Is Sir Philip Green's reputation Arcadia's biggest asset or its greatest downfall?

I was going to start this article by harking back to Sir Philip Green's glory years but after an hour of research into King Topshop's career history, I'm struggling to find anything that paints him in an overly good light.

Sir Philip Green: At his Select Committee hearing last month (credit: PAWire)
Sir Philip Green: At his Select Committee hearing last month (credit: PAWire)
I’m on page 10 of Google and my eyes are crossed. There’s not a lot I can reference to remind us of when Green was one of the good guys. 

Instead, the internet is awash with stories about his three super-yachts, his solid gold monopoly board (yes, really) his tax avoidance schemes, selling BHS for £1 when it was making massive losses, and his now recent infamous appearance before the Commons Select Committee. 

Although true that he’s always had a reputation for pulling no punches, having been described as a "bruiser" in this very publication, the question now is, have Green’s recent actions gone too far in damaging his reputation to the point of no return? 

According to Google, Green has gone from hero to zero in such a catastrophic way that there’s barely any recollection of when he was revered for his contribution to British business.  

Unfortunately for the boss of Arcadia, unlike printed news, online news stories, comments and social posts last forever.  

A story is shared online and within seconds it’s around the world and ingrained in people’s memories indefinitely. 

Money may be no worry for somebody worth £6.2bn, but there’s much more at stake than financial ruin for Green and the brands he is associated with – his personal reputation as a business man and the reputation of Arcadia.  

A few years ago, a Weber Shandwick report found that CEO reputation is an invaluable corporate asset, with executives commenting that on average, 49 per cent of the reputation of their company was attributable to their CEO’s reputation.  
PR people will join me in hoping that while their boss is answering difficult questions from MPs, Green's advisers are monitoring the conversations that are happening online – comments on newspaper articles, conversations on forums, social media memes, etc all give a true indication of sentiment.
Monitoring sentiment is the first port of call for damage limitation and while news stories should be balanced reports of the facts (and therefore should remain neutral, although this is often not the case) social media, comments sections and forum discussion provide more insight into public perception. 

To avoid and limit the reputational damage of negative online content, Green’s army of advisers need to ensure that they’re prepared to identify and combat the most damaging online content as quickly as possible.  

Positive PR can go a long way in doing this, but timing is key, and the world will wait with baited breath to see if Team Green bounces back. 

Having said that, there’s one thing that even the best PR can’t do and that’s actually go back in time. 

Simon Wadsworth is founder and director at Igniyte

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