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As the UK parliament returns to work all eyes are fixed again on the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of lost lives in the UK continues to compare badly internationally. Boris Johnson has committed to staging some form of independent Inquiry when the time is right. The crisis, everyone acknowledges, is unprecedented but nobody believes the Government’s response has been perfect. The opposition under new leadership has wasted no time in sharpening scrutiny and criticism of almost every aspect of the decision making. The fall-out from the formal public reckoning, whenever it comes, will be significant. The actions of Government, its service providers, and others in the private sector, will come under intense scrutiny. Blame will be liberally thrown around as those most in the firing line try to deflect criticism. Forgotten care home providers struggling to respond in a fragmented social care system, engineers racing to produce critical ventilation equipment, “profiteering” PPE suppliers, pharmaceutical companies straining to find a vaccine and software developers trying to create a more effective track and trace capability are just some of the players whose actions will likely be examined. And that’s before attention is turned to the efficacy of Government’s initiatives to save the economy and whether businesses behaved with integrity when taking taxpayer support. Even though the timing of an independent inquiry is uncertain, any organisation likely to fall under the spotlight, and with a reputation to protect, would be wise to start preparations now. Designed to find out the truth and learn lessons, independent inquiries are laden with powers to enable them to call for evidence, statements and appearance as witnesses and can even delve into an organisation’s internal emails and WhatsApp messages. The “gold standard” of investigations, Public Inquiries are the most powerful form. Inquisitorial in nature with questioning led by QCs, they can make or break a reputation. They are convened by a Government minister and gifted with special powers to compel testimony under oath and the release of evidence. The media challenges are unique. All public inquiries are born out of suffering of various kinds. Combined with a thirst to secure justice, lay blame and learn lessons, this fuels media interest and spurs their own investigations for scoops. Social media will be used ruthlessly by protagonists to feed the national media narrative to better press their case for justice and redress. The journalists may be from more than one desk and may not know you at all. With Inquiries generally proceeding at such a slow pace over a long period, the media can choose their moments when to publish or broadcast in-depth investigations or reviews. These are five lessons we have learned from our experience of recent Public Inquiries: • Respect the primacy and power of the Inquiry and ensure that media responses and strategy travel in lockstep with your legal strategy • Recognise that emotions will run high and the media will likely side with those who have suffered. So adopt a media strategy which is “safety first”, reactive, measured, designed to keep negative coverage to a minimum whilst defending your reputation, judicious and selective in assessing opportunities to communicate improvement initiatives and above all sensitive to those who have suffered • Be ruthless in identifying faults in past behaviour and internal and external company materials and take appropriate action as early as possible to remedy them. Demonstrate a continuous learning culture, whether or not your behaviour was ever at fault • Anticipate potential criticisms from the Inquiry and other third parties o use the privilege of Core Participant status, if you have it, to prepare early reactive media responses o monitor closely social media output from vocal third parties and build a body of evidence to prove you are improving, learning all the relevant lessons and demonstrate a commitment to best practise and industry leadership • Consider at all times what is “the right thing to do” - and then do it If you do all this, you will be in much better position to respond once the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations finally come out - and to protect and maybe even enhance your reputation.

Independent Inquiries can seriously damage reputations: Senior Director Toby Mountford says prepare now for the COVID-19 fallout

By Toby Mountford, Senior Director at Citigate Dewe Rogerson As the UK parliament returns to work all eyes are fixed again on the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of lives lost in the UK continues to compare badly internationally. Boris Johnson has committed to staging some form of independent Inquiry when the…

Strings attached How private equity can avoid the reputational pitfalls of benefiting from Government-backed loan schemes By Agnès Riousse, Director at Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Strings attached

How private equity can avoid the reputational pitfalls of benefiting from Government-backed loan schemes – By Agnès Riousse, Director at Citigate Dewe Rogerson

August is an exciting time for our ‘Safety in Numbers’ insight series as, alongside February, it is when the results of our biannual Fam/Fav survey are compiled.

Fam/Fav: Head of Research Chris Jarvis discusses why it’s more important than ever for asset managers to understand how they’re perceived within the media

August is an exciting time for our ‘Safety in Numbers’ insight series as, alongside February, it is when the results of our biannual Fam/Fav survey are compiled.

Fostering Financial Superheroes: Jonathan Flint discusses the role employers can play in fostering financial wellness

Fostering Financial Superheroes: Jonathan Flint discusses the role employers can play in fostering financial wellness

On a very entertaining Zoom call this week a client confessed at the end of the meeting that she had discovered she had developed a very mild superpower during lockdown; to the delight of her many friends, she makes perfect mojitos.  This sparked a general discussion with confessions from others on the call regarding their…

Safety in Numbers: Amateur Epidemiology - Data has played a vital role in helping people assess the risk of catching coronavirus, evaluating the performance of governments and projecting as to what might happen next. But with so many people turning to numbers for support, what do the figures actually tell us?

Head of Research Chris Jarvis shares his views on the role of data during a pandemic

Safety in Numbers: Amateur Epidemiology – Data has played a vital role in helping people assess the risk of catching coronavirus, evaluating the performance of governments and projecting as to what might happen next. But with so many people turning to numbers for support, what do the figures actually tell us?

Oliver Parry shares his views on the ESG implications of the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: a watershed moment for responsible investing? By Oliver Parry, Head of ESG Advisory at Citigate Dewe Rogerson COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis which is affecting all aspects of life in ways which are hard to predict. Although countries are emerging from self-imposed isolation, many questions remain about COVID-19’s long term impact on society…

Ewan Robertson outlines how companies can manage communications during a crisis

Ewan Robertson outlines how companies can manage communications during a crisis

When an organisation faces a crisis, the demands on its leaders can seem unmanageable. The speed and unexpected nature of a crisis can catch even the most sophisticated organisation unawares – could Disney+ have anticipated the #CancelHamilton backlash?

Technology and remote working have come to the fore during the COVID-19 crisis. The likes of Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and even FaceTime have blossomed in importance to help the business world to carry on operations ‘near-normal’ in many industries.

Hugh Fasken, Director in the CDR Corporate team, shares his views on how to navigate media interviews during a pandemic.

Technology and remote working have come to the fore during the COVID-19 crisis. The likes of Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and even FaceTime have blossomed in importance to help the business world to carry on operations ‘near-normal’ in many industries.

Ewan Robertson shares his thoughts on how a simple apology changed crisis communications

Ewan Robertson shares his thoughts on how a simple apology changed crisis communications

‘What the hell were you thinking?’: How Hugh Grant’s arrest for ‘lewd conduct’ changed the way celebrities say sorry (This article was originally published in the Independent – Read the full article here)