Brand Reputation Management Re-Invented: Minding the Generation Gap

A far cry from the old boys clubs holding their company’s image in an iron grip, these days the young are increasingly responsible for making decisions that shape the public’s perception of a brand. Nowhere is this more evident than online, where brand reputation management and customer retention programs play out. But does the tech-savvy of these younger employees make up for their inexperience in the high-stakes corporate environment?

Although the larger story of youth employment is actually one of unemployment or underemployment, companies are recruiting from the ranks of recent grads and twentysomethings for at least one function: to serve as the main point of contact between the brand and its customers. That places a lot of responsibility on relatively inexperienced shoulders, even with carefully crafted guidelines from above and little room for free thinking or social media mavericks.

But as complaints, inquiries and comments in general are increasingly funneled through a company’s web-based channels, it’s clear that social media engagement will require the kind of flexibility and energy found in younger, more tech-savvy team members. Consumers will also be quick to see through a forced or inauthentic voice, so the investment in the right person, young or old, is certainly worthwhile.

A recent Forbes article examined the issue in detail, looking at the reasons behind the youth takeover of brand reputation management today. The article, provocatively titled “Is Your Brand’s Reputation Safe In Milliennial Hands?”, notes that Millennials (also known as Generation Y) have been entrusted with one of the most valuable assets a company has: its image.

Some skills never go out of style

One of the most important skills any social media engagement employee can have, according to the article, is good communication. With this foundation and an intimate knowledge of the brand they are representing, they can be valuable contributors to fields like customer retention and customer satisfaction.

In fact, because complaint management takes up such a significant portion of these employees’ time and effort, customer retention has become a delicate, sometimes unforgiving task. The consequences of a misstep may not be as severe as in a hostage negotiation, but the wide-spread publicity of several social media engagement bungles demonstrates the importance of a professional approach to this task, as well as to the larger field of brand reputation management.

The conclusion drawn by the Forbes article, and surely by anyone who has had a bad experience with a company online, is that brand reputation management is not inherently a young man’s game or an old boys club – actually, as the statistics bear out, young women make up the majority in this field. Good communication skills, coupled with an in-depth understanding of the customer base and the brand, will always trump good tech skills. In other words, all the social-media-savvy in the world won’t compensate for an inability to connect with and engage customers.

Jun, 21, 2013