By Jonathan Phillip Kyetume
Now more than ever, businesses are faced with the growing concern of reputation risk, which when not protected and managed could be fatal for business market share, market value, profitability, and survival.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further created a trying time for Ugandan brands to adjust business models, operations, cover overstretched service gaps and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations to ensure business continuity. For the Ugandan context, there has been low appreciation and slow adoption of public relations (PR) strategy in the context of reputation management that could be mainly attributed to management perceptions and assumptions that public relations entail just mere coverage of events and transmission through traditional media.
According to Warren Buffet,It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. Brand reputation can be defined as a measure of perception and trust associated with a brand by consumers, stakeholders, and the market as a whole. Needless to justify, brand reputation is indeed and intangible asset and a must-have for any sustainable business. In the management of brand reputation, stakeholders play a vital role in information transfer and brand perception management.
Digital disruption in communication introduces a growing concern in Online Brand Reputation management. The emergence of social media can rather be a curse to a brand given the extensive reach capability in the event of an unhappy customer reaction or negative publicity that could result in dire consequences.
Ideally no one prepares for the worst, and all organizations and businesses are constantly vulnerable to reputation crises. In line with the three phases of crisis management; Pre-crisis, Crisis and Post-crisis, various risk aversion and recovery strategies could be considered to manage or recover reputation.
Crisis communications planning requires an initial vulnerability audit, stakeholder analysis to be performed for context analysis to guide management on necessary adjustments that could include instituting a crisis management team to manage crisis response and to develop, review, pre-test and implement a crisis communications plan.
Stakeholder analysis plays an extremely key role in guiding the communication process and outcomes as it assesses changes in attitudes over time. Stakeholders can also be classified according to the power and interest they may wield through stakeholder mapping to understand which clusters need to be satisfied, monitored, informed, and managed closely.
In reputation management, again, Customer experience excellence along the brand funnel with the main focus on converting loyal customers to brand advocates is still considered the golden strategy. Unfortunately, much often under looked is the role of internal marketing to an organization regarding brand reputation; employee satisfaction needs to constantly be assessed being that employees are the first customers of a brand, and should be directly considered to be a part of the broader crisis response team should an incident escalate into a crisis.
Online reputation management might require adoption of Influencer marketing to control, avert, advocate and recover brand reputation. Influencer marketing builds brand credibility through recommendations, testimonials, reviews, word-of-mouth and is a defensive option to consider to counter negative publicity. Consistent media monitoring, social listening, online customer reviews are key in crisis monitoring and anticipation hence are extremely vital as communication risk aversion strategies.
Going forward in the Post Covid-19 era, it is only imperative that brands develop or review a comprehensive Crisis Management Plan (CMP) that aligns with their Marketing Communication strategy and overall corporate strategy to anticipate risk, manage, recover, and maintain brand reputation.
The writer is a Marketing & Communications Specialist.