things. You build your reputation by letting others talk for you, not the other way around, and the best way to do that are people sharing their gifts. Gifts can be helping them kill a boss, helping monetarily in-game, or any other small and discreet things. The wonderful thing about human psychology is that gifts do not need to be large or time consuming to be considered nearly equal in value. Most guilds whether they hear you helped for 30 minutes or for 3 hours are simply going to acknowledge that you’re a helpful guild period.
Let your developing reputation speak for you. It exaggerates your strengths and diminishes your weaknesses. Nobody is going to look at the fact you can’t beat a certain dungeon if the overarching news is that you helped their guild in PvP, even in a small way. You may still be building your roster and don’t quite have the best siege team yet, but you can have that instantly forgotten if you mention that you are helping fill in slots for another guild, helping them out. You win, they win, and you polish the shield I discussed earlier.
You must always look for opportunities to build upon your reputation, but in small increments. Are you trying to be a build that is known for escort trade runs? Great! But do it in small steps, don’t come out the gate and offer to escort a trade route through the most dangerous territory with the most valuable loot at risk. Think of reputation as a numerical count. If you do a ton of trade escorts for smaller less-risky clients, you develop a positive balance of say, 500. If you go to take the risk of running that dangerous route and it epicly fails, you now sit at 200. You are still net positive, and it won’t destroy your chances at future attempts down the line. Had you attempted without building a repertoire, you might as well disband and change your name at that point.
So eventually as you build your reputation, whether as a PvP group, a trader, or whatever – you are going to come under attack. It can be by trolls, your enemies, anything. The way you handle it is always the same – do not overreact. Getting angry or defensive at the comments made towards you screams insecurity and acts as blood in the water full of sharks. You need to picture your critic as a dog looking for meat, and you need to make sure you give none, while also looking him straight and showing no weakness. Solid, clear, responses are a must, but its important to remember you owe no explanation to those outside your own roster. You do owe them respect of a response, but not the details.
As a guild leader myself, we became quickly known for having a sort of manifest destiny approach to territory and measurable assets. Obviously if you were not reaping those rewards and found yourself on the opposite end, you had a few words of frustration to share. “You all are the reason this server is dying” and “I cannot enjoy the game because of you”. Clearly the goal of a game is winning, but you are not going to win the attacks by trying to express logic to them. Most of the times the attacks on your reputation come from beyond logic. It can be jealousy, hatred, any number of things. Trying to explain to them that winning the game is what you were doing, and they simply lost, isn’t going to go well at all 🙂 In nearly all scenarios in which someone in a lesser position of power debates with you, you will lose more than they will. It is always better to shut down the conversation respectfully and quickly. Take the high road at all times, and throw in a curve ball – compliment them. “I get you are angry, but you guys did well regardless, props to your healers especially”. Throwing respectful dialogue into what they’re wanting to be a heated slugfest is not only keeping it respectful, but entertaining. It’s important to be honest about your compliment, surely you remember things they did well – remind them of it.
Never get angry or appear desperate in your defense – keep it short.
There is another lesson I’ve learned over the years, reputation can be overwritten by other forms of reputation. If you have established yourself negatively, find a different characteristic to start the building blocks from I spoke about above. Perhaps you set out to be known as the best PvP guild there is, and along the way you kept running into issues. Maybe it was your roster, or maybe you simply were not geared enough. At a certain point, you need to accept there is only so much real estate for the general reputation of being a “good pvp guild”. Your first mistake was aiming for something general, but its not over. Change it to something more specific, and you’ll find yourself and your roster reinvigorated to push again. Perhaps now you can aim to be the best “Ganking PvP Guild”. You make it your mission to focus on ganking players in open-world PvP and you make it a point to do it respectfully. Congrats, you’re not disbanding and you have a platform to jump from later. Another great recommendation I often give new and upcoming guilds is to link yourself up with what you intend to achieve. Looking to be really well-known for trading? Link up with a well-known trading guild, but find a niche. Don’t overshadow them. If someone does ridicule your pathetic attempts at trades compared to them, you have backup in friends.
Notes on Guild Leadership Reputation
While most of the above covers guild reputations as a whole, certain exceptions and rules apply for the leadership themselves, especially the main leaders.
It is better to be slandered and attacked than it is to be ignored. However, like a fancy book cover or clickbait title, you want the heart of your guild to be rock solid. Attracting attention as a Guild Leader is part of your job, you want to attach yourself to a particular appearance and be known for it – there is no such thing as a badly chosen one. It can be a personality quirk, a scandalous event, or an unforgettable thing you personally did, that maybe perhaps you even leaked on accident – whoops! 🙂 . There is no distinction on the kind of attention you receive, as notoriety will always bring you advantages.
So the follow-up often asked is “but you’re going to make your guild look bad!!”. Typically MMO gamers fall into one of two categories, the types that investigate, and the types that don’t and simply enjoy the chaos. You will never appeal to the chaotic types. If you followed the golden rule and built a respectable reputation in a certain category within your guild, it will not matter which audience comes at you, as the ones who investigate will see there is an semblance of normalcy beyond your outward tabloid exterior. Your goal is to obtain as much attention as possible, ideally the better types, but no less as much attention as you can possibly gather. It’s a common mistake to think your peculiar approach is wrong, or that to be attacked publicly is bad. You should look at all attacks as potential gains, because in any scenario, you are gaining traffic and the “investigator” type above to take a look and see your guild for what it really is, where as they might have never known you existed. That super awesome PvPer you just recruited may not have checked your guild out or even known about you if he didn’t constantly see your name being mentioned by your biggest “fans” if you know what I mean. He could have very well ended up in another guild, and all you need to do was have a billboard – why not let others do the advertising for you?
Never show all of your cards. Be mysterious. Sure, your job is to bring attention of all types into the alluring trap of your well-established guild, but the most intelligent of individuals on the internet will see right through you if you let them. Having a constant change of pace in how you act, how you respond to people, how you approach drama, is key in making sure you are never ignored. Humans love drama, but they too grow bored of the same old thing. Did you discuss Auction house mechanics last week and made fun of everyone who uses spreadsheets? This week take some pokes at all of those RPers who meet on Friday nights. Do you care? No. But you are keeping it fresh, and still drawing attention.
By being mysterious you are in a position of power. It puts others in an inferior position to have to figure you out. You want other competing guilds on one of two sides of the fence, “Is this guy really like this? If so how does he keep his guild intact?” – then the investigation starts. The other type “this guy is an idiot” – takes you at face value, and generally knee-jerks his movements at the same time. The latter is easy to deal with, as they are at the simplest level, impulsive. The types that investigate and try to figure you out are where you should look deeper for relationships and building your reputation individually, as they are going to be generally more intelligent and offer you more.
This approach is commonly called “Succès de scandale”, or “success from scandal”) and it many refer to it as “there is no such thing as bad publicity”. While true, simply going out and making a fool of yourself without something to show for it just makes you a fool. Establish a reputation, do whatever it is well, and then draw attention. This is by no means the only way of growth and securing power, but historically one of the more prominent ways and has worked well for many guild leaders, myself included. All publicity is good if its intelligent.