What value would you put on having a good reputation?

journalistIt used to be said that what a good journalist needs is a strong pair of legs, plausible manner and rat-like cunning. 

And wasn’t it the case that only politicians and estate agents ranked lower than journalists in the wake of the meltdown of News of the World?

But shouldn’t we add public relations professionals to that list too?

Well, not if the PRCA has anything to do with it.

And I’ll come back to this in a moment.

PR professionals know three important things – important if they want to keep their jobs, that is.

The first is that their continued career within the profession depends on being able to persuade people to read, watch, listen, and one way or another buy a product or service or support a cause or point of view.

The second is that their continued career progression depends on pleasing their even more immediate customer, their boss.

And the third, for those who work in “traditional” or “mainstream” PR is the obvious point that there’s vastly more consumer choice as a result of the explosion of online and mobile communications.

Rabbit Andersen Consulting campaignI remember when I started my PR career back in 1992 at Andersen Consulting (Accenture) and we had what looked like a highly complex sign-off procedure for any piece of PR and marketing collateral you could think of – news release, newsletter, sales presentation, or whatever.

At the time, I thought it was cumbersome that so many people at associate and partner level had to sign off on this stuff.

But with hindsight, I should’ve thought then what I think now.

This was an excellent way of managing reputation – from the highest level – that our words matched our deeds.

Fast forward to the demands of PR in a 24/7 world and you could argue we just don’t have the luxury as we did back then to reflect to the same degree on the words and the deeds of our outputs.

PR folk are now expected to ‘knock something off’ for the website or email newsletter with the implication that because you’re writing for the wild world of the blogosphere you can be less exacting in your professional standards.

Even responsible PR and marketing practitioners seem to feel they’ve a licence to bend the truth and sail close to the wind when they’re writing online.

Yet in the minds of desired audiences, customers, clients, prospects and supporters the distinction between what they receive offline and what they read online has disappeared. They expect an individual or organisation to have the same level of accuracy irrespective of the medium.

The trust of your customers, clients, prospects and supporters matters more than anything else in today’s competitive environment – perhaps even more than what you say about your products or service.

Trust has become the single biggest business issue facing organisations and companies today. And managing reputational risk is a key priority, not just for the director of communications or PR agency but also for the entire boardroom and the senior leadership team.

It’s against this backdrop that the PRCA has taken a bold step to help inform and stimulate a debate within the PR profession that seeks not just to explore how and what reputation is within this modern context but also why it matters from a financial point of view.

This isn’t as easy or straight-forward as it sounds, so the PRCA has engaged with some of UK’s leading PR practitioners to explore this in greater detail including Sue Garrard, Senior Vice-President of Communications and Sustainable Development, Unilever; Nigel Gilbert, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, TSB Bank; Amanda Mackenzie, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Aviva; Zitah McMillan, Director of Communications and International, Financial Conduct Authority; Sheila Mitchell, Marketing Director, Public Health England; George Pascoe-Watson, Partner, Portland and Chris Satterthwaite, Chief Executive, Chime Communications.

Launched today, the Economics of Reputation‘ toolkit provides a one-stop shop for the busy PR professional to get to grips with the latest thinking on the subject and encourages debate within the industry through #ReputationMatters on Twitter.

Tony LanghamThe campaign is being led by Tony Langham, Lansons Chief Executive and PR Council Vice Chairman at the PRCA.

“The sheer volume of literature on reputation means that developing a clear understanding of reputation has become incredibly problematic.

“This toolkit has been developed to provide a straightforward way into this hugely complex topic, which is now a leading issue for the business world. We hope that this will provide a basis for thought-provoking debate, which we aim to stimulate over the remainder of the year,” says Langham.

The toolkit has been produced by Now and is sponsored by BNY Mellon and can be downloaded for FREE by clicking here.

Ardi Kolah is an elected member of the PRCA Council and author of the best-selling Essential Law for Marketers, published by Kogan Page (£19.99) available here.