Reputation is a board-level concern

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Moliehi Molekoa | Managing Director | Magna Carta | mail me |


On 15 April 1912, the ‘unsinkable’ RMS Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg.

It took the RMS Titanic a mere 160 minutes to sink. Originally it was thought that the iceberg had only caused a single long gash in the hull. However, after examining the wreck, it was found that the collision had produced a series of thin gashes, as well as brittle fracturing and separation of seams in the adjacent hull plates, which had allowed water to flood five of the 16 compartments. Interestingly, the ship had received six ice warnings before the collision.

Similarly, Government and corporate reputations can be sunk when warnings over minor acts of maleficence and misdemeanours are treated as a cost of doing business. In many instances, more resources are expended in spinning the event rather than communicating the recourse. Like lifeboats on the Titanic, Public Relations (PR) is often deployed late, causing immense reputational harm to the company and its CEO.

A seat at the table

Corporate South Africa is increasingly making room at the boardroom table for PR professionals. But, unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Government, as reputation management is often brushed aside by bureaucrats as it is generally not considered critical.

An excellent example of this is the current reactive cycle of news from the Government over the ongoing violent protests and looting. Their inability to coordinate communication from the ground created a vacuum that allowed certain narratives to take hold, which fed into South African insecurities. Proactive communications underpinned by a strategy and a firm handle on all its channels would have had a different outcome for the Government. Ample evidence exists to show that some of the violence was fuelled by fake news.

The value of goodwill

Reputation is vital to the overall health of the business. It’s a trophy you need to shine every day.

In a digital world, every smartphone-wielding individual is a stakeholder. Gone are the days when trust and credibility came with age – today, reputation is earned and demands 24/7 attention. It begins with brand experience, which is just one aspect of the reputation mix. Many local PR professionals are doing a world-class job with campaigns and communication-enhancing engagement, driving sales, and increasing share of voice.

Accountability

However, there is a world both inside and outside of people merely buying a company’s brand. Nowadays, companies can be held accountable for


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