Given the level of brand loyalty felt by customers and the complex links which

Given the level of brand loyalty felt by customers

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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 links which emerged between corporate and national identity highlighted by press, television and radio journalists, any corporate communication strategy had to address questions relating not only to reputation, but also to self- image which conflicted with images held by other publics, their reactions and responses. The obvious immediate reaction was for management to go on the defensive, but it was clear that M&S management had been stung into action 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 of all its messages, including its mission and values statements. It had developed 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 public relations is the eye and ears of the organization, M&S was neither seeing nor hearing. Like many British retailers, M&S had to retain key elements of its traditions and culture which investors, employees and customers related to and identified with, while redefining corporate strategy to meet the expectations of critics and devotees alike. A public relations priority was identified in which the mission needed to be re-emphasized to clarify the kind of business M&S was now in, reflecting the modern nature of its traditional products and services, while articulating and correcting where necessary conflicting perceptions and misconceptions. Public relations strategy had to be linked coherently to an evolving corporate strategy in such a way as to ensure that communication policy and practice could address the internal and external forces that were limiting growth, arresting change and turning into a 'media circus'. The significance of the changes that had occurred in what has been termed the 'post-technological era' and the impact of competitive forces cannot be underestimated in terms of their impact on corporate public relations. Four basic public relations issues emerged from M&S's realization of the impact of the negative press coverage: 1 The company had an identity crisis which had led to a lack of image credibility. 2 As a result of this identity crisis, the PR strategy it had was undermined. The organization appeared not to be prioritizing the communication channels in any coherent way and messages were not structured carefully either directly or indirectly.
3 With the convergence of corporate communication impacting on its public relations activities M&S could no longer identify its key constituents.

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