Managing Corporate Image
As cliché as it may sound, perception truly is reality when it comes to business in the social age. But fortunately, the reality of managing corporate image remains one of the most powerful tools that a business owner and management team can possess.
The concepts of corporate image and identity were probably best articulated by Wally Olins, co-founder of global branding powerhouse Wolff Olins: “Every organization carries out thousands of transactions every day: it buys, it sells, it hires and fires, it makes, it promotes, it informs through advertising and the Web. In each transaction the organization is in some way presenting itself—or part of itself—to the various groups of people it deals with. The totality of the way the organization presents itself can be called its identity. What different audiences perceive is often called its image.”
Just as influential social and political figures understand the need to manage their public images, so must businesses. And just as these same social and political figures understand that reputation goes beyond suit and tie combinations, businesses must understand that a successful corporate identity goes beyond merely a logo and letterhead design.
Not to say that symbols aren’t important, they are a natural starting point for successful brand strategies. They’re culturally powerful and the most broadly accepted form in which an organization can present itself (i.e. identity). However, once an organization presents itself it will inevitably be perceived by its various audiences (i.e. corporate image). All organizations have both identity and image, and they must choose whether or not they want to actively manage them.
“Choose” is the key word here. Yes, organizations must choose to define themselves to their customers, affiliates, vendors, and even employees. Without active steps to do so, reputation can be defined by a small percentage of poor experiences.
Like any other business discipline, be it accounting, human resources, sales or information technology, corporate image must be managed—with specific processes put into place—to ensure that the organization’s external and internal image is in lockstep with its overall business goals and objectives.
This process of managing corporate image is most often referred to as branding—a common buzzword. It starts with an organization’s core beliefs and can aggressively spread into marketing, human resources, customer relations and even the organization’s physical environment. It’s the ultimate “change-agent”.
Managing corporate image should be an integral part of day-to-day operations and the first step requires a clear understanding of an organization’s unique competitive landscape. This analysis is built on a foundation of core objectives, customer/audience dynamics, and competitive pressures.
At the convergence of these business influences is ultimately where identifiable opportunities exist—and with fresh eyes—directions emerge that can be used to begin creating deliverables to accentuate these newly defined competitive advantages.
Ultimately, with this newfound intelligence comes clarity… with clarity comes inspired action… and with inspired action comes results.
Photo by Ben Sweet via Unsplash.