The ‘company image’ is a key topic for those of us in corporate communications. Although it’s a misnomer, really, since there’s not just one image but a great many of them in fact – something I was reminded of very recently. It’s all a question of perspective.
We’ve just completed a truly one-of-a-kind project at our newsroom in TÜV Rheinland. We worked with our communications team in China to organise a trip for Chinese media professionals and journalists: 31 different media companies, 4 days at TÜV Rheinland plus a tour of our facilities in Cologne and Nuremberg, 30 of our TÜV experts on hand and countless stops along the way. Starting in the Innovation Space at our imposing Group HQ skyscraper in Cologne, and taking in everything from vehicle inspections to the wireless and acoustic labs in our ultramodern product testing facility in Nuremberg. And including excursions for inspecting football stadiums or classic cars (which are not even considered valuable assets in China).
The aim was to give practical examples of the things we test, to illustrate the variety of our day-to-day work and our long history – and to show that our testing is based on sound principles.
TÜV Rheinland? Don’t they test smartphones?
Another aim was to raise our profile in China, where we are (naturally) less well known than in Germany – even with 4,000 people now working there. And – what profile are we raising? This point was made very well by one of our visitors on his return to China. Journalist Sun Bin works for the China Mobile (CNMO) mobile platform. In a major article about our work here at TÜV, he explains that his readers in China only really know about TÜV Rheinland as a testing organisation for smartphone displays or safe charging systems – and our certification programmes for fast-charging systems and displays are indeed established leaders in their fields in China.
Not clear on the concept
While I was very surprised, the feeling was familiar: here at TÜV Rheinland, the problem of people mistakenly thinking they know who we are and what we do is one we’ve had to deal with for a long time. As just a few examples, people think we only work in the Rhine area (wrong: nationwide in Germany and in 65 countries worldwide) or all TÜV companies are the same and there’s one parent TÜV organisation (untrue: we have similar names but are direct competitors) or we’re a government agency (wrong again: we’ve never been state-owned) or – naturally – we (only) test cars. OK, we do inspect around 10 million motor vehicles worldwide every year. Yet we earn well over 80 per cent of our revenue with tests and services that have nothing to do with traditional vehicle roadworthiness inspections.
Markets, consumers and the media
So I was surprised to find that TÜV Rheinland has the same problems with advertising its broad range of testing services in China as it does in Germany. Just with a slight change of perspective: here we’re car inspectors – and there we’re the smartphone testers. So there’s never just one company image but multiple – depending on markets, consumers and the media.
Although I should be a little more precise here: there’s one overall image that is interpreted in various ways. After all: TÜV Rheinland is viewed throughout the world as a company that strives to safeguard quality and protection for people, technical systems and the environment, and which works to exacting and professional standards. This is both our company vision and our mission – whether we’re testing phones, solar modules, dishwashers and medical apps, or inspecting a power station or a football stadium. Or, indeed, a motor vehicle.
Sun Bin’s report on TÜV:
A photo gallery of the tour can be found here: