PR legacy of Anita Roddick

, the founder of Body Shop, who has died of a brain haemorrhage built her pioneering reputation on the strength of a commitment to public relations.

Both she, and her company, became popular case studies in advocating a PR-oriented business approach.  Today it is common place for businesses to be challenged, and often be pro-active, on issues such as human rights, fairtrade, environmentalism, recycling, sustainability, animal rights.  The Body Shop made these its core values throughout the business from the start.

Even after selling the business to L’Oreal last year, she continued to campaign for a wide variety of causes as her website highlights. 

Despite criticisms of the “sell-out” to the big French cosmetics company, she maintained it was the right move to “adapt to the world” – unlike an earlier decision to float the company.  Nevertheless, the company’s website now has small icon links to campaigns, and the message “Stop Violence in the home: Buy a Hi-Shine Lip Treatment” appears trite. 

In contrast to this hard marketing approach, Anita Roddick was a natural story teller, a gift for generating maximum media attention.  As a result, the company relied on the power of PR rather than advertising for many years.  Consumers bought into the values and ethical nature of Body Shop – at a time when animal testing was still the norm for beauty products.

“This is not about one penny being spent in so-called which is disingenuous. This is about having a passion to shout out and be persuasive about what you do.”

As a result of forging a path, she made the journey easier for those who followed.  As well as inspiring other business people, this saw others piggyback the unique proposition of Body Shop.  As a result, we can buy organic, natural products everywhere – including our supermarkets. 

Lobbying to get legislation change on animal testing, results in the entire cosmetic industry matching Body Shop here too.  However, the real difference was that Body Shop had credibility and a reputation based on doing the right thing, even when it hurt.

This is the legacy left by Anita Roddick, and one that truly showed a commitment to using the strengths of PR for business and issues management.  

Published by

Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “PR legacy of Anita Roddick”

  1. She rarely put a foot wrong and was certainly a model for how a credible leader can add value to your business. I was never sure about the L’Oreal deal but I think the motives were good – and worth the risk. If it hasn’t paid off it’s more down to L’Oreal not realising and valuing what exactly it was they bought into.

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