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.

References:

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

References:

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.

References:

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. https://www.residentadvisor.net/news.aspx?id=36292 [online]. [Accessed 25 April 2017].

 

 

Reputation Management – fabric.

fabric is a nightclub in Farringdon, central London. A massive warehouse spanning over 25,000 square feet, which took over three years to build, now plays host to party goers and ravers alike since the turn of the millennium. The clubs Saturday night programme showcases underground DJ talent, internationally known for their dedication to house, techno and if electronic, everything in-between. Craig Richards, who is not only a resident at fabric, but is also involved in the programming of events too, brings world renowned DJs to come and administer their talent on the decks. fabric was voted world number one club in DJ Magazines ‘Top 100 clubs poll’ in 2007 and 2008 and ranked world number two in 2009, 2010 and amid its reopening in 2016 – it regained its title the following year.

In spite of its popularity and seeming success over the years, fabric was forced to close permanently after its licence was revoked, following the drug-related deaths of two people. After many years of being one of the worlds highest rated nightclubs, a decision was made by Islington Borough Council to shut its doors in September of 2016, amid speculation that the searches made by staff at the venue had been ‘inadequate and in breach of their licence’. Following the closure, fabric’s co-founder and director Cameron Leslie released a statement tackling the issues and reasoning behind it. He publicly offers his condolences from the nightclub to the families and friends, following the fatality of two of their loved ones. Alongside this statement, a petition was made by the public for the doors of fabric to re-open in the future. Although the statement wasn’t released for 28 days after their licence was revoked, he addresses his profound offence in a comment made from the Metropolitan Police, saying ‘fabric is a safe haven for drug use’. He gives a brief history lesson on the success of the organisation over the years, bringing tourists from all over the world to London; as well as fabric itself being a pioneer for safe nightclub environments all over the UK. All of this got the attention of over 100,000 signatures, raising in excess of £325,000. Its closure brought about unrest in the underground music community, with DJs tweeting about their sadness and disappointment in the decision, ‘For 15 years I was privileged enough to be apart of the greatest underground club in the world, I am lost for words right now.’ DJ Hype. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan even backed the petition for fabric to reopen, saying, ‘Londons iconic clubs are an essential part of our cultural landscape… My team have spoken to all involved in the current situation and I am urging them to find a common sense solution that ensures the club remains open while protecting the safety of those who want to enjoy London’s clubbing scene.’

 

 

Paradigms of Digitalisation in PR

User generated content is at the forefront of the media landscape; the pioneer for the digital change to public relations as we know it. UGC has flipped traditional PR on its head, and it has done it almost seemingly overnight. Freedom of speech, ease of access and quick communication have all allowed opportunity for ordinary people to be in control of information. Turning into stay-at-home-journalists who simply want to express their passion and opinions to the online world. The information channels created by such movements in the digital media landscape have opened up multiple different forms of communication (one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many). Platforms such as blogs, online forums, free to write articles and most notably social media, has changed the entire landscape of online journalism. Simply the click of one button can allow for a piece of content to be shared thousands of times over; bringing a whole new meaning to instant and up to date news. The traditional one-way channel format, like that of a monologue, has changed to dialogue between two parties of interest. (e.g. Ekachai, 1999; Holtz, 1999) Though a development into a ‘web of dialogues’ is beneficial for a PR organisation, it is highly difficult to control and monitor. Having highlighted this, communication models such as the producer-driven transfer model has been supplemented by the receiver-driven semantic model (Littlejohn, 1999). PR is shifting away from traditional mass linear communication and through digitalisation dialogical and interactional communication are overtaking.

The snowballing progression of digital PR has allowed for a radical succession in analysis of data. Web pages and online content can be examined as well as consumer information, allowing for a wider understanding of target audiences. Furthermore surveys and questionnaires can be issued online to add depth to analysis even more; with chat rooms and 24 hour automated services being able to alleviate problems quickly and efficiently. The proficiency of online data analysis in the digital media landscape has allowed for PR practitioners to better learn the demand of clients, stakeholders and respective publics. Having this knowledge gives opportunity for better strategies and content creation. ‘Analysis, plan, action and evaluation’. (Witmer, 2000) Witmer states that these functions have been characterised as steps, even though their relationship is hardly linear.

Public relation organisations and practitioners are therefore forced to change their strategies and tactics. Bayer (1999) says that, ‘if companies doing business on the internet cant figure out what the web is, they may soon self-destruct.’ PR practitioners these days must translate traditional techniques of communication and contact building into the online. Basic PR essentials can be interpreted into digital PR, and are pivotal for successful campaigns.

References:

Bayer, M. (1999) Website says too many people are operating without a clue. Public Relations Tactics [online]. [Accessed 18 April 2017].

Hurme, P. (2001) Online PR: emerging organisational practice. An International Journal [online]. 6 (2), pp. 71-75. [Accessed 17 April 2017].

Littlejohn, S. (1999) Theories of Human Communication. Wadsworth Belmont, CA [online]. [Accessed 18 April 2017].

Witmer, D. (2000) Spinning the Web. A Handbook for Public Relations on the Internet [online]. [Accessed 18 April 2017].

Digital PR

Defined as a tactic used by brands to increase online presence, through building relationships with key content writers and journalists to gain ‘press hits’ and citations. Digital PR is about online visibility through the development and understanding of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Organisations do this through identifying influences within a market and aiding content creation processes. Publics are consuming information online more than ever before and having a greater online presence directly affects an organisations PR success.

Digital PR and social media are becoming almost synonymous. By analysing social data, practitioners can understand and therefore market demographics and interests of respective audiences. The two-way-channel nature of digital media and the media landscape itself, has allowed for organisations to have better communication with target audiences. Traditional PR had always been about linear exchanges of information; organisations would send a message or create a product having little control over the way their audience would react. Nowadays establishments can send, receive and analyse information in order to better their final outcome. All of this engagement with the public is brand and online visibility building, something which would take trail and error through traditional PR methods. Digital PR agencies understand that online consumer data can be used to inform content creators and other sectors alike, providing opportunity for successful campaigns that increase brand visibility both online and off.

Digital agencies use online tools such as Google Analytics to track the power of digital placement. ‘Google Analytics allows you to track how many users on a website are clicking a link to your client’s site… This information is invaluable and will impact your tactics moving forward by which initiatives should continue, discontinue or be altered.’ Jess Camp (Blue Fountain Media). The development and adaptation of PR in terms of the digital media landscape has allowed for an ease of analysing data online, monumentally speeding up the process of beneficially changing something. By tracking customer feedback through online responses and reviews, PR professionals can monitor their influence; changing the way they might progress going forward. Jess Camp goes on to talk about, ‘building connections with bloggers and influencers, who are key players in the digital space.’ Building relationships with already proven figures who more than often have a vast following, who also have authority in their line of work, can be nothing but beneficial for moving forward and expanding online visibility.

Examples of digital PR include e-mail, blogs, messaging, RSS, wikis, video sharing, webinars, podcasts, search engines and social networking. The list of these channels is ever expanding, but they all represent different potential audiences, and the key to successful PR work is to understand which platform best suits your target audience, and which is the best platform to illustrate a desired message. Practitioners are forced to adopt different types of interaction techniques in relevance to a desired outcome. Proving once again just how much the PR industry has adapted to the digital media landscape.

References:

Camp, J. (2016) Traditional PR vs Digital PR. Digital PR Specialist, Blue Fountain Media [online]. [Accessed 15 April 2017].

General Adaptation of PR as a result of Digital Media

It is widely understood that public relations focuses on the relationships of audiences with respective organisations. However when put into practice ‘Despite the many sectors and specialisms that public relations has, it can all be agreed that PR is basically the discipline of exchanging information.’ As Danielle Nuttall states, communication is essentially the cornerstone of PR; exchanging information from one party to another, or in this case the public. PR representatives and practitioners foundation their work on the actions and reactions of the public, and in a time where the world is centred around a digital age, the landscape of social media is a very welcoming platform for the industry.

The growing prevalence of digital media has comprehensively reshaped the public relations landscape over recent years, allowing practitioners the opportunity to communicate with publics over the internet and in turn creating an online community and a virtual society, almost separate to the real world. This development opens up a much easier way for organisations to understand their respective publics, through the connection of digital media, a two way channel of communication is created; allowing for an exchange of information resulting in positives for PR sectors. ‘A thread on a consumer forum can quickly become headline news and as such, PR professionals need to have an understanding of how a brands reputation online and offline are intrinsically linked.’ Tom Malcolm. The creation of online and offline societies and their relationship with each other is imperative in an organisations reputation in modern PR. Furthermore social media as a platform for exchanging information, has had a massive effect on media organisations, who are always searching for engaging and appealing content to increase traffic to their respective websites and to strengthen their relationships with the public. Tom Malcolm goes onto say, ‘To feed the media’s growing appetite for engaging content, successful PR campaigns are now increasingly reliant on their ability to create engaging content that people want to share and talk about online.’ As a result of this movement, PR agencies are more inclined to focus on a digital marketing mix; ad campaigns and marketing campaigns all with a digital bedrock.

Organisations such as Epiphany are forced to interlink their creative sectors with online PR and SEO teams ‘to create content to fulfil strategic search objectives, drive online visibility and build brand engagement through social media channels.’ Andy Heaps (Operations Director). Social media and PR are ever growing synonymous with each other. Digital media mirrors the engagement and two way communication that PR has always been about. Gone are the days of traditional journalism being the publics source for information; social media and the freedom of speech as a result, has given the public the opportunity to be the journalists themselves. The digital media landscape has massively increased the speed at which communication takes place, between one organisation and the public. Companies can revise into a wider, more intrinsic and much more specific set of information available to them. Emphasising the importance and the overall adaptation that PR has undergone as a result of digital media.

References:

Heaps, A. (2012) The Impact of Social Media on Public Relations. Operations Director, Epiphany [online]. [Accessed 15 April 2017].

Malcolm, T.H. (2012) The Impact of Social Media on Public Relations. Head of Consumer, Diffusion [online]. [Accessed 15 April 2017].

Nuttall, D. (2014) How public relations is adapting to the digital media landscape. WordPress [online]. [Accessed 14 April 2017].