The Reputation Report: September 2023

In this month’s edition of ‘The Reputation Report’, our experts provide insights into the month’s corporate communications trends and reputational challenges. This month’s talking points include the allegations being made against Russell Brand and the potential impact this could have on the BBC. Arm’s decision to list away from the LSE is another dent in the reputation of the UK as a global tech hub and presents several challenges for government regarding how to restore confidence. Finally, the government has launched a taskforce in to strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), a development that could have significant ramifications for both press freedom and the future of media law.

Russell Brand and the BBC:

The shocking allegations being made against Russell Brand are the latest in a series of controversies to impact the BBC’s reputation. Mentions of ‘Russell Brand’ across UK news and socials increased by over 80,000% in the week following this breaking news. Amidst this, negative sentiment around ‘BBC’ in UK media sat at 58.5% during September 16th-22nd, over a 20% increase from the previous week. Divisional Managing Director of Reputation Tim Jotischky commented:

‘The allegations against Russell Brand have raised uncomfortable questions for the BBC about the latitude he was given as a presenter and the lack of appropriate oversight. In part, it’s a failure of management but there’s a more fundamental, underlying issue that needs to be addressed – the BBC’s approach to talent.

Any reputational crisis poses serious challenges to a business, but also opportunities for self-analysis and reform. The BBC needs to recruit and retain the best talent but it cannot waive the normal standards of behaviour and compliance it expects from its employees.

For too long, the BBC has given the impression that its top talent are exempt from the rules that govern the rest of the organisation. That’s not sustainable and does nothing for its reputation or company culture’.

ARM’s IPO and the London Stock Exchange:

With high-profile IPOs exiting the London Stock Exchange at a rate of once a week, it is experiencing a 60% decrease in listed companies since the 1990s and falling daily trading volumes. The most recent was Arm filing for the biggest IPO of 2023 in the US after its high-profile snubbing of London. Head of Technology Rhys Merrett commented: 

‘London Stock Exchange CEO David Schwimmer has publicly declared his confidence in the UK remaining a global finance hub. Confidently asserting the future of the LSE is positive, but like all bold commitments, this needs to be followed by action.

First, a wider government approach is needed to focus on sector maturity, putting as much attention on incubation and supporting on the journey towards a successful IPO on the LSE.

Second, look to the sectors set to dominate investment activities over the next decade, such as AI, and start conversations with those market leaders considering a public offering in the coming years.

Third, pursue measured regulatory reforms to the UK’s listing and capital markets. Rather that slashing red tape, strike a balance between protection and investment fluidity so that the LSE has a comparative advantage over competitor markets.

Should there be another high-profile snub of the LSE, action will not just be required, but expected from both Schwimmer and the UK Government’.

SLAPPs taskforce:

The final story to hit the headlines was the recent launch of a Government-led taskforce to investigate the prevalence of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) being used against journalists. Divisional Managing Director of Corporate Neil McLeod commented:

‘Newspaper editors and broadcasting executives have called for more support from the Government and a specific law in the next King’s Speech to protect them against SLAPPs.

The recent launch of a Government-led taskforce, bringing together media and legal industry experts, highlights the willingness of Ministers to address perceived abuses of the legal system in this manner. However, a fine line needs to be drawn in this important debate. Over-regulation of legal challenges to reporting threatens the ability for businesses and individuals to pursue bona fide litigation and Ministers must consider what represents a healthy medium in any future legislation.

The Government should recognise the importance of public interest journalism, while still understanding that legitimate cases for litigation against newspapers and broadcasters exist. In addition, caution must be exercised over the term SLAPP itself becoming an over-used, distorted phrase used to hit back at any legitimate move to protect years of business reputation.  While baseless lawsuits against publishers need to be addressed, judicial oversight and understanding of the freedom to litigate in valid circumstances remains equally as important’.

What’s in store for October?

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