Your Brand is Out of Control

I’ve been talking for a while now about how the Era of Brand-Centricity is giving way to the Era of Customer-Centricity.  I’m also learning that if you want to speak clearly, consult with a PR expert.  One of the PR gurus I work with has given me a much cleaner way of thinking about this transition.  So long, “Age of Brand…” Hello, “Age of Reputation.”

Reputation management has always been a critical component of any decent PR strategy, but now that we’re living in a perpetually connected social media bubble, it’s high time we make room for reputation in the creative bullpen.

Why?  Because the best foot we as advertisers want to put forward can’t even begin to compete with the foot our target market thinks we’ve got in our mouth.  People talk.  And they’re not talking about our brand’s message – they’re commenting, blogging, Digging (down or up), liking and/or tweeting and retweeting about our brand’s actions.  Dialoguing about great and lousy experiences interacting with the brand’s true value – its performance relative to its promise at purchase time.

We can’t advertise our way out of reputation issues, because it’s not what we say that counts.  It’s what our brand does and how the company behind the brand behaves that matters from now on.

Can we continue to tout the benefits of our brands?  Absolutely.  In fact, we have to, in the most affectionate, relevant and trustworthy way possible.  But we also have to understand that inconsistencies and contradictions are going to surface – and be discussed ad infinitum on the Social Web.

So, I suggest you do two things this week.  First, completely embrace every possible marketing channel – traditional, leading edge and bleeding edge – and be sure you’re at least involved in all of the conversations about you.  You can’t control them (and you might be pleasantly surprised just how strongly your advocates defend you against the flamers), but you can influence them.

Second, go make friends with your agency’s reputation management specialists.  They may well be the best wingman you have as your brand hurtles headlong into the Social Web – and the Age of Reputation.

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