Reputation management can be easy to push to the side. Your brand is checking the boxes, you’re staying out of the media spotlight and you have happy customers – what’s wrong with all that? What is reputation management, anyway?
Reputation management is one facet of crisis and strategic communications, focused on building a strategy to maintain the perception of your brand among your stakeholders.
Managing a brand’s reputation – positive or negative – doesn’t happen in a day. It’s a long game that requires continual action, no matter how small or large your organization is.
Complacency is one of the biggest threats to reputation. If you’re a beloved brand, you may think that your reputation is impenetrable — but no brand is immune. Even lesser-known brands are at risk. If you do not check-in on a regular basis and measure stakeholder sentiment, your brand perception can easily spiral when a crisis hits. Proactive reputation management is possible to create a strong foundation, and there are a few ways we counsel clients to build, maintain and repair their reputation.
Reputation is more than customer perception
Communication and marketing professionals need to consider stakeholders beyond those directly driving the bottom line.
It’s easy to prioritize customers, both current and prospective, as the top consideration when looking at reputation. But, employees, investors and the general public need to be taken into account when planning initiatives.
For instance, employees’ perceptions of the brand contribute significantly to overall business success. It makes sense – engaged employees with a positive view of the company are more likely to contribute in an effective way.
Consistent action = stakeholder reciprocation
Brands that align their business, communications and ESG efforts to their mission will see the greatest success in building a strong reputation amongst all stakeholders. Actions and communications need to line up closely with who your brand is and what you stand for. Wavering from this can cause trouble down the line.
Has your brand ever taken a public stance? Are there public issues that impact your business or industry directly? If no, then perhaps reconsider your communication strategy. Not every event will require a public comment and we encourage clients to think critically when treading into highly-visible or divisive conversations.
Inauthentic communications can be costly – from a downturn in sales to full-on brand boycotts. While there may be nothing wrong with the communications themselves, if they don’t align with stakeholders’ beliefs, those people may look for their products and services elsewhere.
Weathering the storm
Brands are coming under fire now more than ever, with geopolitical events, social causes and more pushing stakeholders to demand action from the brands that impact their individual lives. Brands acting with conviction will build a strong foundation of stakeholder support that will afford them the opportunity to tackle obstacles without significantly tarnishing their reputations.
Breaking down reputation management strategies into tangible steps can ensure they are acted on, and that your organization is prepared if and when a crisis strikes.
A few key actions that must be taken:
- Measure the baseline perception of your brand leveraging first-party data, media and social monitoring, and third-party interviews.
- As a leadership team, discuss the outputs and determine key opportunities for building, maintaining and repairing aspects of your brand.
- Create an action plan with a holistic communication strategy for addressing each facet, with each stakeholder group.
A collective effort behind a strategy is one of the best ways to ensure communications are put into action. If you need help getting started, drop me a line: email@example.com.
Julianna Sheridan is an account director on Matter’s Precision team and co-lead of the crisis communications practice. She’s effectively managed client crisis programs from layoffs, cyber attacks and food recalls to bank robberies, proactive tools development and more.