The Rise of the Antagonist

Strategic Communications

August 4, 2017


There is a groundswell of antipathy sweeping the corporate world and it is being fuelled by the rise of the antagonist. While it is positive that Governments, companies and institutions are increasingly being held to account, the pendulum is starting to swing to the point where firms are facing a tsunami of opposition and hostility. This uprising is causing new and taxing challenges for organisations’ ability to engage their stakeholders and protect their reputations.

This change is a by-product of its times. Prior to the global financial crisis in 2008, economic prosperity allowed companies and their stakeholders to pursue a win-win approach as there was enough to go around for everyone. With the trauma of economic and social upheaval now a part of business and the broader community, stakeholder engagement has shifted to become a zero sum game. One party’s win is another group’s loss. Therefore, the activist is becoming an antagonist, and the play book is increasingly based on the notion that you have to lose for me to win.

There is often a principled zeal to this rise of the antagonist. Their opposition to industries are framed as a moral challenge – be that banking, coal mining and even the sugar industry. This fervour almost takes us back to the 19th Century, where there was a sentiment that behind every great fortune was a crime.

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