Organisation - January 27, 2011

Press disregards Wageningen brand names

Newspaper references to Wageningen UR institutions are wrong in nine out of ten cases. This is the finding from the monthly summaries of press reports produced by the Corporate Communications department.

De Gelderlander (21-1-2011)
Simon Vink, the spokesman for the Wageningen UR Executive Board, acknowledges that they rarely get it completely right. But he immediately adds a nuance. 'The University is officially called 'Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR'. But is 'Wageningen University' a serious error? No. Even so, we like to be called by the right name.' Vink thinks 'Alterra, the Wageningen consulting engineering company' is much worse. But worst of all are things like 'insect specialist Dicke'. Vink: 'It is not uncommon to see our researchers not being linked to our organization. That is annoying because it means the organization is invisible.'
Daily tally
A daily tally is kept of press reports. Each month, the directors and communications advisers in the various Wageningen UR units are confronted with their score: an Excel graph with columns showing the number of press reports 'overall', 'correct' and 'wrong'.
Rikilt is one of the institutions with a poor score. Director Rob van Gorcom disclaims all responsibility. 'I know we take great care in anything we say in the public media. I would prefer to be evaluated on that because that is something I can influence. I can't influence what the press does. Besides, they only look at part of the media: Internet is not included.'
Vink says these lists are sent round to keep everybody on their toes. It is not just for information as the directors are held to account for their scores. Vink: 'Of course you are not fully responsible for what a journalist writes but you can check what went wrong. You can ask your people to explain. If a newspaper consistently gets it wrong, you could call them and ask why that is.'
'Far less text would be scrapped if the brand name was WUR Imares'
 
Non-information
'I am never really keen to look at those lists. They irritate me', says Imares spokesperson Hans Bothe when asked. 'It's a way of criticizing people. I would prefer a more positive list emphasising the number of times the information was supplied correctly. The count is also one-sided as it focuses on newspapers. The score looks a lot different if you include Internet. That simply has more room. A newspaper editor looks at what is essential for the reader. Non-information is scrapped. So the bit after the comma in 'Imares, part of Wageningen UR' will be sacrificed. All editorial boards have their own house style. Resource does too. We are called IMARES but you prefer Imares.'
Here, Bothe is getting to the heart of the problem - the institute's name. It is too long. 'I think far less would be scrapped if the brand name was Wageningen UR Imares. That is a single name where it is difficult to delete parts.' Even better: WUR Imares. Bothe: 'Just like DSM or KLM. Those are solid brands.' But that is akin to blasphemy in the current climate.
Director of Corporate Communications & Marketing Viola Peulen: 'KLM and DSM are strong brands. A great deal has been invested in them. WUR is nothing; it only means something to insiders. We are aware that we have quite a complex brand structure. Our organization consists of different units that have been combined. From the brand policy point of view we still need to add 'part of Wageningen UR' in the phase we are currently in. But this turns out to be difficult in practice.'

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