Reputation Management and the Business Environment in Lebanon
By: Samer Renno* Date prepared: 27 July 2001
Having experienced one of the worst economic downturns Lebanon has ever faced in its
modern history, I was able to observe the various tactics that
firms and businesses resort to in
order to survive such a situation and stay afloat.
A number of businesses closed down, while other long
standing industries were on the brink of
bankruptcy, with what that entails in terms of laying off workers and worse
yet, defaulting on
Amidst the entire chaotic business environment, only a limited number of senior management
makers chose to utilize the power of public relations in order to create awareness
and strengthen the profile of th
eir organizations and products among their target audiences.
As a public relations practitioner, I believe the decision taken by various corporate
communications executives to resort to public relations is probably one of the best decisions
they have eve
r made under such circumstances. The power of public relations can effectively
identify any organization’s stated goals and objectives and implement a customized program
that addresses those needs in a timely and pro
There is no law in bus
iness that penalizes a company for implementing restructuring plans (in
sack) a number of employees due to budgetary constraints, but where the
unwritten law is strikingly clear, is when financial troubles spill over to where it significan
affects the growth and reputation of the organization and its products.
Unfortunately in Lebanon, the economic conditions have created a panic in the ways and
means of surviving a crisis situation of this magnitude. Many corporations have been driven
primarily to maintain the flow of their products or services into the market. However, what
they neglect to focus on is the communications strategy that will aid their sales and marketing
force to generate interest among the public for their brand verses t
This is where public relations plays a major and primary role. Corporations in Lebanon and
elsewhere in the region need to stop thinking of public relations as a luxury
creating stars out of corporate executives!
but rather a
s a necessity that can impact
positively on the image and reputation of the corporation and its products or services.
It is not unusual to come across corporate executives who favor advertising as a marketing
tool as opposed to public relations. However,
it is also common to find decision
for neither, preferring to rely solely on their sales team and the strength of the brand name.
This kind of old
style management is precisely the one being affected financially with every
arising economic i
nstability in the market.
Lack of planning and forward thinking are forcing corporations to cut down their workforce
especially their sales team
in order to survive, thus leaving the brand name with no support.
Unfortunately there are many case stu
dies in Lebanon that characterize the latter example.
However, one case that comes to mind is about a major manufacturing company with an
image problem and weak product lines. The focus of its new management centered only on its
internal restructuring plan
s, while neglecting the essential need to strengthen its corporate
reputation and raise the profile of its products among the target consumers. Shortage in
operating funds led the company to steer away from an effective public relations strategy plan
pt instead to keeping a low profile in the market.
It is clear that this company has made a difficult decision. However more importantly, the
choice taken was based on a perceived short
term solution. Public relations, in this case,
should have been a lo
term strategy that would have created press interest in the
restructuring efforts and the new direction of the management team. Aside from that, public
relations tactics were guaranteed to better highlight the company’s products in the press and
he target groups
thus instilling confidence in the new direction of the company.
It is unfortunate that public relations practitioners do not possess a magic wand in order to
make corporate executives adopt the tactics of the fastest growing discipline
communications industry. What some corporations fail to realize is that professional public
relations agencies focus on providing a remedy and finding a cure for any situation. They work
with the client’s interest as a top priority.
While it is no
t always a sound business decision to take on an ailing account with below
minimum fees, it is however the case
with some professional agencies
accounts possess a special interest for them. It is easy to manage a leading company’s
unt, where the public relations program can focus on maintaining the client’s lead in the
market, however, it is intriguing to manage a problem
ridden account and be a part of its
revival and success story.
Overall, the power of public relations can posi
tively assist ailing and prosperous organizations
alike in Lebanon and the region, to take a leading role in the market. It is not repetitive to
keep mentioning that public relations is now a perceivable discipline that can be applied in
many cases and at
Samer Renno is managing director of Renno & Associates, a public relations and publishing
agency, with headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon.
To contact the writer, please send an email to: