Top 10 Reputational Illusions of Top Management

Top 10 Reputational Illusions of Top Management


Olena Derevianko
Co-founder and Partner of the PR Service Agency
Vice-President of the Ukrainian PR League, Chairman of the Crisis Communications Committee of the Association of Corporate Security Professionals of Ukraine
Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the National Corporate Reputation Management Quality Rating “Reputational ACTIVists”
Senator of the European Economic Senate
Doctor of Economic Sciences

Wise and truly international corporations continue to compare and scale global strategies and use various communication channels and tools; creative moves are used together with daily systematic work, not instead of it.

Simple wrong solutions often seem genius to those who do not seek to understand complex things and prefer to direct their vital energy to less burdensome matters. Reputation management (PR in common terms) is one more area where, as in politics and football, almost everyone considers themselves an expert. Especially the top management and owners of companies that, due to their status, are sometimes involved in one or another social or electoral activity. Hence the prevalence of illusions causes a lot of pain to the PR teams of business structures and prevents them from building civilized management mechanisms focused on long-term results. The main ones are as follows.


  • System and strategy are boring old school

The times of rapid changes in the social landscape are tempting to pull no punches in business management as well. On the one hand, inconclusive brainstorming and PR strategies written on the table set teeth on edge. On the other hand, rapid digitization suggests that everything is done in real-time, and that planning is futile. And, finally, the third – many people simply and cynically do not want to do something difficult for the “primitive and stupid” public. All these three markers are very characteristic of Ukrainian companies of any size – from large corporations to medium and small businesses. Whereas wise and truly international (and not those pretending to be international) corporations with their long and great history continue to compare and scale global strategies and use various communication channels and tools; creative moves are used together with daily systematic work, not instead of it, with different effectiveness, but unanimously. So, for some, British education of the classical model is old school, but such an opinion is of little interest to British universities.


  • Everything in PR is digital

No sane person would think to downplay the importance of digital technologies and their usefulness in reputation management. The mass media have long been using the posts of opinion leaders from social networks and, more recently, Telegram channels as information sources. It is very convenient to receive feedback and conduct promotions in a digital format. But this in no way cancels reality – event communication, ambient media, etc. As well as the questionable ethics of many digital tools suitable for the purposes of reputation management.


  • Hype is the king

Hype in reputation management is considered by many to be a synonym for godsend or extremely cunning fraud. Like, we hyped up and got visibility for free. However, experience shows that you also need to know how to hype or the effect will be like with a vagabond who won the lottery. You still need the same boring and procedural reputation management system to take advantage of the chance that a well-used opportunity to surf a trend or a well-started meme provides. Cold mind and flawless execution of business processes. If not, then a bright flash will remain a bright flash.


  • Opinion leaders will support us as their consciences dictate

Brands’ courting of experts and influencers is gaining momentum. Most media objects of courting are always in demand, and gourmands reach microinfluencers. But both opinion leaders with millions of audiences and niche bloggers already know their worth and have their own “editorial policy”. You can count on their altruism only if you are fighting for a really important idea or have a general funding source.


  • UGC (User Generated Content) replaces signal acceleration and eliminates creative expenses

It is clear that ordinary consumers are not as knowledgeable about the goods/money relationship as the leaders of public opinion. But a spontaneous and free mass demonstration of love for the brand is impossible. At least because not only fans come but haters too. Or bots from competitors’ bot farms. In addition, the most talented creators of quality content prefer to sell it rather than present it to companies. And the crowdsourcing of ideas requires exquisite workmanship and intensive moderation, which almost no one is ready for.


  • Telegram channel is our main corporate mass media

Show politics and audience democracy are realities of the modern world. That is why the most advanced part of Ukrainian society is entertained by insiders from anonymous Telegram channels. Their success makes many think they must do the same thing, whether for personal PR or business promotion. Especially since there are still successful tourist and educational Telegram projects. But not everyone thinks about the audience of this communication channel and which industries and business models it is useful for. So, an information stand would be more useful in many companies.


  • Internal communications are needed to continuously encourage employees

Nowadays, almost all company decision-makers understand that internal communications should be practiced. Another issue is that few of them understand how and what for. Many just blindly copy the entertainment activities for staff implemented by rich international companies. At the same time, they lack understanding that the HR basis of internal communications is material remuneration and working conditions. Of course, you can try to appease the anger of those who are starving with cakes, but it may lead to a revolutionary situation.


  • One full-time PR professional can do everything

Lean management (economizing) is experiencing a renaissance in these lean times. The most progressive companies dealt with this concept 15-20 years ago, separated the wheat from the chaff, used the quintessence, and moved on. Others are discovering it for themselves now and see it as a way not just of optimization but of total savings. With regard to the PR department, this results in the transfer of all responsibility to one worthy in-house specialist who can only outsource the separate project and pay a minimum; or several low-skilled specialists at an even cheaper price. So, as Zhvanetskyi wrote, “You may even not pay if you are not interested in the result.”


  • Tender – the best way to choose an outsourcing agency 

The most apotheose option of a tender for purchasing PR services is a tender for anti-crisis PR. Even this very phrase sounds like an oxymoron. The specificity of such projects is that even the customer must often forget about the tools used. But our people manage to “tender anti-crisis.” Other great examples:

– the tender committee with 90% of not PR people;

– tender offer evaluation system where the price offered by the supplier determines 80 points out of 100 possible;

– possible unfair competition: a platform for reduction where you can bargain with until zero; impunity of participants who win due to the fact that they do not contribute half of the real costs related to the project to the price offer.

And, of course, the very purpose of the tender. Most often, complex and interesting meaningful tasks in scope statement result in the use of an agency for transit costs and promotional activities unrelated to PR. In fact, the client company hammers nails with a microscope. To avoid this, the top management is highly recommended not to give the tender process to buyers and allow the agency to bring real tangible benefits to the business.


  • SRC (spiritually rich company) always wins

Some time ago, the glamorous media discussed that the interest of eligible bachelors in the SRG (spiritually rich girls with education and interests) compared to ordinary young ladies with a model appearance is higher. The current situation in the business community is somewhat similar. For some reason, many people believe that all their stakeholders make a big deal out of the problems of ecology, minorities, spatial organization, and other trendy pressure points of nowadays. And they are ready to give up their material interests and conveniences in the name of these noble principles. Most of the time, life proves the opposite. And if the huge pillows bought in an eco-conscious store can only be put in an expensive creepy eco-bag, the potential buyer will leave without buying a pillow. And the company will not get any profit.


Resume surrogate

Of course, someone wants another result, but there are still no free lunches. Any result in reputation management is achieved using company resources in one form or another. If they do not even spend money, they spend time, energy, and nerves of the top and rank-and-file employees. And most often, the real value of “no-budget” PR projects is extremely high, no matter how sad their authors are.

Reputation Activists 2022