Postioning defines the space in the mind to be occupied by the client proposition
Power in a word
Oh God, it has happened. The worst destination of any PR’s paranoid imagination. Nokia has attracted the “T” word; any reference to the world’s largest mobile phone company is now to be made with the sulphurous adjective of “Troubled”.
Not unlike catching some disfiguring skin disease, the endorsement “troubled” comes to deface a company no matter how hard its communication team may scrub away with the carbolic. We flinch and turn away when the company is mentioned in polite society. We look with Ozymandian expectations for what surely must follow.
For “troubled” is just the start of the process. After this can come far worse as journalists turn to the full panoply of corroding descriptions. Next we might get “distressed” and if things don’t improve then the writer might pull in “failing”, “harassed”, or if writing in the FT “discombobulated”. As the night darkens, the company must now live in fear for the ultimate adjective to be deployed, the one adjective that will disperse the last of the potential restructuring investors and scare off any possible white knight acquirer; that single word that drive despair to the heart of the CEO, the word “desperate”.
But, if a company does pull itself out of its tail-spin, then journalists have at their finger-tips another lexicon. This time they might replace “failing” with “stabilising”, and then edge up to “re-emerging” before going the whole hog and awarding the company with a whopping great big wonderful “recovering” and bring tears of joy to the troubled CEO and his board.
No-one knows for sure at what exact point the journalists reach for these bon-mots and why and when they change them. But their effects on investor, employee and customer sentiment is as powerful as Socrates’ draft of Hemlock that slowly killed from the feet up.