Monday, July 11, 2011

iPad activism and the investing institutions


So much of the chatter about the end of The News of the World has been about reputation.

A lot of it centres on reputation as a commodity. Building reputation is, apparently, about advertising or PR'ing or connections.

Well, in the digital age such nonsense is patently, visibly and completely exposed.

Reputation is not owned by organisations it is proffered by constituents. That complex societal group that is bounded only by its interests in the values surrounding the organisation (as distinct from Publics, Stakeholders, Market segments and followers). This is not about the values of the organisation but its interaction with values held by the constituency.

Reputation management gets on well with marketing because so many people believe reputation, trust and regard are bought with pieces of silver.

Relationship management, which is a two way street, is much harder. In this street, values have teeth and bite.

Relationships and values management are the critical elements that distinguish PR from other disciplines. It is what makes PR different from marketing, advertising, propaganda, spin and publicity.

Without PR, corporate managers like Rupert Murdoch (Newscorp), Tony Hayward (BP), Pierre Beaudoin (Bombardier), Jamie Buchan (Southern Cross) have failed. They believed that PR was about spin and press releases and more fool them and more fool their shareholders for employing such people.

Mr Murdoch needs a PR manager and not a 'reputation' manger and that will allow him to begin to build trust, reputation and regards for his empire.

To do that, he needs savvy shareholders.

Sensible shareholders are now in short supply. Sensible shareholders will by now have worked out that lack of sincerity and ethics as part of the DNA of corporate culture will mean that they will take a haircut sooner or later on the bourses of the world.

Explaining this to shareholders is the job of the institutions like CIPR, PRCA, IAB etc.

It has to be explained among the investing institutions (remembering that institutional investors are in the same mould as the failed banking sector) in simple outcomes terms.

The argument is relatively simple. If the bloggers says the directors suck, fire the chairman at the AGM. If Facebook says service sucks, fire the executive board during interims and if Twitter says it is uncomfortable dump the stock fast.

This is not an ethical brief we have to give to the financial institutions. This is war. The normal citizen can and does become an iPad activist at the drop of a hat. In the case of NotW, as Robin Grant put it "brands were being bombarded in protest – most of whom will have been unused to such a spike in negative attention. This was not just happening on Twitter, with targeted brands’ Facebook pages becoming venues for significant protest too." Unless and until the financial sector gets its act together the pension funds will suffer at the hands of social media time after time. This is why it is in the interest of the financial institutions to be assured that they have proper Public Relations managers advising the Boards they invest in. Andy Coulson, is not and never can be a public relations practitioner. He is a journalist. He does not have what it takes to be effective in modern PR. Gaming the system was fine when Coulson was the editor of the biggest circulating newspaper in the UK. Try Gaming Google+ and the online world will crush the company and shareholders with it.

Why pick on G+? Because it is of a new breed of services with in built web 3.0. The semantic web. Semantic as in searching for and exposing secrets (automatically soon enough too).

A number of authors have been making this point for years (first time I published a book about it was in 2008). There is nothing new here.

What we now need are some PR institutions that are aware of what is happening in the fields of communication and who are prepared to make the point to corporate managers and investors and in public if need be.


Cartoon by the clever Vicky Woodward