• Laura

Bigmouth strikes again

Boris Johnson has once again found himself in the middle of a scandal of his own doing, but will this latest outpouring of negative publicity bring an end to a long career fuelled by controversy?

Many will say that his inflammatory remarks about burkas was simply a brazen publicity stunt, a way of keeping himself in the public eye while other MPs sat snoozing on their long summer holidays. But you could argue that the idea of there being no such thing as bad publicity isn’t applicable for someone in his trusted position.

For those seeking the limelight at any cost, it might be true that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. The front man of a rock band with a scandalous reputation or the author of a racy novel seeking notoriety could be forgiven for seeking column inches in this way, but for those in positions of accountability there is a responsibility to behave and communicate in an appropriate manner.

It’s a truism that it takes years to build trust, but just seconds to break it and most businesses and individuals are not afforded the same latitude as Johnson. Reputations are often fragile, and a broken reputation can carry significant financial consequences.

You only need to look to the recent TSB IT problems to see how quickly a crisis can strike. In 2017, TSB was the third most switched to banking provider, but it lost 26,000 customers and picked up a bill of more than £175m for redress and other costs in just a matter of weeks.

Good communication cannot avert a crisis, but it can help to mitigate the fall-out. Bad communication on the other hand can, and often does, cause a crisis – just ask Gerald Ratner, who destroyed his own multi-million-pound jewellery business with just one ill-considered remark.

Boris Johnson will probably survive, and may even thrive, as a result of his latest scandal, but he should be considered the exception rather than the rule. The best advice for those of us in an industry where trust is key, is to keep messages simple and honest, and avoid controversy at all costs.