Monthly Archives: August 2017

An Education in Reputation

Ben Rowe - Account Executive

Ben Rowe – Account Executive

According to the 2017 World Reputation Rankings, released by the Times Higher Education, Asian universities have now overtaken the top Western institutions as the most prestigious in the world.

Universities in China, Japan and Hong Kong have boasted significant progress, while top institutions in Belgium, France and the Netherlands have lost ground.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, universities in the US dominate the list with Harvard, MIT and Stanford maintaining their positions as the top three respectively.

The rankings are based on an invitation-only opinion survey of senior, published academics, asked to name no more than 15 universities that they believe are the best for research and teaching in their field, based on their own experience.

 

Source: Cambridge University

Source: Cambridge University

 

Interestingly, these rankings offer a contrast to the World University Rankings, which largely measure research performance. Asian universities have failed to show the same progress in these charts, emphasising a gap between perceived and actual performance of universities across the globe. For example, Tsinghua University in China ranks 14th in the world for reputation yet comes in at 35th in the World University Rankings. Similarly, there are 12 places separating Peking University across the two ranking systems.

The University of Oxford has once again come out on top in the World Rankings but despite this, consistently finds itself outside of the top three for global reputation.

This phenomenon, of course, does not apply only to universities. Marketing, brand awareness and reputation can go a long way to achieving great success, in addition to the delivery of top quality goods and services.

Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, explains that “reputation is subjective, nebulous and difficult to pin down – but it really matters…it both reflects success and also drives success.”

If your reputation remains unjustified for a prolonged period, the chances are you will be found out and your prestige diminished over time. However, if people perceive your brand as high quality and esteemed, it allows you to attract the best staff, customers, partnerships, funding and in the case of universities, students. All of these can contribute to pushing actual quality up in line with that of reputation.

 

Source: Tsinghua University

Source: Tsinghua University

 

Simon Marginson, director of the Centre for Global Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education, commented that there is “no doubt that the reputation of China’s top two universities has run ahead of their actual achievements.” However, he claims there is little doubt that in time these institutions will be acclaimed for their quality on a more evidential basis.

As difficult as it is to put a price on reputation, according to Forbes, as much as 95% of the average corporation’s value consisted of tangible assets three decades ago. Today, it is reported that 75% of value is intangible in nature.

With information so readily accessible in 2017, coupled with the advancement of the internet, the environment in which firms seek to bolster their brand is increasingly intense, with news, comments and opinions spreading like wildfire. Good brand campaigns and positive publicity can have a similarly strong impact as bloopers and poor practice.

These rankings only offer an insight into reputation, an issue which extends across sectors. Acceleris has a history of managing reputation in a number of specialist areas. In 2013, we worked with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) to challenge negative perceptions of UK fishermen and to defend the industry’s reputation. Hitting the ground running, the work we did secured 88 pieces of coverage in the first month, of which 89% were positive and laid foundations for a much higher media profile including an appearance on Newsnight.

 

National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations

National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations Coverage Montage

 

Managing reputation doesn’t have to be a defensive measure, however. There is a great opportunity to shout about achievements, building an attractive profile to prospective customers and employees. Acceleris has worked with, and helped secure awards for, clients in a range of sectors including health and wellness, motoring and charity. Being recognised by awards programmes as a top employer, a high-growth company, for offering excellent customer service and/or providing top quality goods and services is a great way of propelling your reputation and taking your brand to the next level.

Whether in times of crisis or just to stay ahead of the game by emphasising your strengths, managing your reputation is becoming increasingly crucial. History is one thing but your customers, potential partners, sponsors or employees want to know what you’re doing to help them today. The university reputation rankings show that standing still and resting on your laurels can erode public perception in what you consider to be a strong, reputable, even institutional brand. Stay ahead of the game and shout about your achievements or you may find yourselves behind more active, media-savvy competitors.

If you need support boosting your brand or reigniting your reputation, get in touch by emailing info@acceleris-mc.com or give us a call on 0845 4567 251.

Heroes and Zeros: managing your brand reputation

Nadia Ahmed who joined Acceleris on work experience

Nadia Ahmed, who joined Acceleris on work experience

Even as someone new to the world of PR, I can recognise the impact PR campaigns can have, whether for better or for worse.

During my two weeks of work experience at Acceleris I have learnt the significance of brands protecting their reputations. There have been lots of examples in the media recently where brands have triumphed in marketing themselves and some at the opposite end of the scale.

Here we take a look at some examples which have sparked criticism from the not-so-adoring public, as well as the championing of some brands for their success.

 

 

Neither hopeful nor glorious festival

Hope and Glory PR Disaster Liverpool

The ironically named ‘Hope and Glory Festival’ in Liverpool was cancelled in early August, just as acts were ready to go on stage. The worst part however, is that it was cancelled with one disastrous tweet simply saying, ‘No festival today’. Overcrowding at the 12,500 capacity St George’s Quarter led to the event being scrapped, with thousands of ticket holders left disappointed. Day-ticket holders lost out on both a highly anticipated festival and £55, while those who had bought a weekend ticket and paid out £89 were left confused and angry.

Although some posts on the Facebook page pointed the blame at the production manager, who was even named and shamed, the PR company behind the event were ultimately responsible for dealing with all the publicity and social media for the event. The agency continued to point the blame at anyone but themselves, and the director added fuel to the fire of public outrage when he bungled his interview on talkRadio and only offered to refund the one ticket to a listener who called in. In such a modern, technology dependent era, PR disasters like this spread like wildfire and can easily destroy a company’s reputation. There is no doubt that this event was a disaster and the PR company have been placed at the centre of it.

 

Social media Mum 1, V&A Museum nil

A breastfeeding mum took to social media after she was asked to ‘cover up’ when she accidentally flashed her nipple whilst breastfeeding at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington. However, the mother did not passively accept this disapproval, and she took to Twitter to express her outrage.

Using her Twitter account the mother tweeted: “Flashed a nanosecond of nipple while #breastfeeding and was asked to cover up in @V_and_A courtyard. Am perplexed…” Then continued with, “On the upside, I had a lovely day at the V&A exploring depictions of breasts through the ages and making lovely mammaries. I mean memories”. Ironically, the incident occurred within World Breastfeeding Week, which works to dispel the sense of disapproval some women feel while breastfeeding in public. Using hashtags such as #normalisebreastfeeding , #empoweredbirthproject and #breastisbest.

The V&A’s director apologised after the tweet went viral, saying “@vaguechera V sorry. Our policy is clear: women may breastfeed wherever they like, wherever they feel comfortable & shld not be disturbed.”

Easy access to social media allows people to share perceived injustices and also allowed the V&A to publicly apologise. Ultimately, it all ended well.

 

Swede dreams

In a glorious attempt to boost tourism, the organisation Visit Sweden has listed the entire country on Airbnb to try and appeal to young travellers. The Swedish tourist board is trying to encourage and educate people in the concept of Allesmansrätten, or ‘the freedom to roam’.

Allesmansrätten refers to the general public’s right to camp, hike, explore and use the country’s natural resources at will. The campaign boasts that, “Sweden has no Eiffel Towers. No Niagara Falls or Big Bens. Not even a little Sphinx. Sweden has something else- the freedom to roam. This is our monument” conveying that Sweden’s natural landscape is the jewel in its crown and a great reason to visit. The weirdly wonderful campaign promotes the country’s own unique offerings and the Airbnb stunt helped them gain publicity and drive traffic to both Visit Sweden’s and Airbnb’s websites.Visit Sweden Listed on Airbnb

Visit Sweden Listed on Airbnb

Heroes and zeros awards

Each of these events gained recognition across various media channels and one in particular reignited the discussion on the issue of breastfeeding in public. It is becoming increasingly clear how crucial the effectiveness and speed of responses from companies is, in order to prevent the destruction of a certain brand.

For a successful PR campaign which is current, unique and exciting, Visit Sweden has to win my hero award.

As the biggest failure, the Hope and Glory Festival PR catastrophe is doubtlessly the winner of my zero award. Hopefully the lesson of ‘not cancelling a huge event with a three word tweet’ has been learnt.

Here at Acceleris we have a vested interest in the reputations of our clients. We believe it’s not what you say that defines you. It’s what you do and how you do it that creates your reputation. What we do is protect and promote the brands of our clients. To find out more about our work for other clients, take a look at: http://www.acceleris-mc.com/pr-portfolio-case-studies.html

Top Tips: How To Avoid A Social Media #Fail

Katie Wadsworth Senior Account Executive Acceleris

Katie Wadsworth, Senior Account Executive

All too often companies are worried about ‘looking boring’, or being overshadowed in their sectors, but this doesn’t mean you should necessarily jump on the latest trend or shoehorn your product into whatever hashtag is currently circling the internet. You don’t want to be forgotten about, but it’s important that you get noticed for the right reasons.

From the Kendall Jenner Pepsi debacle, to Crocs tweeting about David Bowie’s passing, the internet is full of examples of how brands can humiliate themselves, or worse, with just one ill-advised post.

 

1. Beware the hashtag

#nowthatchersdead

A clever hashtag can be a great way to encourage consumers to engage with your brand or share memories, thoughts or even suggestions, but you need to be careful about your choice of wording. Hashtags don’t have any spaces, which can lead to miscommunication or inappropriate interpretations.

Following the passing of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, people began using #nowthatchersdead – a lack of capitalisation and with no room for spaces meant that many people thought pop icon Cher had died – leading to lots of confusion online. While this wasn’t connected to one brand, it shows how careful you have to be – there are also several not safe for work examples we could have used to show just how things can go wrong…

While there are pitfalls to creating your own tag, it’s equally important that you’re careful if you’re going to use someone else’s. Check the context! While the Thatcher/Cher dilemma left people confused, sticking your brand messaging onto a hashtag without researching it can cause offence and damage to your reputation.

Frozen pizza brand DiGiorno made a fundamental blunder back in 2014 when it failed to look into #WhyIStayed before putting out a ‘witty’ tweet.

DiGiorno Pizza Tweet

The tag was in fact being used by domestic violence survivors and campaigners to raise awareness. While the brand did not intend to cause offence, within minutes it had been inundated with comments from those who were outraged by the tweet. DiGiorno swiftly removed the post and issued personal apologies to everyone who tweeted them, but the damage was already done. Even three years later, a simple Google of the brand’s name brings up news stories about the debacle – it was a hard lesson to learn, but they will certainly be doing their homework before jumping on any hashtags in the future.

 

2. Be sensitive to your surroundings

Kendall Jenner Pepsi advert

What seems like a good idea in a creative meeting may rapidly fall apart when put in the real world. The news agenda is constantly changing so be careful that you read the room properly before issuing your advert.

Pepsi fell foul of a poorly thought out advert which showed Kendall Jenner stepping away from a modelling shoot to join a protest, she then passes a police officer a Pepsi and he smiles. The advert was widely criticised as it appeared to trivialise social justice demonstrations taking place in America at the time, suggesting that a fizzy drink could help restore peace between protesters and the authorities.

Unsurprisingly, many took to social media to express their outrage, with prominent figures satirising the video including Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr who tweeted:

Bernice King Pepsi Tweet

The advert was eventually removed from YouTube and Pepsi was forced to issue a statement saying: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.”

 

3. Make sure your activity is ‘on-brand’

David Bowie Crocs Tweet

Practical shoe brand Crocs decided to tweet about the sad passing of David Bowie in 2016.

While in itself this isn’t a bad thing, the decision to use a croc with a lightening bulb across it – echoing the lightning bolt painted over the face of Bowie’s alter-ego Ziggy Stardust – caused an immediate reaction on social media.

Although this act didn’t cause an angry backlash like Kendall and Pepsi, it did lead to a lot of people poking fun at the brand, long after the tweet was removed from Crocs’ social channels.

A number of brands paid tribute to Bowie, however their messaging and choice of imagery was more appropriate.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a brand sharing memories of a beloved celebrity who has passed away – perhaps the person who controls the Crocs social media account was a big Bowie fan and meant well by the message – but the choice of image suggested that Crocs was trying to capitalise on the popularity of the tag. So even if you’re trying to be respectful, ask yourself, should we be commenting on this? If the answer is yes, make sure you really think about what you’re going to post so you don’t become a laughing stock.

One brand who did manage to walk the line between topical posts and sensitivity is American car manufacturer Chevrolet who put out this tweet following the death of beloved singer Prince.

 

chevrolet little red corvett Prince tweet

The reason this post was embraced by social media is because the brand had a genuine link to the singer and is the maker of the ‘little red corvette’, the title of one of Prince’s most well-known songs. The post is also simple, classy and respectful.

If you’re stuck for ideas, don’t worry, that’s our job! We’ve got lots of experience creating award-winning campaigns for clients in various sectors and we’ll make sure your brand reputation keeps growing and everything works smoothly. Take a look at our work for other clients to see what we can do: http://www.acceleris-mc.com/pr-portfolio-case-studies.html

At Acceleris we do a lot of work on issues and reputation management for clients in a variety of sectors and our focus is always on championing your reputation, because ultimately it is the thing which makes or breaks you.

 

Brand Ethics: Is It All Just A Waste Of Time?

Emily Atkinson, who joined Acceleris for a work experience placement

Emily Atkinson, who joined Acceleris for a work experience placement

Did you know that 300,000 tonnes of clothing was sent to landfill sites in the UK last year; seven million coffee cups are disposed of each day, and by 2050, the ocean is set to contain more plastic than fish? In a recent article from The Guardian, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation expressed its concern over the perennial question: ‘Who will halt this tidal wave of waste?’

 

Indeed, each year sees an increase in the number of UK and worldwide businesses that are prepared to jump onto the eco-friendly band wagon with the aim of attaining a brand image that evokes transparency, sustainability and ethical behaviour. To mention only a few; Coca-Cola, Tesco, H&M, and Stella McCartney are all companies which, in the last couple of years, have made a significant attempt to refresh their reputation by working towards a more renewable world.

 

Businesses are recognising the increase in consumer demand for more ethical and sustainable products – a revolution that is taking social media by storm. For instance, NARS cosmetics recently took to Instagram to announce that they wanted to put an end to animal testing, stating: “We want you to know that we hear you. The global elimination of animal testing needs to happen.”

 

Social media has become a platform on which anyone, anywhere can have their say. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube not only allow people to criticise but also for businesses to respond to criticism and relaunch their brand as one which satisfies consumer demands.

 

Coca-Cola

Take Coca-Cola for instance, its most recent campaign shows an epic love story between Coke and Fanta; the idea that they are both contained in recyclable plastic bottles means that they are able to meet over and over again, and eventually fall in love (how sweet!). Lucy Barry, a Berlin-based artist, used ALL recyclable materials, including 1,500 bottles, to create the masterpiece. Accompanying the ad is a short YouTube video showing ‘A Timeline Tour’ of change in the production of Coca-Cola bottles.

Coca-Cola has high hopes for its campaign, with a similar piece last year generating around 37,000 pledges.

H&M

Both high street and high end fashion labels have also joined forces to save our planet. As a self-confessed shopaholic and fashion enthusiast, I think it’s great that clothing brands have entered into this craze. Last year, H&M launched its first eco-friendly campaign, collaborating with singer M.I.A to create a song and video called ‘Rewear It’. The campaign secured 500,000 views within a week of being released and, since the launch of its garment collecting initiative in 2013, H&M has acquired over 32,000 tonnes of recyclable clothing.

And H&M aren’t the only ones! Stella McCartney recently chose a landfill site in Scotland as the backdrop for her fall 2017 collection launch. The lead image of the campaign features a model surrounded by a mass of cast-off clothing, accessories and so-called ‘rubbish’. Again, McCartney proves that a great picture/ video never fails when it comes to making your brand stand out.

stella mccartney model in landfill

 

But does it work?

The answer is YES! As an agency, we are no strangers to the process of brand rejuvenation and the promotion of environmental sustainability as a less commercial way of building a relationship with consumers. Back in 2015, we were tasked with launching the UK’s first website dedicated solely to upcycling: Remade in Britain. The company focuses on the restoration of furniture, home accessories and gifts, targeting those who seek, ‘ethical, sustainable, and waste-reducing products’. We even created our own recycling stunt, creating room in a skip using furniture from the site.

Remade in Britain Founder Donna Fenn in the 'Skip Room' - press

Remade in Britain Founder Donna Fenn in the ‘Skip Room’

To read more about this campaign and find out more about what we do, head to http://www.acceleris-mc.com/.

Ey up! It’s Yorkshire Day!

Why today?

Every year, on the 1 August, the people of Yorkshire put on a united front to celebrate their home county. But why today? The first ever ‘Yorkshire Day’ took place on 1 August in 1975, after it had been officially declared the previous year at a meeting of the Yorkshire Ridings Society. According to BBC reporter Carole Green, “every year, on that day, members of the Society read a declaration of the integrity of Yorkshire at each of the four Bars of York” (no, not the drinking kind!).

This year the main event will take place in the South of Yorkshire, as Sheffield’s civic officials take part in a march to Sheffield Cathedral, followed by a parade and a day of festivities. Since we’re celebrating all things Yorkshire, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best PR stunts and activities that took place today.

Yorkshire Day

Yorkshire Day vending machine, Xscape in Castleford

Xscape, the leisure complex in Castleford, has installed its very own Yorkshire-esque vending machine. Forget fruit pastels and fanta, think Yorkshire puddings, tea and flat caps! Brands such as Yorkshire Tea, Yorkshire Water, Seabrook Crisps, Henderson’s Relish, and Aunt Bessie’s have all contributed their Yorkshire-based products in support of today’s event.

 The reopening of Piece Hall

The Piece Hall in Halifax is thought to be one of the few Georgian buildings to showcase the history of Yorkshire’s working people, rather than that of the aristocracy, and it reopens today! From 10am onwards, a multitude of new businesses and shops run by the Piece Hall Trust opened to visitors for the first time, marking the start of a day of fun-filled activities for the public.

Nicky Chance Thompson, Chief Executive of The Piece Hall Trust said:

‘The Piece Hall is a much-loved building here in Halifax and we wanted to welcome local people first, to see for themselves the work that has been undertaken to transform this major piece of our heritage into a stunning part of our future.’

York Maze

York Maze is holding a Yorkshire pudding throwing competition to show their appreciation of ‘God’s Own Country’ (what a waste!), as well as a straw bale race and live music to commemorate our county.

Pubs in Leeds

It has also been reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post that the town of Leeds, will rename all its pubs after celebrities from Yorkshire- that shouldmake the infamous ‘Otley run’ (a bar crawl that runs through Headingly) more interesting! The bars are said to be named after the likes of Alan Bennett, Corinne Bailey-Rae, Dynamo, Nicola Adams, and, of course, Sean Bean.

 

Instagram

And what better way to promote our white rose county than social media? Most notably Instagram and Twitter have been bombarded by a plethora of images posted by the general public, all of which are rejoicing over everything Yorkshire- and of course we’re all using #YorkshireDay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a Yorkshire-based agency, we’ll certainly be enjoying a few cups of Yorkshire Tea to celebrate. To find out more about what we do for our Yorkshire clients (and those further afield) take a look at our case studies: http://www.acceleris-mc.com/.