THIS WEEK’S BIG QUESTION: How much influence can industrial relations have over public image?

British Airways’ recent tussles with its unions have dented its corporate reputation

British Airways’ recent tussles with its unions have dented its

corporate reputation

Tina Fotherby

Nexus Public Relations

’The most credible of public images are those experienced face-to-face

Service organisations where employees have a direct interface with the

public undoubtedly find industrial relations influencing public image and

vice versa. Generally speaking, workers favoured by the public have the

media sympathy too, so tough-talking managers have to win the media

relations battle as well as the industry relations war.’

Antony Snow

Hill and Knowlton

’Certainly customers and probably the investors feel much better about a

company if it is known to have a clear industrial relations policy.

It doesn’t just affect the employees, it is an integral part of an

organisation’s public image strategy.’

Graham Goodkind

Lynne Franks

’Industrial relations not only influences public image, it is an intrinsic

part of it. Employees are the public faces of a company and are a

practical (and tangible) manifestation of their company’s attitudes,

values and what it stands for. It is why people prefer one shop to

another, one hotel to another, one airline to another, even one PR agency

to another.

And why do some companies get it right? The better they treat their staff,

the more likely their staff will pass on this sense of goodwill to the

consumer/client. IR is not merely an internal issue, and it should not be

treated as such.’

Jan Stannard


’No matter how carefully a company crafts its public image, that image can

be knocked sideways when an industrial relations strategy has not been

fully integrated with overall communications strategy.’

Richard Houghton

Shandwick Public Relations

’Companies such as Volvo and Toyota have consistently promoted their

industrial relations strategy in relation to their product quality and as

part of an integrated communications programme and it has reaped great in

terms of positive public image.Once industrial relations becomes

confrontational, and use of media coverage part of negotiations, the

influence on public image becomes negative and impacts on other

communications activities.’

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