“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffet
Late to my first blog post of the year. So I’ll dive right in. Connection is my 2020 north star having got stuck in The Desk Trap last year. I’d forgotten I bring that more energetic, enthusiastic and creative version of me to meetings, events or catch-up coffees. Being with people who inspire me and bring out that best version of myself is very much on the agenda. Possibly part of the reason I’m behind on this?
Already, it feels like the furore that that was Megxit has settled. Speaking personally, the reliance on PR strategists and teams was the thread running through the story, not least in Harry and Meghan’s inner circle. The entire narrative unfolding spoke to the importance of disciplined reputation engagement, and how, managed well, you can prevent a crisis communications fall-out.
Here’s the irony: reputation management gets bad press. People think dark arts, smoke and mirrors, sometimes Peter Mandelson. Put simply, it’s how your brand is perceived by your clients, networks and marketplace. It’s grounded in the character of your business, and the way that’s expressed through the actions you take to build credibility, authority, and trust.
Your reputation management checklist
As business leaders, we all know we need to be thinking proactively about reputation management – personal, professional and business – but it’s a BIG topic. That said, there are some simple steps you can take to positively strengthen your brand. I created this checklist to help get you started (I’d like to see full marks, please):
1. Get back to basics
Strong brand foundations are essential to a positive reputation: your values, messaging and mission. And they need to be aligned to how you’re talking about your business. Why not run a quick brand audit to make sure your comms and content strategies are truly integrated, relevant and on point with where you’re taking your business this year? Consistency is how you create customer loyalty, credibility and clarity of message.
2. Collaborate strategically
Partnerships offer a strategic way to embed positive brand reputation, drawing on great associations and connections. You don’t have to be Kanye and Adidas but you do need to partner with brands or people that genuinely share your values and ethos.
Pooling resources, ideas and creativity with a shared vision deepens brand relationships while helping you connect with a new audience – or forge a deeper relationship with an existing one. It could be collaborating on an event with a handful of local businesses, developing joint research, or launching a new peer network specific to your niche. Think about ways to team up with clients too: joint awards entries work brilliantly.
3. Build a client advocate community
Brand reputation doesn’t just happen. I know. Bummer.
It requires strategy, thoughtfulness and investment. The good news is, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Gathering case studies, testimonials and testimonials all generate that vital third party endorsement and empower your customers by letting them do the talking. Client feedback and surveys also allow you to dig deeper and is essential for the growth of any brand.
Start nurturing your customer advocate community. Today.
4. Be crisis comms ready
A robust crisis communications plan is essential, for any sized organisation. Business throws curveballs at us – a data breach, employment case, product recalls. Your crisis plan sets out the key steps you need to follow as the situation unfolds, guiding you through open, responsible communication with customers, partners, media and stakeholders. In what is always a stressful time, it will focus on internal processes and keep your team unified throughout.
Transparency, honesty, and ownership are as important as quick information release and consistent messaging. In nearly 20 years in comms, I’ve seen more businesses damage their reputation irrefutably not because of the crisis situation, but because of how they handled it. Get in touch if your comms plan needs updating.
5. Keep your brand promise
Reputation and behavior are deeply connected. Nothing erodes trust faster than a broken brand promise. My superfan-dom of a certain fashion brand dissolved in seconds when a dismissive, sullen assistant made returning an item unforgettably difficult. No number of Instagram Malibu dreamscapes will get me back instore. Less SoCal, more SoDone.
Set the standard; be known for delivering consistently great brand experience. It builds trust, confidence and reflects the core of your business. It also inspires clients to become brand advocates, and word-of-mouth is possibly one of your most powerful assets, influencing 50% of purchase decisions.
Really, reputation management is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. And we want that to be the best version of you, too.
Thanks as always for sharing your time with me. And about that coffee? Drop me a note.
Till next time,