How could fabric have done it better.

‘Contemporary organisations increasingly realise that they need to communicate with their stake holders to develop and protect their own reputations.’ Cornelissen. This quote could not be more prevalent. The communication over the last 18 years that fabric have had with their respective stakeholders has paid dividends; and after such a crisis, their reputation, whilst damaged, has been kept. Going forward, fabric must take mistakes that have been made in these events into consideration and must learn from them. Yes, they have always had great communication with the majority of their stakeholders. But as they showed before, letting their foot off the gas for just a second could prove disastrous in the grand scheme of things.

Usually seen on the dance floor, fabric seemed to have wriggled their way out of this crisis, be it picking up some injuries on the way. Predominately down to their reputation as being a community driven, internationally renowned nightclub, fabric was only shut for a few months. On the surface it seemed that they dealt with the events that unfolded with reasonable comfort. But it was a masterclass in reputation management coupled with intuitive public relations that allowed fabric to reopen its doors. Positive communication with stakeholders in a multidimensional format is pivotal for any organisation to strive, however in this case it was the saviour for fabric.


Cornelissen 2011 p39 


Analysis of fabric.

Since it opened in 1999, fabric has approached the battle on drugs and drug use in nightclubs with a zero tolerance policy. Reviews on Trip Advisor and Google Review only further this point, with complaints being on how thorough initial door searches are at the club. However in September of 2016 a young lad aged only 18 years old, got through security unnoticed with drugs smuggled down his pants that he bought prior to the night. Once in the club he managed to source someone who sold him more MDMA, later that night he died of heart failure, with his heart rate measuring at 192BPM with a horrifying body temperature of 42.5 degrees.

An organisation must release a statement immediately following an issue, to try and counter possible speculation and unrest snowballing on social media. Although it seemed that fabrics response was based on a strong argument, whilst also having the backing of many, this was the first time that a response had been made regarding the fatalities of the two young boys. If it wasn’t for fabrics positive history in public relations then this delay would have most definitely had a detrimental effect on them as an organisation. A crisis is defined by Cornelissen as “a point of difficulty or great danger to the organisation, possibly threatening its existence and continuity.’ The events that unfolded after the death of the two young lads was most certainly a crisis, and fabrics continuity as a business, let alone a nightclub, would have been lost.

Amongst the demographic that evolves around fabric, there are stakeholders. A stakeholder is a person who is concerned in the business; be it customers, investors, communities or governments. The action and reaction of these people amid the events would have played a massive part in the success of the reopening. Communities and club goers showed their support through fund raising and the signing of a petition, likewise most investors and event organisers did not pull out of contracts. Whereas the government was divided. On one hand you had representatives that wanted fabric to reopen due to its gigantic part in the tourism industry, as well as this some officials wanted it to remain a part of Londons authenticity and underground community. On the other hand there was obvious arguments from the council and authorities regarding safety and drug misuse, quoting the Metropolitan police, ‘if fabric stays open fatal occurrences like this will only happen again.’ In order for this friction between the two demographics to be kept to a minimum in the future, better relationships must be kept with all types of stakeholders. Non-linear positive communication directly affects the reputation of an organisation, ‘An organization needs to be considered ‘legitimate’ by both ‘market’ and ‘non-market’ stakeholder groups. This notion of legitimacy stretches beyond financial accountability to include accountability for the firm’s performance in social and environmental terms.’ Cornelissen


Cornelissen 2011 p41

Cornelissen (2004)


Reputation Management in Theory

Similar to public relations, reputation management is ‘the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organisation by influencing online information about that entity’. Further to PR, reputation management tackles the engagement of customers in a dialogical sense, rather than just selling to a passive audience. James Grunig from the Measurement Standard says, ‘our research essentially shows that reputation is a byproduct of relationships, so that if communication can be used to develop and cultivate relationships a good reputation usually follows.’ This is where reputation management differs ever so slightly to public relations; whilst PR practitioners and organisations respect greatly the view their audiences have on them, RM delves deeper into the overall reputation of a company.

In terms of reputation management for fabric, they have worked profusely over their 18 year life to build strong relationships with not only their local community and customers, but local authorities, media outlets, activists, investors and more alike. This model of communication (mirrored in the PR sector also) was first created by Coombs & Holladay. They adapted their initial model to a more in depth one; conveying visually that communication between an organisation and others isn’t just linear and one directional, but dialogical and almost multidimensional. fabric is always looking for new ways to converse with organisations that doubt its methods. In the statement they released when their licence was revoked, Cameron Leslie speaking on behalf of fabric, said that when an officer visited the premises unannounced during Operation Condor, that same police officer stated that the clubs procedures were ‘an example of best practice’. In the eyes then of the Metropolitan Police, fabric seemed to be a safe and healthy nightclub, leading further speculation from communities on the internet that the entire thing was a conspiracy in some way. Nevertheless in terms of a PR and management perspective, fabric has gone above and beyond to better its reputation in the eyes of suppliers, the general public, the local community, employees customers and competitors.

The re-opening of fabric was primarily down to the thousands of people who signed a petition and raised money for the nightclub to open its doors once again. This was entirely done through the platform of social-media; a petition that was set up by a fabric representative on his own. Impossible to create a false online reputation, fabrics re-opening relied entirely on their history of good will and public relations.


Coombs, W.T. and Holladay, S. (2010) PR Strategy and Application. Wiley-Blackwell [online]. [Accessed 25 April 2017].

Coultate, A. (2016) Cameron Leslies Full Speech to Islington Council. [online]. [Accessed 25 April 2017].