Public image: What it means, how it is created and… how much it costs!

I decided to write very specifically about the topic of public image because although it is being analyzed often, that well-known “it’s only business” spoils everything. It is not necessary to elaborate a lot on the costs, because if someone wants to do business and – especially – to offer quality, he has pre-determined the cost. In the meantime the market conditions might have changed drastically and are constantly changing and thus it may be difficult to comply with their specifications. I will try to be the devil’s advocate in order to show that the challenge is not the unpredictable and self-evident business difficulties, but the general perception of business and the much-discussed concept of profit. In the past, profits were simpler and, of course, much higher. Now that the economic hardship is challenging the capital security itself, businesses are being urged to convince the market of their intentions in a highly competitive environment. So their public image can greatly enhance their competitiveness and that is why they need to take care of it. But first and foremost, they need to know exactly what it means. In order to avoid misinterpretations, their public image is not either the one they show or the one they think they have, but the one they really have, because the days of the naive audience – unfortunately for many – have passed irrevocably…

On the contrary, many may have the opposite view. Thus, they entrust the construction of their public image to anyone who claims it and/or considers that it can be properly handled for the intended purpose. The challenges when finding a consultant/consulting company can be at least two: how to chose the right one and most importantly – after they end up positive in the first – how they shape the public image together. So, after everyone finds the consultant they want in their own way, it’s time to manage crises and the public image. And because all these cost… in various ways and not just in money (but in the end always in money!), in order to pay off, we care if the customer “listens” to his consultant and if the consultant is aware of the market conditions and suggests honestly without hesitation bold professional solutions.

Many times both the company and the consultant prefer not the most legitimate practices. Unfortunately, the practices applied do not concern just a small store (which does not mean that the rules work or should work differently for that), but mainly big brands. The paradox is that while people meet at business conferences and often exchange greetings, no attempt is made to remove any misunderstandings (if any!) on the “bad” behavior of brands towards customers, which sometimes consultants approve of. Instead, they end up communicating them afterwards in a not-so-good atmosphere, and many times in unprofessional ways. The most important element should be to conclude a peculiar collaboration/partnership always with the aim of consolidating it. Please note that in such cases the public image has already been impacted negatively.

So at this point, how much does the public image cost? Unfortunately, it costs a lot… And that’s because the cost involves paying the consultant for his advice and the customer’s realization that the big brand is irreparably exposed for small amounts of money. The sad thing is that this money either belongs to the customer and we end up returning it to him after unpleasant procedures or is the reason for some companies to finally alleviate some bad impressions. That’s why I prefer to talk to lawyers… At least they know how to negotiate when they should.

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