With BP’s environmental, financial and PR disaster at Deepwater still much in the public’s minds, it’s perhaps no surprise that Burson-Marsteller has produced a Brand Vulnerability Index, which outlines the issues preoccupying more than 3000 non-governmental organisations across the world.
B-M’s pitch is that this will provide an early warning system, which will alert companies to possible future risks to their brands by analysing what the NGOs are focusing on in their reports and online discussions.
The idea is that the index will give companies the chance to take some form of pre-emptive action by dealing with the issues first or engaging with the relevant interest groups before the stories hit the front pages.
Not that this would have done BP any good as the Deepwater explosion arose out of its own problems with maintenance and safety procedures. Yet it might have helped Nestle, which recently came under attack from Greenpeace over its use of palm oil.
Greenpeace predictably enough have called the initiative “sinister” and referred to the “dark arts” of PR, but to many in the industry it's just surprising that this hasn’t been done before.
After all crisis and reputation management has been around for a long time. One would assume most multi-national companies expect their PR and lobbying firms to provide some warning about future risks to their reputations in return for their substantial retainers and overriders.