By Kate Wilhelm
“Reputation management” is a buzz phrase we use a lot in our industry. It can assume different meanings at different times, and take all forms and fashions.
But what it boils down to, simply, is, “What do people think of me? What do they think of my company?”
At its core, reputation management is about developing a brand profile that reaches your audience at the right time with the right message. It’s about getting people to notice you in a positive way.
As the landscape evolves, you need to be prepared for attacks you don’t even see coming. These days, an anonymous Twitter troll can ruin in five minutes a reputation you spent years building up. You need to be prepared for the unseen and unexpected.
This means you may have to change both where and how you show up. Here are some steps we take at Ceisler Media to help our clients build, manage and maintain their reputations:
Define Your Brand
What do you want to be when you grow up? We were all asked that question as children. It still applies to companies and causes. In this case it means, what to you want to be known for? Often, it is the story that goes beyond the product or service you offer – it is the factor that gives you the edge.
Unicorns or widgets, financial services or technology – whatever your company focuses on, others are doing it. So what distinguishes you from the field? Your goal is to promote what’s special about your business. Perhaps it’s a holistic approach to employee wellness. Maybe it is a commitment to philanthropic causes that support our civic ecosystem.
Defining your brand requires moving outside your natural boundaries so people know more about you than your logo or their one-time experience. You never know when you may need to remind them, just in case a crisis arises (more on that later).
Authenticity is Key
You have filled in the blanks and defined your story. But who’s your narrator and what’s their voice? One of my clients explained this perfectly in a planning meeting for a visibility campaign. “We gotta use our swagger,” he said, “that Philly swagger no one else has.” (h/t B.P.).
Any time you want to engage people in your story, you need to be authentic. Our team helps you curate that voice – from tweets to blogs, from media announcements to event sponsorships. We design integrated campaigns that resonate with the people you’re targeting. And we make sure they know it’s the real you – not spin or jargon.
Perhaps the best way to deliver that is an op-ed in a local business journal explaining how to help nonprofits plan during the recent government shutdown. Perhaps you’re Walmart and want connect with the community by organizing an annual electric fan giveaway for seniors every summer. We make sure your message is authentic to who you have set out to be.
Connect and Create
Communities. Constituents. Customers. Ambassadors. Influencers. Each word represents people you need to connect with – people who care about what you’re doing and have to say.
Changing times require new ways to reach those people. As newsrooms trim staff, you must be more creative to share your content and message. Our team provides clients with video services that provide more than the traditional press release or pitch to news desks.
We help you develop lists of influencers – the people best able to spread your message – and then create personalized communications and invitations for them to enjoy exclusive experiences. Those influencers then help share your positive story with their networks.
Perhaps most importantly, we work with you on internal communications – because there is no more important ambassador of your brand than your employees. It’s critically important to keep your employees informed, and we’ll help through newsletters, emails and other internal communications.
Remember that esoteric question – who do you want to be when you grow up? It conjured an image of a person doing something. When you develop a reputation campaign, it focuses on the people – not the places or things. Who is that man or woman behind the CEO title? Whose lives were impacted because of your volunteer days and corporate giving? Let’s hear about them first, before weaving in the stats and metrics. The most-interesting stories always center on real people.
Crisis Afoot, Don’t Panic
@&#% happens. Things don’t always go according to plan. Those unicorns don’t always have rainbows around them; sometimes the widget doesn’t fit.
Crises are best managed when there is a plan. But, let’s be honest, we often receive panicked calls when there is no time to plan. At Ceisler Media, we immerse ourselves immediately, examining the client’s issue from all sides and letting our expert judgment guide the next steps.
It always starts with two core principles: Own it, and be honest. Most clients we work in crisis situations are rightfully nervous about every syllable of every sentence. We partner with legal counsel, business partners and investors to quickly create the appropriate game plan to move forward. We make sure everyone is speaking with one voice; that employees and partners understand the details of what is happening, and who they can contact with questions. When the dust settles, we help our clients move forward – reminding everyone they deal with why they want to stay connected.
The campaigns we create are fully integrated; not just with digital media to mainstream media, but inside the organization and with outside partners. Today, a reputation can be tarnished with a tweet. Our work makes sure you have the army behind you that can share your good works to help combat any trolls who might come your way.
Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at email@example.com.