There are those somewhat less savvy individuals who believe corporate reputation management is nothing more than burying negative mentions of a company online. Thankfully, more seasoned PR and communications practitioners understand that a corporate reputation management strategy is key to a company’s longevity.
Warren Buffet famously quipped that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. As a B2B PR agency with ten years of industry experience, we’ve seen many examples that prove Buffet right. We’ve also helped a number of companies navigate communications crises and come out bruised, but still on top.
The reality is that one bad, misguided, delayed or tone-deaf move in the public sphere can undo years of goodwill and reduce a brand’s market position significantly. That’s why it’s worth taking a closer look at what corporate reputation management is – and how you can improve your strategy.
Corporate reputation management 101
A successful corporate reputation management strategy is one that is always at the ready. It needs to be consistently updated, reflect the company’s values and outline various scenarios and how to respond to them. Your company’s key messages need to be front and centre so that should a crisis arise, everyone can sing from the same hymn sheet.
Appropriate action during a public fallout is not some knee-jerk reaction or CEO shooting from the hip, it needs to be considered carefully – but delivered fast. And that’s where your corporate reputation management strategy comes in, helping you hit the right notes at the right time.
Managing reputational risk
The greatest reputational risk lies in the gap between what you say, and whether you act in line with what you say. You need to think long-term and weigh up the benefits of a few column inches today versus the overall media impact down the line. The desire to respond can often get us into more hot water – it’s important to say something in difficult scenarios, but not anything anywhere. And if you can’t immediately live up to what you say, then don’t say it. Stick to the facts and if necessary – apologise.
Improving reputation management
Companies with strong reputations typically have a clear purpose – or mission, vision, raison d’etre – it goes by different names but they all answer the same question: why is your company different? Each and every employee, from top to bottom, needs to be able to answer this question so make sure your purpose is clearly articulated and circulated internally.
Measurement is key to staying on top of your corporate reputation. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a good tool to help you keep your reputation on track and know where you’re going wrong before it’s too late to address. If your company doesn’t use NPS already, you can create a survey without much fuss.
Your communications consultants need to work as closely as possible with your internal team. One of their number one focus areas needs to be your employees. These people are your most important asset and have the greatest potential to be your most robust brand ambassadors. Prioritise internal brand-building campaigns, create a staff ambassador programme, engage with people and get to know your own social media stars.
Your communications team is responsible for safeguarding your company’s reputation. This means you need to choose who you work with carefully. An agency of ‘yes-men’ jumping at your every command may sound appealing, but what you really want is a group of strategic thinkers and agile doers who can speak truth to power. It’s your job to listen to them and consider their advice – they are the corporate reputation management experts after all.
Need a new corporate reputation strategy? We can help you plan, implement and manage your reputation strategy – get in touch with our CEO, Heather, to find out more.