Today I’m going to talk about something that you learn in a corporates: the image of your company. It’s all about the image. Startups (startupers) use to forget it (or leave it as a secondary topic), and it’s a topic that is being so trendy in the last times.
What is the “image” of the company?
The image of the company is what they transmit to the customers. People automatically triggers a though when they hear Nike. Or ExxonMobil. Or Apple. This is thanks to the image. Banks use to show a conservative image. Carmakers project freedom to their audience. Drink companies makes you cool, etc…
Image in corporates
Image is everything in the corporate world. From the business attire of most of the employees (and almost all c-level managers) to the way they present results to stakeholders. Going out of the stablished frames can make you be ignored, feel the anger of some colleagues, or even worse, lose your job.
There are some “guardians” of the image in the corporate scene. Each one defends small pieces of the image. Some of them are:
- PR: They protect the messages that come from the company. Responsible also of the press notes.
- Marketing: Be creative, but not so much.
- Brand: Defend the consistency of the brand (logo, colors, fonts, etc…), the usage, where it appears…
- HR: They define who gets in and who don’t. And believe me, there are companies that employ people not focusing just in their strengths but in their image (Abercrombie, for instance).
There are also other protectors of the image of the company: Product Managers. The responsibility of the Product Managers is, in one hand, to create products that amaze their customers; and, in the other hand, use the common sense when building products and services.
Image in startups
There aren’t enough resources in startups, of course, to have all these departments. CEO first, and the rest of the team later have the responsibility of protecting the image of the company. A slip in this sense can make you lose customers, investors, credibility or the company itself.
I want to talk about 2 cases of startups (well, one is the big brother of the startups. They had different outcomes depending on the reaction of their teams. I think some lessons can be learned about how to proceed when your image is under debate:
Example: Image in Facebook
- First one, as I said before, is the big brother of the startups: Facebook. Facebook had in the last year several controversial situations (1, 2, 3, 4 and many more). Facebook’s strategy was deny until the undeniable; hiding more cases; having poor communication; and keep having issues one after another.
- Consequences: Facebook is loosing the talent battle (from Instagram Founders, to the great engineers Facebook has, or some talented managers). The social network is loosing trust from the users (in US growth stopped and in Europe declined). And, at the end, of course, this affected to the level of trust investors have in the company: Facebook shares had a cost of $179.96 in February 15th of 2018. The same day on year later, they cost $164.06. Almost a 10% of company’s value has vanished, or, translated in money, Facebook has lost in a year $54.03B, more or less the GDP of Croatia.
Example: Image in Demium Startups
- Second case is a local one. It happened to my friends of Demium Startups, one of the main startup incubation programs here in Spain. However, in my opinion, the outcomes (and of course, the repercussion of what happened) are very different. An avid journalist published an interview in its newspaper a week ago or so (February 7th more or less). The interview went viral pretty fast around the entrepreneur community here in Spain. One of the city directors from Demium declared in that interview something that devaluated the local startup ecosystem. Suddenly, a company that has limited resources and a lot of effort on it, was putting in risk its image. They have a model, that, as I said in a tweet, you can like or not, but you can’t deny all the work it has behind it. How they faced it? They made a press note in less than 24 hours. They apologized, recognized their errors, put in value their work and were transparent with their audience.
- Consequences: It’s pretty soon to know the exact consequences of what happened. However, in my opinion, the first consequence is that Jorge Dobón and the team behind Demium converted a problem in an opportunity. They have transformed the error in a great marketing campaign. It’s still an opinion, but I think that probably the city director will have to gain his trust again with his colleagues internally. Otherwise he will leave the company. It’s a tough situation for him. And I think that their number of candidates for their incubation program will increase in the following openings. But this is something that only them will now.
I have more examples in mind, and also affecting some people that I appreciate. However, I feel that the message I wanted to share has been enough explained, with the possible outcomes/learnings included.
My summary, as I stated before, is: USE THE COMMON SENSE. If you don’t have resources, centralize all the “image guardians” in yourself or someone you trust, and think that what all people want both inside and outside is transparency and trust in you and your company.
And you, what do you think?