10 Minutes to a Killer Brand & Reputation Strategy

I don't have time to read a lot of b.s. and neither do you. So let's not waste anyone's time with puffery. This post offers some thoughts for fast-moving professionals on the nitty-gritty of how to quickly build an effective brand and reputation strategy (BRS) that you can actually use, whether for yourself or your business. (Note: I recommend consulting a legal professional before implementing any sort of BRS strategy, especially where a business is concerned. This post does not substitute for legal or other professional advice.)

This is deliberately short and in list format, so that you can print and digest it quickly and get moving. It will take you about 10 minutes to read this closely, but by the time you're done you'll be ready to map out a strategy that is comprehensive, clear, and actionable.

Note that the following approach will work best if: 

     1) You are building your personal BRS
     2) You are in a position to dictate BRS for an organization that is deeply loyal to you 

     3) You tend to be a dictator in general (either in style or status - only semi-joking here)

What this means: If you're part of a large, complex organization where your opinion matters little or you can't sway others very easily, don't try to create anything this important without involving a whole kit and caboodle of stakeholders. 

The basic concepts:

     1) Brand-building = projecting an image convincingly enough that others buy it, buy into it, and buy it loyally over the competition

     2) Reputation-building = convincing others you have integrity (preferably, you are not pretending, but the point is it's what THEY think that counts)

In the world of reputation there are two kinds of plays:

     1) Proactive - things you do to demonstrate good citizenship (without being forced)

     2) Defensive - your response to direct or indirect attack

OK, that was 5 minutes, right? You've got the basics now. 5 more and you'll be in good shape.

Let's start with reputation enhancement tools since "integrity is integral" to every brand:

     1) Proactive reputation tools:

          a) Written commitment to ethical corporate practices: sourcing, supply chain, labor, legal compliance, customer satisfaction, etc.

          b) Transparent website: has data sets important to customers, investors, regulators, etc., with a good search engine 

          c) Blog: where stakeholder concerns are regularly addressed quickly, and dissenting comments are allowed

          d) Charity: donate a portion of the profits, sponsor or support a cause relevant to the company or local community

          e) Excellent employee communication and feedback mechanisms (prevent yourself from becoming a Wikileaks victim)

     2) Defensive reputation tools:

          a) A crisis communication team (on-staff or on standby) -  lawyer, publicist, copywriter, and IT support person (not necessarily in that order)

          b) A written crisis communication plan

          c) Access to backup online communication tools if your network is down for any reason (including a cyberattack)

Now on to the brand-building tools: 

     1) A one-page document that explains what your brand is and why anyone should buy it - and your distinctive name, logo, and tagline

     2) A list of all the people (or kinds of people) that are critical to your brand's success - ranging from customers to employees. Can't do it alone.

     3) A wish-list of all the communication tools that you will use to support your brand - from social media, to print, to broadcast and multimedia

     4) Now, cross off most of the stuff on that list and get to reality. What is most important to your brand, that you can pay for?

     5) A feedback mechanism of some kind. How will you know if you're on track of off-base?

This is a rough template, but today's sea of abstract ideas, sometimes remote case studies, and often dense articles, it may provide some practical ideas to help initiate a new brand or move an established one forward.

Good luck!