Opinion: Managing the reputation of PR

This is an article by David Mayers.
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I recently asked a practitioner his thoughts on PR as reputation management.  I was rather surprised when he told me that because reputation is something he takes incredibly seriously, he has before now turned away potential clients due to bad press they may have had.

It probably sounds peculiar that I was quite shocked by this, but I’d never really thought of the boot being on the other foot with all the negative connotations surrounding public relations as a profession.  It got me thinking:

‘PR is a growing industry and is very important – so why should practitioners and industry professionals just take whatever work’s offered?  We have just as much right to pick and choose who we work with or represent as any other industry.’

David Mayers

Reputation is becoming increasingly important – and more difficult to manage. Markets are becoming more diverse, multiple brands are being used to sell homogenous products and with social media and news being reported 24/7 every potential business decision is more risky and visible than ever before.

Corporate social responsibility is crucial in competitive markets and businesses now need PR more than ever.

Companies big and small struggle with reputation. Take Carnival Cruises for example and the difficulty it faces with the recent disasters surrounding its ships the Costa Concordia and Costa Allegra. Carnival’s Costa division’s reputation is at an all-time low and quite possibly may never recover from the two crises happening so close together.

Other divisions of Carnival are now under intense scrutiny as well.  I’m sure the majority of PR professionals wouldn’t want to be managing PR and communications for Carnival right now.

Another example is Nestlé.  Nestlé had huge problems with reputation and CSR when Greenpeace implemented a hugely successful campaign against them.  The campaign discouraged customers from buying Nestlé Kit-Kats on the grounds that the company bought palm-oil from suppliers that destroy the rainforest and disrupt the eco-system.  Nestlé didn’t address the issue properly and it ended up becoming a PR nightmare for the firm.

Even huge multinational companies are vulnerable and need their PR teams to spring into action to avoid damage to their reputations that could be beyond repair.  PR has the power to protect and save businesses that other departments do not.

The balance of power is shifting and PR is no longer a small part of any business that can just be told what to do and expect to follow suit.  Agencies pitch to win clients, but when approached by companies, they have every right to decline any propositions or offers and practice the way they want to with whom they want to.

Reputation should be valued and closely managed by companies and even in this time of financial difficulty where it’s hard not to turn work away, the bigger picture needs to be looked at.  Working with or for a company with a poor reputation could be a mistake in the long run, especially for PR agencies that rely on numerous clients.  One question mark about reputation could be enough to deter potential clients for good.


  1. You’ve certainly got a way of reaching people that I haven’t seen very often. If most people wrote about this subject with the eloquence that you just did, I’m sure people would do much more than just read, they’d act. Great stuff here. Please keep it up.

  2. Down with the entire PR industry. Instead of better Public Relations, let’s have responsible corporations.

  3. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this blog entry. I absolutely agree. It’s unfortunate that the PR industry has been stigmatized by stepping into so many poor situations, and by accepting clients with questionable backgrounds. It seems that many still don’t recognize the true value of a solid PR, and thus expect them to take whatever they can get. I think you’re right. It’s time to be more exclusive with the clients we choose.

  4. As a young PR practitioner I took on a restaurant that couldn’t live up to its hype. I only made that mistake once. It’s so important not only to check out clients’ reputations, but to also make sure that they can live up to the reputation you are trying to promote…as it is your reputation on the line.

    Great post David.


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