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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

Christmas Comes Early for Local PR

December 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis


The countdown to Christmas is now well and truly upon us and journalists across the land will be looking ahead to the festive period and thinking as to how they will fill the pages of their publications quickly and easily so they can go and enjoy the season of goodwill.

A weekly newspaper journalist told me recently that the Christmas and New Year period was arguably the most stressful time of the year.

While other departments within the industry have their Christmas holidays just like the majority of others, journalists still have to find the stories to fill the empty space devoid of advertisements.

Paginations might be lower over the Christmas weeks, but the deadlines are tighter and Bank Holidays do not help because while journalists might still be working, other departments might be off leading to pressure over getting the papers finished earlier rather than later.

It comes to the point where reporters are writing forthcoming news for next week’s paper – yesterday!

It is this time of year therefore when a bit of good old-fashioned PR might pay dividends.

Journalists might not be overly excited to receive an endless stream of press releases from PR firms during the rest of the year – but come December anything with a “local link” which arrives and could be held for the Christmas editions is a Godsend.

Why not open your office doors to the public and have a festive coffee morning for clients. Not only does it give you a bit of PR with the general public, throw in a few mince pies and some Christmas hats and there you have a perfect photo opportunity for the local paper.

Take the photo and along with a few words of “why, what, where and when” and email it to your nearest newsdesk.

Seasonal offerings will be gratefully received by our friends within the local newspaper industry so be kind this year and wrap up a PR gift.

If you would like some assistance with your local PR strategies, just get in touch.

Best of the Christmas Adverts 2014

November 19th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

Although it only seems like a matter of minutes since we were having BBQs and walking around without a coat (which it sort of was, as autumn 2014 was incredibly warm) Christmas is just around the corner. And if you needed any proof of this then just turn on the TV. The annual swathe of Christmas adverts is already upon us, with the usual tear jerking moments, warm feelings and even a little bit of controversy. But have the commercial giants behind the ads achieved their 2014 aims?

Sainsbury’s – World War One Christmas Truce.
Hit or Miss? Miss.
This has to be the most controversial of all the Christmas adverts this year, something that perhaps wasn’t intentional when the ad was put together. The short film focuses on the First World War and the moment when, during Christmas 1914, along the Western Front the two sides not only stopped fighting but also shared gifts and even played football together. It was of course a beautiful moment that painfully highlights the stupidity of war. However, the advert – although endorsed by the Royal British Legion – has not gone down well with the public. Why? It’s not the moment in history itself that is the problem, this is the centenary year of the war and there have been many attempts to mark it, but the context in which this piece of history is being used. 40 million men were killed lost or mutilated during the First World War and the Sainsbury’s advert has been accused of sugar coating this by making it all about that one moment and depicting none of the reality. However, perhaps the real issue here – which probably goes to the heart of nearly every advert ever made – is that it is using this painfully beautiful piece of history to flog us turkey, spuds and sprouts. Whether that’s appropriate or just a bit crass seems to be where the real argument lies.

John Lewis – Monty the Lovelorn Penguin.
Hit or Miss? Hit
Retailer John Lewis inevitably seems to come out on top with its Christmas ads, kicking most of the others to the kerb when it comes to pulling on the heartstrings. This year is no different with a little boy who imagines his stuffed penguin ‘Monty’ to life. All Monty wants is another penguin to love and at the end of the ad in a double whammy of teary moments, he gets a girlfriend as a Christmas present from the boy and then is revealed to be part of the boy’s sweet imagination – just a cuddly toy. With the incredibly lifelike penguins and the themes of love, giving and togetherness it’s very hard not to feel yourself welling up when you watch this. Whether or not it makes you want to shop at John Lewis though, that’s another question entirely.

And the best of the rest

Marks & Spencer’s ‘Follow the Fairies’ advert depicts two rather clumsy fairies busy at work making sure people get the gifts they actually want this year (i.e. those from M&S), rather than the alarm clock one unwitting man is wrapping for his girlfriend. A strong ad in that it manages to display plenty of M&S products, while still feeling a bit classy and not ‘in your face.’

Waitrose’s Gingerbread Stall Christmas ad focuses on its employee owned ethos and the quest for one girl to make the perfect Christmas gingerbread (using Waitrose ingredients of course). A bit more palatable than the average pile of schmaltz and a good lesson in determination for kids.

Aldi’s Everyone’s Coming To Us This Year offering pans along one long Christmas table that switches locations, from spaceships to fire stations to beaches, showing just how every Christmas can be catered by Aldi. The attempt to show the brand can provide for the luxury side of Christmas too is definitely supported by the presence of Jools Holland smiling cheesily at the end.

Why An Honest Mistake Can Be Just As Damaging, PR-Wise

November 13th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

Most people assume that, when it comes to reputational damage, you’re only really at risk if you’re intentionally behaving badly. There’s an odd expectation of karma whereby if you’re misusing Twitter or getting into scrapes that can be digitally documented then you’re taking the kind of risks with your reputation that could easily lead to online damage. However, the reality is that – with any form of media – there’s plenty of opportunity to create damaging situations even if you haven’t taken the kinds of risks that you would expect to be the cause. Even honest mistakes can become PR disasters…

The problem with images…if you’re using images in your marketing then there are just so many opportunities for honest mistakes that it’s almost untrue. One great example is a Heineken campaign that used an image of reverend Hugh Price Hughes (yes, really) because the company couldn’t find any images of their actual benefactor to accompany a ‘historic’ themed campaign. What Heineken didn’t consider when they bought the image of Mr Hughes from a stock photo bank was that Hughes was actually a person. And he was a person famous for his work with alcoholics, being a prominent anti-alcoholism leader.
Result: Heineken had to apologise profusely and donate significantly to ‘the church.’

When labels go crazy…well known national US retailer CostCo made a bit of an innocent booboo when it restocked its shelves with bibles but accidentally filed the books under the ‘fiction’ section. Not only that but the badly labeled bibles just happened to come to the attention of one of the few pastors in the entire country with a highly popular Twitter account.
Result: CostCo claimed that it was a labeling error by the distributor and only affected a small percentage of bibles but it’s since found it hard to escape the ‘in league with Satan’ label…

The rather rude puzzle book…a Woolworths puzzle book that was full of innocent and fun word search puzzle books clearly didn’t pass through any quality control before being released to the public as some keen eyed puzzle fan discovered something rather rude hidden in its squares. Among words like ‘butterfly’ and ‘rainforest ‘the puzzle included the wonderfully teenage ‘FUCKU’ and promptly became a huge hit on social media.
Result: the manufacturer blamed its automatically generated programs for making a mistake and including the random swearing but perhaps it had simply had enough of its customers

An airline that hates gay people?…do you ever look at the random clusters of numbers and letters on your boarding card other than to see if you’ve got an upgrade? Well Delta Airlines’ 11am Atlanta to Pensacola flight accidentally generated a pretty offensive ID code in the form of ‘H8GAYS.’ Yes that’s right H8GAYS and nobody spotted it.
Result: despite it being a ‘computer error’ Delta felt the need to apologise for its machine’s hate speech and promised it would never happen again.

There are so many ways that reputational damage can occur through the most innocent of campaigns. That’s why it’s essential to have a carefully thought through strategy in place and to carry out regular monitoring.

Take Out and Tax Lawyers

October 29th, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

The internet’ can seem like a vast and overwhelming sea of voices that is amorphous and rather anonymous but when you’re providing a service to consumers you have to be prepared for some of that comment to be coming your way. And by being prepared I mean you need to be listening, checking what is being said about you online and, if necessary, responding. The power of the digital sphere means that you can very easily find yourself with a reputation that your business neither merits nor wants but once that mud is thrown then it can very often stick. This is why monitoring what people are saying about you – and how they are saying it – can be instrumental in heading off a PR crisis before it has begun. You can not only answer your critics but also prevent a negative thread from becoming a bandwagon that any old troll will jump on just for the hell of it.

A prime example of the value of digital listening comes from a restaurant in New York, which found itself the target of a very negative review from a very annoyed customer. You might think that this is par for the course with restaurant reviews – and in most circumstances it is as you simply can’t please all the people all of the time. However, in this case, the review was based on something of an unfair assumption – the customer wanted the restaurant to provide ‘take out’ for a meeting they were having just across the street. The restaurant refused. It was quite clear from all its listings and advertising that it didn’t provide take out. Nevertheless the customer became angry, demanding that take out be provided and highlighting that the restaurant offered customers doggy bags for uneaten food and, as a result, should also be able to use the same containers to provide the take out food it so wanted. The review gave the restaurant just one star and went as far as branding the staff at the restaurant rude and ‘too good for its customers.’ If you read the review as a standalone piece of information you would have avoided said restaurant like the plague.

However, the restaurant, monitoring online for comments, picked up this review and replied. With the reply it was able to clarify that its policy was not to offer take out, that this was made abundantly clear across all of the restaurant’s online presences, because it felt that its food should be plated in a certain way. Yes, doggy bags were offered but that was not how the food was served – to anyone. The review also dealt with slurs against its character but pointing out that in fact the customer had been the first to get irate.

It then provided a clever analogy of itself (i.e. a restaurant that does not do take out) and another establishment (i.e. a restaurant that does do take out). This took the form of an imagined discussion concerning lawyers – as the customer had apparently repeated his status as a lawyer many times during the conversation when demanding take out. The restaurant asked the customer to compare being a non take out restaurant faced with a request to provide take out, to being a tax lawyer asked to manage a divorce and to consider the implications for reputation of a customer demanding a service that isn’t actually available.

Although the restaurant didn’t exactly hold back it managed to remain professional, to clear up misunderstandings and also to introduce an element of smart humour, all of which recommend it far more to potential customers than either leaving the comment without response or replying with equal ire. It was a smart strategy that is applicable to just about any service based industry.

Doughty Street in the Spotlight

October 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

Melissa Davis

If you’ve picked up a paper in the last couple of days then you might have found it difficult to miss one beautifully attired Amal Alamuddin marrying a certain Hollywood heartthrob with the surname Clooney. The glamorous Venice wedding, complete with a celebrity guest list that knocks most others out of the water, has certainly been one of the most papped celebrity events of the year. Among all the interest in the dress, the age gap and predictions about whether or not the union is the fact that Amal Alamuddin is a human rights barrister at London’s Doughty Street Chambers.

Alamuddin joined Doughty Street Chambers in 2010 and has since worked on numerous high-profile matters, including advising Kofi Annan, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and representing Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, in extradition proceedings. However, with the announcement of the wedding earlier this year it was suddenly Alamuddin herself who was in the spotlight – and consequently the chambers too. According to Robin Jackson, chief executive of Doughty Street Chambers, the increase in interest in one of their own has been almost too much for the chambers’ online presence to take. In a great example of just how an association with one of the most famous men in Hollywood can catapult a person onto the international media scene, Jackson said that Doughty Street has not only been forced to cope with all the reporters and camera crews suddenly arriving at the chambers but also to upgrade the website to deal with the enormous spike in interest that caused it to crash when the engagement was first announced.

Of course all the interest in Alamuddin has made members of the set prime targets for doorstepping by the nation’s media, as ever looking for a juicy quote or piece of gossip to use about someone who is something of an unknown figure as far as the gossip press is concerned. When the engagement was announced in April joint head of chambers, Geoffrey Robertson QC was quoted in the Telegraph saying that, “Amal Alamuddin is a brilliant and passionate defender of human rights who has put in the enormously hard work necessary to improving them. She is respected and admired by all her colleagues.” Although the press were probably looking for something a little more scandalous than that, so far the team at Doughty Street has managed to stay admirably out of the reach of even the most persistent of tabloids, no doubt despite numerous attempts.

In terms of what this might mean for the chambers the increased interest in its work is most likely a positive factor. Given that the set is used to dealing with high-profile clients perhaps some of that media training has been shared with other members to help everyone deal with the current circumstances. However, given the importance of the work Amal Alamuddin and Doughty Street do on a daily basis the hope is no doubt that they’re allowed to get back to normal sooner rather than later.