Broadening Your View of Reputation Management to Better Protect Your Brand
Reputation management is bigger than Yelp!, Google and Facebook. It’s bigger than simply responding to reviews. It’s even bigger than what you’re going to say to the public through the media or directly.
Yet, the multifamily industry has minimized this age-old PR discipline to simply responding to online reviews about communities and maybe reporting metrics to the operations teams. The problem with this minimalistic view is that online reviews are a product of much larger reputation management responsibilities that have a greater impact on brand value.
Fortunately, by broadening your view of reputation management and utilizing an integrated approach to public relations and content marketing, you can significantly boost the value of your brand, better protect your brand against negative reviews and “gotcha” media stories. This requires us to recognize critical activities that our marketing and communications teams have delegated to other departments or disciplines within our organizations.
Among the disciplines in which marketing and communications teams must play an intimate role for the sake of more effective reputation management are:
- Values and mission development and management. It’s easy to let the executive team and HR handle this activity and bow out as a marketing or communications professional. But avoiding the values and mission aspects of the organization is highly detrimental to the reputation of the brand. That’s because any lapses in this arena can lead to significant reputation consequences. For example, an onsite associate posts an eviction notice on a disabled resident’s door because they were late on rent by a day or two. Or an associate lies to hundreds of prospect about the availability of an amenity at a lease up community. If marketing and communications aren’t communicating the honesty and integrity value regularly, these kinds of lapses become more likely. And they can result in serious reputation challenges.
- Crisis communications and management. Most marketing and PR professionals prefer to handle the positive things like promoting pet friendliness or that membership gym-inspired fitness center. But those wonderful things seems to matter very little when a crisis strikes and the news media is poised to rake the brand over the coals for poor service, onsite criminal activity or a corporate scandal. If you’ve delegated your crisis management activities to investor relations, operations, legal or risk management, you’re missing the impact it could have on your organization’s reputation and your ability to proactively market your brand. While many other departments should be involved in the process, marketing and communications must be an integral part of the mix.
- Customer service. It’s easy to just let operations handle customer service. After all, they’re the ones who have to deal with the resident every single day. But pulling marketing and communications out of this mix blinds them to potential reputation challenges. If you’re not listening to the complaints of your residents, you can’t see the trends. You can’t see that the majority of your customer service complaints are from residents who are unhappy with your pet policies, your deposit practices or service levels. By following these trends, marketing and communications can develop internal campaigns or programs to better meet the expectations of residents. This can help prevent a looming crisis that severely damages the brand.
- Training. Some organizations will combine the duties of training with marketing, but most have separate departments. No matter how you’re structured, marketing and communications should play an active role in training to ensure the right brand image is portrayed by the people who interact with customers more than anybody else — onsite associates. Because a brand is so nuanced and forever in a state of change, it’s impossible for your training teams to translate the brand to associates without your direct input. Not being intimately involved with training activities can easily put the brand at risk of reputation damage. Onsite associates can easily stray from the brand promise and the values because they are measured and compensated based on sales. Getting sales no matter what it takes can slowly creep into the culture of the onsite teams. Marketing and communications need to ensure the brand message and values aren’t compromised in the process. And training is the best way to build these ideals into your onsite culture
I often tell clients and my students at DU that reputation management is less about what you say and much more about what you do. By playing an active role in the disciplines above, marketing and communications can better manage its most valuable asset — the reputation of the brand.