1. Have reliable and credible products/services: Even with the most sophisticated social marketing and influence, people expect some basic quality and consistency in their brand experiences.
  2. Understand your values and mission: Establish core values and a clear mission and make sure all employees understand them. Brands are increasingly focusing on their values and higher order purpose. It is not enough just to sell a product/service; many brands, such as Dove, do better if they also project their values. Linked to values and a clear mission, is having the right ethical environment and the appropriate supporting culture.
  3. Be prepared to admit faults and correct them: Transparency is now expected from brands and organisations. Past public relations practice would try to cover up or reframe a problem in the hope of mitigating negative outcomes. Today, companies are realising the value of openly acknowledging mistakes and making public attempts to rectify them. Although one cannot be too naive about such an approach, remedying a fault can generate good reputational equity so long as it does not become too frequent an occurrence!
  4. Develop an effective social media strategy: Social networks are becoming complex eco-systems, connected to a variety of platforms, which are increasingly mobile. Social media is generating a need to develop social influencing skills, whereby you talk – not at your customers but by providing them with a chance to participate and engage with your brand. Having a presence on Facebook and Youtube, and communicating and providing a brand voice through Twitter are essential, not optional. Brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nike and P&G have all developed successful social media strategies and in the case of P&G, Open Source innovation strategies.
  5. Ensure that your structures and operations/processes are “fit for purpose”: Structure versus strategy is an established debate in business but nonetheless it is vital that an organisation has the correct internal structures, teams and employee engagement mechanisms to deliver the given strategy. Even the best intentions to build a first rate company with an exceptional reputation will soon become just another great idea unless the correct framework is in place to achieve it.
  6. Have a credible CSR strategy: Corporate sustainability is now becoming mainstream and corporations have to be mindful of their social and environmental accountabilities and responsibilities.
  7. Good customer/brand experience: Brands must engage audiences and provide them with an enjoyable and memorable brand experience, thereby converting social influence into brand equity. Brands cannot afford to become commoditised and need to differentiate. You only have to look at a commodity, such as the coffee bean and look at brands such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee to see how a commodity can be made into a genuine brand experience.
  8. Have a strong brand identity and clear positioning: Strong identity and position is the cornerstone of good branding and reputation. Brands such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Target, JCB, and Nike have powerful identities and brand positions.
  9. Be adaptable and innovative: The brand Apple has a good reputation because they not only produce great products, but because they constantly innovate and adapt their brands to the market. By focusing on second order capabilities such as how best to adapt and change, businesses can be sustained and are less vulnerable to disruptive technologies or market/regulatory forces. All of this requires up-to-date and appropriate business models that will make the business competitive and in-tune with how to generate income streams form a variety of sources. Amazon and Lego are good examples of business models that are highly agile and appropriately exploiting changes in the market.
  10. Have an effective intelligence or “radar”: To stay ahead of the reputation game, you must have an intelligence or radar system that detects signals. Companies must now try and anticipate strategic directions through effective risk and issue management systems that inform them of threats and opportunities.
  11. Have a well-developed crisis management plan: A critical part of crisis management is pre-crisis planning, which has direct links to risk and issue analysis. Being well-prepared for a crisis can shorten recovery time and lessen reputational damage.
  12. Have effective stakeholder engagement and communications strategies: A basic tenet of modern PR and reputation management is that you must not only engage transactional stakeholders, i.e. the ones that are involved in buying and selling your goods/services, but you must also engage with your detractors, regulators and a long trail of stakeholders who can affect your brand. Stakeholder engagement is a management skill that cannot be underestimated or ignored. Shareholder return and investor relations must be given priority so long as one does not lose sight of the very factors that help generate them in the first instance. Shareholder return is not a strategy, it is an outcome, and must be understood in those terms.
  13. Have a solid brand narrative: The development of a narrative or organisational story is an important and effective reputation tool. Story-telling is an ancient technique of communication that is associated with archetypes. Many brands play on the Jungian notion of archetypes, such as Harry Potter (magician), Harley Davidson (rebel, outlaw), Nike (hero), IBM (ruler).

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