Conflicts of interest - the surest way to destroy a reputation

Conflicts of interest - the surest way to destroy a reputation

He may have ‘national treasure’ status, but that hasn’t stopped complaints about Alan Titchmarsh reporting on the Chelsea Flower Show this year for the BBC while under contract with the supermarket chain Waitrose which is a sponsor.

According to press reports including this one in the Evening Standard other presenters have been stood down by the BBC in the past because of commercial interests with show sponsors.

This is all about conflicts of interest and governance which – if only it was more widely understood – would save a lot of organisations having egg on their face or a full blown issue to deal with.

Wikipedia says that “a conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in another”.

I think that most PR people get that they should declare their own potential conflicts of interest to their clients. However, if practitioners are to help their clients and organisations protect their reputations then they also need to be alert to their potential conflicts of interest and help their organisations to understand the reputational risk that they may run as a result. It’s all about being the eyes, ears and conscience of the organisation.

Do you feel that organisations take conflicts of interest seriously enough? As a practitioner, do you feel you have enough guidance on what is and isn't acceptable?