This article was originally published in Forbes.

It has always been essential for businesses to maintain a solid reputation. However, this has taken on another level of importance in the modern context. Social media, 24-hour news cycles and the ubiquity of information have put reputational issues at the forefront of any organisation’s strategy.

Efforts must be made in terms of public relations, brand management and leadership reputation, but it cannot stop there. To build a truly robust reputation, those who represent your company in day-to-day interactions should fully understand the values you wish to project.

Those who are responsible for sales, by definition, have a huge impact on any business’s success. However, this goes beyond revenue generation. They are also a significant driver of your wider reputational efforts due to their countless interactions with the outside world, including current or prospective customers, partners, sponsors and beyond.

If your firm has a poor sales reputation, this will impact the overall image you portray and may even go against other efforts by your leaders or marketing. As a result, it is critical that your sales teams are kept updated on reputational matters—and are well-versed in your firm’s values and are able to communicate them effectively.

Building A Strong Sales Reputation

A lingering and often unfair perception of sales teams is that their approach can be too “pushy” and not focused on building trust or those long-term relationships that are so important to creating sustainable success. Highlighting the importance of honesty and transparency in negotiations is something that the majority of businesses will already be doing, so what other efforts can be made?

Fundamentally, all your employees must buy into your company’s ethos and what it is trying to achieve. We have all been in an organisation or dealt with a representative of a company who couldn’t care less about how they or the company are perceived. As much as we may try not to let them, these sorts of interactions can have a strong influence on our opinion of the company, and if many others have the same experience, this can cause significant reputational damage.

Therefore, it is important for your company’s leadership to maintain a two-way dialogue with its people. To a large extent, reputation will be top-down—the heritage, culture and personalities of those who founded or run the company will have a significant impact on how it approaches sales and the reputation it wants to build. However, it is important to not be out of touch and to make sure to listen to the wishes and outlook of the people you have throughout your organisation.

There is a wide societal focus on authenticity, and we have seen many examples of companies being called out, even canceled, for not living up to the high moral standards that consumers and workers have these days. For example, many companies have been accused of greenwashing, being misleading in their advertising or having sales practices deemed out of sync with their values. Clearly, this will have a big impact on the reputation of the firm more broadly, but also on sales teams. A team should be comfortable promoting a product or service, not worried about having to make any moral compromises. This can make them more effective in driving revenue and helping build a more positive reputation.

Measuring A Strong Sales Reputation

Revenue is a good measurement of many business outcomes, and reputation is no exception. If your revenue figures are strong, it is likely that a strong reputation has helped make that happen. However, it is a mistake to not look beyond revenue and seek different indications as to how your reputation is doing. The use of customer success teams can be a great way to keep in touch with customers throughout the lifecycle, getting constant and useful feedback to measure how your company is doing and the way it is perceived by your customers. Similarly, engagement programmes between stakeholders and your senior team can also fulfill a critical role and ensure that strong bonds are created and trust is shared.

Other established ways of measuring satisfaction beyond simply revenue include the Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a score that organisations are given that measures how likely a customer is to recommend or promote that company to someone else. This can help give a good indication as to how your brand is viewed—for example, if you have strong revenue figures but a poor NPS, trouble may be down the road.

However, due to NPS’ simplicity, it has its limitations regarding the insight it can give you into customer sentiment and behavior. This is why it is important to review all of the different metrics out there and use the one you think would be most relevant to your business. It may even mean combining a few different ones to try to fully understand your reputation and the lasting impressions that your sales team leaves on customers. As a result, a concerted focus on not only revenue and outcomes but on the process to get there should be factored into all strategic decisions and subsequent training of your workforce.

In business, what you say matters, but what you do is crucial—the reputation you’re building is only legitimate if those in your company back it up with their actions. This is why building a positive reputation and putting wider reputational efforts at the core of your business, prioritising them alongside other key business goals such as revenue or costs, is key to future success.

In the world today, talk travels quickly, and there are countless examples in recent times of business outcomes being inextricably linked to the perception a company has in the public forum. Ensuring that you approach sales with integrity, transparency and honesty is more important today than it ever has been. Creating the right culture within your company can lead to the right reputation being presented outward.

One of tech’s hottest stories this month was Deliveroo’s IPO. From the outset, Deliveroo should have been a runaway success on London’s stock market, given its healthy growth and backing from tech giants like Amazon. Instead, it set the record as London’s worst IPO in its history – not quite the success it expected. Pricing, timing, uncertain business prospects and its gig economy workforce were cited as the reasons for its flop, with the treatment of its workforce being of a particular concern among investors.

Whether it was simply the wrong timing for Deliveroo to go public, given the UK’s emergence out of lockdown, or that the numbers weren’t quite right to start with, there seems to be a shift in the way in which investors and fund managers are thinking about which companies to invest in. And a huge part of that shift involves reputation.

What makes a successful IPO?

In the past, we’ve seen some of the fastest-growing tech start-ups have huge success on the stock market, and the repercussions have had a positive impact on their reputation too – dating app Bumble made its stock debut on Wall Street in February this year, making its founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the world’s youngest billionaire at age 31. Airbnb also went ahead with its IPO in December 2020, despite travel restrictions halting huge parts of its business, and the company still managed to see success, passing the market cap of travel giants Booking and Expedia and making it the 10th best debut in 2020 based on price gain from its IPO. 

But what truly makes an IPO successful?

According to a report from PwC in 2019, elements that are likely to make IPOs more successful include the likes of: a large, growing addressable market, a unique and differentiated business model, and an attractive product or service, among others. All of which relate to business growth and appeal to the market, and all of which Deliveroo seemed to tick off from the outset. But investors are also beginning to factor in other elements, particularly those associated with reputation and ethics, when deciding to invest in companies. Larry Fink famously highlighted in his 2021 letter to CEOs that issues such as climate change and purpose are pivotal to creating durable value, and companies that pose a climate risk are also an investment risk. For Deliveroo, concerns over workers’ rights due to its gig economy-led workforce was a risk that investors weren’t willing to take, given the ethical and legal issues involved.

Gig economy – a blessing and a curse?

On the surface, the gig economy sounds like an appealing concept, to employees at least – workers are self-employed and often given the freedom to choose when and where they can work. It means they can potentially dip their toes into several industries if they want to and work in shifts which can be better for work life balance. It’s the ultimate flexible working scheme in modern employment, albeit with downsides, mainly that there is no fixed salary and other benefits that employees experience such as holiday or sick pay.  This business model is coming under intense scrutiny by regulators, watchdogs and the judiciary. The Supreme Court recently ruled Uber drivers are workers rather than self-employed following a long-running legal battle, causing the share price to dip due to the impact the ruling could have on the viability of the firm’s business model.

And it’s not just the gig economy that has shed light on the treatment of workers and its effect on reputation. Throughout the pandemic, we saw many companies being called out for their poor treatment of staff when navigating furlough and redundancies, causing their customers to react by boycotting the brand completely. It’s no wonder that investors are becoming increasingly concerned over how businesses treat their staff when it could directly affect sales.

The reputational risk of investing

The investment game involves many, huge risks but it seems reputational risk is becoming progressively more common as investors focus on ways to improve their stances on ethics. Fund managers are shifting away from the traditional narrative and no longer want to be associated with companies that contribute to climate change, have the majority of their employees on zero-hour contracts or other ethical, social, and economic issues because of the potential reputational repercussions.

‘Ethical fund manager’ isn’t a term that is widely used yet in the investment industry, but with ethical investments outperforming traditional funds in recent years, it’s clear that the industry is moving forward in this way. Investors need to be aware of how a company is dealing with various issues that could potentially damage their business and if they don’t know how to deal with certain issues, it then becomes a reputational problem for the business and the investors – especially if it hits the headlines as a potential scandal and directly impacts the overall value of the business. In Deliveroo’s case, the gig economy model, while as modern as it is, could become a reputational problem in the future if they get into trouble with their employees.

That said, it could also end up going the opposite way too. Reddit’s WallStreetBets subreddit, which famously drove GameStop’s share price earlier this year, turned to investing in gorilla conservations more recently, much to the surprise of the big financial institutions. While the subreddit is made up of amateur investors, and therefore on a smaller scale, the move managed to increase awareness of the gorilla conservations, landing multiple stories in mainstream media – a win for awareness and their reputation. 

Shaping reputations for future

Deliveroo’s IPO flop stemming from issues with its workers and how they are classified is a sign that companies need to take ethical issues just as seriously as other business operations in order to be successful in the market and protect their reputation, whether they decide to IPO or not.

Companies often view reputation as something to be protected during a crisis or major issues outbreak, but the truth is that reputations are being shaped all the time by both positive and negative factors. Forward-thinking companies will monitor and manage their reputations constantly, checking on the views of significant third parties, and putting plans in place to adapt to good news and bad!

Need help shaping your business’ reputation? Check out our Firefly Guide to Reputation Shaping, to find out more.

It’s been a month of twists and turns! The US has a new President, there has been a breakthrough in finding a Covid-19 vaccine, the UK economy has grown… It’s exciting but there’s still a way to go before getting to anywhere resembling normal. It has been a busy time for tech too, accelerating innovations and navigating new regulations. Here’s a roundup of this month’s top technology news stories.  

The pandemic has given a real kick to retailers as more tech gets rolled out in supermarkets. M&S has expanded its scan-and-pay technology to all stores; stores director Helen Milford told the BBC that “With the current restrictions in place, making shopping as easy and efficient as possible is really important to us and our customers.” Meanwhile, Ocado is automating more warehouse tasks that handle online orders.

Online shopping has truly soared but we’re being warned on the impact of our spending ahead of Black Friday. Emission levels are expected to boom. The advice to reduce our carbon footprint is to not expect – or demand – next day delivery.

Big tech also continues to face antitrust crackdowns around the world. Regulators in China are drawing up new rules to keep firms in check, whilst the EU has announced charges against Amazon – news via the FT. And to add to that, 165 organisations have clubbed together to push the EU to take a tougher line against Google. Read more on this in this Reuters article.

As we stay inside during these colder months ahead, there will be plenty to keep us busy in the run up to the festive season, particularly for gamers! The recently released Xbox Series X has already triggered record spike in internet traffic. Daily Mail has all the details. If you’re more of a PlayStation person, the PS5 has also just launched and promises ‘more horsepower and [will] run faster with better graphics’.

And if gaming is not your thing, TV and film streaming sites will have you covered. In fact, Netflix is testing linear style programming, specifically for those who can never pick a programme or film. It’s only in France at the moment but if successful, it may be rolled out elsewhere!

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Our client Masternaut is known well among fleet and automotive businesses as the UK’s largest provider of telematics, but in 2015 wanted to expand its reach to other parts of the business which could benefit from telematics. These business disciplines – such as HR and finance – look for support in areas such as cost control, tax and expense, insurance and duty of care to employees, which is something that comfortably fits into the capabilities of a telematics deployment.

To achieve these goals, broadening media awareness and reaching other decision makers in the business, Firefly created a campaign that not only targeted the fleet industry, but also new markets such as HR and business titles.

Firefly needed a theme that would not only appeal to these broader verticals, but a theme that everyone could relate to and take interest in reading about: driving when tired and the importance of driver safety.

Firefly conducted research polling professional drivers in the UK on the frequency of their breaks on long journeys. With these insights, Firefly crafted content revealing that eighteen per cent of business drivers do not stop for a break when driving for extended periods of time. Some business drivers admitted to taking extreme measures to avoid nodding off when driving, such as singing out loud to the radio.

With compelling data and a tenacious sell in, Firefly achieved outstanding coverage results and developed new journalist relationships in the key verticals. The story saw 81 pieces of coverage between late November and early January, in fleet, HR, business and regional press across the UK.

Firefly’s use of media relations and research resulted in a successful campaign that gave Masternaut a foothold in new sectors, resulting in commercial opportunities for Masternaut to pursue. From four research releases and dedicated media sell ins around driver safety in 2015, Firefly achieved over 200 pieces of coverage in five new vertical sectors that Masternaut wanted to expand to, including HR, health and safety, and business. The campaign increased brand awareness to such an extent that a follow-up direct mail campaign gained a 20% higher open rate than previous campaigns and opened the door to new business prospects in new verticals – including new business leads from coverage seen in the media.

As we end up saying time and time again, this year has flown by. Many things have happened, but Christmas is a time to reflect on the positive and exciting moments we shared as a PR agency in 2015, and below we’ve put together a collection of our top moments for the year and our reactions to them – in GIF form of course!

1. Hijacking drones for April Fools’ Day and PR research

Drones were a big topic in technology media this year, and through our newsjacking via consumer research, we achieved over 40 articles for Give as you Live. This contributed to an uplift in organic search – people typing ‘Give as you Live’ into Google – as well as a better sign-up conversion, based on Google Analytics Goals analysis.

Firefly also claimed to launch a new drone to deliver press releases straight into journalists’ hands, but it was all an April Fools’ joke, of course!

2. The KIDS charity Firewalk

A few of the Fireflies bravely took part in the KIDS Charity Firewalk at the start of November, walking across 20ft of hot coals and learning that “We are magnificent! We are amazing! We ARE fantastic!”

Oprah’s reactions sum up the experience pretty well.

3. Hazel, Christian and Kiran join the Firefly team

While we said goodbye to some, we also said a great big hello to Christian, Hazel and Kiran, who joined as senior account director, senior account manager, and London team administrator respectively. They’ve all been integral team members so far, and even managed the Firewalk.

4. Client wins

We were pleased to welcome some new work with a win of four new clients in 2015, including Cornerstone OnDemand, COINS, Softmaker, and Quattro Plant Group.

5. Looking into the Crystal ball

Ever wanted to know the right way to read a journalist or client, but can’t pick it just from their picture? We discovered Crystal, a tool that helps people understand and communicate with each other better by drawing a picture of their personality based on their online profiles – and it’s pretty accurate too!

2015, you’ve been swell! We look forward to seeing what 2016 brings our way.

Christian’s remit will be to support Firefly’s ongoing mission to bring greater clarity to how campaigns are run, whilst also exploiting evolving channels and tactics to help client organisations achieve their communications objectives. He joins from Threepipe where he led the B2B team, running a combination of PR, social and content-led campaigns for brands such as Oracle Primavera, MindLink and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Christian brings a range of experience to Firefly, from enterprise brands Motorola, BMC Software, Rackspace and Computacenter, to start-ups uMotif, WeSwap and pro-bono work with IDEALondon, Cisco, DC Thomson and UCL’s start-up incubator.

Firefly Group CEO Claire Walker says, “Our clients are under pressure to deliver impactful communications activity across a range of channels, without re-inventing the wheel. Christian’s work across organic and paid online channels – as well as a solid heritage in PR and media relations – will bring a great deal to our offering.”

Prior to Threepipe, Christian worked at agencies including Spark, Waggener Edstrom and The Octopus Group on a range of campaigns including launching Rackspace’s OpenStack cloud in the UK in conjunction with NASA, opening the UK’s first eSports arena with Gfinity, and running an award-winning campaign with AdaptiveMobile examining Wi-Fi filtering in public spaces.


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