Inside the Profession

Friday Five: Reputation Management

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“A good reputation is more valuable than money,” said the writer Publilius Syrus. As public relations practitioners, part of our job is maintaining positive brand reputations for our companies and clients, but anyone who has ever managed a PR Friday Five Logocrisis knows how difficult that can be. We regularly see examples of companies that put their business in jeopardy due to reputation management issues. Some reputation issues are greater than others, but in the end, the damage can affect both the bottom line and ruin the good will that sometimes takes years to build.

In this week’s Friday Five – PRSA’s analysis of the week’s biggest public relations news and commentary – we consider the importance of reputation management. Among the topics we discuss are Ketchum’s severed ties with Russia, the NYPD’s edits to Wikipedia and an ad agency going nude for a rebrand. We also visit an apartment complex that fines residents for bad reviews.

Putin drops his American PR company (CNNMoney)

While some sources indicated that it was an agency decision and others put the onus on Russia, the recent news that Ketchum and the Russian government would be severing ties was based on reputation issues. According to CNNMoney, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “We decided not to renew the contract because of the anti-Russian hysteria, the information war that is going on.”

On the other side, PR industry trade outlets published headlines that indicated that Ketchum made the decision to split with Russia. In the end, ending business relations with the country may help to put a close to the criticism faced by the agency for the work it was doing.

Read the full CNNMoney article for more on the relationship between Ketchum and the Russian government.

Edits to Wikipedia pages on Bell, Garner, Diallo traced to 1 Police Plaza (Capital New York)

The great thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. The bad thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. In a world where reputation means everything, it’s hard to accept or sit idly by when others have the ability to write something about you, your organization or your product that you might not completely agree with.

This week the New York Police Department found itself as the subject of an investigation into Wikipedia editing practices by users of computers linked to IP addresses originating from police headquarters.

The investigation by the Capital New York media outlet found that computers at NYPD headquarters “have edited and attempted to delete Wikipedia entries for several well-known victims of police altercations, including entries for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo.” The outlet went on to state “NYPD IP addresses have also been used to edit entries on stop-and-frisk, NYPD scandals, and prominent figures in the city’s political and police leadership.”

Visit the full article for a list of changes that were made.

Nancy Snyderman Resigns as NBC’s Chief Medical Editor (The New York Times)

Following the reputation issues that have led to the leave of absence taken by Brian Williams, the resignation of NBC’s Chief Medical Editor, Nancy Snyderman, may be a relief to network executives and fans.

According to The New York Times article, “Dr. Nancy Snyderman has stepped down from her post as NBC’s chief medical editor, following a controversy that erupted last fall when she broke a self-imposed quarantine after returning from covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.” Snyderman herself said that “becoming part of the story upon my return to the U.S. contributed to my decision.”

Why These Agency Execs Went Through Hell to Get Naked in These Ads (SFW) (AdFreak)

Branding is as much about generating excitement as it is about reinforcing a set of values. For that reason, it can be difficult to coordinate a relaunch that both “makes a splash” and resonates. To help drive their branding effort, the executives at a design and marketing firm decided to announce their transition to a full-service agency by commissioning a set of ads that featured them standing in their office in the nude.

The AdFreak article, which discusses more about the workout regimen for the executives than the reason for the focus on nudity, does offer the tidbit that the concept was a play on one used by another agency in the past by indicating that it is “an intentional echo of Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh getting naked for the 2012 announcement of their partnership.”

I won’t even comment on the connection between “full-service” and nudity, but it would be interesting to learn what PR pros think of the campaign. Visit the article for the safe-for-work pictures and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Florida Apartment Complex’s Effort To Stop Negative Comments Backfires Terribly (The Verge)

Most people turn to Yelp and other online review sources for advice and recommendations before visiting a restaurant or making purchases, but negative reviews can damage the reputation for companies featured on those sites. As we’ve seen on occasion, some companies have made the mistake of trying to force reviewers to give only good reviews or face a fine. The latest to try this instantly regrettable tactic is the Windermere Cay apartment complex near Disney in Orlando, Florida.

Censorship has never been met with positive results and this example is no exception. You can read many of the negative reviews on Yelp, but it may be more productive to check out the PRNewser article by Tonya Garcia where she provides tips on how to deal with bad reviews without further damaging your reputation.

Laurent Lawrence is the associate director of public relations for the Public Relations Society of America

About the author

Laurent Lawrence, APR


  • Myself and a few employees from my Chicago PR agency have been watching House of Cards. I feel like I know all about Putin (or Petrov in HoC) after watching show. Which is what I thought of when I read this article.

  • Reputation management is undoubtedly on the forefront of the public relations industry. When describing our role as PR practitioners to someone who is unaware of our responsibilities, starting off with reputation management is an easy way to answer any questions about the field. With that being said, it’s obvious from this blog post that there are a number of issues that correlate with maintaining the reputation of any organization.

    I commend this article on its highlights of current reputation management issues that are occurring – they are radical and touch on many different components in the protection of image protection. However, today PR practitioners need to be radical when it comes to reputation management because the industry is evolving. Who an organization works with (Russia, for example, that is used in this blog post), as well as the efforts needed today to properly rebrand a company can be very sensitive issues to consider (going nude, maybe?) While it is easy to jump to conclusions and focus on what it is that is going to make an organization more profitable or advance their publicity, PR practitioners must find a balance between protecting the image of a company while looking for ways to get attention.

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