It’s a curious Christmas for those of us who work in reputation management and PR, whether in consultancies or in house. On the one hand, our industry (profession ?) has never been better – we’re integrated in what we do, we help organisations tell great stories, we have great ideas, we use film and all forms of media, we have better data – in fact, all-round, we’re better than we were twenty, or even ten, years ago. Yet the reputations we all manage, primarily companies and Governments, continue, on average to decline. At the end of a year, it’s worth reflecting on this.
One reason is the failure of life in Western capitalist democracies to meet the rising expectations of the people. This dissatisfaction has manifested itself in any number of ways from Trump to Brexit to Corbyn in the last two years. However, it’s also worth looking at the actions of companies and the reputation managers, whether they be CEOs or communications professionals.
In my view reputation management is focusing too much on reputation protection and too little on reputation building. And it’s easy to understand why. The business sector is still behind society’s expectations on so many agendas including gender pay, BAME, sustainability, ethics, taxation, executive remuneration and inequality. This can lead to a defensive feeling in the Boardroom. Most organisations are now forensically aware of the risks they face and have developed a highly effective crisis play book for all situations. They have rehearsed their incident management processes and CEOs have rehearsed media interviews for a cyber security breach. Those that haven’t done these things are now behind their competitors. But my recommendation for 2018 is that organisations give extra senior time to reputation building and choose to accentuate the positive with the same diligence they’ve devoted to reputation protection.
If they do so, those organisations in Britain will chime with a happier mood as the country re-discovers some of its lost confidence. There (probably) won’t be an election or referendum for the first time since 2013 and that will help. Brexit talks will actually progress and the country will start to think more about the future. England won’t win the World Cup, but the nation might be fairly proud of its young team, at least before the tournament starts. The corporations that will prosper will be those talking positively about Britain’s future – as will brands that can capture a sense of a young, agile, progressive society.
And on that note, on behalf of everyone at Lansons, I’d like to thank all of our clients for their continued support and wish everyone the compliments of the season. Here’s to a chirpy 2018…
This article is part of our Winter 2017 newsletter.