We enjoyed this write-up in The Guardian of a wide-ranging discussion of how to build and protect your small business reputation.
The questions, and answers, came from a live Q&A hosted by The Guardian and pooled views from a whole mix of experts.
Every tip helps – when running a small business is your specialist subject and day-in day-out project. So here we’ll share salient points – see if any particularly stick, or help.
‘What’s the best way for a young business to get the attention of press in our field?’ is the first listed question – that from ‘reader Sonia Trehan’.
Gemma Godfrey, Founder and Chief Executive of Moola offered her response, says The Guardian. She ‘suggested homing in on what your target audience read and watch.’
‘Learn what they like to talk about’. Identify key players, then ‘reach out with stories about your brand that tie into their interests, with a personal note.’
Chris Daly, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, agreed that building relationships with the ‘those in the media is key’, says the piece.
Give them something on a plate, seems to be his inference. Do some of the thinking for them. ‘Whatever makes your business particularly unique, sell this.’
He also said it’s much easier to approach journalists directly these days, thanks to social media. Use this.
Everyone agrees social media is a useful tool. But a word of caution came from Alex Mizzi, Senior Associate at Howard Kennedy LLP.
‘Bear in mind that if you are going to encourage your staff to use [social media] as a way of getting your brand out there, you need to give them very clear guidelines for doing so.’
She recommended drawing a clear line between personal and professional. ‘It’s so easy for a careless tweet by an employee to damage a business’ reputation’. It’s critical businesses ‘set really clear parameters for their staff’.
Danny Denhard, Head of Digital Marketing at JustGiving is clear how to create ‘positive marketing for your business on a limited budget’, as The Guardian write-up puts it.
‘Network [your] networks, partner with brands that match your ethos and really provide the best possible service.’
Complaints can, arguably, be even more damaging in this day and age – when made publicly, on social media. Advice for dealing with them remains constant, however.
Here are her words, as reported: ‘[Ask] the business founder to get in contact with that person and find out what happened and do what you can to fix it. Most of the time people just want to know you care, and are very forgiving when they feel like you have listened to them and apologised, or explained, in a non-defensive way.’
Sometimes public criticisms, or legal challenges, reported in the press can be tough to recover from. ‘The panel were asked for their advice on handling such situations.’
Jade Giltrap, Media Underwriter for Hiscox UK and Ireland offered this: ‘If you have insurance, it would be worth contacting your insurance provider or broker once you are aware of any potential issues that may cause a claim. The earlier the better. Some policies even offer cover such as crisis containment, which is a PR type cover that will assist in minimising damage to a company’s reputation.’
Reader Janine Coombes asked: ‘How important is the name of the company? I’m working with a small business who is about to rebrand and is stuck choosing a name.’
Good question. What did the experts think?
Gemma Godfrey agreed the name matters – it’s ‘an important introduction to a company’, as The Guardian puts it. Here are her own words: ‘It can, and should be, complemented by the design, colour and messaging the business puts out there. One idea is to get a user group to help you generate some ideas, ideally in the demographic you’re looking to target.’
And Emma Sexton reminded to think ‘how it translates if your ambition is to be global’. Plus, pick something memorable, she advises, from her experience.
The last issue touched on was the key one of cyber security. Key why? ‘This is a vital aspect of company reputation, with 58% of consumers saying they would avoid a business if it experienced a cyber threat’, says The Guardian.
‘Most cyber breaches happen because an employee does something that they aren’t supposed to’, she said.
‘Basic training can stop a majority of low-level threats.’
She also advised ‘keeping cyber security software up to date, devising a plan on how to respond to a threat and encrypting all of your business files’, says The Guardian.
Useful advice from various angles. Read the full piece over on The Guardian here.