The Reputation Report: April 2024

In April’s edition of ‘The Reputation Report’, our experts provide insights into the month’s leading corporate communications trends and reputational challenges. This month’s analysis covers Nottingham Forest’s ill-advised social media post, the reputational crises facing both Labour and the Conservatives as well as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA’s) new policy to ‘name and shame’ businesses under investigation.

Nottingham Forest and the PGMOL

Nottingham Forest’s social media post questioning the integrity of a match official was a serious blunder – more befitting of an angry supporter firing off a Tweet from the pub than a Premier League football club’s official channels.

The Club crossed a red line by claiming a match official was dishonest, rather than incompetent, and it quickly became clear this was not a spontaneous act of rage by a junior employee. It was a message that came from the top. If the Club thought it was currying favour with its primary audience, the supporters, even that backfired – some were embarrassed by the post and the ridicule that ensued. And if it thought it was putting pressure on the footballing authorities, that backfired too – the Club is already in dispute with the Premier League over a points deduction and could now be sanctioned by the FA.

Ironically, the only outcome was to forfeit the sympathy Nottingham Forest may have deserved for being on the wrong end of questionable refereeing decisions. Football is a game of emotions, but it’s the job of anyone running a Club to rise above this and make rational decisions. Declaring war on the PGMOL (the referees’ body) was not a smart move and has done nothing for the Club’s reputation.

The FCA’s ‘name and shame’ policy

The Financial Conduct Authority is under growing pressure over its proposal to “name and shame” businesses it has placed under investigation.

Currently going through consultation, the idea would see firms publicly referenced earlier and more frequently. Fine if all firms probed are eventually proven guilty. Less so if not.

In a world where online reputation is everything, there is clear potential this scheme will set off aggressive news cycles which could see innocent companies finding their online image and therefore, their future prosperity, re-shaped overnight. And all before they’ve had the chance to properly state their case.

The threat to individual businesses, the image of financial services – and the FCA itself – is significant.

Angela Rayner, Mark Menzies and pre-election scandals

Just as an investigation was launched into the sale of Angela Rayner’s house, the Conservatives were dealt a fresh blow by allegations that Mark Menzies had misused campaign funds.

While the backbencher has announced he will quit the party and Parliament after an investigation found a “pattern of behaviour” was below standard, the Deputy leader of the opposition is still struggling to shift the narrative.

The Labour leadership has been quick to highlight and interrogate Tory scandals throughout Government. However, its comms strategy around the Rayner affair have failed to keep the story off the front pages and opened it up to accusations of hypocrisy, especially around tax affairs.

The past months have shown us that both parties are on an election footing and scrutiny on scandals and policy are likely to ramp up. The challenge for both party’s respective comms strategy will be to ensure any scandal is not remembered vividly come polling day – whenever that may be.

What’s in store for May?

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