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

Your online reputation – there’s only One Direction to take

May 24th, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

You may or may not have heard of Azealia Banks, an American rapper, singer and songwriter with more than a bit of a penchant for foul language and shocking lyrics. She’s a public figure with a reputation for being controversial and has recently said (or tweeted) some things that even her fans have found a little difficult to stomach. Banks has a history of getting into fights on Twitter and apparently has very little fear of tackling anyone, even the likes of Lady Gaga, but last week she went too far.

The fuss arose over a video created for a new release by former One Direction singer Zayn Malik. Banks believed that her own work had influenced the content of the video and that remarks that were then tweeted by Malik referred to her. So – as you do – she went on a bizarre, public tirade that didn’t just include offensive tweets but also ventured into racist and homophobic territory. It was really quite horrible. Others soon became involved – such as Disney actress Skai Jackson, who told Banks to ”simmer down” and was then subjected to a flurry of abusive tweets in return. Skai Jackson is 14 years old.

So, not a great time to be Azealia Banks, but rather than try to cool down the heated arguments that started happening across social media, Banks refused to apologise*. She claimed that her tweets against Malik were justified because she was angry and wanted to “remind him that we’re both in the same boat in this industry and people of colour” and she justified the way she spoke to Jackson by saying she believed she was speaking to the girl’s mother. Continuing to be totally unapologetic she then tweeted more egotistical and slightly crazy rubbish: “Resisting The Urge to say loads more terrible things to each and every one of u’s” and “But obviously I’m insanely *&^% talented and have already lowered myself to the levels of ppl who don’t even deserve to share the same air I breathe.” Charming.

Interestingly, Twitter then suspended her account, something that it usually reserves for trolls. So, Banks set up a new account a day later and started ranting at Twitter this time – pointing out that she wasn’t the only celebrity to have used Twitter to have spats and spread hate and asking why she was the only one to have her account suspended, making insinuations about race. Twitter promptly suspended her new account too but the whole sorry episode does raise some interesting questions about the power that Twitter has in situations like these.

Some of the content that Donald Trump promotes, for example, may not contain the same words that Banks used but it arguably has a similar effect on stirring up hate.

Actress Bette Midler accused Twitter of double standards and asked why it had banned Azealia Banks but not Donald Trump. Mr Trump has tweeted a number of controversial comments about women and race but has never had his account suspended.

So is this a prime example of the fact that social media isn’t impartial at all but somewhere that is being policed in accordance with the vision of the people who set it up? Whether you agree with the account suspension or not it’s an interesting consideration – and the way Banks has handled the whole thing is a great example of how not to use your Twitter account to build a positive brand.

Whether you’re a high-profile rapper or a lawyer, negativity and hatred is not the way to go… I can’t imagine many in the legal profession going quite as far off the rails as Azealia (although you never know!), however this is an extreme example of what happens when you allow the red mist to descend and post on social media in anger.

It is such an instant form of communication, and also so easy to get misread in the absence of the kind of visual and other social cues we pick up in normal life.

Anyone using Twitter should take great care not to get into arguments – they rarely make you look good. Always count to at least 10 before posting if you’re wound up; and never, ever post drunk… or when engaged in a public argument with a One Direction star.

*Azealia Banks has since taken to another social media platform, Instagram, to issue an apology for any offence caused by her tweets.

Putting the boot into your reputation

May 19th, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

To enjoy being walked on in high heels is, apparently, a thing – though even among fetishists, I imagine we’re talking about a minority of dedicatees.

Certainly accountancy giant PwC didn’t seem to enjoy the experience over the last week.

If you missed the extensive coverage, a receptionist working at the firm was sent home, without pay, for refusing to conform to a dress code that a ‘2in to 4in heel’ needs to be worn – a rule which needless to say was for women only.

The temp – Nicola Thorp – asked if she could wear the flats that she had worn to get to the firm’s Embankment offices and was told absolutely not, shortly before her supervisor demanded that Ms Thorp go out and buy a pair of heels.

My view? It’s a bit bonkers to expect women to wear heels, particularly given how incredibly uncomfortable they can be, let alone the effect they have on spinal health – worn by choice, heels can make you feel great for… oooh, I’d say 20 minutes.

However the supervisor stuck to her guns, and when Thorp questioned whether they applied the same policy to male members of staff she was sent home without any pay.

This took place back in December but it’s only in the last week that the story has broken, making PwC look pretty silly, seeming to expose a ridiculous double standard in the workplace. I’ll come to that.

Interviewed by the BBC, Ms Thorp said “I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said ‘I just won’t be able to do that in heels’.” I salute her honesty because spending an entire day in heels is agony and there’s really no reason why any woman should feel they have to when it has no bearing at all on professional performance.

She sounded eloquent, sensible and was nicely presented in the coverage.

As the story gained momentum this week there has been plenty of support – one waitress tweeted a (pretty grim) image of her bleeding feet after a shift during which she too had been forced to wear heels.

There has also been a petition to ban office dress codes that require women to wear heels (this already has the 100,000 signatures required for it to be discussed in parliament).

PwC itself doesn’t have a policy on heels, and its own dress code seems professional but sensible. However, the company that it has outsourced its reception area management to does. That may be why its response – blaming the outsourcing company – sounded a little terse.

I reckon they can credibly run this line once, and it’s now been used.

What should be happening now is that someone (ideally in flats), is sitting comfortably somewhere checking that PwC’s considered policies on a whole range of things is aligned with suppliers’ policies – PwC are a big business, and as a customer can demand changes.

This isn’t bolting doors after the horse has bolted – this incident shows that you can’t outsource your reputation when it’s your brass plaque on the door and your branding above the desk.

The way outsourcers work is an ongoing risk in all kinds of ways. PwC spends serious effort on initiatives to promote social mobility and equality, and generally wants to be seen as a good place to work. ‘Heel-gate’ is a setback.

As a closing thought, it’s interesting that it’s not just in London that heels have been on the agenda as a shoe protest is also currently taking place during the Cannes film festival.

Take a look at the feet of celebrities this year and you might well see more flat shoes than you’re used to on a red carpet (even bare feet in Julia Roberts’ case). The reason? Last year a group of women in their 50s were turned away from a screening of Carol for not wearing heels because of the festival’s strict dress code.

So far a number of celebs have supported the cause against forcing women to walk on their toes. Everyone, I think, should be following the way the footprints point here – it looks like the start of a new footwear revolution.

What Caitlin Moran’s daughter can teach you about Twitter

April 29th, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Twitter is getting a bit of a bad reputation these days. What with the use of Periscope to film sexual assaults and examples of terrible trolling, almost too numerous to count, sometimes it seems like the social media platform has become a destructive and mean place, rather than the hub of information and networking that it was supposed to be. However, while browsing through the internet archives I came across a story from 2014 that described the experiences of journalist Caitlin Moran when she allowed her daughter Nancy to take over her Twitter account for an hour. And that rather changed my view.

Caitlin has had her fair share of negative Twitter attention. Her 2013 #TwitterSilence campaign, a protest against the threats of violence received by many women via the platform, was supported by some but (predictably) jeered at by many. Creating hashtags such as #trolliday has put Moran in the direct line of troll fire and this was all before she ceded control of her Twitter account to Nancy. So, when the then 11 year old took over the tweets, I would imagine that her mum was pretty nervous. And yet a wonderful thing happened.

As Nancy proceeded to inform the Twittersphere about which of her cats was the obese cat and which the stupid cat, then going on to describe her fear of butterflies, a rather amazing thing happened: no one trolled her. While Moran took back control of the account after 37 minutes she did acknowledge that Twitter’s response to her daughter’s misspelled ramblings had been “100% gentle.” At that time Moran’s account had 500,000+ followers so the chances of there being some trolls ready to pounce within that number was pretty high. And yet they didn’t.

When you consider this kind of response, in comparison to the way that Twitter treats its adults, I wonder if there is anything we can learn from Nancy. Perhaps the most obvious factor is authenticity. From the spelling mistakes to the fiercely held facts, Nancy’s tweets were as genuine as they come and we know how much Twitter loves people being real and despises anyone with even a hint of fake or corporate robot. Nancy replied to people – in fact she made a point of saying that she was replying to all the people that her mum ignored – and that, again, is something Moran Snr may have forgotten as her social stardom has risen: Twitter demands reciprocity. And finally, Nancy was interesting with no qualms about revealing just enough personal information to forge a bond between her and other users.

For example:

“i have not read my mums books, but once when i was playing poker with my uncle and my sister the punishment if you lost was to read it.”

“i refused”

We often put a lot of effort into analysing and strategising Twitter, focusing on the need for ROI and overthinking the whole thing. Stripping it back to the basics – authenticity, reciprocity and good, interesting content – is perhaps the only lesson we need to learn. Because if you don’t overcomplicate it, Twitter is so simple a child could do it.

Why I won’t make a home movie with Johnny Depp

April 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Some actors seem willing to appear in almost anything – and may even take a quiet pride in their ability to lift a so-so script or story line. If you have your doubts about this idea, you might seek out the prolific Michael Caine’s performance as ‘uncle Mathew’ in the 1984 film Blame it on Rio.

When performances like that are one of hundreds, it doesn’t matter so much. It’s why Derek Jacobi can say things like ‘iggle onk, they’re going to catch the Ninky Nonk’ on CBeebies In The Night Garden without getting typecast away from Shakespeare.

Johnny Depp’s not been like that, though. In a career tightly managed for quality of output, he’s chosen carefully – from Edward Scissorhands onwards, I would have challenged you to find a misstep.

Till now, that is. As a fan, I’m going to blame his dog-collection, but most people aren’t.

Last year he arrived in Australia by private jet, and as is now well known, with him and newish-wife Amber Heard were the patter of little feet – Yorkshire Terriers, Boo and Pistol.

As B’n’P weren’t declared, this put the actors on the wrong side of Australia’s import laws.

What followed was – how to put it nicely? – not very well curated.

There was Depp’s remark at the Venice Film Festival, directed at Australia’s deputy-PM: ‘I killed my dogs and ate them, under direct orders of some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia.’

Not in his usual class, but worse was to come.

This week a home video surfaced online of Depp and Heard in which both talk to camera about the uniqueness of Australia and the need to ‘declare everything.’ While she looks like she might be relishing the experience, he seems distinctly uncomfortable and the whole thing has been panned by the critics.

It may be that it was part of the deal that saw an end to Depp and Heard’s legal probs. But this cringeworthy 30 seconds of incredibly badly lit film is now everywhere. The BBC website, Twitter, CNN – and it has been widely mocked.

And as he just has that smallish number of well-chosen films – no Blame it on Rio – this performance stands out a mile.

There’s a reputation lesson here, and as a fan I hope Depp learns it – he otherwise risks being portrayed as a chap living out a bit of a mid-life crisis. A case of the small dogs becoming a big problem.

Put simply, it’s a warning to anyone thinking of putting video content online – it could end up everywhere. Once your content is out there you can’t control how far it spreads, or how people react to it – like a bag of dropped icing sugar (if you’re curious, really only try this outside).

So, if you’re going to produce media as part of a marketing strategy (or if you’ve been illegally importing animals on private jets), it needs the same attention to detail – the same judgement – as any project you want to do.

The rest of us may not be stars (you know, ‘yet’), but a glance at the news shows the list of things we can be sure are private is fast-vanishing.

So aside from considering the old advice about avoiding work with animals and children, we should all (apart from Michael Caine, that is) be modelling ourselves on the pre-pooch-gate Depp and choose our performances with care.

Webinar legal directory rankings

April 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
John Read

Earlier this week we held a webinar on improving directory rankings. Thank you to everyone who participated; we had over 100 attendees from firms across the UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the US, both small and large. We also had a number of participants from UK chambers.

Areas discussed included the right approach to participation; who analyses your submissions; how ranking decisions are made; getting your message across more effectively; how to deal with referees; and analysing new rankings.

A key part of improving rankings is to ensure your submissions are pitched at the right level. Directory researchers often cover a wide range of practice areas, and are often not lawyers or legally qualified (though, of course, they pick up knowledge of the market through their research).

As such, submissions – and particularly the detailed work highlights – should not be too detailed in terms of the legal aspects of the work done, unless those aspects are part of the key message you want to get across. Instead, the work highlights should explain, in layman’s terms, what the practice did, why the example has been included, and what it says about the practice.

If you would like a copy of the slides from the webinar, please email me at john.read@mdcomms.co.uk.

We will be holding another webinar on directory rankings in a month or so. If there are any topics that you’d like us to cover, and any questions, please let me know.