Where did it come from? When it started looking as though boring old public relations was beginning to lose its mystique, some bright sparks in the industry pointed out that 'reputation management' could be packaged and sold as a more serious (and expensive) service. It blends in with high-powered 'corporate affairs' work - all that hush-hush stuff that goes on with regulators and government. But maybe it's just good old 'perception management' - which, of course, is public relations by any other name. So PR has done a good PR job on reputation management.
Where is it going? The biggest private equity deal in history - KKR and TPG's recent $45bn takeover of TXU Energy - nearly came unstuck over reputational issues. Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, a US pressure group, ran a web-based campaign to force the buyers to scale down plans to build new power stations. Krupp told the New York Times: 'The reputations of companies are going to be less determined by the quality of their PR people and more by their actual actions - and that empowers more of an honest debate on the merits. It's harder in the internet era to keep bad environmental news secret and expect the public to sit on its hands.'
Fad quotient (out of 10)
A spotless 8.