At a glance
- Reputation can take years to build, but can be destroyed overnight
- Manufacturers face reputation issues around product quality, supply chain and health and safety
- Zurich’s third-party provider Hill & Knowlton can offer specialist expertise when it matters most
Establishing a solid identity and reputation can take years to cultivate but, equally, can be left in tatters in a very short space of time.
For manufacturers, damaging product recalls, supply chain problems and health and safety failures can all lead to a brand quickly losing its trust and value.
“Damage to a brand can destroy a manufacturer overnight,” said Giles Read, Director of Issues and Crisis Management at Hill & Knowlton Strategies, a global communications company.
Top tips to keep a manufacturer’s brand and reputation intact
- Understand exactly who the main suppliers are, and how they behave and operate
- Maintain close relationships with key stakeholders. If a crisis hits, they can help manage it properly
- Supplier delays can badly affect a manufacturer. Have alternative plans in place and ensure emergency supplier information is up to date
- Update defunct equipment that could compromise health and safety
- Have a social media strategy in place
- Media training for all staff in the event of a crisis
“With manufacturers, their key relationship is always going to be with their customers, who are the retailers that sell their products.
“So, if a crisis hits, they need to think about how to provide information to their key stakeholders – their customers – and ensure that they manage it properly.”
Read added: “Product recall is also one of the biggest reputational issues for manufacturers and firms should always have strong preparation policies – including simulation, manuals and workshops – around that area.”
Supply chain dangers
In an era of austerity, some manufacturers have been cutting costs by further integrating themselves into the global supply chain. But this tactic of sourcing cheaper suppliers in far-off countries can be fraught with danger.
Sometimes these countries can have more liberal regulations around health and safety and, in terms of protecting brand and reputation, a manufacturer risks being caught up with suppliers from markets with less stringent requirements.
As recent events this year have proved, such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh that resulted in the death of over 1,000 workers and sparked a public backlash at certain clothing retailers and manufacturers linked to the building, as well as the UK horsemeat scandal where horsemeat was discovered in a number processed beef products – highlighting the flaws surrounding the food industry’s supply chain
Nurturing your brand is an art and a science. The key is to always be prepared by holding regular reviews of crisis communications, policies and procedures – and maintain strong relationships with all of your key stakeholders
Giles Read, Director of Issues and Crisis Management at Hill & Knowlton Strategies
“These incidents have shown that the supply chain can be one of your weakest links, so you need to make sure that you are fully prepared,” said Read. “And that means more than just ticking boxes. Manufacturers need to understand exactly what is going on at their suppliers.”
Social media risks
Social media, too, is another potential minefield for manufacturers.
“The key to social media is to be prepared and have the monitoring in place and correct policies,” said Read. “If you have a Twitter presence you can respond to a crisis on Twitter; if you don’t have a presence it is difficult to respond if something breaks on Twitter, so there is a whole set of variables on that.
“You need to be on Twitter. Otherwise, if a crisis breaks on Twitter and you are not on it then you are in a standing position.”
“With social media, you should always consider where you want to be and where you need to be,” added Read.
Staying on top of your brand and reputation can mean extra effort for manufacturers but, ultimately, this can prove rewarding in the long run.
“Nurturing your brand is an art and a science,” added Read. “The key is to always be prepared by holding regular reviews of crisis communications, policies and procedures – and maintain strong relationships with all of your key stakeholders.”
Part of Zurich’s network of third-party providers, Hill & Knowlton provides Zurich customers with specialist expertise and assistance in protecting a customer’s brand and reputation.