The most expensive and at the same time the most vulnerable asset of any company recently becomes its individual brand. And it means that every year the role and importance of PR specialists, marketing specialists, brand managers grows. Roundtable participants discuss the modern understanding of reputation management and programs that allow mastering image management technologies.
You will answer for the image…
A rare consumer is ready to pay for goods from an unknown or even more suspicious manufacturer. Moreover, public opinion often refuses to trust and quality products if their manufacturers forget about promoting their own positive image in the mass consciousness.
“Good management skills in the field of public relations are an indicator of professionalism not only for top management, but also for line employees,” says Andrei Shutov, head of the educational program “Public Relations” at the Lomonosov Moscow State University’s philosophical faculty. – The company’s competitiveness also depends on how well management structures are able to solve image issues. Those firms that successfully promote their brand know this pattern very well”.
And nevertheless, “it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain a high level of public interest in a company by means of PR, as competition is constantly increasing,” believes Valery Nazarov, Rector of the Business Career Institute. – With the help of advertising and other events it is possible both to increase sales, and vice versa, to cause disappointment of consumers. Since the reputation of the company is largely created by its managers, they have to share success together or be responsible for failures”.
However, the problem is that it is not easy to find in the market or train a qualified specialist in reputation management. University professors note that the main difficulty is methodological. It is not easy to combine theoretical knowledge on psychology, marketing, branding, etc. with practical tools.
Theory and practice: new opportunities
Reputation formation is based on both PR tools and technologies used by brand managers, marketing specialists, advertising department employees, etc. It is important to understand that it is not exhausted by the “psychology of marketing” alone, although with this discipline, which helps to correctly position the brand, one way or another, all the specialists in this field face. Olga Melnikova, the head of “Public Relations and Mass Media” at the Faculty of Psychology of Moscow State University, explains: “Let us consider, for example, the sphere of education. There is high competition in this market. One higher education institution can win in it at the expense of old educational traditions, fundamentality of preparation, and another one can be ahead of competitors in the number of programs and special courses. How can image management look like from this point of view? It is very important for a “well-deserved” university to break the image of a conservative from whom one does not have to wait for novelty, and for a “newcomer” – to demonstrate that programs bring real benefit, and practice is not to the detriment of theory”.
It should be noted that there is no separate specialty “reputation management”. The topic of working with the company’s image is revealed within the classical public relations training programs, and they can be of different depth and saturation. And only after graduation do graduates decide what to become: “PR”, press secretaries, image makers or brand managers. Since their functional responsibilities overlap in many ways, it is inappropriate to create independent courses in each area.
“Basic courses on PR include such areas as communication management, advertising in the communication process, brand management, integrated marketing communications, management of media companies, – says Andrei Shutov. – Significant attention is paid to the combination of in-depth study of the theory with the involvement of practitioners who do not read the usual lectures, but conduct master classes in the above areas”.
Olga Melnikova adds that there are universal and long known methods of brand management: bringing new products and services to the market, gaining market share of competitors, expanding the target audience. “For example, starting from this year any higher education institution may accept not only specialists of its profile but also graduates of any higher education institution”, she explains.
Mandatory practice aimed at developing skills for creating publicity, developing an image, organizing press conferences, etc., leads to potential employers perceiving graduates of some universities as ready-made specialists, although they have just received their diplomas. “In the end, the result of the university is not a diploma, but the successful development of the graduate,” says Valery Nazarov. – Career building, including in the context of reputation management (and its own image, and the company’s brand) is not so much about a set of academic disciplines, as about the acquired ability to plan their professional growth and achieve any goals of the company. Therefore, one of the main objectives of training should be the ability of a graduate to build a successful career in the field he or she has chosen”.
Let us sum up. Since the reputation of a modern company significantly influences its capitalization, the importance of specialists in this field will only increase every year. At the same time, one should expect tougher requirements to the experience and knowledge of specialists in this field. In order to go from a manager engaged in the manufacture of souvenirs, to the Director of Corporate Image Management of a large corporation will have to work hard. And we should start with a simple one – choosing a university and mastering the theory. After all, today it is safe to say that a diploma becomes a decisive factor affecting the decision of the employer.