So why do we care so much about the company images anyway? It doesn’t decide which kind of product your company produces, or what it’s like to work there. In the same way, it has no influence on whether your customers will get their product on time, or whether they’ll get the support they need.
In fact, the company image is an entirely abstract concept. It isn’t even really measurable. It is – quite literally – just a bunch of people’s opinions. Should you even care about it?
Well, yes. People opinions matter – particularly if those people are going to buy your product (and as we don’t yet have many robots who want to buy products, that means that images are important).
What is this thing called ‘company image’ anyway?
A company’s image is the idea that they have in their heads when they think of your company. There are a lot of ways that an image can be created, but a very important part of the experience is down to first experiences. As you well know, we tend to judge quickly and these judgments we make are very stuborn.
For that reason, it’s very important to consider very carefully how you’re creating a first impression. This means looking at the impression that – for example – your website gives as well as your actual brick-and-mortar stores. Of course, that’s not the only thing that matters, as people generally only end up at those places after they’ve heard about you from some third party.
They, therefore, are an important part of the company image that you hold. Do they have good reviews? Do they hold positive opinions? If they don’t, then you can be sure that whoever comes to your company website from those sites will not think very highly of your company’s image (if they come to your site at all, that is).
Note that all things that come out into the public sphere can be important for your public images. News stories matter. Rumors matter. What famous people say matters.
What dimensions are there to images?
We’re not half as clever as we think we are and though we might believe that we measure people and companies on a wide-ranging slew of attributes, that’s not actually the case. We don’t measure a whole bunch of dimensions individually. Instead, we clump them together into two broad dimensions upon which we rank people and firms.
These are likability and competence and together they form a grid. In the top left, you’ve got companies that are both likable and competent. At the bottom right you have companies that are both unlikable and incompetent.
Obviously, the aim is to be in the top left quadrant – where your company appears both likable and competent. If you can’t have that, then where should you aim to end up? That largely depends on what kinds of product you’re trying to sell. Are you selling something that is useful but has very little emotional significance? Like, say, a statistical analysis program, or a financial service? Then the main goal is most certainly competence.
If on the other hand, your product is a far more emotional product (e.g. a religious service or a restaurant) then likability might be the more important attribute.
Note, whatever that if you’re truly seen as incompetent or unlikable, however, well you might score on the other dimension won’t make much of a difference. This is because bad is stronger than good – as in we pay far more attention to it.
For that reason, it’s important to always work towards eliminating negatives before you start adding to your positives. Sure, it’s great that you’ve started a clown program for children with cancer, but if you’re pumping out millions of gallons of radioactive sludge that won’t do much (particularly if that gives children cancer).
The importance of maintaining image
Another vital element to the image puzzle is that it can take years to build up what can be destroyed in minutes. For that reason, it’s always important to guard your image. For once it’s gone, however hard you work, it will probably not come back.
That’s because you’ve now created a credibility gap.
This also works the other way. If you have a great deal of credibility with a certain group of people (preferably your customers) then that credibility can be used to blunt a lot of negative occurrences, as well as to have people believe the promises and the ideas that you’re trying to push through.
Even better, your image can actually allow you to change directions internally within a company (and will often, in fact, do that). If for example, the company has a reputation for honesty and fair dealings then that can be used to create more honest and fair environment within the actual company.
Of course, if your company is not an honest and fair place, then it will be very hard to create such an image in the first place. The truth can only stay hidden for so long.
Where to start
The best places to start by creating an image is with such places as websites and the content that goes out through such tools and your newsletter and interviews. This will create a good guideline that you can then use to influence other image related matters for your company.
For that reason, it is very important that you have an idea of what kind of image that you’re trying to project on such forums. Make sure that they are the best you can make them and that they aren’t riddled with mistakes (so as to keep competence high) don’t be afraid to use outside council to get it right. Get graphic people involved and for the text, get some serious copywriters to help you out (I’ve found OKdissertations.com to be a useful tool).
The best way to go about deciding what your image should be is to find the right interplay between who you are as a company as well as what your audience is like. There, between those two, you should find the right energy and image that will not just attract your audience but also be a fair representation of who you are as a person. That will make sure that it does not seem forced or fake.
Note that it is important that you do not just project your image outwards. You should also make sure that it holds true for everybody within your company as well. This can as said before, actually create the environment that you’re trying to project, through the desire to reduce cognitive dissonance on a company-wide level.
Your image is important. Can you manage without it? To an extent. Some people don’t care. Some people don’t believe what’s being said. It does make it a lot harder, though. It’s a bit like going onto the highway with a lawnmower. You’ll get there, but you’ll get there a lot slower than you otherwise would and you’re making things damn hard on yourself.
What’s more, when you get caught doing something (even if you don’t really do it) you’ll have a lot of explaining to do – which will eat into your time and your resources.
So spend the right amount of time on creating a good image. In that way, you’ll have it in place when there is a problem and you’ll be able to deflect negative news simply by having that sterling reputation.
At the same time, don’t focus too much time on how popular you are. Ultimately, that’s not how the success of most businesses is measured. That’s measured in dollars and cents. And though the image can certainly help you in that regard, it is certainly not the be all and end all.
So don’t measure your success by your social media followers. Because ultimately, they aren’t the ones putting food on your table.
Here is a Top 5 Innovation Speaker for your next business event!