We’ve all heard the maxim “perception is reality.” How your clients and prospective clients perceive your company is their reality, but it may not be your vision of your firm or how you’d like them to see you.
This is where a reputation audit comes in, a service that helps companies or individuals better understand how their customers, prospective customers and critics view them. It can help businesses understand why they may have lost that new piece of business their competitor just brought in, and how to refine a messaging strategy to accurately convey the company’s capabilities.
So how does a firm begin a reputation audit? Following are some steps to take.
Hire a Consultant to Conduct Your Audit
Audits are usually conducted by public relations firms, but if your budget does not allow for a full-time firm, a short-term project or freelance consultant can be beneficial.
Prepare for Interviews
The public relations firm or outside consultant will conduct client and other interviews to assess their perceptions of your firm. These can be done by email or phone or through an electronic survey. Having the interviews performed by an outside entity assures respondents that no one at your company will see the interview form or transcript. This will help ensure that interviewees feel free to be completely honest.
Assess Who May Be Interviewed
Depending on your objectives, those interviewed may include:
- Existing clients
- Lapsed clients
- Existing prospects
- Clients you’ve pitched and lost
- Members of the media
Consider Your Questions
According to the nature of your business and the challenges it’s facing, interviewees may be asked:
- What does (company name) do?
- Which adjectives would you use to describe (company name)?
- How does the firm compare to other (name of business sector) firms you have worked with?
- How familiar were you with (company name) before you started working with it?
- How did you hear about the company?
- What can (company name) do better?
- Are there any other points you would like to add?
- Which publications do you read?
Your audit report should conclude with an analysis of the results, including the strengths and weaknesses these findings uncovered, along with ways to manage and improve the company’s reputation.
Yes, some of these results may be difficult to read, but armed with this knowledge, you are on your way to honing your messaging and maximizing the effectiveness of your communication strategy.