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How To Manage Your Business Reputation Online

Five things Emma Sadleir thinks you should know about building a reputable brand in the digital age.

Hanfred Rauch




With the sun catching her iconic golden hair at a Waterfront hotel overlooking the Atlantic, Emma Sadleir looks every bit the part of a glamorous lawyer on an American TV show. She launches into a discussion about South Africa’s liberal approach to social media law – and what a fascinating case study we were for the rest of the world during the Oscar Pistorius trial, for which she was a correspondent for both the BBC and Carte Blanche.

Interestingly, though, Emma has used her “Barbie-of-media-law” image consciously to educate South Africans – especially children – about the consequences of their online actions. “Our only frame of reference is what happens on Suits and Ally McBeal – and it’s not even vaguely similar, so I found the media circus that erupted around the Oscar Pistorius trial was incredibly effective as an educational tool,” she says, adding, “I think all courts should be televised.”

When it comes to managing your reputation, Emma says, “I’ve always liked what Warren Buffet said, that it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” pausing for effect. “Nowadays, it takes five seconds,” referring to the speed at which digital media operates. “The whole world’s trying to work out the rules at the same time, so the laws are fairly global – except for America – they do their own thing with the first amendment.”

Related: Manage your Brand’s Reputation Online

So, what advice does Emma have for businesses on building a good reputation?

1. Social media won’t go away

From listed corporations and large media companies to schools across South Africa, a great number of businesses have approached Emma for advice on their social media policies. “Too many companies don’t think that they should be dealing with social media,” she says, “but I believe that all companies should have a social media policy.”

She uses an example: “Say you’re working at the front desk of a hotel and a celebrity checks in and you post: ‘Whoop-whoop, guess who’s staying at the hotel!’ – that can have a big impact on the company.”

“Because it’s all so new, it’s about getting people to understand,” says Emma, “People just don’t know what the repercussions are. The law is there – it’s just about educating your employees to mitigate your risk.”

2. If you won’t put it on a billboard, don’t put it online

Not many people realise the responsibility that comes with having a public voice. “It used to be that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish wrapping,” Emma says. “That’s not the case anymore. The internet is a very permanent place.”

“The screenshot really is the devil,” she says. “If you’re chatting to someone on WhatsApp, talking about how horrible your boss is – they post it online – you’re screwed. One rogue tweet affects the whole company.”

Emma cites the pandemonium that erupted on Twitter over Justine Sacco’s racist remark – that she could not contract Aids because she was white. Between the time Sacco posted the tweet at Heathrow and flew to Cape Town, #hasjustinelandedyet went viral across the globe, her company, IAC, had issued a formal apology and she lost her job. Social media posts such as these can have devastating effects on brands.

To Emma, privacy is your most precious commodity in the digital age. “If you don’t want it to exist, don’t let it.”

Related: How To Advance Your Reputation Globally

3. Everybody’s a celebrity

Having a voice means you have to manage your reputation. Using a fairly typical example, Emma says: “Before you meet someone, you Google them – see what comes up. In the same way, when you apply for a job, they’re going to check you out online.”

While celebrity culture might still seem like the refuge of the trivial, Emma believes we have a lot to learn from celebrities about reputation management. “It’s really about being conscious that we’ve all become celebrities and about starting to treat yourself like a celebrity – as well as your friends, your colleagues and your family. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s the reality of it.”

Whether as a business or in a personal capacity, Emma suggests adopting a default mindset of, “If people take pictures of you, it’s going to be published.” But, she adds, “The way privacy laws are set up in South Africa is that the more you look after your privacy, the more privacy you will have.”

4. There’s no better publicity than a happy workforce

The plus side of living in a digital world is that it has forced organisations to reconsider the way they do business. “Cognisant of the risk of social media, a lot of companies have adopted a policy of, ‘No one’s allowed to talk about us on social media’, but really, there’s no better publicity than a happy workforce,” Emma says. She suggests that companies should rather improve their business culture than try to stop their employees from talking about them.

“If all of a company’s people talk about what a cool company it is to work for – you can’t buy that,” she says, “so I think, trusting your employees and empowering them to use social media tools effectively is the best recipe for success.” She goes on to say, “But I appreciate that it can be very difficult.”

5. Every business is different

“The marketing people will tell you that you’ve got to be where your clients are – that all companies should be on social media,” says Emma, “But I don’t think that’s always necessary. What businesses need to understand is that they’re on social media even if they don’t want to be.”

She explains: “Their employees are on social media, their clients are – but what I don’t agree with is that a lot of these marketing companies insisted that all business should have a Facebook page, for instance. I don’t think it’s always helpful,” Emma says. “I think sometimes it just creates a platform for complaints.”

Asking Emma about the future of social media, she goes quiet. A few moments later, she says, “Honesty is crucial…social media as a recruitment tool is a game changer…” She sits up. “Actually, I have no idea where we’re going. If you had told me six weeks ago that we’d all be playing Pokémon Go and that it would increase Nintendo’s shared market value by $9 Billion, I would have laughed at you.”

She feels, however, that people are reaching a saturation point – that social media addiction has become an active contributor to depression and that people are going to realise that real-world experiences are more valuable than virtual ones. “I always say, as far as the book of social media is concerned, we’re still reading the table of contents.”

nlighten-logoEmma Sadleir will be speaking at nlighten’s business leadership event, Exec Think Tank, on 11 August 2016 at Equinox, Alice Lane, Sandton. To find out more about the event, visit or contact Nicola on 021 794 7533 or email

Hanfred Rauch is the Communications Executive at nlighten: Enhancing customer experience. Read more of Hanfred's articles here:

Online Marketing

Custom Content Via E-commerce Heralds The Future Of Marketing

Informative, catchy content is key to ecommerce engagement. It is an affordable marketing strategy with high impact on ROI.




Content does not demand huge resources; a blog can be launched fairly quickly. However, consumer attention spans are pulled in many directions, so they demand the best on offer.

Peer pressure

With two hours per day spent by the average person on social media, it makes sense to harness the potential of these platforms for product inspiration and building hype and desirability of your brand. Studies have shown that most consumers value posts written by other consumers above scripted advertising. Advertising does still have a role to play, but the approach needs to be fresh in enhancing customer experiences alongside customers’ peer reviews to build relationships.

Millennials are so aware of an oversaturated market place that they are difficult to sell to. Images and messages are easily crafted and edited into being what they are not.

Likewise, influencer support can be faked or bought. Supposed sponsorship can be off-putting when relied on in excess to lend gravitas to a post. While influencer endorsement is rife, it must be approached with discernment. Fake engagements are equally rife. From buying followers to staging fake boosting of your friends’ posts, fraud is everywhere, but ultimately cannot sustain.

Related: 3 Ways To Build Your Brand Identity Using Content Marketing

Value +

What does sustain is authenticity, and this is what Millennials are searching for. Brands are wise to allow consumers inside the real stories that make their brand what it is.

Consumers value brands that stand for more. Ethics, social welfare, and edu-commerce. Content that encourages development, both personal and communal is a draw card. Enlightening consumers as to how to get the most out of your products means you are concerned about maximizing value. In the age of ecommerce, transparency and authenticity, brands need to be clear on their vision and mission. In this way, a brand can consistently stay true to its values, and build relationships and trust with the consumer. Next level transparency means revealing all aspects of what makes your product what it is; taking pride in manufacturing, reviews, and individual relevance.


Shopping via the ecommerce is undeniably where it’s at for a myriad of reasons. Ease of price and product comparison, convenience, Generation X time constraints and techno affinity are all factors. Consumers now expect a slick, omnichannel shopping facility that meets their unique lifestyles and personal needs. A majority of customers value customer experience over price when choosing a brand. With sound content enhancing ecommerce engagement, the future of marketing has great potential.

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Company Posts

Staying Relevant In The Facebook Age Of Meaningful Social Interactions

With Facebook announcing that it is pushing brand and publisher content out of news feeds, how can businesses, especially small and medium enterprises in South Africa, remain relevant?






It was deemed a “rude awakening” early in January 2018 when Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that the social networking platform had changed its algorithm, basically meaning it had changed what users see on their news feeds.

This follows a pretty harsh year for Facebook, where it was criticised for not having the right countermeasure to stop the spread of fake news and propaganda. So now its set of rules has changed; bumping up users’ friends and family members’ status updates and photos, and underplaying public news articles and content published by brands.

But where does that leave the small or medium businesses reliant on communicating their brand messages through Facebook? How do they now reach Facebook users (estimated to be approximately two billion)?

There is still a way

jodene-shaer“’Meaningful interaction’ is not something new to Zuckerberg’s focus on how brands engage with their Facebook audience,” explains Jodene Shaer, international business owner and head strategist of social media engagement specialist, Chat Factory.

Related: 5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble

“There is a place for paid media, but if a brand is trying to be seen organically, then it must feel like it is part of the flowing content people want to see from friends and family. It is pushing for the reason that Facebook was created in the first place – to be social.”

Authenticity key

Truly embracing the power of live videos and video content on Facebook – and then creating reasons for the public to engage with those posts – is an excellent move for any business that is budget conscious, Shaer adds.

“The ranking for visibility of organic content is highest when live. Live videos are absolutely the route to go, as followers receive a notification that you are live and there is greater chance of visibility. A big advantage is that you can save that content to the page and it becomes shareable, and can be uploaded to YouTube, where there is still a strong call for business content.

“And it doesn’t have to be high budget either, but it must be authentic, informative, engaging and encouraging. Of all things, ensure that all comments are responded to and shares and reviews are acknowledged.”

Looking beyond Facebook

Shaer believes that smaller local businesses can make their ad rands stretch further on Facebook by moving onto Ads Manager, instead of simply using the Boost button. “The reach is different, so invest in watching some YouTube videos as tutorials,” she recommends. “Boost to unique target audiences and turn the boosting into a science, by watching your reach. Set up smaller boosts and spread your spend across a few posts instead of one big boost. Track your stats and see which audiences work best.”

“One way that South African SMEs could also make use of InstaStories, as these are gaining organic reach. They could also look at varying hashtags, but using a few to reach a very specific audience.

Related: Marketing Tips For Start-ups

“We’ve seen the opening up of the use of LinkedIn and had people return to using the power of Twitter, so it’s worth investigating how to maximise other platforms while trying to keep your budget low.

“None of this should put a small business off, but should create exciting and challenging opportunities to shift how social media is used and explore the outcomes of each post, to truly develop a social media presence,” she adds.

Shaer will be one of an entire panel of dynamic, expert presenters speaking at the upcoming Madex 2018 show, the ultimate marketing, advertising, design, social media and all that good stuff expo.

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Online Marketing

How To Market Your Hotel

An integrated digital marketing strategy that provides multiple channels to communicate on will help you to reach more potential customers.





It’s imperative these days to enable customers and guests to interact directly with your brand in real time – and your ROI will reflect this success. To achieve this, your marketing team should utilise a number of different channels in order to achieve an integrated digital marketing strategy.

Why? When potential customers are only able to use one means of communication or booking platform, such as a hotel’s website or blog, Facebook, Twitter or a third-party booking site, their frustration could cause you to lose their business.

Your digital strategy


By engaging in an integrated digital marketing strategy and addressing multiple channels with a clear, consistent message, you are bound to reach the maximum number of potential customers. Through the creation of a larger online presence, your engagement reach will be far higher, solidifying your company’s brand in the best possible manner.

Related: 5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble

Your first step in achieving an integrated campaign is to determine your target market. The second step according to Robert Nienaber, managing director of Suiteres, is to “create a message – tell a story about your product or service and what makes it unique.

For instance, the history of your establishment’s location, the nature/wildlife, your amazing food or historical rooms or perhaps the owner’s unique story. Tailor that story for your target market to captivate them – they will buy into your brand as a result.” Be sure to keep your message consistent across all mediums, be it written, photographic or video.

According to Ivo Kittel, head of Development & Design at Suiteres, different channels can be described as such: ‘These consist of website and online booking systems, third-party channels – such as online travel agents or your global distributions systems – and social media platforms that support the aforementioned and drive traffic to them.

‘Print media, events and other offline techniques can also assist by driving clients to visit your website or to engage with you on social media. All these channels should be strategically linked for best effect.’

Online marketing

An unusual hero in the travel market? Smart phones and tablets, on-the-go devices that allow users to review and recommend hotels on social media profiles, as well as third-party sites. Together with the integrated digital marketing strategy, this increases potential customers’ connections to hotels, airlines, car hire companies or event organisers.

What’s more, a key driver in drawing in new customers and causing previous ones to return, is the offer of regular perks, benefits, freebies and discounts via a newsletter.

Bear in mind though, that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Each company will have differing concerns and requirements, and these are what you should use to build an effective marketing campaign. The following should be noted:

  • Effective communication between marketing team members is essential. There needs to be collaboration across the multiple channels you’re utilising. In doing so, your overall offering will be streamlined and have maximum effect.
  • Choose your key channels, those that will receive the most attention and marketing spend. These need to be the channels that garner the most hits or collect the most bookings – also known as ‘converting’.
  • Determine your target market and get as much information as you can on them, over time. For instance, which platform do they opt for first? Do specials lead them to make a booking, and if so, what are they? This and any other informative data assists you in your decisions and allows you to use your marketing funds in the best manner possible.

According to Vanessa Rogers, head of Communications at Suiteres, ‘The above-mentioned strategy should ideally be supported by a skilfully crafted PR campaign – one designed to complement and support your marketing message.’

Related: 3 Ways To Build Your Brand Identity Using Content Marketing

Taking this into account, you should consider having relevant articles published on third-party websites and print media or arrange for a client to be interviewed on radio or a streaming site. These forms of PR are more cost-effective then an advertising campaign.

The details matter

Importantly, customers need to know they can contact you quickly and easily, whether they are making a booking or requesting additional information. One thing you can be certain of: if a customer is unable to communicate efficiently with you, they are very likely to book elsewhere.

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