Understanding your ‘iconic’ reputation is powerful for communication

Businesses and nonprofits with any life at all have a reputation. Those that have existed for decades have an iconic reputation, one that has endured through success and failure, crisis and normalcy.

Take for instance the U.S. Air Force. Studies have revealed its iconic reputation is unsurprisingly a high-tech air force that can strike targets and defend the skies anywhere necessary.  This is all symbolized by the image of a pilot.  For Air Force communicators, this is important to understand for marketing, messaging, story telling and support building.

When communicating about challenging topics, such as the need to spend billions of dollars on a new aircraft, communicators now know how to better message.  Simply put, messaging should primarily focus on the need to replace older aircraft with better technology to continue being the most high-tech air force in the world. This works because the public has come to expect it and values it.  This is a better way to message than to talk money and buying processes for new aircraft, which could be tempting if that’s what’s happening today.  Rather, lead with your iconic reputation that is understood.

Additionally, understanding your iconic reputation tells you what your reputation is not.  This is important because it instructs you on what doesn’t garner as much interest.  For instance, the Air Force does much more than fly planes.  The have evolved into more of an air, space and cyberspace service for defense of the U.S and allies.  However, pilots and aircraft lead in the public’s mind.

Knowing this, should recruiters play up images of high-tech aircraft and pilots or satellites and streams of digital data?  I think it’s clear.  But what about those people who don’t want to be pilots?  Remember the “high-tech” part of the iconic image?  I submit that cuts across all career fields in the Air Force and all prospects.  If you go to www.airforce.com, it screams high-tech.  The words “It’s not science fiction” are front and center.  Do you think they understand what the Air Force is known for?  I think so.

Does your organization know its iconic reputation? Do you advise clients who know?  If not, it may be worth finding out.


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