In this blog, Jennifer Janson, managing director of technology PR agency Six Degrees, discusses how to build and protect your company’s reputation in a social media age
A company’s reputation can be irreparably damaged in a matter of hours – if not minutes – by a single torpedo-shaped tweet. The scary part is, you’re not in control of how such events are triggered, or how they are communicated. But your actions can influence outcomes. A solid reputation built around trust, behaviour and staff engagement can see you through tough times, as you draw on the goodwill of people who believe in your business.
The rise of social media has magnified the importance of reputation because it amplifies a company’s behaviour. But building reputation means far more than having an active Twitter feed, a million Facebook likes, or a beautiful Pinterest board. Reputation takes time to build. It lives among your customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders. It’s tempting to think of reputation as a communications issue, but in reality, it’s a business matter: you build reputation by ensuring your employees, and the company as a whole, behave in line with your core values, and that processes are set up to do the same.
Starbucks was criticised – in both traditional and social media – over the handling of its tax affairs. The public felt the company’s behaviour was in direct contrast to its core values. The coffee chain’s mission is to be a good neighbour, and to contribute to communities where it operates. The public felt there was a conflict between what Starbucks said was important, and the company’s behaviour – and people took action. Would this have been avoided if executives understood the impact that their actions could have on the brand’s reputation?
Core values should be ‘lived’ throughout a business. The natural starting point is your employees. When staff are energised, they do better work, they say the right things to their families and friends, and they exude passion to customers. Passion and energy help to build trust. And all of this is magnified and amplified by social media. People buy from people, and employees must connect in a way that benefits your brand’s reputation everywhere, all the time, and across every part of the business.
• Does your HR team track what current and former employees say about the company online? Does anyone in HR know the names of the top 10 ‘ambassadors’ and the top 10 detractors within your business?
• Do you track people who are dissatisfied with your competitors, and alert your sales team?
• Are people discussing the skeletons in your closet on social media? What are you doing to mitigate the risk?
• How do you use social media to show what is being communicated?
Don’t wait for the damning tweet. Agree your reputation strategy and create a plan to deliver it.