Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Betting industry and reputation management : Case Veikkaus

"Reputation or media cannot be controlled. " This is how the director of communication at Veikkaus sums up his experience in dealing with public relations and general perception of the company. Veikkaus, the Finnish national betting agency is owned by the Finnish government. The total profits are directed to sports, art, youth work and science. It controls a large majority of the gaming markets in Finland, which according to many foreign betting companies causes an unfair advantage to free market principles. Sports betting is completely operated by Veikkaus in Finland, and the market access is restricted for other companies. Four years ago foreign companies attempted to take Veikkaus to EU-court in order to end the monopoly. This meant that Veikkaus, and its director of communication Ilkka Juva needed to work hard to defend the company´s image and reputation in front of the international public and media.
"Actually they attacked against the Finnish legislation, not us. 
             But still it irritated me."

What is reputation? Where does a company reputation stem from? Development manager Riku Ruoholahti from the T-Media Oy /Reputation Institute Finland gave a short speech at this year´s "Elonmerkki" -media conference regarding this topic. According to Ruoholahti, reputation cannot be compressed to cover just the balance sheet or sales revenue of a particular company. In reality, it originates from everything a company does: all its interaction with various stakeholders composes the perception. It is a question of trust and a positive emotional bond at its best: good reputation ensures that customers are satisfied and recommend you, employees are loyal and the media views you favorably.

Certainly the particular field of business affects the reputation. When thinking of the tobacco industry in the 21st century, it is hard to imagine how reputation good be naturally decent, at least with regard to its traditional product compilation. The same way, it could be argued that betting and gambling are considered infamous in the Western world. Finnish "Veikkaus" however, has managed to prove otherwise.

Despite the deplorable incident with the other international betting companies, Veikkaus managed to bypass the accusations of monopoly and strengthen its position. According to Ruoholahti from the Reputation Institute, Veikkaus is now the fifth most reputable company in Finland (the number one spot goes to the confectionery company Fazer). Mr. Juva admits that  the goal of Veikkaus has been to systematically stand behind its image as a public benefactor. All the proceeds go "back" for the citizens. In other words, through the act of entertaining games one can take part in taking care of the society as a whole. Charity through betting. This message clearly has saved the reputation of Veikkaus in the midst of European Union and their warnings. In the light of his experiences, Juva upholds skillful mastery of communication as the utmost important asset for today´s company. In his view, communication specialists should be present in the company boardrooms, and not as just  plain sidesupport players. Although media cannot be controlled, one can participate into the ongoing discussion and form a mutually beneficial dialogue.


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