Some solid, often unwritten, rules of reputation management that will pervade 2011–and beyond?
Law #1 – Everyone has an online reputation
We all have an online reputation to maintain. Don’t believe me, go ahead and “Google Yourself”–I promise you won’t go blind! Even if you don’t find anything written about you, then that’s still your reputation–or lack thereof. In 2011, you should make sure that what’s found in Google, Facebook, Twitter et al is something you’d be equally comfortable showing your mom or your boss!
Law #2 – Your reputation is an extension of your character
It doesn’t matter how hard you work on managing your reputation, it will only ever be as solid as your actual character. Tiger Woods had a reputation of being the greatest golfer–and a family man. His character revealed otherwise. As Abraham Lincoln once said,
“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Law #3 – Every reputation has an achilles heel
While Toyota may have spent years telling us that its cars are the most reliable in the world, sticking gas pedals told a different story. In fact, even though Toyota tried to deny the increasing incidents of sticking accelerators, its customers were the ones steering the car manufacturer’s reputation in another direction. Instead of denying the issue, Toyota should have been the first to recognize it! When you recognize and acknowledge your weaknesses, before your customers, you have the opportunity to craft a response before the public outcry. Do you know your reputation’s weakness?
Law #4 – Listen twice, act once
OK, so I’ve plagiarized this from the saying “measure twice, cut once,” but it’s appropriate, when it comes to listening to your customers. I tell our customers at Trackur that they should spend twice as much effort on listening as they do responding. It’s too easy to simply jump in and reply to that tweet or Facebook post–without fixing the underlying problem. Instead, you should spend time actively listening to the feedback you’re collecting about your reputation. Listen for trends. Listen for opportunities. Listen, listen, listen–ok, that was three listens, but you get my point. When you actually take onboard what your stakeholders are saying about your reputation, you do more than just fix a problem, you make sure you fix the underlying issue that created the problem in the first place! GAP’s customers weren’t so much angry that the company’s logo was changed, they were mad that the company hadn’t initially thought to listen to their feedback–a decision the apparel company quickly reversed!
Law #5 – A crowd is louder than a solitary voice
At some point every company realizes the power of the crowd. You’ve heard of “crowd sourcing” right? Well, I call this “crowd voicing.” Simply put, your reputation is going to be far greater shaped by a crowd of opinions than one single voice. Your choice in 2011 is to determine whether you want that crowd to be a choir or a lynch mob? By being proactive, by loving and nurturing your online community, you can build a harmony of satisfied customers–all willing to say great things about you. Alternatively, you can ignore your customers and wait until they become so angry, so disgusted by your actions, that they rise up against you. Just ask P&G which it would have preferred in hindsight!
Law #6 – If you build it, they will come
It’s 2011, do you know where your customers are? Have you built them a thriving Facebook community? Can they receive customer service via Twitter? Do you have a blog that keeps them updated on all the changes with your products? If you build an official, company supported social network, then your customers will know exactly where to head, should they have a question or complaint. When I had an issue with a FedEx delivery, I was delighted to find dedicated support on Twitter!