Difficult to classify as a separate sub function, an organization’s identity and image strategy is the most critical part of any corporate communication function. Image is the corporation as seen through the eyes of its constituencies. An organization can have different images with different constituencies. Image is a reflection of an organization’s identity. While image can vary among constituencies, identity needs to be consistent.
Identity consists of a company’s defining attributes A company’s identity is a the visual manifestation of the company’s reality as conveyed through the organization’s name, logo, motto, products, services, buildings, stationery, uniforms and all other tangible pieces of evidence created by the organization and communicated to a variety constituencies. Constituencies then form perceptions based on the messages that companies send in tangible form. If these images accurately reflect an organization’s reality, then either the strategy is ineffective or the corporation’s self understanding needs modification.
Identity building and maintenance require a variety of skills, including the ability to conduct marketing research, to design attractive brochures, and to enforce identity standards and cohesion, it should be spread around several different functions in the absence of a single, centralized corporate communication function.
Differentiating Organizations through Identity and Image
Every industry facing global competition and companies are trying to manage with limited resources, an organization’s identity and image might be the only difference that people can use to distinguish one company from the next.
A Vision that Inspires
Most central to corporate identity is the Vision that encompasses the company’s core values, philosophies, standards, and goals. Corporate vision is a common thread that all employees, and ideally all other constituencies as well, can relate to. Thinking about this vision in terms of a narrative or story of sorts can help ensure the overall coherence and continuity of a company’s vision and the collective messages it send constituencies.
According to Cees B.M van Riel, a professor at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, explain that, “communication will be more effective if organizations rely on a sustainable corporate story as a source of inspiration for all internal and external communication program. Stories are hard to imitate, and they promote consistency in all corporate messages.” External constituencies rely on articles in publications, television ads, discussions about the company with other people and direct interaction with company employees for information about a company and the story it is telling.
The most appealing of stores, literary and corporate, often involve an underdog-an unsung hero that audiences can admire and rally behind. Going against the grain can instill a sense of noble purpose in the actions of a hero-or an entrepreneur-who hopes to do things differently.
Names and Logos
Branding and strategic brand management are critical components of identity management programs. Companies often institute the name changes either to signal identity changes or make their identities better reflect their realities. Andersen Consulting’s name change to Accenture is an example for the former. In late 2000, Andersen Consulting founding parent Arthur Andersen earlier that year, announced a name change that would take effect January 1, 2001. the new company would called Accenture, a play on the words “accent” and “future” that, according to James E. Murphy, the company’s global managing director for marketing and communications, was meant to be “ a youthful and dynamic expression of firm’s new positioning as a bridge builder between the traditional and new economies.” The name also clearly distinguished the company’s identity from that of its former parent, Arthur Andersen, which had its own, competing...