We want to believe that with a careful multi-faceted marketing strategy, we can protect our brand message and keep it from getting diluted or changed as it gets further from our reach.  The truth is, there are many things you cannot control about your brand… especially now that consumers have the power of social media tools at their fingertips.

It reminds me of the childhood game called “Whisper Down the Alley” where one person whispers a phrase into the ear of the person beside them, and the whisper continues from person to person until the phrase is spoken out loud by the last person in the whispering chain.  Most times the phrase has changed at least a little, and often it has changed beyond recognition.  In a child’s game, the destruction of the original message is hilarious.  In our marketing efforts, however, when our brand message gets misunderstood and passed on, it is certainly no laughing matter.

You can’t control the social media “whisper down the alley” process, but you can become part of the conversations that keep the brand message on point along the way.  Participation gives you a chance to not only hear what message is being passed along, but also to guide (not take over!) the conversation.

Transparency is absolutely essential if you want to effectively be part of online interactions about your brand without shutting down the conversations.  For example, if you are part of an online consumer community, do not hide your brand association… tell the community members who you are and why you are there.   Transparency helps build trust  – a cornerstone to all authentic conversations and relationships – because it tells and shows who you really are as a brand.

If something negative has happened with your company that will impact your consumers, you need to tell them.  Tell them what happened, why it happened, and most importantly what you are already doing to improve their consumer experience and to make sure this does not happen again.  And if you don’t have all the answers yet, tell them that also, as long as you are truthfully working on solving the problem.  You can assume that the information will get out, so wouldn’t you rather have the message come from YOU?

A word of caution:  transparency does not mean tell everything, all the time!  It can be a fine line between transparency and over-exposure, so always consider professionalism and confidentiality requirements in your communications.

What do your consumers really know about your brand – is it enough?  Is the message true to your brand?  Become an open part of their conversations and let transparency work for you.  You can’t control your brand, but you can keep your consumers engaged and informed!

Originally posted at SheSpeaks

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