To Build Brand Reputation, Monitor It Often. It Is Goodwill And Trust Given To You By Public Perception, Whether Or Not Someone Has Dealt With You.
According to the dictionary “reputation” means “… the general belief or opinion that other people have about you. Reputation comes from the Latin word “reputation”, which means “consideration.” It’s how people consider, or label, you — good or bad.”
Needless to say, a positive brand reputation means consumers believe and trust your brand, and feel good about doing business with you. A negative brand reputation works against you on these counts.
There’s one other factor about brand reputation, though. It usually precedes your brand. For example, it’s not the kind of trust that develops after knowing you. It’s often a label associated with you before people even approach you. Your reputation could attract or repel people who never give you a chance to prove your credentials.
That’s why, at Solohacks Academy, we believe your brand reputation should not be something you care about only with respect to your customers. We think you should care about how you are perceived by the general public, because that will matter to your customers.
1. All About Brand Reputation And Its Benefits And Strategy
Before we proceed with the aspects of building a brand reputation that is unassailable, it pays to understand why brand reputation is so important and what the benefits of having a rock-solid brand reputation are. So let’s get started …
a. What Is Brand Reputation?
Since we said brand reputation precedes your brand, it must have been built on things you did in the past to give your brand a great foundation of public goodwill, right? So let’s see what you may have done right to earn that good reputation.
You must have earned good a good amount of trust
When a brand’s consumers repeatedly buy from or vouch for a brand, the market and the public get a feeling that your brand enjoys “consistent trust”. This word “consistency” is important here when it comes to reputation building. Brands that earn trust today, lose it tomorrow, and repair their way back, are not the best candidates for consolidating a good brand reputation. Brands that hold their goodwill over time, and increment it with more and more goodwill from newer quarters, are great candidates for a great reputation.
You must have earned good a good amount of customer loyalty
Repeat purchases by a group of loyal customers – and their word of applause in the public domain – count for a lot in the area of brand reputation. Do your customers volunteer themselves to become advocates of your brand? Are they seen recommending your brands to others, and do they thus put their own reputation on the line for your brand? That’s an excellent sign.
You may have totted up sizeable sales which proves you to be a longterm player
People often judge brand reputation by the length of time you’ve been in the market. People know that time gives you successes and failures. If you’ve existed, survived and then also thrived under testing circumstances, you can wear your reputation proudly on your collar. Of the many businesses that start up with eagerness, barely 5% survive over time. So brand reputation depends a lot on whether people see you as a horse for the long race.
You may have taken care of keeping company with other businesses of repute
As the saying goes “Birds of a feather flock together”. People judge you by the company you keep. Are you careful enough to be seen with the best-of-breed players in your niche? And more importantly, are they all very careful about their own reputations? Do they all follow best practices, and draw red lines around themselves on what they will and will not do for money? Do they demonstrate noble values? If yes, their good reputation will have a great rub-off on your brand’s reputation as well. So choose your associates and all stakeholders wisely.
You may have demonstrated a consistent competitive superiority
Among your competitors, what is your superiority or rank? Is this a steady position you hold? It matters a lot to the public if you are among the top two or three in your niche, because only those names get remembered. The rest of the players in the field may as well be nameless and faceless to the public, because everyone has the memory only to remember the best. If they can’t remember you, how will they remember your reputation?
On social media you may have earned a good deal of positive word-of-mouth
There’s one very important thing to know about social media. People on social media like to come off as the best, by dropping names and essaying opinions on what they think are top-of-the-line products, or issues, or debates. People project themselves as people of worth by the quality of their opinions and by the choice of topics they engage with. So if you find a lot of people using your brand’s name in their positive conversations, in order to look good themselves, you can be fairly sure your reputation is good enough.
Your business expansions in the news may have vouched for your steady growth
Growth of both, your business and brand, is a clear indicator to the public of a good brand reputation. You can’t grow if your reputation is not growing as well. People wouldn’t be investing their time, effort and money on you otherwise.
b. Benefits of Protecting Brand Reputation
There are a lot of benefits of having a good brand reputation. But among all the benefits, I would count these five benefits below to be of most value to your business in money terms. After all, having a good reputation has to translate into something tangible on the balance sheets too, doesn’t it?
You get more business opportunities of better quality
Most buyers of any products – or businesspeople looking for partners – would look for people they can trust to do business with. It is when people have to put their money on the table, that your reputation becomes extremely important to tilt the balance in your favor. Potential buyers and associates will give high priority to your market reputation because that is social proof, so to speak, of your trustworthiness, and their low risk of investment. Consequently, you get better quality business opportunities if you have a good brand reputation. A few good quality opportunities are any day better than brimming over with dubious opportunities.
You are able to lower marketing and other costs
If your good brand reputation precedes you, people are eager to work with you in business. They are also willing to meet you halfway on the expenses front. After all, your reputation rubs off on them and they would be ready to forsake some money to get that. So you will find that your marketing and other costs get lower as your reputation builds. You will be able to strike “special deals” because of your good brand reputation. You won’t have to sell yourself as hard, or with as high marketing costs, as those with a poor or no reputations.
You get greater revenues
The same rationale as above holds true for revenues earned in your business. The better and more solid your reputation, the higher your prices can be, because “who” is offering the products and services affects the number on the price label. There is a premium people are willing to pay for reputation. At the same time, you have to be careful. You cannot price yourself so high that the market sneers at your costs, and begins to wonder if your reputation is all that high for them to be forking out so much. If you overdo it, you invite a negative evaluation of your reputation. So be careful. Reach for a price that’s a tad higher than the market, but don’t get so greedy you shatter your carefully built reputational edifice.
You get cost-free advertising
When word-of-mouth is good, thanks to a good brand reputation, you need to spend less and less on advertising yourself. People who want to be seen in your company will tout your virtues for you, free of cost. By far, having a good reputation drastically reduces costs like PR costs, advertising costs and marketing costs. Moreover, you gain from the kind of good publicity that is coveted. People interview you for reputed magazines, well-known influencers include you in their webinars and podcasts, and you get to be an invited guest-speaker at high profile events. You can never equate all that “renown” with the lesser word “advertising”.
You get higher company value
If it ever crossed your mind to raise bank loans or funding for your company, most institutions and investors do “due diligence”. They check in the market, among other things, for the brand reputation you have managed to build, and they put a money value on that. You may not eventually sell your company, but it always helps to have a third-party assessed value your worth as a company. A large part of your brand equity should come from your good reputation. That would be a good aim to have.
You attract better resources at lower costs
Again, should you ever need external resources to help with your workload, you may find freelancers and other budding talents eager to work with you at any price. Your brand reputation will carry “name value” on their resumes. For that, they may be willing to work at low costs, or even for free, just to get that badge of honor your name and reputation give to their careers and portfolio. You can pick and choose who you want to work with, because of the plentifulness of the talent that will be excited to work with you, and do a noteworthy job on your assignment.
c. Brand Reputation Strategy
Nine times out of ten, brand reputation is never planned for consciously. Brands have no clear strategy for building their reputations – and the alarm bells usually go off only when reputations are seriously impaired. But it is possible to plan for strengthening your brand reputation. Here are five things you absolutely must strategize for, and monitor if you are achieving them.
Identify the signals you will look for to check on your brand reputation
Every business owner – especially a knowledge-marketer – has to identify what matters to him when he considers the word “brand reputation”. To some people reputation may be good word-of-mouth, to some others it may be consumer trust, and to yet some others it may be “advocacy of the brand”. There are no right or wrong indicators of reputation. The question to ask yourself is: “What would hurt me most if my business were to get a bad rap? What would I consider as a bad rap? What would make me cringe to approach people for business or partnerships?” If you identify what hurts most, the opposite – whatever makes you super-confident of your brand being received well – would be your ideal pointers of brand reputation.
Monitor your reputation by social listening and build people who give you good word of mouth
By far the best way to keep monitoring your brand reputation is to see who is talking about you and what is being said. This involves a lot of social listening. “Social listening” is the process of monitoring conversations to understand what customers are saying about a brand and industry online. List down the names of at least 5 of the top industry forums and the social channels where your target audiences or peers and competitors hang out. Check whenever your name is mentioned in these places, and see if the mention is positive or negative. More importantly, notice the arguments people give for saying positive or negative things about you. Finally, reward the ones who say positive things about you, by saying good things about them.
Use software tools to multiply your sources of listening to varied forums and social channels
If you have just a handful of social media and forums to check it would be easy to listen to chatter about your brand. But if you’d really like to fathom the depth of your brand reputation, go for the best tools that can consolidate all chatter sources for you, and even alert you whenever your name is mentioned. Some of the best tools for this that I have come across are Reputology, Mention, The Brand Grader and SimilarWeb. Most of these tools enable you to intervene whenever a conversation about your brand isn’t going in the right direction, when you can anonymously, or even publicly, correct a wrong impression. A stitch in time saves nine, is the dictum.
Have a reputation-repair strategy in readiness as a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
Not being prepared for your brand reputation going south is one big boo-boo. The other boo-boo is not knowing what to do when you are watching things unravel rapidly, and floundering on your next steps. Every business, big or small, needs a Standard Operating Procedure in readiness to handle potential reputation setbacks. After a setback happens is not the best time to flail or wring your hands or apply some ineffective Band-Aid. Remember, your response needn’t be earth-shatteringly great, it has to be fast. You have to soothe the feelings of people concerned, and not just mend the situation. You have to show people that you – like everyone else – are not an error-free paragon of virtues, but you are empathetic after setbacks, and care to help people around them. One tactic that never fails: apologize for the mistake and thank people for being angry with you because that shows how much they care that your standards are high.
Build your influencer networks and associations with other brands and apex bodies
You’ll make fewer mistakes with your reputation if you are forewarned and forewarned. It helps to become a member of all the top apex bodies of your industry to know what trends to expect in the future, and it also helps to constantly widen your networks of connection with influencers, peers, competitors, and people who matter. See how they handle themselves so it forms a benchmark for your standards in maintaining your reputation.
2. Brand Reputation Killers To Beware Of, And How To Deal With Them
Warren Buffet is believed to have once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Today, living as we all do in the Internet and social media age, it takes less than five minutes to ruin brand reputations, and what’s worse, things that go wrong have a way of going viral in nanoseconds – something you wish your positive word-of-mouth would do.
Let’s look at some classic brand reputation ruining practices you should avoid, and some best practices you should follow to improve your reputation.
a. Brand Reputation Killers To Steer Clear Of
Most brand reputations aren’t ruined by irate customers or crafty competitors. It’s the gaffes that brand owners make that costs them dearly in terms of customer trust. Here are some of the most damaging online reputation killers (to avoid at all costs).
Beware of hashtag hijacking
“Hashtag hijacking” refers to the practice some mischievous people on social media have, to twist the meaning of your carefully chosen hashtag to mean something else entirely. They then make merry by using your hashtag to pound your brand with derisive and crooked humor, and generally take you to the cleaners. You can never be too careful about the hashtags you choose. When Susan Doyle the singer, decided to have a hashtag for the launch party of her new album, she called the hashtag “#susanalbumparty” (*face palm*). Now, how many different twists of meaning did hashtag hijackers make of that? They set a world record, before the hashtag had to be taken down.
Never badmouth a customer in the public domain
In the brand reputation business, the reputation killer always gets killed. Remember that. Never, ever, badmouth a client or customer online. In fact, it’s never a good idea to trash anyone online. When you say something nasty about someone, the message reflects poorly on your own decency. On the contrary, a clean and good reputation gets built when you have only good things to say, and are never seen to be washing dirty linen in public.
Never get caught out lying through your teeth
In the name of social proof, there are loads of marketers who use fake testimonials or tell huge fibs about their traffic stats, their earnings statements and other “achievements”. Unfortunately, online, most information can be tracked (or even hacked). So it’s never a good idea to tell even the smallest white lie. You get caught, and it looks awful and shreds your reputation. Why try to make yourself sound like someone you are not? Why the need to do so? You are good as you are. There’s no harm in sounding sincere and authentic and letting the world see that you are a hard worker who wants to succeed. You don’t have to tell lies to sound like you’re “already arrived”.
Keep your private photos and videos out of your business devices
I can never emphasize this enough. Please keep your private life – especially videos, photos, and emails – in a separate device, and never mix it with your business materials. So many marketers have been careless about this, with the result that embarrassing personal photos or videos have made an appearance among serious social media business updates. And if this ever happens to you, please don’t try to fob off the whole thing as “done by my virtual assistant when she was a bit tipsy”. Everybody who made the same mistake can’t be having a tipsy virtual assistant.
Don’t ever ignore or get too careless about customer complaints
This one involves a simple etiquette. It never pays to ignore customer complaints. At first, these arrive by email or phone. If you ignore them, however, they grow louder and hit the headlines in social media. We can’t blame the customers. If they don’t get your ear, they will try to get everyone else’s ear. The best time to handle complaints is immediately. The best way to handle complaints is with an apology and with empathy and consideration. Even if you are right and the customer is wrong, don’t make it an ego issue. Settle the matter quickly.
When technical glitches happen, the last thing to do is get defensive
This is a corollary to the previous point. Never get defensive about technical glitches that sometimes happen. We live with technology that screws up often. Everyone knows that and accepts it as par for the course, unless it causes a horrendous mistake. Getting defensive is childish – and it shows you are less professional, and take too many things personally. Apologize for the mistake with a show of personal confidence, and handle the problem in a professional way. Try to make amends if you can to soothe the customer. Give them a gift, a discount or a privilege free of cost, if the error has been too tough for them to handle.
b. How To Improve Brand Reputation
We’ve got you covered with 5 great ways to improve your brand reputation – provided you focus on these points below consistently.
Focus on being top-notch with your thought leadership
Read a lot of good authors and experts in your niche and in related niches. Keep abreast of trends and technologies emerging on the horizon. Know your audiences and their changing preferences over time. In other words, stay on the ball in your field. Then express your well-formed opinions as thought leadership points via content marketing. There is no faster way to gain a good reputation than to be a top-class source of the latest, greatest and most pertinent information in your niche, annotated by your own analysis and inferences. I have heard from several experts that “reputations are built on blogs”, and I have never heard a truer word.
Always be looking to improve customer satisfaction
Most marketers would say that customer satisfaction is one of their most important goals. But what is customer satisfaction and how do you define it? More importantly, how do your customers define it? And what of the ever-changing landscape of customer satisfaction? As technology changes, so will the benchmarks of satisfaction. Most marketers may never have delved deeply into the idea of “customer satisfaction” to know what’s important, current and valued by the customer. If you can stay on top of “customer satisfaction” and deliver what the customer wants (as against what you think is customer satisfaction) you will gain a reputation for being customer-centric.
Encourage generation of customer testimonials and success stories
Encourage customers to voice their likes and dislikes about your brand. Incentivize this practice. Tell them you want their feedback to improve. Most often you hear them when they are displeased. Tell them you want to hear them just as much when things are going good, so that you can turn the good into great. Once they know you want to do better, they will become your allies in the endeavor. People love to think their input has mattered so much.
Be very engaged on social media channels and lead discussions
Instead of waiting to hear the good, bad and ugly about your reputation on social media, how about instigating conversations around your brand. Be careful as you do this. If you just ask for opinions you may get a barrage of bad raps from the mischievous lot. But if you ask for ideas on why your brand is valuable to those who have experienced it, you are showing that you want to hear the good side of things. You can do this openly as a brand wanting to improve upon itself. Ask for ideas to improve your brand, ideas to promote your brand, ideas for increasing awareness of your brand, ideas for ways to extend your brand … “asking” is itself a very valuable tool. It shows you value opinions, so you will attract a lot of goodwill simply by asking humbly for help to improve.
c. How To Measure Brand Reputation
Reputation metrics are a bit difficult to directly calculate. You may have to gauge your brand reputation from indirect factors like these below.
Your Google rankings for your various key posts and pages
Neil Patel, the Internet marketing expert, cites a lot of research to show how Google places value on a brand’s reputation and standing to rank its posts and pages high on the SERPs. Contrary to people’s belief that Google rankings will give your brand a good reputation, it seems to be working the other way around. Google seems to be giving more weight to you if your brand already enjoy’s a good name and renown. One way, therefore, to measure if your brand reputation is working well, is to see if Google is consistently ranking your pages and posts well.
The quality and quantity of online reviews your brand gets
There are tons of review sites where people write brand reviews. There are also bloggers who review products or businesses in their niche. If you have access to reviewers, you can ask for them to do a professional review of your brand. Don’t try to pay your way through this process just to get a good review. People online can smell a fake or “sponsored” review. Ask for an honest review and most people will give you a reasonably good one, even as they point out a few factors where you could improve. Take constructive suggestions in the right spirit, and thank reviewers openly for the insights. Overall if your brand reviews are more on the positive side, you could say you are doing okay. If you are seen as accepting the bad with the good with sincerity, that’s even better for your reputation.
Repeat website visits from customers who have visited you before
Positive social chatter about your brand is good. But, see if people are willing to put their time where their mouth is. How many people visit and revisit your site to read what you have written? Isn’t that a better test of real kudos to your brand than just social chatter about you? I place a lot of value on “new and repeat visitors to my site” as a measure of brand reputation. With today’s fierce competition, getting a look-in is tough enough. Getting both new and repeat visitors consistently says a lot about the gravitational pull of your brand. See if you agree with me.
The quotes and citations you get in the articles of other bloggers
If people quote from your blog posts often, and cite you as an authority with a valuable viewpoint, you can bet on your brand having quite a good reputation. It works in two ways that are mutually reinforcing. Getting quoted or cited underscores your existing reputation. It also raises your reputation going forward. It’s important that people should want to quote or cite you on their own volition. It shouldn’t be because you incentivized them to “Tweet This” – or offered a link-exchange deal. Being seen as a credible and trustworthy authority, who does not seek purchased publicity, is the point that matters.
3. Three Spectacular Cases Of Brand Reputation Recovery
I have picked up three different cases of horrendous reputation damage and subsequent grand brand recovery to show you how well some brands have “risen from the ashes”. Although these cases involve big brands, there are lessons to learn from their stories, for brands of all sizes.
a. The McDonald’s Twitter Gaffe And Awesome Recovery
A big social media story in 2012 was the complete beating McDonald’s got when it launched its Twitter campaign called #McDStories.
The whole issue started when McDonald’s changed from its first hashtag #MeetTheFarmers, which had been set up to attract uplifting farmer stories from users. Since the #MeetTheFarmer campaign was found to be really successful, the brand then became tempted to ambitiously attempt a larger version of the same success format.
The company spent on paid hashtags to launch a whole new #McDStories campaign on Twitter – intending that brand fans would use it to share their love of the product and the company. Unfortunately, the hashtag was totally hijacked by brand haters who started prolifically recounting their tales of disappointment and dissatisfaction with the McDonald’s brand.
All in all, the #McDStories was a complete PR disaster. Rick Wion, Social Media Director of McDonald’s said it all: “One thing is for sure. You cannot firefight these things. When a hashtag goes, it is gone.”
Introspection, however, led the company to actually hit upon an enormous insight that could create immense potential for future Twitter success. McDonald’s realized that if it could allow users to participate with questions (rather than asking for feedback) the company could then control the answers to those user questions in a way that could show the brand as a hero. What an awesome insight!
The idea was born was to see if users could be asked to submit their questions about the brand which the company could then answer in a way most flattering to the brand … instead of the company asking the open-ended questions with the users responding with less-than-flattering answers.
A new Twitter campaign called “Our Food: Your Questions” was launched in which the company even shone as truthful and transparent. One social media user tested the company’s authenticity with particularly uncomfortable questions but recollects that: “McDonald’s Canada told the truth about its food on its web site. It may not make you a customer but you have to admire their openness.” It was a coup.
b. Domino’s Video Disaster And Soul-Stirring Recovery
In a small North Carolina based Domino’s franchise, two disgruntled employees posted a prank video of some very unhygienic and awful food-preparation practices in their restaurant. Unfortunately, with the sheer reach and speed of social media, there were more than a million views on YouTube within a couple of days – and Twitter went viral and berserk.
Domino’s were so unprepared and taken aback, I guess, they worsened the whole thing by responding a bit too late. It was 48 hours before the video was brought down on YouTube.
But one great thing came of it. Domino’s President, Patrick Doyle, took to the same YouTube to apologize with deep honesty – and obviously his words were very heartfelt. He came through as pained in his speech when he said, “It sickens me to think that two individuals can impact our great system, where 125,000 men and women work for local business owners.”
What Patrick Doyle had achieved on the social media was to get the collective conscience of the social crowd to respond to the hurt this “fun” had caused the well-meaning and dedicated workforce of Domino’s. That touched a chord.
The pranksters had used YouTube to create havoc. Patrick Doyle used YouTube to show soul. This story shows us that the social world reacts as much to entertainment as to deep emotion.
The even better part of the story is what followed the disaster. The company has now put four practices into place as a fortification against loss of reputation – either accidentally or through anybody’s deliberate action.
- They have a policy now that stresses on the importance of a media crisis team.
- They have built a system with the ability to listen to and track real-time social developments.
- They have addressed their deficiencies in being able to respond quickly.
- And finally, they are paying a lot more attention to preventative care rather than crisis response.
Unlike McDonald’s, who took the battle back to the social channels, Domino’s have chosen to re-engineer their own mindsets and internal systems.
c. US Airways Recovery From A Tweet Gone Horribly Wrong
Twitter went mad when a US Airways staffer accidentally posted a pornographic picture from her personal collection. Within minutes and seconds it was all over the social world. How embarrassing is that for a company, no matter how funny it was to the Twitterati.
The mistake was so huge and miserable that The Wire called it the “All-Time First Place Victor in Worst Corporate Social Media #Brand Strategy”.
The tweet was of course quickly deleted, and due apologies were announced, but the “photo” was live on the US Airways Twitter account for at least an hour – and in the Internet world that’s long enough to tear the reputation of the airline to shreds.
PR pundits were all abuzz, asking whether it is a bigger disaster for a brand to be bad-mouthed for something globally frightful (like an oil-spill) than to be the butt of jokes (like posting a “naughty pic”). Such ridicule and derision seems somehow to imply that the brand may have poor internal governance and reduces the brand to a smallness, doesn’t it?
But look how smartly US Airways handled the situation. Word was out that the “embarrassing employee” would be sacked, but the company did not do the expected. Instead, it issued a statement that it was standing by its employee, and since anyone could make an honest mistake, it understood and was forgiving.
The social world had no option but to follow suit – and the matter was thus ended on a note of “let’s forgive and forget”. The label of silliness and smallness that had come upon the brand after the horrendous photo-posting was overcome by the largeness of heart the company showed forcing everyone else to be “bigger than the event”.
Of course, after that, there was a lot of internal course correction also. The company discovered that its proprietary social management systems needed to be tweaked to prevent such disasters from accidentally happening. It was also imperative for the company to ensure that work and personal devices were not interchangeably used by the social media management staff, such that their personal files could get into their work folders.
That’s a lesson we all know, but never follow … do we?
In Summary …
- How positively or negatively your brand is perceived by the general public is brand reputation.
- Your brand reputation precedes you. It could attract or repel people who never give you a chance to prove your credentials.
- It pays to understand why brand reputation is so important and what the benefits of having a rock-solid brand reputation are.
- Brands often have no clear strategy for building their reputations – and the alarm bells usually go off only when reputations are seriously impaired.
- Learn about both sides – the brand reputation killers to avoid, and the best practices to embrace for improving brand reputations
- It also pays to read good case studies of reputation setbacks, and the innovative ways by which bruised brands have made a recovery.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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