Barclays Stephen Doherty says behaviour not communications is key to reputation

Reputation is based on a company's behaviour and not communications, Barclays head of comms Stephen Doherty told PR industry representatives.

Barclays: Head of comms Stephen Doherty
Barclays: Head of comms Stephen Doherty

Speaking at the PRCA conference on Friday, Doherty said that Barclays’ actions over the next ten years are what the stakeholders will judge: "My job is to get people to notice the evidence base. Without an evidence base, I’m toast."

He added that reputation was based on high quality relationships with stakeholders, saying that Barclays group chief executive Antony Jenkins understood reputation. "He made it his corporate goal to have the highest quality stakeholder relationships possible. If you get to a position where you have trust, commercial success will take care of itself."

Diageo corporate relations director Ian Wright agreed that stakeholder relations were key to a good reputation. Both Wright and Doherty explained that key executives had reputation targets as part of their key performance indicators.

Wright also argued that because reputation is based on actions, and actions happen at a local level, "all reputations are local. There is no such thing as a global reputation".

 "It’s important to think of reputation where you’re doing business," he said. "You build up reputation with lots of incremental steps. We were the most admired company in the UK in 2012/13 in Management Today, but we do have places in the world with bad reputation."

The talks followed a discussion of PRCA commissioned YouGov research that highlighted the importance of finding metrics to measure PR activity. Lansons Communications chief executive Tony Langham, who chaired a panel discussion of the research, said: "There is a dichotomy, because we have to have metrics, but it’s a challenge to prove the impact it has on the bottom line."

Also at the conference, executive director for government communications Alex Aiken said the Government was keen to support the industry and promote London as a leading centre for the communications industries in the world.

He outlined plans to improve government comms, including forming a single government comms service early next year and becoming ten per cent more efficient every year by pooling and sharing resources.

The conference also included discussion of a PRCA study on the agency of the future, which predicts more integrated comms and the need to offer more evidence of ROI as key issues facing agencies.

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