Reputation management history lessons

A solid strategy for reputation management is an essential element of contemporary business. But Virgin Atlantic's Greg Dawson, GlaxoSmithKline's Phil Thomson and eBay's Vanessa Canzini, consider which figures from history would have excelled as reputation managers.

Reputation management history lessons
Greg Dawson, director of corporate communications, Virgin Atlantic.

Lionel Logue - voice coach to King George VI. His sensitivity to his subject, the courage of his convictions and the ability to provide leadership to the King helped to galvanise the British Empire throughout the Second World War.

Phil Thomson, senior vice-president of global communications, GlaxoSmithKline

Emmeline Pankhurst - she fundamentally reshaped the perception of women in society. She campaigned with passion, understood the value of news and was adept at getting her message across in multiple ways.

Stuart Bruseth, vice-president, Shell global media relations, and founder member of the Social Media Leadership Forum

William Wilberforce campaigned against vested interests and was stoic in the face of adversity. He devised radical ways to promote his cause. Pamphlets full of eye-witness testimony were used, showing captive Africans packed in the ships. There were sugar boycotts, petitions, and marches.

Vanessa Canzini, head of corporate comms, Europe, eBay

Niccolo Machiavelli. The undisputed master of understanding reputation management, Machiavelli's teachings in The Prince centre on decisions, how they are made and how they are perceived by those around us. He espoused the need to pick a side depending on what you wanted that decision to say about you and wisely stated that every issue or debate comes down to which side you chose. As with any reputation, however, it is shaped by the opinions of others and sadly history has traduced his reputation, leaving him very much misunderstood. Sound familiar?

Catherine May, group director of corporate affairs, Centrica

Daniel Defoe would have been a fantastic reputation manager. He was an original thinker who understood both how to manage government and how to engage the general public.

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