Posted by Jennifer Dinehart, July 31, 2013
In today’s fast-paced, 24-7, mobile and competitive world, accurately and effectively communicating your company’s values and unique capabilities are vital to success. A powerful corporate image is critical to your company’s communications and marketing positioning strategy.
The image projected conveys your brand identity and the competitive difference of your company. It must clearly define who your company is, what is unique about what you do and be a clear reflection of the differentiated benefits of using your services and products.
Following these 10 brief guidelines will assist you in maximizing your brand and corporate image strategies for your marketing and communications.
Define Your Goals and Values
Take time to carefully and thoroughly consider your company’s overall value proposition, or why should customers buy your products or services. A powerful and unique value proposition will help you succeed in your target market. This process must involve top management and end results must have the support of C-level executives. Whatever time and effort is required to complete this process is well worth the efforts as decisions made at this stage tremendously impact the success of your marketing and communications.
Develop Your Value Statement
Once top management has agreed on your corporate value, develop your key brand messages, which reflects the value experienced by your customer. It will be the No. 1 reason whether a customer will buy your product or service, or your competitor’s. It will be the basis of any successful communications outreach.
Review, Evaluate, Corporate Communications Strategies, Materials
Now take time to carefully review and evaluate how current strategies and communications reflect these key-positioning statements. Evaluate how any changes may impact your existing sources of communications. Get feedback and input from your various audiences, inside and outside your company. Do their perceptions and interpretations reflect the image you had intended?
Depending on how extensive changes are and how accurately the desired image is perceived, you may have to reevaluate and revamp your positioning statements and key messages to reposition your company.
Develop a Strategic Action Plan
Good planning will be critical to the success of your corporate image program. Make sure you know whom your audiences are and how to appeal to them. Prioritize your audiences in order of need to know. Select the most appropriate means of communicating with each audience, keeping in mind key differences and where, how and when to reach them and by what medium online or offline. Formulate your strategy, tactics and develop your action schedule and timeline.
Communicate Internally and Involve the Team
Communicating your corporate identity and key messages as envisioned by management must begin with the organization and should involve employees in a team effort. Key messages and goals much be communicated coherently, and communications must be couched in a manner understandable to the intended audience.
Our control over our communications is limited in that communicating is only half the undertaking. The other half is the perception of your messages (communications and marketing) by the audience. Therefore, your communications must be clear, simple and to the point. Messages must follow in a logical sequence of ideas presented. Consideration should always be given to the individual characteristics of each specific target audience.
The ultimate success of any communications program is measured by how effective it is. Each communications vehicle is different; each has strengths and limitations. Select mediums that are best for your message and the intended audience.
Selecting Key Spokesperson
Personal participation from top management is vital to the credibility of any image strategy. Generally, the chief executive is the most authoritative and credible spokesperson.
Make clear who will speak on behalf of the company and what, if any restrictions may be placed on him or her.
While a formal spokesperson role is a fundamental requirement, it should not be considered a barrier to including certain other employees to speak on behalf of the company. For example, it is often desirable to encourage senior sales executives to participate in public speaking programs within their territories. In this case, however, it is critical that speakers’ training, written speeches and extensive training on handling of objections, criticisms and questions be provided. The messages they deliver must be well rehearsed and inline with your key communication messages.
It is important to recognize that the image you wish to project will not materialize overnight. Establishing an identity (the image you want to project) is an ongoing process, both internally and externally.
Periodical, re-evaluation of your strategy and tactics in conjunction with the results you have achieved must take place. Questions to consider: Are the results in line with expectations, or are adjustments to your strategy and tactics needed?
Protecting Your Image
No company is exempt from crisis and controversy. Protect your image and reputation by planning for possible crisis situations before they happen. This type of planning in advance can save valuable time, and frequently many dollars, over the longer term, while at the same time help to protect that image that you have carefully cultivated.
A Word on Attitude
Management’s attitude in this process is important. Corporate communications are not an end unto itself, but are simply a means toward achieving the result you want.
Without evidence of management support and conviction to back up your key messages, your tactics will lack credibility and ultimately prove meaningless.
Remember that effectively communicating your image is a difficult and complicated charge, best handled by experienced professions internally, and may require additional outside professional assistance for maximum impact.
Establishing and protecting your image is a never ending task and a daily challenge. It means keeping all the right people informed in the right ways at the right times.