The reputation of a brand can be an irreplaceable asset, or an immense burden to a business. In a world where 90 percent of customers are influenced by online reviews, it's imperative that the online reputation of a brand is a positive one.
That's not to say that there won't be some bumps in the road. All brands face reputational issues from time to time. It's how brands meet those challenges that can shape the brands' success for months or years to come.
The long game
Reputation isn't just what other people think about a brand. It's about what the brand is seen to do -- how it interacts with people, the tone of voice its uses, what values it claims to have, and how it responds to challenging events and negative reviews.
If you have a communications and content strategy that the entire company follows, it becomes easier to manage your online reputation. Mistakes will still happen when running a business, but your employees will know how to respond in a positive manner -- a strategy that can turn a potential reputational crisis into a success story.
The key is to have a proactive approach to reputation, and not managing a team that gives out contradictory brand messages, or worse still, a team that doesn't respond at all.
One way that brands try to tackle this is by encouraging customers to leave reviews.
For annoyed customers, leaving a negative review allows them to tell the world about how annoyed a product or service has made them feel. But what do those who are happy with their purchase get out of the review process?
It wouldn't be ethical to offer rewards for positive reviews, but if a brand asks customers to take the time to review a purchase or service, it can't expect many satisfied customers to heed the call -- unless they're given the tools to do it immediately. Asking someone to write a review a month after they received the product or a few weeks after returning home from a holiday is not going to work. Put a tablet on reception at checkout, or give one to the sales assistant so customers can review the service there and then.
How to get things right
In today's world, if a brand -- or a person working for that brand -- makes a mistake, that mistake is at risk of going viral and being all over the internet in a matter of hours.
There are a few basic principles to follow:
Always appreciate the concerns of the audience
Brands that are dismissive about people's concerns can quickly attract the ire of social media users. Joy, a U.K. High Street retailer, was taken to task about a greeting card it stocked in its stores.
The store's subsequent responses made it look insensitive and crass:
This isn't the first time a store, or website, has been called out for selling something people deemed to be offensive. Urban Outfitters faced a similar issue back in January, but reacted in the opposite way and tweeted to say that it was removing the item from sale. The response was quick and appeased customers with limited damage to reputation.
Your team may find something amusing and quirky, but it's the customer's opinion that matters. What Joy did was take quite a small matter, and make it much worse by its response. It generated national media coverage, for something that could have been solved with a polite response and an apology.
Don't try to control people
Negative reviews serve a valuable purpose for brands. They provide honest feedback that the brand can learn from, and give the business a chance to try and fix the issue, turning a negative into a positive.
What's more, brands that do try to control what people say about them inevitably end up making the situation worse. Samsung had an issue in 2013 when it tried to reach a settlement with a customer whose phone caught fire. He posted a video of it, and the brand offered him a new phone, in exchange for taking down the video and a host of other things. His reaction was to post a new video about the brand trying to silence him, which has now been seen by 1.5 million people.
Don't take too long to do the right thing
RadiumOne and the NFL faced similar issues this year. RadiumOne's founder and an NFL football player were both charged with domestic violence offences. RadiumOne took a while to respond to the situation, while the NFL has been accused of being too lenient in its choice of punishment.
Neither issue was originally of the brand's making, but each could control their responses. The NFL has been fighting its battle since February, and there's no sign of it getting better soon.
Be approachable and friendly, even when times are bad
U.K. bakers, Greggs, faced an issue in August when Google started displaying a spoof version of its logo on its Google profile. Rather than getting frustrated at the situation, Greggs sent a friendly request to Google U.K. via Twitter, which Google U.K. responded to in a similar fashion.
Not only was the situation resolved, but both brands received positive press mentions for their interaction.
Bad things happen to good brands. It's often the response to these events that help define a brand, by shaping its reputation and influencing consumer trust.
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