A brand lives and dies by its reputation with consumers.
What is the public perception of the brand?
What do they like/dislike about the brand?
What do consumers associate with the brand?
How does the brand compare to its competitors in the consumer’s mind?
Brand reputation management is about finding answers to these questions and taking action where necessary to improve brand image.
Think about it.
Consumers build up an idea of a brand in their minds.
Whether this brand perception is positive or negative can have a crucial impact on a purchasing decision.
That’s why brands need to carefully monitor their reputation with consumers since this may significantly impact their bottom line.
A positive brand reputation keeps existing customers loyal and convinces new customers to trust your offering.
A negative brand reputation will harm customer loyalty and put potential customers off.
Traditional media, public relations, and advertising have long been tools a brand uses to shape its reputation.
Yet, nowadays, online reputation can make or break a brand.
Businesses need to monitor their online reputation in the digital space, with social media, review sites, and online forums playing crucial roles in shaping brand reputation.
A comprehensive brand reputation management strategy will monitor how consumers think about the brand, paying particular attention to what people say online.
Let’s get a more precise picture of what brand reputation management is.
What is Brand Reputation Management?
Brand reputation management means monitoring and skillfully influencing how the audience feels about the brand.
Crafting a brand’s reputation can take years of building relationships with consumers based on trust.
A brand with a great reputation has usually earned that reputation over many years of fantastic products backed up by stellar customer service.
However, in the modern age, negative sentiment can spread fast.
Negative reviews, a misfired product launch, or a harrowing customer experience can damage your brand’s reputation when shared and talked about online.
Word-of-mouth negativity can now spread like wildfire online, leading to a brand’s PR nightmare.
This is why online reputation management is now critical to a brand’s reputation.
But what does online brand reputation management actually involve day to day?
It means hiring teams to monitor conversations online using social listening tools.
It means engaging with both negative and positive reviews to learn how consumers feel.
It means investing in a content marketing strategy to influence how people feel about the brand.
Let’s drill down on why brand reputation management is so important.
Why is Brand Reputation Management Important?
Having sleek brand assets and a striking advertising campaign to market a new product is great, but it amounts to nothing if the brand can’t shift a negative reputation.
Brand builders should understand that a brand strategy needs to account for managing brand reputation. If a brand has well-established positive associations, it can be that x-factor element that helps push a consumer toward a purchase.
When a brand has a positive reputation, it:
Inspires customer loyalty
Provdes a competitive edge
If a company has a reputation for outstanding customer service and quality products, this goes a long way to carving out a niche for a brand and boosting sales.
You’ve probably also heard that retaining customers is cheaper than attracting new ones. Keeping your reputation pristine via careful reputation management inspires customer retention.
Consistently positive customer experiences breed brand loyalty, and loyal customers are often willing to pay more for products.
They can also become mini-marketing machines through brand advocacy.
Maintaining an excellent brand reputation that entices customers can help increase the brand’s market share, handing the brand a coveted competitive advantage.
This is the best-case scenario showcasing why brand reputation management is essential.
You can outshine your competitors and see growth skyrocket if you build and protect a great reputation.
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Brand Reputation Management: How to Protect Your Brand
So, I’ve covered what brand reputation management is and why it’s essential. Now, let’s jump into what a brand reputation strategy looks like.
The first thing to realize is that brand reputation management is never done or finished.
Since the audience is always evolving, media monitoring should be continuous.
A brand’s reputation is always in a delicate balance and can change overnight, so think of brand reputation management as a neverending exercise.
Let’s go through some best practices for effective brand reputation management before diving into the steps of an action plan.
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#1. Focus On Customer Experience
The days of keeping customers happy with reliable products at affordable prices are long gone.
With so many options available to customers, brands must offer a fantastic customer experience or risk losing their customers to competitors.
So, what does a great customer experience look like?
Respond to customer reviews, whether positive or negative, to show that the brand values customers’ opinions and is receptive to their ideas.
Maintain contact through regular surveys to collect customer feedback.
Deal with customer issues that arise quickly.
In everything a brand does, it should be clear that customer satisfaction is the number one priority.
By taking this approach, a brand can build and protect an excellent reputation that keeps customers returning for more.
#2. Take The Time To Master Content Marketing
Brand managers should look to shape brand perception in the audience’s mind.
Part of that role is to be on the front foot and create helpful content regularly that supports your positive reputation.
This useful content can serve several purposes for a brand:
Keeps the brand top-of-mind for consumers
Establishes the brand as a trustworthy authority in the field
Entertains,engages and educates consumers
Create content that provides value to your customers as part of the excellent customer experience you provide.
Share educational blog posts, infographics, and webinars across your owned media channels that share solutions to consumer problems.
Regularly sharing educational, engaging content means brand builders are leading conversations about the brand, providing value and earning trust as they do it..
By driving that conversation online, you can go a long way toward building that brand reputation as a customer-oriented solution provider, or in other words, a brand that wants to help..
#3. Personalization Is Key
Humanize the brand.
One thing that can damage a brand’s reputation is if the audience feels that interactions are impersonal or cold.
As people, we don’t do business with corporate entities. We do business with people we know like and trust.
This means you need to constantly think of your brand as an extention of the people within it and communicate with humanity at every touchpoint.
Track customer data and use that information to make interactions more intimate.
This personalization should run through the company’s online presence, but it should also be present in any in-person interaction in any setting.
#4. Fulfil Promises
Just like in relationships, nothing hurts like a broken promise.
Brand managers should follow the “show, don’t tell”principle to brand promises.
If you say that customer service is important to you, back it up by showing consumers.
If you say that you listen to online reviews, give evidence to consumers that you’re taking their comments on board.
The other side of the coin is if something goes wrong and a brand promise is broken, brand managers should have a crisis management plan ready.
A crisis management plan aims to know how to own up to what went wrong and do everything possible to repair the relationship between you and the consumer.
This is a vital step in limiting any damage to brand reputation.
#5. Don’t Ignore Negative Feedback
Even if a brand has a stellar reputation, it’s unlikely that all consumers are happy 100% of the time.
You must track social media mentions of the brand name to find any instances of negative feedback.
Brand managers use social listening tools to do this.
With these tools, you can track conversations online to find both positivity and negativity related to your company name, gauging public perception.
Celebrate the positive feedback and show gratitude, even using them as testimonials, but don’t ignore any negativity.
Consumers who have had negative experiences with the brand can share their thoughts with others and damage the brand’s reputation, so it’s important to diffuse this negativity
Reach out humbly to diplomatically resolve the situation, inviting the customer to share their experience.
Use this interaction to actually learn something about the product or service to see if you can improve your offering.
Above all, go above and beyond to protect the brand’s reputation by making things right with the customer.
#6. Invest In All Stakeholders
Reputation management efforts should take the time to build brand reputation in the minds of employees as well as consumers.
When employees are happy, engaged, and fulfilled, they can be the best brand advocates supporting the fantastic brand reputation.
Disgruntled, unsatisfied employees do not see the company in a positive light.
This negativity will seep into the customer experience they provide, risking the brand’s reputation.
How To Implement A Reputation Management Strategy
It’s misleading to think of a strategy as a process of steps to be completed.
As I’ve said, reputation management needs to be continuous.
That being said, businesses need to start somewhere to review brand reputation and try to control the narrative of their brand online.
These five steps provide a workable outline;
#1. Assess The Current Brand Reputation
Track as many metrics across as many channels as possible to build a picture of what consumers say about the brand.
These sources could be social media channels, but they could also be in-store feedback, email messages, Yelp reviews, or brand survey responses.
Gathering this data can help brand managers define risks and opportunities related to brand reputation.
#2. Get All Stakeholders On Board
After auditing the current brand reputation, it’s time to loop others in.
Managing brand reputation is a cross-departmental task since many departments must collaborate to ensure customer satisfaction.
Brand managers will share the findings of the brand audit with key players in the business, those in charge of workflows that directly impact the customer experience.
This is the time to establish the next steps in the reputation management strategy.
As I’ve already mentioned, a vital part of reputation management is monitoring discussions about the brand.
Brand builders should routinely perform sentiment analysis to understand how the target audience feels about the brand.
How much time brand managers devote to this each week/month will vary though it’s essential that they keep their finger on the pulse.
If the industry or business is going through a rocky patch, starting every day by checking on reputation may be necessary for damage limitation.
And speaking of rocky patches…
#4. Create Crisis Response Plans
No brand is immune to crises, and they can come in many forms:
Product issues leading to criticism
Specific employee or branch errors
Technology issues like site outages
Global events and tragedies
Poor experiences & disgruntled customers
Each potential crisis requires a plan so that brands know what to do to protect their reputation.
Review the risks of these crises happening to the brand and have action plans ready just in case.
As a recent example, during the pandemic, KFC ran out of chicken.
Their response? Humour
While their creative department clearly made the best of a bad situation, addressing the crises was without doubt part of the KFC strategy.
#5. Learn From The Process And Act On Opportunities
Brand reputation management often focuses too much on the element of risk.
In reality, it’s also about identifying and acting on opportunities.
If monitoring activities reveal that one aspect of the brand is performing well with consumers, create some content celebrating the fact, or, even better, invite customers to create user-generated content to share.
Remember that the brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Compare the brand’s reputation to that of competitors.
If there is an area where the brand is clearly outperforming competitors, share that with sales teams so they can hammer home that advantage.
Remember that positive insights can always inform further strategy.
Maintaining that brand reputation can often be a simple case of doing more of what’s working.
Brand Reputation and Brand Safety
Brand safety is an extra element that forms part of brand reputation management.
Brand safety is a set of measures that work in two ways:
They protect consumers from advertisement malpractice.
They protect brands from harmful outside sources.
A brand manager’s role in brand safety is to ensure ads don’t deceive customers in any way. Illegitimate or misleading ads will damage your brand reputation and could compromise customer safety.
Buying ad space from trusted publishers will ensure that your ads aren’t placed next to inappropriate or offensive content.
In this way, brand safety is an umbrella term for industry best practices that protect both brands and consumers.
Over To You
Ultimately, branding is about creating the right perception of a business in order to make the relevant connections with the most relevant people.
To do that effectively, brands need a clearly defined strategy and method of communication, then consistency is the name of the game.
Brands that are managed meticulously to stay “On-brand”, deliver a consistent message that says “This is who we are and this is why you should care.”
This consistency grows awareness, reputation, trust and ultimately loyal customers who come back for more.
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