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Reputation management Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Introduction
Interest in corporate identity, both as a management issue and as an academic discipline, has grown significantly over the last decade. However, one of the major problems in this area of research is the lack of consensus as to basic conceptualization and definition of corporate identity (Balmer and Wilkinson, 1991). Corporate identity seems to be a general purpose concept that serves as an alibi for a variety of activities such as designing a new logo, interior decoration, salesforce training, all the way up to changing the corporate culture (van Rekom, 1997). Corporate identity is perceived by most authors as the organization's presentation to its various stakeholders and the means by which it distinguishes itself from other similar organizations (Markwick and Fill, 1997). The application of this concept is limited insofar as it focuses principally on what the organization wants to become in visual terms, on its desired identity. This perspective ignores the operational reality of the organization, its actual identity. The desired organizational identity usually refers to the management vision and the corporate mission of the organization which lies in the heads of organizational decision makers (Balmer and Soenen, 1999). The actual identity, on the other hand, refers to what the organization is (Balmer, 1995), reflecting the value orientation of the organization (van Rekom, 1997) which frames the mind-sets and behaviors of organizational members. The actual organizational identity is of particular relevance when considering the need to merge both internal and external aspects of modern organizations. The heightened emphasis on networking, customer service and the emphasis on total corporate communications, has created a situation whereby the management of external relations is now an integral part of the daily activity of nearly all organizational members (Hatch and Schultz, 1997). The increasing visibility of insiders to outsiders means that employees are under pressure to interface with the customer as representatives of the organization in the way they think, feel and behave. This requires that they sign on to the organizational paradigm. Furthermore, it
This paper has been funded by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation: The Greek Section of Scholarships and Research.

The authors Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward are at the School of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, UK. Keywords Corporate identity, Employee attitudes, Internal communications Abstract Examines the impact of corporate identity management on the employees' attitudes towards the organization, as well as their willingness to accept its premises in the way they conduct organizational business. Argues that this knowledge is critical to our understanding of how external relations can be systematically managed via the employee. Presents a framework which outlines the perceived actual-ideal identity fit seen as critical to the way in which corporate identity is interpreted and enacted by employees. Case study material is provided from within a telecommunications company, to illustrate that the effective management of corporate identity requires that it is perceived to be consistent with, and representative of, actual organizational reality. Electronic access The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emerald-library.com

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . pp. 4958 # MCB University Press . ISSN 1356-3289

49

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

is implied that the internal reality and the desired management vision and corporate mission need to be harmonized in the most efficient and effective way, to create a favorable basis for customer and stakeholder within an increasingly competitive economic environment. The purpose of this paper is to examine potential discrepancies between the actual and the ideal identity of the organization as perceived by employees, and to determine whether gaps in employees' perceptions have an impact on their attitudes towards the organization, as well as on their willingness to accept and act on the organization's premises. Our evidence highlights the need for an integration of internal with the external reality of an organization. To this end, our findings have major implications for corporate identity management as a means for achieving competitive advantage.

Corporate identity: external fit


The notion of corporate identity addresses the question ``Who are we?''. The answer to this question has the potential to motivate and shape (and be shaped by) strategic choice and action. What makes the notion of identity so important in the corporate context is that it attaches meaning to an object. In the view of Ashforth and Mael (1996), the quest to answer "Who are we?" is a quest for meaning and justification. Unlike corporate strategy and even culture, the issue of identity goes to the core of what something is, what fundamentally defines that entity. Despite this, the concept of corporate identity has been used primarily as a marketing tool, an umbrella term referring to considerations of how and in what form organizations might present themselves in ways which optimize external relations and which have implications for business performance. Thus, the term corporate identity has been equated for a long time with graphic design, promoting the idea that implementing a new visual identity can be an effective means of changing organizational strategy, culture and communications (van Rekom, 1997). It has also been used with reference to making the organization's visual identity more fashionable within the contemporary marketplace. As such, corporate identity has been understood 50

merely at the artefactual level (i.e. symbols, statements of philosophy and annual reports), without consideration of the social psychological reality of the organization or its everyday modus operandi (Millward, 1995). Within this artefactual approach, the development of corporate identity starts from the vision and aims of the top management board and reflects the organization's identity which the management board wish to acquire, that is, the desired identity of the organization (Balmer and Soenen, 1999). This desired identity is communicated mainly through streamlining organizational symbolism and corporate communications on an external basis in order to achieve a favorable market image and to promote competitive advantage. However, such corporate aims may not be genuine expressions of the company's actual identity. Here we argue that organizational identity claims may be much more effective if they have an empirical basis (van Rekom, 1997) within the organization, in the way it is lived and breathed by employees.

Corporate identity: internal reality


Recent research (Balmer, 1995) recognizes that corporate identity is more than just an organizational symbol or mark of recognition. Rather, corporate identity denotes the characteristic way in which an organization goes about its business, how it thinks, feels, behaves and interfaces with the external world via its employees. This approach assumes that corporate identity does not sit comfortably within one discipline and that a multidisciplinary stance should therefore be adopted (Balmer, 1995; Hatch and Schultz, 1997; van Riel and Balmer, 1997). It advocates a definition of corporate identity as the visible expression of what an organization is, as interpreted and enacted by employees in the way they go about their work (see also Abratt, 1989; Balmer and Wilkinson, 1991). This brings us to the concept of organizational identity. It refers to the set of beliefs a member holds about the existing character of the organization (Albert and Whetten, 1985; Dutton and Dukerich, 1991; Thomas and Gioia, 1991). Organizational identity is the set of constructs organizational members use to describe what is central, enduring and distinctive about their

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

organization (Albert and Whetten, 1985) and it acts as a powerful schematic filter (Reger et al., 1994) through which members interpret information about their organization. Here we argue that organizational identity is at the core of an organization's corporate identity. Corporate identity is then the tangible representation of the organizational identity, the expression as manifest in the behavior and communication of the organization. Therefore, efforts to manage corporate identity should reflect the organizational identity of the company (members' beliefs about its existing character). Organizational identity is grounded in local meanings and organizational symbols (Hatch and Schultz, 1997) and thus embedded in organizational culture (Fiol and Huff, 1992). Culture plays an important role in the development and enactment of corporate identity. Here we define culture as the corporate values that are held by staff and management and their concrete manifestation in organizational symbolism and behaviour, which frame the way that the organization operates. Those values reflect the organization's identity, the type and quality of its products and services, company performance and corporate behavior. A number of authors have implied that the values held by personnel within the organization are at the heart of an organization's identity formation process (Abratt, 1989). In this context, we argue that it is important in any effort to manage corporate identity that the actual identity of the organization is taken into consideration. This means that the visible expression of an organization's identity reflects the values actually held by organizational members and not only the desired and idealized efforts of the management board. In order for organizational members to relate to the expression of their organization's identity, they may draw on their experiences, which can invoke images that contradict the idealized corporate statement presented to the outside world. If such contradictions exist, members may discard identity-related external and internal statements that denote purely rhetoric rather than reality (Rindova and Schultz, 1998). In this way, a broader conceptualization of an organization's identity is suggested that incorporates both internally held values and external expressions of these values. 51

We argue further that the congruency between an organization's actual corporate identity and its ideal identity is a crucial factor, determining the effectiveness of corporate identity as a means of corporate communication (van Rekom, 1997). Like Balmer and Soenen (1999), we propose that it is critical to look at the degree of fit between the actual and ideal characteristics of the organisation's identity. The inconsistency between the two identities causes an identity gap, defined as the discrepancy between the perception of the actual and the desired identity. Practice has shown that, in most cases, the corporate vision and mission of the organization tend to ignore present cultural values, including employees' attitudes (van Rekom, 1997). When the identity gap is too wide, organizational members may believe the ideal is unattainable and, as a result, they may dissociate themselves from their employing organization and even oppose its attempts to achieve it (Higgins, 1987). Summarizing, the management of corporate identity can gain advantage from a thorough understanding of an organization's actual identity by determining the gaps that exist between the desired and the actual organizational identity.

The assessment of perceived corporate identity


One way to assess corporate identity quantitatively is to focus on the central values that may be important to an organization's identity. To characterize an organisation's identity in terms of its central values requires first that the range of relevant values be identified, and then that an assessment be made of how much consensus there is among organizational members about those values. Previous research has suggested that actualideal identity fit increases commitment, satisfaction and performance (Bowen et al., 1991; van Rekom, 1997), but very little empirical research on this has been done. Here we ask: ``To what extent is the actualideal identity fit (as it is perceived by the employees in a particular organization) associated with longevity with an organization, satisfaction and personal commitment to organizational goals and values?'' We expected to find that high levels

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

of fit would be positively associated with those outcomes.

Figure 1 Company profile of the actual organisational descriptors as perceived by employees

The current investigation


To address the research question, the following objectives were evolved: to discover and articulate corporate knowledge as implied or espoused in official and unofficial organizational documents; to discover and articulate insider-confirmed operative organizational values; to develop and use analysis techniques; to interpret similarities and differences between the insider and official knowledge; and to assess similarities and differences between and within groups. The research was undertaken in a business unit ``telecommunication services'' (pseudonyms to protect the confidentiality of the organization) of a large organization offering telecommunication and electronic products and services to businesses and customers. The research was designed to determine how internal stakeholders perceived the operational reality as well as the projected image of the company. A two-stage approach involving both qualitative and quantitative means of data collection was undertaken. An initial exploratory stage involving document analysis (Stage 1) allowed for the identification of basic corporate descriptors and values from the perspective of the official organization and the top management board. We believed that these kind of documents, providing the organization's official line, would give us a clear idea of the organization's ideal identity, of what the organization wants to be as perceived by its leaders and the top management board. The documents were analyzed using thematic content analysis. The official documents were also examined for information to discover what the organization said about itself that could be translated into officially sanctioned cultural values. Figure 1 shows the values that were derived from the thematic analysis. This was followed by a quantitative stage (Stage 2), which allowed for numerical comparisons of the perceived actual and projected/ideal corporate identity and enabled a direct comparison between the different groups within the organization. In addition, a questionnaire survey was used to obtain data, enabling a test for the relationship between fit and work related outcomes. 52

Method
Sample The questionnaire was distributed to all employees within the Telecommunications Group of the organisation. Questionnaires comprised a front page with an introduction explaining the objectives of the study, the voluntary nature of respondent participation, and a guarantee of complete anonymity and confidentiality. A total of 331 participants returned the questionnaire, representing a response rate of 54.2 per cent; 15 participants presented missing data on a number of items and were dropped from the data file. This

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

resulted in a final sample size of 316. The sample comprised 87 females (27.5 per cent) and 229 males (72.5 per cent) between 19 and 57 years old, the average age being between 36-45 years old. By far the majority of the sample N = 206 (65.2 per cent) were non-supervisory employees, while N = 31 (9.8 per cent) were team leaders, N = 65 (20.6 per cent) were managers, N = 10 (3.2 per cent) were section managers and N = 4 (1.3 per cent) were top managers. Number of years in the current organization ranged from 1 to 32 years (mode = 1 year, mean = 13.41 years). A total of 77 (48.7 per cent) of respondents described their employment contract as ``permanent'', whilst 81 (51.3 per cent) described it as ``temporary''. Respondents worked for the following departments: 36.1 per cent for the marketing department; 27.5 per cent for the engineering department; 17.4 per cent were working for the research and development department; and 16.5 per cent of the respondents for the administrative department. Measures The research instrument that assessed components of corporate identity was developed on the basis of an extended thematic content analysis of official and unofficial documents provided by the focal company, and a detailed literature review. It comprised 32 descriptors of the focal organisation as presented in the organizational documents. Fit was assessed using two versions of the questionnaire: ``actual'' and ``ideal''. The first one asked participants to indicate (using a seven-point Likert-type scale; 1 = not at all representative, 7 = extremely representative) how representative each statement was of the way their current organization operated. The second version asked respondents to indicate (again using a seven-point Likert-type scale) how representative each statement was of the ideal characteristics of their employing organization (how the organization would like to be). Fit was operationalised as the sum of the differences between responses to corresponding items on the two questionnaires. To test the hypothesis that the perceived actual-ideal identity fit is related to work outcomes, a number of other variables were measured: 53

Organisational goal commitment Commitment to organizational goals was assessed using the self-report measure developed by Hollenbeck et al. (1989). For the present study only the four items that had shown the highest factor loading were used (Hollenbeck et al., 1989). The response scale was a seven-point Likert scale anchored by strongly disagree to strongly agree, where a high score on the scale is indicative of low commitment to organizational goals (mean = 4.15, sd = 1.10). Coefficient alpha for this scale was 0.72. Intention to leave Intentions of leaving the organization were assessed by a four-item scale adapted from Angle and Perry (1981) as discussed by Muchinsky and Tuttle (1979) (mean = 2.65, sd = 1.01). Other variables A number of single item scales were extracted from the organizational culture inventory (Cooke and Lafferty, 1989). The scales, anchored by (1) not at all, to (5) to a very great extent, assessed role clarity (mean = 4.34, sd = 1.47), role conflict (mean = 4.20, sd = 1.70), fit (mean = 3.91, sd = 1.50) and satisfaction with the organization (mean = 3.75, sd = 1.49) and willingness to recommend the organization to someone as a good place to work (mean = 4.17, sd = 1.19). Biographical data A number of single questions were used to gather information about employees' departmental membership, hierarchical level, gender, age, type of contract and organizational tenure. Hierarchical level had five categories (1 = non-supervisory, 2 = team leaders, 3 = managers, 4 = section managers, 5 = top managers), while type of contract had four (1 = permanent, 2 = temporary, 3 = fixed-term, 4 = part-time).

Results
Overall company profile By considering the means and standard deviations of the perceptions of the actual attributes of the organization, it is possible to determine how employees perceive the organization's actual identity. A comparison of the most and least important organizational descriptors is illustrated in Figure 1. The overall combination of these elements can be

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

used to indicate the attributes which characterize the operational reality of the company, what the company is. Those are: expectations for performance excellence (mean = 5.89), results orientation (5.72), continuous improvement (5.67), quality of products and services (5.92), profit orientation (5.54), technical expertise (5.97), cost-effectiveness (5.25), but also bureaucratic mechanisms (5.92) and excessive control (5.78). However, Figure 2 clearly shows that the organization is perceived as projecting a completely different set of characteristics that would like to be regarded as its most important and distinguishing features. The ideal organizational index shows more
Figure 2 Company profile of the ideal organisational descriptors as perceived by employees

emphasis on market focus (mean = 5.77), superior products (5.97), customer satisfaction (5.66), quality (5.98), innovation (5.76), adaptability (5.76), stability (5.74), responsiveness (5.97), flexibility (5.98), performance excellence (5.68), employee fulfillment (5.66) and long-term perspective (5.96). The most significant differences, or near significant differences, between the perceived actual and ideal organizational characteristics were obtained on the following factors: responsiveness (mean difference = 3.18), stability (2.67), bureaucratic character (2.68), communication (2.37), flexibility (2.37), long-term perspective (2.23), clear guiding philosophy (2.28), and employee fulfillment (2.18). Duncan multiple range tests were performed to investigate the difference in the perceptions of actual and ideal identity between pairs of groups. These tests indicated that in most of the cases, different departments perceive the actual characteristics of the organization in a very different way, providing support for the existence of multiple sub-corporate identities. More specifically, regarding the perceived actual corporate identity: (1) The marketing department perceive that the most representative descriptors of the organization which differentiate them significantly from all the other three groups are: market focus F = 52.61, p< 0.01), organizational growth (F = 12.06, p< 0.01), customer satisfaction (F = 15.43, p< 0.01), emphasis on profit (F = 22.45, p< 0.01), risk-taking (F = 9.16, p< 0.01), long-term perspective (F = 16.37, p< 0.01) and costeffectiveness (F = 86.74, p< 0.01). (2) The R&D department is significantly differentiated from all the other departments on the following descriptors: superior products (F = 25.149, p< 0.01), teamwork (F = 10.57, p< 0.01), innovation (F = 13.48, p< 0.01), trust (F = 9.40, p< 0.01), research and development (F = 54.98, p< 0.01), training (F = 69.18, p< 0.01), flexibility (F = 11.90, p< 0.01) However, they perceive that the least representative characteristics of the organization are control (F = 4.83, p< 0.01), employee focus (F = 6.43, p< 0.01), and costeffectiveness (F = 86.74, p< 0.01). 54

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

(3) The third department that perceives the actual characteristics of the company in quite a different and especially mediocre way is the engineering department, with an orientation to customer service. They believe that the least characteristic descriptors of the company are market focus (F = 52.61, < 0.01), stability (F = 5.49, < 0.01), and employee fulfillment (F = 14.37, <0.01). All the analyses are presented in Table I. Actual-ideal fit and outcomes Because difference-scores have been widely used to represent the gap between desired and

actual states (i.e. person-environment fit), we also operationalised fit in this manner. The important question that needs to be answered is whether actual-ideal fit is systematically related to relevant organizational outcomes such as goal commitment, satisfaction, turnover, as well as role clarity, fit and recommendation. Table II shows the correlations between actual-ideal fit and a set of outcome and control variables. The sum of the squared differences between the individuals' perceptions of the actual and ideal characteristics of the organization across the entire set of 32 items measures actualideal fit.

Table I Results of company descriptors for the sum of employees Descriptor/Dept Market focus Organizational growth Superior products Alliances Customer satisfaction Environmental awareness Results Teamwork Communication Improvement Quality Profit Innovation Control Trust Adaptability Stability Expertise Competition Responsibility Risk-taking Fulfillment Long-term R&D Training Responsiveness Flexibility Bureaucratic Philosophy Excellent performance Cost-effective Marketing 5.83c 5.51c 4.75a 2.96a 4.21c 2.76b 5.75a 2.75b,c 2.69a,b 5.77a 6.13b 6.11c 4.14a,b 5.94b,c 3.13a 4.05a 3.24c 6.09b 5.16a,b 3.25a,b 3.66b 3.82b 4.19c 3.61a 3.71a,b 2.96b 3.54b,c 5.92a 3.68b 6.01a 6.23d Engineering/Cust 4.18b 4.77a,b 4.66a 3.03a 3.67b 2.72b 5.75a 2.56b,c 2.31a 5.49a 5.9a,b 4.99a 3.68a 5.7a,b 3.37a 3.9a 3.08b,c 5.68a 5.01a,b 2.98a 3.07a 3a 3.29a 4.43b 4.15b 2.68a,b 3.69c 5.92a 3.16a,b 5.8a 4.77b R&D 4.29b 4.84b 6.05b 3.02a 3.49a,b 2.51a,b 5.89a 3.11c 2.96b 5.95a 5.89a,b 5.44a,b 4.6b 5.4a 3.8b 3.56a 3.16c 6.16b 5.31a,b 3.31a,b 3a 3.91b 3.38a,b 5.47c 5.91c 2.69a,b 4.18d 5.8a 3.4a,b 5.91a 3.75a Administrative 3.58a 4.27a,b 4.56a 2.81a 3.08a 2.17a 5.52a 1.92a 2.85b 5.4a 5.52a 5.37a,b 3.9a 5.9b,c 3a 3.77a 2.69a,b 6.08b 5.52b 3.06a 3.17a,b 3.06a 3.81b,c 3.33a 3.23a 2.81a,b 3.12a,b 6.06a 3a 5.73a 5.4c

Note: Means with common subscripts are not significant at the p < 0.05 level

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Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

Table II Correlations between variables relating to actual-ideal fit Std deviation 29.7 1.10 1.01 1.07 1.47 1.50 1.48 1.19 Sum total gaps 1.000 0.234** 0.064 0.126* 0.211** 0.110* 0.121* 0.115* Goal commitment 0.234** 1.000 0.196** 0.254** 0.449** 0.487** 0.464** 0.501** Intention to leave 0.064 0.196** 1.000 0.107 0.157** 0.157** 0.180** 0.247** Expectation to grow 0.126* 0.254** 0.107 1.000 0.145* 0.186** 0.170** 0.247** Role clarity 0.211** 0.449** 0.157** 0.145* 1.000 0.254** 0.352** 0.322** Satisfaction 0.121* 0.464** 0.180** 0.170** 0.352** 0.497** 1.000 0.430** Recommendation 0.115* 0.501** 0.247** 0.247** 0.322** 0.388** 0.430** 1.000

Mean Sum total gaps Goal commitment Intention to leave Expectation to grow Role clarity Fit Satisfaction Recommendation 137.5 4.14 2.50 3.07 4.34 3.91 3.75 4.17

Fit 0.110* 0.487** 0.157** 0.186** 0.254** 1.000 0.497** 0.388**

Of central interest are the correlations between actual-ideal fit and commitment to the goals of the organization (r = 0.23, p < 0.01) where a high score on this scale means low degree of commitment to the organizational goals, role clarity (r = 0.21, p < 0.01), satisfaction with the organization (r = 0.121, < 0.05 ), recommendation (r = 0.115, p < 0.01), and expectation to grow (r = 0.126, p < 0.05). However, actual-ideal fit is not significantly correlated with intention to leave (r = 0.03, n.s.), and fit (r = 0.06, n.s.) Furthermore, in order to depict the practical effects of fitting versus not fitting the organization, a median split was performed on the actual-ideal fit variable and mean differences between those who fit and those who did not were examined using t tests. Those who fit were significantly different from those who did not fit on goal commitment (t = 2.31, p < 0.05), intention to leave (t = 2.49, p < 0.05), role clarity (t = 2.62, p < 0.05), and satisfaction (t =2.58, p < 0.05) (Table III). Respondents who fit
Table III T-tests based on the median score differences between actualideal and outcomes

better, on average, were more willing to commit to organizational goals, were more satisfied with the organization, were more clear about their roles within the organization and were less willing to leave than those who fit less well than average. Finally, analyses of variance were performed to determine differences among employees in each department and at each hierarchical level. (F = 10.218, p < 0.01 for the department membership and F = 3.458, p < 0.01 for the hierarchical level). Duncan multiple range tests were performed to investigate the difference between groups on the actual-ideal gap scale. These tests indicated that different departments within the same organization perceive the relationship between the actual and ideal organizational identity in a different way. Specifically, as depicted in Table IV, the marketing department perceive significantly less discrepancy than any of the other three groups, whereas the engineering/customer service department perceived the most degree
Table IV Results of the total number of gaps per departmental membership Department Marketing R&D Administrative Engineering/ Customer 1 124.7 143.1 143.5 143.1 143.5 148.0 2 3

t-score
Goal commitment Intention to leave Expectation to grow Role clarity Fit Satisfaction Recommendation 2.315 2.496 0.210 2.627 1.470 2.587 1.379

Sig. (2-tailed) 0.03 0.06 0.834 0.009 0.143 0.007 1.69

Note: Means with common subscripts are not significant at the p < 0.05 level

56

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

of discrepancy. As far as hierarchical level is concerned, it seems that top managers and section managers perceive the least number of discrepancies compared to team leaders, managers and lower-level employees (Table V).

Discussion
The findings demonstrate that in the current study there are clear discrepancies between employee perceptions of the actual and the ideal identity of their organization. Analysis of interpretive themes and questionnaire data reveal an organization that is perceived by its own members to project a completely different set of attributes than those that actually characterize the organization. Furthermore, it has been shown that different departments perceive both the actual and the ideal organizational characteristics in a very different way, supporting the existence of subcorporate identities. The above findings have strong practical implications. They demonstrate the importance of understanding how corporate identity is perceived, interpreted and enacted at the ground level, and this involves revealing the sub-identities which make up the organization as an entity. Organizational members in separate divisions or functional departments may have distinct suborganizational identity beliefs that are internalized in different levels and degrees. We argue that organizational identification and commitment to what the organization is and does cannot be secured by presenting employees with monolithic graphic solutions. Furthermore, it cannot be guaranteed by presenting employees with vision statements and corporate plans that are significantly discrepant with the operational reality of the organization and its current cultural system of
Table V Results of the total number of gaps per hierarchical level Hierarchical level Top manager Section manager Team leader Manager Lower-level employee 1 113.5 125.1 123.5 138.2 2 125.1 123.5 138.2 140.5

values and beliefs. There has to be a link that mediates the relationship between the individual and corporate collective. Of perhaps more practical importance is the association between actual-ideal fit and commitment to organizational goals. Employees who perceive that there is a high level of discrepancy between the actual and ideal identity of the organization are significantly less willing to commit and, as a result, realize the organizational goals. However, such a limited commitment could threaten organizational performance, which in fact is the optimum goal of any corporate identity programme. Finally, corporate identity efforts need to reassess the rationale, processes and outcomes of their corporate identity change programs. It would appear that too many projects are vision driven and aim to communicate or nurture a single corporate identity based on the vision and aims of the top management. Such efforts need to understand the organization's actual corporate identity and give greater attention to its cultural underpinnings. The above research could be of great interest as it shows how organizational signals are being received and represented internally, and thus in the way employees conduct their external relations. Finally, it points to the critical importance of a research-based approach to corporate-identity management. (This article is based on a conference presentation given at the International Centre for Corporate Identity Studies (ICCIS) First Symposium, entitled "Corporate Identity: Crossing the Rubicon'', held at the Department of Marketing, University of Strathclyde, in June 1999.)

References
Abratt, R. (1989), ``A new approach to the corporate image management process'', Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 63-76. Albert, S. and Whetten, D. (1985), ``Organizational identity'', in Cummings, C.C. and Staw, B.M. (Eds), Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol. 7, JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, pp. 63-76. Angle, H.L. and Perry, J.L. (1981), ``An empirical assessment of organizational commitment and organizational effectiveness'', Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 26, pp. 1-14. Ashforth, B.E. and Mael, F.A. (1996), "Organizational identity and strategy as a context for the

Note: Means with common subscripts are not significant at the p < 0.05 level

57

Corporate identity: external reality or internal fit?

Olivia Kiriakidou and Lynne J. Millward

Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 1 . 2000 . 4958

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Further reading
Ashforth, B.E. and Mael, F.A. (1989), ``Social identity theory and the organization'', Academy of Management Review, Vol. 14, pp. 20-39. Caldwell, D.F. and O'Reilly, C.A. (1990), ``Measuring person-job fit with a profile comparison process'', Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 14, pp. 648-57. Chatman, J.A. (1989), ``Improving interactional organizational research: a model of personorganization fit'', Academy of Management Review, Vol. 14, pp. 333-49. Moos, R.H. (1987), ``Person-environment congruence in work, school and health care settings'', Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 31, pp. 231-47.

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