The Reputation Report: February 2024

In this month’s edition of ‘The Reputation Report’, our experts provide insights into the month’s leading corporate communications trends and reputational challenges. This month’s talking points include the aftermath of Rishi Sunak’s interview with Piers Morgan, Jim Ratcliffe’s pro-active approach to media relations through to Devonshires & the ongoing Sandwich-gate scandal. 

Devonshires & Sandwich-gate

One news story that captured the attention of the media was around the controversial dismissal of a cleaner from London law firm Devonshires. The news first broke in Legal newsletter RollOnFriday but quickly captured the attention of journalists at the nationals. In the week that this news broke, mentions of ‘Devonshires Solicitors’ increased by a huge 375% across UK media. Divisional Managing Director of Corporate Neil McLeod commented: 

‘Sandwich gate – in which a cleaner was sacked for allegedly eating a £1.50 Tesco’s tuna and cucumber sarnie at a law firm – highlights how just one business decision can suddenly launch a relatively unknown SME and its executives into the firing line of trade media and then the national press, all in the blink of an eye. This was an avoidable situation which clearly shows how reputation issues will only snowball if there is no understanding of what happens next’.

Rishi Sunak and a £1,000 bet

At the beginning of February, Rishi Sunak was interviewed by Piers Morgan where he was accused of taking politics to a “new low” after betting £1,000 on being able to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda before the next election. Public Affairs Account Manager Hamish Campbell-Shore commented: 

‘The Prime Minister struck a £1,000 bet with Piers Morgan on Talk TV over his Rwanda policy, addressed a People’s Forum on GB News (now being investigated by Ofcom for breaching impartiality rules) and has warned of mob rule threatening society. The Blue Wall will be the backdrop for this year’s election and it’s clear the Conservatives are tailoring their communications strategy accordingly.

But during a cost-of-living crisis and recession, the public also needs a clear vision for how the Government will improve their lives. In the upcoming Spring Budget, the Conservatives need to share a vision of economic optimism and communicate it to voters effectively. That’s where elections are won and lost, whichever media outlets you use to convey the message’.

Jim Ratcliffe: A new era for Manchester United?

Since acquiring a 27.7% stake in Manchester United, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has invested heavily in a proactive communications strategy that is a stark contrast to the absentee approach of United’s former majority shareholders the Glazers. Ratcliffe has put a clear stamp on his ownership by setting ambitious goals and showing fans that football performance comes ahead of all other priorities. This approach appears to have instilled hope among a previously disillusioned fanbase. In the month of February, negative sentiment around Manchester United’s absentee owners the ‘Glazers’ was 74% higher than around new owner ‘Jim Ratcliffe’. Divisional Managing Director of Reputation Tim Jotischky commented:

‘After years of silence from Manchester United’s absentee owners, Jim Ratcliffe’s pro-active approach to media relations was a breath of fresh air. His opening salvo, in a briefing to journalists was clear, confident and concise – he has set ambitious targets on and off the pitch and articulated what is expected of everyone at the Club.

Like all the best communication, it worked on two levels. For external audiences, it laid out a three-year plan to achieve success on the field and overhaul the Club’s faded infrastructure. For internal audiences, it said: “The Club is going to be run differently – we get it, we care and we expect you all to raise your game too”.

Sending out a clear message is one thing and delivering on your promises is quite another. But at least there is a vision that everyone can understand and buy into’.

What’s in store for March?

Get in touch with the team