When it comes to building credibility, here are four things for every leader to always have on their radar.
I am often asked, “What makes us [our institution] seen as a credible actor by the market?” Check out this week’s fast fact video for the low down.
It’s an excellent question – and information from several KYOB posts came flooding to me all at once. Fortunately, there’s sufficient analysis about what informs positive brand perceptions and relationships to pull out four, key factors that contribute to sustained, meaningful engagement in the digital age. Combine these factors with the more tactical four ‘T’s of digital engagement, and you have got a good basis for a successful organization’s public-perception strategy.
Considering how your organization approaches its audiences within these four realms may be critical for the successful achievement of your mission and financial goals alike:
Being relevant isn’t just about being active on Facebook and (although that can help). Being relevant means connecting with audiences through mission-based content. In today’s world, content is no longer king. Connectivity is king. Connectivity happens when an organization presents a passion or platform that resonates with a potential constituent. Therefore, connectivity is about your organization and its relationship with other people, while content is only about your organization. Connectivity is necessarily relevant, while content risks operating in isolation if it fails to engage its hopeful audiences. Connectivity – or sharing an implicitly understood “So what?” with a potential supporter – is a prerequisite to action. Simply put: Without connectivity, nobody cares about your organization. Don’t just aim to be important, aim to be relevant.
Ask: Are we connecting with audiences in a meaningful way?
Resonance occurs when an organization “walks its talk” and shows the values that it tells. Resonance is about creating meaningful impact – and successfully communicating that impact – so that the shared passion that makes an organization relevant (see #1) can be justified and solidified by supporters. We live in a world in which the market – and especially potential donors and supporters – make decisions based on their own perceptions of how an organization achieves its mission. Studies reveal that demonstrating impact is a key driver of giving decisions. Right now, it’s cool to be kind and many organizations are sinking or swimming based on their perceived abilities to actually carry out their missions. Visitor-serving organizations that highlight their mission outperform organizations marketing themselves primarily as attractions for a reason: They do what they say they are going to do and people can see it, thus, reaffirming their decisions to support the organization. It boils down to this: An organization must be continually delivering on its promise of relevance in order to resonate with supporters. As mission-driven organizations, this is our sweet spot. Nonprofits are increasingly competing with for-profits and we may risk irrelevance as an entire industry if we fail to deliver on resonance.
Ask: Is this organization walking its talk?
Certainly, all of these points may play a role in providing the foundation for an organization’s overall reputation. However, reputation – or, what other people say about you (in marketing parlance think, “third-party endorsements”) – plays a particularly important role in driving success. In fact, data suggest that an organization’s reputation is a primary motivator for engaging high-propensity visitors (i.e. those who demonstrate the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics that indicate a heightened likelihood to visit a museum, symphony, historic site, or other visitor-serving organization).
So, what comprises an organization’s reputation? Good question. Regular readers know that I talk about this – a lot. The answer is a little bit of paid media (e.g. promotions and advertising) and a lot bit of reviews from trusted sources – particularly word of mouth and earned media – both of which are often facilitated by social media. In fact, reviews from trusted resources are 12.85 times more influential in terms of your organization’s reputation than is the advertising and promotions that likely make up the lion’s share of your media budget. If you’re really good, other people will talk about you and the things that other people say about you (i.e. reviews from trusted sources) play a bigger role in enhancing reputation than does anything that an organization pays to say about itself. In order to achieve favorable reviews, an organization will benefit by first aiming to be relevant and resonate with audiences.
Ask: How is my department contributing to the organizational goal of building a positive reputation?
“Social care” is a term for carrying out relationship building and customer service practices on communication platforms (digital and otherwise). Social care is expected by audiences in today’s world. Social media isn’t a one-way communication channel like a television ad or print ad or direct mail brochure, which data suggest are decreasing in overall marketing value when compared to the web and social media. In order to successfully execute engagement strategies, organizations must be “real-time” responsive to their online audiences. While social care and nurturing audience relationships compose one of the three key elements of social media success, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Responsiveness means being active listeners and displaying transparency in order to elevate levels of trust in the organization. Being responsive demonstrates that the organization cares about its community of fans and supporters. Most importantly, it demonstrates trust in audiences – and that trust has the potential to be returned to the organization.
Responsiveness also moves beyond social care and indicates an organization’s ability to be agile and responsive to opportunities in today’s fast-paced world. Things are rapidly changing from a business perspective and things that were set in stone five years ago are increasingly becoming useless. Today, leaders need to be able to evolve tactics as needed while sticking to their organization’s goals, values, and mission.
Ask: Are we showing our audiences the value that they lend to our community and responding to feedback? Also, are we evolving our tactics over time to be sure that we are executing the best possible strategies?
How an organization is perceived in this digital world of heightened noise – wherein every type of organization seems to have a social mission – is neither the cause of success nor the outcome of an organization’s success. It’s both.
The four “R”s of brand credibility move in a cycle. It’s important that organizations realize that they play an important role in making their own cycle ascend upward instead of spiraling downward.
It’s time to step in and maximize our opportunity for success – and that means understanding the important role that we all play in driving it.