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A tragic symbol…


Of all the things my former Principal values, Reputation is his most prized, so I think he’ll have been quite pleased to see Edinburgh rise from 38th place to 34th in the latest THE World Reputation Rankings. But these rankings are based on perception, not facts.

Perception, the new currency for policy-making in this age of post-Truth. It worked for Donald Trump and for the Brexiteers. Mrs May and immigration. It’s even brought back Michael Gove.

Perception vs truth was one of our Conference themes last week. Ehsan Masood gave a very thought-provoking talk about it, as did his Boss, William Cullerne Bown, at the EARMA conference a couple of weeks beforehand. I had an interesting chat with a fellow ARMA Board member about this during conference and pondered whether all the noise that is social media is oblitering truth and fact. The Wikipedia era where everything written down looks right. But, as I’m discovering with another organisation I work with, social media doesn’t require much in the way of factual accuracy.

If it looks good, it must be right. And yet, as we saw two nights ago, things that look good on the outside can be tragically flawed on the inside. WCB and I were only yesterday evening musing on the fact that the Grenfell Tower is horribly symbolic of this flawed world we live in. Recently refurbished at significant expense, so it looked fine, but nobody heard the concerns, nobody read the recommendations, nobody scrutinised the facts. Tragic indeed. Brexit and Trump/Climategate all over.

Reputation is important of course, but it needs to be based on reality, on fact, on integrity, not spin, not meaningless KPIs, not soundbites, not substance-free opinions.

Back to the Reputation Rankings, I’m quite pleased that we performed rather better (27th) in the somewhat more substantial THE World University Rankings. Better this way round than the other perhaps…maybe there’s a place for the REF after all.


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