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This One Surprising Thing Could Be Sabotaging Your Brand Drunk posting on Facebook isn't flattering for you or your employer.

By Aaron Agius Edited by Dan Bova

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Branding is one of the most critical aspects of running a business. From your logo design, to the color scheme of your website, to the way you interact with your customers -- creating a positive and consistent experience for anyone interacting with your brand is essential.

In business, perception is everything. Ninety-one percent of consumers say that they're more likely to buy from an authentic brand than from a dishonest brand. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of qualities do you want your customers to associate with your business?

  • What core messages do you want to convey to your audience?

  • What is the mission of your business?

  • What makes your business different from the competition?

These questions aren't a trivial exercise. The answers will dictate your branding, and your branding is essentially to the DNA of your business.

Related: Don't Get Too Fancy in Your Marketing -- Authenticity Always Wins

At the best of times, your employees can act as brand advocates -- conveying the positive attributes of your business to their friends and associates. However, when there is a misalignment between the core values of your business and the behavior of your employees, your branding will suffer. Warren Buffett's well-known quote -- "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it" -- is particularly true today as news travels fast.

Here are some of the ways your employees may be unintentionally sabotaging your branding efforts. Be on the lookout so you can avert a crisis as soon as possible.

1. Not adhering to your social media style guide.

Seventy-one percent of consumers who've had a good experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend it to their friends.

If you want to win at social media marketing, creating a consistent experience across all platforms is necessary. One of the ways to achieve this is to create a style guide for everyone who posts on the company's official social media accounts. A style guide should dictate the type of language used, the general tone of voice, the formatting of posts and what types of images to include. When employees do not take the style guide seriously, they will create a disjointed experience for your audience. To combat this, ensure employees are given proper training and go through a precautionary period where senior staff must approve all posts before they go live.

Also, be sure employees double check they're logged out of the company's official account before posting something on their personal account. Red Cross found this out the hard way when an employee tweeted about beer on the organization's Twitter account instead of her own.

Related: Are Your Employees on Social Media? Here Are 4 Reasons They Should Be.

2. Unprofessional posts on personal social media accounts.

While everyone has a personal life outside of work, it's important to remember that anything you put on social media has the potential to be seen by many more people than just your close friends.

When employees mention their place of work in their social media profiles and post content which contradicts with the integrity of the brand, there can be a problem. From images of drunken escapades to controversial political views, the last thing you want is for your employees to gain notoriety on social media for the wrong reasons.

According to a 2016 recruitment survey, 60 percent of employers use social network platforms to research job candidates. As a preventative measure, it's worth using social media to monitor existing employees too.

3. Bad customer service.

Eighty-seven percent of customers think brands should put more effort into providing a seamless customer service experience across all channels.

Every time an employee interacts with a customer is an opportunity to reinforce or ruin your branding. Sending the wrong employee to interact with a customer can diminish business opportunities and in the worst scenarios, lead to a PR disaster. Business owners should take responsibility over who they put in contact with customers. Good qualities of a customer-facing employee include confidence, empathy, an affable personality, pride for their job, good communication skills and the ability to adapt to new situations. An employee might be great at doing their job, but this doesn't mean he or she is a great communicator who will represent your brand with integrity when dealing directly with your audience.

Related: Follow These 9 Steps to Copy Zappos' Exceptional Customer Service Strategy

The solution is hiring and training.

In my opinion, some organizations are excessive in how much they prioritize personality over skills in the recruiting process. However, when hiring an employee who will be interacting with the outside world as a representative of your brand, personality matters a lot.

If you're hiring a market researcher who will be attending trade shows on your behalf, a positive attitude and friendly vibe will go a long way. For sales representatives, the ability to communicate clearly and build rapport with strangers is invaluable. When hiring a marketing associate who will post on the company's social media account, appearances and demeanor don't matter so much, but attention to detail and the ability to follow clear instructions are critical.

Finally, you can avoid a lot of mishaps by making employee training a priority. Customer-facing employees should be clear what they can and can't do within a legal context. If they're asked to do something which is against company policy, it's essential that they're able to assertively decline without coming across as hostile.

In my experience, employees who perform well in training can drop the ball badly when placed in a real scenario with a customer. In order to encourage the right demeanor, as well as teach practical skills, consider having your new employee interact with customers accompanied by a mentor at first. This helps to ease an employee into the sometimes chaotic world of customer interactions, without throwing them into the deep end.

Aaron Agius

Search, Content and Social Marketer

Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with IBM, Ford, LG, Unilever and many more of the world's largest and most recognized brands, to grow their revenue. See more from Agius at Louder Online.

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