Tesco suit against The Guardian is risky, says expert

A top legal PRO has warned that Tesco's legal action against The Guardian could backfire in reputation terms - by reinforcing the public image of the supermarket chain as a corporate bully.

Tesco: reputation threat
Tesco: reputation threat

Tesco is taking legal action against The Guardian and its editor Alan Rusbridger after the paper published a series of critical articles relating to the company's tax policy.

Bell Yard director Melanie Riley, an expert in litigation PR, said: 'It can rarely be good for long-term corporate reputation to sue a newspaper. It smacks of stubborn heavy-handedness, even if you are factually right. It also further and more widely exposes the initial damaging article. Tesco's stance reinforces an image of corporate aggression - justified or not.'

Riley said Tesco could have used 'a myriad' other ways to convey its message. 'It would then be seen to be looking, listening, teaching and learning, not simply clobbering any opposition.'

But The Guardian also faces reputational risks in fighting Tesco, said Riley. 'Having built a strong reputation for exposing corporate wrongdoing, being proven wrong on the facts - or, worse, either vindictive or undeservedly pursuing an agenda - would be hard to live down.'

Tesco media director Jon Church said the legal route was the only option left, as Tesco had tried all the other methods to clear its name, including months of correspondence with the paper.

'Our reputation continues to be harmed on a daily basis while these allegations hang out there,' he said.

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