The September 9 article at this blog, “Making Sure Your Board Members Succeed as Ambassadors-in-Chief,” points out that establishing a board standing committee responsible for overseeing external/stakeholder relations is one of the most important steps your authority can take to ensure that board members succeed as ambassadors. And one of the critical functions of your board’s external/stakeholder relations committee is to oversee updating what I call your authority’s “Image Vision,” which provides the framework for identifying issues related to your authority’s image in the community and for fashioning image building strategies to address the issues.
The Image Vision is an ideal candidate for attention at your authority’s annual strategic work session – or retreat – where participants can generate a rough version in one of the breakout group sessions, after which your board’s external/stakeholder relations committee can refine and augment the statement for presentation to the full board. Your authority’s Image Vision would be worthless as an external relations planning tool if it were merely one of those pithy paragraphs that organizations produce for public relations purposes. Rather, it should consist of specific elements that complete the sentence, “We want and need to be seen by our riders, stakeholders, and the wider community as . . .” For example, among the several Image Vision elements a public transportation authority I worked with a couple of years ago identified at their board-GM-Executive Team retreat were that they wanted to be seen as:
- One of our region’s most precious resources
- A source of tremendous pride in the region
- A wise investment of public resources (good bang for the buck)
- A powerful contributor to the economic welfare of the region and to its tax base
- Highly responsive to our riders
Having refined your authority’s Image Vision and secured full-board adoption, your board’s external/stakeholder relations committee can put it to powerful use, primarily by using it as a vehicle for identifying external relations issues – defined as significant gaps between particular image elements and actual reality, as measured by customer surveys, focus groups, etc.
Of course, if your authority doesn’t develop and regularly update a formal Image Vision, then there is no effective way to decide what messages you want to be sending to key audiences out there in your region, nor can your board external/stakeholder relations committee audit plans and practices to determine whether you are doing specific things to promote the vision elements or actually contradicting elements of your image vision. With a detailed Image Vision in hand, your external/stakeholder relations committee can easily work with staff in making sure that the right messages are being conveyed through various means such as your authority’s major publications, its promotional materials, and in board members’ presentations in various community forums.
Dear readers: Please comment, sharing your experiences in the image building arena.