Antisemitism – how not to manage your reputational risk

Why is Labour’s row over antisemitism relevant to your business?

The subject of this blog is not antisemitism. I will say, however, that I am not a Jew but Jesus was (and arguably is). Therefore, I fail to see how some people can call themselves Christians and hate, disparage or discriminate against Jews. The subject is the management of your reputational risk.

A preacher preaching. Is he for or against antisemitism?
A preacher preaching. Is he for or against antisemitism?
Who is in a row about antisemitism?

The Labour Party and especially Jeremy Corbyn. This is because Labour MP Margaret Hodge has accused him , in a very public and intemperate way,¬†of antisemitism. The party is now subjecting her to its disciplinary process. Opinion is polarised and the party is getting a lot of publicity of the sort it could do without. The words ‘own’ and ‘goal’ come to mind.

Why has Ms Hodge accused Mr Corbyn of antisemitism?

The National Executive Committee (the NEC) has been studying a report on the issue and has adopted most of its recommendations. The main area of disagreement is the definition of antisemitism. The recommendation was to use one the International Holocaust Memorial Committee produced, which many governments and other organisations use. The NEC is trying to change some of it, as It claims that the aim is to avoid prohibiting reasonable criticism of Israel. Others argue that the existing definition provides for that anyway . They say the NEC is trying to water down the party’s response to the issue. Jeremy Corbyn was the target of Ms Hodge’s anger, and that of many others, because he expressed sympathy with the NEC.

Is this antisemitism or are Jews (and others) overreacting?

This is where we come to my main point. People interpret words and actions according to their context. If this question of the definition of antisemitism had arisen in a different context, I think many people, including myself, would have said the NEC had a good case. However, the background is that many people have complained that the party has taken complaints of antisemitism too lightly over the last few years, while instances of it have been increasing. Some people have accused the party leadership of complacency and others even allege complicity. Regardless of the actual situation, now is the time for the leadership, and the leader, to … lead. They need to show that they will not tolerate this form of racialism any more than any other. To show it, at this time, means more than to just say it.

How does this apply to your business?

I have made complaints at times, when I have been dissatisfied with the service from a business. How people responded has varied. In many cases, the result was of damage limitation. Sometimes the reaction was so good that I ended up feeling well-disposed towards the organisation. People seemed to care. All too often it was not like that. I have had denials, unconvincing explanations, non-apologies and even non-responses. One organisation told me that mine was the first complaint they had had. They then referred it to the individual against whom I was complaining. His reply was condescending and complacent. I no longer do business with them.

What do you have to do?

What might be a reasonable response to a general enquiry is unlikely to work when things have already gone wrong. You need to try extra hard to undo the damage. The complainant is likely to be suspicious and easily offended. All this is doubly true where the press gets involved or where the matter is on social media. Don’t pour petrol on the flames!

Most people will be unhappy that the Labour Party is taking action against Margaret Hodge, when several people who have demonstrated antisemitism have got away with it. That’s how it looks, and looks are what matters in managing your reputational risk.

I have written previously on the subject of the reputational risk in relation to the Hillsborough Enquiry.

Perhaps you need a Public Relations specialist. Or a Risk Management consultant. You know where to find me.