Shocks & Stares » Public Relations http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares H&K\'s Financial & Professional Services Team Blog Tue, 19 Mar 2013 08:00:56 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2013/03/friday-fiver-12/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2013/03/friday-fiver-12/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 15:24:57 +0000 Joey Ng http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=855 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

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How long will Virgin’s PR window remain open on the West Coast? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2012/08/how-long-will-virgins-pr-window-remain-open-on-the-west-coast/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2012/08/how-long-will-virgins-pr-window-remain-open-on-the-west-coast/#comments Fri, 31 Aug 2012 09:38:57 +0000 David Chambers http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=724 Kudos to Richard Branson. His crusade to repeal the decision to award the West Coast Main Line to someone else shows no signs of slowing down. However, are the tables starting to turn? The FT reported yesterday on the large financial incentive for Branson to keep the rail contract in the Virgin stable – the line generates far higher revenues and margins than other lines in Britain, in part because of geography (it goes through the North West) but also because Virgin benefitted from the huge upgrade it got during the noughties.

To date Branson has based his campaign just like any other using the Virgin brand and its values – it’s the slightly alternative, anti-establishment brand run by that eternally young blonde haired guy who occasionally jumps off buildings – he’s the best of British and he tries to offer you a great experience on Virgin. People love the brand, even if the trains themselves are average at best in the eyes of some (for my sins I have a strange attraction to Virgin planes over others so the ‘brand thing’ clearly does work).

The problem is, the West Coast dispute is now in its third week. Initial sympathy and that feeling of “oh but Virgin are always good, we should keep them” from consumers will begin to peter out, especially as other events capture their attention again. The deeper look at the financial value of the line won’t help either – the more this becomes about bottom line and the less it’s about the Virgin brand, the better it looks for First Group.

If that wasn’t enough of a problem, the final blow for Branson would be if his pursuit of this issue starts to affect the quality of the service itself. Any perceived detorioration in the service, either now or as Virgin winds up its tenure later this year will likely be the final nail in the coffin. Consumers will tolerate a protest from Virgin, but not at the expense of a comfortable, on-time train ride.

So Branson continues to stay in the fight for now. But the longer it goes on, the lower his chances of success via public sympathy.

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Newsround – top tips for pitching success http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2012/04/newsround-top-tips-for-pitching-success/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2012/04/newsround-top-tips-for-pitching-success/#comments Fri, 13 Apr 2012 18:17:01 +0000 David Chambers http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=642 Earlier this month, BBC’s Newsround celebrated 40 years of broadcasting news to children – to put that into perspective, the programme is longer lived than Eastenders, Top Gear and is closing fast on Top of the Pops’ original run. Newsround isn’t an ideal target for all (or even most) PR campaigns, but it does have a fantastic reach and for some pieces of work it’s a cracking target.

To that end, we’ve pooled the collective wisdom of the Financial and Professional Services team to bring you our top five tips on how to get your story on the five o’clock show. Several of us have successfully pitched Newsround over recent years, most recently for Aviva’s Street Dance for Change programme. So here we go:

1. Remember the target audience: Newsround is aimed at 6-12 year olds, which means your story has to be simple enough for a 6 year old to understand, but also complex enough to appeal to a fast-maturing 12 year old.

2. Use the child’s point of view: Again, given their audience, your story needs to take place from a child’s point of view – it’s not good enough simply for it to relate to kids. Street to School was an example of this – informing children about the dangers/issues they face.

3. Yes to celebs, but the right ones: Brad Pitt, Russell Howard and Joanna Lumley are great, but likely mean very little to a 6 year old. Using a celebrity to help communicate a tricky issue can be helpful but it has to be the right celebrity – it’s easy to forget that children don’t watch mainstream TV and films. Choose wisely.

4. Watch CBeebies: Knowing your Tracy Beaker from your Sadie J can be a great help. Selling a story when there’s a similar storyline running on another CBBC show really helps as we’ve found out – just like adults, kids relate to other things they see and read in the media.

5. Remember it’s a TV programme: Like all broadcast media, it really is about giving Newsround the whole package of different elements to support the story – a spokesperson to sit on the couch, a famous face to do something clever, a kickass video for them to show online; ultimately the more you put in, the more you’re likely to get out.

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Europe’s troubleshooter takes on his latest challenge http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2012/03/europes-troubleshooter-takes-on-his-latest-challenge/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2012/03/europes-troubleshooter-takes-on-his-latest-challenge/#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2012 13:23:12 +0000 David Chambers http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=596 THIS POST IS BY SALLIE BALE

Andrew Gowers, former Editor of the FT, is the man who claimed in 2005 that there is no future in print media, wrote a review of intellectual property for Gordon Brown, was once described by The Telegraph’s City Editor as “our man in a disaster”, was the head of media at BP during the Deepwater Horizon Crisis, and was previously Head of Communications at the ill-fated investment bank Lehman Brothers.

With a CV like that, he is surely the best choice to restore the battered reputation of Europe’s banking industry, isn’t he? Well, Reuters reported earlier this month that the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (also known by the slightly snappier acronym AFME) has appointed Gowers as their Director of External Relations in an attempt to reverse the increasingly negative public perception of the banking industry.

Financial industry body, AFME has a new troubleshooter

It would appear that Gowers has the experience to deal with big name players in crisis – but commentators question whether he is actually capable of success. Obviously the difficulty here is that by their very nature successfully-managed crises are not high profile and so we must look at other measures of success for those crises that are played out in the media.  How quickly and cleanly the company or organisation comes out of a crisis and is able to rebuild trust and reputation is perhaps a better measure.

Lehman Brothers is no more and not remembered fondly and BP is still struggling to regain lost ground. That said the crisis communications industry learnt a great deal both from the failures and successes of the BP Deepwater Horizon episode and hopefully for AFME, Gowers did too.

There is much to be learnt from BP’s Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010, and Gowers will be able to apply these learnings to AFME. Many commentators believe that the biggest obstacle facing the BP communications team was the legalities around what they were able to say, resulting in a ‘too little too late’ situation.

There are so many avenues that this journey could take; will Gowers pick a spokesperson to give the intangible concept of “The Bankers” a human face? Will he advise them to express empathy for what has happened in the past five years? Or will he just soldier on with the task of tackling the endemic structural failures of the European banking system? Will he go to where the people are and use social media to re-connect the masses with the banking industry? Would that work?

It will be interesting to follow his progress and see how his strategy will play out in the coming months, or more likely years. He has already spent three months as a consultant for AFME helping edit the AFME book Investing in Change, and so should be able to hit the ground running.

Is this the biggest challenge in Gowers’ career so far? Trying to increase transparency, please many diverse stakeholders and implement meaningful change is going to be a perplexing test for banks across Europe, but the task of communicating those changes to the European public and demonstrating that they have worked is arguably the greatest challenge of all.

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How to position the Greek Financial Crisis? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/09/how-to-position-the-greek-financial-crisis/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/09/how-to-position-the-greek-financial-crisis/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2011 15:05:52 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=314 If I could take the liberty of modifying the words of the incomparable Rodgers and Hammerstein – how do you solve a problem like Greece? Well, the macroeconomics, thankfully, are for others to worry about. The communications for this spectacular meltdown however are fantastically absorbing. How, I ask myself, could you position such a mess and achieve a sense of progress and dare I say it, optimism? With tongue fixed firmly in cheek, I give you the strategic standpoints that are at the disposal of any discerning political chief:

 1. The Collective – otherwise known as the ‘we are in this together’ position, or in the case of the British, ‘The Dunkirk Spirit’. Clearly, requires appropriate and visible commitment from public leaders such as a reduced wardrobe, or sudden fixation with public transport.

2. The Future Proofer – as in, do this now to ensure that we’re okay tomorrow. Also known as ‘our children’s children’ position.

3. The Fresh Starter – that is, it can’t get any worse so let’s have a fresh start, or ‘a blank canvas’, or in what could be more appropriate for the Greeks, ‘a Year Zero’ approach to the problem.

4. The Frontrunner – or to put it another way, we got there first and so will be better equipped to manage the situation when others are in the same predicament. Also see ‘ahead of the curve’, or ‘ ahead of the pack’.

5. The Flagellator – by far the hardest and bravest position to take; as in, we had it coming for all those years of irresponsibility and extravagance, but we’ll come out of it fitter and better…believe me.

Please note:  This post was orignially posted by Peter Roberts.

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FPS’ Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/09/fps-friday-fiver-20/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/09/fps-friday-fiver-20/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2011 13:04:41 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=294 Known unknowns…

Frank Portnoy, Professor of Law at the University of San Diego has written a fantastic article in today’s FT on market uncertainty, rogues, risk taking and trust in banks. The best we’ve seen and rather frightening, Dr Doom would be proud, because ultimately, however much we regulate, we are only basing decisions on what has happened in the past, rather than what could happen in the future – i.e, Greece defaulting.

Every picture tells a story…

Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Indeed this photo, featured in Jackie Ashley’s excellent comment piece on what the future may hold for the Liberal Democrat’s (it’s a fairly bleak outlook) tells a very specific story of the Liberal Democrat’s past; the good intentions of fresh faced Lib Dem MP’s. Contrasted this week, with the harsh realities of Government, and the tensions between the two, superbly captured in Danny Finkelstein’s commentary.   

F8: The media story of the week…

Facebook and Spotify have teamed up to bring free music to Facebook users and announced the fruits of their labours this week with this video. Mashable provide a better summary than we ever could, but this is certainly worth knowing about.

“Disastrous miscalculation” – but by whom?

Yesterday Kweku Adoboli, the UBS trader accused of losing £1.5 billion, appeared in court on charges of two counts of fraud and two of false accounting dating back to 2008. During the hearing his lawyer said that he is “sorry beyond words” for his actions.

Mr Adoboli is not the only one who should be sorry – or worried. Mr Adoboli actually shopped himself; it was not the UBS risk or compliance teams that picked up on his reckless behaviour. This presents a massive problem for UBS and its internal control systems as they have been shown to be unfit for purpose.

“Disastrous miscalculations” have certainly been made, both by an individual and an institution.

Get set for the iphone 5…

Infographic: Dusan Belic, IntoMobile

 

The ‘will they, won’t they’ speculation was all a bit much for the iPhone junkies around the office this week, and despite the lack of information coming out of Apple themselves, we think all this confusion just makes for an even bigger launch when the iPhone 5 actually hits the stores – and we can’t wait.

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Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/09/friday-fiver-2/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/09/friday-fiver-2/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2011 20:03:02 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=278 Friday Fiver

Soon to be called the Saturday Fiver if we post this any later, please see our take on this week’s news below. Never ones to go for the obvious, we’ve shied away from adding further comment to the ICB’s final report, instead looking at the possibility of a break up of the EU, the anniversary of Lehman’s and the shadow it still casts over our financial markets, the Daily Mail’s new website, a twitter storm at Topman and stat of the week! Massive thanks to Coffey Clare Coffey, Claire Scott, Sallie Bale, Matt Bright and Linzi Goldthorpe for this week’s contributions.

Here they are…

EU can go your own way…

This week there has been a lot of ‘break-up chat’ in the EU: first, over one hundred Eurosceptic Tories turned up to the first meeting of a new parliamentary group on Monday. The group is demanding that the Government uses the current turmoil that pervades the 27 member state club to wrest back powers from Brussels. With the sovereign debt crisis destabilising financial markets the world over, this group could be excused for thinking that they might be pushing on an open door. But alas for them, the Tory members of the Government are hampered by their EU-loving coalition partners…

Elsewhere in the EU, other countries fear expulsion from the Eurozone, namely Greece. Last night on BBC One’s Question Time, Nicola Horlick, the investment fund manager, declared that there was no future for Greece in the Eurozone; that it should leave the monetary union and return to the Drachma. All this said on the day that five central banks sought to assuage market jitters by announcing a co-ordinated move to provide commercial banks with three additional tranches of loans to help ease funding pressures. BNP Paribas’ share price may have risen following this announcement but this seems to have been the only thing to improve.

Drawing parallels between Lehman and the Eurozone

Photo: AP

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the fall of the fourth largest investment bank in America, Lehman Brothers. Three years on, with Greece teetering on the default brink, there seems to be a growing anxiety that we are on course for another Lehman’s. But can we really draw similarities between the sudden and unexpected crash of Lehman’s and the ongoing troubles of the Eurozone? Gordon Brown definitely seems to think so and what’s more the former PM, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, believes that failure to act now could result in a crisis larger than the one faced by the US in 2008.

Daily Mail launches Right Minds

The dreams of Britain’s rightwing keyboard warriors came true this week as the Daily Mail finally launched its long-awaited comment site Right Minds. Presided over by Simon Heffer, the ex-Telegraph writer, the new site will host such darlings of the right as Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Philips and Peter Hitchens.

The Mail is late to this game, with active right-of-centre community sites already on the Telegraph, Spectator, Conservative Home among many others. But Right Minds’ combination of star writers, hot button issues and simple user participation rooted in the super-sticky ecosystem of the Mail’s main site looks like it will hoover up traffic.

Topman twitter storm

Another week, another brand brought to book by the fury of the Twitteratti. This time it’s men’s high street fashion mecca Topman that has been in the eye of the Twitter storm.

Topman, part of Arcadia group, was forced to withdraw two t-shirts from its stores this week amid claims the slogans featured on them were misogynistic and promoted domestic violence. The social media backlash started on Twitter and soon spread to other social networking sites, resulting in a swift response from Topman. The offending t-shirts were removed from stores and the company issued a public apology for any offence caused.

Company backs down in face of social media storm – so far, so increasingly familiar. But are companies too quick to capitulate in the face of consumer fury? In the social media environment a ripple can quickly become a tidal wave, leaving companies no choice but to act swiftly and decisively to stem the tide. Sometimes, as in this case, it is the right decision. The Topman t-shirts were at best crass, at worst pointlessly provocative.

Brands have come a long way in waking up to the power of social media and most worth their salt take direct engagement with their consumers on Twitter or Facebook very seriously indeed. But when bored office workers with too much time on their hands have the collective clout to fundamentally affect the way companies run their business, you have to ask the question: has the social media love-in gone too far?

Stat of the week

As you may have heard, Westfield in Stratford City opened its doors this week and will see 70 per cent of all Olympic ticket holders passing through its doors. 70 per cent! We reckon this will pose a rather tasty opportunity for non-affiliated retailers to cash in on the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year and beyond.

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Taking the fear out of PR http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/06/taking-the-fear-out-of-pr/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/06/taking-the-fear-out-of-pr/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2011 12:39:46 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=178 In a highly entertaining piece on Thursday, the FT assessed what lessons can be learnt by today’s businesses from those who have made a living from illegal means – you can read it here.

Among the more colourful reflections; my favourite being, “Don’t end up in a truck of a car”, I was struck by the relevance of the comments made by Curtis Jackson – otherwise known as rapping superstar, 50 Cent. Jackson, or should that be Cent talks of fearlessness as a basic strategy in business. Clearly, we can all recognise the need for a certain bravado in the rougher parts of New York, but what’s the potential learning for communicators?

In light of the invariable challenge we face as PROs in winning over sceptical stakeholders, be they clients, or management boards, our fearlessness is fundamentally all about the courage of our convictions. Put simply, if we’re to shape conversations, to use an expression from these parts, we need not only to be bold in our thinking, but downright brazen in our delivery. Whether it’s a crisis strategy, or a consumer campaign, our plans will be undermined from the start if we lack the certainty of our decision making. Others will, quite rightly, challenge our thinking – especially if they’re paying for it – so essential is the need to have guts and opinions, together with the industry’s oft-cited requirements of passion and creativity.

Please note: This post was originally posted by Peter Roberts.

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Superinjunctions – good for PR? http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/superinjunctions-good-for-pr/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/superinjunctions-good-for-pr/#comments Wed, 25 May 2011 12:03:30 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=141 In healthcare parlance, the condition of the superinjunction would now be best described as ‘critical’ – beaten and bloodied by the blows of parliamentary privilege and press freedom. Surely, the kryptonite to the judiciary’s comic book gagging order. What, however, does this mean for public relations’ standing in the defence of corporate and individual reputations – if anything?

The injunction applicants in question have, we can only assume, weighed up their chosen course of action and opted for the legal route. Oh, for the delight of hindsight. Standing poorer and undoubtedly regretful of their decision making, those who now face the ignominy of full-scale public ridicule, must wonder why they didn’t take the PR alternative – a carefully controlled interview piece with a suitable outlet, or some such tactic.

I’m not inclined to ponder on what may have been done in public relations terms at this time, but to question what these developments have done for PROs in the broader ‘pecking order’. Will we now see a greater say for the profession at the ‘top table’? Will the seeming dominance of our legal counterparts in crisis situations be undermined by the continued fallout?  I hasten to add that the lawyer’s role in such situations is an important one and I’m not here to suggest that we can do it without them. However, the executive boardroom has a decidedly lofty barrier-to-entry and it’s up to the profession to continue to reiterate what we as professionals can do to earn our rightful place as trusted advisors.

Please note: This post was originally posted by Peter Roberts

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Corporate Tax Avoidance – How to tackle the PR challenge http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/corporate-tax-avoidance-how-to-tackle-the-pr-challenge/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/corporate-tax-avoidance-how-to-tackle-the-pr-challenge/#comments Tue, 10 May 2011 12:56:29 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=112 How should companies deal with direct action and online activism in light of accusations of corporate tax avoidance? That was the question that was posed by Communicate magazine last week.

In response, recession has, unsurprisingly, led to a greater level of awareness among consumers regarding how businesses behave. Subsequently, I would suggest that there’s renewed justification to put the company accounts to the same scrutiny and rigour that apply to other aspects of the organisation when it comes to issue preparedness.

Corporation Tax has become a lightning rod for large companies

In short, if there appears to be a problem with the numbers, engage the communications professionals in the same way you would when it comes to other operational matters.

The stance taken by those who have been brave enough to defend their positions thus far has talked of wider corporate contribution, including employment numbers and payroll.  This is not wrong. However, I do believe there’s a need to move the debate on, as was tried by the Treasury’ s David Gauke recently who argued that Corporation Tax fundamentally affects employees, who have to foot the bill. A debateable point, but worth voicing.

I’m not kidding myself, the subject of tax is a difficult one to reframe as we’re all familiar with and contribute to the system. However, in light of the fact that the UK public largely supports the capitalist system that’s in place, I believe there’s the scope to evolve the arguments.

Please note: This post was originally posted by Peter Roberts

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