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.

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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!

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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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