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Bad publicity can be trigger for change

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Published: November 14 2008 02:00 | Last updated: November 14 2008 02:00

From Ms Amanda Powell Smith.

Sir, Luke Johnson is correct in much of his analysis about the impact of media coverage in his article “Bad publicity today is old news tomorrow” (November 12), but he has missed the point.

Bad publicity today may not be tomorrow’s headline but it is often the starting point of massive – and much-needed – internal change. Like the proverbial swan, companies caught in media headlights appear calm as they bring out high-profile officials to put the company case, but behind the scenes there are ongoing questions and board-level demands that it never happens again.

Headline disasters, from Shell and its plans to dispose of the Brent Spar oil storage facility, to the outbreak of bird flu at a Bernard Matthews turkey farm in 2007, have forced companies to look at the social and environmental implications of their actions and to develop an approach to reduce their impact. While this may not immediately affect media coverage, it is essential for the confidence and support of their employees, customers and suppliers. After all, who wants to work for or with a company deemed “bad” by the media machine?

Clever companies will make sure their board is properly media-trained. But they will also have policies and practices in place to satisfy all their critical stakeholders and ensure that they are a viable and long-term business.

Amanda Powell Smith,
London SE1, UK

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