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(Still) Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Reputation

Have you ever heard, “You play how you practice?” The same thinking applies to reputation management. Should a crisis occur, a reputation that’s been thoughtfully cultivated and attended to is much more likely to stay intact than one that’s been treated as an afterthought.

A proactive and continuous approach to maintaining reputation is critical. Companies must think of reputation holistically, integrating it into every function of their day-to-day operations. Organizations that do this, and do it well, earn trust among key audiences — internally and externally. Trust leads to loyalty and preference, which helps achieve business goals.

We’ve identified three things companies must do to maintain a strong organizational reputation:

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE

It seems obvious, but too few companies do the hard work of getting to know their customers, which makes it difficult to effectively reach, engage, and influence them. Worse, companies fail to evolve with their customers as their businesses – and the industry at large — change. What internal pressures do they face? Do their goals align with the company’s decision makers’? How do they convey the importance of their work with internal stakeholders to achieve buy-in and enthusiasm?

JetBlue does an excellent job of understanding the needs and desires of its target demographic and translating that knowledge into offerings that draw customers in — and retain them. The wallet-friendly airline markets itself primarily to leisure travelers, reflected by its in-flight amenities including televisions in every headrest and unique, full-size snack offerings. The airline is also incredibly responsive to customer feedback on social media, a key factor in earning customer loyalty, according to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Survey. J.D. Power notes that a more than 100-point increase occurs in passenger satisfaction when an airline responds to a post on social media, regardless of its sentiment. JetBlue ranked second after Southwest for passenger satisfaction in the same survey’s low-cost carrier category last year.

To understand what’s important to your customers, consider conducting pulse surveys bi-annually. Their candid responses will provide invaluable insights into how to best target them and retain their business.

2. STAY RELEVANT

Companies lose relevance when they fail to understand customers’ wants and needs, which are largely dictated by changing trends and new technologies. Remember Blockbuster? The movie and video game rental company had more than 9,000 brick-and-mortar locations in 2004. Today, only 10 remain.

Not all companies founded pre-iPhone are destined for nostalgia, however. Take Rolex, for example, named 2017’s most reputable company in the world. Despite being introduced more than a century ago, the luxury watch brand has successfully maintained its reputation by reaching brand enthusiasts with niche content on platforms they frequent. And while little about its products has changed, the way it markets itself has. The legacy brand, which launched a presence on YouTube in 2012, followed by Facebook, is incredibly savvy about social media. According to Mashable, “Rolex prides itself on social listening,” responding to insights from its audiences’ activity on social media with highly tailored content, in turn, strengthening relationships with their brand advocates. Recent research found that 19 percent of all consumer sales are driven by social conversations taking place on and offline, underscoring the importance of word of mouth marketing.

3. KEEP TABS ON THE COMPETITION

When it comes to reputation management, it’s as important to monitor the competition as it is to look inward. Determining key competitors’ strengths and weaknesses is a foundational step in building any communications strategy. There are an endless number of analytics tools to utilize at any and all stages along the way, many including competitive insights.

Wendy’s is an example of a company that not only closely monitors its competition, but plays on the weaknesses of fellow fast food giants to generate media attention and create customer loyalty. Its direct approach may not be suitable for all companies, but it is a case study in how brands can differentiate themselves to drive preference.

By focusing on these three areas, and combining with a strategic partner with deep knowledge of your industry and experience navigating companies through periods of success and times of crisis, you’ll be well-equipped to lead your organization’s reputation-related efforts.

February 27, 2018
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