Archive for the ‘internal communication’ category

2011 Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut

30/12/2011

Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut.  Well, you can’t fail to notice that it is my pet subject and it is also the discipline that I make a living from.  In some ways you’d think from all of the examples and real life experiences that anyone running an organisation or promoting their own profile would have got it right by now but looking back, as I do every year, the reputation low lights are still as prevalent as ever.  When will we ever learn?  Well, maybe that is a question for 2012 and one that I am always willing to debate and discuss.

So, before reading on, just remember reputation is THE factor in determining intellectual capital and that it makes up a whopping 70 to 80% of overall value.  Whether we are talking about personal or organisational reputation then that is an overwhelming figure that means you ought to be taking these examples highlighted here very seriously.

Of course it is difficult to comment on 2011 without regard to the reputation trinity of politics, press and the police.  Politicians have come and gone and none of that is different to any year.  Across the world, political leadership has been awful.  The state of western economies, particularly in the Eurozone is of great concern and is now hurting us all.  In the UK this is the worse time I can remember since the height of Thatcherism in the eighties.  Walking around my home city of Liverpool is a real eye-opener.  Or at least it should be because you have to look closely.

Compare the situation to just three or four years ago and instead of fully occupied offices and retail units you now see numerous for sale and to let signs.  Perhaps more worrying are the number of people sat with pints in pubs at breakfast time.  The betting shops are doing a great trade as is the National Lottery and its new spin off the Health Lottery which managed to launch and establish a positive reputation against a flurry of criticism for only donating 20% to its good cause whilst pocketing 80%.

But they are not alone in terms of some thriving business developments, the Health Lottery is based around the concept of social enterprise and a company structure that is coming in to its own called the Company Interest Company or CiC.  It is my belief that CiCs are the new business model to watch and that whilst charity is not dead (in 2011 charities still continue to hold their reputations and fund raising despite the recession) the lighter regulated and more commercially savvy CiC is the future.  The beauty of a CiC is it allows social need to be met whilst accepting that making money is not necessarily a bad thing – my words.  Of course CiCs can tread a line.  The Salvation Army took a big reputation hit this year turning over £18m through textile trading with a very dubious relationship with a company called Kettering Textiles (check the name of the director who happens to span both organisations and check out K Textiles little earner – £10m – and how little they pay for the textiles per tonne).  Even so, the Sally Army has managed to steer itself through such reputation storms also picking up the BBC Children in Need contract whilst at the same time knocking other charities like the North West Air Ambulance off big supermarket car parks by its commercial approach.  Overall, my prediction is CiCs will be the big story of 2012 as will any aspect of business to do with lifestyle, health and sustainability.

So back to politics.  What a mess.  The coalition has been an unmitigated reputation disaster.  Manifestos are in the bin and Conservatism is in full flow upsetting everyone from students to the rest of Europe.  The economic strategy is off the rails, we have riots on the streets, mass industrial action and the Liberal Democrats imploding.  And yet, David Cameron seems to come out of these disasters stronger and stronger.  It is an incredible result and the opposition seems to get weaker with a leader in Ed Milliband who is being trounced at every point.  Of course, there is a reputation loser and that is Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.  How on earth did a centre left social democratic party think it could work with right wing conservatism – it is beyond me but I am bemused at how well it is playing for the Conservatives and David Cameron.  I still can’t believe the whole plot will not disintegrate and 2012 will be an interesting year.

Meanwhile, as I write this sat on a freezing cold Northern Rail diesel multiple unit that was probably built in 1940 and is clattering up a branch line late I am told that my ticket in 2012 will cost 5% more.  There are a number of businesses that just don’t get it.  The David Lloyd Centres have also announced that due to greater costs they are passing on the costs in higher prices.  Fine, but what all these brands forget – there is a recession and my income and others is not increasing.  Also, their services are not improving. It is a fine line in balancing the marketing 4Ps and they need to be careful.  Northern Rail are generally awful – I take N Rail trains three times a week and the most interesting view of them is working out will I be on a bad train, a very bad train or a very very bad train.  The anticipation at the station platform is great fun!

So who are the big losers this year.  Well let’s skip passed the Police (well if they don’t coral you in), particularly the Met who from kettling to standing back and watching are just an unmitigated disaster.  Their new guy, Bernard Hogan Howe, cut his ‘chief’ teeth in Liverpool and I once sat with him at an Everton match.  Nobody told me who this military type with polished shoes, pressed trousers and impeccably groomed hair was and I decided to sound off about the Police – whoops.  Mind you he took it all well and he is a real PR and digital performer.  There will be few PR or reputation gaffes on his watch or if there are expect them to be dealt with – also expect him to blog and podcast etc.   I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with some bobbies recently for a client.  What a complete bunch of stereotypes they are.  What can I say, they certainly play their parts and they need to get their act together as unfortunately the other two of the trinity, politics and press, will continue to make their lives difficult.

There is little I can add in 2011 about the press reputation except rock bottom and enough said.  The only issue it leaves me with is just how many enquiries, inquiries, inquisitions, reviews do we need.  Every time something goes awry we hold post mortems to the Nth degree.  How about this novel suggestion, why don’t we plan and manage and direct reputation – here comes a plug for my work – well no not really, but the complete lack of investment does worry me and yes I have a ‘for hire’ sign permanently outside my office.  One of the most interesting press reputation issues will be the interaction with the audience.  This week the Lancashire Evening Post announced its intention to suspend comment facilities on its web page and that it is to prosecute a contributor.  The old letters to the editor pages have come a long way and the BBC in particular since moving to Salford, is keen to get down with the people taking everything from Radio 5,s Fighting Talk to BBC One Football Focus into live settings.  It will all end in tears.  Quite honestly, whilst I can stomach a bit of audience participation, the onerous meanderings of chat show phone in groupies is not my choice of viewing and listening.  However, participation is an area of major growth, probably spurred by the Internet accessibility spilling over to other media.  Witness the rise of internet forums, instant messaging (although Blackberry had its service come under reputation flack this summer), phone ins and digital petitions.

Overall business seems to have chartered a fairly calm passage through the sea of reputation although we have lost quite a few brands as the tough climate claims its casualties (Blacks and La Senza being just the latest to cling on).  Interestingly, some businesses actually achieved a unique position of people feeling sorry for them. Those hard hit by the riots gained incredible support.  Brands like Tesco and Starbucks continue to really aim for world or at least high street vs.  out of town/retail park domination. This remains uncomfortable for me as the high street is under threat.  Conversely this has led other traders to fill the gap. 99p Stores is growing fast as a brand as is Home Bargains. For me, the retail brand of the year is Aldi, closely followed by Lidl. Aldi offers a great experience and their prices are exceptional. A brand to watch in 2012.  One of the store assistants in Aldi told me recently they had 50% more people visiting them this year than last.  Of corse four pints of milk in my l;coal Tesco £1.80 and in Aldi £1 – I know who I want to have the 80p difference – me!

So what about organisations that have really made a reputation mess. Well, St Paul’s Cathedral lost the plot when the Occupy camp arrived. A perfect example of an organisation that just did not plan or manage its reputation. I passed by the camp last week and was mildly amused to see that the camp is now sited next to a Blacks Outdoor Store – good planning except that brand is struggling towards a pre-pack and rescue. Travellers and camps took a reputation bashing generally with the disaster at Dale Farm.

But for me, the reputation disaster has to be in the sports sector and in particular football. At the time of writing two high profile international players are embroiled in serious allegations relating to racism, there isn’t a day goes by that doesn’t present another character to the pantomime, whether that be an imature player letting off fireworks or a tempremental prima donna refusing to play and fulfill his contract. The real reputation disaster starts at the top – rules, officials, governance is devoid of any sense of control or balance. So this year I nominate FIFA as the entity with the worse reputation.

Pause for a moment – its not just football. The Rugby Football Union collapsed at the seams as its huge bureaucratic, and if I may observe rather pompous, establishment failed to grasp that professional players had to be just that – professional. London showed how fragile it may prove next year failing to anticipate a late finish at the world ATP tennis finals, the showcase world tennis event already under threat from our archaic tax laws, stranding thousands at a closed tube station. Even Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, got in on the act by holding up play by arriving late to his seat – mind you that was very funny to see the camera on Boris and his bag of popcorn whilst Roger Federer glared at him. And the BBC showcase Sports Personality of the Year unfortunately managed to conjure up a 100% female free event.

So sport is the reputation loser in 2011 – a complete mess of egos, inadequate ownership, overpaid and out of touch practitioners and a gullible following from punters to pundits. FIFA are not the exception, but one wonders who on earth carries out their PR and stakeholder management.

So looking forward, one can only wonder what we will face in 2012. The Olympics is the obvious ‘trip wire,’ sport can be relied on to keep the poor reputation flag flying although I hope it is the opposite and that next year I will be upholding it as THE reputation winner.  The tenuous coalition will no doubt give us a lot to ponder.

From my perspective, convincing organisations and people to plan and manage reputation remains my priority.  It’s a mantra worth chanting.

Reputation – why it matters and how you can manage it

09/11/2010

“…Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial…”

William Shakespeare Othello. ACT II Scene 3.

Later this month, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) will publish a report by Leslie Kossoff entitled: “Reputation – why it matters and how you can manage it.”

In the weeks leading up to publication, Bodyproject will be debating the role of reputation in relation to high performance and growth.  Bodyproject’s Advanced Stakeholder Management (ASM) methodology supports organisations in protecting and promoting reputation.  In this first article we look at the importance of reputation and its critical role within successful organisations.

CIMA President, George Glass, recently drew a parallel to a famous beer commercial when he said: “Management accountants add value to the corporate parts other accountants cannot reach.”  It’s an interesting thought and not before time that a key business profession realises that they have further to go in adding value than their role suggests by also considering the value attributed to reputation.

In our opinion there are three dimensions to business success: performance, growth and reputation.  The first two dimensions are tangible, measurable and therefore manageable.  They are the bastions of traditional accounting defined by the elements that make up book value and can be measured by the strength of the balance sheet.  The third dimension, reputation, is different.  It is almost wholly intangible, difficult to measure and therefore very difficult to manage.

And yet, reputation’s value and consequent potential liability is great, almost infinite in some respects.  Whilst book value and traditional accounting is one way of valuing a business, it misses the true value that makes up a business’s intellectual capital – the goodwill that creates the absolute value that is often only realised during a sale but may be severely damaged or enhanced at almost anytime.

Mario Simon, the Managing Director of American market research company Millward Brown Optimor illustrates this when he says: “In 1980 almost 100 per cent of the value of an average Standard & Poor’s 500 company consisted of tangible assets such as chairs, factories and inventory.

“That figure is now more like 30 or 40 per cent – the rest comes from intangible value, about half of which is attributed to brand.

“It is not a stretch to say that for many companies brand is their single biggest asset.”

So, it is hardly surprising that reputation is now being recognised as increasingly the most critical dimension of success.  High growth and performance are vitally important but equally so is the protection and promotion of reputation.

So what exactly is reputation and how does it differ to brand?

Brand is often defined as the ‘corporate promise’ that it is assumed that the organisation has some control over, whilst reputation is more a way stakeholders perceive the organisation.

Chris Fill, co-author of Managing Corporate Reputation, describes brand as: “how a company wants to be seen and is all about the corporate promise. Reputation is entirely a stakeholder perception over time.

“Stakeholders will make an assessment of how well the organisation has performed against the brand’s promise.”

In our view reputation is not that simple to define and its lack of tangibility makes it a difficult proposition for people to understand.  Reputation is made up of three component parts:  identity, image and personality.

Identity is similar to the corporate promise in that it is almost wholly controlled by the organisation and is ostensibly what it says about itself through its brand, advertising, products and services etc.   Image is the reverse opposite – the perceptions of its stakeholders.  The third aspect is that of personality – often this can be viewed of how well the identity and image match up but actually is more like the state of reality in which the organisation exists.  It is actually the organisation’s true self as opposed to the rather different realities created through identity and perceived through image.

This is hugely complex and is deeply swathed in all sorts of philosophy and psychology.  But if organisation leaders do not intellectually grasp its importance then they risk their performance and growth.

When Kraft Food Inc bought Cadburys they were buying a company with a book value of £4bn.  They actually paid more like $11.9bn.  The element of ‘goodwill’ or intellectual capital was a huge proportion of the value of that acquisition.  The battle for the sale was hard fought and included a massive aspect of reputation with over 94% of the British population reporting through a YouGov poll that they were aware of the sale.  For the harsh corporate Kraft it all came as a shock.  When they went on to sell a factory, against promises made during the sales process, their reputation was badly hit and ended with them apologising to the British Parliament.

In fact the Kraft Foods Chief Executive Irene B Rosenfeld in the lead up to the sale recognised the importance of reputation and its link to the intrinsic value of intellectual capital when she wrote to the UK Government’s business secretary stating: “(she understood) the concerns of the UK government and I can again assure you of our intentions to proceed with sincere respect for Cadbury’s heritage, people and identity.”

On her recent visit to the UK she jokingly said that she had been surprised at the role of the Crème Egg in British culture.  No joke really when that product alone has estimated brand value of £45m.

David Haigh, CEO of brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance, explains the value of reputation in relation to brand when he says: “Brands affect all audiences or all stakeholder groups – from customers to staff and financiers.

“If the brand is highly regarded then they behave in a more favourable way towards the organisation, which then drives up its value.

“For each of the audiences of an organisation there is the same broad set of criteria – functional delivery, image and conduct – by which they judge whether it’s a good brand or not.”

At Bodyproject, we try to look at the entire role played by performance, growth in concert with reputation.  We no longer think that book value is an adequate judgement of value and that competitive advantage is derived solely from the tangible aspects of doing business.  It is the management of stakeholders and the integration of marketing communications as a ‘hard’ discipline alongside accounting and legal that the true difference is seen.

The Kossoff report will make vital reading and what is most important is that it is being published by CIMA.  Reputation has long been associated with the ‘softer’ professions such as public relations and marketing but it is time that its role is recognised at every boardroom table.  Because, no matter how good your performance, no matter what your growth aspirations are you will only be as good as your reputation.

In our next article to be published week commencing 15th November we will consider in more detail one of the components of reputation – identity.

For more information about Bodyproject and our Advanced Stakeholder Management methodology that helps organisations promote and protect reputation call 0151 709 2288 or e-mail nicktaylor@bodyproject.co.uk

Advanced Stakeholder Management aids recovery!

05/08/2010

“…If you grow slowly and strongly, you will be around for a long time…”

Edwin Booth Chairman Booths Supermarkets

Business has never been harder, but in some sectors there is an increasing understanding that the only way to recover and even survive is through continued investment and growth.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CiPR) latest ‘state of the industry’ research reports a marked increase in PR budgets with professionals expressing confidence in terms of the health of the PR industry and growth expectations.

A host of areas are predicted for growth in the coming year, with key ‘ones to watch’ being online reputation management, crisis management and strategic planning.

Bodyproject, a niche consultancy based in Liverpool, that pioneers an Advanced Stakeholder Management (ASM) methodology, believes that those businesses that want to succeed and grow are continuing to invest to protect and promote their reputation.

Nick Taylor, owner of Bodyproject comments: “The strength of the balance sheet is clearly a major factor but more and more companies are understanding that the true value of their business is tied up in their intangible assets and intellectual capital.

“Those businesses that continue to invest and take a strategic approach to managing their reputation are also the ones that are expressing optimism that they can trade their way through the recession”

Bodyproject is seeing a great deal of interest in the ASM methodology from businesses that are growing, increasing employment, achieving more sales, reducing costs and demonstrably becoming profitable.

Nick continues: “I am convinced that to be successful in business you have to go beyond the traditional aspects of stakeholder management around the protection of reputation and brand.

“Our ASM methodology is an innovative strategy seeking to integrate the management of stakeholders into core business with visibility and control from senior leaders and board level rather than solely the preserve of PR, marketing and communications departments.”

Businesses achieving direct commercial advantage understand the essential elements of stakeholder relationships, including the development of a better brand image, additional market insight, increased flow of new product and service ideas, improvement of internal business processes, better insight into consumer behaviour, new marketing channels for company products and services, and early warning of potential risk and crisis.

Say it as it is

05/04/2009

“…It is a legislative requirement not to smoke in this bus station…”

PA announcement heard in St Helens Bus Station

The Bodyproject stakeholder management methodology looks closely at the use of language within communications and we never cease to be amazed at the way some organisations do everything they can not to use direct words.

I recently spotted a display sign at Wigan train station saying the train originates here!  How about the train starts here.  The quote at the head of this page is a case in point.  Where a simple smoking is not allowed or please do not smoke would be fine instead a grand word such as legislative is used.  What does that mean and can the average user of the bus station even understand it?

Smoking of course is an emotive topic and so is telling someone to stop or that they can’t do it.  The NHS at the vanguard of stopping smoking can’t quite bring itself to say stop smoking and talks about smoking cessation.  What is that?  I also heard the use of the words discontinuation of smoking.  Interestingly it is often the public sector that uses this sort of language.  Commercial organisations, in this case the makers of Nicorette patches use the straight forward quit smoking as a call to action.

The main point we at Bodyproject try to get over is to keep things simple and communicate so the person you are trying to get the message to can understand it.  If you want someone to stop or quit smoking then say it.  Asking them to participate in cessation or discontinuation as it is a legislative requirement might just not work.

To find out more about the Bodyproject stakeholder management methodology, our seven rules of effective communication and our thoughts on language please get in touch through the contact tab on this site.

Listening from the front

29/11/2008

…”I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.  Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway

Veronica Apostolico is director of internal communication at medical devices company Smith & Nephew and recently gave some great advice on how to run events at which senior leaders meet people in their organisations.

“The important thing is to strike a balance between what senior leaders want to say and employees want to hear,” she says.

There are a number of golden rules that communicators need to follow in setting up such events.

Find out what employees want to know? 

Conduct research before the event to prepare the leaders

Stories – not fact dumping

Solicit questions beforehand

Undertake personal preparation for the leader

Remarkably I have found that in many leaders fail to engage with their people and in particular fail to listen.  Some years ago I worked with a Managing Director of an electricity distribution company.  He agreed for me to organise a twelve month tour to every location in his company set in his diary and thus allowing him to meet virtually every employee within that time.  The sessions were structured so that I arrived first to run a preparation session gaining the thoughts of the group and so enabling him to arrive and pick up the questions and listen to the people.  All questions were followed up after and used to inform company direction and strategy.  It was a very powerful exercise and the bullet points from Veronica are a good guide.  

If you are not doing this in your organisation you should be and I am happy to point you in the right direction for you to find out more how you can.  You can also read the article at: Melcrum’s Communicators’ Network reached through my linked in professional profile at 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/nicktaylor1