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There was a short list of nominees for best communicator among world leaders this year, and really no question who would come out on head and shoulders among anyone else: Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenkskyy, who has rapidly achieved the status of hero in leadership and communications terms in his handling of Russian’s invasion.
Zelenkskyy knocked New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern – the only female leader mentioned on either list – off the top spot after three years running, although she was clearly in second place. The only other leader who received multiple mentions was Emmanuel Macron, who returned to being one of the most feted leaders in 2020’s Influence 100, after having multiple mentions on the worst communicator list last year thanks to mixed pandemic messaging. Canada’s Justin Trudeau was also nominated for best communicator among global leaders.
After being in second place on the best communicator list last year, the relief of US president Joe Biden’s low-key contrast to Donald Trump’s chaotic communications style clearly lost its novelty pretty quickly: Biden has slipped from second place in the best communicator list of world leaders, into the top four voted as worst communicators.
On the list of the worst communicators among the world’s leaders, and with last year’s runaway ‘winner’ Donald Trump out of the picture, UK prime minister Boris Johnson stole the show: no surprise given the continuing revelations around how his cronies partied at No.10 while the rest of the country was in pandemic lockdown and unable to see elderly or dying relatives.
Joint second place in the worst global communicator nominations went to Vladimir Putin – who, interestingly, was mentioned multiple times on the worst communicator list but also got a handful of nominations for best communicator – and the only business leader on the list this year, Elon Musk.
Germany’s Angela Merkel, a regular on the best communicator list for several years, didn’t get a single mention this year. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was nominated for both best and worst communicator, while Brazilian president Jair Bolsinaro also appeared on the worst communicator list again for another year, as did China’s leader, Xi Jingpeng.
We asked our influencers to name the companies they think have best managed their brand communications and corporate reputation over the past year. One name was head and shoulders above the rest: Microsoft. Joint second place went to Google and Apple, while Pfizer, which was overwhelmingly voted as the leading company in terms of reputation management last year, after its successful handling of the Covid vaccine introduction, was again on the list this year but with many fewer nominations: it came in on a par with McDonald’s and Nike (both perennial names on the list) and Salesforce.
There were also positive namechecks for Twitter, Amazon, Mastercard, Patagonia, Tata Group, Ben & Jerry’s, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Lululemon, Airbnb, and L’Oreal.
We also asked which company has managed its reputation least effectively over the past year and the result was again unequivocal: sadly but rather predictably for Meta/Facebook, for the fourth year running around half of those who responded named the social media network.
Disney, which was nominated for best reputation management last year, was one of the most-named companies in the worst list this year, thanks to the tone-deaf handling of Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ bill, which also led to the exit of new CCO Geoff Morell this spring just a couple of months after he arrived.
The British Royal Family, after another year of controversy, featured in both the best and worst lists, along with Tesla, which received one mention on the best reputation management list this year but was one of the most-nominated on the worst list, tallying with the negative assessment of CEO Elon Musk on the list of worst global leadership communicators.
Other mentions on the worst reputation management list included Nestlé, Shell, Vedanta, P&O Ferries, Uber, Starbucks, Boeing and Heineken.
Edelman was in unequivocal top spot for the third year running; it was temporarily knocked off by Weber Shandwick in 2019 after a six-year straight run of being the most frequently-cited public relations agency when our Influence 100 were asked which firm they most admired. Coming in second place was Brunswick, which regularly shows up in the top five mentioned, but this year there was clear water between the strategic communications firm and other agencies.
The only other agencies to get multiple mentions were Zeno, FGS Global (formed by the merger of Finsbury Glover Hering and Sard Verbinnen) and Weber Shandwick, which just scraped into fifth place this year.
There were also namechecks for other agencies of all sizes around the world, from networks to specialists, including: Teneo; FleishmanHillard; Adfactors in India; Farner in Germany; Headland, Freuds, Red Consultancy and Tancredi Groupin the UK; healthcare specialist Real Chemistry; Peppercomm, Harbour Group and Wilder Public Relations in the US; Comin & Partners in Italy; MSport in South Africa; luxury and lifestyle specialist Purple PR; and Hallvarsson + Halvarsson in Sweden.
This year, for the second time, as well as asking our Influence 100 which agencies they admire, we asked them to think about the future of agencies, and the biggest challenges and need for change they see for PR agencies, from their in-house perspective.
There is much insight for agencies here as to what their clients are expecting from them now and in the future: many of the – often frank – responses focused on data, ESG, content creation, business knowledge and employee engagement.
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