A new survey from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has shown that 7 out of 10 businesses see ‘reputation’ as one of their top 5 risk factors over the next three months.
The ‘CIPR Business Leaders Survey’ captured the views of 300 C-suite level managers and directors on their PR functions and their future needs for PR services.
Hardly surprising, therefore, that two-thirds of those businesses intend to recruit more PR staff or hire an external PR adviser over the same period.
This appreciation of the value of PR and communications professionals comes at a time when reputational decline in institutions are being hurt directly by poor reputation.
Reputational risks come home to roost
- BP and Shell are struggling to recruit top talent from the graduate community according to the Financial Times (and Greenpeace)
- US online mortgage provider com has garnered dreadful headlines (and seen its three top PR staff quit in disgust) following the CEO firing 900 staff on a Zoom call
- The UK government has suffered many reputational hits this week from the party-that-never-was through non-compliant donations and a leader who is repeatedly accused of lying and not thinking through the consequences of his actions (not a happy trait for someone whose finger is still theoretically on the nuclear button)
Such reputational battles have consequences.
The danger is not simply that people will think less of those institutions. It is that their behaviour will change. As Doug Parr says, if BP cannot recruit good talent, it will wither. If so, it will not be able to develop new, zero-carbon energy solutions to replace oil and gas.
Vishal Garg was trying to slim down Better.com in preparation for an IPO. Investors are more concerned about governance than ever before, so time will tell how much his lack of grace will damage his (and others’) fortunes.
And the government fears the public will be less likely to adhere to freshly re-imposed Covid restrictions. Or vote for their party at the forthcoming North Shropshire by-election.
A PR adviser prevents crises from developing
In other words, there is a relational risk between how people feel about the organisation and how they behave.
So what will businesses get from upgrading their PR expertise, whether they hire more staff or get consultants in? Not spin, that’s for sure. Rod Cartwright, one of the UK’s foremost independent communications consultants, put this insightful post on LinkedIn.
As Rod makes clear, there is no such thing as a PR crisis – all crises are a result of leadership decision making, systems and culture.
That’s where the PR strategists will thrive. A PR consultant helps companies use the yardstick of stakeholder opinion to make better decisions, behave ethically, build positive business cultures and practices. The role of a PR adviser is not to sort out the mess. It’s to provide the expert advice, external perspective and wider social context to help businesses avoid such crises in the first place.
This Christmas, that is a popular and vital role for public relations to play. Find out more here.