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The Olympics and Paralympics postponed. Premier League football played behind closed doors. Cricketers locked into a bio-secure bubble. This is not the 2020 that we all envisaged at the turn of the year and for global sport, the competitive, financial, and legal implications of major societal upheaval have been brought into stark focus.

Questions have abounded on loopholes in footballers’ contracts, the implications of a sporting career cut short by the virus, or the liability of a club should fans attending a match infect each other. More than ever, sport is a legal minefield, and federations, leagues, clubs and athletes are in need of help to navigate it.

So, who can sport’s most influential figures turn to when in a legal quandary? Below is our roundup of some of the top names in the world of sports law.

Livida Sport:

Talent and determination doesn’t just win matches on the pitch, it also wins cases off of it. Livida Sport is an internationally-recognised  sports law advisory and legal concierge. The firm was established in 2020 by Liz Ellen and Stefania Genesis, who have built their reputations as two of the top sports lawyers in the UK, with a combined 25 years’ experience of working on the biggest cases in sport. Liv was ranked 13th in a list of the 50 Most Influential Women in Sport in 2015, and has been described by Legal 500 as ‘probably the best sports lawyer in the country’. Clients include athletes, clubs and leading sports businesses.

Mishcon de Reya:

Mishcon has acted on some of the highest profile sporting matters in recent years, with experience in areas including immigration, employment, brand protection, reputation management, construction and tax. The international makeup of the team enables them to act for clients across the globe, and in sports including athletics, boxing, cricket, cycling, football, horseracing and motorsport, among others. The firm also has a history of acting on investment into, and acquisitions of, sporting assets, a particularly relevant topic as the financial impact of COVID creates new opportunities for institutional investors who are eyeing up sporting brands and businesses.

Himsworth Scott/Slateford:

Co-founded by the charismatic Matt Himsworth, a former senior associate at international reputation and privacy consultancy Schillings, Himsworth Scott work with clients including football clubs, agents, FTSE 100 businesses and high-net-worth individuals. One niche Himsworth has secured himself is educating elite footballers on cyber-security and how to communicate online. In an age where every move footballers make is under the microscope, the firm can expect to be kept plenty busy in advising the biggest names in the game.

Bird & Bird:

One of the only law firms rated in Band 1 by Chambers UK for Sports Law, Bird & Bird’s clients range from international federations and national governing bodies, to broadcasters and esports organisations. The firm have expertise across an impressive array of sports, including football, athletics, tennis, combat sports, and even bobsleigh. Head of Bird & Bird Sport Group in London Jonathan Taylor had plenty to celebrate already, renowned as one of the top sports lawyers in the world, and as a Fulham season ticket holder, he can now also look forward to another season of Premier League football, just as soon as fans can return to stadia across the UK.

Northridge Law:

Describing itself as an independent law firm that focuses on the most complex and important matters in sport, Northridge was the 2019 winner of Boutique Law Firm of the Year. The firm announced itself to the sector with a statement signing, being appointed as Puma’s exclusive UK advisory on sports marketing and sponsorship within months of launching the business. That’s just the tip of the credentials iceberg, having also advised Neymar Jr on endorsement deals with global brands including EA Sports, Honda and Mastercard, and representing AC Milan at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July 2018 to successfully overturn their ban from European football.

Are you a B2B company looking for PR support? Check out our B2B client page here.

Five Sports Law Firms to watch as Covid’s impact becomes clearer

During the July of 2020, the Royal Courts of Justice in London hosted one of the most surreal and revealing court cases since its inception. Hollywood Actor Jonny Depp was exercising his right to protect his reputation against what he considered to be defamation. The Sun had published an article asking how J.K. Rowling can be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” He argued that using the phrase “wife beater” had caused his reputation to go from “Cinderella to Quasimodo in 0.6 seconds.”

The search to find whether the Sun had been telling the truth produced three weeks of spectacular headlines and debates. What started as a libel trial, quickly descended into a very public celebrity divorce proceeding with little hope of producing a winner. At times, it often felt more like a criminal trial with domestic violence at the centre of it. A familiar scenario to legal personnel was playing out: two people providing completely opposing accounts of the same events. It showed even the best lawyers in the country can struggle to determine the elusive truth.

The backdrop of the case was London in lockdown. Most businesses were shut, and many people remain furloughed or out of work. Quite who thought this would be the right time to enter in to one of the most invasive and publicly humiliating trials of all time remains to be discovered. Mark Stephens, a media lawyer at the firm Howard Kennedy, told the Financial Times that “Only a moron in a hurry would entertain the thought of having the break-up of their relationship picked over by two QCs and a judge, in full public view.”

Meanwhile, the case was also being tried in a second much more unforgiving court: the court of public opinion. While the search for truth certainly stands more chance in court than it does on social media, the expert opinion of lawyers can help shape both. Judges are looking for clarity but so are the public. When journalists tell the story of events that day, the insight of lawyers is needed to frame the narrative and provide that additional information. Jonny Depp’s case against the Sun had everything, but there are many other stories that require the clarity provided by legal spokespeople, and not just in these very public celebrity trials.

That’s why we’ve provided a list of examples of other ways lawyers can contribute to the UK media:

Providing expert commentary

As we’ve seen, journalists require commentary from legal professionals to help explain the legal and business stories of the day. These expert opinions not only help readers understand the often-nuanced legal implications in any given case, but they allow us to position lawyers as experts in their field.

Our campaign with Sparqa Legal to provide legal advice to small businesses became invaluable to journalists as the rules around furlough were quickly released by the government in response to Covid-19. Through the national, HR and broadcast press, we were able to establish the company as experts in the rapidly changing legal landscape. The company was able to provide essential legal advice during this time, making the law accessible and empowering troubled businesses to fulfil their own legal needs.

Thought leadership

Positioning legal firms as thought leaders in their fields is essential to any legal campaign. In a fast-moving news cycle, the press needs experts they can trust to provide thought leadership that can establish the facts and argue for solutions.

CaseLines has been providing evidence bundling and courtroom presentation services for litigators since 2010. When we met, CaseLines told us that they wanted to convince people of the need to innovate in an industry resistant to change. They had created state of the art software that digitises the trial, and bundle process in courts.

As thought leaders in technology but also in law, we set out to affirm their expertise to their target markets. We developed a two-strand approach that balanced profile building for the CTO Paul Sachs with company exposure in the national and legal press. This meant targeting key legal titles with exciting new ideas, as well as contributing to the media narratives in the nationals.

Our PR Campaign assisted an increase in website traffic up 349% compared with the same period last year. PR Generated coverage in Kenya, Dubai and South Africa as well as 18 new countries allowed the company to take their thought leadership to a global audience.

Engage with claimants

Speaking in the media is one of the most straightforward ways to speak to your existing audience, but what do you do if the people you’re trying to reach aren’t looking for you? In 2018, a total of 1.2m vehicles in the UK were affected by Volkswagen’s Dieselgate emissions scandal. Your Lawyers represented 10,000 of the consumers affected, but many more claimants remained unaware of the class-action.

By calculating the total potential money owed as a result of the scandal – emphasising the billions yet be claimed against the automotive giant, we commenced a bespoke regional media relations strategy mapping potential claimants against the latest census data and estimating a potential individual claimant win of £8,500 per person.

We took this story to the press, achieving almost 70 pieces of coverage in total, generating over 7,500 click-throughs to the class-action sign-up page and ultimately driving x200 more client enquiries for the business.

Campaigning for change

As the world’s largest litigation finance company, Burford Capital are used to providing complex financial solutions for their clients. In 2019, while the law industry was celebrating 100 years of women in law, the gender pay gap was still a pressing issue in the industry. Burford Capital wanted to create change. They argued at the current rate, female lawyers wouldn’t approach equity for at least another generation.

Inspired by their work in litigation finance, the company launched ‘The Equity Project,’ a ground-breaking initiative designed to close the gender gap in law by providing economic incentives for change. Through a $50 million capital pool, that was earmarked for financing commercial litigation and arbitration matters led by women, they set out to change the economics of law.

The company’s unique expertise in financial solutions allowed us to provide fresh insight into the gender pay gap, and campaign in the media for social change in the industry.

Taking the lead

While many media opportunities are reactive and involve focusing on the current stories in the news cycle there is always an opportunity for legal firms to take the lead and try and tackle the problems themselves. Buckworths, for example, specialise in SME and start-up law. When the Government announced its support for British businesses during lockdown, it became clear many SMEs were exempt.

PHA suggested an integrated PR campaign to promote Buckworths’ solution to the issue and call for the Government to incentivise private investors to support businesses. This was achieved thorough publication of a whitepaper into the issues. We also drafted a letter to the Treasury, which was signed by 87 other businesses and reported in The Times and CityAM, giving the company a platform to take the lead on this pressing issue.

If you work at a law firm and would be interested in showcasing your firm’s expertise in the media, get in touch with our award-winning team today to discuss how we could help.

How can lawyers contribute to the UK media?

You are running an office canteen, a hotel buffet, an airport lounge. The world is starting to open up and you want to get your business back on track. In fact, we all want your business to get back on track because the future of the hospitality industry and, more broadly, our economy is relying on companies like yours. Reopening, of course, requires you to take precautions around food preparation and service, ensuring cleanliness and reassuring customers that their food is safe.

But there is a problem.

As a good business you have spent the last five years re-thinking, re-engineering and re-branding to make your food outlet more environmentally friendly. And now, in the post-lockdown world, you are faced with the potential that your beautiful spreads of sustainable serve-yourself meals will be replaced with a sea of plastic-wrapped food and single-use cutlery.

What do you do? Safety or sustainability: which is your priority?

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the world was in the midst of one of the most significant shifts in public opinion on environmental sustainability that we have ever seen. What was often called the ‘Greta Thunberg effect’ was in fact the culmination of years of advancing climate science, the building of the business case for sustainability, and the growing everyday visibility of climate change impacts, brought to life so powerfully by a teenage activist. For many people, the trigger issue was plastic. Ocean plastics, packaging recyclability and microplastics have not only become topics people care about, but drivers of their purchasing behaviour. The single-use culture that had been building for so many years was at the point of collapse under a wave of support for longer-lasting and reusable solutions to almost everything. And then Covid arrived.

Contrary to pessimism early in the crisis, there has been a remarkable continuation in environmental progress, particularly by corporations that have stuck to, and even extended, their emission-reduction goals. However, in a health crisis like the one we are living through, there must be limits to our commitment. Public health must come first. Disposable masks and gloves, single-use delivery containers, the widespread use of chemicals: these are the measures that have to be taken in an emergency.

And so the crisis continues today, but the context has changed. We are no longer in rapid-response mode; we are starting to build a new normal and have more time to consider what that should look like. This emerging world will require new and imaginative solutions to help us slowly let go of our pandemic-induced reliance on unsustainable tools and find new ways to live and operate in the longer-term. Safe or sustainable does not have to be a choice. We must resist the urge to return to almost-forgotten bad habits of disposability. We have to be creative.

So what to do in our canteen? How can we serve food in a way that is hygienic, reassuring to the customer, and yet does not resort back to single-use plastic?  I was speaking recently with someone whose business is already showing us an answer. For their corporate canteen buffet the easy solution was clear: portion out food onto disposable plates and cover them with cling-film. But this business was more innovative.

The buffet has now been replaced with a ‘final prep’ food setup. Customers are served by a chef in protective gear who, when an order is made, will undertake the final stages of cooking that individual dish there and then. This could be anything from tossing in a wok to heating in a microwave, ensuring that the food is piping hot and safely handled, all in the view of the customer. Keeping a full staff means dishes and cutlery are regularly cleaned and sterilised and the whole process is done with no more plastic or waste than in the past.

As economic pressures mount, business across all industries will be under pressure to make choices that prioritise safety and the bottom line over sustainability. It is critical that they do not succumb to this false binary. Businesses need to be clear: we care about keeping people safe, we care about the environment, and we will not compromise on either.

 

Giles Gibbons is the Founder and CEO of Good Business –  a transformative strategy, behaviour change and sustainability consultancy. If you enjoyed this post, check out our  recent podcast with Giles.

Safe or sustainable does not have to be a choice

The motivation to ‘go green’ in recent years has become a responsibility for many businesses, rather than a choice. Consumers have become much more eco-aware and therefore have shown a greater interest in conscious businesses that are making an effort to operate sustainably.

This has meant that many companies (and consumers too) have begun to actively embrace sustainability, seeing it not only as a trend but as a new way of life.

The sustainability space has rapidly expanded over the last few years and can be a tough area to navigate, especially with lots of new terminology and jargon cropping up.

Here, we have put together a A – Z (minus a few tricky letters!) of sustainable terms and explore what it all means:

Alternative energy – Energy derived from non-traditional sources, such as wind, compressed natural gas, biogas (cogeneration), or hydroelectric.

Bio-Diversity – The variety of life in plants, species and ecosystems found on Earth.

Carbon Footprint – Is an estimated measurement of the amount of Carbon Dioxide that is produced annually and emitted into the atmosphere by the direct and indirect actions of individuals, households, buildings, companies, cities, communities or countries.

Circular Economy – Creating a system of production for goods that is designed and developed to reduce waste and regenerate the use of the resources used in production, which are then able to be recycled and used to produce another product.

Deforestation – A permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands. It does not include the removal of industrial forests such as plantations of pines.

Energy Efficiency – Reduction in the amount of energy required to provide products and services.

Food miles – Food miles refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches consumers. It is one aspect of assessing the environmental impact of food.

Global Warming – An increase in the average temperature in the atmosphere and The Earth’s surface, and which can contribute to the changes in global climate patterns.

Hydroelectric – Hydro power systems convert potential energy stored in water held at height to kinetic energy (or the energy used in movement) to turn a turbine to produce electricity.

Indicators – A system of sustainability indicators that measures progress toward sustainability.

Life Cycle Assessment – Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the comprehensive examination of a product’s environmental and economic effects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use, and disposal.

Mitigation – Policies and behaviours designed to reduce greenhouse gases and increase carbon sinks.

Natural Capital – The stock of all the natural resources on our planet, includes all natural resources, geology, soil, air, water and all living organisms.

Organic – A term signifying the absence of pesticides, hormones, synthetic fertilizers and other toxic materials in the cultivation of agricultural products.

Pollution – The presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects.

Recycling – The control of materials at disposal to allow for the reuse of their components and materials.

Renewable energy – Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources which are renewable (naturally replenished), such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat.

Sustainable – The practices and actions of people (& businesses) that are not causing harm, permanent damage or change that is detrimental to the environment, ecosystems, species or resources that are sourced from our planet (our natural resources), and that are capable of being sustained for future generations to meet their own needs.

Transparency – In a sustainability context means that more and better information, visibility and openness is provided around actions taken by an organisation. (For example, Supply chain Transparency would provide information related to supply chains to be more open and accessible to others).

Value Chain – Refers to the supply chain system of activities and which is adding value to the product or service from suppliers to customer in this onward chain.

Waste – Unwanted, unusable, discarded materials or resources that are disposed of after their primary use.

Zero Waste – Encouraging the redesign of resources in product life cycles so that all products are reused, with the aim that no products and discarded and sent to landfill.

Do you want to know how PR can help your sustainable business? Then check our our blog here, or drop us a line here.

Sustainability A to Z: Everything you need to know

If a brand can grow its market share within their core sector, fantastic. But it goes without saying that looking beyond those core markets can provide even greater potential for growth.

When we started working with outdoor brand dryrobe, producers of the world’s most advanced change robe, they already had a presence second to none across the surfing sector. With their product also catering for a whole host of other outdoor pursuits though, their growth potential was obvious.

For us, it’s simply been about unlocking it. Here’s how we do it…

Act as an extension of the business

In the initial instance, it was paramount that we took the time to fully understand not only dryrobe’s target audiences for growth, but the technicalities of the product inside out.

By combing over this information to obtain a level of knowledge that you’d expect a member of the dryrobe team itself to have, it placed us in the perfect position to communicate the product to the right sectors, most effectively.

Doing our homework

As much as it pays to know your client it pays to know your media, and the results we’ve been able to achieve so far for dryrobe are certainly relative to us having a detailed understanding of the various sectors they speak out to.

If a given publication produces content that lends itself to a detailed review of the product, then tailor your approach to mimic that. If the only conceivable way a title may feature the product is through a competition, then likewise be specific.

Passion and enthusiasm

This one is a major contributor to our success…being passionate and genuinely interested in the sector. I come from a running background and would have loved a dryrobe to keep warm after a tough cross-country race back in my competition days. As a team that are all into our sport and fitness, this personal interest is definitely something that helps us achieve the results we do. Passion drives engagement and you’ll naturally come across as more genuine.

Don’t be one dimensional

Through our work with dryrobe, the product has now been featured across swimming, OCR (obstacle course racing), running, rugby, biking, triathlon, camping, canoeing, kayaking and rowing media. But we also reached out to tech media to communicate the innovation behind the product. As a result, we’ve secured them pieces in tech outlets, including in leading consumer tech magazine, Stuff (the article that they featured within actually made the front cover).

Having taken the time to invest ourselves in the business too, we saw dryrobe’s business story as another opportunity to drive traction for the brand. As a result, they’ve seen some great pieces of business coverage across the likes of the Daily Express Online, Forbes Online and most recently on Sky News’ Flagship daily business show, Ian King Live.

With each opportunity, it’s important to think about the finer details too, with conversion for dryrobe the ultimate goal. We had a competition with Trail Running magazine’s online ‘Win’ section that received close to 60,000 entries, while a similar competition we ran with Cool Camping left us with over two thousand potential customers that opted in to receive newsletter updates from dryrobe.

We maximise assets

dryrobe are regularly announcing exciting new partnerships, whether that be with brands or individuals, and we use this an opportunity not only to engage sports/activity specific outlets, but respective trade media.

Once we’ve announced them, the job doesn’t stop there though. I’d argue our credentials activating brand ambassadors are second to none and we always ensure we deliver as much value as possible from the relationships.

In recent months, coronavirus has without question posed an added challenge in coming up with fresh angles to generate media interest, but by acting on our feet we have been able to deliver stand out pieces of coverage activating dryrobe’s ambassadors time and time again.

From keeping fit at home with Father, Son surfing duo, Ben Skinner & Lukas Skinner on The Times Online, to celebrating Strong Women on the Metro Online with British Surf Champion Lucy Campbell, to helping others improve their physical and mental health in lockdown with paddleboarder Cal Major on Stylist Online, we pride ourselves on knowing the stories our contacts will want to write about.

As well as paying attention to the ambassador’s personal schedules to ensure we don’t miss opportunities, we also keep in mind the general news and events calendar. For example, we recently secured dryrobe a standout inclusion on the Daily Express Online, quoted as the product ‘taking the camping and outdoors world by storm.’

Through following the above approach, we’ve been able to consistently deliver against our agreed KPIs ahead of schedule, opening up numerous doors of opportunity for dryrobe in the process.

If you would like to find out more about what our specialist sport and fitness public relations team can do for you, get in-touch with our award-winning team today.

How PR can be key in unlocking the door to new audiences

Over the past decade renewable energy sources have grown from occupying a niche corner in the European energy market to becoming a cornerstone of the power sector. Between 2007 to 2017, the European Union increased its volume of renewable energy produced by 64 percent and last year alone, European investment into clean energy capacity totaled $54.6 billion.

Undoubtedly, 2020 has already been a significant year for the renewable energy market. In the first few months the power generated by renewable energy sources overtook fossil fuels for the first time ever in the UK.

With renewables now on an exponential growth path, we take a look at four of the most innovative companies that are working to revolutionize how we generate, store and distribute clean energy.

ITM Power

ITM Power is a clean energy company based in Yorkshire that has set up the world’s largest carbon free renewable hydrogen production facility. Whilst hydrogen is already an established renewable energy source ITM Power creates ‘green hydrogen’ by using electricity produced by solar or wind power in its hydrogen production facilities.

In a joint venture with Cadent, ITM Power is already driving the first live pilot project that injects zero-carbon hydrogen into a gas network, working to help heat British homes and businesses.

The future potential for ‘green hydrogen’ is vast and hydrogen blending could significantly help to meet climate change targets as there is no need to change any of the existing pipework, or domestic appliances. This means that customers can easily embrace the clean energy solution within their homes at no extra cost or disruption.

Ryse

Ryse is another UK based clean energy company spearheading the rise of ‘green hydrogen’. Tackling the same issue, Ryse uses excess power from wind farms to run a network of electrolysers to make ‘green hydrogen’ for vehicles in the UK.

The potential for hydrogen as a zero-carbon alternative to fossil fuels is growing rapidly and Ryse has focused on its application to power transport systems. For example, Ryse has recently been awarded a contract to supply hydrogen to 20 buses in London operated by TFL the world’s first hydrogen powered double decker buses. Ryse also intend to supply hydrogen for other modes of transport including taxis and trains.

VoltStorage

VoltStorage is a German based smart battery company that is facilitating a boom in solar energy storage for private households.

The potential for solar power is vast. However, whilst many solar panels generate energy during the day, if you don’t use it, you will lost it. To tackle this issue, VoltStorage have developed a cost-effective solar storage system based on the eco-friendly Redox Flow Technology, enabling you to store extra solar energy to use as and when you need it.

By putting control back in the hands of the customer, VoltStorage is enabling households to run efficiently on climate friendly solar power, independent of the weather and around the clock.

Kitemill AS

Earlier this year, the Norwegian airborne wind energy company, Kitemill AS, acquired the intellectual property assets of the Scottish based Kite Power Systems. Kitemill AS are now continuing development in Norway where they plan to set up the first kite energy demonstration farm by 2021.

Exploring a new method of ‘green energy’ generation, the principal idea is that two kites are attached to a turbine. When the wind blows, one kite rises in a figure of eight movement which pulls a tether that turns a winch at its base, generating power. When the kite reaches its maximum height, it falls and is replaced by the second kite, so energy can be produced constantly.

If you’d like to find out how we can support your energy, utilities or renewables company please get in touch with our team today.

The European companies spearheading the ‘green energy’ boom

Bhanu Choudhrie is founder and chief executive of the C & C Alpha Group, an international private equity business with a strong focus on emerging markets. He oversees investment strategy, working with a group of experienced venture capitalists.

In this interview with Bhanu we find out more about his business philosophy – and the challenges for venture capital in turbulent economic times….

What is the focus of the C & C Alpha Group’s investments?

At the C & C Alpha Group we have a very diverse portfolio, but we invest primarily in aviation, hospitality, real estate, banking, health care and utilities. We have an international footprint, with a significant presence in the UK; the US; India; and UAE. The team analyses global economic trends and find companies in market niches that are on the brink of expansion. We were early investors in emerging markets and, for several years, sponsored The Emerging Markets Symposium at Oxford University.

What is your philosophy as a venture capitalist?

The C & C Alpha Group has always believed in long-term investment and that has shaped our philosophy for the last 18 years. We incubate and grow companies by believing in them and committing to them. We invest in strong management teams and then trust them to deliver. Our ethos is to not seek quick exits and, because we invest for a longer period than most other venture capital firms, that allows us to support and grow our investments to achieve their maximum potential. A good example of that is Alpha Hospitals, a provider of specialist mental health care, which was an idea we first discussed around the kitchen table and then spent 13 years incubating and scaling up the company before selling it to a US company, Cygnet Health Care, for £95m in 2015.

What do you look for in a company?

We want to be partners, not just investors. In some cases that might be a start-up, which needs not only capitalization, but also guidance in developing its market presence and managing its growth. In other cases, it might be a more established company looking to expand into new markets; we can bring an infusion of capital, but we will also provide added value through our expertise, international contacts, and management support. We have a team of experienced consultants, project managers, project developers, and financial analysts, who have the expertise to help companies achieve their potential.

What was your first major investment?

We invested in Air Deccan in 2003. At the time, it was a low-budget Indian carrier with just one plane in its fleet. The airline was a risk. Four of us invested and we said to each other at the beginning, ‘If it doesn’t work out, at least we can say we had an airline,’ but it played a pivotal role in opening up the airline industry in India. There was a massive boom in aviation because journeys that had taken up to three days by train were now within reach of more people who could afford to fly. Five years later, when Air Deccan was sold to Kingfisher, it was running 200 flights a day and transporting 7 million customers annually.

What is your approach to risk?

As an investor, I am always looking for new ventures that excite me, but, for every two or three opportunities we invest in, we will probably turn down 100. We minimize risk by going in small and increasing our investment incrementally. Once your base is sound, the time is right to take higher investment risks. When I started out, I was willing to take more chances, but as you get older you become more cautious with your investments.

How do you decide on the right growth trajectory for your companies?

This is a dilemma for many venture capitalists. We examined this question at our 2019 annual conference in Dubai, which was led by Professor William Kerr, of Harvard Business School. He suggested one way of looking at this was by asking: ‘Have I earned the right to grow?’ He suggested a four-question framework, which can be summarized as: Is my business ready? Do we have the resources we need? Have the leadership team bought into the vision? What is the cost of standing still?

Another useful way to approach the question is to ask: What was the first thing that worked for my business? Every business has core competencies, but what is your distinctive competency – what do you do better than your rivals? Make growth decisions based on your distinctive competency, not on your core competencies.

As the coronavirus crisis has shown, cash flow is usually the biggest challenge to growth. Sometimes it is better to be less profitable if it allows you to keep hold of capital because raising capital yourself can cost you more than the profit you have sacrificed.

Where do you see the potential in your current investments?

Alpha Aviation Group is a world-class pilot training business, which we have grown over the last 14 years. We identified a clear gap in the APAC market, caused by a shortage of commercial pilots at the very time when passenger demand was increasing dramatically and invested substantially in the business. Alpha Aviation has trained nearly 2,000 pilots from 40 countries. Last year, we opened an $11m simulator in the Philippines, our sixth in the country, and more than any of our competitors. Alpha Aviation Academy UAE, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019, has earned an outstanding international reputation for the quality of its cadet training, giving unprecedented opportunities to female cadets, and forming partnerships with key carriers in the region.

Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on aviation and we are likely to see a consolidation of the pilot training sector; only those with strong cash reserves will survive the pandemic. But in these very difficult circumstances, there is an opportunity to think about how pilot training companies like ours can help airlines. All airlines need to cut costs and pilot training providers need to be more flexible with their price offering to airlines, providing differential pricing. Airlines will need to rethink their pilot training strategy, with more outsourcing and decentralising to ensure they are streamlining and managing their costs. Ultimately, this will be a new opportunity for us.

I am also excited by the growth of Alpha Utilities. We own and operate a desalination plant in Sharjah and we have developed world-beating expertise as a water technology company. Demand for desalinated water is increasing rapidly and is essential for industries in the region. We believe the company will continue to grow, finding new markets and new opportunities to expand in the Emirates and beyond. Global warming poses a significant threat to human health, but it also has the potential to become the single biggest driver of economic transformation.

What impact has coronavirus had on your business?

Our annual conference last year was entitled Business Sustainability, Emerging Risk Analysis and Growth in a Changing Climate. We examined several different scenarios that might threaten business, including Brexit and regional instability in the Middle East, but I don’t remember a global pandemic being one of them!

What we discussed at our conference was adapting to change, whatever your circumstances. If you are running a successful business, it is tempting to think you do not need to change anything about your business model. But in today’s fast-moving world, if you wait until you need to change it you will already be too late. The best CEOs anticipate disruption even before it has happened and are not afraid to change their business to adapt to it, however, counter-intuitive that might seem.

The aviation and hospitality industries have been hit very hard by coronavirus and will feel the impact for years to come. It will have far-reaching repercussions on how we travel, how we holiday, and how we choose to live our lives. But every crisis brings opportunity and the chance for re-invention. I am confident we are well placed to weather the storm and adapt to the new business landscape.

 

Want to know more about some of our work with Venture Capitalists? Then click here to see how we raised the profile of Consilience Ventures  and its alternative start-up ecosystem.

Interview with Bhanu Choudhrie of C & C Alpha Group

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a first-time mum-to-be picks the items that will adorn her nursery in one of three ways:

Either, she heads to WHSmith for a stack of glossy magazines debating breast-vs-bottle and the importance of a sleep routine.

Alternatively, she debates the pros and cons of one way against another with the other mums at NCT, as they file out after antenatal classes.

Or finally, she sits down with her own mum and harks back to the way she was raised thirty years earlier…

It’s been that way for years, if not decades.

That is until now. The Coronavirus pandemic has transformed many aspects of society, one of which being the way audiences spend their time and their money.

With new and expectant parents isolated due to shielding measures, parenting brands need to consider adding new strands to their strategy to ensure the right messages hit home.

NCT is out, influencers are in
Mums and dads alike have long been influenced by content creators across Instagram, Facebook, YouTube – and now TikTok.

While the impact of influencers is nothing new for popular parenting brands like Elvie, Nuby and Ewan the Dream Sheep, it has grown to unprecedented levels during lockdown.

Unable to attend popular NCT courses where they can bond with other mums and their bumps, expectant mums are increasingly turning to their favourite influencers to find a sense of community.

Data from Channel Mum indicates that mums are watching 13% more content than usual.

And it’s not just household names like Giovanna Fletcher and Louise Pentland.

Small and even micro-influencers are also gaining new audiences as first-time parents search for creators that feel relatable and reliable.

If parenting brands want to reach this new generation of Lockdown Mums, they will need to harness the voices of influencers whose values genuinely reflect their own.

Prioritising a real connection over impressive-but-empty follower figures means collaborations will deliver authentic, educational content that genuinely resonates with new parents.

On-demand content builds a lasting relationship
When you’re spending sleep-starved mornings on the sofa with a small baby, there’s no denying the appeal of daytime shows. Even lockdown can’t dent the universal popularity of ITV’s This Morning!
But on-demand, bitesize content also has an essential role to play when mums are finally able to grab five or ten minutes to themselves.

The popularity of parenting podcasts continues to grow apace, including Giovanna’s ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’, Scummy Mummies and Kate Lawler’s ‘Maybe Baby’ podcast.

And parenting brands with an educational element, such as babytech brand Happiest Baby and sleep experts Snuz, can get in on the action too.

Executed thoughtfully and strategically, brand podcasts and webinars have the potential to build long-term relationships with new customers as they return weekly for more insight and ideas.

New mums and dads need support more than sales
There’s always a time and a place for sales messaging, but sensitivity is key at the moment.
Of course, product roundups and reviews are essential to build customer awareness and drive sales. A well-crafted PR strategy can help you secure this kind of coverage and land your product messages when audiences are open to it.

However, it is essential that product messaging is underpinned by a wider press office that combines reassuring education and expert commentary with in-depth features and creative campaigns.
It’s this kind of well-rounded press office that has helped drive positive coverage for My Expert Midwife over the course of our work with them.

Of course, some things will never change. Becoming a parent for the first time is a joyous, terrifying, exhausting rollercoaster. But by listening to what new mums need during lockdown, brands can become a trusted partner and expert that they rely on for years to come.

Are you a parenting brand looking to get your name out there and be a part of this conversation? Do you need support cultivating your brand messaging? Speak to one of our award-winning PR team today to discuss how we could help.

The changing face of parenting: how mums and dads are buying for babies post-pandemic

The years following the 2008 crash were boom time for litigation.

It is commonly accepted that following economic downturn, courts become busier, with businesses and consumers determined to claw back all they can from broken promises, reneged deals and corporate fall outs.

With litigation neither a quick nor cheap business, actions can roll on for years.

Indeed, it was estimated by city law firm RPC that in 2017, the long-term fallout from the 2008 crash meant the number of High Court cases the world’s 50 largest banks were forced to defend stood at 157, following a sharp rise from the year before.

Twelve years on from the 08 crash and the world is dealing with a new global emergency in the coronavirus pandemic. Multiple economies including the UK face recession, with the US staring down the barrel of a deep downturn with the hallmarks of the 1930s depression.

It is already predicted that the post Coronavirus environment will see a similar litigation rush, potentially tying up courts globally for years to come.

There will be few, if any, sectors unaffected by COVID 19. As well as business v business litigation, experts predict mass consumer action spikes, actions against government, and those targeting other public bodies

As City AM reported, there are also predictions of a class-action surge in post COVID litigation, with the law in the UK more developed than it was in the wake of 2008 and new law firms setting up in London to meet this demand.

Just last month, Wired reported the first wave of litigation, dubbing COVID 19 as “the new asbestos” for mass actions. A group of MPs in the UK have already called on the UK government to form a COVID litigation panel to prepare for any actions taken against medical professionals.

Litigation finance companies are also preparing for increased business. Companies in the sector fund actions being brought for companies in return for a slice of the damages won. Many companies in the sector target higher-value claims of £10million and above and portfolios of cases in larger corporates, although there are some who will fund lower value litigation. The classic model is David v Goliath cases, where a claimant takes on a defendant with much deeper pockets with the assistance of funding. Post COVID, this could be a model more companies turn to so not to tie up balance sheet cash in pricey litigation.

But what happens if your business is involved in a dispute in the economic turmoil of lockdown, and can communications play a role?

Litigation and Public Relations
Businesses large and small can be involved in litigation. With all corners of the globe and every sector hit by COVID, that is even more of a stark fact. Often, a business can find itself embroiled in a dispute without being truly ready for what it means.

Most litigation involves a process that is open to both public view and that of the media. This poses various questions for a company going involved in a legal case.

Having a communications plan in place is key to managing the process. It is vital that your comms team – or an outside agency – works closely with the legal team to ensure all milestones, including the launching of actions, judgments and settlements, are considered.

A good communications professional will know the dos and don’ts of litigation public relations – there are many considerations.

The Case for the Defence
Businesses fighting claims will primarily be concerned with doing so successfully, but should also consider the impact on their reputation.

Leaving it to chance is not an option. Even in the face of a loss, communications can help mitigate damage or even help win the case in the court of public opinion.

Many businesses and brands who have lost cases and had to pay damages have lived to tell the tale as they have managed communications effectively, sometimes winning the case in the Court of Public Opinion.

Once again, planning for eventualities, communicating effectively with media holds great importance. It is also important to remember that the legal process does not just involve days in court – new stories on actions can start months, even years before a Judge has heard any opening speeches. This is arguably even more important in consumer-led cases, which could be of huge interest not only to the UK’s very strong legal press, but also the national media, where consumer writers and not just legal writers could be interested.

PR for the Claimant
Handling litigation from the point of the claimant is just as important. In most cases, there will be a need to manage public relations and control messaging. Operating within the guidelines of the legal action, while still being able to navigate the media landscape, is very important.

As with being on the other side of a claim, handling press, knowing which documents are in the public domain and which are not, issuing press statements, handling social media, communications with press – including the sector press covering your industry – is key. Comms plans are important for the entirety of the action, not least the press strategy around the handling of a judgment, particularly if it a judge does not side with you.

It is important to stress making a claim can carry as much reputational risk as being on the receiving end – particularly with scrutiny set to be high around actions following the pandemic. Among first questions to be asked when deciding on whether to issue proceedings should be how it will impact on the reputation of the business.Ensuring communications professionals are part of your team, know the media landscape and know how to work with your solicitors and barristers, is therefore essential.

The PHA Group has a wealth of experience is dealing with litigation PR, for claimants, defendants and law firms. The company is listed as a leading litigation PR company in Chambers and Partners.
The company was awarded the PRCA’s Issues and Reputation Management National Award for its work for Sir Cliff Richard in his action against the BBC.

If you are looking for support with gaining insight into the UK media landscape or for an ongoing, or upcoming legal case, please get in touch today to see how our passionate team of experts can help you achieve your goals.

How will your business deal with litigation post COVID 19?

Fueled in part by the ongoing effects of a worldwide pandemic, ecommerce around the world is rising at a steady pace, with a noticeable shift in consumer behavior towards online shopping. In fact, it is estimated that by the year 2040, 95% of purchases will take place online. It’s safe to say that digital commerce has now taken center stage, and businesses around the world are racing to join the ecommerce revolution. 

In order to better prepare for a digital future, brands and retailers are constantly on the lookout for ways to drive their ecommerce brand forward. We look at some of the emerging ecommerce trends that will help elevate your business and boost your sales in the digital economy. 

1. Personalised Experiences and Customer Engagement

One thing that consumers miss from traditional retail shopping is the personalised experience that comes from interacting with a retail person. This personal connection is something that they look for in their online experience, too, with 80% of consumers being more likely to do business with a company that personalises their experience. This means that it’s no longer enough to simply ship out a product in a box. Rather, ecommerce businesses should build their strategy around putting their customer first. This could mean setting up automated product recommendations or unique subscription programs, featuring inclusive sizing and diversity of models, or even something as simple as prioritising accessibility to their website by making sure it’s navigable by persons of all abilities. These simple steps demonstrate a commitment to creating lasting emotional connections with customers, thus ensuring their return. 

2. Online Product Customisation

Beyond the wholly personalised experience of shopping, customers are also increasingly expecting customised products. This is where 3D technology can take a company’s ecommerce store to a whole other level of success. Product customisation technology like Threedium’s 3D Product Configurator invites customers to become partners in the product creation process by allowing them to experiment with different versions of the product. Customers can change colors, materials, and styles until they create exactly what they are looking for. This further strengthens the user experience for the customer, and in return, increases engagement levels, product dwell times, and creates better opportunities for conversions.  

3. Custom Packaging

In the age of ecommerce, the product isn’t the only desirable part of making a purchase. Rather, the act of simply opening the packaging holds a special kind of appeal, one that has recently launched the popular trend of ‘unboxing’ videos. These videos have generated 11.3 billion views on YouTube, with at least 62% of people viewing them as research for products they are looking to purchase. It is therefore not surprising that offering customised packaging that makes a brand recognizable has become a successful ecommerce marketing tool. Aesthetically pleasing, custom packaging gives a certain air of exclusivity to a product, makes it more likely to garner brand visibility on social media, and helps make an immediate, lasting impact on customers. 

4. Augmented Reality 

There is a strong need to interact with a product before committing to a purchase, and where once high-quality images and videos were enough, today’s consumers are asking for more ways to see and feel a product before clicking buy. This is where AR comes in. Augmented reality has seen a recent explosion in popularity, with Gartner estimating that by 2020, more than 100 million will have bought products using AR. With tools like Threedium’s AR Solutions, more and more ecommerce retailers are bridging the gap between real and digital, enabling shoppers to see products in their actual surroundings, explore and try different angles and styles, until they find the right match. Such Augmented Reality solutions require no extra plugins or applications, and are extremely easy to integrate into ecommerce stores. For consumers, this means a more immersive shopping experience and confident and informed purchasing decisions. For businesses, this means higher conversion rates and fewer returns.

To speak to a member of the team  at The PHA Group, please click here.

The changing face of e-commerce: four trends to look out for