Best practice from the Karol Marketing Group.
Established for over 14 years, J.R. Holland Food Services (JRHFS) is the leading food service supplier in the North East of England, supplying fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and baked goods to all regional local authorities as well as large private organisations and niche restaurants.
As a regional operation JRHFS faces an ongoing struggle to maintain its market position facing severe competition from powerful national catering giants competing for the same market share.
Originally commissioned to produce a new sales brochure for JRHFS, Karol Marketing Group underwent a strategic road mapping exercise (SWOT and PEST) to identify key messages and develop a thorough understanding of the client and its business.
As a result of this exercise Karol Marketing Group identified that in order to help maintain its large Local Authority customer base (80% of the JRHFS business) JRHFS needed to provide added value and closely align its corporate values to Local Authorities (education, community, health, environment) in order to give it the best chance of retaining its contracts when put to tender.
Karol Marketing’s strategy was to develop a CSR programme driven through PR activity which embraced the business’ core values of reducing environmental impact, community and educational initiatives.
It is worth noting that prior to this project JRHFS did not undertake any public relations activity and did not believe it could add value to its business.
• To provide fertile ground for winning new tenders
• To provide a solid platform for retaining JRHFS’ 14 major Local Authority contracts when re-tendering was undertaken
• To align JRHFS values (education, health, environment) with that of Local Authorities (including schools, hospitals, nursing homes, Councils etc)
• Position J.R. Holland as the leading voice in the food produce business, committed to championing its industry and the benefits of fresh produce and healthy eating to the wider community.
Stage one – Fruitful support initiatives
Through research Karol identified that inner city charitable organisations such as farms and stables in the North East are of educational and community value. These projects rely on grants and charitable donations to survive. In order to reduce wastage within the business and support these projects, Karol developed a policy for JRHFS to make ongoing weekly food donations to these projects in order to aid in food bills and costs for the upkeep of the animals.
Stage two– The CSR bottom line (People, Education, Health, Environment)
Karol Marketing Group developed a sustained media and marketing campaign to highlight the importance of JRHFS’ CSR bottom line.
To stress the fact that JRHFS actively seeks to reduce food miles, supports the environment and supports government initiatives such as 5 a day a list of key messages were developed.
Stage three – Planting the seed
To encourage community growth and development Karol established that JRHFS needs to lead by example. For this purpose JRHFS need to actively be seen as putting themselves at the front line, getting its hands dirty to help the local community by acknowledging and supporting the community where it needs help. The benefit to JRHFS being to put faces to the organisation, encourage staff involvement and to practice what they preach.
Stage One: Karol signed exclusive support rights with all three charitable community projects in the North East to prevent competitors ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ these included:
• Stepney Banks Stables - an inner city charitable organisation in which horses are used to motivate, educate and pass on key social skills to disadvantaged and hard to reach groups
• Ouseburn Valley Farm another inner city community project based in Newcastle which is used as a facility to educate children and adults about fresh produce, animals and the environment
• Clarence’s Community Farm in Middlesbrough which is placed in one of the most socially deprived areas in the region, is free to visit and encourages local children and visitors to experience rural life.
Press releases were written and extensive media coverage gained in key press to inform the regional community and trade about these support initiatives. Hoardings regarding the importance of healthy living and fruit and vegetables were also placed at each of the community projects to educate visitors on the importance of 5 a day.
Stage Two: To position JRHFS as an ethically sound employer Karol wrote a series of press releases targeted at local press and trade media to highlight the investment JRHFS makes in employee training. Key messages were included in all corporate literature including the new sales brochure, website and in editor’s notes on press releases.
Stage Three: Karol advised JRHFS to actually volunteer its staff to take part in community projects (including management) with full pay from the company and get their hands dirty to improve the local community.
A partnership with the Tyneside Cyrenians was developed for JRHFS to regularly donate food to homeless people across the region and from this, a further project was negotiated and created for ten of the JRHFS staff (over three days of voluntary time each) across the summer holidays to help build and maintain an organic vegetable garden in Sunderland.
This will take place in August 2009 and profiles of staff and press releases will be generated and sold in to the local media to increase awareness of this project.
Most food suppliers simply piggy back on government initiatives including the 5 a day initiative, tackling childhood obesity and reducing food miles. Karol Marketing Group identified that as a regional operator JRHFS needed to develop something new, engaging with and supporting the local community.
This type of CSR policy is relatively unheard of in the food produce industry and JRHFS has now set a high CSR standard amongst competitors, especially given its size (80 people).
With a very modest budget, Karol had to devise a way of getting ‘more bang for its buck’ and create newsworthy stories that would create awareness and generate interest amongst the desired audience, based around something completely different for a client that had previously undertaken no PR activity.
To create added value and a competitive edge Karol devised a way of aligning JRHFS values with that of its local authority clients which was clearly evident throughout the campaign.
• JRHFS has maintained all of its 14 LA contracts despite four being re-tendered within the campaign period. Note: The campaign is ongoing.
• JRHFS has gained prestigious media coverage (with an AVE of £5,412.00) in its trade media which includes key CSR messages, positioning itself at the forefront of CSR in its industry.
• JRHFS has gained extensive media coverage (with an AVE of £12,268.00) in regional press, increasing client and employee awareness of its initiative.
• The project has been so successful that via Karol, JRHFS is actively seeking other projects to support in this way, our success has resulted in JRHFS agreeing to treble its retainer contract with Karol to grow and develop the policy throughout 2009.
• The owner of JRHFS, John Holland – who, by his own admission previously did not see the value in PR has been so impressed by the impact and benefits of CSR he has asked Karol to undertake a separate project, positioning himself as a CSR leader within the industry.
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