By Venon Chamba
LARGE companies have lost millions of dollars because of negative images from scandals, accidents, product recalls and negative publicity. Companies have also made billions of dollars because of positive images of their brands, products, services and people.
Corporate image refers to the impression created in the minds of stakeholders.
Image is the perception or views created by the organisation in the minds of its customers, suppliers, media, employees and shareholders.
The created image can be positive or negative depending on what has happened.
Positive perception about the company must be managed effectively through various programmes such as interviews, open days and openness as to what is happening.
In the event of a crisis, an organisation’s image is threatened negatively, it must handle itself openly in the media to avoid negative perceptions.
Perceptions of stakeholders are affected by everything that a company does and is involved in. In fact image is everything that a company does. It touches everything on labour relations management; that is employee relations, industrial relations, customer service and product quality.
Managing these relationships can effectively project a positive impression in the minds of the organisation’s stakeholders.
Perceptions exist in the minds of the company’s publics. Thus, it is possible for an organisation to be viewed differently by different stakeholders.
An organisation can have different corporate images. The image can be based on innovation, reliability, creativity, safety and efficiency.
For example, an ICT company can be viewed by customers as an innovative software company, while employees may view it as a faceless profit-making entity with poor labour relations. The question then is how can conflicting multiple images be avoided? A company has a particular perception about itself and, unfortunately, that view may not be shared by others.
It becomes very important to eliminate conflicting perceptions about the organisation.
Self-image has to be aligned with stakeholders’ image. The initial stage is to find out how various groups of people perceive an organisation.
Corrections or management of perceptions has to do with what we want our stakeholders to think about our products or services.
However, a communication plan must be developed to achieve our objectives. The targeted market must be identified and effectively communicated with for them to perceive what the organisation is all about.
In Zimbabwe, corporate identity schemes have been used very much to create positive corporate images.
The identity schemes are composed mostly of corporate colours, slogans, uniforms, livery, flags etc.
Banks, bus companies and airlines have created positive images through well polished identity schemes.
Customers and other stakeholders such as potential employees associate neat uniforms and smart buildings with efficiency and reliability.
Image is very important to the growth of an organisation and as such companies must manage perceptions of their stakeholders positively.
These perceptions are also highly affected by chief executive officers of companies as they are viewed as their faces and brands.
Venon Chamba is a budding local entrepreneur.