The need to practice what you preach

One of the historical (and pejorative) connotations of PR and communications is that it’s all headlines, no substance. Anyone who has worked in the industry knows that is simply not the case. If what you say does not align with reality you will be found out.

In 2018 the UK supermarket Iceland pledged to remove palm oil from “100%” of its own-brand products by the end of 2018. This gained significant attention and goodwill, particularly when its advert – highlighting the impact of palm oil on rainforests – was banned from TV for breaching political advertising rules, eliciting 670,000 signatures supporting its reinstatement. However, it has since been revealed that, in a bid to meet this pledge, Iceland has simply removed its own branding from products containing palm oil rather than the ingredient itself.

Iceland essentially found a loophole in its own pledge. While that means it technically fulfilled its promise, in reality it satisfies no-one and the brand risks a loss of consumer trust and reputational damage as a result.

That example illustrates, whether with consumer products or professional legal services, it is vital that PR messaging is supported with real proof points and actions.

This doesn’t mean one burst of action to messaging. It means sustaining (or changing) behaviours over the long term, following through on the brand promise and communicating authentically with stakeholders. It also pays to be cognisant of Warren Buffet’s old adage that it takes years to build a reputation and just seconds to destroy it.

Effective PR tactics complement a business’s overall strategy, and require concrete actions and proof points in order to build trust with stakeholders and safeguard reputation. That kind of alignment can be difficult to achieve without oversight of corporate reputation in the boardroom. Historically PR has often been absent from the C-Suite but, with brand a key component of the value of the business and reputation treated as an asset to be protected and enhanced, a comms voice at the top table will become increasingly important.

Infinite Global recently partnered with the Non-Executive Directors Association to examine the role of Non-Execs in corporate reputation management at board level. Click here to find out more, or get in touch.

Jack Curry is an Account Executive and Tal Donahue is an Account Director at Infinite Global

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