Does your corporate identity carry negative connotations? Is its reputation less than stellar? Whether this is due to poor decisions of the past or serious flogging by competitors, there are ways to turn this around…to build a corporate identity that is strong, trustworthy, and reputable.
Does your Corporate Identity Need a Life Preserver?
Is your corporate identity associated with an industry that comes with poor public perception? Do you feel that you’re continually defending your decisions, your employees, your work…and even your income? No matter if the building of this poor reputation was in or out of your control, there are plenty of steps you can take to enhance perceptions of your corporate identity. After all, your brand isn’t defined by what you say it is – it is defined by the stories people tell about it.
Before I continue, please allow me to set one thing straight: not everyone is going to love your brand. Every corporate identity should be built with an ideal client in mind – and when this is done effectively, there will always be a portion of the population that is either not enamoured with your brand or just downright despises it. For a number of reasons, and to a reasonable extent, this can be a good thing for your corporate identity. Embrace it.
Corporate Identity Lifelines
Let’s discuss a few common ways that brands tend to combat poor public perception, why those methods don’t work, and then talk about the ‘life preservers’ that can save your brand and turn around the reputation of your corporate identity.
- Some brands, when faced with negativity, blame the competition or attempt to level (bring the competition down to enhance their own image). This is bullying, and is a poor way to build up a corporate identity. Instead, I suggest that brands build themselves up by showing the true content of their character – by countering the negativity with a positive, uplifting attitude that all the right people will notice.
- As a defence to negative criticism, a corporate identity with a poor reputation might go into hiding. This doesn’t work because it implies that the brand has something to hide – that it has done something wrong. It also implies that the brand is weak or that it doesn’t believe in its own mission. Instead, I suggest that brands take these opportunities to go public. Acknowledge the criticism and talk about why it might be credible. Admit any fault. Talk, publically, about how change will be enacted. Invite players to the conversation and respond to every comment (social media or otherwise) with a positive, approachable, action-oriented attitude.
- Quite often, when attacked, brands will take a victim stance. This is counterproductive because no consumer wants to trust his or her money to a cowardly corporate identity. After all, if a brand doesn’t believe in itself enough to stand up [with an open mind and positive demeanour] and discuss the issues at hand with maturity and confidence, how can that brand expect its target audience to invest? As any real, chronic victim will tell you, the best way to stop the cycle is to make a decision to stop being a victim.
- When faced with negative press, some brands choose to ‘duke it out.’ They will viciously defend their actions or their industry, whilst paying no attention to the opinions that are shaping their reputation. Remember, those opinions are the brand, and ignoring them is downright reckless for the building of a corporate identity. I am not suggesting that your brand be weak, but I am suggesting that you avoid being combative. Start by finding common ground that the brand and the naysayers can all agree upon. Then, commit to having conversations instead of arguments. The latter will only lead to further erosion of the brand.
- Too often, brand managers avoid uncomfortable questions and accusations by changing the subject or reflecting questions back to the critics. This defence mechanism has been popularised by politicians, and so when it happens, an audience tends to shut down and settle on the poor reputation as truth. Instead of shying away from unpleasant questions or objections, view them as opportunities to build your brand. They are your chances to show the fibre of your character and to disprove all that negativity with real data and authentic human interaction.
In conclusion, any brand would be wise to acknowledge criticism of itself or its industry without delay – to stand tall, speak calmly, and keep the lines of conversation wide open. This advice applies to every corporate identity from start-ups to multi-generational corporations. Of course, these tactics won’t immediately turn around a failing brand, but they will serve as life preservers to stop all that unproductive flailing.
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