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Whether it’s gas or electricity, energy is something every one of us uses daily. But both the sources of energy, and it’s delivery, are under increasing pressure. Innovation and development in energy production, storage, management and infrastructure is vital to continuing to power our world. This week’s Future of Utilities Summit is set to unearth some fascinating discussions and innovations on just this topic.

From domestic solar panels to a smart thermostat that can detect an open window in the house, we look at some of the products and businesses that are providing us with opportunities to be greener and smarter about energy usage.

Tonik Energy

Different to most energy companies, Tonik actively state not to buy electricity from them! Tonik is empowering consumers to take control of their energy use – particularly when it comes to the storage of renewable energy, by providing at-home battery storage packs. Tonik’s solar panels help to reduce your reliance on the national grid energy, help free people from fluctuating wholesale energy prices and as an added bonus, any excess energy produced by customers’ solar panels can be sold back to the grid.

Tado

Creating innovative hardware and apps, Tado is here to help us optimise our energy usage. Research suggests that smarter technologies – like Tado’s smart thermostat -allow more efficient control of when we use energy and can reduce energy usage 31% of that energy.

Some of the built-in capabilities of the smart thermostat include Geofencing which means you’ll never heat an empty house again. Using your current location, Tado can also pre-warm your house for you. There’s also a great feature which detects an open window in your house and turns off the heating, meaning you won’t be spending money on wasted heating.

Octopus Energy

Octopus Energy launched in 2016 and in just under three years it has cemented its position as a top independent supplier– and is the only Which? recommended energy supplier – for two years in a row.

Backed by Octopus Ventures, Octopus Energy uses its proprietary technology platforms to deliver agile, green, and fairly priced energy products. It offers100% renewable energy and has been a champion of transparent, fair energy pricing. The company’s innovations range from the world’s first time-of-use tariff, allowing customers to tap into real-time wholesale energy pricing, to an integration with Amazon’s Alexa that enables customers to ‘ask’ when energy is cheapest and greenest, enabling much more efficient energy use at home.

Octopus Energy’s tech-first and customer-centric ethos means it’s constantly developing and innovating affordable, green energy solutions – and we are excited for what this year will hold for its ever-growing customer base.

 Catapult

Set up as an independent, not-for-profit centre of excellence to help speed up the transformation of the UK’s energy system. Whilst working alongside innovators from businesses of all sizes to grow, trial and scale their ideas. Catapult also collaborate with academics and governments to overcome some of the barriers that currently face the energy market. This development work has proved to be key in helping to unleash new products and services that will catapult the UK towards its clean growth ambitions of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

Open Energi

OpenEnergi is creating advanced technologies to help deliver an affordable, zero carbon energy future for the UK, whilst trying to radically reduce energy costs for businesses. Its services range from offering specialist consultancy which helps businesses to access and value project opportunities to offering unparalleled insight into assest performance.. Since its inception in 2011, Open Energi has connected over 3,500 assets at more than 400 sites, working with a variety of leading businesses including Oxford Brookes University and Sainsbury’s.

 

Why not give us a call today and speak to a member of our award-winning communications teams to find out how we could help you tell the world about your business and vision. We specialise in helping entrepreneurial businesses tell their story.

Energy Innovation at Future of Utilities Summit 2019

From lawsuits and ‘forced hugging’ allegations to problems with the new boss, the last few months have seen several founders departing from their brands, and not always out of choice. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest company break-ups that have shaken the boardroom of late.

Superdry vs Julian Dunkerton
In what is proving to be the bout of 2019 in the British business world, the founder of British retail chain Superdry, Julian Dunkerton, has gone head-to-head with those who replaced him, fighting it out to get back his seat at the top management table. Superdry’s public relations machine has gone into overdrive to paint Dunkerton as responsible for their underperforming clothing ranges, with the high street brand’s share price nosediving over the past year as they fight it out in the column inches. The board are due to vote in April for changes and it will remain to be seen if Dunkerton’s return will be heroic or instead, a failed coup.

Ted Baker vs Ray Kelvin
Allegations surfaced towards the end of 2018 that the Chief Executive and founder of fashion brand Ted Baker, Ray Kelvin, had enforced a culture of “forced hugging” and inappropriate behaviour with staff at his head office. Kelvin, who famously does not like to be interviewed or have his photograph taken, was given an enforced leave of absence by the company as an independent investigation was conducted by external law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

To have such a scandal on your own doorstep especially in this tough retail climate is not ideal and Ted Baker have tried to act swiftly. Acting Chief Executive Lindsay Page has agreed to take the reins at the company as the probe continues to focus on Ted Baker’s policies, procedures and handling of complaints. Of course, the brand damage the entire affair has caused is hard to mend, but without Kelvin at the helm after three decades, it’s all change at the top of Ted.

Jo Malone vs Jo Malone
“I lost my best friend” is how the founder of her namesake cosmetics brand now describes walking away from the company she founded, when it was sold to behemoth Estee Lauder in 2006. When discussing her decision to leave the brand she’d created from the kitchen of her Chelsea flat aged 15, she spoke about employment anxiety after a contract installed on her departure stated she could not speak about the brand or raise her head about the parapet for five years.

Many founders who are the creative force behind the brands they establish often speak about the difficulties they encounter on leaving the company. Much like any break-up, the idea that they will be cast-off and expected to ride off into the distance with their bags of money irk many. Equally, the notion of getting their teeth into a new venture that could well fail and separate themselves from their previous company often proves difficult. Jo Malone’s newest venture Jo Loves is now thriving in Belgravia and has become her “new best friend”.

Instagram & Facebook vs. Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger
The co-founders of photo-sharing giant Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, both left the firm at the end of September 2018. The duo had been at Instagram since the beginning and there had been reports of tension between the pair and Facebook after the social media giant purchased the company. Recently at SXSW in Austin, TX, Systrom said that losing independence over the app they had created was ultimately a sign of its success. He added that the more investment you put into recruitment and bringing more and more skilled workers into the company, the less autonomy you have. The pair have now left to “explore our curiosity and creativity again”.

Papa John’s vs John Schnatter
Papa John’s has struck a deal with its founder John Schnatter, in a move that should help draw a line under the acrimonious battle for control of America’s third-largest pizza delivery chain. Under the terms of the agreement, Mr Schnatter has agreed to give up his seat on the board and drop lawsuits against the company in return for getting a say in identifying a replacement director. The man who set up Papa John’s in 1984 has been back and forth in legal action with the company over the course of the past year. This emerged after he was refused access to the company’s records due to an issue over the language he used on a teleconference call with an external agency. Now that Schantter will get his voice heard by the board, he is happy to drop all existing lawsuits and he still retains his 31% stake in the pizza giant.

Saying goodbye to a company you’ve created from nothing is never easy, and only time can tell whether making that decision will prove fruitful for both the business and your personal reputation.

Having a solid PR strategy when moving on from a brand you’ve built is crucial and can be the difference between an amicable departure and a bruised reputation. If you think you could benefit from an enhanced public standing, or have a need to manage your online profile, The PHA Group can help. Take a look at some of our credentials here.

Boardroom break-ups: Departing Founders

Communications strategy and planning for trade associations

In the world of communications and reputation management, there is perhaps nothing more fearsome than a call with a journalist asking tricky questions, alerting you to an impending crisis. In the case of trade associations, it’s rarely a salacious affair that is cause for concern. Far more likely is a disruptive supply chain issue, striking staff, shifting market legislation or a stakeholder miscommunication that has snowballed.

Whether you saw it coming or not, it’s important to be prepared. As the saying goes, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” And external communications is no exception.

Why preparation is key

Preparation is the difference between being proactive and reactive in your communications, regardless of whether the specific issue was anticipated. With adequate preparation, potential damage can be mitigated thanks to the organisation having the structure to handle breaking news or media investigations effectively.

When caught by surprise, panic can set in as staff scramble to draft a response. The chain of command may be unclear, and the organisations preferred messaging may be up for a debate at a time when confident communication is crucial. The ideal course of action can seem unclear, with little time to prepare a well-thought-out approach.

By being poised to react to any situation, trade associations can ensure internal handling of the situation is efficient, saving time and therefore money. It also means the external response can be issued as swiftly and clearly as possible – helping avoid the delays and mixed messages that can cause even more problems.

What to prepare

It may seem like an impossible task to prepare for a crisis you didn’t see coming, but there are steps that can be taken to help mitigate the damage in the event of any scenario.

Arguably the most important part of any strategy is the development of a clear escalation procedure. This should include a definition of what constitutes a crisis, and in the event of one occurring, who employees should notify and who needs to be poised to react. This organisation response ‘flowchart’ needs to be implemented and explained throughout the whole organisation – from the frontline to senior management and the board. To avoid any ambiguity, specifically outline who signs off external statements, exactly who needs to be involved and who the spokespeople are (include back-ups in case these people are unavailable!). Crisis transcends hierarchy.

An analysis of crises that may be likely to hit your industry can help inform preparation. For example, food businesses should anticipate contamination and hygiene concerns, while construction companies should be prepared for injuries on site and work defects like leaking roofs or inferior materials. Model these within your organisation in advance.

The horse meat scandal

While no one outside of the sector may have predicted the 2013 horse meat scandal, food products always have a potential risk of contamination. In February of that year, the Food Standards Authority (FSA)  responded to allegations of contaminated meat by launching a rigorous investigation. The organisation’s statements and media interviews quickly reassured customers of foods’ safety, while promising it would undertake a “relentless” enquiry into the industry. While there were some parties that argued the FSA could have responded more quickly once its Irish counterparts had exposed the use of horsemeat in foods in January, there’s no doubt that the FSA’s full-bodied response went some way to easing consumer concerns.

The scandal was disastrous for many of the retailers and suppliers affected, as consumer confidence in the industry took a massive nosedive. However, Tesco led the way with its exemplary crisis communication strategy.

While the supermarket giant suffered a loss in both profits and consumer confidence after three of its products tested positive to horse meat, it worked quickly to pull products from shelves and communicate with customers. The retailer took out full-page newspaper adverts advising customers about the situation at hand, what Tesco planned to do and how shoppers could get refunds. In the adverts and it’s wider communications, Tesco profusely apologised to customers and empathised with their concerns. It promised to investigate the situation and share the findings with the public and assured customers that it would work hard to avoid a similar situation occurring in the future.

The swift, transparent and comprehensive course of action was effective in quickly rebuilding customers’ trust in the supermarket, minimising the fallout from the scandal.

Other preparation materials

The development of a calendar can help anticipate any events that might be a trigger point for breaking news. This might include key conferences, trade shows or political dates such as the Budget announcement.

For any particularly tricky topics, creating a proactive question and answer document will allow a trade body to carefully prepare robust responses in advance. The luxury of time affords an opportunity for this to be developed thoughtfully with multiple pairs of eyes able to review, ensuring responses are scrutinised from a number of viewpoints.

There’s an app for that

Developing a manual for members of your organisation can be an effective tool in ensuring communications are aligned. An app can be a fantastic way to show members you’re invested in their success. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) released ‘The WSTA Trade Diary App’ available for free download. The body uses the app to coordinate trade events with its members: some 300 businesses in the wine and spirit industry in the UK.

It’s a two-way street

Trade associations represent an entire industry or sector and it’s important that communications are encouraged both ways. Not only should a trade association share its procedures and practices with its members, but also encourage them to do the same. Member communication channels can be used to communicate in times of crisis, with the trade association also offering support and advice to any affected businesses.

By presenting a united front with a collaborative, cohesive approach, communications crises can be managed even more effectively.

There is no one size fits all approach to preparing for crisis communications, and it’s impossible to anticipate every eventuality. However, taking proactive measures to guide staff through a crisis can avoid the feeling of being ill-equipped to manage the situation, and avoid negative coverage of an unfolding issue – regardless of whatever situation arises.

For assistance in preparing your trade organisation communications strategy, whether proactive or reactive, contact The PHA Group.

Communications strategy and planning for trade associations

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: https://www.fineartgroup.com/en/

 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: https://www.maddoxinvestments.co.uk/about-us/

 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: https://www.maecenas.co/

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: https://arthena.com/

 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: https://www.mtart.agency/about/

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