Over dinner one evening, an account manager feels a buzz in his pocket. On his mobile is an alert, flagging a concerning conversation on social media. A mother has shared a story about her young child narrowly escaping serious injury due to one of our client’s products, and a journalist has publicly asked her to get in touch to cover the story.
Within the hour, we have invoked our client’s crisis policy, gathered the team, an investigation has been launched, and strategy has been agreed. The customer is contacted, the journalist is briefed, the business leadership is updated. Procedures are instigated to ensure a similar incident cannot happen.
The fallout is significantly reduced as all members of the team fulfil their roles. A story appears, but it is a one-off and the public recognise what happened is a genuine freak event.
Without training and preparation conducted in advance, there never would have been a procedure to follow, the story may have run for several days, public confidence in the product would have been reduced
Often our clients find their reputations questioned by the actions or behaviour of others. A recent court case saw our client’s brand tarnished because a high-profile criminal act that it was powerless to prevent took place on its premises.
Similarly, we had to take decisive corrective action against media outlets which wrongly attributed a client’s brand to criminal activity due to a mistake by a prosecution lawyer during a court case. The lawyer in question was also advised of his error and ensured it was struck from the record.
Our ability to identify stakeholders and potential ambassadors for clients faced with reputational issues has allowed us to mitigate against or completely undermine false accusations.
One such instance involved an alleged ‘cancer cluster’ close to a client’s site. We were able to demonstrate this was completely untrue by accessing official NHS statistics and engaging the assistance of independent medical professionals, and the local community.
We have also faced down reputational threats from well-known NGOs which targeted a UK business due to alleged – and ultimately unproven – environmental breaches by a foreign shareholder within its ultimate parent company.
When the Tsunami rollercoaster derailed and crashed into crowds at this busy theme park we were on site and had the press in line within half an hour.
The story led every major news channel and most national newspapers. During an intense period when it remained on the news agenda for 30 successive days, we guided the client through this stressful period, managing social media fallout, flushing out ambulance chasers, working with lawyers and protecting the brand.
We also ensured that a key message that it is a family-owned business was highlighted, and that there was real empathy for those affected. With strict liability in place for health and safety breaches, prosecution was inevitable for M&D’s and we continued to provide support to the business during the court cases that followed.
25 firefighters rushed to the Port of Hull overnight to clear 500 metric tonnes of hydrochloric acid, which leaked from a 30ft high cylindrical storage tank causing a vapour cloud at United Molasses’ storage depot at King George Dock. The CEO of UM contacted our 24/7 crisis helpline at 5.30am and our experienced team immediately raced into action, liaising with the emergency services and Associated British Ports.
A 500m exclusion zone was set up, but eight people were taken to hospital after becoming unwell. The story was seized upon by local and national media, demanding to know what had happened and what UM was doing about it.
Our calm, considered response helped steer UM through the initial storm and the story soon dropped down the news agenda.
A reputation recovery plan was then put in place to ensure consistent messages were delivered to regulators and other key legislative stakeholders, as well as manage relationships with other affected businesses and the local community.