Have you ever wondered about corporate identity and purpose and their relationship with reputation management? I think it’s very important to understand that vital correlation in order to see why some companies succeed, while others crumble down and get forgotten.
What is identity? What is purpose?
As Garcia and Doorley (2011) argue, identity is “the raison d’être of an organisation. It is, simply, what the organisation stands for above all else”.
Purpose is simply the core why behind a company – why do you do what you do? What leads your motivation? What do you wish to achieve?
I argue here that there is great deal of similarity between purpose and identity, although they more often than not are defined as separate variables (by no means do I disagree with this statement).
The difficult task of reputation management is to, well, manage reputations of people, companies or brands. Seems easy, but is in fact instrinsically difficult. The array of newly emergent social media, increased online conversations of target audiences, etc. etc. – they all make the tasks of reputation management quite tricky (but ever-exciting). So, how do corporate purpose and corporate identity influence reputation management?
I think the answer is quite straightforward. First of all, companies with clear purpose stand out, so their reputation is not only easily manageable, but easier to fix as well. They are able to show to people that they do not only want to sell, but also they have a clear purpose and motivation. They are here for a reason, which we should not ignore. They also show the true company cause. They show why a company or brand exists and why people should care. As Simon Sinek pointed out in his Start With Why Ted talk, inspired organisations, people and brands communicate from inside out, i.e. why they do what they do. I could not agree more. I also think that this correlates directly to corporate identity and, accordingly, it affects reputation management.
Secondly, identity lays out what the company stands for, what it sees itself as and what it is. Identity could therefore be seen as a set of core values guiding a company (and which I think stem from purpose as well). If it consists of the ideas impacting societies or societal groups in an important, game-changing way. Without them, a company or brand is just a mere commercial product which is, probably, not going to receive much attention, let alone gain customer trust or popularity. Without identity, there is no reputation. Without identity, there is no purpose. And without any trace of identity, reputation management is difficult and long-term, starting with the basics – identity creation and development.
Therefore, I believe that reputation management needs purpose and identity to be more successful, long-term and long-lasting. I think that identity and corporate purpose are indispensible to proper functioning of brands and companies. They are also very important from the public relations standpoint. Of course, if purpose and identity are missing, public relations activities could attempt to create them and build further reputation on them, but I think that only companies with genuine identity and purpose can succeed out there in the big bad competitive world. Take a look at Apple, Microsoft or Pixar – would it be what it is today if its identity and corporate purpose were an artficial PR creation? The answer is, definitely not.
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Simon Sinek – Start With Why Ted Talk
Doorley, J. and Garcia, H. F. (2007) Reputation Management. The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communications. New York, Routledge.