Unilever pledges to stop advertising with influencers that buy followers

Unilever pledges to stop advertising with influencers that buy followers

Unilever announced a new policy which aims to reduce fraud and increase transparency to improve integrity within influencer marketing.

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Crisis management the BrewDog way

Crisis management the BrewDog way

A great crisis management statement from BrewDog was released on 27 March 2017. It announced their decision to back down over the Lone Wolf trademark dispute with a family run pub in Birmingham.
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RE:SO SHED vintage clothing launch – the benefits of hosting a blogging event

RE:SO SHED vintage clothing launch – the benefits of hosting a blogging event

The Retail Solent Initiative, RE:SO, hosted a special blogger preview event for the launch of the new SHED vintage clothing in Southampton.

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I get knocked down, but I get up again! – PR, rugby and concussion.

I get knocked down, but I get up again! – PR, rugby and concussion.

Rugby’s recent hot topic was how George North’s concussion was dealt with, which resulted in concerns being raised about whether appropriate action was taken and its impact on Rugby Union’s reputation.

Paul Rees wrote an excellent article for the Guardian (12 February) that sums this up perfectly. He states that the future of the players and sport depends on action being taken to treat concussion with the importance it deserves.

You can Paul’s article here: ‘George North’s concussion damaged him and the image of rugby union’.

Image and reputation is inextricably linked with stakeholders, and therefore a damaged reputation can have seriously harmful repercussions.

If the Rugby Union is not properly looking after it’s key stakeholders, the players, by risking their health then it calls into question rugby’s credibility. Rugby’s image and reputation becomes damaged and this then loses other essential stakeholders – the fans and the funding.

When things go wrong mitigation is key and rugby’s swift action on concussion has limited the damage to the Union’s image and to the players.

George North’s case emphasised Rugby Union’s concussion protocol and it’s importance. But, there was considerable outrage with how it was dealt with and his welfare.

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George North was knocked out when Wales played England in the 2015 Six Nations Tournament

 

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George North sustained serious head injuries but was allowed to play on

After George North’s concussion debacle it was rumoured that players often pushed themselves back to playing before they were ready, in fear of losing their place on the team. Other comments circulated that coaches were the culprits making players return. The comments didn’t go away.

Given the nature of rugby, it wasn’t long until another high-profile case presented itself and after Mike Brown went out cold during the Valentines Day match against Italy, PR went in to overdrive from the England camp. It was the perfect opportunity to rescue rugby’s reputation from what happened mere weeks earlier with George North. It was time for communication.

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Mike Brown out cold after a clash when England played Italy in the 2015 Six Nations Tournament

Multiple news stories and updates were issued stipulating that Mike Brown is being protected by existing protocol and that he will not be returning until all symptoms are gone. Mitigation, through strategic PR communication, did its job and the concussion protocol fever has been sated for now. Here are some of the quotes that were released from the England camp…

BBC sport quoted England rugby’s coaches:

“This morning Mike woke up not feeling 100%. The right and proper thing to do was to make the call. His health is the main priority here and we need to get him right for the next game. The symptoms aren’t too severe whatsoever, just a little headache. He’s fine in himself and is chirpy enough, but it just isn’t worth the risk because his health comes first.” assistant coach Andy Farrell said.

 

England head coach Stuart Lancaster said the squad’s medical staff would continue to work with Brown to “get him back to full health”.

Although this is great news for Mike Brown’s welfare, this does mean that he will miss today’s Six Nation Ireland v England match, much to the disappointment of England rugby fans, Stuart Lancaster and the rest of the coaching team. But, in this instance, the risk is too big to chance. Everyone involved knows this and the right decision has been made. Well done Stuart. England 1 – 0 Wales.

Taking risks for reputation enhancement is not a new topic in PR and it is something I have written about before. Recently, the article I posted about Madonna at the 2015 Brit awards, talked about how far is too far in PR, using the example of Red Bull who risked a life for PR purposes. Like I said before, if the live jump from space had gone wrong then the damage to the brand would have been unprecedented. Instead it’s secured their place in the top brands of the world. Risk can equal big rewards.

However, rugby isn’t just a brand or a product, it’s bigger than that, it’s a part of our society. It’s children developing important skills, the Sunday run about with the lads, it’s the first trip to a major stadium, it’s the highs and lows of following your team. Big risk here won’t work.

It seems rugby is aware of its position, the risk and the potential damage, even if the George North situation was a reminder of why the rules and protocol are there. In this instance, strategic PR was used to manage the expectations of its stakeholders. It facilitated communication with its stakeholders by saying ‘how we dealt with that was wrong, but look, we’ve learnt from our mistake’. Crisis averted.

Brand Reputation: Is this the beginning of the demise of One Direction?

Well, they couldn’t stay squeaky clean forever could they?

Let’s remove opinion about their music and have a look at this in a PR context. Britain’s latest x-factor global export has been milking the boy band cash cow for a solid 4 years. Without a doubt they have created an extremely strong brand that transcends language and cultural barriers. Merchandise has gone nuts as every teen worth their salt grapples for a piece of the 1D phenomenon. Their initial stakeholder targeting of the youth pop market was tried and tested and worked to rocket them into the global limelight. But like their child-hood starlet predecessors, Britney, Bieber, Lohan and even Take That, eventually the sugar coating wears off.

Stakeholder salience theory was adhered to but they have fallen in to the classic trap. Salience theory does not consider stakeholder changes over time. Not only do you have a rapidly evolving 1D audience (Yes, boys now like them too!) but the audience and the band itself is growing up. How do the young men evolve from their boyish pop persona? Why of course, like many before them they will play with the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable. The chaps are apparently pictured with a rather large joint. We could discuss the drug debate but that’s opening up another can of worms’ altogether. Let’s not go down that slippery slope on this occasion. There’s a lot of other ethical concepts and consideration to be made here. What this does do though is tarnish their whiter than white image. Will you still love them if they are ‘bad boys’? If their PR team does a good enough job at fixing their reputation you will!

You're going to need more puppies and cable knit boys!
You’re going to need more puppies and cable knit boys!

Not even an exclusive Radio One Big Weekend interview could shy the media away from the content in a leaked video taken in Peru (I can’t verify the video, these opinions are all my own etc!). If you haven’t seen it. Have a peek here.

As a role model to children and teens everywhere, it’s impossible to measure the effect this will have as their reach is so large. Louisot and Rayner state that good reputation is achieved when expectations are consistently met or exceeded. So far for 1D that’s been golden, however this little escapade has planted the seeds of doubt. I’m pretty sure that any parent in any country will not condone drug use (whether the band were smoking drugs or not, the connotation and implications are enough to instigate parent alarm bells). Will this have an impact on their popularity and reputation? Only time will tell.

I can’t even say I’m surprised at this ‘revelation’. They aren’t the first or the last. No doubt someone somewhere is being fired for leaking the footage, unless it was the band member themselves, in which case, smacked wrists from the management team are coming your way! Simon Cowell has a kid of his own now, might this cause him to consider how much pressure he’s putting on the continually touring band? Can we blame the management and unrelenting work schedule? Or perhaps you think ‘lucky so and so’s living the dream’? Whatever your opinion, can you say you are surprised or shocked?

My biggest shock came at the two band members sneering at their fans. Lads, don’t forget who pays the bills, it’s those kids and the parents with the pennies. You could easily be outranked by a cartoon pig in the blink of an eye. Fame is fickle.

I’m sure there are some media moguls who have been working very hard round the clock to create a strategy to deal with this crisis and to repair the damage to the 1D brand. Perhaps I’m wrong and they are revelling in even more coverage. All publicity is good publicity, right?

If they do try and repair any damage that’s been done I wonder what path they will take? Will they acknowledge it in a carefully scripted PR statement or press release? More charitable activities? Or perhaps they will brush it under the carpet as ‘just a cigarette, the boy’s were just mucking about!’? Public relations, reputation management and crisis communications are clearly key to repairing damage but it leads me to think what apsects and skills must be drawn upon as a new PR practitioner. Does the added dimension of ‘celebrity’ change how you would deal with the situation compared to an organisation or service? Crisis communications state that communication is key but we are yet to hear anything from the 1D camp. It’s been a wee while now, time’s a ticking team Syco! It will be interesting to see how they handle this matter and how they recover and rebuild the damage caused to their reputation. Lessons to be learnt by all.

 

(I will add that this is just an opinion on activities that may or may not have happened, before one of 1D and Syco’s legal team beat me financially into oblivion. My main concern is with the PR activity and what actions you should take in a crisis to repair brand reputation when it’s damaged.)