Reputation, image and identity are different concepts. Much confusion exists between the three because we use them synonymously.
A reputation is a distillation… it is the sum total of the experience, knowledge, feelings and emotions people have when interacting with an organisation or brand. Whether it is ‘good’ or not depends on the extent to which the public views the organisation (or brand) as delivering on the organization/brand promise.
Image is different. It is how an organisation choses to represent itself to its various stakeholders. It tells people what it stands for and why that has benefit for customers through promotion of its products and services. It advertises those benefits in communication which is rich is symbolism (think the Nike ‘Swoosh’ or the Mercedes ‘bangle’) and ‘success by association’ (Breitling and Rolex watches).
Identity on the other hand speaks to how an organisation sees itself. An identity is inward looking. It concerns itself with values and value systems in a complex network of stakeholder relationships. It is intended to appeal to employees and shareholders.
If reputation, identity and image are different, then it follows that by damaging one you don’t necessarily damage the other.
So an organisation that does something to damage its reputation (what others think of it) and image (the way it promotes itself) it can recover if its identity is sound. When reputation takes a hit knowing what you stand for is the first step to recovery.