By Sunday Ikwuagwu Every organisation exists with a corporate identity unique to itself and distinguishing it from others, regardless of how similar they may be. It transcends visual elements which may include logo, colours, fonts, pay offs and other graphics associated with the company. Creating a holistic corporate identity presupposes taking into account all aspects which define the organization\u2019s purpose and everything it stands for. This includes the Vision, Mission, Core Values, Corporate Culture and Governance and Business Goals of the company. Proactively building a corporate identity will ensure an organization\u2019s consistency and coherence when engaging its internal and external stakeholders, elicit renewed confidence and trust and distinguish it from competitors. While corporate identity is how an organisation wants to be perceived by the public, corporate image is the actual public perception of the company, and managing that perception is very crucial. The ultimate aim of a company is the exact alignment of corporate identity with corporate image, so that the public views the company exactly as the company wants to be seen. The overall business success of a company will depend on its corporate image which attracts attention and sustains consumer loyalty. Every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its image and reputation for survival and success. In today\u2019s evolving and competitive market, a positive corporate image is a company\u2019s greatest asset and should be considered a strategic priority that must be achieved. A favourable corporate image will help an organisation gain a competitive advantage and a fair share of the market. Deploying an effective Public Relations strategy in achieving a favourable organizational image requires skilful and adept planning which incorporates situation analysis, defining target and publics, defining objectives, media selection, budgeting, implementation, control and monitoring and evaluation. In developing a strategy to successfully build and enhance your corporate image, you must analyse trends. Investigate the current situation of the organisation from the public standpoint. This is also called Perception Audit. By doing this, you detect the current perception ratio of the negatives versus the positives and neutralize the negatives before it turns into a conflagration that could do serious damage to your business. American business magnate and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet, said, \u201cIt takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you\u2019ll do things differently.\u201d Identifying your key target audiences is very crucial in building a favourable image. Your target audiences will consist of a mix of external and internal groups, including customers, clients, partners, employees, government, investors, media and industry professionals. It\u2019s important to be very specific when defining your audiences. You need clarity about the groups you are targeting to craft an effective strategy that will speak directly to their unique concerns. Enhancing your company\u2019s image basically involves communicating your successes to the widest possible audience. You excerpt testimonials, awards, and other accolades in your communication materials, in the media, on your website, social media handles, and physical (and virtual) spaces around your business environment. When your various publics come in contact with this information, it will make a positive brand impression that is likely to cause them to have a positive perception about your company and tell people they know through their networks. By this, you can leverage your earned corporate image to increase your business profitability and make positive impressions on existing and potential customers, prospects, future employees, vendors, and all your constituents. Developing clear and concise messages that stimulate the public\u2019s interest in your company is vital. Your messages must be stakeholder focused. A feedback mechanism is also very necessary to elicit responses from various stakeholders and make adjustments arising from negative public outcry that could threaten the business. Cultivating a healthy relationship with the media and implementing an effective media relations strategy will help mitigate negative consequences when your company falls into a crisis situation. A robust media relationship offers higher credibility and helps in building corporate presence and reinforce brand image using the media. It is important to get involved in Corporate Social Investment. Engaging in CSI is a good way to build a favourable corporate image and renew public confidence in your company. It projects the company\u2019s reputation and creates the picture of a responsible business, which can in turn, lead to competitive advantage. The advantages accruable from CSI include positive business reputation, positive media attention, easier access to finance, government recognition, increased sales and customer loyalty, ease of doing business, greater ability to attract talent and retain staff, and organisational growth. Corporate Sponsorship is another smart way to increase your company\u2019s brand visibility, awareness and ultimately your company\u2019s corporate image. Sponsorship gives your company the opportunity to boost the perceived image of your business, gain media exposure and build your brand authority. The more your company\u2019s brand name is associated with positive experiences or emotions through sponsorships, the stronger your corporate image will be. Improving your company\u2019s corporate culture in also very necessary. The internal stakeholders form an integral part of the business, and are the immediate face of the organization. It is important to align them with the business goals, values, vision and mission of your company through an effective internal communications structure. The public disposition of an employee creates a certain image of the organization in the minds of the public. Incorporating image as part of corporate strategy and investing in reputation management requires a diligent, strategic approach. The tactic needs to be consistent, targeted and factual in support of an organization\u2019s long-term business plans. It has been proven that investing in a quality image provides an ongoing return that organizations can measure in many ways. Once you take steps to build and protect your corporate image, you can benefit greatly by implementing measures to leverage the positives. Most important of all, a good corporate image will provide a solid foundation on which you can build a successful business. Always remember that how the public perceives your brand is vital to the success of your business. For that reason, investing in conscious efforts to improve your public image is one of the most effective ways to grow your business and become successful in your industry. Sunday Ikwuagwu is the Principal Consultant at Walmond Communications Limited. He can be reached on 08181407842, 08070857968, email@example.com or www.walmondcommunications.com.