If for someone your brand's reputation has been tarnished--even the slightest bit--you're at risk of losing current and potential customers. But, if your reputation remains intact, you have the possibility to earn lifelong customers and fans.

But, before you can preserve your brand's reputation, you need to build one up. And here are 5 tips on how to establish a positive brand reputation.

1. Be Yourself

Whether it's online or offline your brand is a professional of your business. It needs to answer the following questions:

Who are you?What do you?How do you want others to perceive you?

But, how can you answer these questions. The best way is by understanding the definition of brand, which according to the American Marketing Association (AMA) is a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers." When you achieve this on a consistent basis, you are able to create customer loyalty, credibility and deliver your message clearly.

2. Engage With Influencers and the Community

Once you have your brand has defined, it's time to get out there engage with influencers and your specific community. Social Media expert John Rampton says "Use social media to converse with industry leaders, such as asking questions, adding your input, sharing their content or signing up for their newsfeeds. This type of networking will continue to improve your credibility and expertise."

The same could be said about joining communities specific to your niche. You're not there to make a sales pitch, but rather participate in discussions in order to build relationships. The idea is to create a contact base that could lead to further possibilities.

3. Create Compelling and Quality Content

You know your brand and are networking with like-minded individuals online, now what? You want to create content that is engages your audience. This will continue to prove that you're an expert and it should get you should recognition. Remember, you need to create quality content that your audience will find useful, entertaining or informative and would be something that they want to share.

4. Protect Yourself

Make sure that you monitor what people are saying about you online by using tools from Brandwatch, Hootsuite, Klout, TweetReach or Social Mention. You can also use Google Alerts to check out what's being said about your brand. By keeping up on what's being said about you online can prevent hijackers from tarnishing your good name.

Keep in mind that no matter how much you monitor and try to prevent any negative comments, there will always be someone who has something bad to say about your brand. That's just a fact. So, how will you react? That's why you need to have a crisis plan in place prior to a storm of negativity. It's just better safe than sorry.

5. Don't Neglect Your Offline Reputation As Well

While there's a big emphasis on protecting and building a positive online brand reputation, you can't forget the fact that there's an offline world. This means that you have to keep your customers and fanbase happy. Not only will this lead to loyalty or eventually brand advocates, but word-of-mouth referrals or testimonials are great for business. For example, 50% of purchase decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth.

Make your customers happy by offering an outstanding customer experience and they will gladly tell everyone who listens about how awesome your brand is. If you notice that there's been a trend of negativity going around, you might have to examine what's the cause. If not, your brand will be facing a serious reputation problem both online and offline.

Published on: Sep 4, 2014