Are You Building Brand Instead of Reputation?

December 22, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Branding

brand vs reputation

I woke up a little cranky today. My alarm went off (which is actually my Blackberry, thank you) and I immediately checked Twitter to see what everyone was talking about. And again, someone had said something stupid and the mob was lining up to throw things, cause a ruckus and show how smart they were for knowing better. I’m not going to lie, some mornings the drama and personal brands of the industry affect me more than others. Today was one of those mornings.

I love Twitter. And I love taking stands and drawing lines. But I also see the ridiculousness of it all. The truth is that what happens on Twitter doesn’t matter unless you’re finding ways to bring it off and back to your own site or business. The brand you create online means nothing without the reputation that you grow off it.

Social media has, to some degree, ruined a lot of things. Because it’s given people “fame” for what they say they do instead of what they actually do. It encourages people to get by doing less. And somewhere along the way it’s allowed people to think that Brand and Reputation are one and the same. And while they maybe should be, they’re not. The two are built very differently.

Building your brand: You build your brand by saying all the right things. You build it with blog posts (holla) and Twitter updates (double holla!) and by gaining social proof that you’re someone who knows what the hell you’re talking about. It’s the marketing rep who reaches out to you when your laptop explodes, when your sandwich comes with funny mayo or when they’ve dropped the ball in some other way. It’s public relations in the social media age. Your brand is how people feel when they talk about you.

Building your reputation: You build reputation by silently doing, proving and acting on everything you said you were going to do while building your brand. If your brand is the theory that you know what the hell you’re talking about, your reputation is the proof that you do.

We all know that personal brands are super hot right now. We’ve all heard about how we need one, the best way to build it and who’s doing it “right” and who’s doing it “wrong”. But the majority of these brands are going away. You know they are. They’re going away because most are built on bullshit smoke and mirrors. Scripts build followers and fame wars build RSS subscribers. It’s manufactured and artificial and strictly for the cameras. And you can only fool people for so long. Then they come with the pitchforks, hungry for blood.

At some point, you need to actually DO something and provide people with something of value. I think it’s a concept a lot of the new gen and Internet famous have forgotten.

As is often the case, Comcast is again a good example.

Comcast has used social media to build itself a brand based on redemption and customer service. You tweet that you haven’t had cable for three weeks and you’re going to get an immediate response asking for more information. Comcast has mastered social media protocol.

  1. Listen for complaints
  2. Respond with sympathy
  3. Promise to do better

They’ve built an online brand based on the idea that they’re listening and helpful. However, the Comcast reputation is still that the service sucks. Because it does and because while the car’s on the road, no one’s at the wheel. The brand you create doesn’t matter when your reputation is still that your customers hate you.

You should be building your brand but you should be focused on building one that will sustain. Because when everyone else who built their brands on chest pumping falls away, you want to be the brand left standing. You still need to have something to offer people when the cameras go away.   There’s a difference between being recognized and being reputable. It’s the difference between who’s take the next two weeks off and who will be pushing through. In 2010, no one is going to be concerned with the brand you think you created. Your brand may open the door but you’re being judged on your reputation.

The missing link between brand and reputation has always been your ability to do exactly what you say you’re going to do. The trick is to get your Brand and Reputation to align. That’s the zappos or the sweet spot where company culture and results meet. Don’t forget that in your pursuit for attention. I hope that 2009 has put Outspoken Media on a path to build both.  I think we’re off to a pretty good start.

Are you building a brand that’s based on reputation and that will stand the test of time? Or are you just making your company Twitter famous? Do you know?

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