By Brad Addison - CoFactor Managing Partner; and communication, engagement and reputation management specialist
It’s well accepted that corporate reputation is a valuable company asset. Reputation has long been used to differentiate a company. It’s one of the key things a potential customer considers when choosing a company’s product.
The upsides to a good reputation are numerous and the impacts of reputation damage are considerable. Although no company would deny the value of a strong reputation, many have not developed ways to proactively manage it. This is in part due to the perceived complexity of managing reputation. It leaves even the most sophisticated companies perplexed at charting a course to better theirs. When companies eventually focus on it, it’s often reactively - through the short term lens of responding to an issue or crisis.
So, how do you build a sustainable reputation and mitigate the likelihood of reputation damage? Documenting your top business risks and having a crisis management plan at the ready is essential, as we note below. But there are a number of other proven, practical things that all businesses can do to build and maintain a strong reputation when times are good.
How to Build Your Reputation
- Embrace company purpose and tell the company story
Stakeholders are increasingly demanding that the organisations they’re involved with serve a social purpose. To not only deliver financial performance, but also show how the company makes a positive contribution to society. Embracing your purpose and considering the needs of a broad range of stakeholders will help you connect more deeply and drive long-term profitability. Stakeholders include your employees, customers, suppliers, local communities and society at large. It’s essential to tell this story.
Your brand should create a clear, recognizable identity and connect and interact with people. You should be communicating consistently with stakeholders about what you stand for, the company's goals, what you’re doing to achieve them, and how your actions are in line with the company’s purpose.
- Regular stakeholder engagement
Reputation is the sum of stakeholder perceptions. Smart businesses recognise the need to build strong relationships and to stay in tune with the perceptions and attitudes of those who shape and influence their successes or failures. Regular engagement is key to picking up on emerging issues or growing disquiet and building a network of supporters to help drive your business objectives.
- Be prepared
Develop a risk framework and a crisis management plan. An essential step to managing reputation is building an accurate picture of your key risks. Assessing and managing risks can enable the business to avoid, mitigate and recover from reputational hits more effectively. When a company undertakes a proactive assessment of its risks it often unearths gaps and weaknesses that can be proactively addressed, and avoids issues that impact reputation.
- Company and product performance
Your customers and wider stakeholders expect you to capably deliver or execute your product or service. This extends to the need for a consistent, quality experience from your company at large. Failure of the company or its products and services to perform will spark doubt about the competency of the company and threaten reputation.
- Be more human
Stakeholders are increasingly demanding hyper-transparency and expecting companies and brands to be ‘human’ in their communication and principled in their actions. How do you talk to me? How do you respond to complaints or problems; a crisis? Being deliberate and thoughtful about your corporate brand persona, customer experience, and how you communicate is essential. Providing great customer service is also critical.
- Profile leadership
It is accepted that a CEO’s reputation and personal brand is directly correlated to the overall reputation of the company they lead. The CEO ought to have a well established and positive public profile grounded in credibility, trust and accountability. This can extend to other select senior management, board Members and business owners.
The visibility of the leader and the quality of their narrative can bolster the company’s reputation and is crucial to responding to crises. The CEO should be regularly communicating the company’s delivery against its strategy and objectives, aligned with its values and corporate purpose.
- Strengthen corporate culture
Corporate culture and appropriate employee behaviour is one of the best safeguards against reputational challenges. Given many corporate crises stem from inappropriate or ill-advised employee or management conduct, getting this right is crucial. When the company sets a strong direction of ‘this is how we do things here’, it sets a standard for others to live up to.
- Deliver corporate responsibility and sustainability
Stakeholders are hungry to know what companies are doing to create a positive impact. They expect them to engage the world around them and demonstrate a positive influence on society. Companies that consistently demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility initiatives help build cooperative relationships with key groups who exert a strong influence on business reputation.
Interested to learn more?
CoFactor helps individuals and businesses protect and enhance their reputation when times are good. We also provide expert support and guidance when issues or crises arise. Our proven and practical reputation playbook provides a clear and actionable path to improve your reputation.