Managing Corporate Reputation

This paper will focus on NHHs reputation amongst two fundamentally important stakeholder groups, specifically the students and the corporates. The Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) was established as the first business school in Norway and has always been a prestigious educational institution for eager economists. After more than 75 years of existence, NHH still is the leading Norwegian educational institution within the field of economics. Generally speaking the school’s reputation contains attributes such as “professionalism, “clever students” and “prestige”.

Nevertheless, the school is also perceived as lacking business relevance (Supphellen, 2005). The first part of the paper focuses on the strategic positioning of NHH using Supphellen’s seven step model to analyze NHH’s current situation and to define the strategic positioning. The second part of the paper concentrates on the current practices used at NHH in relation to the tactical positioning towards the student stakeholder group. In the final part, recommendations will be made in relation to the findings presented in the first and second part.

Positioning ”Positioning means identifying and establishing points of parity and points of difference to establish the right brand identity and brand image” (Keller, 2008 p. 98). An effective positioning, which should be consistent with the corporate strategy, is to be based on common needs and drivers of choice shared by the majority of stakeholder groups. In particular the positioning should differentiate the institution from its competitors in a unique and believable way by exploiting existing perceptions and facts about the brand.

In this process on the one hand, Points of Differentiation (POD), which are unique and meaningful to the company as well as “provide a competitive advantage and ‘reason why’ consumers should buy the brand” (Keller 2008, p. 98), are created. It is crucial that PODs communicated are important to the stakeholders’ evaluation process. On the other hand, Points of Parity are included in the positioning in order to signal similar performance of the brand and its competition in order to avoid negative associations of inferiority concerning compared product features (Keller, 2008).

Supphellen (2012) introduced a three layer strategic positioning process model which enables a broad analysis of the company including both internal and external factors (Appendix 1). The first five steps of the model build the first layer and lead to a strategic positioning (second layer), which is used as the framework of the company’s tactical 3 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52 Exam paper fall 2012 positioning (third layer). In steps 1 to 3 category, stakeholder and brand insights are analyzed individually for each stakeholder group.

The phases 4 and 5 focus on the organization as a whole. All findings are selectively combined in the strategic positioning of the compakny (Supphellen, 2012). This descriptive model by Supphellen only explains how to gather and evaluate insights. One may criticize, that it does not suggest actions to be undertaken in order to implement this process in the business world, which might be one of its biggest weaknesses. Further, recommendations concerning the criteria to be used in selecting and combining findings in different stakeholder groups are not included.

In the following paragraphs, the model will be applied to the present case of NHH and the two stakeholder groups, namely the students and corporates. The analysis will be based on the materials presented on itslearning. com and other sources (see appendix). If background information is needed, additional research or assumptions will be indicated. Category insight (segmentation): Corporates and Students The initial step in the process of defining the company’s positioning should be the category insight which is also known as segmentation. Stakeholder groups are divided into subgroups based on shared needs or aspired benefits.

This segmentation enables the corporation to target stakeholders’ expectations directly (Supphellen, 2012). This paper focuses on two normative stakeholder groups, the students and corporates. The positioning towards corporates will be restricted to the national segment. Students as a stakeholder group are characterized by diversity. The paper will focus on prospective students: domestic students on Bachelor and Master level. The mental category which NHH is assigned to in the mind of these stakeholders might vary among the different stakeholder groups.

NHH envisions its purpose as stated in their strategy: “NHH will educate people for the purposes of value creation, welfare and sustainable development. Through research, education and knowledge dissemination NHH will meet the knowledge requirements of the business community and the public sector” (NHH, 2012a). The relationship NHH has to its stakeholders depends on their individual perception of the school (Supphellen 2012). NHH’s corporate image might be a provider of knowledge to the public as it has received an academic mandate from the government.

In this concept their role as a research institution as well as an education institution is one way for the organization to categorize itself. However, some enterprises might also consider NHH as a source for recruitment which implies both NTNU and BI as national competitors. Stakeholders might differ in the cognitive categorization of NHH from the institutions’ 4 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52 Exam paper fall 2012 envision as intended and construed image might not correspond (Brown et al, 2006). Moreover the categorization may differ between segmented subgroups.

Hence, corporates might call NHH a research powerhouse while students view it mainly as a school. Corporate stakeholders Stakeholder insight The stakeholder insight aims at identifying the stakeholder groups’ functional as well as symbolic choice and evaluation criteria. As a result the organization can tailor its efforts to satisfy their needs (Supphellen, 2012). Generally speaking, corporates associate NHH with prestige and quality (NHH, 2005). Corporations who build bilateral relations to NHH strive for a variety of benefits. The three main reasons for engagements might be recruitment, research and knowledge, as well as networking.

In terms of recruitment, corporates benefit of being visible and given the opportunity to present themselves in different arenas such as corporate presentation, guest lectures and career fairs. This exposure might help to build ties to future employees and thus ease the search for top notch human capital. In relation to research and knowledge some organizations fund school projects in order to gain insight to the latest research within relevant fields of economic (Haukaas, 2012). Another interplay of NHH and corporates might be executive education.

The school’s international networks through CEMS, PIM and corporate contacts might also benefit the network of enterprises (NHH 2012d). Brand insight The brand insight aims at analyzing the organization’s current positioning of their existing brands in relation to their competition (Supphellen, 2012). Little information is provided on criteria which corporates use to compare NHH to competitors. Therefore it is necessary to make some assumptions. Brand awareness of NHH is high amongst Norwegian enterprises as the school has been a leading force in the education of managers for past decades.

Further, NHH is to some extent perceived by the corporates as a leading school in Europe (Supphellen, 2005). The business world positively associates quality education, excellent research and recruitment opportunities with NHH (NHH, 2005). However, NHH is also linked to “theory focused” and “not business relevant” which might be negatively associated (ibid). The main national competitor might be BI, Norway’s second business school which scores higher than NHH on these attributes: practical education and business relevance (ibid). 5 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52

Exam paper fall 2012 Student stakeholders Stakeholder insight Generally speaking NHH provides its students with a business education. Hence, students are the consumers of the produced good: knowledge. Both potential Bachelor and Master candidates envision a prestigious and quality focused education institution (NHH, 2005). Main criteria for choosing NHH are quality of faculty, the various job opportunities and almost guaranteed employment after graduation (NHH, 2012c). Of importance is also the environment/ student life at the school (NHH, 2005).

(We did not separate the MRR and the MOA students as the survey has done due to space limitations. ) Surveys on prospective Bachelor students have shown that male and female students approach their initial choice of a study program differently. Mainly female Bachelor prospects select from a broad portfolio of alternatives, while males often choose to pursue a business career earlier. Thus, NHH faces multifaceted competitors for qualified high school graduates, which might be explained by the uncertainty about the targeted profession amongst 18- year olds.

Since qualified students want to take advantage of their grades, in order to gain high status in society as well as attractive future salary, selective programs are considered. Hence, main competitors aside from BI are NTNU and law schools. Especially the engineering programs report growth in applications (NTNU, 2012). This might partly be due to public funding of NTNU’s recruitment campaigns, since the government focuses on getting women into these professions (according to Eivind Drange, personal communication, 17. 10. 2012). The competition amongst business schools is limited within Norway.

The private school BI is located in six different cities in Norway. All locations offer a Bachelor of economics (BI, 2012). The location of the main campus in Oslo (exclusively offering a Master degree) might be a main competitive advantage as Oslo is the business center of Norway, which also might be an explanation for BI being perceived as more “relevant to business”. Since BI is a private institution, tuition fees need to be raised in order to fund the school. This is a drawback for many students (associated as “expensive” in Supphellen, 2005).

In terms of international reputation, BI holds the EQUIS accreditation and is ranked among the top 70 in Europe (Financial Times, 2012). A threat to NHH’s Master prospect recruitment might be BI starting to provide its best graduates with scholarships which amount the tuition fee. However, a limited number of students (20 Bachelor graduates in 5 year period) will profit of this scholarship which leads us to the conclusion that NHH’s standing will not be affected severely (DN Talent, 2012). Competition is one dimensional for qualified Master students: other business schools.

The main competitors aside from BI are foreign institutions, especially in the neighboring Nordic countries. CBS, which is a “triple- crown” school that was ranked amongst the top 50 6 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52 Exam paper fall 2012 schools by FT, seems to be the strongest competitor outside of Norway (NHH, 2012c). “The triple- crown” implies accreditation by the three major agencies: EQUIS, AASCB, AMBA (See appendix 11). Only 57 business schools worldwide managed to fulfill the requirements of all agencies and form this elite group including e. g. University of Mannheim, ESSEC and ESADE (AMBA, 2012) .

Brand insight Brand awareness amongst prospective business students seems to be high in both dimensions depth and breadth. This might be due to the limited number of alternative business schools in Norway as well as the outstanding reputation as the country’s number 1. In 2010 a survey was conducted during the student affairs by STU (appendix 2). The purpose of the survey was to explore the potential students’ awareness of institutions that offer economic education. The top of mind (first school recalled), unassisted awareness and assisted awareness were measured amongst high school students.

Compared with competitors within the business school category, NHH scores well. However, BI is more present in the future students mind than NHH, which might be due to BI’s aggressive marketing (STU, 2010). In addition, NHH conducted a reputation survey amongst potential students in 2005 which revealed strong positive associations such as prestigious, leading business school. A limited number of negative associations: rain, theory focused, spoiled students and snobby clothes were observed. Similar results are generated by association mapping amongst the stakeholder group “students attending other universities/ colleges”.

Moreover negative associations such as little practical, traditional teaching, “know-it-all”, homogenous, career pressure are added (NHH, 2005). It is to investigate which events might evoke thoughts of NHH being little practical or traditional along the road going from high school to university Internal insight into strategies, culture and resources In this step we deal with the internal insight into strategies, culture and resources, which implies that strengths and weaknesses of the company and the sustainability of the current resources are examined.

As a state owned academic institution NHH is challenged to interact with domestic organizations and represent society in its student body. Hence, statistics such as male/female ratio and the enrolment of minorities should be representative. This challenge has been faced successfully in recent years increasing both the number of female students and students with a migration background (Drange, 2012) One of the main resources for NHH is its faculty and students. Human capital is the driver of research and reputation of NHH being a leading institution. Moreover, professional 7 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52

Exam paper fall 2012 networks are important to NHH which undertakes a lot of effort to build ties to corporates via research projects. Corporate relations are in some settings facilitated by the institution in others by faculty’s individuals. Principle Jan I. Haaland stated that “the Focus-program (note: currently ongoing) is meant to contribute to our development as an institution and will make us more relevant” (Paraplyen, 2012). This statement confirms both the importance of top notch human capital, and also the understanding of NHH having to cooperate with enterprises to become more attractive and relevant.

Whether the researchers are generally aligned with this focal point might be questionable. However, surveys indicate that the associations among researchers is that the school is regarded both traditional and masculine (Supphellen, 2005) which might imply a lack of support for relationship building towards corporates due to concerns that might refer to corporates threatening to influence the academic freedom. Strengths of the NHH brand are certainly rooted in the reputation of its research standards, the academic networks EQUIS, CEMS and PIM as well as the active student unions.

Weaknesses are found in the outward communication of the schools’ relevance. Brand facts – Products, Company, People, Origin and Traditions NHH is the #1 ranked business school in Norway which is exclusively accredited by EQUIS, CEMS and PIM. Moreover it is ranked among the 50 best business schools in Europe by FT which implies being among the top 4 Scandinavian schools (Financial Times, 2012). Both the high level of teaching and especially researching are well known around the world. In Finn Kydland NHH alumni contain a Noble Price winner in economics.

Currently 3367 students are enrolled at NHH of which 467 are international degree seeking students. NHH offers one bachelor degree and eight Master profiles, three of them are taught in English. More than 90% of NHH’s Bachelor students continue their Master degree at the school. The institution recorded a positive trend in terms of the number of applicants for Bachelor and Master programs as well as higher scores required for admission, which increases the selectivity (Baldersheim, 2012). One of the reasons for increased number of applicants to the Master program is according to Eivind Drange (personal interview, 17.

10. 2012), the increased number of Norwegian institutions offering economical education. In conclusion NHH avails of their reputation of historically being the number 1 in Norway as well as the non- existence of tuition fees. NHH’s strategic positioning The findings presented above are combined in the strategic positioning of the organization. However this is not an aggregation, it involves careful selection of features that are common 8 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52 Exam paper fall 2012 denominators across stakeholder groups.

This positioning, which builds around the identified PODs and POPs, needs to fit the skills, competencies, capabilities that the company possesses. Both stakeholder groups have similar primary associations. The school is perceived as a prestigious institution that provides quality education, is selective in admission and focuses on research. Quality education, the prestige and the selective admission are positive associations that need to be strengthened through communication. Nevertheless, the network contains “two- faced” associations. The link to research implies skilled professors on the upside.

However, it is also linked to lacking business relevance in some minds. Differentiating factors for our strategic positioning are to be found in the secondary layer of associations. Corporates mainly associate the school as a link to theoretical knowledge and a source of skilled future employees. The students on the other side associate NHH as a potential part of their life, which tries to sum up strong associations on student/city life and future opportunities. In conclusion future strategic positioning towards both stakeholder groups has one main objective: strengthening the business relevance of NHH.

Moreover the communication aimed at students should focus on both the education and the opportunities related to NHH. See appendix 3 and 4 for our visual presentation of the strategic positioning. Tactical Positioning Target group knowledge NHH examines their target group through surveys fairly often. In this way a lot of valuable information on recruited and rejected students is gathered. Both in 2008 and 2012, NHH conducted recruitment studies. We will focus on the 2012 survey and present shortly the Bachelor and Master students’ preferences and factors for study choice.

A fairly large share of the NHH’s potential Bachelor students apply directly after or one year after graduating from high school. The geographic distribution between the East and West coast is quite balanced among the applicants for Bachelor and Master: 37% from the west and 35% from Oslo/Akershus applying for the Bachelor; 35% and 21% for Master (NHH, 2012c). Study preferences 52% of the Bachelor applicants listed other programs in economics as second choice. 37% also applied for private schools in Norway and programs abroad; 29 % of those applied at BI.

55% of the Bachelor applicants decided to apply to NHH more than a year before the deadline. 15,2% applied at international institutions. 8,5% applied for similar programs at BI. On average 50% of the Master student apply at international institutions. 90% of these had 9 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52 Exam paper fall 2012 NHH as their first choice. The numbers for Bachelor students indicate that the competition in this segment is multifaceted: business versus law school, medcine and engineering studies. It might be reasoned that many prospects choose NHH because of its reputation, and not necessarily due to economic interest (NHH, 2012c).

An analysis conducted in 2009 focused on students who were admitted to NHH, but declined. 80% of the students who declined the offer stated that this decision was already made prior to being granted admission. 44,6% of the students did not start NHH because of another institution. The analysis questions where these students end up studying. One might expect that BI as a fierce competitor to attract a lot of NHH’s potential students, but this analysis refutes this hypothesis to some extent as only 3 applicants chose BI over NHH (NHH, 2009). Planning and goal setting

For planning effective communication campaigns and for identifying the targets, Cornelissen (2011) highlighted a framework consisting of seven steps. Step 1 is strategic intent, which formulates a change or consolidation of the organization’s reputation. In Step 2 communication objectives are defined in terms of seeking to influence stakeholder? s awareness or behavior. Step 3 is identifying and prioritizing target audiences. Once important stakeholder groups have been identified, one needs to segment them into more specific target audiences that are prioritized for a particular campaign.

Step 4 implies identifying themed message(s). The core message towards a particular target audience often evolves directly from the organization’s intended image. Step 5 is developing message styles, which involves creating a detailed concept using catchy slogans and visual stimuli like videos, images and logos (ibid). BI for instance has a catchy slogan in their TV-commercials: «Don? t remain a junior». Step 6 focuses on developing a media strategy. In this process one identifies the channel that is most suitable for carrying and executing the message. Step 7 is preparing the budget.

Effectiveness of the campaign can be evaluated on the basis of process and communication effects: Process effects concern the quality and cost- effectiveness, communication effects include the range of cognitive and behavioral effects on exposed stakeholders’ experiences (Cornelissen, 2011). In the last years NHH focused on achieving the following main goals. Firstly in terms of student recruitment: raise the percentage of female enrolment and attract a wider range of applicants: As the student body is supposed to represent society regarding geography, sex and ethnicity.

Second NHH strives at being visible in the media more frequently. Thirdly NHH formulated an agenda: NHH 2021, which implies 10 Candidates: 7, 18, 26, 50, 52 Exam paper fall 2012 amongst other objectives becoming a leading business school in Europe and a driving force for development in business and society. Results concerning the first objective girls’ enrollment seem to be satisfactory. Starting at 34 % in 2005, NHH got 48 % female students in 2012. Efforts such as the Girl’s Day and adapted brochures have been implemented successfully (NHH, 2012c).

Diversity has been more challenging to achieve. The number of students with a migration background has not been raised significantly. Analyzes have shown that business studies have not the same standing as e. g. medicine withinh their societies. Websites informing in the parents’ mother tongue have been launched. The effect of these activities has been hard to measure (Drange, 2012). NHH is present in the media. However, a more vital role in the public debate is wanted by several internal and external stakeholders.

This might require faculty to focus on themes that are of public interest and interact with media in time that is currently dedicated to research. Incentives to encourage faculty to be more active in the media is still to be set. Results concerning NHH 2021 are to be mapped in future as 2012 is year one of a 10 year plan. When analyzing NHH’s strategy documents from 2010-2013 we found that a main objective was that NHH’s teaching should be based upon research, be of high academic and pedagogic standards as well as facilitate learning (NHH, 2012).

One might question whether research focused teaching might be causal to NHH being associated as not relevant to business. While detecting potential improvements in NHH current situation as analyzed above one might face a network of conflicts and uncertainties. The 7-steps model suggests a plan rather than a model for effective communication and goal setting. It is a sequential path on how to develop a strategy which aims at solving problems. Implementing processes according to these 7 steps might strengthen the reach of communication and increase the information flow.

Relationship-building activities Relationship building activities are the different arenas NHH uses to present itself to the prospects. All these activities influence the reputation. A key factor when trying to communicate a message outward is that internal identity is aligned with its external image. If there is a misalignment of these elements, NHH may confuse the stakeholder groups (Brown et. al, 2006). See appendix 5. If NHH’s projected image in communication, behavior and symbolism is aligned with the image and reputation among the potential students,