The end of the line for reputation

Reputation has long been a word that is closely linked to both PR and communication activity. Many industry definitions have been focused on protecting and enhancing reputation. But is that really where we should be and in 2017 what is the essence of communication?

I was talking to a group of public sector communicators on a training course last week and some seemed surprised that my definition of the role of communication was about front line service delivery. For me that is where it has to be.

We are all feeling the pinch financially and have to get the most from our budgets. Why would I use my time on things that are nice to do but don’t bring tangible results? As communicators we are in a unique position to be able to see across the whole of the organisation. We can represent the views of users through feedback and make sure communication activity is seen as key to the business development.

For me this is about using tools, techniques and technology to help people access services at the right time in the easiest way. We can use our skills to support operational activity but as public sector communicators it has to be centred on the service user. The experience people have is what drives reputation.

I have a huge concern that being focused on reputation alone will drive us to perverse behaviour. If that is the only outcome we want to achieve then the user is relegated and we distance ourselves from the real issues. Think to yourself if there was a Freedom of Information request about your last media, PR or communication strategy what would it find? What was your aim and how would it be viewed by members of the public?

In 2017 do we have the right definition of the role and purpose of the PR and communication industry?

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Amanda Coleman

Head of Corporate Communications at Greater Manchester Police. CIPR member and currently chair of the Association of Police Communicators (APComm)

Posted in Editor's Picks, Featured, Public Relations Tagged with: , ,
2 comments on “The end of the line for reputation
  1. Jason Wassell FCIPR says:

    I could never get my head around a definition that starts with the building and protection of reputation. So I welcome Amanda’s contribution.

    Though surely Andy has hit the nail on the head in that Reputation is the consequence of your communications and your actions. I for one would mention Reputation a couple of levels down into my discussion of public relations for that very reason. It is the result or your actions, and how the competitive can truly “keep score”. It can’t be managed in isolation.

    I don’t disagree Amanda’s choice to focus on delivering a great experience and the ability to feed back into the organisation. From Amanda’s previous contributions, and I have seen with my own eyes, excellent communications can ensure that individuals get the services they require or are protected from a risk they face. These are often actually “life and death” connections.

    Where Amanda’s article takes us is on to the question about what’s next. We can manage our function to ensure communications hits the mark. However, we should be taking it further so that we are more involved in what an organisation does as well as what it says.

    For those that want to go down that path then the route in may be through reputation. Many boards see Reputation as a risk. They may even give it a financial value – even recognising that it contributes to the price of their company in the private sector. Surely that opens the door to those that can talk seriously about vision, mission, leadership communication, culture and conduct.

    It is no coincidence that the very successful management consultancies are now talking about Reputation. I am not sure this is the time for us to give up on it and surrender our territory.

  2. Spot on and well-said. Reputation is in the hands of your stakeholders. Treat them fairly and your reputation will look after itself.

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