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Trade secrets

Brexit. The word on everyone’s lips and minds right now. What with infighting, plotting and a row over the phrase “stupid woman”, it’s safe to say that Brexit, and the circus surrounding the preparations will continue to dominate headlines in 2019.

Rather than groan at yet another day of confusion and convolution in the papers, industry bodies should see the ongoing Brexit coverage as an opportunity for untapped positive communication.

Effectively and appropriately commenting on the issues surrounding Brexit is crucial if trade bodies are going to garner stakeholder trust and support in uncertain times.

Major Brexit developments, of which we have many more in store for this year, provide a prime opportunity for senior figures at trade associations to share their concerns with the wider world and effectively raise the profile of their organisation in the process. Here, we look at how the proactive trade associations do this.

The importance of acting quickly

Responding to news quickly is crucial to success.

Trade bodies need to be on-the-ball by keeping track of the news agenda and identifying any key dates that could be hijacked for a PR opportunity. Often pre-emptive comments can be drafted in advance, ready to be tweaked at the last minute for accuracy, and then sent to the media at lightening speed for maximum impact.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Association (FDA) has been notable for prominent and powerful reactionary comment on Brexit developments, making cut through in both trade publications and national media.

In August, when the Government released the first of 25 notices detailing the potential effect of a no-deal Brexit on several sectors, the FDA was one of the first trade groups to share its voice in public domain. The speed of his association’s response put his members’ views ‘on the map’ and drew attention to the sector.

Wright, on behalf of the FDA’s members, has continued to be vocal on the very real effects of a no-deal Brexit and in December called the possibility “grisly” adding: “The British people would not forgive anyone responsible for it coming to pass.”

Using a spokesperson

The use of a strong spokesperson is an important consideration for any trade association wanting to boost the public profile within the media.

The right spokesperson puts a human face to the organisation and is vital to any business wanting to build their profile and reputation. However, as an official representative there is also a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.

The key components any good spokesperson must grasp are, a good media knowledge and knowledge of target audience, as well as comprehension of their members opinions and concerns. These points are crucial to delivering key messages effectively.

A good spokesperson can be the difference between very positive and very negative public relations, as James Hookham, the deputy chief executive of the Freight Transport Association, demonstrated recently.

He didn’t mince his words when publicly communicating the groups disdain over Brexit developments by stating that the government “cannot sleep” until some practical issues for the logistic industry are ironed out.

He added: “I’m not going to let the logistics industry take the fall for political indulgence. It’ll be messy, expensive and not end well, and caused by people who suffer from ignorance or privilege. Or both.”

Joining forces

In immediate response to the Government telling businesses to prepare for Brexit at the end of last year, five savvy organisations decided the most effective way of communicating their response was to join forces and issue a powerful joint statement.

The CBI, which represents 190,000 businesses, the Institute of Directors, British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and the manufacturing body EEF released a response stressing they were “horrified” by warring politicians who they felt were focusing on “factional disputes rather than practical steps” to help businesses move forward.

The groups were able to identify that rather than fighting each other for column inches, a joint statement would have more impact and maximise chances of exposure. The message was authoritative and emotive, which also increased the groups chance of coverage. A wishy-washy statement that adds nothing to the conversation is not going to cut it.

The group’s statement read: “Businesses have been watching in horror as politicians have focused on factional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward. The lack of progress in Westminster means that the risk of a no-deal Brexit is rising.”

The trade associations clearly communicated their collective trepidation over the government’s seemingly shotgun plans and thrust their respective groups into the public eye, showing the benefits of banding together.

Effective use of data

Trade bodies have a vast wealth of data at their disposal and it is those who can tap into that and use these resources that have the most success with raising their profile in the public sphere.

Data can be used to illustrate a manner of member points and arguments and validate media commentary by acting as supporting evidence.

One example of effective use of data came from the construction industry’s leading trade and professional bodies – which joined forces to demonstrate which jobs are in greatest demand.

A survey went out to more than 20,000 companies nationwide and asked respondents which roles they are finding difficult to recruit now, and which they expect to be challenging post-Brexit.

The survey was supported by several different industry groups including the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, Build UK and member trade bodies, Chartered Institute of Building, Civil Engineering Contractors Association, Construction Plant-hire Association

Construction Products Association and member trade bodies, Federation of Master Builders, Highways Term Maintenance Association and the National Federation of Builders.

Trade associations and bodies have valuable opinion and insight to add to the public sphere. The ones that can effectively harness the news agenda, not only show stakeholders they are paying attention but are able to communicate to the wider world that they are not afraid to stand up and speak out on important issues.

To find out about how our team can help your organisation speak out on important issues contact us today for a no-obligation call.

How trade bodies can harness the news agenda to their advantage

Trade secrets communication

Looking back, it’s clear that 2018 was the year of long-form mobile videos, breaking stories on social media and the continued popularity of podcasts, with 15.2 million Britons tuning into podcasts each month. It was also the year of huge political, industrial and media turbulence with Brexit on the horizon. In 2019’s increasingly fragmented political and media landscape lies a huge opportunity for trade associations and professional bodies alike to re-assert their authority – and that doesn’t mean trying to do everything with increasingly strained internal resources.

Bolstering relationships with media titles people trust

With the Brexit deadline looming many industries are facing the reality of a very uncertain commercial year. Deal or no deal, what happens on March 29 will affect millions of people’s current roles, future careers and prosperity. Amidst the fog of fear, optimism and hunger for knowledge, there is an opportunity for Trade Associations and industry bodies to reassert their role among members as a pillar of best practice, advice, and as a force for representation on the wider political and business stage – where many smaller businesses wouldn’t have a voice.

Last year the Advertising Association launched a Brexit-related campaign to ensure the advertising industry’s positive voice was clear and understood as negotiations unfolded. The campaign united and reassured members and was bold enough to generate national media interest by highlighting the advertising industry’s role at the heart of the UK economy.

With a growing scepticism surrounding social platforms, search results and politicians, associations that can get behind most of their members and harness the media platforms their members trust (be it traditional print, social channels or broadcast outlets) will win big. More than ever strong relationships with influential and trusted media will elevate associations’ role as the voice of their industry, providing as much clarity, reassurance and lobbying as possible to meet member demand.


Tapping into the power of existing research

As well as re-enforcing their media relationships in uncertain times, trade associations should re-assess the power of the proprietary research and insight they already produce. Often research studies are produced and left to dwell in the recesses of a website. Re-packaging this research into formats that suit members’ specific media consumption habits can be a way to rise above the ‘noise’ and position your findings in pride of place.

This can be achieved by creating engaging visual social posts that represent the data, sharing member viewpoints or illustrating the dominant view of the sector on the big issues of the day. It can also mean reviewing the data in the context of current national issues; has the state of play changed for the sector? Have members viewpoints changed dramatically on a newsworthy topic? How is the sector evolving in terms of skills or global demands? This proprietary data can be given a new lease of life by again working with trusted media to share it.

Associations should focus on really harnessing the content they have and using it to build trust and authority at a time when people are seeking informed viewpoints.


Becoming a ‘voice of reason’

Associations are often in a fortuitous position when it comes to promoting the profiles of their senior leadership team. There will always be media appetite for commentators on key national and sector issues and associations that are able to spot the media demand in their sector early can ultimately capitalise upon the access they have tor industry figures. It’s undoubtedly difficult to unite disparate member views, but if there is opportunity to neutrally report on the health of a specific industry or to share a majority view on legislative or economic stances then a strong figurehead is vital. Ensure your leadership team is media trained and prepared to be vocal – and introduce them to key media to establish that role as a sought-after commentator.

Consistency and clarity in messaging will position trade associations as a go-to source for insight in the media and this can help rally support within the sector as Brexit continues with its twists and turns. Harnessing senior figures’ personal profile is also a way to counter scepticism around ‘fake news’ – organisations will benefit from being visible, personable and moving conversations forward with robust data.


Quality content in the right place

Quality content is essential; strong data, well-briefed spokespeople, engaging articles and accurate advice. Associations can and should create content for owned and earned media channels- but be wary of doing too much and losing sight of your audience.

This year people will continue to expand their media sources, but it’s likely they will trust fewer of them as the privacy and fake news debate rages on. A global Ipsos study of over 19,000 people revealed that 60 per cent of people say they see deliberately fake reports in the media at least fairly regularly, and 48 per cent say they themselves have believed a story they’ve later found out is fake.

As a result, it’s essential that organisations fully understand where their stakeholders are active in the media landscape, and which sources they trust. Once that groundwork is laid, invest in these core channels for maximum impact. It’s impossible to lead an effective communications campaign without truly understanding your audience and targeting your approach. One organisation doing this effectively is the Chartered Banking Institute, which has invested in podcasts at the request of its 30,000 members – to extend the reach of its event and research throughout the year.

Trade Associations that understand the importance of sharing content in the right place (not every platform for the sake of it!) have an opportunity to truly influence the people who matter.


Harnessing the power of members

What sets Trade Associations apart is their ability to represent every day people and businesses that are driving the economy forward in uncertain times. This year, trade associations can tap into this wealth of first-hand experience and expertise to tell relatable stories in the media and online. Good case studies are compelling for the public to read and can be an invaluable resource for media.


In 2019, we will see even more changes impacting the media landscape. Trade associations must take note and ensure they are clear, considered and maximise budget opportunities to launch the most effective and impactful campaigns.

To find out about how our team can help your organisation overcome the hurdles in the communications landscape contact us today for a no-obligation call.

Could 2019 be a year of opportunity for trade associations?

Trade Association

Trade associations commission research papers to provide vital in-depth analysis into relevant issues for members to learn from and benchmark against. If supported effectively by PR, insights are covered by the media with punchy headlines, key stats or hot-takes from commentators. Internally, they make great reading on sector issues and provide far more detail than a cursory Google of a topic.

But for every great research paper there are hundreds that don’t engage association members or the public and sit there, waiting to be found in the depths of a trade body website. Too many leave readers switching off from information overload, or keep their best findings tucked inside dense paragraphs of text.

How do you successfully launch an industry research paper? Here is our essential guide for planning an effective report:

Start at the end

The best way to frame a research paper is to consider the launch – your potential audience and how you can and will reach them. The most effective papers are considered from a multi-channel perspective, including social media, content marketing, PR outreach, internal and member engagement. How would you like to engage each audience, and what would they find most interesting? Thinking about how your audience might consume the research will have a huge impact on the design, format, presentation, and contents.

It’s important to consider all the promotional work at the beginning of the project. Too many organisations invest a huge amount of resource producing in-depth reports but rush to promote them at the end, when it’s too late to change anything. And no one wants to hear the dreaded, “why didn’t you …” after spending huge amounts of resource on a project. 

Tell a simple story

Each industry needs its own glossary for jargon and it’s easy to forget that few people speak your sector language. Likewise, with reports, it’s essential to put yourself in the position of the wider audience: will they understand what you’re trying to say, or will it be too technical to be useful to the widest audience?

How would you interest your friends and relations in the report and what examples would they find useful? Can you test the top statistics out on someone who has no understanding of the sector? This is a good starting point for combatting information overload – identify the stories that have the widest appeal.

Think visually

Too many reports barely scratch the surface of the possibilities for presenting and optimising research in the digital media landscape. To pique someone’s interest in a crowded online market, you need to think visually.

Take for example ABTA’s report into travel trends for 2019: all material was accompanied by visual assets, from Instagram highlights to a video discussing the findings.

This ties in to our first point about keeping potential outputs in mind from the get-go. When you start planning the research paper, think about attractive graphics or ideas for striking video and photo content. Develop a mood-board on a simple PowerPoint slide and think about the most effective, striking way to convey your key statistics within the brand guidelines.

Investing in good visuals and on-brand design is essential at all stages, from creating the paper to maximising its presence online through visual snapshots, video snippets and quote cards.

Let the research speak for itself

A well-researched, designed and optimised paper does not need to be self-promotional. It’s important to resist the temptation to be too self-referential when talking about the findings – corporate bragging can lead to an instant ‘unfollow’ on social or refusal to cover the research from a journalist.

A good agency will ensure all relevant audiences know who is behind the paper. What’s more, a plan that distributed the report to the right people, across multiple marketing channels, will ensure your brand is positioned appropriately and impactfully. 

Research papers are excellent communication tools but are too often viewed only as long-form ‘resources’ and are rarely optimised to their full potential by trade associations. From the start of the research process, engage people who will be involved at all stage of the development and delivery. Otherwise you will, quite simply, be selling yourself short. Contact us today to find out how we can work with you and your business.

Information overload: four tips to get your research paper noticed

The prospect of being interviewed by a journalist can seem a little daunting, especially if it has been squeezed into a short timeframe, during which you are the spokesperson for an entire organisation or its viewpoint. If handled badly, media interviews – particularly broadcast ones – can be a disaster for your own brand and the company, with lasting consequences.

Just look at Elon Musk. When he made the fateful decision to drink whiskey and smoke cannabis during an on-air interview with host Joe Rogan, the following day two chief execs quit and Tesla’s shares plummeted.

And last month Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn was forced to quit after an on-screen grilling over his £75m bonus ended in a lot of squirming, Jeff walking out of the interview and lots of subsequent negative headlines.

To make sure the worst-case scenario doesn’t become a reality for you, there are a few key preparation stages for media interviews. The following steps will help you make the most of every opportunity to drive your company’s story forward, pushing positive and commercially important media messages to market in the appropriate way.

With the initial advice of steering clear of alcohol and drugs out the way, here are six key steps to prepare and succeed in media interviews:

Familiarise yourself with the interview format and medium

Knowing the type of interview that you are being put forward for is crucial. Firstly, work out which media platform  the interview is being published on. If it is a written piece in print or online, then the delivery of the interview will be different compared to a TV or radio interview. Whether the interview is live or being pre-recorded will also shape the way in which you should prepare. Knowing and understanding the type of interview you are going into and the format will allow you to successfully plan your talking points, timing and presentation.

Know who you’re talking to  

Ensure you know who the interviewer is and that you’re familiar with their segment, show or column. Look for previous interviews  they have done to get an understanding of their style and type of questions that they have asked before. It is incredibly important to get an understanding of who you will be speaking to. It will make you feel more comfortable when you begin your interview, and this in turn will help you prepare talking points based on that individual or media outlet’s unique interests and even political leanings.

Prioritise your messages

There may be multiple key messages running through your business’ marketing, but not all of them are appropriate for every interview. Understanding the context of the interview; why it’s been set up and what the journalist wants to probe into, is crucial to understanding what business messages you can and should be delivering. This should be at the forefront of your mind when being questioned. Pull together three to four key proof points that convey the overarching message you’d like to share publicly. If you need (on a phone interview), have a cheat sheet to hand or some flash cards that keep your comments focused. Even though it is crucial to push your viewpoint across, you should not fall into the trap of repeating the same answer and should remain authentic when responding to questions.

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it

You can have all the right messages and facts to hand, but the style of delivery is also crucial to successfully answering media questions. How you deliver your answers can inspire confidence, convey remorse and sincerity, or project arrogance or incivility. Particularly in broadcast interviews you must consider body language, response timing, bridging phrases and words to avoid so you can deliver a considered answer. It is also a good idea to practice keeping an even tone in your voice.

Anticipate difficult questions

It’s rare that an interviewer is willing to share specific questions beforehand, but once you have a sense of what the interview is about, consider the difficult questions that may arise. There is nothing worse than failing to adequately respond to a difficult question, or not being equipped with the techniques that deflect negativity – or can buy you time for consideration of your response. This specific, ‘worst-case scenario’ preparation will also be invaluable as it will help you stay calm and collected, demonstrating your expertise, even under pressure.

Practice, practice, practice

This may seem obvious, but it is the easiest way to succeed in your media interview. Spend some time practising potential questions and how you would answer them – and do it aloud. Don’t be afraid to ask more than one person to practice with you so that you get different perspectives on your delivery. In any interview, ensure you’re sat comfortably and with minimal distractions so there’s nothing putting you off your answers.

Interested in hearing how you can improve getting your key messages across and dealing with those tricky questions? Speak to a member of our award-winning team today to find out how we can support you.

Six steps to prepare yourself for media interviews

Trade Association

Business leaders can find it challenging to communicate effectively about their own company.

They need to have a clear understanding of what they want to say, convey their message with authority and clarity, use language understood by their stakeholders, defend tough decisions, hail successes, weather crises and radiate authenticity.

It’s a tough gig. But how much tougher must it be to speak on behalf of an entire industry?

That is the task faced every day by the leaders and communications chiefs of Britain’s thousands of trade associations – which in turn represent tens of thousands of British businesses.

The sheer scale and scope of speaking for all those stakeholders is intimidating.

When an issue affecting a particular sector bubbles to the surface of the news agenda, a journalist’s first phone call is to the industry body to seek an expert view.

Comms teams are expected to know all the angles and arguments on all the issues facing their industry inside out and to be ready to dispense a considered and concise quote at the reporter’s behest.

Associations with an international brief field calls from multiple regions and can need to know how an issue affects Boston in Lincolnshire with as much detail as how it affects Boston in Massachusetts.

Members will often use their trade body as a sounding board if they have been approached by the media.

They will ask for guidance on what response they should give on a controversial subject – and it is vital that this line is consistent with previous comments made on the issue.

Message discipline is key and an easily accessible matrix of lines to take on every subject is a must.

Trade associations must be attuned to the views of their membership. That means regular interaction with members through social media, a website, newsletters and conferences is vital.

If the entire industry is united on an issue, the trade body must become its most vocal cheerleader.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI, knows that she is on pretty safe ground loudly complaining that Brexit will be bad for her members and that millions of pounds is being lost due to the uncertainty around leaving the EU.

While there may be a few CBI members who dissent from that position, she knows it is a strongly held majority view within the business world.

But many industry issues are complex and association members can have disparate views – and some issues split an industry down the middle.

Consider Energy UK, the trade association for the energy business, when faced with taking a position on the price cap last year. The Big Six, including British Gas, were virulently opposed, while many challenger suppliers were in favour.

Lawrence Slade, the chief executive of the trade body, navigated a careful line, saying that it was vital that the cap didn’t stymie competition – without being drawn on whether the organisation was in favour or opposed.

Trade bodies with global membership face the task of balancing the views of different markets at different stages of development with different regulatory environments.

If an industry is under fire, the trade body is expected to defend it.

Whether it’s the British Insurance Brokers’ Association explaining what can be done to help older people get a better deal on travel insurance (promoting smaller, specialist companies), or the Institute of Chartered Accountants arguing carefully for a “graduated approach” to demands for reform of the audit market, a trade association must be able to stand up for its members.

Trade association comms teams don’t spend all their time firefighting. For sophisticated trade body PR operations, preparation and anticipation is key.

They prepare key messages and talking points on the issues on which they want to proactively gain a share of voice – and have robust responses for areas in which they think they could be vulnerable.

They anticipate what’s coming around the corner, all the relevant events throughout the year: the trade shows, the Budget, select committee hearings, any happening that will bring your industry back into focus. They are ready with a point of view.

They work closely with the journalists covering their sector to build relationships and provide reporters with case studies to illustrate industry issues, particularly for those big set piece news events.

They can cultivate relationships by offering exclusive interviews with the leader of the association when a significant announcement is to be made or an initiative introduced.

And they can use their vast quantities of data to identify interesting trends, pull out the right angles and serve up a story on a plate for chosen media.

Learning the knowledge and mastering the skills to communicate for an entire industry is not an easy role – but it is vital in promoting the importance of your sector within the UK economy. Contact us today to find out how we can work with you and your business.

Trade secrets: Overcoming the communication challenges of professional bodies

The global art market was worth more than $63.7 billion in 2017, and art is one of the fastest growing alternative investment classes. Art’s invulnerability to political upheaval allied to the increasing digitisation of the world of investment is making the sector more accessible, and attractive, than ever.

These five companies are using different strategies to turn art into an asset class for everybody from wealthy collectors, to everyday investors, and even making the market more lucrative for the artists themselves.

The Established Heavyweights:

The wealthiest players in the art market want the best investment advice, and The Fine Art Group offer their clients unrivalled expertise in collection management and art financing. Their speciality is in using art as collateral for lending, and in late 2017 they announced plans to deploy over $1bn in lending to collectors in Asia over the next decade. Fine Art is at the exclusive end of the market, and The Fine Art Group dominates that space, helping collectors and dealers to borrow against their assets:

 Art Investment for All:

Maddox Fine Art, twinned with the luxury gallery based in Mayfair, is a specialist art investment consultancy with expertise in contemporary art and emerging artists. Their sweet spot is in spotting contemporary artists and art whose work has the potential to greatly increase in value, and pairing investors up with those emerging talents. Anybody can invest from £4,000, so Maddox are perfect for those looking to make an entry into the art investment space, or for those who fancy themselves as having an eye for the next Damien Hirst:

 The Digital Challengers:

The Maecenas platform uses blockchain technology to give investors the opportunity to own fractions of masterpieces in the form of digital shares. This is a different way for an investor to build up and diversify their portfolio, focussing on accruing shares rather than entire works. CEO Marcelo says that ‘Maecenas aims to be to fine art what NASAQ is to shares’. Maecenas see themselves as the inevitable response to the transaction fees that auction houses and banks charge, and their streamlined, efficient model is the perfect example of how technology is making art more investable:

Whereas Maecenas is harnessing blockchain to democratise the art market, Arthena is using big data to put a 21st-century spin on art investment. Based in New York, Arthena analyses data points including the identity of the artist, the size of the art and the style of the piece, to identify which pieces will appreciate in value. Arthena operates funds from the high-risk, focussing on upcoming artists, to the low-risk, focussing on more established artists and works. Arthena’s model is bringing a scientific element to a traditionally emotional world so that anybody, not just experts, can analyse art and make informed investment decisions:

 The World’s First Agency for Artists:

MTart are wholly unique, as their model focusses on investing in artists themselves rather than in art. Founder Marine Tanguy, part of the Forbes 2018 30 under 30 list, wanted to create a model that supported artists, that was accessible to all demographics, and that could help art reach people from all backgrounds. MTart review 200 portfolios every month and select the artists they see the greatest potential in. Selected artists then have their studio costs covered, press exposure managed, sales of their work handled, and commercial and cultural partnerships struck. MTart partners with major brands, galleries, and even cities to place the work of their chosen artists. Collectors, clients and partners can then buy into artworks from the talent on the MTart roster:

Are you looking to raise vital funds for your business? Our team of specialists are here to help. Contact us today to find out how we can help you gain breakthrough for you and your business.

Five Companies Turning Art into an Asset Class

Facebook’s reputation has plummeted after being embroiled in a series of scandals, from fake news to data security.

In recent years, Facebook has become the ‘company du jour’, with the social media giant revered by the media and the tech industry alike. Not to mention its status as a ‘super unicorn’ – a software company with a valuation of greater than US$100 billion – and its unique ability to keep much of the developed world in thrall, boasting 2.27 billion monthly active users. Facebook seems a fundamental part of our daily lives, whether it’s using the platform to login to a third party app or to ‘check in’ at the airport before a trip – almost as crucial as checking in with the airline.

However, 2018 has seen an avalanche of negative press spanning the Cambridge Analytica scandal and founder Mark Zuckerberg refusing to appear at the UK Government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, data leaks and ‘fake news’ fears. As a result, public opinion of Facebook has plunged. In the past three months, one million daily and monthly users have abandoned the platform in Europe alone.

A recent staff survey obtained by The Wall Street Journal shows employee opinion has dived just as quickly.

Approximately 29,000 staff responded to the latest of Facebook’s twice-annual ‘pulse’ survey, which revealed that just 53% of employees believe Facebook is making the world a better place, down from 72% last year.

Even more stark is the 32% drop in staff who felt optimistic about the company’s future, down from 84% in 2017 to just 52%.

While many people may have originally joined the company because of its global recognition, it seems this is no longer a long-term pull. Around 3,500 employees (12%) admitted they were likely to stay at the company for less than 12 months. Overall, staff said they plan to remain at Facebook for an average of 3.9 years, down from 4.3 years last year.

Facebook’s staff survey illustrates the relationship between negative press and staff morale – the two are inextricably linked. The slew of scandals that have dogged Zuckerberg & co. this year have sent employee enthusiasm on a nosedive.

It’s no secret that a strong brand is fundamental to a business’ success. Commercial operations or services aside, the logo, colours and even reputation create a lasting impression on consumers, encouraging positive word of mouth and repeat business or, in some cases, it has the opposite effect.

While the power of a brand identity on consumers is undeniable, the internal impact is rarely considered. Does a business’s reputation affect employees and their level of engagement? And if so, in what ways and to what extent?

Business leaders would be naïve to think staff are unaffected by a company’s reputation. In many instances, this may have been a factor in the decision to apply for or take up a role.

Facebook’s employee survey shows a negative reputation can be equally as damaging to staff as a positive one is empowering – if not more. With plans to employ thousands of new staff before the end of the year, it will be interesting to note how this affects recruitment at Facebook.

How a company manages public criticism of a business or brand can inspire employees to remain loyal and take up a position of defence – but handled in the wrong way, and employees can lose faith in their firm just as quickly as consumers.

Enthusiastic and engaged employees will be bolstered by positive press, with productivity, creativity, loyalty and longevity likely to improve. Conversely, if a corporation’s failings or flaws are made public, CEOs can expect internal confidence to drop, taking retention rates and outputs down with it.

Now more than ever, employees are looking to work for brands with ideals that align with their own personal values, and the brand advocacy from staff that ensures talent attraction and retention is invaluable. It goes without saying that to benefit from this, employees must be proud to work where they do.

It’s important to establish your business’ brand identity and ideals. Whether you’re starting out or starting over, at The PHA Group, we can help with building and maintaining a positive public reputation and brand. Get in touch with us today.

Facebook’s reputation: employees check-out

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the UK Business Show. The ExCel centre will be packed out with the best of British businesses celebrating entrepreneurship, from individuals and enterprise giants.

This year we’re looking out for exciting companies that do things a little differently. Here are our top five ‘ones to watch’ at the show.

33 Bedford Row

Bedford Row, the street by Chancery Lane, is renowned for its concentration of world-class lawyers. Founded in the 1980s, barristers’ chambers 33 Bedford Row was set up to offer legal advice and advocacy in civil, criminal, family, immigration and regulatory law at all levels.

The firm is well-known amongst legal media for its wide-ranging cases. It’s exciting to see this specialist firm appear at the Business Show.


AXA PPP HEALTHCARE, the well-known private healthcare insurance businesses caters to both individuals and businesses. AXA believes people are the foundation of a successful business and it’s essential for companies to look after them.

From offering prompt referrals to a specialist or hospital, to covering the costs of eligible diagnosis and treatment in a private hospital, AXA enables employees to get back to work quicker and feeling better.

This year, they launched Realise Health Plans and Assessments tohelp individuals discover more about their health and make changes to improve it. By using blood marker analysis and technology to explore where health might be at risk, it gives individuals tailored advice to make a positive change.  They are at the forefront of using technology to tailor healthcare at an individual level, and often supported by employers.

We are excited to see what is next in this space!


Rewarding employees with shares is a fascinating way of keeping engagement levels high but can be complex and confusing at the best of times. That is where Vestd comes in.

Co-founded by Naveed Akram and Ifty Nasir in 2014, the London-based start-up developed a secure platform that takes care of all the paperwork associated with issuing and managing shares amongst employees. Akram and Nasir are avid believers that if employees are given a portion of equity in a business, their attitude toward the business changes positively, allowing them to become more vested in the business’s success.

Vestd acts as a vessel for business founders to distribute their equity to loyal team members as a reward for their hard work, and to incentivise them to stay with the business for the long run. Not only is Vestd the first of its kind, it allows employers to reward their hardworking teams by sharing ownership in what has been built together.


For any business, the costs of using lawyers can add up, even for basic operational consulting. That painful reality is why LawEasier was created, a company that gives small business owners access to legal advice at an affordable price. LawEasier operates on a web-based subscription business model that couples clever technology with expert legal know-how.

The company’s motto is for small business to be protected by the law rather than be at risk from it. Basically, it’s like being seated with a lawyer, at the cost of a mobile phone contract.  It’s a simple solution to an often-stressful problem when faced by small business owners – LawEasier offers a clear and valuable proposition.

Octopus Energy Business Solutions

Lastly, we are delighted to have a PHA client at this year’s show. Octopus Energy is one of the UK’s fastest growing and most innovative energy technology companies and is proud to offer its green energy supply to businesses, as well as consumers.  If you are around and would like to know more about sustainable energy, join the Octopus Energy team in Seminar Hall 4 at 5.30pm Wednesday, November 14th for Octopus Energy Business Solutions’ talk, ‘50 shades of Green’.

The Octopus Energy Business Solutions team will be discussing the ways in which businesses can take steps towards making their business greener.

If you need support communicating your key messages to stakeholders or to a new target audience our team are experienced in working with a multitude of entrepreneurial individuals and businesses. Contact us today for a no obligation chat to find out how we can work with you.

Forty years of brilliant businesses: our top five to watch

Former Persimmon CEO Jeff Fairburn’s disastrous BBC interview and subsequent fall from grace is a searing reminder of the importance of media training. Fairburn’s controversially large £75m bonus was well-covered by the UK media as the largest bonus in the country, and after a mis-handled broadcast interview with the BBC, negative sentiment towards Fairburn became intrinsically linked to his company – one couldn’t be mentioned without the other.

The issues surrounding the bonus highlight how the perception of a CEO can have a negative effect on the wider business.  The media furore also begs the question of why his conversations weren’t managed correctly, and what other CEOs can learn about managing media briefings and the need for robust corporate public relations – for individuals as well as the business.

The controversy began in November 2017 with the announcement that Fairburn was being awarded a bonus of £110m – the result of a company scheme that had no boundaries on executive-level pay-outs. Criticism came from all angles; industry leaders and politicians slated the company for benefiting from the taxpayer funded “Help to Buy” scheme and accused Persimmon of “corporate looting”. Business media seized the opportunity to investigate how this happened, and owners of substandard Persimmon Homes vented their frustration on social media.

Even though the company’s bonus scheme has structural flaws, it was a series of PR disasters and negative media sentiment that marked Fairburn’s downfall. It started with his initial remarks after the bonus was announced: he insisted the £110m bonus was deserved because he “worked very hard.” In the same comments, Fairburn refused to confirm whether he would be donating any of the money to charity, stating it was a “private matter.” In doing so, he shut down the opportunity to turn the bonus into a positive message for himself and for his company.  This lack of understanding towards how to deal with this crisis meant the press continued to report on the scandal and put pressure on the business.

A few months after the initial interview, Fairburn changed tack and stated he never wanted the £110m bonus, he was putting a significant sum into a charitable trust and would in fact be taking home a reduced £75m sum. Even though this was an abrupt turnaround, the statements did go some way to lessening the negative coverage of his personal bonus – and company.

After nearly a year of mismanaged media appearances, Fairburn’s final mistake was the BBC North interview in October. Questions around the bonus were to be expected, and yet he responded to the (pre-recorded and filmed) interviewer with “It’s very unfortunate that you asked that,” and walked away. An off-screen PR is heard encouraging this decision.

The lack of foresight around uncomfortable questions that media may ask, and the missed opportunity to use the interview to share messaging around the bonus reduction, charitable donation, work ethic and growth of the company is not just a shame – the interview was a veritable disaster. The clip was shared on social media (over 10,000 times), across the broad spread of the UK broadcast, print and online media, and reignited the year-old crisis around the bonus.

This morning, Persimmon announced Fairburn’s departure, stating “the distraction around his remuneration from the 2012 LTIP (long term incentive plan) scheme continues to have a negative impact on the reputation of the business and consequently on Jeff’s ability to continue in his role.” Even though Fairburn will receive the bonus in full, Persimmon saw the risk of keeping him in his role as too high for the business. After all, the infamous video clip will continue to be shared on the internet (and in crisis training sessions) forever.

Persimmon’s mistakes shine a light on the need for well managed and positive messaging from a CEO and senior management. Leaders of businesses provide a window into a company, and when a negative story is pushed out into the media, they need to be properly advised as to how to manage it.

Ultimately, Jeff Fairburn failed to counter the negative press attention surrounding his bonus or convey his company’s key messages to media. Other CEOs should see Persimmon’s media burn as a warning that they should update their messaging, media training, and have the right kind of PR counsel – one that acknowledges issues head-on rather than recommending an awkward shuffle off-camera.

If you need corporate PR support, crisis planning or to prepare your C-Suite for your next media outing speak to our team today to find out how we can work with you.

Persimmon CEO’s fall from grace: an unfair burn or catalogue of media mistakes?

Finding the right candidate for your vacancies can be a full-time job. Many organisations trust in recruitment agents to help find their perfect match, but what if you are the recruiter and you’re struggling to reach your target audience?

Are you an inbox addict? According to a study commissioned by Adobe over the course of our careers we will spend over 47,000 hours checking our emails, equating to five years of our lives. So many of us rely on who we can send emails to but sometimes that just isn’t enough.

We look at the strategies you could implement to help build your client pipeline, grow your brand presents and promote your successes within the industry.

Industry specialist events

Specialist events are brilliant for strategic partnerships, growing your client base and raising your brand awareness, they are also excellent speaking opportunities. Contributing to an article or publication, submitting research findings and offering to speak at industry events are all ways that employers can offer up industry knowledge and different approaches to work that will raise their organization’s profile.

The very best candidates want to work for people who inspire them and are seen to be making waves in their industry. Events are an excellent way to leverage thought leadership.

 Showcase yourself

Whether it’s through social media or company spokesmen, one of the best ways to communicate what it’s like to work at your company is through employees. Let your candidates see the office! If you can’t host a physical event why not run a virtual option? Short digital assets and videos can help you bring your culture and environment to life.

Just one look of those artwork-covered walls, and your candidate knows this is a company that values creativity and the place for them.  Let the picture do the talking for you and incorporate a creative campaign alongside your communication efforts to ensure you increase your reach.

Thought leadership

Frequently companies think that PR should be leveraged to promote company news; everything from new hire announcements, office openings and website launches, to rebrands, new products or services, and acquisitions.

While some of these events may be deemed newsworthy, PR can be the most powerful tool to raise a company’s profile, communicate the brand and culture messaging, and continually position internal experts as industry thought leaders. Most importantly, when public relations are leveraged effectively, employers can extend their ability to reach top candidates and attract them into their business. All too often, this is an opportunity that is missed when it comes to recruitment and hiring, because many companies only focus on pushing out as many “look how great we are” press releases on their websites or industry news as they can.

Beyond the business pages

Organisations within the recruitment industry are making waves by implementing new technologies, whether it is incorporating blockchain technology for CV verification like APPII, or if it is virtual interviews and augmented reality to immerse yourself in the company offices. Making yourself stand apart from your competitors is vital.

Implementing a PR strategy to help communicate your story setting you apart and bringing you outside of just the business pages and into lifestyle or technology publications can help you reach your desired candidates. Partnered with a targeted social media strategy this can be a very effective.

Do you want to use PR to attract the best candidates? Speak to a member of our award-winning team today to find out how we can support you and your business.


Think outside your inbox – using PR to recruit candidates