Thursday, April 13, 2006

Describing the Elephant 

Although I have done this many times, the act of interviewing company executives about their firm remains instructive. It is the old Indian fable of the blind men and the elephant, although differences may not be as great. Most organizations are larger than an individual's ability to comprehend them. That is certainly true from a positioning point of view. Even if individuals have worked across a business, their characterizations of a company will differ. Some of this is due to self-interest, some to experience, but most is due to the fact that any company can be positioned in a large number of ways. The challenge is finding the right description and emphasis.

Without an organizing point of view, a company is a body of facts moving in some coordination but without essential meaning. However, the hard part of positioning is not so much arriving at a point of view but getting everyone to agree on what it should be. Positioning is political. It is a consensus that might not be exactly right but is good enough for what a company needs.

From a PR perspective, good enough is usually acceptable. However, there are positionings that are incredible. Most are imposed on the facts with ways obvious to impartial observers, even if insiders cannot see it that way.

A proper positioning doesn't make a firm exciting. It might be just a (FILL-IN-HERE), even if the firm has a solid grip on the marketplace. Positioning is a starting point. From the few words one uses to describe a business come story angles that help one explain its larger meaning.


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