Archive for October, 2012

Financial services fairness not just a PR stunt

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 by Jon Clements

Where would you place financial services in your list of “industries I both love and trust”? Let’s be clear: such a glowing reputation has been desperately elusive for the sector in recent years.

Yet the rather unsnappily-titled Retail Distribution Review (RDR) – now entering the lexicon because UK financial advisers will behave differently with their customers in terms of advice and the way they charge from the start of next year – has been designed to protect (and help transform the financial sector’s wretched reputation with) the public.

But studying to comply with the RDR – as FT columnist and former broker, Merryn Somerset Web – is doing, can have the perhaps unintended side-effect of revealing more unsavoury facts about financial services.

In her most recent column she describes her course of study as “a depressing experience…charting the dismal record of greed, fear, corruption, incompetence and ignorance that is much of our financial industry.” Strong words from  someone who continues to make her living in the arena.

And yet among the array of pernicious financial products on the market including derivatives and a tax avoidance product called a single premium life assurance bond, Somerset Webb has seen something which…say it quietly…offers “hope”: a new fund called the Battle Against Cancer Investment Trust (Bacit) doesn’t come with charges, offers an annual  charitable contribution of one per cent plus a fund manager “stumping up for a percentage of the expenses”.

A cynic, or maybe a realist, would – as the writer acknowledges – “dismiss the whole thing as PR”. But she’s not so quick to do so, suggesting this new financial fund has something different at its heart than fleecing investors.

And so, even in places not normally associated with philanthropic behaviour, there may be surprises. But rather than being merely a sop to CSR, such moves can make commercial sense too. Analysts are increasingly looking at investment targets influenced by sound Environment, Social and Governance factors.

Rebuilding the reputation of a company is difficult enough, never mind that of an entire industry sector. Examples such as the Bacit provide a hopeful hint that the will exists in the sector to balance the unbridled making of money with doing the right thing. Demonstrating commitment to a higher purpose than profit alone is what the best corporate reputations are made of.

 

 

 

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR.

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JonClements

Football’s lost reputation

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by Mark Perry

 

It seems every day that football’s reputation is afflicted by one controversy or other – tweeting, accusations of racism, diving and even the England manager discussing team selection to strangers on the tube.

While, on one hand, the clubs seem to be all-controlling in their dealings with the media by limiting access to players and managers or even banning journalists from press conferences because of something they may have written, there are occasions when it seems that issues are not closed down.

As an industry which is under the media spotlight 24 hours a day, seven days a week I cannot help but feel that the sport is in need of some reputation management.

Liverpool belatedly admitted earlier this year that their handling of the ‘Luis Suarez affair’ was not as effective as it could have been and there has been relative silence from Chelsea in response to last week’s infamous Ashley Cole tweet about his thoughts on the FA.

If a football club was a corporation that was in crisis management mode there would be calls for immediate action. It just seems that in football things are left to fester while there is a chipping away of the hard-won club brand.

It may be time for clubs to see themselves just as any other company would and manage their reputation with their different stakeholders and ensure that any indiscretions of their employees – the players – don’t cause long time damage.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

The Paradox of Facebook’s New Ad Campaign

Thursday, October 4th, 2012 by Rob Brown

Facebook has launched a multi channel, multi message communications campaign today, presumably in response to the poor share performance since the IPO in May.

In the US users can now pay to show people their holiday snaps with the introduction of ‘promoted posts’ for individual users.

Another part of the campaign features the announcement that Facebook has passed the billion user mark, a good PR hook if ever I saw one. However Facebook’s real PR issue is one of trust. To address that they have turned to advertising with a classic commercial; Facebook’s first-ever, agency created ad. “The Things That Connect Us” is a beautifully shot 90 second emotive film that compares Facebook to doorbells, airplanes, bridges, dancefloors but most of all chairs.

What I find amazing about the film is that it uses the outmoded idea that if you draw parallels with trusted concepts and ideas, then you can imbue a brand with qualities that it might not possess. It is essentially using an advert to ‘spin’. The arrival of social networks like Facebook has heralded an era when we are no longer persuaded by this kind of commercial. Paradoxically Facebook is communicating using a method that it has helped to undermine.

The choice of chairs as an emblem is also open to question since recent reports that show that too much time spent sitting could be deadly.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of ‘Share This Too’ (2013).