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Why wait for a crisis to protect your reputation?

30/07/15
Why wait for a crisis to protect your reputation?
Uche Graves on the importance of reputation management

Though we may not always realise it, our reputation is one of the most valuable assets we have. Whether your friend lends you a fiver, your father in law lets you drive his new jag, or your old classmate recommends you for that opening in his office, so much depends on your reputation.

Unsurprisingly, reputation means just as much for companies. Research shows that consumers opt for brands they have heard of over those they haven’t, and favour the ones that make them feel warm and fuzzy over those that don’t.

But when it comes to protecting reputations, it’s so easy to get it wrong.

Yes, you have a communications team poised to deal with any crisis. Good. Yes, you have a leading consultancy ready to hop into action the second something goes wrong, keeping you abreast of all developments and communicating the right message to your stakeholders. Excellent.

But the job is not done. 
 
Protecting your reputation should not just be about firefighting when something goes wrong. Protecting your reputation should be built in to everything you do. This is because your reputation isn’t only based on how well you manage your crises, but on how your customers are received when they call or how you are seen to treat your employees.

So here are a few practical tips to manage your reputation effectively:

Know your reputation
To improve something, you need to know what it is. Commission some polling, trawl social media, ask your clients and hire external consultants. Work out what your key stakeholders really think. 

Know what you want your reputation to be
Don’t be all things to all people. A leading law firm might want a reputation for a hard-nosed case winning approach, while a soup brand might want a reputation for treating producers fairly.

Working out what your message should be is the most important part of communicating it. It is worth an hour’s brainstorm with senior colleagues to work out what your best reputation should be. 

Put a senior executive in charge of reputation management
When reputation management sits at board level, operational decisions can be viewed in terms of their impact on reputation as well as their impact on revenues. Ryanair would probably not have suggested charging for the loos if someone in the room had been thinking about reputation.

Live the reputation you want to have
The best way to deal with a reputational risk is to identify it before it arises. Take a good look at your operational processes, pay attention to that odd complaint on Twitter and ask yourself frequently ‘is this the type of company we want to be?’. If the answer is no, change your strategy.

Shout your successes
Everybody knows there was horsemeat in your burgers, but do they know you invest in apprenticeship programs for local school leavers? Communicating the positives effectively is one of the most important tools in the reputation management toolbox. Let people hear about your company when the sun is shining, not just when your off-shore oil rig blows up.

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