One of the first questions came from reader Sonia Trehan. She asked: “What’s the best way for a young business to get the attention of press in our field?”
Gemma Godfrey, founder and chief executive of Moola, suggested homing in on what your target audience read and watch. “Learn what they like to talk about,” she said. “Identify the key journalists and producers [in your target areas]. Then reach out with stories about your brand that tie into their interests, with a personal note.”
Building relationships with those in the media is key, agreed Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He suggested making it easy for journalists to cover your business by supplying the material for a news story. “Whatever makes your business particularly unique, sell this.”
He added that journalists are much more accessible in the digital age – approaching them on social media can be a quick-fire way to get their attention.
Social media’s power as a marketing tool was a wider point for discussion. Alex Mizzi, senior associate specialising in employment law at Howard Kennedy LLP, offered a legal perspective. “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 added that it’s important to keep personal and professional activity online separate. “It’s so easy for a careless tweet by an employee to damage a business’ reputation, businesses need to set really clear parameters for their staff on this.”
Danny Denhard, head of digital marketing at JustGiving, offered further advice on creating positive marketing for your business on a limited budget. “Network [your] networks, partner with brands that match your ethos and really provide the best possible service.”
Of course, part of running a business’s social media accounts is responding to customer feedback. Reader, SHol15, asked how to maintain a good reputation online when you have received negative comments from a customer or competitor.
Emma Sexton, co-founder of Flock Global and founder and creative director of Make your Words Work, said it was best to address a negative comment immediately.
“[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.”
If a business faces a legal challenge or criticism in the press, it can be tough to rebuild its reputation. The panel were asked for their advice on handling such situations. Jade Giltrap, media underwriter for Hiscox UK and Ireland, said: “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.”
Next came a question from reader Janine Coombes. She 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.”
Godfrey agreed that a name is an important initial introduction to a company. She added: “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.”
Sexton added that names are open to interpretation and businesses “may need to consider how it translates if your ambition is to be global”. She said that, from personal experience, she’d learned it was important to choose a name that is memorable. Pick something that potential customers can easily recall when they search for your business online.
Lastly, the panel discussed how to avoid a cyber attack. This a vital aspect of company reputation, with 58% of consumers saying they would avoid a business if it experienced a cyber threat.
Naomi Timperley, director of Coo Digital and director at Tech North Advocates, said: “Most cyber breaches happen because an employee does something that they aren’t supposed to do. Basic training can stop a majority of low-level threats.” Her other tips included keeping cyber security software up to date, devising a plan on how to respond to a threat and encrypting all of your business files.
Source: Emma Featherstone - The Guardian