Did you know your agency’s reputation is one of your most valuable assets?
Practising proactive reputation management should be top of your list. If it isn’t, take note; this crash course on reputation is my gift to you.
An understanding of ‘reputation’ is essential if you want your agency to succeed, because you then know how to build and maintain this asset.
Reputation is made up of two parts – identity and image.
Your ‘agency identity’ is the internal behaviour of your agency. This is determined by your organisational mission, vision and goals that form the foundations of your organisational culture.
This organisational culture is then communicated to your consumers, and other stakeholders, using tools such as your agency’s logo, tagline, headquarters, website, dress code, advertisements and so on, which fuse together to create an identifiable brand personality.
This personality is then perceived by your consumers and results in your agency image; i.e. how your consumers see your agency.
Reputation management is about controlling this identity and image. Your goal is to ensure they always match. As a general rule, how you perceive your agency is the same way you want your consumers to perceive it. You can control how your consumers see you simply by putting your money where your mouth is – keep to the promises you make. Because when your consumers’ experiences with your agency constantly align with your agency’s identity, you get a solid agency reputation.
But beware, a solid agency reputation is not something you achieve and then cross off the list. As well as being one of your most valuable assets, it is also one of your most volatile. A seemingly small mishap could cause a long-standing reputation to crumble.
Ongoing reputation management is therefore key to ensure this doesn't happen and 'legitimacy gaps' do not occur – when you do not deliver on promises, so your consumers lose faith in you. Unmanaged legitimacy gaps lead to reputation damage that is more costly than you may be aware. You lose trust, loyalty and managements. Winning these back is no small task, and requires extra resources and a committed effort.
A striking example of costly reputation damage from another industry is the Lance Armstrong brand. As you know, Lance finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs and everything his brand represented and promised vanished overnight. With his reputation destroyed, he lost his consumers’ trust and loyalty and, in this case, can never win them back. His merchandise sales plummeted while his tales of victory now collect dust in the fiction section of libraries. This is reputation damage at its finest.
But, breathe a sigh of relief, while such cases can and do occur, most of the time potentially harmful legitimacy gaps can be repaired before any major damage takes place. Good reputation management closes these gaps, but proactive reputation management ensures these gaps never occur in the first place. This is what all business owners and principals should aim for.
So I urge you to practise proactive reputation management by consistently and strategically allocating resources to maintain legitimacy in all areas of your agency, especially those areas that your reputation is built on. Keeping to the promises you make ensures your agency’s identity and consumers’ image of your organisation are constantly aligned. This then reduces the likelihood of legitimacy gaps occurring and, as such, any costly reputation damage. Practising proactive reputation management therefore results in proactively building and maintaining a solid agency reputation to win you loyal consumers and long-term success.