View a full range of our ebooks

View full library


Our Location

The PHA Group
117 Wardour Street,
Hammer House,

0207 0251 350
PHA Digital Studio
Fourth Floor,
47 Dean St,

0207 0251 350
PHA Finance Department
117 Wardour Street,
Hammer House,

0207 0251 350

Rachel Shenton – from Hollyoaks to Hollywood Oscar Winner

Rachel Shenton – from Hollyoaks to Hollywood Oscar Winner

In 2013, The PHA Group started working with actress Rachel Shenton.

When Rachel joined the agency, she had recently stepped down from playing the character of wannabe glamour model Mitzee Minniver in Hollyoaks for three years, in which she quickly established herself as the scene-stealing fan favourite.

At the time, British talent was proving to be hugely successful on the American small screen, with actors like Andy Lincoln, Hugh Laurie, Damian Lewis and Charlie Hunnam winning rave reviews and industry plaudits, and pulling in massive audiences for their work on an American network and cable television. Game of Thrones was establishing itself as a runaway success, but there still wasn’t a huge proliferation of British actresses landing such prominent and regularly recurring roles.

Furthermore, the transition from UK soap star to Hollywood Heavyweight? Not exactly the typical career trajectory one sees very often. Teetering on the melodramatic, soap operas aren’t always renowned for their high quality of acting and I would definitely say that casting directors are – or perhaps, were – a little apprehensive and cynical about hiring talent from that world. If your background is in theatre or arthouse / independent cinema, there’s greater credibility there. But avoiding typecast and establishing yourself as a serious player after inhabiting a soap character for years doesn’t come without its challenges.

Hopefully, however, these attitudes will now become a thing of the past because Rachel Shenton has come along and completely re-written the playbook.

When we first met Rachel in 2013, she was immediately likeable: charming, humble, graceful and classy. But the character trait that struck us the most was just how seriously she took her craft. Her work ethic was second to none. She wanted to challenge and push herself, to grow as an actress and to work with some of the best writers, directors and producers in the business. She had big dreams and she wasn’t afraid to work hard and put in the time and the graft.

More relevantly, Rachel was involved in a great deal of charity work as the patron for the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). After going through her backstory, we learned that her dad became deaf when she was just 12 years old, following the chemotherapy treatment he underwent for cancer. The need to communicate with her father encouraged her to learn sign language and it was clear at that moment that acting was never about the fame or the celebrity for Rachel – she had big dreams of shining a light on the lives of other people who don’t have the voice that we do. To empower them by giving them that voice. To bring to life the struggles of others that are massively under-represented in mainstream film and TV.

Essentially, Rachel wanted to keep her media profile alive whilst she concentrated on landing her next television role and our job was to raise and maintain that profile and keep her on the radar of casting agents, directors, producers and writers during her temporary absence from TV.

Her fluency in sign language clearly separated her from the competition and gave her a unique edge, a remarkable skill set and a compelling origin story. Many of the interviews we set up for Rachel touched upon this element of her story and there was a great deal of media interest in her personal campaigns and charity work.

The PHA Group prides itself on going the extra mile. First-class publicists, we are, but commercial agents by trade, we are not. But from day one, we saw and recognised the promise and the potential in Rachel and absolutely believed in her. So, further to raising and maintaining her profile in the media, we wanted to go one step further and bring Rachel directly to the attention of the people in the television industry who had real power to change her career. So, we got proactive.

The Media Management department at The PHA Group has promoted and protected a wealth of TV talent over the years. We’re therefore constantly attuned to the international entertainment landscape – the talent and the programming that are capturing the zeitgeist of the moment, what’s hot and what’s not.

We had been avidly following the success of a relatively new TV show at the time called Switched At Birth – an American scripted drama that broke new ground as the first mainstream television series to feature numerous deaf and hard-of-hearing characters appearing in a series regular capacity, filming some scenes shot entirely in sign language.

We introduced Rachel to the show and insisted she check out the previous two series that had aired to familiarise herself with the storylines and the tone of the programme. We then encouraged her to commission a show-reel of her work. Once this was ready, we strategically identified and targeted the creators of Switched At Birth and established an ongoing dialogue with them. The differences between American and British sign language aren’t vast and we made a strong, persuasive case – we handled the PR for an extremely talented British actress who emotionally connects with the material of the show on a profound level because of her own life experience. Moreover, she quite literally speaks the very language of the programme and could master the sign language scenes with ease. We knew Rachel would be an asset to the show and we deliberately timed our approach to coincide with the pilot season in America.

We didn’t expect to get such positive feedback so quickly. The show’s creators invited Rachel to audition during pilot season and as we suspected, they immediately saw what we saw. They loved her so much that they ended up creating the role of Lily Summers especially for her, a role that she immortalised until the show’s Season 5 finale.

The very last episode was broadcast in April 2017. During her time filming Switched At Birth, Rachel, with her filmmaker fiancé Chris Overton directing, somehow managed to find the time to write and star in a short film entitled The Silent Child. The 20-minute long film was largely based on Rachel’s personal experience as the child of a parent who became deaf.

Come awards season, The Silent Child well and truly swept the board, winning Best Short Film at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. This allowed the film to qualify for entry to the 90th Academy Awards. On 23rd January 2018, it was announced that The Silent Child had received an Academy Award nomination in the Best Live Action Short Film category, and on Sunday 4th March 2018, Rachel’s film won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. On collecting the award, Rachel upheld the promise that she had made to The Silent Child’s deaf lead actress, six-year-old Maisie Sly, and accepted her trophy in sign language. It was a momentous, inspiring, electrifying moment to watch and we could not be prouder.

So, whether you’re an aspiring actor, a breakthrough performer or a well-established name: work with creative teams that believe in you, that recognise your potential, that encourage you to test the limits of what you believe to be achievable. We believe that it doesn’t ultimately matter whether you’re a RADA bred performer or if you started off in a teen soap. Talent is talent, so dream big and work with the best! Because anything is possible!

Speak to a member of our award-winning team today or visit our Personal PR page to find out how we can help you.

Jared O’Mara and the Unforgiving Eternity of the Internet

Just cos he writes about gayness and gay issues, doesn’t mean he drives up the marmite motorway.’

‘I just think that this story is much more poignantly romantic than fudge packing Jake.’

‘A rhythm section that’s tighter than your mother was when I took her virginity all those years ago.’

You could be forgiven for reading the above statements as the deranged blabbering of a sulky, and confused teenager. If only it were so. Instead, they represent the historic online comments of elected Labour MP Jared O’Mara.

O’Mara made headlines in the snap election when he displaced Nick Clegg from his seat of Sheffield Hallam. He was seen as a candidate who was very much carried along on the crest of the Momentum wave.

That was June, this is October, and O’Mara has been suspended from the party following a string of vile revelations broken by Guido Fawkes, a right-wing gossip blog infamous for exposing the worst digressions of Members of Parliament.

O’Mara’s ire was not limited to homosexual people, or other people’s mothers. ‘Fat’ people, women, Spaniards, Danes and teenage girls have all felt the sting of O’Mara’s vitriol over the years. Angela Rayner, a member of the Shadow Cabinet, defended O’Mara by claiming that these comments were made a long time ago, and that his opinions had evolved. This is a pretty weak defence, and weaker still given that we can simply check the dates of his comments in an online forum and ascertain that he was 21-years-old.

Now, I’m 23, and as vulgar and detestable as my colleagues might find me, I would argue that I know that referring to teenage girls as ‘sexy little slags’ is not the social norm, and I would also have known two years ago that it was unacceptable.

While it would be easy to sit here and pull apart O’Mara’s views, and the sub-standard Labour vetting process that allowed him to contest a seat, the best lesson learned for figures of public prominence is the damage that the digital world can wreak on a reputation. O’Mara is 35-years-old now, and is perhaps one generation too late to have truly grown up with the internet.

But given the way he is now being torn to shreds in the media, this raises an interesting question over whether this is something we can expect to see more of, as more public figures who have grown up with online forums, Facebook and Twitter come into the spotlight.

This can at times be a source of amusement. The SNP’s Mhairi Black was just 20 when elected (you may have seen her, in a blinding lack of self-awareness, lamenting ‘career politicians’ recently), and some of her old tweets from her teenage years were dug up after her selection. They were quite funny to the casual observer, and rather embarrassing for Black herself.




Andre Gray, the Premier League footballer, had a more sobering experience when explosive homophobic tweets from his past were pulled up. He faced FA disciplinary action as a result. 

Trial by social media is not a new phenomenon, but as those who have grown up hand-in-glove with the internet move into positions as MPs and figures of public influence, there could be much more scandal yet to come.

Being cautious or vigilant in the here and now is clearly not enough. Do people remember all that they have done and said in the past? Should they continue to be made to atone for it? Is the best course of action to completely erase your digital footprint?

Online is forever, and as Jared O’Mara is finding out, there is no hiding place once all is revealed.

Just how many more skeletons are there in how many more closets? Halloween is on the way, so another fright may be just around the corner.


Court ruling may help clients reclaim reputation management costs

Reputaton management The PHA Group

‘image courtesy of patparslow in Flickr’

Suffering a wrongful attack in the media which leads to reputational harm is more often than not a highly damaging experience.

Whether it is a business or an individual, the loss of custom, revenue, respect and social standing, can be devastating.

Then there are the financial costs of seeking redress and repairing the damage caused.

Public Relations professionals would always advocate that crisis and reputation management should begin from the outset and be preventative rather than a cure.

The old adage of “once the horse has bolted” is clichéd, but rings true when it comes to the media and crisis prevention, particularly in the age of the internet when the flames of one story can quickly be flamed and spread across Google in a flash.

Employing lawyers and public relations consultants is an added expense.

The recoverability of legal costs are covered by rules laid out in a set of guidelines commonly termed the Jackson Reforms, which came into play last year and received attention outside of the legal profession during the publicity surrounding the early rounds of the now famous Andrew Mitchell libel trial.

But to most, the costs of hiring public relations professionals to help restore reputation would seem to be a spend that, despite it being an absolutely vital investment, could not be recovered in monetary terms.

However, a little-known court judgment handed down at London’s High Court recently could be set to influence that.

It came following a trade libel case brought by one UK company which battled against a campaign waged against it by a group of defendants.

The company sought PR advice to help it repair damage caused by the slurs. The reputation management work proceeded over 12 months in a bid to retain customers.


At the end of the case, which was won by default by the company, the judge ruled that the money spent by the company on its PR firm were recoverable damages.

Mr Justice Parks said that he had “no difficulty in concluding that…..the cost of employing a public relations consultant to undo some of the reputational damage which the first claimant suffered…. are recoverable as reasonable mitigation.”

This meant that the money spent on the PR campaign would, be the order of the court, be recoverable from the losing side.

It added to damages which totalled more than £400,000, including some £240,000 in profits which had been found to be lost as a result of the reputational attacks on the company.

Of course, not all reputation management matters end up as libel trials, and this judgment would only be relative to matters which have proceeded to court and a libel hearing.

Lawyers, and indeed Public Relations professionals worth their salt, would only advise on litigating to seek redress only if that course of action was absolutely necessary.

Nor should those who have suffered reputational harm take it as read that they will always be able to recover costs of PR if they end up using those who have libelled them.

But this judgment is important as it means the PR costs have been recognised by a judge as being a cost which can be recovered by way of damages from the other side. It is down to a clients’ legal team to argue the case and claim for the PR costs as part of the case.

As lawyers and public relations professionals often work in tandem when fighting to restore a mutual clients’ reputation, the judgment is worth noting in case the battle ends up in court.

How legal PR can help you protect your reputation

Crisis PR – When it comes to legal cases, how do you handle PR?


Litigation is a fact of business or corporate life – and can represent a reputational PR issue.

The very nature of doing business deals, particularly where contracts are involved, does mean that sometimes, parties can fall into dispute with each other.

Figures released in 2014 showed the number of cases at the Commercial Court – the division at London’s High Court which handles disputes between companies – had risen.

Some 1,353 cases were launched in the previous 12 months compared with 1,167 in 2012.

The number of cases was seen to rise in the economic downturn, with one reason given that companies adopt a tougher approach when it comes to business deals which have gone wrong than in times of prosperity.

Whether suing or being sued, litigation has a strong Public Relations element.

It means PR consultants can become, at times, as important as the legal team.


The need for PR

The main reason is that courts in the UK are public. That means certain documents, hearings and trials are open to journalists to report on and make stories out of.

For large companies which the media like to focus on, being involved in a trial can bring further press attention.

A particularly unique or interesting case, if it comes onto the radar of the court reporters who operate at the High Court, can also get picked up.

But smaller companies, too, need to be aware of the PR implications as trade magazines and various internet sites can also carry interesting court copy.

This means various elements of a business’ dealings are consumed by the reading public, and this could mean they are digesting information about an alleged breach of contract, breach of confidentiality or a consumer issue.

This means reputation management PR is incredibly important.


What your PR should be doing for you

Hoping no one will write about your legal case is not an option. Being prepared is a necessity.

Even if you are the claimant (i.e. the party suing the defendant) there are reputational issues to manage with a solid communications plan which takes into account the various rules and stages of the court process.

Magnus Boyd, a Partner at City law firm Hill Dickinson, tells PHA Insights: “The legal strategy must always sit within the broader communications context of reputation management for the client.

“Lawyers are often tempted to say as little as possible through the legal process and fail to recognise the harm that silence can cause. Often it is the lack of information that convicts a business in the public eye rather than the legal process.

“Too often PRs feel uncomfortable about managing the communications surrounding litigation and yet their role can be vital to the successful outcome of the litigation.

“But their input is incredibly important to the wider picture and company should look to its PR consultants to support it in various ways at this difficult time.”

While the legal team may wish to stay silent throughout, a business’s PRs need to have a communications plan firmly in place. You need to know what to say, what you can say, and when is the best time to say it.

Communications cannot help a company win the case, but it can help them during the process and in dealing with the media and other stakeholders.

By way of a simple check-list, a business entering litigation or even notified that it may be something they will need to deal with in the near future, should be asking the following questions:


  • What are the PR implications of the court action? Which journalists will be interested and how will it affect day-to-day business?
  • Is the company prepared to deal with the media direct or do we need external help? Do your existing or in-house PRs have the necessary experience?
  • Are my existing or new PR advisers aware and have they been put in touch with the legal team? They should be engaged from the earliest stage possible in order to be able to analyse the risk and put in place a communications plan.
  • If we lose, what do we say? If we win, what do we say and more importantly, how do we say it, who says it and where do we say it?
  • Do you need media training for after the trial and are you confident with the general process?
  • What are the next steps following the end of the case?

The process can be quite a complicated journey but it is one which Public Relations can help with.

Consistency of message from the start of the litigation all the way to trial is vital which is why PR support is vital at every stage of the process.

One key point to remember is if a piece of PR litigation is executed with know-how and skill, you can still win the PR war even when the legal battle has been lost.



Peaches Geldof: A Tragic Life Cut Too Short

On 7th April 2014, Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof passed away.  Her death was completely unexpected and is still unexplained.  Several theories about the circumstances of her death are circulating; was it an overdose; did she commit suicide; did she have a heart attack as a result of a strict juice dieting regime?  Whatever the cause, another talented starlet has faded away before their time.


Peaches was only 25 but she lived every second of her short life and had two beautiful Sons and a loving husband to show for it.

What struck me most about the news of Peaches’ passing, was her popularity.  Countless celebrities and journalists expressed their sadness and shock and within minutes of BBC News breaking the story, Twitter was awash with tributes. This says a lot about her recent transformation, not just personally but from a public relations perspective too.

Peaches spent her late teens as a self-confessed wild-child, dabbling in drink and drugs. In 2008, Peaches was treated by paramedics after a suspected Heroin-overdose but refused to go to the hospital in case her father, Sir Bob Geldof, found out.


In the same year, Peaches flew to Las Vegas and married American rocker Max Drummey, although the romance was not to last and they separated six months later.

Peaches’ wild days seemed to end when she met lead-singer of Brit band, S.C.U.M, Thomas Cohen.  The couple wed in 2012 and had two Sons together, Astala (23 months) and Phaedra (11 months).


Image Courtesy of Nahin Khan,

Image Courtesy of Nahin Khan,

Reputation Management

The birth of her boys was the turning point in Peaches’ life and certainly the turning point in her wild-child reputation.  She quit the rock and roll lifestyle in favour of being a Mum and was said to be happier than ever.  In a recent interview given to Mother and Baby magazine, Peaches said:

‘Now, with a new-found group of mummy mates, both locally and online – all the exact same struggles and issues, and who don’t question if my child flings food at their hair or care if there’s a screaming fit in the middle of the street – I’m happier than ever.  I’ve achieved a sort of perfect balance. Right now life is good.  And being a mum is the best part of it.’

Over the years, Peaches’ PR consultants were regularly dealing with crisis management situations as she lurched from one disaster to the next. But since becoming a Mother, she quickly became more wholesome, healthier and more focused on carving out a career that her family would be proud of.

Style Icon

This is the Peaches we came to know and love.  She related to so many people and not just new, young Mums.  Peaches’ was a fashion and style icon, admired by the glitterati and her cool, celebrity peers.  She was a brilliant journalist and outspoken in her views which secured her an army of admirers and 273,000 Twitter followers.

Peaches was the master of her own media relations and just like legendary father, Sir Bob Geldof, she managed to develop strong relationships with journalists.  The media knew that Peaches would give them an honest and opinionated interview because just like her mother Paula Yates, Peaches was an interesting and eccentric young woman, with so much life inside her; tragically taken away too young.

RIP Peaches Geldof.