Reputation is everything

Lately it seems reputation management issues in Australia are occupying centre stage.

First it was seafood giant Kaillis Brothers (see following article). Now, one of Australia’s most revered and respected organisations is in the spotlight – for all the wrong reasons.

The Returned Services League, or #RSL, has been assisting Military Veterans since 1916.

However, financial questions are being asked by the national broadcaster (more on that later) about it’s operations.

In early October the deputy president of the RSL asked the organisation’s federal president Rod White to stand aside, following allegations of money earned as a consultant while he was a board member (LINK).

Today, the NSW arm of the RSL is being accused of hoarding ,millions, which could be used to assist #Veterans (LINK).

An investigation is underway into the first claim. However, this latest allegation is yet to be acted on.

This is tremendous problem for an organisation as old and trusted as the RSL, which has built it reputation on Australia’s war history and military. There are few organisations that would come close to having such community respect. It is the guardian of the word ANZAC.

However, blind Freddy can see these two issues (strangely following closely from each other, both revealed by the ABC) have the potential to cause tremendous harm to the RSL.

Certainly it seems there could be something unseen at play, as both stories were “broken” by the ABC. Anyone wanting to achieve maximum impact on a national organisation would use the national broadcaster. After all, these issues seems confined to the NSW branch of the RSL. I don’t see the need to embroil other States, whose operations vary markedly from NSW.

Those State branches of the RSL would be well advised to make themselves aware of the situation and prepare contingency statements so their operations are not affected.

As they say in the Classics: “All will be revealed”.

ARTICLE 2: Kaillis has much to lose from its namesake

I’m not sure Kailis Bros keeping the name for its local restaurants is a good idea.

Kailis sold the wholesale arm of its seafood business to a Chinese company. That arm is still called Kailis.

Trouble is it’s been receiving bad publicity for incorrectly labelling its products.

When it comes to food, Australians don’t like to be lied to. With brand integrity so vital these days, the negative impact of the wholesale seafood company on Kaillis’s seafood restaurants (Fremantle, Leederville and Trigg) could be immense.

The other PR outcome from the most recent episode (reported in local media on the weekend) was the poor response from Kaillis (wholesale) about the dodgy labelling and an alleged incident of food poisoning.

A company spokesman said “there was some ambiguity” over the labelling.

I’ll bet there was, with companies skating as close as they can to the labelling laws (to infer an imported product is home-grown).

For the local Kailis operation, perhaps a name change might be best, given that the practices of many overseas operations seem to be always doubtful.

No company can sustain ongoing reputational damage like this; especially when the offender has the same name!



Reputations at stake in Rudd car deal controvery

In all the hubbub about whether or not the Prime Minister (or his office) was allegedly involved in giving a car dealer mate a good deal, spare a though for the Public Servant at the centre of the controversy.

Sure, someone’s going to be a political reputational winner and someone a loser. But what will be the effect on Treasury official Godwin Grech’s career once the dust has settled?

I’m betting he may come out of it with his reputation (and job) intact. He doesn’t strike me as someone prone to making such damaging insinuations.

Sex and sport: when reputation doesn’t matter

Something’s not right when, in this day and age, peak sports bodies don’t take action when they know there’s an issue. I’m referring to the sex scandals involving Cronulla Rugby Leagues Club and the Australian Soccer Federation.

Sure, they will say they took action. But the Cronulla group sex act occurred seven years ago, and the Australian Youth soccer player appeared in court last September. The ASF says it didn’t know its player had been charged. Really?

Their apparent (immediate) lack of concern for alleged victims is appalling. Their understanding of reputation management practices is also astounding.

This attitude is perhaps reflected in the response over the past three weeks to a national survey I am conducting of major sports bodies and clubs on reputation. Of 91 communications “professionals”, only 16 bothered to respond.

Perhaps I can salvage something from the survey and ensuing interviews. I doubt whether these clubs can.
The sports media is compliant in all these “affairs”. I spent 17 years on metro dailies. The journos don’t report it because if they do the clubs cut off contact with them, so they’re effectively out of a job. Liam Bartlett was the journalist who broke the Ben Cousins story, as he had nothing to lose. And on it goes.

It probably doesn’t matter (well it does for the victims) because I believe much of professional sport will “eat itself”, either because of the inability of Australia to support so many professional sports (e.g, basketball) or due to the continuing scandals (e.g, Manly, Cronulla) or a combination of both.

Moose Toys’ poor response, poor attitude

In my previous post about Moose Toys’ lame response to deadly toxic beads being swallowed by children, the media writer for The Australian, Amanda Meade, kindly pointed out the company issued a release.

For sure it did, then “hid” it in the “kids” section of its web site, which probably explains why it wasn’t picked up by the media until 24 hours-plus after the hospitalisation of three children. I went to the kids section ( and I still couldn’t find it. You’d think it would be under the corporate section, at least.

Apart from hiding the release, some of the language isn’t too encouraging.

Quote: “made this decision in the best interests of the brand and the children who love playing with it”.

I didn’t know you could play with a brand. But “in the best interests of the brand”. They really have their priorities wrong. This type of stuff is amazing in this day and age of supposed corporate responsibility.

In the second paragraph they’re also indirectly blaming children for playing with it incorrectly. Cripes, it’s what kids do … put things in their mouths. But to shift blame on to children (customers).

Then it goes on to say Moose voluntarily recalled the product. So if no one found out and didn’t make them recall it, then they wouldn’t have.

I see the statement is issued by a marketing person, which is why you need communicators to handle things like this.

This company has seriously abrogated its responsibility. It’s reputation is tarnished.

I’ll be teaching this as a case study in how not to do PR for a long time.