Measuring an organisation’s position

January 22, 2007 at 9:49 pm 2 comments

At a meeting of communicators working in the health field, I was asked about some of the methodology concerning measuring the “position” of an organisation. As organisations frequently speak of “re-positioning” themselves, it is perhaps wise to know what is your current “position” before you move anywhere…

My approach is relatively simplistic but drawn from the research of the great thinkers in this field, J. Grunig, C. Fombrun and C. van Riel. Basically when we speak of an organisation’s “position”, for me I interpret this to mean what attributes we use to describe an organisation (e.g. modern, creative, traditional, research-focused, event-focused, etc.). This could also be interpreted as the “identity” of the organisation.

Thus to determine a “position” of an organisation, a good starting point would be to question management of an organisation about what attributes they believe are important for the organisation. Then, the main external target publics can be surveyed on what are the main attributes they attribute to the given organisation. Comparing the view of the management to the main target publics can be interesting as certain “gaps” will emerge between how the management view the organisation…and how the organisation is viewed externally. To go one step further, “positioning” would be determined by looking at how similiar or competing organisation are perceived on the same type of attributes.

Actually, what I describe is the basis for most “identity”, “reputation” or “positioning” studies. There is usually a measure of attributes/values/associations internally and a measure of the same externally. And often done with similar/competing organisations to provide a comparison point.

Some resources on this issue:

The book “Principles of Corporate Communications” by C. van Riel has very good descriptions of the main methodologies in identity measurement (ISDN 0131509969)

The Gauge newsletter discussing reputation measurement (pdf) >>

Corporate reputations can be measured and managed” by C Fombrun (pdf) >>

Methodology for assessing corporate values” by J. van Rekom, C. van riel & B. Wierenga (pdf) >>

And finally, an interesting opinion on the “demise of positioning“. Certainly some valid points there that I agree with – such as most “re-positioning” campaigns fail – notably because changing a logo, font or slogan doesn’t normally change the behaviour of an organisation – a main influence on “position/brand/identity”. But that’s a whole other issue I’d rather not get into…


Entry filed under: Communication evaluation, PR evaluation.

Six factor to ensure that your evaluation results are used Evaluating Advocacy Campaigns

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. David Phillips  |  January 31, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Good work. Can I offer a further methodology which is analysis of
    Value Systems.
    A value system refers to how an individual or a group of individuals organise their ethical or ideological values. A well-defined value system is a moral code and value systems in organisations are about what it believes in and why they are important to its work. Value systems can be evaluated in terms of consequences for the organisation.
    Thus an organisation which claims to have a wiz product will need to show how its value systems allow it to make and justify such a claim.

    It has a ‘position’ based on its values.

    Organisations have many value systems. The CIPR says it is the eyes, ears and voice of public relations. This is one value system and it can be judged by the extent to which it works at meeting these values it holds dear. Values have consequences.

  • 2. Glenn  |  February 1, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Thanks David, i think it’s certainly a valid perspective on values. As you point out, the connection between values, consequences and position is key.


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