Reputation is difficult to measure but can have a serious impact on the success or failure of your corporation. While 90% of consumers report that they would not frequent a business with a bad reputation, 95% of consumers report trusting a corporation with a positive reputation.
The importance of a good reputation can’t be overstated – so how do you get there? In this article, I will define corporate reputation management, what factors influence corporate reputation, and how to approach corporate reputation management.
What is corporate reputation management?
Your corporate reputation is how your corporation, company, or brand is perceived, particularly by relevant audiences, such as customers, competitors, industry experts, investors, employees, vendors – really, anyone who would have a reason to know and care about your business.
Corporate reputation management is the strategy you employ to positively impact your reputation, either proactively or as a response to reputation damage or a reputation crisis.
While the methods that make up your own corporate reputation management strategy are specific to your own organization, an effective strategy generally includes:
- Assessing your current reputation
- Developing strong brand messaging
- Building and maintaining a strong online presence
- Monitoring conversations about your corporation online
- Establishing a response plan for feedback about your corporation
- Highlighting wins or successes of your organization
A successful corporate reputation management strategy is iterative. You must always be aware of current conversations, events, and industry trends, ongoing customer feedback and investor concerns, and any other potential threats to your reputation. While implementing an effective corporate reputation management strategy takes time, is a vital investment for any corporation.
What factors influence corporate reputation?
Corporate reputation is made up of several factors, including:
- Quality of products and services
- Workplace culture and environment
- Financial performance
- Social and corporate responsibility
- Trustworthiness and transparency
- Responsiveness to reviews and feedback
- Branding and online presence
- Executive team reputation
- Customer service
- Industry presence, leadership
- Reputational concerns, such as scandals, lawsuits, security breaches, etc.
Why does corporate reputation matter?
Reputation is a valuable asset that has an impact on your corporation’s growth, ability to secure funding, appeal to valuable job candidates, and overall success. According to a reputation study published by Deloitte, the majority of interviewed executives considered brand reputation as the highest strategic risk area for a company. This put reputation over other major factors, such as competition, business model, and the impact of economic trends. This cannot be overstated; in a study conducted by TrustPilot, a positive online reputation was the #1 most important factor to consumers, outranking the quality of the product or service offering, quick customer service, and prioritizing the well-being of its employees.
Your reputation has an impact on every part of your business, from sales to customer loyalty to investor relations to prospective employees. A poor reputation can hinder the overall success of your corporation, while a strong reputation can set you apart from competitors, help increase loyalty with your customer base, and provide protection in the wake of a reputation crisis.
In 2023, your reputation is largely – if not completely – defined by your online reputation. The accessibility of the internet has led to opinions about corporations being published more quickly and at a higher volume than ever before, and has given a platform to people who did not have one. The internet has also made information much more accessible, increasing the likelihood that stakeholders can find information about your corporation – good or bad. With virality, google search, social media, reviews, etc., if you don’t maintain a strong overall reputation, these things can define your business.
How Can You Manage Your Corporate Reputation
The value that a good reputation adds to your corporation is undeniable. While there is no “one size fits all” for reputation management, there are best practices that can give you a strong foundation to work off of.
Here are ten steps you can take to manage your corporate reputation:
1. Identify what you want your reputation to be
Before beginning your corporate reputation management journey, you will need to determine your destination. What do you want to be known for? What sets you apart from your competitors? What makes you an industry leader? Does your organization engage with philanthropy? Why would someone want to work for you? Why would an investor want to back you?
Clearly defining what you bring to the table and how you want to be known will help you align your corporate identity and brand with your reputation.
2. Look into your reputation
In addition to knowing where you want to go, you need to know where you’re starting. To audit your reputation, you will want to take into account online results, customer feedback, employee feedback, news coverage, and any other avenues that may give you insight into your corporation’s overall reputation.
What are you known for? What do you regularly receive positive feedback on? What about negative feedback? Is your feedback consistent? Does your feedback center around your products or services, your employees, or your management? How have you responded to feedback in the past? How are you perceived in your industry or by competitors?
To audit your online reputation, open an incognito window and search your corporation’s name. Consider what you see. Are the results related to your business? Are the assets that rank for your business owned assets (such as a website or social media), or other assets (such as review sites and news publications)? Are they generally positive, neutral, or negative in nature?
The more information you can gather to create your reputation audit, the more you can begin to identify the areas that you need to work on, and the aspects of your reputation that will work for you.
3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Once you have audited your corporation’s reputation, you will want to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Your strengths could include customer loyalty, strong leadership, positive workplace culture, consistent company growth, etc. Identifying a strength does not mean it will not factor into your corporate reputation management strategy; strengths can help you identify areas of opportunity and guide content and PR strategy, as well as brand identity.
Weaknesses could include poor customer or employee feedback, reputation issues with leadership, previous reputation hits such as lawsuits, security breaches, or product recalls, etc. Some industries may also carry higher reputational risk than others, which may affect how you will want to approach your corporate reputation management strategy.
If you come across weaknesses you were not aware of during your reputation audit, or there have been pressing concerns prior to developing your reputation management plan, the best first step may be addressing those issues directly before working on actively on reputation directly.
4. Know your audience
In order to put your best foot forward, you need to know who your stakeholders are. This can include customers, investors, vendors, employees, competitors, journalists, and many more depending on your specific industry. Understanding your audience can not only help you more effectively communicate with them, but understand what aspects of your corporation are important to them to better address what they care about.
Your audience will also require different communication and consideration depending on the type of audience it is. Internal communication to investors, employees, and executives will be different than external communication with customers. Be aware of what each type of audience wants from you, what you can give them, and how to best maintain a positive relationship with them.
5. Build a strong online presence
Although your online reputation is not your entire reputation, it is a defining element. To build a strong online presence, you will need to secure any relevant properties, including a corporate website, social media profiles, and a knowledge panel (if one populates for your business). Optimize your website so that it loads quickly, is formatted for both desktop and mobile users, and is easy to navigate with any information consumers, prospective employees, or anyone else searching for information about your organization would want to find. Create valuable content on a company blog about topics relevant to your industry and products or services.
For social media profiles, you will want to secure usernames that include your organization’s name and are consistent across platforms. If you are not ready to execute a social media strategy, simply secure the profiles and make them private until you are ready to do so.
Apart from owned assets, pay attention to reviews of your corporation on review platforms such as TrustPilot and Google Reviews, and find opportunities to have your organization featured in earned media.
6. Highlight what you bring to the table
Whether it is corporate recognition, an award for your products and services, community involvement, or an employee being featured at a conference, highlighting positive moments, milestones, and recognition of your corporation can go a long way for your reputation.
Finding opportunities such as speaking engagements, relevant awards and conferences, or community-building and philanthropy that is relevant to your corporation and industry can help build your brand while highlighting your values.
That said, it is important to not overdo it. Making others aware of your wonderful company culture or community involvement can positively benefit your reputation, but if you come across too intensely, or there is a flimsiness to it, you may risk opening yourself up to more criticism.
7. Look at how your competitors stack up
As important as it is to know your own corporation’s reputation, knowing how your competitors stack up can be enlightening as well. Understanding the reputational landscape of your industry can help you identify potential pitfalls, areas where you excel compared to competitors, and what you can highlight to stand out.
Additionally, how your competitors are seen can not only give you industry insights, but can help you identify opportunities or angles that you may not be currently leveraging for your own reputation management strategy.
One of the best ways to get a quick overview of how you compare to your competitors is to perform a reputation audit of them and compare them to your own results. Are there publications that feature competitors that you have not been featured in? How do their review ratings compare to yours? What does the customer feedback tend to focus on?
8. Take feedback seriously and respond well to criticism
As I said earlier, the internet has had a significant impact on reputation because it has made information incredibly accessible and given many more people a platform. Anyone who has access to the internet can have a substantial impact on your business with one Twitter thread or biting review.
If you do receive negative feedback – and, really, it’s more like when – that does not have to be the end of it. You can still control the outcome of harsh feedback in how you respond. Generally, the best responses are those that are timely, acknowledge the issue, and take accountability. If you want to learn more about how to respond effectively, you can read our guide here.
9. Stay aware of potential threats to your reputation
Every corporation will experience reputation threats, specific to the industry and the organization itself. When you audit your reputation, and just through knowledge of your industry, you should be able to identify areas that are susceptible to reputation threats. While you may not be able to entirely remove the threat of reputation damage, mitigating those opportunities and creating a response plan can help minimize the impact of reputation hits.
10. Don’t be afraid to bring in experts
In some cases, managing your own corporate reputation can seem impossible. Due to limited expertise, bandwidth, or in the face of a reputation crisis, it can seem like your corporation’s reputation is incapable of being constructed or restored.
In these situations, you may want to work with a reputation management firm. A reputation management firm will bring experience and expertise to help you find a way forward and build a strong reputation.
If you are interested in connecting with Status Labs, you can book a free consultation today to determine if working with professionals is best for your corporation.