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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 

There are around 10,000 mega yachts in the world with approximately 150 new yachts delivered each year. Roughly a quarter of these are available for charter. These numbers indicate continuous growth for the luxury yachting industry and will undoubtedly provide brands with opportunities for expansion and success.

So, what are the hot topics for 2020 that brands need to consider to ensure they stay afloat in this evolving industry? Sustainability, technology and the exploratory yacht market all appear to be generating a great deal of discussion. We’ve taken a closer look at these consumer trends that we think are going to be strong contenders for the coming year.

A focus on yacht charter’s green credentials

The discussion on environmental issues is going to be a key driver in the yacht charter world for 2020. Owners, brokers and charterers will have one eye on the green credentials of their superyachts and the impact they are having on the environment. France has just announced that anchorage laws are to change for yachts over 24m in order to protect endangered marine plant species, most notably Posidonia. The new regulations are planned to be in place for the 2020 yachting season. HNWIs are looking at new and innovative ways to reduce the damaging impact their yachts have on the oceans and wildlife and those in the industry are tailoring their offerings accordingly.

Philippe Briand is starting off 2020 with a bang. The London-based design studio has just unveiled a stunning superyacht concept that will be powered entirely by wind. The 200-foot vessel, known as the SY200, will be completely self-sufficient in terms of energy and promises a true zero-emission sailing experience.

Disruptive brokers shaking up the market

The brokerage world has so far managed to resist the overtures of the new online broker models who have attempted to shake up and disrupt the market over the last couple of years.

Companies like Ahoy Club and YOTHA were full steam ahead on tackling the big brokers when they ventured onto the scene but now the dust has settled, the established brokers are starting to embrace new technologies. The big brokers are ensuring charterers have a better experience and, in turn, help their profitability for the long term.

Innovation in the explorer yacht market

Investment is starting to flow into the scientific yacht charter market as the global desire to go further than ever before is at its peak. If they haven’t done so already, every shipyard is coming out with a durable explorer-style vessel. One example is from Italy-based shipyard Baglietto. The new Explorer was designed as a luxurious warship, capable of cruising in comfort into the world’s most remote waters. The designers at Santa Maria Magnolfi ticked off all the boxes to create a yacht that could cruise anywhere at any time of the year, so the most intrepid owners could see the world on their terms.

Another company looking to capitalise on the “go-anywhere” trend is Arksen. They are a technology and innovation company who are building the most capable and innovative explorer vessels of their kind in the market today and looking to push the envelope for those willing to go to the ends of the world.

Do you have a new strategy for 2020 that considers the above and more? If you would like to find out how a bespoke PR or social media campaign can enhance your new year approach, why not get in touch with our award-winning team today?

The PHA Group has worked with brands including YOTHA, YPI Crew and Ahoy Club helping to transform brand perception and position each as a thought-leader within their industry. Find out how we can support your business today and arrange a call with a member of our team.

What does 2020 have in store for the yachting industry?

Between the 2008 financial crash and Brexit, the UK suffered a housing crisis with no visible end. The cost of living has soared with rents now taking over half of the average monthly wage and people – not just millennials – have been priced out of the housing market. As a result, Generation Rent has taken centre stage in our cities.

For the SME market, however, this represents opportunity to solve problems. The UK’s entrepreneurs have had to pick up the slack and find innovative ways to offer prospective renters and buyers a viable living solution. One such disruptor company presenting answers to this very difficult set of questions is Vivahouse, with whom The PHA Group are fortunate enough to work with.

A London start-up that creates pre-fabricated flatpacks to build popup homes in unused commercial spaces, Vivahouse is a world first. Its thinking is very much outside of the box – in every sense. The company, founded by two exceptional female entrepreneurs, has managed to table possible solutions to two of the UK’s biggest issues – the insatiable amount of empty commercial space and the lack of high-quality housing – with one ground-breaking solution. PHA was tasked to help them get the word out – and that’s exactly what we did.

VivaHouse team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overview

Vivahouse briefed PHA to help launch their innovative concept in the run-up to their first site launch.

Over the course of four months, PHA generated PR for Vivahouse’s concept alongside its pop-up event space in Whiteleys shopping centre, London. We wanted to challenge the property industry with a new disruptor rental brand, help Vivahouse secure investment and to position its founders as experts.

Whitley's shopping center

Strategy and Implementation

The four-strong account team took a phased approach to this campaign. After advising on the pop-up space and video to demonstrate the build process of the Vivahouse rooms, our PR strategy for the launch was to entice a selection of key journalists to visit the pop-up event to see the rooms in action. Alongside this, we pitched out thought leadership pieces for the founders, profile interviews and achieved top tier coverage of the launch in key London papers, national newspapers and leading property trades.

Results and Evaluation

From December to March, PHA achieved impactful coverage in the Financial Times including FT Wealth magazine, Metro, Evening Standard, Architecture Today, Telegraph, Property Week, Dezeen, CityAM, CEO Today and Property Reporter, with the Metro, Telegraph and Architecture Today all visiting the pop-up site.

Vivahouse saw an increase in traction and inbound enquiries following press coverage achieved, with the Metro article achieving an ROI of over 70 new signups for future tenants, an inbound for a new site and website traffic spiking with 834 unique visitors on day of publication alone. With the spectacular coverage then achieved in the FT, the company also saw a number of inbound leads from promising investors.

PHA has helped transform the public perception of Vivahouse into an established voice and innovator in the property sector, positioned the founders as thought leaders on fixing the broken rental model and Vivahouse as the future of living in our cities.

If you would like to find out what PR could deliver for your business why not get in touch with our award-winning team today.

Launching innovation into the property sector

As a response to the supply and demand issue in housing leaving a majority of the nation’s millennials unable to buy a home, both established industry players and PropTech start-ups have stepped up to offer the house hunter and tenant a better way to deal with the perils of the lingering UK Housing Crisis.

In the world of property PR, this is as an opportunity.

Whether it is Brexit, Trump or a snap general election in the spotlight, your company’s voice should be one of the first heard in the market. A quick-fire reaction to the news agenda is the epitome of great coverage in the property sphere and is something the property press particularly favour. After all, the property landscape is something that will endure the test of time and will forever be a discussion needed to be had.

To elevate a company’s profile, whether it is a tech realtor like Square Feet, a flatmate matchmaking site like Ideal Flatmate or rental search service like MoveBubble, the end goal is to have your brand seen as an authority on the topic. Why? Well, if your CEO is seen as a thought leader in your target media, your potential demographic will grow to trust your brand. Association is a powerful thing in business.

This doesn’t mean relentlessly forcing your product offering or new start-up into the inboxes of randomly selected journalists claiming that your company can solve the housing crisis – that will get no meaningful coverage for your brand. It means you have to construct a reactive comment that reflects the issue at hand, show you understand the implication it will have on the sector and offer any predictions you may have for the future. Whilst doing so, try your absolute hardest to not turn it into a sales pitch.

There are three long term goals that property companies search for when they look to potentially source PR; to receive investment, boost user numbers in current or new territories, and to see more deals through the door. It is crucial that before you set out to pitch your brand that you clearly identify what you want to see happen to your company following the PR campaign:

  • If it is to receive investment: Target outlets that are watched, read or listened to by key investors and decision-makers in the property avenue. Fine-tune your messaging in each pitch to show why your company is worth their money.
  • If it is to boost user numbers and get more people to your site or app: Make sure you target media with a high consumer outreach in circulation and by rule of thumb, always aim to get a link back to your site to boost both your SEO on Google whilst simultaneously increasing the number of users landing on your homepage.
  • If it is to get more deals through the door: Say for example you work in real estate as an investor or lender, you need to target trade publications, associations and you shouldn’t underestimate the power of specialist publications with lower readerships, in both the UK and abroad. You will find these magazines go by the quality over quantity rule. It is often that these pieces of coverage are the ones that result in the direct closing of deals – because your voice was the one behind the article outlining how Brexit will stagger global real estate investor attention on the UK, not the voice reading it.

Let the overcrowded market know you fully understand and acknowledge a geopolitical shift’s impact on your industry, and let your potential customers and investors know that the company you run is part of a change that needs to happen.

Don’t be afraid to be a thought leader. Compile your opinions into a compelling argument and the media will listen.

If you would like to learn how Property PR could help benefit your business or brand then please get in touch.

Opening the door on property PR: How to engage with the media

Why personal PR matters in the professional services sector

Warren Buffet’s famous saying, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”, has been rolled out almost ad nauseum over the past decade by public relations firms. It may be tired but it’s true – it’s essential to have an effective communications strategy.

At a corporate level, professional service firms tend to heed this advice, having learnt the hard way that technical expertise isn’t the only ingredient to ensure survival in a cut-throat world. From the implosion of accounting giant Arthur Anderson’s financial reputation as a result of its negligent auditing of U.S. energy firm Enron, to the public shaming of law firms’ perceived lack of action on sexual harassment post #MeToo, it’s become all too clear that agile messaging must be a key component of their business strategy.

However, individual high-flying accountants and lawyers have so far been less willing to embrace PR for themselves. Undoubtedly, perceptions of cost and time efficiency play a role in this reticence. A partner at a Big Four accounting firm may well ask themselves why they personally need PR when surely all that matters is their client-handling and financial skills?

The reality is far more nuanced than they perhaps realise. Certainly, knowledge is crucial for professional service career advancement – but so is the ability to demonstrate that knowledge. The Big Four partner seeking to move up to global sector leader or transition to a senior job in-house will have their print and online presence closely scrutinised. Have they been commenting on major recent financial stories? Have they been attending industry events? Is their social media presence current and prominent? Concerns you wouldn’t typically expect professional service high-fliers to be evaluated on, but, as they climb up the ladder and become ever more public facing, their profile must meet the expectations of the job. If not, they won’t get the role – no matter how technically competent they are.

PR-ing the professional

As with public relations more broadly, the activity required to raise the profile of a professional service leader will depend on their sector, risk appetite and current media standing. There is one constant, though: thought leadership – a programme of activities designed to build the personal profile of the professional in a specific field.

There’s two sides to thought leadership. The proactive: landing new opportunities, such as comments in relevant trade media which will be read by peers and seniors (Accountancy World et al. for accountants; the Lawyer and the like for lawyers). The key is highlighting the professional’s expertise and becoming a go-to for their specialism in what is a broad and crowded sector – be it Islamic accounting or Monegasque law.

From here, press activity can move to more ambitious plains: pieces in national papers, speaking slots at major trade events and even airtime on national radio and television. Since you’re dealing with the public at this stage, technical details matter less than the broad message – what’s the big idea the professional is pushing? Media training can help enormously here since a smooth television or radio interview may catch the attention of producers elsewhere and potentially create a virtuous circle of media invitations.

The reactive angle is more defensive. It could range from responding to inbound requests for expert commentary on wider industry news, to offering counsel on sensitive issues that impact their professional standing (such as the collapse of a former employer).

The result

The right personal PR over a sustained period can support a professional’s career at the highest level. It can help them stand out from a crowded field, give them an extra string to their bow (how much more valuable is a managing partner who can confidently do a TV interview and perfectly represent the values of the firm than one who can’t?) and build them a powerful personal brand which could be particularly useful if they ever decide to set up their own company.

With over a decade of experience raising the personal profile of some of business’s biggest names – from James Reed of Reed Recruitment to Duncan Bannatyne – we’ve got an award-winning team which can help you navigate a rapidly evolving professional world.

The professional capital of personal PR

Regardless of whether you support or are against Brexit, it’s coming, and businesses are having to deal with the consequences come what may. For some, it presents serious operational concerns and threats which have been widely reported and recognised: job losses, supply chain issues and dwindling investment. For others, Brexit presents an opportunity. Since the result of the 2016 referendum, some existing businesses have resurged, and new ones have emerged.

Businesses making the most of Brexit - The PHA Group

Luxury property

Following the referendum result, sales of luxury properties (valued between £5m and £10m) fell by 51% year-on-year, and new-builds in London priced at more than £5m saw an 83% drop in value. Tax changes and uncertainty around Brexit seemingly deterred buyers from investing in residential property.

Almost three years on, and the dark clouds continue to loom over a housing market which is populated by cautious buyers and sellers awaiting a government announcement on a deal with the EU. However, the luxury homes market has bounced back to weather the Brexit storm and come out the other side with a rather sunnier disposition.

Sales of homes worth over £15 million have risen more than 40% since the referendum. This is due to a rush of overseas buyers snapping up vintage English real estate. A combination of a fall in the value of house prices by roughly 25%, coupled with a drop in the pound of about 15% means foreign buyers can purchase luxury real estate for values around 40% less than they would have paid three years ago. As a result, over half of prime houses sold in London over the last six months of 2018 went to overseas buyers.

UK property is a particularly lucrative investment for buyers trading in euros and dollars. One such example is the FirethornTrust, a property investment firm run by two US billionaire families, which is investing heavily in London property amid the volatile economic conditions, including their purchase of Quay House in London’s Canary Wharf.

As such, luxury property investment firms and estate agents such as London Central Portfolio have experienced success since the 2016 referendum result, when its CEO Naomi Heaton predicted an upturn in fortunes saying that: “prime central London real estate is expected to benefit from a flight to quality, against a background of highly volatile financial markets.” She was right.

Gold investment

Brexit has led to a modern-day gold rush as British investors seek alternative financial assets that won’t depreciate in value amid the uncertainty.

Earlier this year, Chris Howard, director of precious metals at The Royal Mint said “We have seen a significant increase in demand for gold, a trend which we have no doubt is largely attributed to Brexit and subsequent market volatility.” He cited a 73% increase in demand year-on-year during the first half of January.

Speaking to Channel 4, Josh Saul, CEO of The Pure Gold Company, claimed that this increase is driven not just by a rise in demand from those with an existing interest in gold, but most importantly from first time investors. Josh has seen a 219% increase in demand from such customers over a 12-month period since the vote on EU membership. New investors are also turning to other online gold investment services such as BullionVault and Gold.co.uk.

At times when the pound and stock markets look vulnerable, gold represents a financial insurance policy for many wealthy investors. Its value remains resilient and has even appreciated in value, particularly at the most politically chaotic moments of the Brexit saga – when demand for gold is at its highest.

Management consultancy

As businesses and individuals seek to derive meaning amid the economic uncertainty arising from Brexit, expertise has also grown in demand. Numerous businesses offering expert management consultancy on Brexit have emerged following the referendum.

In the long term, potentially complicated border tariffs, a possible economic downturn, and a shortage of talented employees from the continent could ultimately have a negative impact on the industry, but for now Brexit has ensured the expertise of professional services businesses remain highly sought after.

In February, the BBC reported that the government had agreed contracts worth over £100m with management consultancy firms such as Boston Consulting Group, PwC and Deloitte to help smooth the transition from the EU and minimise any possible economic side effects.

But it’s not just the government that needs this kind of professional advice, businesses small and large can benefit too. Even if a business is not directly affected by Brexit, it is almost certain that one of the other businesses in its supply chain or network of partners and clients will be affected. Therefore, many businesses already have or are considering incorporating a Brexit strategy as part of their core strategy.

Management consultancy firms such as the McWhinnie Consultancy and P2 consulting offer all types of businesses consultation within areas including legislation, finance, restructuring, strategy, corporate communications and technology, to help ‘Brexit-proof’ businesses.

Out of all the uncertainty created by Brexit, one thing is for sure: there are some winners and some losers. Those who have a clear strategy and an agile structure in place, can come out on top to make the most of Britain’s post-Brexit future.

If you would like to find out what PR could deliver for your business, why not get in touch with our award-winning team today. Look at our B2B credentials here.

Businesses making the most of Brexit

The online media landscape has seen an incredible evolution across the past decade. The 24-hour news cycle means there is a constant churn of news, opinions and hot takes. On top of this, social media provides everyone with a platform to share their thoughts. There is an increased need for businesses to adapt to this always-on, commentary-heavy environment and understand the right and most appropriate time for official reaction.

Trade associations sit in a unique position when it comes to presenting a unified opinion in the media, as they must represent and accommodate a host of differing views and voices. Trying to gauge when there is a story that requires – or could benefit from – a response is a communications challenge that needs constant analysis, teamwork and understanding.

If a membership association puts out a response which is poorly timed or unnecessary, it can lead to unhappy members, public dissatisfaction and discredited authority. Knowing when to react is vital, while knowing when to remain silent can be just as important to the success of any trade association’s media strategy.

Have clear goals

Associations must have a clear response strategy to protect against knee-jerk, damaging reactions to crises or the press. Associations should only respond if there’s a clear understanding of each of the following criteria: What is the most important message to convey? What are you adding to the story? Will it add value to members and/ or the public? How are members and stakeholders affected by this issue?

If trade associations are unable to fully answer any of these questions, there is a real risk of commenting for a comment’s sake and opening the door to widespread criticism.

There are hourly examples of associations adding excellent value to public debate through their media interactions, from the Wine and Spirits Association commenting on the rise of flavoured gin sales, to ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) adding valuable guidance on new alcohol consumption laws in Tenerife.

The juggling act of keeping members and stakeholders happy (and represented) but also keeping public opinion on your side is difficult. However, in having clear goals and criteria for responses, you offset any potential future issues in deciding whether you should react to certain stories.

Be wary of overreaction

It’s all too easy to be swept up by the news agenda if it affects your sector. A poorly informed columnist taking a pop at an industry issue or a competitor making bold and unsubstantiated claims are unfortunately commonplace – and it’s essential to understand that there are differing opinions everywhere. However, there can be internal pressure from members and management to issue a response, or media directly requesting an association’s input. It can be very difficult to know the parameters of a well-thought-out comment.

This is not to say associations should remain silent on most issues. Over the course of the past two years many trade groups have successfully voiced opinions against certain Brexit measures. Industries spanning the gamut of sectors are anticipating various changes; comments and media appearances to back up the concerns of their membership is not seen as an overreaction, but instead a necessary step.

The importance of steering clear of overreaction isn’t exclusive to associations – any individual or business needs to be wary of how a response can inform public and stakeholder perception. In cases that seem contentious and controversial within your association, or where there is no clear need to comment, it may be better to remain outwardly silent and instead focus on internal communications.

Don’t become the story

The worst-case scenario is when a trade association’s poorly placed comments turn into a negative story.

Dairy UK’s response to a vegan cheesemonger, La Fauxmangerie, in Brixton is a clear example of when an association has not properly assessed the situation and potential reactions. Despite the shop’s repeated references to its produce being totally animal and animal-derivative free, the dairy trade body stated the so-called ‘cheesemonger’ was misleading customers. It claimed it would be planning legal action.

Dairy UK’s comment was not well-received by the press, and its mention of the law and EU regulations highlighted an overly heavy-handed response to a local enterprise. Although the association was trying to reactively voice the opinions of members who are operating in a particularly tough market, this example was not the right news to rail against, and it led to Dairy UK appearing somewhat foolish as the legal threats issue showed they weren’t on board with the joke.

Ultimately, La Fauxmangerie benefited from Dairy UK’s comments, as it received additional press, and was painted as the small, innocent, independent shop berated by an association that was venting frustrations about the vegan movement in the wrong tone – and through the wrong medium.

This is an example for other trade associations: measure the situation and the perceived threat (including whether it truly is a threat) and consider potential backlash before responding.

Trade associations receive constant internal and external pressure to push a certain point of view, but if the response comes across as petty then this can have a highly negative impact on the association. It may be perceived as silly, insensitive, or non-representative of its members opinions; there is a potential minefield of critical reactions. Risk assessments should be done to alleviate potential damage control.

As 24-hour comment culture continues to thrive, there are increasing opportunities for trade associations to comment on stories and industry matters. It is more important than ever to take time to consider responses to any reaction, and only issue measured responses. An entire industry’s reputation is at stake.

If you would like to find out what PR could deliver for your business or trade association, why not get in touch with our award-winning team today. Look at our B2B credentials here.

Trade Associations: When to react

Successful corporate communications are everything that a company says or does to create a positive image and reputation both internally and externally. It is the foundation that supports the company’s growth goals and conveys the attitudes, beliefs, goals and culture of an organisation in order to gain visibility, credibility and name recognition in the marketplace.

As MIPIM celebrates its 30th edition, developers, asset managers, architects and landowners across the property industry recognise the importance of their corporate profile and engagement with the communities and networks in which they operate. It has been a tough year for real estate players given the widespread macroeconomic disruptions and political uncertainty that will continue to present cyclical changes and challenges for the real estate industry.

Firms will be looking to seize opportunities to articulate their brand and stake a competitive position.  There are many real estate companies that can design a high spec house or build an efficient building, but it’s the way people connect with the brand that makes all the difference. And in order to make that connection, the brands need to tell their stories. Through storytelling, a brand can differentiate, educate, resonate – it becomes more human, more relatable, more memorable. This is where a strategic PR plan comes in. Key events like MIPIM provide a platform for companies to think and apply their communications at a strategic level, understand the implications at a very local level and help build brand authenticity in a world of distrust.

PHA Strategic Communications team share the 10 key components that firms should consider when developing succinct and successful corporate communications:

 1.) Firstly, understand your market and where you fit within it – Acknowledge the challenges being faced and start thinking about an approach to overcoming them.

 2.) Make a self-diagnosis- How is your organisation perceived and how do you want it to be perceived in the future? There is a much greater level of scrutiny of the purpose, vision and value aspects of a company so vital to establish this.

 3.) Identify your goals – These should be measurable and attainable goals and strategies. Any corporate communications plan should also indicate immediate, short, and long-term goals. This will help the team determine how to prioritise and roll out various communication components, strategies, and tactics.

You should be asking questions like:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • What problem are you trying to solve for your audience?
  • Why is your service/product the only one capable of solving that problem?

 4.) Outline your communication objectives and the audience you are trying to reach and influence. Remember to think about what preferred communication channels they use.

 5.) Define tactics and communication channels needed to accomplish your stated goals. Then develop a tactical planning calendar that will guide how the tactics will be developed throughout the duration of a corporate communications campaign.

Remember to not just use one sole source of communications.  Instead, use a mix of email, social media, corporate intranet (if you have one), face-to-face meetings, media briefings, articles and conferences.

 6.) Develop well-structured and engaging content without the jargon and complex propositions – adapt the content and messaging accordingly. Think about using infographics, multimedia, stats and surveys to present your stories in addition to written pieces.

 7.) Build your media relations and remember to be agile and flexible– You may spot opportunities and threats that cause you to have to adjust your plan or activities.

 8.) Make sure there is a budget, schedule and method of assessing the success of communications initiatives. Without these three components, corporate communication plans are likely to fall through the cracks. Sometimes they are sacrificed to competing priorities or shuffled from one person to another. It’s an irony of modern corporate communications that investment in reputation will always get cut short term in favour of maximising shareholder value.

  9.) Be consistent in your communications – carve out your voice and share insight and knowledge.

10.) Evaluate results – Build into your plan a method for measuring results.

Strategy, not just in PR but in any discipline, is not about today or tomorrow but about the long term i.e. “if A happens, then what does B look like?”. An effective communications strategy can help deepen brand awareness, create a personality, monitor sentiment and engage media to amplify messages that align with your company’s business goals.

Are you looking to build your exposure, or perhaps reach a new audience? Speak to our team today to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.

10 steps to effective corporate communications

Thought leadership is a term that you hear a lot in the world of personal PR – but what role does this play in establishing someone as a media authority? And what does ‘thought leadership’ actually mean?

To dispel all the myths, thought leadership is not brainwashing with 1984-style connotations. It’s the opposite. Thought leadership is a phrase to describe someone sharing their opinion via long-form written articles in the media. There are, unfortunately, no prizes awarded to the ‘best thoughts’ – but there is a position of press authority and public trust to be won.

At PHA, we are fortunate enough to work with business people at the top of their game, and we work to position them at the forefront of the issues that matter to them, and that are making headlines.

At The PHA Group, our clients (and their expertise) run across a  full range of sectors, from energy suppliers to energy bars, law firms to luggage delivery specialists. It follows that a lawyer doesn’t necessarily want to speak to the same audience as a logistics expert, so we make sure each client’s voice, knowledge and unique take on things is heard, read and seen by the right people. Increasingly, that means thought leadership is changing.

Thought leadership was traditionally long-form articles but there are a host of ways we can position your opinion, with authority, in the press:

Have an opinion:

There are some amazing opportunities to get an opinion out there across print and online media – from long-form bylines that give you the freedom to discuss your thoughts in detail, to short and snappy letters to editors that we can turn around within hours. The key thing to remember is that you need to offer something interesting and authentic – grounded in your experience – and it must be relevant.

When an opinion piece works, it really works. One of our legal clients was the talk of an industry event this year when she appeared in City AM and then on Sky and TalkRadio to discuss GDPR before the legislation was enforced.

Hot off the press:

Reacting to the news agenda is another fantastic way to build your personal profile and establish yourself as an authority in the media. It all hinges on how quickly you can respond to something – breaking stories must be responded to within the hour. If these quick timeframes are honoured, it can lead to your comment being covered widely across all mediums – broadcast, print, online – and effectively ‘hijacking’ the news to support a personal or business agenda. We’ve had fantastic success reacting to breaking stories in this way, and the rapid response time pays off.

There are also things you can prepare for; spring and autumn budgets, competitor company results and so on, and we make sure we’re always looking out for relevant topics for our clients.

Be social:

Thought leadership isn’t the exclusive reserve of the so-called traditional media, and increasingly, experts take to digital platforms to share their insight. A huge benefit of LinkedIn and Twitter is that you can put paid spend behind posts to target the most relevant audiences and measure the impact and reach of your content.

James Reed, Chairman of Reed.co.uk, the UK’s leading job site, has a weekly Monday Message on his LinkedIn page that attracts thousands of engagements every week. It gives James the opportunity to comment on stories that he finds interesting; from lessons learned from Gareth Southgate’s management style to how to recover from the back-to-work blues. The blogs provide an unedited look into what interests James. Jobseekers take note!

As well as social being a platform to share unique content, it’s also a platform we use to amplify great coverage – ensuring that there’s a ‘second wave’ of attention paid to the headlines and opinions that contain core messages of the businesses and people we represent.

Events and awards:

Events and awards are excellent ways of bolstering your credentials, and shortlistings and wins also provide us with a great news story to issue to the media. One of our wonderful clients was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise earlier this year, which serves as an undeniable proof-point when talking to journalists about the business’ astonishing growth. The content of the entry has been invaluable for drafting content – and vice versa, the opinion articles we placed, and PR successes formed part of the business’ entry, bringing the cycle of establishing a personal profile full-circle.

Thought leadership isn’t something that you can tick off a to-do list, it’s an ongoing activity that takes many forms across multiple channels. In supporting a client’s personal profile, we can authentically raise awareness of the company or organisation they represent.

If you’d like to speak to us about personal PR, please contact us today to find out more.

How to become a ‘thought leader’