Reputation, A Company Value Built Over Years That Can Be Lost In Months

All companies seek to project a good reputation. And a good reputation should be protected.

If the company uses reputation as a key part of its business model it also becomes a vulnerability. Just as depending upon a single customer for 80 % of sales.

Bell Pottinger, the prestigious Public Relations firm perhaps should know this more than most companies. Yet within the space of a few months they have had to change from producing high profile representations of blue chip clients and offering David Cameron out as a 5-star Chairman, to entering administration.

A misguided campaign for a South African client that most outsiders found offensive continued to run and adverse comments were ignored by senior management. Perhaps the high fees influenced their judgement.

But soon several other quality clients withdrew their business, the CEO was obliged to resign and eventually the company was expelled from the PR industry trade association. As senior Managers leave the company the expectation now is that the company will not survive.

Company history is littered with such events, although most companies recover somewhat. In the 1950s Shell underpinned their brand with a series of posters with the tagline ‘You can be sure of Shell’. This association with ‘quality and reliability’ supported retail growth in less developed countries for many years. Bell Pottinger should have learned from Shell’s experience in South Africa where activities of the local affiliate resulted in boycotts of Shell products in many countries. Like Bell Pottinger, Shell’s management did not consider they were in the wrong, but the public did. Shell managed to damage it’s public reputation several times more with its denial of problems with Formula Shell, arrogant attitudes relating to the disposal of Brent Spar and admissions of irregularities with reserves accounting. In all cases Shell misread the public sentiment.

Smaller companies are at far less risk from such calamities but reputation, earned over years must always be protected. Irrespective of what you think, if your customers or the public consider it is wrong, then it is worth listening to their point of view. Understanding how your company is perceived by others always has value. These days with rapid communications via social media, even minor discursions from your values can be both magnified and communicated widely before you know there is a problem.

If you have any business challenges or want to discuss the above further in relation to your business just get in touch for a free no obligation meeting/ discussion with us at: or on 0116 232 5231

David Beer

Tinderbox Partner

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