A reputation, like good perfume – once spoiled is spoiled forever. Whilst this seems a tad dramatic; reputation and negative or positive media association can either make or break your company or personal image.
Your communication messaging, whilst planned to many degrees, is only one stream of messaging that the consumer experiences. According to Duncan and Moriarty (1997), customers will shape their opinions of your organisation through four sources of communication.
And here’s the spanner in the works – not all of these are in your control!
Marketing and selling are referred to as ‘planned messages’ and these do fall in your control. These are the messages that your marketing department designs to say what you want your consumers to hear and believe about your product or service offering. The thing is, this is only the first step in getting potential clients (and maintaining current ones) to buy into and keep faith in your brand.
Consumers will experience another form of messaging through the quality of your product and service offering. If it does not meet the value expectations your marketing material and communication messages eluded to, the consumer experiences ‘poor messaging’ and trust in your brand is immediately burnt. This form of messaging is too, in your control.
Another message your organisation communicates, is through customer service experience and this extends to any interaction with representatives (staff) of your company. People generally note exceptional service but they will always remember a poor experience. A negative experience will have a great effect on the consumer’s brand relationship. This sounds pretty obvious however, many organisations fail to see the value in integrating their external messages to their internal operations.
What does this mean? This means that the communication messaging inside your organisation has an outward effect on your staff morale and subsequently their performance. If your team does not understand the bigger picture of ‘who’ or ‘what’ your business stands for, this will rear its ugly head not only inside office walls, but will spill over into customer interaction. This form of messaging is (believe it or not) also in your control.
Finally, and most importantly, people will talk. Their hard earned money will either buy them something of value or result in a disappointing experience with your company. They will tell their friends and family, they will post messages on social media and write letters to consumer boards about their experience with your business, product and customer service. The backlash of a negative experience can result in media coverage that could hurt business beyond repair; resulting in perception damage that will ultimately spread through consumer conversation.
These are the messages that an organisation does not have control of – the unplanned messages. (AKA word of mouth).
The power of ‘unplanned messages’ should never be underestimated. People will always believe their personal experience or their friends’ opinion over your marketing material.
Organisations should implement a clear integrated communications plan that is reflective of company values; both internally and externally. When communications messaging aligns through the marketing promise, the product and customer service; the word on the street about your brand will most likely be ‘good news’, ultimately resulting in increased brand credibility. This is the 360 communications solution required to keep brand reputation and organisational perceptions in a positive light.