Three tips to avoid a PR setback damaging your company reputation

Three tips to avoid a PR setback damaging your company reputation

Megan Hogg

Megan Hogg

We’ve all seen reputational disasters play out before. Crisis comms kick in, and leadership is forced to make tough decisions about the future. But, what about when a company reputation isn’t totally obliterated, but it takes a knock?

Tackling a PR setback

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) has a partnership with British Airways. British Airways has leveraged this partnership in its comms activity, with various marketing actions including sharing pictures of the England men’s rugby team flying first class to their matches. So, when the sporting world found out that the RFU and British Airways declined to fly the England women’s rugby team first class to their World Cup matches late last year, both organisations experienced a PR issue.

Ever since this information became public, debate has ensued about whether the two organisations made the right or wrong decision. Whether you agree or disagree with the decision, we can all agree that this situation is about reputational impact.

Character vs capability reputation

Company reputation is split between character reputation and capability reputation. Capability reputation is the organisation’s ability to deliver a product or a service, in this case, the RFU and British Airways’ capability to transport the team from A to B.

Capability reputation is always balanced with character reputation, which is all about how a product or service is being delivered. In this example, both organisations were perceived as capable of getting England’s women and men alike to the pitches. But, in a context in which sexism in sport remains prevalent, the organisations’ decision to offer superior treatment to the men’s team was always going to result in a character reputation setback.

Building a consistently winning character reputation strategy

Shaping a company reputation is a lot like playing a game of rugby. Organisations hype themselves up, formulate a winning strategy, and then start to make moves. But it’s important that leaders don’t let their gameplan slip.

  • Think long-term: The best sports’ teams never give up. The same goes for the best reputational strategies – it’s about future gazing. Companies should avoid contradictory campaigns by building reputational strategies that have longevity.
  • Consider individual moves: No one can play a game of rugby alone. Equally, no company can build a reputation based upon one action alone. Reputation shaping is most effective when each daily action is considered carefully and adds up to the long-term goal.
  • Keep going for gold: It can take time for a message to hit home, just like it can take time to push the ball over the line to score. Consistency helps a message stick, so companies need to be prepared to repeat messaging – and have the actions to match what they say – to really build an effective reputation.

Consistency is Queen, as proved by the Red Roses breaking the world record for most consecutive wins in International Rugby Union. Similarly, a company reputation is formed over years, and every action counts. Above all, leaders must avoid reputational blunders by building out a long-term strategy that avoids contradiction and always remains consistent.

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