Identity, image and reputation are important concepts in a world of corporate communication. While these are strongly related to one another, they clearly are different as well. Yet we often see these concepts mixed up or used in the wrong context, even by professionals. In this blogpost we’ll make clear what the differences are, how they are related and how these three concept should be used.
An ‘organisation’ is an abstract concept that comes to life through branding, the employees and the touch points such as the office and the product. These are all characteristics that form the organisation. Inside an organisation there is a certain concealed identity. In a ideal situation, the image and reputation are the same as the identity, but very often this is not the case. For many people, the differences between the three concept are vague. We will therefore first elaborate on each of the concepts separately before we link them together.
The whole story starts with the identity of the company. When forming the identity, the following question is the focuspoint: “Who are we as a company?” The identity emanates from different characteristics of the organisation, as seen by the board. According to Birkigt & Stadler’s model, the four most important characteristics are behaviour, symbols, communication and personality. Combining these features forms the identity of the organisation.
Behaviour can easily be explained as every single conduct of any employee of the company. The way a client is treated, but also how people are talking about the company at - for example - a social gathering is affecting the identity. Symbols are spoken statements, gestures or images of the company that are understood by everyone within the company. Examples are technical language, the logo or the slogan.
The characteristic, communication can be interpreted very broadly. It can be commercials spread by the company, but it also the way the CEO is spoken about in the news. Personality, is the last characteristics that Birkigt and Stadler describe. This represents the unique core values of the company. Important questions here are: What does the company represent? What aspect makes it unique?
Image is how the company is perceived by people from outside of the organization. In an ideal situation, the identity and image are similar. However, the image will often differ from the desired identity. This can either be because of media coverage or due to unmotivated employees. The company image will be influenced when the employees do not carry out the associated values.
The image of a company can be stable for a while and then suddenly collapse due to a crisis of negative coverage. This could be because of a production error which causes discontent under the customers. The image is damaged, but could possibly be recuperated because of a strong company identity.
Reputation and image are often mixed up, while they certainly differ. While image is about the way people outside of the company perceive an organisation, reputation is all about the experiences of people connected to the company. Examples are creditors, employees and company that the organisation has partnerships with.
The reputation of a company is based on the relationship a company has among its different stakeholders. A reputation is much harder to build and repair after it has been damaged. With image it is more about image-forming, while reputation is based on actual deeds from the company.
Reputation Management is a way to control the reputation of a company. With the right tools you can positively influence the reputation of an organization, thus achieving gain on the short and long term operations of your company.
In this blogpost we got into the concepts of identity, image and reputation. It is now clear that you cannot build a positive image without carefully formulating and observing your brands own identity. We also portrayed the differences between image and reputation.
For mapping and maintaining a good reputation, you can use multiple tools. Trustier is a very useful tool which makes it possible to express your trust in companies, organisations and individuals. Trust is transferable via Trustcoins and is measurable through the so called Trust Tier. Curious how it works? Take a look at our website!