Alan Duncan outlines his top five tips for managing your brand’s reputation in the digital era.
Your brand is what sets your company apart from its competitors. It’s the flag you fly to tell the world ‘this is what our business is about’ and ‘these are the things we stand for’.
The social media revolution and ever growing popularity of the internet as a means for finding information, shopping and sharing thoughts and experiences means that managing your brand’s reputation demands a lot more time and consideration.
The cost of a bad reputation can be significant; from higher recruiting costs to declining sales figures. More and more consumers are casting their opinions about your brand based on what they read online.
A survey conducted by Weber Shandwick in 2012 revealed that 81% of consumers’ perceptions were influenced by online search results.
While you can’t control what others might say about your business, there are a number of measures you can take to manage your company’s reputation.
Monitor the conversations and activity online that relates to your business, your products or services and your industry. In fact go a step further and keep an eye on what your market is saying about your competitors too.
Organisations across the globe spend millions on market research every year, trying to get an insight into the thoughts of their target markets, when often a lot of that information is already online.
An ability to accept the criticisms can go a long way in helping improve your company’s offering and perhaps open up new markets you hadn’t considered entering.
2. Get social
Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube or one of the countless other social media platforms out there, it’s essential that you claim your brand’s social media presence.
Not only do these platforms allow you to engage with your customers in real time but they also help improve your company’s search engine rankings.
Be sure to link your various accounts, establishing a consistent voice across them.
3. Be transparent
Transparency is the magic word today. Consumers have almost limitless access to information and place ever greater value on openness and honesty.
Use your website, social media and blogs to engage with your customers in a frank manner. Ask them to share their opinions, thanking those who praise your brand.
When it comes to negative feedback, not every complaint warrants a response and there will sometimes be cases where the issue just won’t be resolved. The important thing is to make an effort and let the public see you making that effort. You will be rewarded for it with greater brand loyalty.
A good example is Krispy Crème’s KKK (Krispy Kreme Klub) Wednesday promotion in the UK, which for obvious reasons was the victim of a major backlash. They acted fast, acknowledging the error and apologising for any offense caused.
This leads me to another point that perhaps warrants an article unto itself.
Proof your content and then proof it again. Once you’ve done that, have someone else proof it again. Krispy Kreme should never have put themselves in such a spot light in the first place. The whole issue could have been avoided had the error been spotted before it was promoted on their Facebook.
4. Create useful content
There are few things more annoying than self-serving blogs and social media profiles and trust me nothing will turn a prospect or customer off faster than a barrage of useless info.
You can demonstrate your value and expertise without making it seem like a sales pitch. To do this you must understand the interests of your target market and produce content – be it in the form of blogs, tweets, videos or info graphics – that will captivate them. This way you’re adding value and giving your public a reason to engage with you and share your materials with their friends and colleagues.
5. Start strategising
Time and again company blogs and social media profiles start out with great intentions, tripping over themselves to write another post, only to start fading off after a couple of weeks or months when their initial ‘brain waves’ have passed. The issue lies in a lack of strategy.
As the cliché goes ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. As a communications professional, I am often surprised by the lack of thought and planning that has gone into a prospects communications strategy, whether it’s on- or off-line. Instead of rushing head first, start by identifying your goals – is it heightened brand awareness or an increase in sales or to attract top talent? Perhaps you’re looking to reposition your brand. Whatever it is, you need to know what success looks like, how you’re going to measure it and the steps required to achieve it.
Identifying those steps will help create a structure around your brand management strategy and that structure will be instrumental in understanding the amount of time that will be required and that you are consistent in the maintenance of your communications so that your efforts don’t join the masses of neglected and unloved business social media profiles that populate the internet. If you plan well the execution will be a lot easier.
Alan Duncan is managing director of Select PR, a B2B public relations agency servicing clients across the UK and Ireland, selectpr.com