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Expert advice for managing your business' reputation

Whether your business is just starting out or ready for major expansion, its reputation is its most valuable asset


The biggest mistake that a business owner can make is not managing their company’s reputation. 

Lebo Madiba, a prominent South African businesswoman and founder of public relations agency, PR Powerhouse, is a specialist in helping companies such as Novo Nordisk, Maersk and Protea Hotels with reputation management. 

Madiba says business owners should constantly be aware of what the public is saying about their business. “A good reputation buys customer loyalty and repeat business, but a bad experience can send the reputation of your business straight to the negative,” she says. 

Lesson #1 Reputation is an intangible asset. It is hard to put a value to it, but the value is often only realised once it’s lost
●    Reputation can affect purchase decisions and influence the growth or decline of a business.
●    Customers who have had a bad experience with a product, a staff member or your business are likely to tell others about their experience.  

Lesson #2 Social media has changed the way that companies do business
A negative review of your business can go viral within minutes, but good news can spread just as quickly. There are quite a few businesses that have become overnight successes as a result of their social media engagement. They managed to create conversations around what the business does and they are not using social media as wallpaper or advertising. 
Buy the loyalty of your customers through building relationships. Social media has made it much easier to interact directly with customers and can also be used to gauge what clients think about your business.  Most importantly, listen to what your customers are saying and be responsive.

Lesson #3 Good reputation is built internally
Reputation and business culture go hand-in-hand. The name of the business, the logo and pay-offline should live up to your brand definition. Everyone in your business should reflect your brand ethos as it will manifest itself in how your clients and customers relate to your business.  
Your personal brand is important. Your name is synonymous with your business and that’s why you have to manage both your personal and business reputation.  

Lesson #4 You can build a solid brand reputation – even if you are on a shoestring budget
1.    Have an online presence. If you have a website, it should be active and linked to your social media platforms.
2.    Get your business onto relevant social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram. 
3.    Develop a brand. No matter how small the business is, define your business offering and what sets you apart from competitors.
4.    Brag a bit. Use the website to showcase your business, people, achievements, services and products.
5.    Build trust and credibility through your website. Upload success stories and client references. If your business gets into the media, ensure that your latest media coverage is also on your website. 

Lesson #5 Have a reputational risk plan in place – being reactive can do more harm to the business 
The plan should contain the following elements:
-    How a crisis is managed within your business
-    Who will represent the business in the event of reputational risk 
-    Crisis response holding statements, even if they are only one-liners such as “We are aware of the situation and are looking into it” or “we will communicate in due course”.

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