Posted tagged ‘public relations’

Construction News – Reputation management and PR

23/09/2011

Bodyproject contributes to Construction News article on reputation management and PR:

My company is called Bodyproject and we work with complex organisations that are trying to manage complex issues to complex stakeholders. There is a price to reputation that is part of a company’s intellectual capital.

We work with clients in construction, energy and waste management and often find that senior teams are so tied up with the book value that they forget that about 70-80% of their overall company value is actually in the intellectual capital.

A quick flick through Construction News or this website confirms this as you will see lots of information about numbers (schemes, financials) etc but little about the less tangible area of reputation unless reporting failures.

Risk management is part of the reputation mix but the biggest imperative is on how a company implements environmental and social aspects into their corporate governance. How they truly engage with stakeholders to gain insight and influence to protect and promote their reputation.

Too often this isn’t factored in (you can see it in Construction News with the constant reporting of numbers and book value type subject matter rather than that impacting intellectual capital) and hence we continue to see failures at the examples given above (BP, Toyota, RBS etc) – what is alarming is that many construction projects and companies still don’t seem to get it and so David is right they need to seek the expertise to help them (I would say that as a consultant wouldn’t I)

It is not just PR etc – it’s real stakeholder management and integrated marketing communications. Those that do seek help won’t end up as reputation casualties.

Sound advice on a crisis

15/08/2011

Roland Rudd, Finsbury Executive Chairman, gives sound advice:

“When you’ve got a major crisis of any kind, the most important thing is to recognise the enormity of it. It’s sometimes better to exaggerate it to yourself. Never try and suppress it. Never try and blame anybody else. Never try and pretend that you’re the victim.”

“The reason people as smart as the Murdochs got it wrong at the start is that it’s easier to be wise about other people’s problems than about your own.”

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.

Marketing in a sceptical world

16/05/2010

Spieler – a Market Trader who tries to convince a customer in all manner of ways that a product is worth buying

Extract from the Market Traders Phrase Book

Every Sunday in Liverpool, Stanley Market is thronged with traders and punters and has the most amazing array of goods.  What always fascinates me is that even in 2010 some traders are still pedalling magic ‘shammy’ (chamois) leathers or miracle mops or conducting meat auctions.   “For you, not £20, not £15 but £5 and I will throw in half a dozen sausages!”

You would think in this modern era that such selling would have had its day.  Surely selling has become far more sophisticated and such methods are transparent and as dubious as the world of scams with e-mails from Africa bestowing riches upon us in exchange for our bank details, financial consultants selling duff policies and numerous people willing to take our money and run.  You would hope that the regulators of marketing, advertising and PR would protect us from anything approaching the definition of a scam. However, even the most experienced marketing person can be subjected to some very interesting selling techniques that raises questions about my profession – marketing.

Business owners across the land have been puzzled by a direct mailing consisting of a torn newspaper page with a handwritten Post-it note, which says “Hi, I saw this and thought you’d find it useful – he’s really good! J”. The page arrives in a plain white envelope, which appears to be addressed by hand, with a second-class stamp attached.

It’s a compelling communication and makes a ‘free’ offer that is too good to miss.  Except, like anything, one starts very quickly to suspect there is something not quite right.  This particular mailing comes from marketing expert Chris Cardell and is certainly causing a stir as it has raised fundamental questions about his methods and has somewhat backfired upon him.

The mailing has landed him with a referral to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and their adjudication makes sober reading – http://preview.tinyurl.com/y8xhtmz

For me, the Cardell approach is worth looking at.  Many of his materials, thoughts and techniques are fascinating although his brash and somewhat arrogant approach is not to my liking (If you want to see him in action selling to you from a luxurious location then enjoy this – http://tinyurl.com/2wvavxu).  The problem is where to ‘draw a line’ in communications and to determine at what point Cardell’s methods push  beyond the boundaries.

Of course, read the direct mailing cutting and one begins to fast see through the gushing copy.  The handwritten post it note is clearly misleading as actually there is no person that knows you called J who may have sent this mailing and the whole presentation from the stamp, postmark and hand writing is all aimed to provoke certain actions without telling you this is actually just a marketing device.

For me, Cardell has stepped outside the rules and the ASA adjudication establishes this.  It has also given him an interesting challenge as he is a disciple of Google and evangelises their tools, except now his name in their search engine returns with the word ‘scam’ which is hardly great for a guru of advanced internet marketing.  It will be interesting to see how he responds .

Bodyproject feels distinctly uneasy about the reputation the likes of Cardell bestows on our industry; but at the same time he has something to offer that is unique and ultimately compelling.  There is also a perversity in me writing this as I have subscribed to his free offer and thus offered my e-mail address to his clutches, but in mitigation I have done so for professional research reasons as I am sure you will understand!!!!

Cut and Paste Society

26/05/2009

“…Perception management – Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations…”

U.S. Department of Defence

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating novel that dealt, in the extreme, with perception management, a distant and dubious relative of public relations.

Perception Management is a form of communication that involves taking a completely false position and presenting it as the truth. In the novel, the fictional Chinese and Russian Governments are brought to the brink of war by the manipulation of a corrupt arms dealer on the basis that such brinkmanship will see both parties placing vast arms orders.

Of course that is fiction but in fact, perception is a highly flexible commodity and communicators need to be highly ethical in the way they seek to influence.

Watching Britain’s Got Talent I am struck by the power of TV editors and how they can influence perception. Watch the credits to see how many people are deployed to undertake this task. The edited sequence shows an eminent judge pronouncing that “this is the most important day of his life, it is make or break for his career” and then the contestant saying “I don’t know what I will do if I lose, it will be the end of the road.” Now forgive me for believing that a ventriloquist act might just survive such an ordeal and whilst the arena tour will be no more, the social club circuit might just still be wiling to pay a few pounds for such an act to see another day.

Maybe comparing the seriously devious military definition of perception management with a talent show is a bit misleading but Bodyproject believes that all communication is about upholding reputation and therefore it has to be explicitly honest, ethical and that modern day editors need to ensure they present output within those absolute values.

Please contact us to learn more about the Bodyproject approach to communications.