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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

What Kanye West can teach you about twitter

February 3rd, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Twitter tiffs. Are we fed up of them yet? If your interest in the online arguments of the more famous occupants of this world was waning then the all out rant that spewed forth from Kanye West’s Twitter account last week may well have relit your fire. As well as illustrating why West is such an….original, it’s also a prime example of the way that Twitter fights just don’t end well for anyone, even the uber rich and famous.

Kanye has had a relatively subdued time of it on Twitter – when he joined in 2010 his activity levels were fairly low and innocuous, particularly compared to others on the social networking site (Charlie Sheen, for example) and especially his now-wife Kim Kardashian. Unlike some other celebrities there’s always been a total absence of trite self-promotional tweeting with his account and the content of the tweets are so distinctive that they could surely only be the product of the West brain. Typically for West he’s also managed to use Twitter to make a statement, following only one person – his wife – despite the 18 million strong crowd of users he has accrued.

West obviously takes Twitter rather seriously. My theory for the absence of initial tweeting was that he’s a perfectionist and, like most perfectionists, when faced with something that he didn’t understand and wasn’t immediately good at, he didn’t launch right in and blithely see where it took him. I doubt Kanye does blithe. Instead, there was a period of consideration, observing and absorbing before he found his voice. But now he most certainly has found that Twitter voice and it’s a rather fascinating one, totally unapologetic, totally shameless and totally authentic.

Which brings us to the circumstances that got Kanye trending this week – his argument with rapper Wiz Khalifa, which started out as an epic rant that also included a mention of Wiz’s son with Kanye’s ex, Amber Rose. As the child is just three years old it was this part of the ranting that was particularly unpalatable for many Twitter users. Of course, the rant ended up drawing in Amber herself and then descended into a crude slanging match about bedroom habits, which is still rumbling on.

So, what can we learn from this face off? Well, primarily, the lesson here is that nobody wins when you take to Twitter to express grudges or resentments. There’s a sense of being untouchable in this kind of forum, as if you’re a gladiator with the crowd behind you, and this can lead you to forget that your tweets are being read by millions all over the world – and also that your target is a human being. It’s an arena in which we go that one step further than we might do if we were standing face to face with the person in question, forgetting that there are real life consequences to every one of those 140 characters.

While you may not have 18 million followers and high profile celebrity exes, getting into arguments on Twitter can do significant damage to a reputation, whether personal or professional. Avoid that kind of reckless firing off of statements that Kanye specialises in (you don’t have his legal team for one thing) and if there are genuine problems between you and someone in real life, then come offline to sort them out. Twitter is a fantastic forum for communication but no one is untouchable and – as Kanye has found out via a wave of screenshots taken by others of the now deleted rant – Twitter doesn’t forget.

Making a case for change

February 1st, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
John Read

Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, helping firms with their submissions, I’m going to be blogging regularly on the subject. In this post, we’ll look at why you might want to lobby for a change in the structure of a guide, and how to best go about it.

The categories used by any guide are not permanently set in stone. As UK editor at The Legal 500, firms often asked me to make changes, whether large or small. Sometimes, these suggestions were easy to deal with; often, they were not. A large contributing factor was how helpfully the firm put forward its suggestion.

The categories used by legal directories are a balance between three things. In no particular order, these are:

(1) The need to sensibly classify the rankings from an editorial perspective.
(2) The need to make the content usable and navigable for readers.
(3) The need to accurately reflect the market.

Sometimes, those three objectives dovetail easily and neatly, making things simple for firms, researchers/editors, and readers. So, what constitutes personal injury work is pretty clear-cut. In other areas, though, things can be less clearly delineated. For example, practitioners might feel that the contentious element of a practice area has grown sufficiently distinct and/or prominent so as to warrant its own, separate ranking or category in a directory, differentiating the various specialists more clearly. Readers might reasonably expect to find contentious experts in their own section.

Another relatively common scenario is where none of a directory’s categories are a good fit for a certain kind of work. Such practices – often those that focus on a particular sector (e.g. police work), rather than a legal discipline – might be able to position elements of their work under various existing categories, but often with the result that their work highlights are spread far too thinly, with only a small handful in each. Such a practice will often struggle for a ranking.

How should firms deal with these situations? Certainly not by simply telling the directory that it has got things wrong! (Though many firms do precisely that.) By presenting it as a mistake, with no proposed solution, you will just annoy the editor and potentially create a negative impression.

A far more productive (and professional) approach is to put together a reasoned, substantiated argument for the desired change, with supporting material – perhaps even in collaboration with other firms/clients that are of the same mind, adding weight to the proposition. If the request (not demand) is reasonable and takes into account the balance referred to above, the firm can expect it to be given due and proper consideration.

Such an approach need not be limited to the submission; indeed, that is often too late in the directory’s editorial cycle for any significant changes. A better course of action is to contact the editor in question in the period after publication, but well before submissions are due – i.e. when the editor is planning the next edition, has more time, and will be more receptive. Helping the editor and making things easier for him or her will give the best chance of a favourable outcome, simply because there are so many demands on editors’ time – and so many practice areas.

If you’re interested in how we can help you with submissions and directory participation, please email me at john.read@mdcomms.co.uk, or call on 020 3475 3727.

MD Communications Expansion News

January 25th, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

The submission deadlines for The Legal 500 UK are fast approaching (5 February for firms outside London, and 4 March for London firms, PATMA and mediators), so now is the perfect time to announce the newest addition to the MD Communications team. John Read joins us as Directories and Content Director, having most recently been UK editor at The Legal 500. You can find out more about John’s background and expertise here. Not only an ex-directory editor, but also a former lawyer, legal editor, and journalist, John strengthens MD Communications’ full-service directory and content offering.

So what advice can we share? Ideally, firms would have all their submissions drafted, checked and finalised well ahead of the deadline. Just like school homework, it rarely works out that way in practice, but there’s still time to get your regional submissions together, let alone for London. Any ranked firms that don’t submit are considerably more likely to be demoted, simply because of the lack of up-to-date information available, as compared to their competitors, to researchers for their research and analysis; so it’s better to get something in rather than nothing. Even if you’re a bit late with your submission, there’s still a decent chance that it will be given full consideration, provided that you send it ASAP after the deadline and ask very nicely.

However, it’s crucial to get your referee spreadsheets in by the first set of deadlines, which are by midnight on the same dates above, for regional and London firms/PATMA/mediators respectively. Any referees submitted in the two-week grace period after those dates will be treated as late and may not be contacted; and any later than that grace period won’t be contacted at all.

MD Communications’ dedicated team offers support on every aspect of the directory process, from ad hoc queries to a full directory-management service. Get in touch for a free meeting about how we can help you: sarah.hau@mdcomms.co.uk.

Melissa Davis is the managing director of MD Communications, the international legal PR agency. Follow Melissa on Twitter. Learn more at MDComms.co.uk.

What if twitter died?

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

‘Twitter is broken!’ screamed the headlines when the world’s third biggest social network (behind Facebook and then Instagram) ground to a halt this week. The news was particularly shocking for many because it happened not once, but several times in one day. You may have experienced issues yourself, perhaps you saw the “Something is technically wrong” message with its reassuring “Thanks for noticing. We’re going to fix it up and have things back to normal soon.” The issue seemed to affect users across the board, from app users to website users and also those accessing their account through Tweetdeck.

If you used Twitter during the earlier days of the network then you would probably have noticed a lot more problems than later adopters. The ‘fail whale’ appeared far more frequently when Twitter was first starting out, with the site frequently behaving pretty unreliably. However, as the popularity of Twitter has grown it has (necessarily) become a better performer so when something like this happens it does come as something of a surprise. Problems began at about 8.20am GMT on Tuesday this week and then continued sporadically throughout the day. The company blamed an intermittent issue that was the result of “an internal code change.” However, the sudden crash does get you thinking…

As a result of the issues with Twitter its own stock dipped 7%. While social media has been an unmitigated success story it’s not one that all investors see as a reliable one. 2015 was the slowest year of growth for Twitter in terms of users for a long time (it was overtaken by Instagram last year) and a drop in advertising revenue was already giving some investors the jitters. We tend to assume that Twitter will always be around but the speed with which social networking has taken hold has also meant that social networks are almost constantly playing catch up. Could this one day result in the departure of Twitter for good when the pace is just no longer sustainable? What would that world look like…?

– It would no longer be acceptable to be on your phone during conferences, meetings or speeches as we wouldn’t have the “I’m live tweeting” excuse.

– We could all express ourselves online in more than 140 characters.

– You’d never know what the rest of the world was thinking in an instant, as there would be no trending topics.

– There would be one less way in which employees could risk the reputation of their employer businesses when tipsy and in charge of the company Twitter account.

– Facebook and LinkedIn would have only each other to pinch features from – although MySpace might once again get a look in without Twitter around.

– Telling someone you’ll ‘follow them’ would once again sound creepy and slightly alarming.

– We’d have to think of our own hilarious things to say rather than relying on repeating (or retweeting) what someone else has thought of.

– There would be no insight into the inner workings of the minds of the likes of Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins.

Perhaps you can think of more….but what if Twitter died? #wouldyoucare?

Murdoch & Hall – a match made in media heaven?

January 14th, 2016 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Twitter seems to be the bearer of all sorts of news these days. No sooner had we finished trawling the David Bowie posts with a sad heart we were then confronted by the announcement that Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch were engaged. Err what?! You may also have experienced this reaction – certainly the social media world erupted in a slew of comments that ranged from shock, to undisguised disgust. However, while the media tycoon and the Texan model might seem like the strangest combination since egg and jam, from a comms point of view might they be a match made in media heaven?

Jerry Hall has a pretty impressive record when it comes to famous partners, the most iconic of whom is Mick Jagger, snake hipped front man of the Rolling Stones who caused many a teenage girl to faint during the band’s heydays in the 1960s and 1970s. She has also been involved over the years with Bryan Ferry and – post-Jagger – with millionaire property tycoon Warwick Hemsley. Murdoch will be on to his fourth wife with Jerry, having divorced Wendi Deng Murdoch in 2013.

On the face of it, they are a pretty unusual coupling but a quick scan of any of the media reports will tell you that, despite previous partners, perhaps they are more suited than they might seem. Murdoch, it seems, is not just a ruthless businesses tycoon but also “a vulnerable man torn between fusty family values and a burning desire for beauty” (says, GQ). Hall, on the other hand has had more than her fair share of junkie rock stars and is clearly fed up to the back teeth of unreliable flaky cheaters. In 84 year old Murdoch has 59-year-old Hall finally found her rock and he his Aphrodite?

The answer to that is, of course, only time will tell but in the meantime the combination of the two has certainly got people talking. Some have pigeonholed the relationship as the folly of an ageing billionaire, although Hall is hardly a 20-year-old gold digger with no assets of her own. Others are speculating over why the couple are bothering to get married (especially given that they only started publicly dating four months ago), and why the wedding needs to take place “sooner rather than later” (presumably there’s no chance of this being a wedding of the shotgun variety). All in all, the story is huge and perhaps all down to a few essential ingredients…the time honoured components of a fit-to-go-viral tale.

Profile, power and the fame…famous rock star exes, billions of dollars in the bank, two of the most recognisable faces in the world.

The opportunity for speculation…how did it happen, what do they talk about, is there a prenup?

A whiff of scandal…the age gap, the whirlwind romance, the quick wedding.

A little bit of envy…perhaps a tiny part of you wants to marry a billionaire/model, maybe you wish your life was so carefree that a wedding could be arranged as easily as a haircut, or maybe you just have a huge crush/man crush on Rupert Murdoch. Do you? Don’t worry we won’t tell anyone…