Six ways to improve the reputation of your business

Laptop with the words Business Reputation on the screen

Your reputation is perhaps your greatest asset in the business world. Looking after it is paramount - whether you are reputation-building or putting up a spirited defence when the going gets tough. Ashley Carr, managing director at Neo PR offers six suggestions to help you protect and enhance your reputation

Managing your reputation needs to be carefully planned and implemented and should be a key part of your sales and marketing strategy. Get it wrong and all that hard work can be lost in a moment. Get it right and you will join all those companies that spring to mind when you think of who has a positive presence in their market. Here are six top tips for getting it right:

1. Become a thought leader

Why do we respect some brands and are ambivalent about others? Yes, positive track record and user experience are up there with brand awareness and perceived success, but it's also about how the brand communicates to the market. Positioning yourself as a market "thinker" will ultimately engender the feeling that you are the market "leader", or at the very least, the market "mover". Actively managing a reputation for contributing to debates and helping to define the market will boost your reputation no end.

2. Get your customers to say very nice things about you

It sounds like going back to marketing basics, but it's simply staggering how many firms miss the trick of getting other brands with good reputations to say very nice things about them so that their reputation rubs off on your reputation. And if you make sure you do the work for them, most customers will willingly take part in your reputation management. People still like to do business with people who have a positive reputation!

Getting the timing right is everything. Clients who have just said yes to your latest offering are primed to say nice things about you. But don't wait - as we all know that when implementation starts, however good it can be, this will always be a time of uncertainty for your client and their confidence. Get them at the start; get them in the middle and then come back for some good comments in the form of a positive case study at the end.

3. Admit your shortcomings and anticipate trouble

If you've really messed up, then now would be a good time to hold your hands up, admit to your shortcomings, apologise and limit any damage with positive, but conciliatory comment. If you haven't messed up and it is clearly a misunderstanding or worse, a falsehood, then now would be a good time to issue statements that unequivocally confirm your position and counter the threat.

Before trouble hits, be honest with yourself and your PR people (under the strictest NDA of course) and let them know everything. Yes everything. Even the bits you haven't told anyone else about. Why? Because armed with all the details, it is possible to construct watertight statements that will limit damage. To a journalist, "no comment" could be construed as "write what you want, we don't care", or "we're hiding something".

4. Know who your friends are

Ask the people in any business what the key messages are, and you are likely to get different answers from each - ranging from accurate to wildly off-track. And yet most firms have customer-facing people who aren't in sales and marketing and who are can convey the key messages to potential prospects and the world at large.

This goes for all partners too - do they know how to sell for you? Are they equipped with all the information and key messages necessary to build you a positive reputation in the markets they operate in? Getting your "elevator pitch" sorted and then making sure everyone you deal with both internally and externally knows it and understands it, is key to success.

5. Don't be a #fail

With social media now considered a "must-have" for business-to-business organisations of all shapes and sizes, it is imperative to manage your reputation in real time, online. Social media campaigns can gain momentum quickly in either direction. Avoiding the "#fail" is about getting the appropriate communication guidelines in place and engaging with your audience in a dialogue, rather than a monologue.

Social media can be scary - it's unedited, uncontrolled and there's nowhere to hide. Or so it would seem. But with the right intelligence about what is being said about you, it's also a great place to manage your reputation positively and in a timely manner. Get on top of a story first - take the lead or respond to a criticism quickly - and stamp out the embers before they get fuelled by the social fire.

6. Don't be a one-hit wonder

As with all things marketing-shaped, strategy and direction should be closely followed with tactics and footwork. Start with building on a well thought thorough plan of reputation management and deliver clear direction from the top so that everyone understands the aims and is bought in. Preparation is everything - making sure everyone has a clear script to follow will leave them better prepared.

It's often said that maintaining a good reputation is as difficult as building one in the first place. And even if you are teetering at top of the reputation ratings, it can seem like a precarious place to be. But it doesn't have to be. As long as you take the view that you are always on a journey towards an even better reputation, then the focus is on growth and not on standing still.

Written by Ashley Carr of Neo PR.

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