Friday, February 17, 2006

Know Thyself 

In corporate positioning and branding, PR practitioners and marketers say the most important task is for company leaders to describe an organization accurately to key audiences. I have written that often enough. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to do.

What is General Electric? What is Tyco? What is any conglomerate composed of many dissimilar businesses with vast global audiences of many segments? In some cases, they are cultures such as General Electric, which is a model of management, or they are financial vehicles, such as Tyco, which is breaking into three entities. Or, they could be defined by customers, or any number of things. The leaders of such businesses may not know their positioning and yet, be successful.

So, how does one position a company that doesn't know its positioning? I don't know the answer exactly. One posits a positioning that is a simulacrum of what is largely there. For example, GE is trumpeting environmentalism, and the company is focused sharply on achieving energy saving and cleaner technologies. But that isn't all of GE by any stretch. GE Capital, one of the largest arms of the conglomerate, mints money and not machinery. It's a case of the leader saying who we say we are. That works as long as the CEO pursues the definition. It doesn't if the definition is merely a sentence slapped on to a release, advertisement or plan.

Positioning is easy with some companies and difficult with others, but both entities can do well in the marketplace. Doesn't that tell one something?


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