The Reputation Report: July 2023

We’re delighted to launch ‘The Reputation Report’; a monthly series in which our experts provide insight into the month’s corporate trends and reputational challenges. This month’s hot topics include Huw Edwards and the BBC through to the ongoing Thames Water situation and the potential ramifications this could have for the broader political landscape. 

Huw Edwards and the BBC:

Between 7th-12th July, daily mentions of Huw Edwards in online media reached 25,000. Director of Reputation Tim Jotischky commented:

‘This was an unusually multi-layered crisis in which there were no winners, only losers. The BBC’s handling was initially ponderous and its coverage heavy-handed; The Sun faces questions about the justification for its reporting’.

‘The first steps in a crisis are: gather and validate information; evaluate reputational risk; escalate appropriately. Failing to do that meant the BBC were playing catch-up, but without evidence of criminality they were right not to name Huw Edwards. Ultimately, his wife’s statement closed the issue, spared them a difficult decision and bought them invaluable time’.

Thames Water:

Another hot topic in July was the Thames Water fiasco with the organisation announcing debts of £14bn. Director of Corporate Mimi Brown commented:

‘Thames Water is the very definition of a multi-layered crisis with huge impact. Any comms professional would have sensed the deluge that was approaching with reputational peril at every turn’.

‘Whatever the outcome, recovery will be painful. But the next communications job is to demonstrate with skill, clarity and transparency, the meaningful steps being taken by new leadership as it inches back towards any position of trust. Communication led from the top, tailored to all stakeholders and the relevant channels will be vital to ensure reach and recovery’.

This scandal raised conversation about what it means for privatisation. Divisional Managing Director of Corporate Neil McLeod commented:

‘Nationalisation vs privatisation has historically been viewed as one of the key dividing lines between the left and the right in British Politics. With key utilities and public services under the microscope during a cost of living and energy crisis, the potential collapse of Thames Water has thrust this debate into the public consciousness’.

The Labour Party and in particular, Sir Keir Starmer are under increasing pressure from within their own ranks to commit to a nationalisation programme if they are to end up in Government come the next election. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has suggested that a policy to nationalise water doesn’t fit within the fiscal rules of a party looking to be economically credible in Government’.

Whilst the Government battle with a crisis at Thames Water, it is also an issue gripping Labour HQ and could become a potential tension point between the front and back benches of the party which has historically promoted public ownership’.

What’s in store for August?

Get in touch with the team