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Corporate Image Development: Asking the Right Questions
By Steven Howard, Howard Marketing Services

A key aspect of the initial phase of the Corporate Image Management development process comprises qualitative interviews with internal and external audience. These interviews focus on how the organization is currently perceived by these key audiences and what perceptions are held about the company's directions for the future and its capabilities to handle or execute change.

A key aspect of the initial phase of the Corporate Image Management development process comprises qualitative interviews with internal and external audience.

The internal interviews are conducted at all levels of the organization, from front-line staff and backroom support personnel to senior management and the board of directors. The interviews with external audiences will include key customers, end users, joint venture or other business partners, shareholders or other stakeholders, suppliers, distributors, retailers, prospective customers and partners, government officials, senior media people and other outside influencers, competitors, and members of the general public.

These interviews focus on how the organization is currently perceived by these key audiences and what perceptions are held about the company's directions for the future and its capabilities to handle or execute change. A sampling of the types of questions that should be explored through the qualitative interviews includes:

Executives, senior management and Board members

  • What is the organization's mission statement. Do you see a need for change? How?
  • What are the two, five and ten year plans for the organization?
  • Who are the company's key target audiences?
  • How does the company market itself to these target audiences?
  • What is the single most important marketing issue facing the organization?
  • What are the three most pressing marketing communications issues facing the organization at present?
  • How is the company organised? What changes would you make in the organizational structure if you could?
  • Who really plays the role of marketing the organization? What is his/her role in the strategic management process?
  • How would you describe the organization's corporate culture? What are the shared beliefs, expectations and values found within the organization? How are these learned by new employees?
  • Is there a corporate philosophy? If so, describe this in your own words? Does it need changing or updating?
  • How would you describe the organization's external image? It's internal image? Would you say that you are proud to be associated with these images? Do you see a need for change in the image? How?
  • Are the activities, products, services and image of the organization adequately communicated through the current name?
  • What makes this organization unique?
  • Who are the organization's main competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses compared to your organization? Are you likely to have different competitors in five years time?
  • Why do people choose products or services from competitors instead of those offered by this organization?
  • Describe the organization's change management system and how you personally feel about this system.
  • What do the organization's customers look for or consider before establishing a relationship with this organization?

Customers, Partners, Prospects and Competitors

  • What is your impression of the organization's products and services?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of this organization?
  • Would you care to be employed by the organization? Why or why not?
  • Please describe the various products and services offered by this organization. Which ones do you use the most? Why?
  • Have you ever dealt with a similar organization, or an organization offering similar products and services? Why or why not?
  • How would you compare the quality of products and services provided by this organization with that of other organizations with which you are very familiar?
  • Who do you think are the organization's main competitors? Why? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these organizations?
  • Please describe the organization in your own words. Do you see a need for change or improvement? How and where?
  • What does the name of the organization mean to you?
  • What's the first thing you think of when you hear the organization's name?
  • What makes this organization unique?
  • Please describe what you think the corporate culture is like at this organization.
  • What do you think is this organization's corporate philosophy? How is this corporate philosophy expressed by its products, services or corporate behavior?
  • Do you feel loyalty towards this organization? Why or why not?
  • What type of loyalty do you feel towards this organization?
  • What criteria would you use in determining whether or not to enter into a long-term relationship with this organization?
  • What does the word "relationship" mean to you, when applied to your interactions and dealings with this organization?
  • The number of interviews required for this process to be effective is usually between 25 and 40, depending upon the size and complexity of the organization or the anticipated likelihood by management or the consultants that a major corporate image change is required imminently.

This methodology will yield tremendous insights into the present corporate image of the organization, as perceived both internally and externally. Because of the open-ended nature of the specific questions used, the feedback can be readily interpreted into specific observations and recommendations that can be actioned late in the corporate image management process.



Steven Howard is Asia's leading marketing consultant and positioning specialist, with over 22 years experience. The author of two books and numerous articles, you may reach him at www.howard-marketing.com or steven@howard-marketing.com.

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