Corporate image can be said to be the stakeholder’s perception and their affinity to an organization, company or corporate entity. It is the impression that the public has on the organization as a result of interacting with it and depending on the way it presents itself to the public. According to Bagg (n.d), corporate image is the organization’s goodwill, its reputation and the brand equity. He further describes it as a feeling that employees, vendors, customers and other stakeholders have on the company.
A corporate image should be managed in such a way that it creates a more productive and effective workforce and a customer base that is loyal. No matter how an organization tries to showcase its image, the players involved will eventually unearth what is behind the exterior image of the company. It is therefore important to have a corporate image that is congruent. This means that, the corporate goal should show what a company is in throughout its facets without pretending to be what it is not. Bagg asserts that a company should identify it strong core values and communicate them to those who matters and those who can make a difference. These include the customers, suppliers, employees and the public.
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Developing a good corporate image
The corporate image is a valuable asset to any company. It is crucial in attracting and maintaining customers, employees and shareholders. Developing a good corporate image involves a series of proactive processes that leads to a final outcome. A good corporate image or reputation entails a continuous review of the organization’s environment, both internal and external. It also requires an effective and timely communication, ethical management principles and extensive community participation. An organization should set up structures to gather information from external and internal environments to monitoring how it affects the entity. For example, an organization or a company can monitor verbal, visual and written communications about the organization, the competitors and the market. Such information will be useful in showing where a company stands in the eyes of its stakeholders.
A company should focus on establishing an ethical culture from top to bottom which should be adhered to which should emphasize on doing the right thing despite the results. This cam be facilitated by setting a framework of checks and balances as well as reporting mechanisms. Communication is imperative in developing a good corporate reputation. Communication cuts across management, employees at the low level, customers, suppliers, vendors, investors etc.
Building a good corporate image campaign should involve a strategic communication plan. This plan should put into consideration all forms of communications ranging from electronic media, news releases, annual reports, sponsorship activities among others. Communicating, uniqueness and the reality of a company (corporate identity), to the stakeholders of the firm is a major objective in managing the corporate image. This helps in developing and maintaining a favorable view of the organization or the company.
In order for a company’s management, owners, employees and shareholders to know how their company is perceived and make accurate decisions, it is crucial to get a continuous feedback. Feedback can be given by customers, employees, salespeople etc.
Participation in community development efforts and projects is another strategy that can be used to develop a good corporate image or reputation. A company may participate in charitable sponsorships and donations. Managers and employees can physically involve in community projects. It is worthwhile to note that a corporate image can be damaged within a short time. The way a crisis is handled can easily make or break a company. Those handling the crisis should think long term and steer clear of short term fixes (Davies et al, 2003).
Corporate image and organizational performance
It has been observed that in the modern business, the quality and natural benefits of the products are no longer the main factors in competition. The reputation of company and the brands have turned out to be the competitors. The business image and reputation has been playing a major role in determining the popularity and influence among the stakeholders concerning its products.
A company that does not manage its image and reputation properly is likely to encounter problems. A company’s image problems are directly proportional to direct and indirect costs incurred (Young, 1996). According to Young, it is imperative for all businesses regardless of the size, to recognize the need to create and sustain a strong corporate image and make it known to all employees. This initiative can only be taken by the company’s management or owners of the business through formulating policies that focus on long term business reputation rather than dwelling on fixing the damage caused by poor policies.
Change, product lifecycles, environmental complexity and globalization have underscored the importance of enhancing the corporate image and reputation. Improving the corporate image has been one of the strategies that companies have used to place them in a better position to compete as well as survive the turbulent business environment. Many companies have also realized that customers have shifted their focus to social and environmental image of the companies when making decisions about purchasing. It has therefore been increasingly important for companies to conduct themselves responsibly especially when dealing with social and environmental matters (Williams & Moffitt, 1997).
However, a company’s corporate image may not match the reality. Sometimes the perception and the impression may not be equal to what the company actually is. A corporate image cannot just be a collection of slogans and phrases rather it must be tangible and visible. Corporate image may not necessarily improve an organizational performance unless if it is backed by the company’s identify and reputation. A strong corporate identity and reputation can be a strategic tool to realize competitive advantage.
To develop a distinct corporate identity, a company must demonstrate a robust financial performance, good reputation on its products and services, reputation for good working conditions and a social as well as environmental responsibility. Companies with a strong reputation and who sustains it are companies who establish and maintain a loyal customer base, companies whose workforce is effective and more productive and whose financial performance is higher than the average financial performance of the business.
According to Bagg, the president of Corporate Images, Inc., the perception of the company should be equal to the reality in the company otherwise there is a reputation or image problem. If the performance does not match the corporate image, the company is either performing better than its reputation or worse (Bagg, n.d). This means that the corporate image of that company is not congruent. The results of such a corporate image may be customer dissatisfaction, discontent among employees making them disloyal, increased absenteeism, reduced productivity among others. In a scenario where a company’s performance is better than its corporate image, the company should bring its corporate image and reputation in line with its performance by improving its corporate image through to making its strengths to be known to the relevant stakeholders.
Another scenario is where the company’s performance does not measure up to the perception and the impression held by the stakeholders. In such a situation, the company is said to be suffering from the performance issue that can be resolved by improving the company’s performance. It is therefore necessary for such a company to bring its performance into alignment with its corporate image. Read also a project report on life insurance company
The performance of an organization is likely to be influenced primarily by the its operations rather than its reputation or image. For example, customers may be principally concerned by the price and quality of the company’s products as well as the reliability of its products and services. On the other hand, financial institutions may be interested with the company’s financial performance. Employee’s concern would be their wages, human resource policies and the working conditions.
The reputation or the image of a company is made by several groups and this reputation is perceived differently by these groups. Corporate image or reputation can be said to be an individual’s perception about a company and its activities, actions and achievements. A company does not have one image but multiple images. Each of the stakeholders associates differently with the company and therefore has a different impression or perception of the company.
For example, customers will base the reputation of the company according to their experience with the company’s products and services or the company’s social performance whilst investors may base the company’s reputation upon their opinions on the financial performance. It is important for a company or a business organization to identify the factors that build its image and reputation among the various groups.
To build a company’s image is a long process that takes a long time. On the other hand, a company’s image is never constant. Most importantly is to keep on checking on the status of the company’s image and make necessary corrections and adjustments. From this research paper, it can be deduced that, the corporate image plays a key role in the business development as well as business success. A company’s image or reputation will definitely influence the decision making process by its stakeholders. For instance, a company with a good reputation or corporate image will have an added advantage for investors or may cause customers to have high preference for its products.
Bagg, A, (n.d); Improve Your Corporate Image. Retrieved on 6th December 2008 from: http://www.corporate-images.com/downloads/CorporateImage.pdf
Corporate Image, (n.d); Retrieved on 6th December 2008 from: http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/small/Co-Di/Corporate-Image.html
Davies, G., Chun, R., Silva, R. V. & Roper, S., (2003); Corporate Reputation and Competitiveness. ISBN 041528743X, 9780415287432, Routledge
Pouliot, B., (n.d); Strategies for developing a good corporate image. Retrieved on 6th December 2008 from: http://www.helium.com/items/724416-strategies-for-developing-a-good-corporate-image
Riordan, C. M., Gatewood, R. D. & Bill, J. B., (1997); Corporate Image: Employees Reactions and Implications for Managing Corporate Social Performance. Journal of Business Ethics 16:401-412, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Netherlands
Williams, S. L. & Moffitt, M. A., (1997); Corporate Image as an Impression Formation Process: Prioritizing Personal, Organizational, and Environmental Audience Factors. Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 9
Young, D, (1996); Building Your Company's Good Name: How to Create ; Protect the Reputation Your Organization Wants ; Deserves. ISBN 0814403085, 9780814403082, AMACOM
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