Many entrepreneurs tend to confuse brand image and brand reputation. Although they seem the same, there is a difference between them. The brand image is related to the public perception of a particular brand and is usually limited to potential customers. The brand reputation is a common view and public opinion of corporate business actions.
Why is reputation important? Well, it took Fred Perry and Lonsdale decades of adjusting their reputation management strategies to restore their brand names after the European far-right and neo-Nazi movement chose their clothing as the "uniform." And such examples are plenty.
A brand image can literally be "created" through proper marketing and advertising, while brand reputation management takes a long time and requires a more complex, multi-layered approach. Reputation is as important as maintaining the brand image.
What Is Brand Reputation Management?
Before going into more detail about management strategies, let’s answer the most important question here: “What is reputation?” Principally, reputation is the audience’s opinion. It’s the image that occurs in the consumer's mind when referring to a product. It is based on personal experience and opinion of the environment.
Reputation is a dynamic process that relies on the company’s long-term strategic objectives and how they are realized. It displays the brand’s deep economic and social characteristics.
According to this, brand reputation management is a set of activities and practices to build, maintain, and protect the company's reputation.
Deloitte reported that 81% of consumers read customer reviews and ratings when deciding on making a purchase.
With the exponential growth of social networks, online reputation management (ORM) has taken the leading position in the field. To some extent, ORM is a compilation of PR (public relations), SMM (social media marketing), community management, and SEO (search engine optimization) practices. ORM experts have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities – from monitoring the brand’s mentions to deep analytics of the audience’s behavior.
According to ReviewTrackers, 94% of consumers would avoid a business after reading convincing negative reviews.
It’s important to understand that negative feedback doesn’t inevitably do harm. What’s harmful here is the lack of adequate response. There are many examples of smart digital reputation management strategies that counterbalanced negative reviews. It’s impossible to avoid negative feedback. However, it’s possible to manage it and direct your target audience’s attention to your brand’s strong sides.
Another factor many entrepreneurs may miss is the recruitment process. Most likely, your potential employees will check your company's online reviews, often left by your ex-workers. In the world of highly skilled professionals, competition is no longer limited by job seekers. Companies also compete to win the best employees.
Brand Reputation Management Strategies
Effective brand reputation management is a structured set of activities that aim to build a positive brand image and use elaborate mechanisms for their implementation. Dedicated brand executives develop a comprehensive reputation management strategy based on the company’s values, philosophy, and target audiences. Large companies often create internal departments, while small businesses opt for external expert teams.
There are many techniques for building and maintaining a positive reputation. Some are universal regardless of your niche or company's size. Others may appear business-specific. Here’s a brief guide to the most effective brand reputation management methods to understand which one of the following actions helps increase a company's image rating and brand reputation in your case.
Top Manager Image
In many cases, the company’s reputation is inseparably linked to the top managers’ public image. Think of Steve Jobs and Apple or Elon Musk and Tesla. Such public leaders are respected by customers, business partners, and employees. A well-recognized person provides confidence in the company and its employees' professional value. Strong leaders inspire employees for higher achievements.
Forming an efficient reputation management strategy is a complex process that combines expertise from various backgrounds. A newly founded startup may have one person responsible for the entire strategy. However, as the company grows, brand management requires several specialists working closely together – project managers, designers, marketers, analysts, and content creators.
Focus on the Company's Strengths
The easiest way to manage your reputation is to focus on the quality of your product or service. Quality is relatively easy to test and prove (including publishing independent expert oversight results). Companies with long history emphasize years of experience and success rates. This method effectively increases the loyalty of existing clients and attracts customers. In many cases, loyal customers help businesses go through trying times.
Brand vs. Reputation: Key Factors of Positive Reputation
Some business owners use the words “brand” and “reputation” interchangeably. However, there’s a meaningful and distinct difference between them. The brand reflects the way you present your company to the world. Reputation is how the audience collectively perceives your brand. From this perspective, experts define brands as enduring and reputations as shapeable and rapidly changing.
As noted above, reputation can rapidly change. Sometimes, one wrong action can cause dramatic negative feedback from the audience. Online brand management professionals help businesses build, maintain, and, if necessary, restore brand reputation. Here are key factors that greatly impact a positive reputation.
Be Open to Dialogue
Collecting customer feedback is a well-established marketing strategy that helps you improve the quality of provided services or products. However, it can become a powerful tool for building a strong and well-accepted brand. Communicating directly with your customers helps you create a trusting environment around your brand.
Nike has been famous for its customer support, formerly known as Team Nike, for years. The company created a dedicated support Twitter account which interacts with the customers almost in real-time.
Be Creative and Honest
Unconventional approaches can turn negative reviews into a marketing strategy promoting your brand. Knowing your audience well can enable you to go beyond standard strategies. Some companies use a sense of humor while being honest with their customers. And honesty is one of the fundamental elements of a good reputation.
Snowbird ski resort based their entire marketing campaign on the worst one-star reviews and won this game.
Don’t Conceal Facts
Misleading advertising, not admitting your wrongdoings, and refusing to learn from and fix your mistakes may ruin the brand's reputation for good. When facing allegations, the worst strategy is to try to silence the audience. It never works well.
Nestle caused a massive blow-up on Facebook, deleting undesirable comments when a customer criticized the company for using palm oil. On the other hand, Starbucks released a public apology following an arrest in one of their stores in the U.S.
Share Your Expertise
What can be better for strengthening your reputation than showing the world what you are good at? Showing your expertise, knowledge, and experience doesn't mean giving away your trade secrets. Today, any successful brand practices guest posting, hosting presentations and seminars, writing whitepapers, and contributing to shared knowledge.
Today, a brand is more than just a marketing tool. It’s an essential element of the company's overall activity and an instrument of managing all business sides – it affects suppliers, consumers, investors, partners, etc. Brand reputation management has the following objectives:
- Assessing consumer perception of the brand
- Increasing brand recognition and citation
- Improving the company's reputation
- Maintaining the audience’s loyalty
- Creating a pool of brand-loyal customers
- Collecting and evaluating feedback from the target audience
- Informing the audience about new products, services, or promotions
An effective reputation management strategy includes several techniques recommended by most experts:
- Monitoring public information on the Internet: search queries of your brand can lead to valuable information about audience perceptions and moods;
- Managing social networks: platforms generating a lot of traffic are excellent for implementing marketing strategies and for direct communication with the target audience;
- Content creation and optimization: regular blogging and creating relevant and informative content of high-quality help businesses increase customer loyalty and positive reputation;
- Working with comments: it's important to distinguish between regular customer feedback, even negative, and libel.
Online reputation management is a complex process that involves professionals of various expertise backgrounds. Although, for example, content creation and social network management often is a prerogative of one specialist in a small company, the situation may change as the company grows. Making the mistake of not having dedicated specialists may cost the business its reputation.
Develux Digital Marketing Services
Our online marketing experts understand the challenges of today’s digital world and the significance of brand reputation. As part of our services, we provide a detailed evaluation of your brand and set up the aims and objectives according to our reputation management strategies. Whether it’s video content and ad creation or search engine optimization, our experts have experience with a wide range of techniques and tools.
Develux brand reputation management services imply signing an NDA, so all provided information is secure. We also offer a comprehensive competitor analysis and market research for better adjustment of the chosen strategy. We make your positive reputation our goal.