Alwaleed: Prince Who Is King of the Bull Ring

Sunday Business (London, England), March 17, 2002 | Go to article overview

Alwaleed: Prince Who Is King of the Bull Ring


WHO has been the most effective business communicator of the past 12 months? The Business, in association with the PRCA, the public relations industry trade association, is seeking the best in a unique award to recognise the company director who has done most to protect, promote, preserve or project the values and performance of his or her company.

It has not been an easy year to be a shaper of corporate fortunes. The looming threat of recession, the terrorist attacks on the US and the ensuing collapse in business confidence, accounting scandals and escalation of conflicts around the world meant most executives struggled just to stand still in performance terms. But communicating the bad news well and acting to support the corporate image and project the right messages to shareholders, customers, regulators and the general public has been critical.

"There's a real business case for public relations - effective communications makes an impact on the bottom line and businesses in the UK have woken up to this," says Lord Bell, chairman of Chime Communications and a member of the judging panel. "The turbulent economic conditions we've been through during the past few months have borne this out. Generally, the companies that have done best in tough times have been those who have communicated most effectively with their stakeholders."

Even diehard sceptics who doubt the value of good public relations have now experienced a year when mishandling of crises, or the failure to support a company when times are hard, has caused many companies serious damage. Tom Watson, chairman of the PRCA and of Hallmark PR and chairman of the awards judges, argues that PR is central to the business operation.

"Any company that is serious about meeting its business objectives either employs a public relations consultancy or an in-house corporate affairs team, or both," he says.

But now it is time to recognise who has done the best job of managing communications, not the worst. We are inviting The Business readers to nominate their choice of the best business communicator for 2002 (see panel below) and those choices can recognise the control of adverse conditions and situations as much as it can be about trumpeting successes.

You might feel Rod Eddington, the beleaguered chief executive of British Airways, acquitted himself well in relaying to the market a procession of bad news. On the other hand, you may feel Michael O'Leary, the collar-and-tie-hating chief executive of Ryanair, has grasped the opportunity thrown up by customers abandoning full-service airlines and engineered his company to another level.

The rules are that nominees must be chief executives, chairmen or managing directors (or equivalent) of any UK company. The initial screening, as well as the quantitative selection and final judging, will be on the actions and events of the past 12 months.

The process to select one overall winner, plus two runners-up, is in three stages. First, readers' nominations will be merged with a quantitative screening of executives to produce a "top 50" shortlist. …

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