Episode 5-Sustainable Reputation Management Strategies

Sustainable Reputation Management Strategies

Episode 5- JuvoHub Podcast

Our Special Guest: Stacey Smith

In this episode we welcome our guest, Stacey Smith, from ECI Group. She is the Director of Learning and Development and has over 30 years of industry experience.

Connect with her on LinkedIn

Please Support Our Sponsors:

We really appreciate and thank REAL-HR a Higginbotham Company for helping make this podcast happen. Please support them!


Show Highlights

What are the components of a corporate reputation?

  • It starts at the top.
  • Leadership needs to be in engaged and excited about a reputation program.
  • For corporate reputation strategies to work, a culture has to be there first.

Why is managing our corporate reputation so critical?

  • Reputation management is digital insurance.
  • Customers are using the digital space so property management companies need to be visible and active.

In order for a reputation management program to be successful, what are some key factors?

  • Employee training whether on a site level or corporate is essential.
  • Train and empower across the generations of your employee base.
  • Treat every resident as if they were your Marketing Director.

Why are employee reviews just as critical as consumer reviews?

  • Culture has become an enormous part of deciding where you want to work.
  • Ask new team members: “What made you decide to accept the offer?” Be aware of what factors were included in that decision.

What one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?

Feel motivated about others success…remember it’s about them and not you.

Stacey Smith

If you enjoyed this episode be sure to check out:

Jonathan Saar: Hello everyone, and welcome to the JuvoHub podcast. Just before we get into our show, I wanted to tell you a bit about our sponsor, REAL HR, a Higginbotham Company. I have known their leadership team for many years now, and I'm telling you that you will be impressed with the level of dedication they have toward their clients. It is phenomenal. They work a lot with human resource departments in the property management space. So if you have questions or needs involving employee benefits, payroll administration, employee screening, and so much more, they are the ones to talk to. And they are under the umbrella of their parent company, Higginbotham, which has a whole other level of services related to insurance needs and benefits. So definitely check them out. That's real-hr.com. R-E-A-L dash H-R dot com. And see it for yourself. And of course, there'll be a link in the show notes to their site. So a big, big, huge JuvoHub thank you for being our sponsor. So without further ado, let's get into today's episode.

Jonathan Saar: Hello everyone, and welcome to JuvoHub episode number five. JuvoHub is your helping hand in property management, and I am absolutely ecstatic to have with me a very good friend of mine, Stacey Smith, who is the Director of Learning and Development at the ECI Groups. And her and I have had an opportunity on a couple of occasions to speak together. And so what we're going to be chatting about today is how reputation management really plays a pivotal role in a company's strategy from a property management perspective and how you can have a sustainable strategy. So first of all, Stacey, welcome to the show. It's so nice to have you with me today.

Stacey Smith: It's so good to be here. It seems like yesterday that you and I were getting ready to speak on reputation management. I remember you doing a little snippet of us saying we're going to talk about reputation management. I actually have it on my page. So my favorite thing to talk about, I think it's one of yours as well.

Jonathan Saar: Absolutely. Because we look back in our careers and reputation management, 10 to 15 years ago, really was such a different era as far as how that was managed, and because of how digital everything is today, there's so much more transparency. And with property management companies, it has been an ongoing discussion on, well, how do we manage that? What should we do? How do we respond? Should we not even have these social platforms or these review sites available for people to provide a review? So there continues to be a lot of dialogue. However, for the most part, we've seen property management companies who have really done a great job of embracing it. And you've been a proponent of reputation management for your career. So let's get started. Couple questions that I have for you and look forward to your take on what's going on and what you see coming. But corporate reputation, what do you think are the components that embrace that expression?

Stacey Smith: Well, it really begins at the top. I think the leaders, it's been interesting to see over the years in my career reputation management when we first started talking about it, and I believe it was 2012, it was actually you and I worked together, training sector was out, and I used your services, but reputation management back then, I'll never forget wording it to the executives and saying, "This is going to be big. This is going to really affect our marketing." And I mean, "Oh, these are just saying upset residents, nobody takes it serious." I think for a long time, people didn't take it serious from an executive level. So one of the components of that notice that has really driven a reputation management platform is that top level leadership really wanting to play a part in it, really engaged, excited about it. And that can be really challenging from a director level.

Stacey Smith: I've always been at a director level. So when I first started doing it and said, "Oh my gosh, we got to embrace this," it took a lot of selling and I have to give credit to all the third party organizations at that time. All of the third parties that embraced building Facebook pages, I remember coming to your classes. And I remember saying, "Wow." I think I came to a session of yours about LinkedIn. And I went back, Anthony and I went, "Do you know what? Our company needs a LinkedIn page." That's how far back it was. So leadership is so critical. It's a critical component. If I had to pick my second most important component, it would be internal and external customer service because that's our brand. So if we, as an organization, aren't enjoying one another's company, it kind of rolls out the front door and that affects your reputation as well. So I think a corporate component would be the leadership, our customer service, internal and externally, and then I think culture plays a big role. Culture in general.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I love that thought because when we first started this, it was, "Well, we'll just pass that off to the social media department or we'll pass that off to the marketing department," and it wasn't embraced as an organization. And when leaders started making sure that that was on every level, that's when we saw that shift within property management. So, beautiful. I love that. So why do you think it's so critical? Put yourself in the shoes of our listeners who are like, "Well, I don't really have anything right now." Why is it so important to make sure that corporate reputation is part of the conversation?

Stacey Smith: Well, for so many reasons. I've always viewed it as digital insurance. Do you know what I'm saying? I've always said we have to have an insurance plan. Okay? So we have to be ready online to... We to have some insurance there, and what I mean by insurance is those review sites are there whether you're engaged or not, so you've got to be there and being engaged to maintain the fact that you want to hear the consumer. I think one of the biggest parts of it being so critical is to teach not just to have it there so we can say, "Yes, we've got social media and reputation management in place." Well, you've got it out there, but are you there on a daily basis? You mentioned about all components, all levels of organization embracing it. I think it was so important and a pivotal point when finally organizations realized they had to invest a salary in it, meaning somebody needed to really run the show and make sure that our insurance was in place online to be ready for either because consumers are going to shout out from the internet when they're unhappy.

Stacey Smith: So you have to be there ready, just like an email coming in. You've got to be ready to embrace it. And also, I think it's interesting how we've learned to not view the negative feedback as just an upset customer. I think what's really important is teaching the idea that it's a learning opportunity because that expression of perception is reality.

Stacey Smith: Really, perception is reality. What the customer experiences they can just get on there and write about it, whether it's true or not, it was true in their eyes, and it's our job as an organization that we make sure that that perception that's reality is the best perception we can portray it. And that's a full time job.

Jonathan Saar: Right. Absolutely. Yeah. I love that. Digital insurance, make a note of that one. Digital-

Stacey Smith: I always said, "What kind of insurance do you have? Because if you look up and it's not good, your reputation's not good, that deductible means you've got a large deductible there. So you've got some work to do."

Jonathan Saar: Right, right. That's great because it's not something that we can avoid, so we have to have something in place that we're addressing those conversations, that were somewhat, and I use this word loosely, in control of the conversation. It's very difficult to use that English word in this context, but by being there, it doesn't mean that we're perfect. It doesn't mean that we do everything right. That's not a reality, but by our very presence in that conversation with our customers, with our prospects, with our employees, it's all solid. So that kind of leads me to another question, Stacy, if it's going to be successful, we talked about leadership, that's great. Kind of like the overall components, but from a strategic standpoint, what would you say are some factors in order to make a reputation management sustainable and successful?

Stacey Smith: Sustainable, well, that's a strategy in itself. I think it's looking at bandwidth. How many people do you have available to manage your reputation. Property management, for example. Let's just say you're managing 25 properties. So you have to look at it and say, "What's my strategy here? Are we going to handle it from a corporate level, or we can train and empower management on site to run their individual shows?" Right? So I think what's made us successful over the years, what I have found, provides a good platform, is if there's a safety net. So educating property managers, it works. Are we speaking mainly about property management here right now? If so, property managers being educated is so important. And it's interesting, generation matters as well. We teach reputation management once a week at our organization. And we have a lot of, I say, "Come on as often as you want." Well, the older generations, which is putting me right there, older generations are the ones constantly wanting more tips.

Stacey Smith: They are. They're wanting more tips. When you've got some of the younger generations coming in that I literally will reach out to and say, "How did you get that engagement level on a particular post?" Or, "How did you get that many reviews? What campaign did you put in place?" So I think also what makes us successful is you've got to find the talent within your company and feed off of that. Just because you've got different levels in an organization, it can be that recent consult on site that's educating. I've got what we call power users, experts. And those are people that we've identified within the organization. We have some lease-ups. And when we hire people, especially for our lease-ups, we're looking for people that consider our social media and reputation management as the main contributor for our marketing.

Stacey Smith: And we view it that the marketing director are our residents. So every resident is your marketing director. Imagine that. Every resident has the ability to go online and market for you or against you. What's interesting is when you've got people that they've engaged your associates that are ready for it and excited about it and they want to win over their residents. So that's why I've fed back to the very beginning when I said a major component was customer service, because when it comes down to it, we provide a service nowadays, it used to just be lease apartments, it's our property. But now, we are providing an experience. Even after they move in, it's already, "What experience are we providing them to make it a community?" And the impact that just even the leasing consultant has, if they have one bad experience, one resident has one bad experience with leasing consultant that maybe just had a bad morning, and now they go on and there is just one little niche in our branding against us.

Stacey Smith: So I think what makes us successful is you've got to find the talent and you've got to be engaged. And nowadays, it has to be a part of a marketing program. We can't afford to not have a marketing department. It's interesting in these times with what's going on, training, education, marketing. When the economy starts suffering, there was a time when you went, "Oh my gosh," because we were once considered a benefit, right? Or an additional wonderful thing for a company to have. But now it's a necessity. Marketing is a necessity. A company can't live without it because otherwise all your consumers become your marketing department and you're at their mercy.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. I love it. So there's two key takeaways so far, folks. Digital insurance and your residents are your marketing directors. I love it. Love it. So let's just spin it. Just one more thought. A lot of times we think of reputation management in the context of our customers, our prospects, our residents, getting their feedback. But employee reviews are just as important as an organization. We want talent. We're trying to attract talent. So what are your comments? What are your thoughts on employee reviews? Why are they just as important as a consumer or a resident reviews?

Stacey Smith: Well, nowadays we go right to it. It's very easy for somebody in a company to call you and say, "John, I worked for A, B and C. You will love it here. It's just a great company to work for." Now that might excite you, but no matter how much you like me, Jonathan, and trust my opinion, wouldn't you still go check it out online and just see what people are saying? That's the first thing, is culture has become an enormous part of deciding where we want to work. I think that is for a variety of reasons. At one, I think at one time, within the last few years, it was more about the new generations and what they were looking for in the workplace. But what I have found, and I'm 30 years into this business, is I've enjoyed seeing these new generations and what they're bringing in, because it's exciting me to hear their perspective. For example, they go and look on whether it's Glassdoor, Indeed, see, I think we should be maximizing our pages there.

Stacey Smith: Making an expense in what we look like when we go onto Glassdoor. I'm just going to use Glassdoor as an example, because several of the individuals that have worked for me in the last several years were a younger group, and they immediately went to Glassdoor, they said, when I asked. I always ask, "What made you decide to accept the offer?" Because I want to know what drove them.

Stacey Smith: LinkedIn, of course, they go to LinkedIn. If I ever had to look again, it's always about feedback from other people, because I think down to it, we no longer go to work anymore. It's become such a part of our lives because, here's work, work is right in front of me, work's on my iPad. So the people we work around, we work around outside of the eight hours a day. We have to embrace the idea that it's not just the 40 hour work week and even for those that do, they want to be sure that when they're going to work that it's an experience that's positive because I think we've learned that it impacts our health, it impacts our family and our friends. And you can just go down a rabbit hole, Jonathan, when it comes to why looking at corporate reputation to retain good talent. It's vital. It's vital.

Jonathan Saar: Yeah. Yeah. Solid. I love it. And we can go on forever. I know there's a lot that you and I've talked about in previous conversations at a session that we did together, really some best practices when it comes to doing that. But I think for the purpose of this show, it's really to remind our listeners that you have to be aware, you need to participate, you need to look at it from a customer standpoint, from an employee standpoint, and have those conversations and build it in throughout the entire company. That just the culture. So digital insurance, make it your culture, live it, live it and breathe it. And that's just what will make it successful. And to me, it's part of our overall emotional intelligence dealing with reviews, because we live in a very knee-jerk society where somebody says something bad about someone and it's just the end of the world. But it's not the end of the world. We're intelligent leaders, professionals in how we can address the good reviews and the bad reviews, and use them both as learning and training tools, right?

Stacey Smith: Yeah. The best advice I can give, I tell the sites when they're working on the reputation management is don't be afraid to ask for the review. That's so important to be always asking. You're asking for a review when you say, "How's everything going in your apartment? Or, "How have you been? How's your job going? What's new?" You're asking for a review. So customer service, again, internal, external, so that it just becomes part of the conversation to say, "Hey, thanks for telling you that. Would you mind going to Facebook and making a comment for us," or, "Go to Google," or wherever you need that rating raise, that's where you send them. That's a whole strategic plan in itself is knowing where you need those positive reviews to go.

Jonathan Saar: Exactly. Exactly. Well, Stacy has been amazing to have you on the show and what a great dialogue and a lot of impactful thoughts on what we can do to make sure we impress upon our companies the importance of reputation management and how to build that and make it sustainable. So we really appreciate having you on the show today. Before we close out, what I love to ask my guests, what one actionable tip could you share that has served you well as an educator?

Stacey Smith: I think has been the most useful out of all my years is you have to truly feel motivated by watching somebody else succeed. When I see other people that I've worked around or taught, and I watched them just soar, that gives me such a reward and it reminds me every day when I get up, if I'm tired or I'm not feeling well, and I think, "Oh, but I'm going to see so-and-so today to teach them about reputation management," and then the reward at the end of the day that they learned something. So you have to be pretty selfless. You have to really go to work for someone else's behalf. So our associates are my customers and I love serving them every day. And people think that educating is easy, that we have the fun part of the job, but it's actually, you can't afford to have a bad day. So that would be my big tip, is just always, always remember that it's about them and not you.

Jonathan Saar: Beautiful. Love it. We're in a service industry, yes. And as educators we give. We see that as educators all over the world, doesn't matter what genre work that we're in, it is truly an amazing blessing to be able to see the next generation of people coming into our industry. So ladies and gentlemen, Stacy Smith, Director of Learning and Development at ECI groups, it's been an amazing pleasure to have you on the show today. This was episode five of Sustainable Reputation Management Strategies. We want to thank you for being here. Take a minute and give us a review on the podcast. We've talked about reviews today.

Jonathan Saar: What a wonderful opportunity if you liked this show to give us a review on iTunes or whatever type of podcast service that you are using. So thanks very much. We look forward to having you on our next show.

Stacey Smith: Thanks. Anytime, I appreciate it.