Athletes, entertainers, company executives and politicians pay money to create a brand but pay much more to rebuild and repair the reputation when damaging information floods the Internet. In some cases the damage hurts a professional career as in the case of former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel who consistently was in the news with erratic behavior during and after the season as described in detail by Kent Babb in his Washington Post article last month.
According to Kim Souza in the article, Wal-Mart Corporate Reputation Near the Bottom of the Retail Sector, negative public perception can also harm a business like Wal-mart which has lost over $612M since 2003 due to the ongoing investigation that it cheated to fast-track its international growth.
The good news is that it’s not too late to learn these 7 ways to protect a brand:
1. Operate with integrity.
Honesty is the best policy but it is also a great practice to sustain a solid upstanding reputation. If there is a problem, own it, address it and improve. This requires self-perception of an individual but also genuine analysis of a company to determine where there might be loopholes in the sincerity and openness to those in personal and business relationships. Integrity is a great brand protector because it will cause customers, fans, investors, an employers to stick around when there is a mishap.
2. Be respectful of others at all times.
Brands are crushed all the time because of the hidden cameras and camera phones of others. There will be lots of encounters with people who prove that common sense is not common. There will plenty of occasions when someone “ruffles your feathers” and upsets you. Nonetheless, you must remain calm (e.g. no arguing, name calling and disrespectful words) because you never know who is watching or worse – getting footage for social media.
3. Get rid of the dead weight.
Parasites can be people too. You can’t bring everyone with you as you go to the next level. People who don’t contribute to your personal well being or the company’s success should be left alone. If someone is not helping, they are usually subliminally harming.
Learn that it is okay to be alone. Learn that it is smart business both personally and professionally to not be around “yes men”. When protecting your brand, it is important to understand that if you want to lead the orchestra, you must be able to turn your back on the crowd.
4. Make time and money your best friends.
Time is the most valuable asset. Once gone it can’t be brought back. Money will come and go depending upon obligations and spending habits but will not always be easy to earn. People respect others who treat time and money like investments and watch closely if there is a valuable return on investment.
For instance, flashy individuals create a brand of being superficial and careless with time and money which attracts the wrong people – the users, losers, and abusers.
5. Disassociate from other negatively perceived brands.
When high profile companies or people go through a scandal, the public opinion of the severity can sway consumer spend and result in a loss of revenue. No one knows this better than the highly acclaimed golfer, Tiger Woods, as he saw endorsements drop in 2009 based on what really was a private home matter that affected his brand.
According to Melanie Wells’ Forbes article, Accenture disassociated from him because they wanted other corporations to believe they valued morals and staking so much equity in his character put them in an odd position. While I still think that was overkill, it is a valuable lesson that people will judge and categorize based on associations – bad or good – which impact the brand.
6. Safeguard all access to social media accounts.
For whatever reason social media has provided open doors to people’s lives and created self-made superstars through selfies, commentating through SnapChat and philosophers through tweets and posts. But one bad post can cause a loss of followers (not so detrimental), revenue, business deals and valuable relationships.
Do not let anyone have access to the passwords for social media accounts unless they are paid public relations or marketing personnel. If the accounts are on your phone, tablet or computer, always password-protect the devices when leaving unattended. Be sure to change the passwords at least twice a year.
7. Always be you.
Stand by your beliefs and morals. Do not allow outside influences move you in a direction that makes you uncomfortable. The quality of a person or company cannot be compromised for something that is in style today but harmful over time.
Think about a time when you have watched someone pretend to be a friend of someone who they later turned on for power. Was the power worth the new brand of being untrustworthy or conniving? Never lose you in the midst of change. In the long term, it is bad for the brand.