It’s obvious to all of us that maintaining a good corporate reputation is important, but do we fully understand what this means in practice or what “good” actually is? When done correctly, good corporate reputation management should do two things:

  • Identify your company and brand with an idea or concept.
  • Set expectations for your future behavior and actions.

If we take some big name companies, Rolex for example, you immediately think of a reputation for luxury and quality. Or when you think of Amazon you think of a reputation of being able to find whatever you want and having it delivered the next day.

With both of these examples, we know what these companies stand for and we’ve seen them perform consistently to those expectations. This tells us that it might actually be simpler than you thought to effectively manage your corporate reputation, because both the examples above didn’t achieve their good reputations from fancy PR campaigns and advertising (though they may have played their part) they gained those reputations by consistently doing what they said they were going to do.

This gives you a lot of leeway in your own corporate reputation management, you just need to decide what you stand for and ensure you stick by it.

Why is it important?

Brand perception is influencing more and more buyers, and as brands move into the world of social media and online reviews, a good (or bad) reputation can make or break a company. Put simply, customers always have options, and if you have a bad reputation, they’re going to move on quickly (and we all love a good story of a very public reputation fail don’t we?).

Good corporate reputation management on the other hand can:

  • Increase sales
  • Strengthen customer loyalty
  • Attract top talent
  • Increase company market value
  • Open up market opportunities you might not otherwise have had

You should definitely see your corporate reputation as an asset, how you’re perceived is vital for customers to trust you.

So, what are the steps to follow for effective corporate reputation management?

Step 1 – Decide what you stand for

We’ve touched on this above and can’t stress enough how vital it is to get this right as a first step. If you don’t know what you stand for, you can’t start to manage your corporate reputation.

Your marketing efforts and product development will be misguided, customers won’t know what to expect from you and you’ll eventually start to lose the trust of your customers.

When a customer has a different experience every time they buy from you, you’ll start to give the impression that you simply don’t care about them and don’t stand for anything at all.

Don’t make the mistake is thinking a good reputation only means high quality/high cost products, remember, you decide what you stand for, and as long as you do it consistently, you’ll start to build a reputation.

Some examples you might want to choose include:

  • Be known for your spectacular customer service – customers will come to you because they expect every interaction to be a great one.
  • Develop a reputation for being the cheapest and the quickest – This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we all need cheap and easy from time to time so why not be known as the best at it?
  • Target your market to a single niche product and be the best at it – you may not have the biggest market, but you’ll have the reputation as the best in the business.
  • You might aim to be the most innovative business on the block. Known for ever more interesting ideas and products, you’ll have your customers wondering just exactly what you’re going to do next?
  • Or maybe you want to be a local leader in a certain product, or the best producer of a product unique to your region?

Whatever you decide you stand for, just make sure it’s clear, easy to understand and your brand will naturally start to form your reputation. We’ve gone into more detail here on the specifics of building your brand (and in turn your reputation) but what you stand for should always drive your reputation management.

Step 2 – Manage your message and be consistent

Once you’re clear on what you stand for, ensure that this message gets presented consistently across all platforms as the bulk of reputation management is now taking place online. This includes;

  • Get the message out to staff about what you stand for first and foremost – They’ll be the frontline of your reputation and have to be clear on the message they’re selling. This message should come from the top down and be clear. All staff should know that “We stand for X and will achieve Y!”.
  • Making sure you’re consistent across all social media platforms – Again, you should be telling the same message to everyone in a consistent style and tone.
  • Create consistent content as part of your marketing strategy that supports your reputation.
  • Keep the message simple – You want to build your reputation on something clear and easy for people to remember, but don’t forget it has to have meaning.
  • Be genuine – Never try to mimic your competitors, instead tell your own reputational story about how you stand out from the crowd.

The more you can promote a clear and consistent message (and of course prove you’re able to do what you say) the more solidified your reputation becomes in people’s minds.

Step 3 – Gather feedback

Collecting feedback is also critical for good corporate reputation management, and in many cases, your feedback is your reputation. Your customers are the ones who are best placed to tell you if you have a good reputation or not..

Online feedback is the most public display of your reputation. Reviews, social media comments, forum discussions and search engine results are the first impression of reputation new customers will get. It’s therefore vital to collect (and act) on that feedback to ensure your reputation is secure.

You can leverage your feedback in several different ways to help boost your reputation:

  • Utilize positive customer feedback as testimonials – This is one of the most effective forms of reputation management as customers no longer have to just take your word for it that you’re great, they can see tangible evidence that others think so too.
  • Evidence that you take action on feedback – Where you’ve made a mistake or if a customer wasn’t happy with your service, their negative feedback could be very damaging to your reputation if left unchecked. Instead, evidence to them you’re able to act on that feedback and put things right, which in turn enhances your reputation.
  • Gather as much feedback as you can – The more feedback you have, the more accurate a picture of your reputation you’ll start to see.

Don’t just limit your feedback gathering to customers too. Remember to get feedback from your staff, they can provide valuable insights on where they think the company’s reputation sits and help get you back on track.

Step 4 – Proactively manage your reputation to be on top of problems

For many organizations their reputation management might be an afterthought. Something that only comes into play when a problem arises. This complacent attitude often leads to a poor, reactive method of managing reputation and leaves them open to making mistakes, upsetting customers or committing a social media gaff because they don’t have a consistent way to manage attacks on their reputation.

However, those who proactively manage their reputation by consistently carrying out the three steps listed above, will not only be able to clearly state what they stand for and have clear customer expectations, they’ll also bring with it some additional benefits such as:

  • A solid reputation diminishes the impact of negative reviews – When customers see negative reviews for a company with a good reputation, they’re much more likely to see it as a temporary blip than as a trend for bad customer service. Your consistent track record softens the blow when problems do arise.
  • Responding to issues before they go public – Those organizations who stay on top of collecting feedback can spot small issues before they become big ones. By responding to negative feedback swiftly, they resolve the issue before the customer has the chance to spread the negative word and harm your reputation.
  • Being proactive lets you learn from your mistakes – You also start to see trends and discover which of your actions actively harm or help your reputation so you can apply more of the positives in the future.

Maintaining a good corporate reputation means ensuring you always present a clear message, that you consistently sell this message and that you stay up to date on your customer opinions. Once you can apply these three principles consistently, you’ll find your reputation will start to manage itself.