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.

It’s Halloween, that time of year when we get spooked by witches, zombies, ghosts, vampires… Mark Zuckerberg? Amazon? No seriously, many people fear technology and have concerns about what technology companies are doing with our information.

Ever since Charlie Brooker made us all feel slightly uneasy about the modern world with his Black Mirror series, people are having more conversations and getting more concerned about where technology will eventually take us. Whilst it’s true that technology has accelerated very quickly in a short space of time, and people are constantly inundated with new ‘stuff’, we’re not quite living in a Brookeresque nightmare yet – although Uber may have started to get the ball rolling

On that note, let’s look at some of the other ways that technology likes to scare us into thinking that we’re part of a real-life Black Mirror episode and break them down:

Our devices are listening to us

We’ve all thought about this at least once. You’ll be sitting in the pub with your friends, casually decide to order a Hop House lager, quickly check your Instagram feed and there it is. A Hop House advert directly there on your newsfeed. Suspicious, right?

In a way, it can be pretty frightening when something you were just talking about suddenly appears on every internet channel and social newsfeed, making us really believe that our phones are most certainly listening to our conversations. The good news is, as we know already, the illusion comes down to cleverly timed, targeted ads, which sound much less scary.

But targeted marketing can be a difficult technique to pull off, given that consumers already think that advertising is more intrusive than ever before. And with legislation like the GDPR in play, consumers are much more aware of how companies use their data, making them question why companies are targeting them even more. Targeted advertising also comes down to knowing which channels the audience is interacting with, and that too is rapidly changing – it was revealed recently that Facebook has slumped in popularity with the UK’s under 30s, for example.

Phones are turning us into zombies

The introduction of smartphones and 4G has meant that we can access the internet wherever and whenever we want, making the smartphone one of our most valued possessions, so much so that some people are willing to give up their own limbs than give up their smartphone. Smartphones get a bad rep because it makes people seem ignorant (how many times have you looked around on your commute and seen everyone staring at their phone?) but when you think about all the ways your smartphone has helped you out – even just in that last 24 hours – really, they aren’t so bad.

Three recently shed some light on this topic with their #PhonesAreGood campaign, which tells a light-hearted story about what history might have looked like if there were smartphones around in the past, and it does make you think that we’re lucky to have them.

People think that smartphones are the demon because of how much time we spend on them, and it’s true that it has caused major problems in society. But smartphones don’t turn on by themselves and smartphone usage should be all about balance and learning to put down your phone from time to time. Apple recently introduced its ‘digital wellbeing’ tools, one of which shows users how long they are spending on each app. The app doesn’t directly interrupt people’s screen time but rather makes people aware that they perhaps need to part with their phone for a while.

The robot takeover

Lots of people fear AI and robots and worry that they’ll suddenly waltz in one day and take over everyone’s jobs. But it’s not something that we should be as fearful of just yet. Whilst it’s true that technology is outsmarting us in some ways, most of us don’t realise that we’re already dealing with a number of robots, and society has just adjusted to it. For example, self-service checkouts and smart home assistants have all been introduced to us within the past 10 years, and we’re already used to, if not prefer to, have them around.

The line between cool and creepy

People fear about technology and the future because of what they hear through the internet, friends, books and podcasts. And it’s natural to have these kinds of fears when technology is still a ‘new’ thing to us. In reality, we’re all still trying to get our heads around some kind of technology, whether that’s Fortnite, Blockchain or autonomous cars and once we think we’ve figured it all out, something else comes along. That’s why education is important. GDPR wasn’t just a new legislation brought in by the government, it was an opportunity to educate people on the importance of their personal data and how it gets used. And it’s the same with technology. We need to constantly keep up with technology trends and broaden our knowledge of what’s around us in order to appreciate the benefits.

No one can figure out exactly what the future will bring, and everyone will always fear the worst. But having technology around us should be something that we cherish and not be afraid of, no matter whether we sometimes get creeped out by it.

In 2007 ‘Silent Discos’ were the next big thing. Really? It seemed ludicrous, silent parties, dancing with headsets on, everyone with different music, throwing different shapes? But roll on 10 years, it’s commonplace. Last week I organised a Silent Disco at home – 75 headsets, 3 tracks, £200. The neighbours were delighted.

So, what are the crazy trends predicted to become lifestyle norms by 2027?

Over 90% of all restaurants will use some form of 3D food printer in their meal preparations. Really? 3D printed cupcake anyone?

Forget googling for your holiday,  we will all have an ‘e-agent’ inside a watch or piece of jewellery that will book our flights and accommodation.  (Yes please. I want this now).

So, here are four more seemingly-ludicrous trends that will be quite normal activity by 2027, and how these trends can these be woven into your 2018 campaign


Siri, it’s over. I’ve married Alexa

As AI and machine learning develop and evolve, they become more embedded in society. For example, Apple recently began hiring engineers with psychology backgrounds to help Siri have meaningful conversations and by 2020, Gartner has predicted that the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse. It is clear that our smartphone assistants are becoming more like virtual companions and soon, millions of consumers will start having meaningful conversations, or even relationships with these virtual assistants, changing the way we interact with one another.

So, as comms professionals what does this mean for us? Well, instead of planning our campaigns around people, we may have to start thinking about targeting them at bots. People will begin to trust their virtual companion’s opinions, so we will need to start considering algorithms as another audience.

Currently, Google constantly crawls websites in order to update their search results and the more a ‘Google Spider’ crawls your page, the higher you’ll rank in the search results. As marketers, we use SEO tactics to ensure our client’s rank highly in the search results but soon, software programmes like the Google Spiders will be outdated and we’ll be planning our campaigns around more intelligent programmes, like virtual assistants.

It is likely that brands will also develop virtual companions, shaping them to reflect the brand’s culture and values. Marketers must consider how these companions will fit into their campaigns and how they can benefit consumers to stay ahead of the game.

Your bum will never look big if your bot is your stylist

 And in retail, this has also had an impact; the Amazon Dash buttons have given us a taste of one-touch automated shopping, but this is only the beginning. The retail industry could soon be fully automated with all of the searching, purchasing, deals and delivery conducted by AI-programmed personal assistants. We are seeing this process already with the app, Finery. This app adds fashion purchases to an online ‘wardrobe’ and organises them by colour, style and designer. The users then get notified about price changes, sales or brand news.

Not only will algorithms become our virtual companions, but they will be involved in every aspect of our lives – planning our wardrobe, deciding which food we should buy and even controlling the media. In 2015, the Associated Press announced that a number of its original news articles were written by AI.

Algorithms can take behavioural data from thousands of consumers and determine what they are buying, at what time, when and how. They can dictate which audiences to target campaigns at and when to place an ad. Soon, marketers will have to design their campaigns around algorithms as well as humans.

Seeking, as hiding is not possible

2017 is the year where we saw a shift when it comes to transparency. Uber came under fire after an employee blog went viral, detailing a culture of sexism. The #Metoo campaign came swiftly after the Weinstein allegations.

Transparency is quickly becoming imperative for all organisations. Last month we wrote a blog discussing the benefits of being transparent and using transparency to make your brand’s voice and message clear. Companies can no longer hide behind a walled garden, consumers expect information from brands and as we look towards 2018, transparency will become even more important for brands, with those that are unable to comply facing huge repercussions.

Brands must understand their core values for PRs to work on promoting their message. Taking action and being honest and open with customers will ensure your brand will elicit a positive response amongst consumers.

The cheapest gap yah, without leaving your home

With the rise of virtual and augmented reality, the boundaries between the physical and real world are becoming blurred. In 2027, our houses could include virtual projections, or we could be holidaying from the comfort of our own living room. The possibilities are endless, and brands will need to adapt accordingly – marketers just need to consider where people consume their content and how. Our living rooms weren’t designed for mixed reality, our sofas are static, and furniture is placed so we’re sat comfortably. Mixed reality may need us to move or look around and we need to be mindful of this. Marketers also need to consider how consumers will view mixed reality, will it be on a smartphone or via a headset? Or, will we be living surrounded by projections?

Whilst the technology is still at its early stages, brands and comms professionals need to work together and start thinking about how they can use mixed reality to their advantage.

I’m a trendjacker extraordinaire

There is a term for brands using trends to create buzz – trendjacking. My view is that it’s important to stay informed on trends, but hijack them wisely. Jumping on the back of any trend isn’t strategic, it is opportunistic. Instead, it’s better to carefully watch trends that are relevant to your business development, and get the PR timing right. Trends can grow quickly, change shape and meaning or simply fizzle out – the key is to use it to your advantage before your competitors, but not when it is so farfetched you seem like a “crazee” or a luddite.


Is it time to shape your reputation?

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