Posted by Tom Gable
You and your internal teams and outside consultants have worked for months to develop a plan to incorporate image as a part of corporate strategy for the long-term benefit of reputation and organizational success (something BP is probably working on as we speak so they are ready to launch the “new BP” once the old BP solves the oil crisis).
As covered before, you start with basic questions as the creative foundation for building your PR and reputation management plan:
- How do you want to be known in two to three years?
- What do you stand for – the core values?
- Does the organization have a culture, a personality?
- Can you establish a solid foundation from your values and then demonstrate proof of principle over time (walk the talk)?
- Can you be disciplined enough to carry out a strategic program of reputation management for reaching multiple constituencies?
- Is your strategic plan, financing, mindset, commitment and other resources up to the task?
- Can you clearly differentiate against the competition for the company, the people, the technology, the culture and the vision for the future?
Once you’ve brainstormed, strategized, debated, drafted and then fine-tuned the plan, you are ready to start the evolution of the image to rise above the competition, to the benefit of faster growth, better margins, improved morale, overall community reputation and goodwill on the downside should something negative occur (we also kid during seminars and talks that this also leads to whiter teeth, better posture and improved digestion).
The digestive processes, however, can suffer if the organization doesn’t deal well with nine gnawing issues that can derail the best plan. These elements of failure are compiled from case histories we’ve experienced at Gable PR, research into bad branding experiences by others and references from the classic literature in the field: Reputation and Fame and Fortune by Charles Fombrun; Competitive Advantage and other books by Michael Porter; CEO Capital, by Leslie Gaines-Ross; Good to Great, by Jim Collins; and Leading Change, by John Kotter; among others. The list can undoubtedly be expanded, but these transgressions can serve as a good starting point:
- Lack of total CEO commitment, vision
- Lack of an organization-wide commitment; turf wars; individual agendas
- Ambiguous or unclear core values and theories
- Weak positioning, lack of differentiation
- Insufficient or contradictory proof of principle over time; unsubstantiated hype
- Talking to yourself instead of the market (jargon, argot; your features inside of benefits to the outside audiences)
- Making reactionary changes to short-term market or other conditions and sending confusing signals
- Being research averse; failure to measure progress or lack of same against your goals, make course corrections, adjust tactics and strategies
- In total, not delivering on the promise of the brand, positioning
Each of the branding questions up front and the nine ways to fail are big ideas and what we call thought-starters – leaping off points for spirited debate, more research, creativity, strategic adjustments and challenges to ever idea, assumption and result. Can you overcome hurdles, change the flow of the game and move toward brand-building victory?
The ongoing process can not only be intellectually stimulating to all involved but cause for future and continuing celebration in a team sport where everyone wins.