What is Reputation PR?
Reputation PR manages external perceptions of a company by shaping how customers, partners, employees, and the media view them. When done right, reputation PR establishes companies as industry leaders.
But even with significant time and resources invested into building a brand’s reputation, that reputation can still be damaged in an instant. It’s why many companies choose to leverage PR as a way to help build and protect trust in their brand through strategic, proactive external communication efforts.
Whether your company is looking to build or repair its reputation, here are some of the ways PR can help.
Reputation PR Includes:
Knowing what processes fall under reputation PR services can provide a better understanding of its benefits.
On a foundational level, reputation PR involves constant media monitoring in order to recognize and respond to any false claims or negative publicity as quickly as possible. This often involves using social listening tools and keyword alerts to track online conversations in real-time.
From there, reputation PR takes rapid, proactive measures to correct any misinformation that could harm a brand’s image. This can include publishing rebuttals, filing disputes or legal takedown notices.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of reputation PR, and what many companies think of when considering whether or not to invest in it, is its ability to create and distribute positive counter-messaging to balance the scales. To do so, some organizations find it useful to lean into success stories and testimonials about their company that reflect its larger values and positive impact.
Building a Positive Reputation
Positive brand reputations are defined by how well a brand meets the expectations of its stakeholders and fulfills its overarching mission.
At its core, a brand’s reputation should reflect their customers’ sentiments. For some companies, this sentiment may be related to positive and helpful interactions with a company’s sales or customer service teams. For others, customer sentiments will be more impacted by a memorable experience with the company’s product, service or offering.
Reputation can be influenced by anything from internal workplace culture to societal perceptions of how responsibly your company conducts business. It hinges on consistently delivering quality products and services people value. But it also requires showcasing processes and innovations that differentiate your brand.
Reputation PR spotlights all of these attributes. Some of the more common ways to promote a brands’ reputation are through:
- Sustainability efforts
- Community partnerships
- Ethical guidelines
- Anything else that embodies corporate social responsibility
Many highly-esteemed brands are also in the practice of distributing and promoting educational content that positions their executives as industry thought leaders. Some may even find it beneficial to partner with influencers who organically endorse the brand based on first-hand positive experiences. All these activities nurture credibility through relationship-building and word-of-mouth.
Consistently Monitoring Reputation
Without consistent monitoring, companies will have a hard time defining how the public perceives their brand.
This not only involves analyzing where, when and how the media and other external audiences communicate about your company, but also how they don’t communicate about your company. For example, an article highlighting ‘The Top Fintech Companies of the Year’ that includes all of a fintech company’s competitors and not their company can be just as harmful to a brand as an article that explicitly mentions the company in a negative way.
Because of this, it’s equally important for companies to monitor the conversations that they are a part of as it is to monitor the conversations that they want to be a part of in order to create the best possible reputation for themselves.
Regularly reviewing customer feedback can provide further insight into a brand’s reputation and how it has evolved over time. Whether companies provide opportunities for their customers to provide this feedback to them voluntarily, or they seek it out proactively with focus groups or surveys, this candid, first-hand feedback is key to gathering a 360-view of a brand’s reputation.
Being Prepared for Crisis Management
Even with diligent monitoring and communication strategies, unforeseen events can rapidly escalate into PR crises. This sobering reality is why crisis readiness is a lynchpin of reputation management programs.
In business, a crisis is anything that threatens to harm the organization or its stakeholders. This may include:
- Serious product or service issues
- Legal or ethical misconduct
- Natural disasters or accidents
- Negative media coverage
- Cybersecurity breaches
- Employee scandals
Having a crisis plan already mapped out allows companies to respond swiftly and effectively at the first signs of trouble. These plans should spell out response protocols for any potential situation so leaders know which internal teams to mobilize right away.
With a reputation PR program in place, companies can also equip themselves with reactive statements to convey appropriate messaging in various worst-case scenarios. While these messages can be crafted ahead of time, a strategic reputation PR firm should also be able to think on their feet to create a more thoughtful, authentic response.
Having an approved roster of spokespeople trained on core themes and talking points is also invaluable to reputation PR. When confronting a public firestorm, entrusting your brand to an individual that can communicate with consistency, speed, and accuracy in their messaging can make or break you.
How to Manage PR & Reputation
Managing reputation PR requires both big-picture view and attention to detail. It also means thinking several moves ahead of the industry in order to achieve specific outcomes down the line.
Here are a few best practices for overseeing these processes.
Establish a Strong Online Presence
Corporate websites and listings across key directories are critical touchpoints for reputation management. After all, it’s counterintuitive to refute false claims online while outdated or inconsistent information about your business ranks high in search results.
To start, audit your website to ensure that it contains current details and consistently conveys your brand identity across pages. Websites and other digital platforms should be used as a way to house content that answers common customer questions and establishes your company as an industry expert.
Online presences are also a way to encourage genuine customer reviews and testimonials. Favorable commentary in this regard carries more weight than self-promotion alone when managing reputation.
Be Active on Social Media
Maintaining an active presence on relevant social networks can facilitate real-time reputation management by enabling companies to address commentary about their brand publicly, as conversations unfold.
Social media also provides a platform for companies to cross-promote their news, as well as for executives to chime in organically and add additional color and further build their reputation.
Conversely, if companies are absent from social media or have a small following, it can be an added liability during reputation management because the public could perceive their brand as uninvolved and uninterested in engaging with their audience. Or worse yet, they will simply not hear what you have to say.
Be Transparent and Honest
Trust—a critical component of reputation management—stems from transparency. This means that even in times of crisis, it’s critical that companies communicate openly and honestly.
This includes sharing realities about internal policies, business practices, ethical measures, and instances where the brand fell short in retrospect. Doing so demonstrates authenticity that people inherently respect and appreciate.
Rather than making excuses or attempting to bury unflattering news, smart brands are transparent about their business operations and other claims. They speak facts, clarify details, offer context, and publicly redress issues. The goal is to show accountability paired with action steps to prevent repeat issues.
Even if certain revelations are hard to swallow in the short term, honesty helps repair public faith in the long run. It also humanizes the brand, making it more relatable.
Establish Consistency in Messaging
Mixed messages confuse audiences, which can also be counterintuitive to strategic reputation management. To establish uniformity in their messaging, companies need alignment across all of their departments on brand vision, values, and culture.
When company executives prepare for media interviews, for example, they should be equipped with consistent, approved messaging that focuses on the company’s core strengths and differentiators.
This coherence in storytelling nurtures belief through repetition—while preventing credibility gaps that can damage companies’ reputations.
Follow Ethical Business Practices
Today’s consumers are paying more attention than ever to the way that the brands they interact with have committed to corporate social responsibility and sustainability. A brand’s most loyal customer will be the one that sees the brand as having similar values to their own.
Because of this, reputation PR often involves showcasing social consciousness to build affinity and trust with buyers. Many reputation PR programs will include advice on compliance measures that match public sentiment around issues like data privacy, fair labor practices, and mitigating pollution associated with operations. This added level of responsible self-regulation pays dividends in nurturing reputation.
In addition to buyers, ethical business practices can help companies build a positive reputation to attract top talent. Many of today’s job seekers pay close attention to social and environmental commitments when considering potential employers.
Hire a PR Agency
Partnering with a PR agency that specializes in reputation PR is one of the most effective ways for companies to manage external perceptions of their brand. These agencies can offer expertise, media relationships and strategic recommendations that can only be acquired by teams that have been around the block a time or two.
Compared to an individual or team that is intricately involved with the day to day of a company, PR agencies can additionally provide companies with a third-party, unbiased perspective on reputation management concerns—especially in times of crisis.
While many companies prefer to work with a PR agency to manage their reputation over the long term, some may find it more beneficial to seek out a PR agency partner reactively when they are in need of a higher level of PR support.
At its core, reputation PR enables companies to create meaningful connections with their target audiences through truthful, empathetic communication.
Companies looking to manage their reputation either proactively or reactively can look to the following best practices:
- Take steps to monitor online sentiment.
- Address issues early as much as possible.
- Establish processes to counter any misinformation quickly.
- Develop engaging, educational content to reinforce positive brand positioning.
- Lean on executives as thought leaders to foster authentic connections between companies and their target audiences.
- Ensure that messaging is consistent across all channels.
- Celebrate wins, own mistakes, and communicate progress customers care about.
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