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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

Struck lucky on Tinder…now what?

July 6th, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

I have written before on here about Tinder – the revolutionary dating app that taps into some basic app (and attraction) principles to create an enormously popular and fast way to match people up. It has become one of the most successful dating apps on the market, creating real long term relationships from its left and right swiping format.

And as the concept of Tinder has evolved, in its wake we have begun to see a new generation of apps – apps upon apps – that have been designed to help human beings take the seeds of romance planted by Tinder to the next level. A prime, yet ultimately depressing example of this is an app called HeroBoyfriend, which has been created to help romantically stunted men keep that Tinder fire burning. The app was created by a couple of Aussies who spotted that, although there were plenty of dating sites and apps for lonely hearts, there was nothing out there to help people keep that spark going. Or, as the tech startup owners themselves put it “the whole digital dating industry is focused on acquisition and nobody is working on retention.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that sound you hear is romance exiting the building. Actually, it hasn’t just left the building, it’s downloaded Google Maps, entered some co-ordinates for an isolated Pacific island and is now making its way to the nearest tube towards Heathrow terminal four.

Essentially, the idea for the app was borne from one of the developers screwing up his own long term relationship, something he feels wouldn’t have happened had he had the benefit of the wisdom supplied by HeroBoyfriend. We’d like to hear the perspective of his ex on this one…

So how does it work? Well essentially HeroBoyfriend is downloaded to said clueless boyfriend’s smart phone and will then send curated reminders and suggestions so that he can keep his girlfriend happy, whether that’s doing the cleaning, buying flowers or…err…displaying affection. The app is personalised at the start by the user answering five simple questions that are designed to tailor the content depending on the personalities involved.

There are also location based nudges – for example if you happen to be at the supermarket it might remind you that it’s a good idea to buy bins bags (in case it’s also time to take the bin out…).

Completely and utterly soulless, perhaps, but nonetheless, it’s certainly a novel idea that uses the latest tech developments and applies them to a profitable space. However, the question remains that if a woman discovers her boyfriend requires an app to tell him to give her a cuddle or empty the dishwasher whether that won’t defeat its purpose when she dumps him for being weird and lazy.

The Richard Hammond Show?

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

Did you tune into Top Gear last night to see the last ever episode featuring Clarkson and his petrol scented bezzies?

The infamous steak-gate wasn’t mentioned and instead, hilariously, a giant plastic elephant nestled in the corner of the studio while Clarkson, Hammond and May prepared themselves for the scrap-heap. It was a cobble together of previously recorded antics (vintage cars, new cars, smashing cars, leaking oil, insulting Turkey etc), interspersed with some studio based chatter between the trio, who’s camaraderie is clearly genuine.

The not-unsurprising news that telly marmite Chris Evans is set to fill the vacant space left by Jeremy Clarkson’s rather ignominious departure was announced recently by the BBC.

For those of us (I can’t be the only one) who were hoping the entire show would focus entirely on the world’s most attractive hamster Richard Hammond this is of course a great disappointment.

Not to Evans, though, who, while riding the wave of an unexpected and inexplicable 90s revival, has resorted to acupuncture in a bid to calm his excitement at his new job thumping shiny bonnets and kicking tyres on national television.

But while the iconic flame haired 90s shouty man is understandably cock-a-hoop at his new appointment, there has been mixed-feelings among others over the new choice of presenter – for some it’s the similarity between the two egos and for others it’s the differences that are making them anxious, It’s important to remember that this isn’t just a case of making the programme successful in the UK, this is essentially a brand with enormously wealthy syndication and £50 million (ish) of global revenues behind it. No wonder Evans is going under the needle.

So, does he have the personality to successfully throw off the Clarkson shadow and make the show his own while also sweeping up the Jezza faithful in his wake? From his TFI days, it’s clear the presenter shares Clarkson’s knack of assembling a group of personalities that get along and have a laugh together- something unlikely to have been overlooked by the telly bosses when deciding on a new presenter for their golden egg.

It’s hard to say at this stage whether it will work, but it’s worth noting that Evans is the king of the live show – he has always excelled when it comes to that nervy, unpredictable edge that programmes without the safety net of a recording have. (Except that one time Sean Ryder swore on tea-time Channel Four and TFI Friday was forced to subsequently broadcast on a time delay of course…)

He’s also a rather different type of personality to Clarkson – yes, they both have a similar outspoken blokeishness to them but Evans has toned his down considerably in recent years. If that uncontrollable laddish ego forms a quintessential part of what a Top Gear lead host must have then is he going to prove too tame to give the audience what they want? Given the dedication with which some of the fans follow the show will the fan base allow for any deviation from a Clarkson-esque script or will Evans be forced to simply be a ginger haired version of what went before?

More importantly, in the last couple of days Clarkson himself has revealed that he is in talks for his own new car show – along with former hosts Richard Hammond (*swoon*) and James May – and where does that leave the original Top Gear? Having yet to prove his spurs, Evans surely has no chance to erase Clarkson from the minds of the faithful if he is there doing all his old routines, with his old side kicks, just over on another channel? It will be interesting to see how this plays out, even for those who aren’t that interested in the programme itself.

However it’s worth noting that Evans is mad about cars, and has a collection of vintage models tucked away in the garage of his country pile. He will know what he’s talking about, but will he have Clarkson’s edge?

Of course my advice to the BBC bosses is what I have said from the start – turn the concept into the Richard Hammond Show and offer the pint sized prince too much cash to turn it down. But now I feel like I’m labouring the point…

This article first appeared on Huffington Post.

Melissa Davis

The tragic incident at Alton Towers earlier this month has been all over the news. The crash on the park’s Smiler ride left 16 people injured, four very seriously, and immediately hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Luckily no one died during the incident, however, it was still potentially a PR disaster for an organisation that makes its living from providing risk free thrills that should be trusted for all the family. This was particularly the case given the wide ranging speculation that the accident was the result of a combination of human and mechanical error.

The park’s parent company Merlin saw its value drop by £200million in the aftermath of the incident and there were talks that the Smiler ride could be stripped of its Guinness World Record for having the most loops in the world.

Reputation wise , it could have been a complete disaster for Alton Towers – with almost all the components of a worst case scenario. To date we have not seen the kind of public backlash that you might expect from a situation such as this. In fact we have even seen sympathy turn towards Alton Towers following an interview between Sky News presenter Kay Burley and Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainment. During the interview, Burley pressed Varney to reveal whether one of the victims had lost a leg and when Varney tried to deal with the question sensitively, Burley simply said “I’m sure they are not interested in your sympathy at this stage. They went to have a fantastic day and they have potentially lost a limb – you won’t tell us if they have or not.” The interview generated more than a thousand complaints to Ofcom – about Burley.

The interview is a good illustration of why this situation hasn’t turned out much worse for Alton Towers and Merlin – key to it all has been the fact that the public response has been at all times sensitive and straightforward. They never made the most basic mistake of attempting to shift the blame or avoid responsibility, something that anyone in PR knows is the fastest way to generate public hostility. In fact, the organisation immediately accepted culpability for what had happened, instantly cutting off articles in the press focusing on frustrated victims being ignored by the big corporates – there was no David and Goliath moment for the public to get behind.

The organisation respectfully kept, not just the ride, but the entire park closed for an entire six days, which showed a commitment to finding out what had happened and a respect for the victims. There was also the element of the profits that the business would have lost during that time – while there will most likely be private compensation claims, this was more of a public reckoning, demonstrating an almost self imposed penalty. No matter how much they lost in pounds, that move would have gained an enormous amount of corrective publicity – imagine if they had simply reopened the park the next day as if nothing had happened.

So, although there are many investigations, claims and apologies to go through for Merlin and Alton Towers their situation is one that illustrates perfectly the three cardinal rules during a potential PR disaster: accept culpability, be humble and act straight away. You can’t avoid an incident like this but you can control the response.

A recent, and glaring example of what happens when you don’t do any of this involves the Thomas Cook case, where the travel company found itself at the centre of a media storm after it claimed a pay out from a hotel in Corfu where two children tragically died in 2006. Robert and Christianne Shepherd died from fumes leaked by a faulty boiler at the Louis Corcyra beach hotel, their father had booked the holiday through Thomas Cook.

One of the immediate fallouts of the poor handling of this was the company losing its valuable advertising deal with parenting website Mumsnet, who cut ties with the firm soon after the story broke. Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts said that: ‘Mumsnet users – understandably – felt that we should stop promotional activity for Thomas Cook on the site, given the details that emerged during the inquest, so we took the decision to pull the campaign. Thomas Cook also wanted to call a halt to things, as they were getting lots of criticism on the site.”

Even though the courts cleared the company of all responsibility for the tragedy and even paid them £3.5m in damages, the handling of the PR overall was abysmal and a later donation to a children’s charity was too little, too late. An inquest in May this year found the tour operator breached its duty of care over the deaths, but still the family received no apology – that’s nine years without any acknowledgement from Thomas Cook.

The firm had marked their cards early on by being overly cautious, secretive, defensive and slow to act. They have paid the price and may continue to do so with the extreme reputational damage caused from this case.

Two big firms, two tragic events. But a very telling example of how the outcome can be so different with some well handled public relations.

Is imperfection the way to your clients hearts?

June 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (Comments Off)
Melissa Davis

The Duchess of Cambridge is one of the most photographed women in the world and both her pregnancies have attracted a mind boggling amount of press and public attention, from her maternity outfits through to the design of the royal nursery for the brand new royal baby. However, whereas the first time around Kate could apparently do no wrong, it was very apparent that there was significantly more negative sentiment on social media surrounding the Duchess in 2015 – specifically her’ miraculous’ return to her polished self just hours after giving birth to Princess Charlotte.

Of course, most women are not visited on the post natal ward by a crack team of stylists, (far more likely to be your mother-in-law telling you how tired you look) but then, most women don’t step out of the hospital and face the world’s press either. So none of us, mums or otherwise, could really fathom the pressure she was under to look perfect. So where did the negative sentiment come from? As someone who has become an iconic female and a very prominent media presence, isn’t being perfect what’s required of her?

Kate, with her flowing locks, carefully chosen dress and tasteful makeup, was, it seems, just too perfect for people to tolerate. No-one really expects anyone who has just gone through the rigors of labour and then childbirth to look immediately ready to attend a garden party – even the most high profile celebrities leave hospital in their civvies.

When Kate appeared after her first delivery, she had a visible tummy and a slightly tired bewildered look about her – one familiar to most new parents – ok, so she wasn’t wearing a baggy tracksuit with her hair scraped into a bun, but she did look more how you would expect someone to look who has recently had a small human expelled from their body. This time, she stepped off the cover of a society magazine, and it just didn’t feel real.

If there’s any lesson to be learned here it’s that there’s always room for imperfection when you’re dealing with a public image. Although those imperfections may not appeal to the person who has them, they are often what allow people to identify with that person. This translates for organisations too – demonstrating a human side can be incredibly compelling and can reduce the distance that many clients or customers feel, allowing for much more honest interactions and generating the kind of loyalty that tends to last. People want to see that you’re real and they want something to identify with – there are, I suspect, few women who could identify with that calm, serene and perfect princess as just having gone through the trauma of childbirth, for example.

So, when you’re considering your own reputation, remember that polished and perfect isn’t always the best choice. Make sure you leave a little room to demonstrate a human side and give people something that they can identify with – let the metaphorical grey hairs show every now and again – and you could find yourself with a much more solid base of fans, clients or customers as a result.

Lessons in Twitter love

May 28th, 2015 | Posted by Melissa in Blog - (0 Comments)
Melissa Davis

Twitter is a wonderful tool – an easy way to reach existing, and new, audiences and to grow a public profile. But you don’t have to search too many hashtags for startling examples of Twitter-gone-bad especially so among high profile individuals with (monstrous) egos and a head stuffed to the frontal lobes with righteous indignation.

So what reputation lessons can we learn from our Twitter-happy celeb friends, who are usually the ones at the epicentre of a good online social media ruck?

Katie Hopkins vs Everyone else

Katie Hopkins loves upsetting people on Twitter. It’s pretty much her only job apart from nestling her cold steel buttocks on the sofas of day time TV with the sole purpose of making every unemployed person or stay at home parent froth at the mouth thanks to spurious claims that everyone called Jayden smells of fish and that fat people should be melted down and made into soap for the Queen.
Hopkins is a classic example of someone who has an impressive ability to upset a wide demographic of people in less than 140 characters. (Recent examples include: “Ginger babies. Like a baby. Just so much harder to love.” And “How many more must die before the McCanns accept their negligence is at the heart of all their grief?”) Some of her recent high-profile targets include Ed Miliband, austerity cookery guru Jack Monroe and singer Charlotte Church. Though when not attacking fellow celebs, she’s not adverse to calling children offensive names which really shows her up for the professional troll she is. But while she’s lazily being goady from the comfort of her sofa and currently raking in the cash from resulting media appearances, at some stage, she’ll probably take it too far, and go from token annoying bigot to a blacklisted joke.

The lesson? Too much trolling and you just become a panto villain.

Footballers vs footballers.

There have been many footballers (and sportspeople in general) who have used Twitter to vent spleen. Perhaps the most recent spat comes courtesy of former City stars Rodney Marsh and Joey Barton, one a footballer whose glory days were probably the 1970s and the other (Barton) who made his debut in 2003. The nasty row showcased some pretty ageist attitudes in both directions, from Barton using the term “skint, washed-up former player full of hatred” about Marsh, to the other pointing out “At your age I was captaining MCFC against Barcelona & playing for England. You?” The spat arose from both making comments about Barton’s agent apparently approaching another club without his permission but the added bile was all their own.

The lesson? Don’t argue on social media – you will always come across as the very worst version of yourself.

Miley Cyrus vs Sinead O’Connor.

O’Connor thought Miley grinding her youthful bottom into a creepy man’s crotch on live TV was a sign she was being taken advantage of by the nasty music industry. Like any responsible adult who has shaved their head on TV while setting fire to the Pope, O’Connor decided to write a not-at-all-publicity-seeking open letter to Cyrus saying that record execs will “prostitute you for all you’re worth and cleverly make you think it’s what YOU wanted.” Cyrus’ response on twitter was “I don’t have time to write you an open letter cause I’m hosting & performing on SNL this week.” Ouch, Miley, that’s harsh.

The lesson? People don’t always react as you’d like them to on social media so be sure your best intentions will be received that way.

Tulisa vs Lord Sugar.

Poor Lord Sugar. Despite being at the forefront of tech and one of the country’s leading businessmen Alan had absolutely no idea who Tulisa was when the ex N-Dubz singer appeared on the X Factor judging panel. Lord Sugar, still thinking he was sitting behind a big desk with Nick and Karen, urged Simon Cowell to sack her via a tweet: “Can you tell me who the hell this Tulisa bird is – what has she done?”

Tulisa, when finished sobbing uncontrollably over the latest out of tune deli counter assistant from Halifax who’s just been sent packing after a lacklustre rendition of I Will Always Love You, wiped away her tears and delivered a final blow to Lord Sugar:
“U look like an ugly hobbit. Stop tweeting me & go & find some happiness! It’s embarrassing u miserable old man.”

The lesson? If you’re going to randomly dish it out on Twitter then be prepared to get some back.