It’s easy to slip into the dangerous waters of thinking that a single person is in charge of your brand’s reputation. We want to be able to hand off the task to a branding expert or even a dedicated online reputation manger.
But the truth? Every employee is responsible for your brand’s reputation.
Yes, everyone from a company’s CEO to their janitor is in charge of branding. If that thought scares you, you might need to reconsider the type of people you’re hiring.
Now, clearly, an entry-level employee is probably not the person who should be making branding decisions for your company, but they have their fingers in your reputation management as much as any member of your management team.
Why Every Employee Matters
Almost everyone has at least one social account these days. What your employees say about you and your company online matter. If they’re unhappy with working conditions, don’t like your products, or feel as though they are being ignored, they will speak out online. Even if you have an NDA so they can’t disclose specific information, they can – and will – let it be known that they are unhappy with their work and with you an employer.
This can have a devastating effect on your reputation if the right people are listening.
More importantly, the Internet is a big place, and chances are that you are a bit disconnected from your customers, no matter how awesome your community management and social teams may be. Lower-level employees can often more easily see what people are saying about your brand online. Plus, they know what people are saying behind closed doors. A customer who is too intimidated to tell you the truth might rant to one of your employees if given the chance.
Better Employee Conditions
Contrary to popular believe, pay rate is only part of the equation if you want your employees to be happy. If you think you can’t afford to make your employees happier, you’re mistaken. Here are just a few of the “little things” you can do that are actually really huge in creating a better work atmosphere:
- Know your employees by name. Yes, this gets harder as your business grows, but you should know people’s names and a little about them. Be able to ask them about their days as you pass them in the hall. It’s all about noticing that people exist.
- Say thank you. Can’t afford raises? Can’t afford holiday bonus? Don’t tell me that you can’t afford a thank you. Regularly say thank you to employees and brag about their successes. Consider a weekly email where you highlight one or two people who are doing a good job. Have an employee appreciation picnic. Recognize when a good employee is having a hard time and ask them what you can do to help. Be the type of employee who regularly expresses appreciation.
- Notice problems. Are there murmurs in the office about problems? Fix them before employees have to bring it to your attention. Not everything is an easy fix, but you should notice when the coffee machine is broken in the break room. Along these same lines, have a way for employees to anonymously tell you about problems.
- Be flexible with scheduling. Not every business can allow employees to make their own hours, work from home, or change their schedules on a whim, but be as flexible as you can. Studies have shown that flexible scheduling makes employees more productive, so not only will they be happier, but they will be helping your business too.
- Encourage innovative solutions. Employees should be able to not only come to you with problems, but also suggest solutions. Encourage your employees to be critical of your current processes so you can make them better.
Empowering your employees turns them into fans of your company. I can tell you horror stories of how some companies run when you are an employee who gets to see behind the curtain. This kind of information leaks out, and if people know that you don’t treat employees well, it affects their buying habits. But turn your employees into true fans, and others will get to know how awesome you are as well.
Hiring the Right Employees
Since every employee you hire is essentially part of your brand, it’s important to hire the right employees. This is about more than just skill set, experience, and talent. When hiring, consider:
- Disposition: Chronic complainers are probably going to complain about working for you, even if you’re great to them. Stay away from negative personalities.
- Appearance: Natural beauty and designer clothes don’t matter in most industries. Sloppiness does. Customer-facing employees should look put together, and even those behind the scenes should take pride in their appearance.
- Trustworthiness: It’s hard to trust anyone you don’t know, but if you feel that someone might be dishonest or untrustworthy, do you real want them representing your brand?
Overall, go for the person who feels “right” for your company culture over the person with the better resume. Yes, skills matter, but you can teach someone how to do a job. You can’t teach someone to “fit in” with your company. Personality doesn’t change.
No matter whom you hire, make sure that your employees are prepared for the job they are doing and how to speak with customers, both online and off, even if they aren't customer service reps. Make sure that not only are employees happy, but they know how to deal with reputation problems when they see them. Create a reputation damage control plan, and hold training sessions for all employees, not just those in the customer service department.
About the Author: Allison Boyer is a content marketer who blogs regularly about blogging, email, social media, and more at AllisonBoyer.com.