Reputation and Image and the management of both is often confused to be the same. Experts draw a fine line between the two. There definitely is some good grey area between the two but not that two overlap each other completely or are same and similar. We tried to dissect for you…
Image and Image building
Image is essentially the perception about the organisation and is more generic. Mostly it is the short-term evaluation of an organisation’s communication and its impact on various publics. What the stakeholders think about the brand as a result of the messages disseminated is the image of the brand. Since all publics don’t receive the same or all messages and may also interpret it differently per their own thought process or in view of the timing hence the image may vary from time to time and person to person.
Image is more of a result of a concerted effort by the advertising; branding and PR. Whereas, reputation is considered to be more of a result of consistent public relations.
The foundation for image building by way of public relations is the understanding of human behaviour. Trends are to be analysed well, extensive research of public opinion leads to consequences meticulously predicted. Resultant advice and campaign planning form to be the building blocks.
Norman A. Hart in the book ‘Industrial Advertising and publicity’ (1978) says “…the concern is not so much to be directly involved in selling but rather to project the company’s image and create a climate in which the selling operations can be conducted with great efficiency.”
Reputation – the long-term impression
Reputation is the impression that specific public carries of the organisation by way of social evaluation in the long run. It’s the prevailing opinion about the brand and its management and is generally not much altered by incidents, news flow or other short term factors.
It’s like the people aligning with the values and principles of the organisation, putting faith in the efficiency and integrity of the management. Reputation is considered to be a part of the social capital of the brand that can be banked upon and further extended for the growth of the brand.
Ideally, the aim of every PR campaign should be to add value to the reputation of the organisation and keep it intact. Saving the reputation becomes the sole aim of PR in times of crisis.
Reputation management is a complex and continuous process by way of which the organisation aims to impress and influence the opinion of the publics. It begins with listening. In today’s world we better understand it as tracking. You’ve to pick all conversations related to the brand or news related to it. Analyse what people are saying and the connotation that the conversation is carrying. What is the general feeling about it all?
Thereafter, the exercise focuses on building and maintaining a desired reputation in the eyes of the publics concerned. In times of crisis, the focus shifts from building to saving from damage. Emphasis has to be on a consistent effort to keep the brand in good books of the people all through.
Positioning and Reputation Management
At times ‘positioning’ of the organisation is also confused with reputation management. In simple words, positioning is the goal that on organisation aims to achieve with respect to its reputation. After assessing publics’ opinion about the organisation with respect to its competitors, in terms of its portfolio, efficiency, social responsibility and sustainability the company gets to know of its existing positioning. If the company intends to change the same or follow the same, they’ve to draw a plan and start communication accordingly. That’s the exercise of reputation management.