In the final stretch of one of the most challenging years in the history of most businesses worldwide, Appetite – as part of The Talking Giraffe Webinar Series – promoted one last session in 2020, focusing on reputation. In such a critical moment for so many B2C and B2B companies across the world, it is more relevant than ever to build strong communications, social media and reputation strategy to not just grow their business, but to elevate themselves against the competition.
Reputation and dealing with uncertainties
The concept of reputation can be blurry sometimes and, depending on the context, different people may interpret it differently. Therefore Steven Grinberg, senior director of marketing at Squirro, shared his definition of reputation as “being aware and understanding the needs and interests of customers, prospects and partners, especially when planning any marketing activity from developing a content cluster to replying to a tweet”.
Using the example of Hybrid Theory, Lei Sorvisto – the company’s global chief marketing officer – also highlighted the importance of innovation in the “underserved” B2B market, sticking to a solid digital strategy and managing unpredictable events – which were uncountable during 2020 – as the keys to build a strong reputation in the B2B world.
“If you could run your business during this Covid year, you will be able to run it in any year”, Sorvisto added. Hybrid Theory also partnered with Appetite Creative at the beginning of 2020, when the company decided to proceed with a rebranding strategy. ”We engaged Appetite because it is an agency with a huge experience around content creation in terms of adtech and that’s one of the areas that we really needed support,” Sorvisto stated. This move turned out to be one of the triggers for the historical growth registered this year by the London-based company.
Finally, Grinberg and Sorvisto shared some pieces of advice with B2B marketers. Among the many insightful tips shared by the panelists, Sorvisto emphasized the importance of context over “LinkedIn job titles”, suggesting that these do not necessarily mean a great fit between the worker and the specific job companies have in hand.
Covid: a threat or an opportunity?
Regarding the role of marketing activities to build reputation in 2021, Katie Atkinson, founder of The Runway Media, believes that online events will continue to play a really big part, as the shift from offline to online work “is here to stay”. Atkinson has also mentioned the importance of mindset when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises. For the digital marketing specialist, smaller-sized companies should keep a positive attitude towards this crisis, not face it as the end of their story, but instead as another chapter of their book.
In fact, many businesses had to overcome difficulties by adapting their routines, their activities and procedures in order to meet the new demand, needs and requirements imposed by the pandemic, which turned out to be a huge opportunity for multiple businesses all over the world, Qiyin Chuah, founder and director of QC Immigration, said.
As Atkinson also pointed out, investing in the right social media platforms is becoming increasingly important for brands to build reputation near their audience.
“In terms of reach, LinkedIn is king... but for an image-based product you must be on Facebook and Instagram as they are very powerful and cost-effective tools when used properly,” said Atkinson. However, while staying current, brands should avoid being too reactive and change their business strategy according to external events – just like the pandemic.
“Don’t think that every product released these days must be a ‘Corona-product’, because things are going to start to go back to normal slowly”, Atkinson advised.
The role of PR in building reputation
Often, Victoria Usher, the founder of GingerMay, sees businesses considering PR as a lower-funnel activity when, in fact, this practice focuses on building reputation and therefore should be considered as an upper-funnel activity. Nonetheless, public relations offers several challenges to businesses that don’t have an experienced team in-house to run the activity.
“If it is a sector where you really think you can benefit from PR, then get yourself a freelancer,” Usher advised. “PR can become a distraction when you are actually trying to scale your business and get some power behind it,” she added, when hinting that hiring someone who is a PR specialist may be the best and most cost-effective way to have the activity done correctly.
Another tip given by the panelist was to develop a thought leadership program when planning to expand a business internationally. “One of the core parts of doing a thought leadership program is identifying your USP and what your messages are to the market, looking at your competitors and see what they’re actually talking about and that will really help you refine your key messages,” Usher added.
So, how to build reputation?
To answer the million-dollar question raised on this webinar, Steven Grinberg shared his strategy with the attendees: “Start with the end. Have a clear understanding of your ultimate need and plan backwards.”
On top of the importance of planning and having a solid strategy behind the B2B Business, Sorvisto considers that being aware of the context around the company is also key to building a strong brand reputation. Brands should also have a positive mindset towards adversities and, as Atkinson said, adapt to overcome difficulties.
Making a deep “internal check“ was the tip shared by Chuah, who emphasized the importance of commitment and genuine alignment of all team members with a company’s core values and beliefs. To wrap up, Usher concluded the session with insights from her experience as a mentor with several B2B businesses, advising for the mistake that would be to underestimate the power and importance of PR when building a company’s reputation.
Jenny Stanley is managing director at Appetite Creative.