John Martson writes in his book ‘The Nature of Public Relations’ (1963) “planned, persuasive communication designed to influence significant public”. He emphasised that public relations is not accidental but planned to convince some to do or believe in something.
Image is the perception that people carry towards an individual, a service, an organisation or brand. Image is a good term to use as it may or may not be true and equal to the reality. But that’s what appears to people and they perceive. It’s an important aspect that helps achieve goals. Organisations do get an edge over others if they are founded well keeping in mind the long term vision. Favourable image takes you distance and takes a long time to build.
The image of an organisation can be summarised under many categories ranging from young, friendly, speedy, honest to corruptive, in-efficient, suspicious and anti-social.
Image building exercise
The exercise of image building starts with evaluating the status, understanding the current perception for the brand in general and publics specific. It’s followed by deciding the image to be build or need of alteration and activities involved to do so.
The data collection to gauge the present image can be done by:
- Interviews and interactions with the target group. Various structured survey tools or talks and interactive communication can be employed for this data collection.
- Secondary sources like articles published media coverage and mentions about the brand are analysed to check the perception.
The data collected forms to be the basis of the analysis of the image. Breaking down the data gets you the image at the time of data collection and should be read with reference to the source of data. It may vary from time to time and from publics to publics.
Aspects of analysis
Public Opinion Research: It is to ascertain what people think about the brand, its management, services, etc. Essentially, understand the attitude of publics towards the organisation.
Image Study: Understand how and what is the organisation known for; analysing brand’s reputation.
Motivation Research: It is to ascertain why the public carries a positive or negative attitude towards the organisation – the root cause(s) – and also the underlying emotional factor.
On the outset the image could be favourable, neutral or unfavourable & undesirable. And that’s to be gauged.
Brand may like to project a certain preferred image while the present image may or may not fall in line with its expectations. The ‘Mission Statement’ of the brand helps identify the image to be projected and the role of public relations is to narrow it down and bring in sync with the desired positioning as well. For instance a banking or financial institution may want to be known for its integrity, honesty and efficiency in asset management but may like to project a ‘speedy’ or ‘friendly’ or ‘socially responsible’ image.
Based on the analysis of existing image and the desired image an action plan is to be drawn and suggested by the PR. In case the image is way deviated and degenerated as compared to the expectations a neutralisation activity or crisis management exercise is to be undertaken.
Steps to Image building
- Adopt appropriate strategy
- Choose appropriate message
- Select appropriate media
- Disseminate information actively
- Keep analysing the response
Post all public relations’ image building exercise an effectiveness survey must be conducted so as to measure the impact. Sole purpose of the survey is to ascertain the change in attitude of the people after campaign. The survey also gives data points to help sketch better campaigns in future. It’s a continuous process that leads to better image building and maintaining.
Public relations’ role is not to project the negative with a positive image but to open the communication channels, remove the myths, doubts and suspicions. Thus changing the shade of light that’s to be shed and bringing the best face of the organisation forward.