Brand reputation is the collective experience of those who work for or deal with an organisation or company; it’s not just about customer service. By Samantha Dawe, Director at The Think Tank
The value of your company and products’ reputation should not be underestimated. Reputation should be treated as an asset. Reputation is everyone’s responsibility. A good reputation buys you the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong.
The toughest lesson is to learn that sometimes it’s not what has happened that is the issue – it’s what people think has happened. Perception is everything.
What is an issue that can affect an organisation’s reputation?
“A condition or event, internal or external to the organisation, that if it continues will have a significant effect on the functioning or performance of the organisation or on its future interests”.
- Staff dispute
- Shortage of stock
- Supplier goes out of business
- Negative comments published online
- Computer virus
- Change in working hours for staff
- Health and Safety
Sign up to relevant Google alerts around your organisation’s name. If appropriate use other software available that will help you monitor mentions online. Be prepared to respond to comments if needed but you must be straightforward about who you are and never let emotional language influence what you are saying.
Do you know who your organisation’s stakeholders are? If not, find out. Stakeholder groups can include employees, clients/customers, opinion formers such as trade associations and professional bodies, your local community, investors in your organisation and key media who will act as commentators on what you are doing.
Don’t wait until there is a problem to engage with people; be proactive wherever you can. This also means getting together with colleagues in other departments to share and help identify potential causes for concern, even if an issue does not actually materialise.
You can gather information to help identify and manage risks via:
- Staff surveys
- Industrial relations
- Customers’ feedback
- Product development teams
- HR and Legal teams
- Health and Safety audits
Think about developing a crisis plan – you may need to get in expert external help. At least have a record of people/agencies that can help you if needed.
What threats can you anticipate? What do you know based on past experience? Do you know how to handle journalists, or who is the nominated person in your organisation that looks after this? This all goes back to having regular dialogue with your colleagues in other departments too – not just when the problem has happened.
Five core tips to get you started:
1. How much access during work time do your employees have to engage with social media and company data?
Blocking access to the internet or certain sites is often seen as the domain of the IT manager, but in today’s workplace this goes beyond merely the computer at your desk.In our networked environment people can access content and store information and data via their phone, tablet or laptop at any time of day. Therefore the rules are changing and your organisation needs to adapt.Expert Jamie Claret (www.amazingsupport.co.uk) suggests for starters you need think about:Good antivirus softwareSimple blocking systemsAdvanced blocking and monitoringPreventing sensitive data leaving your businessThe impact data leakage and wasted time during work hours versus empowering staff with access to these sources.
2. Does your organisation have a clear social media policy?
Social media encompasses a broad range of online activities, all of which can have a marked impact on the credibility, perceptions and awareness of an organisation. Outside the workplace rights to privacy and free speech can protect online activity conducted in someone’s personal social network with that person’s personal email address. However, the inevitable connections that can and are made with someone’s workplace can blur the boundaries. What is your organisation’s policy on this?
3. Have these policies been communicated to all staff?
Are they part of your induction programme?Your policy and procedures need to be communicated – don’t just rely on a document that sits in the drawer. Building this into your employee induction programme or at a team update meeting brings this to the forefront of people’s minds.Are your employees aware of the potential negative impact that online comments can have? Where social media interaction is not used exclusively for business, it is important to provide reasonable guidelines on online behaviour if any reference is made to the workplace. Furthermore you may need to draw attention to matters regarding confidentiality as they relate to your organisation or business, and how this can also cover photos or images posted online for example.
4. Are you aware of how other stakeholders might be looking at your organisation through social media?
Media management is likely to rest with either an external agency or your in-house communications team, or for smaller enterprises with a nominated employee or manager. The press have increasingly turned to social media channels not only regarding breaking news, but also to uncover more intimate details about an organisation.This can also be true of any stakeholders. And content posted online is hard to have removed… therefore you need to be as aware of what is being said about the organisation online, as others will be. Do you have any mechanisms in place to facilitate this?
5. Are you ready to act if something potentially negative happens?
You need to have a contingency plan; whether it’s customers commenting on a faulty product or poor service, or a disgruntled employee out to stir up some reactions or actually carrying out some form of deception. How will you react? Who needs to be aware of a problem as and when it occurs and importantly who should be tasked with sorting it out? Do you have an issues management team and plan? Does this plan map onto the online world?