Posts Tagged ‘reputation’

Tempered personal branding pips hyperbole

Sunday, January 6th, 2013 by Jon Clements

The concept of “personal branding” used to be known as – and was encapsulated by – the humble curriculum vitae, or résumé if Stateside.

But where a CV would be the way to communicate one’s background and abilities to a limited audience –p recruitment firms and potential employers –now,  people’s increased visibility across the internet by virtue of social and professional media has turned us into branded products to be managed; that is, if you care sufficiently about how brand “YOU” is portrayed. If not, then the Facebook photos showing you comatose and semi-clothed at the Christmas party might as well remain.

There is something slightly dystopian in treating ourselves as “brands” whose value can appreciate or depreciate by simply being our, imperfect, selves. And if commercial brands – supported by an infrastructure of management, protection and guardianship – can fail, what hope do we have maintaining our personal brand equity, if such a phrase can be used without inducing involuntary vomiting.

A successful brand is only so because of the promises it makes and keeps, time and again; the promises kept are the reason the customer develops the trust to come back for more. And what the customer trusts is, in fact, the brand’s reputation, which is why the real value is more difficult to build and maintain than creating merely a recognisable image.

Similarly, personal branding can become a personal reputation landmine if the emphasis on image manipulation is greater than the truth behind it.

Stefan Stern, visiting professor in management practice at Cass Business School, London, called it “bigging yourself upin his Guardian comment article, of which the worst examples are described as “humblebrag”, aka “falsely modest declarations that betray the self-satisfaction and boastfulness of the speaker.” He accuses our two most senior political leaders – Prime and Deputy Prime Ministers Cameron and Clegg – of such “humblebrag” behaviour; maybe protesting their validity too strongly when the results they have to show are so scant. Then again, the residents of Hell would be acquiring hats, scarves and gloves long before politicians chose to be candid about their shortcomings.

Stern goes on to say:

“It is better if the nice things we say about ourselves have solid foundations…but some people are clearly feeling so vulnerable that they are making grand and exaggerated claims. We can’t all be quite as creative and innovative as that. Self-esteem is one thing and permahype is another.”

What you claim about yourself, in a bid to manage your “personal brand”, needs to stand up to scrutiny, in the same way the claims made by companies about their products need to be true. Attempts to dress something up as something it’s not would be decried as “spin” or worse.

What you say you are matters far less than what you do. And if you’ve done enough to substantiate your CV, there should be no need for hyperbole. After all, you’re only human. And, to paraphrase the famous quote about avoiding exercise, if you suddenly get the feeling that you’re a brand, I suggest you lie down until the feeling goes away.

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 ''

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.

Financial services need Reputation redux

Friday, July 27th, 2012 by Jon Clements

Trusting your money to the financial services sector can be a hazardous business these days.

There’s neither time nor space here to explore the length and breadth of the banking sector’s misdeameanors, though the state of bank reputations was candidly addressed in a speech this week by Financial Services Authority Chairman, Lord Adair Turner, who said:

“Trust in banks and bankers has eroded. Three factors explain that collapse: people have come to doubt the economic benefits of financial liberalisation and of much banking activity; they doubt banks’ values; and they doubt whether banks have their interests at heart.”

And he explained that one of the factors leading to the Economist’s “Banksters” front cover (pictured top) was “Poor values and malpractice able to operate on an increasing scale.”

By contrast, the general insurance industry – to its credit – has not burdened itself with the same level of ignominy as banking; though one can never speak too soon: this week, the Financial Services Authority imposed one of the largest ever fines – nearly £0.5m – on a former commercial insurance broker for paying more than £300k of customer’s insurance premiums into the firm’s own bank account rather than to the relevant insurance company. The affected customers found themselves either uninsured or paying the premium a second time to ensure they were covered.

Either way, it’s a shocking situation to leave customers in; such “serious failings”, according to the FSA, led directly to the severity of the fine.

Ultimately, the broker in question has destroyed his reputation, while doing the reputation of the insurance broking sector no favours either.

Reputation begins with the actions an organisation or business takes; if those decisions are unethical and lead to the “poor values and malpractice” Lord Turner alluded to, then no amount of brand massaging or media spin will salvage reputation. When an organisation is satisfied that its processes, practices and corporate governance will stand up to scrutiny, then communicating its brand values will be founded on more than the corporate equivalent of quicksand.

So, while other parts of the financial services sector may take some pleasure in seeing bank bosses squirm in the wake of a scandalous few years’ behaviour, they should also pay attention closer to home.

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII – disclosure, a Staniforth client), the professional body for insurance and financial services, recently developed an online ethics toolkit to help firms in the sector implement consistent ethical standards.

In terms of instilling ethical business practices and protecting reputation, prevention has to be better than cure. So, while general insurance may have remained mostly unscathed by the self-flagellation of the financial services sector, it can’t be sure that its own Bob Diamond isn’t about to enter stage left.

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 ''

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 ''

Osborne’s GQ appearance is PR disaster

Friday, September 9th, 2011 by Mark Perry

Should politicians be allowed to tell jokes? The answer  judging by George Osborne’s ill-advised attempt at this week’s GQ awards is no.

Mr Osborne was picking up his award for being “Politician of the Year” when during his acceptance speech in which – it has to be presumed – he was trying to be funny he made a lewd comment about the readers of the magazine.

Modesty prevents me from repeating the joke which can be seen here . As can be heard in the clip it went down badly with the star-studded audience who jeered as he exited the stage.

If in accepting the award he was trying to gain some positive personal PR you do have to ask what his advisers were thinking allowing him to appear at a red carpet star-studded event, particularly as he calls for  us all to adopt austerity measures.

He also seems, in the clip, to be reading his acceptance speech from the teleprompters. This probably means that one of his advisers wrote the lines for him which turned out to be so blatantly wrong coming from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  If they had come from the likes of Jonathan Ross no-one would even have noticed.

Perhaps it was an bungled attempt to show him to be an ordinary ‘bloke’? After all, his age places him in the target readership. I am afraid, Mr Osborne, that this is a PR fail.

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.

Stepping in the wrong direction

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

Following the news that broke last week regarding Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, and the deaths of five poor people, it likely there will be a long-winded process for getting the hospital’s reputation back to what it was.

In this instance, the hospital’s reputation will be damaged on many levels. From credibility to competitive position to the fact that a hospital – not everyone’s idea of a attractive place to spend their time – has now become more unattractive.

PR agency, Bell Pottinger North, has the mammoth task of handling the hospital’s crisis communication.  Associate Director, Richard Clein said: “The reality is that in this situation the police will take the lead on comms – our job is to ensure our messaging is consistent and to ensure we are reiterating the statement that the hospital is a safe place. It’s about reassuring patients and staff as well.”

Exploring the classic procedures of crisis management, there will be a process of being readily accessible to the media, showing empathy for all involved, delivering an appropriate level of communications that reinforces what the hospital does well, and laying down clear preventative processes for the future. In this instance, sending out a chain of press releases about the hospital’s goals and achievements is not the answer. People will not forget this easily, therefore a broad ranging, strategic plan is necessary to rebuild reputation.

But in the situation of a hospital crisis, how will a damaged reputation affect the “customer”?  If a person is picked up by a paramedic, there is no choice about the hospital destination. Are patients at the hospital now feeling nervous about being there? Reassuring these people is a key task for every hospital employee in the wake of what has happened.

How do staff feel about working there at the moment? A medical student or nurse who has studied hard to get a job at a previously good hospital must could well be feeling tainted right now by association with Stepping Hill.

It will be interesting to see how they recover from this. The work of dedicated and trustworthy staff at the hospital needs to be highlighted so the public doesn’t judge a whole hospital by the actions of one person.

*Quote as from PRWeek, July 2011

Dave Boyle: a social media reputation

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by Jon Clements

If, as quoted on Wikipedia, a “CEO is inextricably linked to the reputation of the company” and “sets the tone…and is the human face of the organization”, then what was Supporters Direct CEO, Dave Boyle, thinking?

According to a report by The Guardian’s David Conn, tweets from Boyle’s personal Twitter feed, using offensive language about particular people in the football world, has resulted in Supporters Direct losing – as least for now – its funding from the Premier League funded Football Stadia Improvement Fund.

And, according to a statement from Supporters Direct itself, Dave Boyle finds himself out of a job. Boyle’s Twitter feed appears to back this up.

Worse still is what faces the many small clubs which rely on the funding. As football blog, two-footed tackle, explains: “To lose Supporters Direct would set fan-ownership in this country back years.”

Now, I can’t claim to know Dave Boyle personally or anything about what he does, but – on the face of it – he appears to have done a good job in helping fan-owned sports clubs stay afloat and been in a prominent, public-facing position within Supporters Direct since becoming deputy CEO in 2003.

So, what went wrong?

Being a CEO and an accomplished communicator with a clear recognition of how your behaviour affects an organisation’s reputation should be mutually inclusive.

But the risk that social media presents is immediacy; if the CEO is active in social media, then the traditional checks and balances of communications planning – complete with pre-interview briefings, rehearsals, message refinement, etc – are not top of mind when he or she can self-publish at will on a pet topic. Once upon a time, an ill-judged email was bad enough; the potential virality of social media makes an incendiary email look like a love letter.

Had Boyle thought through the ramifications of tweeting what he tweeted, I imagine he would have logged off, cooled down and returned to the day job.

Pages 6 and 7 of the CIPR’s social media guidance offer a good start for anyone tackling online comms. And even the Guardian’s online community guidelines offers a useful summary that applies broadly to any social media activity on behalf of entities:

  • If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
  • Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
  • Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you’re participating. Help make this an intelligent place for discussion and it will be.

CEOs carry the can for the success or failure of the business or organisation they front. When venturing into social media, their reputation radar mustn’t be allowed to falter.


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 ''

Burson and Facebook’s reputation lesson

Friday, May 13th, 2011 by Jon Clements


Update: Now, Burston-Marsteller is outed for deleting negative comments on its Facebook page…

When the news broke yesterday about PR firm Burson-Marsteller’s covert campaign to rubbish Google on behalf of Facebook, I had to check the date. Had we, somehow, returned to April Fool’s Day; was this an elaborate hoax.

Alas, for BM, Facebook, the reputation of both (and the PR industry generally), it was 12 May.

If you haven’t yet heard, Facebook hired the PR company to place stories in high profile media such as the Washington and Huffington Post attacking arch rival Google’s privacy policies in relation to its social networking feature, Google Social Circle.

The plot was outed when journalists challenged BM about their “unnamed client” and the anti-Google campaign, and Facebook eventually came clean. The PR company later released its own statement on the debacle, saying: “This was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined.”

It added, by way of justification, that “any information brought to media attention raised fair questions, was in the public domain, and was in any event for the media to verify through independent sources.”

Well, all of the above may be so. But it begs the questions: who thought that launching a smear campaign on behalf of a mystery “other” was a good PR strategy that would skip along unquestioned and unchallenged before being, ultimately, exposed? Did no-one involved in communications on either client or agency side raise a hand to say ‘I know this is the way you want to go, but this could go horribly, horribly wrong’?

Rather than having to concoct damage limitation statements about “public domain” information – insinuating that there was some casual, benign purpose in Facebook/BM’s story – wouldn’t it have been better for PR professionals to bury this campaign at birth? Surely, with BM’s “double-digit revenue growth” last year, it doesn’t need the money that badly to engage in dubious client projects.

At the discussion stage of this campaign – regardless of what column inches the client may have been salivating about with this story – good client counsel should have been focused on the more important element of reputation. Not least because Facebook’s own record on privacy issues has been under fire.

Not one for grandiose statements, the Guardian’s technology editor, Charles Arthur, described it as “an epochal moment”.

Neither Facebook nor Burson-Marsteller has come out of this well. And thinking, selfishly, from a purely PR industry position, we’re all the poorer for it.

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 ''

Corporate reputation – a priceless thing

Monday, May 9th, 2011 by Jon Clements


Who says a hit to your corporate reputation doesn’t cost money?

Sony, in the wake of the hacking attack on its Playstation Network and potential exposure of customer credit card and personal details, has seen its share price drop and new insurance cover instigated for 100m users, covering each for up to $1m against cyber attacks.

Its worldwide gaming service remains closed as of today and could be back on line only by the end of the month. And, at that point, how much trust will be restored among customers to return? As Dan Goodin, writing in the Register says in response to Sony’s customer advice to change passwords” : “Of course, that suggestion assumes users continue to trust Sony to safeguard their information and stand behind assurances that the PlayStation Network is secure.”

Since the crisis first arose last month, Sony has been in the firing line for its speed of response – both in alerting customers to the possible data breach and the apology from CEO, Sir Howard Stringer, which came two weeks after the event.

Clearly, having systems that are sufficiently robust to protect against hackers is at the root of protecting corporate reputation.

But how an organisation communicates at a time of crisis is an essential part of the process of reassuring and retaining its customers’ trust and loyalty once the crisis is over.

At a recent Management Today round table discussion – entitled Managing reputations after the age of spin –  communications professionals and business leaders shared their wisdom on the power and value of PR in the face of reputation meltdown:

Simon Baugh, Airport communication director, Heathrow: “The age of spin is dead really…you have no choice but to be authentic and transparent.”

Andrew Gowers, former head of media relations, BP and former co-head of corporate communications, Lehman Brothers: “Take…Lehman Brothers. [the management] didn’t reveal to anybody what they were really thinking. Communications were blank which led to a hailstorm of rumours. There was no communication strategy because there was no survival strategy for the firm. Therefore, the end was very swift.”

Nick Smith, global managing director – marketing transformation, Accenture: “Reputational management should be aimed at all audiences…your role isn’t just about managing damage limitation, it’s about pro-actively building trust in that enterprise.”

MT editor, Matthew Gwyther, in his leader article notes that “Most bosses with any sense how realise that corporate reputation is a priceless thing” and even acknowledges that times have changed from when PR was “the bastard child of propaganda”.

However, putting things in perspective, it’s not the communications director or media relations manager alone that dictates the rise or fall of a company’s reputation: as Simon Baugh says, “The reputation of a company is going to be based on a hell of a lot more that what that individual does.”

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 ''

It’s just not cricket…

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Chris Bull

Williams - bit of a winker

The word sportsmanship has traditionally had warm, positive connotations. However, recent indiscretions by the Harlequins rugby team and the Renault F1 team have put this into question. The reputation of Harlequins and its former Director of Rugby, Dean Richards, along with the Renault F1 and former Team Principle Flavio Briotore are firmly in the gutter and if things continue in this vein, the term ‘sportsmanship’ may become a synonym for deception, injustice and cheating.

For those who are not avid followers of sport, the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal as it has become known, involved a Harlequins player, Tom Williams, faking a blood injury (by inserting a blood capsule into his mouth) in order to allow specialist kicker Nick Evans onto the field for the crucial final few minutes of the match. William’s mouth was then purposely cut afterwards to make the injury real.

Renault’s deception involved former Renault driver, Nelson Piquet, who after being dropped from the team admitted that in last years Singapore Grand Prix, he was ordered to crash on purpose in order to give team-mate Fernando Alonso a slight advantage after the safety car was deployed.

Perhaps the seriousness of this latter incident is not immediately apparent, but it came to light shortly after Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees was killed, and F1 driver Felipe Massa very nearly so, by debris on the track from another car. When Piquet was ordered to crash, he was not only being ordered to put his own life in danger, but those of every other racing driver on the track – not to mention those of the stewards who are charged with clearing the debris.

These two incidents are appalling and frankly disgusting demonstrations of the lengths some are willing to go not even to win, but to fractionally increase their chances of doing so.

It is enough to make one question whether the spirit of fairplay and sportsmanship is still alive within sports at the highest level, such are the pressures placed on those who take part. However, whilst watching England play Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions trophy recently, my faith was restored somewhat.

During a critical part of the game, Sri Lankan batsman Angelo Mathews collided with an England player while attempting a run. As a result, he failed to get back to the crease in time and was ruled out. A little unfair maybe, but out nonetheless.

However, Andrew Strauss, England’s Ashes-winning captain immediately called his team in a huddle. Consensus was quickly reached that Mathews would have made his ground if it was not for the unfortunate clash, and Strauss informed the umpire to rule Mathews not out and allow him to continue to bat. Why? Because as Strauss commented afterwards “it was the right thing to do.” Strauss chose not to take advantage because it was not sportsmanlike, not proper and quite simply, not cricket.

So if Harlequins and the Renault F1 team want to do something about their flagging reputations, they could do a lot worse than watching a few games of cricket and taking some notes on the spirit in which it is played.

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.