Monthly Archives: July 2016

Keeping a weather eye on the issue of ‘sea blindness’

Charley Oakes - Senior Copywriter and Editorial Project Manager

Charley Oakes – Senior Copywriter and Editorial Project Manager

If only we could bottle the passion of the UK’s leading maritime charities; we could cure a lot of the world’s ills. I would begin with ‘sea blindness’, a topic covered at Seafarers UK’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in June, one of two major maritime charity events I have been privileged to attend in recent weeks, the other being The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society’s AGM in May.

‘Sea blindness’, an issue also touched upon by my colleague Ellie St George-Yorke in her recent article on the Boaty McBoatface debate, refers to ignorance of our island nation’s continuing dependence on the sea for food, commerce and security, and the vital role our seafarers play in all our lives, whether they work in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Merchant Navy or fishing fleets.

Fisherman

Source: Seafarers UK archive

Today there are organisations and charities doing tireless work to support former seafarers and their dependants, and to promote education, training and careers to attract the best talent and ensure our seafaring community continues to thrive now and in the future.

Seafarers UK, for example, is focusing its fundraising appeal for its centenary year of 2017 on ‘Supporting Seafarers: Past, Present and Future’, with three key campaigns. The Royal Alfred, meanwhile, provides tailor-made care and support to former seafarers and their dependants at its residential home in Surrey. This charity is now in its 151st year, which reflects the enduring need for its services. Indeed, an ageing population means the number of former Merchant Navy seafarers and fishermen over the age of 85 is expected to increase by more than 275% between now and 2030!

Royal Alfred resident

Royal Alfred resident

Awareness of the role of the seafarer and the sea continues to improve but there is always work to be done. The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society runs a campaign every year that does a fantastic job of celebrating our country’s connection with the sea – its annual photography competition invites people to send in their ‘ultimate sea view’, whether images of ships, harbours, ports, wrecks, seafarers or seascapes.

 

‘Wrecked’ by David Jenner, winning image in the ‘Ships and Wrecks’ category of the 2015 Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society photography competition)

‘Wrecked’ by David Jenner, winning image in the ‘Ships and Wrecks’ category of the 2015 Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society photography competition)

 

After working with maritime charities as part of my role at Acceleris for many years, I share their passion for the work they do. I took the following message away with me from both AGMs – we must never lose sight of the nation’s dependence on or our responsibility to the maritime community.

Sea blindness is certainly not an issue at Acceleris, which has a specialist maritime communications team working with a diverse range of clients within the sector. To find out more, please visit the Acceleris website.

 

The key to cereal success?

Katie Wadsworth - Copywriter / Account Executive, Acceleris

Katie Wadsworth – Copywriter / Account Executive

On Monday 4th July, cereal giant Kellogg’s opened its first ever restaurant in New York’s Times Square. While it may seem a little strange to open a café dedicated to cereal, Kellogg’s is not the first, with similar outfits including the Cereal Killer Café in Camden and Brick Lane, London. Both businesses are capitalising on the experience economy which has evolved from the modern consumer’s desire to interact with brands and experience something which is, ultimately, Instagram worthy.

Kellogg’s is not the first brand to tap into the experience economy; other companies include Magnum which has created a series of ‘pleasure stores’ where customers can craft their perfect Magnum from a variety of indulgent toppings, and Italian fashion house Armani, which has its own luxury hotels in Milan and Dubai.

Magnum London

Source: Magnum

The move by the cereal giant to open a café comes as it was recently revealed that in the past 15 years, cereal sales have fallen by almost 30 per cent*. Cereal companies are often vilified for producing products containing too much sugar, fat and salt, and now they are struggling to impress a cynical, health-conscious audience.

Once considered the only breakfast option, and a fast one at that, cereal is no longer quick enough to keep up with our busy lives, with consumers favouring breakfast bars or yoghurt which they can transport more easily. Almost 40 per cent of millennials surveyed by Mintel* also said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it!

Kellogg’s has engaged top American chef, Christina Tosi, to devise new recipes from the home favourite cereals, including creations such as ‘Pistachio & Lemon’ (spiked Frosted Flakes and Special K) and ‘The Circus’ (Raisin Bran, peanuts and banana chips). Andrew Shripka, associate director of brand marketing at Kellogg’s, said: “We could have put a great recipe on the box. But this is much more powerful.”

‘Milk-based creations’ on display at Kellogg’s New York. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

‘Milk-based creations’ on display at Kellogg’s New York. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

It appears the company didn’t want to just stage a PR stunt – although the opening has been covered by everyone from Reuters, to The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian – instead they are trying to encourage consumers to experiment and look at cereal as a dining event rather than a mundane experience. Each customer also gets a free toy, which goes some way to recapturing the joy of childhood!

Tapping into the experience economy is a good way for companies to engage with their consumers, and while it may initially be the novelty factor which will draw people in to the café, the space will serve an important function for Kellogg’s in the long term. Other brands that have set up cafés, for example Chobani – an American yoghurt brand which opened a café in New York in 2012 – has seen its café double in size since opening, with sales growing annually by 40 per cent.

Chobani’s New York café has also served as a place for the company to try out new items and a number of new product lines, including a range of mezze dips, have been created following customer feedback and trials.

So while the venture may seem a little surreal at first mention, the Kellogg’s Times Square café could breathe new life into the brand and perhaps even become a cereal success!

Acceleris is no stranger to launching brands and has helped many companies – from local confectioners to large third sector organisations – build and maintain their reputations, both in the UK and worldwide. For more information on our credentials, take a look at our website.

*Mintel report, 2015

Positive Publicity or Compromised Credibility? Boaty McBoatface and Maritime PR

Ellie St George-Yorke, Account Director

Ellie St George-Yorke, Account Director

The compatibility of two largely disconnected spheres was put to the test earlier this year with the emergence of Boaty McBoatface as the people’s winner of the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) #NameOurShip campaign. The maritime community has not often found itself on the receiving end of considerable public enthusiasm. NERC’s decision to allow the public to suggest and vote for names for the new £200 million arctic research vessel represented a concerted effort to rectify this.

Yet Boaty McBoatface, a seemingly innocent suggestion, triggered a conflict between the necessity of harnessing public engagement, and the importance of maintaining national reputation and industry credibility. Boaty arguably did more to boost the prominence of the maritime sector in the popular psyche than previous campaigns, granting accessibility to a previously ill informed and often indifferent public. It is possible to state with relative confidence that the inauguration of the new research vessel would have gone relatively unmarked had it not been for this jocular suggestion.

However, the name also risked undermining the significance of seafaring activities in general and the work of the vessel itself. Historically, Britain has a proud reputation at sea, both in terms of naval operations and in advancing maritime research. RRS Boaty McBoatface hardly screams scientific innovation and research excellence. RRS Sir David Attenborough, however – the name adopted by NERC and the Government in spite of the public winner – embodies this effortlessly.

It is unsurprising, then, that the campaign was accompanied by such fierce debate between unwavering advocates of democratic decision-making, and industry professionals who no doubt found the name suggestion mildly insulting. Such a feeling is not without reason, particularly when considering the contribution, and the sacrifices, made by those who spend their working lives at sea.

Suffering from a severe bout of national sea blindness, the majority of the public possesses little understanding of the extent to which Britain is heavily reliant upon the maritime industry. The sector is a major employer, directly employing over 200,000 people last year. It also greatly facilitates economic activity, with 95% of national imports and 75% of exports being transported via sea. A 2014 Seafarers UK survey revealed that only 2% of the public were aware of this.

Source: CNN

Source: CNN

But more alarming is the fact that the maritime industry has an exceptionally high occupational mortality rate, posing a higher risk to employees than any other sector. Naming a research vessel Boaty McBoatface does not sit so well alongside this fact, undoubtedly trivialising the inherent danger. Alongside the sobering news of fatalities at sea, the issue suddenly loses all traces of hilarity.

It is understandable, therefore, that many industry professionals were reluctant to subject the naming of an important vessel to the whim of what is essentially an ill-informed public. Even James Hand, the man behind Boaty, recognised the need for a more befitting name, choosing to vote for Sir David Attenborough and offering an apology to NERC for any embarrassment caused.

The decision to opt for an alternative name has seen considerable public criticism levelled against NERC and the government for backtracking on an apparently successful campaign. Yet their handling of the situation serves as an example of astute PR management and shrewd judgement. In christening one of the remotely operated submarines Boaty McBoatface, the spirit of public enthusiasm has been kept alive. It signifies a desire for popular longevity, and a continued public connection to the industry.

Naming the main vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, a suggestion which actually came fourth in the competition, is a further nod to public sentiment. A man whose popularity rivals that of international pop stars, Attenborough enjoys an exclusive position within the heart of the nation. His name alone perhaps possesses enough clout to ensure a firm following of the vessel’s projects and findings. In reaching this outcome, NERC has offered itself a life raft for avoiding any potential future PR crisis that would result from such an indelicate name.

Yet despite the unanticipated result of the campaign, it did succeed in fuelling public discussion around a topic that otherwise could have gone widely overlooked. There is a glaring need for the maritime industry to become more public-facing and engaging to encourage greater understanding and appreciation of the work of seafarers and the sector itself. Doing so would offer a remedy to the dreaded sea blindness; the very thing contributing to the sector’s omission from popular interest and understanding.

BMBF

Source: Daily Mail

We can already see the industry slipping once more out of mainstream media. The petition launched by the public to reverse the decision to give the boat a different name has received only a tiny proportion of signatures compared to the number of votes for Boaty itself. To prevent this level of public disengagement the industry needs to readily embrace and exploit communications channels open to them. A greater willingness to utilise all forms of media to reach a wider audience would help to sustain the visibility initially granted by the NERC campaign.

There is often a tendency in the industry to shy away from engaging with a mainstream public however it is possible for this public success to be reflected across the entire sector, where the conversation has been muted for too long. Boaty McBoatface, the accidental product of an inviting PR campaign, accorded the industry the public recognition it deserves, albeit short-lived. It may have been a controversial wave of publicity, but can we see another one on the horizon?

This blog first appeared in the Nautilius International Telegraph in July.