Tag Archive for reputation

Making a splash for our seafarers

Louise Watson-Dowell, Senior Account Manager at Acceleris

Managing reputation and driving recognition with the Fishing News Awards


In 2018 you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all doom and gloom for our coastal towns as the UK’s fishing industry faces increasing scrutiny, while Brexit debates rage on and Nigel Farage busies himself throwing dead fish in the Thames in protest of our PM’s negotiations with the EU.





Source: Sky News

Our dedicated maritime division will not be brought down in the dumps, however. In fact, owing to the increased awareness of the plight of our seafarers as we approach the deadline for an agreement with the EU, it seems this year, more than any, was worth a good old celebration of the best and the brightest fishermen and women from across our British Isles.

We’re proud to have supported the Fishing News Awards with sponsorship and communications services for the last three years, working with Fishing News to highlight those truly worthy of commendation across the UK’s fishing ports, seaside cafes, and industry suppliers.

At a ceremony in Aberdeen, held at the end of May, finalists and guests from all corners of the British Isles were welcomed to the evening and it was a privilege to see inspirational individuals and businesses recognised for their hard work and dedication in this, one of the toughest years for the industry.

Fred MacAulay – comedian and host of the 2018 Fishing News Awards

Indeed, recognition for one’s achievements is important, but in a programme in which the winners are voted for by industry peers and colleagues, the Fishing News Awards proves reputation precedes it.

Reputations don’t just happen, unfortunately – we’re not born with them, and they don’t occur naturally at the inception of a business – they must be built steadily and nurtured. Of course, a big part of building reputation is doing good work, but then an awful lot of reputation comes down to people hearing about that good work.

That means word of mouth becomes extremely important in building and supporting reputation.

And word of mouth doesn’t just mean a friend or colleague mentioning a good product or service to you – although that’s certainly part of it – it’s about recommendations from other trusted sources, like magazines, Facebook, Google, local and industry news.

To hit those platforms, you’ll want to invest in communications strategies to drive the reach of this extended type of word of mouth. Increasingly, we’re seeing communications programmes recognised as a key component for businesses tasked with raising their profiles in an increasingly competitive landscape, including in the maritime industries.

Take a look at the numbers…*

  • 1,000 customers can generate around 500,000 conversations about a brand
  • 66% of brand mentions are positive in nature, meaning word of mouth can lead to positive brand reputation
  • 50% of word of mouth recommendations are the leading factor behind a purchasing decision
  • 72% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 84% of B2B decision makers start their process because of a referral

It’s not enough to rely on doing good work, you need to ensure there’s noise around that good work, and that it’s being heard by the right people.

When we support the Fishing News Awards, we see small and big businesses nominated as a result of their reputation. We extend the reach of that reputation, speaking to local and industry media and creating engaging content for social media platforms, talking about the nominees, their businesses and achievements. When they win, we continue to help spread the news far and wide.

Last year, our communications efforts saw us secure 149 pieces of coverage for nominees and winners across fishing industry and local press, including in print and online, and broadcast media.

  • These pieces resulted in more than 5 million opportunities to see or hear positive news about the Fishing News Awards and its nominees – equating to a return of 834 opportunities for every £1 spent
  • Nominations almost trebled on the previous year – from 180 to 492
  • Votes almost doubled – from 2,611 to 5,193
  • In the months where Acceleris was active on the Fishing News Twitter account, it doubled the average number of new followers
  • During this period, the account achieved 395,500 organic impressions

During the awards process, we recorded several spikes in Google search interest for ‘Fishing News Awards’, with the highlight a 118 per cent increase on the previous record for daily searches.

As the fishing industry continues to battle with regulation and change, it’s more important than ever to make sure your customers and potential customers know about the good work you do – it’s imperative that you build and maintain a great reputation.

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.


Got a rep’ to protect? Top tips for reputation protection


Lisa McGauley, Senior Account Manager at Acceleris

A company’s reputation is one of its greatest assets; if not its greatest. According to The 2017 UK Reputation Dividend Report, the combined value of corporate reputations of the 350 largest listed companies in the UK stood at £986bn in January 2017; which represents 39% of all shareholder value.

In the automotive industry, the ongoing VW emissions scandal – which, it is reported has cost Volkswagen as much as $25 billion – reports around the improper handling of damage claims by rental companies, and a new issue that has surfaced about the quality of Japanese metals used in vehicle production are all examples of current stories that may have rocked, or be rocking market confidence.

All of these highlight the importance of industry providers having a clear and comprehensive communications strategy in place. As part of this it is also vital to plan for any unexpected negative events or crises that may arise and to ensure you are on the front foot when the you-know-what hits the proverbial fan.

Here are some tips for achieving cut-through communications and being prepared for every eventuality:

  1. Boost your reputation: As well as the day-to-day task of building your reputation by positioning yourself as a thought leader and commenting on key industry issues, it is also important to share good news stories and celebrate success with the media – award wins, contract wins, investment news, key appointments, milestones and new product or service launches. Having a strong two-way dialogue with key media will pay dividends when you have to tell them something negative.
  2. Be prepared: Crises are by and large unexpected, but you can plan for them and by doing so help to minimise operational and reputational impact. Agree your spokespeople, rehearse the plan and make sure colleagues know who to escalate potentially negative issues to and when.
  3. The three Rs – Reason, Regret, Remedy: The impact and value of a simple statement of regret cannot be overstated – A simple statement of regret will demonstrate that the company and the senior team are humans and can empathise with the people directly affected by the crisis.

The specifics of each situation will vary and it will not always be possible or appropriate but a full and genuine apology delivered in a timely manner can be a powerful way to defuse criticism.

In the event of a crisis explain the facts of the situation as accurately and as early as possible. In the fast moving media environment it is important to take control and be seen to be the leading source of information about the crisis.

It is also important to explain what the company is doing to try and solve the problem and what the likely timescales involved will be. By providing as much detail as possible, the company will appear to be taking clear and decisive action and fulfilling its responsibilities to improve the situation.

  1. Be First, Frank and Fast: In a crisis it is essential to take control of the situation FIRST by acting swiftly and controlling the dissemination of consistent and accurate information to internal and external audiences. By acting first, the business will establish itself as leading the response to the crisis and as the primary source of information.

In the modern media and social media environment news and reaction can spread within minutes and it is essential that businesses react to this changing reality FAST. In a significant crisis, it is important to respond much more quickly and to work to the media’s schedule. Crisis planning and briefing members of staff in advance will be essential to enable a business to respond quickly in the event of a crisis.

Be FRANK. It is important to be as honest as possible in dealing with the media and the public. In the age of the 24 hours news cycle and social media nothing will stay secret and any attempts to cover up or hide bad news can make a crisis much worse and ruin any remaining goodwill towards the company.

As a final thought, when considering the value of corporate reputation, I think this quote sums it up perfectly:

“We can afford to lose money – even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation,” wrote Warren Buffett to managers.

If you need crisis communications support, look no further than our team of experts!

Did you know Acceleris has won the Issues and Reputation Management title at the European Excellence Awards three out of the last four years!

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.

Reputation Management in the Modern Age

Alex Whitaker – Senior Account Executive

It can take years of hard work to build a company’s reputation to a level where consumers have a high degree of trust, yet all this can crumble in an instant when a crisis hits. The proliferation of social media has only served to exacerbate this issue, as allegations, often unfounded, can spread like wildfire across the internet and galvanise large numbers of people into taking action. Likewise, the business model of some modern companies leaves them more susceptible to serious and lasting damage of this kind, as often all it takes for patrons to disassociate themselves with a company is a few taps to delete an app.

Uber and Trump

In recent weeks, Uber, which has weathered previous scandals on working conditions and safety, has found itself a victim of this trend thanks to its links to the Trump administration and its response to recent protests at JFK Airport about the new President. The issue stems from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s position on Trump’s business advisory group (a position he has since vacated during the writing of this blog!) and the company’s failure to join a New York taxi drivers strike at JFK Airport in response to the President’s executive order barring citizens of certain Muslim countries from entering the United States. Indeed, the company appeared to actively seek to profit from the strike by cancelling its surge pricing strategy and promoting this on social media (thereby advertising a cheaper than expected service).

However, the issue is deeper than it appears on the surface. Uber was criticised for not turning off surge pricing during the terrorist attack in Sydney in 2014 and thus profiteering from tragedy. Since this incident, Uber has rightly taken to turning off surge pricing in such instances and may initially have innocently perceived this strike as another situation in which to do so. Clearly, the right course of action, according to the protestors, would have been to join the strike and stop services at the airport completely. Though this is simple in hindsight, at the time it may not have been so. This coupled with Uber’s decentralised employment strategy (where drivers are self-employed) might have meant it was not possible to implement a strike at short notice.

Regardless, the damage had been done and #DeleteUber began to trend as more and more people joined the campaign, often only absorbing second or third-hand accounts which did not quite tell the whole story. Meanwhile, downloads of Uber’s major domestic rival, Lyft, soared as customers flocked to sign up. Lyft’s response was to announce it planned to donate $1m to the American Civil Liberties Union, further piling pressure on Uber and exacerbating the reputational damage.

This highlights the power of social media – the speed with which a large number of people can jump on an idea with little ability to make an informed decision. The volatility social media posts can have on the real world is also evident from Trump’s own tweets, with barbs aimed at companies wiping millions off their market value.

Starbucks and ‘Fake News’

One of the main issues with social media is that often a claim has gone viral before it has been properly substantiated, acting like uncontrollable wildfire – if it gathers enough momentum in its early stages any efforts to contain it are futile. For instance, Starbucks found itself in trouble as #BoycottStarbucks trended across the US over the weekend in reaction to its CEO’s pledge to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years. Putting aside for a second the sad implication for what this means about the attitudes of many towards refugees, it is also horribly ill informed. The issue stemmed from the feeling that Starbucks was actively helping refugees at the expense of military veterans – but failed to take into account that the coffee chain actually does have a plan in place to hire 10,000 former soldiers by the end of next year anyway. This is a textbook example of a systemic failure of social media, popularised recently in the suddenly noticed (despite having been around for years) phenomenon ‘fake news’ – many people simply will believe anything they read.

So what can companies do to combat this?

Businesses have to focus on building up a positive reputation when times are good. No brand is strong enough to completely withstand a major scandal, though these are relatively few and far between. Social media amplifies smaller issues and can turn them into a matter of national debate – though often without lasting effects. Still, maintaining a positive reputation in the eyes of key stakeholders is a key element of any business and serious effort and resource must go into this.

A recent exchange on Argos’ twitter feed showcases how getting the right tone of voice for a company can lead to good PR.

Source: Argos

Companies shouldn’t be afraid to use humour or have a personality online – often it makes customers feel much warmer about the business and more likely to view it positively. Sharing regular good news stories, actively engaging with customers online and undertaking Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives will all work to endear companies to their customers who are more likely to give the benefit of the doubt if a negative issue does arise. If an online crisis does hit, it could be the difference between survival and devastation.

Why not give us a call to find out how we can help with your reputation management to ensure you don’t fall foul of a similar crisis?

Acceleris is the current holder of the Issues and Reputation Management trophy at the European PR Excellence Awards – the third time in just four years the agency has won the award.

Maritime Sector Unites To Talk Human Rights At Sea

Jack Williams - Account Manager, Acceleris

Jack Williams – Account Manager

London has recently held the first ever conference focused solely on the issue of human rights at sea. This is a vast topic taking in many of the concerns that have troubled the maritime sector for years: slavery in the supply chain; modern day piracy; human trafficking; and the migrant crisis. As a communications professional advising organisations within both fishing and shipping, what struck me most from the day was the reputational risk businesses are taking in ignoring human rights. There is and always has been a clear business case for treating your workforce, and those you come into contact with, as people with inviolable rights.

The International Maritime Human Rights Conference was organised by charity Human Rights at Sea and supported by organisations across the maritime spectrum, from Seafarers UK to the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO). The day was divided into four sections. The first part of the day set about laying the context for the conference, with talks from the organisers, shipowner George Tsavliris, Kuba Szymanski at InterManager, Migrant Offshore Aid Station and an association of fishing companies, the PFA. The second part of the day focused on businesses’ responsibility in upholding human rights, both for their employees and the people and communities they interact with.

Session three of the conference looked at maritime welfare and was principally concerned with seafarer welfare. Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Chris Wood and Officer Cadet Sarah Stevens of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary both spoke about diversity at sea, including the lack of role models for female seafarers and the position of LGBT rights within a global industry. There was also a presentation from King’s College London’s Professor Neil Greenberg, who, because of the danger involved in the profession of a seafarer, spoke about stress and trauma and the psychological impacts they can have on workers. Did you know that a ‘psychological debriefing’ following a traumatic event can actually do more harm to the individual?

The final part of the day focused on investigating and resolving human rights abuses at sea. One of the world’s leading practitioners in the field of human trafficking, Parosha Chandran, shared her experience and the history of how UK legislation has been created and amended since 1772 to protect against slavery. We also heard from Debasis Mazumdar at St. Kitts & Nevis International Ship Registry, who discussed the responsibility of Flag States in monitoring the welfare of seafarers operating under their flag.

The day’s mantra was ‘human rights apply at sea, as equally as they do on land’. Of course it is true that working at sea is different to working on land. There are legal quirks and regulatory confusions that just don’t happen ashore. For one thing, seafarers are the only group of UK workers who are excluded from the full protection of the National Minimum Wage and equal pay legislation. Moreover, a factory owner in Scunthorpe could not choose to up and move his factory and workers to Dusseldorf when new, unappealing legislation is brought in. But that’s exactly what shipowners do when flagging out. Human rights, however, are non-negotiable. Any business found to infringe the rights of a human being will not just face legal penalties, but will face the punishment of the public court too. A reputation is hard won but easily lost!

For UK-listed companies alone reputation is worth £1.7 trillion. That’s according to research by BDO LLP and the Quoted Companies Alliance, which found that based on the impact on sales, share price and employee morale, 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.

Consumers today demand that the brands they do business with are ethical and responsible. It’s no longer enough to say you have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy. Businesses must demonstrate this through action. The saying ‘to do well, you must do good’ has increasingly been embraced by businesses in all sectors. Any charity connection needs to be relevant and genuine. BP’s recently-ended and long-standing sponsorship of the Tate is an example where a CSR scheme feels unnatural and therefore disingenuous.

But it isn’t just about appeasing the public at large. Successful business owners rely upon their workforce. Nowhere is this clearer than in the maritime sector, where we have a 16,500 shortfall of trained seafarers. Simple business economics tells us that where there is demand, but low supply, prices go up. The seafarer is today an expensive commodity. Businesses need to appeal to seafarers as much as the other way around, by showing themselves to be good employers.

While there are examples of bad businesses in the maritime world, holding on to pay and driving down working conditions, this exists in all industries. Fortunately many seafarers are afforded protection by governments, maritime organisations and trade unions such as Nautilus International and the International Transport-workers Federation. Where protection is limited, and the conference highlighted in detail, is with the current migrant crisis. By its very nature, this has created the conditions where human rights abuses including slavery and trafficking can take place.

And yet, there is a human reason as well as a business case to operate responsibly and ethically. The International Maritime Human Rights Conference successfully brought together maritime experts and professionals from across this vast sector to discuss the issue and that is to be applauded.

That migration, trafficking and piracy were debated alongside working conditions for employed and protected seafarers shows the wide range of challenges faced by this vital industry.  So my question and my concern is this:

‘Can they really all be viewed though the same lens or does that risk the apparent weight of the problems acting as a deterrent to effective action?’

This blog first appeared in the Nautilus Telegraph.



What’s in a Name? How VW Dealers Can Protect Their Reputation Following the Emissions Scandal

Louise Vaughan, Managing Director

Louise Vaughan, Managing Director

On 18 September 2015, Volkswagen’s corporate reputation went up in a puff of smoke. Twelve months on and the global ‘dieselgate’ scandal continues to unravel in what is arguably the biggest reputational crisis to have ever hit motor manufacturing.

The scandal, which erupted a year ago this week initially in the USA, revealed ‘the people’s car’  makers had been using software in 11.5m vehicles worldwide to lower emissions of nitrogen oxide in lab testing. Real world emissions were much, much higher.

Just last week Volkswagen faced new claims from Brussels that it had broken consumer protection laws in 20 European countries by marketing cars at the centre of the scandal as ‘green’. EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova is urging national authorities to rally and punish VW for breaching the EU’s “unfair commercial practices directive” which aims to prevent misleading advertising in many EU nations.

In the UK, the Daily Telegraph labelled Volkswagen as the ‘Lance Armstrong of the Motor Industry’. VW dealers are now faced with fixing the 1.2 million cars set for recall. For some, this could mean gridlocked service departments blocked with warranty work delivering minimal financial benefit. The impact of this on the bottom line is easy to measure – but how do you attach a value to the impact on dealer reputation?

For Volkswagen itself the impact of the tsunami of scandal was immediate. The ‘people’s car’ that had successfully built its brand on the pillars of engineering excellence, quality and reliability lost a third of its value in two days – a staggering €25bn. A year on, whilst Volkswagen continues to dominate the UK market along with Ford and Vauxhall, August figures revealed a continuing decline in market share, sliding by nearly 10 per cent to a low of 7.7 per cent.

So what is the value of corporate reputation? According to research by BDO LLP and the Quoted Companies Alliance, the reputational value of all UK listed companies is worth £1.7 trillion. Based on sales impact, 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.

As the full ramifications of the scandal continue to unravel, even twelve months on the full impact on consumer and investor trust is still to be fully determined. What’s clear is that not only the manufacturer – but the dealership network will be under the microscope for some time yet. And it’s the dealer that presents the human face of the brand and has the closest relationship with the customer.

So, whilst VW continues to deal with the fall-out from the crisis, what lessons can be learned by all dealers in how they can best protect their own businesses from a similar reputational and commercial fate?

  1. Have a Plan

When the proverbial hits the fan, having a crisis plan already in place will help you manage and minimise the impact.  A crisis by its very nature will be unexpected in timing and specific detail. However, there are fundamental principles to handling any crisis that should be followed. Work through scenarios and lines to take but also the communications channels and spokespeople you’ll use – matching these with the severity of the situation. The age of 24/7 media and advent of citizen journalism means stories can appear online within minutes of an incident happening so you need to be seen to be quick and slick with your response. Factor in all your media channels – direct customer communications, dealership, web and social.

  1. Build and Boost Your Reputation

Proactively share good news stories – award wins, customer service, community initiatives, new service lines – across CRM, website, mainstream and social media. This will help mould how people react if and when a crisis does hit. It will also help you develop strong relationships within the media that are critical when you have negative news to share.

  1. Reason, Regret, Remedy

These are the three core principles of dealing with a crisis. Explain the reason for the problem, express regret (and this doesn’t mean assuming legal liability) for the impact on your customers and explain the remedial actions you are taking to rectify matters.


  1. Embrace the ‘F’ Words – 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. Above all you also need to be frank and honest. Attempting to cover up, half tell or dissemble the facts of an incident always, always lead to more severe consequences than admitting the actual problem in the first place. Factor Twitter into your response strategy – the vast majority of journalists use it as a primary source.


  1. Make More than your Marque

Successful dealer groups are seen as an integral part of the community – not just a manufacturer’s shop window. Look at the issues affecting the local area and how you can add value – our campaigns for dealers have spanned national charity initiatives to apprenticeships and training – all have resulted in measurable commercial benefits in terms of brand recognition, commercial opportunities and footfall.


  1. Get Social

According to research by JudgeService, the UK’s leading provider of car dealer reviews, 80 per cent of buyers check out individual dealer reviews online before purchasing a car– meaning social media comment and rankings are vital in converting sales. Fusing together specialist customer service tools like JudgeService with a content marketing and social media strategy will ensure you’re regularly engaging with target buyers online, giving them the brand confidence to make an enquiry.

The emissions scandal will roll on for some time yet but one thing is for sure – it is not just a problem for VW. It undermines trust in the wider industry among a public that has had its faith in other major institutions – Parliament, Banking, the Church, the Media – eroded by a series of scandals. It is incumbent on dealerships to adopt an effective crisis management plan as part of their own risk management strategies.


This blog first appeared via AM here.

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

Keeping your reputation ship shape

Crucial in any industry – but why especially so for fishing?

The fishing industry has come in for a lot of undue criticism over the last few years, with NGOs, politicians, journalists and campaigners all lining up to take a swipe. Many of these attacks can be characterised as sweeping statements backed by precious little factual evidence. Yet, attacks like these, even when founded on incorrect allegations, can cause serious damage to a company’s, or an entire industry’s, reputation. Therefore it is crucial that reputation management is seen as a necessary element of running your business and keeping it shipshape.

Recent research from BDO LLP and the Quoted Companies Alliance has shown small and medium sized companies attach 28 per cent of their value directly to reputation. With the UK fishing industry valued at more than £860m[1], that’s clearly quite a significant amount. As the fishing industry comes in for constant and heavy scrutiny, far more so than many other industries, one misstep can have severe consequences.

So just how serious an impact can a badly managed crisis have? 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 over a third of its value (35 per cent) in just two days following the ‘dieselgate’ crisis where the company was found to be using cheat devices during emissions tests. That’s a hit of approximately €25bn.

The emergence of a crisis is sometimes completely unavoidable. What we remain in control of, however, is the response. Thankfully this is by far the most important aspect of ensuring reputations remain untarnished. It’s not too much to say that a well-crafted response to a crisis can be the difference between a short term nuisance and a permanently damaged reputation.

Our advice would be to ensure you’re first, fast and frank in your response to the issue. By being proactive in taking control of your response to customers, employees, suppliers, wider stakeholders and the media, you can set the tone for how it’s perceived down the line. If you’re seen to be addressing the situation seriously with a joined up plan across all your communications channels you can actually improve rather than damage the perception of your business.

It sounds easy when you put it like that, but to swiftly and effectively manage a crisis you need to have a plan in place long before you can see a potential issue looming on the horizon. By having a procedure clearly laid out for dealing with any problems, you’ll ensure your response is professional and level-headed. This includes identifying all operational responsibilities to communicating your plan of action – with digital media now being at the forefront of any crisis strategy.

However, reputation management is not all about deflecting crises. Proactively promoting a consistent, positive message about a business and its operations can be a brilliant boost to a business’ reputation and pays dividends in ensuring any negative issues are placed in the context of a much wider, positive piece.

The Saucy Fish Company recently won plaudits and a prestigious award for its School of Fish campaign, which saw a team of children prepare, cook and serve Saucy Fish products to a packed central London restaurant. By planning such a creative event, along with the inevitable cuteness factor brought by kids, the company pulled off a great stunt which led to substantial positive feedback – and the approval and increased interest of potential customers.

At Acceleris, we recently ran a proactive campaign of our own to dispel some of the myths surrounding the European fishing industry, communicating a more positive, consumer-friendly face for the sector. Working with Europêche, the European trade body representing 80,000 fishermen and 45,000 vessels from nine EU countries, Acceleris developed the consumer information portal iFish, designed to address the growing consumer appetite for information on the industry. The site provides facts and figures on the industry while boosting its favourability in the eyes of the public. The associated campaign secured almost 200 pieces of press coverage across Europe, reaching an audience of 140 million people. Every piece of coverage contained a positive message about the work of the industry and the campaign beat global brands including BP, BASF and Unilever to the European Excellence Award in Communications in Stockholm last December.

Clearly, the fishing industry has made good headway in recent years on improving its reputation and it’s great to see sympathetic programmes like The Catch and Trawlermen Tales hitting the mainstream. On the back of this, it’s brilliant to see the Fishing News Awards return after an eight year break. The awards, set to be held in Aberdeen on 26 May 2016, will celebrate the best commercial fishermen from across the UK and Ireland. With a fantastic buzz already surrounding the awards, this kind of event is exactly what the industry needs to capitalise, and improve even further, on its recent reputation boost.

Of course, everyday activity is crucial too – managing reputation is a continuing job. Most businesses don’t have the resources to put on a constant stream of events of this scale – likewise, it’s not simply enough to start trying to garner good favour once a crisis is already on your plate. Regularly share good news stories and CSR initiatives so people know the good work your business does. Not only is this good practice generally, it may determine how people react if a crisis does hit your company. It will also help you to develop strong relationships within the media which are useful to promote good news, but could also become handy when you have not-so good news to share.

The UK fishing industry provides over 31,000 jobs[2], almost £1bn to the economy and food security to the nation and abroad. Yet, these positive messages are in danger of becoming drowned out by well financed and well-resourced detractors. It’s time the industry took back the narrative and restored fishermen’s position as the heroes of the seas.

[1] The value of the 756,000 tonnes of sea fish landed by UK vessels into the UK and abroad.

[2] There are 11,800 active fishermen and 19,511 fish processors in the UK as of 2014

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

It’s too late to apologise

David Mayers, Account Executive

David Mayers, Account Executive

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ll be aware of the crisis surrounding one of the UK’s biggest travel brands. I’m talking, of course, about the tragic deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd in 2006; two young children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty boiler in their hotel on a Thomas Cook holiday to Corfu with their father and his partner. Due to questions surrounding the way Thomas Cook handled the case this is making headlines nine years later, and they don’t make for pleasant reading.

Thomas Cook boasts over 170 years’ experience, low deposits and much more on its website, but they probably aren’t particularly high-up on your list of companies to book a holiday with, as monthly Google searches for the company dropped 18 per cent compared to the same time last year.

A crisis is an unexpected event or happening that poses significant threat to the operational, financial or reputational viability of a business or organisation rusbankinfo.ru. Crises in the travel industry are often high-profile affairs and almost always involve casualties and deaths, and companies operating in the travel and transportation sector are usually pretty good at managing them. With the good though, there are always the bad, and poorly handled crises have contributed to the disappearance of many big brand names: Pan American World Airways, Townsend Thoresen Ferries, and Trans World Airlines (TWA) to name a few. Even with 170 years’ experience, it’s taken very little time at all to significantly damage Thomas Cook’s reputation.

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