PR? There’s always the boss who ‘doesn’t get it’

Obvious really, but not always appreciated – reputational problems tend to occur to organisations where the boss ‘doesn’t get it’ as far as PR and the media are concerned. I was reminded of this over the long weekend, reading of a thoughtful Management Today panel discussion on ‘Managing reputations after the age of spin’ (I’m glad to learn that age is over, hadn’t realised). Andrew Gowers, former Financial Times Editor before moving on to Lehman Brothers, was blunt. As the bank approached its death-spiral, he doubted management was listening to the comms advice it was getting. ‘Management was in denial’, he said. ‘They didn’t reveal to anybody what they were really thinking. So .. there was no communication strategy, because there was no survival strategy for the firm. Therefore, the end was very swift.’ In less cataclysmic but still very uncomfortable circumstances, Simon Baugh of BAA talked of the need to apologise to the public when Heathrow was snowed in for days on end last winter, when many senior managers were saying they should defend their actions rather than apologise. Things are gradually shifting from that ‘never apologise, it shows weakness’ mindset, and PR advice is being taken more seriously by more business leaders than ever before – but don’t bet on the disappearance of the CEO who won’t listen to advice because he is always sure he knows best.

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