Identifying your brand reputation risks and opportunities—With a focus on social media

Brand + Business x Christine Moody*

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Protecting and building your organisation’s brand reputation is straight forward, once you know how. This week, I presented on this topic at the Institute of Internal Auditors’ South Pacific and Asia Conference (SOPAC) 2016 and I’m sharing with you the same tips I gave at the conference.

1) Create a brand story and platform—it will determine your organisation’s client experience, from brand identity to marketing, IP and reputational risk

Before you can protect and build your brand, you need to first articulate your brand by developing a brand story.

A brand story is a one-pager. It explains your brand and why it exists. It starts with articulating why you organisation is in business and its point of difference. It is not about defining your current products and services, but explaining the problem you are solving for you customer.

Protecting and building your organisation’s brand reputation is straight forward, once you know how.

The brand story forms your organisation’s brand platform, from which you develop the brand and marketing strategy. It also becomes the basis for everything the organisation says and does.

Organisations use their brand story to filter decision-making. From start-ups to multi-nationals, the brand story dictates all the facets of the business, from where you are going to be located to what products you make. The brand story also informs your external (marketing collateral, media, website, social media) and internal (staff, office) communications. It also helps the organisation to understand what social media platforms or sponsorship opportunities align with the brand.

2) Contemporary communication tools, such as social media, have exponentially increased reputational risk as well as increased the opportunities for brand differentiation

Social media is a valuable tool for speaking directly to your customers. Uniquely, social media also allows your customers to have a (public) conversation with you in real time. Used well, social media has the potential to increase your brand profile and drive revenue growth. However, the potential for brand damage is also very real.

To leverage social media and minimise the risk of brand damage, establish your brand story before developing a social media strategy.

a) Use social media channels aligned with your brand and customers
The brand story will help you decide which social media channels to use. This choice will be based on what you want to say and where your customer participates. For example, LinkedIn is considered a business tool. Facebook started out as social connector, but has grown in popularity for businesses with e-commerce platforms now linking to Facebook.

 b) Plan your posts
Use your brand story to create your narrative, select your sources and the amount of times you post on social media.

c) Develop a policy for responding to negative comments
Knowing and understanding your brand also informs your organisation on how to respond to negative comments on social media. Your social media strategy should include a policy for how to respond to negative posts and the process.

Remember that how and when you respond to negative comments is potentially seen by a range of people—including your customers, suppliers and your competition. The most important thing is to respond to the comment, be accountable and offer to assist.

In my experience, the best thing to do is to provide a name and contact details (email or phone) for someone to deal with the problem off line. Taking the matter offline enables you to deal with it personally and hopefully win back the customer. The main thing to remember is that if you have stuffed up, own it, solve it and move on

d) Inform your audience (don’t sell)
Don’t sell through social media. Instead give great advice and teach your clients something. Become the expert!

I recommend organisations also use content for their social media posts from a range of platforms. Again, identify which sites align with your brand and include a defined set of sources your trust in the social media strategy, such as one of my favourites, the Harvard Business Review.

e) Keep your staff on board with the brand story
Don’t forget to extend the brand story and your social media strategy to your staff. Without a doubt, your employees also have their own private social media accounts. What they say about the organisation on their social media accounts can have significant ramifications.

Manage this by ensuring your staff understand your organisation’s social media policy and this is reflected in their contracts and more importantly in their post-employment obligations. Of course if you have a great working environment staff will be happy to talk about how much they love working there.

This issue is becoming more important as potential employees are finding out what the organisation is like before they even apply for a position. A bad review means that you could be missing out on attracting the right staff.

3) Establish a framework to monitor and manage your organisation’s brand to identify reputation risk and opportunities

Social media allows organisations to be transparent. It also offers new opportunities to innovate and to get closer to your customers that have never been so cost-effective and powerful. You need to both monitor and proactively manage your interaction with social media to maximise the opportunities and minimise the risk.

a) Manage your social media accounts with a dedicate staff resource
Dedicate an employee to monitoring your social media as well as posting consistent messages and managing the frequency of posts.

b) Review customer feedback
Social media gives you an opportunity to find out what others think of your organisation and the topics your customers engage. Reviewing what customers say allows you to improve products and services can or develop new ones.

c) Understand what your customer wants
Every organisation has many sources of customer data, but this is not much use if you do not use it. You still need to analyse that customer data.

Before you start to collect the data, you need to make sure you have a question you need answered. For example, how do our customers prefer to contact us (website versus Facebook)? Once you collect the data you need to have a portal to store all the data for analysis. The results of the analysis should be communicated throughout the organisation.

d) Conduct and annual audit
Technology will continue to transform how we do business. For this reason, it’s critical that you conduct an annual audit for both online (website and social media platforms) and offline (traditional brochures) communications to ensure it is still reflects the brand’s strategy.

e) Keep up personal contact
While social media allows you to stay closer to your customers than ever before, this needs to be overlaid with face-to-face interactions as well. For example, if you are a professional service provider you should still put time aside for regular informal coffee catch-ups with your customers. This can highlight issues before they become a problem—it also builds relationships with your customers.

As well as posting social media comments, you should also have regular internal meetings with your customer-facing staff to find out what is happening ‘on the shop floor’. They are the brand ambassadors in your company and have to be trained to keep their eyes and ears open to new opportunities and comments from customers.

*Christine Moody is one of Australia’s leading brand strategists and the founder brand management consultancy, Brand Audits. With more than 30 years’ professional experience, Christine has helped a diverse client base of local and international brands, including Gold Coast City Council, Hilton Hotels, and Wrigleys USA, to develop, protect and achieve brand differentiation. Her particular interest is personal brand audits to assist executives realise their full potential.

For more information: chris.moody@brandaudits.com.au or +61 419 888 468.

Photo credit: Christine Moody, Chelsea Market W15th Street, NYC 2015.

 

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