A growing business has one essential attribute that should be protected always, and that is brand reputation. With the increasing rate of social media users and apps daily, every second is key as a growing brand.
Almost everyone with a smartphone is seconds away from destroying a business with just one negative post or comment. We see business reputations being tarnished through negative reviews, poor customer service, and poor product quality daily, and haven’t stopped to ask how it can be managed.
A survey carried out in 2016 shows that 74% of people trust reviews. That number is certainly too high to play with, when the growth of the business is concerned. Contrary to the popular saying, “Next week they will be talking about a new story,” there will always be a group of critics who forever revisit the controversy, especially if it isn’t handled in the best way.
Reputation management is a major investment. Most of our favourite brands today (celebrities, organisations and government officials) invest huge amounts of money on reputation management quarterly and annually. Most go with a reputation manager or a public relations professional from the beginning to avoid losing millions in crisis annually.
“Reputation is one of the most valuable assets of a brand/organization. It takes years to build and can be washed away in a single moment. Reputations are built based on continuous dialogue with stakeholders, excellence in customer service, and well-prepared crisis planning. That dialogue may not always be intentional or overt, but is inferred from all the touch-points, interactions and communication emanating to and with the brand.” – Mai El-Kinawi.
A good reputation brings more consumers, profitability and growth. This is cultivated and maintained from the first day of business. This is also managed well today by online reputation management (ORM) and search engine optimization (SEO), which allows most businesses to see how they are doing online through reviews, sales and through their competitor’s scope as well. This helps with building a long-lasting companies, especially if the negative reviews are corrected.
Recently at an event, we asked how companies with over twenty years in business have managed to sustain their reputation till date and are more reputable than the newer firms. A common answer we received from most was that the defined corporate governance and communications strategy each company had built never changed. Rather it improved with time, evolution of technology, and the ever changing consumer needs.
Have you thought of that as a business owner?
When launching a company, no matter how small, your reputation should be considered important and expensive. Most business owners leave their reputation management out of the business plan, therefore making it difficult to manage when a crisis arises. This is something most entrepreneurs are guilty of. Most would argue that the market here is different, so the cards are handled differently, but in a larger African market, most wouldn’t survive.
Clothing giants H&M had to hire a reputation management team and a diverse leader when the hoodie scandal took place. Months and numerous apologies later, they still had to do huge discount sales due to over $4 billion clothes unsold in 2018 and a decline in the stock shares.
It is imperative to understand the product/service you are providing and who your target market is, with a clear brand message that resonates with the brand vision that will help with a defined communications strategy for a successful business reputation.