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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey

Written by  Duane Bailey

While it’s been over 60 years since the initial release of the classic holiday drama, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the story of George Bailey is as relevant today as it was in 1946.

George Bailey is the lead character in the film. The story opens and closes on Christmas Eve with a despondent George contemplating suicide. His guardian angel, Clarence, intervenes and goes on to show George the impact he has had on the lives of others and his community. "You see, George, you really had a wonderful life," reminds Clarence. "Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"

For brands whose reputations are built on service, the actions we take on a daily basis are what makes our reputation. Reputations can be made or destroyed in an instant, sometimes with a single action. George’s fictional life provides six best practices for managing your brand's reputation:
1. Put your customers first. 
    George risks his life to save his younger brother, Harry, from drowning in an icy pond. Years later, it is Harry who rushes to George’s side when he needs help.  Most customers will reward a brand’s acts of selflessness with an enduring and unshakable loyalty. 
2. Do right by your customers.
    Fearful of the reaction he will get from his boss, a young George lets Mr. Gower know he has incorrectly filled a prescription. By acting in the best interest of others, George ends up saving the customer’s life – and Mr. Gower’s reputation. Mistakes are an inevitable part of our lives; how we handle them is what sets us apart from our competitors. Brands with the courage to acknowledge and correct their mistakes show they can be trusted.
3. Know your customers.
    George knows each and every one of his customers by name. He has a personal relationship with them, even helping with moves to their new homes. Brands that know their customers well tend to excel in delivering personalized service.
4. Build and nurture communities of interest.
    George develops an affordable housing community where residents can realize their dreams of home ownership. Brands that provide their customers with hope, opportunity and value enjoy higher levels of satisfaction and preference among customers and prospects.    
5. Be your customer’s advocate.
    Responding to a run on the bank, George and Mary Bailey pay worried account holders with their own money, tiding them over and saving their business from almost certain collapse.  Brands that value their customers at this level differentiate themselves by showing they genuinely care.
6. Be a leader.
    Despite his wife’s pleas to continue with their honeymoon, George steps in to lead his firm’s response to the financial crisis. His company’s open and fair handling of the crisis serves to reassure his anxious customer base, preserving his business and its reputation in the community.   

For more on reputation management and relationship building, please see:
• How to Make the Most of Your Network
• Your Brand and the Community It Serves
• B2B Sales Tip: Friend Your Customers

Duane Bailey

Duane Bailey

Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.

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