In the fast moving environment of communications, digital networks, and the Internet, companies are realising that reputation management is a vital part of their business.
The MSLGROUP report , ‘Reputation: with or without you’, explores two basic questions:
- Can organisations manage their reputation in this digital world?
- And, if so, how do they achieve this?
This study, which was conducted across 100 top organisations in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) markets, advises companies to be proactive in order to build a strong reputation and achieve goals. It also provides great advice about how to confront risks and make the most of opportunities.
Reputation has become an indispensable part of business success, and according to the survey, the majority of the companies believe that ‘reputation can bring a positive or significantly positive impact on how well a company does business wise’. An impressive 85% of the respondents agree, or strongly agree, that the reputational consequences for a company is serious.
‘Reputation has always been serious. There is heightened focus on reputation and awareness nowadays due to the accessibility of information to consumers.’- Christine Diamente, Head of Brand and Corporate Sustainability, Alcatel-Lucent.
The shifting digital world, with its free flow of information and the speed of news, has changed the structure of communications, and created a new level of reputational risk. Social media, as indicated by the majority of the respondents in the survey, is largely responsible for companies changing their approach to communications. Advertising, PR and owned-media is being increasingly replaced by social media, as a way in which companies engage with their stakeholders.
However, the survey also indicates that even with an increased use of social media generally, not all audiences respond well to digital engagement. More conservative sectors such as pharmaceuticals and finance, are more likely to have limited engagement with their audience over professional and social media networks.
Despite social media being identified as a risk to company reputation, a significant 79% of respondents recognise that social media is a great opportunity for them, in contrast to 5% who viewed it as a threat. The heightened impact of social media has been a factor in the majority of respondents (70%) paying more attention to communications at board level. Companies, it seems, are considering new ways to build their reputation.
Companies have started to produce more and more content online – 88% of the companies surveyed now use more content than they did two years ago. Also, the type of content they use has changed. ‘Short, easily-digestible content for their social channels, rather than longer-form blogs and thought leadership pieces’ appear more popular. As content should always be tailored to each target group, writing and creating of it could be challenged because of time and resources, as well as tone and format, according to the present report.
The survey highlights a number of organisational barriers which companies should consider in the new digital world. Firstly, companies need to build communications teams or appoint external agencies to deal with the bulk of their digital and social networks. The survey shows that companies are beginning to restructure their internal communications teams in response to changes in communications practices, and the growing need for reputation management. Many companies lack the necessary IT systems and the digital technology to engage with these new networks and successfully communicate their business in the “always-on” environment.
It is essential to educate not just the communication team, within a company, but also all the network of employees, since they are potential advocates for a company. Formal training sessions or including the details in company guidelines are useful ways to inform staff.
MSLGROUP’s five principles for building and managing your reputation:
- Monitor – Respond – Measure
Social media listening programmes are essential in order to understand conversations about the company and better identify potential risks and issues online. They are an effective way to monitor potential opportunities for the business and measure all efforts for business success.
- Start a content engine to sustain conversations
By building a content engine to sustain conversations online, companies will be better placed to engage in conversations across different digital channels and reinforce the brand purpose and communications plan.
- Overcome cultural conservatism and engage
Misinformation must be avoided, while customer enquiries must be serviced adequate and effectively. Companies should aim to keep cases internal to avoid rumours spreading across the networks.
- Improve internal and external transparency
As news spread quickly in the online world, companies should embrace transparency and adjust their behaviour to meet desired public perception. Employees play key role in your communications, and it is vital they do not communicate bad news.
- Make your employees active communicators
Encourage employees to be active members of communication channels, and to share positive stories and information about your business online. After all who knows your company better than your employees?