Mike Ashley and Why Reputation Still Matters: PR for SMEs
Thursday, December 15th, 2016
PR for SMEs: Your business simply can’t afford a damaged brand
THERE have been some curveballs thrown at PR professionals of late, leaving us to scratch our collective head in confusion.
First came the bombshell that is Donald Trump – a man who survived more ‘career-ending’ reputational gaffes than Mel Gibson could manage in a hundred lifetimes.
Yet Trump didn’t crash and burn. Even after recordings emerged of the now PEOTUS bragging about groping women by the dozen.
He still managed to tap into a nation’s disaffected psyche – something more important to his supporters than even his undeniable deviancy – allowing him to romp home with victory.
Following up behind the orange septuagenarian is the wave of negative press to hit Facebook of late – and its highly effective, though not willful, muck-spreading of fake news stories.
This phenomenon has resulted in a very apparent malaise at Zuckerberg’s firm – as the dominant social media platform struggles to come to terms with its unique responsibilities in a new media age.
And yet use of Facebook shows no sign of abating as it targets its next billion users – clearly the trustworthiness of its newsfeeds matters less to its many, many committed fans who see no real alternative. It would certainly take a brave person to predict that the social giant’s global stock will tumble next year.
So does reputation and trustworthiness really matter all that much to businesses, of all sizes, here in the UK? Are modern consumers/voters more interested in their own interests and as a result willing to bury their consciences in the sand?
An unlikely saviour
Just as we begin to question what really makes people tick – and whether or not virtues we have long held on to (and believe to exist) have now become redundant, along comes an unlikely savior.
Mike Ashley. Indeed the Sports Direct Billionaire has provided a very timely lesson for all in business, regardless of size.
The very public battering his brand and reputation has taken – over its unapologetically terrible practice – led to the recent announcement of plummeting profits, a bitter attack on a media ‘agenda’ and accusations that staff are demoralized at the sudden ‘realisation’ of their own gross under-valuing.
Oh, not to forget, while all this was happening, Mike managed to prove his timing is as bad as his ethics – as he set out to buy a corporate jet.
Five top PR disasters for Mike Ashley and Sports Direct
Mike has some good form. He’s no one trick pony and has journeyed from scandal to scandal across his tenure as Newcastle United owner and throughout his years at the helm of Sports Direct.
So just for fun we thought we’d pull together a list of classic ‘do not try at home’ Mike Ashley gaffes, with links for your reading pleasure (in no particular order – as they are all balk-worthy):
- Emptying a wad of cash in front of journalists during a tour of the warehouse
- The bizarre situation of ‘owning’ your own PR agency
- Blaming the media itself for slumping profits at Sports Direct
- Banning local media from St James’ Park (Mike Ashley owns Newcastle United)
- Getting outed for not paying staff the minimum wage
In the case of Trump and Facebook they don’t suffer from the reputationally damaging events to the same extent as a typical business – as fans and users feel there is no real alternative.
The walking PR disaster of Mike Ashley has seen his business – which was always seen as cheap above all else begin to crumble.
While his brand has remained the market leader, he is evidence that poor practice disheartens staff and hits profits.
Yet reputation is still absolutely critical to consumers, who will vote with their feet.
It is also fundamental if you want to ensure a content, productive workplace. Staff quite simply want to feel pride in their place of work.
Take a look at our selection of case studies to see how we have helped brands establish a positive media presence – whether over a short-term project or a longer campaign.
Don’t suffer from reputational damage in 2017 – invest in quality PR for SMEs
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Chris Fairbairn is a PR account manager with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood Partnership. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.View Chris's Profile
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