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North East business experts attend Brand Aid seminar

Business leaders have gained insights into brand reputation management from leading North East experts at a ‘Brand Aid’ seminar hosted by Brewin Dolphin.

An entrepreneur who turned around dozens of homes previously run by failed care home operator Southern Cross was among inspiring speakers who gave North East business leaders a telling insight into brand reputation management.

Law firm Square One Law, Recognition PR and Mediaworks provided expert speakers for the ‘Brand Aid’ seminar, which was hosted by Newcastle-based wealth managers Brewin Dolphin.

The well-attended event saw crisis management specialists come together to give an insight into how to deal with difficult situations effectively and what key areas to focus on if a “bad news” story makes it into the press or on social media.

Tony Stein, founder of Healthcare Management Solutions (HCMS) and Akari Care, was the keynote speaker who was joined by legal specialists Jean-Pierre van Zyl and Robin Winskell, of Square One Law, Graham Robb from Recognition PR and Steven Parker from Mediaworks.

Stein bought out more than 40 care homes from the failed Southern Cross and explained how he turned a damaged brand into a successful business in the care home industry, by launching the new Akari Care brand and embarking on a multi-million investment programme in its homes throughout the UK.

He said: “It was clear when we took over the failed Southern Cross homes that there was a lot of work to be done.

“With the incredible support of the company’s bank, some £15m was secured to carry out the necessary work and, since then, a huge amount of effort has been put in to the refurbishment programme.

“However it was just as important to get the buy in from the staff and let them see that the new management was going to change things significantly.

“Changing the perception from the inside was as important as changing the external brand.”

Jean-Pierre van Zyl, head of employment at Square One Law, looked at the employment issues and how important it is to review your HR policies and procedures so they are in line with the new areas that are associated with social media.

He said: “It is really important that business owners recognise that they are not powerless when it comes to social media.

“There are steps, such as implementing and communicating a social media policy that employers can take to reduce risks and to address inappropriate posts, tweets and conduct.”

Robin Winskell, who has over 20 years’ experience of defending celebrity and high-profile clients in defamation cases said he has three guiding principles, to always question if legal proceedings are the best course of action, that speed is king and to always expect the unexpected.

Stephen Parker, business development manager of digital marketing firm Mediaworks highlighted some of the ways in which Online Reputation Management could be conducted.

He said that many consumers are now so web and social media savvy that companies need to monitor their presence online as a matter of course, but that many web applications exist which are free, such as Klout, to help with this exercise.

Graham Robb, an experienced crisis public relations expert at Recognition PR, based in Darlington, presented numerous case studies to show why monitoring both traditional and online media is vital.

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