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5 Myths about corporate reputation management

By Richard Simpson | 10 Jul 2017

Over the last three years, corporate reputation management has very quickly developed into the buzzword of the moment. And as with any buzzword there tends to be a lot of misunderstanding around it. We thought it would be useful to put together a quick primer on the top 5 myths about corporate reputation management.

Myth 1: You are in control of your reputation

Your reputation is what people think of you. And to that end, you actually can’t control it. But you can certainly do everything in your power to ensure that the people you interact with have a great experience, which in turn helps ensure they have a positive view of you.

If you are doing everything in your power to ensure that your customers, employees and other stakeholders have a positive experience, then you will have laid strong foundations for a positive reputation. It doesn’t mean, though, that occasional haters won’t emerge. When they do, it will serve you well to remember that it’s unlikely to be personal. Look at the context in which the person is sharing their feedback and try to empathise. It won’t be permanent. As long as you are confident in the product or service you are delivering, this unhappy customer is most likely just a fleeting issue. All you can do is focus on resolving it the best way you can. Put the issue in perspective -- is there something going on in your industry that you are being affected by?

Myth 2: You can ‘bury’ bad news

Some years ago, there was a lot of media coverage in Europe around the ‘right to be forgotten’ which led people to believe they had the potential to get ‘bad news’ removed from Google. Around the same time there was also a spate of online reputation management companies who claimed to ‘bury’ bad news so that a search would only surface positive stuff about your company. Even with new tighter regulations set to come in under GDPR next May, it carries with it a great deal of ambiguity which means you can’t automatically bank on your right to be forgotten in the future either.

The problem with the notion that ‘if you do mess up you can hide it” is that it’s not a viable long-term strategy and it diverts your focus away from the real priority – doing good work. At some point in their existence, most companies will mess up. The challenge is how you deal with it. Turn a crisis to your advantage by demonstrating how you can act in line with your company’s values. There are still companies around that will promise you a positive online reputation. I’d say why not focus your efforts on doing good work and building up a base of ambassadors who are very likely to come to your defence in the event of an issue arising online.

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Myth 3: Communications is the most important part of your reputation strategy

Well, even the best communications strategy can’t make up for a poor business strategy. The starting point for a great reputation needs to be purpose and values. And not the sort of values that hang on a wall in the office. We’re talking about the sort of values that you use as your guideline for hiring and firing, that run through the DNA of the business and a purpose that is so core to what you do that it’s part of why people want to work with you. Once you have those down, the most critical step is ensuring that your behaviour as a business is completely aligned with that purpose. And only then should you think about how you communicate it.

Myth 4: Social media must play a vital role in your communications strategy

Yes, social media is ubiquitous. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to play a pivotal role in your communications strategy. The driver for whether you are active on social media or not is whether your key target audiences are there. It might be tricky to think of an audience that’s not currently using social media, but do the research and use evidence and data to help drive your decision. The one non-negotiable area in my view though, is monitoring. Even if your company is not active on social media, monitoring the various platforms for topical, relevant discussion of your company or market is critical to understanding your customers and your competition. Often we are asked if it is important for a CEO to be on social media

Myth 5: Hire a millennial, they’ll ‘get it’

OK, so this one is not really a myth. For the most part, millennials have been brought up with the Internet and they naturally think in a more holistic way when it comes to communicating. We would always advocate having a millennial on your communications team. However, many of the principles of good communications and reputation building have stood the test of time, and it will pay to ensure you have someone on board who understands the complexity of your business, your market and has some sense of history in order to avoid potentially embarrassing missteps.

To learn how you can easily take steps to improve your corporate reputation strategy, download our guide here

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