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“I have been hugely impressed by Melissa. She has a wealth of experience and contacts and this, together with her proactive approach, enables her to achieve first class results.” Jonathan Hand, Barrister, Outer Temple Chambers

Tommy Hill British Superbike Champion opens the offices of Fletchers, leading bike injury solicitors firm

Please don’t send me a photo of your John-Thomas

July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

If there’s one thing that demonstrates how ‘not private’ something like Twitter really is, it’s the ability to forward on/re-tweet photos. In the age of online dating and ‘meeting’ people via apps like Tinder it’s often very easy to forget that at the other end of that Twitter handle or Whatsapp (a texting app) account there is a real person – someone who may have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about releasing your images onto the internet. There have been some very well documented cases in recent years about photos accidentally getting released when sent from one partner to another but it would seem that we are getting increasingly reckless about who we send our photos to.

An astonishing number of female friends who are either actively dating in the real world or chatting online, have confessed to receiving an unsolicited image or two of a man’s pride and joy. If you thought this kind of behaviour was limited to bored teenagers or the slightly pervy then think again as it’s widespread with numerous websites devoted to collating the best celebrity versions of these types of pictures. Perhaps one of the most prolific – and unexpected – offenders is Anthony Weiner, an American politician and former U.S. representative from January 1999 until June 2011. His ‘sexting’ issues (including sending numerous pictures of ‘himself’ to the women in question) are so well known that they even have their own Wikipedia page.

Sexuality is complicated and we all have our secrets and desires, most of which are vastly different from those of the next person. But what it is about sending unsolicited images like this via social media that makes us think this is a ‘safe’ thing to do? It’s most likely to be part and parcel of the trap that many people fall into of forgetting what’s on the other end of your social media presence: people – and in the case of unsolicited photos like this it’s usually people you don’t know very well. Sometimes posting on social media can feel like shouting into a void, which is why some people don’t clock the consequences of sending a picture of your privates via such a very public forum. Even if it’s not something as risqué as extreme nakedness, we do often forget that there can be repercussions for what we say on social media – whether that’s concerning someone else’s behaviour or publicly commenting in a way that is provocative or just plain rude.

It’s fairly unlikely that anyone reading this blog needs to be told not to send one of the aforementioned photos via a forum like Twitter or the very forward-able platform that is Whatsapp. However, there are some lessons to be learned here about the effect that the reckless use of social media can have on reputation, and how scary the snowball effect can be. One of the first things many of us get taught when entering the legal world is not to say or attach anything in an email that you wouldn’t be happy to have read out/shown in court. Perhaps that’s a lesson we should apply to social media too – if you don’t want the judge to see it then don’t ‘get it out’ in the first place…

Uber and the cabbies’ protest

June 16th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

I had my first experience of Uber taxis in New York. They have been something of a revolution when it comes to private fares and there has been a huge rise in usage since the company was first established in San Francisco in 2009.

For those who don’t know, Uber is based on a smartphone app, which shows the user how far away the nearest Uber taxi is and allows it to be ordered at the press of a touch screen. There’s no facility for pre-booking a taxi with Uber and prices are estimated – but not set – in advance.

The cost of the car is calculated at the end of the fare and taken directly from the user’s bank account by card details loaded into the app. Cars are not branded or centralised, which allows costs to be kept down. In fact, it’s probably the cost element of Uber that has made it so very popular with fares across London starting from around £9.

However when I stepped out of my office last week on Aldwych to find the entire traffic at stand still it became obvious just how much this new approach to London taxis has angered the existing taxi community.

The protest which took place last week in by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association concerned the lack of regulation around companies like Uber, as well as the lack of training for Uber drivers, something that cabbies are required to undergo before they get a licence.

The Association also objects to the way that the Uber app works out the customer fare, as it is essentially the same as using a taxi meter, which only London cabbies are legally entitled to do.  At the heart of the protest is the fear that technological developments like the Uber app will drive traditional London cabbies out of business.

Today Uber has announced that the number of people downloading the app on the day of the protest, compared to the same day the week before, saw an increase of around 850%, which would seem to indicate that the protest has actually worked in Uber’s favour rather than highlighting the plight of the cabbies.

As the protest achieved coverage across most of the national news channels, as well as broad reach all over social media, those who didn’t know about Uber before last week certainly do now. Unfortunately for London cabbies the appeal of the cheap taxi is strong in a city where taxi fares can be some of the highest in Europe.

Although there is sympathy for the fate of the iconic black cab, most people would rather take a cheaper taxi, particularly for shorter trips, and many see the development of technology that can make this possible as a good thing. London is not the only city where there have been objections to Uber and the protest last week follows on from similar events in Berlin, Rome, Milan, Madrid and Paris.

For Uber, the broad reach of the protests and their high-profile nature must have been a rather pleasant surprise – given the enormous upsurge in the number of Uber apps being downloaded as a result, this is one situation that perfectly demonstrates that sometimes there’s just no such thing as bad publicity.

Eyes on the road!

June 4th, 2014 | Posted by Graham Capper in Blog - (Comments Off)
Graham Capper

Graham Capper, Director

A few weeks ago, I went out for an evening with the ‘lads’. Nothing too fancy or racy: a birthday celebration which involved a bit of sport, a few pints and a meal in a country pub. We’re all middle-aged, middle-class pillars of society so of course we needed to designate a driver. Who to choose to get us all home safely?

This week, Ist Central Insurance (no I’d never heard of them before either, so their new PR agency will be due a bonus) have published an analysis claiming to show the safest and least safe car drivers by profession. Safest were administrators, painters and farmers. Least safe were engineers, mechanics and estate agents. I sort of get it about mechanics. May-be they take risks with the cars they drive, which they haven’t quite finished putting back together?

But what is it with estate agents? Perhaps accidents occur when they are racing between houses to show anxious buyers.

Fourth on the least safe list were travel agents. What’s their excuse? Rushing back from the airport after another free holiday donated by a package operator? ‘I’m sorry about the accident officer, I’ve got terrible jet-lag and after sun was making my eyes sting……’ It’s hard to have sympathy.

I’m not surprised about administrators topping the list of safe drivers. Fifteen years ago during my long and winding career in PR and communications, I had a spell as Chief Press Officer in a Government Department. I was invited to join the Civil Service Motoring Association, which didn’t necessarily set my pulse racing. The big incentive was the significant discounts they could secure for breakdown cover and insurance. Civil Servants (and I shall offend a few with this) are mostly administrators and are statistically a safe bet. I joined and still benefit from the discounts.

Painters on the other hand, I assume, means painters and decorators, rather than artists. At the risk of divorce papers being filed, I have personal experience of the driving capabilities of at least one artist and I will take my chances with most other professions on the list. I think it must be something to do with the creative inspiration offered by passing scenery, distracting from the road ahead.

Two other professions who don’t appear in the top or bottom ten of safest drivers are lawyers and PR consultants.
However, on my night out with the lads, the lawyer got to drive. Despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail (and certain politicians), brand lawyer says sensible, risk averse and trustworthy. While in another communications role in the health sector, I used to see polling evidence about how the NHS as an institution was considered by the public to be inefficient and badly run. When asked about their own experience of their GP, health visitor or local hospital, those surveyed had much more positive things to say.

In this particular case, dedication to his clients meant my solicitor friend wanted to be clear headed the following (Saturday) morning.

The profession has a job to do, rebuilding brand ‘lawyer’, brand ‘solicitor’, as well as the brands of firms. To be resilient, a brand must be compatible with people’s actual experiences. Those experiences and the dedication of many in the profession are good foundations upon which to build.

These were the top 10 least-safe drivers by profession:
1. Engineer
2. Mechanic
3. Estate agent
4. Travel agent
5. IT consultant
6. Hospital worker (non medical)
7. Accountant
8. Debt collector
9. Hospital doctor
10. Psychotherapist

These were the safest:
1. Administrator
2. Painter
3. Farmer
4. Fashion designer
5. Carpet fitter
6. Builder
7. Cleaner
8. Baker
9. Dinner lady
10. Caretaker

Keep your eye on the Latin American ball

May 30th, 2014 | Posted by Camila Reed in Blog - (Comments Off)
Camila Reed

Camila Reed, Digital Media Director

London’s Lord Mayor, Fiona Woolf, gave an upbeat assessment of the many opportunities for UK firms in Latin America following her trip to Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay at a Canning House briefing this week.

“We can’t do enough in Latin America,” the Lord Mayor said citing Britain’s expertise in infrastructure, energy, finance and legal services coupled with the growth and potential projects in Latin America.

But she acknowledged the UK had taken its eye off the Latin American ball. A view echoed by Alan Charlton, Britain’s ex-Ambassador to Brazil.

He pointed out that British governments over the years have taken a sporadic interest in Latin America which has somehow never been sustained. This has led to the UK falling back against competitors in Europe.

Whichever government is in power needs to stay energised with its eye on the goal.

The Lord Mayor advocated the personal touch suggesting firms visit Latin America and get to know the client and their country.

Trade with Brazil is growing, last year £1bn of infrastructure contracts were signed, and Mrs Woolf was extremely encouraged by how much more outward facing Brazil has become, not just looking at New York but London too.

While the challenges to foreign law firms operating in Brazil are well known, the Law Society and others are working for change. Britain’s Justice Minister, Chris Grayling, met with lawyers in Sao Paolo and Brasilia in May encouraging them to come to the Global Law Summit in London.

He also discussed the Young Lawyer’s Exchange Programme organised by the Bar Council, Law Society, Federal OAB and Lex Anglo-Brazil. There were also talks on a potential bilateral arbitration chamber, with involvement of English law.

If you’d like help meeting firms then MD Communications can help you do just that, researching the markets, helping you identify possible partner firms, arranging introductions and raising your profile and/or managing a multi-media PR campaign.

For a copy of our White Paper Untapped Potential: UK Legal Services & Latin America please contact us.

Breaking the silence – Dementia Awareness Week

May 21st, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

Dementia Awareness Week, organised by the Alzheimer’s Society, is this week. It is an annual event designed to shed some light on a condition that is all too often often misunderstood, and to encourage anyone who feels as if they, or someone they are close to, might be suffering with symptoms to take some action. The week is a key part of the Alzheimer’s Society’s strategy to try and get people to open up about an, admittedly very difficult, subject and to encourage those who might be burying their heads in the sand to stop and take steps to get help.

I wrote in a previous blog that my Mother has Alzheimer’s, a form of Dementia. Dementia is not a single condition but an ‘umbrella’ term for a number of different conditions; perhaps the most recognisable of which is Alzheimer’s. In fact, this is the most common cause of Dementia in the UK and there are some 496,000 people in the country who suffer from it. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be wide ranging, from forgetting names, places or appointments and frequently becoming confused, to becoming withdrawn or experiencing mood swings. These are the kinds of symptoms that can be very distressing when they first start to appear, which is why Dementia Awareness Week is such an important event in terms of helping people to come to terms with, and to manage, the condition. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s – like most types of Dementia – is progressive, which means that the brain will become increasingly damaged.

A couple of weeks ago I was in a clothes retailer when there was suddenly a lot of fuss at the till. When I asked what was happening they told me that a lady comes in almost daily to ask for a refund but that her receipt is out of date and they won’t issue one. I asked the cashier if she thought the lady had Alzheimer’s and she very quickly said it wasn’t possible – the lady could very quickly add up the amounts on the bill to the exact penny. My Mum does the 60 second sudoku challenge in 30 seconds and can do any multiple arithmetic you can throw at her. However at 68 she doesn’t know what the word is for her coat and just this morning she told me my 80 year old Aunty had caught Down’s Syndrome, which took me a little while to work out that she meant pneumonia….obviously an easy mistake to make! Her most frequently used phrase is “I’m good at numbers you know”…and until a few years ago I didn’t know that this cruel dichotomy was just a part of the incurable disease…by the sounds of it neither did anyone working in the store, as they had the lady promptly escorted out by security.

The celebrities getting behind Dementia Awareness Week campaigns this year include Sir Paul McCartney, Lily Allen, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Paul O’Grady, who were involved in a recording of the Beatles’ track ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, used to launch the ‘Dementia Friends’ campaign, which aims to sign up 1 million people to receive tips on how to help those with dementia.

Dementia Awareness Week incorporates numerous events designed to raise awareness as well as funds, (including one just this weekend in Victoria Park incorporating piñatas) so there are many ways in which members of the public can get involved in helping to publicise the week, as well as taking part in it. You could display a poster, whether at work or in one of the windows of your home, and there are also events taking place all over the country you can attend – or why not organise your own? As the theme this year is ‘opening up’ about Dementia, the Alzheimer’s Society is encouraging people to open up their homes, gardens and streets to raise money for this great cause.

If you can take a little time to read about the disease, which affects almost half a million people in the UK, and with more education and open discussion perhaps the incident that I described in the store might not happen so often.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.