“Since Mr Thompson appeared before the Committee last week we’ve had significant quantities of evidence that suggests his answers may not have been wholly correct. Giving inaccurate information to a Parliamentary Committee, whether by accident or otherwise, is taken very seriously.”
A reputation can be dismantled as quickly as that. Those two sentences in January, from Darren Jones MP, chair of the then BEIS (now Business and Trade) Committee at Westminster, plunged Royal Mail into a reputational crisis. The implied assertion that chief executive Simon Thompson had – unwittingly or not – misled the committee was a further headache for an organisation that has not had its troubles to seek in recent years.
Mr Thompson endured another difficult appearance in front of the committee in February and, beset by what can charitably be described as ‘confrontational’ strike negotiations with the Communications Workers’ Union, which contributed to an adjusted operating loss of £419m in the company’s latest financial results, it was announced this month that he would be gone later this year. Royal Mail is now searching for its third chief executive in five years.
Structural and technological changes to the way we live have presented Royal Mail with a number of challenges that predate and transcend these specific issues. Yet, as attempts to modernise the business cause friction with its workforce, trustworthiness is more important than ever and, by apparently failing to realise that, Royal Mail will unfortunately become an example for future training sessions.
Public trust in institutions and organisations, no doubt undermined by economic uncertainty, is at a low ebb. Hard work needs to be invested to gain any level of trust or positive perception, and, crucially, even harder work is required to ensure that trust is then maintained.
Regular reputational audits are one way to ensure that. Not only do they help you anticipate any looming issues or risks; they can also identify areas where a proactive approach can enhance a reputation.
Reputational audits comprise 1-2-1 interviews with external stakeholders, quantitative research with politicians and a thorough assessment of how well communications activity is aligned with business strategy. They also assess how those communications have impacted trust and relationships with key individuals, organisations and sectors – all of which is essential to ensure businesses are ahead of the curve.
Even the most diligent practitioners of corporate reputation management cannot completely mitigate all threats all the time. But you can be assured that it is those who care for and nurture a good reputation who will be best prepared for unexpected challenges.
Our reputational audit offering considers – and challenges – your business’ current standing among key stakeholders in the context of today’s operating environment.