Learn about Brand Reputation Management
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Pancho Dizon, this chapter is titled “Reputation Management as a Fundamental Marketing Imperative During Time of Crisis.” In it, Jed Estanislao, the Head of Marketing of Eastern Communications, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in brand identity.
Customer Empathy as a Key to Crisis Management
Preserving the reputation of a company sits at the core of brand building and serves as the primary lever in convincing the audience to patronize its products or services. It is every marketer’s role to influence public perception in a positive light, and direct it towards a favorable outcome for the organization, preferably through brand awareness or revenue generation.
Beyond the orthodox approach of preventing negative publicity through good old press releases, what does it really take to address reputational risks? As Jed Estanislao, Head of Marketing at telecommunication service provider, Eastern Communications, put it, “You need to heed the call of being authentic to your brand. You need to understand and fully live what your brand’s strengths are, including its weaknesses, and convert these into opportunities to continuously improve.”
More than highlighting the company’s cutting-edge services, Estanislao and his team, for the past few years, have been championing the human connection in the communications technology industry. Starting from building healthy work relationships among employees by actively addressing their concerns to providing personalized customer service to their clients, Estanislao believes in the positive domino effect of establishing the reputation inside out. Embracing the company’s true purpose equips every marketer no matter the circumstances.
A crisis is every marketer’s nightmare. Whether it’s a destructive environmental hazard, a threat to health and safety, or a wrongful displacement of local communities―no amount of hard-hitting good PR could salvage the potentially irreparable damage to a brand. A crisis should at all costs be averted and prevented.
In times when crisis kicks in, “it helps to revert to a customer mindset,” Estanislao said, adding,“You need to ask what your customer would want to hear in a moment of distress. Do I just appease them? Or is it better to be truthful, be quick to respond to ease their discomfort and face the issue head on? It always helps to put their thoughts first and align them with the interests of the brand.”
The COVID-19 was a global crisis that was unprecedented in all fronts, unimaginable in all realms of thought known to nations big and small. It brought our country to its knees and accelerated the transformation of organizations to a highly virtual and digital way of operating.
Estanislao shared that the primary goal of Eastern Communications was to assure its customers that the company would continue to operate as normal and deliver its quality services. Observing that customers were using social media platforms to send complaints, Estanislao and his team then made sure to remain on top of feedback channels to address concerns immediately.
Likewise, his team leveraged the presence of Eastern Communications on social media to communicate their latest initiative, #SafeAndStrongAtHome, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. With online platforms as a major source of valuable information, Estanislao took the pandemic as a call for amplifying the human connection in the time of isolation by providing valuable resources and emotional support to individuals, businesses, frontliners, and more.
Internally, Estanislao stressed that it was more important than ever to keep an eye on the ground. “Since we all had to work from home in the early days of the pandemic, it was my team’s mandate to keep connected through collaboration channels, specifically Microsoft Teams,” he said. “Through the platform, we were able to successfully hold town halls as digital dialogues and online employee engagement activities, where we could listen to the employees and assure them that our leaders would remain in support of their welfare throughout the pandemic.”
Additionally, Estanislao and his team measured the success of internal communication initiatives by getting employee feedback weekly to assess their challenges and how well they were coping with the new work-from-home setup. In parallel, a special task force was established to handle employee concerns and feedback during the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from work-related difficulties or specific COVID-19 health challenges.
“The task force was made from a holistic approach that leveraged on cross-functional synergies in addressing company-wide concerns and cascading information to the employees,” Estanislao explained. Thus, the task force was led by representatives from different divisions: risk management, audit, IT, sales, technical, with marketing helping out with communications.
The collaborative nature of providing internal and external COVID-19 response unearthed hidden problem-solving skills beyond marketing. “Project Management, a very critical component of every crisis resolution activity, came in very handy,” Estanislao said. It was his technical background from his engineering experience in his previous company, telecommunications giant Globe, that contributed to his methodical approach in crisis management, and his agile adaptability in the face of the pandemic’s challenges.
This belief also plays a large part in Estanislao’s advocacy to get more technical workers like engineers into marketing. As a graduate of Electronics and Communications Engineering, Estanislao believes that an engineer’s knowledge of the company’s intricate products and services make them easier to train. He also believes that a technical background serves an advantage in knowing what features of a product will best draw a consumer in, or what would tick him off.
Estanislao has a resounding message on how a company can future-proof its brand with a strong reputation management capability. “Our product is a commodity―it is tangible, replicable, and can be obsolete. But what cannot be replaced is our impeccable service. We hold ourselves to high standards of accountability in making sure we deliver above and beyond what our customers expect. We cannot take back our word and break our promise. The day that happens is the moment we turn our backs on being a high-tech and high-touch company,” he said.
For Estanislao, mistakes will always unexpectedly happen. “What matters is how a brand bounces back from any crisis. That is what completes a company’s growth journey,” he said.
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Jed Estanislao, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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