Business reputation is fragile. It can be negatively impacted by many factors, both internally and externally, and maintaining a positive reputation is a challenging balancing act. Here's a quick look at how you can manage your business' reputation and rebuild it during a crisis.
Business reputation during the pandemic
As we have seen throughout the pandemic, many businesses, both small and large, have been placed under a microscope, and are subject to judgement on their every move. Whilst some have thrived, pivoting their business offering and making ethical decisions to support their local communities, others have remained quiet, deciding to fly under the radar, presumably out of fear of intense judgement, or simply from not knowing how to communicate at this time.
Ultimately, however, every business’ reputation has been impacted in some capacity following the previous period of unrest and uncertainty. Some have flourished, and have been commended for their response to the pandemic, whilst others have suffered damage to their reputation.
The importance of business reputation
Establishing and maintaining a positive business reputation is critical, as it enables you to attract customers and keep them coming back for more, helping to develop trust in your brand and retain customer loyalty, which is key for continued success.
In fact, a recent study from the International Review of Economics & Finance has discovered that trust plays a crucial role in financial development and business turnover. Businesses, like people, create relationships with customers and stakeholders based on trust and reputation. So, this means a business’ financial position is directly influenced by its reputation and overall brand image. Fundamentally, no matter how good the services or products you offer, or how big or small your business may be, its brand is only as good as your reputation.
Steps you can take to rebuild business reputation
Whether rebuilding business reputation following an internal crisis or a period of communication black-out, or as a result of a pandemic, there are some simple steps you can take to rebuild your business’ reputation:
1. Revisit your brand’s ‘DNA’
Your ‘DNA’ – your vision, mission and values – allows your business to stand out across the world. As with people, your business’ DNA is what makes you unique and different to your competitors.
When it comes to reputation management, by clearly defining your ‘DNA’ (or ‘brand positioning’ or ‘customer value proposition’ or ‘competitive advantage’) you will help your customers and prospects better understand and engage with your business and the values that you hold dear.
2. Ensure consistency in messaging
Your DNA fuels your brand’s messaging. Your messaging should run like a golden thread throughout all of your communications activity, allowing you to convey a consistent tone of voice. Being consistent with your customers and prospects helps build trust and credibility in your brand.
3. Get a plan in place
Once you have your DNA and messages, you can pull this together into a communications plan. This plan should detail your target audiences, set measurable objectives, and the communications activities needed to achieve those objectives.
Audit where you are now, then decide where you want to be, and use your communications plan to link the two, defining a plan of action to move from one place to the other. Fundamentally, having a clear communications plan in place helps your customers and prospects see that you are still very much open for business.
4. Share testimonials and case studies
Testimonials and case studies are a powerful tool for enhancing your business’ reputation. They show potential customers that your previous customers have had a pleasant experience working with you, and therefore will be more likely to trust your ability and want to work with you themselves. You can share testimonials and case studies on your website, across social media or even in key media outlets when they’re powerful enough.
5. Generate a recovery plan
The best way to rebuild your business reputation quickly is to be prepared in advance. In hindsight, those who have suffered damage to their reputation will wonder why they did not have a clear recovery plan in place beforehand.
A recovery or crisis management plan helps you to manage risk, reduces the chance of any situation spiralling out of control, and allows you to bring your business back onto a stable flight path should an issue – external or internal – occur.
During times of unrest, a recession, or following an internal crisis, business reputation can be at its most fragile. As business reputation directly correlates with business success, maintaining a positive reputation is key for ensuring long-term consistent growth.
But it can be easy to hold off investing in your brand image and business reputation, especially in the early-stage growth phase where many business owners are focused on developing their products and winning customers. However, establishing a strong brand identity and ensuring you have set up ways to manage your reputation in times of crisis will foster sustainable business growth and customer loyalty long-term.
About the Author
Angela Podmore is the CEO and Founder of Kinetic Communications - a Birmingham-based PR agency that offers a range of PR and communications services tailored to your business’ individual needs. The team specialize in digital marketing, content marketing, social media strategies, crisis & issue management and internal communications.