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love not hate, in a perverse attempt to save their beloved national icon.Given the level of brand loyalty felt by customers and the complex linkswhich emerged between corporate and national identity highlighted bypress, television and radio journalists, any corporate communication strategyhad to address questions relating not only to reputation, but also to self-image which conflicted with images held by other publics, their reactions andresponses. The obvious immediate reaction was for management to go onthe defensive, but it was clear that M&S management had been stung intoaction and had recognized that something drastic needed to be done.The company, like all firms which had gone through a process of 're-engineering' in the 1980s and 1990s, had to address the reconfiguration ofall its messages, including its mission and values statements. It haddeveloped a complacent attitude to its internal and external behaviors,including its approach to marketing communication strategy via the long-held position and differentiation it enjoyed throughout that period. If publicrelations is the eye and ears of the organization, M&S was neither seeing norhearing.Like many British retailers, M&S had to retain key elements of itstraditions and culture which investors, employees and customers related toand identified with, while redefining corporate strategy to meet theexpectations of critics and devotees alike. A public relations priority wasidentified in which the mission needed to be re-emphasized to clarify thekind of business M&S was now in, reflecting the modern nature of itstraditional products and services, while articulating and correcting wherenecessary conflicting perceptions and misconceptions. Public relationsstrategy had to be linked coherently to an evolving corporate strategy insuch a way as to ensure that communication policy and practice couldaddress the internal and external forces that were limiting growth, arrestingchange and turning into a 'media circus'. The significance of the changesthat had occurred in what has been termed the 'post-technological era' andthe impact of competitive forces cannot be underestimated in terms of theirimpact on corporate public relations. Four basic public relations issuesemerged from M&S's realization of the impact of the negative presscoverage:1 The company had an identity crisis which had led to a lack of imagecredibility.2 As a result of this identity crisis, the PR strategy it had was undermined.The organization appeared not to be prioritizing the communication channelsin any coherent way and messages were not structured carefully eitherdirectly or indirectly.
3 With the convergence of corporate communication impacting on itspublic relations activities M&S could no longer identify its key constituents.