Business MK column - Feb 2015

Thu 29 Jan 2015

Resolve to improve your reputation in 2015

So, have you started drinking/smoking/eating chocolate/watching too much television again already or are those New Year Resolutions holding up?  A survey in The Independent (there had to be one, didn’t there) suggests that Friday 23rd January is the day by which the vast majority of us will have given up on giving up whatever it was we were giving up.  The trouble with resolutions is that they need quite a lot of, well, resolve.  If we had it in the first place we probably wouldn’t have needed to try stopping doing something thoroughly enjoyable and bad for us.  I have a suggestion; if saving the waistline, lungs and liver seems too hard, why not make some resolutions for your business instead – ones you really can achieve?

Start by taking a good look at your business and more specifically at its reputation.  The management of reputation is the meat and two veg and the wine and chocolate of Public Relations.  To improve it one must first know what sort of shape it is currently in.  Do you receive a lot of repeat business?  Do many new customers come to you on the basis of recommendation?  Alternatively, if you Google your company do you discover lots of glowing testimonials, angry complaints or nothing at all?  Why not conduct a free online survey of your clients, suppliers and staff?  If done anonymously you may be pleasantly surprised or horrified by the results but at least you will have some idea of what people like or dislike about your products and services.

These days, reputations are not as simple as once they were.  Ask anyone whose business stands or falls on Tripadvisor reviews and they will tell you that we have both real world and online reputations to take care of.  If someone walks into your premises their first impression will be formed by the person who greets them, by the comfort and attractiveness of the surroundings, by how quickly they are taken care of etc.  Your website and social media activity are like your virtual reception area.  Visitors to both will form opinions about you and your company in a matter of seconds and if that first impression is poor it may prove hard to change.  Is your website as well written as it could be?  Are you engaging with social media channels to good effect?  Are you getting involved in conversations relevant to your industry sector in a way which builds your reputation as someone knowledgeable?  If you’re not, perhaps your competitors are.

If this all sounds too much like hard work, if it’s something you know you should attend to but just don’t have the time, then make that resolution right now.  Find yourself a PR company and see what they can do for you.  Perhaps it sounds expensive, but then perhaps your existing reputation is already costing you more than you might imagine. 

Finally, the most important thing to remember about reputation is that in the end it is a reflection of reality.  That renowned PR-guru and sometime philosopher, Socrates, said two-and-a-half thousand years ago, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.”  If your customer service is awful, your products shoddily made and over-priced and your staff don’t like you, the problem could be that people have a very clear idea of who you are.  But if you think such negative views are wide of the mark, isn’t it time to do something about it?

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