The Reputation Report: October 2023

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 pivotal crossroads facing the Conservative Party as Rishi Sunak’s popularity hits a record low. We analyse the PGMOL’s communications strategy following the Liverpool vs. Tottenham scandal as well as the increased government scrutiny facing gambling operators ahead of Safer Gambling Week.

How can the Tories avoid “Armageddon”?:

Rishi Sunak’s popularity hit a record low after the Tory & Labour party conferences, with just one in five voters believing he would make the best Prime Minister. Public Affairs Account Manager Hamish Campbell-Shore commented:

‘Recent noises from Rishi Sunak’s party have highlighted the desire to be the party of change, however, it has been underpinned by extreme U-turns on issues clearly close to the hearts of voters. The recent axing of HS2’s northern leg is a long line of policy desertions from the Prime Minister including tax reform, housing targets and net zero pledges.

While the Prime Minister is in some sense moderating the policies of his predecessors, developing an image of a party without a clear vision for the country and prone to u-turning on major macroeconomic and infrastructure decisions could prove disastrous for its electoral chances in the next 12-24 months.

Indeed, recent by-election victories for Labour in Tamworth and Mid-Bedfordshire show a groundswell of support for the opposition, with over 20-point swings in both. Even in recent years this would have been unthinkable, however, successive Prime Minister’s have been brought down by scandal and economic turmoil leaving the party in a position where its reputation as the party of stability feels at an all time low.

Former Chancellor, and Tory grandee, George Osborne has already warned the party is facing electoral ‘armageddon’, which is likely to send shockwaves through CCHQ. The party has for years relied on its reputation as a trusted pair of hands, the fear amongst MPs and the wider party is that without this, what do they have to take them into the next election.

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party should in no way be complacent, given its history at the polls, however, the Government must strengthen its image if it is to stand a chance at forming the next Government. Popular policy, unwavering stability and economic credibility must form the foundation of its campaigning over the next 12 months’.

In praise of the PGMOL’s clear and obvious communications strategy:

In the two weeks following the Liverpool vs. Tottenham game, the PGMOL’s communications strategy helped decrease negative sentiment by 94% compared to the previous week. Divisional Managing Director of Corporate Neil McLeod commented:

‘Issues around VAR, including THAT Liverpool goal row, have presented significant challenges this season for the referee’s body, the PGMOL and its boss Howard Webb.

As with any other sport or business, human error will always cause issues.  

But many organisations can take a leaf out of the PGMOL’s book: in a tribal, highly emotional, multi-billion pounds industry, it is, with initiatives such as the Sky Sports show Match Officials: Mic’d Up, showing progressive thinking in terms of how it responds to issues management.

It knows it is vital that its most important stakeholder – in this case, the fan – is central to its communications strategy. And even if football followers won’t always like what they hear, the move towards greater transparency is key for the future of the game’.

Gambling operators facing government scrutiny:

Safer Gambling Week is a cross-industry initiative to promote safer gambling in the UK and Ireland. It will run from 13th – 19th November this year. Divisional Managing Director of Reputation Tim Jotischky commented:

‘Gambling operators are being compelled by the Government to pay a mandatory levy to the NHS to fund addiction research and treatment, replacing a voluntary system. Gambling is increasingly framed as a public health issue by campaigners and this raises difficult questions for the industry, which stages its annual Safer Gambling Week in November.

Many in the gambling industry feel they have been unfairly pilloried and will never get a fair hearing, but they cannot absent themselves from the debate. Only by making a positive case for greater customer protection, using technology innovatively and evidencing successful outcomes, will their arguments cut through.

The formation of the Betting and Gaming Council four years ago was an acceptance that co-ordinated political engagement is essential. The industry’s challenge is to provide robust data to defend its position, but every new scandal involving one of its members undermines public trust – so, the industry also needs to show its mindset has changed and the commitment to safer gambling is embedded in its business model’.

What’s in store for November?

Get in touch with the team