Magna Carta is a reputation management agency, established in 1994. We are turning 20 this year and have grown in leaps and bounds since inception. We pride ourselves in professionalism and being one of the best in the communications sphere. With all that in mind, it came as an uncomfortable surprise when Brendan Seery awarded us the PR Onion in his Orchids and Onions column in the Saturday Star (February 15, 2014). The Onion, which is an award to a PR agency for getting something wrong, was for a basic PR101 procedure. (See PDF: SaturdayStarOnion)
As a reputation management agency – our own reputation is of utmost importance. No client would trust us with their brand(s) if we didn’t have the reputation we have – a reputation that took years to build and polish. But as the saying goes; every dog has its day – and it was our day. The Onion provided us with the opportunity to eat our own dog food. It was our turn to show how we handle ourselves when our reputation is being questioned – put to practice the advice we give to our clients.
Ignoring the Onion was an option with the hope that none of our clients saw it – but as Magna Carta CEO Vincent Magwenya states “perception can easily turn into reality”. Another option was to go on the defensive and blame it all on the intern in question. But that would be a contradiction to how we consult with our clients on matters similar to this one.
For a brand to retain any credibility during a crisis, taking responsibility is the first step. “The Onion from Seery was a clear indication that something had gone wrong with our management protocols of interns and our interface with the media – we had to accept this fact and take action” explains Magwenya.
Magwenya, who makes it clear that “communication is about leadership”, did exactly that and made contact with the Journalist. Part of managing a reputation includes building and continually maintaining relationships. Ignoring the matter would have meant Seery would forever have had ill-feelings towards any mention of Magna Carta. The relationship between reputation consultants and journalists is the most important factor of our field – it affects our clients at the end of the day. Clients will not feel comfortable working with an agency that doesn’t have great relations with media representatives. “Media relations management is our bread and butter.”
In his message to Seery, Magwenya unpacked Magna Carta’s plan of action as to how we’ll ensure that such a slip up will never happen again. “It is never enough to just take responsibility and apologise. It is also important to show that measures have been formulated to remedy the issue at hand”, said Magwenya. This was simply not a “find the intern- fire the intern” issue. Being reactionary would mean that we solved the problem at surface level but didn’t get to the root cause of the problem.
Quick real-time action from Magna Carta’s CEO put the company back into the good books of Seery. After the response he awarded us an Orchid for our peace effort and most importantly we mended our relationship with him. (See PDF: SaturdayStarOrchid)