Archive for February, 2010

More labels for EU foodstuffs

News today that the European Commission has announced the winner of its competition to design an “organic logo”. According to the EC press release:

“From 1st July 2010, the organic logo of the EU will be obligatory on all pre-packaged organic products that have been produced in any of the EU Member States and meet the necessary standards.”

The competition was originally announced back in April of last year, and while the EC believes it will raise awareness of organic farming, from a personal perspective I’m not so sure. The standards required in order for a product to be labelled “organic” are already pretty stringent, and there’s no indication that the standards themselves will change.

Additionally, only 130,000 people voted in the competition. When you factor in that there are 27 EU Member States, and this country alone has something in the order of 50 million citizens, 130,000 represents a tiny proportion of the population.

The introduction of a new labelling intiative adds another level of complexity to the increasingly busy real estate that’s wrapped around our groceries. With a 1 July deadline the race will be on for manufacturers to get the new logo onto qualifying products and out into stores ahead of the competition. But beyond creating additional work for marketing departments and pack designers, are any of us really expecting one more logo to make a difference?

How good crisis management can protect shareholder value

Measuring the impact of PR is the bane of Marketing Directors the world over. On a personal level, I’d argue that measuring the marketing effect of PR is the problem, rather than measuring the impact of PR as a management function.

To support this heresy, I point to a study conducted a number of years ago by the researchers Rory Knight and Deborah Pretty. Their study, The Impact of Catastrophes on Shareholder Value, highlights two groups of factors that help companies to retain (or grow) shareholder value in the days, weeks and months following a crisis.

Direct factors largely consist of financial safety-nets, like the company’s insurance policy and cash reserves.

Indirect factors are largely attributed to the perception of competence displayed by the company’s management during and immediately after the crisis. And here’s where communication (crisis PR if you like) plays a massive role.

If you really think about it for a second, communication is the only way information ever gets out of the room and into the world – whether that’s into the brains of the company’s workforce, the pages of its annual report, or the copy of The Huffington Post. It’s all public relations because it’s all about relating the company to…the public.

As we often say on this blog, we can’t judge the performance of the people in the room by what we read in the media, simply because we don’t have the same information as the people in the room. However, when it comes to instilling confidence in an audience, that usually requires sharing some of that information, in a way that’s easily accessible to that audience.

That’s largely the point of the crisis management function. We help convey that information more effectively during times of distress. And because we can see what happens when that’s not done well, researchers like Knight & Pretty are able to demonstrate the impact of a job well done.

I’d strongly recommend downloading the full paper – it’s only 20-odd pages and makes a compelling argument for your communication investment.

Internal communication insight: Handling redundancy communications

As the Issues & Crisis team we work with a lot of organisations going through the difficult task of communicating company restructurings, employee consultations and redundancies. Typically, this is with a view to managing the external communication of such announcements, and as we always advise clients, whatever is said outside of the company must reflect the more important communication that’s going on inside.

Here’s a post by fellow H&K blogger and our Lead Counsel for Change & Internal Communication, Scott McKenzie, with a few guidelines on how to appropriately manage redundancy communication on the inside. Well worth a read.