Leader: What did we learn about reputation?

As 2005 comes to a close, we look back on a year when some dramatically improved their reputation and others let the opposite happen.

As our Reputation Monitor round-up shows (p22), Tesco CEO Terry Leahy turned in another sterling year for the UK's biggest supermarket; Justin King began an impressive turnaround of Sainsbury's reputation; while Sir Ken Morrison's eponymous chain had a torrid time in the media. Of course the reputations of these brands can be said to directly follow announcements on performance, but there is growing evidence that the relationship between performance and reputation is both cause and effect.

It is certainly interesting to contrast the hammering taken by Morrisons – with a figurehead who is notoriously media shy – with British Airways' improving reputation, despite another summer of strikes and mixed financial results. Outgoing leader Rod Eddington made huge efforts to be open and frank with the media and stakeholders.

But Factiva's research, added to our reputation monitor this year, shows that Britain's top performers do more than simply court the media. An analysis of Leahy's coverage shows his messages tend to be heavier on vision, leadership and trust than those of equivalent CEOs. One can be bullish to please the City, but unless business leaders have an eye on reputation with consumers and NGOs, they will fail to shine.

Of course there is no easy trick to reputational success. The formula is diligence, consistency, rigour and innovation. Outside the corporate sector, the London 2012 team showed these attributes in abundance. So did Jamie Oliver and Greenwich Council in their campaign to improve school dinners, although there is still some way to go (p15).

PROs can learn much from such paragons of communication as we enter a fresh year.

The next issue of PRWeek will be on 6 January. We would like to wish you a very happy festive season.


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