No room for error: How to manage brand reputation
For SMEs, the most effective approach to managing brand reputation involves promoting your company honestly, implementing customer experience processes, redressing complaints and engaging with customers online.
It takes a lifetime to build a perfect brand reputation, but a few seconds to destroy it. Brand reputation refers to the perception consumers have about your brand. A positive reputation signifies that a brand has solid trust credentials and consumers look forward to utilise its products and services. A negative reputation arises out of consumer's lack of trust leading to the brand falling out of the consideration set. The reputation of a brand is the only thing in a brand's kitty which is non-negotiable. It's imperative to have an immaculate reputation as that's the building block for revenue, long- term profitability and valuation of your business.
Consumer angst and displeasure should not be neglected or treated as blind spots and reputation management should not come into play only in the advent of crisis. According to Reputation Institute, a good corporate reputation is vital for an organization to perform well. Around 40% of a [public] company's market performance can be attributed to non-financial factors associated with its corporate reputation.
In today's hyper-competitive environment, brand reputation is the key focus area for medium and smaller companies as their survival depends on it. It can't be relegated to PR alone to manage with press releases and press conferences. The science and math behind creating, maintaining, managing and addressing reputation has undergone sudden change with a potent combination of many levers at work.
The Proactive and Reactive theory
For small and medium businesses, the most effective approach involves promoting your company honestly, implementing customer experience processes, redressing consumer complaints with defined TAT (turn- around time) and actively engaging with customers online. There are two approaches to it, proactive and reactive. Both have to co-exist, run in tandem and complement each other.
The proactive stance is all about leveraging your brand in various channels to create a positive perception on an ongoing basis. While advertising and communication creates emotional bonding but it has to be layered with communicating great customer experience. This begins with efficient after-sales, great website/ App followed by cutting edge SEO strategy, whitepapers, podcasts, short videos and impactful content marketing strategy to position your brand up there for customers to look up to you with a positive lens. The creation of a brand newsroom is relevant as it monitors the brand to leverage many positive attributes. The CEO or founders of companies should project themselves as doyens of the industry by taking stand on issues and social causes which will provide a positive rub off.
Without strong brand image or reputation there is no scope left to be condoned.
A combination of online and offline interventions leading to smooth flow of processes on a real time basis almost working on an auto pilot mode is mandatory. The online part involves crafting a fool proof and future ready ORM (Online reputation management) strategy which gets coupled with Offline (Above the line, PR) activities. Brands need to allocate dedicated resources and budget. A carefully structured reputation management strategy will place the brand in a safe and confident zone allaying fear of reputation damage
Online Reputation Management
ORM Strategy for small and medium business entails taking charge of the brand on the digital domain through automated processes which include scanning of Social media, Blogs, Websites, App reviews supplemented with cutting edge SEO techniques and consumer management processes. For instance, if you are in the education business and you are faced with negative reviews which appear on FB pages, Twitter, feedback forums then you have to address the grievances in a professional way. The ORM tool picks up the queries from social/ digital platforms, buckets them and shares it with respective consumer management functions. There are various ORM tools like Radian6, Reputation Defender or specialised agencies which can help to automate the cycle.
Despite the onset of massive technological changes that have transformed society, the relevance of corporate reputation is just as vital now as it would be in future. It's just that consumers will continue to form their perception and opinion across different channels. The smartness lies in proactively pacing your brand, pre-empting and sixth sensing the consumer sentiments by utilising contemporary digital techniques.
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