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Reputation management: Knowing where all the bodies are buried

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From forging a strong reputation for being the thought leader in its market to protecting its interests the attack of unscrupulous individuals or disenfranchised users, reputation management needs to be carefully thought through, expedited and then managed on an on-going basis.

So why do we respect some brands and not others? Yes, positive track record and user experience are right up there with brand awareness and perceived success, but it’s also about how the brand communicates to the market. Taking the time to contribute to the market with thought provoking ideas will ultimately engender the feeling that you are the market ‘leader’, or at the very least, the market ‘mover’ in the eyes of potential clients.

But, if you’ve really messed up, then now would be a good time to hold your hands up, admit to your shortcomings, apologise where applicable and limit any damage with a positive, but conciliatory comment. If you haven’t messed up and it is clearly a misunderstanding or worse, a falsehood, then now would be a good time to issue statements that unequivocally confirm your position and counter the threat.

Now is also the time to be really honest with your PR people (under the strictest NDA of course) and let them know everything. Yes everything. Even the bits you haven’t told anyone else about; even where all the bodies are buried. Why? Because armed with ALL the details, it IS possible to construct watertight statements that will limit the damage and be effective in either preventing the story going further (most cases), or limiting the damage (almost all cases). 

To a journalist, or indeed anyone on the outside, ‘no comment’ could be construed as ‘write what you want, we don’t care’. Your PR people will (as long as you’ve employed and deployed the right ones) dig you out of the hole as effectively and as quickly as they can.

Your reputation is perhaps your greatest asset in the business world. Looking after it is paramount. Be that in a proactive campaign of reputation building or in a spirited and considered defence of it when the going gets tough. Whichever it is, it takes a carefully planned and implemented strategy to maintain and should therefore secure as much of your attention as other parts of your sales and marketing strategy. 

Get it wrong and all that hard work can be lost in a moment. Get it right and your company will rise to new heights.

Ashley Carr is managing director of Neo PR.

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