I love how many resources and case studies on marketing tactics and strategies are available today. They’re both inspirational and helpful.
However, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in what others are doing that you lose sight of what people are saying about you. Or more importantly, you forget about your own conversations and relationships that you’ve been working so hard to build.
Not to fret, we’re here to help. We’ve made a list of all the steps you need to take in order to make the most of every potential touchpoint with the people who matter most to your brand.
1. Know your vision
First things first. In order to build and manage an online reputation, you should know who your collective brand is. At this point, you likely already have the essentials: A name, a logo, website, and hopefully, most importantly, a mission.
It’s time to decide what you want your brand image to really be. What do you want your audience members to feel when they see your name, logo, or anything that you publish or post?
2. Create stakeholder personas
Before you became a real company, you probably (or at least should have) had a good idea of who your customers are. After all, most brands are built from a specific need you’re looking to fill or problem to solve.
Now that you have a stronger brand identity, identify who exactly your audience is, going beyond your customers to include other stakeholders, such as potential brand partners, content partners, employees, members of the media, and the list goes on.
Let’s get to know these stakeholders, shall we? What problems do they have? What are their interests, needs, and goals?
Start by creating stakeholder personas. Here’s how:
- Define what you need to know about your stakeholders: Starting with basic demographics is good, but you need more than that. What’s their role? Industry? Company type (startup, corporate, agency)?
Let’s dig even deeper: What interests them? Where are they currently finding their news and information? How do they like information delivered and presented to them? What information is going to allow you to better communicate with them?
- Gather the data: There are several ways to collect this in-depth data. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- For customers, your onboarding process is the best place to collect as much information as possible. Make sure this data is being collected in a place that’s easy to gather and segment their information.
- Surveys are theoretically an excellent way to gather extensive qualitative data from your audience, but they can be difficult to encourage participation. Try offering an incentive, such as bonus content or a giveaway.
- In-app surveys (pop-ups) via a service like Quaraloo are fantastic for capturing qualitative data one question at a time. Another way to progress towards customer knowledge is the Hubspot way: Each time you offer content, ask a different question.
- Use your tracking tool to collect data on your customers. If you use a customer level tool such as Kissmetrics, Mixpanel, or Trakio, you can then capture the navigation of your customer before they sign up. If you have vertical success stories or blog posts, you will be able to tell which one your customers is visiting, hence defining them as a persona.
- A media monitoring tool will allow you to discover new conversations around your brand and related terms, as well as where these conversations take place. Listen in to learn more about your target audience.
3. Define your brand voice
Now that you know what your vision is, and have a much clearer idea of who your stakeholders are, it’s time to define your brand voice.
Depending on what it is you offer, your overall tone may be obvious. For example, someone marketing a treatment for a chronic disease is going to speak in a much different tone than someone offering a social media management tool.
Talk to your audience in their voice. Listen in on community conversations. See how your stakeholders are talking to each other and other brands, then adapt a voice that aligns with their communication style.
Note: This is a great opportunity to get creative and define a voice that will make you stand out among the competition.
Some examples of brand voice descriptions, include:
- Witty and smart
- Kind and nurturing
- Excited and energetic
- Empathetic and caring
- Fun and lighthearted
4. Set brand guidelines
Here’s where we apply everything we did in steps 1-3 to create a cohesive document that will get anyone who represents your brand on the same page and singing the same tune.
Depending on their relationship with your brand, you may have different versions of your guidelines document — some with more information than others, but each should include the same information around messaging, tone, voice, etc.
Guidelines should be shared with team members, contractors, contributors, etc., and should include specific elements such as:
- Brand & content goals
- Target audiences
- Focus topics
- Brand voice & tone
- Sample topic ideas / headlines
- Same social messaging
- Protocol for post-publication
Brand guidelines create consistency in how your brand is perceived, and help to avoid any potential PR disasters cause my a lack of information or communications.
5. Identify where you need to be
As mentioned in step two, listening via a media monitoring tool is an easy and effective way to learn where your audience is discovering and sharing information online. Any additional data can be found when creating your audience personas.
We dive into detail on how to do this in “How to Leverage Social Media Monitoring for Growth.”
Make sure to make a list of all places you should have a brand presence on or actively contributing to, including social networks, forums, news sites, and blogs.
6. Build media relationships
An effective media monitoring tool will pick up any mention of your brand name across online news outlets, blogs, forums, and social media. With this, you can build valuable relationships and secure future coverage with members of the media who are already interested in you. Check out how Hazel Lane successfully built relationships using Mention.
By monitoring key terms related to your business, you can also identify and reach out to journalists who would be interested in your story, but have never heard of you.
If you’re not interested in a media monitoring tool, set up an Advanced Twitter Search with very specific key terms to identify journalists queries and related stories shared on Twitter.
Not sure how to reach out? Check out Sam Parr’s guide.
7. Monitor what people are saying
Let’s not forget that the most important aspect of managing brand reputation is to know what people are saying about you.
How else will you know how your brand is being perceived and what corrective or proactive actions you need to take to align what’s being said with your target brand image?
Here’s where that media monitoring tool comes in handy again. Be proactive in monitoring for brand mentions and responding with valuable information in a friendly, non-intrusive manner.
Wrapping it up
Now that you know what you want people to be saying about you, how you want your brand to be presented and perceived, and whether or not your stakeholders’ perception aligns with your goals, you can get to work on an actionable communications strategy that will have you looking like the bell of the ball in the cluster that is the Internet.