Elisabet Hearn and I wrote this article for 2020visionleader.com
How everyone is a powerful carrier of their personal, team and company brand.
What you say online has a major impact on your business – here’s how to make the right noises.
Just like individuals, teams and even countries, an organisation has a reputation. And that reputation is created over time, through words, actions and behaviours. But it’s not set in stone, a reputation can quickly be tarnished and even ruined.
A reputation cannot be taken for granted. In fact, it should of course be taken very seriously. It can take us a long time; years, months, even decades to build a strong, consistent and powerful one. We can have a good, strong reputation but only a few negative actions and behaviours that make others feel uncomfortable, disappointed or angry can quickly damage that reputation and trust. And once trust is damaged, it can take a long time to repair it.
We all have our own reputation; individually, as a team and as an organisation. Whether we choose to work on it or not, we will have one.
It’s therefore highly relevant to ask: What is our reputation? and What do we want it to be? or What does it need to be? This could and should be part of an organisation’s strategic leadership dialogues and considerations.
A great reputation can travel ahead of us and it can open doors, just like a bad reputation can close the same doors.
If you think of a company right now, that you are familiar with, you would have a view of them, right? You would have a perception of their brand, their way of working, even their culture; what it’s like to work there or what it’s like to work with them. It all comes down to the consistency in actions and behaviours, the promises kept and those relationships that have built the brand and reputation over time.
A few examples: When you think cars and safety, you may for example think of Volvo. When you think innovative design, you may think of Apple. When you think of a family fun, you may think of Disney. They are all well-known examples of powerful brand experiences built up over time.
The role of social media
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with clients, business partners and other stakeholders and can be an effective way to build interest and opinion but it needs to be carefully navigated. A comment, an imprint can last forever. In that way social media is very honest, we can’t erase our tracks. Even if a post or comment is deleted, it may already have been copied by someone and shared. On the other hand, if we are thoughtful and respectful about it, we shouldn’t have to.
Famous public figures tweeting is an example of this. Things said in the heat of the moment are creating ripples that are hard to assess the complete impact of over time, and they affect and create a reputation, good or bad. Some time for reflection and impulse-control is key when using social media. So yes, reputation matters and should be taken seriously.
What organisational reputation are you creating right now? Take control of it. Think of how you, as a representative of your organisation, not just represent yourself but you also represent the organisation when you engage with the world around. Think of yourself as ONE online person, it doesn’t matter if you are acting in your personal or your professional life, if it’s going on online, it could be seen by more people than those intended.
You may not be able to dictate this for others (unless you have specific organisational social media conduct codes in place) but you can always take responsibility for your own social media activities and messages and what you role model for those around you.
Unless you work in politics, be careful with how you comment on political issues as this can quickly turn into slinging matches which can backfire into the workspace. Think of yourself as your own, your team’s, your organisation’s Brand Ambassador. Without a good, strong reputation, it’s hard to get others to trust you and work with you – which in turn makes it hard to deliver great results.
Don’t let yourself be dragged into slinging matches online unless you want to take the risk of damaging the brand – your own AND your employer’s.
Five Quick Reflection Exercises
Here are 5 quick reflection exercises to review and manage a strong, positive, consistent brand and reputation online:
What does your organisation want to be known for, what do you want others to see about you? That you are collaborative, responsible, knowledgeable? Or something else?Whatever it is, engage your team in discussion and agreement on how to achieve that, keeping in mind that reputation is greatly influenced by how you do something, not just what you do. It needs to be authentic.
What messages do you want to put out there? Are there any key words that should be used?
Should you share research, industry data, new products and services? Should you engage with customers, potential customers, other stakeholders?
When actively interacting with others online, take responsibility not just for your actions, but maybe even more importantly, your reactions. Don’t let responses become automatic, use the moment between trigger and response to carefully choose how you will respond to the words and actions of others. Every moment counts. Think about how your response will impact the other party and how it will influence their perception of you and the organisation.
What professional social media apps are you using? What is your LinkedIn profile looking like? Do you have a representative photo? Is there enough information about what you do and how you represent your organisation? Add depth and personality to your profile by asking for recommendations and endorsements.
What personal social media apps are you using? What are you sharing there? Would you be happy for anyone to see that? Are you on Twitter? If so, even if you put an “Opinions are my own” caption, this may not be enough to fully manage the impact you have and how it reflects on the organisation you work for.
This is especially true when you are a leader – you always represent the company you work for, and your actions are not just seen by external audiences but also internal ones.