Crisis comms - Toiletry industry body heads off scarestories

Campaign: The value of self-esteem Client: Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association PR team: Blue Rubicon Timescale: Summer 2004-summer 2005 Budget: Under £150,000

Products made by Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) members were under attack from a stream of media stories on toxic chemicals. This threatened consumer confidence and raised the spectre of boycotts. Blue Rubicon was brought in to handle the crisis.

Objectives

To create a positive environment for manufacturers to develop brands, promote a balanced media debate and manage potential crises.

Strategy and Plan

Blue Rubicon developed a process for prioritising issues. It researched media stories, NGO activity and upcoming legislation to estimate possible fallout for the industry's reputation.

It also put together an 'A-list' of 30 organisations and individuals deemed to be useful allies, along with target journalists and publications.

The PR team's strategy was focused on representing CTPA as a vibrant and responsible industry association, founded on the value of self-esteem.

The message was how cosmetics and toiletries contribute to personal development, and that the industry makes a significant contribution to the UK economy.

To highlight these points, the team put together fact sheets for inclusion in press releases.

Blue Rubicon targeted journalists with research, such as the 'Value of Self-Esteem' report (compiled by think-tank Demos and lobby group The Work Foundation), and a 'Making Sense of Risk' discussion paper.

It arranged briefings with journalists such as Jenny Hope, medical correspondent on the Daily Mail, and Simon Crompton, editor of The Times' Body & Soul.

A breakfast was attended by 25 stakeholders, including representatives from the DTI, the Government Strategy Unit, charities and other industry bodies. A roundtable discussion of risk was attended by Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire beauty editors.

When research found parabens (preservatives used in deodorants) in breast tumours and alleged a link between certain products and the disease, Blue Rubicon worked with Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough BreastCancer to create a balanced opinion for follow-up articles.

Measurement and Evaluation

Coverage included articles in the Daily Express, The Guardian, The Times and Financial Times. Regional press interest came from the Birmingham Post and Yorkshire Post, while trade magazines Chemist & Druggist, Beauty Magazine, Pure Beauty and Esprit also ran stories that mentioned the CTPA. BBC Radio 5 Live and regional stations ran features.

Results

The CTPA says it has improved its status as the authoritative voice of the industry. Blue Rubicon's in-house evaluation shows positive coverage on the cosmetics industry doubled over the campaign period - negative coverage fell from 50 per cent to just over a third.

Esprit publisher Jonathan Charles says: 'The organisation has become more open and proactive. When there are scare stories in the press it gives us the facts in a way we can understand.'

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