Rep­u­ta­tion rev­o­lu­tion

Finweek English Edition - - ADVERTISING & MARKETING -

PUB­LIC RE­LA­TIONS and ad­ver­tis­ing, tra­di­tional com­peti­tors for their slice of the mar­ket­ing pie, will have to learn to work to­gether more whole­heart­edly in the dig­i­tal era, ac­cord­ing to Michael Farr, who last year was ap­pointed MD of Bur­son Marsteller Ar­cay.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, this doesn’t hap­pen, so our ap­proach is quite rev­o­lu­tion­ary,” says Farr. “This is our com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage and dif­fer­en­tia­tor.”

The main pres­sure for this new col- lab­o­ra­tive model is the ad­vent of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions. To take a con­sis­tent brand mes­sage through all those ac­tiv­i­ties re­quires agen­cies to work to­gether.

“Very few com­pa­nies in this field are good at rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment, but it will be­come very im­por­tant in SA. There is a much big­ger con­se­quence to a client if they fail, which is why PR is re­garded as more im­por­tant than a lot of other ex­ter­nal ac­tiv­ity. So many com­pa­nies have not both­ered to man­age their rep­u­ta­tion in the be­lief that peo­ple won’t dis­cover the truth.”

Bur­son Marsteller bought Ar­cay, one of SA’s most suc­cess­ful PR con­sul­tan­cies, in Oct 2011.

Farr sees his role as help­ing to grow Bur­son-Marsteller in SA through a com­bi­na­tion of or­ganic growth and new busi­ness. “I would like to see an in­dus­try where there’s a level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ex­per­tise de­signed around meet­ing client needs rather than an in­dus­try that is there to sell ser­vices to clients. PR needs to re­spond to client needs, not to de­velop a prod­uct then try to sell it.

“We will work for clients we re­spect be­cause we be­lieve our rep­u­ta­tion gets tied to theirs. An ad­mired com­pany at­tracts the best tal­ent, more con­sumers, bet­ter busi­ness part­ners and greater lever­age.

When the Exxon Valdez chair­man de­clined to com­ment on the dis­as­trous Alaskan oil spill of 1989, the com­pany’s mar­ket cap­i­tal dropped by $6bn. Says Farr: “You could lose your rep­u­ta­tion and your com­pany overnight if you don’t me­thod­i­cally man­age your rep­u­ta­tion from one day to the next.”

Michael Farr

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