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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
Melissa Davis

I’ve read this week’s papers behind my hands. For a PR, watching the steady implosion of Brand Clarkson is a painful experience. Can it get any worse for Britain’s king of controversy?

Last week’s blog focussed on the ‘fracas’ (and perhaps allowed me to indulge my Hammond crush a little) and it would seem that the saga continues.

According to news sources he was quoted at a charity event last week as saying the BBC were “f***ing bastards” and that “the BBC have f***ed themselves…it was a great show and they f***ed it up.” All of which might lead the average viewer on the street to wonder whether Clarkson wasn’t suffering just a little from something of a god complex. Or whether he has a PR adviser on hand?

In the Sunday Times Clarkson said that the comments he made about the BBC were ‘meant in jest.’ He said “by being brief, controversial and a bit sweary, I woke the room up and the auction prize I was offering… raised £100,000.” Oh, well that’s alright then.

However, it hasn’t stopped there – the media machine has been in full swing over the last week, perhaps in response to the drop in positive opinion not just towards Clarkson but also Top Gear as a result of his actions. There has been the coverage of his “difficult divorce” from his wife Frances of 21 years (he allegedly cheated on her) and the fact that his err “back hurts.”

Hmmmm. Does anyone else get the feeling that all that Clarkson bluster is beginning to wear a bit thin, even for him? It is certainly difficult to ignore the fact that all this is starting to feel distinctly like a campaign to prevent the temporary measure of a suspension becoming the guillotine of a sacking.

Perhaps the move that was the most obvious in terms of Clarkson suddenly realizing that he was on thin ice (and not a god, no matter what the Stig says), was his threat to sue the BBC. Sources close to the presenter have said that Clarkson believes there is a BBC smear campaign currently taking place against him and his response is allegedly threatening to sue the BBC for wrongful dismissal if he is sacked. It’s a fairly desperate move – threaten court action very publicly to try and prevent the fall of that blade. And it’s certainly what we would come to expect from a man who many sources have described as a ‘bully.’ However, the question is will he succeed? Or, more importantly, would a cash pay out after legal action (if he won) make up for public dredging up of the many, many faux pas that Clarkson has committed in the past. There was his alleged use of the N word, his Nazi jokes, his slurs against Asian people, punching Piers Morgan – to name but a few (although perhaps few would blame him for that last one). Even if Clarkson won his wrongful dismissal claim, after all that the court of public opinion would be less likely to find in his favour. And that could leave him in rather a PR desert – which, for such a rampant publicity seeker, could be the worst punishment of all.

Budgets are about a message, not the maths

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

Prime minister David Cameron – First Lord of the Treasury – may be the government’s PR man by background, but the Budget, the most high stakes public relations event in the politics calendar, is entrusted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Whatever you think of George Osborne’s politics, as an act of communication he did rather well.

Of course, as we have seen many times, as a PR exercise can very easily go the other way too but, nevertheless, successive Chancellors repeatedly try to use their Budget announcements to give themselves a lead in the polls – sometimes shamelessly.

And when it comes to a pre-election budget, perhaps unsurprisingly, this small window of opportunity becomes even more important to exploit.

The Budget is less about the maths than we might think, and more about the message it sends. The maths will, after all, likely be billions out.

A poll that was carried out by Opinium/Observer last week indicated a ‘Budget Bounce’ in positive feeling towards the Conservatives since the 2015 Budget announcement last week. Compared to the week before, the party jumped three percentage points in positive opinion to 36%, while Labour dropped by two points to 33%.

While a mere three points might seem like a small victory from such a large statement, those two figures show just how important those three percentage points could be, as they pushed the Conservatives ahead of Labour with an election just a month or so away.

Many people like to dismiss the inbuilt connection between politics and PR but, if we’re being realistic, everything a politician does has a PR consequence – and often steps are taken with that in mind.

One very current example comes from Afzal Amin, the Conservative candidate for Dudley North who is accused of trying to artificially whip up his own positive PR by asking the English Defence League to pretend to plan a march through his constituency that he could then pretend to stop and take all the credit for. It’s all very House of Cards – or perhaps even ‘Wag the Dog’.

But we all know that it’s opinions that win elections and elections are the one thing that politicians can’t take out of the hands of the great unwashed, which makes PR considerations so important at all times, especially with such an active media presence in this country.

But back to the Budget 2015 and George Osborne’s successful PR-ing of his parties, often-derided, financial decisions.

The PR spin was “those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden.”

The reality was public spending cuts which were adjusted from the autumn statement just in time to avoid public services spending at its lowest levels since 1939.

It was a ‘help-to-buy ISA’ which offers first time buyers the opportunity to receive £3k from the government if they save £12k but which does nothing to address the undersupply of housing or the acute unaffordability of property in this country (which will neutralise that £3k straight away).

It was tax cuts for savers but no life rafts for those who have lost benefit support thanks to the Coalition and can barely earn enough to keep the wolf from the door.

But there was an increase in the tax-free allowance, a freeze in petrol duty and early access to cash in pensions – as well as the essential pre-election cut in beer duty, of course.

He was telling the nation who, as a type, he approved of.

If Budgets were about substance, Osborne would have admitted when, under pressure from international institutions, he eased austerity in 2012. He didn’t.

While many have said that a government really looking to protect those who don’t have the broadest shoulders would be focusing on building houses, tax breaks for companies paying the living wage and a decent minimum wage, that Opinium/Observer poll would indicate that – in spite of the bare facts – the chancellor’s hype was believed.

Which, in PR terms (for a politician), is a triumph. His opponents ignore the lessons of that at their peril.

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post

Melissa Davis

Dad-dressing petrol head Jeremy Clarkson has rarely been out of the news in recent weeks. Unless you’ve been camping in an isolated corner of the Outer Hebrides with only some weather worn goats and a Nokia 3310 for company you won’t have failed to notice that the presenter, usually never far from controversy, has overstepped the line yet again and is now suspended from his presenting job with BBC’s Top Gear. This time, the result of a hot dinner-related ‘fracas’ with a producer.

Regardless of how you personally feel about Clarkson – or whether you, like me, think the rather delightful Richard Hammond would be a much easier on the eye (and not as handy with his fists) front for the show – what is interesting is the publicity that this situation has triggered. There are petitions to get Clarkson reinstated – and petitions to get him sacked. There are Twitter campaigns and hashtags, it’s even featured on the news, and everyone has an opinion on the subject, from former Stigs to people who desperately scramble for the remote at the mere hint of the Top Gear opening credits.

There have even been polls to determine where a ‘fracas’ might sit on the scale of other types of disturbance (it’s between a tussle and a brawl for those who are interested). To some Clarkson is a National Treasure who should be reinstated forthwith, to others he’s a cantankerous old man who may have gone too far this time in crossing the boundary of physical assault. Either way, everyone has been talking about it.

While Clarkson’s true-to-form casual attitude to the ‘fracas’ and bravado to the subsequent BBC action of suspending him might give the impression that no damage has really been done, PR-wise, many media experts would disagree. Social media monitoring firm Talkwalker, for example, found that positive online sentiment towards Clarkson, which had stood at 36.3% prior to the incident, dropped to just 9.7% after the incident was reported. Negative sentiment towards the presenter rose to 36.2%, from 22.5% the week before the reports and, interestingly, towards Top Gear itself negative sentiment increased from 20.6% to 37.6%. Of course the question is whether that would translate into a lower viewing audience (if the last two episodes in the series were actually going to be shown) but it does seem to pull the rug out from the old PR adage that any publicity is good publicity.

On the other side of the coin, the ‘fracas’ in the UK has provided a huge boost to the ratings of Top Gear France – the first episode of the show there was the best rated in the history of broadcaster RMC Découverte. Of course it should be highlighted that the French show is not presented by Jeremy Clarkson but by Philippe Lellouche who – as far as we know – is yet to allegedly punch anyone over a steak.

But back to the brand of Richard Hammond. Apart from the model/racing queen Jodie Kidd, no one else has been mooted as fit to fill Clarkson’s acid-wash active waist jeans as the show’s lead presenter. James May is far too laid back and seems comfortable to remain in the background, stroking a classic car, with his sweepy hair and floral shirts unruffled. But Hammond ‘the hamster’ has the right qualities- the right brand – he knows his stuff, the existing audience love him, he is engaging and his beseeching doe-eyes and cheeky smile will no doubt bring in a whole new audience (me).

Top Gear, one of the beeb’s biggest money spinners, isn’t going to disappear quietly, with or without its politically incorrect host, so it will be interesting to see how it comes back from the controversy, and indeed what the future is for Clarkson, who will no doubt use his considerable public influence to further his already stellar career.

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post.

Krispy Kreme advert fiasco

March 4th, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (0 Comments)
Melissa Davis

Acronyms can easily turn a perfectly acceptable marketing slogan or business name into a laughing stock – for example, the Authorised Service Shop (ASS), the Wisconsin Tourism Federation (WTF), Seattle’s South Lake Union Trolley (SLUT) or Microsoft’s Critical Update Notification Tool (now wisely renamed the Critical Updated Notification Utility).

It then often comes as something of a shock when a business makes a real howler of an error with their wording choices – particularly when that’s a very well established business that should know better. Enter the Hull branch of the renowned donut chain Krispy Kreme which decided in its infinite wisdom to name its half term activities Krispy Kreme Klub Wednesdays – that’s ‘KKK Wednesdays’ just in case you hadn’t spotted it. The event was advertised on Facebook and was a perfectly innocent community project aimed at offering kids something to do during half term. However, from the number of complaints that were received about the ‘KKK’ associations with the Klu Klux Klan it clearly didn’t have such innocent connotations for everyone.

You would have thought that a business that already has two Ks as its name would have some sort of guideline that clearly states no K word should ever be tagged on the end for marketing purposes. But no, the event went ahead named as KKK Wednesdays to the point of extensive local advertising and in the end the Hull branch had to issue an apology, saying “Krispy Kreme apologises unreservedly for the inappropriate name of a customer promotion at one of our stores…this promotion was never intended to cause offence. All material has been withdrawn and an internal investigation is currently underway.”

This is one of those situations in which you might hear many people roll out the old saying that it is ‘political correctness gone mad.’ Obviously, Krispy Kreme in Hull wasn’t intending to hold an event that had any connection to one of America’s most infamous hate groups. However, the reality is that whether or not you personally would be horribly offended or simply laugh something off, when you’re talking about business marketing you need to take a much broader perspective and genuinely consider whether what you’re about to release out into the world is likely to be unacceptable to someone. The speed with which Krispy Kreme responded, pulled the advert and apologised unreservedly shows just how damaging that kind of reputational association can be. That’s the case in any sector, whether you’re going to sell donuts, high-end fashion or legal services. So, the lesson to be learned here is very simple – think your marketing through, test it on as many different people as possible and review your acronyms inside out before you publish…

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post.

A video CV for your firm?

March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (0 Comments)
Melissa Davis

I have just hired a fabulous new PR assistant. I was impressed with her and had a sense of knowing the fit before I interviewed her. The reason was that she sent me a video CV.

There’s no doubt that communication landscapes in general are changing and, with respect to employment and recruitment, one of the most obvious ways in which this is happening is the use of technology. With 2015 officially being branded the year of the video (90+% of online traffic is now video content) it might come as no surprise to many that this method is beginning to make its way off YouTube and in to more private arenas. As we all now have smartphones – and so the ability to make our own videos – we are beginning to see a rise in the numbers of video CVs being used in recruitment. While this might well be a useful tool for finding talented new candidates, could it also be an opportunity for law firms to connect with prospective clients? Knowing how well I responded to this I’ve suggested a few of the advantages of creating a ‘video CV’ for your firm.

Bridging geographic gaps

The video CV does away with geographic limitations as it can be sent anywhere in the world. If you’re looking to make contact with potential clients on another continent then the video CV enables the first step to be taken without spending on a single airfare.

Making things personal

Emails and documents can be impressive but they could hardly be called dynamic. A video CV offers the opportunity to present a human side to the firm, to provide genuine insight into the people who work there and the environment in which they work. It also offers the opportunity to make an all singing, all dancing presentation that shows off the firm and its achievements in the very best of lights.

People watch videos

Statistics show that we really do watch video and that we take it on board too. Video promotion is now six times more effective than print advertising or direct mail and in an online context, 60% of visitors to a website will watch video content before they bother reading any text on the page. So, video really works if you have a message that you want to communicate and that includes with respect to selling your brand to potential clients.

So easy to create

Given the simplicity of creating a video CV – and the impact that it has – it’s surprising that more of us haven’t got involved in it. Although it’s important to produce something professional, that doesn’t mean that you need to spend a fortune on the project, rather that it just needs to be carefully thought through and then perhaps tested on a target audience. The likelihood is that it could get leaked online if it’s a particularly interesting video but that could be useful for marketing purposes so just make sure that whatever you send to one client you’d be happy for others to see too.

Making an impression

In an increasingly competitive marketplace it’s getting harder and harder to stand out but this is one great way to do it. Few firms have so far jumped on the video CV bandwagon but it’s only a matter of time until the benefits of putting in that effort are widely recognised. In the meantime, creating a video CV for your firm is a great way to make a distinctive first impression that will set you head and shoulders apart from the rest.

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post.