Managing your brand’s online reputation is critical to the success of your business.
For one thing, your brand’s reputation can be the difference between converting new leads and losing them for good. Case in point, studies show the modern consumer is 4.1 times more likely to trust brands with a strong, central purpose and a positive reputation.
Maintaining your brand’s rep is also important for retention, as well. A full one-third of consumers say they would stop doing business with a brand if they felt they could no longer trust them.
(This isn’t just hypothetical, either: That same report shows that one-third of consumers already have stopped buying from once-favorite brands due to a decrease in overall trust.)
Looking inward, your brand’s reputation is also crucial to employee recruitment and retention. In terms of recruitment, 55% of job seekers say they won’t apply to companies after seeing poor reviews from current or former employees. What’s more, nine out of ten employees say they would leave their current job for a company with a better workplace reputation.
Finally, your brand’s reputation has a direct impact on your business’ bottom line. As a 2017 report from Circle Research (now Savanta) discovered, 77% of B2B marketers believe a positive reputation is vital to business growth.
As we’ve recently discussed, there are many ways to manage and enhance your brand’s reputation in the eyes of your customers. Today, our focus will be on using digital knowledge management practices to make this happen.
Let’s start by making clear what digital knowledge management entails.
What is Digital Knowledge Management?
Digital knowledge management is the process of identifying, collecting, documenting, organizing, and centralizing company information and organizational knowledge, specifically in digital form.
The term “organizational knowledge” covers a wide spectrum of both customer-facing and internal information. As we’ll discuss throughout this article, proper management of both types of knowledge is vital to the success of your business.
By today’s standards, the consumer all but assumes they’ll be able to dive deep into all there is to know about the brands they do business with. Thus, the customer-facing definition of organizational knowledge is basically “any information your customers will want to know about your brand”.
A few examples:
- Store/Location Information, such as address, phone number, and hours. Also, any information regarding building amenities, accommodations, or special services offered at a specified location.
- Product/Service Information, such as specifications, pricing, customer reviews, social proof…and much more.
- Transactional Information, such as payment options offered, delivery specifications, and return policies.
- Brand and Organizational Information, such as your company’s purpose, mission, and vision statements.
From just a bird’s-eye view, it’s pretty clear how important it is to keep a tight leash on all this information. Being even slightly disorganized in delivering information to your audience can end up damaging your brand’s reputation in the eyes of your target audience.
(Of course, there’s much more to it than that. We’ll get to all this in a bit.)
Your team’s internal knowledge is that which enables and empowers your organization to function as it does. It’s what makes your organization unique, and what sets your company apart from the “average” company in your industry.
Here, we’re talking about information such as:
- Your company’s internal mission and vision statements
- Documented standard operating procedures for your team’s various processes
- Staff and employee information (directories, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.)
- Creative content for use by customer-facing teams (e.g., marketing, sales, service and support)
- Performance metrics, customer data, and industry information
It’s not just the existence of this knowledge that allows your company to thrive.
Rather, it’s the strategic management of this knowledge that enables your brand to truly live up to its reputation.
Digital knowledge management (DKM) is the process of digitally identifying, collecting, documenting, organizing, and centralizing organizational knowledge for customer-facing and/or internal use.
DKM is all about building the processes and digital structures necessary to make sure organizational knowledge is accessible whenever and wherever it’s needed. Moreover, DKM optimizes organizational knowledge for comprehensiveness and digestibility — making it as easy as possible for the end-user to put it to good use.
How Can Digital Knowledge Management Help PR Teams Manage, Maintain, and Improve Brand Reputation?
We’ve danced around the topic, but now let’s make it clear:
Digital knowledge management is essential in order to keep your brand’s reputation in good standing.
To be sure, “keeping your brand in good standing” requires both proactive and responsive efforts at different moments in time. Here, we’ll take a closer look at how DKM plays into your brand reputation management efforts in both regards.
Digital Knowledge Management and Proactive Brand Reputation Management
Getting to a point where your brand’s positive reputation precedes itself is every business owner’s dream.
Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight — and it requires a ton of proactive effort on the part of your team, too.
But, this is actually a good thing: It means your team can actively work to improve your brand’s reputation at pretty much any given moment.
On that note, let’s take a closer look at the key ways digital knowledge management can enhance your proactive reputation management efforts.
Increasing and Optimizing Brand Visibility
Your brand can’t improve its reputation if it’s not getting seen, right?
A key part of knowledge management in the digital age is ensuring that your team knows which channels to become active on in order to effectively engage with your target audience.
The key word, there? “Effectively”.
More than just knowing which digital channels your audience “hangs out” on, you need to know which of these channels they want to engage with your brand on. A huge part of DKM is analyzing customer behavior and industry data to determine where your teams should be focusing their energy.
Another key part of DKM is understanding how to best use these channels to increase visibility and enhance your brand’s reputation. Here, it’s again about ensuring the right information is delivered in an optimal manner — and is readily available whenever your customers need it.
For example, the routine creation of press releases can help you consistently deliver new and engaging information to your audience regarding your brand. This helps keep your brand top-of-mind for your audience — even when they don’t necessarily need anything from you.
So, proper digital knowledge management optimizes the chances of your target audience being exposed to your brand — and also ensures this initial exposure leads to a positive experience for your potential customers.
Providing Transparency to New and Existing Customers
For modern companies, transparency is becoming increasingly important across the board.
As we mentioned earlier, the modern consumer typically expects to be able to dive deep into what your brand is “all about”. On the surface, they’ll be looking for info on your products, price range, and logistical practices. On a deeper level, many of your customers will be looking for information regarding your team’s mission as a business, and as an organization operating within a global community.
Knowledge management is necessary to provide this transparency in the digital age, as it enables your team to:
- Identify the specific pieces of information your audience needs at various points along their journey with your brand
- Create content to communicate this information in a user-friendly, branded manner
- Deliver the information in various ways, on various channels, depending on your audience’s expectations
In proactively answering your customers’ questions before they even ask them — and giving them even more information than they initially needed — you make clear that yours is a brand that can be trusted.
From there, it’s a matter of following through with your promises to solidify your reputation in their eyes.
Streamlining the Customer’s Path to Purchase (and Other Branded Experiences)
Digital knowledge management also aims to ensure every customer engagement goes exactly as the customer had hoped (or better).
It’s all about making sure the right information is available to the right person, at just the right time to keep them active, engaged, and heading toward conversion. Strategic DKM helps teams identify critical moments along the buyer’s journey, and to create the content needed at these crucial moments.
A few examples:
- Press releases and coverage as well as advertising content to help with building brand awareness
- Chatbots, FAQ pages, and knowledge bases to address common concerns and issues
- Blog posts, ebooks, and other marketing content to keep prospects informed and engaged
- Onboarding content (e.g., how-to and demo videos) to empower new customers and get them to their first quick win
If your customers have to look for — or, worse, ask for — this information, they just aren’t going to be able to experience your brand’s products or services as they were meant to be experienced.
If their experience suffers, your brand’s reputation is going to suffer in turn.
By making the information your customers need readily available, you make it as easy as possible for your customers to take the next steps with your brand. In turn, you proactively build a reputation for your brand as the customer-centric organization you are.
Digital Knowledge Management and Responsive Brand Reputation Management
Managing your brand’s reputation also requires that you be responsive to changes in your industry — in whatever form they may take.
In the digital age, knowledge management is a critical aspect of this responsiveness, in three key ways.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
Success in business is often about striking when the iron’s hot.
To do so, your team needs to stay up to date with the goings-on in your industry. You need to continuously be collecting and analyzing industry data — and taking swift and immediate action based on what this data tells you.
At any given moment, your team needs to know:
- What your target audiences (and other consumers) are currently buzzing about
- What journalists and other media figures are saying about your industry
- What your competitors are doing to respond to these trends
Digital knowledge management systematizes these data-related processes, allowing your various teams to become more and more data-driven over time. In other words, you’ll be better able to capitalize on events and circumstances, showcasing your brand in a way that increases its reputation in the eyes of your customers.
(And delivering top-notch value to them while doing so, of course.)
Implementing Damage Control When Necessary
Unfortunately, there may also come times when your brand’s reputation takes a hit for one reason or another.
A less-than-stellar product review, social media post, or mention in the news can be pretty damaging to your reputation. That goes without saying.
Perhaps the only thing that can make things worse is not responding to the bad publicity at all.
(In close second: Taking too long to respond when things go south.)
Strategic digital knowledge management all but ensures your team always knows what’s being said about your brand throughout your industry. Additionally, it ensures you always have a plan in place for any contingency your team may encounter.
This allows you to quickly identify and respond to negative mentions in a way that minimizes any damage to your reputation that may have already been done.
Maintaining a newsroom with relevant press releases can help your team take better control of your brand’s visibility and reputation — even when things aren’t exactly going well.
Once you’ve addressed the situation at hand, you can then use the moment as an opportunity to provide even further value to your audience. In turn, your brand’s reputation may actually improve after the dust has settled.
Making Improvements Moving Forward
More than just allowing for responsiveness in the moment, digital knowledge management focuses your team’s attention on the overall implications these moments have on your brand’s reputation.
With proper DKM processes in place, it becomes easier to:
- Identify which events are parts of a trend, and which are one-off anomalies
- Determine where improvements need to be made, and which areas to focus on
- Put in place the resources needed to make said improvements
Really, it doesn’t just become easier to do all this. Rather, DKM makes improving your customer experience the natural course of your operations.
This, again, will go a long way toward earning your brand a reputation as a progressive pillar of your industry.
How to Implement Digital Knowledge Management Into Your Processes to Enhance Your Brand’s Reputation
As is probably pretty clear by now, digital knowledge management is an involved process (not to mention an ongoing one).
But, as we just discussed in detail, it’s a necessary investment in order to keep your brand’s reputation on the up and up.
That said, let’s take a look at what needs to be done to develop an effective DKM strategy within your organization.
Identify “Need-to-Know” Information
This is pretty simple:
If you don’t know what information your customers need from your brand at different points along their journey, you aren’t going to be able to give it to them. If you aren’t able to deliver this need-to-know information, your potential customers aren’t even going to give your brand a second look.
What’s considered “need-to-know” info varies from consumer to consumer, and from engagement to engagement. In some cases, a customer may be looking for store hours, contact information, or returns policies; in others, the customer might be seeking out content to help them supercharge their efforts with your product.
There are a number of ways to identify what this need-to-know information is.
First, look to any feedback you’ve collected from your customers, and to your past customer service and support engagements. Here, you’ll likely be able to unearth frequently asked questions, oft-cited issues, and other common areas of interest your customers tend to focus on.
Social media — your own hubs, as well as the overall landscape — is also a key resource for uncovering your customers’ frequently asked questions and the like.
(As we’ll get to, it’s also a great place to answer these questions, as well.)
You can also dig into Reddit, Quora, and other such forums to see what people within your industry are talking about. This will help out later when the time comes to create more in-depth digital content for your customers.
The idea at this preliminary stage is to understand what you’re building toward: A reputation as the go-to resource in your industry for information, knowledge, and value.
By staying focused on what your customers need to know about your brand before engaging further with it, you’ll be able to cater to their needs at any moment along their path to purchase.
Identify the Channels to Be Active On
This is perhaps just as simple:
If your brand isn’t active on the channels your target audience is, your reputation isn’t going to grow much at all.
You also need to understand how to become active on these channels in order to best engage with your audience.
Here, you’ll be thinking about:
- What information to deliver on each channel you operate on
- How to best deliver different info on different channels
- How to get the most out of each channel’s unique features to maximize deliverability of information, branded messaging, and overall customer experience
Since every channel is different, it’s vital to dig into the “ins and outs” of each to determine the best way to optimize your digital presence.
Again, the idea is to proactively deliver information when you can, and be otherwise equipped to respond to any extenuating circumstances that may arise.
Basically, if your brand is active on a given platform, you need to be sure that either:
- You deliver the information your customers expect to receive on said channel, or
- Your team can deliver the information on said channel with little to no delay or effort on the customer’s part
It’s simply a matter of setting your customers’ expectations (by being active on a given channel) and meeting these expectations (by delivering on the unspoken promises you make by becoming active on these channels).
Making this happen is absolutely key to keeping your brand’s reputation in good standing.
The easiest way to make it happen?
Some key areas to focus on include:
- The information your competitors include in their bios on each channel
- The type of content they publish on each channel
- How and why they interact with their customers on each channel
By digging into the digital presence of your competitors, you’ll get a clear idea of where they’re best able to engage with their audience — and how they do so. What’s more, you also may uncover channels, or opportunities within channels, that your competition has so far overlooked.
In turn, your team will be better equipped to begin optimizing your digital presence, and your ability to serve your digital customers.
Speaking of that…
Audit Your Current Digital Presence
The focus of the previous two steps was on understanding what your team needs to do in the future to develop your brand’s reputation.
But, chances are, you’re probably already putting in some kind of effort in this regard.
So, the next step is to audit your current digital presence and determine what needs to be done to improve it in the eyes of your customers. Note that you won’t be making these improvements just yet, but rather setting the stage for your future knowledge management initiatives.
The three overarching things you’ll be checking for are comprehensiveness, accuracy, and consistency.
Regarding comprehensiveness, look to ensure you’ve fleshed out your brand’s profile as best as possible on each channel you operate on. Remember: You want to use every opportunity the platform gives you to deliver more information and value to your customers.
You also need to make sure the information you provide on each channel is accurate and in-sync. Sending mixed messages to your customers — whether about your store hours, product pricing, or otherwise — is an easy way to kill your brand’s reputation.
Can you spot the discrepancy? (Hint: Look at the phone numbers.)
This goes for the more dynamic content you publish on these channels, as well: With regard to both the information delivered, and the branded way in which it’s delivered, consistency is key. If your customer’s digital experience varies too wildly from channel to channel, it’s going to reflect poorly on your brand. Though ASOS uses Facebook and Instagram to deliver different content and info, the overall branded “feel” is consistent on both channels.
At this stage, your goal is to get a clear understanding of where your brand currently stands in terms of its digital presence and reputation. From here, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done as you get your digital knowledge management initiatives off the ground.
Invest in Knowledge Management Software
The key to keeping your organization’s information and knowledge consistent and up-to-date is a strong, centralized knowledge management system (KMS) that’s powered by a robust knowledge base.
Knowledge base software can improve a number of internal DKM processes, such as:
- Syncing data, information, and branded messaging across channels
- Cross-team communication and collaboration
- Real-time responsiveness to PR and other crises
All this, in turn, strengthens your ability to deliver the comprehensive, consistent brand experience your customers are looking for.
Not all knowledge base tools are created equal, though — and the “best available” tool might not be the best one for your team.
Still, your knowledge base software of choice should offer some variation of the following:
- User-friendly tools for content creation, formatting, and organization
- Intuitive navigation and search features
- Integrations to ensure data synchronization, and to enable real-time collaboration
- Administrative and accessibility options
- Automated reporting and analytics
To be blunt:
There’s just no way for your team to effectively manage your digital presence without the help of knowledge management technology. With the DKM platforms, though, much of the “legwork” becomes automated or otherwise streamlined — allowing your team to focus on the processes that do require a more hands-on approach.
Develop Workflows and Standardize Them for Knowledge Management
Still, you’ll need to do more than just adopt knowledge management software into your tech stack to supercharge your DKM initiatives.
Now, you’ll be ready to create the necessary workflows and then standardize the various processes that go into digital knowledge and brand reputation management.
These processes include:
- Content development and publication: What steps do you take when creating content to deliver information on specific mediums?
- Channel selection and migration: How do you determine which channels to focus on? How to ensure you’re taking full advantage of each channel you operate on?
- Customer engagement: What information will your team need when engaging with your customers for marketing, sales, service or support purposes?
There’s no “right” way to go about these processes.
But the wrong way is to not develop a strategic, systematic approach to these processes at all. Without standard operating procedures in place, your digital knowledge management efforts will lack the cohesion needed to deliver a consistent experience to your customers.
But, in systematizing these processes, it will become easier to identify and deliver the info and experiences your audience expects from your brand.
Create, Publish, and Promote Content
Once you’ve created standard operating procedures for your DKM initiative, you can get started in documenting the information to be used internally and creating the customer-facing content to communicate this info.
To start, it’s vital to nail down the raw information and data you’ll be communicating to your audience. This info should be documented within your internal knowledge base, where it can be stored for safekeeping and easy retrieval.
From this “master” document, you can then pull the information to be published as appropriate on each channel you operate on. By referring to these master documents at all times, you’ll ensure the information you provide on each channel remains consistent — which will reflect positively on your brand’s digital reputation.
The promotion of your content is also important to ensure your audience is actually exposed to the information you want them to know.
As you continue to add to your customer-facing resources, be sure to announce the improvements you make, on each channel you operate on. An online newsroom can help you centralize this information and disseminate it on your various owned channels.
For major announcements, you may want to consider partnering with third-party publications and the like to expand your brand’s visibility even further.
Strategic visibility is key when your organizational goal is to build your brand’s reputation.
As you roll out new and engaging content full of vital information for your customers, you also need to be sure they’re actually able to engage with it as you’d intended.
Make your brand’s messaging valuable and hard to miss, and you’ll easily build a reputation for yourself in your industry.
Make Ongoing Improvements to Your Approach to Digital Knowledge Management
One final thing to understand about digital knowledge and reputation management is that they’re both ongoing, never-ending processes.
There will always be something more you can do to better serve your customers, and to improve your brand’s overall reputation.
A few examples:
- Creating more informative, helpful, and actionable content
- Finding new and exciting ways to deliver brand info
- Streamlining internal processes to optimize your customer service and support initiatives
Neither your customers’ expectations nor your brand’s reputation is set in stone. In fact, as time goes on, your customers will come to expect more and more from your brand. Failing to keep up with these expectations, of course, will likely cause your reputation to falter, as well.
So, once you’ve standardized your DKM processes, chose the right DKM platforms, and made them a part of your team’s natural operations, you’ll have the extra task of assessing what’s going well — and what needs to change moving forward.
The good news?
The stronger your knowledge management capabilities, the easier it will be to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your DKM processes — and to make the changes needed to keep your reputation in good standing.
Upholding your brand’s reputation isn’t something that happens in isolation.
Rather, reputation management should be a part of every action your team takes as a brand. Without a clear understanding of what your every decision means to your brand’s rep, the risk of taking a hit will always be in front of you.
Digital knowledge management, then, is all about optimizing your brand’s online presence by gaining full control of the information you deliver through these digital channels.
By maximizing your team’s ability to deliver valuable, need-to-know info to your audience in a way that matters to them, you’ll easily be able to keep your brand’s name in good standing.
Cover photo by Matthew Feeney on Unsplash