A difficult but critical exercise in any public or government relations campaign occurs when an agency and client agree to share the often hard truth about the client’s public or corporate reputation.
It is an important function of an agency, not simply to wave the corporate pom-poms, but to hold a mirror that truly reflects the public or government’s view of the client. It is our experience that the clients who are, and remain, most self-aware, that provide us the best opportunity to help change their public image or a public policy.
Too often, clients, both large and small, are quick to dismiss reputational issues as simply irrelevant anecdotal or personal commentary. Governments and interest groups most often blame the media. And many turn a blind eye to operational or performance problems, choosing instead to chalk up their poor corporate reputation to “communications problems.”
From our experience the perception of a reputation of a business or industry varies greatly; from the CEO’s office to the front counter service provider or from the customer to the government regulator. The fact is that changing a reputation is impossible until agency and client are aligned on the factors, both good and bad, that underpin that image.
There are a host of tools and best practices that can be utilized to help organizations embrace a culture of becoming more self-aware, many of which we utilize with our clients. But they all start with not just hearing - but really listening - whether it be to a focus group, a frontline employee, an elected official or a customer.The bottom line? A strong, professional agency must have the skills and confidence to ask the hard questions and instil in the client the commitment to really look in the mirror. Only then can they chart a path forward that will achieve meaningful, lasting results.