Branding expert discusses the art and science of aligning a brand and its reputation

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2013 - 10:01 PM

A branding expert discusses the art and science of aligning a brand and its reputation in a “hospitable environment.”

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Rose McKinney, head of the agency PineappleRM, says it’s best to immerse employees in the company story in order to bolster the corporate brand.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com ,

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There’s a story behind the name Pineapple, as in PineappleRM, the reputation management agency that public relations veteran Rose McKinney launched in October 2011.

“I wanted to create a hospitable environment for companies to do their business, and I did some research and learned that the pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality,” McKinney said in an interview last week.

The symbolism dates back to the sailing days of Christopher Columbus, who brought back a pineapple for the king of Spain after a stop in the West Indies, McKinney said. Later sea captains brought pineapples home from the trips to the tropics and would place the fruit outside their door at home to show that they had safely returned, that they welcomed visitors and had stories to tell about their adventures.

“The alignment between a brand and its reputation can only happen in a hospitable situation,” McKinney said.

Today, McKinney has a staff of five and an Anoka office under renovation. Her client list ranges from the large technology company Comm-Works, to smaller companies such as Morphology Games, to nonprofits that include Minnesota Masonic Charities.

McKinney, 46, sat down last week in the offices of advertising agency and client StoneArch to discuss the art and science of refreshing, protecting and expanding reputations.

 

Q: Define reputation management.

A: People want to know what you stand for and whether they are aligned with that. It’s also about how you talk about what you do and tell stories and about not getting caught off guard. It’s about performance, behavior and communication and how those work together in the marketplace. You want to get the foundation right but it’s what you do beyond that that determines success.

 

Q: How does social media play into reputation management?

A: If nothing else, you have to monitor it because those conversations are happening. Are you a leader in those conversations or are you reactive? Social media creates rapport but also has its challenges. Look at British Petroleum and its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. People were not shy about voicing their opinions. Social media creates a voice for those who weren’t there before.

 

Q: What does an organization do once it determines that its reputation has been damaged?

A: It starts on the inside. You have to have the facts and the context of a problem and leadership available that can and should speak to the issue. Secondly, you need to have authentic outreach. BP took awhile to respond when it had the spill. It’s a matter of taking care of a matter and letting people know that you are working on it: “We’re taking these steps and here’s what to expect.” Openness goes a long way.

 

Q: Can you talk about the reputation management and successes and needs of Minnesota companies?

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