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A corporate takeover with a latte generosity: our thoughts on Pret a Manger’s sale

A corporate takeover with a latte generosity: our thoughts on Pret a Manger’s sale

Coffee is one of the fastest growing consumer commodities and what greater confirmation of its value than Pret a Manger announcing its sale for £1.5billion – a return of more than 400% since Bridgepoint first acquired the group a decade ago for £350 million.  JAB – the investment arm of Germany’s Reimann family – will buy a majority stake in the much-loved high street coffee and sandwich chain.

Corporate takeovers require scrupulous management of internal and external communications as they naturally have the power to cause uncertainty amongst both staff and the markets.

Pret has worked tirelessly to build a reputation as a business with a heart and it added a classic extra shot of generosity to the announcement: every single one of the company’s 12,000 employees will be receiving a £1,000 bonus upon the deal’s completion later this year.

Given the scale of the company takeover, fear of the unknown for 12,000 staff would not be unexpected. That’s why Pret’s employee bonus is such a positive gesture – not only does it publicly highlight the company’s giving nature, it also sets out to reassure internal team members.

Looking back, this move fits in with the ‘kind’ ethos of Pret’s marketing and communications in-store and beyond. Over the years, the company has introduced initiatives such as giving customers free coffee “just because”, offering a 50p discount to encourage sustainable and reusable cups, and maintaining the Pret Foundation to redistribute leftover food to homeless people.

While we don’t recommend every company includes an employee pay-out to potentially smooth over fears of uncertainty (but wouldn’t that be interesting!), we think there’s a lot to be said for the way Pret CEO Clive Schlee has talked about the value and appreciation the company places in its staff. This has shone through in the official communications and has earned positive media coverage in its own right – aside from the ownership takeover details.

A company is nothing without its people, and this is rarely communicated externally, let alone given a monetary value.

In fact, CEO and partner of JAB, Oliver Goudet, commented on Clive and Pret’s positive management style when talking about the sale, highlighting its investment in innovation, commitment to customer service and ability to capitalise on evolving consumer tastes and lifestyle preferences.

Given the effective management of this takeover announcement in the press, we’ll be looking forward to the next chapter in Pret’s story.

 

 

Eurovision 2018: 5 European tech pioneers to watch

This weekend, millions of us across Europe will descend on our TV screens to endure a few hours of cheesy, slightly tone-deaf live performances, made more bearable by the deprecating but comforting tones of Graham Norton.

Europe might not sing particularly well, but it does produce some brilliant business and tech talent. Below are five of the leading tech pioneers and businesses we’re keeping our eye on this year and beyond.

 Anton Chirkunov, founder and CEO, Wheely

Anton founded Wheely in 2010 with a mission to build the number one premium ride-hailing service in Russia. Today, it’s the superior alternative to Uber Exec/Lux, designed for consumers who are looking for a premium, elegant experience that makes them feel good. It’s a way of extending the enjoyment of your evening out or adding a touch of comfort to your trip into central London.

You can hop in in real-time or schedule a ride, and there are no surcharges at any time, as well as a flat rate to Heathrow & Gatwick.

Already operational in London, with over 50m annual bookings, Anton’s ambition is to further disrupt the exec and VIP-class private hire market as the first app in the UK to exclusively offer premium ride-hailing services.

Guaranteeing users a 2016 E-Class Mercedes at the very minimum, Wheely is sure to sweep London of its feet this year.

 Rav Bumbra, CEO & Founder, Structur3d People

After over 20 years’ working in the tech industry, Rav was inspired to start her own company with one simple objective; to empower people to achieve their potential while helping businesses achieve their diversity objectives. Rav wants to see more gender-balanced workforce to encourage greater innovation, creativity and growth.

A prominent thought leader, Rav is a force for change in technology recruitment and has made it her mission through her business, Structur3dPeople to create innovative ways for businesses to attract diverse tech talent and address the UK’s skills shortage.

Through an impressive global mentoring programme, Rav is enabling women to build confidence and develop new skills with the aim of going on to work in technology, progress into leadership or start their own business.

Over 250 women have so far taken part in the company’s #GettingMoreWomenIntoTech campaign, which identifies female role models in the tech industry, while Rav is also committed to providing children with the technical and entrepreneurial skills they need to build a career in the industry, through #GettingMoreKidsIntoTech.

Gustaf Öqvist Seimyr, co-founder, Lexplore

Swedish company Lexplore was founded in 2015, designed to ensure no child with dyslexia is left behind in education. It was built on the premise that the majority of schools were lacking an objective method of obtaining an overview of every student’s reading ability, with many reading difficulties not picked up before it is too late.

Co-founded by Gustaf Öqvist Seimyr, the business came out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (which also presents the Nobel Prize in Medicine). Its AI that is now used to screen for reading difficulties was created after the business applied machine learning technologies to previous studies on children’s eye movement.

Lexplore has secured £6m investment to date and has been successfully implemented in primary schools across Sweden and the US. While children read on a screen, a tracker records their eye movements, with each recording uploaded to a Microsoft Cloud service. Here, an algorithm detects which children have proficient reading difficulties, and where each pupil sits on the scale.

Since 2007, Gustaf has led on the research and investigation into functional eye movement and eye tracking technology. Certainly an entrepreneur and business to keep an eye on this year and beyond.

 Rodolphe Ardant, founder and CEO, Spendesk

This will come as music to the ears of those who are tired of team / corporate expenses, and the whole reimbursement and “do you have the receipt for that?” process. Spendesk has created a way to manage team expenses without lending out a company card or retrospectively filling out expense reports and meeting agendas. Simply, it combines prepaid cards with an expense report solution.

Paris-based entrepreneur Rodolphe Ardant launched the start-up in 2016 with the mission of revolutionising company expense procedures – from purchase requests to payments, to receipt processing. It’s been a success, raising a whopping $9.9 million (€8 million) in January this year

Picture this as an employee. When your company signs up, you receive a personal card. Your employer can top up its global Spendesk account and then define different sets of policies to limit the expenses you can rack up. All expenses are centralised in a modern interface, and as the employee, you can track your expenses and upload receipts. Spendesk will then help you match invoices with expenses (essentially scanning them) and you can export these to a format suitable for your accounts team to process.

Sounds like a good idea to us.

 Tristan Leteurtre, CEO and co-founder, Mooncard

Another Paris-based fintech start-up that has caught our eye. Founded by an entrepreneur with a proven track record in building software companies from scratch, with expertise in telecoms & fintech. Tristan describes Mooncard as ‘Corporate cards, reinvented’ – quite simply, it aims to reinvent the banking and payment experience for SMEs.

Founded in 2016, Mooncard’s automated solution is well on its way to becoming Europe’s favoured payment tool for employees, CEOs, CFOs and entrepreneurs.

It’s currently only available in French, but rumour has it the solution is due to land in England in the not too distant future.

If you like the sound of our choices and want to talk about taking your PR outreach to the next level, contact us today.

The Business Show – Ones to Watch

Next week marks the start of The Business Show – the UK’s largest business exhibition – taking place at the ExCel Centre on 16th and 17th May for a jam-packed agenda of innovative and thought-provoking keynote talks and workshops.

Here are our top speakers to check out at this year’s event.

Emma-Jane Packe, Managing Director of The Supper Club

Misleading as the name may be, The Supper Club is not a fine-dining experience. But it does represent the cream of the crop in enterprise and business.

If you’re an entrepreneur with revenues between £1 million and £500 million, chances are you and E-J are well acquainted. She has an eye for entrepreneurialism innovation, growth, and wealth creation. Through The Supper Club, E-J supports business owners and their teams and loves meeting some of the country’s most inspiring minds.

E-J will share insights gathered from 2,500 events to discuss what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in 2018, what helps SMEs to scale rapidly and why it is sometimes important for entrepreneurs to get out of their own way.

Hear her Secrets to Scale for a 21st Century Entrepreneur on Thursday 17th May at 2 pm in Keynote Theatre 1.

 Ben Jefferies, CEO & Founder of Influencer

 At 22, Ben has packed in more accomplishments in his career than most can hope for in a lifetime. At 15, he set up a clothing company which paved the way for the launch of Influencer – a web platform that allows brands to collaborate with social media content creators and is now one of the UK’s largest influencer marketing companies.

It’s no surprise to see Ben will be addressing the audience on “How to smash Influencer Marketing in 2018”, sharing his words of wisdom on how to make a ground-breaking campaign. We’re sure the Keynote Theatre will be filled, with attendees looking for guidance on how to use influencer marketing successfully in their business from one of the best.

Catch Ben’s keynote, How to smash Influencer Marketing in 2018, on Wednesday 16th May at 11.45am in Keynote Theatre 2.

Avin Rabheru, Founder of Housekeep

Who knew the house cleaning business needed a shakeup? Avin Rabheru recognised the gap in the market and set up leading house cleaning agency, Housekeep from scratch.

Avin is an avid early-stage investor and has been involved in start-ups such as Streetcar/Zipcar, Kabbee and Crowdcube to name a few. This gives him the chance to back the start-up community, providing young businesses with the financial injection they need to get their idea off the ground.

Avin’s keynote is not one to be missed if you’re a budding entrepreneur. This is a rare opportunity to hear from one of the UK’s top entrepreneurs and angel investors.

Catch Avin at his keynote, From Startup to Market Leader in a £4bn Market, on Thursday 17th May at 4.15pm in Keynote Theatre 2.

 Christian Samuel, Founder of University Cribs

Christian caught the enterprise bug early on. He got his first taste for business success aged 12, buying and selling antique pots, which nearly made him £3,000 for his efforts.

After being told he’d never succeed by teachers and adults around him, he now runs proptech business University Cribs. Founded in 2016, when Christian was just 23, the business connects students to accommodation providers across the UK. In 2017, he was crowned Welsh Young Entrepreneur of the Year, putting his name firmly on our list of ones to watch at this year’s Business Show.

Christian will share his experience on how, even as a school dropout, you can build a successful business with the right attitude. We expect University Cribs to go global in the coming years and are excited to watch this growth.

Hear Christian’s session The Journey of a 16-year-old Dropout, on Wednesday 16th May at 2 pm in Keynote Theatre 1.

Dominic McGregor, COO & Co-founder of The Social Chain Group

The running trend of young successful entrepreneurs continues, and at the tender age of 21, Dominic and his business partner Steven Barlett dropped out of university and set out to change the way brands engage with social media. And so, The Social Chain was born.

Their business model is based on the ability to leverage hundreds of social communities to control what gets talked about online through carefully created content. The pair claim to be able to make anything the top trending topic on Twitter in 30 minutes or less – a bold statement in a highly competitive market.

The Social Chain now operates out of four metropolitan hubs – London, Manchester, New York and Berlin – proving that these two really are wired in to what makes brands, millennials and influencers tick.

Dominic is set to a challenge the glamourised perception of being a young entrepreneur in his talk, The Darkside of Growing a Business in 2018, on Wednesday 16th May at 3.30pm in Keynote Theatre 1.

Is your company looking to reach a wider audience? Do you have a clear PR strategy? Whether you’re attending The Business Show or not, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today.

People power

Why personal brand equity counts

 Some of the world’s most iconic businesses are known not just for their products or services, but for the brand’s personality and principles. That personality often stems from driven leaders and founders and carries real financial weight.

In the words of Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Ultimately, we do business with people we like and respect and that’s where personal PR has a power to deliver business results beyond fame for fame’s sake. Take Steve Jobs, whose vision intrinsically linked to Apple’s success: when Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO roughly $10bn of the company value was wiped from the company’s stock.

Someone’s personal reputation can affect their business’ investment prospects, talent acquisition, product sales, customer loyalty and more.

Why personal versus brand PR?

 It’s sometimes easier for stakeholders to visualise what a business stands for when there is a human embodiment of its principles, rather than a faceless corporate standpoint. A successful personal PR strategy will leverage this and help dovetail a business’ aims into the current media agenda.

Take James Reed as an example – whose beekeeping hobby helped us have a down to earth conversation with media about workplace positivity and Reed.co.uk, and Angela Middleton – whose fitness regime helped her channel more energy into her apprenticeship business MiddletonMurray – and provided a platform to talk about motivation and careers more broadly.

After drawing on business leaders’ unique perspectives, the focus turns on crafting these into positive media messages and ultimately leveraging a personal brand to grow their businesses.

But what’s the right channel?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to personal PR but the strategy must be targeted to deliver the best value for your business, whether that’s through a presence on national broadcast shows or in influential trade media that reach a niche customer target.

Every publicity opportunity should have a rationale; if you share views through blogging on LinkedIn, are you engaging with the right LinkedIn groups? If you want to establish your expertise as a mainstream media commentator, are your customers or target audience consuming information from that media outlet? If you’re speaking at an event, are your buyers there?

Today’s media landscape is characterised by multiple channels, ‘fake news’, self-publishing as the norm and an increasingly blurred line between editorial and native advertising. So it’s more important than ever before to truly understand what media your key stakeholders rely on for information – and essentially, which forms of content they trust.

Using a charismatic individual as a platform for building brand awareness can help lift a brand from this noise and boost a whole organisation or movement’s credibility, in two key ways;

Trust & authenticity

Sharing personal views with people establishes an authentic ‘voice’ that is increasingly elusive now that every brand can communicate directly with consumers online. It goes without saying that people are easier to relate and engage with than a corporation.

Personality as a platform

When you combine strong personal views with a well-managed media strategy, personality can start to transcend the usual circles of business talk and influence wider society. Any person is essentially a platform for marketing a business; it starts with word of mouth and can then extend out to blogging, online, print and broadcast media.

Every public figure started somewhere – and that ‘somewhere’ is defined by a passion and focus to change a market, industry, people or perspective for the better.

We work with businesses who are ready to make their mark on the media landscape, and behind businesses are real people full of unique stories and experiences. The bravery to stand up, stand out and make a mark is at the core of propelling someone’s personal, professional, public profile and can have a tangible impact on a business’ bottom line.

Personal PR is far from just a vanity project.

If you’re looking for a PR agency to support you or your business please get in touch with our award-winning team today.

Putting The PR in GDPR

With less than a month until the new European legislation, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), comes into force in the UK we look at what this really means for the PR industry, whilst putting some of those rumours and myths to bed.

Find out the basics

You can’t prepare for what you don’t know. So, the first crucial step is to make yourself aware of the key facts surrounding the GDPR. If you haven’t received training at your organisation it is probably worthwhile embarking on some personal research on the dos and don’ts when it comes to data protection. Sites such as the ICO are really detailed and can help you answer some of those burning questions.

Our Legal and Finance Director, Marina Hall says “Don’t panic, GDPR is a good thing and allows you to organise your data and the information you store. The legislation is enforcing best practice and requiring all businesses to have the same standards when it comes to processing and storing personal information.”

What data is included?

The GDPR may sound as exciting as watching paint dry but it’s important to know the details, especially as it will affect every business in the UK. You will need to know what qualifies as ”personal data”as you’ll probably find that you process it a lot more than you realise. The main areas could be:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Mobile number
  • Bank account details
  • Addresses
  • Driver/passport number

The legislation covers indirect identification of personal data, as well as direct. This means marketers will need to think about pseudonymisation, a data management procedure by which personally identifiable information fields within a data record are replaced by one or more artificial identifiers. When these elements are brought together, such as a postcode used with a surname, this could lead to someone being identified.

Do I have to get permission from every journalist?

No; if you are using aggregator sites such as Gorkana, Agility or Response Source you’re covered. These sites require the journalists or organisation to opt-in to have their details shared, meaning you have permission as a subscriber to the site to access that data. In addition, business emails that are published in the public domain such as John.Smith@parliament.co.uk are exempt from GDPR and you are able to make an approach.

Freelancers can be a murkier ground. There is a grey area within the new legislation around “legitimate interest”. If, for example, you were representing an environmental charity and you wanted to contact a freelance environmental journalist, you can argue legitimate interest as the journalist would more than likely want to hear about your story. However, if you included the same freelance journalist in a big promotional email about something totally irrelevant to them it would be deemed misuse of their data and could lead to other problems.

How does this affect my client work?

Our top tips for most PR professionals would be to focus on the following.

  1. Make sure you know where to find your new updated contracts and how to explain them if your client comes back with any questions.
  2. Ensure you are vetting any third-party suppliers you might be using, such as photographers, copywriters or website developers. It might be worthwhile having a supplier agreement in place.
  3. Password protect your spreadsheets. If you have media lists, client to do lists or simply a data capture from an event, make sure they are securely stored away and password protected. If you’re unsure how to lock your work down seek help from your IT team who will be able to advise you.
  4. Don’t pass on details you don’t have permission to share. If you haven’t got permission, make sure you don’t share data with any third parties. If you do, this could it could lead to larger issues. If you’re unsure, check with the Data Protection Officer within your organisation for the correct process.
  5. The right to be forgottenthe new GDPR rules provide “data subjects” (individuals) with the right to request that their information be erased completely. This is not optional.
  6. Finally, know who your Data Protection Officer is. Most organisations will have an appointed person or team. Make sure you keep them in the loop if you’re unclear about the process or just want to clarify what you’re doing is the correct way.

Finally, we’d just like to add we are not qualified to provide legal advice, so if you have some bigger questions please do contact your legal counsel.

We hope you enjoyed our top tips; if you’re looking for a PR agency to support you or your business please get in touch with our award-winning team today.

Stormy Wether(spoons): the great British boozer taking shelter from social media

In an unexpected move yesterday, JD Wetherspoons’ Chairman Tim Martin announced that the chain is shutting down all its individual pub and head office social media accounts – blaming everything from staff being distracted, to the wellbeing of an ‘addicted’ public and the trolling of MPs.

We all know there’s no point in ‘being on’ social media for the sake of it. Corporate accounts must be well managed, thoughtfully planned and appropriately targeted so that creative content reaches and resonates with a business’ key audiences. That said, this doesn’t have to be done on a large scale for social media to be an influential and strategic communications tool – which makes Wetherspoons’ social blackout even more surprising.

If you went to the pub and didn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

 Wetherspoons has a huge high street presence across the UK – and low prices that will continue to pull in the crowds to its 963 branches. However, shying away from social media indicates a resistance to change that could affect its longevity and perception by younger audiences in the UK.

In an age of business transparency, social media has become a key online channel through which consumers of all ages can hold businesses and brands to account, but also be won over. Social platforms create opportunities for customers to build connections with a business that go beyond making a purchase or seeing an advert on the way to work – but managing the output and interaction is a big commitment.

Social media: More trouble than it’s worth?

Social media management is no small feat; businesses need effective customer service processes, creative and competent professionals to man the channels, and robust corporate guidelines to safeguard the account.

Wetherspoons’ social media accounts were largely run by the pub managers, which was labelled a ‘distraction’ and ‘ineffective’ by Tim Martin. If the unanswered customer service complaints on the website are anything to go by, then this accusation carries some weight. Perhaps these badly managed channels were doing more harm than good.

That said, people interact with brands online on multiple channels and at any time – and being active on these channels not only increases a business’ visibility, it provides an opportunity for greater brand control. Providing good digital experiences can be a key differentiator in the battle for consumer loyalty in competitive consumer business landscapes.

Wetherspoons needs to look no further than fellow high street stalwart KFC in the effective and inspiring use of social media to contain its chicken-supply scandal earlier this year.

 Born with a (social) silver spoon in its mouth

 ‘Spoons, as its fans know it, may have just significantly slimmed its ‘owned’ online reach but there’s no doubt that much of the social media marketing for the brand is done by the public anyway. Take the #wetherspoons hashtag with over 100k uses on Instagram, or the @Wetherspoons_carpets Instagram account which has 4,282 followers – just 1,700 less than the official chain’s account at its time of closing.

Shunning social media seems more like a publicity stunt to drive people towards Wetherspoons’ much-championed app and play up its image as a ‘traditional boozer’ than a move to publicly challenge the dominance or security of the major social media platforms.

Either way, the announcement has effectively grabbed headlines and given Tim Martin a chance to take a public stance on the prevailing issues surrounding social media.

Ones to watch at the Global Group UK Investor Show

The Global Group UK Investor Show is taking place in London this week, celebrating the greatest talent in the investment world.

This year’s show has a global outlook, with keynote speeches looking at the emerging investment opportunities in Asia and Africa, as well as the impact of Blockchain and Bitcoin on the sector.

Throughout the day, visitors can enjoy expert advice and interactive investment tips from a line-up of experts in sectors as diverse as energy to entertainment, software to fine art.

Check out our ‘ones to watch’ this Saturday…

1) Dr. Johnny Hon, The Global Group

The Global Group is the lead partner of the show – and Founder and Chairman Dr. Johnny Hon’s speech on the main stage will be unmissable. Drawing on over twenty years’ experience as a world-renowned angel investor and venture capitalist, Dr Hon will talk about why there are so many China frauds on AIM and how to make money from Chinese shares.

The Global Group conglomerate is committed to developing UK-Chinese investment opportunities, and Dr. Hon is certainly one to watch if you’re thinking about expanding East, or if you are looking for best-in-class advice about global opportunities.

2) Nigel Wray, The Investor Show

Nigel Wray may be the owner of the show and one of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs, but he is best-known for his roles Chairman of rugby union team Saracens. He’ll be opening the show with a discussion and live-demonstration of value investment – all in the name of charity.

Throughout the day, Nigel will lead an alternative Dragons’ Den session on the main stage – perfect for picking up investment tips from a man with serious industry clout.

3) Vin Murria, Advanced Computer Software Group

Known as the ‘Queen of Tech’, Vin is going to be interviewed on the main stage about her experience as a leading tech entrepreneur, the rise of Advanced Computer Software Group, and the opportunities in the FinTech sector.
Vin sold her company for £765 million three years ago and recently took a significant stake in broker finnCap, so we’ll be seizing the opportunity to gain insider tips on how to take the financial sector by storm.

4) Luke Johnson, Risk Capital Partners

Luke Johnson is the Chairman of Risk Capital Partners and a serial entrepreneur – you may have read his advice in the Financial Times or his current column in The Sunday Times.

Luke will be speaking at various points on the day about how entrepreneurs can best appeal to investors. He will be talking from experience as is best-known for the acquisition and sale of Pizza Express and creation of think talk, The Centre for Entrepreneurs.

5) Dave Mutton, PrimaryBid

Dave Mutton is the COO of PrimaryBid, the leading online funding platform that offers access to new share issues from listed companies, at the same discount as institutions.

Dave has over 20 years’ experience at the helm of some of the biggest players in the technology space, including Amazon and Yahoo, so his speech will carry serious industry clout.If you’re interested in disruptive technology companies, make sure you watch out for Dave.

6) Keith Allaun, PowerHouse Energy Group

Keith Allaun is the Executive Chairman of PowerHouse Energy Group and is set to bring an interesting perspective on alternative energy to this year’s show.

The PowerHouse Energy Group create the industry’s most efficient and environmentally friendly waste-to-energy systems in the market today.

Impact investment is set to be a hot topic at the show, and Keith will share his leading advice on the Alt Energy panel.

Is your company looking to reach a wider audience? Do you have a clear PR strategy? Whether you’re attending The Global Group Investor Show or not, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line here.

Why engineering personal PR is key to business credibility

Quiz time. Which company made the cannonballs used by the Duke of Wellington’s army in the Napoleonic Wars?

If you have been following the twists and turns of the hostile takeover of the year in the last two and a half months, you will, without hesitation, know the answer: Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds.

This nugget of information about the manufacture of 18th-century projectiles has been trotted out by journalists in countless reports on the bid by turnaround specialist Melrose to buy engineering firm GKN, as it is now known.

GKN would no doubt love to wheel a cannon round to the Mayfair offices of Melrose, take aim and spark the gunpowder.

But the 21st century battle for survival is being fought in the business pages of the broadsheets instead of Waterloo.

And the weaponry is a little more sophisticated – if every bit as deadly in its own way.

The fight has been framed by the personalities involved and specifically their credibility with investors.

GKN faced accusations of having poor leadership that had led to underwhelming returns for shareholders.

Melrose’s perception problem was at the other end of the spectrum: it was too profit focused and would ruthlessly put short-term gain before long-term stability.

Mike Turner, chairman of GKN, was portrayed as the no-nonsense “northern bruiser” and “engineering royalty.” (He also holds down the chairman’s job at industrial giant Babcock and is ex CEO of leading aerospace business BAE).

When Melrose’s unwanted approach came in early January, Turner took decisive action and gave temporary CEO Anne Stevens the permanent position.

Stevens, an American who had risen to become Ford’s COO for the US, became the seventh woman CEO in the current FTSE 100.

She fired off an early PR salvo by giving an interview to the FT. It began with an anecdote that illustrated Stevens had a core of steel.

She had devised a plan for the chairman of Ford to cut losses at its US operation. It required a 30 percent cut to the salaried workforce and the closure of 17 sites.

Stevens told the FT: “He asked me what his options were. I said your other option is bankruptcy.”

The article pored over Stevens’ personal and professional background, including her impressive achievement of being named four times in Fortune magazine’s list of the 50 most powerful women in business.

The message was clear: there are no doubts about the leadership ability of Anne Stevens.

GKN also branded Melrose’s £7.4million offer as “derisory” and accused the firm of “financial engineering”.

Melrose hit back. Understanding that personal credibility could swing the deal, CEO Simon Peckham was put up for an interview in the Sunday Times.

Peckham insisted he would rise above the fray: “We’re not interested in engaging in slanging matches on personalities, and we haven’t and won’t. We think we should be grown up about it.”

Unfortunately, as journalist John Collingridge pointed out, David Roper, executive vice-chairman of Melrose, had already described the GKN workforce as “lions led by donkeys”.

Peckham used his slot to undermine GKN’s rich past – yes, those cannonballs again– by reminding people that British Leyland had once had a heritage.

He added: “Just because something is 250 years old does not mean it’s got a right to survive for the next 250 years.”

Much of the interview was clearly shaped by Peckham’s determination to shed the image of ruthless City slicker.

The opening paragraphs made clear that he didn’t like golf, wasn’t a disciple of buyout king Lord Hanson and his business was not a private equity firm.

He dismissed GKN’s criticism of Melrose as a “sort of Project Fear” – a cutting reference to the failed Remain campaign in the EU referendum.

And he spoke with pride about his father’s rise from apprentice Fleet Street printer to human resources director of a Tyneside printing firm.

If any reader was in any doubt that Peckham was a simple, down-to-earth family guy, the final line of the piece was a masterclass of repositioning: turning a hard-nosed City buyout expert into an altogether more cuddly prospect.

“I’m happiest with family and friends in a pub having a few pints of beer,” said Peckham. “I am by nature a social animal.”

Personal PR won’t be the only factor in deciding the ownership of GKN – £1billion pension deficits, a commitment to R&D and the willingness of clients like Airbus to work with a new team will all play their part.

But when shareholders cast their vote on March 29 to decide who is the victor and who is cannon-fodder, they will all have been influenced by a hard-fought PR campaign.

What #PressforProgress means to me

Angela Middleton

By Angela Middleton

International Women’s Day is fast approaching and it’s a time that makes me reflect about being a woman in business.

I’m often asked about my experience as a female at the helm of a company – one I founded 16 years ago –  the adversity I’ve faced, and how I got to where I am today.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, which is about all the small, positive changes everyone can make to address gender inequality.

I firmly believe in equal opportunities for all so inequality is a serious concern.

81% of businesses are still run by men while 90% of care given in the UK comes from women. In the apprenticeship sector, women are more likely to be placed in low-paying schemes than men. In 2013, for example, there were 13,000 male engineer apprentices but just 400 female ones.

So, what does #PressforProgress mean for me, an entrepreneur, a woman in business, and what advice do I give for anyone looking to address inequality concerns head on?

Firstly, I think no two people are the same and we should all celebrate our uniqueness. Some women aspire to reach my position, some women don’t, and that’s important. No two people are the same, but I am striving for a world where anyone can achieve what they want to when they put their mind to something.

This is an attitude I instil in my 150 employees, and more than 10,000 trainees who have gone through training and apprenticeships with my company.

I think #PressForProgress fits in with my personal ethos: you need to focus on the future and what you can achieve, rather than dwelling in the past. Visualising success, whether it’s to do with career progression, what you want from life, or even picturing how you want to be perceived by others, is vital.

The key is to recognise your abilities and try your best to conquer self-doubt. Surround yourself with people that inspire you – and if there are no role models in the immediate vicinity, looking online is a fantastic place to start. I personally use Instagram for inspiration but it’s also an important tool for me to be able to provide guidance and support to others. We believe what we tell ourselves – and if you keep reaching for your goals, you’ll continue the path to progress.

While it may be alien to some people, it’s important to turn your visualisations into a strategy. That helps you stay motivated and give you measurable targets and goals. If your idea of progress is getting promoted – try writing it down. Think what you’d do when you reach that level and how you’d celebrate that success. For me, it makes goals real and helps you track how far you’ve come.

Ultimately, it’s so important to remember we are all individual and to celebrate what makes you ‘you’. I take great personal pleasure in fashion, fitness, beauty and having fun with my appearance and this differentiates me from my male peers – in a positive way.

We are all just people. We need to work on an individual level to achieve personal goals, and together to ensure we create a world of equal opportunities.

We all need to #PressForProgress

 

We’re kickstarting our #IWD2018 campaign by launching #PressforProgress PHA Pledge. 💰 We’re donating 10p to the Woman’s Day charities, Catalyst & WAGGGS, for every follower we get over the next 2 weeks! Simply click below to be taken to our page.

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Fall in love with a business this Valentine’s day

Passion and love aren’t words often used to describe the corporate world, but with so many brilliant and inspiring companies out there, what better time to fall in love with a business?

Businesses that inspire passion stand out to potential employees, customers and clients.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, it’s time to think about what and who you love. Is the spark still there as you sit down at your desk on a Monday morning, or is it time to reignite your passion with another work place? To fall in love with a business, you need to love everything it stands for, from its CEO down to how it is run day-to-day.James Reed standing in office

REED, the UK’s largest family-run recruitment business, is on a mission. It is dedicated to matching employees and applicants with the job that makes them happy, and ward away the dreaded Sunday blues once and for all.

REED’s ‘Love Mondays’ campaign raises awareness of the importance of finding a job you love. January’s high-profile TV and transport advertisements highlighted the lengths people will go to for a job they enjoy. A series of scenarios, from braving gale-force winds to jumping over moving traffic, emphasise the passion that comes from loving your work.

Loving Mondays means something different to everyone. It could be the people you work with, the setting you work in or the career progression the company offers you. Whatever it means to you, ‘Love Mondays’ is a metaphor for loving your job.

REED believes people have automatically come to hate Mondays, fearing the routine and the commute. Its philosophy is that if people have something to look forward to at the beginning of every week, these negative things are pushed to the back of their minds.

At REED, employees are encouraged to take part in health and well-being activities every Monday, and this sets the tone for a positive and productive week. Activities range from office yoga to a ping-pong competition, and everything in-between.

Reducing this negative perception is vital for job satisfaction and mental and physical wellbeing. Companies should do their utmost to make sure employees are happy and productive, and that employees know they are valued.

The common denominator of all motivational, inspirational businesses is a passionate leader at the helm. James Reed, REED CEO, is a well-respected figurehead who encourages employees and Reed’s clients to find a job they adore. His genuine passion has helped position him as an industry leader and champion for wellbeing in the workplace.

 

Are you a business looking to reignite your PR strategy? Speak to our expert led team today to find out how we can help you.