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External communication

We don’t speak for Serco unless we’re authorised

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What it's all about

By doing our jobs well we earn our company a good reputation. But we also have professional teams in the business to manage our relationships with key external audiences.

It really matters that our external communications are clear and consistent, and don’t contain false or misleading information - or any confidential information that shouldn’t be disclosed. 

Otherwise people can get a false or distorted picture, and our reputation could be badly damaged.

That’s why we have specialist colleagues, such as communications managers and the Media Relations team, whose responsibility is to ensure that all our external communications are co-ordinated, honest and accurate. 

But it’s an impossible task if the rest of us decide to join in. So, we never speak or write on behalf of Serco unless we have authorisation from our manager and communications manager.

“When the journalist caught me I knew I shouldn’t say anything so told him to speak to Serco's Media Relations team.”

What we all need to know and do

  • We do not speak to the media on Serco’s behalf without authorisation. If we are approached by a journalist, we refer them to the Serco Media Relations team.

  • Likewise, we need approval from our manager and communications manager before releasing any information.

  • External presentations, speeches and articles are good opportunities to raise awareness of our company and enhance its reputation. But we cannot speak on behalf of Serco unless we are authorised to do so. We need to consider carefully how what we intend to say helps Serco and get approval from our manager and communications manager first.

  • When we do have authorisation, we need to make sure that anything we say or write is accurate, relevant and respectful, that it complies with laws and regulations, and that it does not disclose anything that should remain confidential. 

  • We treat all audiences with respect, courtesy and consideration whenever we act or speak in public.

  • We never make misleading claims about our company, our services or our competitors.

  • As a listed company, Serco must follow strict rules about disclosing information to the stock market. Only authorised employees may talk to the investment community, including shareholders, brokers and investment analysts.

  • If a financial analyst or institution asks us for information, we direct them to Serco's Investor Relations.

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We’d moved to the village to get out of town and let the family breath in open fresh spaces. It was great countryside, and the kids loved it.

One of the things we wanted to do was make sure we were part of the community. So we’d regularly attend the local meetings. It was a great way to get to know the locals too. And naturally you tell people what you do - so everyone knew that I worked for Serco. 

Then at one of the meetings, someone asked a question about a new centre that was being prepared for refugees that Serco was going to manage. 

There were a lot of people in support, but a lot of people who were clearly worried and concerned about what this would mean for the area. There were questions like, ‘Will it be safe?’ and ‘How do we know there won’t be terrorist among them?’ That sort of thing.

It all got a bit heated. Which was when the chair of the meeting asked me to speak on behalf of Serco. I knew our policy on this said that I shouldn’t do so as I wasn’t authorised, but it just seemed that if I didn’t say something then people would go away with all sorts of fears they didn’t need to have.

I stood up and talked about how our facilities were run, how important our values were and our duty of care to vulnerable people who deserved every support in the country they now found themselves in.

Well, that just turned the whole meeting into an increasingly angry and divisive debate about legitimate refugees versus illegal immigrants. Things really kicked off, and by the time the meeting ended it felt like the whole community was now totally divided in a way that it had never been before. 

Next morning I told my manager what had happened. He was clearly concerned, so I asked him what else I could have done. 

He looked at me and said, ‘You should have had the sense to see this was a very tricky subject and followed what we say in mycode. If you’d told everyone that you’d get someone from Serco to come and speak at the next meeting, and that they could ask any question they wanted, we could have put people’s fears to rest. Now we’ve got a local community that is at each other’s throats and probably won’t trust us.’

He was right too. And as for me and my family - I’ve stopped going to the local meetings, and we’re thinking of moving again.

External presentations, speeches and articles are good opportunities to raise awareness of our company and enhance its reputation.
But we cannot speak on behalf of Serco unless we are authorised to do so.

And as with the media, we need to consider carefully how what we intend to say helps Serco and get approval from our manager or communications manager first. 

We’d had a fire at one of the sites. It wasn’t serious but somehow the rumour got out that it was because we were employing illegals for night-time security and with the heating turned off they’d lit a fire to keep warm.

The story was just so ridiculous and completely untrue. I don’t know where it came from. It made me angry, as one of the things we take such care over is the wellbeing and safety of colleagues who look after our sites during the night.

Then this guy turned up. He was a reporter from a local newspaper or TV station - I’m not sure which. He had a photographer with him. He started making really offensive accusations and I asked him to leave. But he went on and on asking stupid questions like, ‘So where else does Serco use forced labour?’ 

I can see now that he was trying to goad me, and I should have just kept my mouth shut. But in the end I suppose I just saw red. 

So I told him exactly what had happened, that we’d had our enquiry, the case was closed and there was nothing else to investigate. Then I got angry - just what he wanted I suppose - and used a couple of swear words at him.

I remember his face - the smile he had. It was a smile of satisfaction. I’d played right into his hands and his cameraman had recorded everything I’d said.

The feature came out the next day. It was quite brief, but what it said was that Serco was refusing to investigate the rumours of slavery in its workforce and had stopped any further enquiry. That’s not what I said, but the way the article had been edited made it sound as if I had and that I was aggressively trying to silence the press.

It looked just awful and created a storm with all sorts of other media descending on us. And all because instead of just referring that guy to one of our communication managers, I’d allowed myself to get all outraged and opened my mouth to try to defend the company.

We do not speak to the media on Serco’s behalf without authorisation. 

If we are approached by a journalist, we refer them to the Serco Media Relations team.

Hey Brother! So how does it feel to be a high-flyer in the New York financial market? After so long you deserve it. Certainly hope the new company appreciates you! … 

Great news at my work! Remember me telling you about that big new government contract we were going for? Well, we got it! 

So exciting - it’s a really significant win for Serco and the whole team here. The news won’t be out until tomorrow, so of course keep this to yourself, but I just had to tell you! Think it’s going to have a very positive impact on how the markets see us. That’s what Raj in accounts is saying anyway. 

See - you’re not the only brilliant member of the family!

As part of our job, we may learn non-public information about Serco or its related companies. In that case, we cannot and must not share it with others.

We need approval from our manager or communications manager before releasing any information either internally or externally. 

So our local newspaper is doing a series of articles on the work experiences of local people and how their organisations are managing post-COVID. It’s a really good idea, and there have been some great contributors.

So when they asked my if I’d like to write something I said I’d be glad too. How I wish I hadn’t! 

I didn’t say anything that wasn’t positive about Serco, and at one point near the end I wrote a very simple statement: ‘Serco seems to be better than most other organisations at doing this’ and gave an example of what one person had told me was going on at their company. 

Now that company has made a formal complaint against me saying that the way I wrote made it obvious which company I was referring to and saying that they are now considering legal action. 

I really thought Serco would be on my side. But instead my manager said I’m in real trouble, not just because I made claims that I can’t substantiate, but because I wrote something about Serco without getting permission or having it checked. 

And I was just trying to be positive!

We cannot speak on behalf of Serco unless we are authorised to do so.

When we do have authorisation, we need to make sure that anything we say or write is accurate, relevant and respectful.

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