Your reputation is essential. You have two choices. One, you can cultivate a reputation. Or two have one given to you by others. Indeed, you can work to build a reputation that puts your strengths and experiences top of mind, or you can let your clients and everyone in your industry draw their conclusions and hope that they say nice things about you.
The problem is “hope” has never been a viable marketing strategy… and your reputation is simply another term for your brand.
Some think of a logo or color palette when they think of the word brand. It’s true, a brand does include those things, but it’s much more than that. Overall, a brand includes everything that reflects you. It includes your employees and all the material you develop to communicate who and what your company is. Further, it’s your website, social media posts, email signature, your business card, tradeshow booths, invoices, every presentation, brochure, video, voicemail, etc. In sum, they are all part of your brand.
Building a brand is critical to stand out in the marketplace. And It takes considerable time, thought, and effort to do it right.
What Are They Saying About You Behind Your Back?
How do you know what your real reputation/brand is? One exercise you can do to get a simple snapshot is to think of words that best describe what you want your company to represent.
Chiefly, keep it simple and try to keep it to a few words, one word if possible. For example, if you’re a service company, you might think of words like “Reliable” and “Friendly.” And if you’re in finance, you may think of words like “Conservative” and “Responsible.” For this purpose, depending on what you do and your industry, you may find words like “Progressive” or “Playful” appropriate.
It might help to ask others in your company to participate but understand that you may not agree on words. What’s more, if you find you can’t keep it to a few words, then your brand may not be well defined internally.
Now, review your company vision, mission, and values. Do the words you thought about align with them? Did you think about expertise, but your vision is about service? However, if they don’t match up, that is a red flag, and you may have some work to do on your brand right now.
Next, with your chosen words in mind, a look at your website and your logo. Unquestionably, you need to be honest. Does your website and logo reflect the words you chose? If you chose words like “progressive,” but your website looks like a government site from 2014, that is a red flag. Or if you chose “friendly,” but the layout is complicated and challenging to navigate, this demonstrates a lack of friendliness. These examples of red flags indicate your brand is not understood internally. As a result, this misinterpretation of your brand is that is what the world sees.
Your Reputation Precedes You
Companies often struggle with the disconnect from how they see themselves and how they present themselves. Another area to look at is messaging. How good is the copy? Does it tell your story well? Again, if you’re trying to be “Friendly,” but it’s written very formally, it creates a disconnect for clients and potential clients.
There is no one solution to building a strong brand. But there are a few rules. Including having a simple, clear message of who and what you are and why it matters. Don’t be scattershot. Be consistent with this message. You need to get everyone internally on board before you can expect the outside world to believe it. And it needs to be authentic. We live in a sophisticated cyber world. Everyone is on the lookout and weary of those that “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk.”
A strong brand begins with your values and filters down to the footer on your emails. Together they tell the story of you that others remember.
What is your professional reputation worth to you? Your brand is one of your most valuable assets. Do you respect it like one?