By Carl Carter, APR, AMM
If you’ve ever had your identity stolen, you know what a nightmare it can be. When it happened to me a few years back, somebody was opening accounts in my name, then defaulting on them. To make sure I didn’t find out, they changed my legal address from Alabama to a fictitious location in New Jersey. It took months to clean up the mess.
Most of us have learned to be more careful with our personal identities, but we can still be reckless with our company brands. And that can result in a brand that’s watered down or even gone completely. Here are some ways it can happen.
Over-reliance on third parties. There are a lot of companies that will make your life a little easier, if you just let them.
One may design a smartphone app for little or nothing. Another will host your blog – on their domain. Currently, the big news is Facebook’s expansion of services for brands. Most of us have Facebook business pages, which allow us to use its very effective advertising service. I use these services myself, but I worry when I see even such mighty brands as The New York Times posting their content directly into Facebook’s feed. Like many others, I’ve disabled comments on my own web sites and now use software that pulls in comments from Facebook, Twitter and other social sites instead. (That’s where the action is, after all.) It’s a deal with the Devil, because I’m conceding that my own site’s not compelling enough to entice people to stay around for some conversation. I don’t know about you, but when people are reading and commenting on my content, I’d rather have my logo at the top – not Facebook’s or Google’s
Trading our names for freebies. Many of us use “free” services and software for functions that are critical to how we function and communicate with customers. We rely on Google for analytics, email and advertising. We use free or heavily discounted services for scheduling, CRM and email marketing. Sometimes we even rely on free telephone services from Google (which will happily give you a phone number) and Skype. Each of these diminishes our own brands in subtle ways. And taken as a whole, they can give us an image as being either cheap or unable to afford paid services.
Domain insecurity. Website developers will sometimes offer to register a domain for you – usually with the best of intentions. But this can lead to big headaches down the road. Relationships turn sour. The guy who was nice enough to register “your” brand may quit and take it with him. I personally know a web developer who called me bragging about how he’d just replaced a client’s web site with a page saying it had been repossessed because the client didn’t pay a bill on time. Needless to say, he also had the power to also disable the firm’s email. No matter how much you trust your web design firm, it’s a good practice to make sure you’re the registrar of your own domains. That way, if things go south, you can hire another designer and start over.
Outdated server software. Many of us use content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla or other server software to run our sites. Others use proprietary software written by their web developers. In either case, it’s critical to install regular updates as they become available. Hackers are always learning new tricks for breaking into web sites and hijacking them for their own purposes. You know those fake bank sites linked from phishing spam emails you get? Many of them are hosted on the servers of businesses like yours and mine. (We may never know until we get a call from the bank’s security department or the web hosting company – and yes, I’ve gotten that call!) That spam message itself is likely generated by a malicious script on the outdated web site of a perfectly innocent company. If this happens to you, the various spam filters may blacklist your domain, resulting in your emails being rejected.
Nothing is more central to your business than your brand. Make sure you protect it.
Carl Carter, APR, AMM, president of NewMediaRules, has managed public relations campaigns for auctioneers throughout the United States for 22 years. He can be reached at 205-823-3273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published by Auctioneer Magazine, used by permission.