Whether you’re running your own small business, leading a huge corporation, or managing a nonprofit organization, you need to be able to accurately answer that question. Why? Because your image can make or break your business.
Much has been written about companies whose reputation spirals quickly downward as the result of a major scandal or a disaster. Fortunately, most companies go about their daily business without having to face a crisis. But even without a crisis, your image can be affected by daily interactions with your customers and supporters and messages you convey through various mediums.
Do you really know how your target audience perceives you today? How do you wish to be perceived in the future, not just by your current clientele, but also by your prospects?
First, you have to assess your current situation. Frequently, when I first begin consulting with new clients, I ask them how they think their customers perceive them and they can’t answer the question.
Eventually they come up with an answer, but their first response is typically, “We’re not sure.” So then I ask them how they wish to be perceived. The idea here is that the two perceptions match — that the business is actually perceived how you wish it to be viewed.
If you are not sure how others view your business, there’s a simple way to find out: Ask. This can be done formally through sophisticated market research or informally by formulating your own questions and then talking with both customers and prospects. Be sure to write down your answers. Once you have gathered enough information, compare their answers to your own. If there’s a gap, that’s where the PR strategy begins to get their perception more in alignment with yours. Go through this same process with your competitors.
The concept is straightforward: You have to know where you currently stand before you can decide where you’re going. If you operate a restaurant and one of the things you want to be known for is excellent customer service, define what that means. Be specific. Does it mean quick service? Or does it mean that every meal is prepared to perfection and the selections are like none other?
Whatever your image goals are, the point is to be aware of how you are currently perceived in the marketplace and how you wish to be viewed. Then develop your PR strategies to close the gap. If you find there is no gap, you’ll still need strategies to maintain your position and continue to grow in a positive direction.
Doreen Poreba, APR, is an accredited public relations professional with more than 25 years of experience on both sides of the media fence in both PR and journalism. She is the founder of The PR Czar® Inc., a full service PR agency serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches and now with the Internet — the world!