When it comes to public relations, reputation management is one of the most critical functions. Yet many businesses wait until trouble strikes to worry about their image in the public eye. Smart business people understand that the best approach is always a proactive one, by setting up a strong foundation to begin with.
Reputation management, especially in the early stages of the business, should focus on building credibility. No matter how amazing your marketing game is, a lot of people may choose not to do business with you because you’re new. They make like your web page and your viral ads, but still be hesitant about investing money in your brand.
So how do you manage your reputation to build credibility, and foster trusting relationships with not just your customers, but the workforce behind your services? Because after all, if your employees don’t believe in the business, why should customers?
Here are five recommendations.
1. Conduct Business Ethically
One of the easiest ways to build credibility is to conduct business ethically. The public distrusts everything these days – big corporations, banks, politicians, the media – and are quick to assume the worst. But operating under ethical principles helps to build public faith in your brand, even in the face of scandal.
Wells Fargo and Volkswagen are two big brands suffering from the backlash of scandal caused by unethical actions. These were not necessarily committed by the company at large, but by people representing them, who flouted ethical standards. Their conduct is now the entire brand’s burden to bear.
For this reason, it’s important to remember that ethics does not involve your moral standards alone. Don’t just trust that your employees know what’s right and will act accordingly.
Create an ethical code of conduct, and regular training, to remind people of where the company stands on ethics and industry laws. But most importantly, lead by example every day.
2. Resolve Customer Complaints Promptly
No matter how good your products and services, you can’t please everyone. It’s just not possible. Someone, somewhere will find something to complain about.
Maybe the chicken was too salty, or they ordered the wrong shirt size and need to return it. This can be frustrating for a small business, since meeting the new demands leads to loss of funds. But better a little loss of funds, than a big hit to reputation when the disgruntled customer goes online to complain.
A lot of people research new brands on the internet before testing their products and services, and if the reviews are bad before you even get that chance to build credibility, then there goes your business.
Make it easy for customers to contact you or your brand; and give your customer service representatives the resources they need to resolve problems the first time around. The more that customer gets bounced about looking for answers, the more frustrated and less patient they become.
3. Ensure One Clear & Cohesive Message
Misunderstandings is one of the main reasons for dissatisfaction with a company’s products and services. This is often caused by disseminating messages that are unclear, and lacking cohesion; and can happen when departments operate in isolation and without real teamwork.
Lack of communication can lead to conflicting messages about prices, and product information. Then when the customer doesn’t get what was advertised, at the price it was advertised, you have a problem.
Another way brands often fail to have one clear and cohesive message is by not having a real marketing or content plan in place. Because of this, every ad, every social media post, every article is just a random shout into the social media void. Thus, there is no common tone or theme by which customers can learn to identify the brand.
There’s no point investing in big ad campaigns if when customers run into the different manifestations of your PR and marketing efforts, they can’t tell it’s you. This causes many brands to lose out on return customers and brand loyalty.
4. Obtain Endorsements
There are many ways to get endorsements for your brand. You can try getting slots in big media publications, working with brand ambassadors, or even gaining endorsement from a customer or client.
Some great brand ambassadors options include journalists at big media publications, industry experts, celebrities, pop culture icons, bloggers, and social media celebrities.
These ambassadors endorse your brand by giving it a positive review, advocating on its behalf as a user of the product or service, or providing you with a platform for advertising.
Don’t underestimate the value of using bloggers and social media ambassadors. Even big brands like Subaru often work with amateurs, who nonetheless know how to produce authentic and engaging content.
Often overlooked, endorsement from current clients and customers not only builds credibility, but brings new business to your doorstep.
If you have a great relationship with customers, they will recommend your product or service. You can also take things a step further by offering them a referral or finders’ fee, if you manage to secure the business of the customer they refer.
5. Hire a PR Firm
Of course, the best and easiest way to manage your reputation is to hire a firm to do it for you. In fact, a public relations firm can help you accomplish all the recommendations mentioned before, and then some. We can can also help you identify what strategies work best for your brand, and how to apply them.
Most small businesses and startups may think a PR firm is out of their budget, and in most instances they are. We’ve seen contracts at up to $900 per hour – totaling tens of thousands of dollars per month.
However, like any other business service, there is a PR firm to fit any budget. You only have to find them, and this one is looking right at you.
When most people think of public relations, they think of the clean-up crew, coming in after a scandal to do some damage control. While this is one of the functions PR pros perform, there is much more to reputation management than reactive solutions.
If you’re interested in more proactive reputation management services for your company, then contact us to see what our brand can do for yours.
About the Author
Alexis Chateau is the Founder and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.