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Corporate Image, We All Have One, But Few Work to Protect, Project it

 

In nutritional circles, it's said that "you are what you eat." As a corporate entity, you are what people think you are.

According to a recent report from the Opinion Research Corporation (ORC), corporate image is a major part of what sells a company and its products. In the study, 97 percent of the responding senior and middle managers acknowledged that image accounts for a significant measure of the successes and failures of their organizations.

This study reflects the acknowledgment in the corporate community that people do business with a given firm or buy its products for more than the quality of the goods or services. The collective knowledge of customers, stockholders, bankers, brokerage houses, dealers, distributors and the media regarding a company can affect its sales, earnings, valuation, ability to obtain loans and its ability to attract quality employees.

Corporate image is defined as the perceived sum of the entire organization, its objectives and plans. It encompasses the company's products, services, management style, communications activities and actions around the world.

Many firms focus little attention on their corporate image until it has been severely damaged. Often, this recognition comes too late to remedy the situation.

Building a positive corporate image requires skillful long-term planning. Management cannot limit its focus to the next few weeks or months. Plans to ensure a positive corporate image should create an impression that will last for years.

 

Benefits of a Strong Image

Products have lives.

According to A.C. Nielson, 30 brands that are currently leaders in their respective categories will lose their positions in less than two years. A strong corporate image can extend product lives and can also buoy a firm through the inevitable sales valleys by providing:

 

Influences on Image

Advertising and publicity are only two aspects in the establishing a firm's image. Everything a company is, says and does is a component of its corporate image:

Launching an Image

There are certain steps which must be followed in launching a corporate image communications program. They are:

 

Image Audiences

The way to launch an effective image development and/or reinforcement campaign is to define your target publics. Most companies seek to influence:

 

Reaching Audiences

Once you've identified and prioritized your various audiences, you are ready to develop and execute specific programs and plans to reach and influence these audiences:

  • Keeping the press informed
  • Participating in trade associations
  • Participating in trade councils
  • Becoming spokespersons for industry needs and goals
  • Promoting for the overall good of the industry

 

Plan of Action

Once an audit of the company's image has been completed and priorities established on the various aspects of the image program, management is ready to move forward.

Keep in mind that a good image deserves a proper presentation. You are trying to inspire, motivate and either change or reinforce thought patterns and associations evoked by your organization. This is an art. It can only be accomplished through fastidious application. Your program must be directed to the right people at the right time. It must be presented in the most beneficial atmosphere.

Generally, the molding of a corporate image is not a program that can focus on near-term results. An undesirable corporate identity is a lot like obesity. It takes a long time to develop the symptoms, and it will probably take just as long, if not longer, to achieve significant improvement. It is a multifaceted activity that includes everyone in the organization.

A sound corporate image is no substitute for fair dealings and quality products. However, first impressions have a lasting effect. A company's ability to communicate a favorable and progressive image to its many publics places it ahead of its competition, and subsequently has a profound effect on the bottom line.

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