CAMPAIGNS: Reputation Management - Kestrel joins Biffa to quell landfill fears

Client: Biffa Waste Services

PR Team: Kestrel Worldcom

Campaign: Foot-and-mouth disease

Timescale: March - April

Budget: Less than pounds 30,000



As the foot-and-mouth crisis ravaged the British countryside, the

Government was faced with the unpopular task of figuring out what to do

with the slaughtered animals. Landfill sites are not popular at the best

of times, less so when the 'fill' in question consists of several

thousand dead animals. Local fears about health and safety issues,

particularly about the danger of contaminating the water table, were

major concerns for any company involved in the disposal process.



Anticipating public concerns, Kestrel stepped in to safeguard the

company's reputation when 15 Biffa landfill sites were selected for the

job.



Objectives



To position Biffa as experts that could be relied upon to carry out the

task safely and responsibly both in terms of public health and in terms

of the environment.



Strategy and Plan



Much of the panic caused by foot-and-mouth was the result of too little

information. Local people, particularly those living close to a landfill

site, did not know what was going on or how they would be affected.

Worse, they had no one to turn to for information. Because of this,

Biffa's involvement in the process was initially heavily criticized.



The challenge for Kestrel was not only to mollify public concerns, but

also to lessen the impact of sensationalist media headlines, and

ultimately ensure that Biffa emerged with its reputation intact.



On this basis, Kestrel launched an 'open-door' information campaign that

would turn a national crisis into a reputation management opportunity

for Biffa.



Kestrel informed local newspapers, TV and radio stations of the key

messages, drawing attention away from the drama and focusing instead on

exactly what was going on at each site and what precautions were being

taken to ensure the safety of the public and the environment. Kestrel

also co-ordinated communication between the client, MAFF, the army,

police, all local groups and the Government.



In a fairly radical move, site visits were arranged so that key opinion

formers could see the process in operation for themselves.



Measurement and Evaluation



Key statements in the press and on radio and TV were monitored and

recorded to ascertain whether messages had been communicated

effectively. Although media were not particularly supportive of the

campaign, the message did come across that Biffa sites were the safest

means of disposing of animals in terms of the environment and public

health.



Results



As a result of the campaign, Biffa avoided direct criticism for its part

in the process and was perceived as a responsible partner providing

expert assistance at a time of national crisis. The campaign also

successfully highlighted the quality of Biffa's engineering and

operational capabilities, essential for building public confidence in

its ability to deal with the task in hand.



In the end, proactive reputation management not only buffeted Biffa from

potentially damning public perceptions, but also helped to solidify the

company's reputation in the face of a crisis.



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