Shocks & Stares » UK media H&K\'s Financial & Professional Services Team Blog Tue, 19 Mar 2013 08:00:56 +0000 en hourly 1 How long will Virgin’s PR window remain open on the West Coast? Fri, 31 Aug 2012 09:38:57 +0000 David Chambers 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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10 analysts/economists/traders to follow on Twitter Thu, 19 Jul 2012 07:54:00 +0000 David Chambers Someone has fired the starting gun on the City and Twitter, because in recent months the number of City commentators taking to the airwaves has shot up. Some of the names are familiar from their traditional place on the rolling news channels. Others are less familiar but growing.

Below is our list of ten that are well worth following for an insight on the markets, investing and economic data. There are lots more, and we’ll run another list in a couple of months’ time to update on this:

Mike Van Dulken, Head of Research at Accendo Markets: @Accendo_Mike

Michael Hewson, Senior Market Analyst at CMC Markets: @michaelhewson

David Buik, BGC’s semi-retired veteran analyst: @truemagic68

Bond Vigilantes, M&G’s retail bond team: @bondvigilantes

Justin Urquhart Stewart, Director at 7 Investment Management: @ustewart

Nick Bubb, Retail Analyst: @NickBubb1

Joshua Raymond, Chief Market Strategist at City Index: @Josh_CityIndex

Paul Kavanagh, Chairman of Killik Capital: @KavanaghKillik

And two financial bloggers well worth following on Twitter to round out the set:

Zerohedge: @zerohedge

Felix Salmon, Reuters’ finance blogger: @felixsalmon

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What PR was like in the B.G. era (Before Gorkana) Fri, 22 Jun 2012 14:02:20 +0000 David Chambers For many of us in the Financial & Professional Services team, it’s impossible to conceive how the world of PR worked before the digital age really got going. The idea of posting/faxing press releases, having to wait to read the newspapers every morning to know what was happening in the news, or keeping actual physical media contact books just seems alien.

Some of the older members of the team assure me it really did used to be this way though and earlier this week I found some evidence for it. While clearing out some of our filing cabinets, I came across a dusty, weighty tome entitled “Financial Press Facts: Forty-ninth Edition October 2003″. This, in essence was an analogue, print version of Gorkana – all the correspondents, on all the papers and trade magazines, and even the forward feature lists as well.

This is how PR looked before databases like Gorkana

I’ve been staring at it utterly fascinated all week, looking at where some of Britain’s top journalists in 2012 started out. But what’s even more fascinating (not to mention disheartening) is that this document shows you just how much the media world has shrunk in nine short years. Apart from the FT, Telegraph and Times, most business and personal finance desks have shrivelled in comparison to 2003. For example, Financial Press Facts lists 28 Business and PF journalists at The Guardian plus another 11 on The Observer in 2003. Today, that figure is less than 30 across both based on a quick Gorkana search.

It’s a similar story on the Independent, Indy on Sunday and Evening Standard, which recently merged their business desks together. The real drain though, has happened outside of the broadsheets – the Mirror for example has gone from 7 business and PFs to just 2 today while the Express has shrunk from 13 to just 5 full time journalists. As for regional papers, the picture is similar – the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail soldier on with only half of the 8 business journalists they used to employ.

The media have trumpeted the fact that more consumers are more aware of and engaged in economic news than ever before (with even The Sun reviving its personal finance page recently and giving Dan Jones a new Mr Money page on Sundays to boot). Yet resource is shrinking dramatically.

So what does this window on the past mean for PR people like us? I’d suggest two things:

1. It shows the extent of the challenge in 2012 – cut to the chase and make sure it really is interesting, because there’s no time or space for anything else any more

2. It shows the extent of the opportunity – go the extra mile and be that extra journalist that the City Editor no longer has, because chances are you’ll get a lot more joy for your brand or clients in the long run

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Our Top 5 Business Columnists Tue, 19 Apr 2011 12:45:03 +0000 David Chambers As you might expect, our Financial & Professional Services team consume a truckload of traditional and new media every day on all things money. Despite the never-ending torrent, one thing we always make time for is to read the many excellent business columnists and commentators that try to make sense of everything going on.

We read a lot of these, and websites too, but which are our favourite business columnists?

With that in mind, here’s a list (in no particular order) of five of our favourites who appear in the business pages each week. This is by no means definitive, and indeed there are many others who we love to read as well – we’d welcome thoughts on your favourites too:

Anthony Hilton - one of our absolute must reads (Image from

1. Anthony Hilton, Evening Standard – A consistent hit in our team, Hilton has been providing commentary on the City for several decades. Never afraid to pull punches when it comes to analysing an issue, he always presents clear, concise, logic behind his arguments. Simply put, a must-read for us and thousands of others involved in financial services.

2. John Authers, Financial Times – Authers used to write the daily ‘Short View’ column analysing the markets but recently moved to head up the ever-excellent Lex Column. A shrewd commentator, he has the gift of making complex financial and economic jargon sound relatively simple and easy to understand for the general reader – ably demonstrated by his regular Friday ‘Long View’ column. Mentions to Gillian Tett and Martin Wolf as well here.

3. Ian King, The Times – King took over the Business Editor’s desk at The Times late last year. Before him, David Wighton also provided a concise viewpoint on the business stories of the day. King has continued in that vain, injecting a touch of humour into his column alongside strong but fair viewpoints, and cutting-edge analysis. For his part, Wighton now writes a regular Saturday business column amongst other things.

4. Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph – Formerly the Independent’s star Business Editor, we love to read Warner’s twice-weekly column in the Telegraph for its more in-depth look at key business and economic issues. He’s not afraid to take a swipe at those he disagrees with either, as his little dig at the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee earlier this month showed. He’s also a prolific tweeter.

5. Pauline Skypala, FTfm – More specialised than the others in this list, but we include Skypala because of her talent for probing the inner workings of the fund management industry and asking tough questions of it as a result.  An excellent way to start off the week with a cup of coffee on a Monday morning. Another good tweeter to follow as well.

6. Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times – Ok, so this makes six, but we like to enjoy the lighter side of business commentary as well, and Kellaway’s ‘On Work’ column on a Monday certainly provides that. I may not always agree with what she writes, but for examining office-based issues that affect us all in a humourous way, there are few better. You can look for her latest column on Twitter too.

Lucy Kellaway - Perfect Monday morning reading

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