When Everton footballer, Wayne Rooney, was arrested for drink driving this September, the media coverage was, predictably, swift and intense. His ‘terrible error of judgement’ that evening, as it was described in court, led to him not only ‘letting himself down, his family and his fans’, but will also impact the multi-million pound brand that he fronts. Brand Rooney is reported to be worth £90 million. But how much equity will be left after this latest incident..? Brand equity is a valuable commodity and once built up, must be managed very carefully and skilfully. At the start of September, Uber’s brand was reported to be worth $70 billion. But how much has losing its license to operate in London, one of the world’s most influential of capital cities affected that brand equity?
A company’s reputation is one of its biggest and most important assets. Little surprise then that, according to the world’s first benchmark of Organisational Resilience, reputation tops business leaders list of priorities, ahead of financial achievements and business leadership. The global study, carried out by BSI, found that reputation is seen as the most important element to the long term success of the business, even more than financial aspects, leadership and vision and purpose.
Of course, prevention is better than cure and the best way to protect your reputation is to protect it from getting damaged in the first place. That’s why it’s essential for businesses to continually assess their reputational risks. Here are our five top tips for getting it right:
- Make reputational risk management a top organisational priority
Reputation management starts at the top; it’s crucial that your C-Suite buys in to and supports a reputation management plan. But while the Board is responsible for the management of a business’ reputation, it’s vital that everyone joins the journey. Delivering clear direction from the top ensures everyone understands the aims and is bought in.
- Give power to the people
People trust their peers, so it makes sense to work with your workforce to make them true ambassadors. This year’s 2017 Trust Barometer report by Edelman has shown that on social networking and content-sharing sites, respondents are far more trusting of family and friends (78 per cent) than a CEO (49 per cent), so equip all staff with the information they need to convey your key messages. This means you can move to a state where your employees are the ones getting top billing in sharing news and views about your company, which is reinforced by your CEO. While it’s important to have a formal policy with regards to what everyone can post in relation to the company, most of the time, employees don’t even realise how what they do affects the brand.
So by equipping employees with the right tools and giving them the permission to broadcast on your company’s behalf, you start to build a team of ambassadors working on your behalf.
- Become a thought leader
While track record and user experience are up there with brand awareness and perceived success, positioning yourself as an important voice in your sector goes hand-in-hand with being regarded as a market ‘leader’. Becoming a regular commentator on market issues will help you to gain a reputation for defining the marketplace in which you move, will therefore help boost your reputation.
- Have a robust social media policy
While it’s true that misdemeanours linger online, and social media campaigns can gain momentum quickly, in either direction, social should be a vital way to manage your reputation positively. So listen to what your online media networks and clients are saying about you, your company or product. Make sure you have the appropriate communication guidelines in place and engage with your audience in a dialogue, rather than a monologue. Stop to consider that what you say on your business or personal channels aligns with your brand and the image you want to project. Simple tools like media and online monitoring will alert you of any potential warning signs early on so you can take the lead or respond to a criticism quickly.
- Have a crisis communication plan ready
You never know when a crisis will strike, so it pays to be prepared. Having a crisis communication plan provides a process to follow in terms of what to say, where to say it, and who to say it to. Start by doing an audit of all possible reputation risks your organisation could face. Assess the internal and external environment and create action plans around the risks identified. Then, think about your issues management response framework, including who would need to be contacted if a crisis did occur and what would need to be said in each scenario. Once this is in place, everyone at your organisation should know the process to follow in the case of a crisis – preparation is everything when looking to mitigate risk.
A good reputation doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be ruined in a second. Invest proactively in your company’s reputation now to help mitigate damage should the worst happen.