Ensuring that you have a healthy and well-respected brand image (i.e., how your brand is actually perceived) is vital for your business’s success.
If you’ve worked hard to establish that professional image, it is equally important to maintain it.
The end goal is to have an image that reflects the culture and the ethos of your organization.
The right image establishes a bond of trust between company and consumer. It reflects the way other people see you, and more importantly, how they perceive the business you have established.
While the rapid rise of the digital age and the global phenomena that is the Internet have allowed businesses to get their message out at a touch of a button, this does have its good and bad sides.
Since consumers can now access information about your company from their mobiles, desktops, as well as traditional media, improving your image now requires a multifaceted approach.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so you need to make sure that you get it right. To start, here are five reasonably simple steps to improve your image.
1. Take a good look at your business website
In this, unlike in some other aspects of life, appearances do matter, so get a critical friend (or two!) to take a good hard look at your website. This is the springboard, the shop display area as it were, for your business, so does it do you justice?
Does it welcome potential customers? Does it contain recent and relevant content with good quality images? Are you linking the overall appearance, themes, colours, fonts and logo with your brand?
If you aren’t, why not? You have to have a good sense of your brand and ensure that it projects the right image for your business.
2. Are you engaging?
Your professional social media presence is key to improving your corporate image. Keeping with the branding guidelines, as outlined above, you need to be populating your social media platforms on a regular basis.
Having a company LinkedIn page is a must, along with Facebook and Twitter, and you need to task someone within the organization to interact with and respond to your online audience.
Delivering engaging and quality content on a regular basis through blogs and articles, with opportunities for your online community to respond, is key. This is where you build up trust in the image that you are projecting.
3. Cultivate your company culture
Your team is a crucial part of your company and plays a huge part in presenting your brand image to the world at large. So it is very important that you spend time investing in staff on-boarding and training, as well as recruitment and continued professional development.
If someone picks up the telephone at your office, to the outside world they represent the company. At that point in time, they are the most important person in the organization, so you need to ensure they have the appropriate training and resources to be able to do their job effectively and efficiently.
Everything about them, from how they sound to the way they look, needs to be linked to the brand image you are putting out there. If someone has a bad experience with a business either face-to-face, over the telephone or through a digital medium, within a matter of hours, a number of people are sure to hear about it. If they post that experience online, bad news travels even further, and it becomes harder to recoup that good will.
Investing in key staff and providing them with the appropriate training will enhance and help to protect that image you have worked hard to establish. Make sure that your staff members know how you want them to project that image as well.
4. Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more
This is not just about social media engagement, but also about the other ways in which you can get your message out to consumers and stakeholders.
It is very important to regularly communicate with staff because they know best what is happening on the front lines with clients, but there are other outlets to consider as well.
Once you have identified your target audience, you need to keep in touch in a clear, consistent and concise way. This can be through trade events, industry presentations, regular newsletters, brochures and advertising, and do keep to the branding guidelines.
Make sure you reach out to your identified target audience, whether they be business leaders, the financial community, industry bodies and so on, and prioritize your communication strategy. You are aiming to reach those who will make a difference to the success of your brand.
5. Ensure a ‘smart consistency’
Take a leaf out of Richard Branson’s book, and ensure consistency of quality service and products linked with a brand and marketing campaign that projects the corporate image you want, in the same way the red “Virgin” logo is instantly recognized as a blue chip company with good customer service.
In order to gain customer loyalty, you have to make sure they know what to expect every time they physically, virtually or remotely engage with your business.
This means ensuring you deliver brand consistent experiences every time customers pick up the phone, click on their mobile devices, or walk through the doors of your office.
It means being very clear and transparent about what you offer in terms of the goods and services provided. If you have a customer service charter, like the one below, then make sure it is published; all terms and conditions of the services you provide need to be clearly identified. Any pricing policies or added extras should be readily available and explanations given in clear and concise terms.
By covering these five bases, what you are really doing is showing the world that you have nothing to hide – that your word is your bond and your brand image is one that can be trusted.
Keep doing what you say you will, and make sure this consistency is delivered across all departments, all outlets and all franchises, because it is only when consumers know what to expect that you will begin to gain their trust. And once you gain their trust, your image, as well as your finances, will continue to improve.
This article has been edited.
As a commercial photographer, Mark Sutton has worked with enough businesses to know the importance of having the right corporate image. A former television cameraman with over 30 years’ experience working in the corporate sector both in Europe and in Australia, Mark holds a Bachelor of Communications degree from Edith Cowan University and now specialises in corporate photography. His company, Imagepro, is a leader in commercial photography and video production in Perth, Western Australia, where he works with companies to help them project the right corporate image across all their platforms.