Reputation is important. But for organisations brand reputation is everything.
Brand reputation is defined as how a business or organisation is viewed by others. It is inconceivably fragile and is the making or breaking of a business. Success is almost impossible if you don’t invest in the building blocks to form a positive brand reputation to begin with.
But even if you painstakingly, brick by brick, build your brand reputation it can be decimated in seconds. The digitisation of the media, the 24-hour news cycle, and the prevalence of social media work in tandem to maintain a level of reputational uncertainty.
Now previously innocuous instances, such as negative interactions with individual customers and tweets from the company Twitter account, can instantly impact brand reputation. And bad press, reputational damage, and crisis spread like wildfire.
However, it is possible to build your brand reputation to safeguard against small negative slights. And to even help prevent larger crises for your brand. Here we reveal the building blocks you need to build your brand reputation. From transparency to pursuing thought leadership, read on for actionable insights into reputation building.
A business is nothing without its customers. And brand reputation within your industry and amongst competitors is meaningless if it isn’t relatable to your customers.
If a brand builds a positive brand reputation, does anyone notice if its customers aren’t in the picture? Does anyone care?
So, whether you’re B2C or B2B (find definitions in the Signal AI PR & Media Intelligence Glossary) customers are the most important consideration. This sounds obvious, but it’s more complicated than it seems.
For B2B businesses, individual decision makers at the businesses you’re selling to can often get lost in the corporate blur. It’s easy to loose sight of the individuals behind organisations and hard to remember that every aspect of your business needs to interact with, and relate to, them.
This means that, as a basic requirement, you have to be consistent in your customer service. Customer and supplier facing employees are the representatives of a business and the gatekeepers of brand reputation.
Having company rules for communication with customers and training already in place will maximise their positive impact on brand reputation. And any communications training should ideally be done within their first few weeks of joining the company – setting a high standard from day one.
Training consisting of onboarding, access to knowledge bases, shadowing of senior employees, and simulations are particularly beneficial. Providing these training opportunities and resources for new starters will facilitate positive customer experiences.
This in turn will influence customers to provide positive feedback of your brand. Positive feedback and reviews will not only benefit the reputation of your business, but can lead to referrals. And as word of mouth is often one of a businesses’ primary lead driver, providing seamless customer interactions and building a positive brand reputation is incredibly valuable.
Your happy customers are your best advocates. And you need to be aware of where they champion you; as these are the primary. With reviews and feedback in mind, online platforms such as TrustPilot and Google My Business are incredibly useful.
By including links to them on your website, you can direct clients to submit product reviews. And having profiles on these platforms will also enable regular internal analysis of brand reputation and product performance.
Transparency will not only help with increasing trust in your business but it will help build brand reputation. This in turn will help in preventing potential reputation crises. The logic being that if you start as an honest and transparent organisation, there will be less opportunity for crisis to hit or take hold.
It also doesn’t hurt that organisation-wide transparency will encourage and facilitate a good company culture. One that is based on mutual trust both internally and externally. Employees are more engaged and have a greater feeling of belonging if they feel trusted. Hence, interaction with customers will be more genuine and the productivity of the business will increase.
This will all (hopefully) prevent you from being entangled in a complicated crisis situation. However, no business is invincible. Once a crisis hits and there’s no getting away from managing the situation, being transparent and telling your story before the media does is important. Whether it’s a data breach or a leadership misstep, transparency and humility about the crisis will help you put out fires and keep the situation under control.
So you’ve got well-trained employees, a company culture based on trust, and transparency built into the foundations of your organisation. What next?
An integral part of getting your brand out there to build awareness and trust is to become a thought leader in your industry. Or, to invest in making your key stakeholders thought leaders in their own right.
This can be achieved in a manner of ways. Namely building a comprehensive PR strategy, in tandem with Marketing, that places the organisation and stakeholders in industry publications, on podcasts, and in the news as an expert. Whether through paid or earned articles, media coverage, talks at events, and mentions, this will cement your position as thought leaders.
Finding these editorial and speaking opportunities can be a tricky task. It’s either a case of trawling through news outlets and industry publications to find the right ones for you, or utilising a media intelligence platform. The latter allows you to constantly have your finger on the pulse of your industry, sector, current media coverage, and spokespeople. From there you can focus in on the media that will catapult your brand to thought leadership.
So be ahead, lead the industry, and what better way to increase your reputation than being known for your innovative ideas and the breadth and depth of your expertise.
Finally, another way to build brand reputation from the outset or to rebuild reputation is to give something back. This can involve anything from being active in your local community through council initiatives, donating or providing free services or products to charity, or actively working to become a sustainable business and supporting the environment.
There are plenty major business players that have enhanced their reputation by addressing social, political, or economic issues. For example, Octopus Energy partnered with WWF for a corporate fundraising initiative that took place during Earth Hour – 8:30-9:30pm on Sunday 30 March 2019.
Octopus Energy donated £5 for every customer with a smart metre who cut their domestic consumption by half.
It’s @WWF’s @earthhour 🐼🌍 tonight—switch off for the planet between 8.30-9.30pm! Have an Octopus Energy smart meter? Pledge to halve your energy use and we’ll donate £5 to World Wildlife Fund if you do 🧡 #OctopusforEarthHour #Connect2Earth
Pledge now: https://t.co/UVLjiI3bCt pic.twitter.com/nCXi9Jwuyj
— Octopus Energy (@octopus_energy) March 30, 2019
This is all well and good, and it certain worked for Octopus Energy and WWF. However, organisations needs to be careful and conduct adequate research before diving headfirst into a corporate charity partnership. Make sure that the charity or cause you select fits with your business and that it makes sense to be publicly supporting it.
This year in particular there has been significant backlash around the commercialisation of Pride parades and festivals. With some of the LGBTQ+ community rightfully pointing out that it’s all well and good paying for a float at London’s Pride parade, but if you have large operations in countries that stigmatise and criminalise LGBTQ+ people, it’s more than a little hypocritical.
So be careful. When giving back works, it really works. But the very tactic being employed to build brand reputation can negatively impact it.