Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Stakeholders can have a huge effect on an organisation’s reputation, regardless of the extent of their involvement in the organisation itself, says Palesa Madumo, executive director of strategy at Vuma Reputation Management.

Stakeholders – all those with an interest in a particular organisation – can have a positive or negative effect on a brand’s reputation, says Madumo. Using a call centre agent as an example, she explains that, as a brand representative, the agent could provide a customer with an extremely favourable or very negative brand experience, based purely on how that one individual behaves.

The big take-out: Reputation management specialist Palesa Madumo says stakeholders can have a huge effect on an organisation’s reputation.

Stakeholders can affect brand consistency, she adds. It doesn’t matter if an individual has had positive experiences of a certain brand at all touch points – it takes just one negative experience to mar the reputation of that brand. With the prevalence of social media and the voice it provides for consumers, one individual’s bad experience doesn’t stay limited to that person for long.

Managing a brand’s reputation through its stakeholders can be a complex and challenging process, says Madumo. She uses the example of a Father’s Day advertisement put out by Outsurance earlier this year. “The brand in question featured a variety of fathers in its advert – but only one of them was black. Given the country’s demographic, this was a major oversight … and one about which the public was particularly unforgiving,” says Madumo.

Journalists and customers took to Twitter and Facebook to lambast Outsurance, in the process making it a national story. The problem was compounded when a brand representative passed the blame to a junior staff member on radio. “Not only did the brand look bad, but people began to question its policies and processes,” says Madumo, adding that this is a perfect example of how not to manage a crisis. 

Crisis avoidance is central to reputation management, says Madumo. As such, she advises organisations to draw up a stakeholder map in advance, identifying where or who may be a potential problem. Being proactive is half the job done – and it means the company has a plan in place, should one be needed.

When problems do arise, Madumo advises a quick reaction, engaging with relevant stakeholders and putting a solution in place as soon as possible. “Open the channels of communication with the right facts and identify both the problem and the solution without passing any blame,” she says.

The prevalence of social media makes it vital that a company in trouble acts quickly and accurately to keep its reputation intact. “Creating tactical tools, such as fact sheets and holding statements, determining who information should be shared with and how to engage with different stakeholders is key to effectively managing a crisis,” Madumo says.

It’s also important to monitor the situation once the crisis has abated, to ensure that no nuance goes unnoticed. “Talking to stakeholders, [and running] surveys and customer or employee focus groups can give an indication of where public and internal opinions lie. A media monitoring service or setting up Google alerts will also indicate whether further engagement or repeat steps are required.”

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