What’s Most Important in a Corporate Reputation Management Strategy?
Contrary to what some STEM businesses believe, corporate reputation management, (CRM) goes far beyond simply disseminating press releases and burying bad news.
Instead, CRM empowers you to better align the way your organisation operates with your most important commercial, operational, and reputational goals. For businesses involved in the science, engineering and tech spheres, this often has hugely transformative effects.
Obviously, trying to implement extensive change in your business should not be done on a whim – and building a CRM strategy is vital. But what are the key elements of a successful corporate reputation management strategy.
Determining your core values
While most strategy focuses on where you’re going, how you’re getting there and what you’re going to do, CRM also invites you to contemplate why you want to change. Ultimately, it’s just as much an exercise in introspection as it is action.
Even though you may not have consciously chosen them, every business has a set of core values that drive every element of its operations and aren’t willing to compromise on.
A great example of this is one of Apple’s core values: “Value simplicity and avoid complexity.”
Whatever your opinion of Apple, you should be able to see how the core value of simplicity has influenced every aspect of the business. Both the iPod and iPhone were revolutionary because of how intuitive they were to use. The Apple branding has always been sleek and simple, its communications to the point and direct.
Building a corporate reputation management strategy is an opportunity to re-evaluate and renew your focus on what’s important to your business. Identifying why your business does what it does is a vital component of this strategy.
Setting measurable goals
Goal-setting within a corporate environment can be a nebulous affair, and doubly so when it comes to reputation management. Ask any PR practitioner and they’ll likely have stories about clients who set goals like “to be more popular”, “be better known” or “improve our reputation” – with no consideration for what that actually entailed.
When building your CRM strategy, you should instead take the opportunity to define your desired reputation and articulate what you want to be known for. You should also be able to set specific, measurable goals to help you get there.
There are three key things to keep in mind when setting reputation goals:
They need to align with your business goals. For example, don’t aim to be seen as a charitable organisation if you can’t afford to do so and aren’t really committed to doing so.
They need to align with the way you operate. For example, don’t aim to be seen as a sustainable business if you’re creating more waste than necessary.
They need to align with your core values. For example, don’t aim to be seen as a progressive organisation if you aren’t committed to closing the gender gap in your field.
Centring key positive behaviours
If the ultimate goal of CRM is for the public to associate you with your core values, one of the most important inclusions in your strategy is identifying the key behaviours that demonstrate those values.
Research shows 58% of adults don’t trust brands at all until they’ve seen “real world proof” that they keep their promises. Similarly, the only way to ensure people associate your business with your core values is to provide evidence that you’re demonstrating those values.
For example, if your business wants a reputation for being caring about consumers, delivering exceptional customer service should be part of your strategy. If you want to be seen as socially conscious, your business should actively support social justice causes.
The first step though is just listing any key behaviours that demonstrate your core values.
You should avoid vague platitudes like “Always offer excellent customer service” and, instead, use easy-to-understand, actionable instructions – for example, “Answer the call with a warm and sincere greeting within 10 seconds of the phone ringing.”
Ensuring staff accountability
For your CRM strategy to succeed it’s important your core values and key behaviours are understood, embraced and lived at every level of your business. So, once you’ve identified your key behaviours, you’ll need to put measures in place to ensure staff are held accountable if they don’t follow suit.
The best method of getting your workforce up to speed is to ensure everybody in your organisation has easy access to any information about the new behaviours they need to emulate.
Of course, it’s much easier to manage the behaviour of a dozen people than a thousand – which is why it’s vital to get the upper echelons of your organisation to buy into your core values. If they’re all living your key behaviours and communicating this to your staff, these practices should quickly spread down your corporate hierarchy.
Your c-suite must lead from the top, reimagining business processes to better display core values and show off key behaviours.
Your management team will need to enforce new codes of conduct that reflect the new processes, vigilantly overseeing the implementation of your strategy.
The rest of your workforce will need to ensure they fully understand what’s expected of them and that they’re accountable for non-compliance.
Making your core values and key behaviours a large element of your recruitment strategy is a great way to overcome any challenges from employees. If you want to have a reputation as an innovative organisation, you should make the effort to hire people passionate about innovation.
Preparing for reputational risks
You can spend years building a reputation as an ethical business, but it only takes five seconds to dismantle it. The biggest risk to your reputation lies between what you say is important to your business and whether you back that up with your actions. A vital aspect of CRM strategy is shining a light on that gap.
This will mean very different things to every business and it goes without saying that only you can identify the most fundamental risks to your reputation. Therefore, performing a “risk inventory” is advised and should be an exhaustive exercise completed by people who know your organisation inside-out.
If anything is judged a risk to your reputation, don’t attempt to bury the bad press or simply ignore it. Instead, gather your senior stakeholders and develop a plan of action. The most comprehensive CRM strategies will actually contain protocol for how best to react in a PR crisis.
Ensuring your communications team has a copy of your risk-inventory means they can act as the eyes and ears of your business, watching out for trouble. This empowers you to catch risks early, respond appropriately and potentially protect yourself against reputation and monetary ruin.
It doesn’t matter what your ultimate goals are, reputation is a business resource that’s vital to your achievements. Without enough positive reputation, no business can succeed, but unfortunately, it’s a resource that you can’t simply buy or manufacture more of.
A carefully crafted corporate reputation management strategy that includes all five items outlined above will help you identify your current reputation, measure the gap that separates you from your reputation goals and develop a strategy for traversing that gap.