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Seven Tips to Building Your Brand's Reputation Online

Your brand--how it appears and how it makes people feel--is what you want your customers and prospective customers to think about your organization.
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Your brand is you.

It comes through in your messaging, in your website content, in your social media activity, at the trade shows, when you speak to audiences, and in your internal meetings.

However, if your branding doesn’t match what internal and external audiences feel about your organization, things can go off the rails. Many businesses have a scattered approach to branding. They don’t know what they’re trying to achieve. Some want to be all things to all people. Some don’t have specific niches.

No one cares about these brands.

While you can’t control what people say about your brand, there are some things you can do to help shape perception:

1. Be vigilant. Monitor and listen to the conversations happening online about you, the company, the products, the services, your competitors, and the industry. Harness that information, be vigilant about paying attention, and use it to massage your messaging, tweak your offerings, or even create new products.

2. Be honest. Two little words work wonders: “I’m sorry.” If there is a product issue, be honest about what is happening. Keep people updated. People will appreciate the honest communication and reward you with loyalty.

3. Be open. It’s difficult for human beings to keep open minds about many things. When your company, your product, your service, your employees, or even your policies are under attack, it’s really hard not to get defensive. But if you show a willingness to talk about issues, and even change your policies based on feedback, you’ll create the most loyal customers.

4. Be active. Many business leaders think they have to jump on the social media bandwagon and have accounts on all of the social networks. That just isn’t true. If your customers and prospects aren’t on Twitter, for instance, why would you spend precious resources there? Find out where your audiences already participate, and be active in responding to them.

5. Be consistent. Many organizations don’t know who they want to be when they grow up. Because of that, employees all deliver a different message when they attend trade shows, when they meet someone on an airplane, when they blog, when they tweet, or when they go to networking events. Figure out what your vision is, create your elevator pitch and supporting messages, and train everyone to use them.

6. Be creative. Not every person who complains about you online deserves a response. And not every complaint will be solvable. But if you’re creative in how you handle those things, other customers and prospects will see you trying and will appreciate the effort.

7. Be proud. Once you figure out your vision, post it everywhere. Create plaques for employees to hang over their desks. Have a sign made for your entryway. Include it on your website. Some organizations even include it in their email signatures. While it will eventually be something people are accustomed to seeing, no one will have any doubt about where you are going.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Apr 29, 2014

GINI DIETRICH | Columnist | Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication firm. She also is the founder of the professional development site for PR and marketing pros, Spin Sucks Pro, and co-author of Marketing In the Round.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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