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
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
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
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.