A good corporate reputation takes ages to earn and a second to lose.
What, for example, will happen to Mercedes, whose reputation for quality engineering has been built up over many decades, but has been dealt a severe blow with the publication last month of just one picture - the now-infamous two-wheel-lurch shot of its new A-class car?
However, there is a lot more to a company's reputation than merely PR-generated imagery. Almost invariably, companies with good reputations are also companies with good practices - in other words where the image is underpinned by real substance. Seen in this light, the underlying strength of Mercedes' engineering heritage will, one suspects, right the damage before too long.
This 'substance' aspect is one of the factors that makes Management Today's annual Most Admired Companies survey (p28) so fascinating. Uniquely among surveys of this kind, the results are based on the opinions of those who really know - a company's rivals and peers - which means none of the companies which do well in this survey are one-year stock-market wonders. Indeed, those companies in the top 20, from Reuters and Tesco at one and two to Lloyds TSB and Boots at 19 and 20, are characterised by consistent excellence and a commitment to the highest level of managerial expertise and commitment.
A second benefit of our survey is that it also throws up companies whose excellence is not matched by their profile - for example, Marks & Spencer supplier the Dewhirst Group, which has risen from 123rd to ninth place, services and distribution company Hays and Anglian Water.
The juxtaposition of Britain's Most Admired Companies with another feature in this issue, 10 people for whom 1997 was a year to forget (p50), may appear to be a mischievous thing to do. At the very least, however, it adds a certain piquancy to the read - and at best will remind us of the speed with which individuals such as coal king Richard Budge and frocks queen Ann Iverson can move from hero to zero.
Which university, which graduate?
Time and time again we are told that Britain needs a highly educated workforce if it is to prosper in the 21st century. Employers might therefore be cheered by the news that between 90 and 100 graduates chase each vacancy.
Unfortunately that isn't necessarily good news. As our feature (p66) shows, graduate recruitment is as much of a needle-in-a-haystack exercise as ever. Sadly the introduction of tuition fees will make the struggle to attract and retain graduate talent even harder.
If they are not to lose out, it is therefore incumbent on employers to get their act together and take graduate recruitment seriously. After all, if they don't take it seriously, why should the people they're trying to hire?