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Bad Bite To Reputation

In industries of high public trust reputation is of critical importance. The food industry is a prime example. Food poisoning is on a very steep rise. It is estimated that it has leapt almost 80 percent in a decade. And it can impact any part of the food industry – from restaurants to food processors and manufacturers – all are vulnerable to reputational damage. With schools and businesses now coming back on stream there is heightened potential for damage.

Each year an estimated 5.4 million Australians are affected by food poisoning, including 120 deaths and more than 1.2 million visits to doctors. The estimated annual cost of food poisoning is $1.25 billion and the number of lost work days is 2.1 million.

In OzFoodNet’s most recent nine-year survey period they linked 68 food poisoning outbreaks to eggs alone with 1404 Australians ill, 322 hospitalised and two deaths.

And in the current three-months period – the Christmas/holiday season – there have been 14 food recalls, ranging from Mexican Salsa Peanuts to pancakes, hash browns, cider, cheese, biscuits, bread, beans and beetroot.

Behind each of these is a company whose reputation is now damaged. The consumer has doubts about the veracity of the product, as well as the hygienic nature and standards of the manufacturing process.

History is littered with companies which have collapsed because they have not managed the situation, nor their reputation effectively.

This is where token food recall crisis management ‘on the fly’ and ‘let’s keep our heads down’ attitudes can do irreparable damage to a company. This approach does not ‘cut it’ in today’s media and voracious social media world.

The traditional media, now often led by social media, can become a nightmare for unprepared companies. A single tweet can turn an issue into a full-blown crisis of global proportions.

Companies have no basis to think they can get away with it. Unfortunately, investment in preparedness is still neglected today, despite the facts.

The adage “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” is typical of many companies. They are paying lip service to having a crisis plan, having it tested and having it maintained for currency.

But doing ‘the right thing’ by consumers and the community, plus putting ‘reputation goodwill in the bank’ can only be achieved by an effective crisis plan and preparedness for an issue.

RMK+A has more than 30 years’ experience in preparing companies for crises and in dealing with  issues, as well as developing and testing crisis plans.

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The whip is cracking at the ear of many – will they hear it

Sometimes dramatic decisions are a harbinger to test the wisdom and will of others.

When Harness Racing Australia momentously decided recently to ban the whip, it sent a cracking message not only to other performance animal codes but also to all animal industries.

Increasingly we are a society that cares deeply about the treatment of animals. This trend of increasing expectations for the humane treatment of animals can be ignored only at the deepest peril by anyone working with animals in any capacity.

In NSW, Greyhounds NSW came as close as it is possible to come to death after a damning Commission of Inquiry report into the Four Corners revelations about live baiting– using pigs, possums, and rabbits.

That it was saved by political reprieve at 1 minute to midnight should provide no comfort in the animal industry – Greyhounds NSW came close enough to death to indicate that it can happen.

So, what has the harness racing industry done?

After a 200-year history of using whips in racing, RMK+Associates was proud to help Harness Racing Australia communicate to the world its initiative to ban the whip.

What the industry has done is to signal that the fluoro writing on the wall, that it can co-opt the RSPCA to publicly laud its actions, and that the “impossible” is possible.

Take thoroughbred racing, for instance. Clearly, it is next in the sights of organisations like the RSPCA. The industry has long made its case for the whip and made modifications to reduce the pain it inflicts.

Here is the real choice.

Either the industry acts itself, on its own terms, or the whip will be taken from it by the force of public opinion. In the latter instance, it loses the whip and significant reputational skin; in the former, the outcome is identical but – like harness racing – it gains reputation and builds the sustainability of its industry.

The message is clear, too, for Greyhounds. They must solve the “impossible” problems regarding the overbreeding, the euthanasia of pups that don’t make the grade, and of post-raced dogs.

Beyond recreational performance animals is the animal food production industry.

Live export tops the list, and there is simply no latitude for continued error. Despite the systems in place, cruelty to Australian animals overseas continues. The industry must find the fortitude to simply stop exporting where it cannot guarantee animals are processed to Australian standards.

Again, either the industry acts unilaterally, or repeated horrors will see an imposed solution.

The dairy, beef, sheep, and chicken industries have their own “skeletons” in the closet. Dairy needs to change its bobby calf rules and shorten travel times and feeding times to abattoirs.

They must stop calving induction, where premature calves are artificially birthed then unceremoniously dispatched, often with a hammer – all this for the convenient alignment of milking cycles.

Beef cattle, especially up north, may be out of sight but not entirely out of mind. Painful practices like summary castration with blades, cutting off horns at an early age, or spaying, all occur without anaesthetic.

Chicken processing and death can be less than efficient, and millions of chicks still conveyor-belted alive and tweeting into a meat masher. Solutions to sheep inflictions, like mulesing or cutting skin off the backsides to stop them become fly blown, is still done without anaesthetic.

The tide of public opinion is rising around all these industries daily. The picture of futility is farmers preaching that the city doesn’t understand what they do.

The truth is some of them fail dismally to understand their own societies.

It they want to take a leaf from the harness racing book, the process is not that hard.

With guidance and expert management of engagement processes, they can be helped to engage meaningfully with stakeholders, including those that some in their industries consider “enemies”.

They can achieve outcomes that are mutually beneficial and acceptable, and that secure the sustainability of their industries – but they do need to make genuine and difficult changes.

The writing remains on the wall, and it’s getting bigger and more fluorescent. What is left is for the industries to read it, and act.

 

stakeholdermatrix

Stakeholder Matrix

A tool to keep multiple stakeholders and projects on track

At no time in the history of humankind have we had so much access to information. It is a brilliant phenomenon that in many regards is contributing to breaking the shackles of the status quo.

A direct consequence of this exponential increase to data has been a directly proportional and commensurate increase in community expectations to information provision and transparency.

Ironically, in the face of the splintering, multiplying and diversifying array of data/media sources, it has also never been easier for the community to tune out/switch off to material that is not presented in the manner, or via the channel they want. To borrow a phrase in public relations, ‘there’s no guarantee they’re going to pick up what you put down.’

It’s in the face of this complexity that stakeholder and community engagement has reached unprecedented levels; nor have the ramifications of getting it ‘wrong’ ever been higher.

Two great and recent examples of these trends are the respective votes for Britain to leave the EU (Brexit) and the election of Donald Trump.

Traditional media and those ‘in the know’ stated with great certainty that neither event could, or would, ever happen.

For many of them the post-apocalyptic analysis and rationalisation of events is still underway.

The reason I highlight these examples, is that both Brexit and Trump demonstrate the importance of ‘listening’ to your audience to underpin how you then ‘engage’ with them.

The patriarchal approach of ‘we know best, and you will listen to us’ is well and truly dead (thank God!). In fact, any entity that adopts that approach will severely damage its reputation in a very short period of time.

This is why we at RMK+ Associates, in partnership with the software team at Web Force 5, have combined our respective skillsets in stakeholder engagement and technology to develop the Stakeholder Matrix system. The philosophy that underpins this creation is to translate the inherently complex into distilled simplicity.

We have centered everything around People, Projects, and Issues with the aim of ensuring that all your people, can access all the information they need, in all the places they go, at all the times it is needed.

In this respect (not to mention its affordability) Stakeholder Matrix is unique and without peer.

We know that if systems are ‘clunky’ and difficult to use, they simply won’t be used. Stakeholder Matrix has been specifically designed and built for its purpose, and aims to have information available within ‘4-clicks.’

Applications range from issues and crisis management to face-to-face engagement, to surveys and market research and a lot, lot more.

You can even design, build, and publish dedicated websites for your projects with it.

In today’s high-expectation environment everyone needs the support of quick-an- easy to use technology in all their pursuits – especially when your organisation’s reputation is riding on it.

To arrange a pre-launch demonstration of Stakeholder Matrix please contact the RMK+A office on 03 9036 6390.

 

liberating-the-effectiveness-of-public-relations

Liberating the effectiveness of public relations….

At no other time in its modern history has public relations lived up to the true meaning of the term.

The ‘public’s voice’ is now heard in every part of political and business activity. And ‘relations’ has become the mantra for all political (government) and corporate initiatives with stakeholders.

‘Stakeholder engagement’, ‘community relations’, ‘social licence to operate’, ‘community’s trust and confidence’ are all derivatives of the practice of public relations.

We are now living in a period where the public’s voice is dictating political policy at an unprecedented rate. This has been reflected in the US election of Donald Trump as President elect, the resignation of the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the potential overthrow of the South Korean President Park Geun-hye and the UK’s decision to exit the European Common Market.

What is giving public relations an even greater role with the news media and the community is mobile communication technologies. These are challenging not only public relations practitioners to expand their thinking and practice, but also governments and corporations in how they engage with stakeholders and also respond to crises and emergencies.

As Massey University lecturer Chris Galloway has highlighted: “Liberating electronic communication from fixed devices means that familiar PR approaches designed to reach audiences through such equipment are insufficient in themselves. They need to be complemented by new strategies, including those based on conceptualising cyber-PR as dynamic communicative ‘touch’.”

 We are now in an era where today’s communities need a ‘continuous personalised dialog’[1]. The sooner community thinking is understood through qualitative and quantitative research, the more effective will be public relations strategies which utilise electronic communication to promote government and corporate policies and initiatives.

This wider thinking about ‘relating’ to the public – one that recognises the mobile communicators, or ‘global knowledge nomads’[2] – must be part of every public relations strategy today because ‘consuming content and managing relationships’ is now ‘the dictator’ of government and corporate messaging.

This new era of public relations calls for innovative strategic communication thinking and the greater use of technology in managing messages, delivering timely information and understanding the stakeholder (publics).

RMK+Associates is at the forefront of this change.

Its specifically designed software – Stakeholder Matrix – for centralising communication for accurate and timely information and stakeholder engagement, and its strong history in understanding the latest shifts in public relations strategies makes it ideally placed to assist governments, corporations and the not-for-profit sector understand the true value and effectiveness of public relations today.

 

[1] Lindgren,Jedbratt & Svensson, 2002

[2] Lindgren et al 2002