One of the most effective ways to deploy monitoring is using it to improve performance. By using sentiment monitoring and key message penetration along with both traditional and social media monitoring, you can identify which activities and events drive reputational improvements over time.
Understanding what goes into brand reputation is an important first step, and it is frequently just as important to look inside the organization as it is to track and monitor external, customer-facing topics. Your biggest brand supporters—or detractors—may be your own employees, and too many companies don’t take the steps to monitor and build brand reputation internally.
Building the following steps into your monitoring and analysis program will help to provide direction to your efforts to improve brand reputation.
Identifying and pursuing opportunities for thought leadership
Thought leadership is a great way to build brand reputation, but oftentimes you’ll see a number of players all chasing the same opportunities. While it’s important to pursue solid, high-value prospects that speak directly to your target audience, it can mean other options are overlooked.
You can use monitoring to identify additional outlets for thought leadership through two approaches: by monitoring social channels to see what your target audience’s interests are, what events are coming up, and which media outlets they prioritize; or, by monitoring traditional media to find which publications are open to receiving contributed content.
Here’s a sample approach to take. Your monitoring platform should be searching for topics that are relevant to your brand. For example, a brand that manufactures and sells athletic shoes will monitor sports that the shoes are designed for, which will surface professional sports figures—who have lucrative contracts representing shoe companies. You can use your monitoring tool to look for opportunities at the non-professional level, such as community leagues, colleges, and even publications that focus on sporting at the primary or high-school level.
This identification of thought leadership opportunities that are less crowded but still highly relevant can help the brand to carve out a niche.
Improve customer processes
When you hear about using data to improve brand reputation, improving customer processes is most likely the type of task that springs to mind. It’s a classic use of monitoring tools for a reason.
Social media remains one of the most potent and direct means of delivering customer opinions, good and bad. This makes it an invaluable resource for improvement and ideas on ways to improve anything from products to customer experiences.
While social media will provide the most direct feedback, monitoring traditional media can help to improve customer processes as well. Depending on the industry, professional journalistic content from reviews to coverage of competitors can provide insight and ideas on how to improve processes.
Visible efforts to improve may even garner positive coverage, in both social and traditional media channels.
U.S. air carrier Southwest Airlines was an early proponent of using social media monitoring and feedback to address consumer issues and build brand reputation. The airline’s 2014 launch of a “social media listening center” was widely reported, and subsequent articles showed how the brand fine-tuned its responses, allowing the brand to respond to complaints and problems in near-real time—before they developed into viral social media crises.
This type of rapid response also points to another aspect of monitoring that can help with brand reputation—focused engagement. There are many examples of brands using social media monitoring to develop a recognizable and distinctive brand voice, and engaging with audiences on social. Engagement should be viewed as a valuable tactic to improve brand reputation. It not only connects a brand with its customers, it can increase customer loyalty and may even blunt the impact of a minor crisis.
Understand the impact of corporate leadership
Corporate leadership is under greater scrutiny than ever before, and C-suite decisions can have an outsized impact on a company’s reputation. Zeroing in on how much of an effect leadership reputation has can be determined through monitoring and media analysis.
Once the impact is determined, a close examination of messaging, timing, and other factors can help inform a plan to either repair reputation or reinforce the positive.
Trying to incorporate leadership voices into a brand reputation strategy can be challenging. Determining which leadership voices are most suitable for brand building is one such hurdle—a CEO might be doing a fantastic job at running the company but lack the spark or charisma that elevates a brand in the press. Conversely, a company leader who frequently says things that set off minor firestorms could turn off potential customers and mire an organization down in ongoing low-grade crises.
Elon Musk’s leadership at X (formerly Twitter) is a prime example of how corporate leadership can affect brand reputation. Having employees beg for toilet paper on Slack doesn’t provide the impression of a well-run organization with satisfied workers. In June, Brand Finance, a brand valuation consultancy, announced that Twitter’s brand value had declined by 32 percent—a drop that the consultancy attributes to “aggressive business approaches” from its then-CEO, Elon Musk.
Gain insight into what employees think
Using monitoring to see what employees are saying about your brand online should be handled carefully. By now, most brands have social media policies in place, so part of this monitoring is ensuring that these policies are being followed.
Social media activity of employees can show an employer what is working well. Active, engaged employees who choose to interact and post publicly about an employer can signal a supportive workplace that trusts its workers.
However, anonymous content is almost to be expected. What a brand does with this type of feedback will likely depend on a variety of factors including how accurate it is, whether the content violates any laws or is defamatory, and the overall culture of the organization.
There are a number of anonymous sites that provide a platform for employees to share workplace experiences, which seem to attract complaints from disgruntled workers. While the feedback on these types of platforms may sometimes yield useful information, it’s rarely in the details of individual experiences. If a brand chooses to review these sites for feedback, they should look to overall themes that might reappear, rather than zeroing in on specifics (which are likely exaggerated for effect, or simply complaining).
Just as struggling employees are provided feedback to improve, organizations can benefit from hearing what is bothering their employees. Addressing problems identified through monitoring can lead to happier employees, better retention and recruitment efforts, and improved brand reputation.
Tracking provides the data—improvement is hard work
Using monitoring to collect data on brand reputation is the first step. The next one is where the real work begins—using that data to map out ways to improve.
Whether the feedback gained is positive, negative, or neutral, it is valuable. Improvements can be incremental or big leaps, quick fixes or require years-long efforts. Communicate the steps being taken, and you’ll begin to build trust with your community and improve brand reputation.