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Current as of 24/09/14 09:20AM NZST

Corporate giant shows softer side

By John Drinnan

Telecom has emerged from two years of "keeping its head down" by lighting its high-profile Christmas tree in Central Auckland.

Public relations companies say the tree in Victoria Park - and other corporate initiatives led by Telecom's lofty chief executive Paul Reynolds - are part of New Zealand's largest public company "showing its human side". And it also ends a long period of being forced by politicians to change.

Since taking over the troubled telco 18 months ago, Reynolds has led the charge to make the company pilloried for anti-competitive practices more customer focused. The attack on the damaged corporate image gained firepower when the Scotsman hired public relations high flyer Tina Symmans as his corporate relations director to look after the Telecom brand image.

An expatriate New Zealander and Heineken beer marketer, Alan Gourdie, was hired to run the Telecom retail arm that launched the new "W850" mobile phone network.

Reynolds and his new team wore Telecom branded T-shirts at the Sky Tower launch.

Telecommunications industry watchdog Ernie Newman likes the new, higher profile. He was especially impressed by a newspaper advertisement apologising to customers for disruptions to the broadband service Yahoo!Xtra in downtown Auckland on Friday night.

It featured a signed photograph of Reynolds.

These initiatives may seem a small thing. And some Telecom investors would wish Telecom would apologise to them for the tumbling value of the share price, but Newman says the apology is a very positive sign of change.

"That was great to see," says Newman, who is the chief executive of the Telecommunications Users Association.

Telecom advertising had been as pervasive as ever but it had kept a low corporate profile since the Telecommunications Act 2006 when an overwhelming majority of MPs came down on Telecom.

"They hit Telecom hard and it really did not want to stick its head up very much.

"It had to retrench a little and show some humility. Before 2006 they were totally focused on the message and its marketing implications and honesty and integrity got lost in that.

"Paul Reynolds is a very good frontman who seriously believes in what he was doing and he is a very good look for Telecom."

Public relations consultants approached by the Business Herald said that Reynolds' own image - he is tall, confident and approachable - meant he was good at selling the new image.

Symmans says the apology featuring Reynolds was saying: "I am the guy who is running this show and I am committed to deliver it - and if not we will accept it and apologise."

For a company the size of Telecom it sounds simple but the company has to repair a damaged image that has to compete with the juggernaut of Vodafone.

Mango Communications managing partner Claudia Macdonald said: "We are seeing much more the human face of Telecom."

- NZ Herald

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