Your Brand–Your Reputation

By Jill Poet on October 3, 2011

When starting a business, one of the big considerations is the “corporate image.” Choosing a logo, the company colours, the style of literature and web sites is all part of that initial branding exercise. And without doubt, that early stage branding plays a very important part of a company’s image and potential development.

But is that all there is to branding? Unquestionably not!

As a company develops, its branding is more about reputation than an attractive logo. People’s perception of a company becomes all important, remembering that “people” includes everyone the business affects including employees, customers, suppliers and the wider community.

Let’s be very clear, the value of most businesses is not the assets on the balance sheet – the value of a business is in its reputation.

That has been all too apparent with big companies where a damaged reputation has had huge financial implications, sometimes even bringing about its downfall.  Remember the demise of Ratner’s the Jewellers when the CEO Gerald Ratner described his own products as rubbish?  Or Arthur Andersen LLP, once one of the “Big Five” accounting firms, whose reputation never recovered from criminal charges brought against the company relating to Enron – even though the guilty verdict was subsequently overturned.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, allegedly said:

“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

And Richard Branson:

“Build brands not around products but about reputation.”

These statements apply to businesses of all sizes from a sole proprietor to a multi-national, more so than ever with our 24/7 media-driven society.

So what is the reputation of your company? What do people say about you and your business when you are not in the room? How do you ensure you maintain and continually enhance your reputation?

Perhaps most importantly, is your business built on clear principles and an ethical culture? Apart from obviously earning a good living, which is undeniably the motive in starting a business in the first place, are values an important part of the business DNA?

CommunicateAssuming the answer is yes, have you thought about how you communicate that message? Do you engage and motivate your staff? How do you deal with your customers and suppliers?  And what about the local and wider community? What sort of relationships have you developed with all these groups? What can you do better?

Building those strong relationships will help develop brand loyalty and competitive advantage.

Protecting your reputation is an essential element of risk management in a business, and enhancing your reputation deserves a clear strategy.

One such strategy might be to consider membership of the Organisation for Responsible Businesses (ORB) www.orbuk.org.uk. There is of course a criteria for membership , via an online self-assessment questionnaire, which is a very useful tool in its own right (it provides immediate detailed responses – a sort of SWOT analysis). Members are offered an excellent package of benefits including use of the Responsible Business Member logo and an entry in the stand-alone online Responsible Business Directory.

Even better, if you really want to increase your reputation and stand head and shoulders above your competition, why not consider taking The Responsible Business Standard, an auditable certification available at bronze, silver and gold levels, see www.ResponsibleBusinessStandard.org.uk. Attaining The Standard will also help if you are tendering for contracts as local authorities and bigger companies increasingly want to see what their supplier’s social and environmental credentials are.

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3 responses to “Your Brand–Your Reputation”

  1. Rich Hoot says:

    Good points indeed Jill. You can never overstate how important your brand is to your business. SME’s have to understand that having a brand isn’t just for the likes of Virgin and Amazon – we all have to put effort into maintaining good brand reputation.

    More than ever consumers are watching to see if your ethics, corporate social responsibility, and green credentials are up to snuff – if they’re not you’ll soon get found out!

  2. Jodi Goldman says:

    Good points Jill – I completely agree. The values of the business is what gives it its personality. The work I do involves taking these exact same points and relating them to the people within these businesses. People are are ‘brands’ too which basically is their personal reputation – what people know of and associate with them. This has to be linked to ones values or it can never be authentic. But companies need to ensure their employees are representing the company brand in the best way possible too 🙂

    • Jill Poet says:

      Sorry about the extremely delayed response Jodi – spam has been an issue so I’ve only just picked up on your comment.

      Great work you are doing – and I couldn’t agree with you more.The starting point for being a value driven company has to be in the workplace and not only ensuring you have legislation in place but, most importantly, ensuring staff are valued, engaged and nutured. All these things will add to their motivation. Not only will they be more productive etc but, just as you say, they will become the company’s best ambassadors. That’s what makes your work so important.

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