The difference between your brand and your reputation can be easy to miss because so many marketing writers use the terms interchangeably. The fact that the terms really are similar in many ways does little to help with the confusion. Both concepts have a major influence on how your business is perceived, but your brand is only a part of the whole that forms your reputation.

Why brand doesn’t equal reputation

Your brand is what your business does, what you stand for, and how you approach your work. You have significant control over your brand because you’re able to decide what you want to do and how you want to do it. You can’t completely control how others see your brand, but you can do everything within your power to leave them with a positive impression.

Your reputation is what people remember and share about you. Living up to the standards of your brand doesn’t guarantee a good reputation, but it’s an excellent place to start. Brands that are reliable, accountable, and customer-friendly will often have a positive reputation, but it’s no guarantee.

You can see the difference playing out on social channels all the time. Look at the way that a brand wants to present itself, and the way that people act when that brand attempts to assert its identity. The comments get messy very quickly when a brand’s perception of itself doesn’t match the perception of its audience. A bad reputation doesn’t wash away quickly, no matter how much clever marketing you throw at the problem.

Building a positive reputation requires action

No matter what you say about your business, people will ultimately remember what you do. There will always be people who are simply looking to pick out something negative no matter what, but the vast majority will base their judgement on your actions. Whether you’re building a reputation from scratch or trying to recover from a bad stretch, there is absolutely no substitute for action.

People will remember the way that you treat them, and they will tell their friends. At its most basic level, that’s how reputation works. By taking the right actions, treating customers with respect, and prioritising relationships over quick-fix transactions, you’ve got a much better chance of leaving them with something positive to say. In other words, your brand is a promise, and your reputation depends in part on whether you keep it.

So rather than launching a monologue on what’s great about your brand, give them a reason to talk about you. Focus on the moments that matter most – the opportunities to help, relate, and connect on a human level. When someone walks out the door, thank them rather than trying to sell them something else. When they come back next time, make recommendations based on what they purchased before, rather than what you want them to purchase right now.

Social is the great equaliser. It’s very, very difficult to escape a bad reputation when consumers can instantly find what their friends, neighbours, and colleagues have to say about your brand. No amount of marketing magic can erase a bad moment, or replace a good one.

By prioritising relationships, living up to your values, and capitalising on memorable moments, you lay the foundation for a positive reputation. Your business brand is certainly important, but it’s only a small part of what customers see when they look at your business.

Your brand/business is what you do; your reputation is what people remember and share.

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