We don’t need to tell you that reputation matters in business. The product, customer service, leadership, values, and behaviour: they all influence whether we want to buy from, advocate for, choose to work at, or invest in a brand.
It is therefore essential to actively manage your brand reputation. And the need to do this grows as your business does. Once your brand gains recognition from the market and media, there is literally nowhere to hide in a crisis.
So how can you proactively manage your brand reputation? Here are five essential steps.
Communicate with dignity
It all starts with the standards you hold yourself to and how you apply that to your communications. And while you can’t choose how people engage with you, you can always choose how you respond. We believe all organisations need to put ‘communicating with dignity’ at the heart of any brand reputation strategy. It requires you to be sensitive, courteous and respectful. It doesn’t require you to roll over and concede every point. But it demands that whatever you do and say, it is done with integrity. And this shouldn’t just be your mantra in a crisis. If your organisation and employees uphold this standard in all their communications, then it may also help you avoid a crisis.
Create a watch list
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but a risk assessment can help you understand what situations your organisation might come up against that could impact its brand reputation. Common scenarios include:
- Product issues and negative feedback – It could be a security vulnerability in your software, someone burning their finger on overheating hardware, or a surge of negative reviews. Worst case scenario it’s an entire platform outage. There’s a worrying amount that can go wrong.
- Employee mistakes or misconduct – You need to consider how you will manage complaints or criticisms that name particular employees. And with the rise of social vigilantism, what you will do if an employee’s bad conduct outside the business is also raised to your attention.
- Global events and movements – A company’s values and beliefs – and how they communicate them – has never been more integral to our decision to engage with them. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed growing expectations for CEOs to inform and shape conversations around societal and political issues, including prejudice and discrimination (65%) and climate change (68%). War, health crises, and civil rights movements have all been important issues that companies have been expected to have a stance on in recent years.
Build and prepare your team
Good preparation isn’t just knowing when you will need to act, but who will need to act and how. Start by determining who is on your core crisis team – management, legal, HR and comms professionals are essential. Technology companies should also consider a technology or product representative. Then decide what the workflows will be in the event of the crisis. A clear understanding of individuals’ roles and responsibilities as part of the process will improve the speed and efficacy of the team.
Make sure all your senior team appreciate the importance of flagging an issue as soon as it arises. Most crises occur because the initial statement hasn’t been informed by all the facts, and the organisation behind it, as a consequence when exposed, is immediately on the back foot.
Keep your ears to the ground
You want to identify and address any issues as quickly as possible to avoid them gaining momentum and becoming news in their own right. Monitoring social media and popular review platforms is essential, so you can quickly respond to any issues. As is building an escalation policy. Your social manager, team or agency partner need to be clear on what to do when they are approached with or identify negative feedback – and the importance of acting quickly when they do.
Want support building and protecting your hard-earned reputation? Reach out to us at [email protected] and find out how we can help.