This post was written by 5 Stones Media intern, Caleb Holloway.
"Branding" is one of the most prevalent terms in the business and entrepreneurial community today, and rightly so. With the heightened presence of social media and online communications, a company's brand has even more facets than ever. However, despite its importance, the concept of branding is hard to pin down and fully understand. This is primarily because many businesses miss the main point of what a company's brand is: not a thing, but an idea.
A brand has many faces, but ultimately it is the perception adopted by the public. It can't be created or manufactured - from the moment an individual is introduced to a business or other entity, their perception of it is established, and it will exist and grow with or without your influence. This is the reason why companies place so much effort and investment into having a complete and accurate representation of themselves in place at all times.
Many business owners and executives will say, "I haven't had time to have a website developed," or "I don't think I'm ready for a social media presence yet." This approach to any business is a critical mistake because, believe it or not, your brand's existence is not entirely up to you. That may sound like a bogus statement, but it's true. You cannot decide when or how to create your brand, you simply have to decide when and how you will take control of it.
The public plays a massive role in the development of a brand: people will check-in with their Facebook status update, or post a review of their experience on Yelp. In fact, it is entirely possible and all too common that a business's online presence is composed of third-party sources of which its owner or manager has zero knowledge or control. Isn't your online presence something in which you should have a hand? Absolutely. For instance, the lack of a website in today's business landscape is comparable to not having a phone numbers, or in some cases, a physical address. If a company has no website, not only does it sacrifice the potential customer base associated with that presence, but it also indirectly establishes itself as "the company without a website", which can be devastating in today's technology-centric markets.
In the end, you can't do enough to develop your company's brand. If at any moment you think your brand is complete, you are mistaken. A brand is not a thing, it is simply a name given to the way the public perceives an entity. Therefore, it must always be a top priority to stay one step ahead of your brand, because your brand won't wait for you.