How to Thrive Online as a Maligned Institution
Online brand management is an almost required aspect of running a business that suddenly sprung out of nowhere. Twenty years ago, the vast majority of businesses still lacked an online presence due to the lack of internet access throughout communities and countries. Today, brands from all walks of life must find a way to carve a niche out for themselves in an ever-competitive climate. Some brands invoke warm and fuzzy feelings by default; their marketing and brand efforts need only accentuate that effect. Other industries have horrible reputations, whether deserved or not (lawyers, doctors, police departments, and so on); it becomes much harder to create marketing success with such a reputation. Below, we’ll talk about the key components of breaking that perception and thriving online in a less than popular institution or industry.
The first rule for brands in less-than-popular industries is that the stereotypes must be broken between brand and audience. Almost all negative opinion and thought can be reduced or outright eliminated through the art of communication, so this is where it all begins. You not only want to communicate about who you are and what you provide (in order to break through some of the stereotypes), but you want to truly learn about what others think of you. In addition, exploring what it is they find to be off-putting about your industry is essential in reversing the trend for your brand. Through your social media, blog posts, website and more creative forums such as Google Hangouts, you can begin – bit by bit – to break down the walls by pinging the audience for dialogue, instead of just pinging for SEO benefits or new customers.
With most maligned institutions and industries, there is a common negative perception: they cannot be trusted. This mindset becomes a hive-mind for those who hear anecdotes about bad experiences or who have had less than pleasant experiences interacting with the industry in the past. When marketing to your audience or potential customers, do not be misleading in your advertising. When in the process of pinging for SEO or trying to convert new customers and clients, it can be all too easy to get fast and loose with ad wording, content clarity or fine print. These are precisely the types of things that create negative impressions with people. While you may be able to get away with this behaviour if you are most brands, those who are disliked need to convey a sense of honesty with those they target.
Be a Giver
In order to reshape negative opinions about your own brand due to an industry bias, be a positive force in the community. Whether your brand is based locally or operates exclusively on the web, acts of kindness and generosity are recognized when perpetuated in a meaningful way. There are countless ways to give back to a community or a cause, such as engaging in a day of volunteer service, making a contribution to a charitable organization, promoting the efforts of one of these organizations, or offering free services to those who need it most. These small impressions along with word of mouth will help transform your brand’s reputation – both online and off – into something that is respectable.