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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?

In an age where companies claim to be the leading expert in every topic under the sun, making sure your business stands out from the crowd can be an uphill battle. When it comes to the technology arena, this problem is exacerbated. The media hype around the latest technology, such as AI or cybersecurity, creates a wall of white noise that’s seemingly impossible to break through unless you’re one of the big players like Microsoft or Google.

However, all is not lost for the tech start-up that wants to get noticed in their respective area online. By choosing the right platforms to make your case and ensuring your timing is spot on, it is possible to be a flamingo amongst a flock of pigeons. Here are some of the top ways you can make sure your tech start-up stands out from the crowd.

Know what makes you unique

It’s all too easy to slip into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. Not only will this dilute your message, but it will also confuse it. It’s important to understand what makes your proposition truly different to the rest of the competition as only then can you get across exactly what you want to say.

What do you do that no one else does? What insights do you have on AI, fintech or cybersecurity that no one else can provide or is providing right now? Do you have any unique data that can add something truly new to the wider conversation? Once you know what only you can offer, you can go out with a succinct message that will cut through the white noise.

Understand who you’re trying to target

Not only is it important to know your business, but it’s also crucial to know who you want to be in front of and why being in front of those people will help you succeed. Again, you can’t be in front of every single audience and trying to reach everyone will limit the time you can spend on specific targets such as the people who might buy your product or invest capital in the business.

Understanding why you want to target a particular audience will help focus your messaging online. If you’re looking to become a leading expert in AI for example, you need to be in the media read by those at the top of this field. If you want to sell units, being in a consumer-facing “wish-list” article will be more beneficial than an exclusive interview with the founder.

Don’t join the chorus

There seems to be an innovation or technological breakthrough every other day, with the tech du jour often lauded as the next big thing that everyone is talking about. While there’s a strong temptation to get in on the conversation and put as much of your opinions out there at once, don’t jump on every bandwagon. In the highly competitive arena of technology, you’ll most likely be drowned out by the big players.

Make sure every time you post something online or talk to the media you’re adding real value to the conversation. Choosing the right platform to ensure you’re in front of your target audience is also essential to avoid being swallowed by the noise. It’s not about being controversial, and having the ability to step back and know when the right time is to speak out or to listen will stand you in good stead.

Practice what you preach

In all your communication as a company, whether that be with customers, investors or internal staff, it’s important that you practice what you preach. Staying true to your principles is the sure fast way to maintain a level of integrity that no amount of money spent on marketing campaigns can bring. Most companies are founded in an attempt to solve a real-world problem, and being able to talk about this in a relatable way can help your company stand out from the noise.

If you would like to find out more about how our award-winning team could position you or your business in the media, get in touch with us today.

How to stand out from the crowd online

A public relations (PR) crisis can cause irreparable damage to the reputation of any business. There are many scenarios that can occur, whether you’re a large corporation, individual or multi-national organisation. We specialise in mitigating risk for you and your business and providing an on-demand crisis and reputation support solution that’s discrete, effective, and professional. We offer a crisis ‘insurance policy’ of sorts which means that you and your business are prepared for any eventuality and can continue business as usual.

How can we assist you?

  • Advice on how to mitigate negative publicity
  • Preparing, drafting and issuing press releases and handling media enquiries 24/7 on the client’s behalf
  • Guidance documents on how to protect you and your company
  • Expert media training for both broadcast and newspaper interviews to prepare your key spokespeople for interaction with the media

Not sure a public relations insurance policy is for you? Here are just some examples where our team of experts can support.

Poorly planned marketing

Marketing and PR are essential requirements to help grow your business. Sometimes your marketing efforts can backfire – even if you had the best intentions and never anticipated it becoming an issue. Whether it is a mis-use of terminology, a Freudian slip over social media, or simply an image that has been taken out of context.

For example, high-street fashion store H&M came under fire in January, when the company released an advert featuring a young black boy wearing a hoodie that featured the phrase, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” The media covered the issue extensively and quickly found that this wasn’t H&M’s first incident. The PR and media backlash was extensive and detrimental to the brand’s reputation.

In many cases, their business reputation did bounce back after an initial plunge in sales and reputation. However, it can take expensive compensation packages and extensive resources to resolve the situation.

Product recalls

Our top tips during a product recall are simple.

  • Take responsibility: When sending your statement be transparent about what happened
  • Act immediately: Don’t waste time, the situation could potentially escalate so act quickly
  • Be candid and compassionate: Say sorry to your customers, own up to your mistakes
  • Cooperate: Work with the people affected and your communications team
  • Use every means possible to communicate information: Think about this as a marketing campaign, you need to get in touch with every possible customer so use all your channels available to you

Product recalls can be a large drain of resources for your in-house communications teams. Ensuring your crisis and reputation policy and plan is being executed in conjunction with the situation can be a concern as well. Working with a specialist team who can act immediately and action that process for you is imperative to reduce reputational impact, avoid injuries or accidents with customers and ensure you have reached your core demographic and their network instantaneously.

Fashion store Primark had to recall three types of their men’s flip-flops containing dangerous levels of a cancer-causing chemical last year. Primark came across really prepared and were quick to make their announcement. The interesting thing about the incident is that neither the information on the corporate website or the media statement says what the issue was. A better approach would have been to be open and clear about what the chemical is and what the risks are to customers. Being transparent and demonstrating action is a key part of responding to a product recall and shows that an organisation is taking the situation seriously.

High-risk territories

Does your brand operate in high-risk territories? When a brand or business must travel to various parts of the world there is always an extensive risk assessment put in place to ensure the safety of employees and guests and what to do if there were an incident. But in those plans have you thought about your media relationships? How would you communicate your side of the story, and how can you showcase to the public and those affected what you are doing to rectify the situation? That’s where a clear crisis communications strategy comes into its own and experts on hand to deal with your situation 24/7.

Injuries and accidents

One possible issue that could develop and become a major PR crisis is if your products cause injury or illness to your customers or an employee, or if a contractor has a detrimental accident on your watch.

For example, in these types of scenarios reactions to issues can range from customers complaining to friends and family about your business, taking to social media and forums to raise their concerns to severe reactions, such as seeking legal action to reimburse medical costs or to receive compensation for their discomfort.

In these cases, it is imperative to demonstrate steps are being taken to resolve the situation, prevent any future problems, and of course negate some reputation damage.

Personal information

The introduction of the GDPR legislation in May 2018 has made some businesses across the UK nervous of the impact on their business if there were a breach. Not just monetary issues can occur, but the risk and damage a data breach can cause to the reputation of a business.

That was the case for BT who were fined £77,000 by the ICO. Between December 2015 and November 2016, BT sent 4.9 million emails about its fundraising platform My Donate, Giving Tuesday, and Stand up to Cancer.  The ICO said that these communications were marketing, rather than messaging, and BT did not have consent to send them.

Handling customer feedback and inquiries and monitoring the ‘noise’ of the incident on social and in the media can be difficult. Our specialist crisis social team can work alongside your in-house teams to rectify the situation, whilst our PR specialists help you deal with media inquiries and publishing statements to those affected.

All smart businesses plan, and crisis management is no different; prevention is better than cure. We deploy a suite of services to manage and maintain your crisis and reputation. Contact us today to find out how we can work with you and your business.

Your crisis and reputation ‘insurance policy’

Your privacy and reputation have never been more prized assets. We live in an age where the internet and social media has made finding out information about individuals and businesses easier than it has ever been before. Anyone, including journalists and newspaper editors, can discover background information through a quick online search or look across Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. When the press run a story about someone their digital footprint can remain online for everyone to see. We all have the right to a private life but during times of legal action, disputes and open court reporting, it has never been easier for the press to build a story so quickly, no matter if it is entirely accurate or not.

Over the summer, I was asked to provide an initial consultation for a prospective client to see if we could help supplement the instructed legal team and provide adequate communications support with several upcoming court dates. The other side had already engaged with the press ahead of time and the narrative had already been set in a couple of publications with their side of the story. After we came away from the initial meeting, within 48 hours our client already had a handful of journalists from leading national newspapers requesting comments out of the blue. We came on board straight away to help right the conversation and highlight the truth that was to be conveyed in court. The client couldn’t believe how quickly these journalists jumped on the story after one piece online had been published, but now all it takes is one tweet, one story and the ball can start rolling, and roll quickly.

It is no longer just the UK where the media can get their teeth into a story. The global media interest in a case can be ferocious as businesses and individuals are increasingly operating and travelling across the globe. As they do so, the demand for international commercial courts to serve them has also grown. The supply of court services has risen to meet this. More and more we see disputes being taken to the courts in London, under English law, as the English common law system has been exported to many countries. Even with the UK exiting the EU, the English court system has never been busier hearing cases with an international element.

Increasingly we are asked to provide discreet, strategic and practical advice to our private clients and business owners who today face ever-more complex digital, media and regulatory challenges. Our team puts together bespoke support for challenging disputes and our international network of media contacts stretches to multi-jurisdictional environments, so our client’s messages and stories are portrayed accurately whether it be in the USA, Italy, France or right here in the UK.

The long process of building a legal argument can all be misrepresented by reporting in the public eye that frames the case in a certain light that may hinder the overall strategy and objectives. It is paramount to set the tone and make sure the correct messaging is portrayed to the media as it will undoubtedly remain on the internet for years. The old adage that today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper no longer holds true in 2019.

Privacy and Reputation: Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper

Calm before the storm: The Top Five Do’s and Don’t of Crisis Management

Crises strike in various forms. They can be planned for, but unless you have a crystal ball, predicting the finer points is extremely difficult.

Recent studies have shown that companies with an action plan already in place – and the ability to follow that plan – tend to come out best, their value held and board members in one piece.

Although this sounds an obvious point, still now, in 2015, PR professionals encounter companies large and small with no crisis communications plans.

Now more than ever, companies have to stand up to scrutiny. There are greater regulations. The public demands greater transparency, and rightly so.

The combination of factors makes it ever more important to be able to analyse risks and deal with them accordingly.

Having a crisis plan is one key factor. But what about other Crisis Management Do’s, and actions you should definitely not do when cast into the eye of the media storm?

Crisis Management Do’s’ v Top Five Crisis Management Do Nots

1: DO ensure you have a crisis plan in place. This will include a crisis team, which should be formed of a small core of senior people and advisors. Everyone must be fully aware of what they are doing and when. One or two key people should be in charge of declaring when this team is activated.

DON’T expect it all to blow over if you aren’t ready and know how to deal with it. The companies left playing crisis catch-up are often the ones which suffer most.

2: DO make sure your spokespeople are media trained and fully briefed before they speak to any journalist or TV company. Media training is a vital investment to make. Even the most confident CEOs and directors should receive training if they are likely to engage with the media.

DON’T try to wing it. This never works. Journalists are skilled professionals who will maximise the opportunity if they feel the person they are dealing with is the weak link.

3: DO stay calm and pause for thought when a crisis hits. This may be difficult under the circumstances. The best way to start a crisis management process is to show strong leadership. Your staff will be looking for this, not lots of people running around not looking like they are in control.

DON’T rush into decisions. Remember – in the midst of a crisis, every move is monitored. Words cannot be unspoken; each action will have a consequence.

4: DO get the facts as early and as clearly as possible. Ask yourself the question – do you know as much about the situation as the journalist who may be calling to put a story to you? If not, get the right people around you and make sure all the information is to hand. There may be a nugget of info which stops an initial enquiry becoming a full-blown crisis.

DON’T forget about two of your most important assets – the people you do business with, and your workforce. B2B communications and internal communications in a crisis are often overlooked but need to be handled correctly. Imagine your workers or a supplier reading something about your company before being told about the situation by you direct? Communication is key.

5: DO make sure the strategy for dealing with the situation includes social media. Ignore at your peril.

DON’T be afraid to ask for outside help, be it from lawyers, PRs or other advisors. You will have a strong team around you, no doubt, but investing in external help is far more cost-effective than being caught cold by a crisis.

Crisis Management Do’s and Don’ts

The PHA Group’s Strategic Communications team assess what impact a new billion-dollar industry could have for investors, female empowerment and the UK’s global role. 

Back in 2016, the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board discovered a rather extraordinary piece of information. When assessing the global stocks and production of the world’s legal cannabis, they found that an incredible 78% of the world’s stocks were actually being stored in one country. Not only was that one country growing around half the planet’s legal cannabis, it was also accountable for more than two-thirds of global exports.

Curiously, the country responsible for the vast majority of the world’s legal cannabis production and trade that year was the United Kingdom, having doubled its production to 95 tons of legal cannabis (45% of the world’s total.)

These developments can be attributed to what some analysts are now collectively naming the “Green Rush.” A term being used to describe the changing political and mainstream discourse around cannabis, as more and more countries begin to develop medical programmes using both cannabis and cannabis extracts, while establishing hugely prosperous industries in the process.

A Budding Industry

At the time of writing there are roughly a dozen or so cannabis companies already operating with stock market values of more than $1 billion. While, most of the commercial focus has so far been on North America, some estimates believe that the European cannabis market itself could be worth over £100bn by 2028. To put that figure in perspective, that’s more than double the revenues Apple reported in the region last year.

The big cannabis-producing companies recognise the need to provide more clinical evidence as they become more pharma-focused, which will begin to see more clinical trials and medical partnerships. The world’s largest cannabis company, Canopy Growth, a Canadian grower that processes cannabis plants into oils, gel capsules and dried flowers, generated sales of £47m last year. They’ve now created a new UK subsidiary, Spectrum Biomedical, to begin importing and distributing cannabis to pharmacies in the UK at the request of physicians in 2019.

UK Market

Acceptance amongst Britain’s political and business leaders around cannabis continues to grow, and it’s proving exciting for investors. Britain’s first investment vehicle devoted to medicinal cannabis, Sativa, floated on London’s NEX exchange in March 2018, followed by High Growth Capital in June, both attracting buoyant backing from fund managers. Unsurprisingly, the shares would soar in value after Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s unexpected decision in November to legalise medical cannabis. The decision from the Home Office to introduce legislation was significant breakthrough, a decision arriving much earlier than most analysts had expected. However, while patients are still struggling to access medical cannabis, it is worth remembering that cannabidiol (CBD) products were already widely accessible as food supplements. High street stockists, such as Holland and Barrett, have already been successfully promoting CBD ranges, despite not being able to endorse the health benefits by law.

In the background though, things continue to progress. There have been further positive votes in the European Union to advance medical cannabis. The World Health Organisation officially recommended that the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) should not be classified as a controlled substance, and the UN has released positive findings from studies on both CBD and THC.

Now, ECH, which helped to secure the arrival of the first legal cannabis shipment in Britain this year, has now opened the first medical cannabis clinic in the UK in Manchester to assist patients with chronic conditions, with clinics in London and Birmingham due to open before the end of the year.

High Expectations

As the Guardian reported earlier this month, interest in CBD is exploding and it isn’t just this month’s turmeric shot. They reported that “If CBD does what its advocates suggest – or even a fraction of it – this all-natural, side-effect-free, widely available chemical could genuinely be the wonder drug of our age.”

It’s some statement. In the meantime, the UK is already seeing CBD cocktails, edibles such as gummy bears, vapes and we’ve even heard of a new tampon range. The government has recognised medical cannabis has benefits when it comes to some serious conditions, but others argue CBD has the potential to replace everyday items like ibuprofen. It’s an industry in its infancy, and nobody is sure quite how far the possibilities extend. But if things progress as quickly and as promisingly as they are currently, you will most certainly be looking at the UK’s next potential billion-pound industry.

Female Empowerment

The nascent cannabis industry requires talented entrepreneurs and leaders to take it forward.

On May 18th, global players in the market will be arriving in London to discuss these developments and more at the Women, CBD & Medical Cannabis Conference at the Hilton London Paddington Hotel. Business leaders tell us one of the benefits of working within such a new and rapidly developing industry is how ascendant it has been for women. As it is a relatively new industry, there is a unique opportunity to help build an entire regulated industry from the ground up – a space that is progressive and inclusive compared to other traditional industries. As a result, the number of women in senior leadership positions continues to outstrip the national average, while the female consumer demographic in the US virtually doubled in size last year. Forming a new industry has allowed equal opportunities to be built into the core of it, as well as giving them an edge when it comes to understanding their female consumers.

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.

Medical Cannabis: The UK’s next billion-pound industry?

With the summer transfer window fast approaching, in-house marketing and communication teams from football clubs up and down the country will already be locked away behind closed doors discussing how they can capitalise on the buzz created by new signings and how they can enhance the global reputation of the brand.

You might think that the bigger clubs, with bigger budgets, would be leading the way, but in fact, some of the smaller clubs in England are muscling in on the conversation and hitting the back of the net when it comes to delivering impact for their transfer window activity.

Whether it’s a £100m player signed to help your club win the Champions League or the combative midfielder that will help you stave off the threat of relegation into the Football League, gone are the days of simply announcing a player’s arrival on the club website with the classic shirt and handshake image.

Here we look at some of the most creative player transfer reveals over the last few years.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa pulled off one of the biggest coups in recent history when they signed former England captain John Terry from Chelsea last summer. One of the most decorated players ever to have graced the English game, rumours placed Terry on three different continents at the same time, but it was Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa who secured the players signature. Villa announced his arrival with an imaginary WhatsApp group chat between the Villa chairman and manager Steve Bruce, along with past and present players, before “John Terry” was added to the group.  Simple but clever from Villa.


German international defender Antonio Rudiger was Chelsea’s first high profile signing last summer and his arrival delighted one Chelsea fan. Chelsea posted a video which follows a father and son to the counter of the Chelsea megastore at Stamford Bridge, where the dad asks his son what player’s name he wants on the back of his new Chelsea shirt. “Rudiger” is his reply. The cashier then pops his head into the storeroom to ask Rudiger himself if it’s OK. “No problem — I’m a Chelsea player now,” the Germany international responds.  At the time Chelsea supporters were growing increasingly frustrated by a lack of transfer activity but this was a nice touch from the Premier League champions.

Manchester United

Perhaps the most extravagant of them all but also befitting of the world’s second most expensive player of all time, Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United rewrote the rules of sports marketing. This was more than just the return of Pogba, this was the combined genius of Manchester United and kit sponsor Adidas.

The entire unveiling was planned weeks in advance with Pogba featuring in online videos arriving in the UK, and touring the club’s training ground. If you thought that was good, Adidas enlisted the help of grime star Stormzy and created a music video which featured Pogba singing alongside the star. A #POGBACK hashtag was created and the rest is, well, history…

Oxford City

A far cry from the glamour and riches of the Premier League, Oxford City, who ply their trade in the sixth tier of English footballer, posted an image of their new signing on their Twitter account and it went viral after social media users retweeted it hundreds of times… after noticing he was sat in a McDonald’s restaurant. New arrival Matt Paterson was snapped signing the contract at the popular fast food chain prompting McDonald’s themselves to respond to the tweet. Despite initially being ridiculed for the tweet, the post drew widespread attention from media and it was Oxford who were smiling the next day when the story made the back pages of several national newspapers.

Yeovil Town

In July this year, Snapchat launched a new feature called “Snap Map” and the social media team at League Two Yeovil Town quickly saw an opportunity to jump on the back of the latest social trend by tapping into the new feature. The feature allows users to share their location with each other, so the club created a short video to show who was located at the stadium, Huish Park. Step forward new signing Jake Gray. They might be plying their trade in the bottom tier of the football league, but this was Premier League quality from the Somerset club’s social media team.

Written by Simerhan Hunjunt & Miranda Drew

In a time of Twitter, trolls and clickbait, headline fodder is no longer confined to the life and times of celebrities, CEOs and companies. Social media statuses can be front page news and what was once an opinion expressed in a private post can now cost you your job, your reputation – and can even be grounds for a libel lawsuit.

Exhibit A: Elon Musk, billionaire, founder of Tesla and SpaceX and all-round Twitter-fanatic, faced criticism earlier this month for his attempt to assist in the Thai cave rescue with a custom-built submarine.  After one of the leaders of the rescue mission said the submarine was “not practical”, the general consensus on Twitter was that Musk’s invention and subsequent Twitter posts were all one big PR stunt – something we discussed on our blog last week.

In an attempt to set the record straight, Musk turned to social media again – this time, sharing an email exchange with Dick Stanton, one of the British caving experts called in for the rescue. Musk vied to ‘prove’ he was encouraged by officials to build the submarine, while simultaneously aiming to discredit the Thai provincial governor, describing him as “not [being] the subject matter expert.” The tweets made national headlines, as did Musk’s less-than-gracious behaviour.

Unfortunately, last weekend Musk took to social media yet again and faced a fresh wave of criticism – and a potential lawsuit.

This time, Musk came under fire for lashing out at one of the divers involved in the rescue, dubbing him a “pedo guy.” The remark came after the diver in question, Vern Unsworth, said in an interview with CNN that Musk should “stick his submarine where it hurts” and labelled it a “PR stunt” that “had absolutely no chance of working” because the billionaire, “had no conception of what the cave passage was like”.

As the heated exchange made international headlines, Musk was questioned by his followers about the evidence he had for the uncomfortable notion of a “pedo guy” rescuing 12 young boys from a secluded cave in Thailand. He responded with an insensitive “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

Musk yesterday issued an apology and said his now-deleted Tweets were “spoken in anger” and “the fault is mine and mine alone”. However, he gave no insight into why he made such damaging claims and given that the screenshots and online articles live on, a court case may still have legs.

But Musk is not the only influential figurehead whose use of social media has left many shocked and offended. President Trump, fellow billionaire and notorious Twitter-addict is another well-known example of how social media platform have a powerful impact on reputation.

While the examples are many and varied, one memorable Tweet that caused significant condemnation of the United States’ President contained an attack on US news anchor, Mika Brzezinski’s appearance back in June 2017.

After Brzezinski and her fellow host Joe Scarborough criticised President Trump on a segment, saying that he was “destroying the country,” Trump retaliated with two tweets that referred to Scarborough as “Psycho Joe” and Brzezinski as having a “low I.Q” and “was bleeding badly from a face-lift.” The tweets led to uproar about the objectification of women and did nothing to further Trump’s already dented reputation – the link between personal and professional is inextricable.

Just last week, Trump’s feud with Sadiq Khan made headlines as he visited the United Kingdom. The resentment was initially sparked by a Tweet from the President in June 2017 after London terrorist attacks in which he took Khan’s comments out of context. “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”

Fuel was added to the fire when The Sun interviewed President Trump ahead of his visit to London. “Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he [Mr Khan] has done a very bad job on terrorism,” Trump has been reported as saying. Fellow politician David Lammy took to Twitter to defend Khan, and the whole story ended up leading the news yet again.

Trump’s use of social media has been widely criticised by the public, by media in America and abroad, and even by a member of his own party. But despite the backlash, the American President has expressed no intention of stopping, describing his use of social media as that of a “modern-day presidential.”

As social media commentaries continue to fuel headlines from America to Australia, causing scandals and resulting in resignations, it’s important for people in positions of influence to tread – and Tweet – carefully. One misguided tweet can tarnish a carefully-built reputation faster than you can hit delete – screenshots are forever.  So, remember, think before you press ‘send’ – social media may be accessible, but it is a public communications channel just like any other.

If you would like to know how PR can help to protect your reputation then please get in touch with us today.

Think before you Tweet: A word of advice to Musk

Our experts have helped countless high-profile individuals and businesses salvage their hard-earned reputations online, offline or both. We deploy a suite of specialised personalised services to defuse crisis, mitigate further risks, take legal action if necessary and create a new, positive media narrative.

Read on to find out how our team of experts supported Sir Cliff Richard during his battle with the BBC following the live broadcast of a raid on his home in August 2014.

The Brief

To protect the reputation of Sir Cliff Richard and ensure the public – globally – were being told the true story of Sir Cliff’s innocence and his battle to clear his name. We deployed a multi-pronged approach using public relations techniques and legal assistance to defuse crisis, mitigate further risks, and create positive media narrative to manage Sir Cliff Richard’s reputation.

Our Strategy

To tell the public the true story of the so-called Cliff Richard Investigation – that Sir Cliff, following collusion between the BBC and South Yorkshire Police, became the victim of some media and police “sweetheart deal” which resulted in him being named as being under investigation during a live broadcast of a raid of his apartment.

  • Build a “fight-back” narrative to reassure the British public – and protect the reputation of Sir Cliff Richard
  • Ensure the message of an unprecedented situation was communicated clearly, accurately and compliant with current journalism law
  • Secure opportunities with key media outlets to communicate Sir Cliff’s side of the story
  • Support and manage the PR for the litigation against the BBC
  • Create a campaign that would have longevity and reduce the impact on Sir Cliff’s career

Our Method

After receiving notice of the police raid and the BBC’s attendance, a crisis team was formed at The PHA Group consisting initially of Chairman, Phil Hall, and former national newspaper journalist Neil McLeod.

From the outset, the strategy, via a public statement released on behalf of Sir Cliff, was to underline his shock at the BBC being on site as his home was raided – and to deny any wrong-doing. The integrated strategy which followed was designed to help the wider team get on the front foot and combined cut-through personal reputation commentary, insightful personal experience pieces and news agenda reaction to help push-back on false perceptions of Sir Cliff and underline the truth – that he is an innocent man fighting for his own rights.

The team worked in partnership with Partners from Michael Simkins LLP, Sir Cliff’s media lawyers, to ensure that events and details were reported accurately, and that falsehoods were corrected or stopped, or not given oxygen. Neil and Phil’s intimate knowledge of the media played a key part in their successful negotiations to ensure Sir Cliff was fairly represented and the record was set straight, with the strategy of being approachable and open with the media being important.

Former award-winning journalist and PHA consultant Phil Taylor was also brought into the account team alongside Phil Hall to coach Sir Cliff to handle tough media questioning he would inevitably face once the investigation was dropped.

Reactive news agenda placement was deployed, for example, in response to reports that Sir Cliff had been banned from the US, our team arranged pictures of him rehearsing in Nashville for his upcoming tour. These were printed by national media outlets. Allegations claiming Sir Cliff had poor health were also reported, so we launched into action, securing six images of Sir Cliff on page 3 in The Mail on Sunday, showing he was in good health and continuing his life as normal. Other media outlets soon followed suit.

Following the BBC story, a media environment was created where many publications seemed to believe it was “open season” to report on Sir Cliff’s life. Our team ensured accurate reporting by the Mail on Sunday and secured a Page One story showing he was fighting for his reputation and his rights following the unprecedented attack on his privacy.

Throughout the campaign, PHA received a plethora of story inquiries, almost on a weekly basis, which arose from false allegations – many of them outlandish – and working with the team to prevent publication or amend stories.

We also secured expert thought leadership consultancy in both the national and international press about privacy legislation, correct terms of events and spokesperson commentary to raise awareness among the public, media and Sir Cliff’s fan base. Our team arranged an exclusive interview with The Daily Mail, a key demographic and the largest circulation in the middle-market, as well as a personal one-to-one interview with close friend Gloria Hunniford on Loose Women. PHA also worked with Cliff and his music company to facilitate positive interviews – and manage messaging – around positive events for Sir Cliff, such as record releases and his sell-out birthday concerts.

Following confirmation of Sir Cliff’s legal action against the BBC, PHA provided support throughout the litigation, helping to engage with journalists and help provide messaging to correct misconceptions on the nature of the litigation and Sir Cliff’s reasons for going ahead with it.

The Result

We harnessed our strategic approach to rally Sir Cliff’s fan base and close friendship group; we reiterated his status as a national treasure in the media and public eye.

Our team established excellent relationships with journalists, ensuring over 150 articles with false allegations were either retracted, amended or we provided a comment, so we could successfully manage Sir Cliff’s reputation.

We established positive awareness and positively shifted assumptions about Sir Cliff’s reputation in the media.
He enjoyed a series of sell-out shows at The Royal Albert Hall and Greenwich, as well as releasing a Greatest Hits album that shot to number 1.

South Yorkshire Police settled with Sir Cliff Richard and admitted in a statement to the High Court that they acted unlawfully.

The BBC mounted a defence against Sir Cliff’s privacy action against him. In April 2018 the court heard how they used a helicopter to live broadcast the raid on Sir Cliff’s home after “strong-arming” South Yorkshire Police with information they had on the early stages of the investigation.

Judge, Mr Justice Mann, delivered his judgment on Wednesday 18 July awarding an initial £210,000 in damages.

We fostered and maintained positive media relations across the board with journalists against a background of challenging issues for them with regards to reporting and some misconceptions over press freedom in relation to the litigation.

Do you need an immediate short-term plan to deal with a problem or situation and a long-term communications strategy to rebuild your profile? Do you also need the help of experienced professionals with strong personal relationships, who can provide sound judgement? We offer all of this and more. Hire the best team to fight your corner. Contact us today to find out more.

Fighting for the truth: preserving the reputation of national treasure, Sir Cliff Richard

We understand the challenges that can be faced in each sector, and we know how to prepare and protect our clients should they ever need it. In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny amongst the media towards charities, and even more hard-hitting scandals this year have had an impact on public perceptions. It can take a hundred good stories to build a reputation but only one bad one to bring down the house.

We’ve helped charities in the eye of the storm and advised clients in high profile situations. Our support can help you to prepare for and react decisively to an issue or crisis situation. If you want to take steps to protect your organisation today, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Developing a crisis response strategy

We know that most comms issues can be navigated effectively with the right strategy and support in place. Having the confidence that you can mitigate a risk comes from knowing you are properly prepared. We work closely with clients to create straight-talking crisis comms strategies that cover:

• Situational analysis – a review of key events that could impact your organisation
• Risk assessments – what issues are you likely to encounter? What could have the most impact?
• Crisis team structures – including Trustee support
• Comms protocols and checklists – a clear structure to follow at a glance
• User handbooks – communicating your crisis strategy in a format that can be easily accessed and used when the time is of the essence
• Template materials – to help speed up response times during a crisis situation.

Training days

Part of being able to respond to a crisis is being confident when handling media. The media will view your chief executive like any other CEO – they are the leader of the organisation and should be prepared to be scrutinised.
Journalists argue that they are reporting what the public needs to know, or wants to know, reflecting public mood. Spokespeople should be media trained, armed with facts and prepared for the toughest questions.

At PHA, our expert teams have been on the sharp end of media questioning, and can expertly prepare any spokesperson. Our tailored media training sessions train spokespeople to:

  • Structure key messages
  • Learn to control media interviews
  • Develop prepared responses
  • Understand the media
  • Learn different interview styles.

In addition to media training, our crisis simulation training days will put comms teams through their paces, with a mock crisis scenario involving how to deal with news of the crisis breaking, the first stages, the first calls from journalists, the CEO being doorstepped, and more.

Real-time support

During a crisis, even those with agreed protocols in place often require additional support. Crisis management experts are used to dealing with difficult situations, and good ones are not afraid to tell clients how it is once they see the depth of problems in an organisation. They should be able to bring with them not only expertise but contacts and links to other third parties who can help.

Getting up to speed on an issue quickly is vital. At PHA, we offer a 24/7 service that monitors social and traditional media coverage including sentiment. Our twice-daily reports with analysis and recommendations mean that you can always be sure of informed decision making.
Support from PHA can be scaled up or down depending on the level of crisis. From handling all media enquiries and social posts to acting as a sounding board for critical response deadlines, you will always be working with a dedicated senior comms consultant who will be on-hand at a moment’s notice. We also plug clients into media lawyers were necessary to help protect reputations and advise on other issues should the need arise.

Proactive PR

Following on from a crisis, it’s important to focus on the future and how or where you need to re-build relationships. Our third sector specialist team can help with:

  • Reviewing existing content and communications
  • Stakeholder engagement strategies
  • Thought leadership/feature placement
  • Proactive awareness-raising or fundraising campaigns.

If you would like to know how PR can help protect your organisation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today.

Third Sector crisis communication support