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The Guardian today bracketed their “exclusive” interview with Tony Blair in a slightly strange way; pondering the question, whether or not Blair had ever been away, before concluding, enigmatically “Blair may or may not have ever gone away. But he is certainly back.”

The Guardian today bracketed their “exclusive” interview with Tony Blair in a slightly strange way; pondering the question, whether or not Blair had ever been away, before concluding, enigmatically “Blair may or may not have ever gone away. But he is certainly back.”

Perhaps more than any other Prime Minister, Blair has stimulated a cottage industry concerned with analysing how we perceived him.

One of the most prominent voices in this debate has been Ipsos-MORI. Ben Page, their Chief Executive, argues that being seen as capable in a crisis is more important than being seen as honest when it comes to being elected.

Does this tell us anything about the difference between what we actually want from politicians (and the public sector) and what we want from charities and community groups?

I ask this because the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) recently received an astonishingly high score in the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators’ assessment of organisations reputations.

This survey found that the global average score for all organisations assessed (mostly corporations) was 64.2 per cent whereas the average for charities was 86.7 per cent and the RNLI scored 95.1 per cent.

I am tempted to suggested that the factors which determine the public’s view of the reputation of an organisation or a politician have only a small crossover with whether or not that organisation or politician is doing a good job.

Not that I am suggesting that the RNLI does a poor job, but does it really do that much better a job than other similar sized charities?

A comparison could be drawn with empowerment. A report from 2009 by our very own Sam McLean argued that we should think of empowerment as having two aspects; de facto empowerment (how much we are able to influence decisions) and subjective empowerment (how much we believe we are able to influence decisions).

When you look at this split in some detail you find out that the most effective means of increasing subjective empowerment have almost nothing to do with increasing de facto empowerment. Rather, improved communication comes out tops.

With the end of the Place Survey we will have to see how much weight the public sector puts on improving people’s perceptions…

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