Posted tagged ‘stakeholder’

How to say NO to the boss!

06/09/2012

It is a dilemma that everybody faces whether you are a consultant advising senior clients or an employee facing up to your boss. I’m talking about how to say ‘no’ or even ‘don’t do it’.

Reading today about the latest scandal to face a big brand – Nokia’s decision to run a fake advertisement (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19499879), one can’t help thinking that somebody in Nokia or at their advertising agency should have spoken out: challenging the decision to fake an advert. But the question is why didn’t they voice an opinion and stop it happening.

You see, such advice can often be career or contract limiting.  The problem here is not necessarily confined to large-scale issues or even those that are ethically questionable or even those that have dubious intent – it can even involve the smallest of issues.

A few years ago I was faced with such a dilemma – for many years now senior managers have always latched onto the latest buzzwords or theories and in the private sector some of you will be familiar with the book ‘from good to great’ and the phrase about all being on the bus.  Fine – this all is but, it was somewhat a surprise that many years after the book publication that a senior public sector client declared to me that he was to launch a newsletter called ‘from good to great’ and that he wanted a picture of a great big red bus on the front of it.

In itself that wasn’t a problem. What I had difficulty with was that he intended this magazine, not for his employees, but for the general public. And his message was clear that if they didn’t like the changes he was proposing in terms of his organisation, they could, to use a phrase, get off the bus!

For me as a consultant it was also made clear that this was in the category of ‘just do it’. So what would you do in this situation? You have a contract to deliver, you need to earn a living and was this such a big deal?  You may have heard the old saying that the customer is always right.

The trouble is, this dilemma is not new or unique and you may relate to it yourself and it is also the reason so many brands end up in trouble.  You see the easiest way is to comply and saying ‘no’ is hard.  If one could be a ‘fly on the wall’ at Nokia – you can bet that investigations, enquiries, ‘witch hunts’ will all be underway – I suspect that somewhere along the line someone would have had that opportunity to question the decision to fake the advert, but the real question we have to ask is why they didn’t.  I think most of us know the answer but I would be interested to hear from anyone who has been brave enough to stand up and be counted and what consequences or outcome they faced.

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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.

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.