‘Made in Sheffield’: Best Practices in Reputation Management

My hometown Sheffield is on a roll at the moment with Boeing and McLaren recently announcing multi-million investment deals that will benefit the city.

This job creation and positive headlines are welcome news for the Sheffield City Region, but it is also testament to an effective inward investment strategy and a strong, local ecosystem of academic, research and business partnerships.

However, a very long-term reputation management strategy, ‘Made in Sheffield’ has also been instrumental in keeping the city and South Yorkshire front of mind as an industrial innovation hot spot.

Forced to defend its reputation for quality products and fend off inferior and counterfeited products claiming to be from the city, the ‘Made in Sheffield’ initiative originated in 1905 when the city’s industrial leaders began to trademark the word ‘Sheffield’ globally.

The ‘Made in Sheffield’ global brand mark is still closely managed and was relaunched in 2005 to represent both traditional manufacturing companies, as well as new technology players and creative industries.

Clearly a continuing success, what reputation management best practices can companies, brands and other cities learn from this long-running campaign?

Define your mission and stick to it

  • A straightforward strategy created from necessity is often the most effective and enduring. Sheffield’s 112-year-old campaign continues to be relevant and effective – with only minimal tweaks.
  • Trademarking brands, products and IP provides a legal framework in the event of infringement, however a strategy of continuous policing for unauthorized use is just as important.

Develop a strong brand identity

  • Developed decades before modern marketing and branding ‘Made in Sheffield’ remains a globally recognised brand.  
  • Simplicity. Just three words convey quality, excellence and innovation and effective in event of a dispute or challenge – a product either is manufactured in Sheffield or not.

Have reliable and credible products 

  • It’s fine to talk a good game, but if a company’s products and services are neither reliable nor credible then any marketing and communications campaigns have little foundation to build upon.
  • Products ‘Made in Sheffield’ enjoy a worldwide reputation for quality and durability. The mark, licensed by 200 companies across traditional and advanced manufacturing and those from newer industries, guarantees buyers quality goods and services.

Understand and embrace change

  • Change is inevitable. Ongoing monitoring of external factors impacting your company, industry and customers allows for long-range change management planning and nimble short to mid-term responses.
  • When its traditional manufacturing base began to decline, Sheffield reinvented itself as a hot spot for the computer games industry, which led to a thriving creative and digital sector, creating new jobs and tangible economic impact.

Build a solid ecosystem

  • Attracting large, global innovators and their investment dollars will always grab headlines, but SMEs have always been the engine of any sector or region and form an essential part of any city or industry’s supply chain. An effective ecosystem of customers, suppliers, channel partner and distributors, as well as broader industry and government associations is proven to drive innovation, value and business success.
  • Multi-million investments from Boeing and McLaren are thanks to the reputation of Sheffield’s universities in advanced materials science and the partnerships built over many years. However, the universities are also encouraging entrepreneurial growth by providing new funding and venture capital models for start-ups and spin-offs.

Tell authentic and compelling stories

  • Products and services as they stand can be a little boring, so need compelling and authentic stories to bring them alive. Often the engineers, scientists and those on the front line tell those stories in the most credible way when incorporated into consistent public relations, and corporate communications campaigns.
  • The ethos of the ‘Made in Sheffield’ campaign has transcended its original objectives and entered the common vernacular. It has positively influenced the city’s cultural identity, civic pride and values and stories are told not only in the business media, but through its musicians and filmmakers.

Well, we certainly still have some challenges, but Sheffield’s star burns bright.


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