Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Edelman grasps the Murdoch PR nettle

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by Jon Clements


Update: @tim_weber, BBC business and technology editor, sees a PR presence in the “dramatic change of tone” from News Corp.

As PR people, surely we should feel vindicated that News International’s reputation implosion has prompted the hiring of PR company Edelman for “general comms support and public affairs counsel” following the phone hacking scandal.

After all, doesn’t everyone – as in David Cameron’s oft-repeated words about Andy Coulson – deserve a second chance?

There will be some that say there is no coming back from a reputation disaster such as a newspaper hacking the phone of a murder victim and deleting voicemail messages, so giving the family false hope she was still alive.

Neverthless, reputation rehabilitation is not impossible, Edelman has got the gig and good luck to it.  But what will the PR planning agenda look like?

Rebuilding News International’s reputation is key to the Murdochs’ long game – gaining total control of BSkyB. Though it has ditched the bid now, News Corporation, News International’s parent company, needs to regain the trust of the public, politicians and regulators to stand a chance of being deemed “fit and proper” to own not just all but any of the broadcasting giant.

In terms of reputation management, closing the News of the World has been the Murdochs’ symbolic gesture that rogue companies within their organisation will pay the ultimate price, despite the inconvenient fact that the wrongdoing was done on someone else’s watch.

But for any PR provider tasked with restoring corporate reputation, having access to the “warts and all” truth of what goes on behind closed doors is essential; otherwise, life will become a continual fire-fighting exercise rather than a strategic campaign to not only talk about how the company is effecting positive change, but prove it.

And this is where I think Edelman’s biggest challenge lies: how does an outside organisation negotiate a corporate culture where the most senior executives have been willing to cover up grossly bad practices with denials,  selective amnesia or claims of complete ignorance? As Steve Richards comments in The Independent today, “Here was a company that evidently thought it was powerful enough to get away with it, able to block police enquiries and to pay off victims of crime”. Demonstrating a fundamental overhaul of corporate behaviour will need more than cosmetic communications based on half-truths to prove that change has genuinely taken root in News International.

Good PR has to be founded on truth, and Edelman needs to be confident that what News Corp is telling them – at any point – is true. As the Burson Marsteller/Facebook debacle showed, the agency has a reputation problem just as big as its client’s when forced to base a campaign on spin.

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 ''

Publish and be socially damned?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 by Jon Clements


Does PR have a role to play in social media?

Sorry, was that a chorus of PR agencies and professionals I heard screaming in unison “Duh, of course it does!”?

Well, people, you might be right. But – more often than not – it’s good to stop and think.

That’s what I was asking a group of nominated company spokespeople to do during media training this week. For while engaging with the media is an opportunity, it’s also a risk. And whether you’re a CEO, engineer or on the shop floor, opening your mouth on the company’s behalf means you are entering new territory; you’re now in the business of public relations and reputation management.

Which is why media training shouldn’t be about soundbites or spin, but taking a carefully considered and methodical approach to the impact of what you say in a public domain.

Which brings us neatly back to social media.

Blogging technology has torn down the barriers to publishing and this is a good thing for both PR agencies and their clients, so long beholden to the media’s permission for their story to be heard. The turnout at a CIPR social media learning event in Preston last night suggests there’s an insatiable appetite for PR consultants to get involved in the brave new(ish) world online.

But as anyone who’s been through journalistic training will tell you, the privilege of publishing also comes with a high degree of responsibility. Get it wrong and you could end up in court facing the full force of the law. British defamation law may leave something to be desired, but for now it remains the law. Which is why the checks and balances of an editorial hierarchy are essential.

PR agencies and their clients are neither professional publishers nor editors. And yet the button marked “publish” on the blogging software enables them to be so. Which takes us back to “stop and think”.

One of the lazy, get-out clauses of making an editorial mistake in the bygone days of print-only publishing was that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper. But this is not so online. Not only does your online content or comment not end up wrapping fast food, it is potentially one click away from Google’s homepage.

Knowing how to respond in the event of a client’s potential reputation meltdown should be the meat and drink for PR practitioners. But even better is working to ensure it doesn’t happen at all.

That’s why the passion to publish online needs, sometimes, to take a cold shower first.

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 ''