Posted tagged ‘UK’

Democracy is broken

19/09/2014

Democracy is broken – of that there is no doubt.

Modern politics is about the HAVEs and the HAVE NOTs about power vs. vulnerability.

The politics of lying is the norm made possible by the likes of Thatcher and Blair who took on a nation’s trust and hopes and drank them up for their own personal gain and power.

Scotland’s electorate can stand proud because 84% of them showed what democratic citizenship is all about.

They exercised choice although influenced by uncertainty and unknown outcomes.

The May 2015 election is now beginning but we will not have that turnout – we must remove coalition as a form of political governance as it does not work and bring back social democracy but based on sound values and promises that are lived up to.  Not sure any of the present parties offer that.

We need the optimism of 1997 but this time the honesty to deliver on promises with integrity – pigs are flying by my window as I write this but I live in hope

#campaignforrealdemocracy

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.

2010 – a year in reputation

29/12/2010

“…Everybody knew that whenever the thaw came that there was going to be big problems with water, so I think that there was a lack of preparation by NI Water, particularly in the issue of communication…”

Northern Ireland Environment Minister Edwin Poots

It’s that time of the year again when the television schedules are packed with the top 100 countdowns and the printed media publish endless top 10s recording everything from the best comedy to the worse gaffes.  December is truly the month of lists.

So it has prompted me to think of 2010 and who are the winners and losers in terms of promoting and protecting reputation.

In the UK, the year was punctuated by two weather related events as temperatures plummeted to record levels and snow and ice deluged our lives.  Virtually every organisation and person was tested and it is interesting how many 365 day 24 hour services really became fine words rather than effective actions.  The first rule of reputation is that ‘actions speak louder than words’.  However it is often the words (communications) or lack of them that really matter when the reputational chips are down.

The organisation that book-ended the year is Eurostar, the high-speed train operator running services between London Pancras and the continent.  The first problems came when their state of the art trains hit a major engineering ‘wall’ grinding to a halt in the channel tunnel in December 2009 and stranding passengers in very difficult circumstances drawing criticism from media, the public, politicians and even the French President.  In January a further failure followed by a three day suspension of service heaped criticism on the company.  And then came December 2010 with pictures of people standing in a line stretching a mile or more into freezing conditions with Police intervention to control the crowds.

Looking back, there is a common theme between the two incidents, a constant complaint of ‘lack of communication and lack of information.’  The operator of state of the art trains and stations unable to communicate basic information.  It’s patently obvious that building the best station in the world is great but when a queue forms the fact passengers have to sprawl onto the streets in minus temperatures is a reputational disaster.

Transport and infrastructure operators are easy reputational targets.  Whilst Eurostar is highlighted here it could well be the British Airports Authority (BAA) at Heathrow or any number of transport operators.  The eruption of a volcano in Iceland was enough to throw our whole infrastructure into turmoil.  And on that point in terms of reputations it isn’t just people and organisations that have a reputation to maintain:  Iceland, Ireland and Greece became economically a reputational disaster.

Utilities came in for a particular panning.  Many of us became aware of the frailties of the ‘combi-boiler’ and its incredible design flaw – the condensation pipe.  Which brilliant engineer and numerous installers had thought that the new energy efficient boiler was to fail on an unprecedented scale.

At the time of writing this blog there is a crisis in Northern Ireland as water has become a scarcity through the thaw and burst pipes.  In the capital city, Belfast, shops are out of bottled water and the council is making emergency supplies available.  Again, the main complaint is the lack of information and communication from Northern Ireland Water – I tried to log onto their website which just can’t cope and is actually displaying HTML source code as it has obviously ‘burst’ its capacity as well.

The biggest loser of the year from an economic, environmental and reputation aspect was BP when its deepwater rig blew up spilling vast amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  The response was astoundingly inept from the clean up to the communication and top managers feted by their shareholders showed that they had no skill whatsoever in dealing with crisis, risk and stakeholders.

In fact inept and incompetent bosses are often those most in the reputational headlights during 2010.  Take Sepp Blatter of FIFA, an organisation that seems to be beyond any form of normal corporate governance.  Football, by far one of the biggest sports in the world is so badly ruled and managed that is it almost a standing joke.  Take the completely ludicrous attitude to the use of technology to assist officials and then compound it by a perception of corruption that permeates the very core of the sport.  The awarding of the World Cup, a shambolic bidding exercise in public procurement that ended up with FIFA near humiliating the future King of our country and its Prime Minister.

And then there is the ‘deficit’ in truth.  Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats has experienced a year when he was seen as the new hope through his X Factor style TV debate appearances that failed to materialise into a credible result at the ballot box yet gave him a mandate for power which has been an unmitigated disaster in terms of his reputation.  A recent local election result swung against his party by 31% and the throwing out of election promises and manifesto pledges has led to a major outcry.

So at its heart reputation is often attributed to individuals, inadequate communications but also how organisations manage their integrity and their risk profile particularly at a time of crisis.  Why are all these organisations that make so much of their performance all seemingly acting like lumbering dinosaurs in terms of their ability to communicate.  Why are top companies unable to talk to customers and listen to them?

Social networking certainly outfoxed most organisations; they are just woefully unable and sometimes unwilling to deal with the Twitter and Facebook generation.  In the Heathrow snow closures ‘critical’ tweets were being sent from stranded customers at a rate of four per second.  During the student protests the might of our Police force were outwitted by such applications and ‘citizen journalists’ recorded every aspect of every notable event.

Of course there were some winners.  Apple Inc faced a real crisis when its normally state of the art products hit a problem.  The technical difficulties faced by the iPhone4 at first led the company into a state of disbelief.  However, as the social networks began to rumble the company acted fast and the CEO was up in front of the cameras taking rapid action to rectify the issue.

Other companies like Caffe Nero just have it right in terms of customer service.  Their recognition scheme, Nero stars, is a great way to recognise good service and reward customers again with clear communication from the CEO.

There is a theme developing here but one that seems hard to learn – that is those organisations who put their reputation as high as their performance and growth strategies are those that perform best.  It is a lesson that hopefully more organisations will learn in 2011.

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