Posted tagged ‘Liverpool’

2011 Reputation – that old ‘roasted’ chestnut

30/12/2011

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.

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Turning waste into a resource

09/10/2010

“…As the public spending cuts continue to dominate the headlines it is inevitable that councils will be battening down the hatches and prioritising when and where money is allocated…Cost cutting and green agendas can of course work in tandem…It stands to reason that using fewer resources saves money…”

Daniel Rankine – Public Service Events “Sustainable Scotland- Establishing a greener future”

October is dominated by the economy.  Words like deficit, austerity and cuts are scattered around like confetti.  But to me the month has been dominated by another word – that of environment.

This is because I am working with a client who specialises in waste management and I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in some of the biggest issues facing our society and the planet as a whole.  The waste we leave behind is beyond belief, our attitudes at best ‘laissez faire’ at worse reckless and irresponsible.  But, there is hope, I have had the chance this month to meet some of the people who are at the forefront of trying to ensure that our waste is dealt with and turned into a resource.

Environmental Waste Controls Ltd are a business based just outside Liverpool and they are completely obsessed with taking people’s waste and reducing the environmental and economic impact.  Many of their competitors are national and international players who are being contracted by city authorities such as Liverpool and Manchester but who cannot match their performance.

I had the chance to visit one of the sites they operate for Warrington Council and see why they are achieving some of the best recycling targets in the country and why they are outstripping their competitors.  At the site you notice one thing above all else and that is the people working there.  They are literally high visibility, and not just due to their safety clothing.  They are passionate about recycling and from the gate you are guided and helped to sort and sift and recycle your waste.  As a result they achieve targets of at least 85% of all items going to recycling.  This is an incredible result and they are trying to increase this and in some parts of the country are hitting as high as 95%.  Many of their competitors are at half this total.  Every employee is incentivised to earn based on this target and waste is seen as a resource for reuse or recycling.  They also go further seeing public education as their duty.  And, they hate landfill with a vengeance unlike some of their competitors who are compromised operating both recycling centres and landfill sites.

So why is that some authorities like Warrington are enlightened and others like Liverpool and Manchester are appointing companies that also operate landfill sites and are not totally incentivised around recycling.  Well guess what – money is the answer.  There is a perversity in the economic targets.  There is a real danger that this month’s theme of the economy and this cutting obsession will harm public services but worse than that it will harm our natural environment.

Of course the Government has set a target to be a zero waste economy, but whilst public sector procurement is driven by cost and austerity, there is a dilemma.

Companies like Environmental Waste Controls are leading the way and they deserve all our support.

I suggest you take a look:  http://ewc.eu.com/

Mind the Gap

20/05/2009

“…To the gentleman sporting the pin-striped suit trying to get in to the third carriage, what part of ‘stand clear of the doors’ don’t you understand?…”

Announcement at a London Underground Station

Railway stations fascinate me.  They are huge dynamic living spaces that celebrate the entire diversity of human life.  They are also places that demonstrate a strange perspective on communication.

I arrived 20 minutes early for my train at Liverpool Lime Street yesterday only to discover that some trains where being delayed.  The station public address system at Lime Street constantly pumps a pre-recorded voice that combines announcements relating to departures and in between a constant and steady stream of what could loosely be termed public information.

“Passengers are reminded to keep their luggage with them at all times as any unattended luggage may be removed and destroyed by the security services.”

“Due to today’s wet weather conditions passengers should take extra care when using station facilities.”

Normally, just passing through the station means that such messages constantly repeating are part of a cacophony of noise, hustle and bustle.  But when your train is late and you are stood waiting the repetition becomes something almost 1984 Orwellian.  Of course in my 45 years of human life I need to be reminded that wet equals hazardous and that in these uncertain times leaving anything unattended means it is liable to be whisked away. 

But what about the communication I am looking for – why is my train late or indeed where is my train and give me a hint of how long I am to be delayed.  Of course that is the one communication missing.  Northern Rail is not the greatest at communicating.  Whilst station employees ‘mooched’ around with hand held radios, the train guards (or is that manager these days) and drivers look on impassively and when enquiries are made of them just shrug their shoulders nonchalantly as if to say your guess is as good as mine.  Meanwhile, the constant barrage of risk mitigation announcements stream into your consciousness pervading your very sanity.

Of course, such communication is to please the lawyers who on the off chance that someone falls and breaks a limb due to the wet platforms can proudly declare that they had taken all precautions to warn of the impending doom.

There is a perversity in such lack of communication common sense.  Bodyproject works with clients to try and influence them away from the ‘big brother’ patronising messages that many organisations practice.  But, we have a long way to go, and whilst I accept that if such a wall of messages does prevent someone from tripping over, then it is effective; surely trying to keep passengers informed is a way of managing customer expectations and creating satisfaction and loyalty.  Lime Street is not the greatest of stations and the employees look entirely disenfranchised.  Galvanising them to communicate in a different way could create a real change in the way the station operates.

A cultured economy

13/11/2008

“…Culture is everything you aren’t that defines what you are…”


Lauren Laverne – presenter BBC Culture Show

The front of my newspaper makes for bleak reading: an economy in turmoil, a looming recession and job losses.  Yet, there has been one part of my local economy that has been a resounding success and one I am proud to be associated with – that is the economy of culture.  My company, Bodyproject Ltd, undertook a contract with the Liverpool Culture Company.  It came at a time when the lead up to the year as European Capital of Culture was creating turmoil for Liverpool City Council with political in-fighting, senior-level resignations and sniping from all the usual suspects.


It is therefore wonderful to report on the success enjoyed by Liverpool as European Capital of Culture.  A success that is not just about culture but that has real economic benefits.  The figures are worth noting:

10 million visits to date.
Tourism about to break through the £1 billion mark.
Tate Liverpool 200% visitor rise on 2007.
Albert Dock up 48% breaking a 1 million mark for the first time ever.
2.5 million visitors at the main visual art attractions.
A further 2.5 million visitors for the outdoor events such as the Tall Ships Race, Matthew Street Festival and La Machine.
TV audiences in excess of 40 million for the MTV Europe Music Awards and BBc Sports Personality of the Year.
2 million visitors  at the NAtional Museums Liverpool surpassing all figures from 2007.  Some museums up by 70%.
More people have travelled on Mersey Ferries, visited the two cathedrals than ever before.
1/2 million people throuigh Liverpool theatres – best ever figures.
516,000 hotel room nights sold – 25% more than 2007 worth £35 million.
60 world and european premieres.  200 community evnets involving 500,000 people.

As Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said: “It’s turning out to be one of the most successful Capital of Culture programmes that we have ever had.”

Quite, actions (and facts) speak louder than words.  Well done Liverpool and long may it continue.