Identity, Image and Reputation
IN the corporate management world it is widely believed that the future of a company is heavily dependent on how it is perceived by its stakeholders (customers, consumers, employees, investors, shareholders, community, etc). A good reputation is critical for any company and this needs to be established, maintained and protected to ensure the long-term future of the business.
Different strokes for different folks
We all know of brands we would and would not buy. At a boat show for example, you can spend days hearing about various product benefits and features and why you should choose one product or company over another.
So why should customers buy your brands or choose your business? There are many brands in the marine industry that don’t have particularly significant differentiation from their nearest competitors (not when you get right down to it) so customer choice can come down to other factors – company values, personality, someone they know bought one, they read a good or bad report and so on.
As a business, you must know who and what you are, you must have clearly defined objectives and goals and you must have defined company values of your own, not your brands. Importantly, your employees must believe and back them as much as you. Without these things you are just another boat, engine, GPS or fishing rod. Without these things you have no identity.
Communication of your company values is, in essence, your corporate identity. Your identity is communicated and reinforced via your promotions, customer communications, appearance (uniform, logo, name, website, adverts, etc), employees and relationships.
Once you have established an identity, targeted and consistent communication of your core message will lead to the establishment of a corporate image – the stakeholder’s immediate association to your message. Over time, the identity and image become a collective reputation. Without a consistent and managed approach, your reputation could become anything, or nothing.
If you think of your competitors, there will be some you respect and some you don’t. Ask yourself what you respect, why and how you got there?
Don't just advertise, communicate
Many businesses operate an advertising plan as the sum total of their “marketing”. While advertising is vital, it should only be a component of a broader, integrated communications strategy.
A combination of relevant communication, always underpinned by a consistent message, will help establish and maintain a reputation over time – tools such as newsletters (print or electronic), media releases, adverts (print and digital), promotional events, up-to-date optimised website, social media, professional corporate identity design and the like, have to be strategically coordinated over the long-term for best effect and must always stick to the message.
It’s also important to remember that a company’s reputation is not just how customers perceive it, but how all stakeholders perceive it. Your customers might love you, while suppliers see you as a necessary evil that never pays on time, and the investors wonder what you’re up to with their money. This means that corporate communication has to be a strategic management function, coordinated for internal and external communication with the sole purpose of establishing, maintaining and protecting a favourable reputation in all relevant eyes.
The importance of the visual
As well as a consistent message it is important to have a professional appearance. From something as simple as a corporate logo (usually either a designed graphic or designed typography of the company name) to a full corporate style-guide covering letterhead, email signature, company colours, fonts, uniforms and more, this will establish a consistent theme throughout all visual communication. Your visual identity becomes a theme that will bind your offerings together, which is very important if you represent more than one brand.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
As we have mentioned before in this column, your core message must be consistent. Consistency reinforces the company values in everything you do or say. From the look and feel of your adverts to the content of media releases, the underlying message must be the same.
There are many businesses in the marine industry that represent more than one brand. No matter – the business values create a platform to offer each brand with the same integrity or service or value. But only if you have these values established and know who you are. Then, consistency should come reasonably naturally.
I know you
Identity, image and reputation are critical to the long-term sustainability of any business and it is not something that should be taken lightly or managed half-heartedly. Take it seriously and you will be taken seriously.
Sandman Public Relations is a full-service media agency recognised for its integrity,
professionalism and success.