Is it time for you to reboot your corporate reputation strategy?




Neil Bayley

Our corporate director Neil Bayley shares some insights from our latest round table event with Alice Macandrew from Thomas Cook, and BBC journalist Sima Kotecha.

At Good Relations, we think corporate communications needs to change. Too often, it’s conservative, rigid, lacklustre and unclear on the value being created. That’s why we hosted a roundtable last week for clients and contacts to share their experiences from the frontline.

We welcomed Alice Macandrew, Group Communications Director from the Thomas Cook, and Sima Kotecha, BBC News Reporter & Presenter, to open the debate with their perspectives. From the discussion that followed, it was clear that building and leading a modern reputation strategy has never been so challenging.

We live in an age when a post or Tweet can circumnavigate the globe in seconds and trigger a crisis in corporate confidence. The boundary between corporate and consumer communications has blurred thanks to our collective experience of the financial crisis and a generational shift in the expectations of what good business looks like.

Grass roots power continues to rise and challenge the status quo not just for politicians, but businesses leaders too. At a time when most markets are under rapid digital transformation, people have ever more freedom to vent with a Tweet or vote with their feet.

Political interest in corporate media stories is at an all-time high because there are points to be scored. Just last week, the government proved its growing appetite to weigh in on corporate topics from pay to privacy. The media and public have begun to demand it.

Business doesn’t exist in a neatly segmented world any longer. It’s an integral part of our UK culture and very much part of everyday conversations. This week marks 10 years since the collapse of Northern Rock, a corporate failure that changed the way British banks work for ever and probably had some kind of impact on all our prosperity.

I suspect you’d be hard pushed to stop someone on the street who didn’t have a point of view over how Sports Direct treat its employees, a worry over how Google uses their personal data or British Airways no longer instils the pride and admiration it used to.

For me, four key insights stood out from the discussion for those looking to reboot their reputation strategy:

1. Earn the right to be proactive by getting the basics right. It’s much easier to convince leadership to invest in a bolder, more proactive corporate communications strategy if you can demonstrate your current work is efficient, effective and delivering a measurable impact on reputation. Do what you need to do to prove your foundation case, even if this takes a little patience.

2. Find the right space to drive reappraisal and differentiation. Redoubling your efforts around the same competitive agenda points is unlikely to ignite fresh interest amongst audiences. Consider whether it’s time to take a stand on new topics that can give room to lead. Thomas Cook identified issues where their sector could be doing better, like animal welfare at attractions, and took a leadership position which has been well received.

3. Show customers you care about what they care about. With the lines between corporate and consumer communications blurred, consider how you can legitimately use your connection to grow your reputation with the public and those who court their opinion. Is it time to switch your corporate focus from the business pages to front of paper or broadsheet to broadcast?

4. Work harder from the inside out. Employees are more likely to be challenged by family or friends for a point of view on what their employer is up to than ever before. Clear, honest and inspiring internal communication helps create advocacy amongst staff can be worth its weight in gold when it comes to grassroots engagement. That’s why Nationwide is putting more effort than ever before in turning its staff into advocates for its strategy and the benefits of being a mutual – it sees them at the frontline of shaping its corporate reputation.

This event was one of a series we run for our clients and contacts to learn about best practice in corporate communications. For more information on this event and the future ones coming up, please contact Holly Dedman at

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Neil Bayley photo

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