Whether you operate a large corporation or a single-location store, there’s nothing more important to your organization’s success than managing your business reputation. The quicker you enact a plan to actively develop an appropriate brand image and do the work to protect it, the better off your company will be in the long run.
But before we can dive into how to protect your brand image and reputation, we first need to understand how reputations are crafted in the first place.
It’s easy to see how poor business decisions affect reputation management in these recent PR disasters:
- The now infamous SeaWorld/Blackfish debacle
- The aggressive and fraudulent sales tactics at Wells Fargo
- The Volkswagen cheating emissions scandal
While all three have caused massive harm to the respective brand’s reputations, all three of these could not have been saved by the PR and Communications teams alone. In this day and age, it’s a company’s business practices and how it handles information pre-emptively that will lead to a properly-executed crisis response. Putting short-term profits over a company’s long-term reputation can have long-standing and costly repercussions.
According to an in-depth study from Reputation Institute Founder Dr. Charles Fombrun, “40 percent of a company’s market performance can be traced to non-financial drivers in the reputation ecosystem, including analyst recommendations, social performance, media exposure and public perceptions.” For example, Amazon carries a high reputation rating within these four main pillars of the ecosystem, and has seen a $150 billion increase in extra revenue in 2016. ExxonMobil, who is on the opposite end of the reputation spectrum, by contrast, is costing shareholders $80 billion in lost market value.
Smart businesses operate as though they are under constant scrutiny of the public, because in many ways they are.
There are plenty of benefits to building a good reputation as a business.
- Customers will prefer to do business with you when competitors’ products and services are at a similar cost and quality.
- You have the ability to charge a premium price for products and services.
- Stakeholders are more likely to support your organization in difficult times.
- Your organization’s value will rise with the good and fall less with the bad in the financial marketplace.
All three of the above examples were business problems with reputational consequences. All three companies have lost the trust of their customers and it will take time and resources to see if they are able to build back trust.
Reputation is one of the most important things a business has, but it can be neglected or put too low on the list of organization priorities. All businesses, organizations, political groups and individuals can benefit from specific strategies to maintain and improve their reputation.
How to Create a Corporate Image
No matter what size you are, or purpose you serve, your corporate image is incredibly important. It’s who you are and what you provide to customers, stakeholders and the public. It will also set you apart from your competitors, serving as an effective differentiator. Your corporate image is your brand identity and will let consumers easily identify you through actions, communication and aesthetic.
Here are some basic components of a cohesive corporate image:
- Start with Mission, Vision and Values – your company needs to articulate what these are and stick to them as a compass and road map for your entire organization.
- Know your customer – do the research to understand who your customer is, understand what they expect to remain a loyal customer. They have choice – make it easy for them to choose you.
- Review business practices – Frequently review business practices and tools used to deliver to ensure alignment with Mission, Vision and Values and Customer Expectations. It’s easy to put short-term profits over these, but if the difference is going to result in more loyal customers or the loss of customer trust, choose thoughtfully.
- Know your employees – your employees are on the frontlines. They know where there are potential issues, they need the approval to work on them.
- Create a culture around reputational management – if you do the above and help your employees feel secure to speak up and work through these issues, you are creating a culture designed to protect your corporate reputation. Your people want to do good and deliver great experiences—and that will be felt all the way down to the end customer.
As with anything, your organization and its needs are unique. But it’s not so unique that you cannot learn and build a culture that promotes a great reputation. These are the best way to protect your organization for the future.
If you see gaps in your organization’s corporate reputation, reach out to Tunheim to discuss where to begin.