I was delighted to give a presentation on the importance of reputation in business at a recent NRG Networking Group meeting in Fermoy.
The worlds of marketing and public relations often intertwine but, fundamentally, marketing is concerned with the promotion of goods and services. PR is more focused on the bigger picture – the brand, image and message of a business, in essence, the management of reputation.
When I asked the group how many had recently googled their businesses, very few had. It surprised me, but on the other hand, when you are the owner of a small business, you are your business. Both of your reputations are intertwined and it is almost impossible for one to operate independently of the other.
As the old saying goes ‘What other people think of you, is none of your business’ but, of course, in business, it absolutely is your business! That doesn’t make it any easier to hear and accept critique, though- which can often be interpreted as criticism when we are personally invested in a business – which we always are when self-employed.
Imagine how useful it would be though, to know what your customers like, what they want, what you could do better. Imagine how much you could improve your customers experience if you knew what worked and what was important. As a small business, our reputation and service are often the only things that enable us to remain viable and compete, especially in this era of online shopping and increasing multi-national competitors.
As a local business, you ignore your reputation at your peril. If you don’t conduct local market research, that too could be to your detriment. So, make it part of your business plan to take some time to ‘step outside the building’ every few months. And, Google yourself – often.
Reputation is important, mind it and it will mind you!
How many of us really stop and think about the true importance of reputation in business? This concept of ‘corporate reputation’ is often only associated with larger corporations and organisations. In truth, the smaller your business, the more your corporate reputation matters.
A knock to the reputation of a large corporation may wipe millions off the share price, but for a smaller business, it may shut it down. This is particularly true in small local markets, where corporate and personal reputations can be of equal importance.
“Corporate reputation can be described as the overall estimation in which an organisation is held by its internal and external stakeholders, based on its past actions and probability of its future behaviour.” (www.cuttingedgepr.com)
For many organisations, reputation is one of their greatest assets and they work hard to maintain it and build a ‘bank of goodwill’. This ‘bank of goodwill’ is the positivity stakeholders hold towards a business. In times of negativity, such a ‘bank’ may encourage stakeholders to remain loyal and protect reputation.
Larger organisations may generally weather reputational damage better than their smaller counterparts – often possessing such a market share that it’s difficult to avoid doing business with them. Other times a brand can be so desired, consumers simply just don’t care.
Take Nestle, for example, which has been described as one of the ‘most hated companies in the world’ thanks to its long history of child labour, unethical promotion and mislabelling (to name but a few of its violations). Despite the company’s horrific reputation, it still remains one of the world’s largest food companies.
Compare this to smaller local businesses. For these, it can be difficult to compete with bigger companies and the growing online market. It is often, in fact, thanks to their good reputation that they continue to compete and remain viable in the market.
When I think of my own local town, I could tell you the reputation of most of the businesses who trade there. Those who are too dear, those who supply the best cup of coffee, and those who are simply nice to visit and provide some old-fashioned banter with your goods.
How many of those businesses are actually aware of their own reputation though? How many of them take the time to ‘step outside the building’ and listen to what people have to say? In this digital age, ‘stepping outside the building’ can take many different forms.
The good old tried and tested method of clipboard (or tablet) in hand and pounding the pavements is sure to yield valuable results, but you can also carry out your research without ever actually leaving the building. There are numerous free online surveys available that can be shared via email or social media.
Or of course, a business could just ask their customers directly -what would help to make your experience a better one? It seems absurd the amount of businesses who fail to ask their customers what is they want. How many businesses close down because they fail to do this?
Of course, you can never fully control reputation, but you can try to manage it. A business’s reputation may vary from stakeholder to stakeholder, according to their experiences in dealing with the business or what they have heard about it from others.
How reputation affects stakeholders:
Customers If a business is well-regarded by its customers, they will prefer to deal with it ahead of others. These customers will influence other potential customers by word of mouth & online recommendations – a happy customer tells a friend, an unhappy customer tells the world.
SuppliersA good reputation increases trust of ability to pay and to provide fair trading terms. If a problem occurs in a trading relationship, suppliers will be more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt where a business has a reputation for fair dealing.
Employees Businesses who have a reputation of treating staff poorly tend to attract a certain type of people to work for them – this directly impacts on customer experience and satisfaction.
So, what are the benefits of a good reputation:
Customer preference in doing business with a company when other companies’ products and services are available at a similar cost and quality – especially important in small local markets.
Ability to charge a premium for products and services – Helps to compete with an online market
Stakeholder support for an organisation in times of controversy – When the well-regarded Cork restaurant Son of a Bun was recently hit with a HSE temporary closure order they received huge support from their stakeholders, both when they were closed and when they re-opened, and came out the other side reputation intact.
Improves a company or organisation’s value in the financial marketplace.
We may not be able to control reputation, but here are some tips for managing it:
Establish trust – Keep your word.
Be Responsive – Let customers know they are important to you.
Crisis Management – Resolve errors and mistakes quickly.
Offer value – Don’t rip people off.
Confidentiality – Respect people’s privacy.
Stay relevant – Move with the times in terms of technology, stock, services.
Communication – Be professional in your correspondence with staff, suppliers and customers. Maintain a good online presence.
Community Involvement – Sponsorship, volunteering, etc.
however much you may value your reputation, one thing is certain – there is a high cost to pay for losing it.
A few months back, I wrote a blog about the importance of ‘switching off’ from work in this 24/7 online environment that we now live in.
Online addiction is an issue which I feel strongly about, and one which has become a real contributor towards mental health issues in our society and workplaces.
On a recent (much-needed) holiday, I found myself reflecting on my ability to take an online hiatus (also much-needed). It occurred to me that it was reasonably easy to make the decision to ‘switch off’ from work. If we’re lucky enough to have a separate work mobile, we can switch it off. We can choose not to log into our work emails, or to check our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. It’s not an impossible feat.
What is becoming increasing impossible, is the ability to ‘switch off’ from an everyday perspective. There is little doubt, no matter what our age, most of us are becoming increasingly dependent on the online world in our day to day lives – be it death notices, current affairs, or match fixtures – it’s all there at the click of a button.
Take my father, who is in his sixties (early sixties – important to distinguish or I may risk losing the coveted ‘favourite off-spring’ title). He was the generation who lived by the daily newspaper, maybe even two or three different titles on a Sunday. Like most of us, he has abandoned his beloved newspaper and now gets his news online.
Some statistics would indicate this online reliance is not an unusual trend for those his age with the fastest growing Twitter demographic in Ireland the over 55s. It represents an interesting shift. Traditionally, those with online addictions were often portrayed as sulky teenagers glued to the couch taking copious pouting selfies. Not anymore.
Social media addicts are now as likely to be those of us in our late 30s, and upwards. We may not be snap chatting our buys from Pennys, or Instagramming with the latest hashtags (I said MAY not – ahem), but we are using social media, for all types of reasons, all the time.
As I work in social media, I made a very conscientious decision to try to switch off my Wi-Fi as much as possible during this year’s holiday. I’ll put my hands up and admit – I failed miserably. Why? I’m just too reliant on the web. I logged on every day. I checked the weather in France (mostly raining), weather at home (mostly sunny), I googled tourist attractions in our area, I logged onto the wine depot website to see what treats I’d stock up on to bring home (well worth a visit if you find yourself touring Brittany). I googled, and then I googled some more.
It wasn’t all holiday and cheap wine related, of course. Even though we were cocooned in our holiday hideaway, the world was still turning, and tragedies still happening. While we were away the terrible and senseless shooting took place of 49 innocent souls at an Orlando nightclub. It was shocking and unbelievable, and we wanted to know Why? How? Who? So, we logged online to help us understand. What else could we do?
On reflection, I feel disappointed in myself that I couldn’t ‘switch off’ for two short weeks. I wonder what it says about me and my dependency on the online world. I wonder if I’m becoming (or perhaps already am) an addict. With 46% of the world’s population now logging onto the World Wide Web every day, it would seem I may not be alone.
When it comes to LinkedIn, I’ll admit I’m a relative newcomer…but like most people who discover things later in life that they enjoy, I’ve taken to it with gusto.
In fact, it’s swiftly becoming one of my favorite social media platforms. And, I’m not alone. According to IPSOS MRBI Social Networking Quarterly, LinkedIn registered a 5% increase in Irish users from September 2015 to January 2016.
With almost 30% of Irish professionals now having accounts, LinkedIn is becoming the social network of choice for those looking to build professional connections and showcase their skills. And where the online masses venture…businesses quickly follow.
The benefits of LinkedIn in business are multi-faceted. Not only is it the natural place to attract and headhunt for top class staff, but it also provides invaluable opportunities for B2C and B2B networking. Best of all, it offers companies an opportunity to grow their brands in an affordable, flexible and interesting way.
Still not convinced?
Here are even more benefits of having a company profile on LinkedIn:
Makes a brand more credible.
Helps personalise a brand.
Showcases products and services.
Targets specific audiences.
Allows for customer interaction.
While Facebook and Twitter may still be the more popular social media platforms in Ireland, those on LinkedIn (over 300 million worldwide) are there for a completely different reason – to grow and promote themselves and their business.
To really impact online, LinkedIn must form part of a social media strategy for Irish companies. Regardless to the size of your business, maintaining a well-managed LinkedIn page will boost your company’s profile and ultimately, your business will reap the benefits.
For more information on social media strategies for your business, contact Communications Hub today.
In this era of social media and mobile devices, news spreads faster than ever before. The web has removed control from those who create content and a crisis can develop in seconds.
This is why it is vital that companies have an on-line crisis management strategy in place – long before it is ever needed.
When developing an online strategy, we must understand the ethics and rules of digital media and how crisis management on-line may differ from that off-line.
According to Chris Norton online crisis management can be separated into three stages – pre-crisis, crisis response and post-crisis evaluation. An online crisis typically creates a spike in comments, shares and engagement, the conversations around which are generally negative. During this crisis, it is essential to monitor and track what is being said and respond immediately.
An online crisis typically creates a spike in comments, shares and engagement, the conversations around which are generally negative. During this crisis, it is essential to monitor and track what is being said and respond immediately.
When putting together a strategy to deal with on-line crisis, the following should be included:
Those who will form part of the crisis management team.
Pre-draft templates for on-line content – these can be pre-approved by legal teams to speed up their delivery.
The communication channels to be used.
An outline of how people can and can’t behave across on-line communication channels.
Finally, a crisis management strategy should have a strong focus on internal communications. Those associated with the party will need to know what happened, what they should do and how the crisis will affect them.
All information regarding the crisis should be shared and updated regularly with all those who communication on behalf of the company to ensure all outward communication is consistent.
It may be impossible to pre-empt every online crisis, but we can certainly make sure we’re prepared for when one does occur and that the right procedure is followed.
Contact Communications Hub now and let us help you put together an effective crisis management strategy.
The rise in citizen journalism means that organisations need to constantly monitor what is being said about them on-line. Public relations professionals need to be the ‘ears’ and ‘eyes’ of an organisation and seek out what is being said about the brand.
And while it is possible to mostly control what appears on a company’s own social media news feeds using word filters and administrative pre-approval of comments, it is impossible to control hashtags associated with an organisation.
McDonalds learned this the hard way when in 2012 they created the hashtag #McDStories in the hope of inspiring people to share their memories and happy experiences associated with the fast food chain. The company soon discovered that it is the public who control the meaning of hashtags, and theirs was quickly hijacked to become the hashtag for horror stories involving McDonalds.
Burger King suffered a different kind of social media crisis when in 2013 its Twitter account with 82,000 followers was hacked. The hacker changed their logo and twitter handle to that of McDonalds and tweeted a huge number of tweets containing inappropriate contents and images. The hack went unnoticed for hours, by which time the incident had gone viral. The company not only learned an important lesson about password security and the need for moderators, it also experienced first-hand what happens when you are not constantly listening on-line. On the plus side, the food chain gained thousands of new followers because of the incident.
Despite often having ‘expert’ social media teams, some of the biggest and most tech-savvy organisations continue to suffer social media fails. Last year The Guardian published an article on The top five corporate Twitter fails and it makes for some very uncomfortable reading.
The moral of the story is, it’s no longer just your P’s and Q’s you need to mind, watch your Hashtags too…make sure your company is monitoring its online profile.
Ok I’ll admit it, I’m a little obsessed on content. And when people hear me rattling on about it, most glaze over or politely smile while steadily reversing. So what’s the story with content you may ask? Why is it so important?
While content has always been important when communicating through the traditional channels, like radio, television and newspapers, it was never really vital. These ‘old media’ methods of advertising were one-way communications, they were broadcasts and press releases. People listened to them because they pretty much hadn’t a choice. These were the days before the World Wide Web, when the channels through which people got their news and entertainment were limited. They were the days before sky plus and podcasts. The days before we could pick and choose what information was relevant or interesting to us, and fast forward through the boring ads. Continue reading What’s the story with content?→