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Cultivating An Image

(This is the 3rd and final part of the article on corporate communications written by Khalid Jamal and published in the Hindu BusinessLine)

Following is the second part of the article on building corporate equity. In the first part, Khalid Jamal wrote about the need for recognizing the importance of branding the company and about the ways in which branding a company differs from branding a product.

Business equations : With mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures becoming the order of the day, business equations are changing fast, often driven by external and internal compulsions. While protecting the business from hostile takeover threats could be a pressing issue, the market may force a situation where mergers and acquisitions are the only strategic response. The pressure to protect the identity and image of the company, from the ambiguity of ownership would be enormous. Either way, the company's strengths and public support will determine its success. The nature of public support would, however, depend on how the organization is perceived and the reputation its enjoys.

Proactive environment : The nature of the financial market calls for a dynamic approach to corporate communications. Today's proactive environment is already demanding democratic company governance and greater transparency through real-time information dissemination. It has begun to keep a watch on the management performance, and overall contribution of the organization to society. These issues have to be tackled with a strategic communication response exhibiting due sensitivity, which in turn would govern the organization's social standing and public face.


In the current situation, it is necessary that an organization evolves its programme for building corporate equity on a broader platform which addresses the diversified universe of its target audience beyond the customer, the government and banks. Specific trends across all groups must be taken into account before such a programme is launched.

Customer : The increased level of awareness means that the consumers and customers demand not only value for money but a commitment to their interests and reassurance by the company from time to time. There is a pressing need to create an enduring relationship with this group.

Vendors : As companies adjust their focus to raise quality standards and undertakes cost reduction drives to become more viable, production strategies increasingly involve more and more jobs being sub-contracted to vendors. It is now necessary to build a relationship with this special audience so that it understands the organization, appreciates its outlook and delivers accordingly. Corporate communication can help evolve and strengthen the bond of shared partnership which could add to the competitive strengths of an organization, a la Japanese companies.

Employees : The advent of the knowledge worker, progressive stance of trade unions and the intense involvement of the workforce with productivity and profitability, mandate not only the recruitment and retention of the best available manpower, but also molding them to the organization's need. This calls for a very strategic use of communications, far beyond the newsletter and occasional poster, to address relevant issues and communicate the standing, vision, culture and philosophy of the organization by opening a credible channel for it. In times when shifting loyalties and the demand for instant performance -reward is the order, both existing and prospective employees would wish to know more about the organization and its policies. This urge, if properly handled. would help create an environment of trust and promote a culture of shared responsibilities.

Financial institutions and shareholders :

With the tight monetary condition, a flourishing stock market and the availability of a plethora of financial instruments, there is a need to be more accessible to the financial target group whether financial target group whether financial analysis. FIIs or Banks Although we are far from the norm of monthly disclosures, there will be pressure to divulge information beyond the mandatory disclosure norms. This establishes the need to help the financial public understand the business dynamics and long-term capability of an organization for wealth creation.

Pressure groups and the press :

The growing importance of various pressure groups has now become evident. The issues they raise may sometimes harm the image of an organization. The sensitivity, social conscience, reputation and tactfulness of an organization will determine its ability to face such problems and emerge undaunted.

Organizations with proven credibility will fare better than those who neglect these aspects. Likewise, the press is becoming more vociferous in protecting its independence and influencing public opinion. Its attitude, towards business and related issues, would be driven largely by the swiftness, timeliness and accuracy with which an organization responds to its information needs. The occasional press release or conference will no longer work. The phenomenal increase in demand for transparency in information and in-depth analysis/investigations mean that the approach of 'unpaid publicity' need to be changed to a more dynamic one of creating a credible channel for information -sharing with the press, rather than seeking to obtain occasional coverage.

General public :

The evolving rules of the marketplace have shifted the general public from generality to the zone of specificity. To survive the hostility of any one segment of the public, it is essential that public opinion in general is favorably disposed towards the organization. In the current scenario, companies have to work on building a rapport with the public even if it extends beyond their immediate relevance to the organization.


It may appear to be a somewhat formidable task to address diverse target groups from an integrated platform; but, for long term survival, an organization has to create an understanding of various aspects of its existence, and project a picture of its strengths, aspirations, raison d'etre and concern for the welfare of society, that springs from its conscience.

People will be favorably disposed to the organization only if it has a clear -cut public communications strategy which it implements with single minded devotion, creates means for a constant meaningful dialogue and does what is expected of a responsible corporate citizen.

Some characteristics that are turning into important parameters for the assessment of an organization and on which its
reputation hinges are:

Quality of products and services :

The product must succeed in adding value and delivering what it promises to. No image will be able to survive a shortfall in product quality and delivery. Even the occasional complaint must be looked into. A damage to reputation in one category affects the company in other matters too, even if they are not related.

Quality of management :

This has a bearing on the image of an organization. A successful management lends credibility to the image through its own reputation for accountability. To harness its image it is necessary that management strengths, sustainable advantages, style and vision are communicated and made known to all target groups. The equality of management and suitable projection can give a tremendous fillip to the image of the organization.

Financial soundness and transparency :

The financial health, viability as a business entity, commitment to wealth creation for all stake holders. a fair accounting policy and conformation to ethical standards are factors that have a direct impact on the image of an organization.

Employee orientation :

The ability of an organization to retain and attract quality people underlines the image of the organization. In fact, in certain businesses the reputation on this front is the major image driver. The 'retention' and 'attraction' depend a great deal on the organization's ability to build an employee-friendly image.

Social responsibility :

On issue that directly concern the society or environment the image should carry the assurance that the organization is aware and doing its bit, whether in reducing the environmental impact of its activities, or in rehabilitating the people affected by its operations. Efforts that are not serious create suspicion and, in the long run, backfire.

The corporate personality :

Each organization has a personality which is refined till it is integrated with the philosophy and vision of the organization. While the refining is an ongoing process - done in tune with the changing approach to business and in response to the environment - the essence of the company's personality is often retained and reinforced.


Various tools can be employed for building corporate equity and positive public perception. Some of them are :

Corporate advertising :

It is short term approach to creating awareness about an organization. It should look at the organization with a broad perspective and should generate favorable perception of the organization. It should also reflect and communicate the company's personality and vision. Corporate advertising should ideally be created on an integrated platform beyond the traditional features-benefits-positioning loop. It should be used only as a supplementary effort and be flexible enough to integrate with the overall exercise.

(For continuation, please refer to the next and final article of this series 'Creating An Identity' which is the 3rd part)

Other Articles

Building Corporate Equity: The Importance Of Being Earnest
(This is the first part of the article on corporate communications written by Khalid Jamal and published in the Hindu BusinessLine)

Creating An Identity
(This is the 3rd part of the article on corporate communications written by Khalid Jamal and published in the Hindu BusinessLine)

The Siege Around
(In this two part article published in The Financial Express, Khalid Jamal comments on the current status of corporate
  communications discipline and its future)

The Plight of Public Relations
( In this article published in The Financial Express, Khalid Jamal comments on the state of PR industry and its future)