Changing public opinion might seem like a difficult task, especially for a business that cannot afford to hire a big Public Relations firm and throw big money into television advertising. Many businesses will, at one time or the other, find themselves at that point where they will need to shift public perception. At Perceptions and Reputation Associates, we have developed the Brand Perception tracker to help organizations keep track of, measure and navigate the oft-changing water of perception and reputation. I believe that every business can deploy small efforts that can add up to that big change. Follow these five steps to generate some clever ideas in-house and put them into practice.
1. Take inspiration from competitors
Looking at what your closest competitor is doing to effectively promote themselves can provide you with lots of ideas, especially since they are likely to be working similar resources (as opposed to trying to imitate a mega brand).
You can question consumers to find out which brands are making an impact on them, the messages which resonate the most and how they’re receiving those messages. For example, perhaps you discover that your competitors’ customers love what they do on their Instagram page or the way they work with influencers.
You can also use competitor tracking tools to keep tabs on content your rivals are producing and see how successful it’s being i.e. if your competitor is publishing really popular how-to blog posts that are getting loads of social shares, why not try something similar yourself? You can even use these tools to target relevant influencers who can help spread your messages.
2. Have an internal brainstorm
Once you’ve compiled all the data from your research, it is time to work on your brand strategy. Analyse the responses you’ve received to clearly set out your strengths and weaknesses. If it’s a case of having strong in-house brand values and culture but these not translating to the wider world, then brainstorm ideas for communicating them.
Following your consumer research, you should have a far better idea of what makes customers tick, helping you to develop messaging that will resonate. You can then test your creative concepts with consumers before investing large sums on promotion, to see how effective they’re likely to be.
If, on the other hand, you don’t have a clearly defined brand image to start with (this is not new. In this business, I have seen business owners running the game on their whims) then you need to work at identifying what you stand for. This might include a complete rebranding to make sure you have an identity that is recognisable and consistent throughout your operations. Don’t forget you can also consumer test things like logos, slogans and branding before making the change.
3. Make it a priority
In order to shift perceptions of your brand, you will need to make a commitment – it won’t happen by itself and it won’t happen overnight. The best way to ensure that things get actioned after the research and brainstorming is to make individuals responsible for it.
Create a brand perception task force or give the role exclusively to one person. This way there will be direct accountability and no confusion over who needs to make things happen. Be sure that the people or people tasked with improving brand perception have the necessary time, support and resources to do the job.
It might mean taking employees away from other work, but effecting these changes will underpin your long term brand health and profitability, so it’s worth making sacrifices for.
4. Set SMART goals
Make an action plan detailing each initiative you’ve come up with and draw up a timeframe for delivery. Set overall goals, but make them specific i.e. don’t just say ‘I want better brand perception’, break this down into exact targets like, ‘I want a 20% increase in consumers identifying our brand as fun/cool/high quality’.
Use the SMART structure to help you do this. It means making sure goals are Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Based
If you set smaller goals that feed into your main goal, you stand a greater chance of achieving them. What’s more, consistently making progress will be a great motivator for you and your team.
5. Measure your brand perception regularly
To know if you’re meeting your goals, you’ll need to keep measuring consumer perception of your brand. This should give you a clear, comprehensive snapshot of your current brands’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths.
Once you hit your targets, don’t stop focusing on brand perception. Unfortunately, it’s a moveable feast and can change, even if you don’t. For example, sentiment towards your brand could change as trends come and go – suddenly you find yourself no longer as relevant as you once were.
Stay close to your customers, and consumers in general, through regular outreach and ensure you don’t get left behind.
Remember, brand perception is owned by consumers, not brands. When you listen to what people are saying, you can better understand what you need to do in order for your own messages to be heard.
It’s not just about broadcasting loudly; brands need to open a two-way dialogue, understanding the needs and motivations of different customer subsets. Once in possession of that insight, you can devise strategic methods for shifting brand perception amongst them.
This in turn leads to your brand becoming more highly regarded and well-loved. You build brand equity and all areas of your business benefit.