Before attempting to defend one’s corporate brand, it’s important to realize that the rules of brand management have changed. For remodelers and builders, for whom word of mouth is extremely important to how potential clients find them, word of mouth has migrated from literal word of mouth to electronic methods for it to spread, notes Jonathan Copulsky, principal, Deliotte Consulting LLP, Chicago, and author of the book, “Brand Resilience: Managing Risk and Recovery in a High-Speed World.”
“I think a good offense when it comes to planning a brand defense is to be aware of how word of mouth spreads, and to understand all the channels it can spread through,” Copulsky says. “Remodelers and builders spend a lot of time trying to build valuable brands, which lead people to want to spend time with them. But in today’s world it’s easy for brands to be disrupted, so they always need to be on alert. This is the same for any size business.”
To minimize damage and disruption to a company's brand, Copulsky offers the following seven brand management tips:
One. Assess where your business may be at risk. Risk can be at the point of delivering poor service, or with a dissatisfied employee.
Two. Make sure all employees understand your brand and how to talk about it. The first line of defense is employees who understand what the brand is all about. Help them understand how to respond to complaints. Have a plan.
Three. Listen. Large corporations can invest in all kinds of software and technology to listen to what people are saying everywhere about their brands. Most remodelers and builders are small, but even a small organization can invest in simple tools like Google Alerts, which will help catch online chatter to provide understanding of what’s being said about them.
Four. When bad things happen to a brand, you need a plan of attack. If someone posts negative review, what do you do? There should be a plan in place.
Five. Get smarter over time; learn and adapt. In the counterinsurgency field manual, warfare is described as a learning competition. The organization that learns and adapts more quickly will be more successful than those that don’t.
Six. Measure and track brand incidents over time. How many positives vs negatives? Pay attention to this so you know how effective your response is.
Seven. Your best brand ambassadors are your best customers. People who speak most eloquently about your brand are loyal customers. Cultivate them.
These seven steps work for either small or large business. “I can’t think of a single one that wouldn’t apply to a small organization like a remodeler or builder,” Copulsky says.
Bad opinion, good opportunity
Most if not all remodelers and builders have dropped the ball at some point on a project, and might not have responded to the resulting criticism in the best possible way. Copulsky assures these professionals there is an opportunity to go back to the unsatisfied client and gain an understanding of what can be done to make amends.
“Dissatisfied clients, if they have been acknowledged and their issues remedied, actually are willing to talk in a positive way about the remodeler or builder and ultimately be a more loyal and engaged customer than a satisfied customer,” Copulsky asserts. “This presents an opportunity to build loyalty by the quality of a response [to a negative online comment]. Each time you have an incident, it’s a golden opportunity to create a loyal customer.”
The basic premise of Copulsky’s book is that in today’s world, brands are more valuable than ever. “People place such trust in those valuable brands, that when there’s a disservice stemming from one of those brands, it can have significant repercussions. This is why good brand stewards need to manage both the [positive and negative] sides of the customer experience,” he says.
Consider saying you’re sorry
The American Medical Association has studied what happens when medical providers say they’re sorry to patients, Copulsky notes. Medical providers typically are advised not say they’re sorry because it can create a situation in which they invite litigation, he adds, but when doctors are allowed to say they’re sorry, it can have positive effects.
“In the AMA’s analysis of this, they have learned that [doctors saying they’re sorry to patients] actually decreases the chance of litigation,” Copulsky says. “People’s natural tendency is to say something went wrong, and saying sorry is an expression of compassion. The AMA is trying to train its members how to handle the need to express compassion. For years doctors were intimidated by the litigation so they were inclined to say nothing, which exacerbates the problem. To my knowledge there are no similar laws that protect remodelers or builders when saying they’re sorry, but the AMA example proves that saying sorry is not an admission of guilt.”
“Brand Resilience: Managing Risk and Recovery in a High-Speed World” by Jonathan Copulsky
“In a viral world where true (and not so true) news spreads like wildfire, protecting brands from sabotage can be an all-consuming task. In this new book, Jonathan Copulsky provides the tools and frameworks to help you determine how susceptible your organization is to brand sabotage and some actions you can take to reduce its likelihood and impact. The book discusses roles and responsibilities within your organization for managing the risks of sabotage and identifies ways to make brand risk intelligence a core competency. Great brand marketers know what it takes to build great brands. However, for the risk intelligent enterprise, investing in brand-building is no longer enough. In a world filled with intentional and accidental brand saboteurs, companies need to aggressively play defense as well as offense.” Purchase Copulsky’s book on Amazon.com.