Jack Williams

Putting a price on reputation!

The true value of business communications is well-known for being tough to measure, especially in the flinty eyes of accountants who expect to see a clear Return on Investment for their PR spend. But if the goal of your communications is to boost or protect reputation, how do you attach a financial figure to that?

Well, for UK-listed companies alone reputation is worth £1.7 trillion. That’s according to research by BDO LLP and the Quoted Companies Alliance. They spoke directly to businesses and asked them how much they thought their reputation was worth. Based on the impact on sales, share price and employee morale, it found small and mid-cap businesses attach 28 per cent of their value directly to reputation. This compares with the 2015 UK Reputation Dividend Report, which indicated that 30 per cent of the market value of the FTSE 100 is attributable to reputation.

When thinking about reputation meltdown and its impact on business value, a recent example that comes to mind is that of Volkswagen. The company lost about a third of its value (35 per cent) in just two days following what the media imaginatively called ‘dieselgate’. That’s approximately €25bn.

Of course the threat of large scale fines, costly vehicle recalls, private settlements and the shredding of trust and integrity all play a part in damaging the company’s worth. But a huge part is also the impact on VW’s future sales. One study says that for a company involved in fraud, the financial punishment imposed by the market (this means reduced future sales) is 7.5 times greater than the legal penalties they receive.

So, in answer to the initial question, can you put a price on reputation, I guess you can. Time to ask yourself what losing 28-35 per cent of your business would mean for you and your employees.

While you think on that, here are some tips for protecting that valuable reputation:

  1. Have a crisis management plan in place.

When the proverbial does hit the fan, having a plan already in place will help you minimise any impact. In fact, dealing with a crisis well can actually improve a business’ public standing. Try treating the situation as an opportunity. A crisis badly handled can severely damage the financial, operational as well as reputational viability of a business. A crisis well managed can actually enhance its reputation.

  1. Build and boost your reputation on a continuing basis.

Share good news stories and CSR initiatives so that people know the good work your business does. This may determine how people react when a crisis does hit your company. It will also help you develop strong relationships within the media that could become handy when you have not-so good news to share.

  1. Be first, fast and frank.

You can’t always prevent a crisis hitting. But you do have some control over how the media covers the story. Being the first to publically announce it, rather than an unhappy customer, journalist or whistle blower, can help you set the tone. Of course, you also need to be frank and honest. It won’t make a difference being the first to announce the news if you’re found to be dishonest later down the line.

For a final thought, and as our chief executive likes to say, reputation is hard-earned and quickly lost. Be sure to look after it.

Acceleris recently won the ‘Issues and Reputation Management’ trophy at the prestigious European Communications Excellence awards. It is the second time the agency has scooped the award, winning it last in December 2013.

Jack Williams
Jack Williams - Account Manager, Acceleris

Jack Williams – Account Manager

Seafood Week Part 4: Look a Little Deeper

How do you show the working world of an industry operating over the horizon? That has been a challenge Acceleris’ maritime division has faced up to many times in recent years. From working with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) to helping Seafarers UK run its annual Seafarers Awareness Week, we’ve worked hard to give a face to the faceless and a voice to the voiceless.

One way we have achieved this is through the use of video.

Video is an increasingly important tool for marketers: YouTube sees one billion video views per day. ONE BILLION! And the human brain takes in 90 per cent of all the information it processes visually. That means video can communicate more information in less time – perfect for the time-poor world we live in.

With the NFFO, one of our first ideas, and the first project we ran on their behalf, was ‘Tweets from the Deep’. This involved a small boat fisherman tweeting everything he did during one day out at sea. This allowed Twitter users to follow his day in real time and ask questions directly to him.

Tweet

This initiative gave a unique insight to life on the waves in a way that had never been done before. But we went a step further and put a videographer on deck with him to film the day too. This meant as well as following his 140 character descriptions and insights, we could provide a real glimpse through the porthole of a working fishing vessel.

Since ‘Tweets from the Deep’, video has been a regular tool we’ve used to shed light on the fishing industry and the hard work that goes in to feeding our island nation. Our latest suite followed specific themes the industry wanted to address, from their work with scientists to how they protect the environment. We’ve also produced more consumer-focused videos, including with Masterchef presenter Gregg Wallace where we asked seven award-winning chefs to create delicious recipes using underused species. And they certainly delivered!

Video is a hugely versatile medium. It can be used to teach, inform, entertain or inspire. For us, it has been an especially useful tool because it brings to life a subject that in most people’s minds is far off and unimaginable. It has also allowed those that live and work beyond the line of the horizon to tell their own stories and that, we’ve found, is the best way of showing the reality of seafaring today.

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Serial Thrillers: Is PR ready to podcast?

** WARNING – THIS BLOG CONTAINS (UNNECESSARY) TV & FILM SPOILERS **

Audio podcasts have been about since around 2007. In that time there have been a few big hits and of course a few channels with hopelessly devoted subscribers. Some have even managed to build celebrity careers out of the most popular podcasts, Karl Pilkington for example, who first came to wider attention on The Ricky Gervais Show.

Yet there hasn’t really been a podcast that brought the media format to the masses and dictated a cultural mood. Until Serial that is.

For those outside the zeitgeist, very quickly, Serial is a podcast first released in October 2014 that explores the 15 year old murder of an American teenager over 12 audio episodes led by broadcast journalist Sarah Koenig. It has become an absolute smash hit and is at the forefront of a trend for armchair detectives also containing nonfiction TV programmes like The Jinx (best documentary I’ve ever watched), dramas such as True Detective and even the BBC’s digital whodunit The Last Hours of Laura K.

Serial

It ranked at No. 1 on iTunes even before it débuted, reached five million downloads faster than any other podcast before it and won a prestigious Peabody award, the first podcast to be recognised with the award for excellence in radio, TV or online media. But perhaps the greatest demonstration of its cultural effect is the online forum Reddit creating a separate page purely for listeners to discuss the podcast in-depth and share their theories on what really happened to the high-school student.

But can a podcast become a marketing tool?

A recent article on Digiday.com suggests absolutely, yes. According to the piece, Serial’s producers have been in Cannes over the last week wooing brands for advertising ahead of the release of the second series later this year. And they’ve got the numbers for some pretty persuasive negotiations.

A survey of Serial subscribers found that 81 per cent of listeners could correctly recall a season one sponsor. Averaging seven million listeners each week it knocks out the park many hit TV shows. The recent Game of Thrones season five finale where *** **** was unexpectedly murdered, for example, achieved just 1.7 million viewers.

Spoliers

So advertising is a shoo-in for the podcast market, but can communications enter this space?

Perhaps if we take a look at why Serial has so enraptured its audience you’ll see why PR might be an easy fit.

Essentially it is just long form journalism and storytelling (albeit done to a very high standard). So nothing new and in fact two skills PRs have possessed since the dawn of comms. Sarah Koenig is a recognised master at the art of storytelling, but so is PR, which is why marketers are really secretly super jealous of what we do.

Side note: It’s also really promising for those of us who lament news becoming nothing more than 140 character headlines and click-bait images to see there really is appetite for in-depth analysis and newsgathering.

Clickbait
How can podcasting work for clients?

As has been seen with the growth in owned media, audiences are open to receiving branded content, provided it serves a purpose. This could mean entertainment, or perhaps it is instructive or could just be plain interesting. If your client has something to say and an audience wants to hear it, why not consider making a podcast?

In terms of what to do once you’ve got your podcast the principle is no different to any other content – share, share and share! Growing subscribers is the same for any returning audience medium, like Twitter or a newsletter – create good content consistently and they’ll come.

Your client may not become the next Serial or Karl Pilkington – fingers crossed on that last one – but communications isn’t about being the loudest. It’s about being clear with a message and perhaps audio will help you do that in a way an article, tweet or even video simply can’t. And with brand recall figures and listener devotion at the level seen from the Serial podcast, it seems foolish not to at least try.

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