Reputation is not your Brand

Just lately I have been talking with people about the difference between Reputation, Brand and PR and how confusions arise about them when we start to articulate our story. So lets start at the best place…the beginning.

When you start out in business you often are trying to solve a problem, often your own. This may range from having the next greatest start up idea to just wanting to give a better service to clients you might have had while working for someone else.

It doesn’t matter what got you into business you are determined to provide a fantastic service or offering to your new clients. And that “Story” is the underpinning of what we tell people in order for them to try and buy us.

But do we really believe that people care when we say “we aim to make your life, better / happier / richer / fun / stress free “(add your own here) ? well yes we do and we are often shocked when someone has the honesty to say “everybody says that”, I should know….. it is often me.


It’s not possible to start out with a “Brand” and this is often the first mistake as there is a whole industry set up to take your money in order to develop your “Brand” for you. Designers with cool Logos, agencies developing fancy Tag Lines (strap lines), professional photographers, clever website builders… and that’s the point, “Brand” is not the message, it is the experience.

“Brand” is how we feel about something, the emotions it evokes in us, “when I wear this / drive this / drink this” I become someone else, I am brought out of the mundane and become…..

But in order for this to happen we first need to build the story that resonates with our customers / clients / fans. it must be Authentic and live up to their expectations…it is not just about us, but it is totally about them.


So how do we tell the Story of who we are before we actually “Arrive”….this is where it is crucial to weave who we are with who our customers are. And how do we do that? we invite them to join us on our journey.

We don’t go out and tell the market we are really great at something, they have to experience the greatness and if their experience delights them then we offer them opportunities to share their experience.

We also give them the same opportunities to share their bad experiences. This is crucial as fixing a bad experience has often more of a positive emotional impact, thus increasing our “Brand” where as hiding it or blaming the customer (think Apple I phone) destroys Trust and Trust is what “Brand” sits on top of.

So be mindful that when you are sharing your story that you don’t revert to trying to impress with a clever catch phrase or confusing with to many facts or options / features. People want to know they can trust you, they get that from their peers and their experience, not from a fancy brochure.

Remember how people feel about you is your “Brand” what you say about yourself is “PR” which lead’s us to the last point “Reputation”


In this world of the inter webby thing with Twitter and Google and chat sites and smartphones and all the rest it is so important to make sure you do things right.

Reputation destroys and makes “Brands” so always be careful to take care of the little things and if you are a larger organisation remember that you need an escalation path so that it always looks as though you are paying proper respect to the situation.

Fonterra showed the world how arrogant it was in its response to its milk scandal and how it thought it could hide things under the rug instead of immediately coming clean and handling the situation at the Board not the Management level…..result, NZ and other milk companies reputations were tarnished as well.


Whenever we go to speak to a potential client, chat to someone on a plane, talk to an established customer we need to be able to separate what we do and what they do…so what does that mean?

. Don’t sell the experience, offer the opportunity to try

. Invite people to share, both the good and the bad

. Don’t offer excuses, put things right and do it publicly

. Make sure your offering, is in alignment with their values

. When you talk about yourself, remember to your customer it is just PR

As usual if you disagree please feel free to say so……..I appreciate the time you have spent reading this. And if it resonated with you please pass it on.

Cheers Nick

About Nick

I don't say things to be liked I say them because I mean them. Reputation doesn't come from being liked it comes from standing for something.
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