“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy
I have good news and bad news about your online reputation. The good news is, you don’t have to do this on your own. Your friends, family, and coworkers can just as easily influence how others perceive your reputation. The bad news is, your friends, family, and coworkers can just as easily influence how others perceive your reputation.
Okay, perhaps you saw that coming, but today you’re going to focus your efforts on making sure that those around you are singing from the same song sheet, and not inadvertently undermining your online reputation.
Firm but fair
There’s a reason why mattress stores suggest you change your mattress every 10 years. It’s because they know it takes at least that long for you to forget just how much of a chore it is to shop for a mattress. My wife and I had put off this task for too long and finally gave up our procrastination and started shopping for a mattress.
Mattress shopping is a very subjective process. The reputation of a mattress store is easily influenced by not just the actual mattress brand purchased, but also by the staff that sell you the mattress. After visiting a number of well-known mattress chains, we found Mike at our local Mattress Firm store.
Mike wasn’t pushy. He didn’t pressure us. He, can you believe this, actually listened to our needs and our feedback. Mike did a fantastic job of helping us find the perfect mattress for my wife and me.
Except it wasn’t.
After just a few nights of sleeping on our new mattress, we realized that it was far too soft for us. Fortunately, Mike was not only sympathetic, but he made good on his company’s 100-day comfort guarantee and readily agreed to switch out the mattress for a new one. With a better idea of our sleep preferences, Mike helped us find our new perfect mattress–a rather pricey Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattress with an adjustable base and special cooling technology!
Yeah, that mattress didn’t work out for us either.
At this point, I thought Mike might actually duck under his desk as he saw us approach his store for the third time, but he welcomed us back with a smile and sincere desire to help us find the perfect mattress. Another round of questions and testing, and we finally decided on a mattress aptly named “Joy.”
What Mike didn’t know was that I had read many negative online reviews about the Mattress Firm, prior to our hunt for a perfect night’s sleep. I was reluctant to even shop at the store. Despite bringing all of my prejudices with me, Mike was able to demonstrate that a single employee could define how I perceived the company’s reputation.
Mike was the Mattress Firm’s reputation.
Empower don’t restrain
How do you create an army of “Mikes” for your brand?
You build a better reputation by empowering your employees to do as much as they possibly can to ensure the happiness of your customers. That’s it! No social media handbooks, no corporate policies. You place trust in your employees and give them the opportunity to shine.
At this point, you’re probably recalling the many different reputation scandals that were caused by rogue employees. Abusive tweets. Vulgar videos. Distasteful photos. There are many examples where a popular brand had its online reputation tarnished by the actions of one bad employee. The answer to that is not found in restrictive policies or complex guidelines. Those merely focus on preventing the symptoms, they do nothing to address the root problem: you need to hire better employees.
Hire employees that really want the job. Hire those that are passionate about your industry. Hire those that love what you do and will take a social media bullet to defend your online reputation. Then, empower them. Here’s how:
Your story – tell them about your company’s story. Why was it started? What goals (the ones you came up with on Day 3) does it hope to achieve?
Your message – what’s the driving message for your brand? For what ideal does it wish to be known?
Your fears – what’s your biggest reputation fear? Let your employees know the things that keep you awake at night. With this knowledge, they’ll know what conversations to avoid and when to alert you to something that might hurt your reputation.
Your support – tell them that you have their back. For example, at Trackur we don’t offer customer refunds for payments already collected. You can cancel at any time, so we feel it only fair if you make a payment, you should honor it. That said, we make exceptions all the time, based on individual circumstances, and have yet to question any employee’s decision to refund a customer’s payment.
If you want your employees to help you build a better reputation, let them know how they can best do that.
Ambition trumps altruism
If you’ve hired the right people, then you should find that they quickly become just as passionate about your reputation as you. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t point out the benefits that your staff will receive when they work to improve your online reputation. Altruism will motivate them to do only so much. Ambition is the catalyst that will fuel their desire to make your company better.
When you educate and empower your employees, they quickly see that a company with great products, happy customers, and a positive reputation leads to higher salaries, better working conditions, and greater opportunities for promotion. When your employees become part of your online reputation, they also become more valuable to your company. They help grow your company’s reputation while simultaneously growing their own. After working many years to demonstrate that Google had a reputation for great web services, Marissa Mayer had built an equally valuable personal reputation—one she carried with her when she accepted the role of CEO at rival Yahoo.
It’s easy to focus this lesson on empowering employees at your company, but what if you don’t have a company? What if you’re the only employee? What if you’re merely trying to improve your personal reputation, how does all of this apply to you?
Quite simply, everything can apply, even if you don’t have employees. An employee is just one of the many brand ambassador for your reputation. If you’re a non-profit, then supplement the word employee with volunteer. When they call someone for a donation, do they know your organization’s message? For individual reputation management, take the above advice and apply it to your friends or family. Let them know that what they post to your Facebook wall, or publish to Flickr, can affect your online reputation. Do they know the reputation you’re trying to build for yourself?
No matter whether you’re an individual, small business, or Fortune 500, you’re going to need help with your efforts to build a better online reputation, and tomorrow we’ll start doing just that!