TOP-12 Challenges for the Reputation Manager
People are looking for a firm support point in a world of chronic infobesity and credibility gap.
In 2019, we chose the topic “Challenge & Response. Correct Response to Every Challenge” for the XVII International PR Festival. We formed the entire program based on this logic. Therefore, it will not be about tendencies, as they are long-term and have not changed much since last year, but about what challenges reputation managers (top figures, specialized departments heads, and PR teams) in companies. Also, about how it is expedient to respond to the challenges of modernity and how it happens in the practice of Ukrainian business.
Challenge#1. Indifferent audiences
Attracting target audiences is a kind of new corporate religion. Yes, this goal has always been set. However, it was never an absolute priority. What has changed? The density of the information flow through which key messages pass with great force. Also, the post-truth era affects the attitude of stakeholders, who now learned not to trust information, and encourages stakeholders to protect themselves from unauthorized intrusion into personal information space.
How can companies reach tortured and indifferent target audiences? The answer to such a question is spread through this article. But I will mark an immortal conceptual approach here – offer a quality product, find a way to prove it is needed, and be visible. Like all ingenious, three simple and complex actions.
Challenge#2. Media subjectivism
Freedom of speech is the most valuable achievement of human civilization. However, modern mass media have long since turned into means of mass communication. The economic and political interests of the beneficiaries, the civil position of the editors and authors, and non-compliance with the professional and ethical standards of professional journalism are signs of our times. And it is not about fakes. Fakes are simply a side effect of the general tendency to change the nature and social role of mass media.
How shall companies work with such media? As smart people think: in order not to be afraid of dragons, you need to have your own one. Smart companies get controllable communication channels with their target audiences: owned media, columnists from among employees, special projects in traditional mass media, etc.
Challenge#3. Image instead of content
What was considered a detailed news article 10 years ago has become a long-read in the new information reality. Infographics, dush-boards, videos, and just colourfull visuals attract target audiences much more effectively than smart and stylistically refined texts. And this trend is irreversible for the mass public.
What should the company change? Get some good designers and web designers, pay special attention to visual content, and take for granted the need to keep up with the times.
Challenge#4. Hype for hype’s sake
The word “hype” has been firmly used in Ukrainian reality during the last few years. It is used to indicate situations when there is an overactive discussion of some topic in the information space. This is not always a discussion that was artificially arisen, but (as a rule) it is additionally supported and purposefully moderated.
Companies are concerned about two things: how to stop unwanted hype and how to promote the desired one. There is no single recipe because hypes are different. However, in the first case, it is very important to find a “control centre”; and do not try to hype non-hype topics in the second case.
Challenge#5. Opinion leaders in the spotlight
Every second request from clients of our PR Service Agency includes the task of involving experts and bloggers in the process of broadcasting key messages of the corporate PR strategy. That is, leaders of public opinion have become the most important target audience of business not only declaratively but also in practice.
What does this mean for reputation managers? The need to acquire new skills. First, choose the right leaders to work with and understand the reputational risks associated with such work. Secondly, adequately motivate the “purchased” friends of the corporate brand. And, thirdly, understand that experts and bloggers “do not reproduce very well in captivity,” and their fertility and creativity on a free topic is usually an order of magnitude higher than the ordered content.
Challenge#6. The personal branding epidemic
A personal brand has become a fixed idea for everyone: from presidential candidates to ordinary employees. From the point of view of reputation management methodology, everything is correct. No matter what your environment is – a dozen offline acquaintances or hundreds of thousands of followers in a social network – you need to decide on a target image. And the problem is precisely that only a few of those who order the construction of a personal brand assess their reputational potential realistically.
How can companies respond to this challenge? The first thing is to work with the personal PR of business people and take into account their capabilities and limitations in terms of building a reputation. The second is to use the narcissistic tendency to attract audiences: give media prospects to opinion leaders, attract consumers with a fifteen minutes of fame, etc.
Challenge#7. Fashion for sociality and creativity
The modern world pretends to be vegetarian. Even corporations that predatorily exploit natural and human resources or those that profit from the castigate vices flaunt their projects of social and environmental consciousness or flaunt art creativity and advanced performances. So-called social and creative entrepreneurship is gladly given expensive columns and airtime by top traditional mass media.
What should others do? Simulate by implementing any of the projects listed above or create social and creative ecosystems around while raising a galaxy of friendly public opinion leaders, ambassadors, and advocates of the corporate brand at the same time.
Challenge#8. Globalization forever. But atomization is next
The geographical boundaries of the information space have been erased a long time ago. The economy is inevitably globalizing, even considering political incidents a la Brexit. But human society is no less inevitably atomized: the ability to choose the content you want, an individual approach to learning, and adjusting Internet advertising to user needs. And the “capsules” of social networks, which push people to intolerance of dissent instead of uniting.
How can companies live with this? Not a problem at all. Divide and conquer – the ancient Romans knew how to influence technologies.
Challenge#9. Is technology advancing?
There are often only informational reasons in the practice of reputation management despite the continuous hype around artificial intelligence, virtual, and augmented reality. The company’s mastering of future technologies or cooperation with profile startups is a great point in the corporate resume and a way to create public resonance. This does not threaten employees of PR departments now, even considering the fact that AI is rapidly learning to write texts and music, draw, and shoot films. Our profession may be among those that will never be fully robotized. Therefore, let’s take advantage of the opportunities while the risks are not obvious. However, this is an optimistic scenario.
Challenge#10. Employees as the main source of reputational risk
The transparent world of social networks means for companies that you cannot hide a cat in a bag. Sooner or later, any dark secret will be revealed and spread. And the company’s own employee can harm it much more stronger than all kinds of toxic detectives. Defects in product quality, not the most pleasant atmosphere in the team, corrupt nuances in business relations with the outside world, and environmental pollution. Everything can be made public by the staff in a few clicks.
How to prevent the risk? Be a decent and socially responsible company in relation to employees not on paper but in real life. At the same time, pay special attention to corporate security at all stages: from checking applicants at the recruiting stage to cyber security. The strategy of the armed dove of peace is optimal in this case. Even in the conditions of the most severe labour shortage, which tests most industries and forces them to be especially careful about the company’s reputation as an employer.
Challenge #11. Closed nature and selfishness of information carriers within the company
The personal branding epidemic has certainly hit businesses as well. However, in many companies, people who should naturally become public figures evade this duty. Some simply do not want to spend working time on involvement in someone else’s business process. Others indulge themselves in publicity (social networks activity, participation in events, writing columns), but at the same time, they are not going to associate their bright name with the corporate brand.
How to deal with the closed nature and selfishness of potential company leaders? First, implement internal policies and procedures obliging them to “corporate” publicity, and a well-thought-out motivation program related to career growth and monetary reward.
Challenge #12. It is difficult to be a one-man band
The whole range of challenges that the modern world poses to reputation managers means the need for continuous self-development for these managers. The more difficult the task is, the higher the level of professionalism. Mastering IT technologies, interaction with HR, forced acquisition of experience in media management — the list of tasks expands far beyond the limits of the usual one for PR services, which is not at all short.
In fact, the industry needs a one-man band: reputation-centric thinking as software code and an arsenal of instruments. Those who comply with the requirements will remain in the profession. And let me remind you, this is an optimistic scenario.
Reputation Activists 2019