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Last week’s London Tech Week celebrated technology, talent and start-ups in our capital. A standout event was the AI summit, which was organised by PHA client, Dan Pitchford.

I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket to the two-day event learning about innovations in artificial intelligence, enjoying ice cream selected due to Microsoft’s smart facial recognition software (reader: I was strawberry), and even got to meet the world-famous Pepper the Robot.

The ExCel was bursting with fascinating innovations, but below are five of the most exciting businesses exhibiting at the AI Summit.

Top 5 Businesses at the AI Summit


Based in Barcelona, Alpha is using technology to support mental health issues. It currently has an app called “Perspectives” which uses cognitive behaviour therapy to help and support people who are suffering from body image issues, but Alpha is hoping to broaden its support to a wider range of mental health concerns and is currently testing in the US. The technology used is constantly learning and working out how to best look after users – informing future vital developments to provide help for the estimated one in four people who will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime.

Squirrel AI

This fascinating China-based company uses AI to help students further their potential across a whole range of subjects. The AI system is used to understand and adapt to students’ specific needs and offers a personalised one-to-one tutoring plan based on where individual knowledge may be lacking. The belief is that as every student’s knowledge base is different, Squirrel AI provides a hyper-focused way to complement each unique learning style.


GyroGear is a new piece of tech created to help people with tremors. The idea of the business was born out of the desire to return independence and freedom to anyone who experiences tremors. The advanced technology, which attaches itself to a user’s hands, was borne from an NHS doctor and a mechanical engineer who used AI and machine learning to work out the best way to help someone who was suffering with a disease such as Parkinson’s so that they could improve the quality of life for someone who was suffering from tremors.


We’ve all been there: you get in touch with a company to make a suggestion, complaint or compliment and feel distinctly underwhelmed by the identikit reply. Luminoso uses artificial intelligence to monitor, understand and advise how businesses should respond to customer feedback or requests. It is already being used by big tech companies such as AWS and there is no reason to think that the company isn’t going to grow even further.


Marhub is a chatbot application helping refugees gain valuable information and services when they have been displaced. The chatbot provides information in the native language of each user, easing communication problems. The platform is helping organisations increase efficiency, scale and improve the quality of their services. The chatbot offers legal advice, can answer questions and can connect refugees directly with lawyers or organisations that will be willing to help. The technology uses AI to learn and adapt to the issues that are facing refugees all around the world and Marhub is one of many examples that shows how technology is being used to improve the lives of people who are in desperate situations.

The AI Summit was a whirlwind of an afternoon and the sheer variety of exhibitions, using the technology to address some of the world’s most pressing issues – migration, mental health, education – was fascinating.

And I was delighted to not have been identified by the smart ice cream dispenser as vanilla.

The top five businesses from the AI Summit

Tomorrow marks the start of The Business Show’s 41st exhibition, taking place at ExCeL London. Here’s everything you need to know, from who should attend to exhibitors not to miss, and how you can make the most of the day.

What is it?

Europe’s largest and fastest growing business event. The Business Show is the most comprehensive exhibition, conference and networking hub designed specifically for the growth of start-ups, SMEs and even large corporations.

Bigger and better

The Business Show is now in its 17th year, and is expecting its biggest turnout to date, with over 25,000 visitors and an impressive line-up of keynote speakers, including VP EMEA of Twitter Bruce Daisley, Aron Gelbard from Bloom & Wild, and 2018’s Apprentice winner Sian Gabbidon. Every visitor at The Business Show will get access to two dedicated networking areas, designed to facilitate conversation and engagement between delegates, exhibitors and sponsors.

As if that wasn’t enough, there will also be a series of masterclasses, including ‘Intellectual Property Explained’ from the Intellectual Property Office, ‘Boost Your Memory in One Hour’ by Genius in 21 Days, and ‘Better Business Accounts Masterclass’ from challenger bank Revolut. There will also be a unique speed networking session sponsored by Dell, providing the perfect opportunity to make valuable connections.

Exhibitors and speakers not to miss

This year there will be a staggering 134 speakers at The Business Show and hundreds of exhibitors. Since it’s impossible to see everyone, here are the five who we think are particularly inspiring and innovative in the work they do, and who shouldn’t be missed.

Constant & Co

With an impressive 45 years’ experience in the bailiff and enforcement industry, Constant & Co takes great pride in their professionalism to deliver ethical effective enforcement on a wide range of services. The company started as a small family run business, founded by the late Bryan Constant, and from these humble beginnings has ensured that despite its growth, its ethos and core values still remain today.

With a wealth of experience both in the field and in administrational support, the combination of these factors critically guarantees that they will provide a specialised personal, but professional service to their clients. Constant & Co now work with some of the largest managing agents, commercial landlords, large retailers, solicitors and local authorities in the country.

Dominic Arnall

As well as being Chair of LGBTQ charity Mind Out, Dominic Arnall is Head of Programme Management for the mental health charity Mind, working specifically on the Time to Change campaign. Time to Change is the largest mental health campaign in the UK, which focuses on encouraging people to talk about mental health and reduce the stigma and discrimination felt by people with mental health problems.

Dominic previously worked as Head of Projects and Programmes for LGBT charity Stonewall, leading international and domestic programmes to advance equality for LGBT people in the UK, including collaborating with the Church of England on their first ever guidance for transgender people. At The Business Show, Dominic will be talking about the work Time to Change engage in with over 1,000 employers in the UK and how the campaign supports them in tackling mental health stigma in the workplace.

Paul Uppal

Paul Uppal is the UK’s first Small Business Commissioner. The government post set up in 2017 is dedicated to tackling the issue of late payment to businesses, particularly small companies of 15 employees or less, who often suffer significant financial consequences as a result. Since starting the venture around 15 months ago, Paul and his team have already recovered a remarkable £3.7 million for SMEs.

Paul has run his own successful small business in the construction and real estate sector for over 20 years and realised early on that even a sound business would soon go under if a culture of late payment was allowed to take hold. In his seminar at The Business Show, he will highlight the issues of late payments, the scale of the problem in the UK, and the best practice for SMEs for invoicing and managing payment terms in decreasing the likelihood of late payment.

Starling Bank

Starling Bank knew business banking needed to change, so built a new kind of business account from scratch; one designed to help small business owners spend less time banking, and more time running their company. Enter Starling for Business – a mobile business bank account with zero monthly fees, helpful spending tools and instant alerts when you pay a corporate bill or someone pays an invoice.

Helen Bierton, Head of Retail at Starling, is one of The Business Show’s keynote speakers and will deliver a seminar on how mobile banking can save your business time and money. She will show how Starling have pioneered a new approach to business current account banking, meeting the needs of today’s entrepreneurs and freeing up their time.

Animo Associates

Animo Associates was established in 2004 to provide innovative corporate and advisory services worldwide. They have over 140 staff including qualified accountants, corporate secretaries, lawyers, HR and compliance professionals. Most of the company’s directors have over 20 years’ industry experience, and the business has a strong ethos of building relationships with clients based on trust and discretion. In addition, its affiliate accountancy practice based in Rochdale offers a wide range of UK & International tax and accountancy services.


At The PHA Group, we have an established track record of creating and managing a strong, positive reputation for companies as well as raising the profile of CEOs, industry innovators and their pioneering work. If you’d like to raise your profile in a positive way get in touch with our award-winning team today.

Spotlight on… The Business Show

Over the course of last week, London was jam-packed with diversity events, from the International Conference of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, to the Stonewall Workplace Conference on LGBT inclusion, and Symposium’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference. Delegates attended in their thousands to show their support for trans equality and a commitment to drive LGBT inclusion at work. Speakers shared their expert knowledge about fundamental issues including the gender pay gap, unconscious bias, promoting diverse talent, and how businesses can defend underrepresented members in the workplace.

Here we celebrate our favourites among the impressive line-up of speakers at these conferences.

Sanjay Sood-Smith, Stonewall

Sanjay Sood-Smith is best known for his 2014 appearance on the 10th series of BBC’s The Apprentice. He has since become the Executive Director of Workplace and Community Programmes at Stonewall, whose mission is to ensure that LGBT role models and allies are visible throughout public life, in order to create an environment where all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are able to participate fully in society. Last week he spoke about his experiences overcoming homophobia and how important it is for everyone, LGBT or not, to take action and be an ally.

Prior to joining Stonewall Sanjay spent most of his career at Lloyds Banking Group where he held several senior positions across retail banking, strategy and digital. He is a man of many talents, having also co-founded a food business called Tuk In, a ‘curry-in-a-naan’ microwave meal product that is currently listed in Tesco, Ocado and Spar stores.

Sarah Kaiser, Fujitsu

Sarah Kaiser is the Employee Experience, Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Fujitsu EMEIA. She has driven Fujitsu’s activity to become recognised as an exemplar on gender pay gap reporting, a Times Top 50 Employer for Women, a Disability Confident Leader, a Stonewall Top 100 Employer, a BITC Top Employer for Race and a Top 50 Social Mobility Employer. She is passionate about finding creative solutions to unusual diversity challenges, developing cultures where everyone can achieve their full potential, and the representation of diversity in contemporary culture.

Previously Sarah was the Head of Equality at Brent Council, where she led the organisation to achieve the Excellence level of the Equality Framework for Local Government. Beforehand, as the first Diversity Manager for Tate, Sarah increased the diversity of Tate’s audiences, workforce and programme.

Sarah Brooks, Atos

Sarah Brooks is an HR Business Partner at Atos and is the chair of the Atos Adapt employee network for those with disabilities and those interested in disability issues. The network is committed to enabling employees with a long-term illness, impairment or disability to reach their full potential in the workplace.

When Sarah became ill in 2000 and had to be intermittently off work for two years while searching for a diagnosis, she was demoted within the organisation and faced discrimination because of her disability. After returning to work full-time, she set up Atos Adapt, and now speaks out about her experiences as a person with hypermobility syndrome and how businesses can tackle the organisational and cultural barriers that prevent career progression for the disabled.

Trevor Hudson, King

Trevor Hudson has worked in a variety of sectors, including charitable sector, transportation and retail, construction and property management, finance and now tech. He currently works as a Senior Learning Business Partner for King, the second largest mobile games company in the world. In almost every role he has held, Trevor has worked on Diversity and Inclusion initiatives and at King he looks at the role of developing leaders and managers to create inclusive environments in which everyone can share a sense of belonging and build a community.

Last week he delivered a talk at the Diversity and Inclusion Conference on unconscious bias training, how to train for what you aren’t aware of, building a business case and how to link unconscious bias to an effective diversity and inclusion strategy.

Sarah Maskell, HSBC

Senior Global Diversity and Inclusion Relationship Manager at HSBC, Sarah Maskell, shared her expert knowledge on building and embedding diversity in organisational strategy. She spoke about how to identify skills and diversity gaps, recruiting and promoting diverse talent, and the role of leadership in generating an inclusive company culture.

Sarah spent 18 years working for the Royal Air Force where she climbed the ranks and became the strategic and operational lead for Diversity and Inclusion Policy. She holds a number of awards and has been a judge for the RB First Women Awards, the Rising Stars 2018 Awards, and the 2018 Age Awards. Sarah is also a national delegate for the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives.

Nour Fayad, Vodafone

Speaking about how we can create a brighter, more inclusive future, Nour Fayad says there are three key ingredients: invest, inspire, and elevate. She spoke out against “tolerance towards intolerance” and encouraged organisations to sign up to the UN Standards of Conduct for Business. Nour works in product development at Vodafone and has a great focus on the values of diversity, inclusion and empowerment, while being a visible role model to help moving towards a more trans inclusive workspace.

Are you looking to establish your reputation as a leader of diversity? We have unrivalled success working with entrepreneurs to help them achieve national coverage and expert lead pieces. If you’d like to learn more about how PR could build your personal profile, speak to a member of our award-winning team today.

Leaders in Diversity

Political upheaval in the UK might be turning people to the bottle for different reasons, but fine wine is an increasingly attractive prospect to investors.

Wine, as an asset class, increased by 9% in 2018, according to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, with a ten-year increase of 147%. A single bottle of La Romanée-Conti 1945 sold for US$558,000 at Sotheby’s – its upper estimate was US$32,000 – and Knight Frank’s Burgundy investment was up 33% in 2018, with Grands Crus from Raveneau, Romanée-Conti, Roumier and Rousseau leading the charge.

According to a Zion Market Research report, the global wine market was valued at approximately US$302.02 billion in 2017 and is expected to generate revenue of around US$423.59 billion by the end of 2023, growing by just under 6% in the coming five years,

Interestingly, whilst Western European wine consumption fell by 5% between 2010-17, e-commerce increased by 66%, according to Rabobank, highlighting that digital technology is bringing new players into the market.

These companies are all innovators, using different strategies not only to guide wealthy collectors, but also in some cases trying to appeal to everyday investors who may not have previously considered wine as an investment opportunity:

Cru: Cru believe in the power of data to help investors make the right decisions in the wine market. Chief Executive Jeremy Howard’s background is in Convertible Bonds Trading & Analysis with Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs, and it is that financial expertise which he is using to democratise the industry. The business brings the world of fine wine together under a state-of-the-art digital platform through which clients can build their portfolio.

Liv-ex: Founded in 2000 by stockbrokers James Miles and Justin Gibbs, who wanted to make fine wine trading more transparent, efficient and safe. Liv-ex’s online market provides trading, data and settlement services to wine merchants across the globe.  Transparency is the buzzword, with Liv-ex emphasising their commitment to creating an online space that helps over 400 merchants worldwide use data and insights to make the right decisions for their customers and grow their businesses.

Aston Lovell: Aston Lovell style themselves as the Fine Wine Platform, and similar to Maecenas in the art world, they are using their online platform to make the wine market more readily accessible to investors. The numbers are attractive to entry-level investors, with Aston Lovell happy for clients to invest from as little as a few hundred pounds, though the recommendation is to start from £3,000 for the best chance of a return. They emphasise the role of a personalised account manager as crucial in guiding investors through an intimidating market.

Berry Brothers: Trading from the same shop on St James’ street since 1698, Berry Bros. & Rudd has aged to perfection as the oldest wine and spirit merchant in the United Kingdom. They operate at the top end of the market, and Berry has its own unique trading platform, BBX, which is a fine wine marketplace offering the most exclusive vintages to private individuals. It’s not just history that is on Berry Bros. & Rudd’s sign, they also have a strong international presence, with offices in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Cult Wines: Cult Wines put the ball into the investor’s court with their Fine Wine Investment Guide, which anybody can register to download from their website. This empowering of investors looking to make an entry into the market is a different approach, and an intriguing way to make the key industry information accessible. Chairman Philip Gearing spent twenty years in investment banking, so is another leading figure who has translated their business nous to the fine wine investment world.

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 Wine into an Asset Class

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.


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.


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