Twelve keys for corporate brand improvement
A twelve-step guide to help businesses improve their corporate brand image has been published by James Gregory, CEO of the US-based branding consultancy Corporate Branding LLC.
According to Gregory, a truly great brand is one that causes the target audience to think: "This is the kind of company I'd like to own, or do business with". Indeed, when managed properly, a good corporate brand has a significant impact on any business.
The simple fact is that every company has a brand image, whether they actively manage it or not. According to Gregory: "Interestingly, the best corporate brands don't always come from the largest companies. Sometimes the smallest company can make the biggest impression."
Twelve steps for branding success Gregory has therefore spent a lot of time compiling a definitive list of the most important steps in building a successful corporate brand, as follows:
- Begin with a "sense of the brand" Sit back, close your eyes and think about your corporate brand. Are you proud of it? Is it growing? How is it doing compared with your competitors? Your instincts will tell you a lot about your brand. Listen carefully, write down your thoughts, fears, and desires for the brand.
- Conduct quantitative research with all key stakeholders Benchmark and track your most important audiences annually, and your less important audiences every three years. You need this research to know not only where the brand stands today, but where it has been and how much it has improved (or not).
- Put metrics in place to monitor brand strength and value Make sure your metrics deliver ROI measures, and review these reports with the board of directors on a quarterly basis. Good news and bad news must be presented uniformly.
- Get all employees to project the brand Let all the employees, from the ground up, know that it is their job to reinforce and support the brand. Make sure they have the resources to get the message out.
- Constantly communicate with employees Talk to them about your corporate image and listen to what they have to say. Employees define the corporate image, so it is crucial that they have a good understanding of what that image is and how you want to project it.
- Identify audiences where persuasion will make a difference Whether you want to reach the financial community, employees, business leaders or government regulators - whatever community you want to reach - rank them all (from most important to least important) and budget your branding efforts accordingly.
- Communicate across all available touch points Communicate the brand at every opportunity, and do it clearly, concisely and consistently. It can often take up to three years to have a measurable impact at normal spending levels. Consistent communications will help you leverage your spending.
- Bad things can happen, so be ready It is wise to have a crisis management plan in place, and a team that's prepared to step in and do damage control. Your image is a valuable financial asset and should be protected like any other corporate asset.
- Have a media-savvy company spokesperson Whether it's the CEO or a public relations professional, make sure this public spokesperson has media training behind them. Be sure they are drilled on all the key issues that can impact the company's image, and rehearse the company line for all possible situations.
- Think long term Once you've established a plan of action try not to deviate from it, even if budgets are cut. Corporate image investment pays off best when you think long-term, not when you focus on smaller issues in the short term. And remember: it has the greatest impact when the competition is afraid to spend on communications - so don't be the one that's afraid to communicate.
- Think carefully about mergers and acquisition plans A vacuum is created when a company is bought or sold, and doubt easily fills that vacuum if there isn't another strong message ready to address it. It's unfortunate that when two companies merge, the CEO's attention is fixed on the financial aspects of the merger, and that's often to the detriment of other aspects that would make the merger successful - questions such as: What are employees thinking? What are customers thinking? What are suppliers thinking? View the whole situation from all angles and fill that vacuum with a positive message.
- Don't change the brand's name unless it's really necessary! But if you do have to change the name, make sure you change it to a better one. When it comes to your company or brand name, pay attention to quantitative research. It takes years to rebuild the brand equity that is so often discarded on a whim. When you make the change, make sure you spend enough to get the new message out to all of your key audiences.
Corporate Branding also produces the Corporate Branding Index, an annual research survey designed to capture reputation and financial statistics for the company's various measurement products, such as the CoreBrand Analysis, which helps companies and brand agencies identify the real ROI from advertising and communications campaigns.