Value Judgements – by Virtue’s Firas Sleem

Firas Sleem is CEO at Virtue PR & Marketing Communications

Consumers are choosing every product from cars to burgers based on corporate values. Understanding an array of customer personas can guide tactics for winning and keeping them. Studies have long shown that your conviction to do good will lead customers to spend more, recommend you more and remain loyal. Yet they seldom describe the mechanisms that brand managers can use to benchmark and track reputation.

A recent global study found that 62 per cent of consumers want companies to take a stand on pressing issues such as immigration, data privacy and climate change. In the same study, nearly half of consumers (48 per cent) would publicly complain about their disappointment with a company whose words or actions are misaligned with their personal values, and one-fifth of consumers (21 per cent) said they’d abandon that brand out of frustration and would never return.

Reputation is, by definition, opinions held. Like beauty, it is subjective, mercurial and challenging to categorise. The key to the art of measuring reputation is knowing your stakeholders – ideally, every single member of your audience.

In 2020, having an outstanding reputation – both online and offline – is even more imperative as competition becomes tougher. Managing an organisation’s reputation gives businesses the competitive edge as well as the confidence to carve a niche in their industries and work towards becoming leaders. This puts brand reputation management at the heart of building a genuine public corporate persona, an image that is based on foundation of customer relations nurtured from the get-go.

Reputation management requires an all-encompassing approach. A good brand manager knows how to maximise key platforms to eff ectively convey a carefully crafted and appealing message to stakeholders. The objective is not just to bring the message out there but, more importantly, to influence or shape public views about the entity as well.

It requires great and consistent efforts to build and sustain an unassailable reputation. From offering top-notch products and services to establishing an emotional connection with your target market, reputation management is all about relationships between the brand and its stakeholders, partners and the wider community.

The traditional way of measuring a brand’s reputation is finding out what its target audience is saying about it – both good and bad – to understand the ever-changing sentiments of the public. Scouring each platform, including checking your social media notifications, reading reviews and listening to views and opinions, is part and parcel of your work as a brand manager.

Being proactive in knowing the public’s sentiments allows you to act immediately on their concerns to prevent the issues from spiralling out of control. It also enables you to contain any negative feedback, effectively nipping it in the bud. While acting on the concern, rather than being defensive, it is important to let the other party know that their suggestions and ideas are valued and appreciated. One of the secrets to having a good reputation is knowing how to handle unflattering feedback.

Listening to the public perception of your brand gives you insights as well into what they find interesting and worth applauding. You can keep track of and record how the public perception of your brand is being affected by every success story you communicate. By doing so, you can effectively design your next campaigns to make them more powerful and impactful. Emphasising positive reviews also helps in drowning out the negative voices that inevitably crop up.

Further, reputation management entails monitoring your market competitors to keep you on your toes at all times. It will prevent you from being caught off -guard. Having inside knowledge of what is happening within the industry you are operating in is also an advantage that lets you strategise more effectively.

Other traditional methods of reputation management include word-of-mouth, direct and consistent communication with the media, partners and stakeholders, and the examination of all brand-related keywords across channels.

There are cutting-edge tools and mechanisms specifically designed to keep track and monitor the reputation of your brand. We have automated media monitoring tools that are extremely efficient in measuring prevailing opinions. Research, surveys and studies based on the best industry practices are data-driven tools that are useful in managing an entity’s public image. Technology-driven software is also highly effective, especially in catching and handling negative comments.

For better management, many companies, especially multinationals, outsource this service to an agency that is more experienced in dealing with the public. The agency is more adept at engaging with the target audience by delivering the message in a timely fashion using the most effective channels.

Reputation management all boils down to building clear communication with everyone – internally or externally – and setting the right practical expectations. Maintaining an outstanding reputation goes beyond delivering high-quality products and services, but it is also about showcasing what makes your brand unique, living up to your commitment and promises, and providing the best customer experience.

It is a continuing process. You check, analyse and tweak your strategy now and then according to the prevailing demands and needs. In the end, reputation management is an effort worth investing in.