Reputation can be defined as ‘the beliefs or opinions held about someone or something’. A whole industry has developed in reputation management aiming to shape the perceptions of a person or organisation. Reputation management has become more difficult with the use of social media allowing consumers to be much more powerful and vocal. This has given rise to the growth of companies specialising in Online Reputation Management and a new acronym ORM!
Reputation is inextricably linked to brand values – the personality, ethos and qualities that describe your brand.
Why is reputation important?
A businesses most valuable asset is its brand and reputation. A strong brand gives people a reason to buy your product or service, it enables you to charge a premium, helps customer loyalty and increases sales. It’s what makes you unique and attractive to customers.
In a recent survey released jointly by the World Economic Forum and Fleishman-Hillard PR agency, three-fifths of chief executives said they believed corporate brand and reputation represented more than 40% of their company’s market capitalization. Companies with strong brands can retain employees better, too. A recent study suggests that 80 per cent of employees between the ages of 18 and 30 will leave a company if they believe it has a weak brand or no association with ethics.
Developing brand values
A good place to start is to develop a set of brand values for your organisation and reflect these in everything that you do. Look at EVERYTHING from how you recruit and develop your staff, the product or service you sell, your suppliers and distribution chain, how you communicate through to how you deal with customer service issues. Prevention really is better than cure. It is much more expensive, difficult and sometimes impossible to rectify a reputation issue after the event.
Know what is being said about you
There are so many ways to monitor what is being said about you. A simple search in Google for your company will show material that you can categorise into positive, neutral and negative. There are online and social media monitoring tools that allow you to monitor networks including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, blogs, forums and online news. Free ones include Talkwalker Social Search, Talkwalker Alerts and Google Alerts. You can also monitor keywords and hashtags with tools such as Tagboard, Hashtagify.me and Social Mention.
Don’t forget to know what staff are saying about you. If you have a well-used and respected intranet, forums are a good way to monitor and respond to staff feedback. When I worked for the police service I took a ‘sensing report’ to monthly management meetings so senior officers and directors had a better understanding of what staff were saying and feeling. Across the organisation I had around 20 staff who formally (such as at staff meetings) and informally (chats in the corridor) gathered feedback from employees. If everyone spoke to around 20 people this gave feedback from 200 staff.
Have a proactive PR strategy with a forward plan of stories to promote across online and the more ‘traditional’ media. Review what social media profiles will work best to achieve your communication goals and be proactive in using, monitoring and getting involved with them. Make sure you have a crisis communication plan.
When it does go wrong
Here are some tips to consider;
- Find out the facts and fast.
- Respond and communicate quickly, particularly with social media channels.
- If you don’t know exactly what happened then set up a review or investigation to establish the facts.
- Don’t lie or hide things – you will be found out in the end.
- If a mistake has been made, be upfront about it, apologise and be clear what you are putting in place to prevent it happening again.
- Select a suitable spokesperson.
- Monitor what is being said about you.