Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

Corporate reputations on the rocks?

Monday, April 30th, 2012 by Jon Clements

For all the talk in PR circles about the value of corporate reputation – and reputation in public life – there’s been precious little concern shown for it in a host of recent events.

News Corporation chairman, Rupert Murdoch’s appearance at the Leveson Inquiry into media standards, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Culture Minister, Jeremy Hunt’s response to the BSkyB email revelations, Chancellor George Osborne’s handling of the economy, Barclays Bank’s attitude to executive pay and the Bahrain Grand Prix – the list goes on.

First, Murdoch: compared to his mostly defiant appearance before the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating phone hacking at News International, his performance at Leveson was sparkling. Who would have imagined hearing Rupert Murdoch say “I failed”? However, when the well-rehearsed mask slipped, the full-blown ugliness of his attitude towards any outside challenge was revealed. What could have been an opportunity to rebuild, or salvage, some remnant of reputation for himself and his organisation was jettisoned. And this could, as Reuters suggests, compound his problems with the Parliamentary Select Committee’s report into phone hacking, out this week.

Taking the Government’s current predicament as a whole, there appears to be too great a willingness to reach for the smoke screen. Shielding Jeremy Hunt behind the running order of the Leveson Inquiry just makes him look guilty as hell for mismanaging his and his special adviser’s relationship with BSkyB. Want to protect your ministerial reputation? then get on with an investigation and be transparent. And on the economy, George Osborne is sticking doggedly to a plan that is not only being roundly rubbished for its incompetence but has reversed the country into recession part 2. But, instead of acknowledging its own poor fiscal decisions, the Government resorts to blaming its preferred punching bag, Gordon Brown.

For Barclays Bank, it’s taken shareholders anger for the reputation card to be played, with a third refusing to back the company’s executive remuneration report, citing the effect of colossal pay deals on the bank’s reputation. Meanwhile the decision to progress with the recent Bahrain F1 Grand Prix carries a reputation risk for its sponsors, according to risk management consultants Maplecroft, Torbjorn Soltvedt, noting  a “risk of indirect complicity for sponsors and organisers in human rights violations carried out by state security forces.”

So, what price reputation? At this rate, it will be consigned to the bargain bin of corporate concerns.

But does it matter? Not so, according to The Economist’s Schumpeter, which takes a swipe at what it calls the “reputation management industry”:

BP’s expensive “beyond petroleum” branding campaign did nothing to deflect the jeers after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Brit Insurance’s sponsorship of England’s cricket teams has won it brownie points in the short term, but may not really be the best way to build a resilient business. Many successful companies, such as Amazon, Costco, Southwest Airlines and Zappos, have been notable for their intense focus on their core businesses, not for their fancy marketing. If you do your job well, customers will say nice things about you and your products.

Branding? Sponsorship? Fancy marketing? Schumpeter’s own central conceit is undone by its own misunderstanding of what reputation management is. Little wonder some corporate and top flight political attitudes to reputation are, proverbially speaking, all over the show.

Maybe, if the purpose of commerce and politics was solely to be successful and retain power, Schumpeter would be right. But aren’t there broader responsibilities to society  for companies and our elected representatives?

As Dr. Charles J. Fombrun, founder & Chairman of the Reputation Institute says in response to the Economist’s article: “In the short run… it’s true that many companies can and will prosper without directly focusing on building reputation. But these companies are also likely candidates for going awry in the long run because lax practices mean they stockpile huge risks that later prove costly to mitigate (consider, for instance, the tobacco industry’s current payouts and regulation). Lacking a solid reputation, many of these companies also fail to take advantage of the opportunities they have to outperform rivals along the way.”

If those in society’s highest places are treating their reputations with the level of derision currently demonstrated, what does that mean for the value of reputation more generally?  Surely, the bargain bin isn’t where it belongs?



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. Connect at: JonClements ''

Party Leaders On Women’s Media Trail

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 by Jo Rosenberg


No doubt there are many out there who would scoff at the fact that today’s politicians, in the run up to the general election, are making a beeline for women’s mags and daytime TV.

Ok, so being questioned by Kate Garraway might not be quite the same as being grilled by Paxman but, argues Mike Girling, Nick Clegg’s press officer: “Those interviews can be quite tough in their own way.” And Martin Frizell, former editor of GMTV, agrees that being asked left-field questions about X Factor or what they’re doing for their wives on Valentine’s Day can be “shit scary”.

It’s strange to think that a “comfort zone” could include the likes of Paxman or Frost, but for steely politicians, an interview about emotions, mainstream culture and even favourite biscuits, as recently demonstrated by Gordon Brown, can be way more harrowing than being quizzed on the state of Iraq.

Women’s glossy magazine, Red, is currently gearing up for an election special for its May edition featuring interviews with Brown, Cameron and Clegg. According to research carried out by the magazine, nine out of 10 of Red’s 225,000 readers will vote in the general election yet 48% say they haven’t decided who they’ll be supporting.

And it’s not just the party leaders who are being advised to focus on women’s media. Sarah Brown guest edited Fabulous, the News of the World’s female-focused supplement, last year but reviews were mixed.

MediaGuardian deputy editor Vicky Frost, commented that there was too much of Wellbeing for Women, of which Brown is patron, and too little of Brown’s life:

“I’m not saying she needed to star in the fashion shoot – although that really would have been fabulous – but what about a one-pager about life with her own kids, or healthy dinners she cooks,” Frost said.

Perhaps Brown and Cameron should sit tight in their comfort zones and let their wives spill some election winning gossip. With neither Sarah Brown or Samantha Cameron having ever given an interview, they could well clinch it for their steely loved ones…

Do the Tories lead the “social” club?

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Jon Clements

As the Conservative Party prepares to complete the conference season in Manchester on Monday and launches the online campaigning tool,, (seen here in Beta form), PR Media Blog put questions to Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport and Spokesman for Online Campaigning. The questions and answers were supplied in written form and have been reproduced as such.

PR Media Blog: The Tories are way ahead in the polls. Does it matter what the party does online between now and election day?

Jeremy Hunt: While the Party is currently ahead in the opinion polls, the only poll that matters is on General Election day and we’re taking absolutely nothing for granted.

In terms of our online efforts, we’re the only party that has committed consistent time, effort and resource into online communications since the last General Election, and you can be sure that digital will continue to play a massive part of our engagement with voters.

PRMB: David Cameron has been dismissive of Twitter where people in the other parties have embraced it as a communications tool. Is he worried that encouraging Tory MPs to use it would be too uncontrollable and risk re-toxifying the Conservative brand?

JH: Twitter is the fashionable tool of choice at the moment, but as Thomas Gensemer of Blue State Digital said: “Services like Twitter are scattershot and dizzying. They burn political capital. Besides, they don’t talk to the people you want to talk to.”

It’s OK using Twitter if, like Grant Shapps, you already have an email list of over 10,000 local residents with whom you can communicate directly. But many Labour and LibDem MPs have a totally disproportionate attitude to it – how many of Kerry McCarthy’s constituents are on Twitter? I’d be amazed if it was over 10%.

It’s not fear of Twitter by any stretch of the imagination – our Party account has more followers than Labour and the LibDems combined, and several public facing staffers are on there too and constantly engaging with people – it’s rather that our MPs and Candidates focus on the digital activities on channels that matter in their local campaigns – websites, email, Facebook and supporter mobilisation.

PRMB: Do you see so-called “right wing” bloggers such as Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes as the Tories’ natural allies online in the run up to the election?

JH: The dominance of the centre-right in British political blogging is a testament to their quality and independence, and though we have a relationship with almost all of the big beasts in this world, it is up to them to decide on their editorial line.

The top centre-right bloggers are, however, part of a broader Conservative movement that is looking to challenge the wastefulness, incompetence and lack of vision in this current Labour Government.

PRMB: Does having a social media presence conflict with the Conservatives’ need to control the message very tightly in the coming months?

It’s important for any political party to have a clear, distinctive message so the voters know exactly what we stand for. However, it’s equally important to be reaching out to voters so they can ask us questions and figure out if they want us to be the next government. Social media offers us an excellent opportunity to have that conversation and open ourselves up to public scrutiny, but so do other channels.

Email is still the most accessible engagement tool out there and public meetings provide a great way to engage directly. David Cameron has also held almost fifty ‘Cameron Direct’ events over the past year, engaging with over 10,000 people face-to-face and answering their questions on a range of subjects.

PRMB: Is the party afraid that social media will become the source of damaging stories or allegations that will turn the polls against it? How well prepared is the party to deal with a scandal erupting online?

JH: We saw from the Draper-McBride scandal what happens when a central Party tries to take control of independent, online media – it ended in the kind of fiasco and disgrace that will come to define Labour’s approach to the internet in the minds of most people for many years to come.

The Conservative Party inherently understands that online communications comes with risks, but that the opportunities are too great to ignore.

PRMB: I’ve read that the party is going to advertise on Spotify. In what way is this the right medium for a political party to engage with the electorate? Is this just trying to piggy-back on the latest “hot thing”?

JH: Your advertising strategy has to be about reaching out to people who would never ordinarily engage with your content – or even be that interested in politics and platforms like Spotify (or Google AdWords, which we’ve also used with significant results) are a great way of reaching new audiences.

We’re absolutely not about going for the latest “hot thing” – if a platform wasn’t going to be effective for us or offer value for money then we wouldn’t use it.

PRMB: Does the party think it will harness online communities in the way Barack Obama did ahead of his presidential win?

JH: Can we emulate Obama? US elections are very different in tone, size and scale to ours in the UK but we are the Party that has best understood and adopted the lessons they learnt last year. Obama’s achievements in terms of organising activists and raising money have certainly raised the bar in terms of what a political party can achieve online and we’re obviously looking to do something similar in Britain.

To that end, we’re launching something very exciting at Party Conference – the most advanced political campaigning tool outside the USA, and the endpoint of our content and supporter recruitment strategies.

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. Connect at: JonClements ''

David Cameron Maxes Out On Social Media In Manchester

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 by Mark Hanson


Credit where its due. David Cameron was on a tour of Manchester yesterday to feel people’s pain in this economic whirlwind.

As well as the usual interview with local paper and TV news, Cameron maxed out on multi-media, including an attempt to connect to Manchester’s social media glitterati via a live blog with queen bee, Sarah Hartley aka @Foodie Sarah, aka Manchester Evening News journalist, and a debate on the economy with a live audience and Tweeted/texted/emailed questions through Channel M, Manchester’s cable news channel.

To be fair this wasn’t Cameron’s idea. The Channel M format was the MEN’s idea (owners of Channel M) and the live blogging was Sarah’s own initiative, but it’s telling that Cameron’s team were happy to play ball. Eighteen months ago the minders would have felt it was too risky for not enough reward. Don’t forget the Tories also ‘reached out’ to Birmingham bloggers around their conference in October, although I’m not sure to what extent the Tory big-hitters really got behind it.

What women don’t want

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008 by Jon Clements


What is the way to a woman’s heart or, of rather more concern to politicians, her vote?

Tory leader, David Cameron, has hired all-woman PR company, Pretty Little Head, to help him and his party crack this enigma – much to the disgust of Daily Mail readers, who have been less than enamoured with the idea.

The idea of tapping into a PR company, which claims to have expertise in helping marketers deliver “what women really want”, has Mail readers incandescent with rage:

“Well, he’s just lost my vote,” says Ann of Wimbledon, adding “I can’t stand people who think women need special treatment”. Ex-pat, Sue, booms: “We are not stupid, we don’t need to be wooed…”

So, has Cameron badly misjudged the female voter? An informal (and far from scientific, but bear with me) survey of more than 40 of my female colleagues revealed that 47% found Cameron more appealing than Brown as the next Prime Minister, with 57% admitting the Tory leader had become “more appealing” in the past 12 months. So far, so good for the Tories and their PR campaign. But a crushing 92% said that politicians showing a feminine side was irrelevant in winning their vote. 

Apart from other Mail readers’ comments along the lines of “why can’t politicians think for themselves?”, is there a fundamental problem about style over substance? As Oliver Blanchard’s Brand Builder blog states: “No matter how you look at it, successful branding always starts with a product”. He goes on, “No matter how cool your packaging is…if your fragrance isn’t appealing you aren’t going to get many repeat customers.”

Does Cameron believe that looking good and showing empathy with the female population is more important than talking about actual policies – his party’s core “product”?

Last word to another ex-pat Mail reader, Karen, who says: “You silly man, most women are intelligent and don’t need pandering to.”

Probably a good tip for most men.

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. Connect at: JonClements ''