Is reputation management the most important thing in crisis communication or is it fixing the underlying issues?
This was a question I was asked by someone I respect a lot, a former journalist, and I thought it deserved further exploration – something that we can all think about and try to answer.
The view about “managing reputation” is disputed by some, including academics. They argue that reputation cannot be managed because it is earned, and one’s reputation is in the eyes of the beholder.
I do believe that reputation can be managed because the word “management”, stripped down to its most basic definition, is about control, influence and ability to make things happen.
Where the divergence occurs, is in the PR and communication practitioners’ ability to do that.
Let’s take look at KFC’s “FCK” one page add. It was a brilliantly executed marketing PR stunt and it got the media, consumers and us talking about it. Hats off to those who came up with it.
But – and there is a massive “but” here – this add cannot cover significant shortcomings in KFC’s supply chain, in its inability to pre-empt such a crisis happening in the first place, or in its failure to identify this issue in time and advise customers that restaurants will be closed for an indefinite period of time.
And this brings us to the wider, more complex issue that my friend and I were discussing – charities and public trust: Oxfam, Save the Children, Red Cross and even Lady Diana’s landmine charity. I’m not going to go over the stories that many of you are very familiar with by now, but I’m going to take a holistic and different approach to these cases.
As human beings, we are all fallible and certainly prone to mistakes – I am, for sure. We hold charities’ executives and staff in exceptionally high regard and put them up on a pedestal, almost ready to bow to them. The question is “why”?
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