Brand and Reputation Management: Four Insights

donaldbulmer
Don Bulmer VP Communication Strategy, Shell

Posted on March 20th 2013

Brand and Reputation Management: Four Insights

Reputation_managementI was recently asked a provocative question: “What experiences or insights have shaped your views on brand and reputation management in today’s business environment?”

This is a great question and the more I thought about it, the clearer the answer(s) became.

1. The first insight reflects the The Changing Role of Influence.

There is a great quote by Gary Hamel, who says “Influence is like water. Always flowing somewhere.” This is very true in today's business enviornment as new sources of influence are forming around our companies and industries at an extremely rapid pace.

I have talked with many marketing and communication leaders over the last two years who are rethinking the design of their programs and organizational structures to understand the changes they need to make to be more effective in an evolving business (influence) environment.  The need to become more relevant and relatable to customers are driving much of the change.

The reality is that traditional marketing and communication platforms and one-to-one relationship models that many of us have built our careers on have been disrupted.  Trust in mainstream media and NGOs (for reputation management) and traditional advertising, digital marketing and mass communication tactics have been challenged by how people want to engage with companies.  Most companies today are not approachable and lack a personality or an image that people can relate to.

It's extremely important to understand how customer expectations and influence has changed in our industries and adapt our structures, programs and mindset to allow for balance both in how we influence and how we are influenced.

2. The second insight extends from The Cultural Impact of Social Media.

As much time as we spend talking amongst ourselves as marketing and communication professionals about the technologies, tools, processes and governance of social media, at the end of the day the problem we face is how we adapt to a new cultural imperative. This is what social media is really about - culture and mindset.

The implications of this are high as success requires humility, authenticity and courage to be open to opposing views and discourse in an effort to make progress.

3. The third insight is associated with Brand Empowerment.

In light of a highly disrupted media industry a strong and compelling case can be made that “Every Company Is a Media Company.”

Tom Foremski has been a champion of this idea for several years.  Tom is a former journalist with the FT and maintains a blog called Silicon Valley Watcher.

The notion of every company is a media company does not suggest that companies are the next CNN or FTs. What it does suggest is that companies now have the ability and in many ways a forced accountability to communicate direct with its key audiences – providing greater reach and more influence than traditional media has ever offered as a primary channel in the past. 

Companies no longer have to be intermediated by traditional media or other organizations as technology has opened up direct channels to reach and engage audiences (to an individual level) in meaningful ways.

4. The fourth insight is The Power of Experience.

Joseph Pine III and James Gilmore have famously opined that we now live in an experience economy. I fully buy into this. 

Experience is perhaps the single most important and credible factor that influences any individual or community to take action. This is very hard to buy. One's experience (good or bad) is authentic and extremely credible.

In this regard, social media provides profound insights about how people think, feel and act as a result of their experiences with a company, product or service.  This represents the trifecta of insight that we all strive for. To understand how our customers truly think, feel and act is priceless.

In today's enviornment, when there is a crisis, oftentimes it is “the gap” between the Brand that a company has built and stands for and the actions in its Business that people react to and attack. I call this the battles of the “B”s.  

If not completely aligned, Brand sits on one end and Business on the other. In the middle is the credibility or experience gap. The credibility or experience gap is one of the biggest liabilities for companies in this new media and business environment and is why all programs must be strongly linked to managing experience.

  

These are some of the most important insights that have shaped much of my thinking and work. 

From understanding the changing role of influence; to adapting to a new cultural imperative for engagement as a result of social media; to adapting to our role as a media company; with full respect for the power of experience.

My question to you: “What experiences or insights have shaped your views on brand and reputation management in today’s business environment?”

donaldbulmer

Don Bulmer

VP Communication Strategy, Shell

Don Bulmer is Vice President of Communication Strategy at Shell where he is responsible for Shell's global social media, influence and partner communication programs.

Don has 19+ years of experience leading award-winning marketing and communication programs at top global energy, enterprise technology and internet startup companies.

Don serves on the board at The Churchill Club, an independent business and technology forum in Silicon Valley, where CEOs, thought leaders and global business executives meet to debate important issues related to innovation, leadership, and economic growth. Don also serves as a fellow and board member at The Society for New Communication Research.

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Comments

mananshah15
Posted on April 15th 2013 at 10:14AM

Hi Don,

This is one of the most direct strategy any brand/comapny should integrate in their marketing strategies. But again the fundamentals of all.c for reputation remains 'engagement'. IF you fail to engage with the audience, you have not fulfilled the objective that was set for your startegy. Your thoughts on the same?

-Manan