reputation

What a difference two decades makes

Rewind the clock back to the summer of 1997 and Her Majesty the Queen was in the midst of one of the biggest PR disasters in living memory following the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The British public had seemingly turned on her overnight for displaying an apparent out of touch nature and because of her perceived refusal to show any form of public emotion or listen to the British people.

Conspiracy theorists even used the opportunity to start rumours (which still persist to this day) that the Royal family had a hand in her demise. Dark days for her indeed – especially as her reputation had largely been unblemished up until this point.

Contrast this with David Beckham in 1997. Despite it being two years before he became Mr. Posh Spice and despite it being many years before “Brand Beckham” really took off, he was already enjoying extreme public adulation. Thanks to being an integral member of Manchester United, one of the most famous football clubs on the planet, he was already walking on a path that would lead to worldwide fame.

Now – fast forward to February, 2017.  Let’s look at their respective public profiles today.

Her Majesty the Queen is enjoying a public profile that has completely recovered from the low point of 1997. Having reached her milestone Sapphire anniversary on February 6, marking her 65th year as Monarch, she is enjoying adulation across the world, with commentators falling over themselves to highlight her long reign, her dedication to duty and her apparent natural ability to never put a foot wrong.

However, David Beckham’s reputation – which was nothing short of perfect up until a couple of weeks ago – has apparently collapsed like a house of cards overnight. Emails have been leaked which indicate the desire for a knighthood is behind the “selfless” charity work he has been doing for so long, and that he is allegedly a spoiled diva who demands a private jet is at his “Beck” and call whenever he does public interviews.

The Daily Mail even goes as far as saying, “we now know that the real Beckham is a foul-mouthed, determined egotist who uses his work for charities as part of an increasingly desperate campaign to win a knighthood.”

Yes, newspaper columnists can be a fickle bunch, but the comparison between this and the previously glowing commentary enjoyed by David Beckham couldn’t be more different. Forget the fact that he has raised millions of pounds for charity and that he has been one of the UK’s “golden” celebrities for so long – this apparently now counts for nothing.

So is there a moral to this story? I believe there are at least two.

The first is that reputations that have been crafted for many, many years can be damaged overnight – with even previous supporters suffering from selective amnesia when it comes to forgetting all the good that has gone before.

The second? This is when the PR adviser will become the most important person in the celebrity entourage. Bank managers, investment advisers and diary managers will have nothing on the importance of the PR adviser during a reputational crisis such as that currently being faced by Brand Beckham.

Written by James Bishop, Director

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