Your Company’s Reputation: Hard to Gain, Harder to Keep, Hardest to Lose

Merriam-Webster defines reputation as “overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general.” Public relations is defined as “the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution.” As it relates to reputation, the job of public relations (PR) professionals is to build positive relationships between our clients and their audiences.

At ReviveHealth, we help communicate our clients’ stories to the audiences they’re trying to reach using a variety of tactics including talking to influencers, building relationships with media and getting the client’s name in reporters’ stories, securing keynote and panel positions, ensuring they’re participants in important conversations playing out on social media, and much, much more. While strategic communication is a critical component, reputation cannot be established, maintained, and recovered solely through communication. Corporate action – what a company does – is the bedrock of a great reputation, and the most effective public relations strategies keep this at the forefront.

Reputation, particularly for companies and brands, is important – and layered. So much so, we’re devoting three separate posts to it – and how to build, sustain, and repair it.

Building Reputation: Authenticity

A great deal’s been written about the importance of authenticity in business. If we explore authenticity from marketing guru Seth Godin’s perspective, authenticity is doing what you promise, not being who you are. “Being” is vague and “doing” is actionable. With this in mind, every company should establish a clear promise in its infancy, a straightforward plan to deliver on the promise, and a method for measuring its execution.

Take Geico, for example: its well-known brand promise, “Fifteen minutes or less can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance,” is concise, direct, and keeps the company accountable with customers. According to The Martin Group, the agency behind Geico’s tag line, the company lives up to its 15/15 promise. Geico customers must experience its promise, because repetition builds trust. And authenticity and trust go hand-in-hand.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet

Authenticity is a tricky thing. It must remain unwavering while surviving innovation, which is imperative in long-term business success.

Recently, a wave of millennial mom bloggers’ Oui by Yoplait “unboxing” videos have been all the rage on Instagram’s “Stories” feature. Of course, the social media stir was the results of smart planning that clearly considered the need for authenticity for Yoplait as a brand, and Oui as a product.

Before Yoplait finalized the new offering’s pretty packaging and summoned its communications team to gather mailing addresses for social media influencers in the product’s target demographic across the US, the company’s challenge was figuring out how to compete in the new world of Greek-branded market invaders. The New York Times’ Charles Duhigg dug into the story behind Oui earlier this summer, and his findings are fascinating. Yoplait parent company General Mills’ research found that despite consumers thinking Greek yogurt was gross, the most-sold brand, Chobani, was successful because buyers perceived it to be authentic. They liked the story behind Chobani – its founder, name and packaging tied together nicely.

After digging into the history of yogurt, Oui by Yoplait was born. Its packaging is unique. It’s sold in small glass jars, rooted in the early French method of pouring the food’s ingredients into individual glass pots, “allowing each glass pot to culture for eight hours, resulting in a uniquely thick, delicious yogurt.” The product’s name, the French word for “yes,” was a natural fit.

General Mills has experienced difficulty innovating fast enough to keep up with dairy aisle newbies like Chobani and Noosa. With Oui, the company’s hoping the authenticity of its action – making Oui using the early French method – will drive PR and marketing efforts and resonate with consumers, resulting in sales.

Its success remains to be seen, but its origin is an interesting case study in one brand’s attempt at authenticity and recognition that a product must be authentic – or at least perceived as authentic – to compete.

Building Reputation: Awareness

Reputation isn’t created merely by what a company does. It must make sure people know what it did. Without awareness, reputation doesn’t exist. In Yoplait’s case, its push behind Oui didn’t end when the product hit store shelves, which brings me back to millennial mom bloggers and “unboxing” videos.

The fact that I, a childless, non-yogurt eating individual, knew about Yoplait’s latest venture can be attributed to a harmonious relationship between the PR and marketing teams responsible for promoting the product. Those teams realized three key truths: millennials crave authenticity from brands, most first-time moms are millennials, and small children eat a lot of yogurt.

They reached out to a curated list of individuals in the product’s target demographic with product samples, hoping to turn those influencers into brand fans. Those influencers then shared news of the product with their online audiences. For example, the blogger referenced earlier live broadcasted her toddler pulling jars of Oui out of a box delivered to her doorstep to her more than 100,000 Instagram followers. Most likely, a percentage of those followers told a friend about the fancy-sounding new addition to the dairy aisle. That friend told a colleague, the colleague told her sister, etc. Combined with a slew of other paid and earned tactics, mass awareness was being generated.

Awareness drives sales. If the audiences you’re trying to reach don’t know about your offering, their interest isn’t piqued, they can’t buy it, and they can’t evangelize it on your behalf, which inevitably, leads to more sales. Therein lies the power of marketing and PR.

What companies do you believe are authentic and why? Does a company’s authenticity (or lack thereof) affect if you do business with it? Would love to hear from you in the comments!

August 31, 2017
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