Pitching the invisible: Long-term reputational growth

Long term growth that good divisional leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs manage to create shows that they largely have a respect and an appreciation for the value of a good reputation in addition to savvy business practice.

Whether on a personal level or an organisational one, they have a fundamental grasp that the composite parts of publicity, authority and credibility will shape the perception of their audiences, as well as their efficiency.

Make no mistake, reputation is an asset with value on a scale that anyone would struggle to measure; you can do great things with a good pool of resources, but you can do extraordinary things with a great reputation.

So where should the focus lie for the in-house marketer? What should their objectives be built around? Performance alone? Or is it better to combine a quantitative and a qualitative set of goals to establish superpowered brands? I absolutely, wholeheartedy believe the latter to be true. Yet it’s too often not the case.

The SMART(eR) Objective

Anyone with a business background knows the SMART objective:

Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-bound.

It’s a great tool to use in business planning and strategy that can be measured in numbers. But how do you set a measurable target that relies upon qualitative information? The answer is in good research.

So instead, how about trying something with an extra dimension:

Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-bound. Researchable.

What does this actually do for us? For one, it commits us to assessing the intangible impact that is what underpins brilliant brands and commercial identities. We can measure sales all we want, profitability, time to market, overheads, reach, engagement, all of these amazing pieces of data. But for all this, we are still only making our best guess about how people feel.

At the agency when we go through in depth branding excercises for our clients, we peer through a window into the soul of an organisation. To uncover the DNA, the character, the motivators, the ambition and the values: we have a duty to look at the whole picture. Not just the reputation. Not just the performance. Not just the identity. The complexity is revealed when we start exploring the relationships between people, organisations, services and products, including the ever growing number of “Ps” in the marketer’s arsenal of analysis.

At the end of every business plan and project cycle that involves positioning or brand, take the time to conduct a formal piece of qualitative research and go beyond the numbers.

Making the business case

In an environment where quick visibility and measurable campaigns are so accessible, there will be an increasing gulf between the organisations that fully understand the value in reputation and those that are satisfied with it as a lower prority and instead focus only on short term returns.

For organisations whose products and services are part of their DNA, long term reputational strategy and regular research into outside perception will shape the future. Companies that are agile and not committed to a specific provision may get something of a free ride, in that they can fail and reinvent themselves. Companies with great reputations have a more solid foundation to work from.

Constant growth incorporates an ability to fail, but in a way that isn’t catastrophic. Smaller failures are given a safety net by reputation.

To really thrive and reach beyond the scope of their competition, businesses need to recognise the importance of creating invisible securities, allowing them to make braver decisions.

Convincing non-believers that it’s worthwhile to invest hard earned funds into something invisible and statistically unmeasurable has never been easy, but then again, indestructible brands are few and far between.

Austin Walters
Austin Walters

Austin Walters is Operations Director at WSA The Communications Agency. He steers the agency’s digital offering and works with all departments and marketing disciplines. Austin writes about business modernisation, management, sales and digital marketing. A young son, a busy job and social life mean that leisure time can be hard to come by, but he spends it keeping active and can often be found running, hiking, surfing or bending into shapes.

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