Telephone: +44 (0)20 3475 3727    

Email: info@mdcomms.co.uk
Image loading
Image loading

“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

Are you beach body ready?

April 30th, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (0 Comments)
Melissa Davis

How do you make ground up plant extracts controversial? Or even sexy? We imagine the advertising agency responsible for the recent ‘Beach Body Ready’ campaign from diet supplement peddlers Protein World are feeling very satisfied with the results so far, if their brief was to get everyone talking about the brand. But is all publicity good publicity? Or has this one been handled badly?

If you’ve been anywhere near public transport in London recently then you probably have seen those big, yellow posters by the Protein World brand with text demanding if you’re ‘Beach Body Ready’ next to a looming, ‘perfect’ woman in a bikini. The adverts themselves are a fine example of why we have ended up with a society in which we feel unacceptable unless we’re perfectly proportioned. However, it’s not the ads themselves but the response from the company behind them to online criticism that has been so mind-boggling.

As criticism of the adverts began to surface on social media, instead of trying to fight the firestorm with logic and – dare I say it – a ‘grown up attitude,’ Protein World, and its CEO Arjun Seth, started attacking. Principally, social media users were highlighting the way in which the adverts missed the point that really all you require to be beach body ready is a beach and a body (you don’t have to spend all your savings on protein powders and put on lots of make up to go to the beach), but Protein World got really personal.

The responses really were a lesson in how not to do social media customer service. Some of the choicest examples includes “why make your insecurities our problem *winky face*” and “we are a nation of sympathisers for fatties #doesnthelpanyone” as well as the massively offensive “surely as feminists…you understand that no one takes you seriously.” The CEO also went on TV and called the company’s critics ‘terrorists,’ which is just a bit baffling. As far as we are aware, terrorists have yet to express their objection to guarana extract.

However, despite the Twitterstorm whirling around it, Protein World and its charm bucket CEO continued on the offensive – supported by renowned fence sitter and all round sea of empathy Katie Hopkins. When she jumped on their bandwagon that must really have been a moment for celebration – they had an ally! Albeit a woman who more than 250,000 people had signed a petition requesting she be sacked after describing migrants as ‘cockroaches’.

Whether it was the Hopkins effect or whether someone at Protein World finally realised that repeatedly attacking the public just wasn’t good PR, the nature of the tweets finally began to change. And so instead of the bitchy comments about fatties, the company began rolling out the standard response of “Positive vibes, No offence meant. Enjoy the beach this summer in the body that you love *smiley face*” Although, of course, the CEO still couldn’t help himself with tweets such as “everything has been fantastic, sales have tripled so something must be working.”

Whether those sales ‘figures’ are correct or not we’ll never know but, as Seth is the kind of man who likes to take multiple photos of himself with his top off, we can assume that there might be a bit of fake posing in there. From a reputation management point of view the business couldn’t have done anything more to generate negativity; it really was the whole package of bad PR. As a result, they’ve created a rather Hopkins-esque situation for themselves when it comes to future campaigns – play the panto villain forever and become increasingly ‘outrageous,’ offensive and angry, eventually alienating pretty much everyone, or just disappear. Given how much this company apparently loves the spotlight, we doubt it will be the latter.

Melissa Davis

Using social media for customer service is a trending topic in the PR world at the moment. One of the reasons why it has become so popular is because it offers efficiencies and the chance to boost customer service, both in terms of the response rate and customer satisfaction. However, there are also some pitfalls for those who choose to embrace the power of social media and the main one is that it really raises expectations when it comes to response.

If you’re going to use social media for your customer service then it’s key to make sure that you’ve grasped the basic rule which is: respond, respond, respond. If you’re used to offering customer or client service that is only available within working hours then social customer service might not work for you. Why? Well by setting up a presence on social media and then encouraging people to start contacting you, you’re giving the impression that your account is manned, ready and waiting to help 24/7. If customers do decide to get in touch and then find it takes you three days to respond to anything they will not only get frustrated with your social media but they might also end up fed up with your brand too.

A prime example of a customer service fail from a company with the resources to have known better was provided by British Airways recently. Businessman Hasan Syed had reached the end of his rope with the way that the airline was dealing with his father’s lost luggage and so decided to use social media to make a complaint. He tweeted “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous” and then when the airline didn’t reply over the weekend he promoted the tweet. BA finally responded but by then the promoted tweet had done the rounds of many a Twitter feed and the damage had already been done. BA didn’t do itself any favours with its eventual response either, which read “Sorry for the delay in responding, our twitter feed is open 09:00-17:00 GMT.” As we all know, social media is not 9-5 but 24/7. While the brand’s own Twitter account may not have been manned ‘after hours’ that didn’t mean that its customers – and their service needs – had stopped too.

Of course social media can be an enormously beneficial customer service tool if you learn how to use it properly – and all the signs are that clients and customers now expect businesses to offer this so it’s worth getting to grips with now. Below are four key rules for making sure your social media customer service is spot on.

1. Set out your policy.

This should include everything from expected response time, to the basic dos and don’ts for your social media presence so that anyone at the controls knows where the boundaries lie.

2. Have a consistent tone of voice.

Customer service isn’t provided by a single person but the idea is to make it feel as if it is. Define your tone of voice and stick to it – avoid situations where you are tweeting informal, jokey responses one minute and stiffly informative ones the next.

3. Never be provoked.

The purpose of social media customer service is often to field complaints so expect that you’re going to get some angry and maybe even aggressive messages. Be calm, polite, informative and try to find a solution to every customer’s issue.

4. Respond.

I’ve already covered this – in some detail – but it really is worth emphasising again: if you don’t respond to the messages, posts and statuses directed at your business within a reasonable length of time then your social media customer service is useless

This blog first appeared on The Huffington Post

Can law firms learn rebrand tips from a Harry Potter character?

April 24th, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

The name Matthew Lewis might not mean that much to you – but Neville Longbottom probably will. Whether or not you’re an avid Harry Potter fan you probably remember the character of Neville Longbottom, the goofy geek who was just never quite in with the cool gang and yet still proved to have a good heart and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Fan hysteria around the male members of the cast has traditionally focused on Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Robert Pattinson (at least at the point when it didn’t feel indecent to do so) but over the past six months its been the actor who played Neville who has suddenly landed in the spotlight. The reason? Well Matthew Lewis has gone through something of a transformation – from geeky kid to bona fide heart throb – and it’s sent the internet wild.

If you Google Matthew Lewis these are some of the kinds of hits you will get:

“Neville Longbottom Continues To Seduce Us With His Wily Wizard Ways.”

“Hot Damn! Harry Potter’s Matthew Lewis Shows Off Six-Pack Abs and Bulging Biceps: See the Pics”

and

“Ten points to Gryffindor! Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis showcases his transformation from geeky Neville Longbottom to dashing hunk in new shoot.”

Have a look at the images that come up and you won’t recognise the chiseled hunk who appears where the goofy geek was before. What Matthew Lewis has done is essentially the perfect rebrand and his transformation can offer some lessons to businesses looking to do the same.

1. He’s now the real deal.

Many a rebrand is half hearted, perhaps an attempt at some improvement or simply a cover up job to disguise the less attractive elements and enhance those that are more appealing. Matthew Lewis, however, has gone the whole hog – the overall aesthetic is a media friendly combo of hipster meets sophisticate.

Lesson: don’t cut corners. Identify your audience and give them what they want.

2. He has broadened his audience.

No longer just a personification of a much loved fictional character, Matthew Lewis is now a heart throb too. Which will come in useful for everything from endorsements and press attention through to the kinds of roles he’s likely to be offered as a result.

Lesson: aim high – and broad. There’s no point in a rebrand unless it increases your reach.

3. He’s totally working it.

What’s the point in investing all that effort on a rebrand if you don’t then go out and shout about it? From magazine interviews, to a lively twitter account and lots (and lots) of half naked Instagram snaps, all that investment is out there and being worked to the max.

Lesson: when you rebrand be ready to capitalise on it.

4. He’s still authentic.

Other than not going far enough, one of the worst things you can do with a rebrand is to go too far. Matthew Lewis may now be ‘hot totty’ (not my words) but he isn’t being gratuitous, overly attention seeking (for the social media generation at least) or over the top.

Lesson: don’t be desperate. Aim for a better version of what you were before rather than something you’re not.

Melissa Davis

Michael Buble is one of those celebrities who normally can’t seem to put a foot wrong. A voice to die for and an appearance to match, he’s demonstrated a gently cheeky sense of fun and crooner gent attitude over the years in which he has established himself as one of the most famous singers in the world. However, he recently proved to be a good example of how social media can cause problems for even the most well established reputations.

Buble has an Instagram account to which he regularly posts photos of himself and his very aesthetically pleasing family, as well as various tropical locations, music related images, him in a flash car and….well….kittens. So far very innocuous…until now. Unfortunately he recently also posted a photo of himself standing in front of an unidentified woman who has her back to him and is wearing a pair of shorts – a very short pair of shorts. The photo is captioned with the hashtags ‘#myhumps #babygotback #hungryshorts #onlyinmiami.’ The photo has essentially caused uproar and although Buble seemed to think it was a harmless joke, he has been accused of bodyshaming the woman by fans who weren’t impressed with his choice of image. Some of the responses to the photo included “that’s someone’s daughter dude,” “amusing but probably not to the woman featured” and “yep, let’s humiliate a stranger. Stay classy, Buble.”

Others have pointed out that Buble has no idea how old the woman is and she could be a minor. It has also raised questions of whether he got her permission before posting a picture of her behind to his 1+ million followers on Instagram and 2.22 million followers on Twitter. While Buble may or may not have crossed any legal lines, the issue really is one of ethics and reputation as he is now being branded a misogynist and being repeatedly attacked for criticising a woman who isn’t as body perfect as his own wife.

In the light of the social media storm that followed the photo being posted, Buble has very wisely released a statement (also via social media) in which he says that it hurts him deeply that anyone would think he would disrespect a woman and that he regrets that there are people that found the photo offensive. However, if you take a look at his Instagram page you’ll notice that he hasn’t taken it down. Perhaps as a result of leaving the photo up there the controversy continues to roll on and almost a week later there are still numerous articles appearing online chipping away at Buble’s previously perfect reputation exterior.

So what are the lessons to be learned from this unfortunately episode? Well, firstly that speed is essential when responding to a social media storm – and that you should never underestimate how fast something like this can grow. Secondly, that retractions and apologies work but not without removing whatever it was that originally caused such offence in the first place. And finally, don’t go around using your social media to post pictures of other people’s bottoms…

This blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.

What to do when a PR crisis hits

April 20th, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (0 Comments)
Melissa Davis

I was interviewed for an article in The Lawyer magazine today about how law firms – and in particular Gibson Dunn – should deal with a crisis.

Gibson Dunn is a top 30 firm with a global presence and – right now – it’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons. It’s a fairly safe bet that Peter Gray, the partner who has helped shove the firm into the unwelcome spotlight, is probably not the most popular name at the firm right now. If you haven’t yet caught up on the events that Mr Gray has become embroiled in, these first involved his allegedly providing incorrect information to a court that contributed to the decision made to freeze someone else’s assets (for which he could face criminal charges). Then Gray appeared again in the headlines, this time as one of three men being accused by the former managing director of Leeds United FC, David Haigh, of ‘conspiracy to defraud.’ Haigh initially directed his complaint at two executives from Leeds’ former owners Gulf Finance House but has now included Peter Gray too. Haigh has been in prison in Dubai for more than 10 months now. He is claiming that the three men lured him to Dubai where he was arrested and imprisoned indefinitely – but not charged. The reason for the imprisonment was his alleged falsifying of an invoice with a value of £3m. He claims that Gray etc paid his air ticket and even arranged his visa.

So, although not 50 shades of reputation damage by Peter Gray, he hasn’t done Gibson Dunn any favours. The firm has worked to distance itself from him – swift action was a good move – but it’s a very high profile case with some fairly intriguing details and the big problem for the firm is that information just keeps drip dripping through the media channels, keeping the flames of interest fanned and ensuring that every time Gray’s name appears Gibson Dunn’s does too.

Although the firm acted quickly in suspending Gray – exactly what they should have done under the circumstances – as a result of the media attention its next moves will be crucial. So, how to handle this kind of high profile heat? Cooperating with the authorities – and being seen to do so – will ensure that any suspicion of wrongdoing focuses only on Gray. Issuing clear, unambiguous statements and returning calls, interacting with the media and working with regulators are all essential to minimising the damage to a firm reputation that one man can potentially cause. It’s important that the firm is fair to those affected – that too is another reputational landmine if not handled properly – but Gibson Dunn must also focus now on regaining control, perhaps even generating some positive news to combat the negative. Although this might be an unwelcome 15 minutes of fame for the firm, it does not necessarily have to do lasting damage.