Furthermore, we know that reputation is built up over time by consistent performance and behaviour, not by short term initiatives or feel-good corporate advertising. Look no further than last year’s TV and print reputation campaign by the Australian Bankers Association around the time that damning evidence was being admitted before the Royal Commission into misdeeds in the financial sector. The message of the mercifully short-lived campaign was: “Profits don’t belong to the banks, they belong to everyday Australians like you,” which was little comfort to the “everyday Australians” financially ruined by newly-revealed policies which gravely disadvantaged customers.
Remember, branding is what you say about yourself, while reputation is what others say about you. It’s determined in the minds of customers and other stakeholders, not in brainstorming sessions at your advertising agency.
So, apart from running your organisation well and providing great products and service, how can you control some of the factors which influence how your reputation evolves?
- Develop an effective mechanism for listening to customer feedback.
- Implement an agreed protocol for promptly responding to complaints or critical comments.
- Build and keep updated an appropriate social media presence.
- Monitor traditional media and social media for what people are saying about you.
- Make sure your employees know who to tell when they see or hear something negative.
- Survey customers to find out what they think about you.
- Foster relationships with respected third-party experts who can help if needed.
- Actively support social responsibility beyond just day-to-day business.
- Designate and train spokespersons to intervene when things go wrong.
When budget time comes around and they're looking trim costs, ignore the advice of Rock Queen Joan Jett that reputation doesn’t matter. Instead listen to American self-improvement guru Brian Koslow: “There is no advertisement as powerful as a positive reputation travelling fast.”
These basic steps won’t guarantee you a positive reputation. But they are a good place to start.