Don’t turn the other cheek

Date: 20 May 2015

Bumblebee Design

Adam Tudor, partner at Carter-Ruck, says “biting back” is often necessary when the media publish allegations that can seriously damage your business.

What new trends do you see in institutional reputation management?

It is difficult to generalise. On occasion, a seemingly crippling fear of bad publicity appears to result in companies who are on the receiving end of damaging allegations and whether exaggerated or even false – they appear to freeze in the headlights.  This is particularly the case with large, often listed companies, who do not under any circumstances wish to risk being mischaracterised as the “Goliath” being overly aggressive with the “David” consumer.  More often than not, such concerns are understandable, however there are occasions where a more proactive, robust PR strategy is advisable, rather than simply taking allegations, lying down and turning the other cheek. Such strategy can be dangerous where there is a story that will not simply go away.
If an institution or individual is seen by the media and other hostile parties such as bloggers as a passive “punchbag” that will never bite back, the seriousness threshold of what the media will be willing to publish – without proper fact or legal checking – will continue to go up, with correspondingly serious damage being caused.

Do you think there was permanent damage done to the banking industry during the credit crunch?

Do you see any other situations arising for banks or personnel within them that you could help advise on?
Yes.  Often – not least as a result of the “turn the other cheek” strategy outlined above – the media appear to treat banks and their individual executives as punch bags, with ever more serious, hyperbolic allegations being made as to their conduct, including allegations of dishonesty and criminality which are very often simply false. Such institutions and individuals within them should not underestimate the impact of a successful reputation management strategy – if necessary accompanied by the ‘stick’ of a legal complaint – in terms of helping ensure that media coverage is suitably restrained and accurate.