The Abchaps were delighted that our first sector event in our new offices, on the theme of the environmental economy, was a roaring success.
Aided by English bubbles and locally-sourced canapés, the evening saw a sprinkle of invaluable insights, a dose of breaking news, the birth of strategic partnerships and a large measure of general joviality.
Abchurch’s 85 guests, from cleantech companies, media, regulatory, NGO and city advisory backgrounds, arrived from 6pm and immediately began making the most of the high-level networking opportunities available. After supplying the crowd with top-quality British food and drink, Julian Bosdet, the CEO of Abchurch Communications, opened the event with a welcoming message and introduced the high profile speakers to the gathering.
Jock Whittlesey, Environment Counselor to the U.S. Embassy, kicked off the session with his thought-provoking comments on the role of the US in promoting the clean technology cause and the strength and continuing importance of the “special relationship”.
The baton was picked up by Stephen Hammond, the Shadow Transport Minister and Wimbledon MP, who spoke about the Conservative belief in the crucial importance of public transport in helping the UK to lead the environmental revolution. He also highlighted Tory ambitions to facilitate the progression of technology in the UK.
Following on from these influential figures, Claire Dorrian of the London Stock Exchange aptly pointed out that she was in fact returning to her old office! Her invaluable insights both reflected on the impact of the Obama regime and looked forward to what the future may hold in the UK, including the importance of fiscal incentives for companies to reduce their environmental impact.
Tamsin Omond, of Climate Rush, completed the speeches with an impassioned plea for everyone to work together towards finding solutions.After requesting everyone’s business cards, she broke the news to the gathering that she would be running as a Member of Parliament this year. You heard it here first! Tamsin has subsequently revealed the mystery constituency as Hampstead & Kilburn, which she will transform into an “eco-haven”!
Abchurch continues to promote the clean technology revolution by bringing people and business together. The green team at Abchurch would like to thank all who attended and hope that you all gained something from the evening, even if it was a growing appreciation for fine English wines!
In the first of a regular series, Allan Dunlavy, Associate at Schillings, the leading law firm protecting the reputations of high-profile individuals, corporates and brands, talks to Abchurch about life on the legal side of reputation management.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, obviously there were the usual childhood and teenage fantasies of playing professional sport but these quickly faded as my lack of talent became apparent! If I wasn't practising law and I hadn't just won the lottery, then I think I would have liked to have been an archaeologist. I have always enjoyed history and you get to see remote corners of the world, excavate long forgotten sites and use your brain.
How did you get into reputation management law?
I have always wanted to be a lawyer and always had an interest in media law. At my previous firm I received a few instructions, got some good results and really enjoyed the work. I decided to pursue my career in this area and chose to join Schillings because of its expertise and reputation in the area of defamation and privacy law.
Describe your role in ten words or less (if that’s possible!):
Wow, that’s a challenge for a lawyer! I will try and keep it brief! I assist clients, both corporate organisations and private individuals, to protect their reputations and private information when they come under threat from external forces such as the media or non-media sources such as those with an axe to grind, malicious insiders and business or political rivals.
So, if I wasn’t talking to you now, what would you be doing?
I would probably be taking instructions from a client in regards to a soon-to-be-published newspaper article likely breach their confidentiality or privacy, and then liaising with the client’s PR team and the newspaper’s legal department to prevent publication. Failing that, I would be running to court to obtain an injunction preventing publication on the basis that the article would breach our client’s confidentiality / privacy and would not be in the public interest.
What is the most interesting thing about your work?
Schillings has an enviable client list including some of the worlds highest profile businesses and entrepreneurs and, on the other side, high profile sports, music and entertainment personalities. The work that the Firm and I do for them varies enormously and is often international in nature incorporating the laws of several different jurisdictions simultaneously.
Is there a common misconception about the reputation management?
The first misconception is the word ‘management’ – I prefer to call it reputation protection as the work we do complements that of PRs. We work with PR as an extension of their team to provide the client with legal tools. Second, is the idea that reputation protection is about restricting freedom of speech. No doubt all of us, regardless of our professions, believe freedom of expression is a basic tenet for any democracy. However, it is essential that this is counter-balanced with a company’s and an individual’s right to a reputation and an expectation of privacy; which is also crucial. Without reputations how can people decide who to vote for, at which school to educate their children, which companies to purchase products from, or who to work for? Every day we rely upon the reputations of people and organisations to make good, informed decisions and therefore it is essential that commentary affecting this is fair and accurate. At Schillings we play a vital role in providing access to such fair and accurate commentary.
How has the industry changed over the last couple of years?
It has become much more International with the explosion of the Internet and social media. This has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to become a ‘publisher’ and has increased the volume of media sources exponentially, thus the threats not only come from a greater volume of sources but also from all over the world.
Countering this is the increased protection available for a company's confidential information and an individual's privacy. This has come about through case law, which Schillings has been pivotal in establishing, and as the result of European legislation. Information of this nature is now better protected and we have the tools to ensure that private and confidential information that should not be in the public domain remains confidential.
What developments do you expect to see in the next twelve months?
It’s an interesting and exciting time. The Firm is currently involved in the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee enquiry into “Press Standards, Privacy and Libel” concerning the self-regulation of the media, and we are part of the Ministry of Justice’s 2010 Working Group on Libel reforms. This area of law is constantly moving and as such it receives intense scrutiny from the media, not least because they are directly affected by it. It is unclear what the outcome will be but the Law will no doubt continue to adapt to deal with changes that arise.
Whilst it is important to permit publication of matters that are genuinely in the public interest, too often reputations are damaged, and privacy invaded, by the publication of stories that are untrue, or where the main aim is to satisfy salacious curiosity about the lives of the rich or famous irrespective of the distress caused to them, their families, and their friends. The aims of existing laws are sound, but in practice, they frequently fail to achieve a satisfactory balance between the public interest and truth and privacy. As a result, public figures, such as CEOs, may be unable to prevent themselves being defamed, or suffering invasions of privacy which are essentially unlawful. Schillings believe there are opportunities to continue to help clients protect their privacy and reputations without compromising the vital principle of freedom of expression and we have developed a ‘Blueprint for Change’ paper outlining three key changes as a way forward.
Monique and I headed to Norway for the IPREX Global Leaders Conference with great expectations – for starters we would be staying in the same hotel where a certain Barack Obama and his First Missus stayed when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize at the end of last year. We were also looking forward to our first Scandinavian (and possibly most northern) experience. But, what we were most looking forward to was meeting and working with our international IPREX partners on a range of topics from social media and communications innovations to brand awareness and reputation management. It was also great to relax into dinner in the evenings, often continuing our discussions from the day – and of course raising a glass (skål!!) to our amazingly well organised and kind hosts, Consilio. We heard some very insightful presentations from Claus Sonberg (SASs’ Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations) and Peggy Brønn (Professor and author on the subject of reputation management) before breaking into groups to brainstorm 3 top ideas, their strategic importance in our industry and their potential impact on IPREX partner firms. Monique and I were happy to leave the well-run and thought provoking conference with our expectations fulfilled – Kathy Tunheim, IPREX President, summed up our progress in an email to the IPREX Executive Committee saying, “I can say without any hesitation that I was IMPRESSED by the caliber of the colleagues in Oslo, and I have every expectation that they can and will contribute to our collective success moving forward.”
Oh, and before the ink was dry on our mass brainstorming documents, we were off to the outskirts of Oslo for some tobogganing – and tobogganing in Norway is no joke. A 2km-long death defying run (ask Monique for the full details!) topped off a great weekend and even allowed us for a little more fresh air.
For those of you who don’t know we are a member of IPREX, one of the world’s largest public relations corporations, which is made up of leading, independent PR agencies in major markets worldwide. Its purpose is to offer public relations excellence to clients, wherever their businesses take them.
IPREX represents 68 independent agencies, in 30 countries, with 90 offices. We have over 1,170 professional staff and annual billings of over $125 million. Founded in 1983, IPREX has expanded internationally to meet the needs of its clients and partners. Partners are carefully screened before their application to join is considered.
The Hong Kong stock market has fared well during the downturn compared to its Western counterparts, having come down by only 13% in 2009 from the previous year. This is compared with an average drop of 51% in the LSE during the same period, according to the Executive Vice President of the Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, the securities and futures exchange.
Hong Kong is a key international fundraising platform in Asia, and it has tightened its listing rules to ensure the quality of the companies coming onto the market. In fact, the HK rules are more onerous than UK listing rules in all instances.
Abchurch has extensive experience of this market, having carried out the financial communications surround the dual listing of its client RCG on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which was featured as one of the case studies at the Forum.