Author Archive

A thousand words: Human curiosity

There’s a lot that goes on outside the walls of H+K. The Shard glimmers in all its beauty in the distance, the construction work of Crossrail beneath and the appearance of a random fluro pink crane hovering over the site occasionally that make us pause from what we were doing at the time, take a deep breath before powering on.

On one innocent Thursday afternoon last week at 5.23pm, news got round that an amorous and extrovert couple could be spotted in a rather compromising position in the yellow building opposite ours. Needless to say the whole of the 4th and 6th floor at H+K ground to a halt as our voyeuristic tendencies got the better of us. Human curiosity (and behaviour) never ceases to amaze.

Friday Fiver

1. Just deserts for Chris and Vicky

From the repeated lies of Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce during trial, to the sub storyline of Huhne’s fractured relationship with his son, this car crash of a soap opera-like story has been played out in full fanfare under the media spotlight. No one likes to air their dirty laundry in public. Perhaps the eight months sentence the pair faces, will draw an end to this thoroughly modern-day Shakespearean saga. Alternatively perhaps they will use the publicity to secure book deals.

Image source: Flikr

2. Britain loses its fizz

The fizz has officially fallen flat as Champagne has been cut from the basket of goods, alongside Freeview boxes and round lettuces. According to Mintel figures, sales of the bubbly have fallen by more than 30% since the hey-days of 2007, from £1billion to an estimated £690million. Trading in bottles of Champagne, typically around £40, are bottles of white rum which can be bought for a fraction of the price.

3. Sterling stagnation is here to stay

This week the ever-struggling sterling hits a two and half year low. Good news for British investors, bad news for holidaying Brits (of which sadly, I will be one of them).

4. There’s no Pope without fire

On Wednesday, for the first time in 1,300 years, a non-European Pope was elected as head of the Roman Catholic Church. A sea of faces welcomed Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as he stepped onto the balcony to rapturous applause. Bergoglio will now live as Pope Francis and take up residence in the Vatican. A far cry from his one bedroom flat in Buenos Aires…

5. Can women have it all?

An interesting commentary piece in the New York Times written by former CFO of Lehman Brothers, Erin Callan on wanting to “have it all” and failing. This was in response to a heated debate sparked by the launch of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean in” – and much of our conversations here in the team as well.

Can women strike the perfect work/life balance and really “have it all” or is it simply about “having enough” and being happy with it? What do you think? Leave us a comment below.

Thanks to @goldtorpedo for contributing to this week’s Friday Fiver

A thousand words: The reality of high-density housing conditions in Hong Kong

We’re starting a new series on the Shocks & Stares blog, looking at some powerful imagery we’ve come across, aptly named “A thousand words” (a picture, painting and all that jazz).

In the high-rise metropolis of Hong Kong, who’d thought housed nearly 80,000 people living in inadequate housing conditions in “cage-homes”, cubicle apartments, roof-top houses and small sub-divided and partitioned units less than 9.3 square meters? According to official stats, underneath its glittering skyline, almost a fifth of the island’s population is now living in poverty.

In a shocking photo series created by the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO), exposes the harsh realities of high-density housing conditions in Hong Kong. A prime example of all that glitters is not gold.

Image source: SoCO via Reddit

Do you remember your first car?

A question that has sparked quite the conversation amongst the team as we shared stories about our old, but much loved, bangers from the days of our youth.

We’ve had a couple of Renault Clios that are not without their battery and engine ailments, a rundown Morris Minor and a clapped out Rover 200 – no brakes, a dodgy handbrake but a great stereo.

What prompted our nostalgia? This handy infographic from Aviva (cl) on top ten first cars of all time and accompanying story on the changing face of your typical first car owner. It looks like we weren’t the only ones inspired by the story as the Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph, Daily Star and Evening Standard all took their own spin on it (no pun intended).

Car infographic

What was your first car?

FPS’ Friday Friday

Image credit: Creative Commons/ su-lin

1. Just when we thought Granny tax ruled the “Best _______ tax” name, this week the press (and Twitter) had a field day with the pasty tax saga. The surprise budget announcement sparked a threat of a bakers’ march led by the head of bakery at Greggs. According to the Guardian, an online petition has already been set up on Downing Street’s scheme by bakers’ trade associations. Sign up here.

2. Not content with scoring the own goals that were pasty-gate, grannytax and the donor-row, the Government proceeded to exacerbate their worst week ever and add fuel to the flames of a pending petrol crisis that never materialised, despite Francis Maude’s best efforts.

3. The question on everyone’s lips is “Are we back in recession?” The answer is it depends on who you’re speaking to. Latest OECD figures reveal that the economy has shrunk for the second quarter, but according to predictions from Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK will avoid a recession with the economy growing by just 0.8 per cent over the course of 2012.

4. A giant step for the Eurozone but a small step for the global economy as the European Union confirmed the extension of the European bailout fund. The total funds available has now reached €700bn.

5. And on that note, I leave you with this video from the OECD with its latest Interim Economic Assessment on the global economy

Post contributors: Nick Woods, Edward Jones

Friday Fiver

Sticking to the format of our new shorter and snappier Friday Fiver, here are five things that caught our eye from the week that was:

Just horsing around

Source: Creative Commons/Kenjonbro

1. The rise of the Sun on Sunday and the death, or rather resignation of another – On Wednesday, James Murdoch resigned as executive chairman of News International, raising speculation to the possibility of one of Jimbo’s older siblings emerging as eventual contender for the top dog of News Corp as he steps down.

2. The Leveson enquiry unrivalled another “surprise” this week with Rebekah Brooks and her gift horse from the Metropolitan Police. Sure did reveal the stable relationship Brooks had with the police. Oh the puns!

3. Facebook Timeline for brands got us talking this week as well. What it will mean for financial clients, for professional services? How to mark those significant brand milestones? I mean, issue 9.99 of an ISA account is hardly going to create the same emotional relevance, as the nostalgia of an iconic Coca Cola advert. Whatever the outcome, existing brands have just 30 days to clean up their Timeline and flip the switch.

4. In other news, banks have had their knuckles rapped this week by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The FOS received over 250,000 complaints in 2011. Topping that list were Lloyds and Barclays as the most complained about banks.

5. Soon you’ll be able to use your phone for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Just earlier this week, H+K client, Visa Europe announced a worldwide partnership with Vodafone that will allow mobile phone users to pay for goods and services using their handset.

FPS’ Friday Fiver

Another week, another Friday and that means another edition of our team’s Friday Fiver. This week, we have money-printing banks, Twitter-banning broadcasters, Newsnight-debriefing and Good week/Bad week. Thanks to our contributors DC, EJ, Hendog, and Josh-ua. Enjoy!

RUNNING OUT OF PAPER… It’s becoming increasingly hard for the Bank of England to convince people of the value of QE. As Fraser Nelson argued in the Telegraph, the Bank has gone a little quiet on their original reasons for launching QE which isn’t helping – nor is the fact that the links between QE and growth aren’t being articulated clearly, if it all. Yet at the same time, IHS’ Howard Archer is already predicting QE4 for May.

There's more of this in the games room

Source: Creative Commons/mtsofan

What the bank faces then is a PR challenge (as well as the frankly odd problem that they may run out of govt bonds to buy). If they believe QE4 is needed, then they’ve got 3 months to convince a sceptical media and public why it’s needed – expect Mervyn King’s quarterly inflation report next week to begin that process.

In the meantime, hats off to Stephanie Flanders last night for managing to explain what QE actually is and does – that may well be a first

SKY’S SOCIAL MEDIA COMMANDMENTS…

Source: theindiepedant

Thou shalt not repost non-company tweets

Thou shalt not re-tweet rival journalist or people on Twitter

Thou shalt not tweet someone else’ beat other than your own

Thou shalt pass breaking news lines to the news desk before posting them on social media networks…

The Guardian reported that the greater powers at the broadcast station stamped down their feet, and banned journalists from reposting tweets not relating to the company. Contentious guidelines even include the warning to Sky News employees not to retweet rival reporters.

The latest development raises once again, the debate on ownership of Twitter accounts, corporate or otherwise and how a brand can be represented and equally, mis-represented on social media through its employees.

The interesting question here is whether the guidelines will be applied to other parts of News Corp’s network, and more importantly Murdoch’s own account.

NEWSNIGHT DE-BRIEF…On Wednesday, members of the FPS team attended a Gorkana event with Newsnight’s deputy editor Shaminder Nahal and planning producer Samantha McAlister to hear how the show is put together and what the team are looking for when it comes to content and guests.

For those of you with a Gorkana PR log-in, there’s a detailed summary of the event here.

Looking through our notes from the event, a number of points jump out:

  • The show has an average audience of 800,000 but this can jump significantly in a big news week. For example, at the height of the phone hacking scandal, 1.7 million people were tuning in
  • Those involved in the production of the show, are incredibly passionate about their work
  • Jeremy Paxman is apparently a joy to work with, although perhaps unsurprisingly, he is very challenging and demands a lot from those he works with

Source: Creative Commons/Ric_James

It’s a trend we have noted before, but was one that was reiterated at the event – business and economics news has become “sexy”. Newsnight’s producers are always on the lookout for people from the City who can explain the world of finance and its wider importance to the viewer.

The show’s producers left us with the thought that Newsnight is an opportunity to set the record straight or to put across a new or important view to the nation’s opinion formers. It’s not for everyone, but for those willing to take on a challenge, there are a few more prominent slots.

On the subject of setting the record straight and BBC flagships… The embattled chief executive of RBS, Stephen Hester, addressed his critics this week and the interview is a must listen.

GOOD WEEK/BAD WEEK…Credit where credit’s due, Ed Miliband has had a very good week. To be precise, Ed Miliband had an excellent PMQs. Yes, David Cameron had a very bad PMQs. His aggressive, impatient responses to Miliband’s patient line of questioning confirmed the accuracy of his likeness to Flashman ‘literature’s most famous bully’. Public bullies don’t tend to make popular Prime Minister’s. Just look at what happened to Gordon Brown:

Brown the Bully

Miliband on the other had a bit of an open goal when it came to the NHS. Even the influential ConHome has urged Cameron to #dropthebill, so to speak. The softly, softly approach worked well for Miliband though and importantly, his line of inquiry on the NHS was consistent. Cameron’s increasing frustration at having to give the same weak lines and limp backing to his struggling Health Secretary, amplified Miliband’s taunt of ‘calm down dear.’ It was typical of the bad luck Mili E has suffered with broadcasters that the news of Harry Redknapp’s court case emerged at the same time as PMQs, therefore minimising the impact of this little victory. Cameron’s an incredibly savvy dispatch box performer and will be increasingly wise to it, but if Miliband can continue to draw out Flashman Cameron he may enjoy more success in the opinion polls.

MORE BAD NEWS…Headlines have been dominated by the arrest and trial of ‘rogue’ trader Kweku Adoboli who is accused of unauthorised trading which cost his employer – Swiss bank UBS – about £1.5bn. However, a potentially more interesting story that has come to light in recent days is the sheer scale international investigation into manipulation of Libor – the interest rate used for inter-bank lending. Regulators in Japan, the UK, the US and Europe have been investigating the scheme since at least March 2011, and have now implicated employees at a number of major financial institutions. Analysts had long been suspicious that financial institutions were covering up the size of their borrowing costs during the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.

The American Securities and Exchange Commission has fined British medical equipment Smith & Nephew $22m for bribing Greek doctors to use its products over the course of a decade. The case follows a similar investigation into Johnson & Johnson last year which led to the company agreeing to pay $77m for bribes it had paid in Greece, Poland, and Romania.

The increase in intranational prosecutions and international regulatory collaboration has also highlighted differing standards about what constitutes corporate crime. Many American investors were surprised at the British Financial Service’s Authority decision to fine hedge fund manager David Einhorn for insider trading because his actions would not have been considered unlawful in the US. British authorities generally cast a much wider net when investigating white-collar crime but are perceived to have a miserable record when it comes to prosecutions. By contrast, their American counterparts have a narrower definition but pursue cases with vigour, even if that means crossing international boundaries to do so.

It seems likely that more cases of this nature will emerge in the coming months, especially if Eurozone crisis continues to destabilise international markets.