One of the definitions found in the little dictionary on my desk for the word image is "the concept of someone or something that is held by the public".
I was interested in this particular definition as a result of a seminar I had taken at a conference on imaging. The session covered techniques used by companies to promote a particular image.
Although the emphasis was on those techniques that companies purposely employ in the course of establishing an image or "look" -- advertising, public relations, community relations, trade shows, and other marketing efforts -- the discussion quickly turned to those unintentional, and sometimes counterproductive actions that seem to have a great deal to do with the public's perception of a company.
A Few Examples, Food For Thought
A company promotes itself as being on the "cutting edge" attends a trade show with the same exhibit it has been using for the past ten years. What is the real image?
You have been trying to reach someone at a company for some time. Their tag line is, "We really care". You have left several detailed messages and yet you have not received a return call. What's the image?
These may seem like absurd examples to some. To many these are everyday occurrences. How often has your high image of a company or product led you to a disappointing experience?
How often have you been put off by a rude voice on the other end of the phone? How many times have you waited for a return phone call?
How often have you wished there were another option?
As write this column, and hopefully as you read it, we are probably both thinking about all the times "those other companies" have been guilty of projecting a less than perfect image.
How about us! Whoa, you say. Not us! We don't do such things. Oh yeah! Granted we may not intentionally try to tarnish our images -- but we often are guilty of the very shortcomings we are so quick to find in others.
It is often the little things that speak louder than tag lines, slogans, exhibits and expensive buildings.
When was the last time you changed your message on your voice mail? Does it include the date? Do you let people know if you will be out for an extended period of time and you will call them upon your return -- or would you rather they think your are ignoring them?
Is the image of your company real -- or is it just smoke and mirrors? Food for thought?