How Reputational Capital Can Determine Brands Survival in Crisis Situation- Akonte
There is no gainsaying the fact the COVD-19 pandemic has caused great distortions to business and life, but instead of the excessive focus on the challenge, a practitioner in PR & Reputational Management and CEO of Absolute PR, Akonte Ekine, has challenged brand owners and custodians to look inward and tap into the brands reputational Capital and opportunities for such brands to pivot in a crisis situation.
Highlighting the fact that a brand or organisation should deliberately and methodically build a reputation consistent with its positioning and brand essence, Akonte who was guest on the BrandCrunch Live Session on Instagram recently noted that having such plans in place is a sure way to walking through a crisis without losing one’s head and or followers.
The theme of the discussion moderated by OLekan Babatnde, Publisher, BrandCrunch – Reputational Capital and Opportunities for Brands in a Crisis(Covid-19 pandemic) Situation – being the 4th edition of the online learning session stemming from the platform’s property tagged BrandCrunch Learning session”.
While laying the background to the discussion, the moderator underscored the fact that only few organisations have excelled in tapping into the COVID-19 narrative while the greatest majority exhibited and continue to exhibit knee-jack and fire brigade approach. He wonders what manner of crisis management and PR activities being displayed by most of these companies. According to him, deliberate, planned and sustained PR activities make the organisation better prepared and ready to respond in crisis.
In the same way, the Publisher decried the extreme concentration on the problem just waiting for the pandemic to end without being proactive on the solutions to the crisis. These knee jack responses which manifest in me-too and ego centric donations.
Taking the discussion from the essence and how-to build reputation, the award winning PR and reputational Management practitioner explained that a brand starts getting or building reputation from its inception and its the investment put into engagements or daily conversations with members of public summed together is considered part of the brands reputational capital.
From the point that a brand is created, it starts gathering influence, respect and sowing its seed of reputation in the minds of the publics, internal and external; primary and secondary. All these develop from the name, identity, colour and philosophy of the brand couple with its interactions with targets across all of the brands touch points. It is a long time investment that could take years of deliberate actions and procedures.
While relating reputational capital to crisis situation, Akonte noted that crisis mostly is an “unexpected situation added that who you are, before a crisis determines your response as a brand.
When you have crisis as an institution or a brand, your character prior to crisis are the things that will determine your response during crisis. Whether there is crisis or not there are certain behaviors that must be seen with brands at every point in time. Organisation dont just behave during crisis, they replicate or accentuate whatever they were known for before crisis. Anything out of this, the publics are not likely to believe or be swayed by what you are saying or offering, said Akonte.
February 27th created the entire landscape conversation with the index case that came in with people and organisations donating heavily. Those who led this cause were known givers. Giving on this cause is different from talking sustainability. It was done primarily to address the COVID-19 crisis. My take is that organisations must give according to the character and philosophy of the organisation.
According to Akonte, tying into the narrative becomes easy for brands because the issue at hand is a pandemic situation and it affects all and sundry. Growing up there are few things that happen without musicians lending their voice. It is a narrative on the loose, businesses can cue in by talking to their immediate community by means of advising the public. Sometimes, it is not the money you throw around but the value you are able to bring to bear on the lives of the people concerned by giving the right advisory.
According to the Absolute PR CEO, brands that were or are still slow to respond during the Covid-19 crisis had low audience engagements and communication credentials with the public prior to the pandemic hence they couldnt key into the narrative easily and as quick as possible. Who you are before a crisis determines what you do during crisis. If you have policies and principles in place before the crisis, when crisis comes, you only take them up are run with them he said.
While praising the COVID-19 donations and the CA-COVID initiatives, Akonte noted that some brands, institutions and individuals in Nigeria have been at the forefront of donating towards good causes such fighting HIV-AIDS, Malaria etc. Such organisation coming forward to support the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic through donations and the Coalition against the Covid-19 CACOVID idea are being true to their characters. However, he has sharp words for organisation that donate with ulterior motives such as to win the heart of the regulators and stakeholders, to achieve tax waivers or gain public approval.
The donations for Covid-19 and CA-COVID are needed giving but giving should be done according to the character and philosophy of the brands. It is pandemic, everybody is involved. Its about ensuring the message is clear and every brand should key into the narrative at their respective area to ensure the message goes round, spread of the virus is curtailed and the pandemic curve is flattened.
While crisis may be unexpected, it can also be a time for brands to win the heart of the consumers and create good reputational capital for itself. When organisations take advantage of the crisis and talk about the certain ways consumers can behave, protect themselves and their families and generally show empathy mostly without trying to sell to them, the brand will make indelible marks on the customers and shore up its reputational capital.
Akonte added that brands that are able to build reputation and responsible to the people during crisis will always be in the mind of the consumers after crisis. If there is anything to learn in the history of brands that have been surviving for over a century such as Coca-cola, it is that when the time were rough, they were there with the citizens at almost every level and when the good time returns, the citizens remember and become more loyal to such brands.
He said many organisations taking the back seat during crisis may be shooting themselves in the leg because we dont know when this pandemic will be over and we have to live with it.
To do the needful in a precarious situation such as we are in, Akonte who underscored the fact that every individual working in an organisation is a brand manager, from the CEO to the front office personnel, argued that brand custodians working for the survival of the brand must present the emotional attribute of the brands at period like this and create additional value outside the traditional functional value of the brand to earn the trust of the customers at all times.