Your organisation’s reputation is one of its most important assets. It is also one of its most fragile. A good reputation gives you a competitive edge. It helps to attract customers, investors and talented employees. But a reputational mis-step can have an immediate impact on your bottom line.

Remember the online backlash to Peleton’s Christmas advert last year? The ad centred on a man giving his slender partner one of Peleton’s £2,000 exercise bikes. Entitled “The Gift that Gives Back”, the implication of the ad was that the man felt his partner needed to get fit and lose weight. The response was overwhelmingly negative, with the advert described as “dystopian, sexist” and “tone deaf”. The result was a $1.5bn loss in value for the business.

Not all reputational damage is on such a massive scale. It could be caused by a negative review posted on-line. According to BrightLocal’s research in 2019, 82% of consumers read online reviews, with the average consumer reading 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business. The same research found that only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than four stars.

Negative press coverage can also play a part. According to Moz, only 7% of people look past the first page of Google search results. So, a negative story on that first page of search results can be incredibly damaging to an organisation’s reputation.

What can you do if something is damaging your organisation’s reputation?

If you have experienced a negative online review it is crucial to respond to it. The Bright Local research also found that among consumers that read online reviews, 97% will read a business’s response to a review.

Similarly, negative press coverage should not be ignored. Journalists will give you a chance to respond to negative stories. You should always take this opportunity to give your side and respond to the journalist within their deadline. Longer term, a programme of positive media relations, designed to share good news from your organisation is important to counteract the negative story.

As well as reacting to anything affecting your reputation, it is worthwhile putting together a long-term reputation management plan.

Your reputation is what your stakeholders think of you. So, the first step is to understand who your stakeholders are. They may include employees, customers, shareholders, politicians, suppliers and investors.

Once you are clear on that, consider how each of these groups finds out about your organisation. Is it through direct contact, your website, the media, social media, online reviews, what your employees say about you or a mixture of all of these?

This mapping exercise will help you to understand the groups and channels you need to focus on. This is a big job and can take time to get right. If you need any advice or support, the team at SBPR are here to help.