March 30, 2020
Alice Ferreira, Webster Bank
Your Reputation is More Valuable than Money in the Bank
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the biggest reputation test for businesses in modern time. Your top priority has been focusing on the health and well-being of your employees and customers, but keeping an eye on your reputation during turbulent times should be just as important. As Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently.”
Reputation is the public perception of your business, and it’s based on a foundation of trust made possible by consistent positive interactions. In light of the pandemic, know that your customers are viewing reputation more seriously. Recent reports show over 87% of customers will reverse a purchase decision after viewing negative content about a brand or product online. And 92% of consumers trust those conversations, comments and ratings more than they trust advertising, according to Reputation.com.
Understand that people’s perceptions are deeply rooted in past and current experiences, customer recognition and news gathered by the public – things that you can’t control, even with the top-notch measurement tools and a team of PR pros. Instead, you can take a few steps to take control of your reputation today:
- As CEO or owner, you are the brand. Despite a widely held belief that reputation, like engagement, is the responsibility of everyone at an organization, 50% of a company reputation is attributed to the top leader. During these uncertain times, the CEO sets the tone, leading the way, by his/her actions, communication style and how they treat their customers. In moments of crisis, the true character of a company shines through, so transparency, honesty and a confident demeanor is the best tool for gaining and keeping the trust and loyalty of customers and employees.
- Focus on social media. Word-of-mouth is vital, but the internet has a profound impact on how a business’s brand is perceived. Do not fear online reviews; instead play a real-time role in managing your digital presence. Whether it’s social media, a mention in a public blog, news article or viral video, you must be vigilant in monitoring your online profile. More importantly, appropriately share your company’s good work and deeds by posting positive content in the right places and make it part of your SEO strategy This will help to counter any possible negative content.
- Be a thought leader. A thought leader is anyone who becomes known, and thus respected by key stakeholders – customers, the public, shareholders and other stakeholders. The media, trade association and local officials are desperate to hear from subject matter experts. Not to tout their products or services, but to share insights and perspectives and help other businesses navigate the myriad of issues during these uncertain times. You don’t need a publicist; demonstrate your expertise or point of view with an online post or letter to the editor.
- Don’t forget your vendors. Operational glitches and short-term profit losses are occupying your days, but it’s important to stay close to your vendors. We are in this together, and we can all benefit from sharing and promoting positive moments of working together constructively and efficiently. You and your vendors may have found a way to help front-line heroes, or share a product innovation. Collaboration for the greater good is a great story to tell as well as a much needed bright spot in the daily wave of sobering news and statistics.
- Monitor your competitors because they are watching you. Again, there are likely other critical needs to attend to, but someone on your team, a family member, or a college student who is looking for a resume building opportunity,to can take one hour a day to check in on your peers. Are they offering unique specials? Are they taking care of their customers in a way that puts people over profits? The public will be making a list of winners and losers after this crisis is over and you want to be on the winners’ list in order to continue to grow your business.
- Make moves that benefit the long-term. If your business makes a product or service that is desperate need to help support the COVID-19 response, be mindful of how you present the information. The public tends to view companies negatively if there is a misperception that you are making a short-term gain from this unfortunate situation. Having this long-view will build and strengthen your organization’s reputation and can be in fact more valuable than money in the bank.
We will emerge from this crisis in a different, and we hope, stronger way. Every business owner needs to be mindful that each interaction during this crisis – big or small -- matters. Keep this famous Buffett quote in mind: “We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation.”
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Alice Ferreira is the senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at Waterbury, CT-based Webster Bank, named in the top ten of the “most reputable banks” in the country, according to the 2019 Survey of Bank Reputations, conducted by the independent organization Reputation Institute.
Connect with Webster Bank via this link - BRBC Business Directory.