CSR advance needs comms
Companies are not doing enough to communicate the extent of their
socially responsible practices, delegates at the Communication
Directors' Forum 2001 were told.
The gathering took place last week aboard the cruise ship Oriana in the
Charlotte Hines, an associate director at research firm MORI told the
conference that awareness of responsible practices was still 'far too
low' despite major advances made in recent years.
'People expect to be told when a company behaves responsibly. Negative
perceptions are largely the job of communications professionals to
change,' she said.
In a session called 'More than the triple bottom line,' Hines and fellow
MORI researcher Susan Walker - president of the UK chapter of the
International Association of Business Communicators - also presented
evidence that public awareness of a firm's attitude to training and
educating staff had overtaken its approach to the environment as the top
factor in assessing its responsible status.
'An age of corporate celebrity'
The public image of a company's CEO is the third most important factor
influencing its reputation, the Forum was told.
In a session headlined 'CEO stands for Charismatic Executive Orator,'
Hill & Knowlton deputy chairman Andy Laurence said that after how it
treated its customers and its employees, the public image of the CEO
determines how people will think about companies.
Laurence presented the results of research which claimed the personal
reputation of CEOs was more important than ever. 'We live in an age of
corporate celebrity,' he told delegates.
Anger greets focus group results
A report by Opinion Leader Research, Fresh and Echo Research into the
future role of the communications director led to fierce debate.
OLR chief executive Fiona Stewart produced the results of focus groups
which claimed that in-house heads of communication were not being taken
seriously by their senior management. 'It was often perceived that
communications is thought of as being easy,' she said.
One suggested outcome was that the head of communications role be
re-titled 'corporate reputation director'. The report was greeted with
anger by some delegates. Scottish Power corporate affairs director
Dominic Fry said 'I don't recognise this situation.'
Biss Lancaster chairman Graham Lancaster said: 'In 30 years of PR, I
have never known us to be taken so seriously by company boards.'
Publicity debate stirs emotions
Delegates at the four day conference voted overwhelmingly against the
motion put forward at the final session: 'This house believes all
publicity is good publicity.'
Despite pleas from the proposers - Liz Peace, the Defence Evaluation and
Research Agency's director of corporate affairs and Iain Anderson,
Cicero Consulting's founding director and chief corporate counsel - the
motion was voted down by two to one.
Speaking against the motion were David Walter, former BBC correspondent
and director of communications for the Liberal Democrats, and Stephen
Thomas, MD of brand communications agency CGI.
The occasionally ill-tempered debate was chaired by Consolidated
Communications director of public affairs and former Oxford Union
vice-president Ed Vaizey.