Who we are or what we perceive ourselves to be sometimes does not align with the perception that others have of us. This is true of brand, business and personal image. Take a look at the rigour with which certain ethnic groups have been scrutinized this year. Due to circumstances beyond their control, they have been vilified, put upon and generally admonished just for being who they are.
For moderate Muslims, Islamic State is causing an identity catastrophe. They are in crisis management and it seems, at this point, there is no way back.
Earlier in the year, Israelis living in this country and around the world were so vilified I had to check I was still living in modern day Western civilisation. Again, their image was tarnished by events beyond their control and the racism aimed at them was unfathomable.
There has been much written about Muslims and Israelis this year. Much of it unfair. And while we are not the most PC people at Marketing Eye, and we do believe in free speech, we recognise that there are boundaries that just shouldn’t be crossed.
People are free to have an opinion and say what they want. This is a democratic country. But let’s not stoop to stereotype and racism to make a point. Racism is never acceptable.
Trust is key
Coming back from this type of vilification is difficult. In some cases image changes along with worth, in other cases who you are and what you stand for is questioned and even tarnished years into the future.
If this occurs, take a proactive approach to your identity management. While Marketing Eye is not technically an image management company, we do promote brand and identity. We help to create reputation through authenticity and trust.
If your reputation is damaged, build trust. Trust allows you to re-engage with communities and build bridges.
This is no easy task. It takes time and planning, but it can be done.
What businesses can learn from those who are vilified
Lose your positive public perception and you have nothing. Nobody will want to be associated with your brand and you will become the subject of stereotypical profiling from which you may never recover.
Take property and investment spruikers. Several bad apples have tainted the entire industry, which is seen as a haven for con artists and get-rich-quick schemers. I’ve listened to several in my time and I’m sure I’ve heard the money counters in the back rooms flipping through dollars every time a smooth talking, sharp dressed man opens his mouth to reassure people that yes, they can become millionaires too.
So you have to project honesty and offer a legitimate, trustworthy service that attracts clients because in today’s world, there is no three-strike policy. With products and competitors so readily available to steal market share, your image has to be spotless. A customer who has a bad experience will rake you over the coals and give you a global lashing that will do more damage than you can possibly imagine.
The five keys to building trust
If you have made a wrong move, or you are being unfairly targeted because you are part of a group or industry that is seen as poor, the following five-step process may help you overcome stereotyping and vilification.
1. If you make a mistake, admit to it. If you are seen as a representative of a group that has made a mistake, distance yourself. Change the conversation to something positive.
2. Never lose sight of your identity and brand. If your identity is strong, the brand usually doesn’t need to change. Often it is just a matter of finding what went wrong with brand communication and fixing it.
3. Be consistent. Service and product must never waiver. Brand is built on expectation, so allow people to expect the best from you.
4. Be a troubleshooter. If something goes wrong, find out why and fix it straight away. Then put strategies in place to prevent it happening again.
5. Do the right thing. No need for an explanation there.
If you do have to repair your image, make sure that you are ready to do the hard yards to rebuild your brand. After all image is everything.
Jonathan Jackson is an experienced editor and writer who has worked in print and digital media for almost 20 years.
Jonathan has edited titles across a range of industries including sports and lifestyle, health, trade and business and finance. Among these titles are Soccer International, Women’s Fitness and Health, Wealth Creator, Think & Grow Rich, Your Trading Edge and Business First of which he is currently the managing editor.
Jonathan has also written two books: Offside - The Wild Side of Soccer and Australia's Wealth Creators.
He is the Media and Content Manager for Marketing Eye.
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