Archive for the ‘design’ category

2011 Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut


Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut.  Well, you can’t fail to notice that it is my pet subject and it is also the discipline that I make a living from.  In some ways you’d think from all of the examples and real life experiences that anyone running an organisation or promoting their own profile would have got it right by now but looking back, as I do every year, the reputation low lights are still as prevalent as ever.  When will we ever learn?  Well, maybe that is a question for 2012 and one that I am always willing to debate and discuss.

So, before reading on, just remember reputation is THE factor in determining intellectual capital and that it makes up a whopping 70 to 80% of overall value.  Whether we are talking about personal or organisational reputation then that is an overwhelming figure that means you ought to be taking these examples highlighted here very seriously.

Of course it is difficult to comment on 2011 without regard to the reputation trinity of politics, press and the police.  Politicians have come and gone and none of that is different to any year.  Across the world, political leadership has been awful.  The state of western economies, particularly in the Eurozone is of great concern and is now hurting us all.  In the UK this is the worse time I can remember since the height of Thatcherism in the eighties.  Walking around my home city of Liverpool is a real eye-opener.  Or at least it should be because you have to look closely.

Compare the situation to just three or four years ago and instead of fully occupied offices and retail units you now see numerous for sale and to let signs.  Perhaps more worrying are the number of people sat with pints in pubs at breakfast time.  The betting shops are doing a great trade as is the National Lottery and its new spin off the Health Lottery which managed to launch and establish a positive reputation against a flurry of criticism for only donating 20% to its good cause whilst pocketing 80%.

But they are not alone in terms of some thriving business developments, the Health Lottery is based around the concept of social enterprise and a company structure that is coming in to its own called the Company Interest Company or CiC.  It is my belief that CiCs are the new business model to watch and that whilst charity is not dead (in 2011 charities still continue to hold their reputations and fund raising despite the recession) the lighter regulated and more commercially savvy CiC is the future.  The beauty of a CiC is it allows social need to be met whilst accepting that making money is not necessarily a bad thing – my words.  Of course CiCs can tread a line.  The Salvation Army took a big reputation hit this year turning over £18m through textile trading with a very dubious relationship with a company called Kettering Textiles (check the name of the director who happens to span both organisations and check out K Textiles little earner – £10m – and how little they pay for the textiles per tonne).  Even so, the Sally Army has managed to steer itself through such reputation storms also picking up the BBC Children in Need contract whilst at the same time knocking other charities like the North West Air Ambulance off big supermarket car parks by its commercial approach.  Overall, my prediction is CiCs will be the big story of 2012 as will any aspect of business to do with lifestyle, health and sustainability.

So back to politics.  What a mess.  The coalition has been an unmitigated reputation disaster.  Manifestos are in the bin and Conservatism is in full flow upsetting everyone from students to the rest of Europe.  The economic strategy is off the rails, we have riots on the streets, mass industrial action and the Liberal Democrats imploding.  And yet, David Cameron seems to come out of these disasters stronger and stronger.  It is an incredible result and the opposition seems to get weaker with a leader in Ed Milliband who is being trounced at every point.  Of course, there is a reputation loser and that is Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.  How on earth did a centre left social democratic party think it could work with right wing conservatism – it is beyond me but I am bemused at how well it is playing for the Conservatives and David Cameron.  I still can’t believe the whole plot will not disintegrate and 2012 will be an interesting year.

Meanwhile, as I write this sat on a freezing cold Northern Rail diesel multiple unit that was probably built in 1940 and is clattering up a branch line late I am told that my ticket in 2012 will cost 5% more.  There are a number of businesses that just don’t get it.  The David Lloyd Centres have also announced that due to greater costs they are passing on the costs in higher prices.  Fine, but what all these brands forget – there is a recession and my income and others is not increasing.  Also, their services are not improving. It is a fine line in balancing the marketing 4Ps and they need to be careful.  Northern Rail are generally awful – I take N Rail trains three times a week and the most interesting view of them is working out will I be on a bad train, a very bad train or a very very bad train.  The anticipation at the station platform is great fun!

So who are the big losers this year.  Well let’s skip passed the Police (well if they don’t coral you in), particularly the Met who from kettling to standing back and watching are just an unmitigated disaster.  Their new guy, Bernard Hogan Howe, cut his ‘chief’ teeth in Liverpool and I once sat with him at an Everton match.  Nobody told me who this military type with polished shoes, pressed trousers and impeccably groomed hair was and I decided to sound off about the Police – whoops.  Mind you he took it all well and he is a real PR and digital performer.  There will be few PR or reputation gaffes on his watch or if there are expect them to be dealt with – also expect him to blog and podcast etc.   I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with some bobbies recently for a client.  What a complete bunch of stereotypes they are.  What can I say, they certainly play their parts and they need to get their act together as unfortunately the other two of the trinity, politics and press, will continue to make their lives difficult.

There is little I can add in 2011 about the press reputation except rock bottom and enough said.  The only issue it leaves me with is just how many enquiries, inquiries, inquisitions, reviews do we need.  Every time something goes awry we hold post mortems to the Nth degree.  How about this novel suggestion, why don’t we plan and manage and direct reputation – here comes a plug for my work – well no not really, but the complete lack of investment does worry me and yes I have a ‘for hire’ sign permanently outside my office.  One of the most interesting press reputation issues will be the interaction with the audience.  This week the Lancashire Evening Post announced its intention to suspend comment facilities on its web page and that it is to prosecute a contributor.  The old letters to the editor pages have come a long way and the BBC in particular since moving to Salford, is keen to get down with the people taking everything from Radio 5,s Fighting Talk to BBC One Football Focus into live settings.  It will all end in tears.  Quite honestly, whilst I can stomach a bit of audience participation, the onerous meanderings of chat show phone in groupies is not my choice of viewing and listening.  However, participation is an area of major growth, probably spurred by the Internet accessibility spilling over to other media.  Witness the rise of internet forums, instant messaging (although Blackberry had its service come under reputation flack this summer), phone ins and digital petitions.

Overall business seems to have chartered a fairly calm passage through the sea of reputation although we have lost quite a few brands as the tough climate claims its casualties (Blacks and La Senza being just the latest to cling on).  Interestingly, some businesses actually achieved a unique position of people feeling sorry for them. Those hard hit by the riots gained incredible support.  Brands like Tesco and Starbucks continue to really aim for world or at least high street vs.  out of town/retail park domination. This remains uncomfortable for me as the high street is under threat.  Conversely this has led other traders to fill the gap. 99p Stores is growing fast as a brand as is Home Bargains. For me, the retail brand of the year is Aldi, closely followed by Lidl. Aldi offers a great experience and their prices are exceptional. A brand to watch in 2012.  One of the store assistants in Aldi told me recently they had 50% more people visiting them this year than last.  Of corse four pints of milk in my l;coal Tesco £1.80 and in Aldi £1 – I know who I want to have the 80p difference – me!

So what about organisations that have really made a reputation mess. Well, St Paul’s Cathedral lost the plot when the Occupy camp arrived. A perfect example of an organisation that just did not plan or manage its reputation. I passed by the camp last week and was mildly amused to see that the camp is now sited next to a Blacks Outdoor Store – good planning except that brand is struggling towards a pre-pack and rescue. Travellers and camps took a reputation bashing generally with the disaster at Dale Farm.

But for me, the reputation disaster has to be in the sports sector and in particular football. At the time of writing two high profile international players are embroiled in serious allegations relating to racism, there isn’t a day goes by that doesn’t present another character to the pantomime, whether that be an imature player letting off fireworks or a tempremental prima donna refusing to play and fulfill his contract. The real reputation disaster starts at the top – rules, officials, governance is devoid of any sense of control or balance. So this year I nominate FIFA as the entity with the worse reputation.

Pause for a moment – its not just football. The Rugby Football Union collapsed at the seams as its huge bureaucratic, and if I may observe rather pompous, establishment failed to grasp that professional players had to be just that – professional. London showed how fragile it may prove next year failing to anticipate a late finish at the world ATP tennis finals, the showcase world tennis event already under threat from our archaic tax laws, stranding thousands at a closed tube station. Even Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, got in on the act by holding up play by arriving late to his seat – mind you that was very funny to see the camera on Boris and his bag of popcorn whilst Roger Federer glared at him. And the BBC showcase Sports Personality of the Year unfortunately managed to conjure up a 100% female free event.

So sport is the reputation loser in 2011 – a complete mess of egos, inadequate ownership, overpaid and out of touch practitioners and a gullible following from punters to pundits. FIFA are not the exception, but one wonders who on earth carries out their PR and stakeholder management.

So looking forward, one can only wonder what we will face in 2012. The Olympics is the obvious ‘trip wire,’ sport can be relied on to keep the poor reputation flag flying although I hope it is the opposite and that next year I will be upholding it as THE reputation winner.  The tenuous coalition will no doubt give us a lot to ponder.

From my perspective, convincing organisations and people to plan and manage reputation remains my priority.  It’s a mantra worth chanting.

You cant be given a brand you have to earn it


Bodyproject contributes to a Reputation Institiute blog:

My company works with complex organisations to help them protect and promote their reputation and I entirely agree with Elliot.

We find the best way of thinking about this is to make an analogy with an individual.

I find that in terms of an individual form the essence of your genetics, behaviours, way you look and speak and act is acquired from what influences your conception to where you live to what you eat, what experiences you have etc. It is hugely complex.

There are three elements to reputation and therefore brand. First – identity. Of course this can be influenced and is almost entirely in your control (i.e the ‘almost’ is somewhat dictated – you cant wear a skinny t shirt if you are overweight, your accent may be influenced by were you are brought up etc) but you can learn and change and shape your whole identity. As also can organisation through its brand, key messages, 4Ps -products (and service), promotion and placement and price etc.

The second is image – the reverse of identity – how others perceive you. Far more difficult to control but you can choose how you promote your identity i.e. if you bully someone they may not have a very good image of you – to say the least. Again organisations can tackle this aspect of their brand through the way they deliver customer service, the insights they receive, the experiences they deliver.

But the hardest aspect of brand and why Elliot is so right is that of personality. I sum this up as actions speak louder than words. It doesn’t matter how many strap lines, lovely logos and values an organisation espouses, what you do speaks far more loudly than what you say.

So many consultants can help shape all this through coaching, mentoring, reflecting back, cajoling etc but ultimately brand is something you give rather than what you are given.

Searching for work


“…The first duty of a human being is to assume the right functional relationship to society…more breiefly, to find your real job, and do it…”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Trying to find work in the present economic client is not easy.  At Bodyproject we receive CVs virtually every day.  A lot of people just send a CV on a copy all e-mail but sometimes someone takes the time and trouble to be a little more innovative.  In this case Graham Cheal has researched a financial incentive for people willing to employ him.  This is his approach:

If you are unaware of the last few weeks financial situation, the government have a new scheme named “new deal”

The break down of this is, that after a small trial period (up to 2 weeks free of charge ), you were willing to employ me, the job centre would pay towards £60 of my wage for 6 months.

Not only this but you will get a grant of 750 pounds for any training that I would need. If you do not use all of this grant you just keep it.

And that’s it. Now, I am a university graduate with a 1st class degree in illustration and a keen eye for design. I would love the opportunity to continue in this Field and believe that this is a great opportunity for you and me. Please get in touch if you would like to talk further or look at my portfolios Graham Cheal BA(hons)

So if anyone wants to take Graham up on his offer contact Bodyproject and we will put you in touch.

Space – the first, second and final frontier


“…The environments we live, work and play in profoundly affect how we are as human beings and how we relate to each other…when we are careful about the way we create a physical environment, when we pay attention to every detail of it, people start to think about themselves and each other differently…”

Andrew Mawson – author The Social Entrepreneur

One of the guiding principles adopted by Bodyproject is to use public transport when we can.  This simple undertaking is at first glance easy to achieve but it does come at a cost.  
Bodyproject is profoundly aware of space as it plays such an important part in communications.  We live in a multi dimensional world and the way we use space is extremely important.
But what about the space we create for ourselves and others?  My regular sojourns on public transport suggests that people’s use of space and their personal awareness of their and others space is sadly lacking.  A fundamental ‘learnt’ human skill is somehow diminishing and to my mind this is a serious communication challenge.
Any train or bus journey will bring forth numerous examples.  The use of technology is a major contributor.  The constant mobile phone traffic is a distracting part of any journey on public transport, the use of personal devices at invasive sound levels is also a pain; but interestingly our collective degrading of space as a valuable commodity and our skill in using it is often observed through more subtle behaviour.  It amazes me the lengths people will go to ensure they have nobody sitting next to them by creating walls of bags on adjacent seats or sitting in an aisle seat to protect an empty place by the window.  Even if people are standing it is sometimes the case that a bag will travel in the comfort of a seat unless a challenge is made.
Creating space and using space is a communication skill and from physical to graphic design, town planning to engineering; space is a major factor in any solution.  
But what of personal space?  
Our self awareness and ability to understand the needs of others is vital in being successful as an individual.  Equally, the same applies to an organisation.  
We must strive to find the ability to consider what space means for our businesses and organisations whether that be the way we design our premises, the way we encourage our employees to interact or our presence on the web.  Are we ‘metaphorically’ blocking seats next to us, making far too much noise and just totally unaware of our external environment and the needs and expectations of others.  Or are we in touch with space and its vital role in communicating and success? 

The Big Issue


“…A brand is a set of rational and emotional perceptions in the mind of the customer…”

Davide De Maestri – International Coaching Academy

Next Monday across the North of England there will be a change in the printed media that will be anticipated with some trepidation.  Of course media is always transforming and moving forward whether that be the introduction of colour, resizing from broadsheet to berliner or embracing the web; but this is a change that will have less of an impact on the owner and more of an impact on the vendor.

The Big Issue in the North is unveiling a new look – in their words it will introduce a magazine that is “cleaner, more coherent and stylish.”  So much for the brand speak but to be fair to the Big Life Company, the group of companies and charities that publishes the magazine, the change is fundamental.

Big Issue sellers are working and not begging and selling the magazine on the streets is not easy.  Not only does the vending taking place in all weathers but it relies on persuading people to buy the magazine and in this respect the look and content is all important.  A conversation I had with a vendor a few years ago highlighted this – from his perspective the cover image meant everything – a top celebrity or stunning cover image helped the sales.  So any change to the look and feel of this publication is important as for most vendors the money they earn from sales is their only source of income.

The problem is that many people just don’t understand the Big Issue and the Big Life Company hopes that this redesign will remind people of its purpose.  From my point of view the Big Issue in the North is vital reading and a must buy – not just because it helps homeless people earn a living, but because it is one of the best edited and written magazines I know.  Its content pushes boundaries with incisive writing and stimulating content, not just about homelessness.

To this end I am looking forward to the redesign, it is one that the Big Life company will have carefully considered, and I hope everyone who reads this will ensure that they go out and buy a Big Issue today and every week after.