How to protect organisational reputation

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Apr 19, 2024

A company’s reputation, brand and public perception is the golden thread running through much of its success – or lack thereof. In short, get brand reputation wrong, and it’s hard to get anything else right.

Companies with strong, positive reputations are perfectly placed to reap any number of business benefits. From a loyal customer base, enhanced brand equity, quality hires and increased employee satisfaction, to reduced negative publicity, better customer experiences, less need for crisis management, and higher price points, all drive longevity, competitive edge, and a far healthier bottom line.

Statistics shared by CrowdSpring and Influencer Marketing Hub further underscore the importance of a company’s brand image:

  • 81% of consumers state they need to trust a brand to buy from them, and 46% of consumers will pay more for products and services from brands they deem trustworthy
  • 86% of consumers believe authenticity is vital in deciding which brands they like and support
  • Nearly 50% of consumers are likely to become loyal to a brand based on a positive first-time purchase or experience.

So, how can business leaders, marketers, and public relations experts uphold an organisation’s reputation and brand in the eyes of stakeholders? What factors should be prioritised when tackling brand image?

What is brand reputation management?

First, let’s start by defining brand reputation as the perception that stakeholders – including customers, employees, and business partners – have of a brand. The stronger the reputation, the more likely it is that people will trust, advocate for, and interact with, the brand.

As brand reputation can change over time – both positively and negatively, and at an individual or societal level – it’s critical that businesses closely monitor and manage how they are perceived. The marketing strategies and initiatives involved in this monitoring and management, in a bid to increase brand reputation in the eyes of others, form the basis of brand reputation management. At its core, it focuses on ensuring that conversations and perceptions of a brand align with what a brand is trying to convey.

What factors impact a company’s reputation and image?

It’s not difficult to bring to mind brands that have suffered substantial reputational damage: Pret a Manger and their lack of transparency around product ingredients that resulted in a fatality; Pepsi and their ill-judged Black Lives Matter advert; Starbucks facing allegations of tax avoidance; Facebook/Meta and the scandal around data breaches; Boohoo not ensuring its suppliers pay minimum wage.

Clearly, huge market share and profits, a household brand name, and global success don’t mean a business is immune to reputational risk. Whether you’re managing a small business, a rapidly scaling start-up, or a giant, global organisation, brand reputation is key to overall success or failure.

Any number of factors can influence organisational reputation – from direct and indirect experiences, to influences that are separate from a user’s individual experience:

  • Quality of products and services
  • Customer service and user experiences
  • Organisational ethos, activism, philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CSR) including environmental impact and diversity and inclusion
  • Reputations of affiliated brands and individuals
  • Buying behaviour of friends, family members, and other influential individuals
  • Social media and online presence, including website user experience and search engine ranking
  • Customer reviews
  • Brand messaging and storytelling
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Transparency around business practices and governance
  • Internal employee policies and employee satisfaction
  • Financial performance
  • Industry and market competition
  • Media and press coverage.

Understanding what affects organisational reputation, and how reputation can be improved to achieve business goals, should be top of the agenda for leaders and marketing professionals alike.

What are the best strategies to boost brand and business reputation?

A solid reputation management strategy should encompass all aspects of how a brand speaks about its history, mission and purpose, culture, ways of working, products and services, and priorities.

Here are some ways in which brands can address negative brand image and help to boost overall organisational reputation and perception:

  • Invest in customer and user experience. Don’t ignore negative comments, online reviews and other sources of customer data; they can be valuable learning tools, helping to identify pain points and critical issues. Strive for continuous improvement based on feedback and data, and add value wherever you can across the customer journey.
  • Focus on delivering exceptional quality and value. High-quality products and services speak for themselves. Meeting and exceeding customer expectations of your brand’s offering will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
  • Strengthen online presence. You have to meet consumers where they are – and, in our digital age, this often means online. By maintaining a positive, high-quality and active digital presence – across your company website, relevant social media platforms, industry forums, and review sites – you’ll be better positioned to interact with consumers, respond promptly to feedback and queries, acknowledge positive reviews and address negative reviews, and remain part of ‘the conversation’ in real time.
  • Prioritise employee satisfaction. Happy employees make for great brand ambassadors. Investing in employee development and wellbeing initiatives that increase overall satisfaction – from training programmes and flexible working arrangements to compensation packages and recognition of achievements – will positively impact organisational reputation from the inside out.
  • Boost CSR and philanthropic efforts. CSR initiatives can take many forms, from charitable donations to raising awareness for a societal cause to reducing environmental impact.
  • Evaluate brand marketing and communication plans. Do your brand storytelling and marketing activities convey what you think they do – or want them to? Ensure that marketing and branding decisions are aligned with core values, company ethos, and other key aspects of the business. For example, if you care about the environment and take pride in cultivating a sustainable, ‘green’ supply chain, ensure your customers know about it.
  • Be transparent and trustworthy. A recent survey by Statista revealed that 60% of consumers stated that trustworthiness and transparency were the most important traits of a brand.
  • Ensure crisis management efforts are effective. Despite best efforts, there may be times when crisis management is necessary. When PR crises or negative incidents occur, ensure crisis communications are swift, transparent, accept responsibility, and address concerns in a direct and meaningful way.

Remember, any efforts to increase brand reputation should be authentic and meaningful. Additionally, consistently and proactively brand reputation – both online and offline – will enable you to respond quickly to any adverse changes and prevent issues from escalating. It can also help you to spot potential opportunities and capitalise on them.

Become an expert in organisational reputation management

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