Friday, 20 December 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: The Independent Christmas Consumer

The run up to Christmas 2013 couldn’t have been more festive for the retail manager; money had returned to the markets, consumer spending was up and (it seemed that) the shopping halls of the high-street were once again pounded again by the much desired feet of the consumer.

The city buzzed with a financially optimistic Q4 2013, and the anticipation of a fat and prosperous Christmas and New Year.

The Scotsman spoke of increased high-street spending, The Mirror muscled in on the topic with “online Christmas shopping boom as November spending rises by 20% on last year”, and Reuters dutifully reported that UK shoppers were set to spend £1.4bn pounds this Christmas (according to Deloitte’s Christmas research).

It has often been mused that the output of the media has a huge part to play in the patterns of consumer spending. This makes sense; when a child is told that it has more money to spend it will tend to buy more more sweets in the shop.

So the media-hooked consumer will read in his chosen paper that economic growth has returned and his wallet will immediately (seem to) feel a little heavier.

One would have expected, therefore, that the “good news” tale of Christmas spending being told by the UK nationals would have caused a proliferation in the amount of money being spent by a more positive consumer.

However, this was not the story that was told this week. This week’s papers reported a completely different story; a story of slashed prices and huge discounts.

This was in response to a survey conducted by the London “big-four” firm PwC. The survey’s statistics revealed that 72% of high-street retailers have been forced to offer discounts of an average of 46% in a last-bid attempt to lure Christmas shoppers into stores and spend the money that is so desperately needed to keep the high-street in action.

As Steve Hawkes of The Daily Telegraph reported: “As well as the cuts at M&S, Debenhams is running a half-price sale, Gap and Austin Reed are offering up to 60 per cent off selected items of clothing, House of Fraser has cut prices by as much as 75 per cent and Argos has launched a half-price toy sale.”

Had the papers been too optimistic about “the health of the consumer”? Had the retailers assumed that consumers were feeling bonny with this recent flow of good economic news, and so were consequently left in the lurch when this optimism didn’t translate into the expected increase in revenue?

Or, has the consumer finally digested the lesson of 2008 and learnt not to take optimistic reporting at face value?

In short, the recession of 2008 was due to the bubble of a few years of optimistic borrowing and spending bursting, and it had disastrous consequences for the spendthrift consumer.

Is it possible that the positive articles that might once have been taken at face value and used as an excuse to hit the high-street are now being digested in a much more thoughtful, cautious and measured manner? Consumers are still reading and being influenced by the media, but perhaps now they are considering the memory of the dark years following the over-optimism of 2008 and keeping their purses firmly zipped.

Abchaps had a busy week in the City and beyond, including a rugby match with Smith Williamson at The Stoop. Tuesday brought our team Christmas party, where supper in the trendy area of Shoreditch preceded the awesome Pongathon at Richmix for a table tennis tournament which saw fierce competition and tears from the losers. We also enjoyed Farrer & Co's Christmas drinks party.

KPMG have announced that Tony Woodhams will head up their Trading Risk Solutions Group. The former trader will bring his 17 years experience as at institutions such as Credit Suisse, HSBC and Marex Sprectron his new team.

This is not the only senior hire to take place; Coutts have announced John Etheridge will be Head of Product and Fiona Whitehead will take the lead as Head of New Business, bolstering the Company’s International Trust Business Team. At Herbert Smith Freehills Sonya Leydecker and Mark Rigotti, former Head of Banking and Head of Corporate, have been appointed as joint Chief Executive, making them the 1st leading law firm, with revenues over £500m to appoint a female CEO.

'Black Friday' - the start of the Christmas shopping season when retailers launch their promotional holiday sales. Usually the last Friday in November to coincide with the last pay day before Christmas.

Is the thought of one more mulled, minced or market-based activity met with a slightly weary sigh? Well, there are other ways you can keep the festive cheer going in the city this weekend!

Freshen up after a week of indulgence and head over to the Tower of London Ice Rink where you can hit the ice from 10:00am onwards with the grandeur of one of the capital’s most iconic landmarks providing a backdrop to the hour long sessions.

Abchaps love a good sing song and so it’s a good thing there are plenty of carol concerts taking place too. Fleet Street Carols are a fantastic opportunity to sing alongside St Bride’s own choir at either noon or 5pm, so take 5 minutes out and enjoy a little serenity in the run up to Christmas.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 13 December 2013

Another good day to “bury bad news”?

On Thursday 5th December Chancellor George Osborne appeared on the Downing Street to proudly hold up this year’s Autumn Statement. Like a child proudly displaying his shiny new red lunch-box, Osborne happily released the best features of the budget for some rare commendation and applause

• Marriage tax allowance • Free School meals • A pledge of £40m to create 20,000 apprenticeships • A freeze on petrol tax • A freeze on business rates to boost the high-street

One glance at’s beautiful array of infographics must have surely inspired all of the married and far-flung business owning parents of Britain to rejoice in anticipation of a fat Christmas and a portly New Year.

With all of this rejoicing, one would have expected to see the Autumn red of the statement to be tainting the broadsheets and topping the red-tops in reflection of a nation finally satisfied with the work of its chief economist.

But no.

On the evening of the 5th December, the world suffered a tragic loss with the death of the former South African revolutionary and politician Nelson Mandela. Mandela, one of the World’s most celebrated statesman, died at his home after long battle with a respiratory illness. As a result, The Daily Mail had but a small red box banished to the top right hand corner of front-page, the Financial Times led with a hand-by-hand sized picture of the now deceased World icon, and BBC business reporter Ben Morris was quoted thus: “Business coverage on the BBC has been curtailed this morning as programmes cover the death of Nelson Mandela.”

In the Guardian discussing the Autumn Statement: “It took a few days for the full import of the verdict of the Institute for Fiscal Studies to permeate the political world

The same Guardian article read: “Ed Miliband has set off to South Africa to pay his respects

A comment in a Daily Telegraph article about the Statement read: “Markmyword49: Assuming of course that the media can tear itself away from the hagiography over Mandela and start doing its job again

The Burial of Bad News

On September 11th 2001, a day that does not need to be described, Labour aide Jo Moore sent around an internal memo advising her colleagues that “it is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors expenses?”

The memo was leaked, Moore was shamed, and Westminster had to once more pull its reputation out of a deep grave of political distaste. Although Moore’s comments were distasteful, it cannot be denied that she is not the only politician to have played puppet master with the media when approaching political strategies.

The news of Mandela’s death was always going to dominate the headlines of every single paper, broadsheet and tabloid in the World (the exceptions probably North Korea and Cuba).

Of course, the main points of the statement were also going to be covered and featured, however it is the finer points that might have been missed because of the tragic news of Mandela’s deaths.

Those journalists that would usually have been tasked with tearing the statement to pieces with a fine tooth-comb were in no doubt directed away to cover the greater news of Mandela’s passing.

Human beings have often been compared to a flock of sheep; we easily spooked and have a tendency to move in packs. When a car crashes on a busy road, is it not a well-known fact that the resultant backlog of traffic is mostly due to the spectators that slow down their cars in order to take a look as they pass the scene?

This statement is a reminder of how much we rely upon and need those journalists that will not just rush to join the rest of the flock to view the spoils at the scene of a car-crash. The investigative journalists that we rely upon to uncover buried boils and keep our society honest are those that would stay behind at the traffic lights to discover that they were actually faulty and thus the cause of said car-crash.

As Rudyard Kipling once famously wrote: “If you can keep your head whilst all around you are losing theirs, you will be a man my son”.

Perhaps this could serve as a lesson to the British media: when big news breaks alongside the release of a seemingly innocent statement by all means pay your respects and cover the story, but also keep your head and remember to continue dissecting the seemingly unimportant.

Olivia Stuart-Taylor

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Alistair Crane: Maximising Value of your Tech Start-up


Alistair Crane left school with nothing more than a few GCSEs. At the age of 21 he had started work for NAVTEQ, a digital mapping subsidiary of Nokia. By 23 he had co-founded the mobile app developer, Grapple. Grapple designed and created the mobile applications for global brands from McDonalds to Pfizer. It was subsequently sold in 2013 to AIM-listed company Monitise, world leading mobile payments company, for a tidy sum close to £40m. And Alistair’s take on both his personal and company’s journey is .... "It’s only just the beginning".

Alistair was kind enough to share with Abchurch some of his top tips to enhance a technology company’s journey from start-up to a mature and established industry profile.


First off for start-ups? Start right. Alistair admits that the early days can be more than a little bit daunting but if you prioritise your short term goals, a plan of action can become much clearer, surprisingly easily.


This starts with choosing the right people for your team. Alistair personally recruited the vast majority of his staff so that he can always guarantee that he is surrounded by trustworthy people who are passionate about the company and product. He believes there is freedom for everyone to be on their own journey, whilst contributing to the Company’s goals. Consistent belief in the product will ensure that at crucial yet turbulent moments in a business’s life-cycle, the CEO won’t need to have all the answers, as the insight and passion will come from within. In terms of leadership, there just needs to be a gesture towards how things may play out and people will be on board. There can be no grey areas in the team’s enthusiasm for the journey – you’re all in it together.


Whilst Alistair is a firm believer that it is not always necessary for the CEO to hold all the answers, he believes you have a firm focus of what you ultimately want to achieve with the business; profitability, expansion or even an exit. Be that through a trade sale or an eventual IPO, you need to have an eye on the future so that you can optimise the present. More often than not this can involve positioning yourself in a certain light in-front of target audiences. When Grapple turned down all VC funding, they knew their financial position would come under scrutiny, so they had to be clever with the way they communicated their business growth.


Development of both personal and corporate brands ensures that what the company does and how they do things is clearly communicated. The personal brand that Alistair has developed is undoubtedly a key factor in the growth and development of his start-up. In his own words, if he was a brand, he would be Ronseal…doing exactly what he says he will do. Such steely determination is likely a shared attribute amongst many start-up CEOs – although not all may choose the right words to describe what they do. Alistair’s choice? .... "I’ll just keep smashing through walls for as long as I can!”

Alistair is adamant that there must always be positivity surrounding the brand. Whether it’s current or ex-employees, clients, future clients or investors, they always need to think you are good people with something of value to say and do. His own experiences have taught him to be conscious of past, present and future relationships at all times and sometimes this can be down to something as simple as just offering some help.


It’s not all smashing through walls though, and Alistair explains that his experiences have taught him that value is subjective - an art not a science. He feels that start-ups must come to appreciate this if they want to make the transition to a more established industry presence. The stakeholders and influencers that can affect the financial credentials of the company may have a different perception of value to the CEO and team. Ultimately, their view can directly affect the long term trajectory of the company. He suggests that CEOs need to have partnerships with people who can both understand the value proposition and advise about how to position it. Sometimes you need a little help along the journey.

Here’s where PRs come in – they are on a journey too, and want to be good people and help. Companies like Abchurch can advise start-ups on what their content should include and how to communicate it. This includes positioning firms in front of the right investors, analysts and media, so that key audiences gain a clear insight into your company’s model and the future value you hold.

In the words of the American novelist, Don Williams jr. ...

The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”

Stephanie Watson

Follow Alistair Crane on Twitter @AdFundAl

Friday, 8 November 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Top PR-marks post crisis

This week George Weston, CEO of Associated British Foods, proudly reported that the sales of one of its most famous subsidiaries, Primark, had grown by 22% in the year to 14 September. Impressive figures for any company, let alone one that has had a very public scandal this year.

This particular scandal took place a little further afield, in Bangladesh. On 24 April, 1,131 people tragically lost their lives in the collapse of an eight story garment factory, that manufactures Primark apparel.

The incident stirred local and global furor, making both initial headlines and then continued to receive substantial media attention. It was considered by many as the worst clothing industry crisis for years.

How were Primark sales affected in the aftermath of this crisis? 13 new stores are planned before Christmas and customers are still flooding through the doors. A significant portion of this resilience was deemed to be down to strategic and well-executed PR.

Primark quickly publicised their hands-on response to the crisis; sound-bites were generated; on-the-ground insights were circulated alongside stories of heroic recovery and personal triumph. More importantly, Primark choose not to communicate a defensive message and deny association to the factory, unlike members of their peer group, Mango and Benetton. Instead, they acknowledged that their products were manufactured in the building, and even agreed to pay compensation.

Both Primark’s response and the communication of it were regarded favourably. This has been reiterated by the recently published strong financial results, demonstrating the power of effective crisis communications.

Primark’s results have however reignited the argument as to whether companies who choose the cheap option of manufacturing in the developing world, are doing so irresponsibly. Whether this cynicism has the capacity to filter down to affect consumer behaviour is yet to be seen, but the sustainability of Primark’s profits is, at a minimum, called into question. How many times can PRs save face with effective crisis communications until stakeholders get fed up and stop buying?

If PRs can encourage and then communicate the ethically sound operations of their clients, long term profitability will ultimately come from honesty and transparency. There won't be anything scandalous about it.

Abchaps attended some brilliant events this week, including Allenby Capital's corporate rugby at Twickenham, where England ruled Britannia, and an event hosted by Olswang and the Malaysia Multimedia Development Corporation about business development in Asia.

We also treated some city friends to corporate hospitality at the Chelsea v Shalke 04 match on Wednesday, where the blues won 3-0. And our graduate Abchaps also underwent some excellent training at Finance Talking this week, learning finance essentials for communicators.

Our friends over at Crowe Clark Whitehill have strengthened their Midlands office with the appointment of Rob Gunn as a partner, specialising in corporate tax. Imilarly, Investec Wealth & Investment bolsters its regional office expertise in their Glasgow office with new investment directors David Kerr and Lisa Brown of Barclays.

Finally Ruth Crowell leaves law firm Norton Rose to become the Chief Executive of the trade association London Bullion Market Association on 1 January 2014.

Central London is being closed off this Saturday for the 2013 Lord Mayor’s Show. Starting at 8:30am, the Lord Mayor boards QRB Gloriana and along with a spectacular Flotilla makes his way from Westminster to Tower Bridge. Then at 11am, Mansion House, the 3.5 mile modern procession commences, wrapping with an elaborate Fireworks display at 5pm at Waterloo, officially confirming the beginning of the new mayoral year.

It’s officially Christmas folks – Regent Street, Covent Garden and Duke of York Square are illuminating their streets with snowflakes, reindeer and all things sparkly this Saturday night. Festive fireworks, carols and Christmas cheer will be supplied by top artists such as Leona Lewis, Eliza Doolittle and Emma Bunton.

For something a little less seasonal, head down to the Truman Brewery for some culinary art education at the 4th annual Experimental Food Society Spectacular. Displays by Britain’s most talented and pioneering gourmet artists will create awe-inspring assemblages of butter sculptors, food furturologists and experimental confectioners.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 1 November 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: The Royal Charter won’t silence the whispers

The British media were in uproar this week after Wednesday’s announcement that an independent cross-party Royal Charter for press regulation had been approved.

British press publishers had been pushing for High Court judges to place an injunction that would have stopped ministers seeking approval for this new charter. The injunction was refused, the charter approved, and the path paved for the soon to be formed Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

Editors have made their feelings clearly known; The Times Editor Roger Alton was quoted as being “extraordinarily depressed” and The Spectator Editor Fraser Nelson considers it to be an “illiberal proposal”.

And perhaps it is. One of the arguments sitting at the core of this debate is one of democracy. The British media has always prided itself on maintaining democracy through freedom of speech and subsequent heightened Government accountability. Will the introduction of IPSO threaten said accountability?

In theory, yes; an independent monitoring body would undoubtedly threaten democracy by blunting the point of the media’s knife-edge against totalitarianism.

In practice, however, how effective will this new IPSO body really be in controlling what is and is not published in our red-tops, broadsheets and nowadays apps?

Running simultaneously to the British publishers waving their publications at Lord Dyson, former News of the World Editor Rebekah Brooks and former director of communications at Downing Street Andy Coulson were appearing at the Old Bailey to answer to the charges from the phone-hacking scandal.

What came to light in this shadowy house of justice is that not only were the pair responsible for the sourcing of incredibly private information, but that they were also linked in a highly charged love affair. In a letter written in 2004, Rebekah Brooks wrote that Mr Coulson was: “my very best friend. I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you”.

As Andrew Edis, QC, for the prosecution pointed out: “Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson are charged with conspiracy and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other?” Mrs Brooks’s letter to Mr Coulson certainly answers the question.

A number of the stories at the heart of the “Hacked Off” campaign, such as those regarding Sir Paul McCartney and David Blunkett, involved information that had been shared through lovers’ whispers and coffee-house gossip. The fact that the pair confided a great deal in each other demonstrates the amount of whispered information that must get blown down the Street of Fleet and through the alleyways of the City.

Indeed, Andy Coulson was once quoted as saying: “people talk, it’s known”. This comment suggests that even with an independent body regulating journalism techniques and output, it can be safely said that people will continue to talk and share news as they have always done, whispers will still be spread, and journalism; both political, financial and celebrity, will still rely to a certain extent upon information that press regulators will never be able to control.

In reference to par. 17 of Section 3 of the newly formed Royal Charter (as recommended by financial journalist Paul Lewis: “The Board should not have the power to prevent publication of any material, by anyone, at any time although (in its discretion) it should be able to offer a service of advice to editors of subscribing publications relating to code compliance.”

If this week has highlighted anything of interest to the City it is that having total control over what is being communicated and shared both inside and outside of board meetings is still absolutely essential. Whilst the Royal Charter will ensure that rogue journalism is caught up and monitored, press freedom still exists and will continue to exist (even if only in whispers).

A very busy week for Abchaps with a lot of movement around the City. The resources team attended the Baker Tilly Natural Resources reception at the Park Lane Hilton earlier in the week. One Abchap joined the President of the Shanghai Pudong Develop Bank (SPD) in the launch of their London Office, whilst another went Green at the Envirotech and Clean Energy Investor Summit, as well as a United Nations special on “Is a 'Green Industry' approach the key to competitive edge?”

The UK government makes a bit of history this week as it not only appoints its first woman, but also its first black person, as a permanent secretary at the Treasury. Sharon White becomes second permanent secretary and will be responsible for overseeing the fiscal squeeze whilst she manages Britain’s public finances.

Winn Faria has migrated from his role as COO at management consultancy firm ASource Global to become the director of Baker Tilly’s Financial services risk department.

PwC has strengthened its energy and low carbon team with two new appointments Ronan O’Regan and Steve Mullins. O’Regan shifts his PwC role from the energy financing team to head its UK renewables practice, whilst Mullins is welcomed as the new smart grid leader.

'Super-Injunction' - A legal gagging order which not only prohibits the media from reporting the details of a story, but also prevents mention of the existence of the injunction itself.

Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot! Celebrate Bonfire Night at one of the many London events being put on this weekend. Check out LBC Radio’s in depth analysis of this year’s spectacular pyrotechnics happening across the capital!

For those scared of things that go bang in the night and those beginning to get those festive feelings, its time to rejoice as the Natural History Museum enchanting Ice Rink makes its debut opening this weekend. So don your skates and ear muffs, get down to Gloucester Road and get gliding!

Finally, for those that missed out on Halloween shenanigans this week with it being a ‘school night’, fear not as The Halloween Playground takes over the deep, dark tunnels underneath Waterloo Station. Fancy dress is compulsory as The Vaults hosts chilling cabaret, musical voodoo and “devilishly good DJs”.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 25 October 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: SMinterviews

Twitter Q&A sessions… An ingenious tactic used by PRs to make clients appear as open and as forward thinking as possible? Or a potentially hazardous exercise? The answer unsurprisingly is... both.

Queens Park Rangers Football Club yesterday had to abandon an #AskHarry Q&A on Twitter owing to immense trolling and humorous insults. Labelled a PR disaster by the media, one has to ask what ever entered the minds of QPR’s PR team, firstly when you consider manager, Harry Redknapp’s rather colourful career, and the recent British Gas Q&A disaster. These forums have to be taken with trepidation and planning.

When conducting a Twitter Q&A or a Twinterview, it is the responsibility of the PR to carefully consider all eventualities. Think in the long term, not the immediate term. Anticipate potentially tough questions, so responses can be planned and given out immediately, as it is certainly not as easy as one thinks to put everything down in 140 characters. In QPR and Harry Redknapp’s case, it would have been advisable to have anticipated tricky questions and had humorous or even honest answers to them:


The preparation and briefing is as important as the interview. The PR department at QPR were pretty naive for not considering the myriad of potential troll like questions directed at the former Spurs boss. The CEO of a large corporate PLC would never jump onto a BBC screen without having been thoroughly briefed on potential “danger topics” prior to the interview, so neither should Harry Redknapp have been allowed to hop into the Twitter-sphere so unprotected.

Another example of extremely poor planning was, the loathsome CEO of Ryan Air, Michael O’Leary’s Twinterview. He reportedly received no preparation or briefing from his PR team, and subsequently went on to make an early and rather sexist comment in response to a girl’s picture on Twitter. Did O’Leary’s PR team not create a social media policy for the Company, and fling it in Michael’s face, make him read it and learn it in advance of this PR nightmare?

Not all Q&As on Twitter are a disaster, and celebrities such as Jay Z have utilised the idea very well; but then Jay Z is going to have far less trollers and more fans than the CEO of one of the "world’s worst airlines", an increasingly expensive British Gas, and a football manager who has left virtually every football club he’s ever managed in ruins.

Considering the differing receptions that #AskHarry and Jay Z received through their respective SMinterviews, perhaps it is fair to suggest that they should have been broadcast through different platforms. Whilst the flow of adoration stemming from Jay Z’s fans could be contained in responses of 120 characters, #AskHarry would have benefited from the extra space and characters that a tool such as Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) allows… Again, a consideration of the relevance and appropriateness of social media platforms should have been done in preparation to Harry Redknapp’s Twinterview. What is encouraging to see is companies within financial services starting to use social media to create discussion and engagement and can be demonstrated by peer-to-peer lender Zopa’s participation on Reddit.

The Bank of England put chief economist Spencer Dale in the firing line only a day after #BritishGasGate and he fared far better. A great result for financial services which has to do more to appear open and trustworthy, and if done correctly Twitter Q&As might be the way forward to ensure this. The onus will be on PRs to prepare clients and anticipate the tricky questions which could easily get fired at a company or organisation with financial services.

Breakfast time for  Abchaps certainly provided more than just the usual coffee and toast this week! We attended The Royal Society of Chemistry to hear insights from The Royal Scientist magazine experts and a breakfast briefing hosted by AIM where Meryam Omi of L&G Investment gave a particularly strong argument as to why NEDs should be responsible for ensuring business sustainability.

We were also invited to the Jumeirah Carlton Tower by the Arab Bankers Association where a whole host of Arabic financial professionals from all over the world came together to build relationships and share ideas. Mid-week, Smith and Williamson hosted a fantastic evening of Tries, Tikka and Talk with Will Greenwood sharing some amusing tales from his Lions and England days and we welcomed our own guests into the office for two Market Lunches to discuss the latest developments in the worlds of digital technology and the Oil and Gas industry.

Dorsey and Whitney LLP has moved its entire team of staff to its swanky new office building in Broadgate. The law firm has set up camp in the Grade A office building, 199 Bishhopsgate and will now share lifts with employees from the likes of Stephenson Harwood, Pinsent Masons and Reed Smith – keep it friendly chaps!

Another law firm adding talent is Eversheds – recruiting a new partner, Andrew Herring from Greenberg Traurig Maher, to its international transport team.

Smith Square Partners also adds strength through hiring Paul Baines. Baines' previous roles includeCharterhouse Bank and Hawkpoint Parnters.

"SMinterview" - To arrange or conduct an interview, the exchange of questions and answers, via a social media platform

It’s the weekend of creepy goings-on, zombies in the night and spooky encounters as Halloween celebrations hit full steam. So, if you can tear yourself away from scrounging sweet treats and playing tricks, London is hosting a number of spectacular events.

Head over to Portobello Pop-Up for Tee’s and Cee’s ‘Halloween Movie Mash-Up Weekend’. From Friday to Sunday, it will host a horror themed cinematic experience of cult classics: Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm street and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Guests will also be treated to Halloween themed food, drink, games and activities. And don’t forget the fancy dress!

The London Dungeon’s is opening its doors to its first ‘Late’ for a special Freight Night ’Dungeon after Dark’. In addition to the attendance by Guy Fawkes and Sweeney Todd, there will be appearances (or not!) by a number of ‘virtual’ guests such as Henry VIII and Jack the Ripper as well as the typical over-18 shows and ‘surprises’!

Finally, keep the kids entertained this weekend and get them involved in the Halloween celebrations at London Zoo’s ‘Boo at the Zoo’ event and see what creepy creatures are lurking in the shadows!

Alternatively, see what spooky going’s on are occurring at the the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a special Harry Potter ‘Ghostly Goings-on’ tour at Warner Bros Studio.

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 18 October 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Monkeygate

“Roy Hodgson is a man of the highest integrity”; were the words the FA Chairman Greg Dyke used to describe the England Manager in the wake of Monkeygate where Roy during his half time team talk at Wembley on Tuesday against Poland rather naively referred to Tottenham’s mixed race winger Andros Townsend as a monkey! It was not only the FA head to rally behind Hodgson, but a number of England players took to Twitter to defend Hodgson, including Townsend, the ‘victim’ in all of this.

Wayne Rooney defending Hodgson

A very quick bit of background for the non-football fans out there; at half time, during Tuesday night’s must win World Cup Qualifier against Poland, Roy Hodgson referred to an old Nasa joke about a monkey and an astronaut whereby Andros Townsend was the monkey, and right back Chris Smalling was meant to be ‘feeding him’ i.e. give Towsend more of the ball.

By all accounts Hodgson apologised during half time, and as far as the England squad was concerned, it was case closed and England went on to beat Poland 2-0 and qualify for Brazil 2014.

So how was the Sun able to run a front page story the next day about this joke which did not even cause offence? Simple, an England squad member whose identity is not known (and it is now being rumoured as two members) leaked the story to the tabloid. A PR disaster for the FA? When the country should be celebrating qualifying for the World Cup and the apparent £100 million participation in a World Cup brings to our economy, instead the talk has been about Roy’s gaffe.

The FA and England team should have enough team spirit and internal openness that this should not have been leaked causing a PR problem. This is important for any organisation, but particularly for one like the FA where there is so much public scrutiny owing to the Luis Suarez and John Terry incidents. Companies need to ensure any grievances are addressed internally to avoid a dissatisfied member going public.

The amount of support levelled at Hodgson from players and chiefs are the right action to take to support in this case a CEO in the limelight for the wrong reasons.

Let’s now forget about Roy’s naive joke and concentrate on the World Cup and how England’s participation can aide Britain’s economic recovery.

Another busy week for Abchaps: we entertained Locke Lord over a creds swap, including their Oil and Gas experts and a Cards and Payments guru! We also hosted a Market Lunch where positivity on IPOs was heavily reinforced by all our guests.

We also attended events including Rushlight Events Fracking economic vs environmental debate, Shares Investor Mining and Gold Evening, Cleantech Investor’s Automotive Cleantech Breakfast. Farrer Dinner, Grouse & Grape Lunch at Dartmouth House, Thomson Reuters AIM nomads networking forum and an PR focus group hosted by Farrer & Co.

Oriel Securities secured an excellent acquisition this week with the appointment of Kenneth Rumph. An environmental financial analyst, he specialises in energy and resource efficiency. With previous experience at Nomura and Merrill Lynch, he brings with him a wealth of knowledge and enormous skill.

Meanwhile, Edison appointed equities analyst Angus McPhail from Investec to their oil and gas team, to specialise in mid-cap explorations companies, whilst Taylor Wessing hired partner Matthew Jones (most recently at Nabarro) in its construction and engineering group. BDO also appointed Stuart Deacon from Ernst & Young as restructuring M&A partner in its business restructuring team.

'Xenophobia' - the irrational fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or of another culture. #Monkeygate #ChinaFactor

Frieze, the biggest contemporary art event of the year, is back in London for its 11th year. 152 of the world’s leading contemporary galleries from 30 different counties will be gathering in Regent’s Park this weekend. In addition to viewing and purchasing art, visitors will be able to experience projects, talks, debates and discussions by key arts aficionados.

Head North London direction for the Bloomsbury Festival 2013. Running for six days from 15 – 20 October, over 200 free events will showcase an extraordinary line up of the world’s most influential thinkers through an eclectic programme of pioneering art, music, dance and literature.

Celebrate the closure of National Chocolate week at ‘Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s’ Evening of ‘Chocolat’. Bea’s has teamed up with master chocolatiers Valrhona for an interactive movie night: following on-screen cues when the character tucks in, taste the five chocolates of the films. Additional treats of chocolate chilli and chocolate popcorn will also be available!

Follow us on Twitter @AbchurchComms

Friday, 11 October 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: A Tweet to Yesterday affects Share Price of Today

On Thursday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted in remembrance of the (1973) Yom Kippur War, making reference to an Israeli air strike on Syria. Upon hearing this news, traders reacted and raced to buy more oil, the consequence of which was that the price of oil increased by $1 by barrel. This was despite the fact that the tweet mentioned “soviet weapons” and included the hashtag “#YomKippur73”…

Firstly, this shows how twitter content can be incredibly influential on our markets and economy. Secondly, it demonstrates that we no longer read the news. We scan it.

There is a proliferation of communication channels that we synthesize in order to form our opinions; a proliferation that has both positive and negative implications. On the positive side, it means we now have a broader view of what is going on around us on a minute by minute basis. However taking the cynical stand-point, this story also demonstrates the potential danger of these communication channels: in order to make our way through all of this information, we scan our news feeds and websites as opposed to reading them. Our brains tend to pick up on key words that trigger alarm bells, thus forcing us to act first and think second. So the traders on Thursday read the words Israel/ Syria/ Air strike, and reacted. Instantly.

There are two take home messages here: Firstly, whilst the content of our tweets is undoubtedly crucial, our choice of words and the structure is also important. Is there any way they may be misinterpreted if scanned at speed?

Secondly, and more importantly, we must remember who our twitter audience is and how important it is to communicate news via the platform. Twitter is no longer just the playground of the ex-facebook crowd; traders, analysts and other key influencers are also signing up and logging in.

We've all been mulling over how twitter may change post-IPO. The general consensus is that twitter will have less clutter and spam accounts after the float. Perhaps Thursday’s traders may give twitter a swerve for a week or two, but there is no doubt that the rest of the rest of us will carry on logging in…

This week Abchaps hosted a high-brow China market lunch, as well as attending the Temporis Capital Drinks reception, and a fascinating debate about Impact Investment at the Social Stock Exchange.

One of the highlights of the Alternative Investment Market’s calendar is the AIM-awards dinner that took place on Thursday. As well as being a guest of Meridian Equity Partners, we hosted a great table with guests from Cenkos, Sanlam, Naibu, CroweClarkWhitehill, Bird & Bird, SpAngel and Versarien. Congratulations to Allenby Capital who won Best Research Award.

This event certainly put us in a winning mood, which is appropriate considering that on Tuesday Abchurch was shorlisted for PR firm of the Year at the Quoted Company Awards. We are very much looking forward to the awards ceremony on the 29th January 2014.

This week has seen a shake up to the big accounting and advisory practices: Grant Thornton appointed Usman Malik as director of mergers and acquisitions, Smith & Williamson appointmented John Rugman, previously of PwC, as head of valuations and finally Baker Tilly welcomed a selection of new partners to its London office - Andrew Conti, Chris Knowles, David Moran, Steve Jacob, and Mark Nisbett, congratulations!

Also on the move, Luke Whitmore of Baker & McKenzie has migrated to law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse where he is to be partner in its derivatives and structured finance division.

"Financial Shenanigans" - Acts or actions that mask or misrepresent the true financial performance of a company or entity.

Fresh from it's sold out run at Edinburgh Fringe, the hilarious Gothic comedy The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner written by Tim Downie is on Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from now until the end of November at the Charing Cross Theatre.

This weekend mark’s the end of London Cocktail Week, so no better excuse for a tantalising tipple! Head out to celebrate our capital's unrivalled cocktail culture at one of the many pop-up bars, tastings, parties, master-classes or even go with one of London’s 150 pre-established cocktail venues. 

For some artistic culture, opening today is the exhibition “When Britain Went Pop - British Pop Art: The Early Years” at Christie’s new Mayfair gallery - displaying 140 rare pieces of work from the likes of Eduardo Paolozzi, Gerald Laing, Allen Jones and his First Step and Swingeing London to Richard Hamilton’s famous depiction of Mick Jagger. 

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Friday, 4 October 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: “SHUT DOWN, SHUT DOWN; [do not] READ ALL ABOUT IT”

With the World’s largest economy close to complete its first of week of national shutdown and their failure to address the debt ceiling, it's absolutely inexplicable that the British press has not reported this in greater detail or with a greater sense of urgency. Yes domestic news this past week has indeed been grabbing – such as the Milibands and the Mail, and David Cameron and Boris presenting a relaxed, united if not slightly awkward alliance/ double act. However, the potentially catastrophic consequences that will ensue for the entire global economy should the US Government fail to ratify the Federal Budget means it simply must get more column inches globally, putting pressure on a small bunch of lunatic Republicans, the infamous “Tea Party”.

Government shut down in the US is bad enough but the failure to raise the debt ceiling is going to have catastrophic effects globally. As IMF headmistress Christine Lagarde warned yesterday ahead of the IMF’s annual meeting in Washington next week, virtually every single investment bank and fund is holding US bonds.

Obama wants the debt ceiling raised before 17 October but the right wing Republicans want to roll back the size and scope of the debt ceiling, and the roll the central government takes in politics, a traditional liberal conservative stance. Reality is though that the Tea Party Republicans are only really concerned with not offering a single cent of the Federal purse to go on healthcare, or 'Obamacare' as is it more popularly referred to. The US Government has seen this kind of stand off before, but unlike the Clinton days, there is a greater feeling of mistrust and genuine dislike between with the Grand Old Party and the Democrats, and probably why Christine Lagarde is voicing her concern.

This morning, the Financial Times was the only paper in the UK to place any great importance on the chest puffing going on at Capitol Hill by referencing the goings on on their front page. President Obama has today cancelled a visit to Asia which hopefully might persuade editors to place greater importance on the stalemate in Washington in the coming days.

A deal simply must be made between Democrats and Republicans in Congress otherwise the stories that will be dominating the news will not be of the positive economic outlook and recovery or the latest Daily Mail faux pas but that the World will be in a full blown depression a la 1929.

This week Abchaps were delighted to welcome Numis Securities into their city view offices. It was great to meet the team and share ideas about the financial markets and the life sciences industry. As keen as ever to keep up to date with the latest Cleantech innovations, we were fascinated to hear about the latest developments in energy saving and storage at the Cleantech Investor Breakfast. Kiwi Power, Quarry Battery, S&C Electric and Itron, thank you for speaking. Tech was not to be forgotten, however, with the Wine Meets Tech event in Canary Wharf. With wine and cheese in hand, Abchaps were briefed on some very promising tech start-ups. In the latter half of the week we sampled the hospitality of GVC Holdings (at The Gallery) and finnCap (at Coq d’Argent). Both companies were excellent hosts and we hope to be able to return the favour.

FinnCap has announced four new hires: Julian Blunt and Grant Bergman have joined its corporate finance team, whilst Guy Hewett and mining specialist Mark Heyhoe have joined the research team. Investment bank SP Angel has appointed Zac Phillips and Richard Hail to run its oil and gas investment banking team, whilst Investec Specialist Bank appointed Joanna Turney to its growth and acquisition finance division.

'Debt Ceiling'- The debt ceiling is a cap on the total amount the US government can borrow..

Experience a taste of Malaysia at Trafalgar Square tonight. The heart of London will be showcasing the best of Malaysian cuisine, culture and music.

Back by popular demand, the second annual Big Lebowski Party at Bloomsbury Lanes is taking place tomorrow. In addition to the film screening, there will be an all American hot dog eating competition, cocktails and of course the Jesus big strike bowling competition.

To celebrate London’s iconic National Theatre’s 50th anniversary and 800 productions, it is putting on a whole host of talks, tours, exhibitions and much more. Head down tonight to hear Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton discuss their experiences in the National Theatre.

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Friday, 20 September 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: What is the cost of good content?

Jim Edwards, it seems you were right.

Just one month on from the “The Sun” controversially hiding its online content behind a paywall the statistics have shown that whilst the Red Top may have been enjoying greater revenues, they have paid for it with deteriorating audience numbers.

The latest report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (released yesterday) reveals that since the Sun introduced its pay wall, its numbers have dropped by as much as 60%.

And it doesn’t seem that this disgruntled 60% simply stopped consuming their rouge-news after August 1st… They simply tapped a different URL into their internet search engines and surfed off elsewhere. For example, last month enjoyed a boost of nearly 20% of daily browsers in the wake of the Sun’s pay wall crashing down.

There was a great deal of controversy when the Times implemented its “hard paywall” back in 2010. As Edwards has predicted for the Sun, The Times did suffer from depressed readership and became the least-read “quality” newspaper in the UK. However its paywall introduction wasn’t a total failure; they managed to accrue over 100,000 paying visitors and are still successfully operating from behind this subscription line. Three years into its pay wall era, CEO Mike Darcey says that although their reach was reduced, their number of “meaningful readers” has been maintained.

But should the Sun and the Times be punished for wanting to charge readers to their content?

With the new revenue produced from paywalls, news publishers can afford to spend more on their staff, resources and technology, thus producing even better content. In an age where print is dying and citizen journalism is under-mining the power and resources of accredited journalists, should we not be supporting our news publishers?

Do we, the ever demanding news-starved rabble, deserve free web-content that in years gone by we would have had to pay for in hard copy?

And where does this leave the world of corporation communications? Do we steer clear of feeding reports at paywalled publications simply because we see their numbers dwindling, or do we continue to provide them with stories, information and interviews that would help keep their (now costly) content engaging, useful and (above all) informative?

Perhaps the simplest solution would be for all news sites to operate from behind a pay wall. This would then remove the inorganic competitive edge and would ensure that all publications could be free to charge their users and thus re-invest back into producing good content and accurate reportage.

For now, however, perhaps the public should just take the bitter pill and pay for their news. The Sun shouldn’t be embarrassed by its resultant dwindling figures (it has since withdrawn itself from the ABC web traffic audit) and we should all accept that in this life you don’t get anything for free…

A busy week for all, attending some great events including Smith & Williamson’s wonderful Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition 2013 with guest speaker Rt Hon Michael Portillo; Stephenson Harwood’s corporate finance team’s annual party, hosted by John Inverdale and Warren Gatland; and ‘A Late Night @ Bird & Bird’. We also hosted two market lunches, the Corporate and Financial Group Committee meeting and a day of clay shooting for our Northern region contacts.

As well as welcoming another new graduate, Abchaps also attended the Global Mining Finance Autumn Conference, a CIPR seminar on Social Media as Market Maker, and entertained some guests at the Chelsea vs Basel Champions League match…. Quite a week!

Law firms Brown Rudnick announced the appointment of new corporate partner Sophie McGrath, who joins from Morrison & Foerster, whilst Pinsent Masons appointed Peter Rosher, formerly of Clifford Chance, as partner in the Paris construction arbitration team. Accountancy firm Crowe Clark Whitehill appointed Andrew Manning from Deloitte as partner in their not for profit team.

'Tabloid': a newspaper with a compact page size smaller than a broadsheet. Commonly now it is popular to reflect a populist style of journalism and reporting.

Enjoy street food and live music tomorrow night at The Urban Food Fest on Shoreditch High, running every Saturday night for the next month.

If you can get to Camden Town for the iTunes festival this weekend, you’ll see Primal Scream, HAIM and Ellie Goulding.

Head down to Firth Street to see the latest in design from around the world at London Design Festival.

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Friday, 13 September 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: You’ve got Mail! IPOs are all the rage

With the heralding of technology and a multiplicity of competing networks, devices and systems in which to communicate letter-writing became all but defunct. Twitter, created in 2006, now boasting over 200 million active users, and has instigated revolutions, dwarfs the 497 year old postal service, both in size and usage. Considering how the growing popularity of Twitter and other digital platforms are directly impacting the decline of Royal Mail's popularity, it’s ironic that both are putting their shares up for sale on the public markets at the same time.

It was all the more ironic because Royal Mail’s privatisation is so long overdue. Just as Royal Mail was enjoying the limelight of announcing its plans, Twitter’s single '$10 billion tweet', set Royal Mail once again into the sidelines and stole its thunder. There have been so many missed opportunities for Royal Mail to go public, such as in 1987 when Margaret Thatcher ruled out the idea. The second opportunity came in 1993 when Michael Heseltine tried to revive the idea.

Had it have been privitised in the 1980s or 1990s it could have had the access to private capital that would have enabled it to expand dramatically and become a real global player in logistics and parcels as is enjoyed by Deutsche Post, privitised by the German government in 2000. This is a market position Royal Mail could once have enjoyed but now can only dream of. Even the figures speak for themselves. Royal Mail’s valuation of a £3billion market capitalisation pales in comparison to Twitter’s £6.3billion valuation. Despite Royal Mail’s big moment being stolen by Twitter the 497 year old organisation will still reap enough benefits from its float.

This week, Abchaps went to the 20/21 British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art in Kensington, sponsored by Faskin Martineau. The fair exhibited hundreds of art works, displaying the cream of the crop with what Great Britain has to offer the art world. Works included the likes of Banksy, Henry Moore and Bridget Riley. We also hosted two Market Lunches, one focusing on China and the other covering fracking and renewables.

Our lawyer friends over at Covington and Burling have welcomed Charlotte Hill as partner from Stephenson Harwood, to specialise in financial regulatory matters. Similarly, Reed Smith has appointed Jonathan Solomon of Denton’s as a partner in its energy and natural resources group. Pillsbury’s IP practice has gained two skilled lawyers, James Tumbridge and Paul Harris, who join from Gowling’s LLP, whilst broking house Panmure Gordon has hired Patric Johnson as head of securities from Investec.

'Spacefiller' – a heavily damaged stamp, often with multiple large faults.

Escape the rain and capture some colour and culture at the London Design Festival. Celebrating London as the deisgn capital of the world, visit one of the 300 exhibitions and events such as the world’s biggest lava lamp at the Southbank Centre or the Endless Stair at Tate Modern.

Great British Bake Off fans should head down to The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court. Baking stars such as Baker Brother Tom Herbert and master patissier Eric Lanlard will be demonstrating their skills. Also, with offerings of a ‘cake catwalk’ and cake and bake marketplace, how can you refuse this sugary temptation?

Alternatively, head across to Ladbroke Grove for the launch of London’s first alcohol-free bar. With a big collection of tantalising mocktails, Redemption Bar opens to prove fun can be had without the booze!

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Friday, 6 September 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Corporate Complaining Goes #Twiral

When BA flyer Hasan Syed decided to complain about his lost luggage he did not decide to do it in the conventional way but instead bought a sponsored tweet: “Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous”.

Although his tweet achieved 25,000 impressions, sending his complaint viral, it didn’t quite top the coverage achieved back in 2009 by musician Dave Carroll. When baggage handlers for United Airlines broke his guitar on a flight to Nebraska, Mr Carroll used a comical youtube video to complain.

Within one day the video had been viewed 150,000 times, and it has since accumulated over 13 million views. The story hit the headlines, and in May 2012 Mr Carroll published a book titled: United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media.

Both stories demonstrate the power of the #tweetcomplaint... Instead of Mr Syed’s and Mr Carroll’s greivances being hushed, hidden and dealt with discretely (as used to be the way) they were branded over the internet and the stories made famous.

These anecdotes act as a reminder to companies that they cannot just enjoy social media for the purpose of self-promotion, but must also monitor them for just such “rotten tweets” that could infect the rest of their corporate apple…

This new media power is a good a thing; it gives a voice to the people. Without wanting to sensationalize, it forces companies (and even countries) to be more accountable and democratic. At the macro scale, consider Malala Yousafzai and her 2009 blog promoting women’s rights under the Taliban ruling. Without social media and her connection to the BBC, the world might never have known about how limited female opportunities were in Pakistan. Similarly, without twitter BA might never have been forced to scrutinize its baggage handling policy to improve customer service…

So companies now have a new challenge to face: the challenge of social media. They must now manage their public profile, not simply control it as they used to. They must have their eyes open and their ears to the ground to ensure that whatever is being said about them is being noted, responded to and examined.

This challenge can be seen as nuisance to many companies, who have not the time nor the expertise to manage their twitter profiles as well as doing whatever it is they actually do. Social media is now an integral part of business, and if your business isn’t social, then you could be in trouble.

And even if you are able to monitor your own company’s profile, that isn’t enough. Just because your sales are up and revenue is looking good it doesn’t mean that you can’t also be hit by a negative comment going viral. Social media has meant that industry scandals are now contagious, and so if a competitor’s stocks are plummeting due to negative PR it is very likely that your stocks will quickly follow suit. The plunge of the Potash industry just this week is an example of how inter-connected and mutually vulnerable industry companies are…

So, take note of what is being said about you, your company and your industry. Consider how seemingly un-related news pieces could potentially spill over into your patch and destroy your reputation. Above all, make it easy for consumers to complain and manage your twitter account…

This week, Abchaps attended the Conservatives in Communications Young Professionals Committee meeting, whilst the market lunch programme continued its renaissance with focuses on social media and mining. The team also enjoyed the Edison Investment Summer Party at Skinner’s Hall.

Law firm Dentons has strengthened its technology, media and telecommunications division with the recruitment of Bavette Marzheuser-Wood from Field Fisher Waterhous, and Canaccord Genuity has been appointed as Financial Adviser and Broker for Tungsten’s acquisition of OB10 and resultant admission to trading on AIM.

'Twiral' - A tweet that goes viral either due to its scandalous nature or intriguing content.

Dust down the D-J for the Last Night of the Proms and Proms in the Park and celebrate as the BBC concludes its summer season. Get all classical with selection of mesmerising tunes from Elgar, Britten and Handel and Vaugn Williams; all led by the first female conductor Marin Alsop.

This Saturday London hosts a pub crawl with a twist: ‘Lit Crawl London’. The free literary festival is a raucous ramble through Convent Garden and Soho and gives attendees a chance to sample the local brew and also the words of up-and-coming writers, authors and poets.

Meat-lovers can rejoice as Meatopia returns to London’s Tobacco Dock tomorrow night. Feast on a cornucopia of barbecued and grilled meats from world-class chefs such as Hawksmoor’s Richard H Turner and BBQWhiskyBeers’s Sam Daffin and dance to diverse mix of live music from Groove Armada to Electro Blues.

This weekend you could be watching Back to the Future, Zoolander, or Grease on a rooftop in Shoreditch from the comfort of a hot tub, oh yes.

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