MONDAY 23 JAN 2017 11:56 AM


On Friday 20 January, in a move previously unprecedented to even the most prolific pollsters, Donald Trump became the 45th president of the US. Inevitably, a plethora of press coverage ran before, during and after the event; commentary from all over the world abound. Yet to widespread surprise, the first action by Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, was condemnation of the inauguration's media coverage. Spicer refuted figures which indicated its poor attendance and decried statistics showing the Women's March on Washington as attracting a wider audience.

The so-called ‘fake news’, which included photographic comparisons of crowds drawn by the Obama and Trump inaugurations respectively, enraged Spicer to emphasise press unreliability and its fault in accentuating Trump's negative image. Yet, unlike Spicer's priorities – where his flustered untruths are clear to anyone who possesses integrity – the need for authentic and trustworthy communications is cited as a key business strategy driver during 2017.

Indeed, ensuring consumers trust their sources of information has the potential to make or break reputation. In a set of predictions developed by leading reputation-based research and advisory firm, Reputation Institute UK, the ‘post-truth’ era is a modern minefield in the development and maintenance of corporate reputation.

Authentic communications will be crucial in driving business sales, particularly for consumer-facing products, even if honesty about negative product aspects drives down sales in the short term. In the long term, business should expect to benefit from increased customer loyalty based on a positive reputation for good business practice. Marcus Smith, UK managing director at Reputation Institute, says, “2016 was a tough year for many businesses, and 2017 looks like it will be equally full of uncertainty. One thing we can be certain of is that we are moving further into a ‘reputation economy’ with companies relying on the trust held in them by the public more than ever.”

Smith continues, “With this in mind, looking after reputation will be paramount. Authentic communications will increase in value and drive reputation throughout 2017, with consumers seeking out honesty in the companies they buy from.”

And in the same vain, 2016 proved how not only financial capital determines business traction. As the people’s voice determined political outcomes, it provided impetus for resistance on a mass scale, accelerated through the ease of global proliferation of social media. The Reputation Institute recommend business be aware and perceptive of general public feeling in order to target consumer needs and market themselves effectively. This might include increased investment in research and measurement to formulate the most effective consumer-centric strategies.

“The historic events of 2016 have additionally led to a more emboldened consumer, with the victories of Trump and Brexit paving the way for greater ‘people power’ – we see the likes of the Stop Funding Hate campaign gaining greater traction and necessitating a reaction from the business world,” explains Smith.

“Businesses must work hard to achieve a greater understanding of what their consumers want and what they truly think of them in order to build reputation capital.”

Finally, the Reputation Institute predict that 2017 will mark the end of high-profile celebrity endorsement. Stronger relationships with YouTube stars, sector experts or even the wider public looks set to drive business engagement and, similarly to the need for authentic comms, will establish trust between business and consumer.

There is no doubt that, however the next 12 months conclude, change is afoot. Perhaps the predictions to business change is reflects the consensus, held by some, that voters have ensured politics is ‘returned to the people’. As Gramsci said, 'To tell the truth is revolutionary' - the impact of this outlook on business remains to be seen.