By Igniyte Director, Roz Sheldon.
Building a business means building trust; creating a company or brand image consumers can have real faith in. In today’s always-on, digital world, there have never been so many ways for entrepreneurs to do this.
Whether it’s using social media channels to share content, recruiting new clients via marketing and PR or responding to reviews, managers have more opportunities than ever to make their products and services visible, reaching out to customers to articulate a clear and positive brand proposition.
But working in this highly transparent, fast-paced environment, brings dangers too – and in 2018, protecting a positive business reputation can be a real challenge.
Businesses of all kinds are under increasing threat from poor or unfounded reviews, historic and inaccurate press coverage or material created and shared maliciously.
And in an age where this type of content can be distributed within seconds, the potential for lasting and/or serious brand damage – and ultimately, financial harm cannot be underestimated.
As reputation specialists we’re experts in monitoring and countering these threats on behalf of brands, businesses and individuals across the world.
Reputation Report 2018
Our latest research, the Reputation Report 2018, looks at the scale of the problem facing businesses here in the UK – and the figures make worrying reading.
The scale of the problem is vast. One in three businesses (31 per cent) we spoke to told us that negative content had already damaged their business.
Another third is worried about the impact this kind of material could have on their operation and its value in future.
And while the threat from reviews and social media posts remains strong, it is actually negative press coverage that is seen as posing the biggest threat.
Almost half – 46 per cent – of those surveyed had been affected or have concerns about press material and more than a quarter (26 per cent) of the businesses say this is their main concern moving forward too.
More general critical online content is seen as the number one worry for another 14 per cent, while negative social media posts and reviews are still viewed as most damaging by ten per cent.
Reviews are another major cause for concern, with 41 per cent of our respondents admitting negative feedback is causing their business the most problems.
A further one in three (31 per cent) feel that negative social media posts pose the greatest threat to their brand or company.
The same amount – 31 per cent – are worrying about posts from disgruntled former employees, while 25 per cent feel that competitors are their main problem and 23 per cent reference content about senior employees.
So what’s the effect of all this negativity? Just how damaging is it? And what more can brands do to protect themselves?
Damaged Reputation – How Much Does it Cost?
According to our Reputation Report 2018 research, failing to manage negative content is costing British businesses dearly.
One in 20 of the companies questioned reveals that damaging content has cost them a staggering £500,000+ – a catastrophic amount for many smaller businesses.
Another five per cent say they’ve lost between £100,000 and £500,000 because of on and offline negativity about their company and employees, while one in seven have lost up to £50,000.
So far, so worrying. But there are ways you can prepare for and counter negative content – protecting your business before any damage is done.
Taking preventative action is a must, with many businesses making this an early part of their essential business, PR and marketing planning.
Rather than waiting for a crisis to happen, we advise business owners to make reputation management central to their forward planning.
After all, your business’ reputation is one of its most important assets.
An overwhelming majority – 95 per cent – of the SMEs we spoke to are heeding this advice and are now actively looking to monitor their own reputation.
This doesn’t have to be an expensive process. But it does need to be done regularly, by someone who can take responsibility for the process.
Using simple tools like Google Alerts and keyword searches can give a basic overview and teams like ours can dig deeper to provide keyword or deep dive audits, analysing material off and online.
We have also developed our own Reputation Index, which we use to give clients an up to date, ‘live’ snapshot of their brand reputation, highlighting areas that may need work and suggesting tailored solutions.
A fifth (21 per cent) of the people we spoke to use specialists tools and alerts like these in some form, while 17 per cent are enlisting the help of expert agencies like Igniyte – up from ten per cent in 2014.
As our research clearly shows, doing nothing will put reputations at risk but being aware of the dangers – and planning ahead to mitigate them – will help brands build robustness and resilience in 2018 and beyond.