Imperial Sugar Company

Crisis and brand-image management: Imperial Sugar Company

Endorsement:

“Imperial Sugar Company’s online news site was instrumental in helping the company’s ability to move beyond a crisis and address the demands of an ever-changing marketplace. Its success can be attributed to the strategic editorial direction of  David Henderson and News Strategies LLC aligned to the company’s strategic business objectives.”

~ John C. Sheptor, former President & CEO, Imperial Sugar Company.

Situation:

The Imperial Sugar Company’s special online news site, created after a company tragedy, turned around the company’s reputation and became the most popular website in the global sugar industry.

When an explosion and resulting fires temporarily closed Imperial Sugar Company’s large sugar refinery at Port Wentworth, Ga., in 2008, many news stories and images of the incident appeared in mainstream and online media, including at Google and other search engines. Those reports about fire, death and tragedy continued to show up on the first pages of search engines for months even though much of the information was outdated. After traditional public relations efforts failed to improve the company’s brand image, CEO John Sheptor called on David Henderson, owner of News Strategies™, to create an innovative approach for the company to tell its own stories and manage its own news online.

Objectives:

      • Positively expand awareness of Imperial Sugar online, and enhance search engine positioning.
      • Enhance the relevance and value of Imperial Sugar to its audiences with daily original news stories on ISCNewsroom.com.
      • Provide inspiration and acknowledgement of employees, communities, and those with whom Imperial has working relationships.
      • Present a more balanced and accurate point of view about the company than what is reported in the more sensationally oriented mainstream media.
      • Reposition the image and reputation of the company to move forward.

Solution:

News Strategies™ developed a groundbreaking online news site for Imperial Sugar. ISCNewsroom.com* was up and loaded with stories within two weeks. The site emphasized balance, openness and transparency with timely news of the company and the global sugar industry.

Elements of the news site:

      • Human-interest feature stories about people and activities at the company’s plants and locations.
      • News-photography essays to bring added dimension to stories.
      • Continued focus on the rebuilding of manufacturing plants and the ISC brand through stories of industry leadership in plant safety and food safety.
      • Stories illustrating the proactive and positive relationships the company has with customers
      • Hard-edged business-development features, highlighting acquisitions and growth.
      • Events, including coverage of the company’s philanthropic activities.
      • Regular opinion pieces by third-party experts to influence thought-leaders within the industry.
      • Online links to other news coverage via live newsfeed with the global sugar industry.
      • Daily updates

Results:

      • ISCNewsroom.com, from its first day of going live, has accurately reflected the company’s steps toward rebuilding, its support of communities, and important news of the sugar industry worldwide.
      • The news site has become a coveted forum for regular commentary by industry experts and analysts.
      • Promotion of the site was done organically through aggressive word-of-mouth among company leaders and associates with vendors, business partners, the financial community and friends, together with powerful search engine optimization.
      • Online ratings soared, and ISCNewsroom.com became the world’s most popular news source in the sugar industry in less than three months, beating out the consumer websites of larger competitors.
      • The news site regularly ranked solidly in the top 100,000 most popular websites in the United States (in a country with an estimated 40 millions sites), as measured by Alexa.com.
      • The news site was credited by CEO John Sheptor with attracting new customers, building greater morale among employees and contributing to a steady increase in the company’s stock performance.

* ISCNewsroom.com is no longer online following acquisition of Imperial Sugar Company by Louis Dreyfus Commodities LLC.