Crisis and Reputation Management


Objective: A fast-growing Central European scientific publishing house had quickly established itself as a major ‘open access’ STM provider.

However, it faced two key challenges. Firstly, it was struggling to effectively engage with their stakeholders and the rapid growth of the market in which it operated prompted their need to become more competitive.

Secondly, as the company continued to expand at an exponential rate, so too did criticism from many quarters within the scientific publishing sector. Critics viewed many of these ‘new’ open access publishers as ‘predatory’ publishers seeking to exploit the ‘publish or perish’ academic mantra. The company had made some errors during its publishing processes, which were more through naivity than malice.

Approach: To address the critics and accusations of malpractice, we encouraged the company to undertake an audit of its existing processes and adopt the recommendations laid out in its findings. This gave us leverage in that we were able to show that the company had identified those areas for improvement and taken the appropriate steps.

We also actively engaged two of the most influential journalists and bloggers (who were also the staunchest critics of our client) in a bid to drive dialogue between each party. We set up a series of exclusive interviews between our client and the two academic journalists who were each encouraged to address the issues they had.

We commissioned an external research agency to undertake a market research project. Our findings provided invaluable real time insight into the world of academic publishing and the results gave us a number of new stories to approach the media.

To build the client’s online branding, we created and executed a social media campaign aimed at building awareness, driving online engagement, and increasing the number of downloads of scientific papers.

Outcome: The results of the research garnered a significant amount of media coverage within the primary academic and research industry media – the tone of which had become more favourable than previous media coverage. The client was subsequently asked to contribute thought leadership-content to various websites, scientific and technical publications.

The company’s media spokesperson was also invited to address the leading international congress on open access scientific research in the United States that year. This was in addition to various media interviews and other speaker slots we were able to secure on the back of the published research.

The client’s profile was raised from being deemed as a ‘predatory publisher’ to one that was championing greater ethical standards in open access publishing.

The number of downloads of scientific papers increased year-on-year from 4 million to 15 million, whilst there was a 312% increase in social media engagement.

By being clear on the corporate position and key messaging the client was able to minimise the damage that had been caused. This ultimately re-positioned them as a company that may have made errors in the past but was now leading the way in improving standards.