By Kevin Welman, MD of FleishmanHillard, Johannesburg
“Beginning about 20 years ago, brand became a concept that management teams and boards of directors focused on to drive corporate value around the world. Today we can see that reputation is the next tangible driver of value that organisations will actively manage for competitive advantage.” – Peter Verrengia, FleishmanHillard Inc.
In today’s market place it is fair to say that the value placed on a brand’s reputation has become more important than the brand itself. Have you considered how and why it is possible that in seconds, all the sweat, labour and the years that went into building a business, an institution, or an organisation can be wiped out?
How a once thriving business can go belly-up and be reduced to a shadow of its previous self. The problem lies in the fact that all too often there exists a disjuncture between what a brand says about itself, how it would like to be seen, and what others say about it. This speaks to a brand’s reputation.
What a brand says about itself and its reputation have to mirror each other. Brands cannot communicate one thing and be something else. At a personal level; how would it be if as individuals or organisations the way we portrayed ourselves did not match up with how we wished to be seen? Logically, the way we act should be in concert with the way we would like to be perceived.
As communication practitioners we execute reputation management on a daily basis. Our communications efforts have to be aligned with how we want our clients’ brands to be perceived. Managing a brand and managing its reputation can no longer be seen as two separate or parallel functions. Our clients trust us to ensure that through our efforts we create a seamless relationship and connection between how they would like their brands to be seen and what the consumers’ experience.
Today’s consumer is both discerning and sceptical. They scrutinise brands based on what they promise to deliver on, their value proposition, and most importantly what others experience from that same brand. Online engagement and communities have become fertile ground for both dissent and approval where feedback that can either make or break a brand. It is there where in an instant your reputation can go to tatters.
Good brands know how to live and thrive on those platforms by constantly keeping a watch over their reputation. As a brand, if what you say about yourself and and how you behave is aligned to what others say about you based on shared perceptions then you would have succeeded in driving an authentic engagement with your consumers. It is this engagement that will ultimately translate into profits and it is this that we should strive to achieve at all times.
So the next time you counsel your clients, consider whether your communications efforts have taken a holistic view of the brand and its reputation resulting in an authentic consumer engagement. It is worth asking the question; are you as you wish to be seen?
Source: Our TREND.spotter, Kevin Welman, is the managing director of FleishmanHillard South Africa, which is part of the global marketing and communications network operated by one of the industry’s leading PR agencies, FleishmanHillard.