Is it time to give your reputation a ‘dust down’?

6 November 2013, Blog

Business trust and reputation was a key focus of debate at this week’s CBI national conference in London. JBP PR Managing Director, Chris Lawrance, was there to hear what some of the UK’s top business executives had to say and this is what he took away.

At this week’s national CBI Conference RBS Group Chairman Sir Philip Hampton confessed that the company’s conduct policy had tended to gather dust in the bottom draw. Whilst this could be construed as an astonishing admission, it is somewhat unsurprising given the battered reputation of the bank.

Yet Sir Philip does not believe that there is a crisis of business trust. He felt that there was a lot of trust around for business, citing product quality as an example of where trust has improved markedly over the last 20 years – somewhat a surprising viewpoint from a banker given the number of scandals that have hit the sector for six in recent years. Even Anthony Browne, the Chief Executive of the British Bankers Association, recently proclaimed in his blog that “regaining trust is an absolute priority” for the banking industry.

Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, clearly felt differently when he said “I think there is a crisis of trust.” For him this pointed to a crisis of leadership. He blamed the business rhetoric that organisations fall back on – “there is not too much wrong done and that it was in the past”.

He argued that the time to move on (after trust has been broken) is when trust is restored and that trust can be created by doing the right things before being forced to.

As Sir Richard Olver, Non-executive chairman of BAE Systems, said: “Reputation can take a lifetime to create but can be destroyed overnight.”

So what can we learn from Britain’s top executives who participated in the panel debate on business trust and also included Lord Hall, Director General of the BBC and Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica. Top tips included the following:

  • If you’ve lost trust re-establish why your business really matters
  • Be visible and get around your organisation so you can see what the business needs to do
  • Listen inside and outside your organisation
  • Develop the right culture to shape the right decisions and behaviours and ensure this becomes a way of life
  • Strong leadership is required to drive the right culture down through the organisation and embed it globally
  • Ensure the organisation is trusted in the same way its employees are

And of course ensure your conduct policy is not gathering dust!

Managing Director of JBP’s Bristol office, Chris Lawrance has some 25 years’ experience in the PR industry and has expertise across the full communications mix. At JBP he is responsible for business strategy, client development and relations and new business.

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