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Why reputation management is worth investing in

Since Elon Musk bought Twitter in October 2022, the company’s valuation has dropped by over $20 billion. His eccentric decision-making and drastic layoffs have caused long-time users to lose faith in the platform and to leave in droves. And yet, Twitter has been a mainstay of the social media industry for over 15 years. How could a mere six months do so much harm?

And therein lies the crucial importance of company reputation and continuously maintaining it.

Impact on corporate reputation

Most blows to a company’s reputation aren’t as overt as the questionable actions of Elon Musk. It often starts with something small – more than the usual percentage of bad reviews, a semi-viral article decrying the production process or the unsustainability of the materials used. It could even be much more insidious – murmurs of discontent here and there, a handful of angry Tweets.

It can be tempting to sweep these aside, and indeed, amidst a sea of content, it is easy to say that one “didn’t know” what was being said. But given just how fragile reputations are, even a single onslaught can lead to a backlash that has cascading effects, as has been the case with Twitter over the last few months. Moreover, most companies don’t have the resources that Twitter does to keep going despite significant negative sentiment and drops in valuation. By building a solid reputation through consistent efforts to boost public perception, companies can bounce back and rebuild sooner even if they encounter a blip.

There’s more to reputation management than just weathering a crisis. A good reputation doesn’t just attract customers, it retains them. Industries go through all kinds of changes, from technological advances to altered policies to external emergencies, such as the Covid- 19 pandemic. The more trust and respect a company has garnered, the better it will be able to retain its customers’ support through low phases. Investors and the government will also be likelier to bank on companies with strong reputations, especially at the start-up and emerging stages. In addition, companies with strong reputations attract leading talent, who can then further bolster the company’s image through their contributions.

How to build the kind of reputation you want

In simple terms, reputation management involves bridging the gap between what your customers think of you and what you want them to think of you. It takes time and effort to accomplish this, naturally, so here’s what we recommend focusing on.

Ask your employees what they think of you – What perception did they have of you before they joined? Was your brand reputation a factor in their decision to accept a job with you? Has their perception of you changed since? Their answers will give you a good idea of where you currently stand in terms of what people think versus what you want them to think.

Have an ironclad set of rules about language and representation – Words make all the difference when building your brand reputation. Your PR agency should know exactly how you want to be represented, and exactly what’s taboo. So for instance, if you want to be known as a home solutions brand, have them refer to you in all press releases and other media mentions as a home solutions brand, and not as a “furnishing” brand or an “interior decor” brand.

Seize opportunities to boost your reputation – Did you recently implement a new diversity policy or invest in an NGO? Work with your PR team to craft a press release that highlights what you did and how it lines up with your core values as a brand. Consider this “reputation capital’; the more positive press you have, the more resilient your reputation will be in case there’s a crisis.

Keep monitoring conversations about your brand – Having a finger on the pulse of public sentiment is vital. Invest in quality social listening tools that allow you to pick up on dissentient notes in online conversations about your brand.

If things go south, have a plan – Crisis management is a key pillar of any PR strategy. If and when a crisis strikes, be it a recalled product or a controversial hiring decision, have a clear strategy for how you will respond, both internally and to the public. Honesty is always the best policy, and will go a long way to temper the public’s long-term reaction to your brand.

Plan do-overs smartly – Companies have undergone rebranding and succeeded, but to make it worth the expense, you need to know exactly why you’re doing it. A rebranding will not save you if your reputation has taken a major hit, and may even be perceived as an attempt to cover up your acts. We recommend asking your PR agency about when and how to execute a do-over so that it feels authentic and appropriate.

At Star Squared PR, we specialise in reputation building and crisis management for companies of all stripes. If you’re looking to safeguard your brand in the chaotic online space, reach out to us – we’d be happy to help you build and maintain the reputation you deserve.