Companies of every size and across every industry can benefit from corporate reputation management.
As American business magnate Warren Buffet once said, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
The quote is a great way to describe the delicacy or fragility of corporate reputation, as well as the importance of managing it.
It holds truer than ever in today’s age, when consumers make purchase decisions based on brand or corporate reputation, perhaps more so than on advertising, direct sales messages, pricing, or promotional content.
Your corporate reputation management process can also affect your company’s revenue, market value, and even your ability to attract and retain top talent.
Keys to successful corporate reputation management
Corporate reputation management typically involves a combination of strategies used to shape the consumer perception of your brand.
Apart from media relations, PR efforts, and press release distribution, managing corporate reputation can also involve search engine optimization (SEO), social media listening and management, reputation marketing, employer branding, and customer experience management as parts of a single holistic process.
If you’re just getting started with how your company manages corporate reputation, here are some keys to success and points to consider:
Listen to customer feedback
Corporate reputation management requires companies to listen to the people who support their business: customers, employees, stakeholders, and local communities.
Your ability to listen to customers, in particular, is critical. This is why you should see customer feedback as a valuable gold mine. It contains data essential to understanding and improving the customer experience. Monitor, manage, collect, and analyze online reviews, social media comments, survey responses, call center notes, customer phone calls and emails, and other forms of customer feedback and Voice of the Customer data.
By managing customer data and making sense of massive amounts of feedback, you can understand not only what customers are talking about — but also how they really feel.
Build your employer brand
Corporate reputation can determine your ability to hire and retain top talent. Today’s business leaders understand that this kind of recruiting advantage is one of the keys to company success and growth. That’s why employer branding has become a key area of focus for organizations.
- Glassdoor reports that 69 percent of people would reject offers from companies with poor employer branding, even if this meant that they would remain unemployed.
But this takes more than posting job openings on LinkedIn or designing a fancy Careers page. Building your employer brand involves understanding your company’s value proposition, listening to employee feedback, and fostering an organizational culture that promotes shared values.
For more information, read our post about the characteristics of a strong employer brand.
Engage in community outreach
While it may not seem immediately clear how disaster relief efforts, charity events, or plastic-free campaigns could translate to increased market value or improved consumer brand perception, community outreach — and just being good corporate citizens in general — can work wonders for your corporate reputation.
- According to Cone Communications, 9 in 10 global citizens say they would boycott a company if they learned of irresponsible behavior.
- Meanwhile, according to Harvard Law research, community outreach efforts create distinct value that leads to increased customer loyalty, willingness to pay premium prices, and lower reputational risks in crisis situations.
People are less likely to do business with companies that are perceived as irresponsible.
On the other end of the spectrum, companies that are able to visibly demonstrate their ethics and show a commitment to the community are more likely to have a stronger corporate reputation and attract customers who care deeply about what a business stands for.
Plan for crisis
In 2008, singer-songwriter Dave Carroll arrived in Chicago’s O’Hare airport and discovered that his $3,500 Taylor guitar had been damaged by the baggage handlers of United Airlines.
He repeatedly tried to get a process claimed, but United said no and refused to reimburse him. For nine months, Carroll sent emails, made phone calls, pleaded with the airline’s customer service reps, and suggested that $1,200 in flight vouchers would be enough to compensate for the damaged guitar.
United wouldn’t budge. So Carroll wrote a song, called “United Breaks Guitars” – and it went viral.
United Airlines’ stock price plunged by 10 percent within four days of the song going online, costing shareholders as much as $180 million. This isn’t to mention the tsunami of bad PR and negative online comments that came United’s way.
While a cheeky 4-minute song is unlikely to be the only reason (or even the main reason) for the airline’s staggering loss, the point is that the whole “United Breaks Guitars” crisis made a very real impact on the corporate reputation of United Airlines.
Your company’s next potential crisis may not necessarily be a viral hit. It could take on the form of a scathing online review, a disgruntled ex-employee airing it out on social media, a fleeting yet forceful Instagram story.
In cases of crisis, you need a powerful plan of action. Take preventative instead of reactive measures. Resolve critical customer issues. Build relationships and foster goodwill with the media. Respond to online reviews. When releasing important external communications, consult with your PR and legal teams.
These steps prevent you from becoming vulnerable to nightmares such as the one United Airlines had. Failure to plan for and act in times of crisis can be costly, leading to damaged corporate reputation and reduced stakeholder value.
Focus on the customer experience
Giving customers an experience worth shouting about is one of the easiest ways to improve your corporate reputation.
Deliver a delightful experience, and your customers will spend more at your business and even recommend you to their friends. On the other hand, if you make customers unhappy you might lose them quickly; they might even write a bad online review and advise others to stay away from your business.
It’s important to attempt to see through your customers’ eyes and link their experience to your business outcomes and corporate reputation. With proper customer experience management, your organization can respond to and exceed customer expectations, helping increase satisfaction, drive loyalty, and reduce churn.
With the right attitude — and a serious commitment to putting customers first — you can inspire moments of customer delight and, at the same time, improve corporate reputation.
Consider corporate reputation management services
If your business performance hasn’t quite matched your own expectations, it may be useful to check up on your corporate reputation.
Some telltale signs that a company desperately needs better corporate reputation management include:
- Negative online reviews and low ratings
- Lousy performance based on conversion metrics
- Customer sentiment about your business trending negatively
- More Detractors than Promoters
Corporate reputation management can positively impact the financial health of your company as well as prevent avoidable embarrassing problems. More importantly, it provides reassurance that everyone who comes into contact with your brand — customers, prospects, suppliers, the media, employees, and stakeholders — will have a reliably positive, engaging, and valuable experience.corporate reputation