Companies invest a great deal in protecting their assets — from their intellectual property, to their human capital and their technical systems. They also direct a great deal of effort and attention to managing their brand, their reputation. For businesses, their brand is where the essence of their company’s promise lives: The brand represents the set of values and principles that define the company and how it believes it will treat its audiences. The business’ reputation (earned by their audiences) represents their most authentic strengths, benefits and features and ensures differentiation, relevance and sustainability in the marketplace when adhered to consistently by all who deploy the brand externally.
In marketing a company’s brand, the leaders align all marketing and contact points with people and processes that reinforce the beliefs and values it stands for. This is why everyone — from the person answering the phones to the one on camera carrying the logo on their chest — must represent the consistent values of the company.
When news broke that Brian Williams allegedly misspoke about events he reported on, the network took an immediate hit to its brand. Audiences wondered: If I can’t trust Brian Williams to tell me the truth about big events, then can I trust him to read me the news? This is devastating to a business that promotes trust, believability and credibility with viewers and advertisers who support it.
Many businesses do not prepare or anticipate the impact of one person’s actions against its brand. In reality, how many of us have not returned to a restaurant because the manager was grumpy, or changed accountants because the front desk receptionist treated us with disrespect or neglect. We assume if the business employs and supports people who are not nice, helpful or knowledgeable, that must be a reflection on the values of the company. Right or wrong, the marketplace often responds with their feet, by leaving the business.
In the case of NBC, they are likely evaluating brand damage, reputation repair, credibility factors with audiences and impact to viewership as they wade through this situation.
If you own a business, have you ever seen the company suffer because of a reputation issue? Has the work of one person negatively impacted your business?