The sentiment around your company is a precious and precarious thing, and customer experience has never been a bigger driver of purchasing decisions. Consumers want to feel good about the company they are doing business with. Not only can a strong positive association increase the likelihood of someone becoming a new or repeat customer, but it will also increase customer referrals and afford a level of forgiveness if mistakes are made or something goes wrong. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true, and because humans are fickle, this positive sentiment can change on a dime, making brand reputation protection of paramount importance.
There are thousands of people working for companies like Facebook and Twitter whose only goal is to increase the likelihood of something being shared and going viral. While this can be to your benefit if the event going viral is positive for your company, if something negative or controversial around your company happens, the exponential spread of information can quickly devastate your brand’s reputation and be difficult to contain. Knowing ahead of time how to address a potentially negative viral incident is crucial.
Before the Internet, people relied on opinions of family and friends, consumer review type publications and magazines, and company-provided customer testimonials when making purchasing decisions. When Amazon began to democratize product reviews on a massive scale, and allow anyone to share their opinion on anything, the influence of product reviews from strangers grew. Now, it’s reported that 92% of customers read product reviews before purchasing.
While this trend has generally been great for consumers, it comes with a few pitfalls. Unless the purchase can be verified, people can write negative reviews for products or services they’ve never used. Negative reviews can also be written as jokes or because of something completely unrelated to the product. This low barrier to entry for publishing reviews, and the growing number of review-centric sites like Yelp, Google, and TrustPilot, means that you must be diligent in monitoring the Internet for opinions about your company and its offerings, and responding appropriately.
Additionally, a lack of reviews can be just as harmful as a negative review. As mentioned in a related article, motivating customers to leave positive reviews should be an important part of your plan to manage and improve your brand’s reputation.
It has never been easier for offenders to digitally spoof emails, websites, or social media accounts and make it look like they’ve come from you. All they need is your logo or profile photo and a little internet know-how, and they can set up social media accounts and websites that are exact replicas of your own and spread any message they want.
Of course, this is illegal, but you should absolutely have your company name, logo, and digital assets trademarked and continually monitor social media websites and internet searches for copycats or lookalikes so you can report them to the proper authorities.
Brand hijacking is not only limited to the digital world, however. People can create counterfeit lookalikes of your physical products too, which will have lower quality or fewer safety considerations than the ones you’re selling. This can potentially damage your brand’s reputation, and you should keep track of sites like Amazon, eBay, and other places that permit third-party sellers and report any counterfeits to the authorities.
Every employee in your company is a brand ambassador, and every customer carries in their pocket the power of the internet. You should assume that everything your customers and employees say to each other, either in person or online, may be broadcast and publicly posted.
And once something is posted to the Internet, it can never be truly removed. Any missteps by your employees or mishandled exchange can damage your brand’s reputation and be a permanent reference for potential customers.
We mentioned spoofing and phishing through copying your logo and website design, but making sure someone can’t actually hack into and take over your digital properties is also important. If someone can break into your website or email systems, this could have devastating effects on your brand and your relationships with current and potential customers. It’s wise to engage a web development or web security firm for regular security audits to prevent this from happening.
How and when your company responds to sensitive events or crises is a high-stakes balancing act. A compassionate and empathetic approach can help build positive sentiment around your brand, but a harsh or tone-deaf message, or a response that comes too late, can devastate your brand’s reputation in moments. You must decide if, when, and how to respond to events with great care and consideration.
As mentioned before, people want to feel good about the products and companies they give their money to and associate with. They are more likely to want to build those relationships with companies whose values align with their own.
You and your employees are clearly entitled to your own personal opinions, but if you are a publicly outspoken advocate on social media for something controversial, there is a risk that your customers may not differentiate between your personal opinions and the company you represent. If they don’t agree with you, there could be damage done to your brand’s reputation.
People also pay attention to who your customers are. If you are a proud supplier for a company whose brand reputation has been damaged badly enough, there is a chance that this could bleed onto your own company’s brand. If you include other company’s logos on your site or in your marketing campaigns, or if you are publicly partnering with other companies, it’s important to monitor public sentiment around them too.
Not only do your customers want to feel good about who they do business with, but the sentiment around your brand also affects who applies to your job openings. Potential employees want to be proud of where they work and give their expertise and effort to a company they can stand behind. You can be sure that potential employees are doing their homework and researching your company. If you want to attract top talent, protecting your brand is paramount.
And as mentioned before, sentiment around your company can affect who decides to partner with you. A positive brand reputation will afford many more partnership, sponsorship, investment, and local community engagement opportunities, and people will be more apt to promote those relationships to potential customers.
It’s no longer acceptable to adopt the “oh, boys will be boys” attitudes around bad behavior or politically insensitive and inappropriate remarks. Your consumer base demands higher expectations for quality, and empathetic values. The threshold for simply looking the other way or forgiving mistakes has never been higher. Customers won’t easily forget a company’s missteps.
Your brand’s reputation is the most precious asset you own. You can produce the highest quality product, but if public sentiment around your company is negative, it won’t matter much. It takes years to develop a positive opinion about your brand, and it can be destroyed in moments. Monitoring and protecting your brand is a full-time endeavor, one which should be left to the experts. Reach out to Digital Marketing Collective for a free online business presence audit and let us help with your brand reputation protection.
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