Reflection Paper No. 2: Bell Pottinger


One definition of public relations is the use of third-party communications to inform and persuade an audience, said David Wilson, group managing director  at Bell Pottinger.

Our group met Tuesday morning with Wilson at the Bell Pottinger London offices to hear about the PR firm’s strategies and mindset when dealing with a client’s reputation and increasing its value. Wilson explained that a company’s or brand’s reputation is based on three core elements.

First, it depends on how well you are able to persuade your audience that what you are telling is worth hearing and accepting as fact. Second, you must understand the perceptions your audience has about the company or brand and how you would prefer the public to perceive your client. Last, it is important to take note of what actions you are taking to establish this reputation and how the audience is reacting to these decisions as well.

Reputation is also established based on the equation of what a client says, what it does and also what the audience hears and sees it doing. Though it is important to establish a brand or company in as positive a light as possible, it is also imperative to remember that the public will assess the claim’s accuracy to see if the client is keeping to its word. I found that this idea tied in with Jeremy Hildreth’s idea that doing less pretending could create a stronger marketing campaign, instilling greater trust in your brand.

Wilson also brought up an interesting point about how younger generations are becoming more accepting of information they receive through social media and other digital means. He called this the age of reverence versus the age of deference. In older generations, people were more prone to accept information from those considered the leaders or established intellectuals of society. These generations held “reverence” for those in positions of traditional power or prestige.

Millennial generations, Wilson explained, have more of a tendency to accept the word of strangers they just met or people with whom they have a stronger relationship. Younger people are spending more time on the Internet and  social networking websites, therefore they are receiving most of their news and information via these channels.

This rise of “deference” made me think about how younger generations might restrict themselves when receiving information. There is no doubt that Facebook and Twitter provide a plethora of links, opinions and news updates on our feeds every hour. I often find, though, that many of the shared stories on these sites are one-sided or lack several facts that ruin their integrity. This high accessibility to information and our reliance on these sites might restrict some younger people from actually researching these issues on their own.

The rise of digital media is used in public relations to spread the truth of a brand while also engaging its audience.
The rise of digital media is used in public relations to spread the truth of a brand while also engaging its audience. Credit:

That’s not to say that these websites aren’t progressive and fundamental to the future of public relations. Wilson alludes to digital media as a “double-edged sword” that can build an image up or knock it down. He stressed the importance of understanding digital media as the most important skill needed when entering public relations today.

It is easy to see why when you note the overwhelming presence of the Millennials and their succeeding generations using and revolutionizing the Internet.

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