FRIDAY 24 JAN 2020 3:19 PM


Corporate reputation relies on great content, says Claire Southeard from Lansons. Lansons was shortlisted in the ‘Best content campaign to assist with reputation management’ category at the Corporate Content Awards

A common misconception is that ‘reputation management’ is code for ‘crisis management,’ and organisations only embark on managing their reputation when they need to mitigate damage.

Of course, managing a crisis well is a fundamental part of protecting reputation. Organisations can even enhance their reputation through skilful handling of a difficult situation (KFC’s quick-thinking and self-depreciating response to running out of chicken springs to mind!). But communicating in a crisis is only part of the reputation management story. Treating them as the same misses the critical importance of optimising reputation in the good times – proactively and deliberately – to nurture, grow and enhance it, as you would any major asset and significant influencer of an organisation’s success.

As John Doorley says in Lansons’ CEO, Tony Langham’s book on reputation, “Reputation is the net of favourable and unfavourable perceptions.” Ergo, those with better reputations in the first place are more resilient when problems arise. Equally, when the chips are up, they are better positioned to succeed. Organisations with good reputations have more enduring loyalty. They have greater influence. And they can amplify their story at lower cost via a network of advocates who are willing to share it.

A storyteller at heart, I champion the power of content to help positively shape and enhance reputation. Content is a bridge connecting an organisation and its audiences directly on a rational, emotional or physical level, in ways that are interesting, relevant and memorable. Thoughtful, insightful, distinctive content wins attention, gains trust, influences behaviour and gets shared. And that matters because, ultimately, reputation is determined by what others say about you.

But with great power comes great responsibility! Content marketing turns brands into publishers and having spent the formative years of my career at the Press Association, there is a lot our industry can learn from the media about producing content with integrity. It comes down to having a deep understanding of and respect for the audience and what they care about.

Underestimate that and you might have a ‘Mr Banker’ on your hands – a memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons example of a household name simply getting it wrong.

Even though the sentiment behind Natwest’s ‘A Women’s Worth’ campaign was right, the reaction to the content itself showed they didn’t know their audience. So, what was intended to improve perceptions, ended up damaging Natwest’s reputation instead.

But get it right, and a well-conceived content campaign, developed with the audience front and centre, can change a narrative in your favour, build on positive perception, or shine a light on, what Doorley calls “the undervalued attributes of a brand,” in a way that influences – even changes – mindsets and behaviour.

Ultimately, content aimed at meaningfully enhancing reputation must be founded in a truth that unites the ‘brand’ and its audiences on common ground. That’s what we look for, every time we develop an idea.

Lansons’ founding principle is that ‘reputation is not just what you say, but how you do what you do.’ We strive to keep that at the heart of the advice we give clients and front of mind in the way we run our own business.

Because, as Socrates said, “The way to gain a great reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” Maybe, as Tony Langham proposes in his book, with society’s expectations rising about what good looks like, the desire for a great reputation can be a force for good, by demanding the better behaviour to earn one.

Now, there’s an exciting thought.

Claire Southeard is a director at Lansons

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