I was leafing through Douglas Magazine, an excellent tome on local business issues. I came across an excellent article written by an old friend Mike Wicks, a reputable dude who has made his living in sales training, writing, etc… Mike’s article was about the value of a reputation from an empirical perspective. In other words, one can attach a financial score to a weak reputation and it’s not pretty. Mike’s article got me thinking about a few things on this topic;
Product Delivery is the premix for Reputation
My partner Shane Sparks and I are fond of saying “Nothing can destroy a crappy business like a great Ad Campaign.” The outcome of a branding effort is to leave the consumer with kind of a buyer’s insurance policy that they are making good choices. If a business is delivering crap, the branding efforts will not grab, and it will simply accelerate negative word-of-mouth.
As a young man I worked inside a prominent ad agency. I was assigned a new restaurant to do a PR launch. The owner had a storied career at another place and was basically a know-it-all. I organized a small soft opening and the feedback was really poor. I suggested he protect his $2 million investment and get his product totally right, before we turned on the PR Machine. He rebuffed me, said I was a snotty-nosed punk (I guess I was) and due to my age, I was only half of him (a mini me?) blah blah blah… He insisted we turn on the PR Machine. Dutifully, I did so and was successful in streaming thousands through the restaurant. They subsequently told everyone out on the street what garbage the food and service was. In 9 months it closed down. Ha!
So at the core of it all, get your offering right and reputation will follow, most of the time.
Reputation is the premix for Branding
Do you make an omelette without eggs? I suggest not. Reputation is to Branding, what Eggs are to Omelettes. So, do not start into any kind of social media campaigns (PR 2.0) without getting your offering on track first. Otherwise, your social media efforts will backfire big time.
Another idea is to contract your branding efforts around what you “know” to be rock solid in terms of your reputation and build from that strength. In other words, I’d argue most folks or organizations have reputation gaps or issues. Move them aside and build your brand from a smaller context. You can make a four egg omelette with one egg being rotten or a three egg omelette with the rotten egg turfed. What’s better?
A Good Reputation is not necessarily about being popular
In the world of Advertising or PR, the centrepiece can often be about sucking up, basically communicating whatever has been dropped on your lap to communicate. This is also known as Spin. Goofballs that accept this business are called Spin Doctors.
Process improvement is a misunderstood outcast in the marketing world. Process improvement is about getting the offering right, so the client’s reputation holds and the brand does not get creamed later on. Pursuing the truth can be less than enjoyable for a client and can even tick them off. If I’m doing that work for a client, do I cave and maintain my popularity or do I do the right thing knowing that, over time, I will have earned the client’s respect? If you had to choose, what would be more important to you; being liked or being respected? What path would you follow? Often in business being liked and being respected don’t dance well together. From my perspective, if one is spineless it’s 100% about being popular at any cost. We all know those folks suffering from chronically sore bums because they always seem to sit on the fence.
A Bad Reputation Event needs to be solved ASAP, in a big way
As per Mike’s article, one can take years to build a stellar reputation and then have it beaten down through only one nasty incident. We don’t need to get into examples. Stories of shot-gunned reputations are in the news every week.
In the old days, pre-social media, a PR Firm would be hired and the “Reputation Event” would get managed away as best as they could. Now we have Search Engines and it is almost impossible to eliminate negative buzz. If you type in the name of a person or business, followed by the search term “reviews,” this is where adverse things are written…for all to see…forever. While the analogy is crude, negative search engine reviews on Yelp, Google +, etc. can be like herpes. A weak tactic would be to bomb the page with trumped up positive reviews to push the negative stuff to the second page, but that really is like trying to paint over a moldy wall.
A bad reputation event needs to be seen as commentary beyond the reputation, pointing to the core of the business. It needs to be handled deeply and diligently and if the person complaining online is nice, they might take the crappy commentary offline. Online whining should be dealt with and it is also a signal to look at and fix your core offering so this will never happen again.
A bad reputation event, if handled poorly can accelerate your business into the dumpster.
Is There a Time to Burn off Some Hard Earned Reputation?
That is really up to you. In my town, the City Fathers decided to put a Homeless Transition Shelter beside my kids’ school. I went online and basically asked if there weren’t, y’know, 20 million better locations for this than beside a school? My question was met with a small barrage of insults such as heartless, scrooge, and NIMBY (I now know that for some, hurling NIMBY at someone is like hurling an F Bomb). So, I burned off a bit of my reputation in doing what I believed was the right thing. Would I do it again, given the flack I took? Ya, I guess I would.
Reputation is a by-product of largely living right, but respect and doing what one feels is the right thing needs to be heavily weighted into the reputation formula. It’s a fine line to walk when doing the right thing, especially when it comes to potentially losing market share.
Mike Wicks and Douglas Magazine, thank you for inspiring some more thought on this topic.
Stats on Reputation Presented in the Wicks/Douglas Magazine Article , July 2015
- 53% of consumers try and proactively learn more about the companies they are considering doing business with….(Harris Interactive)
- 36% of the general public decided to not do business because of something negative they learned about how the business conducts itself….(Harris Interactive)
- 88% of online consumers who read reviews will take them as seriously as a personal recommendation or criticism…(Bright Local)
- 72% of consumers say that positive online reviews make them trust a local business more…(Bright Local)
Full article by Mike Wicks: How Much is Your Reputation Worth?