June 5, 2020
Brand reputations can grow and thrive, and can also come crumbling down in seconds. Maintaining one has its obstacles, and one little bump in the road that isn’t addressed and assessed and dealt with in the right way can harm your reputation and the image consumers hold of you in their minds. Brand reputation is very much on the Public Relations (PR) side of business, and if you’ve never thought about what your brand reputation is and what people think of your brand, we highly encourage you to start to do so. So, what is brand reputation defined? What does it do? How do you maintain one? What happens if you have a fumble and don’t handle things as well as you should, or thought you did?
A brand reputation is inherent, and it all starts out when you begin to develop your brand. It is one of the biggest things that drive marketing campaigns because you want people to think a certain way about your brand. Defined, brand reputation is the collective thoughts your clients or consumers have about you and the way they react to you in the marketplace, and it is influenced by your tone, your stances on social/cultural movements, organizations you associate yourself with, and the brand morals and values you portray in your marketing, advertisements, PR statements, etc.
A brand reputation is just one of those things that ‘is.’ Literally, it’s inevitable, so make sure the one you create and strive to maintain is a strong one. The importance of a brand reputation is that it builds trust and creates loyal customers, which in turn increases sales, and then allows for business expansion.
No matter how good your product or service is, if people conceive your brand as clashing with their morals, unethical, not using your platform in the right way, etc, they will not buy into your product or service.
Many aspects go into building a good brand reputation. It’s the culmination of everything you do, every action you take. So where do you start?
This should come as a no brainer. Everyone’s always skeptical about those trending brands that sell “miracle products” at a high price, and then ever-present 5-star reviews they’ve been getting about the product are actually just strategically placed comments and when you actually search the product, it has overwhelmingly bad reviews. Don’t skip steps just to put your product out there, because if you spend all your money on the marketing and the product itself isn’t good, it’ll just lead to negative press and a negative reputation.
This also rings true in terms of the services you offer. If you make a promise your clients, meet your promise. At LBMG, we’re huge on communication and education; we want our clients to know what’s going on every step of the way, and we want them to ultimately understand how we’re enhancing their brand in the best way possible. Falling short on your promises or failing to communicate effectively with your clients and customers can result in tarnishing your reputation, likely costing you business and referrals.
At the end of the day, make sure when creating or starting your business, you take every precaution necessary, and you don’t take shortcuts. You might regret it later!
The content you create and post or advertise with will convey personality and messages to your audience. A picture is worth a thousand words applies very much here. If you’re a boutique and only use specific models of race, size, age, or sex – that sends a message. If you choose to advertise to different cultures or in different countries, make sure you’re doing it while being educated about the culture you’re advertising too. A sloppy translation that is actually offensive, or is silly, will make an audience see you as uneducated and you didn’t do your research beforehand. This also includes the topic of posting or creating content that speaking towards a social issue, taking a stance, or is sparking controversial conversations – which we’ll touch on later.
We live in a day and age where most, if not everyone, is public to some extent on social media. That means your employees have an online presence, and this can really accelerate or hinder your brand persona and reputation. In light of recent events, this is absolutely crucial, whatever your employees do outside of the office can really impact the way people view your brand. And if it’s a negative action, posted on social media, trust us when we say it won’t go well.
Employees that live and breathe the brand values and aesthetics are great examples of employees boosting brand reputations; take pretty much any Facebook/Instagram employee, for example.
Whoever you choose as an influencer (or many) to represent your brand is just as influential as the people you hire to work for your brand. Do your research. Find out if this influencer has ever had any bad press, and if so, why (don’t be afraid to Google search their name + porn… trust us, it happens). If you’re an ethically sourced brand and choose an influencer who has worked with brands who aren’t, that might not be the best match.
If you’re a brand that values certain political and socio-cultural views, and the influencer you’re looking to work with is outspoken against those, that might also not be a great idea. Find the influencer whose audience and themselves have values that match up with yours, or find one that by working with them will only increase your brand reputation, and not tear it down.
Brand values should be defined at the beginning of your brand building. Whenever you go to any business site, on an about us page, chances are they’re bound to have brand values listed out or they touch on what they’re about as a brand.
Whatever these are will influence how consumers see you, and they will look for reinforcing of those values in your product, marketing, employee treatment, and the organizations you associate with. We all know too well what can happen to a brand representation when it comes out who they donate to, and the PR that must be organized to combat it. These should act as sort of the skeleton to your brand reputation building, everything else should flesh those out.
A brand reputation can be challenged, especially in times of controversy, how do you protect your brand’s reputation? This is an extremely relevant issue marketers are having to deal with. Don’t take our word for it- when Barstool Sports president Dave Portnoy had to address the viral video of him that was leaked, they responded in true barstool fashion, and even turned what would have been bad press for any normal company into good press:
However, the ongoing state of the world makes it very hard for brands to not take a stance on issues more pressing that a leaked sex tape, and even then, consumers or clients will see you not taking a stance as a form of action. So what do you do?
Understand that controversy is powerful. It creates conversations and buzz around your brand, and whether that’s positive or not is up to you. Whether you take a side or not, stand firm in your decision and anticipate consequences. Whatever you do, speak from the heart of the company; consider the culture of the company and how this controversy affects that. Don’t hop on a social/cultural movement and suddenly market it as a way to make your brand look better – this is called woke-washing, and (fun fact) it happens almost every year during pride month. There is such a thing as taking your marketing to speak to larger issues too far, and unless you want to get called out on social media for it, it’s probably best you strategize and really research before presenting a marketing campaign that touches on specific issues.
Know that oftentimes, silence is also frowned upon. Try taking a data-driven approach to addressing the controversial topic if you must; be a resource, share information that informs your followers. Remember, you have a platform and people expect you to use it. Having an opinion may help or hinder your brand reputation, depending on if your past actions as a brand support that opinion or go against it. Using data to speak for you is a great way to just present facts, and let your consumers take that and associate your brand with x, y, or z.
Sometimes being objective is not as diplomatic as you may think, especially in times like these. Ben and Jerry’s opinionated response on the current Black Lives Matters movement is a prime example of this. As humans, we all inherently want to make the world a better place, and while we sometimes let our judgment of what we want people to think of us get in the way, if you have a platform to use to inform and/or take a stance, why wouldn’t you?
Whether you like it or not, you have competition out there who are going after your same consumers’ trust and business. Because of this, it’s crucial to maintain a positive brand reputation. Use the best practices we mentioned above to build and maintain your brand reputation. Focus on what your customer’s experience is, cater to employee satisfaction and we promise that your brand growth will follow.
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