Friday, 29 May 2009

Word of the week: £££ Sterling

The hammered British Pound has caught a gust of air and is on the up reaching the value of $1.60 for the first time in over 6 months. Investors have been prompted to move away from the defensive US dollar once again, with growing optimism that the contraction in the UK economy is certainly slowing if not reversing. Growth is inhibited however by concerns over UK national debt, the prospect of higher taxes for years to come and a growing national penury - worsened by an indifference to saving given the recent unpredictability of financial institutions as a whole. Stabilisation may have arrived with recovery still a few bumps away.


Heather's IPREX Diary: The Expert's view

A panel discussion at the University Club followed Bloomberg, with some of the most eminent Directors of Communications in the world, facing enormous challenges.

Harvey Greisman, Group Executive, Worldwide Communications of Mastercard was in the toughest boat since only last week President Obama called the CEOs and senior executives of all credit card companies to the White House. He had received an unprecedented number of letters from the US public complaining about the high level of credit card debt and the perseverance of all of them to push high rates onto sub prime people. Harvey’s advice was that “good corporate governance is a top driver in restoring trust among the public and reputation management is something all PRs should do”. He has a long way to go in restoring this trust.

Raymond Kerins VP of Worldwide Communications of Pfizer explained that the pharma industry spent too much time reacting and independent agencies should help in-house PR be more proactive. He added that operating in this heavily regulated industry meant they do need to be careful about using Twitter and other social media. They do however heavily utilise the likes of SERMO online – industry e-mags. His key messages were that they are now a $50 billion start up with new management, new focus, products that sell, with stability and cash. Strong points and well put.

With regards the use of social media, Barbara Pierce, Worldwide Comms Director of Kodak utilised social media to maximum effect when the Wall Street Journal print version put out misguided numbers. Perhaps more effective with a consumer brand, Barbara negated the WSJ comments effectively through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Other speakers included General Electric, Swiss Re, Viacom and Bausch & Lomb. The panel overseer was the illustrious Jon Byrne, editor-in-chief of Business Week. I admire him most as co-author of Jack Welsh’s book: Jack: Straight from the Gut. He acknowledged that all the speakers’ companies have had an extremely tough ride in the down turn and that there is a propensity for journalists to focus on bad news. Restoring trust was paramount. There is a definitive need to educate the markets and he quoted that reputation management is the sum of the images. The images consist of Performance, Behaviour and Communication.

The Head of Comms from NYU sponsored this panel and wrapped up by quoting Abraham Lincoln: “Character is the Key; Reputation is the shadow.”

My own observation of in-house PR directors is they have to be self deprecating, bold when it matters and incredibly savvy.


Image courtesy of Matt Hamm on Flickr, through a Creative Commons License.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Low Carbon Economy

Abchurch has one of the UK’s leading environmental practices and views the carbon market primarily in terms of its effect on investor confidence.

The world is on the edge of what US and EU Political advisor Jeremy Rifkin has dubbed ‘The Third Industrial Revolution’. This is a world in which we move away from traditional fossil fuel and uranium-based energies into a non-polluting, sustainable future for the human race.

In this new age investors are concerned not just with the impact that traditional commodities, such as oil, grain and minerals, have on a company’s profitability but also with factors such as the cost of carbon, sulphur dioxide, water and even holes in the ground. Indeed, Britain is widely expected to be routinely mining its landfill sites within the next decade to recover many of these valuable commodities whilst minimizing the energy usage and harmful emissions associated with extracting them from primary sources.

The investment agenda is no longer one solely of balance sheets and cashflow statements, however. Climate change concerns have fuelled the rise of Corporate & Social Responsibility in high streets and boardrooms across the world. This Triple Bottom Line approach to company reporting (financial, social and environmental) demands simple shorthands and metrics and there is none more convenient than ‘carbon equivalent.’ Hence the “low carbon economy.”

Research carried out in late 2008 amongst UK based fund managers for British Energy found that:
· 80% think that a carbon reduction strategy can have a positive impact on investor perceptions
· 2 in 5 believe that commitment to carbon reduction can have a positive impact on share price
· 25% see a growing media and public demand for carbon reduction commitment at the corporate level

The Carbon Trust’s March 2009 report ‘Global Carbon Mechanisms: Emerging lessons and implications’ reveals:
· The Clean Development Mechanism, specifically, has triggered over 4000 emission-reducing projects in developing countries
· It is likely to reduce carbon emissions by 2 billion tonnes by 2012

Climate Change Capital, just one of thousands of specialist environmental funds globally, has:
· over US $1.5 billion under management as of January 2009
· estimated that Clean energy (just one subset of the climate change market) was worth $148 billion in 2007
· predicted that current climate change needs require a future investment in clean energy of up to $45 trillion

No revolution is without its hazards, however. Indeed, many would argue that the focus on ‘low carbon’ has become an unhealthy obsession, with the same whiff of snake oil, get rich quick and too good to be truisms witnessed in the energy and silicon rushes of the first and second industrial revolutions. Hence the concept of “greenwash.”

One of Abchurch’s most important roles is to steer companies through this new communications landscape; taking carbon credit where it is due and avoiding tempting, but often meaningless hype. This experienced counsel, based on our team’s genuine earth science credentials, is just as true whether working with our intrinsically environmental clients, or with our broader customer base of companies who are simply playing their responsible part is a newly carbon-conscious world.


Image courtesy of Olof S on Flickr, through a Creative Commons License.

Heather's IPREX Diary: Bloomberg

This was my first experience at a Global IPREX conference and it was fantastic to meet the others. All exude high professionalism, proactivity and fun which resulted in a vibrant three days in New York.

Hosted by Makovsky, we took in the great sights of Bloomberg. The photograph depicts a wall of silhouettes, people with the same round heads and different clothes and stances. We are told by the guide that this represents the indoctrinated culture of Bloomberg, while each person retains their own individuality. During the tour of this phenomenal and highly lucrative private business, every corner showcased art, whether it was a cumulus cloud hanging from the ceiling or a spiral sofa or ornate fish tanks separating meeting rooms. It was a feast for the corporate eyes and what was most telling was the employees’ vast enthusiasm for the Group and the ease with which each person adopted the strict but innovative culture.

Serious discussion got under way with the three most senior editors and business management at Bloomberg. The main message was Speed and, internally, to know who is reachable and who is doing what. They receive a staggering 5,000 stories a day and it could be the Asian desk, the UK desk or the US desk picking up a story at any one time. Instead of focusing on geographic importance, the place is split into sectors and you could get a response from the tech guy in Asia as easily as the tech person in US. Social media was a big discussion with Bloomberg insisting it IS a social media. The trend means that things are not so much “off the record”, more “hope no one blogs this”!

Bloomberg customers are among the wealthiest and most prominent in the world ensuring that Bloomberg delivers real time news that moves markets.


Friday, 8 May 2009

Word of the week: Playing FTSE

The FTSE 100 is fast approaching the 4500 mark after a strong rally over the past week. However the staunch ascent has lost its puff in the latter half of this week without a significant stimulus to counter the cautious optimism that has swept equity markets upwards. The increasing length and breadth of the rally across all sectors and several countries is increasing confidence that we are experiencing something more than a short bear market rally. However the bullish confidence of old is far from being restored and the seemingly unwarranted wobbles demonstrate a continued tentativeness from investors.


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

New York New York

Bozzy and I are getting ready for IPREX's global conference in New York City. Abchurch are regulars at these conferences, which bring together our network of like-minded PR partners from all over the world. This year's theme is "Multinational Issues in a Multimedia World." We'll be discussing social media at Google, the economic crisis at Bloomberg, and how global companies are handling the toughest PR issues at New York University.

Always keeping an eye on green issues, we are looking forward to the kick off dinner with a discussion on PR opportunities surrounding climate change, featuring Andrew McKeon, Principal of carbonRational, a consulting firm which provides corporations with the tools for building sustainable enterprises.

The main event is a panel discussion starring eight heads of Corporate Communications at Top Fortune 500 global companies including GE, Pfizer and MasterCard. We will be asking how the global economic crisis is changing the way the world's biggest corporations communicate with their stakeholders. What do they see as major global communications issues now and in the future?

Most excitingly, the lovely team at Makovsky have organised one of the top Google Exec’s to talk about how Web 2.0 is changing the way we communicate across the globe. The talk will be followed by a tour of Googleplex East, the search giant’s NY HQ, complete with air hockey, pool tables, quizzically named ‘Google Snacks’ and giant exercise balls rolling across the office. What were we supposed to be discussing again…?


Friday, 1 May 2009

In the morning you know they won't remember a thing...

Speaking of Lance Armstrong, did you know he’s competing in this year’s Drambuie Pursuit? He is a member of one team in only five chosen to go on an all expenses paid “adventure of epic proportions” in the wilds of the Scottish highlands. Not to be outdone, CJ’s only got himself a spot as well!

Part of Team Escape to Matrimony, CJ with a few of his City chums starred in and edited this fabulous video that was chosen by the public out of 40 other entries. The Grooms-to-be have won an adrenaline junkie’s dream, pushing themselves to the limit across a series of tough activities which include mountain biking, power boat racing, rock climbing, white-water rafting and more, all in preparation for the challenges of married life that lie ahead.

Abchurch wish them all the best of luck – they’re going to need it!

DJ Twitter

The Dow Jones Newswires' UK smallcap team now has a Twitter feed, featuring daily news from UK small and mid cap companies, proving that it isn’t just international superstar celebs like the Abchurch team (and of course Stephen Fry, Wossy, Ashton Kutcher) who recognise the value of Twitter, the latter being the first person to attract 1m followers in a race against news channel CNN.

Journalists of all shapes, sizes, sectors and sources are jumping on the bandwagon to tweet their 140 (character) cents. From the Guardian, often known to be leaders on the media front, giving a continuous flow of international and regional news, to Lance Armstrong who is back in the saddle attempting to win a record 8th Tour de France, it seems there is no limit to the Twitterati, anyone can join its ranks these days.

But how could Twitter be going in the wrong direction? CNN has joined the debate arguing that with all the hype about Swine Flu, perhaps Twitter might be spreading misinformation and propagating fear. Those in the know could check out a reliable source like The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Twitter feed for Swine Flu updates and I think as long as you’re not using Twitter for self diagnosis, whether you are letting people know that you are “just leaving work, need a drink!” or raising a question, “will the FTSE ever see 5,000 again?!”, Twitter is for everyone. Tweet on!

For those less in the know (and who haven’t read up on the Abchat blog), Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as ‘tweets’. Check out to get started. Don’t forget to follow those of us at Abchurch, and just so you don’t get caught out, here is the Telegraph’s list of the top ten worst tweets.


Word of the week: Swine

When the global economy develops a cold the population and its pigs catch flu…doesn’t quite sound right. But that’s what’s happening and its sending certain stocks back down the pan. Holiday companies, hotel chains and airlines such as British Airways and easyJet are tumbling in the wake of the crisis. Not surprisingly flu vaccine manufacturer’s such as global Pharma company GlaxoSmithKline are among the top risers in the market. This week has definitely been a reminder of the inevitable uncertainty for any investor. As Chris Hossain, senior sales manager at Abchurch client ODL Securities, put it "World markets need a shot in the arm and talk of a global pandemic is a huge concern to the economy." Someone keeps mixing up the needles.