In a business world where a company’s reputation increasingly depends on its digital resiliency in the face of crisis, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic marks an evolutionary tipping point for corporate reputation in a race against digital Darwinism. 

For the past three decades, many companies considered digital transformation to be the gradual way of the future. Still, most never envisioned the future to be so imminent and that their survival against an exponentially disruptive COVID-19 will hinge on total digital dependency as they adapt to a forced social distancing precautionary rule, work from home (WFH) model, and a universal sense of isolation. 

Our reality shifted to a new life in a virtual ecosystem where much of human connections are – by necessity – to and through digital networks. The COVID-19 crisis tempered our resistance to digital technology and left us hungrier for information, advice and inspiration on electronic devices as we shop online, we stream entertainment, and we virtually interact contactless. 

While people’s lives are greatly influenced and guided by digital interactions and artificial intelligence, the current pandemic has reiterated how much they still value genuine connections through offline physical interaction. 

This new virtual reality comes with many challenges in building, managing and supporting a robust brand reputation in the digital world from combating fake news, to monitoring multiple platforms and managing a changing media landscape. 

Although many facets are involved in building corporate reputation in the new digital age, the response to the COVID-19 crisis will be the ultimate test for brand reputation and survival. Companies hoping to survive this pandemic and emerge with intact or even enhanced reputation need to be able to address several questions: how did they manage their employees’ welfare? How did they continue to offer high standard customer services? How entuned were they to their communities’ needs? How proactive were they in contributing to the betterment of society in times of need? And how digitally adaptable are they?

Authenticity And Relevance 

The novelist James Lane Allen once wrote, “Adversity does not build character; it reveals it” – The same can be said for companies and their reputation. A plight like COVID-19 forces individuals and companies alike to re-examine their purpose and re-evaluate their practices. The best a company can do is practise honesty, humanity and authenticity, in times of universal crisis. 

Only those who can add value and make a difference in people’s lives in these troubled times by being authentic and genuinely engaging, can triumph in this unique digital age and emerge from this crisis with a sustainable reputation. 

Cohesive Control 

While uncertainty breeds chaos, cohesive communications in times of crises can be one of the main pillars of reputation management by ensuring unified and aligned values and messages and speaking with one voice across all of the communication channels.

Every communique (first-hand, secondary and overheard) has potentially viral ambitions for the digital space; from keeping internal stakeholders up-to-date, and ensuring they are aware of their value, to official public statements.  

According to “THE STATE OF CORPORATE REPUTATION IN 2020: EVERYTHING MATTERS NOW,” published by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, top CEOs in multiple markets around the world concluded that reputation is omni-driven – impacted from all sides by a variety of factors – and influenced by the communication of values. 

Boost What Matters

Supporting a corporate reputation in the new digital age hinges on a company’s ability to deliver a purposeful message while navigating multiple platforms and addressing different audiences which is a no small feat with the multitude of messages, ideas, voices and the countless platforms occupying the digital sphere.

While organic engagement is always preferable in building a company’s reputation, sustaining this reputation requires a targeted engagement. To adapt to evolving social media platforms’ algorithms, companies are compelled to invest in boosting their digital messages to reach the desired audiences. 

As we build corporate reputations, we need to be more mindful of the necessity for a sustainable corporate purpose beyond profit that can conquer the COVID-19 crisis and transcend the physical, organisational structure into a virtual one.  Purpose and digital transformation are no longer an option; they are prerequisite for a company’s survival.