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Nov 10 2014

Is your Reputation at risk?

Reputation management is becoming an increasingly popular term in business, how do you establish a reputation and maintain it, let alone protect it? Many large organisations now have roles dedicated to reputation, but what does it mean?

With the advent of social media, the world of communications has changed. In the old world, the biggest challenge to an organisation was the media getting hold of a negative story and running with it. There were barriers to this, it relied upon investigative journalism, and usually leaks within an organisation that had to reach out to the media to initiate the story. This, combined with the legal departments of the major newspapers meant a level of control was possible, and usually you would at least have some heads up to prepare for the inevitable backlash and phone your PR agency in preparation.

In todays social world of blogs, twitter, reddit and Facebook, anyone can become the publisher and skip the media completely to break the story. This could be employees, customers, suppliers – the online storm will already be likely to have hit before you are even aware of it. It is at this point that today the traditional media will then pick up and further fuel the flames of a crisis.

So this begs the question, how can a company or brand protect itself against such situations?

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The simple solution would be to act as an exceptional corporate citizen – if you do nothing wrong then there will be nothing to worry about. In an ideal world this would be true, however as we well know, it is impossible to please all the people all of the time, and the advent of internet trolling has led to a tribe of people who live purely to whip up online vitriol. I certainly advocate being a good corporate citizen and being sure to communicate this in a non-explotative manner, but this alone is not enough.

So again, how should a company protect itself?

Below are a few key tips that we provide to our clients. They are by no means comprehensive, but certainly a good starting point.

  • PREPARE – Get your messaging right – Understand your place in the market, what your unique offering is and the values your business stands for. Look at your business and identify the possible risks to reputation, prepare messaging to respond to these. Ensure your website and social platforms up to date. Even if you do not actively use social, it may prove to be your best defence in the event of any reputational issue and being prepared is key.  Are your media spokespersons media trained and across the messaging – you never know when they may be called on to speak to the media at a moments notice, your businesses future could rely on their performance.
  • LISTEN – too many organisations do not engage with social even on the most basic level. EVERY company should have listening tools to report on any social and online conversation around their brand or services. If you don’t know what is going on you can’t react or respond to it.
  • ENGAGE – Embrace content marketing – This can help create a positive mental connection with your audience, they connect with your brand and understand its values. Content marketing allows you to share the good stories coming out of your company and establish your brand reputation. This can prove invaluable in the event of any issue – you have the positive content to refer to and the support of your community. This approach also delivers for SEO, and pushes any negative content down the rankings. Always remember though, quality beats quantity every time.
  • RESPOND – Some issues are storms in a tea cup – it is usually fairly simple to spot these. But every business knows where its weaknesses lie. These can be addressed through great content. By taking an honest look at your business you can prepare content addressing potential weaknesses well in advance, thus forarmed is forwarned. In the event of an issue, you can take control of the situation by addressing and taking control of the agenda on your own terms. Remeber reputation is not all about online, your traditional print and broadcast media can be highly effective tools in addressing any issue.
  • REVIEWAs with anything you have to analyse and assess the sucess or failure of any activity. Be sure to learn from your experiences, the positive as well as the negative. Be sure to implement your learnings into future strategies.

If you want to look at protecting the reputation of your business, get in touch and we can talk you through our processes.

Will McIntyre

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