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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Why the PR industry should protect its reputation

Amiera Sawas

Last week, the Guardian called London “the reputation laundering destination of choice for foreign heads of state whose controversial activities may have stained their countries' public images.

In an expose, Robert Booth outlined the huge income made by many of the capital’s most reputable PR agencies in reputation work for governments in Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Rwanda and even Sudan. You can read the article here:http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/03/london-public-relations-reputation-laundering

PR is a divisive word. When I tell people I work in the industry I often get comments like ‘oh, so you’re a spin doctor’ and ‘you make the bad guys look good’. The guardian article serves only to bolster this reputation.

The expose suggests that reputation managers aren’t thinking about how their client choices could affect their own reputations; in effect, many aren’t practising what they preach. There is a reputation gap here that needs to be addressed.

At Reputation Inc we believe that reputation should sit at the heart of business strategy. It should be managed proactively rather than reactively. Our clients strive to do the right thing by their stakeholders (rather than waiting until something is wrong) and we always encouraging accountability, dialogue and Corporate Social Responsibility.

There’s always a choice involved in taking on clients with significant reputational issues. PR agencies have to assess whether the client is at a positive turning point, or not. If they are, they will be open to frank advice and be willing to actively implement steps to becoming more open, communicative and accountable to their stakeholders. Advising organisations that are not open to positive change will only affect the industry’s reputation further, overshadowing the great work that is accomplished day-to-day by the capital’s finest agencies.

Amiera Sawas has been a consultant at ReputationInc since 2008

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