A new tool has been designed to help brands ward off 'issues-based' attacks from NGOs, but campaigning charities have dubbed the move 'sinister'.
Burson-Marsteller is advising corporates on new ways to offset the growing danger from campaigning NGOs such as Greenpeace, which recently attacked Nestle over its use of palm oil (PRWeek, 26 March).
B-M's Brand Vulnerability Index (BVI) is aimed at 'identifying emerging risks, allowing pre-emptive engagement and mediation; and assessing comparative risk against competitor brands'.
The core of the BVI is a database of 3,000 NGOs and a summary of the issues they are currently talking about in reports, online and in the media.
Chair of B-M's EMEA energy, environment and climate change practice Bill Royce said: 'It provides a much richer idea of what they're saying. Usually 12-18 months before NGOs start a campaign, an issue will build momentum before it's looked at by the mainstream media.'
But Greenpeace head of media Ben Stewart claimed: 'Our friends at Burson-Marsteller don't have a splendid reputation and they're known to deal in the dark arts in PR.'
Of the new tool, he added: 'It's a bit sinister. One suspects it is being sold and bought on the basis of trying to protect brands against PR damage rather than improving their sustainability.'
Friends of the Earth communications manager Helen Bird said firms should do more than just the minimum needed to head off potential PR crises. 'Companies have a crucial role in stopping climate catastrophe,' she said.
Royce responded: 'We work well with most mainstream NGOs but there are some that, for their own reasons, find it difficult to engage with business.'