A corporate identity can be defined as the audience’s interpretation of the sum of the entirety of a company’s external communications including: website content, social media, promotional materials, relationships with clients, etc. We all had a hard enough time figuring out our own personal identity in high school so I’m not surprised that startups often fail to solidify their corporate identity and really answer the question, “Who are we?”
Not surprisingly it is a harrowing task capable of intimidating even the most seasoned and savvy business professional simply because unlike, say, a business plan, there is no per-existing template or formula that you can follow that will be appropriate to your unique business. Much like there is no template or formula that we as individuals can emulate to create our own identities (I wish someone had told the all-too-gangster 15 year-old me).
The truth is that your business’ identity is already being shaped whether you like it or not. By simply abstaining from social media or by having bland web site content you are already sending your audience and stakeholders a message, and likely it’s not a positive one. Taking control of your corporate identity will, at the very least, provide you the opportunity to determine how you want to be viewed in the eyes of the public and potentially lead to other benefits such as increased sales or strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations. Here are a few tips on how to create your corporate identity:
- Be yourself- Your company has its own unique personality and voice because it is made up of unique individuals and the key to having a coherent corporate identity is to not drift too far from these roots. Likely your team came together because of a shared belief or idea which is evident in your product or service that you offer. Use this to your advantage and let your personality and beliefs shine through to create an authentic and unique identity.
Do: Engage people on a personal level, share your experiences and challenges, be creative (if you’re the creative type)
Don’t: Try too hard to be something you’re not (funny, clever, cute, etc.), stray needlessly from your core business (hamburger company tweeting about latest celebrity gossip. Caveat: said celebrity gossip involves hamburgers).
- Identify your audience and stakeholders- How your audience will react and engage with the different content you provide will depend largely on their demographics and psychographics. Obviously, teenage girls will react differently and have certain expectations from your company’s identity than business professionals. You can’t appease everyone, nor should you try. Your audience will form organically as you provide content they want so it’s important that you decide who you want your audience to be when creating your content. Your audience will better associate with you and your identity will evolve naturally.
Do: Provide unique content based on the interests of your current and intended audience.
Don’t: Pander to an unrelated demographic in the hope of superficially inflating your user base; it will not lead to useful conversions.
- Create unique and valuable content– This is hardly rocket science but, you are what you publish. You can be the smartest, funniest, most resourceful, (insert positive adjective here), but if you don’t make it known through some kind of content, no one will ever know. Your audience will identify with you through content such as blogs twitter, website updates, e-mail correspondence, etc. More importantly, not creating anything will force your audience to decide your identity for you or worse; you’ll fade into obscurity. Early on in your business is the perfect opportunity for you to shape your identity as an authority on a subject or as an excellent reference for some topic. Your early die hard followers will evangelize your site or product on your behalf and your popularity will rise much faster. If you create it, they will come.
Do: Create content targeted to your core audience, show your audience you’re still alive through some form of regular update, interact with your audience in meaningful ways.
Don’t: Create content that will alienate parts of your audience, create content not related to your business, industry, or related interests, be uninteresting.
These are the very broad elements that comprise a corporate identity. Remember, your company is made up of individuals that will be involved with a certain audience and group of stakeholders through some form of content creation and dissemination. Everything in between is totally up to you and will lead to your own unique identity which people will associate with your brand. Be creative and fun when you have the opportunity but keep in mind that there always room for the straight shooter too. The last thing you want to do is be the company with an identity akin in principle to that of Frankenstein’s monster; made up of bits and pieces of other corporate identities.