Whether you are a big corporation, a small or medium enterprise or an entrepreneurial start-up, having the right tools to keep you connected to your business and your clients can make all the difference. This does not only involve data security, accounting, and productivity tools, but also requires focus on messages and information pieces that are sent to clients. Marcus Brewster, Chairman of Marcus Brewster Public Relations in Cape Town, South Africa, noted: “In order to make your business stand out, you need to put the work in to position your brand appropriately – not only offline, but where the masses are searching, communicating and engaging – that’s now online”. On average, Google processes over 45 000 search queries per second, so maybe Marcus has a strong point. Toni Muir notes: “The advent of the internet and the subsequent rapid adoption of digital and mobile technology have disrupted the way many companies conduct business, compete for market share and interact with customers”. “Disrupted” is an interesting choice of words – there is even talk of the automotive industry disruption where a number of car manufacturers are setting up offices in Silicon Valley rather than Detroit or similar German cities, aware that the closer they are to the technology epicentre, the better it will be for their future. Car connectivity is now an essential feature as the mating dance between technology and cars has intensified over the past few decades. Apple has even announced its plans to develop a car!

In the midst of this digital onslaught, however, where product and other information pieces are readily available, some are questioning the veracity of such information and the integrity of the various brands. I mean, how can a washing powder wash your clothes to produce a garment that is “whiter than white”? Are the digital messages conning us or do they truly represent company values, brand integrity and product quality? Maybe we have been numbed into accepting brand statements at face value without truly testing their veracity?

Perhaps the answer to these unqualified claims by manufacturers lies in the reputation concept – not just using compelling narrative in an irresponsible fashion to push a set of products on an online audience, but rather to communicate the real value and quality of the same products if this reputation exists. Signature brand companies, where the brand defines the industry sector, like Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz, BMW, DHL, and many others, developed their reputation for quality, consistency, availability, service, etc., long before the advent of the digital age and could thus seamlessly integrate their messages into the digital arena without people questioning their integrity. In other words, reputation came first. These companies didn’t use the internet to make claims to build their respective brands – the claims had already been verified and they used the digital environment further to communicate what was already known about them. Their reputation already existed.

Reputation comes from consistency of character and competence. There are no short cuts – product quality, integrity of personnel, availability, service excellence, accessibility, reliability – these are all essential ingredients to building reputation. Companies should not “pose” digitally but live their values in reality.

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