A Year in Review: How to Plan Next Year’s Brand Reputation Strategy 

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At the end of the year, most brands strategise for the year coming up. Above all, a strategy is not guesswork. It should be based on performance data and analysis of the year just completed. In managing your brand’s reputation, it is critical to look back for insights to guide you. All this data makes up a robust reputation report, creating a roadmap for the year ahead. Once complete, you will have clear priorities for your brand, initiatives to add or drop, and short to long-term expectations and goals. Here are 6 key areas to include: 

 

1. Stakeholder engagement  

Assess your stakeholder engagement over the past year. Did you engage all of your brand’s stakeholders or were some still neglected? What partnerships started, stopped and continued? What is the value of those partnerships to the business? Value can be tangible, such as highlighting a source of revenue, or it can be intangible.  

 

2. CSR 

The year’s CSR investments and activities may or may not overlap with stakeholder engagement work. What initiatives did your brand invest in and why? Identify the impact of those initiatives and campaigns. Are they sustainable? What have they yielded, and are those initiatives in line with the brand and its values? Remember, CSR is much more than funding the projects your boss likes personally. Ensure your CSR aligns with your brand to build its reputation. 

 

3. Customer service 

Customer feedback about the service they experienced with you is a goldmine for reputation insights. What did you promise and what did you deliver? Life is unpredictable- the pandemic highlighted just how much. Yet a brand can still react to unforeseen events in a way that aligns with its values and grows its reputation. Assess all channels- engage in social listening, look at compliments and complaints received directly, and engage your internal team. Then reduce reputational risk by aligning your brand’s promises with its reality. 

 

4. Brand Content Marketing and Social PR 

What brand campaigns and content strategies did you implement over the past year? Content means more than social media- are you taking full advantage of opportunities to give your customers value? Similarly to customer service, look at the problems you tried to resolve and the feedback your brand received. Conduct social listening. What sentiment was expressed towards the brand across the channels? Assess whether your customers and target audience are really connecting with your content online and offline. Did the public view your campaigns and content as being credible, or is campaign feedback filled with complaints (if so, what do the complaints reveal)? Were your campaigns up to scratch compared to the local industry and global trends? If not, why not?  

Content is a conversation between the brand and the audience, but many brands are used to speaking “at” people. You cannot use sponsored posts to overcome weak content. 

 

5. Brand channels 

Scrutinise your brand channels a little more. Begin by segmenting the audiences that interact with the brand on each. What is the customer feedback about the brand on different channels? Are there certain complaints that consistently come up, and how long have they been recurring? Remember, different segments of your audience gravitate towards different channels, and it is common for brands to pay more attention or give preference to certain channels- but the data doesn’t lie. Unless you scrutinise each, you may miss reputational threats or opportunities.  

 

6. Financial reporting 

Most senior leadership are interested in insights about the bottom line. A strong business case encourages them to keep investing in reputation management.  

  • What investments were made over the year and what results did they yield? Will you need a bigger budget next year? 
  • What measurable impact did all your activities have? What was the return on investment for the business?  
  • When the brand was in traditional press, can any correlation be made to its performance e.g. conversions?  
  • What trends do social listening uncover? 
  • What were the fluctuations in sentiment versus financial performance? 

 

Not every investment a brand makes will be executed 100% correctly, 100% of the time. In reputation management, many of the benefits are intangible and will be difficult to quantify- but they can still be analysed. Come back to the basics of the components of a strong reputation. For example, you may have spent money taking potential clients out for lunch. How many of them converted and what is the size of their account? If none, there need to be adjustments to your method. What partnerships are bringing in revenue? You launched 3 new social media sites and revamped your website- how is your content performing, what is the customer experience and sentiment, and what are the conversions? 

 

 

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