Be the mānuka, own your reputation

Posted by Jackie Russell

What people think about your business can be as beautiful as a pristine piece of native bush one day and as destructive as a mudslide the next.
Take Aotearoa’s humble mānuka.
Throughout the last few centuries this little beauty has had its reputation re-written several times and it has gone from tāonga to trash, and back to tāonga.

Māori recognised manuka for its therapeutic qualities, European settlers reportedly made tea from it and then set to scrub-cutting it from the landscape to make way for farmland.
The prolific plant became known as little more than a weed and a nuisance.
In more recent times, the healing properties of high UMF honey, which gains it potency from bees buzzing about mānuka blossom has yet again, changed the story of this humble plant.
And, as Kiwi have become aware of the state of our waterways and threatened bio-diversity, the plot of the mānuka story has taken another twist.
Those who are industriously regenerating native bush identify mānuka as a hardy nursery plant that creates a haven for more vulnerable plants while they become established.

What is your business story?
Fundamentally, the mānuka has not changed but its reputation has had plenty of ups and downs, depending where we are in the story.
Your business reputation may experience similar ups and downs depending on where your story is going.
One week you may be getting on with the job of producing the best little dodacky in the country and everybody loves your dodacky.
They buy it, use it, share it with others. Then like the mānuku plant, someone doesn’t see the value of your dodacky, they may even oppose dodackys and they tell everyone to stop buying dodackys.
Let’s consider products that are currently experiencing the plight of a bad story.
Plastic bags have fallen from grace, meat is looking over its shoulder at the invention of lab-raised protein and throughout the years, eggs have been blamed for high cholesterol and now they are not.
Whether you share these product perceptions is subjective, with your view being based on the stories and experiences you have absorbed about the bags, meat and eggs.
Similarly, the target market for dodackys is influenced by the chapters of the dodacky story and as the business owner you need to totally own that story.
You need to understand what it is that makes dodackys wonderful for the dodacky buyer – not you the producer.
You need to build the reputation of the dodacky with regular communication that tells worthwhile stories that make your target market remain loyal to the dodacky.

When the business story goes wrong
When a dodacky hater throws a red herring into the product plot – you need to have the real story to combat negative rumours.
If there is a failing with the dodacky you may want to ignore the signs but for long-term survival, just like the mānuka, you need to find the new angle that will keep your dodacky thriving.
It may mean a product overhaul, it may mean it’s time to cut your losses and wind up the dodacky business, or it may simply mean your dodacky needs a better communication strategy.
Remember, mānuka is the same as it ever was but reflection, innovation and communication of its usefulness have all had an impact on the plant’s value and survival.
Could the dodacky be used in a new way? Similarly, mobile phones have developed into smart devices.
Could the dodacky appeal to a new target group? Similarly, Facebook is finding greater appeal with older users.
Could the dodacky stay the same but benefit from more good marketing and communication? Similarly, Harry Potter is a great story, but it wouldn’t have gone anywhere without a great business model, marketing and communication.
Maybe your dodacky just needs a few more chapters added to the story that resonate with dodacky lovers.

Be the mānuka, own your reputation.