The red light is known to go off every time danger strikes. However, we do not always see the calamity proceeding towards us. We stay blind to the hovering dark clouds of the consequences and end up swirling along with the havoc it promises to cause us. Particularly, when it involves the damage of reputation for any individual or an organization or even a country, the situation gets even more volatile, leaving the stakeholders absolutely nervous.
In context of Bangladesh, there may be only a handful of organizations who has a pre-designed reputation-crisis management plan, the rest stays unprepared, unprotected. As a result, much time is lost to figure out what are the instruments to be mobilized in these situations. While different approaches and instruments can be tried for managing situations where reputation is in crisis, Public Relations stands to be one of the most effective ones. There are numerous examples throughout the globe, where effective PR has been the savior. One such example can be sighted in our own country.
An arbitrary belief travels around Bangladesh- “Private Universities are disarticulated with the culture of Bangladesh”. Over the years, this belief has been refurbished, exaggerated and rocketed at a lightning speed whenever a social disturbance took place. North South University, the first private university in Bangladesh with a high reputation at home and abroad; has been a victim of such contrary accusations. Following a terrible national crisis in July 2016, one of the finest educational institutes of the country, North South University, started facing a crisis which was severely affecting their reputation. In no time, it found itself in an ocean of negative remarks and obviously all these were spreading fast in the public domain.
Despite endless adversity on various broadcasts, North South University emerged from its low to an even higher ground of maintaining its well-deserved attainments. The biggest asset of NSU was its own true story, its journey of more than a couple of decades stood as a testament of its attachment to the cultural spirit of Bangladesh, blended with pure love for the country. NSU needed to tell this story and uphold its authentic identity, but how? At this crucial moment, a passionate group of Alumni under the banner NAASBE (NSU Alumni Association of School of Business & Economics) came forward to stand by their alma mater. This group included industry experts from different fields, including Marketing PR. The great institution together with its students and Alumni stood strong and simply illustrated their true patriotism. However, its approach of crisis management was not the mediocre approach of standing on a podium and pitching the causes of one’s innocence. Instead, they choose the hard way of proving their capability and recognitions through staging a 360-degree campaign.
North South improvised. With the successful strategy of the activation of a unique Human Map of Bangladesh, the survival game plan is the stance for touchstone of this community facing challenges. The gurus behind the campaign made the best use of social media and at the same time, flourishingly managed to keep the message and information dissemination through televisions, radios and newspapers to not go in vain.
The month-long campaign shrouded the major forms of communications used by the people of the country. The idea was simple- Engagement Activity with the users. North South presented nationalism of Bangladesh with the passionate embrace for both culture and tradition, thereby, marking themselves as a solemn part of the independent terrain.
The first activity that was conducted was the Human Map of Bangladesh. Tributes were paid by over 5000 gatherers which helped to create the Human Map. The gallery, adorned with green and red- represented their pride in being, Bangladeshi. The title of the phenomenon day was called “NSU’er buk e Bangladesh.”
On the digital platform, the team optimized strategic and creative posts to cater to the youth with special Audio/Video contents. The idea was simply put. The visual contents explained the philosophy behind that event, which is, upholding the patriotic sentiment for the country. This included the hashtag “#NSUForBangladesh”. With the support of 7 television channels and 6 newspapers- North South University had a user engagement of about 1 million. The talk shows over televisions composed of prominent opinion leaders around the country. The show details and video clips were posted on a regular basis on social media which earned NSU a viewed rate of 3,13,000. Their organic engagement furthermore introduced profile picture filters that were uploaded by over 7000 users in the span of 30 days and over 11,000 users availed the hashtag. North South University, moreover put the limelight over holding the possession of 15000 graduated alumni, 2200 students in 16 departments and over 750 staff pool. These were their USPs that earned them higher rate of entrants during the fall admission.
Their heartfelt and fierce act of promoting and upholding brand reputation during crisis management not only reached the local audience but, also drove the attention of marketing practitioners internationally. “NSU for Bangladesh” campaign finally earned the glory of winning the award of the “Best PR Campaign” in the “World Marketing Awards” which took place in India in 2017.
After almost 2 years, NSU stands in all its pride and glory- setting an everlasting example of not only how to transpire from a catastrophic experience; as well as how the combination of digital marketing and PR can be used as a crisis management toolkit. Their success story is credited to the combined contribution of the university authority, students, and alumni. The typical rumor of “Private universities being culturally disconnected” was wiped away with the hundreds of green and red plates held by the students on the day of the event; to portray their utmost respect for the nation. Their new approach left footprints that are to be followed by others during both institutional and societal calamities in order to “Seek Knowledge” and thrive.