What’s the response when your company name is mentioned? Smile, frown, puzzlement, indifference? How you are viewed can have a major impact on your business success, or lack of it. It’s important to have good corporate PR, but also to be well-known among the people that matter to your business.
It’s not just a ‘nice to have’; it can increase your corporate worth and give you a competitive advantage.
All things corporate
Before we start, let’s just define some terms. Corporate reputation is how your company is viewed, based on past behaviour and expectations of how it’ll respond in future. Corporate identity is the manner in which you present your business to its public (customers, investors and employees).
To build up your identity, you will use corporate branding. This is the promotion of your company’s name, and its identity, particularly to the people that matter.
The aim of this corporate activity is to build a well-known and well-respected reputation for your company. To achieve this, companies use corporate communications – the management and orchestration of all internal and external communications aimed at creating a favourable point of view among the stakeholders on which the company depends.
Communicating the reality
This makes it sound as if it’s all about names and images and nice positive words. To an extent it is. But they need to be based on something real.
If your products aren’t up to much, your service is patchy, your responses are slow and everything is overpriced, you are unlikely to have delighted customers and happy employees. And this will show in comments on social media and in reviews on comparison sites.
Some companies and individuals (particularly some prominent politicians) may be able to brush over past indiscretions and unfortunate phraseology. But the rest of us need to take an honest look at how our corporate reputation currently stands before we start the image building process.
Communicating the positive
Hopefully that stocktaking exercise will identify some things that you do well, and positive aspects to your service. And hopefully these things will be what you want to be well-known for (major burger chains don’t build their reputations on the quality of their packaging, for example).
What makes you different to all your competitors? Can you claim to be the biggest, best, quickest, cheapest, most reliable, greenest, safest…? You will need to be able to pass the “says who?” test. If you can’t, you’ll need to find attributes that make you novel in some way, while at the same time being solid, reliable, etc.
What is your brand?
Basically, you need to know what your brand stands for. The values, aspirations, levels of quality and standards, as well as the things that make it stand out. Brand names like Apple, McDonalds, Uber, BBC, Ferrari will make you think of particular attributes. So what impression do you want your company name to form in the minds of its customers, clients, investors, employees?
If this impression can be backed up in reality, and as long as there aren’t people out there who can justifiably beg to differ, then you can begin to build your corporate brand.
Using the media
OK, so if that first hurdle wasn’t big enough, you are now going to trust your lovingly created corporate brand to potentially its most critical audience – the media.
‘The media’ is a coverall term for journalists, editors, reviewers, bloggers, opinion formers and everyone involved in broadcasting messages through print, the airwaves and the web. They get bombarded daily with all sorts of information, stories and claims, and they are programmed to sniff out things that are newsworthy. Newsworthy bad as well as newsworthy good, unfortunately.
They can spot corporate PR fluff at 100 paces. Most will simply be ignored, but the most outlandish examples may become newsworthy for all the wrong reasons. And if the claims are inaccurate and people rely on them, the results could be costly and damaging, as Elon Musk found out last year.
Perils of social media
Social media is even trickier. Although you control the way you portray your company in your posts, you have absolutely no control over how people respond. Unlike journalists, social media users don’t have press regulators potentially scrutinising what they write. They don’t have to be legal, decent, honest and truthful. They don’t even have to identify themselves. Anyone can say anything about anybody, and get away with it – in most cases.
Crossing the corporate PR minefield
So, building a corporate brand and using the media to publicise it isn’t for the faint hearted. Wise companies use a corporate PR specialist to help them.
Blackstock Consulting has the depth and breadth of experience in corporate PR and using traditional and social media that companies need. We’ve helped our clients to build their brands, to create branding and PR strategies, to drive high quality press coverage, and to harness the power of social media.