Corporate Reputation is Important to Marketing

What’s a reputation worth?  Companies that aren’t prepared for a crisis can watch their sales go off the cliff, their stock price take a plunge, and even permanently shut some, if not all their doors.

Ask yourself: “What could happen tomorrow that could shut down my business?”

Once you answer that question and put together a plan to actively promote and preserve your corporate reputation, the chances are that any damage occurring from such an incident will be minimal rather than catastrophic.

Without a viable strategic plan, all the advertisements and press releases in the world won’t change public perception and attitudes towards your organization. If what happened runs counter to your customers’ values, your challenge to recover will be even more magnified.

For a restaurant, one simple answer to the question might be, “A bad case of food poisoning as a result of unsanitary preparation would shut our doors for a long time.”  For a construction company, that could mean poor safety standards with a string of citations. Or to an assisted-living facility, it might mean not quarantining residents during a flu epidemic resulting in a care home filled with dozens of sick residents. How about a federal lawsuit against a multilevel marketing company?

Some cases of bad publicity pass overnight or in a few days and the damage is minimal. It’s the ones that could shut you down, regardless of how small the possibility, that one must be prepared to successfully manage  What are the odds of a fire in your kitchen? Probably very small unless you make candles or deep fry in an open pan. But you probably have a fire extinguisher in your cabinet, right? 

People buy lottery tickets for just the opposite reason. The odds are very small, but the payoff is huge!  When it comes to a potential door-shutting crisis, keep the Scout motto in mind — “Be prepared!”

If it’s possible, engage as many of your employees as possible in asking the question. Let them know why it’s critical to them and the company. Cite examples of other companies that weren’t prepared and met a different fate. Employee empowerment can be very powerful and the responses quite interesting. Best of all, it gives them ownership.

Employees who know their employer cares about them and their livelihood are among the best advocates when the chips are down. How often do you meet someone who speaks negatively about the culture within their company?  They, too, have a lot to lose when a company must shut down. They’re the ones who will be asked by friends and family why their employer dismissed safety precautions to meet certain goals.

Embrace and implement trust-based marketing internally and externally, a strategy whose foundation is rooted in openness and honesty. It relies not only on customer satisfaction but also creates a loyal customer base and a larger revenue stream. This kind of loyalty cannot be bought but is invaluable in times of crisis or disaster.

Building A Corporate Reputation

We earlier discussed the importance of a good corporate reputation as well as the importance of having a strategic plan in place in case of a major corporate catastrophe.

The plan that’s put together must be all-encompassing. Many companies are siloed for a variety of different reasons. This is the perfect time to gather the marketing, public relations, community relations, advertising, and corporate giving and sponsorship people together and get them all moving forward. And as previously mentioned, internal and external trust-based marketing is also critical to this success.

Perform an audit of how and where each of the above roles and investments matches up with your company’s products and focus. Let’s use a local electric utility as an example. After all, everyone relies on electricity, unless one is living off the grid.

Electric utilities and environmental groups have had their clashes over the years. Bird lovers often tangle with utility companies over their feathered friends who get caught in the high voltage transmission lines. But what if the utility’s community relations and foundation folk got together with the bird lovers and funded their school educational program in exchange for one of their experts coming in and teaching line personnel how to recognize and treat endangered and especially rare birds that get caught in transmission lines?

No one’s values are compromised but each party brings a valuable asset to the table. Best of all, a sense of trust will begin to be formed which will be invaluable in cases of crisis.

Are your company’s sponsorships based more on friendships rather than areas where the company has interests or markets?  If your company produces and distributes healthy food products, are your sponsorships aligned in that direction or funding speed-eating contests like hot dogs or chili?

Look at how, where and if you encourage employees to volunteer. This doesn’t mean that employees need to volunteer for organizations that support or align with your business or industry, but encouraging them helps. So, too, does honoring and acknowledging employees who devote some of their off time to help others.

Do your public relations, social media, advertising and marketing teams share the results of your foundation grants and volunteerism with your key publics?  Transparency and trust-based marketing are so critical to building blocks of loyalty.

Look at your advertising. Does it match your values and what you stand for or is it merely being put out there to promote a product? 

Publish an annual report to the community if that isn’t already happening. Include all of the above results and be sure to send it to your influential public, even if they don’t necessarily patronize you. If they’re in a position to act against you, let them know the good you’re doing when times are good, rather than wait until a crisis.

Last but not least, identify your key public. They are your employees and, where applicable, could include shareholders, partners, customers, regulatory agencies, lawmakers, suppliers, and the general public.