Jul 27, 2017 / in Executive Insights / by Nick Bell

From the vantage point of the C-Suite, we tend to assess our brand’s success based on financials. When money’s coming in, we’re happy. When it’s trickling in, we start asking for answers.

But there’s one aspect of your business that I’d encourage you to pay more attention to — brand situational awareness.

Why Leaders & Execs Need to Know How Their Brand is Perceived

Usually, brand perception falls under the realm of your marketing team, but it’s important for you and other leaders to be tapped into how consumers view your business. It’s easier than we like to admit to become out of touch with what’s really happening in the marketplace, as well as what the image of our company is.

Your vision may be skewed, especially if you’re only paying attention to the dollars coming in and going out. But understand: having a vision of your brand’s status that is misaligned with reality can cause you and your team to make poor business decisions.

What do I mean by that? Consider that you take the temperature of your brand based on last quarter’s results. Things are looking great. Sales are up. However, there’s been a rash of complaints about one of your products on Twitter, and it’s spread like wildfire. Not knowing this, you give the okay to move in a direction to attract more customers rather than committing energy to doing crisis management. The complaints continue, and suddenly next quarter’s results don’t look so good, and you don’t have a clue as to why.

How Can You Determine How You are Seen?

While your marketing team will handle much of this, it’s important for high-level execs to also stay in the loop.

Talk to Customers & Employees

Who better to talk to in order to find out what your brand’s situational awareness is than those who interact with it on a regular basis? Your customers can provide insight into what your unique selling point (USP) is, why they choose you as a provider and what you do better than the competition.

Your employees have a different perspective of your brand than you do, so talk to them as well. Ask about trends they see in the marketplace, and how brand doing at keeping up.

Use dialogue with your customers and employees to also understand what weaknesses they observe. Don’t just write this feedback down — actually do something about it.

Here’s another topic to get feedback on: how cohesive is your brand? Especially in the case when a corporation acquires many other brands, the way Cision has done, it’s imperative that you monitor brand identity. New mergers and acquisitions likely mean that your product line will expand, so ensure that your brand messaging is still on target to communicate what your business stands for.

Monitor the Online Chatter

Likely your marketing department is already doing this, but it can be helpful to check in now and then so that you’re on top of what’s being said about your brand online. The data is out there if you’re willing to listen.

While your marketing team should be running searches with brand monitoring software and responding to mentions of your company (both negative and positive), they can also use this data to get a reading on overall sentiment of your brand. Look for trends and changes over time.

Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things, but Do So Cautiously

Taking risks is what brands are all about. However, some marketing and ad campaigns end up doing more harm than good. Look at Pepsi’s recent fail with the Kendall Jenner ad. It’s okay to make mistakes, but be on top of monitoring results so that, should your efforts fall flat, you can pull them before they cause real damage.

Align Your Own Perception to Everyone Else’s

The vision you have for your brand may not be what everyone else sees. You have two choices:

  • Make adjustments so that your mission and values align with how you’re seen.
  • Work to change public perception to align with your values (this is harder).

If the data tells you that you’ve moved into other circles than the ones you’ve been focusing on, embrace this expansion and put more effort into going deeper in those circles. For example: maybe you’d been targeting solopreneurs with your technology solution, but you’ve noticed that more small and mid-sized businesses are also finding ways to use your product. This is a fantastic opportunity to serve another demographic, with a little tweaking of your brand’s messaging to better target new audiences.

Don’t Let Past Experience Color Current Assessment

At Cision, many of our team members have worked at other technology corporations. Certainly, past experience will color how we do our current jobs. But don’t let brand perception at your last company influence too heavily what you allow yourself to see at your current company.

You also can’t let how your current company was perceived in the past color what you see now. The past is gone; let it go. Instead, look at situational awareness as being in the moment. Yes, it’s very Zen, and very necessary, because brand perception can change as fast as lightning. Understanding that the past in no way contributes to how consumers currently see your brand will help you remain nimble in your decision-making process.

Leverage What You Learn to Make Informed Decisions

I cannot iterate enough the importance of leaders being involved in the conversation about brand sentiment. While your marketing team may be the one to pull together reports and analytics on sentiment and even web traffic, you should use this data to guide future decisions about earned media and content programs, as well as the general strategy for your brand moving forward.

Get departments other than marketing involved in the process. Accounting can provide insight into how sales connect with marketing efforts. Research and development can use the data to tweak new and existing products to better serve customers. Customer service can inform you as to what issues are coming up again and again. Each department can provide value that helps in the overall understanding of your position in the marketplace.

Executives have the responsibility of steering the ship. But without being able to see the rocks beneath the surface, it can be a challenge to do so. Use the tools and resources you have at your disposal to keep an eye on the horizon.


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About Nick Bell

Nick Bell is the VP of Marketing Communications at Cision. With more than 20 years of technology marketing experience, Bell has held executive-level positions with marketing technology firms including Oracle Marketing Cloud, Eloqua and Adobe. Bell has a proven track record of developing award-winning and ROI-based marketing programs, media relations, and brand strategies. Bell holds a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @nbell94102.