A couple of years ago I wrote a post about corporate reputation management that was aimed primarily at dispelling the myth that corporate reputation management = burying negative mentions of a company online. The general understanding of the importance of corporate reputation management has become more sophisticated over the years and the questions we get now are far more nuanced.
With recent news headlines about airlines brutally removing people from planes, security breaches taking down national institutions like the UK’s National Health Service and high-profile missteps on live TV (Oscar’s, anyone?) it warrants some time to reflect on how your businesses would handle such a crisis.
What is Corporate reputation management?
Reputation management ultimately comes down to company behaviour and preparation. It means doing everything you can to attain your desired reputation, without self-imposed silos (‘no, that’s marketing’s job’ or ‘we can’t do that, that’s what the social team does’ – sound familiar?). And it means being prepared to act appropriately if a crisis should arise.
A strong reputation starts with clear purpose and values in a business. These might go by a different name (mission, vision, raison d’etre) but whatever it is, it needs to be clearly articulated and bought into by every single employee. If you want a good book on this I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’.
The greatest reputational risk lies in the gap between what you say is important, and whether you act in line with what you say.
So, as a PR expert, how can you inspire your organisation to think more about reputation and less about generating column inches?
Work as closely as possible with the internal communications team
Your employees are your most important asset and have the greatest potential to be your most robust brand ambassadors. Prioritise communication and genuine engagement with people in the business. Ask for their help. Consider creating a staff ambassador programme. Get to know your own social media stars.
As guardian's of a company's reputation, it is our job as communications experts to speak truth to power. It's far too easy to get into the habit of just doing what you're asked to do rather than thinking strategically about what all these little actions add up to when it comes to reputation. And remember, a good reputation contributes significantly to the bottom line (some say upwards of 25%) so have the confidence to push back.