This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Communications shares her final thoughts of her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve outlined 8 Principles that will help marketers protect and strengthen their brands in an era of radical change, where there is great temptation (and quite likely management pressure) to push boundaries further than ever before. Throughout this time and many preceding months, I’ve had countless conversations with people about the state of their data as well as the modern conveniences upon which they’ve come to rely. I’ve heard a Big Data expert actively advocating for stretching the law (or hinting at crossing the line) for the sake of competitive advantage. I’m sure he is not alone in that opinion. We are, all of us, currently in the Wild West.

While technology is accelerating what’s possible, the ideas outlined in the 8 Principles come back to common fundamental and timeless human needs that will outlast every wave of technology: People protecting what’s theirs, seeking respect and dignity, wanting control of their lives, enjoying freedom and avoiding harm. The brands they will choose for anything more than a one-time experience will be those who understand those concerns, and actively work to enable them.

There is more to brand reputation than being the app of the moment. Not every new thing will be transformational. But businesses who innovate as well as who truly respect their customers and actively work to earn trust stand a far greater chance of longevity than those who rely on buzz about the shiny new object, or who exploit to maximum advantage thinking the ‘sheeple’ won’t notice. It will take work. It will take awareness. It will take intention. It will take courage. And it will take leadership.

Eventually today’s Wild West will give way to a more mature market dynamic. Embracing these 8 Principles may help ensure your company is there when that time comes – or even leading the way.

Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 5: Practice Customer Empathy
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 6: Comply with All Applicable Laws and Regulations. Then Exceed Them.
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 7: Apply Technology Thoughtfully
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 8: Actively Demonstrate Respect for Your Customers

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This week on NVTC’s blog, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle eight: actively demonstrating respect for your customers.


The final of these 8 Principles clarifies a concept implied across the other seven. To become and remain a successful brand, businesses must actively demonstrate customer respect. Just saying ‘We respect our customers!’ is not enough. Prove it.

This can take many forms, from being transparent and honest about data collection and sharing practices to moderating your outreach below the annoyance level to integrating this attitude into your culture and policies – and many other opportunities mentioned through these posts.

Disrespectful practices were often brought up in the comments I’ve gotten. One respondent noted that “I want to feel like a vendor respects my data as much as I do.” People do not like bait-and-switch, confusing changes to privacy policies or anything that feels sneaky. They don’t like the burden of responsibility to stop something, like too much email or too many pop-ups. When everyone is tired or busy from their own lives, wearing people down or hoping they won’t notice might produce a short term win, but not long-term loyalty.

Having a straightforward dialog with your customers – even the ones who are unhappy with you – is another way to show respect. Everyone messes up – own it! Apologize, make it right and move on. If it wasn’t your fault, but there’s a small cost to making someone feel respected anyway – do it! Nordstrom figured this out a long time ago.

Nothing about customers wanting to feel respected and treated fairly is new. What is new is the exponential increase in vendor relationships enabled through technology. With the tremendous choice the modern customer enjoys, utility, benefit, quality and value are now table stakes. A differentiated and trusted experience, that includes feeling respected, is what will stand out. Someone’s choice of your product or service is a privilege. One of the best quotes from the respondent feedback sums it up: “Respect the customer and the customer will respect you.”

Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 5: Practice Customer Empathy
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 6: Comply with All Applicable Laws and Regulations. Then Exceed Them.
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 7: Apply Technology Thoughtfully

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This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle five: developing an empathic organizational culture that understands, internalizes and practices customer-sensitive behaviors.


Hand in hand with getting your own house in order to secure customer data is developing an empathic organizational culture that understands, internalizes and practices customer-sensitive behaviors. This can be reflected in the marketing practices you adopt, the way customer data is collected and handled, and the attitude and values that are expressed and embodied from leadership through the ranks.

Several respondents in our qualitative feedback study emphasized that organizations’ observing privacy policies internally was very important to them. While most every organization has an external privacy notice (understandable or not), many companies lack a robust internal privacy policy, data management policies, or even clarity of their privacy mission and position. It is important to thoughtfully define these, then train your people, in a resonant and memorable way about these corporate values and an employee’s role in them. Reinforce the training with an ongoing internal awareness campaign. Help your team remember that behind every purchase, tweet, post, click and share is a human being and all that entails. Anyone who has something or someone to protect can understand that.

This is a foundational aspect of your organization’s personality and reputation – how do you want to be seen and regarded? Are you the respectful company? The service-oriented company? One who customers see as sneaky or arrogant? One who is so consumed with innovation and speed that they forget there are real people who will be served or potentially harmed by your invention?

Consider incenting or requiring those who work with other’s personally identifiable information, whether it belongs to customers, employees, partners, students or anyone else, to get certifications. This can help them more deeply understand the implications of what they’re working with. A colleague of mine likened this to how massage therapists are trained to respect the bodies of their customers, with their reputation and careers dependent upon following those protocols.

A best practice is to conduct what’s called a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) to evaluate risk in both existing and intended practices and services. There are online resources to offer you guidance (shameless commerce warning: Dialog can help with these); you will need some understanding of the legal and regulatory environment in which you operate. Then, when you objectively understand the level of risk, you can consider adjustments to your practices or plans if necessary. Those who may decline to participate should be made fully accountable for any consequences – financial or otherwise.

Acculturating a sense of responsibility and empathy, with policies to back that up, will go a long way toward solidifying your organization’s reputation as a trusted vendor. And that translates to the bottom line.
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!

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