Guarding your organisation’s reputation is your responsibility – but how do you play a key role in shaping it?

Guarding your organisation’s reputation is your responsibility – but how do you play a key role in shaping it?

Charlotte Stoel

Charlotte Stoel

Calling all comms directors!

The business case for improving and protecting a reputation cuts across an entire organisation. HR takes an interest as it’s important to be seen as a good employer, whilst it is IT’s job to safeguard the organisation’s assets, including, in some part, its reputation. Then you have the obvious departments like marketing and sales where reputation is a key element of their success.

When we (Firefly) talk about reputation, we split this out from brand or branding. We tend to think about ‘brand’ as what an organisation says about itself, whilst reputation is what others think about the organisation. This means that reputations are largely built by the experiences and interactions we hear from others – customers, partners, media, employees, candidates… even the ‘robots’ like Google and Alexa. And it’s our job as communication professionals to influence these experiences and make the most of interactions.

With these multiple influences on your reputation you must ensure you’ve spoken to the right people in the business when creating your communication strategy for 2020. And have you asked the right questions? So, who’s on the list?

Marketing and sales

You’ll have likely worked together with this group as they have the most to gain from having the right reputation. To state the obvious, being known and recognised helps your marketing and sales team boost leads and convert new customers. But they’re a group you must stay close to, and regularly check in with to ensure your communication programme delivers value.

Make sure you ask them:

  • What the ‘Go to market’ messaging is? How do they intend the brand to be seen?
  • What push back they get from customers? This may be something you can address head-on
  • What is your reputation in the eyes of your prospects, from responses to marketing content?

HR and recruitment

To attract and retain the best people, the reputation of the organisation counts. In fact, pay won’t always sway candidates, as 50% say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation. Organisations that neglect their reputation as a good employer will risk losing great people. Therefore, what needs to be highlighted is who the organisation is as an employer – what people get from working there, what exciting innovations are happening, what’s the vision and mission of the business.

Make sure you ask them:

  • What their goals are in attracting and retaining people?
  • How they want to be seen as an employer?
  • How do they measure what your workforce thinks of you as an organisation?

Leadership team

Leaders are intrinsically linked to an organisation’s reputation and many stakeholders will want to understand who’s steering the ship. The reputation of the individuals in senior roles will impact the broader reputation of the organisation – in most cases adding strength through the compelling communication of an organisation’s vision, mission and purpose.

Make sure you ask them:

  • How often do they consider their own professional reputation?
  • What do they do to shape it?
  • What is their view on the reputation of the organisation?

Product and service development

Many teams will be feeling the external pressure to be more sustainable, to be more innovative, essentially to ‘move on’ from the old ways – or simply to continue making better products at a lower cost. For example, products using lots of plastic unnecessarily, or software with a dated user interface will be quickly pushed to one side, and a reputation of being out of touch can quickly develop. Comms and development teams should connect, share customer insights and ensure what’s being communicated aligns to the future trajectory of the organisation. Those in charge of roadmaps will have this insight.

Make sure you ask them:

  • To share insights from client and customer focus groups – there will be strengths and weaknesses to consider in your comms strategy
  • How do they measure what your clients/customers think of you as an organisation?

Security and IT

Unlike the other departments, working with your IT and security team is more about protecting reputation, rather than proactively building a certain reputation. Almost every organisation has been hit by some sort of cyber-attack – some more serious than others, and some with consequences for more than just the organisation itself. This is when security and IT teams link up to comms to ensure the situation is handled correctly and reputational damage is minimised.

Make sure you ask them:

  • To be included as early on as possible when a cyber threat arises
  • To join you in developing a crisis communication handbook should a crisis arise – show them their role in the process

With all this insight and understanding, the communication strategy you create is more likely to serve the whole organisation. It’s especially important to do this exercise when your organisation is going through change – which is pretty much all the time, right?

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