If banks and food companies want a good reputation, they should just be honest

Restoring a good name is harder than it seems, as a host of British companies are finding

Of all the courses at leading business schools, none is hotter than reputation management. In a world where banks and food companies seem routinely to cheat customers, understanding what’s behind a sustainable reputation has overtaken financial wizardry as the aspiring executive’s must-have attribute. RBS, Barclays, Tesco, Findus and many others are learning the hard way that reputation management is not just a form of crisis management. If done properly, it’s crisis avoidance. As the Harvard Business Review points out: “Knowing about first-aid is not the same thing as protecting your health.”

$30030755: It is hard to be honest in a country where others seem to succeed through lies and corruption. The crafty, lazy, and the dishonest are raised on pedestals - whilst the unsuspecting innocent is taxed into financial oblivion and an uncertain future. Moral theorizing is all well and good… but the reality is that - for Joe Public - the current UK is a barren plot of land on which to cultivate hope for a better future. You are a damn fine writer Jeff… but do you honestly harbor any hope that this corporate monster that governs the UK is capable of anything resembling honesty? The last politician to display genuine integrity was Lord Carrington - since then, we have been subjected to an an endless avalanche of politicians eager to please their corporate paymasters and do their bidding. I have a gnawing feeling that you write more in hope than expectation. (No disrespect intended)

Titus__Pullo: It would be good if the government could set an example with official statistics such as inflation and unemployment. Only the Treasury believe inflation is really 2.7% and unemployment 2.5 million.

munchkinette: Absolutely right.  One of my favourite expressions in business: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Worked in food marketing for 26 years and always found that the truth and being authentic to what you really are is the way to build a loyal consumer base.  people are animals - they can sense when things aren't quite right and you always get found out in the end.

youngtom: I was a police press officer in a northern force for 5 years and gave talks to various groups of police officers. I was once asked how we could keep stories out of the papers such as officers watching porno videos in a police station (as published in the Sun). My response 'Don't watch porno videos in a police station'. Some didn't understand the response.

stonewood: By letting the dirty mac brigade in, that could be used as an additional income stream for the police. Then they could employ even more tiny female officers and even more fat male officers.

anchovy2: Unfortunately many of our politicians and managers, especially in the public sector, think that lying, cheating and covering up is not just OK but the right thing to do when the protection of reputations is concerned

beatonthedonis: I don't think the banks quite count as the public sector, even though they wouldn't be able to survive without taxpayer subsidy.

Steve Hill: Two banks out of several hundred are partly nationalised, and a couple of building societies. We have banks which have survived for 300 years without subsidy.

beatonthedonis: According to the BofE, the annual implicit taxpayer subsidy of the financial system would pay for the NHS. These old banks have had emergency liquidity support from the BofE since its inception and the enormous privilege of creating credit from a fractional reserve. Bankers used to accord this privilege the appropriate sense of responsibility. Now they laugh at it and pay themselves billions for moving around other people's money.

dacorum: Steve Hill   "Two banks out of several hundred are partly nationalised, and a couple of building societies" What Building Societies have been partly nationalised?  They are owned by the members. 

Jer: "Lessons will be learned" Again, and again, and again…

dacorum: 'In Britain, we judge liars particularly harshly.' Really?  History shows that whistle blowers are likely to lose their jobs and suffer more than their lying bosses.

kirk_to_enterprise: Just like that paragon of virtue - the EU.

tommein: So the labour party have destroyed private pensions, crippled the economy, saddled the country with more debt than Hitler, yet are 12 points ahead in the polls, so how does that figure with your ''reputation is important'' argument. Buying your reputation with other peoples money is much easier.

munchkinette: Tommein, forgive me, but turkeys don't vote for Christmas.  The % of the population who receive some form of state handout is now > 50%.   At the end of the day they aren't being asked to pay out hard cash, simply to put a cross in a box.  It is not a transaction in the commercial sense of the word, so even if they doubt Labour will deliver, better the devil you know?  Of course, that leaves a large portion of the other 48% wondering whether the world has gone mad.  Many of them are intent on voting on principle, and will split the 48% vote even further.  In my view, the really smart element of the 48%, unlike Osborne, have already moved to Plan B.  We have about 2 years if we're lucky to tunnel our way out of this mess at the personal level.  I hope that readers of these boards have had their spades sharpened and in good use now for some time.

subject smith: Because the electorate aren't choosing between how things are and how they'd like them to be, they are faced with a choice between one set of rascals, those currently waving the baton of legislation, and another who have an opportunity to try to sell a more appealing dance, that exists only in theory. 

Steve Hill: Because the fossilised wing of the Tory party proved last week, as they do whenever they get a chance, that they are completely out of touch with reality, with what most British people want. Having the Court of Appeal accuse you, quite accurately, of slavery doesn't help either. In short, Cameron has failed to drive a stake through the heart of the Nasty Party, despite his best intentions, and therefore the public - including me - are willing to forgive Labour and give them another chance. While the unforgiving public, what you might call the fruitcake wing of the Tories, have abandoned them for UKIP.  For which Ed says thanks.

Les_Miserables: Steve, Is it "fossilised" to think that anal sex between men is as normal as the heterosexual act? Is it "slavery" to ask a young person (who has never contributed materially or financially to society) to work in exchange for the money she is given by the taxpayer? Is it sensible for tribal voters to forgive, over and over again, socialist governments which have collectively destroyed our country since 1945? Is the desire to become independent of the EUSSR the mindset of a "fruitcake"? Is wishing that bright kids from poorer homes could go to a grammar school and become a doctor instead of a road-sweeper the desire of a "fruitcake"? I was, like yourself, tribal in my voting. In recent years, however, I've seen just how badly the Labour Party has managed the UK, and how discredited the Conservatives have become. As for the men-in-yellow-sandals-holding-a-windmill: their voters might well be described as "fruitcakes".

Steve Hill: You are voting for the current incarnation of the Monster Raving Loony Party, with about an equal prospect of ever getting an MP elected. You are the starry-eyed romantic; I am the realist here.

Les_Miserables:  Steve, Your lack of rational argument, and your insulting manner mark you out as an unreconstructed tribal Socialist: the type of Labour supporter that drove me away from the party years ago. It's a pity Labour supporters are so rude, and unable to discuss matters as adults.

robertsonjames: He may be a Labourite but his assessment of UKIP's chances of ever winning a single seat, never mind shaping a government platform, rather than merely doing Ed Miliband a big favour by helping more Labour and Lib Dem MPs beat Tory candidates, is borne out by all the electoral evidence we currently have. They've never won a seat or even come within 20% of the winning candidate. In many of the seats where they stand the intervention of these supposed Eurosceptics actually serves only to make it harder for a Eurosceptic Tory candidate to win and easier for their Europhile left-wing opponents.  Even their high profile leader has very sensibly ducked out of the opportunity to be humiliated into a distant third place behind two unknown Lib Dem and Tory candidates in Eastleigh because he realises that the almost-inevitable disaster would lethally undermine his party's current claim to be capable of delivering a political earthquake at Westminster. If Farage thought he had a realistic chance of exploiting a mid-term anti-government protest vote in Eastleigh and at last becoming an MP he'd have leaped at the chance. But unlike most of his supporters on here he's not mad enough to think winning a seat in Parliament, even for UKIP's only well-known figure, is a credible target.

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