Cultivating a winning corporate image

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Author: Helmut Maucher
Date: Summer 1994
From: Directors & Boards(Vol. 18, Issue 4)
Publisher: Directors and Boards
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,358 words

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It is more important than ever to have a strong personal commitment to communication -- to speak frankly about issues, both within the company and to outsiders.

Corporate image has become important, both as a basis for a company's long-term activities and as a means of recruiting capable executives and employees and binding them to the firm. Here's a thought about corporate image that is too often ignored: The image problems large companies are experiencing nowadays are due more to a lack of trust than to a lack of information.

Moreover, it appears that current methods of disseminating information cannot fully re-establish such trust. For this reason it is imperative that the actual situation of a specific company, its products, and its mode of operating correspond to the information disseminated about the company.

In principle, this is very simple. Everyone knows that companies make mistakes from time to time, so if you tell the truth -- especially when the truth is unpleasant -- you will have something of great value: credibility.

In such cases, pubic relations tricks or new corporate logos will not help. The first thing to do is to get the company back into shape. No PR department can simply conjure up what a company truly lacks. Concealing company problems no longer works, given the intense coverage of industry by today's media. Instead, a company has to take the offensive and tackle difficulties head-on. Only then can a concept for a corporate image be developed. A corporate image should include everything from the company's products to its management style, way of operating, and personnel policy, as well as brand policy and advertising.

Why should it be so comprehensive? First, because a corporate image is created by such facts as size, earnings, position in the market, and, above all, a company's products and brands. Second, because there is a connection (too seldom perceived) between corporate image and corporate culture.

For instance, consumers have some idea about the nature of Siemens', Coca-Cola's, or IBM's organization, employees, and their attitudes. The more closely this idea coincides with reality the better. Whereas the more the corporate image is manipulated so that it no longer corresponds to the facts, the more serious this misconception becomes for a company over the long term. Today, of course, a company's corporate image increasingly is determined by its degree of social responsibility, by whether it actually does things rather than just talk about doing them. Ultimately, corporate image and advertising are closely related, although in a manner that many companies fail to perceive.

If a company's corporate image is based on its products, preferences, and motivations, that image should be reflected in its advertising, because a company's advertising needs to be consistent with its overall corporate image. Otherwise, half of the effect is wasted, even if a creative idea should manage to bring higher product sales over the short term.

PR advertising also should be fundamentally in tune with goals related to corporate image. Decisions on sponsoring...

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