A business’s heart is its brand. For most industries, it costs many times more to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Customers need to be able to trust a company before they’ll part with their money. A strong brand is the single most important prerequisite of this trust. There are a few steps that you can take today that will help your brand withstand negative press, and improve the visibility of your business:

Strive For Excellence

This may seem like a catch-all, but in fact, it is a specific goal that you should always strive to meet. Your business is always in the public eye, and word-of-mouth never ceases. In order to build a solid brand, you should constantly search for ways to provide value, and to over-deliver. When customers get more than they asked for, they talk about it.

By constantly raising standards of production, delivery and satisfaction, you stay in step with your customers’ continually rising expectations. Companies that don’t take stock of their customers’ evolving tastes become stagnant, and may fall prey to the next younger, hipper competitor to come along. As a practical tie-in to this concept, consider appraising your R&D department, with an eye on increasing quality across the board. The payoff will come slowly but surely.

Exude a Steady Image

Keep changes to corporate identity to a minimum. As soon as customers encounter your logo, business card, and other packaging, they associate you and your product with these items. An important aspect of building a brand is being steadfast in your image. Spend a bit more today on your corporate packaging so that it remains relevant for decades to come – a feat that any creative agency will be able to help you with. On average, you must expose your potential customer to your product at least seven times before they’ll bite. If you change your corporate identity too often, you will alienate the customers you’ve already won over.

Be Flexible but Firm

Customers appreciate a business that is open to their feedback. This can in turn result in more positive word-of-mouth advertising. It is important that you demonstrate this willingness through a feedback section on your website or customer service hotline. However, in the interest of your brand, you should never be so flexible that customer feedback leads you to stray from your mission statement and business plan.

Show customers that you respect yourself and your business by holding true to these critical elements of your business. Any business can change their business model on the fly, but this is detrimental to the overall business, and sends a negative signal to potential customers. Remember that a brand represents steadfastness.

Create a Clearly Defined Training Process

Your business is run by individuals who may or may not be as enthusiastic as you are about its future. By creating a clear, strict training manual for all new hires, you can ensure that your brand isn’t eroded by uninterested, disengaged employees. Make sure that employees know from the get-go what’s expected of them, and which behaviors will not be tolerated. Remember: your employees are ambassadors of your brand. At some level, they, more than you, hold the future of your brand in their hands.

Take Advantage of Social Media

Social media isn’t going anywhere, and if you aren’t using it yet, you should be. By taking advantage of sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can create an immediate presence online. These virtual kiosks stand within a stream of millions of potential visitors. While you’ll want to avoid outright spam, you can provide followers and fans with news on new products and promotions. Perhaps more importantly in the long run, social media can serve as a 24-hour word-of-mouth advertising generator. Ignore social media at your own peril.

Your brand is precious, and you should proactively develop and protect it. While nothing you do will render your brand completely immune to negative press, by employing the above five techniques, you will go a long way in that direction. When you increase your brand’s visibility, you open yourself to either positive or negative press. Keep a firm grasp on your business’s day-to-day operations and keep standards extremely high to ensure that your brand comes out on top.