Public speaking is an indispensable tool for brand reputation management. A skilled orator can build trust, establish credibility, connect with the audience, shape perceptions, and amplify the brand's messaging. On the other hand, poor communication can lead to reputational damage and hinder a brand's growth.
A recent survey from speaker bureau Speakers Corner’s shows that brand reputation is a significant concern among business owners. 98% reported facing challenges with reputation control, while 86% agreed that reputation management was a bigger priority than employee development.
Worries about brand reputation are at an all-time high. Via social media, people have direct access to brands and to each other. So a single derogatory tweet can spread like wildfire. (Perhaps it’s human instinct to focus on the negatives - but what many leaders don’t realise is that the same is also true for positive information about your brand.)
Consumers are cynical
Consumers are now far more aware of how they’re being marketed to. This makes them treat marketing with much more cynicism. Terms like greenwashing and sportswashing show that they no longer instinctively trust what brands are telling them; brands must prove those values in their actions, too. If they don’t, it can seriously damage a brand’s reputation.
With all these new pressures, it’s understandable that many brand leaders and business owners are reluctant to step into the limelight. Instead, many businesses turn to celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing.
The power of influencers
Choosing an influencer who shares your brand values and connects with your target audience will encourage them to buy into your beliefs. Get it right, and the impact now can be much greater than it’s ever been before.
But this is also true if you get it wrong. Now, your credibility and reputation are in the hands of the influencer you work with. Whilst you can rise with them, you can also fall. Kanye West is one of a number of high-profile celebrities who have been dropped as brand advocates recently to avoid bad PR by association.
Plus, you still need to make sure your business is being true to its word. False claims - whether they come directly from you or through an influencer - will ultimately cause the trust to break down between you and your customers, leading to a tarnished reputation.
Represent your own brand
Whilst influencer marketing does have its place, more business owners should consider becoming the face of their own brands.
Consumers no longer buy something just because they’re told to by a famous face. We’re moving away from aspirational purchases and towards a sense of tribalism. That’s why we love an entrepreneurial story so much.
Customers want to feel that they’re part of a movement. You want to believe in the person you’re buying from. With a celebrity endorsement or public ambassador, customers know the promotion is paid for. But as the person who started your business, customers accept that you genuinely believe in your product. So it becomes much easier to trust in you and your brand.
This reasoning should make you feel more comfortable stepping up as the public face of your brand. You believe in what you’re doing and understand the purpose of your business better than anyone, including influencers. So it’s time for business leaders to own their purpose and show what they stand for as the face of their brand.
Control your reputation
Reputation control is a multifaceted task that requires ongoing effort and a comprehensive approach. 37% of respondents say their biggest challenge with brand reputation control is having someone from the business ‘own’ the space. This is both for day-to-day management and responding to the issues. Leaders should take charge of brand control and treat it as any ongoing project. They should also create a strong, knowledgeable team, ready to support them both from a proactive and reactive perspective.
With the complexity of today's media landscape and the numerous channels through which a reputation can be tarnished, over one-third of respondents found navigating all the possibilities challenging, if not a bit overwhelming, especially with the speed of news travel nowadays.
Business leaders can play the long game in terms of reputation management. There’s no need to play to public perception with short-term stunts and social media strategy. Instead, live and breathe your values. Build your tribe. Embrace and share your purpose, and your business will get stronger.
Written by Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner
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