When COP27’s planning committee agreed to have Coca Cola as one of its sponsors, many of us might have cautioned against the selection of this headline partner. For several years, campaigners have asked Coca Cola to review its role in plastic pollution and to pledge changes to stop the climate crisis. The announcement of the sponsorship was received with significant criticisms and the backlash proved what we have seen again and again following “PR disasters” – that the public is sensitive to and critical of disingenuous PR initiatives, and audiences will not hesitate to call out companies for what they perceive as dishonesty.
So how did Coca Cola and COP27 get it wrong? Well, an organisation’s image will be considered genuine if its actions are believed to reflect its core values and if the company can prove that it stands by its principles in its day-to-day activities. In Coca Cola’s case, critics said that they did not believe the company’s day-to-day activities aligned with the values their COP27 sponsorship endeavoured to portray.
Building a respected and trusted profile is not achieved overnight and cannot be bought through large sponsorship budgets. While understandably all organisations want to see quick results, reputation is built over time and is a cumulation of work over months and years.
Every day PLMR supports clients with building respected and trusted brands. The tactics for this can vary, but there are a few important questions to consider:
- How does the organisation show that they care about issues relevant to their business and audiences?
- Are they experts in their field and can their share their knowledge for the benefit of their audiences?
- Do they listen to the people they support, their customers and their staff?
- Are they ready to take action to prove their values?
An organisation’s reputation will reflect its values and will be as strong as its commitment to them. To showcase this, sharing their knowledge and insights publicly through expert media commentary or engaging in relevant strategic partnerships can be a great way to demonstrate that a corporate business is serious about delivering on its mission. For example, John Lewis’ partnership with Action for Children was recently praised as the retailer proved its commitment to helping young people from the care system by spotlighting the issue in its popular Christmas advert in a touching and genuine way.
We often hear about so-called ‘PR disasters’ and wonder how companies could have got it so wrong. While a reputation can be harmed by one wrong move, a long-term concerted effort to build, will mean that it’s never ruined. Investing time and proving real commitment to your values are the key pillars to a strong and lasting reputation, and while this requires thinking strategically and investing resources, it will benefit any company which is serious about how it is perceived in the public eye.