I'm always trying to build up my company's profile online. Crafting your company's image takes careful thought and planning because once it is out there, it is difficult to make changes. The image of who you are and what you represent may have already been formed in the minds of your audience. While this is great if you have done it right and made the reputation you want to be known for, there are many things can lead to a negative perception.

Consider these 5 Dos and 5 Don'ts for constructing your company's reputation.

Do:

1. Have an attractive online presence: It may sound superficial, but the need to make a great first impression is critical to the development of your company profile. How your online presence appears, including your website and social media platforms, defines your company in the hearts and minds of prospects and customers.

It should show customers you are professional, quality and service-oriented. If you don't demonstrate this your online presence can scream you are an amateur. Learn what qualifies your business as attractive and professional. This could be a better graphic layout or your website all the way down to matching logos on social media. There is some essential criteria listed in CIO Magazine. Even if you lack skills in an area, there are tools, like those offered by many website builders out there to help you build a beautiful website that is designed to impress and to visually display what your company represents. I personally like Wix.

2. Connect and engage with your audience: For your business to mean anything, it has to resonate with your audience. This means having a content marketing strategy that aligns with the needs, desires, and issues that mean something to each segment of your profile where a person will connect. From there, building your profile and platform is a matter of creating the content that addresses the subject matter that will mean something to those who choose to come to your social site. This process will include using specific keywords and phrases in your work that will be picked up by search engines as important enough to be ranked higher than the competition.

3. Create a consistent set of visuals and messaging: The benefit of consistency is not only will it reinforce a certain image of your company in the minds of customers and prospects, but it also helps these customers remember you through the same visuals whether they see them online, in a magazine, or on a billboard. This familiarity can improve the likelihood that people will return to you, again and again. Beyond the words and visuals, including a tagline and a logo is also important. Just as important is the action of selecting consistent messages to reinforce what you represent. These messages can include your values and benefits and should be delivered in a tone that is consistent with the image you want to maintain.

4. Generate content that positions you as a thought leader: With so many people writing content to market their business, it's not going to have the same influence in terms of creating your company profile as the content created by a thought leader. Earning this role takes a lot of time and effort, but it will put you above all the other content providers and companies in your business segment because it positions you as the leader, visionary, and influencer. So how can yI become a thought leader? You can't merely declare yourself as a thought leader, you have to earn that title. More than just delivering content, serving as a thought leader shows you look at trends and issues differently, offer alternatives including viable strategies, and that you have the ability to predict key trends. As the representative of your company, you'll find that when you help someone... they will be a fan for life.

5. Help other people: I find that the more I help, the more I get. You should get in the habit of really helping everyone that you meet. It will make a big difference in your business.

Don't:

1. Misrepresent your company: You never want to say that you are something that you are not because customers and prospects do not want to be fooled into doing business with you. This immediately diminishes any trust that your audience once had in you, creating the wrong type of company profile and reputation. You will not be able to build a loyal following if the perception is that you are dishonest about what defines you or your company. Instead, carefully describe your company by its values, principles, and culture in a transparent way so that what is said about the company is exactly how it operates. Then your company profile becomes a trusted one.

2. Use social media as a one-way street: Social media platforms cannot be used in the same way as traditional media to define your company profile to the masses. If you think that just creating a Twitter account and tweeting or posting a Facebook page will be all you need to do, think again. Social media is a place to construct a dialogue about your company's image, asking your audience what they think the dialogue means as well as listening to what they want from your company. You need to respond to comments, ask questions, and address any issues quickly and transparently. When you do this, your audience will become much more engaged with your brand than if you just reported what you stand for in a social media post.

3. Copy other brands: Consumers and businesses are not impressed when a company comes along and simply copies what another brand is already doing. It's difficult to then build a company profile when you are merely copying an existing brand that has an established market share and following. Instead, do spend the time researching what is already out there as well as determine various tactics for making your company a point of differentiation in the marketplace. This is where you can point out and share the strengths of what you have - the innovation and culture that set you apart. Apply these to your company profile and you will be able to point out and define the differences for your audience.

4. Forget offline still counts: While the online community certainly has its share of influencers and ways to enhance your brand reputation. Your offline environment offers important ways to build out your company's perception and profile. For example, you can work with local organizations, chambers of commerce, and charities. Within these offline environments, you can leverage personal contact and emotional connections even more than through the online environment. It's still very necessary to utilize face-to-face situations to explain your brand image and make connection with the leaders in the organizations that can help you evangelize with audience members. These people can become lifelong friends and mentors.

5. Ignore the external environment: While the culture, philosophy, and internal perceptions can be an important aspect of building your brand, it is a big mistake to simply focus on the external when creating your company profile. Nothing operates effectively in a vacuum. You must also look outwards at the external environment to find clues about what is important to stakeholders and how social, economic, environmental, political and technological factors can and do influence how your brand is perceived. By considering and addressing these concepts within your company's brand attributes, you will also resonate with your audience.

When you stick to the Dos in building out your company profile, you also focus on strategy, culture, employee and customer relationships, external factors, and those superficial, yet very necessary attention to detail things, which will make you look good, authentic, and engaging.

Earn for yourself and your business, a thought leadership role and courageously be different from everyone else out there. Leverage the technology and capabilities that build confidence with your audience while conversing with them to create understanding and establish trust.

Published on: Oct 23, 2015