Measuring and managing the corporate image

Date of publication: September 1, 1989


We are delighted to have the opportunity of speaking today in a session devoted to Corporate and Strategic Planning. The existence of such a session reflects the growing importance attached to corporate image, and recognition of the researcher's role in its development process. There is no doubt of either of these two trends. Evidence, including our own, tells us that senior industrialists rate corporate image a major and increasing issue. Corporate communications conferences abound, and the research speaker is an integral part of them. Arguably the most important principle in corporate communications is to identify and understand key audiences. These include customers and the range of opinion leader groups where research is well established. However, a company's own employees have tended to be undervalued as an audience of importance. The most powerful source of knowledge about a company is knowing someone who works there; employee commitment to corporate strategy will affect not only internal efficiency, but also the picture portrayed to the outside world. Companies are often ignorant of their employees' feelings and motivations, and consequently fail to optimise their contribution. Research is good for corporate communications, we contend, and corporate communications is good for research. In the eyes of some companies, market research should keep its servant status and remain "below stairs"; even some market research managers in companies seem to share that view. Corporate communications and planning can put the researcher firmly in the Boardroom, and we regard this as a healthy trend. It is, however, a potentially dangerous one. Unless we can make a positive contribution - which means we must understand the objectives of corporate communications, how they work and how they can effectively be measured - our status will be undermined.

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