Expert: Michael Patrick, Farrer & Co.
Facilitator: Laura Cavauiti
True differentiation can be a challenge for organisations so ‘values’ can be established to more clearly demonstrate brand philosophy, personality and ways of working. In doing so, “you need to treat everyone like it’s your party, make them feel included.” How firms choose to play this out will be interesting.
- Reputation and brand are often intertwined so many think in terms of internal and external factors affecting it.
- Identifying values that you share with colleagues, clients or even prospective client can extend loyalty and engagement.
- Trust and confidence are slow to build and quick to erode. With multiple external and internal factors feeding into your brand – marketing, communication and brand crisis management are likely to rise in importance on the C-suite agenda.
Often, one of the greatest challenges for a business is to identify how to genuinely differentiate itself from competitors. Many do this by identifying brand ‘values’ that underpin its philosophy, way of thinking and practice of the organisation. This is important because if people (e.g. clients, employees, prospective clients and so on) identify particular values they believe they share with a brand – then they are more likely to remain loyal and engaged in the long-term.
According to some experts, ‘values’ need to be applied ‘top-down’. In other words:
“Leadership teams need to put forward and demonstrate their brand values; this should then trickle down into other areas of the business such as recruitment, culture and training.”
Senior leaders need to be seen living and breathing their brand values, and (when possible) create brand advocates for the firm. In the words of one delegate:
“You need to treat everyone like it’s your party, make them feel included.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, reputation and brand are often intertwined. Donald Trump and Richard Branson were put forward as just some examples of leaders representing their brand.
Other ways to live out your brand is through the language you use; the graphics, colours and visuals you use; your website and marketing materials; the work that you do; and ultimately – the way your clients (and employees) speak about you.
When thinking about threats (and opportunities) to a brand – many think in terms of internal and external factors affecting it. In discussing the idea of brand and reputation, many were, perhaps unsurprisingly, drawn to last year’s Panama Papers leak, as well as this year’s more recent Paradise Papers.
Trust is slow to build and all too quick to erode. For example, many found it surprising that Appleby (the offshore legal advice firm) knew about that hack as far back as last year, yet did little to forewarn its clients. One delegate specifically commented on this situation saying:
“This is a textbook lesson in how not to crisis manage…once clients lose confidence and trust – [brand reputation] is not easily recoverable.”
Moreover, the latest leak led to some interesting discussions, such as the idea of broadcasters and news outlets using stolen data to benefit the public good. However, if nothing criminal is uncovered – to what extent is the discussion really in the public interest?
Confidentiality agreements can of course be considered but some delegates and experts felt that the sheer act of taking action, can often give the issue more oxygen. Great care needs to be taken in enforcing such agreements because in the long-term it could make things worse e.g. could be interpreted as ‘media gagging’.
Naturally, this also led participants to touch on recent legislations such as the GDPR:
“Given that we’re holding lots of sensitive and confidential information, does data protection legislation make us all data companies?”
Candidly speaking, several said that the last thing they want to do is report themselves to regulators e.g. disclosing the fact that they may have taken a ‘hit’ from hackers. According to one delegate, their bank registered over 2.5 billion attempts on their banking systems in the last year alone. They are conscious that countless more remain unidentified, highlighting the colossal scale and indeterminable landscape for future issues.
How firms choose to play out the brand communications and brand management piece will be important, because as with most things – it will be a case of when, not if.