5 ways to protect your image
Image is a funny thing. Who we are or what we perceive ourselves to be, may not align with the perception of others. This has been precisely the case with certain ethnic groups this year. Due to circumstances beyond their control, they have been vilified, put upon and generally admonished just for being who they are.
And it seems, at this point, there is no way back. For moderate Muslims, Islamic State is causing an identity catastrophe: their image has been tainted. They are in crisis management.
Earlier in the year, Israelis living in this country and around the world went through a run of horror events that I never thought I’d see in modern day Western civilisation. Their image was tarnished by events beyond their control, and the racism aimed at them was unforgiveable.
There has been much written about both groups. And while we are not the most PC people at Marketing Eye, and we do believe in free speech, we recognise that there are boundaries that just shouldn’t be crossed.
Write what you want, have an opinion. This is a democratic country. But let’s not stoop to stereotype and racism to make a point. Racism is never acceptable, no matter what the context.
Coming back from this type of vilification is difficult. In some cases self-image changes along with self worth, in other cases the outside image of who you are and what you stand for is questioned and even tarnished for years to come.
When this occurs it is time take a proactive approach to your identity management. While we are not technically an image management company, we do promote brand and identity. We help to create reputation through authenticity and trust.
Trust is key. If your reputation is damaged, build trust. Trust allows you to re-engage with communities; it allows you to build bridges that you thought might never have been repaired.
This is no easy task. It takes time and planning, but it can be done.
What businesses can learn from the plight of the vilified
Public perception is paramount to the success of your company: lose it and you have nothing. Nobody will buy your product or want to be associated with your brand. Depending on what you may have done wrong, you will become the subject of stereotypical profiling from which you’ll never recover.
Take property and investment spruikers for instance. Due to several bad apples, the whole industry is tainted as a haven for con artists and get-rich-quick schemers. Mention a property spruiker and I’ll show you the stereotype. I’ve listened to several in my time and I’m sure I’ve heard the money counters in the back rooms flipping through dollars every time one of these smooth talking, sharp dressed men open their mouths to smile and reassure people that they are there to help them become millionaires.
Financial planners went through the same problems. There are some brilliant planners out there, but once a label sticks it is hard to shake off.
So you have to project honesty and offer a legitimate, trustworthy service that attracts clients because in today’s world, there are very few people who offer a three-strike policy. With products and competitors so readily available to steal your market share your image has to be squeaky clean. One wrong move or one customer who has a bad experience and you will be raked over the Internet coals and face a global admonition of your company that will do more damage than you can possible imagine.
The five keys to building trust
If you have made a wrong move somewhere, or you are being unfairly targeted because you are part of a group or industry that is easily attacked, the following five-step process may help you overcome the stereotyping and vilification you are suffering.
1. If you have made a mistake, admit to it. If you are seen as a representative of a group that has made a mistake, distance yourself and admit there has been wrongdoing. Change the conversation to a positive one and you will go a long way to improving relations.
2. Never lose sight of who are you are and what your brand stands for. The brand usually doesn’t need to change. Often it is just a matter of what went wrong with brand communication and fixing it.
3. Consistency is key. Service and product must never waiver. Drop the ball and everyone will notice. Brand is built on expectation, so allow people to expect the best from you.
4. Adopt a troubleshooting mentality. If something goes wrong, find out why and fix it immediately. Then put strategies in place to prevent it happening again.
5. Do the right thing. No need for an explanation there.
Hopefully you’ll never get to the point where you need to repair your image. If you do, however, make sure that you are ready to do the hard yards to rebuild your brand and image. After all image really is everything.