Global transportation has quite significant carbon footprint. This is why logistics companies easily could find themselves in the crosshairs of the communication of environmental organizations. We have talked about the major challanges of communication for logistics companies with Chris Lawrence, managing director of JBP Associates and founding member of Worldcom Logistics Practice Group.
Environmental topics started to dominate corporate communications in almost all industries. Transportation is often mentioned among the biggest polluters. What communication strategies do you need to manage this challenge?
Logistics companies need to bring to life what they are doing across the board to minimise their impact on the environment, including collaboration initiatives with other logistics providers and even competitors; maximising vehicle utilisation between collection and delivery points; investment in the latest environmentally-friendly vehicles; demonstrating an overriding commitment to sustainability across their own business, from dealing with food and plastic waste for example generated by their own workforce.
International operation is in the DNA of most transportation companies. How does this affect the planning/managing communication activities for this industry?
Key are three c words – coordination, consistency and culture – that are critical to the success of an international operation. Effective coordination of communications programmes is key to ensure that all activities are singing from the same hymn sheet and are synchronised with specific events and initiatives to achieve strategic goals. Coordination is crucial when communicating across geographical territories to avoid an issue within one country of operation undermining an announcement being made in another country.
Consistency of communications is critical to shape the desired perception of your business across international boundaries. Key messages which are aligned to strategic positioning and objectives should always be maintained irrespective of where the communication is taking place.
Understanding cultural nuances between countries of operation is also a must, otherwise you could come unstuck if, for example, a positive word or graphic in one country has negative connotations in another. Media across different countries also have different preferences on how to be approached by companies pitching in stories to them.
What are the major trends in the logistics industry nowadays which have significant effect on their communications?
From our experience of providing PR services to logistics companies across Europe, the key trends are ethical supply chains, sustainability, consolidation and innovation as customers are looking for responsible, environmentally-friendly, leading-edge and cost efficient supply chains to enhance their competitiveness in their respective marketplaces.
How innovative do you think logistics industry is? Are there any real game changers in this market? Can you name a few?
Having worked in the logistics field for more than 20 years with some of the biggest names in the sector I have been incredibly impressed by the continuous innovation that goes on in the industry so that it can perform its role as the driving force for businesses that it serves. We have worked with innovative business models, from Interlink Express which pioneered the courier industry in the 1980s to Palletways which was one of the first palletised freight networks providing express delivery of small consignments of palletised freight and 20 years later is still the market leader in its sector, leading the way in technological innovation. More recently we have been working with CHEP who are innovating new technologies in the area of the ’last mile’ as well as unveiling their Zero Waste World initiative which focuses on eliminating physical waste, eradicating empty transport miles and cutting out efficiencies.
We heard about a planned Worldcom Logistics Practice Group. Which partners are included and what kind of logistics references/experiences are there in Worldcom EMEA?
Yes, we have established a group as we have found that there is a lot of expertise in the logistics sector amongst members. Since forming it we have attracted more interest across the Worldcom network. As an international entity we have a lot to offer a global logistics provider – not just our communications expertise but the geographical footprint to ensure a well-coordinated, consistent and culturally sensitive PR service.
We are currently in the process of undertaking a major survey of communications professionals in the logistics industry to establish a picture of the key trends across Europe.
Can you give us a brief case study of a logistics communication project which you are especially proud of?
It has to be Palletways for whom we have worked for over 20 years and been part of their journey to becoming a major pan-European logistics business. Our remit has been to build awareness of Palletways as the number one pallet network in Europe. We coordinate communications centrally in the UK for dissemination across all European countries the company serves. We work with a range of media including transport correspondents on the national media, logistics media, vertical sector media covering key target markets and local media. In addition, we provide a 24/7 reputation management service in the event of any incidents occurring.
All media activities are evaluated using a bespoke communications dashboard we created for the company. This measures month-by-month quantitative (amount of traditional media coverage and social media engagement) and qualitative outcomes (using a unique scorecard taking into account key messages that appear in the coverage, the scale of the coverage and the quality of the media outlet).
He is managing director of JBP Associates, a national communications consultancy in the UK which is part of the Worldcom Public Relations Group. Chris has provided communications counsel for the logistics industry for more than 20 years working with companies including: Wincanton, NFT, Culina, Mercury Speedlink, Swisslog Software, London City Bond and CHEP. He was also involved in the setting up of the Worldcom Logistics Practice Group.