Campaign details

Brand: The Government of Bermuda
Agency: Cubitt Consulting

Situation

  • In October 2017, Appleby Law firm suffered a significant data security incident, whereby its systems were hacked, and countless documents were stolen. Cubitt Consulting's client, the Government of Bermuda, was found at the centre of the media storm and the so-called 'Paradise Papers'. This threatened the positioning of Bermuda as a fully compliant and tax transparent country.
  • Regularly, we found, the reporting of the incident was misleading. Appleby was consistently labelled as being 'based' or 'headquartered' in Bermuda, an untrue and inaccurate statement.
  • A statement from Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, claiming that Appleby was 'Bermuda-based', was similarly unhelpful.
  • As a result, Bermuda's online footprint was disproportionately associated with the 'Paradise Papers' and negative, or harmful tax issues.
  • In addition, this took place during a particularly sensitive period for Bermuda, given the upcoming publication of the EU blacklist. In part thanks to Cubitt's good work, Bermuda was not on the list.
  • The only actual crime identified during the 'Paradise Papers' crisis appeared to be the hack itself.

The aim

  • To improve UK perceptions of Bermuda and realign Bermuda's media footprint.
  • To disassociate Bermuda from the 'Paradise Papers'.
  • To show how Bermuda is a committed ally against tax evasion, money-laundering, lack of transparency and accountability in international business, and on international security and issues of criminality more broadly.
  • To demonstrate how the country is an expert authority on tax efficiency and competitiveness in economic performance.
  • To further the strategic repositioning of Bermuda around core industries such as fintech, and the related disaggregation of misconceptions of tax havens.
  • To develop the UK network of 'friends and family' of Bermuda e.g. parliamentarians, regulators, C-suite of relevant potential investor businesses, and existing UK counter-parties and FDI associates.

Strategy

To counter the crisis, Cubitt launched a campaign that involved direct targeting of those journalists who had published untrue statements to do with Bermuda and the Appleby hack; we understood that to positively realign Bermuda's online media footprint meant permanent eradication of the word 'Bermuda' in those articles.

For this, Cubitt used its unparalleled media connections to confront the Tier one and trade publications in question. Cubitt drafted, and sent, a letter of response to Jeremy Corbyn, to shift international focus away from Bermuda as the centre of the crisis.

Cubitt organised for the Premier to appear on leading radio and broadcast shows, including Today on BBC Radio 4, BBC Worldwide News, Channel 4 news and ITV News, to publicly explain Bermuda's position on tax. Cubitt played an integral role in preparing the Premier personally for the media roadshow. The team created a difficult Q&A document and advised as to what should (and should not) be said. This made a big difference, as Cubitt helped direct the travel of conversation.

Cubitt also planned and hosted an important breakfast event for the Premier of Bermuda, inviting key British politicians including Dame Margaret Hodge and Kwasi Kwarteng, to further dialogue between the Bermudian Government and leading British politicians on tax issues. Cubitt undertook real time social media and blog tracking, reporting multiple times a day to the Government, thus keeping record of public sentiment whilst showcasing data analytical capabilities. It maintained its regular 'daily media scan' for the Government, creating an in-depth, daily report of UK coverage on Bermuda and/or related issues. Regular meetings and calls were held with the client over the relevant weeks, as Cubitt took the lead on advising how Bermuda should best tackle the crisis at all stages.

Results

Cubitt successfully realigned Bermuda's online footprint; 90% on the publications contacted agreed to remove mention of Bermuda where inappropriately used, including The Financial Times and The Telegraph.

Furthermore, Cubitt ensured that leading publications now understood Bermuda's 'robust, regulatory regime' to allow for more positive writing in future, particularly with The Telegraph, who initially broke the story regarding the Appleby hack.

Thanks to the highly comprehensive broadcast and radio programme, there is now an acknowledged and improved public understanding of Bermuda's position on tax transparency, as revealed by an internal study. It is now widely accepted that the 'Paradise Papers' issue in Bermuda has disappeared.

Why we should win

  • Our team comprised a core focus group of only 3 members, and we used our unparalleled contacts to make a change and help shape the news, whilst campaigning for the truth.
  • Our data analytics capability helped Bermuda keep on top of the conversation, and make sure that the Government was always one step ahead.
  • Our team crafted principal messaging over the key weekend, and developed media training at Premier level, in a new government for whom this was their first major test and would be defined by their performance.
  • Our streamlined approach was quick, efficient, professional, and elegant. Instead of shying away from the crisis, as the other Overseas Territories did, we encouraged Bermuda to confront the allegations.
  • Bermuda has its own story to tell and nothing to hide; we are proud of the role we played in this narrative.