Icon Reputation launches podcast to dissect PR and comms

Icon Reputation - Up The Creek

Mark Forbes: “Reputation is increasingly under threat. It’s valued more than ever before but subject to potential attacks and undermining.”

Icon Reputation, part of Icon Agency, has launched a podcast, Up the Creek, examining the hits and misses of PR and crisis communications from the sporting arena to corporate blowouts.

Director Mark Forbes and director of media and public affairs Benjamin Haslem will dissect how people or organisations define themselves in these crises and examine their attempts to extricate themselves.

Forbes told Mediaweek the two hosts have “a fair bit of experience on both sides of the fence”, both as former journalists who now work in high levels of PR and crisis communications.

While Up the Creek looks at the serious implications of PR mishaps and crisis communications, he noted: “It’s not a totally serious podcast. It’s a chance to have a giggle at the misfortunes of others.”

Though Forbes joked that the podcast is for “anyone who takes a degree of pleasure in the discomfort of others”, he said it would interest anyone intrigued by the reputations of individuals, organisations and corporations.

Icon Reputation - Mark Forbes

Icon Reputation director Mark Forbes

“These days, reputation is increasingly under threat. It’s both valued more than ever before but subject to potential attacks and undermining.”

“There’s just so much more scrutiny of individuals. The rise of mobile phones and technology makes everyone a publisher. If you do something silly in public, you can almost bet your bottom dollar that some will capture video on an iPhone.
“We’re seeing those massive expectations around not just the purpose of brands but also the standards we expect out of leading individuals and corporations.
“Increasingly now, the media, shareholders and the public oversee those comments and expect people’s actions to match the words. Where they don’t is often where crisis is born,” he said.
The first episode of the podcast will unveil the 2023 Reputation Eye Awards. The awards recognise successful PR turnaround, the Golden Eye Award, and the most significant PR fail of the year, the Brown Eye Award.

TV Ratings Matildas

This year’s Golden Eye Award for the Best PR Performance of 2023 went to The Matildas, who Forbes said had successfully “won the hearts of the nation over the World Cup.”

“If you look back a year, they got kicked out of the Asian Cup. There were calls for the coach to resign; they dropped out of the FIFA Top 10 and badly lost a couple of friendlies.

“It’s been an interesting process since then, whereby by very limited major media exposure, really strong marketing and involvement were appropriate on social issues, have really improved their reputation, with almost everyone.

“They’re seen as Australia’s most valuable sporting commodity, and they use that platform constructively during the World Cup. They (The Matildas) spoke out about the discrepancy in male and female prize money.”

Meanwhile, according to Forbes, the Brown Eye Award had a few worthy contenders.

Optus was a notable mention following the second network outage this year. He said: “To manage the mess up your comms the second time around on a major issue, it was pretty outstanding, and I wasn’t too surprised to see the CEO go.”

Icon Reputation’s director of media and public affairs, Benjamin Haslem

However, Forbes said in terms of scope and impact, PwC took the title.

“They (PWC) drove a company that would have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars in government consulting work to the point where they had to flog it off for $1 to get it off the books.

“That has bigger ramifications for all consultancy firms; it raises serious questions for the government about their reliance on private sector contractors who have increasingly taken over a large amount of them working in the public sector and highlights the potential dangers.

“For PwC to know when you’re playing both sides of the fence, you need to have proper protocols, ethics and standards,” he added.

Forbes said he hopes the podcast provides insights into the ins and outs of crisis PR and communication, from tactics to how to deal with getting into trouble and what not to do.

Forbes noted that the key to getting out of a problem is taking ownership of the issue, saying sorry, if deserved, and taking action to fix the issue that has been created.

“People want to be reassured it doesn’t happen again,” he added.

See also: Mediaweek’s A to Z of 2023: Q is for Qantas, Optus, PwC and the year of corporate blowouts

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