Do paywalls make for better journalism?  

There’s no denying that there’s been a marked decline in newspaper sales over the past decade or more, which corresponds with the growth in news’ digital presence, as our appetite for content on-the-go increases. However there appears to be a continuing battle between those who expect their news to be delivered for free, and publishers who understandably see cost and value in reporting which they are keen to recover and exploit.

The free/paywall divide appears most marked between not only the generations, but the type of content they view.  Hard paywalls appear to work for publications that already dominate the niche market in which they operate (e.g. FT / Economist / WSJ).  

According to 2023 research by Reuters Institute for Journalism, only 9% of UK consumers of news were paying for it – near on the lowest percentage of any of the top 20 richest countries. In contrast, Norway has 39% of its public paying for news content. Perhaps more concerning for publishers keen to expand or introduce paywall mechanisms, the same research found that about half of non-subscribers say that nothing could persuade them to pay for online news, with lack of interest or perceived value remaining fundamental obstacles. Generally, with regards to news, audiences say they pay more attention to celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities in networks like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat than journalists working for traditional media. 

Media brands themselves do not necessarily appear to attract news readers – only 22% say they go to a specific website or app for their news, with younger groups showing a weaker connection to news brands’ own websites and apps than previous cohorts, preferring instead to access news via alternative routes such as social media, search or mobile aggregators. Although Google and Facebook still account for about half of the traffic to news sites, there are signs that their platform position is becoming a little less concentrated in many markets, with more providers competing. Most people aged between 18-24 received their news via social media channels, with TV news being most important to those aged over 55.

Podcasts retain their popularity but only among a certain niche of individuals – upmarket young people.  In fact, only 34% of people have listened to a podcast, and then the most popular tend to be ones involving discussion between men!

Back to paywalls: publishers recognise that to attract new subscribers, content is key. They also value paywalls as a way of recovering the revenue once received from digital advertising but which is now under pressure as a result of ad blocking technology and the change in Google and Facebook algorithms. The new Mail+ paywall gives access to premium content across their most popular subjects – the royal family, special investigations, health, personal finance and certain columnists.  The Mail is confident of leveraging subscribers from its existing high-visibility website, being the second most commonly visited news website in the UK (after the BBC) and benefitting from high overseas traffic .  The introduction of paywalls is the antithesis of click-bait journalism, and models that look to reward journalists on the value of clicks their individual stories received, resulting in an emphasis towards the trivial.

However, perhaps the reality is that introducing paywalls mean that publishers will learn exactly how loyal their readership is, and as soon as the content value doesn’t outweigh the cost, then subscribers will walk. There is a concern also that paywalls increase the opportunity for siloed-thinking and echo chambers, if people align themselves to media that fit with their own viewpoint, thereby insulating themselves from contrary opinion. Most people (aside from those in the PR industry), would tend to seek out multiple sources for news only when it’s free to access. To subscribe to multiple channels is rare, so arguably the paywall game is one that will have few winners but many losers over time.  

The jury is out as to whether we’ve seen better journalism since the introduction of paywalls but it is fair to say that exclusive content from trusted media brands has value. Nonetheless, given the next generation’s declining appetite for paid-for news, the publishing industry may find itself needing another way of funding its output. In the end however, for the communications industry it’s really about what clients want from their media hits – volume in free-to-read outlets that can be readily amplified via their social media sites, or placement before fee-paying readers seeking quality contributions. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

By Melanie Riley

Match 2024

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Interview with Gareth Brahams, Senior Partner at BDBF LLP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liqLAxxRAQU

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PR Perspectives: Taking Stock Of 2023, Preparing For 2024 (Bell Yard writes for Law360)

Bell Yard Director Louise Beeson reviews the past year in the world of legal PR and looks ahead to 2024 in the below article for Law360.

As we approach the year end, many law firms and public relations teams will be reviewing their external communications output for 2023: Which campaigns broke through, which legal experts did well in the media and why, opportunities missed perhaps, and which issues were defining for a firm’s reputation in the last 12 months. 

An analysis of this nature is wise housekeeping — it is useful to take stock and learn lessons to plan for the year ahead. It is also important to ensure that an eye is kept on whether a firm’s external profile activities are properly aligned with strategic communications aims and business plans.

In addition, it is prudent to be aware of the big topics that are driving narratives in the legal sector right now and to consider a firm’s positioning on these so as to be best prepared for 2024. 

Such a review exercise, involving a look at channels too, is critical to disciplined reputation management and, in turn, how a firm is perceived by its stakeholders — clients, referrers, recruits and staff.

What Does a Firm Want to Be Known For? 

While it is rarely possible to translate legal marketing slogans into sycophantic coverage in mainstream media — law firm brand straplines such as “A point of view like no other” and “Driving progress through partnership,” for example, are not phrases that reporters will likely ever reproduce except in brand-related articles — press effort and coverage should nonetheless ideally reflect a firm’s practice and management priorities.

One partner dominating the airwaves all year round can create a skewed impression of what a firm is about. Equally, an analysis of social media output should show a range of experts contributing to the reputation of the firm.

Topics should also be on-grid. Opportunistic comments on heart-on-sleeve subjects or areas the firm does not usually advise on may be quick wins or keep a journalist happy, but if they are off-piste in terms of what the firm wants to talk about, this will create the wrong impression of expertise and client focus in that unforgiving Google or LinkedIn archive.

Another question is whether external media coverage for 2023 has achieved the right balance of client expert versus employer brand content. Is it enough to showcase the firm’s ecological, pro bono, equality and diversity initiatives on a firm’s website and in socials, or do they deserve greater attention if a crucial part of the story?

If the latter, do efforts really stand out versus peers and is the right target U.K. Tech News, TikTok or the Financial Times?

Lastly, did an event or incident come along that sullied a law firm’s brand and reputation in the eyes of beholders? While it may pay to keep a low profile after a media storm in the short term, it is usually essential to fight back with commentary that promotes a healthier mix of topics and initiatives in the medium term.

Measuring Success

Of course, social media tools and website analytics make it easy to measure readership or listenership of posts, blogs and podcasts and that is a start. Engagement is harder to measure.

Also less easy to measure data-wise is whether style, tone and format of these efforts have been optimal and whether people feel they have the right skills to populate priority channels.

An accurate and rigorous measurement of press coverage output is also difficult to achieve. Media evaluation is expensive and time-consuming. External evaluation agencies can pore over press coverage and create charts and graphs showing positive messages conveyed, favorability of coverage ratings, share of voice in an article, audience reach, and the volume of hits compared to competitors.

Alternatively, a basic counting exercise can be carried out to measure coverage achieved by topic, practice area and publication, spinning this data into charts. For some, the regularity of firm name checks in the Financial Times will be important; for others, the measure of success might be the breadth of spokespeople quoted in an agreed list of priority media.

Regardless of firm and evaluation budget available, the point is to have a defined set of objectives at the start of the year and assess how far external output supported those at year end. Only then can one consider whether the balance of activity — i.e., proactive versus reactive; mainstream media versus social media; data-led or news-surfing-led; expert lawyer versus managing partner firm spokesperson — should be adjusted in the year ahead.

The Big Beast Topics of 2024

The final prong of any law firm’s annual review and year-ahead planning exercise should be to compile a list of hot topics for the legal sector — whether or not the firm has been quizzed on them yet — and develop an agreed position on them.

This can help to inform on which topics a firm wants to be proactive or reactive going forward; what the managing partner says at a lunch with the new Financial Times legal correspondent; or, indeed, what a trainee recruitment manager puts in the crib-sheet for lawyers manning a stand at the university careers fair.

The list should, of course, be comprehensive and iterative, but below are examples of the questions it should include, and that law firms’ communications teams should have answers for right now in their so-called hot topic bible.

  • Will there still be a firmwide Christmas party? 
  • Are there any #MeToo incidents under investigation internally or escalated to the Solicitors Regulation Authority? 
  • Are there any disputes with any clients over unpaid fees or negligent advice? 
  • What is the current working from home policy? 
  • Has the firm paid bonuses this year? Has the firm recently made job cuts or does the firm plan any such cuts in the next six months? 
  • What is the policy on publishing profits per equity partner? 
  • What percentage of lawyers in the firm went to Oxbridge and private schools? 
  • How many black, female and LGBTQ partners respectively are there in the firm? 
  • How much per square foot do you pay for space? How much space is being utilized? 
  • Has the firm investigated its slave trade links, and will it be making reparations? 
  • Have any Labour politicians been invited to meet clients? Does the firm fund the Labour Party, or is the firm preparing clients for a Labour election win? Are there any talks in progress to offer a job to any outgoing Tory politicians? 

Concluding Thoughts

There is no textbook manual as to how law firms can get external communications right: how to turn lawyers into amazing communicators; how to interest journalists in the right stories; how many LinkedIn posts are optimal to keep front of mind with contacts and how to maintain the perfect firm profile.

Reputation is a complex construct and reputation management is an art rather than a science. But the year-end point is always a good moment in the calendar to consider how best to enhance, protect and advance reputation, ensuring it is as controlled and planned as possible, and not left to the wrong people or, worse, chance. 

By Louise Beeson, Director at Bell Yard Communications

This article previously appeared here in Law360

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The Story of the ‘NatWest Three’: Bell Yard Interview with David Bermingham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJu1Vb_FoQA
The Story of the ‘NatWest Three’ | David Bermingham interview | Bell Yard Communications

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Q&A with The Legal Diary’s Founder & Editor Edward Fennell

Edward Fennell, ‘The Legal Diary’ founder & editor and former editor of The Times’ ‘Law Diary’, delves into how law firms have changed their approach to PR and gives advice for lawyers in dealing with journalists in a Q&A with legal and litigation agency, Bell Yard Communications.

Edward Fennell began his legal beat when working at The Times where he memorably interviewed a Baker McKenzie partner in 90’s Moscow who described the scene of Russian tanks rolling past the window. Edward’s journey progressed to starting The Legal Diary blog and penning a medieval monastic murder story in semi-retirement.

Over the course of your career, how have law firms changed their approach to PR? Did their attitudes change? Any notable trends?

Yes, absolutely dramatic changes since I first started in 1987. Until shortly before there had been a ban on marketing and promotional activity and when this ended most firms were very unclear on how to handle it. A few went for immediate activity and made a botch of it. Others were very nervous with everything having to be handled by the managing or senior partner. In due course, they brought in PR firms but often expected unrealistic results. Besides, many were still reluctant to get drawn in. Famously, when Slaughter and May came top of the M&A table one year I asked for a comment. They replied that they would think about it. And much later in the day they simply got back and said they did not think a comment was appropriate!

The big catalyst for change was when firms suddenly started to open up offices all over Europe – especially Eastern Europe. They were desperate to get the news out and that prompted the development of a much more professional approach.

What inspired you to pursue a career in journalism?

From my early teens I became an avid reader of newspapers and news magazines and had a strong sense of vocation towards journalism. The Times, The Daily Mail (a very different kind of paper back in the 1960s) and The Economist were my big reads.

After university I started working as an Information Officer in local government. Employment and recruitment issues were my specialism and that gave me some expertise to start writing for The Times. Subsequently, I was on hand when The Times set up its weekly LAW section in 1987 and I continued to do that for 30+ years until a combination of age and Covid brought it to an end.

What was your best scoop/what’s been the most interesting story you’ve ever covered and why?

In August/September 1991, Russia was going through a terrible period of unrest. Some elements of the army staged a coup involving driving tanks into Moscow. I was aiming to write an article on the general situation from a legal perspective and was interviewing a Baker McKenzie partner in the Moscow office. As we started to talk the tanks began to roll past the building. He went to the window and gave me a vivid description of what was happening. It made the opening para a lot easier and more exciting to write!

How do you fact-check your work?

At The Times one was backed up by a fantastic sub-editing and legal service so one was saved from the worst errors. Just in the course of writing though I usually fed back to interviewees what I was planning to quote or say on their behalf. Many of the topics were highly technical, even for lawyers, so I had no hesitation in double checking that I had understood correctly.

Why did you set-up The Legal Diary?

After stopping writing the Legal Diary for The Times in Spring 2020, I thought it might be fun to continue it on a bigger basis, taking in some of the other material that I thought was interesting but had not been able to use. Besides, being now semi-retired I needed something to do with my time and keep in touch with the wider world. 

What is the best tactic for approaching you with storylines?

Usually best just to drop me an email as it is the best way to digest a story. Tuesdays are probably the best days to reach out because I publish on Friday so I need, ideally, to have my stories sorted in priority by Wednesday/Thursday morning. Getting them to me on Tuesday or Wednesday morning allows me time to digest them and get a sense of their level of priority.If I think they are ‘possible/probables’ I often come back with a query/clarification. Or a request for an accompanying image.

What advice would you give to lawyers for dealing with journalists?

Keep to the point – distill your expertise to the key points. Don’t blind with science. Bear in mind that the journalist is an intermediary to an interested audience – even, maybe, potential clients!

What advice would you give to aspiring journalists?

To be frank I feel so far removed now from what it’s like getting into the business today that I am not sure I can offer any meaningful advice other than the obvious:

  • start writing about topics that fascinate you and develop some expertise and contacts in that field,
  • try to get the pieces published somewhere/anywhere to show your abilities/expertise (and, one hopes, talent),
  • then start extending and making the right contacts across the media,
  • pray for a bit of luck

Tell us about your recent novel and how it came about.

I am a historian by background and am lucky enough to live in Winchester adjacent to the site of the medieval monastery – Hyde Abbey – where Alfred the Great was buried (it’s now a ruin, destroyed by Henry VIII). I am also very interested in Chaucer and was pretty convinced that Chaucer had known Hyde Abbey quite well. The clue is that the Tabard Inn in Southwark – where Chaucer’s pilgrims meet – was a real place and was actually owned by Hyde Abbey – and the abbot spent quite a lot of time there. So a medieval monastic murder story against the background of the Peasants’ Revolt was an obvious plot line, linking up real historical characters with Chaucer’s fictional ones. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it!

Order ‘CHARTER FOR MURDER’ by Edward Fennell here

Read/sign-up to ‘The Legal Diary’ here

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Litigation PR: Crypto Issues

Bell Yard Communications has vast experience working for clients involved in legal crypto issues that require expert litigation PR and crisis communications advisers.

ONTIER LLP

This has most prominently taken the form of Bell Yard working for the law firm ONTIER and their client Dr Craig Wright. Dr Wright chose to prove his identity as Satoshi as well as establishing and enforcing his copyright in the Bitcoin White Paper and numerous patents relating to the blockchain through the legal system.

Bell Yard advised ONTIER on how to promote the legal successes the firm had in the English legal cases brought by Dr Wright following the relentless online hostilities experienced by Dr Wright from individuals and entities online.

We advised on the communication around a ground-breaking action against 16 bitcoin developers to establish their duty to restore access to stolen/lost private keys to those who can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of a court, their ownership of the wallet in which digital currency is stored. We also supported ONTIER in the various copyright infringement cases ongoing, as well as defamation actions in UK and Norway.  Running in parallel was a huge case (brought by ONTIER on behalf of an entity beneficially owned by Dr Wright), against digital currency exchanges Kraken and Coindesk, valued in the hundreds of billions of pounds.

About Bell Yard Communications

We advise individuals, firms, chambers, companies large and small, charities and community groups – all of whom have one thing in common: the desire to communicate on matters relating to the law.

Bell Yard are consistently top ranked in Chambers & Partners’ Litigation Support Guide since 2018.

Contact London’s leading litigation PR and reputation management experts at Bell Yard Communications here.

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Bell Yard Litigation PR Clients: Michael Jackson

Instructed the morning after Martin Bashir’s documentary ‘Living with Michael Jackson’ was aired in the UK, Bell Yard set to work devising and implementing a robust rebuttal strategy to overturn the initially hostile global media coverage and subsequent litigation PR work.

Using MJJ Productions’ own footage of Bashir interviewing Jackson, we focused media attention on the betrayal Jackson felt at the hands of Bashir. Working closely with Jackson’s UK & US legal teams, Bell Yard led the global media handling of Jackson’s claim for injunctive relief and damages from Granada.

Michael Jackson Litigation PR Media Statement:

Here is the full text of the statement issued today on behalf of Michael Jackson by Bell Yard Communications:

“Michael is devastated and feels utterly betrayed by the British television programme, Living With Michael Jackson, presented by Martin Bashir and broadcast in the UK on Monday, February 3, 2003, which he regards as a gross distortion of the truth and a tawdry attempt to misrepresent his life and his abilities as a father.

“In a number of crucial respects Michael is concerned that Martin Bashir and Granada Television have broken the trust he placed in them.

“In particular, he felt he had obtained their assurance that his children would not be featured in any way in the broadcast programme.

“Michael repeatedly asked Bashir to stop filming his children, and was promised by him that the footage of his children would be taken out in the final edit but, Bashir said, shooting should not be stopped because “it would break the continuity of filming”.

“Michael is deeply upset that the programme sensationally sets out to use two or three pieces of footage giving a wholly distorted picture of his behaviour and conduct as a father.

“Michael feels particularly devastated that he has been treated so badly by Martin Bashir, whom he let into the Jackson family home on a number of occasions over eight months, in the belief that Bashir wished to make a genuine documentary of his life.

“Michael believes that what was eventually broadcast was a salacious ratings chaser, designed to celebrate Martin Bashir, and which was indifferent to the effect on Michael personally, his family and his close friends.

“Michael originally consented to grant Bashir extended access to the Neverland Valley Ranch, his family and Michael himself, because he wanted to give the world a faithful representation of the truth about his life.

“Michael believes that the programme Bashir has produced is a travesty of the truth. Michael would never have consented to participating in this film if he had been aware of how Bashir was going to falsely portray him.

“Michael believes that this programme was intentionally produced and edited with a view to broadcasting sensationalised innuendo.

“Michael feels deeply angry that the programme could have led viewers to conclude that he abuses children in any way. Michael Jackson has never, and would never, treat a child inappropriately or expose them to any harm and totally refutes any suggestions to the contrary.

“Michael would never betray the trust that a child, or their parents, might place in him.

“Michael was today moved to make the following personal statement: ‘I trusted Martin Bashir to come into my life and that of my family because I wanted the truth to be told.

‘Martin Bashir persuaded me to trust him that his would be an honest and fair portrayal of my life and told me that he was “the man that turned Diana’s life around”.

‘I am surprised that a professional journalist would compromise his integrity by deceiving me in this way.

‘Today I feel more betrayed than perhaps ever before; that someone, who had got to know my children, my staff and me, whom I let into my heart and told the truth, could then sacrifice the trust I placed in him and produce this terrible and unfair programme.

‘Everyone who knows me will know the truth which is that my children come first in my life and that I would never harm any child.

‘I also want to thank my fans around the world for the overwhelming number of messages of support that I have received, particularly from Great Britain, where people have e-mailed me and said how appalled they were by the Bashir film. Their love and support has touched me greatly.’

“These comments are excerpts from a videotaped statement from Michael Jackson, which shall be released after the airing of the Bashir television special in the United States.

“Debbie Rowe, Michael’s ex-wife and the mother of two of his children reacted today: ‘It breaks my heart that anyone could truly believe that Michael would do anything to harm or endanger our children: they are the most important thing in his life.'”

Contact

Get in touch with Bell Yard for any litigation PR/legal sector reputation management needs.

We are recognised leaders in our field. We are proud to uphold the ethical and educational standards for the PR industry as members of the CIPR and PRCA.

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Litigation PR Experts: Bell Yard Communications

Bell Yard Communications is a leading litigation PR and reputational management agency based in London with over two decades of experience supporting high-calibre and ground-breaking clients.

Over the years we have helped guide HNW individuals, companies, law firms, finance houses, family-run businesses, celebrities and embattled employees through the challenging process of being in the public eye during times of dispute or difficulty.

Claimants or defendants may require media support on matters from fraud to divorce or from employment actions to personal injury cases. The media spotlight may fall on judicial reviews or sensitive coroners’ inquests. Perhaps intellectual property disputes or planning law reviews. Even administrative court proceedings and certainly some criminal prosecutions.

Bell Yard’s expertise in the field of litigation PR is shown through the continued inclusion of the firm and its Director Melanie Riley in Chambers UK’s Litigation and Support Guide in the Litigation PR & Communications category.

Bell Yard’s Melanie Riley, Sarah Peters, and Louise Beeson were also selected once again in the 2023 Lawdragon Global 100 Leaders in Legal Strategy & Consulting list. This illustrious list, in its 9th edition, recognises the exceptional advisors who have played an instrumental role in the exponential growth of the legal industry by providing cutting-edge advice and strategic guidance to legal leaders.

Things to consider before choosing litigation PR:

  • Can you control the information flow?
  • Should you comment publicly and, if so, when?
  • What can be divulged pre-trial?
  • Should your shareholders know in advance?
  • What do you tell employees without destabilising the business
    or risking leaks?
  • If the other side is briefing, should you react?

Above all, how do you balance the public’s right to know with your desire for
confidentiality?

If even just one of these issues resonates, do get in touch as Bell Yard can help.

We are recognised leaders in our field. We are proud to uphold the ethical and educational standards for the PR industry as members of the CIPR and PRCA.

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What is litigation PR?

Litigation public relations (litigation PR), is a powerful means of communications management that can directly affect the outcome of any legal dispute or adjudicatory processing, or mitigate the impact on the client’s reputation.

Litigation PR relates to a legal dispute, which is vastly different to other forms of PR such as profile-raising. Bell Yard Communications is one of the very first litigation PR agencies in England and have assisted a range of clients in extremely important and impactful legal cases over the years.

This litigation PR service allows us to protect our client’s overall reputation and support their legal dispute. When looking for a PR company it is important to focus on a brand that can consider and deliver within the implications of communicating during any proceedings. Such as navigating any sensitive rules all while keeping to a strategic plan and approach.

Since the boom of social media and the internet the need for litigation PR has never been more important. Especially with the scale of consequences potentially being larger and the scale of coverage magnified.

Chambers Litigation Support Guide comments on Bell Yard:

“Bell Yard is a market-leading litigation PR boutique with a long-established presence in London. The firm represents defendants and claimants across a range of case types and sectors. Its services include media risk assessment, dispute profiling and public relations connected to trial, among others.”

Chambers Litigation Support Guide comments on Director Melanie Riley:

Melanie Riley is a co-founder and director of Bell Yard Communications. She is instructed by corporate clients, law firms, barristers’ chambers, charities and high net worth individuals in disputes ranging from white-collar crime to matrimonial matters.

“Melanie Riley is very personable and unflappable, which is needed for this job. She is incredibly knowledgeable. She knows all the courts and the system. Melanie is well connected and is my one-stop shop into that world of the courts and how to work through the system.” 

“She has probably the best book of journalist contacts of anybody in the business.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Bell Yard Communications’ litigation PR work then please click here to explore our various archived cases.

Contact Bell Yard Communications

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Bell Yard Visits House of Lords

Bell Yard was delighted to attend the House of Lords this week to mark the launch of the law reform and human rights organisation JUSTICE’s latest report, ‘The State We’re In: Addressing Threats & Challenges to the Rule of Law.’

This report addresses the significant regression of the rule of law in the UK and the threats this poses to the democratic fabric of our nation. Bell Yard helped to secure media coverage for this landmark report’s release in both print and broadcast media.

Further details about JUSTICE’s report can be found on its website.

You can also read about it in: 

The Guardian

Law Society Gazette

Solicitors Journal,

And The Telegraph Online, amongst other outlets.

We are recognised leaders in our field. We are proud to uphold the ethical and educational standards for the PR industry as members of the CIPR and PRCA.

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Climate Change: A Growing Election and Legal Battleground

Climate change is gearing up to become a key election – and legal – battleground. 

‘Just Stop Sunak’ screamed Tuesday’s Daily Mirror in response to the government’s confirmation on Monday that it would grant more than 100 new North Sea oil and gas drilling licences, while The Sun led with the launch of its ‘Give Us A Brake’ campaign, urging politicians to “protect hard-up motorists from expensive net zero policies”. The Times, meanwhile, reported that the government will ask the heads of major UK energy companies to reconsider their investment strategies following Rishi Sunak’s call to “max out the opportunities” in the North Sea.

Emboldened by the Conservatives’ recent Uxbridge by-election victory, in which opposition to the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone played no small part, the Prime Minister insisted that plans to expand North Sea drilling, said to be essential for the UK’s energy security, were “entirely consistent with our plan to get to net zero”.

The new North Sea licensing round – which will be accompanied by two more carbon capture and storage projects – drew condemnation from environmental groups, opposition figures, the renewable energy industry, investors and some former Tory ministers.

Lambasting the plan as “the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time, when the rest of the world is experiencing record heatwaves”, Chris Skidmore, the former science minister who led a review into net zero, said it was “on the wrong side of modern voters who will vote with their feet at the next general election for parties that protect, and not threaten, our environment.”

The North Sea plan follows the government’s approval in December of the UK’s first new deep coal mine in thirty years, recent changes to the UK’s carbon trading scheme that cut incentives for industry to reduce emissions, a planned national review of low-traffic neighbourhoods, not to mention a damning progress report from the Climate Change Committee in June, which claimed that the UK has lost its global leadership position on climate change and risks failing to meet legally binding emissions targets made at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Meanwhile, a coalition of nature groups, including the National Trust, RSPB and RSPCA, have threatened to mobilise their 20 million or so members, should the government “use the environment as a political football” by watering down its climate commitments. 

The net zero fallout comes amid a continuing rise in climate litigation. According to research published last week by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University and the UN Environment Programme, the number of climate-related lawsuits has more than doubled in the past five years to 2,180 court cases globally.

And a report by the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, published in June, found a significant increase in legal challenges to the climate policy response of governments and companies, particularly outside the US. It also reported a surge in greenwashing cases relating to climate mis- and disinformation, and an increase in litigation concerning investment decisions – a fact of which the energy companies summoned to Number 10 will be only too aware. 

While both reports highlight a growing ESG backlash with a rise in lawsuits that seek to delay climate action or obtain compensation for government climate policies, in the overwhelming majority of cases, “People are … turning to courts to combat the climate crisis, holding governments and the private sector accountable and making litigation a key mechanism for securing climate action and promoting climate justice,” according to Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. 

Indeed, Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project are taking the UK government to court for the second time in under two years over its plans for tackling climate change. They claim that the government’s revised net zero strategy – the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan – is unlawful and are seeking a judicial review. It follows the organisations’ landmark legal victory last year, with the High Court ruling that the government’s net zero strategy breached the Climate Change Act and required revision to show how key emissions reduction targets would be met.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, was in court last week to challenge the government’s “reckless decision to greenlight a new oil and gas licensing round, without properly checking the damage it will do to the climate”.

The UK government’s climate climbdown and vocal support for motorists, while clearly a calculated risk, is a polarising issue, pitting as it does short-term energy security against long-term green investment, economic self-interest against the ‘greater good’, and – as the Financial Times suggested yesterday – individual freedoms against statutory diktat. 

But whatever the ultimate impact on UK voting intentions of the net zero pushback, especially in light of the prolonged cost of living crisis, the increasing appetite for challenging governmental and corporate climate policy response in the courts as we enter the “era of global boiling” means that these latest lawsuits are unlikely to be the last. 

With more than half of climate litigation cases having direct judicial outcomes favourable to climate action, including prompting policy changes, according to the LSE report, Rishi Sunak – and the energy companies – better take note.  

By Sarah Peters

03/08/2023

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Gen Z’s Relationship With Media: Q&A With Bell Yard Intern

Hopefully our young intern Sadie has gained some useful experience from her week spent in the world of litigation PR chez Bell Yard. Whilst she was with us, we asked her to share some of her insights into how she and her generation (Z in case you were wondering) consume and interact with traditional and social media platforms. Here is what she had to say, some of which chimes with the recent OFCOM report on News Consumption in the UK which may also be of interest:

  1. Where do you usually get the news from and why?

All my news consumption is from free online sources, whether that be the BBC News app or social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Not only are they free, but they also tend to cover popular subjects and are easy to use with content being in video form or short, punchy articles. Additionally, I look to be entertained rather than purely informed which is typical of my generation and which these sites often achieve.

  1. How much news-related content do you consume per week?

I rarely consume day-to-day news unless a particularly interesting headline from BBC News pops up. A growing number of teenagers just aren’t interested in the daily government dramas and frequent royal spats – it’s too much of the same thing we’ve heard before.

However, during “big” news scandals, like the recent implosion of the Titan submersible, I tuned in a lot. News-related content on this was everywhere online and I liked the way platforms turned it into a captivating drama through vivid storylines and the unravelling of the facts. 

  1. Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which ones? 

I rarely listen to podcasts, I’m more a music listener. However, historical podcasts on Greek Mythology interest me as they align with my reading interests. If I were to listen to more podcasts, they would be about escaping the real world, exploring a new passion or curiosity. 

  1. What social media platforms are you on and which do you use most actively?

I use Snapchat, WhatsApp and occasionally Instagram and TikTok due to their addictive, scrolling-for-hours nature. Many my age use Snapchat to meet new people with whole relationships being formed online. So much of a young person’s life is on their phone that it makes sense this is where much of their news is consumed. 

  1. What is your favourite trad media outlet, and why?

I prefer BBC News – the notifications of enticing headlines draw you in, and information is given in short, snappybursts.

  1. Do you trust the media old and new? 

I trust BBC News, as its primary role is to distribute reliable news. I do not, however, trust social media because its role is to keep users on their screens as long as possible and to make as much money as possible. This is achieved largely through their algorithms pushing “clickable” posts that are controversial and usually fake or soaked in opinion. There is also a real danger of misinformation, especially when there is no counterargument or impartial voice of reason.

  1. How do you avoid misinformation?

I use social media less than most of my peers, and I rely on BBC News or Apple News for information. On social media, I remind myself of the importance of stepping back to remember that, despite how it may seem for a lot of young people, the online world isn’t the real world and that truth is to be found in the real one. 

  1. If you wanted to hire a lawyer for an issue (e.g. allegations of sexual harassment, academic misconduct, recruitment discrimination), how would you go about finding one? 

I would research on the internet, look at different options, and ask trusted adults who know more about the subject than me.

  1. Do you think Meta’s Threads will be a success or is it a passing fad?  

For myself and my peers, Threads doesn’t feel important. In my head, the only thing different about it is a different rich man running it!

  1. To what extent has Twitter fallen out of favour with your generation?

I don’t know many people my age who even have Twitter, let alone actively use it. With the heavy stimulation and escapism of short video footage available on TikTok and Instagram, Twitter seems less exciting. In fact, there is almost a stigma around using the app for my generation.

27/07/2023

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Crisis and Litigation Communicators’ Alliance announces KARV Communications and HilburgAssociates as new partners in the United States and Canada

The Crisis and Litigation Communicators’ Alliance (CLCA) is pleased to announce fresh partnerships that will further strengthen the network’s international footprint.

KARV Communications, based in New York (United States) is a globally recognized strategic communications and advisory firm with a focus on corporate and litigation communications, crisis management and public affairs/issues management. With experience across the globe, KARV helps clients achieve their communications and business goals through its expertise in crafting and honing often complex messages to a variety of stakeholders.

KARV has received recent international recognition for its work, including a Chambers & Partners ranking for both its Litigation Support and Crisis PR & Communications capabilities.

Andrew Frank, founder and CEO of KARV Communications said on joining CLCA:

“As KARV celebrates our tenth year with a reach far outside of our New York home, we welcome the opportunity of CLCA membership. With our growing book of clients often having interests outside of the United States, we are greatly anticipating meaningful and impactful collaboration with other CLCA members across the globe.” 

HilburgAssociates, domiciled in Canada is a pioneer in both crisis leadership and litigation communication/trial services.  Its principal, Alan Hilburg, has been personally involved in more than 100 trials (both criminal and civil) across multiple sectors such as tobacco, chemical, hospitality, transportation, manufacturing, telecommunication, consumer products, pharmaceutical and healthcare.

Since the 1980s Alan and his colleagues have provided a range of services with a focus on trial strategy including co-authoring openings and closings, daily trial services, witness preparation, media relations, executive and employee communication, post trial trust recovery, and even incorporating jury science in the psychological profiling of prospective jury members, which would not be permissible in many jurisdictions outside of the US.  

HilburgAssociates established its crisis leadership credentials in 1983 with its management of the Tylenol crisis, which became the Harvard Business School’s platinum case history on crisis management and human-centered design.

Alan Hilburg, CEO said:

“The CLCA offers the gold standard of communication counseling excellence when company or executive brands are under threat. We’re honored to be part of such an important global resource.” 

The CLCA Chairman, Martin Jenewein adds:

“Our Alliance once again demonstrates its best-in-class position as a network for litigation communicators offering clients litigation support services, each of whom are at the forefront of rapidly developing markets in their individual jurisdictions. The recognition our members receive internationally and in their home markets, through legal industry rankings, is proof positive of their capabilities.

“We are particularly honoured to have attracted both a pioneer in trial management and strategic communications such as Alan Hilburg as well as an award-winning specialist agency such as KARV to join our network. We look forward to working with them to build ever stronger alliances across our member firms and sharing best practice for the benefit of the network and all our clients.”

Issued on behalf of CLC-Alliance by:

Bell Yard Communications          +44 (0)20 7936 2021     BellYard@bell-yard.com

Melanie Riley                                 +44 (0)7775 591244      Melanie@bell-yard.com

Louise Beeson                                +44 (0)7768 956997      Louise@bell-yard.com

Notes to Editors

About CLCA 

The Crisis and Litigation Communicators ́Alliance (CLCA) is a global network of owner-managed PR consulting firms who are each leaders in the areas of Crisis Management and Strategic Legal communications in their respective markets. Clients can benefit from the collaboration of members on cross-border matters and the CLCA’s specialist expertise in international disputes (especially competition law and cartel cases, cross-border litigation, class actions, regulatory enforcement cases, fraud and employment related disputes).

Our constituent firms can be found here. For membership enquiries in jurisdictions not already covered, please contact chairperson@CLC-Alliance.org.

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Lessons for #MeToo trials by media

The flurry of #MeToo-related allegations that recently have rocked high-profile individuals and business organisations shows the fuse of non-financial misconduct still burns fiercely post-Weinstein. Reputational impact reaches far and wide in the face of an investigative journalist’s pursuit of targets to name, and publicly shame, after an allegation has been made.

For the individual involved, if arrested and charged, there’s not just a trial under the public spotlight to endure, but the many months of professional paralysis beforehand, let alone acute pressures on their private life and endless sleepless nights taking their toll. Yet, as nightmarish as legal proceedings are, they at least have a clear endpoint. There is a court process and, importantly, one starting with the presumption of innocence. There’s a forensic examination of evidence, a verdict and potentially a sentence. Society puts faith in the expertise, checks and balances involved in establishing the truth. Sometimes the court gets it wrong – but it’s the most reliable system we have in this country of exposing fact and reaching a just determination.

If convicted, you pay your dues and subsequent rehabilitation is possible.

In contrast, paradoxically, should the allegations appear insufficient to warrant a criminal charge, the accused arguably faces a worse reputational position from which to defend themselves.

Investigations by Tortoise Media, The Guardian, FT and others, while no doubt painstaking, cannot possibly replicate the analysis and impartiality of a court case. The drip feed of innuendo, untested assertions, anonymous briefings and breaking of NDAs to reveal a person’s ‘truth’ is nigh on impossible to counter, let alone defeat, in the height of the media maelstrom. Coupled with a knee-jerk reaction by employers suddenly under intense scrutiny, a full pile-on can be triggered, with investors and intermediaries swiftly seeking to distance themselves from any perceived scandal.

Of course objectionable behaviour should always be called out. However, not all stories are quite as clear cut as first painted. #MeToo trials by media involve journalists acting as judge and jury, with nuance and mitigation too often left by the wayside. Few complainants actively seek public vilification of the perpetrator – an honest apology, cessation of the unwanted conduct coupled with improved, robust processes for prevention in the workplace can represent the necessary and appropriate resolution.

For those caught in the cross-hairs of a media pursuit, the prudent course is to let calm heads prevail and avoid the temptation to rush to act on every emerging new detail. Gather together a small but experienced team, share the facts, listen to advice, determine a strategy, consider the professional and personal ramifications, stick to a consistent narrative and allow others to go into bat on their behalf at the appropriate time. 

This may not immediately stem the tide of suspicion while the storm rages, but will likely prove sustainable, allowing for a more balanced and fair appraisal of the facts as they emerge over time.

By Melanie Riley

15th June 2023

This article previously appeared in PR Week

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Bell Yard Recognised by Chambers in Litigation Support Guide

Bell Yard Communications is proud to once again be recognised by Chambers and Partners in this year’s Litigation Support Guide.

Our founder and director, Melanie Riley, continues to be listed in Band 1 of the individual rankings, as she has been since the guide’s inception in 2018.

This accolade is a welcomed recognition of the quality of service given to our clients that puts Bell Yard amongst the leading litigation support specialists in the UK and the world, coupled with our recognition in the US’ Lawdragon awards once again this year.

Bell Yard has achieved 20 years of interesting instructions and wishes to extend a huge thanks to all our colleagues, clients and contacts alike for this commendation. Here’s to the next 20!

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Bell Yard Helps Kingsley Napley Scoop Gold in Best PR Category

We are delighted to have helped Kingsley Napley scoop Gold in the Best PR category of the CityWealth Brand & Reputation Awards 2023.

Our client was recognised not only above other law firms but also wealth managers and accounting firms for their impressive press profile and use of the media to support their BD & Marketing effort.

The firm is a deserved winner given the commitment throughout the firm, top down and across all practice areas, to talking to journalists, writing expert articles and commenting on newsworthy topics, cases and developments. In the last eighteen months they have also got great exposure in target sector based publications by commenting on ONS statistics to build expert profile in the regulatory space.

Kingsley Napley acknowledged Bell Yard’s decade-long contribution to this success in their Linked In Post here.

Congratulations to everyone not only at Kingsley Napley but also to our very own Louise Beeson for this well-deserved award – a truly collaborative effort of which we are very proud. 

Thank you Kingsley Napley for continuing to value our services, and long may the awards flow!

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ITV: A Crisis Comms Disasterclass

ITV’s reputation has suffered greatly following revelations concerning Phillip Schofield’s behaviour with a junior work colleague almost forty years younger. Key errors escalated this exposé into a crisis, though arguably one that could simply have been characterised as an inappropriate workplace relationship had the truth been outed much earlier. Instead, ITV’s reputation and internal processes have been brought into disrepute.

Here are some tips for handling problematic issues that might prevent a similar hullabaloo:

Extensive and effective investigation: ITV’s internal investigation by its HR team in 2020 – when the media company was made aware of the swirling gossip regarding the high-profile presenter and a young programme runner – was clearly inadequate. Hiring an independent legal team to conduct an external investigation from the outset would have provided a more robust and extensive assessment of the situation and identification of any policy, contractual, or ethical violations. This would likely have included recommendations and so have led to the situation being addressed before it erupted to the extent it did. Saying that the media company “did not find any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour” has allowed a festering distrust in ITV’s ability or willingness to get to the truth and act on it.

Delayed response: ITV’s inadequate and slow reaction to the seriousness of the situation became a significant aspect of the narrative. It took over a week to appoint an external investigator and in the meantime rigid adherence to a single media stance, all whilst the bosses were reportedly on holiday, allowed the information vacuum to be filled by those with scores to settle. If the TV company had maintained a watching brief on the issue earlier even if no allegations were proven at the time and had been alive to cultural issues internally (rather than permitting an in-favour few to dominate and call the shots), perhaps more supportive voices would have come out to present a more positive image of ITV’s workplace, enabling the media company to minimise the fall-out and steer the narrative more effectively. The light Schofield’s affair has shone on the wider issues at This Morning has intensified the public interest in the story, and fuelled the fire across other media outlets.

The playbook has changed: Scrutiny surrounding workplace culture, interpersonal relationships and conduct has been a prominent issue for several years now, in light of the #MeToo movement. As a media company regularly reporting on this shift, ITV should have recognised the importance of demanding the highest standards from its own team and been alert to the potential for abuses of power. They should have known viewers would expect this and that their competitors would be lining up to hold them to account. After all journalists like little more than to report on other journalists and especially problems at a rival. Take for example the criticism The Guardian has received for its alleged insufficient investigation into sexual harassment complaints against its now former star columnist Nick Cohen.

While it is still too early to determine the long-term fate of This Morning – which has been on air since 1988 – the show’s legacy is at stake. That ITV’s chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall is soon to be hauled before a parliamentary committee, to answer questions on the media company’s approach to safeguarding and complaint handling, inevitably adds to the intensity of the situation. Although there too ITV has failed to take control of the narrative. ITV representatives have been called by the Committee to answer questions that focus on recent events. Let’s hope Ms McCall does a better job in presenting the story next week.

As the oldest commercial network in the UK, ITV finds itself in a deeply challenging period while offering a salutary lesson to other media outlets for whom this scenario may not be as far-fetched as their executives wish to hope.

By Declan Flahive

07/06/2023

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Bell Yard Selected in Global Leaders List (Law Dragon)

Congratulations to Bell Yard’s Melanie Riley, Sarah Peters, and Louise Beeson for their continued selection in the 2023 Lawdragon Global 100 Leaders in Legal Strategy & Consulting list.
 
This illustrious list, in its 9th edition, recognises the exceptional advisors who have played an instrumental role in the exponential growth of the legal industry by providing cutting-edge advice and strategic guidance to legal leaders.
 
Bell Yard, in particular, has earned plaudits for its remarkable expertise in the field of crisis communications, showcasing an exceptional ability to craft narratives that help trials succeed, while mitigating risks that lead to failure.
 
We express our gratitude to Lawdragon for this recognition and extend our warmest congratulations to all the outstanding listed individuals.

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Salutary Tales at the BBC

The BBC/Gary Lineker crisis was avoidable in more ways than one. 

The saga hardly needs recapping such is the attention it has attracted in recent days. But in short, when the   Match of the Day presenter compared the rhetoric used by the Government in its rollout of an anti-immigration bill to that of 1930s Germany, he found himself in hot water.

There was an outcry from those who disagreed with his language. There was consternation from BBC bosses that he had crossed a line by compromising its impartiality. Yet various colleagues supported his right to free speech, especially since he is not a news & current affairs journalist nor BBC employee. The BBC’s decision to take Lineker off air left Saturday night’s favourite sports programme in chaos when its whole presenting team refused to appear. Many predicted as inevitable DG Tim Davie’s subsequent climb down, but what could the BBC have done differently to avoid this crisis brewing out of control?

Consistency is key:

The approach taken in this instance seemed at odds with the (lack of) treatment meted out to others at the BBC taking an overtly political stance online (see below).  The guidelines seem poorly drafted, poorly communicated and, historically, inconsistently applied, lending weight to the Lineker support camp.  If BBC managerial consistency starts now – requiring new emphasis and implementation – they first have to game the consequences of the situation, and only then place a marker and stand their ground, or risk having rings run round their decisions.  The broadcaster’s history is littered with BBC insiders talking publicly about their management’s shortcomings – so the Lineker problem was never going to be resolved quietly once his suspension was announced. 

Suspend now and investigate later:

By going for the ‘suspend now investigate later’ approach, BBC bosses exacerbated the situation. It turned a saga into a circus that dominated public discourse and put the BBC under massive scrutiny for several days. Perhaps swifter decision-making would have prevented the situation from snowballing as it did. 

Anticipation leads to the best cure:

Clearer social media guidance for contracting presenters would have left no room for ambiguity. There had been earlier situations (for example Lord Sugar criticising transport union boss Mick Lynch over recent strike action) which had already exposed high-profile presenters’ expressions of personal political views as a tricky grey area. That the BBC’s social media policy will now be subject to independent review does demonstrate action (though clearly after the horse nearly bolted). 

Choose your battles wisely:

Lineker’s fierce army of fans (personified by his 8.8 million Twitter followers), put him in a category above and beyond the popularity of other BBC staffers. He would be an attractive talent for other sports channels. Despite rumours in some quarters that he regretted his extreme language and had admitted privately that he had perhaps gone too far, he has immense power (enhanced by his privilege of hosting a flagship BBC programme). He put to the test the widespread football notion of no player being bigger than their club. His criticism of a Government already unpopular among much of the Twitterati was likely to receive a mainly positive reaction on that particular platform.  However, the general furore is simply further recognition that the media like nothing better than a drama involving one of their own – early acknowledgement of which might have helped the BBC realise this was never going to play out discreetly.

Conclusion:

Whilst the crisis appears to have abated with soothing and mutually respectful statements from both sides, this peace is fragile. All Lineker’s future tweets will be pored over by media and commentators looking to reignite the issue. Let’s face it, he has already, seemingly purposefully, given them new fodder.  It strikes us that both sides have emerged with reputations somewhat tarnished.

Savvy BBC observers await the untreatable lesions to appear in this relationship, given a mere sticking plaster has been administered to an already festering wound. What are the sporting odds on which will come first: Lineker forced into issuing an unreserved apology for his social media antics and resigning or the end of Chairman Sharp and/or DG Davie’s respective tenures?  Reputations linger despite a spotlight that fades.

By Declan Flahive

16/03/2023

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The Sound of Radio Silence: Liz Truss Hits the Local Airwaves

If Liz Truss and her PR advisers thought that local radio would give her a much easier ride than national news programmes, then they were sorely mistaken. 

Breaking her silence after four days of turmoil in the financial markets prompted by Friday’s mini-Budget (which saw the IMF call on the government to reverse its tax-cutting plans, the Bank of England make an emergency intervention to prevent a run on pension funds, interest rates shoot up, mortgage deals withdrawn, and sterling collapse to record lows), Truss gave her first media interviews to eight BBC radio stations across the country yesterday morning. 

Allocated just five minutes each to grill the Prime Minister, and determined to reflect the concerns, fears and fury felt by their listeners, the presenters wasted no time in going for the jugular, contrary to the patronising suggestions by certain media commentators that local radio interviews would be a soft option. 

From Radio Leeds’ opener, “Where’ve you been?”, to a Radio Nottingham listener’s claims that tax cuts were “like a reverse Robinhood”, Radio Teesside’s questioning about dead crabs washing up on local shores, to Radio Lancashire’s focus on fracking, Truss faced a gruelling series of bruising interviews on a range of subjects dear to local radio listeners’ hearts. 

Determined to stick to her key messages and defend last Friday’s “fiscal event”, Truss would not accept any responsibility for Britain’s economic crisis, laying the blame squarely on Vladimir Putin. Sometimes she refused to accept the premise of questioning or simply avoided answering the question altogether. Hesitant and robotic in her delivery, at one stage she was lost for words for almost four seconds while attempting to justify her economic policies to Radio Stoke. It made for painful listening. 

“An utter shitshow”, “brutal”, “gaslighting” and “blind to reality” were just some of the reactions to her car crash interviews from media commentators and MPs across the political divide.

As The Guardian pointed out, the “PM’s eight short interviews produced more news than a typical slot on Radio 4’s Today programme”. 

Whatever you think about Truss and Kwarteng’s dogged devotion to trickle-down economics, the episode shows the importance of communication in averting and handling a crisis (although Truss’s team, of course, deny that it is a crisis). 

While Truss is by no means a natural communicator, there are still some fundamental principles that she, and her team, should observe: 

  • Be prepared – don’t launch a new initiative until you’re ready, then provide a thorough and timely briefing of the policy or strategy, backed up by sound evidence, and plan for tough questioning. 
  • Don’t shy away from or delay giving media interviews – a head-in-the-sand mentality simply compounds the crisis, giving the impression of arrogance, complacency or ineptitude. Or all three. But – crucially, as above – be prepared. 
  • Know your audience – be aware of and ensure you can respond to the wide range of issues that might arise, particularly when giving local media interviews. 
  • Show empathy – acknowledge, listen and respond to people’s very real concerns, rather than regurgitating scripted answers that evade the question. 
  • Don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve got it wrong, take ownership, and adjust your strategy accordingly, rather than claiming everything is going to plan despite clear evidence to the contrary. 

Truss – who lest we forget was put in power by a mere 0.17% of British voters – now finds herself alienating not just the markets and the public, including many in the crucial Red Wall constituencies, but a large number of Tory MPs too – among them some of her supporters at the recent leadership contest. 

Unsurprisingly, Labour is riding high in the polls, positioning itself as the party of economic competence. 

With the term ‘fin de siècle vibes’ reportedly being bandied about Westminster, Truss will need all the communications skills she can muster if she, and her party, have any chance of surviving this self-inflicted crisis of confidence and leadership.

By Sarah Peters

Friday 30th September 2022

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5 Tips to Grow Your Business on Social Media

In the fast-moving digital age, organisations need to engage with social media on a professional level or risk falling behind the pack. Whilst social media marketing might be an intimidating venture to some, effectively using it alongside more traditional PR techniques will bring you a range of advantages that will help your business flourish.

Here are a few tips on how to grow your business on social media:

1. Build a long-term relationship with your audience

Audiences of most traditional PR techniques tend to interact passively with content. In contrast, social media offers a two-sided relationship to its followers allowing ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and replies to a company’s online posts. This “relationship marketing” aspect is a powerful tool in making the brand more accessible. You can help to grow a committed following by nurturing this relationship with high-quality and relevant online content.

2. Be consistent with your online voice

Deviations and inconsistencies in your tone can lead to distrust brewing within your audience base. Avoid this pitfall by ensuring that your voice is clear, becoming recognisably ‘you’ which will help maintain and build a healthy online following – provided this voice is one that connects with your desired audience. It is also important to understand and adapt to the varied attributes that each social media platform offers. Twitter has a much more constrained character limit with shorter visibility, whereas LinkedIn caters to long-form written content and maintains its visibility for longer.

3. Utilise social media algorithms

Use the reward systems of social media algorithms to gain free promotion for your organisation’s online profile. Offer consistent content to your audience by following a content calendar that marks out how often and when you are going to post. As a result, the social media platform’s algorithm will recognise you as a reliable source of regular content and will promote your online presence for free. Ensuring that your content is truly valuable to your audience will likely boost its social media metrics of ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘comments’. Once again, the algorithm will reward such engaging content with further organic promotion.

4. Sense an incoming crisis

Social media monitoring can be a vital tool in sensing a brewing storm before impact. As any PR professional will know, it is much easier to prevent a crisis from taking place than it is to get the toothpaste back into its tube, so to speak. Through early online detection more traditional crisis communication strategies can be deployed to reduce reputational damage. Be clear and concise if you are going to engage with a crisis online or else you risk worsening the situation, as was the case with Center Parcs and the hullabaloo surrounding their clunky reaction to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

5. Use analytics to monitor growth and shape strategy

Analysing the level and extent of online engagement in your content can help target all future content and key messaging. The vast analytics offered on social media platforms, such as impression rates, enables you to closely monitor the growth of your account and ensure that it remains on an upwards trajectory (within your preferred target audience) by recognising and doubling down on the types of content that have the best engagement rate.

Content is King

Traditional PR and social media marketing are powerful tools that can become even more profound when used in sync. Failing to utilise social media is to miss out on vast engagement with, and knowledge of, your audience. However, your social media presence should be taken as seriously as other elements of your business. Failure to ‘read the room’ or sense an impending crisis, for instance, can end in a social media pile-on, creating a disaster for even the largest and most robust of organisations.

In short, content is king – create it, target it, evaluate it and don’t be afraid to adapt it if circumstances demand it.

By Declan Flahive

29/09/2022

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