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Did you know that it only takes seven seconds for someone to generate a first impression about a person or organization? They’ll quickly analyze your appearance, tone, style, and other factors to form a skewed idea of your reputation. Sometimes they’re spot on, and other times they’re missing much of the story. 

As a chief marketing officer (CMO), know the reputation your company will develop through that seven-second first impression. It often dictates the potential success or failure of your organization, and your job is to protect it at all costs. There are a few key things you can do to manage your reputation and avoid making a bad impression on customers and clients. 

1. Protect Consumer Privacy 

Nothing damages your reputation more thoroughly than a privacy breach. Customers trust you to keep their information safe, and when online accounts are hacked and information is stolen, they’ll blame you for your lack of security, whether it’s a justified claim or not. 

According to a survey from Ponemon Institute, the majority of respondents believe that a data breach is worse than a chief executive scandal. Nearly 50 percent said a breach in privacy would negatively impact their impression of a brand. 

If you want to escape the negative light cast by a security breach, take steps now to protect your organization online. Start with your own virtual private network (VPN). The best VPN for your company will protect all of your data on the web by severely limiting access from unauthorized users. A VPN greatly reduces your likelihood of being hacked, and it’s a must-have at the corporate level. 

Other security steps include changing passwords often, using complicated passwords, updating software regularly, using encrypted email, setting up basic security measures, backing up to secure networks, securing devices, and other security items as advised by experts

Training employees on privacy practices is also an essential step to securing consumer information. One of the leading causes of security breaches is employees making mistakes or intentionally releasing information, so keep your employees informed to protect your business. 

2. Be a Thought Leader 

Thought leadership has the power to transform your brand if done properly. This isn’t a process that happens overnight. Rather, it’s a slow and steady building of articles, videos, comments, and conversations that establish your company as a trusted leader in a specific industry. 

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Building thought leadership begins with identifying an audience that can benefit from your expertise and catering your content to that group. Speak in a voice that your audience will understand, using jargon and tone that establishes your expertise, but that recognizes you’re teaching people who want to learn more. 

“Consistency is key here,” says Mike Clum, founder of Clum Creative, a video production agency. “You want consumers to remember you, which will be difficult if you’re constantly switching tones or leaving your iconic brand out of the mix. This consistency can be used across a variety of mediums, including blogs, social media, videos, and graphics.”

As you share insights, focus more on providing value to your customers rather than on promoting your company. Not only are you more likely to reach your audience, but you’ll also publish content on more high-profile sites. Nearly 80 percent of editors say that one of the biggest problems they see with submitted content is over-promotion. You’ll get much further with valuable content than you will with shameless plugs for your services.   

3. Respect Your Followers 

It can take a lifetime to build up a great reputation and only seconds to destroy it. This is particularly true today, thanks to the pervasive nature of social media and online reviews. It doesn’t take long for word of your bad reputation to spread online.

Disgruntled consumers don’t have to be the end of your good reputation, however. You can mitigate these problems by creating a culture of respect for your followers. When you’ve established yourself as a courteous, influential thought leader, consumers often won’t believe the negative things that disgruntled consumers share. 

Respecting your followers is more of an attitude than a single action. It involves a culture of timely responses, respectful and professional comments, a strong tone, joined conversations, no overselling, and acknowledgement of positive comments. Nurture your brand and your followers, and they’ll repay you with loyalty and respect in kind.  

4. Google Your Company 

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It’s hard to know the changes you need to make to your reputation if you don’t know what your reputation is. To assess how consumers perceive you, do a thorough Google search of your company. 

Start with popular review sites like Google or Yelp, and read the reviews. Although positive evaluations can reinforce what you’re doing well, the negative reviews will offer the best insights regarding potential improvements.

Keep in mind that negative reviews often stem from experiences that aren’t written. For example, someone complaining about the prices or quality of products might be particularly upset because they had a bad customer service experience at the time, even though that’s not something they mentioned in their review. Use context clues to read between the lines and get a wholistic picture of a consumer’s experience.  

Check social media as well. Monitor every mention of your brand on social media to learn what people are saying about your company and the improvements you must make.  

5. Own Up to and Learn From Mistakes

You will make mistakes; it’s part of the job. Nobody really expects you to be perfect, even your pickiest customers. Good reputation management involves preventing mistakes as much as possible, but it’s more about managing the mistakes when they happen. 

Own up to mistakes when they occur. Don’t try to cover it up or deny that it happened—consumers are smart, and they don’t like to be treated otherwise. Admit it, apologize, and then give a detailed plan for how you’re going to fix the problem and avoid this same mistake in the future. 

After that, don’t repeat the error. Learn as many lessons as possible from that experience, and use it to make your company better. CMOs who listen to and apply feedback set their company up for success nine times out of ten. 

Reputation management is a mindset. It’s an unwritten part of your job description, and when done well, it’s the gateway to success in any avenue you choose. 

You may also be interested in reading: What is a Reputation Management System & Do You Need One?

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