Public Sector: Beko fridge-freezers

Last summer, there was a major fire in a London tower block in Bermondsey. At the time, it was widely reported to have been caused by a lightning strike, but the London Fire Brigade (LFB) discovered it was actually caused by a faulty Beko fridge-freezer. The LFB launched a campaign to tell the public about this fault.

Beko fridge-freezer fire: 35 firefighters tackled the blaze
Beko fridge-freezer fire: 35 firefighters tackled the blaze

Client: London Fire Brigade
PR team: In-house
Timescale: July 2011
Budget: In-house staff time

OBJECTIVES

  • To raise awareness of the potential fire risk posed by a fault in certain models of Beko fridge-freezers
  • To encourage people to check if they own one of the models affected and if so, to contact Beko.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

LFB investigators identified a problem with a faulty defrost timer switch in certain models of Beko fridge-freezers, a fault that could lead to the appliance catching fire. The discovery meant that 500,000 products could be at risk.

After the certainty of cause was established by the LFB's investigators, the decision to push the message into the public spotlight was a simple one. With lives potentially at stake, the PR team needed to work quickly. It identified the number of affected fridge-freezers across the UK.

The team also researched the number of fires in London caused by the defect and the number of injuries and deaths resulting from these fires.

Using these figures, and the example of the tower block fire, the LFB chose to focus on broadcast news. In particular, the team targeted BBC Breakfast, which interviewed the assistant commissioner for Fire Safety Regulation live on the sofa.

The LFB gave public guidance on what to look for and what to do, working alongside the product manufacturer. The proactive stance worked, with Radio 5 Live and other BBC channels running the story throughout the day.

The LFB's website was also used to publicise the problem, with a link to the full list of Beko models that might be affected and a link to Trading Standards' website.

The issue was also publicised through social media, with information posted on the LFB's Facebook page and Twitter account. LFB staff also passed on the news through word of mouth.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

The campaign generated more than 75 pieces of coverage in international, national, regional and online media. This included The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 4's Today programme and the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2.

On 5 July, it was the most read and shared story on BBC Online and 'Beko' trended on Twitter. This month, the LFB PR team was contacted by Irish TV channel RTe for a copy of the news release following a product recall in Ireland.

RESULTS

Beko fielded 328,000 calls in a single day and, to date, the relevant page on the LFB website has had more than 27,000 views. More than 65,000 fridge-freezers have now either received, or are scheduled to receive, a modification to make them safe.

SECOND OPINION- MARK LOWE, FOUNDING PARTNER, THIRD CITY

I have been an avid follower of the London Fire Brigade Twitter feed since the day it told me that my own block of flats was on fire.

It turned out to be OK, but also confirmed to me that technology can be harnessed to provide a proper public information service that does not rip off the taxpayer.

Product recall is often intrinsically newsworthy, but as these guys showed with this campaign, if you get your message right, the word will spread itself. No longer is there the need to place a full-page ad in every national newspaper to get the word out.

Of course, when lives are at risk, the trick is not to spread panic and the reassuring presence of a man in uniform on the BBC Breakfast sofa will have helped to lower the national blood pressure.

To achieve more than 65,000 product recalls, making Joe Public safer without costing him a penny, was a fantastic result.

Other public bodies can learn much from 'free' campaigns such as this, because they are going to need them.

 

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