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How to Lower the Risks to Your Brand Reputation (and Build an Image that Wins New Business)

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There’s little doubt about what brand reputation means to your business and your bottom line. In fact, how people size up your image and, ultimately, connect with your brand, whether online or in-person, is more important than ever.

It often takes years to build an image that engenders trust and cultivates customer loyalty. Yet, all the work you put into that effort can be shattered in a moment, many times due to unforeseen events, missteps or even things out of your control.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, safeguarding your company’s reputation is critical for what happens tomorrow and next week and for long-term sustainability and success. And tackling reputational threats typically means taking a proactive approach, lowering the risks to your brand’s reputation through planning, careful strategy execution, deep research and understanding of your audience and market.

Below, I walk you through a few practical strategies to protect and enhance your brand’s reputation while maintaining the razor-sharp competitive edge you need to stand out in our fast-paced (sometimes perilous) business environment.

Related: The Relationship Between Reputation and Brand

Make customer satisfaction your top priority

Whether selling cars or delivering meals, customer satisfaction is always at the heart of a strong and compelling brand reputation. That may seem obvious, but in today’s online-driven, review-happy environment, customers have more power than ever to share their experiences and generate conversations (good or bad) about your company. Keeping those discussions on the positive side starts by prioritizing exceptional products and personalized services that strive to exceed customer expectations.

Building a customer-first approach involves several factors, including actively seeking feedback and listening to customer concerns. It’s also centered on addressing issues promptly and apologetically and providing satisfactory resolutions. Remember: happy customers are more likely to become brand advocates on the web, spreading positive word-of-mouth and contributing to your brand’s positive reputation. Pursuing a top-notch customer experience model is one of the best ways to generate that praise and cultivate trust online.

Related: 7 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Brand Reputation and Recognition

Keep it transparent

Transparency builds trust with those your business relies on to thrive. Taking a transparent approach means being open and honest with customers, employees, stakeholders and the public.

If mistakes or crises happen, it’s generally best to acknowledge them and take responsibility (if needed) as quickly as possible. Concealing or downplaying problems can lead to PR nightmares that often do even more reputational damage down the road.

Instead, aim for transparency whenever possessive, and leverage that approach as an opportunity to showcase your commitment to integrity and accountability.

Monitor online presence and respond to feedback quickly

In our hyper-digital age, your business reputation can be influenced, swayed or even destroyed by what’s said online. Monitoring your online presence, including social media, review sites and forums, is essential for knowing what’s being said about your brand on the web and staying ahead of negativity and optimizing your crisis mitigation strategy. Responding proactively to customer feedback, both positive and negative, is also a must. Engaging with customers online shows that you value their opinions and are dedicated to providing a positive experience.

Create (and execute) a crisis communication plan

No matter how well-prepared your team is, online crises can attack anytime. Having a crisis communication plan in place allows you to keep things in perspective and take control of the situation before it snowballs into a major brand disaster.

An effective crisis plan provides the chance to identify potential risks and scenarios that could harm your brand’s reputation and develop a clear protocol for responding to problems. A well-executed crisis communication strategy allows you to mitigate the impact of an adverse event while preserving your credibility with customers.

Foster a positive company culture

Your business reputation extends beyond just your products and services; it includes your company culture and how employees perceive and connect with your brand. Cultivating a positive and inclusive work environment that values employee well-being and professional growth is critical to strengthening your image among those you depend on and earning positive, reputation-enhancing ratings on popular employee sites like Glassdoor.

A satisfied and engaged workforce is more likely to advocate for your business and convey positive company sentiment that resonates with customers and the public.

Engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Incorporating CSR initiatives into your business strategy demonstrates your brand’s commitment to social and environmental causes. Engaging in meaningful CSR activities benefits society and strengthens your reputation as a responsible and compassionate organization. It also shows many stakeholders (customers, employees, etc.) that you share their values and have a sincere, proactive investment in building a safe and healthy community.

Related: 5 Ways Leaders Can Make Their Teams Happier and Healthier Without Spending Much

Taking action and lowering risks provides a big advantage online

Your brand reputation is an intangible but invaluable asset that requires careful attention and protection. Cultivating a compelling brand means taking a proactive approach that includes prioritizing customer satisfaction, taking a transparent tack to communication, monitoring your online presence, implementing an effective crisis communication strategy, fostering a positive company culture and engaging in CSR initiatives that lower the risks to your brand’s reputation.

Consistent effort, integrity and a customer-centric approach will help you build a resilient and positive brand reputation that stands the test of time and propels your business toward long-term success in today’s competitive landscape.

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