Lansons

Was it always going to be like this? Brexit roundup Nov 15

After two years of bitter political debate, it seems obvious with the benefit of hindsight that this is where we’d end up, with a messy compromise.  Not quite in, not quite out, reflecting the very split nature of the country and the strong rear guard action fought by Remainers since June 2016.  Despite achieving a feat in getting a deal agreed with the EU in the first place, Theresa May appears to have pleased nobody this morning.  Brexiters feel this is a betrayal of their wish to make their own decisions, free from Brussels’ grasp, Remainers still aren’t getting their precious second referendum to try and convince people to change their minds.  

Some are blaming the Prime Minister – and a lot of blame surely lies at her door – for not finding a better way through.  She held an unnecessary election that reduced her room for manoeuvre, used inflammatory language that failed to ingratiate her with those who lost the referendum or with her counterparts in the EU, and then went back on some of her commitments to Leavers.  She managed to upset everyone.  There’s no point in pretending however that there was a clear way through, and that someone else may have done a better job.  That is not however likely to stop both sides from wondering.

With Cabinet resignations happening now, the numbers likely to support the Prime Minister – already very slim – are dwindling by the hour.  Jacob Rees-Mogg is urging his grouping to vote against the deal, Remainers on both sides are weighing up the gamble of voting against in the hope it will push a second referendum, the DUP look likely to vote against it if they feel it puts a sheet of paper between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the SNP, Lib Dems, and Labour have already said they would vote against.  We still haven’t heard from Scottish Tories, known to be concerned about their positioning vis-à-vis the SNP.  As the numbers stack up in front of us, it’s a wonder the Prime Minister is even bothering to table the deal with Parliament in the first place.

So where next?  If, as seems likely, the deal fails to pass, the Prime Minister may go back to Brussels to try to get something extra.  And what if that’s not successful, or still looks unappealing?  Option One – Remainers would like a second referendum, but that’s only going to happen if they force the Prime Minister’s hand.  That could happen but there’s no indication yet that is likely, and will only happen if the PM feels there’s no alternative.  Option Two – there is a General Election, and that really doesn’t solve anything, as we’d take up precious time voting and still slide towards Brexit day with no deal.  Option Three – there is no deal, and as unpalatable as that may be, it’s the easiest outcome to achieve because MPs don’t have to do anything for that to happen.

Among all this, there’s the possibility swirling that a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister may be called today.  It’s not clear how losing the PM at this stage would be helpful, even if you disagree with her, because any replacement would take more than a week to get up to speed on the job.  So British politics is, to put it mildly, in a bit of a mess this morning.  But then, this is just all the division and bitterness that the last years coming to the surface. 

Top Brexit reads this morning

  • The Government has released the full draft text of the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU after two years of negotiations with the bloc, following a 5 hour Cabinet meeting last night. [Gov.uk] [City AM]
    • The paper has caused two Ministerial resignations, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey and Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara. [BBC News]
      • Around a third of the Cabinet expressed concerns about the deal, while International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom are also reportedly “considering” their positions. [The Sun]
    • It has also sparked controversy in the ERG and pro-Brexiteer factions:
      • The Times’s Sam Coates has reported that the ERG has formally changed strategy on Theresa May’s leadership, and could trigger an imminent no-confidence vote, with one source telling Coates that the vote is a question of “when not if”. [The Times]
      • ERG member Nadine Dorries told Robert Peston last night that she “absolutely” believes Conservative Chairman Graham Brady will have received the 48 letters needed from MPs to trigger the vote by lunchtime today. [The Express]
      • Nick Timothy, May’s former Chief of Staff, has accused the Prime Minister of “capitulation” and a “horror show”. [The Telegraph]
    • Media reaction has also proved critical, as The Sun’s front page reads “We’re in the Brexs*it”. [The Sun]
    • May will make a statement on the deal to the House of Commons this morning at 10:30am, following by a question and answer session with MPs that could last up to three hours. [The Sun]
    • A poll undertaken by Politico last night has shown that only 16 percent of respondents thought the draft agreement was a “good deal”, while only 28% said MPs should approve it. [Politico]
  • European Council President Donald Trusk and EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier have held a joint press conference this morning, confirming that a EU summit will be held on 25th November to ratify the deal. [Politico]

 

Interested in how we can help your business survive Brexit? Find out here with our Brexit Planning Workshop.

 

Innovation through cooperation – How sharing with our peers brings out the best in us

Lewis Wilks, Lansons, reflects on PROI EMEA Regional Summit in Paris, 2018

PROI EMEA summit

October saw Paris play host to the PROI Worldwide’s EMEA Regional Summit; a collection of 28 independent agencies from 24 countries across the region, coming together for three days to share, debate and demonstrate.

The summit brings together business owners and staff to share their experiences, explore ways of working with each other and provide examples of best practice.  It was fitting to gather in ‘The City of Light’ as the assembled agencies united to illuminate the emerging trends and insights that would spur new business opportunities and enable agency development in the coming years.

The focus of the summit was ideation and innovation, with the assembled agencies coming together in the shadow of the iconic Eiffel Tower to share strategies and tactics on this topic. As an attendee, the opportunity to discuss the future with other communicators, made one thing very clear: an independent agency’s best opportunity to challenge itself and ensure it remains truly innovative is by cooperating with others who may have similar challenges but a different approach.

Looking at our partners’ differing solutions to the common trials most independent agencies face was truly eye-opening. While some spoke on the need to differentiate your client’s content in a digitally saturated world, some declared experiential ‘in-person’ activations were the only way to stand out. While some shared the message that creating a culture of ‘group accountability’ was the best way to effectively manage an agency, others spoke of the need for leaders to spend significant time to reflect on themselves to best function in their role. We also explored new tools and technology, alternate systems of measurement and different views on how best to ensure creative thinking.

Lansons – a long-time PROI partner, with its co-founder Clare Parsons now the Chair of PROI Worldwide – also brought its unique understanding to share with the attendees. Running a practical workshop on how to inspire creativity, we shared our approach to generating new ideas; whether it’s against the backdrop of the Parisian skyline or simply in your standard, city boardroom. The message was clear, and one universally felt by participants: creativity and innovation is vital, if you’re coming up with a 12-month strategy or simply trying to develop a single piece of content.

Our approaches may have been different, but the intellectual curiosity of all attendees was central to the summit. It was this desire to have our thinking challenged and our actions questioned by one another, that was key to the true innovative spirit of the three-day meeting. Guest speaker, Hemming  Lindell – chief sales officer of Gullers Grupp perhaps said it best: ‘Research is a social process’. It’s only by interacting, sharing and ultimately questioning our behaviour that we can truly nurture innovation in our work and what better group of people to do so with, than some of our industry’s most inspiring and accomplished thinkers.

The event was hosted by PROI Worldwide Paris partner Thierry Wellhoff and Wellcom. It was co-chaired by Henning Sverdrup (Släger Kommunikasjon) and Kaija Pohjala (Cocomms)

PROI Worldwide, the world’s largest partnership of integrated independent communications agencies, was founded in Europe in 1970 and has offices in more than 135 cities in 50+ countries. With 75 agencies across five continents, PROI Worldwide is the 5th largest communications partnership in the world with more than 5,400 staff servicing 8,200+ clients worldwide and 2017 net fee income exceeding US$ 868million.

 

Lansons Gender Pay Gap Report

Lansons and equality

Throughout our 30-year history Lansons has been a champion of gender equality, supporting talented women and creating a culture where they can excel.  As part of this, we have committed to reporting our gender pay gap voluntarily, even though we have just over 100 people in the company. 

Today Lansons is made up of 64% women and 36% men.  What’s of particular pride to us is that our management team reflects this gender split, as does ownership of Lansons [by financial holding]. 

Lansons is a partnership and a third of our people own the company.  We felt it was only right to include our partners’ guaranteed earnings and performance bonuses in our gender pay gap calculation since partners represents such a large part of our workforce.

No Gender Pay Gap

We are proud to say we don’t have a gender pay gap. As a mean calculation our men are paid just 0.8% more than women. Our middle-earning woman (the median calculation) earns 15% more than her middle-earning male counterpart.  This is because she is further forward in her consultancy career than the middle-earning man.  The proportion of men and women in each pay quartile reflects Lansons’ gender split. 

Gender Pay Gap

pay quartiles lansons

 

Our bonus distribution across gender is also entirely equal.  On average men got a 12% higher bonus than women. At the very top of the agency gender balance is equal and, having fewer men in the company overall, it means that our very senior men account for a higher proportion of our men, driving average bonus up.  The middle bonus for our women (the median calculation) was 31% higher than for men.  And again this is logical, because the woman receiving this bonus is more senior than the man receiving the middle male bonus.  This percentage is further enhanced because bonuses as a percentage of salary increase the more senior you are.

Gender Pay Gap Bonus

 

The Future

Our aim is to continue to maintain a gender pay gap as close as possible to zero and to continue to reflect Lansons’ overall gender split in our management and ownership structure.  A move towards a more balanced gender split is our ultimate direction and is already reflected in more equal gender balance at our most junior levels, as we succeed in attracting more men into the industry.  This is illustrated in the slight shift towards men in our lower quartile pay bracket. 

We are proud to have no gender pay gap and are comfortable that the figures reflect how people fall within our agency structure.  With a ‘promote first’ philosophy that sees both men and women rise through the agency on merit, we know that median figures in future years are likely to shift to reflect this career opportunity for everybody.

We will continue to publish our gender pay gap voluntarily every year.

Note: ‘Today’ is 5 April 2018, the date for all our GPG calculations

Lansons’ Public Affairs Briefing- On the Autumn Budget 2018

Welcome to the latest Public Affairs Briefing- On the Autumn Budget 2018

Click here to read all of our insights and takeaways from the Autumn Budget.

Click to read Lansons Public Affairs Briefing- The Budget

Topics covered include:

A doublespeak Budget

What’s missing from the Budget?

what's missing from the budget

The Budget on Twitter

The Budget on Twitter

Reaction to the Budget

Reaction to the Budget

What the polls say

What the polls say

Upcoming events

Lansons events

 

If you want to sign up to our public affairs briefings, email marketing@lansons.com or sign up here. 

Budget 2018 detailed briefing

Budget red briefcase

 

Following on from yesterday’s Autumn Budget 2018, Lansons’ team of Public Affairs experts have prepared this detailed briefing for you with analysis on the announcements made by Philip Hammond.

Read the document in full here.

Look out for the team’s insights and further analysis in our special edition newsletter coming out later this afternoon.

To sign up for our newsletter and industry insights, simply click here.

Lansons’ Autumn Budget Briefing

Read Lansons’ briefing on the Budget 2018 where our team set out the key measures the Chancellor announced today. You can view it here.

Lansons Autumn Budget 2018

Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his latest Autumn Budget today, where he announced that the Government will “turn on the spending taps” to bring the era of austerity to an end.

However, this came with a stark warning that his public spending commitments and tax cuts would be put in jeopardy if the Brexit negotiations end with no deal.

His narrative was that the Budget is one for “Britain’s future” – an economy working not for the few, not even for the many, but for everyone – as he unveiled measures to invest in the NHS, schools and defence, as well as to back enterprise.

Our team of Public Affairs experts have produced this briefing for you setting out the key measures the Chancellor announced. You can view it here.

Email PublicAffairs@lansons.com for your tailored Budget briefing.

Lansons’ Budget 2018 Speculation

Lansons’ Public Affairs experts bring you the latest insider speculation ahead of the Budget this afternoon.

Click here to read the full document.

It is split between confirmed measures and speculation. All the most recent pieces of speculation are in red.

Philip Hammond

If you’d like to receive a full summary of the announcements made following the Chancellors speech and link to the Red Book, or a more detailed overview of relevant announcements and papers subsequently produced following the speech, contact our Public Affairs team on PublicAffairs@Lansons.com

And watch out for our special Budget 2018 newsletter edition coming out tomorrow.

2018 Councillor Awards

We are delighted to share that Lansons’ Lorna Russell is shortlisted in the 2018 Councillor Awards for Young Councillor of the Year!

As well as being an Account Director and Partner at Lansons, Lorna is also a Labour/Co-op Councillor for Fortune Green, in the London Borough of Camden. It’s a role she has held since 2014.

These annual awards, run by The LGiU and CCLA, are the only national awards to honour the hard work of councillors from across the country that often goes unrecognised.

 

Lorna Russell - Councillor

With nearly 200 nominations, competition was extremely tight this year. The full shortlist is available on The LGiU website at www.lgiu.org.uk/project/lgiu-cclas-cllr-achievement-awards-2018

Winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony, which takes place on Tuesday 6th November and will be selected by a group of judges made up of local government experts and councillors.

Good luck Lorna!

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Conservative Party Conference- Lansons briefing #3

Lansons conservative party conference

Read our daily updates from the Lansons Public Affairs Team at the Conservative Party Conference….

Theresa May

Roundup

She did it. Theresa May has survived the week in Birmingham, swatting away attempts to destabilise her by Boris Johnson and even managing to pull off a fairly intellectually neat end of conference speech.

In fairness it could only have gone up, after last year’s cabinet splits and disastrous speech, and to give her credit the Prime Minister made a joke of her previous performances. Lacking the razzmatazz one might have seen from David Cameron, she provided a steady riposte to Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal to the public. The PM put in a good effort to stand up for capitalism and her party’s approach to helping ordinary people get by. Naturally for a Tory audience, the biggest roars were for her determination to push on with Brexit and execute the will of the people. There’s now clear blue water between the Conservatives and Labour over Brexit, and only time will tell if it results in a long term shift in voting patterns.

Certainly, speaking to business this week there have been a number of comments that the bigger threat comes from some of Labour’s policies rather than Brexit, so a move to the opposition as a result of it still seems unlikely. However Carolyn Fairbairn of the CBI put in a strong case for Chequers and the impact a no deal Brexit might have on the economy. Clearly there’s still a lot of effort coming from big business to provide support to the Prime Minister’s plans, however the membership who turned out in Birmingham didn’t hear it. Instead they were queuing round the corner to hear Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson demand Theresa May ‘chuck Chequers.’ There were no cabinet rifts this year meaning things were more settled, and although the former Foreign Secretary still caused a stir with his appearance the line to take was that he’d ‘peaked’.

Fringes and parties were busier than ever, with a lot of focus on the digital economy, increasing productivity and housing. While the party is trying to focus a bit on domestic policy, everybody knows that the Government will need to spend the majority of the next year getting the country ready to leave the EU, so announcements were fairly light on the ground.

So where will we be at next year’s conference? By that time we will have left the EU and a new relationship will be beginning to form. While there is currently an expectation the Prime Minister will not survive long, there’s definitely an admiration for her dogged determination in the face of in-fighting and the greatest shift in Britain’s foreign policy for a generation. Perhaps that might mean she gets to stay on a bit and, with focus able to return to matters domestic, we’ll see a return to the policies and values Theresa May spoke of on the steps of Downing Street when she first became PM. It will not have gone unnoticed that those words won her wildly high polling numbers and helped her decide to call and election. A week is a long time in politics, but a year is very long indeed…

May’s Conference Speech

Theresa May has just finished her keynote speech closing the Conservative Party Conference. Following last year’s embarrassment where she suffered a sore throat, letters falling off the backdrop and being handed a P45, she faced a lot of pressure to unite the party behind her and prove she is fit to fight on as Prime Minister.

Dancing on to the stage, Theresa May opened her speech apologising if she coughs, as she had been up all night super gluing the backdrop so it did not fall off– mocking last year’s technical disasters that marred her speech.

In a message to the entire UK she said if we come together there is no limit to what can be achieved and that the future is in “our hands”.

She shared her concern at the level of abuse which has been levelled against politicians, stating “people who put themselves forward to serve have become targets”. She called on Conservatives to rise above abuse and make a positive case for their ideology.

Turning on the Labour Party, she said it was they who rejected values that bridged the divide between the two parties. She said what has befallen Labour is a national tragedy and that it was up to the Conservatives to make sure he can never ruin the country.

Moving on to Brexit, she said there had been disagreements in the Party for a long time, but it was her job to do what she feels is in the national interest. Firstly, that is honouring the result of the referendum and secondly, seeking a good security and trading relationship with Europe. In an impassioned plea to all sides of the party she asked them to unite to make sure Brexit actually happens, but she said she will not get a deal at any cost. May sent a clear message to the EU, that the UK will never accept splitting up the UK and staying in EU in all but name.

Having not mentioned Chequers by name, May referred to it as a ‘free trade deal’ to protect businesses and employees as well as protecting the union.

She said if the party does not come together then the country risks a Labour Party who will accept any deal the EU offer. May accused the Labour party of not acting in the national interest, but their own political interest. Unsurprisingly May ruled out a second referendum. Calling it “a politician’s vote, politicians telling people they got it wrong the first time”.

In regards to business, and with a dig at Boris Johnson, she said “you may have heard there is a four-letter word that we Conservatives want to do to you – back businesses”.

May spent a lot of time defending the Conservatives’ economic record, she said Labour’s centre piece policy, making employees shareholders of their companies, is a stealth tax on enterprise saying “ideas that might seem attractive at first glance, but which would hurt the very people they claim to help. Workers wouldn’t become shareholders – and much of the income generated would end up with the government. They dress it up as employee ownership, but it’s a giant stealth tax on enterprise”.

In a strong message to her party, she said Conservatives need to do more than just criticise Labour, but must act. She highlighted her record on the economy saying she had; toughened up corporate governance, changed rules on bonuses, changed how people work in the gig economy, changed employment rules as well as introduced the energy price cap.

Turning to housing, May said that the Conservatives cannot make the case for capitalism if people cannot own capital. She said building more homes is the most important factor to helping people get on the housing ladder. With this she announced that the Government would lift the cap on how much councils can borrow to build new homes.

Concluding her speech she said that national debt is starting to fall for the first time in a generation, but it was not easy and people need to realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel and because of their sacrifices better days lie ahead. She said austerity is over, but framed it as being dependent on a smooth Brexit.

She finished her speech saying that she wants a party “not for the many and not for the few, but for everyone who plays by the rules”.

The new announcements in the speeches are below.

New announcements:

  • New Cancer strategy which will come from new money to NHS
  • Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022 for an entire year
  • Auto compensation for those who have delayed trains
  • A higher rate of stamp duty on people abroad to level the playing field for British buyers – money raised will go to rough sleeping.
  • Scrapping cap on asset housing revenue
  • Freeze fuel duty once again

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Conservative Party Conference- Lansons briefing #2

Lansons conservative party conference

Read our daily updates from the Lansons Public Affairs Team at the Conservative Party Conference….

The Arrival of Boris

Arrival of Boris Johnson

For some, anticipation has been building all week for the moment Boris Johnson arrives at conference to deliver his latest round of criticism for the Prime Minister’s Chequers Plan. Like him or not, he carries a star following in the membership, and that shows with the queues that will form wherever he goes to speak today.

The media have tried to set a narrative that his arrival puts a cat among the pigeons, and to some extent that’s true. Virtually every interview with a senior minister has included a line of questioning about his views. The difference this time is that there’s very little dissent within the cabinet, so internal briefing is really at a minimum. As well, many of the old guard backbenchers are going around saying there’s no appetite for a putsch against the PM, and so his attacks fall somewhat short of the mark, those who might have supported him having followed him out of Government when the Chequers Plan was announced.

Consequently, Theresa May is not facing questions about her leadership at this conference; instead focus has been much more on the likelihood of her plan getting through Parliament. There are, naturally, as many views on this topic as there are delegates.

Media stunts are Boris’ natural territory, and the appearance of him in a field of ‘wheat’ in many of today’s newspapers will do everything to get him coverage and nothing to undermine the view that he’s very good at big show criticism and not so good on solutions.

Boris clearly wants to use this time to position himself as the party’s next leader, and if it were up to the membership alone he would sail through. Behind the scenes however, he needs to do more to reassure parliamentary colleagues, for many of whom he has peaked, annoying them by not demonstrating unity when it is most needed. Without those MPs on side, he won’t get through the early stages of the ballot. Despite this, there’s no immediate obvious challenger to his position, though the Tory Reform Group is doing its best to position itself as the ‘anyone but Boris’ camp. Admittance to their reception this week in Birmingham was ‘one-in-one-out’ owing to the number who wanted to attend. Perhaps, when the time comes, there’s hope of a contest after all.

Philip Hammond’s Speech

 

“F*** business…”.

This was the phrase utilised by Boris Johnson earlier in the year as he set out his stall on the Brexit negotiations and the concerns that a no-deal scenario would have on UK businesses. Yesterday at conference, Philip Hammond aimed to reset the relationship, once again making the Conservative Party the traditional ‘Party of business’.

Launching an attack on the “illusory utopia” of a prospective Labour Government and the policies set out last week by his opposite number, John McDonnell. The Chancellor gave a measured yet confident speech which emphasised the cautious nature of his time in the role.

Only two new policies were launched, a packet of measures aimed at boosting the Apprenticeship Levy, which has come under heavy criticism lately, and reforms to help productivity across SMEs. The policies include:

  • An extra £90m enabling employers to invest a quarter of their apprenticeship funds on people working for businesses in their supply chain – boosting the number able to benefit from high-quality apprenticeship training.
  • A further £5m for the ‘Institute for Apprenticeships’ to introduce new standards and update existing ones so that more courses can be offered – meaning more choice for those considering their training options.
  • £20m will be invested in networks to enable SMEs to learn from world-leading firms, including: GSK, Amazon, KPMG and Siemens.
  • A further £11m will pay for a training programme that will build management skills lacking in many SMEs. This will help 2,000 businesses in its first year, with an ambition to train 10,000 people per year by 2025.

There was also a note of warning to online firms for not doing enough to get their houses in order, despite repeated warnings from Government. The findings of a Treasury policy paper are due to be announced this Autumn – perhaps ahead of the Budget – on the merits of a new Revenue Tax, to help level the playing field between online firms, and the high street. One to keep an eye on.

Finally, and snuck in to the bottom of the policy announcements, was the announcement of a new independent study, led by the National Infrastructure Commission, on the telecoms, energy and water regulators. Stated as a way to “ensure [regulators] have the ability to encourage investment, promote competition and innovation and meet the needs of consumers in the 21st Century”.

No doubt included to combat the argument for large scale nationalisation advocated by Labour.

There was also a snippet on the Budget (29th October) with fiscal Phil saying “…be in no doubt I will maintain enough fiscal firepower to support our economy [in-light of a no deal Brexit]”. All in all, don’t expect fiscal fireworks this October.

What’s On Today

On the third day of Conservative Party Conference, tension between the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson is expected to intensify, as the latter makes what is being dubbed an “alternative leader’s speech” to a Conservative Home fringe event at 1pm. The former Foreign Secretary is expected to call for the Government to “chuck Chequers”, before urging party members to “believe in Conservative values” in order to defeat Labour. Johnson is also predicted to announce his support for tax cuts in the UK post-Brexit, while Politico has reported his advisors have instructed event organisers to make the appearance look “prime ministerial”.

In response, the Prime Minister has decided to unveil a key post-Brexit immigration policy originally devised to be included in her leader’s speech tomorrow. Under May’s plans, European workers will be treated in a different manner from those coming from other parts of the world after 2021, while EU tourists and business travellers will be able to travel without difficulty, but long-term residents and workers will require VISAs. The proposals, intended to please party members and steal press coverage from Johnson, will be supported by a full round of media appearances by May, including a slot on the Today programme. The policy will also be proclaimed by Home Secretary Sajid Javid in a speech at noon: It remains to be seen whether the policy will divert sufficient attention from Johnson to avert embarrassment from the Prime Minister.

In other, more low-key developments, Jacob Rees-Mogg will speak to the Telegraph’s Christopher Hope at 12:30pm, while DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright will speak on the regulation of the internet this evening, following Philip Hammond’s suggestion yesterday he would act to tax “digital giants” such as Amazon and Google.

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Conservative Party Conference- Lansons Briefing #1

Lansons conservative party conference

Read our daily updates from the Lansons Public Affairs Team at the Conservative Party Conference….

Just Getting By

Things couldn’t really get much worse than last year’s conference debacle, or could they? The omens were not good when an error with the conference app meant some personal details of cabinet ministers were divulged. Boris Johnson has used his high profile and popularity with the membership to try and set the agenda for this conference with a range of media appearances, and indeed the Chancellor Philip Hammond was asked about him this morning on the Today programme, suggesting it has to some extent been successful.

Despite this, the Prime Minister does have some positives coming to Birmingham. A few polls over the weekend showed the Tories remain ahead of Labour, increasing their vote share after Jeremy Corbyn’s successful conference last week. It’s almost as if the public don’t watch the Party Conferences…

She also has a fairly united cabinet, who are determined to help her push the Chequers deal, or some version thereof, through to the final hurdle, despite the pretty definite opposition of the membership who dislike anything that smacks of retained links with Europe.

So what is the object of this week? By and large, it is simply to survive, to get by, look competent, and maybe make a policy announcement or two. Nobody is expecting this to be the moment Theresa May turns her premiership round, but some positivity and hope for the future, with some big ideas about policies wouldn’t go amiss. There certainly wasn’t any evidence of that when the Prime Minister spoke to Andrew Marr yesterday.

And yet, in the crowded hot rooms of the conference, there are flashes of light. The Scottish Conservatives reception last night was huge, with roaring and cheering as Ruth Davidson stepped on to the platform to introduce her deputy Jackson Carlaw and the Chancellor. Here at least there is a person Tories look to with optimism. Many will have been thinking it’s just a shame she’s ruled herself out of contention to be Prime Minister…

What’s On Today

Philip Hammond

 

Today in Birmingham, Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to make a speech outlining the Government’s fiscal planning for Brexit. Sky News has reported this morning that he will use the address to express confidence the UK could survive a “no-deal” Brexit amid increasing concerns the UK could be forced into a “disorderly” exit from the EU. The publication also claimed the speech would focus on the “fiscal capacity” of the UK, ahead of the Government’s Autumn Budget on 29th October, which Hammond announced last week. The Chancellor will also discuss issues around house prices, small business support and low wages before rounding on former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, labelling him as having “no grasp of detail” on Brexit.

The second day of Conservative Party conference will also see a selection of speeches from other figures from the frontbench, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Business Secretary Greg Clark Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey. Clark’s speech comes just days after he told reporters the UK “needs to have a deal”, contradicting the stance of Theresa May on the UK’s ability to survive a “no-deal” scenario.

Meanwhile, Raab’s delivery will proclaim the “limits” of the UK’s ability to compromise with the EU, in a hard-line stance to EU negotiator Michel Barnier and European Commission President Donald Tusk. Furthermore, the Brexit Secretary will reaffirm the UK’s opposition to any eventuality where it is “locked in” to the single market and customs union, as reported by the Evening Standard.

Weekend Roundup

The opening of the Conservative conference yesterday did not go perhaps quite as Theresa May would have liked.

First, on Saturday it emerged that the party’s conference app had an embarrassing security breach, whereby it was possible for anyone to access the personal details of attendees, including MPs, journalists and diplomats, simply by entering their email addresses.

Party Chair Brandon Lewis was grilled about the breach on Ridge on Sunday, and refused to say whether he would resign. Many have pointed out that just last week he boasted about the functionality of the app, which he hoped would help to overhaul the Conservatives’ image and appeal to younger voters.

Brexit also looms over the Prime Minister, though she remained defiant on the Andrew Marr show, stating that: “I do believe in Brexit.” She maintained that her Chequers proposal is not dead and is “the best deal for Britain”, and made a plea for party unity.

The talk of the conference thus far, though, is Boris Johnson’s manoeuvring to undermine Theresa May’s Brexit plan and position himself as her successor.

On Friday he set out his “plan for a better Brexit” in the Telegraph, and yesterday he pushed his message further in the Sunday Times, asserting: “Unlike the Prime Minister, I campaigned for Brexit. Unlike the Prime Minister, I fought for this, I believe in it, I think it’s the right thing for our country and I think that what is happening now is alas not what people were promised in 2016.”

This was very much the hot topic during the Sunday political shows, where Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Education Secretary Damian Hinds were both loyal to Theresa May and her Chequers plan during their respective slots. Somewhat surprisingly former Brexit Secretary David Davis took a swipe at Boris by saying that his Brexit proposals made for “good headlines” but “not necessarily good policies”, while less surprisingly International Trade Secretary Liam Fox revealed that he would be happy to serve under a Boris Johnson led Cabinet.

Boris Johnson’s auditorium speech on Tuesday lunchtime, followed by his planned “chuck Chequers” rally later that evening, will be ones to watch.

Meanwhile, away from the headlines, the party made a couple of policy announcements over the weekend:

  • Foreign property ownership: Theresa May announced that foreign property buyers will face additional stamp duty of 1% or 3%, with the money raised being spent on tackling rough sleeping
  • Cadets: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a new cyber training programme for cadet

 

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Lansons wins ‘Best IR agency or Best PR consultancy at the Corporate & Financial Awards’

Co-founder Tony Langham stated that – “The win reflects our growth in consultancy around financial transactions, IPOs and M&A. In the current environment companies are seeking reputation management advice from a consultancy that understands the whole of society not just the financial community”.

 

tony langham corporate and financial

 

“Really proud to be recognised for the value we add to clients, which is testament to our fantastic team of experienced problem solvers delivering advice, ideas and results the Lansons’ way – 360 degrees insight, integrated thinking and powerful partnerships with our clients, our people and the world around us. Wonderful to celebrate with our clients, Post Office and Aldermore, with awards showcasing the breadth of our work spanning Best use of digital media, Best M&A communications and Best evaluation of a communication campaign.”- Laura Hastings, MD

 

corporate and financial awards

 

 

Gameplanning the Brexit Deal

Jim Pickard’s scoop in the FT that Labour plan to vote against any Brexit deal got us thinking about what likely scenario will play out as and when a deal with the EU is agreed.

That is of course assuming a deal can be made.  It is reported that the deal is about 85% complete, but the sticking point of the Northern Irish border remains.  Both sides have been equally vociferous about their positions, with the UK determined that its constitutional and economic integrity cannot be split down the Irish Sea (despite some things like energy regulation already all-Ireland), and the EU exclaiming that its four freedoms cannot be split (despite deals with Switzerland, Norway, Ukraine and others to the contrary). 

But looking beyond the headlines at the detail, it’s clear that officials on both sides have found workarounds for many technical issues, and are probably doing the same for this one, irrespective of the impending doom many salivating journalists would have us believe.

So back to the assumption that a deal can be reached and this comes back to Parliament in November for approval.  Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has suggested that the opposition will vote against the deal.  That is because she judges that achieving a workable deal is impossible.  Labour’s criteria – that the UK enjoy the exact same benefits of EU membership but the referendum result must also be respected – are indeed impossible, and so it is on that basis she has decided a deal will never be good enough.  Given how complicated the subject is, it’s not clear the public will see Labour’s attempt to face two ways for what it is.

It does however seem likely that the Labour leadership will take this position, because it is always difficult for any opposition to resist the opportunity to go for a government jugular. The calculation is that by defeating the Prime Minister, an election is called that Labour have a good chance of winning, or at least dent the Tories sufficiently to form an anti-Tory coalition.  This may be the closest the current crop of Labour top dogs get to power, so why not take a chance?

Despite this, all is not lost for the Government, and it all comes down to a game of parliamentary arithmetic.  The Prime Minister needs to ensure that no more than 10 of her own MPs vote against her, and to ensure that the DUP vote with her, in order to see any legislation passed.  It is because of this that she mustn’t concede too much on the Northern Ireland issue.   We also know that perhaps 2 or 3 Labour MPs may vote with her to ensure Brexit continues.  While 25 Tory MPs have said they will vote to defeat Chequers, that number may shrink in the face of an impending Government defeat, but not disappear altogether.  On the face of it, that would leave things on a knife-edge in the House of Commons. 

However, the unknown quantity here is the non-Corbyn supporting Labour MPs.  They may see sense in at least getting a deal sorted before Brexit, presuming we would otherwise leave without a deal, and who do not want to risk a Corbyn-led Labour Government.  The Prime Minister will therefore be reliant on minimising rebels in her own party and encouraging non-Corbyn supporting Labour MPs to be sufficiently worried that Corbyn is on the brink of power. 

Recent left-wing diatribe has been focused on the Labour MPs who helped Theresa May survive the Brexit related legislation in the spring.  Frank Field and others have been duly censured by their local parties, and may not stand again.  Some Labour MPs will therefore be intimidated into supporting Corbyn in the hope of avoiding deselection, though that steamroller is likely coming for them whatever happens.  But some may decide to support the Government nonetheless, recognising that if they can resist an election now, the Tories may survive until 2022, and Corbyn’s star may wane well before that.  Perverse as it may seem, some Labour MPs do not want an election now with the wrong leader, in the hope that they can win an election later with the right leader.

The current Labour leadership, for their part, will know all of this and know that they will need to throw those non-Corbyn supporting Labour MPs a bone in order to minimise the number who may vote with the Prime Minister.  While Thornberry denies it, the greatest bone they could be thrown may come in the form of an offer of a second referendum.  This may entice away an unknown number of Labour MPs who might judge that it is better to have Corbyn as leader and keep Britain in the EU. 

So it comes to pass that the most important remaining group of MPs in the whole of Parliament right now are the non-Corbyn supporting Labour MPs who have accepted the referendum result, led by the likes of Caroline Flint.  Given that Labour seats are by and large in Leave areas, the number of these MPs who feel they had better accept the referendum result is absolutely crucial to the Government’s – and Brexit’s – survival over the coming months.

 

Brexit Timeline

  • 20 September – Salzburg summit – EU27 to meet to discuss Brexit strategy
  • 18 October – EU Summit – official deadline for a Brexit deal
  • 13/14 November – EU Council Plenary – expected summit to agree Brexit deal
  • Late November – UK Brexit legislation to approve deal

Director Claire Southeard promoted to Management Board

Lansons has promoted director Claire Southeard to its Management Board, following her appointment by the reputation management consultancy last year.

Claire’s appointment to the now 9 strong Management Board, which is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, recognises her rapid and significant contribution to Lansons. Her role is to speed up the development, transformation and integration of Lansons’ digital, content and marketing offer.  She joined the agency 11 months ago having previously worked as a managing director within two global consultancies. 

Tony Langham, Chief Executive of Lansons, comments: “Clients want two kinds of services from strategic consultancies: reputation management and integrated marketing.  Claire has already been central to bringing our content offering to an exciting place. Her success to date, together with her previous managerial experience, make her a natural for our management board.”

Claire commented: “I am thrilled to join the management board to help shape the future of the business. It is testament to the senior team’s commitment to maintaining a market-leading proposition that we have been able to develop our multi-channel offer so quickly. With the vision and talent in this agency, I am excited and ambitious for where we will take our integrated marketing services next and the opportunities that offers our clients and our people.”

Lansons is the only PR consultancy that is a member of the Content Marketing Association (CMA).

My Lansons work experience: Chloe

Every year Lansons runs a summer work experience programme when we welcome two students a week to join us here in our offices. This programme provides students with an opportunity to enhance their skills, gain insight into the industry and experience communications as a potential career choice. Students are introduced to Lansons through our links with social mobility partners who help people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, staff referrals and client contacts.

Read about Chloe’s experience at Lansons in her own words here:

This week I have been buddied up with Sophie, a Junior Executive, to help her complete different tasks throughout the day as well as meet with other Lansons employees who have helped give me a real insight into the working life here at Lansons. I have genuinely enjoyed every day here and now have a true understanding of PR.

Overall this week I have learnt about the significance of PR to different companies and the government and how much they rely on the advice and guidance of PR companies like Lansons. This week has also shown me all the different ways PR links to journalism and the media, which I did not realise before.

Lansons skills from work experience

My Monday started with making a cuttings booklet for clients which was very helpful in understanding the kind of work Junior Executives do for their clients. During the week I was responsible for creating a briefing document and then harnessing those journalist research skills to develop press lists. I undertook a competitor analysis research project and helped the wider junior executive team by creating an excel instructions document. As well as this, I gathered some regulatory new hooks research for a client planning calendar. All the projects that I have been involved in have shown me the importance of a Junior Executives role to the client and the kind of work they do daily. These tasks also required doing research on Lansons’ clients which was interesting to see the use of PR in a financial aspect. I also made some exciting calls to MPs offices which revealed the public affairs side of PR.

During the week I also met people working on Lansons’ different teams such as the marketing, international, campaigns and consumer team. This was so helpful in seeing the branches of PR and other potential careers that Lansons offers.

I have enjoyed every aspect of this week but significantly I have loved the working environment here at Lansons. Everyone is so welcoming and kind, from offering tea every 10 minutes to giving me valuable advice for my future, it has been a friendly and warm working environment which bought me ease on the first day as I was quite nervous! I have also enjoyed actually working in an office in London as it has been eye-opening and a valuable experience as I have never done anything like this before.

Overall, this week has helped me to see that PR is a career for me and something that I would love to go further into once I have finished school. I am grateful for this experience as I have learnt so much and it has helped me develop valuable skills that I will definitely use again and will hopefully be back at Lansons again soon!

My Lansons work experience: Imany

Every year Lansons runs a summer work experience programme when we welcome two students a week to join us here in our offices. This programme provides students with an opportunity to enhance their skills, gain an insight into the industry and experience communications as a potential career choice. Students are introduced to Lansons through our links with social mobility partners who help people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, staff referrals and client contacts.

Read about Imany’s experience at Lansons in her own words here:

I have never considered or even been exposed to the wonderful world of PR until beginning my placement here at Lansons. As an A Level student, I have the struggle of deciding my entire future but not a clue what to do after university. However, my time at Lansons has reminded me that no matter the degree, there is a pathway which allows me to help others and work on some truly fantastic projects.

Prior to completing my work experience, I definitely thought I was going to be in a corner, making tea and coffee but my time at Lansons has been nothing like this. I have been thrown into working on really interesting projects such as investigating life insurance in the Isle of Man, researching relationships between parents and children and analysing the social media accounts of a corporate finance team.

During my week at Lansons, I have done coverage scans over a variety of financial publications, learned how to use applications such as Roxhill and Factiva to efficiently find out about journalists and new articles concerning clients, I have contributed towards the creation of a briefing note and discovered the steps involved in the sharing of a press release. In addition to this, I have observed countless meetings and client calls which has only intrigued me more into the field of PR.

Lansons work experience

All of this has been done under the guidance of the amazing Matthew Birtles, a fantastic Junior Executive, my buddy for the week, who is so friendly, funny and caring. He has done an excellent job of making sure I always had something interesting to do as well as a cup of tea to drink.

Another massive factor which has shaped my time at Lansons has been that everyone is genuinely so friendly and interested in everyone that they work with. The fact that promotions and personal achievements of colleagues are celebrated by everyone with a victory trolley is something I didn’t know happened at a work place. There is always someone to check up on you and make sure you’re getting on well which I have massively appreciated this week.

In addition to this, I have greatly benefited from the mentoring sessions where you learn about the different aspects of PR in order to gain a broader understanding of the career. This has particularly brought my attention to international PR which I would love to get into, should I pursue a career in PR.

A key thing I have taken from this experience is that financial PR is not just maths, the sheer variety of positions and things to achieve at Lansons allow you to work on projects that connect you to the worlds of journalism, mass media and generally helping everyday people because it embraces an assortment of skills and teachings such as History, Drama, Languages, Marketing etc which I think is so rewarding.

While I have truly enjoyed my time at Lansons, I intend to continue in education by studying a modern languages degree at university, however I will definitely be considering a career in PR and I hope to return to Lansons very soon.

4 Easy Steps for an Effective B2B Content Strategy

B2B is dead. Long live B2B? Google reports 6,700,000 mentions of B2B’s demise, so if this isn’t new news, why are you here? Because B2B content still exists as shorthand for targeting a business community – to the tune of 173,000,000 mentions. Or you just liked the title.

So, what’s the problem with B2B? There isn’t a problem with B2B, more what it has come to mean: a certain approach – a tone of voice, or channel strategy that’s more restricted than B2C. Just because a person works in business doesn’t reduce the need for great creative work or insightful planning. B2B has become synonymous with stereotyping to the nth degree. That’s the problem.     

According to LA-based branding agency wearefine.com, we should use ‘H2H’, or Human 2 Human. Like it. Especially when considering Ai, and predictions around user defined limits on the type of branded content we’ll see around us. But whilst we figure that out, here are some easy tips for an effective B2B/H2H content strategy. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

B2b content strategy

1. Identify and understand your audience

So, you need to raise awareness / address reputational challenges / increase purchase consideration / steal wallet share from competitors / communicate the benefits of a legislation / provide ongoing customer value to support a rebrand / change behaviour / transform an organisation from within. And you’ve decided content is the answer. Yay! But making consistent and relevant content to address a challenge is hard.

You’re already aware that tailoring your message to your audience is critical to success. But the task goes beyond messaging matrixes. Decision-making is complex, our modal states of mind, the societal / environmental influences, how conversations and relationships affect our propensity to be open to suggestion all have an impact on whether we trust a business. Whilst we may never understand the full extent of these impacts, it is vital to invest in understanding the audience properly. Lansons has published a great book by psychologist Dr Helena Boschi on this very topic – Why we do what we do – which seeks to unveil the sources of decision-making in work and personal situations. Not that we’re pushing it mind.

2. Listen to your people

Some of the strongest proof points or messages that have the power to place your business ahead of the competition can be found amongst your workforce. Make sure you provide a means of having a regular two-way dialogue with them. And listen to what they say. Here at Lansons, we have a team of award-winning and published change management consultants specialising in internal communications. If you need support with engaging your employees, drop us a line.

3. Create value for your audience through relevant and consistent messaging

Not many people like being sold to. And content programmes that rely on brochure-ware methods are a waste of budget. Unlike the Value Exchange which seeks data in return for a newsletter, or a salesy report, an effective content strategy needs to deliver ongoing value to the defined audience. GDPR debates aside, in the context of content strategy, a value exchange is about giving people content that is of worth to them, not the other way around. If you can make someone’s day job easier, provide a fresh point of view, or give them the know-how to become successful, then the content strategy has worked and they’ll keep coming back for more. 

4. Be brave

The most effective campaigns are the ones that speak to the heart and mind of the individual. Sure, but they’re also the ones that come from excellent audience insight, talented creative teams, and an open-hearted stakeholder group, alongside the prerequisite blood, sweat and tears. But it takes bravery on everyone’s part to deliver something truly exceptional. So, go forth and conquer that challenge!   

 

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Lansons wins Public Relations Agency of the Year in Europe

Lansons is delighted to be named the winner of a Silver Stevie Award in the Public Relations Agency of the Year in Europe category in the 15th Annual International Business Awards today.

Lansons Stevie winner

The International Business Awards are amongst the world’s premier business awards program. All individuals and organisations worldwide – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small – are eligible to submit nominations. 

This is the second year in a row Lansons has won this prestigious award and we were thrilled to read the judges comments:

“Love that this company is employee-owned. The involvement of your leadership on the world stage speaks volumes and contributed heavily to this high score.”

“The performance of this company is really outstanding.”

“A very special kind of agency. A business model that should be adapted by much more PR companies.”

The 2018 IBAs received entries from 74 nations and territories. More than 3,900 nominations from organisations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted this year for consideration.

“This year’s Stevie Award winners in the IBAs are the most distinguished group of winners we’ve had yet,” said Michael Gallagher, president and founder of the Stevie Awards. “We raised the minimum average score from the judges required to qualify as a Stevie winner, so 2018 winners should be especially proud of their achievements.”

To date, Lansons has won over 90 industry awards for our client work and been named Agency of the Year 17 times. You can see a full list of our awards here

 

A Corbyn Government is no longer an unknown quantity

Jeremy Corbyn

When Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party in September 2015, few political commentators knew how he had been elected, or how he would operate in Government. It’s fair to say that this confusion has continued well into his tenure.

Corbyn’s long career as MP for Islington offered a few clues on what he would seek to achieve. Over the past 30 years, he has maintained a consistent focus on foreign policy, and an unwavering opposition to US foreign policy intervention, being a vocal critic of the Iraq War. Predictably, he has criticised the actions of Donald Trump and last year said he would “not be afraid to speak [his] mind” on the President. From his Trade Union background, it was also clear he would pursue a domestic agenda of nationalisation in regard to water, utilities and rail, as well as a push for increased funding of the NHS.

The leader’s lack of an established position in other areas has meant that significant parts of Labour policy have largely been shaped over the past three years by close advisors, including trusted right hand man Seamus Milne and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Along with Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, this team of people have been crucial in pushing Labour towards a non-committal, “constructive ambiguity” position on Brexit.

People Management

However, it has become increasingly clear that a Corbyn Government would be ultimately defined by the leader’s people management: he is clearly guided by both a strong notion of loyalty, and an aversion to debate, and to some extent, conflict.

Corbyn’s fear of heated debate is perhaps most obvious when he is forced to think on his feet during Prime Minister’s Questions, a weekly tradition which is increasingly coming to resemble a personal ordeal for the Labour leader, despite his improvement upon previous efforts. His sense of frustration and embarrassment is obvious when addressing the chamber, as he clearly feels the intense pressure of facing hundreds of MPs and subsequently cannot think on his feet. This is despite the fact that his opponent, Theresa May, is equally bad, if not worse, at defending herself before Parliament. On this evidence it seems he will not become one of the great Parliamentarian speakers and would have trouble if defending himself as Prime Minister.

His inability to address conflict has more recently entered sinister territory, and most strikingly when responding to furious allegations of anti-Semitism from Jewish MP Margaret Hodge. Corbyn’s inability to grasp the extent of outrage within the Jewish community has been compounded by his sensitivity towards Hodge’s heated remarks: he reacted in a hurt manner when called a “anti-Semite and a racist”, and only served to escalate a problem largely of his own making.

His response to opposition is more often than not to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

It is perhaps Corbyn’s sense of loyalty that has led him into dangerous territory as Leader of the Opposition, and it is this which is likely to define his Premiership. His decision to rely on a small team of advisors, and promote longstanding Parliamentary colleagues to senior positions – John McDonnell and Diane Abbott being notable examples – has led to friction within the shadow cabinet, over the leader’s wider management approach and communication. His refusal to condemn ally Clive Lewis over sexual harassment, or old friend Ken Livingstone over anti-Semitism has caused far-reaching damage. Shadow Industrial Strategy Minister Chi Onwurah previously remarked that he would “face an industrial tribunal in any other job”, when discussing his operation of the Shadow Cabinet.

Corbyn in Government

On this basis, it seems that Corbyn’s approach to Government would closely resemble that of Tony Blair, who chose to work closely with now-infamous special advisers, including Alistair Campbell and Jonathan Powell. This method of working meant Blair enjoyed a great deal of centralised control. It is likely that Corbyn would seek a similar end, buoyed by the close relationship he currently enjoys over the wider party, among party members and the NEC. However, it is hard to envisage him winning a parliamentary majority large enough to exert the same amount of authority over his MPs, or even his Cabinet.

He is in his element when surrounded by support. Corbyn is a good campaigner, and performed extremely well in the 2017 General Election, where he spent much time speaking before wildly supportive crowds. He duly gloried in the subsequent results at Labour Party Conference. A Corbyn Government would be hard placed to react, potentially hamstrung and cursed by the task of safely delivering the UK out of the European Union, in an increasingly toxic political climate, and faced with a potential economic downturn. His barely-concealed Euroscepticism will come under greater scrutiny if given the challenge of mitigating the economic fallout of Brexit, and it is perhaps credible that he could employ a similar strategy to Theresa May, who in the face of public pressure, has sought to block it out, and concentrate on reconciling divisions within her own party.

Corbyn’s preferred style of Government is no longer in question, his ability to carry it out remains to be seen.

 

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My Lansons Work Experience: Amelie

Overview

Over the last week I have been helping with various tasks, learning about the multiple roles in PR and meeting many interesting people, but I am now sad to say that my work experience at Lansons has drawn to a close.

From coverage logging and writing briefing notes providing information on journalists for clients, to helping create an invitee list for an event and producing a planner of events and awards, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Lansons. I have also enjoyed working alongside Junior Executive Sophie, who has helped me with many things such a media cuttings booklet for the next trust report, and a media analysis of key themes in recent editions of the Times and the Telegraph.

 All projects I have helped with during my work experience have given me a real insight into what working life is like for somebody in PR. 

What I’ve Liked

Although everything I’ve participated in has been of great value and interest to me, a highlight of my week has been attending meetings that have given me a glimpse into the different parts of PR. Before I started my work experience placement I had no idea that there were so many routes you could go down that suit all interests, and after speaking to many people in different positions, it has given me more of an idea of the kind of roles that interest me within the industry. I have also enjoyed helping with events and invitees, as well as the Media analysis, as I like doing research in order to find out more about what I’m working on.

Everyone I have met at Lansons has been very welcoming to me, which has also been a reason why my work experience placement has been so successful.  I have also liked the fact that Lansons is a nice environment to work in, and that every employee is clearly valued.  This therefore, has made me hope that when I start my career in whatever industry, I will be able to work in the same sort of conditions.

work experience

What I’ve Learnt

Work experience at Lansons has helped me greatly in two main ways. The first is that it has given me an extremely valuable insight into what I would like to do for my future career. I had always thought of PR as one of my options but I was never too sure about what it entailed. Doing work experience at Lansons has helped me develop a taste of what it is like to be working for a PR company, and thus makes reputation management a more viable option for my future career choice.

Secondly, I have also seen what working in an office is like, particularly in London as I have always wanted to work in the city.  Because I am still in school, being in an office like Lansons was an eye-opener for me, and has given me more confidence about beginning a career after I’ve finished my education.  I have also found that being with people who are six or more years older than me has been very informative, as I have been able to talk to them about what they studied at university to get them to the career they have, as this is all going to become very important to me in the coming year. 

I have loved doing work experience at Lansons, and am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to come here. It has given me a great insight into what I could potentially end up doing for my career, and I have learnt valuable skills that I can use throughout my life.

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Seductive Speech: Build it in Britain

Yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech in Birmingham entitled ‘Build it in Britain’ in which he called for changes that would reinvigorate British manufacturing and take it to heights reminiscent of the glorious 1950s, when Britain was building heaven. It’s funny that both our main parties often look backwards.

Perhaps the public do too.

We’ve been here before. Gordon Brown said something similar about British jobs for British workers a few years back. The rallying cry for jobs and manufacturing to buck the globalisation trend and remain in the UK has been made many times, and it’s as seductive a message as ever. While Brown’s call to action was derided, a change has occurred that allows Corbyn’s message to waft out across the country and receive praise.

Corbyn used much of his speech to bash one successful but unpopular sector of the economy- the finance sector -while praising one that has been more anaemic but retains public support – manufacturing. In his world, the one holds back the other; ‘dirty money’ (his words) in the City must be chased out to allow greater investment in the infrastructure that will seduce builders back to Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn built in Britain

Build more houses, create more jobs, hit the City

It’s a struggling logic, and one his City Minister Jonathan Reynolds will struggle to translate when he talks to banks and other financial services companies, given the taxes the financial sector provide to the Exchequer. But it is popular, and as an opposition that’s all that really matters. Corbyn’s job is to win votes at almost any cost Build more houses, create more jobs, hit the City. It was all in there. But beyond the economic illiteracy, there has been a more worrying trend across Corbyn’s economic narrative in recent years, and it appears to be hostility to the international element, so evident in the financial services sector in particular.

Trump-esque?

Whether it’s procurement tenders or overseas ownership of companies, Labour has tacked toward a more hostile position on overseas investment and ownership in recent years. Trade Unions have also jumped on this, alleging that train passengers are funding the foreign state-owned companies who run much of the network. In his speech, Corbyn is distinctly nativist, and while he won’t like it, also a little Trump-esque. Taken in conjunction with Corbyn’s less than enthusiastic view of the European Union and his reluctance to see British military intervention overseas, it’s clear that the Labour Party under his leadership has become distinctly less internationalist, and a lot more parochial.

Despite this inability to go against the globalisation flow, the message about building more in Britain remains curiously popular in the country. Never mind that no Government has managed to achieve something that would be popular and deliver more jobs and skills. Why hasn’t it worked? And why is Corbyn’s message still popular? Partially, because he’s got a point, and partially because the public retain confidence in Britain that some in the Westminster bubble lack.

One of the key messages in his speech was his desire to tweak procurement rules to make it easier for British companies to win orders, and he makes a good case that international rules allow countries to favour their own markets on issues such as defence. The Government for its part remains committed to the widest possible competition for the Royal Navy’s fleet tankers that could be built here in Britain, and that appears to the public to defy economic logic and common sense.

More skills is a popular message – The Government needs to invest to support that view

For while the Government’s position is that competition drives down the cost to the taxpayer, it doesn’t take into account potential loss of jobs and skills should that work go overseas. The case for free trade is well made in the UK, but the Government does a less good job at explaining whether it is better to buy foreign goods than do things domestically and retain the skills. It’s a message the Conservative Party needs to get better at telling.

The frustrated desire to see Britain build like it’s the 1959 is partially why voters have been so fed up since the economic crash. Wages have grown only slowly, some towns still look depressed and depressing. But the news is full of the rich and powerful enjoying life like nothing really that major happened to the British economy just 9 years ago. And then the public see the Government deliberately- in their view – throwing good money overseas when there are perfectly capable people at home to do the work. It just seems to defy logic.

More skilled jobs for British workers is a popular message, but the trouble is, its core aim never comes to pass. In a world where decisions are made by multinationals chasing the cheapest location, the UK has to be special. The Government should be more honest about that, but if it wants us to be special, it needs to do a better job of investing in the skills that would support the public’s view that the UK can do the work. In his speech, Corbyn wondered aloud why, despite having the capacity to build trains, our factories often lose out to overseas competition. Well, the reality is because it’s a competition, but in asking that question, Corbyn taps into the British zeitgeist that we can do this.

The Government needs a better – and more positive – answer to the sense across the country that the UK is being unfairly held back, and it could do worse than to start by making the case that better British skills and capabilities can go hand in hand with continued international competition to keep costs down. Capitalism shouldn’t be that difficult for the Conservative Party.

 

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Back to Work- Returning to the PR Industry after Maternity Leave

On Tuesday last week, I walked back in to Lansons HQ 15 months after leaving to have a baby. For someone that was only planning to initially take nine months off (that soon went out the window), it’s fair to say I was naturally apprehensive about returning to work. Yes I was going to miss my son, although the thought of being able to eat my lunch without simultaneously entertaining a toddler was definitely exciting. It was more: will I remember how to do my job and how will I fit it around nursery drop offs and toddler tantrums? (We’re at THAT stage.)

I can only talk so far from my perspective and what I think the challenges are for the industry. I would certainly be lying if I said I didn’t have a minor concern about telling clients that I’ll be working a 4-day week, and what about if I had to leave early to get my son from nursery? Yet this surely all stems from having the confidence in where you work and the support system there that is set up for you. Luckily, I had several ‘back to work’ meetings where it was made very clear I had the full backing to do 4 days a week and if I need to leave the office I just go – no excuses or apologies.

Underpinning this, I requested flexible working options to help manage my day and commute better, which were all agreed. I know in many ways this makes me ‘lucky’, but PR is a people-centric career, if we don’t invest in our people and help them when it’s needed, then we’re just putting obstacles in front of them when it isn’t helpful or productive to the working relationship.

‘Flexible working’ shouldn’t be seen as some latest buzzword that will go away – because it isn’t going to – and employers who don’t help their employees work more flexibly run the risk of being seen as archaic. Campaigner and blogger Anna Whitehouse (Mother_Pukka on Instagram) has been campaigning for companies to offer more flexible working after her request for flexible working as a mother was denied for fear of ‘opening the floodgates’. She recently gave evidence to the Welsh Assembly and now it has been named as the “primary focus” for Welsh businesses. So, it isn’t a fad or a phase and it isn’t going away. PR is not a 9–5 career, and digital capabilities enable people to work on the go / remotely, so as an industry we really should have no problem embracing it and doing more than just the basics.

Does the industry go far enough yet in totally supporting working parents? Probably not, but then what industry has it totally nailed down? Things have evolved a lot in the last few years and a lot of companies are doing great work in this area, but there is always more that can be done – compressed hours, greater support for dads to take longer paternity leave, more flexibility to work out of the office, people not just being at their desk to be visible when it’s easier for them to work at home. Talking with some other mums on maternity leave, lots of companies are now embracing coaching for mothers when they are pregnant. The coaching focuses on how they position themselves on their return to work, including words they should and shouldn’t use (like not apologising if you need to leave early). For some companies, this is inbuilt in their ethos and culture. but it isn’t everywhere, so the concept of coaching should be totally embraced by employers to support women returning to work, and hopefully it is something we will see much more of soon.

 

 

This article was originally published on PRCA. Click here to see more.

Lansons is ranked 15th by the Great Places to Work Institute– and we have won the Bronze award in the PR Week Best Companies to Work for.

Talking Brexit to Power: What does the WhitePaper mean for Public Affairs?

  • The Government Brexit WhitePaper is the first clear indication from Ministers on the vision for the future of the UK-EU relationship since the Prime Minister’s overarching strategy speech at Mansion House. Businesses have long demanded clarity and can now start to plan for the future regulatory and legislative landscape in their respective sectors.

  • Lansons has created a table analysing the UK and EU positions on various aspects of the White Paper, so that businesses can assess where there might be give and take during the negotiation process with the EU.

  • With the aim of regulatory alignment on goods and agri-food, but divergence for the services and digital sectors, now more than ever companies need to position themselves in order to capitalise on these potential new trade paths. An assessment of whether there are clear opportunities for divergence, or if these decisions amount to a threat to existing supply chains, need to be made.

  • Lansons has a specialised Brexit planning workshop that can assess the impact on your sector and make strategic and communications recommendations to support your business to prepare for the post-Brexit world.

  • For the services sector, which makes up 80% of the UK economy, the challenges to business models need to be synthesised and communicated both internally to staff and externally to shareholders, whilst the largest cut-through with media and Government officials could lie in focussing on the opportunities this offers to their business, and pinpointing policy suggestions on existing barriers which can now be changed.

  • Lansons can help to assess whether the corporate position of business aligns with the internal and external messaging to ensure you are in the best possible position to make the most from Brexit.

  • Public affairs and communication professionals can help advise clients on how to get the most out of these opportunities, as well as help protect reputations and business models from excessive harm as EU-UK negotiations continue over the next few years.

  • In conjunction with our colleagues in Brussels, Lansons has devised a programme for support and engagement as the various pieces of legislation are enacted in London and Brussels.

  • The current parliamentary arithmetic and dividing lines – within Conservatives and Labour party respectively – add another dimension and demand for a clear engagement and communications strategy, outside expertise can ensure the right tone and help steer clients through ‘Brexit maze’ which currently exists.

  • Brexit will, and is, affecting every business and every sector of the economy. This is a great time to pro-actively engage with MPs, peers, civil servants, as well as increase public profiles in the media by having innovative viewpoints and solutions.

  • At Lansons, we have extensive experience across all of these issues and are actively helping business to see through the fog of Brexit, helping them enhance their own reputation, and reach out to policymakers.

 

Brexit Whitepaper

Top 7 Things you need to know about the Brexit Whitepaper

1. The Government proposes to establish a free trade area for goods

Ministers believe this will avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at the border, remove the requirement for customs declarations, enable products to only undergo one set of approvals and authorisations in either market, and avoid the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

2. The Government proposes a common rule book for goods including agri-food

In order to ensure this is possible, continued participation in agencies that provide authorisation for goods such as the European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Medicines Agency will be sought.

3. The Government proposes a phased introduction of a new facilitated customs arrangement

Ministers believe this will remove the need for customs checks and controls between the UK and the EU as if they were a combined customs territory. The UK would then control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world and ensure businesses paid the right or no tariff.

4. The free trade area would not cover services and digital

The UK and EU will not therefore have access to each other’s markets in these areas.

5. New arrangements will come into force covering financial services

These arrangements are aimed at reserving the mutual benefits of integrated markets and protecting financial stability while respecting the right of the UK and the EU to control access to their own markets. The arrangements are not expected to replicate the EU’s passporting regime.

6. A new framework will come into force covering UK and EU citizens’ rights to travel

The aim is for new arrangements to allow businesses and professionals to continue to provide services in each the UK and EU markets.

7. Continued cooperation is anticipated in other sectors

Partnerships are expected on areas including personal data and its free flow, fishing rights and access, accords on science and innovation, culture and education, defence and space.

 

To view our Public Affairs Page, click here.

Banking Competition Remedies Ltd (BCR) market update

Press release issued on behalf of BCR

For immediate release: 16 July 2018

Banking Competition Remedies Ltd (BCR), the independent body established to implement the £775 million Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) State Aid Alternative Remedies Package, today issues an update on recent activities, including achieving operational readiness; appointment of the third and final member of its executive leadership team; and the timeline for applications for the Capability & Innovation Fund Pool A and the Incentivised Switching Scheme.

BCR progress update

Since the appointment of the two existing board members at the end of April 2018, there has been an intense period of set-up, due diligence, recruitment of third director and staff, as well as RFI/RFP activity and establishment of written policies, along with financial, reporting and administrative processes.

With the staff team joining over the coming months, BCR is now operationally ready to oversee the package of measures designed to enhance competition in the UK SME banking market.

Director appointed

Aidene Walsh has been appointed as Executive Director. Aidene is the former CEO of The Fairbanking Foundation and has over 26 years’ experience in commercial banking at Citigroup, ABN Amro, RBS and Lloyds, leading various international and UK payments and customer businesses.

In joining Godfrey Cromwell (Executive Chair) and Brendan Peilow (Executive Director), Aidene completes the BCR main board. NEDs will be appointed in due course.

Timeline

BCR is now able to share details of the timeline that it will follow to assess and award Incentivised Switching Scheme applications and Capability & Innovation Fund Pool A applications, as set out in the Alternative Remedies Package.

This timeline updates that announced by the European Commission and RBS on 18 September 2017. It reflects the later than anticipated (April 2018) appointment of the two current directors of BCR and the knock-on effects arising.

This timeline is as follows:

  • Applications for the Capability & Innovation Fund Pool A will open on 01 November 2018, close on 31 December 2018 with the awards announced in February 2019
  • Applications for the Incentivised Switching Scheme will open on 05 November 2018 and close on 30 November 2018. BCR and RBS will work with successful applicants with the intention of RBS launching the offers to its eligible former Williams & Glyn’s customers on the same date that Capability & Innovation Fund Pool A awards are announced, in February 2019


The application process remains unchanged.

The purpose of the awards and the criteria for Eligible Bodies (as defined) that may apply for both the various tranches of the Capability & Innovation Fund and the dowries for Incentivised Switching are not subject to change and are outlined on the Government website*.

A market event for Eligible Bodies – organisations that qualify to apply for the Incentivised Switching Scheme and Capability & Innovation Fund Pools A, B and C – is planned for late September and more details will be provided in the second half of August**. The event will explain the mechanics of how to apply and provide a forum for Eligible Bodies to ask questions.

Godfrey Cromwell, Executive Chair of BCR, said: “We have been working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure that the company is put on its feet successfully and appropriate due diligence applied – vital on an innovative project like this and where large sums of money are being disbursed.”

-Ends-

* For a full description of the Alternative Remedies package go to: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rbs-state-aid-alternative-remedies-package/introduction-to-the-alternative-remedies-package-information-pack 

** The process for Pool D applications is still under consideration.

For media enquiries, please contact

Tony Langham; Tonyl@lansons.com; 07979 692 287

Anna McLean; Annam@lansons.com; 07765 567842

Ben Stokes; Bens@lansons.com; 07990 547 680

5-0 to Theresa May

It’s not just the England football team doing better than everyone expected this week. The Prime Minister’s Brexit white paper, as launched with Cabinet Ministers on Friday of last week, appears to have taken the red lines Theresa May spelled out in her Lancaster House speech last year, and smudged them entirely. But with it she has also scored quite a few goals over her opponents.

For many months, May has struggled to reconcile the various difficulties created by her affirmation that we would leave the Single Market and Customs Union. On top of this, she’s had to try and win over the completely unreconciled extremes of her party. The Prime Minister has however come down on the side of a soft Brexit. The UK will still be tied to a Customs Arrangement with the EU. It looks potentially messy, and will not be ready for some time, so the backstop that keeps the Northern Ireland problem at bay will be in operation for a good number of years to come. The Government will also try and convince the EU to allow the UK to cherry pick aspects of the Single Market for goods. But consensus is that it is possibly a workable solution. 1-0 to Theresa.

Beyond providing clarity on the Government’s negotiating proposals, the Prime Minister’s approach has also delivered another benefit for her; they have sorted the wheat from the chaff in Cabinet, with the not-contents having conveniently removed themselves from the decision-making process. This should make subsequent agreement between Ministers much easier – and quicker. The Ministerial resignations, especially that of Boris Johnson, may prove to be own goals, as they mean the Prime Minister no longer has the sword of Damocles hanging over her every decision, wondering whether they will storm out in rage over the retention of some links to the EU. By calling their bluff with her proposals, she can now look forward to more cohesive Cabinet government. 2-0 to Theresa.

This is not to say that there aren’t important Brexit voices left at the Cabinet table – Michael Gove perhaps the most important of those – but those remaining are either happy with the detail of the Government’s position, or realistic about what a clean, hard Brexit means for business and Northern Ireland.

So why did May finally come down on the side of soft Brexit? Firstly – as Boris Johnson and David Davis have proven – because she can afford to lose a few hardline Brexiteers if she can retain those who believe that any Brexit is a win. This will likely be reflected in the wider Parliamentary party too. Secondly, while there may be 48 Conservative MPs who want rid of Theresa May, she would almost certainly retain the leadership in a vote of no confidence, further weakening the hard Brexit Tories of the European Research Group (ERG). And finally, May has taken the soft Brexit option because this is the approach that has the support of the majority of the House of Commons, reflecting the tight result in the 2016 referendum. With the public largely having switched off from the detail, it’s not clear Leavers would feel betrayed by this form of Brexit, and it will likely appeal to Remainers as well. Perhaps the Prime Minister has succeeded in bringing the country together. 3-0 to Theresa.

In the end, the PM’s hard-nosed approach of locking her warring Ministers in a room and threatening them with taxis for one seems to have won out.

It took an age to get here, but it would appear the Government has arrived at a forced consensus, with a manageable number of casualties. Now all they have to do is convince the EU of their approach. Piece of cake.

What next for Britain’s Brexit?

Of course there’s no telling whether EU will reject this approach, but they’ve been noticeably quieter about the proposals than previous ones. In normal circumstances, the EU’s response has been that there will be no cherry picking, and that the four freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible.

There’s a chance negotiators on the other side of the Channel see May has given this her best shot.

They will also be concerned that, having seen May finally declare victory in the type of Brexit she wants to get through, a significant revision of those proposals by the EU would once again harden opinion in Parliament and lead to a situation in which the UK does go for a hard Brexit, or worse still (for the EU) see the Government collapse and risk the unknown of a Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn administration. Neither are likely to provide the EU with a more appropriate arrangement post-Brexit than the one on offer from Theresa May.

And with the Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee Graham Brady having confirmed that he does not yet have in his hand the 48 signatories required to trigger a vote of no-confidence, there’s a chance the Prime Minister has even called the bluff of the hardliners in the ERG. So, without having had to say it, Theresa May has had her ‘put up or shut up’ moment and come out the other side. 4-0 to Theresa.

That’s not to say there won’t be some malcontents who storm out of the Conservative Party, and there’s been plenty of bluster from some Tory MPs since the publication. Nigel Farage has been making noises about coming back to frontline politics as leader of UKIP, and there may be a couple of Tory MPs who fancy a rerun of 2014 when two of their lot defected. However, there’s reason to believe it won’t result in a repeat of the Conservatives’ worries that they were about to be outflanked by UKIP. First, Brexit is happening, meaning a lot of people who might ordinarily have turned to UKIP will be satisfied. Secondly, it would appear that the Government still plan to curb freedom of movement, a core rallying call for UKIP. And lastly, the MPs who left the Conservative Party in 2014 did so in order to soften the UKIP message and make Brexit more palatable to the public. If the hardliners defect, there’s unlikely to be a repeat of that.

Cabinet moves

Theresa May hasn’t been so rash as to avoid balancing her Cabinet again, even if there have been some concerns that the Great Offices of State are all filled by Remainers.

Sajid Javid at the Home Office has always been lukewarm at best about the EU, new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he would now vote to leave, and the Prime Minister herself has been clear that her Government will deliver Brexit.

With the arrival at DExEU of Dominic Raab – an acolyte of Michael Gove and former Chief of Staff to David Davis – there remains a strong presence in the Cabinet for Leave, though of a different hue to that espoused by Boris Johnson and David Davis. As former Tory MP Douglas Carswell urged Leavers on Twitter: “take the win”; and this Cabinet’s Leavers appear ready to do just that. Rumours have swirled that there will be changes to the remit of DExEU, and it remains unlikely that the PM’s Brexit adviser Oliver Robbins will be stepping back from his role. Only time will tell whether Raab – put out by previous reshuffles that saw him left outside the Cabinet – proves to be useful in a post whose remit is about seeing through a Brexit that will happen in 8 months. Either way the reshuffle seems certain to solidify her place, with more power being given to her over the direction of Brexit.

So that’s 5-0 to Theresa in the course of one week. Brexit defined, a Government united, opposition curbed, a workable solution for the EU, and more control over the direction of her most important policy. The England football team could probably learn a thing or two from her.

Conservative Party vote of confidence procedure

If Graham Brady, Chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, receives the required 48 letters calling for Theresa May to go, he is required to start the process for a vote of confidence. While he has confirmed he is yet to receive that number, and Theresa May might well have sufficient support from MPs to remain in post, we set out below the due process the party would need to follow.

  • Graham Brady, Chair of the 1922 Committee, receives 48 letters from Conservative MPs calling for a motion of confidence in the Prime Minister.
  • When this number is exceeded he would call a confidence vote, perhaps as early as the next day. She needs a simple majority to win.
  • If she wins she remains in place and cannot be challenged for another year.
  • However if she loses she is excluded from standing in the leadership contest and an election for party leader begins.
  • MPs seeking the leadership put their name forward and a number of voting rounds take place, with the MP with the fewest votes knocked out until only two remain.
  • The two final candidates are put forward to a vote of the Conservative Party membership.
  • This process takes around 3 months.

 

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Lansons Public Affairs Briefing- Brexit White Paper Special

Welcome to the Lansons Brexit White Paper special where we discuss if Theresa May has played her cards right, what you need to know about the white paper, and how this will affect public affairs. You can also see how Lansons are able to guide your through the uncertain turmoil of Brexit, with our Brexit workshop offering. 

You can view the briefing here:

 

Click to read Lansons Public Affairs Briefing

 

 

For individual articles click on the links below.

5-0 to Theresa May -Michael Stott, Director and Head of Public Affairs

Theresa May Brexit

 

Top seven things you need to know… About the Brexit White Paper

About the brexit whitepaper

UK vs EU

 

Ministerial Moves 

What does it mean for PA?

 

Lansons Brexit Workshop

Brexit white paper

 

To find out more about our Brexit workshop- visit our dedicated page here. 

If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, please sign up to our newsletter here.

 

Do you have an affinity for ESG investing?

<img src=“\\\esg-image.jpg” alt=“Plant growing out of plant pot” title=“Affinity for ESG?”>

The asset management industry is facing a considerable intergenerational challenge. How can it best service the successor generations to the baby boomers to offset imbalances in wealth and the transfer of financial risk from governments and corporations to the individual to help those ensuing demographic groups secure their long-term financial futures?

Part of the solution will be to overcome the levels of inertia that are a natural offshoot of the considerable success that the fund management industry has experienced in serving the baby boomer generation.

In the US alone, the Investment Company Institute estimates that 50% of all mutual fund assets are owned by baby boomers. Put another way, some 15% of US corporate equity and 10% of all corporate bonds are owned by US mutual funds on baby boomers’ behalf (1).

The sheer weight of boomer money in the market does at least mean that the fund industry has a little time before the problem becomes critical. But it also makes overcoming inertia much harder, as the volume of money involved has had a direct impact on corporates’ behaviour.

One possible route to salvation comes from Environmental, Social and Governance, or ESG, investing.

Whilst it is expected to gain traction from the growth of millennial savings and investments, it also highlights how many asset managers tend to approach these issues from a “markets first” rather than “client first” approach.

In the institutional world, ESG in all its guises has primarily been driven by large scale long-term investors that have a shared belief system reflected in their investment philosophy, often (but by no means limited to) faith-based organisations. In short, they represent specific affinities, and the role of the investment manager has been to work with these groups to set up the appropriate investment framework often in a segregated mandate.  Such has been the growth in demand for ESG, that many active managers are seeking to integrate ESG across their entire product suite.

At a retail level, whilst ESG is a hot topic, inflows are often harder to source because retail investors have vastly smaller pots and divergent views. Fund managers tend to develop their own investment strategies which may tilt to a pre-existing strength (either the E, the S or the G) and take that to market. Millennials and other investors are therefore charged with needing to sift through the products out there to find the one that fits their views (2).

That seems an extremely counter-intuitive approach.

Since the asset management industry seems to fear the potential emergence of an “Amazon Asset Management” or a “Google Ventures”, perhaps we should extrapolate how those currently only theoretical businesses would approach this problem.

One can imagine that the answer would be first and foremost to understand the client need. These businesses have proximity to their users and through that can study their behaviour and also are well placed to actually ask them what they want. From that, they can derive a suite of investment products that seek to fulfil its clients ESG needs as they evolve. Effectively, they would set up a small number of groups whose ESG needs are aligned under certain affinities.

Matching this would bring the asset management industry into a more client-focused, co-creative approach, and away from a “one size fits all” mentality. Without that, it’s hard to see ESG really gaining the levels of traction that it is expected to. Many asset managers justifiably lean on the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, but these do not align with all investors’ views.

Obviously, this partnership approach presents a few obstacles. Asset managers are not close to retail investors as a rule. However, distributors are – particularly the more digitally savvy ones. Moreover, there are plenty of affinity groups that exist in the UK that can be partnered with to help in the co-creation, and potential co-branding, of ESG frameworks that are likely to be of widespread appeal.

This collaborative approach should also create a greater sense of alignment with the end investor, and therefore a link with them that exists on emotional as well as financial sensibilities, which is also likely to help the asset manager retain assets during periods of challenging performance.

It is increasingly important that the fund industry better aligns itself with investors and partner organisations to ensure that when it is delivering solutions and positive outcomes that these do meet the ultimate beneficiaries’ actual needs and wants.

This article has been revised from the original which appeared in the Transparency TaskForce White Paper “Ideas to help improve the Future of Asset Management” https://lnkd.in/ehFpnG4

Source. Investment Company Institute Year Book 2018

  1. “Millennial Money: When ethical funds aren’t so ethical”, Kate Beoiley, Financial Times, June 13, 2018

 

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My Work Experience at Lansons

I have now completed two weeks of work experience at Lansons and have utterly enjoyed it.

I completed a week in October and was introduced to all the different departments at Lansons. I attended a Financial News breakfast meeting, was part of numerous brainstorm lunches and helped out Lansons Live.  At Lanson’s live, I assisted with helping to put together a video that presented a piece of Opinium research that had recently been done. It was more media focused as oppose to PR focused. I found it interesting as I was given an insight into another branch of the company that I was not fully aware off.

During my second week at Lansons, I was given a more consistent role, working on the same clients throughout the entire week.  I really got a feel for what a week as a junior executive at Lansons is like.

<img src=“Workshop_21.jpg” alt="Lansons employee work experience” title=“Work experience image”>

What I have enjoyed

I find Lansons a down-to-earth company that wants to really invest and commit itself to the people that are part of the company.  For example, ‘The trolley’ (drinks and snacks where everyone gathers round) to reward people for promotions are just little ways of showing they care about their employee’s success.  After my time at Lansons, I believe that working in an environment where you feel nurtured by the firm is important and something that I will be aware of in future employment.

I really enjoyed feeling part of a team and helping junior executives such as  Alix with her workload and Megan, who I worked with previously in October. At this point I was working on the same clients and was starting to understand the client’s needs and requirements. 

Furthermore, I have enjoyed the fast paced atmosphere at Lansons and found it exhilarating as opposed to stressful, which was not what I was expecting of a PR company, which are often portrayed as the opposite.

What I have taken away

One of the key skills I learned from working at Lansons is how to apply the knowledge I gained from my degree in marketing to a real business. I was tasked with supplying feedback on TEMIT’s landing page. I found this very interesting and it boosted my confidence in myself as a marketing graduate as I felt I knew what I was talking about. I feel lucky that I have had the opportunity to apply my knowledge to a real client as first hand experience is invaluable.

Another task I was given over the week that I really enjoyed was media targeting. This was for Opinium’s World Ocean day in 2018. I was tasked with researching and then choosing journalists to target for the campaign pitch. I also helped with coverage reports for TEMIT, writing briefing notes on journalists, using Factiva and conducting a competitor analysis.

The Future

I have loved working at Lansons and feel that financial PR is an industry that I would really enjoy working in, as well as a medium-large sized agency. In the near future, I hope to gain experience in in-house PR, as I do not know the difference between agency and in-house PR. However, I have loved working at Lansons and hope that one day I can come back!

Interested in working for Lansons? Find out more about our vacancies here. 

Hightide and Lansons Celebrate 10 years!

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We’re celebrating our decade-long partnership!

Lansons and HighTide are thrilled that 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of our award winning partnership. Our partnership was founded on the simple idea of HighTide becoming a resident in Lansons’ offices, to enable us to invest arts funding in theatre production, rather than office space and administrative support. Since 2008, the partnership has grown into a multi-faceted relationship that we are both extremely proud of. The HighTide team have been busy working away in our office at Lansons HQ pulling together the programme for the 12th year of HighTide Festivals and are excited to finally shout about it!

This summer, we’re incredibly excited to present five world premiere productions at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, before transferring them to the HighTide Festivals in Aldeburgh, Suffolk and Walthamstow London, as part of a brand new mentoring scheme for new playwrights and producers. The launch of the programme marks our commitment to creating a bridge that supports new theatre makers starting out on the fringe and is indicative of HighTide’s proven ability in providing a platform for launching professional careers with the UK’s leading theatres.

The fringe remains the key development ground for new writers and producers, so HighTide helping these artists to make the most of it artistically and as a launch pad is an exciting new element of HighTide’ s unique work in championing new talent. In then presenting the plays at our Aldeburgh and Walthamstow festivals, HighTide can both further support the artists in their career development and also ensure a wide range of audiences see the work.

Over more than a decade HighTide has built a reputation for commissioning and producing the country’s best new playwrights at its festival in Aldeburgh, and in theatres across the UK. Last year we launched an additional HighTide Festival after 11 successful years in Suffolk, bringing the HighTide Festival to London’s Walthamstow, recognising both the opportunity for new plays to be seen by as wide an audience as possible, and the lack of performance venues in the borough. The ten day event welcomed over 6,000 new audiences and following this year will return in 2019 as part of Waltham Forest’s London Borough of Culture programme.

HighTide’s centrepiece production this year, co-produced with associate company DugOut Theatre, is a song laced coming of age tale by Aldeburgh-based writer Tallulah Brown called Songlines, and features live folk music from the award-winning band TRILLS.

HighTide’s associate productions selected through an open script submission process are: Sparks; Jessica Butcher’s two-hander musical about the brain’s response to grief; Danusia Samal’s gig-theatre piece Busking It, drawing on a decade of busking on the tube; The Extinction Event from David Aula and Simon Evans an examination of what happens when science starts thinking for itself; and finally, Harry Blake’s fierce, fabulous new comedy musical about Norse gods Thor and Loki.

In a new partnership for HighTide, four productions will be presented by the Pleasance, one of the leading and biggest Fringe venues. The partnership is part of a wider commitment by both organisations to increase support to new writing across the Fringe and wider Festival circuits. Songlines, Sparks, Busking It and The Extinction Event will run at Pleasance throughout August. Thor and Loki will run at Assembly.

In addition to these five premiere productions, both festival programmes in Aldeburgh and Walthamstow feature a stellar line up of high quality theatre, comedy, music and family events as well as our popular series of talks, sponsored by Lansons. Our talks see esteemed much celebrated artists reflect on their careers and work – previous artists have included Sheila Hancock and Celia Imrie.

The full HighTide Festival line up will be announced and on sale from the 3rd July and you can catch our five productions up in Edinburgh before they make their way to HighTide Festivals this September.

Roll on a summer of theatre and fun!

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: 1 – 27th August

HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh: 11 – 16th September

HighTide Festival, Walthamstow: 18 – 30th September

Tickets and more information here.

Or get in touch with Holly White, Assistant Producer, hollyw@hightide.org.uk

 

Silver and Bronze at the Corporate Engagement Awards 2018!

<img src=“corporate-engagement-awards-e1530091228680.jpg” alt=“corporate engagement awards” title=“corporate engagement awards”>

We are delighted to announce that we have won silver for ‘Best Collaborative Approach’ and bronze for ‘Best Arts and Culture Programme’ at the Corporate Engagement Awards 2018 for our partnership with HighTide Theatre.

2018 marks a decade of partnership between Lansons and HighTide. The cornerstone of our relationship is office sharing, whereby Lansons hosts the HighTide administrative team within our Farringdon offices at no charge to HighTide. The money HighTide saves on overheads is invested into producing innovative new theatre by young artists and outreach work to encourage new audiences to attend live performances. Ours has developed into a multi-faceted relationship with unique benefits for both partners. Crucially, HighTide is now recognised as one of the UKs leading theatre companies.

In recognition of our 10-year partnership, Lansons is donating £15,000 towards HighTide’s 2018 festivals in Aldeburgh and Walthamstow.

HighTide’s mission is to stage the best new plays by emerging writers. HighTide playwrights are new, adventurous and diverse in terms of ethnicity, political philosophy, and socio-economic backgrounds. HighTide awards playwrights with their first commission, and these plays are created in Suffolk through the renowned annual HighTide Festival in Aldeburgh and Walthamstow. HighTide re-commissions HighTide Festival writers and tour these productions across the UK.

HighTide’s output has continued to grow, becoming a core organisation supported by Arts Council England in 2011, and staging productions with impressive partners such as the National Theatre and Royal Court Theatre, in the West End and Off-Broadway. As their ambitions and commitments grew, we are proud to extend and continue our support.

 

 

 

 

Heathrow: The Problem with British Democracy Exposed

A Vote in Favour of Heathrow

<img src=“rsz_heathrow_expansion.jpg” alt=“Departures at Heathrow” title=“Heathrow vote expansion”>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end, there wasn’t much of a contest in the votes for expansion of Heathrow.  Last night MPs voted 415 to 119 to go ahead with a third runway, but such a large vote in favour still doesn’t guarantee it will be built, and that’s partly down to our system of Government.

Those with long memories will recall that in 2009, MPs narrowly voted in favour of a third runway, only to see that kyboshed by the Coalition Government when it took power in 2010.  The Tories were then opposed to expansion, much as many of the Labour opposition are today, so there’s every chance that should a catastrophe befall the Prime Minister leading to Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10, the whole thing could be called off once again.  Heathrow had better get digging.

The trouble with Heathrow has always been that MPs find it very difficult to cover their political behinds as they vote; underlying expedients always seem incredibly transparent.  Theresa May deleted commentary from her website suggesting she was opposed to expansion, and the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary were conveniently out of the country on business.  Corbyn couldn’t figure out how to please John McDonnell – whose constituency contains Heathrow – and assuage the Unions who really want to see it built.  And the SNP suddenly discovered they weren’t too keen on expansion after all, despite having been consistently in favour, because Tories and Brexit.  It might have been easier if nobody had needed to vote at all.

But why is this such a difficult topic?  In reality, it’s because there is another problem in our democracy.  Too many senior members of the Government and opposition have their constituencies in and around London.  The Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary, the Health Secretary, and the Environment Secretary all have seats very close to Heathrow.  The Shadow Chancellor’s seat is Heathrow and there are plenty of members of the Government and Shadow Cabinet that sit under Heathrow’s flight path. 

Local decisions or national interests?

It does not make for a healthy democracy when too many of those governing the country represent a small portion of it, and exposes the difficult nature of the parliamentary system when local decisions overlap with national interests.  Members of the Government are made to choose between their MP hat and their Ministerial hat and it undermines trust in our democracy.  However there is one small chink of light in all this; it makes companies devise better plans that will suit as many people as it possibly can, knowing that MPs must be able to carry their constituents with them. Heathrow is a first rate airport because of this, likely only to increase its global regard when the third runway is built.

Interested in this issue? Read Micheal’s previous thoughts on the vote here.

Room to Move

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Angela is Managing Partner and Head of Change at SenateSHJ in Australia. The agency is a fellow PROI Worldwide partner and Angela was recently appointed Vice Chair, Asia Pacific Region for PROI.

Change is one of life’s inevitabilities. It affects us all at some stage, and almost every organisation at some level. We know the theory: if we don’t change, we stand still. That makes change a strategic imperative that most directors will readily acknowledge.

But that doesn’t make it easy.

The Impact of Change

Change is most often driven at two levels: from the Board, who are looking for transformation, whether it’s exploring a new market, adapting to new technology or responding to economic pressures; or by management, who are seeking to improve productivity, refine customer service or change team dynamics.

Regardless of the size or scale of change – or whether its genesis is strategic or tactical – the reality and challenges of change are the same. It is people who have to change, to adopt new business processes and objectives, to create new relationships within and outside the organisation, and, in many cases, to make themselves anew.

It is the experience of people, who respond with both reason and emotion that will dictate the success of the programme. The extent and difficulty of these personal changes should not be underestimated by any Board or senior executive driving change.

Organisations that put in the effort to plan change rationally (and most do) must also put in the effort to understand and respond to its non-rational elements. While one can’t pretend to do it perfectly, people in any situation will respect a sincere effort to appreciate and connect with how they are feeling and responding.

Of the many possible approaches to connect with people as they go through change, there are three that we would highlight.

Keep things real: avoid the language of the MBA and keep honesty and respect as non-negotiable values.

Engage people: use a narrative that is worthy of people’s efforts to change and tell a compelling story which connects both logically and emotionally, and which uses clear language.

Create a dialogue: give people the chance to express what they’re going through, and for the organisation to respond accordingly. Openness goes a long way: if a particular change is going to hurt, just say so.

For change to be successful, we need a decent working understanding of the people who are being asked to change. How are they feeling about what’s happening? What do they think of the future and where they’re being asked to fit in? What are their hopes and fears?

The Four Rooms

One way we’ve started to get a better picture of these emotions is with a tool called the Four Rooms of Change.

The Four Rooms was developed by Swedish organisational psychologist Claes Janssen in the early 1970s to help people reflect on their responses to change. Organisational development expert Marvin Weisbord describes it as “an enormously effective way of freeing people to experience whatever is going on”.

The four rooms – or psychological states of mind – are Contentment; Self-Censorship & Denial; Confusion & Conflict; and Inspiration & Renewal. What people feel and how they speak differ in each room.

In the Room of Contentment we feel relaxed and in control. If we’ve been challenged by some inconvenient truth, we might move to the Room of Denial, in which we talk about change behind a mask that might have been painted in the Room of Contentment, for all the outward calm it projects.

Such self-censorship won’t last through real change. Soon we might find ourselves in the Room of Conflict & Confusion, grappling the emotional demons such as sadness, anger, fear, self-doubt and illusive hope. Only by harnessing these emotions can we move to the Room of Renewal, in which our energy returns with enthusiasm and learning for the future.

Through the Four Rooms, people learn how they can influence change by taking responsibility for their feelings and actions. Those leading the change also get a much clearer picture of how people are responding, to better guide the direction and pace of change.

How these conversations take place has to suit the changes we’re seeking. Photographs might be used to start the conversation or draw out feelings, perceptions and desires for the change process. Avoid the temptation to over-facilitate; it’s all about what the people, not the facilitator, are saying. Other means – including informal conversations and pulse checks – may be used as well to find out what people are going through.

To reach the people caught up in change, you need to think beyond the rational.

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Evolution, not Revolution, at Volkswagen Group

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The changes to Volkswagen Group’s management structure, including the departure of its CEO, announced in April were in part designed to draw a line in the sand following the diesel emissions scandal of 2015. $31 billion dollars in fines later, the company is in rude financial health with operating profits and sales at record highs.

VW now finds itself in the early stages of a large transformation which clearly demonstrates the importance of stakeholder engagement when changing a business. This article will consider some of the steps it is taking to meet its long-term strategy, the focus of which rests in strengthening its ability to innovate whilst transforming the core business.

Chairman Hans Dieter Potsch spoke of the “most profound change that the automotive industry has ever experienced” when announcing the new management structure at a press conference in Wolfsburg on 13 April. In a bid to create a sense of urgency, he argued that VW had faced parallel challenges in recent years – the biggest crisis in its corporate history alongside “epoch-making upheaval” in the automotive industry – and that extensive revision to VW’s organisational design would help ensure that the company “vigorously accelerates its transformation.”

VW’s powerful trade unions voted in favour of the appointment of Herbert Diess as CEO, but not without getting something in return. As part of the changes the general secretary of the works council replaced the head of human resources, meaning that employee representatives will have more influence on company strategy than ever before. In addition to getting the unions on side, the new Chief Executive gave three colleagues (sales, IT and production respectively) significantly more responsibility, with a view to building a new guiding coalition of executives at the firm. Awkwardly, one of the executives has since been placed under investigation by Munich prosecutors in relation to the diesel emissions scandal.

“Emphatically address the special challenges that lie ahead of us, especially in electromobility, digitization and new mobility services.” -Herbert Diess at his first press conference as CEO

He made the case for making the VW Group a world-leading provider of sustainable mobility and articulated how changes to its organisational structure would help achieve this. This mantra was repeated when announcing VW’s Q1 results in late April, and again at its annual shareholders meeting in early May.

The big question is do the changes go far enough?

An excellent article by the FT’s Patrick Jenkins argued that the underlying ills at VW – the ills that facilitated the fitting of “defeat devices” on 11 million of its diesel cars – are not those of group structure but poor governance systems. Staff representatives hold half the seats on the 20-person supervisory Board with the Government of Lower Saxony, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and the Porsche/Piech founding family holding nearly all the rest. VW has only two independent directors.

The other glaring governance issue is that 40% of the 500 million VW Group shares have no voting rights, meaning that the views of ‘ordinary’ retail and institutional investors are ignored at the expense of those three powerful controlling shareholders.

What is the answer?

Fund managers such as Hermes and Royal London are calling for the appointment of more independent directors to ensure that people are asking difficult questions of the management team. Without this, it seems that change at VW Group can only really take place at a structural level – not a cultural one.

However, changes to the Supervisory Board are not in the hands of the new CEO, so what should he be concentrating efforts on now? To get to the point of instituting change he needs rally the support of many VW’s 640,000 staff, and it is therefore key that he has been able to recruit the support of the trade unions early on in his tenure. Mr Diess calls for creating a culture of “constructive dissent” which will strengthen accountability at the firm – right out of the playbook of John Kotter’s model for change, which argues that you enable action by removing barriers to change, such as inefficient processes and hierarchies. He will then need to be able to point towards the short-term wins that he is generating and, after the first successes, use the credibility he has gained to press harder still.

Only at this point will Herbert Diess be able to articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organisational success, making sure they continue until they become strong enough to replace old habits. It’ll be fascinating to see over the next few years whether evidence of a changing culture and governance does indeed appear.

 

Interested in content from Lansons, we have a quarterly newsletter which you can sign up to here. 

Akira discusses her time at Lansons

The world of Public Relations is different to what I had expected but having spent time at Lansons and gaining an in-depth idea of procedures, I have come to greatly enjoy it. I found that I have been able to flourish in the tasks put ahead of me and would consider a future in the industry.

I had the great fortune of sitting on the same cluster of desks as the co-founder of the company, Clare Parsons. It is often procedure in the working world that teams sit together and those higher up the ladder are somewhat disconnected from their subordinates. The layout of the office allows people of all titles i.e. Junior Executives, Account Directors and CEOs to connect and come together for the betterment of the company. The combination of the office layout and the light breezy environment makes for a workspace one can easily be motivated to achieve in.

If there’s one thing Lansons knows, it’s how to cultivate a good company culture, managing to get the work life balance just right. During my two weeks there, I was part of email circulations that frequently highlighted the work achievements of my coworkers such as promotions and award nominations, as well as personal life achievements. As hard work is constantly rewarded and duly recognised by the management, its no wonder Lansons is such a pleasant place to work and knowing that your employer is so supportive of your personal achievements allows you to truly feel at home.

The complexities of the PR world are not lost on me, I know that during my brief stay, I barely scratched the surface of all the responsibilities Junior Executives have, let alone anyone senior. I was fortunate enough to be paired with a great work buddy, Kat, through whom I was been able to learn as much as possible about the role of Junior Executive while still having the freedom to explore the vast sectors of the business. After having spent two weeks working at Lansons, I look forward to finding out more about the world of PR.

 

Interested in applying for a role with Lansons? Check out our current vacancies here.

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Heathrow: Perpetual Political Pontification

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Once upon a time, a Government Commission reporting to Harold Wilson recommended a new airport to serve the South East be built at a rural site in Oxfordshire, but plans were soon abandoned.  Next, in the early 70s, Foulness in Essex was identified as a possible location for a four runway hub, before also being abandoned.  More recent proposals – most notable of which was Boris Island in the Thames Estuary – add to the growing list of sites looked at all around London. 

Identification of the need for more airport capacity in the South East is not new, and neither is the stop-start approach successive Governments have taken to these monster projects.  What has been constant is an understanding that Heathrow is a less than ideal location for a hub, given its location constrains potential growth, among other concerns about prevailing winds and fog. 

But we are where we are, and Heathrow has won out, despite the massive campaign launched by Gatwick to win over the support of policymakers, and the harrumphing of various high profile Conservative MPs.  When the Transport Secretary announced this in the House of Commons a few weeks ago, he promised to ‘keep costs down’ for a project already estimated to cost over £14bn, with completion some time in 2025. 

Despite Cabinet approval and a likely vote of approval in the House of Commons today, nobody would yet say that Heathrow’s third runway is a done deal.  History teaches us to be cautious.  The then Labour Government signed off on the project only for it to be cancelled by the Coalition Government, many of whose leading members represented constituencies in close proximity to the airport.  The project is a prisoner of geography and politics, and should Theresa May suffer a Brexit-related fall from power, there’s every chance that her successor – Conservative or Labour – could cancel it again.  It would be very difficult for a Prime Minister Boris to both support a runway and lie in front of a bulldozer, and Labour’s tests on cost, noise, pollution and other areas seem perfectly designed to continue perpetual political pontification.

Major British infrastructure projects are beholden to the political whim of the day, with careful consideration given to the views of the people.  In some ways that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it ensures democracy works.  UK politics has an inherent local focus because of the constituency system. But it does mean that the British economy is held back and longer term investment considerations are overlooked.  Charles de Gaulle’s four runways opened in 1974 – the same year the Foulness hub plan was eventually abandoned. 

Companies seeking to be part of major infrastructure projects should recognise the importance of the local element – the people need to come on the journey so that the politicians feel able to vote for the project.  Building an engagement programme that works slowly toward that point is as important as sticking to the initial plan, otherwise we are destined to rehash the same old arguments for the next fifty years.

Interested in our content? Sign up to our newsletter here. 

Reflections on the PROI Worldwide Summit (and a little bit on Eurovision)

Lansons Associate Director, Jessica Warner, reflects on the Lisbon summit and the formidable force of global communications with PROI Worldwide

May has seen Lisbon be host to two of 2018’s greatest international gatherings: the Eurovision Song Contest and the PROI Worldwide Global Summit, the annual meeting of independent communications agencies from across the world that make up the PROI network.

There are many similarities between the two events. Colourful characters from all corners of the world congregating to share new ideas and visions for the future. Experimenting with new technologies and breaking boundaries. Welcoming new nations to join the club each year.

But whilst Eurovision, for all its colour and joy, is famously diverse and politically engendered for each country taking part, the PROI Summit is unifying and enables collaboration between the greatest minds of our industry.

The annual summit brings together business owners to share critical information affecting their agencies and our industry, explore ways of working together on international client briefs, share best practice and plan for the future.

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This year we explored new tools and technology to enhance productivity and improve measurement, new strategies for attracting and retaining talent, the technology trends shaping the ‘agency of the future’, and the secret to highly creative thinking. We had the first PROI film festival, and shared the best of the work that we have done for clients – inspirational campaigns, many of which were award winning in their respective regions.

And Lansons was a very active participant throughout, presenting on some of the exceptional narrative development, employee engagement and crisis work we have done for clients over the last year, sharing insight on Brexit, and updating our international colleagues on our new work in the blockchain technology space, and our 2018 partnerships with London Blockchain Week and London Fintech Week.

But, as one of our guest speakers – founder of the Holmes Group and leading PR industry commentator Paul Holmes – said, the PROI is so much more than just a forum for ideas sharing. As a network, we are a formidable force. PROI Worldwide agencies are the leading independent firms across five continents, 50 countries and 100 cities, from London to New York, Hong Kong to Frankfurt, Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro, and everywhere inbetween.  We are big enough to be truly influential, but our structure means we can be nimble enough to adjust. And the fact that each agency is independent means we can offer clients senior experts, on the ground, with real local knowledge, drawing on the best firms, for each challenge, in each market.

In the words of Clare Parsons, Lansons’ co-founder and newly announced Chair of PROI Worldwide: “Across the world, clients are recognising the strengths of independent public relations and communications agencies and that’s why so many PROI Worldwide partner agencies are growing rapidly at present.”

Further pride in Lansons’ membership of the network is found in Clare’s appointment as its Chair, which was announced at the Lisbon Summit. It is a significant moment in the PROI’s 48-year history. Clare is the first woman chair of the PROI, and the network’s eight-member board is now represented by six women, making the PROI a source of inspiration for female leadership, and inclusion and diversity, which will be key focus areas for Clare in her two-year tenure.

Lisbon, May, 2018. A landmark place and time to be, featuring Eurovision, and a new world-vision for the PROI Worldwide network.

From Mountains and Meditation to Managing Change

In 2012 I’d had enough. Enough of work, enough of London, enough of stressful relationships. Enough, enough, enough. So I packed up, switched off and headed to Asia.

The next few months were centred around mountains, meditation and mindfulness – with one of my toughest moments being when I spent 10 fully silent days, in a temple in the Himalayas, seated crossed legged on the floor doing 11 hours of meditation a day.

It was here I started to see more of a shift in how my mind reacts to the world and the environments that surround me. And it was something that I continued to be conscious of seven months later when I came home. So, over the past few years I’ve been a regular at the London Buddhist Centre and a consistent attendee of meditation retreats both in the UK and abroad.

My initial driver was a personal one. It was about how I could become more aware of how I was responding to my life and more mindful of what I needed to do to make sure I was on the best path for me; and the people that surround me. It was my personal journey of change.

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But I’m a change specialist, with a real passion for managing people through change; and from my experience, it feels like most change management methodologies are missing a trick. They’re so centred on process – impact and mitigation, stakeholders and communications, capabilities and training – that they miss the psychological impact working in challenging, changing environments can have on individuals; both the teams involved in implementing the change and those on the receiving end.

As humans, we are hardwired to resist change. In the workplace, change can often be seen as stressful for both individuals and teams. It doesn’t have to feel this way for employees. Individually, employees may have their own coping mechanisms inside and outside of work – whether that’s a walk at lunchtime or evening tennis lessons. However, as change practitioners, mindfulness can be a powerful tool we can teach to empower groups of employees to own how they psychologically deal with change, helping them to become more resilient and accepting of it.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindful.org define mindfulness as ‘the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.’ I see my meditation as the practice that helps me to reach this mindful state – on and off the floor.

In change scenarios, helping people to be ‘not overly reactive or overwhelmed’ is key. Traditionally we do this by listening to employees to understand what their concerns may be; crafting communication messages to align key stakeholders and help mitigate employee concerns, creating the right tools and training to inform, educate and equip people to confidently work in a new way; and celebrating success to show that the changes – and the people making them happen – are working. A very proactive process to instil change.

Traditional processes have merit. But at Lansons, we’re also talking to companies such as Mindfulness at Work, founded by Louise Chester in 2010, and Cubex who offer a corporate CALM programme run by Michael James Wong and a team of audio and cognitive specialists. They are both working with companies – from global banks to local businesses – to give leaders and employees their own personal tools through mindfulness training. Their work aims to encourage balance and resilience, build more confidence in periods of change and enhance professional wellbeing.

For me, this is the right move forward in change management. My role as a change practitioner is about understanding the individual ways people move through change and how we can both support and empower them. I believe that the ability to empower people to embrace any change comes from practical support (knowledge), physical support (training) and psychological support (e.g. mindfulness).

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The Miliband Show (and a bit of soft Brexit)

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Still a toe in the water?

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s speech today gave off the air of the prodigal son returning to our shores, as he warned that Britain should remain in the European Economic Area (EEA) once the UK leaves the EU.  As he stood alongside more recent Cabinet members – Conservative Nicky Morgan and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – the fact that Miliband was the more reported upon strikes the onlooker as slightly odd. Miliband departed for New York, having famously lost the leadership of the Labour Party to his brother Ed, which in turn set in motion the events that saw the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. 

For Labour moderates, sympathisers, and troublemakers alike, Miliband’s return to the political fray is almost more interesting than the subject he was commenting on.  His story feels unfinished, and the public are left with the impression he feels unsatisfied by his time in politics, keen for another bite at the apple.  But Miliband has lived his exile as he lived his political life – never quite prepared to take the plunge.  Supporters and opponents alike took his reluctance to sink the knife into Gordon Brown’s back during his darkest days as evidence that he lacked the killer instinct required of a Prime Minister.  His continued ‘toe in the water’ approach to British politics suggests he hasn’t learned his lesson, and the public may be unforgiving of such indecision.

Can he win back the nation?

There is always the chance that Miliband will return and try for a seat in a by-election; Lewisham East the obvious immediate opportunity.  However British politics – and the Labour Party – have moved on, and there’s no guarantee that a man who has spent a decent chunk of time abroad would have the common touch necessary to win over first Labour members and then the British public.  Indeed if he ever did – critics accuse the elder Miliband of arrogance and pretension; qualities that don’t go down well with your average British punter.

And what of the topic he and his erstwhile political foes were in Essex to promote? Despite their earthy backdrop, their message will not appeal to many of those who voted for Brexit.  Remaining in the EEA – effectively remaining in the single market – would require the UK to retain the free movement rules that contributed so much to the eventual referendum result, without any of the say over the rules of the single market; hardly the stuff of dreams.  But that’s not really what’s happening here – such are the salami slice tactics of Remainers. 

EU membership debate

None of the troika who spoke today have suddenly become Leavers – the idea is to softly get to a point where momentum is in favour of remaining in the Customs Union and in the Single Market, and then to suggest leaving the EU while still a member of its core aspects would be a waste of time, so better to stay in the EU. It’s not altogether unlikely, but the argument has still to be won, and it’s not clear that the three who chose to give it today are the best spokespeople for that particular position.  

The fact that we are still having these arguments today only reinforces the point that the debate during the actual referendum campaign did not really touch on the most important aspects of EU membership. Some will argue it’s too little, too late; others will say that this is the real campaign, and that another referendum – or election – is on its way.  The question is: is David Miliband up for it?

Clare Parsons announced as Global Chair of PROI Worldwide

PROI Worldwide, the world’s largest partnership of integrated independent communications agencies, has appointed Clare Parsons as its Global Chair of its International Board of Directors with immediate effect. This is the first time PROI Worldwide, formed in 1970, has appointed a woman to the role. The announcement was made at PROI’s Annual Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal on May 5, 2018 and Clare will serve in the post for two years. Clare will be taking the role over from Hong Kong based PROI Global Chair Richard Tsang, Chairman of SPRG Asia, one of the largest integrated communications firms with offices throughout Asia.

Clare Parsons comments: 

“I’ve never defined myself as a woman in business, but it is a huge honour to be the first female Global Chair of a company I’ve worked closely with over the last 12 years.

Across the world, clients are recognising the strengths of independent public relations and communications agencies and that’s why so many PROI Worldwide partner agencies are growing rapidly at present.

Collaboration and cooperation are key themes that, as Chair, I will continue to actively promote to develop closer working relationships with all PROI Worldwide partners around the world , by tapping into local market experts who, understand the nuances and the opportunities in all key markets across the world. An increase in sharing best practice and insights will maximise opportunities and synergies across our international partnership.

By continuing dialogue and exchanging ideas, we continue to learn and grow together, becoming more effective strategic partners and better consultants for our clients.”

<img src= "Claire-Parsons-PROI-summit-AMaggy.jpg" alt="Clare Parsons PROI Chair">

Clare co-founded Lansons in 1989.  During the three decades of running Lansons, Clare has led Lansons’ international business and been actively involved both in the PR industry as a whole and with the not-for-profit sector. Clare has sat on a wide range of industry and not for profit committees including the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Moreover, Clare is a trustee of HighTide, the British Theatre Company and charity that has an unparalleled eleven-year history of successfully launching the careers of emerging British playwrights. She is also a member of the 30% Club championing diversity inclusion and has recently joined the advisory group of Trustee Recruitment Pathways.  Clare was recognised with the Stephen Tallent medal, an award by the CIPR for her contribution to the industry through which she was also made a fellow, and she is one of Real Business Magazine’s Top 100 Women UK Entrepreneurs.

May 4 Election Briefing-Lansons

Welcome to our Special Edition Newsletter- May 4th Election Briefing

In this newsletter we discuss what happened in the election as we saw the results coming through with insights from our public affairs team. We start off with our new head of public affairs and board director, Michael Stott, discussing how the build up and expectation before an election can impact the results as well as separately looking how local elections can be used as a front for more national issues. This is accompanied account manager Mitchell Cohen debating the difference in national and local messaging during elections and what this means moving forward for a general election. The newsletter will also touch upon how Labour’s confidence in the capital has been perceived and received in the lead up to and during the election and results, and of course, we also review the highest trending twitter tag #dogsatpollingstations and other social media trends during the voting.

Here is a little snapshot From Michael Stott’s article ‘Managing Expectation Management‘…

“In a country where the public generally don’t like a show off, it’s striking how often political parties allow hubris to get the better of them. The Conservatives did it during the General Election last year, where an initial massive poll lead led in the end to a loss of seats.  And while all results are not yet in, at this year’s local elections Labour appear not to have learned the lesson.”

To view the May 4th Election Briefing newsletter, please click here.

Click to read Local Elections 2018

Amber Rudd Resignation- Lansons Briefing

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Ministerial Moves, Windrush & Amber Rudd

The resignation of Amber Rudd over the weekend should give some breathing space to the Prime Minister, with the opposition and media having claimed their scalp.  While Theresa May is heavily implicated in the creation of the policy environment that saw the Windrush scandal develop, the story has run for a week now and new faces at the Home Office and Ministry of Housing should see the story shift to a new dynamic. The Prime Minister has demonstrated enormous staying power since her arrival at Number 10, and there is little chance of this destabilising her Government, despite having lost four senior ministers in recent months.  This won’t stop Labour from trying to gain more capital from the situation, notably ahead of the local elections where the opposition hope to do well in London, which is proportionately more sensitive to the immigration debate than the rest of the country.

Some have suggested that Amber Rudd, a staunchly pro-EU minister, might now be a headache for the Government on the backbenches during Brexit debates and votes.  However the pathology of a senior minister who has jumped (and feels wronged) is such that they believe they will shortly be back in Government, so expect to see less mischief from her, at least in the immediate term.

Another Reshuffle

Sajid Javid’s appointment at the Home Office ends a rocky period for him.  He was once talked of as a successor to George Osborne at the Treasury, but Brexit and the arrival of Theresa May saw the end of his rise, with many considering him lucky to have survived in Cabinet at all.  For a time it was thought he would be demoted or pushed out altogether, particularly around the time of the last and ill-fated reshuffle which in the end saw very little ministerial movement.  His ascent also changes the situation in the Brexit War Cabinet, with his Remainer credentials weak at best.  Javid has made no bones about his Euroscepticism, despite joining David Cameron in campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU.  Indeed only last week Javid was tweeting that leaving the EU meant leaving the Customs Union, which is likely to shift the balance of debate about how to move forward with the UK’s negotiating stance when senior ministers deliberate that position in due course.

The return of James Brokenshire was much anticipated.  A loyal and highly thought of minister under Theresa May at the Home Office, Brokenshire resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary on ill health grounds, but trust in him at Number 10 was never in doubt.  His reappearance should mean little change in overall policy direction, but his steady hand, competence and closeness to Number 10 could mean housing and other issues under his remit fall a little higher up the list of priorities for the Prime Minister in the future.  He was previously Immigration Minister, and therefore in some ways also implicated in the Windrush story.  One of his landmark policies was to require all landlords to check the immigration status of potential tenants, with campaigners arguing this could lead to landlords picking people with ‘British sounding names’.  Labour will likely therefore turn on him for a while to see how much further traction this story can generate, again to create momentum in their favour ahead of the local elections.

Another note is that International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt takes over the mantle of Women and Equalities Minister from Amber Rudd.  Expect therefore a forensic dissection of her record on voting for equalities from her enemies, especially as she was a prominent Leaver during the Brexit campaign.  This adds little to the debate but confirms prejudices held against the Tories by those unlikely to support them anyway. 

So the Government trundles on, with the new Ministers probably burnishing the Prime Minister’s attempts to push through her policy of leaving the Customs Union.  However the challenge comes when EU legislation returns to the House of Commons from the Lords, with little indication that the Government can yet persuade its Remain-supporting MPs to back her.  At that point, it may become an issue of confidence, but all evidence suggests she’ll survive, as she always has.

 

If you are interested in our public affairs expertise, please view our page. 

Lansons are ranked 15th by the Great Place to Work Institute

We have some fantastic news to share … we have been recognised as a Best Workplace for the 14th year in a row by the Great Place to Work Institute!  Lansons has been ranked 15th in the Top 66 Medium Size Workplaces.  This is particularly impressive given that they increased the number of companies in the rankings this year because the standard was of such a high calibre. 

The rankings are based on feedback from everybody working at Lansons in November last year, who were asked a series of questions about what working for Lansons was like.  

<img src="best-place-to-work-1.jpg" alt= "Lansons best place to work cupcakes"

 

In addition to the Great Place to Work…

And of course this award comes just a week after the news that we won the Bronze Award in the PR Week Best Companies to Work For – and also a special award for our reward programme.  This recognised (among other things) on our broad partnership philosophy and our promise to share 25% of our profits with all our staff in bonuses.

“A multiple winner and finalist in the Best Places to Work Awards, Lansons offers a series of measures that rank it among UK PR’s best employers.  Judges also gave Lansons the Reward prize for its generous staff benefits.  This explores not just the monetary aspects of agency work, but also the financial and wellbeing benefits on offer, as well as how agencies decide what benefits to offer their staff”. 

Global Communication Partners AGM 2018

<img src="shutterstock_744696136.png" alt="Dubai Skyline">

Why a global perspective with regional specialist insight pays off in a world of transformational change

Transformation is all around us. The impact of technology, political decisions and regulatory changes as well as societal shifts, are only some examples of global changes on businesses and individuals across the globe.

Under the umbrella term of ‘transformational change’, founders and senior consultants of the independent communications agencies that form the Global Communication Partners (GCP) network, met for two days to discuss issues and opportunities on the horizon for organisations in the financial services sector.

These annual gatherings present an excellent opportunity to exchange insights, knowledge and learnings with like minded communications professionals from across the globe. Ultimately it can shape our thinking to generate the best ideas, give well-rounded advice and generate excellent results for our clients.

What better place to meet than Dubai, a region that has witnessed such a stark transformation over the past few decades. Emerging from a centre for fishing, pearling and sea trade in the 1960’s to one of the most important business hubs in the Middle East, the region is now undergoing its third transformation in less than a century. Flourishing at first as a result of a spiralling oil price, Dubai is now reinventing itself to balance declining tourism and falling property prices. It has an ambitious 2020 agenda to become a major global financial centre and hub for investment in innovation, while paving the way to become a destination for entrepreneurs, startups and new talent through the creation of a new education system in the region.

As Randa Mazzawi, founder and general manager of our Dubai partner agency Borouj Consulting, and host of this year’s AGM, puts it: “Dubai’s multi-cultural nature and its multi-national business environment was an ideal background for our AGM this year. Our partners were able to get first-hand experience of the vibrant culture, rich diversity, and fast paced development in the Middle East, in an era of transformational change. Exchanging insights and ideas from across the globe showed how much we and our clients have in common when it comes to challenges and opportunities.”  

Inspiring speakers from the GCC region, ranged from senior professionals in the FinTech arena, Angel Investors and CEOs of established businesses. Discussions didn’t stop at the macro-economic environment that is driving change – the speakers looked beyond this evolution, explaining its transformation from an unregulated to over-regulated market and shed light on the MENA tech scene.

Global Communication Partners and Lansons 

<img src= "gcp-blog-post-image..jpg" alt="Lansons team at the gcp">

You may ask yourself how this relates to Lansons and its agency capabilities. The answer is simple:

Meeting face to face with like-minded communications specialists and hearing from business owners and investors, laid the groundwork for fruitful discussions. From the biggest communications issues we are experiencing, to the services seeing increasing demand and the business growth areas. These further paved the way to unpick a debate on how to manage cross-border issues during a crisis and the implications of the digital age on crisis management and stakeholder communication.

This knowledge exchange is proving vital to better understand the implications of transformational changes on business and serves to improve us as consultants. Meeting face-to-face is giving us a regular opportunity to build synergies with our global partner agencies, which has helped us to advise clients on their global communications needs. The network enables Lansons to regularly work on international communications briefs and allows us to offer ‘on the ground’ support through specialists agencies we know and trust.

The key takeaway for us as communications professionals from this meeting: the patterns of transformational change apply globally, and require a global, holistic view. In the digital age, local equals global. Yet, local solutions based on a thorough understanding of the market, the media and other stakeholders that operate within it, are those that succeed.

To meaningfully advise businesses in any scenario, both global knowledge and local in-depth expertise are invaluable to a firm’s reputation and this is where our global partnerships with local specialists make a real difference to businesses across the globe.

This approach has proven successful in helping businesses manage their reputations over the past 27 years, serving both startups and established, local and global, players.

If you want to find out more about our international offering, please visit our international page here

7 Content Marketing Tips for The Future of B2B

Content marketing describes creating content and sharing online materials that does not explicitly promote a brand but stimulates interest in its products and services. The Content Marketing Association’s (CMA) ‘The Future of B2B’ event brought together some of the industry’s finest B2B minds. Including LinkedIn, Raconteur, and the mind behind Mashable’s Social Media Day.

With 30 trillion pieces of content indexed by Google and the content marketing industry expected to be worth £349 million in the UK by 2020; companies don’t need to produce more content, but better plan how content connects with their target audiences. Audience-led, insightful storytelling, needs to sit at the heart of a content marketing strategy.

With that in mind, here are…

<img src="7-Content-Marketing-Tips for-The-Future-of-B2B.png" alt="7 tips for content marketing in the B2B future">

#1 Know your c-suite audience

In Raconteur Custom’s ‘The Elusive C-Suite’ report, research into the content consumption behaviours of the c-suite are investigated. It’s a juicy report full of statistics to ensure that your content gets cut through. Rather positively, 55% of c-suite recognise the important role of content in decision making.

There is a question of credibility though, with 71% considering that most content produced by brands is repetitive, expected, and lacking original thought. To negate this, content marketing programmes should consider how to build influence, find their own voice, be brave and take a point of view, and use design to catch the elusive c-suite eye.

Oh, and 51% prefer to read in-depth and long-form thought leadership pieces. Showing it’s important to invest time in content marketing.

 #2 Put culture ahead of content

Consider how to inject culture into your content marketing programme. For example, rather than your brand talking about itself, give other people a platform to speak as your brand. This may involve collaborating with your clients, raising awareness of how they’re using your product or service. Consider how you can tell global stories that are locally relevant to your marketing efforts.

#3 Influencer marketing must be trusted

83% of people would trust recommendations of friends and family over advertising, showing why word of mouth is important. This is one of the reasons why influencer marketing has become such an important paid-for and earned part of content marketing programmes. Online personalities, with subject focuses, can cause effect or change behaviour with their audience.

However, there is a growing challenge of trust around influencer marketing. For example, travel bloggers get paid to review one hotel, and then immediately get paid by the one next door to do the same thing. Often, your best influencers may be right in front of you. Who are the influential members of staff in your business?

#4 Employee advocacy

People have the most trust with influencers they can relate to. Therefore, everyone today is an influencer in some way; especially your employees and clients. For example, if you have 100 employees who all have an average of 300 connections on social media – that’s a potential reach of 30,000. If you’re running a recruitment campaign, then this may be a better option compared with paying for a similar amount of reach.

With the growth of Adblockers being used hampering the impact of online advertising and the challenge of utilising company social media profiles because of the dial-back of organic reach, consider how the trust of your employees could be used to support your organisation.

#5 Don’t dismiss the power of events

Organisations tend to attend events to steal a march on the competition or to learn new things, sometimes out of fear (for example, to learn about new regulation). However, events can also be an excellent opportunity to capture content for your marketing programme. Consider interviewing non-competitive exhibitors about industry trends or providing a write-up post-event to position yourself as a thought leader.

 #6 Consider the impact of dark social

Fear not, ‘dark social’ isn’t an underhand practice. Instead it describes the challenge of measuring the impact of social media outside of analytics programmes. For example, sharing an article by directly copying and pasting the link from an address bar, rather than clicking on social sharing buttons.

Whilst it’s good news that people are sharing your brand’s content, always keep in mind that some people may be sharing your content in unmeasurable, ‘dark’ places such as email, WhatsApp or SnapChat. This term also extends to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), such as when Google features snippets from your website in search results or a voice assistant relays information from your website, as both will avoid someone visiting your website.

#7 LinkedIn is still B2B content marketing king

The CMA event ended with a B2B content marketing reality check with a rock-inspired presentation from Jason Miller, Head of Content & Social at LinkedIn. Debunking the myth that our audiences only have a concentration span of 8 seconds, Jason demonstrated through practical experiences what content marketing should look like today.

By publishing a mixture of how-to, editorial, and research content, Jason’s team could better target their LinkedIn content marketing programme. Ultimately posting less, but investing in higher quality content that resulted in traffic and product conversations to go up. Their biggest stat? 31 million unique visitors to the LinkedIn website acquired.

We’re delighted that Lansons has become the first PR consultancy member of the CMA; learning, sharing, and growing with the rest of the content marketing industry. And most importantly, applying our expertise and sharing insider knowledge with our clients.

My Lansons Experience

Making my decision

I joined Lansons in January 2018, after facing tough decisions of where my future lay as a young professional in the competitive London landscape. As many can attest, it is difficult to decide on your next step when you are looking to build on your CV with impressive company names while trying to invest in your personal and professional growth.

The deciding factor that spurred me to pick Lansons a few months ago, and continues to impress me to this day, is that there is a true interest and investment in their people. While every company extols the virtues of their ‘collegiate environment’, when I met the team at Lansons they demonstrated their ethos in practice.

The Deciding Factor

There is a true focus on personal and professional development that is stitched into the company’s DNA. From the decision to assign a career manager to every employee, who helps steer and provide insight about both the company and the industry to the raft of training schemes that are provided at every level.

In the previous agency roles that I have held, there was an unspoken rule that you were trained for the job that you did – whether that was pure media relations, content creation or even heavy loads of admin. In an industry that has relatively high personnel turnover across the board, this type of investment can seem the most practical. However, Lansons instead takes care to draw on staff members’ and external expert’s specialisms and gets them to share these with the rest of the team, so that everyone can move into new exciting areas of the industry and discover new areas that they may excel in. So rather than being a dead-end cog in a machine, you are continuously expanding and gaining new skills and interests.

Beyond enhancing skills, there is a carefully nurtured social environment in the team. A genuinely open atmosphere has been created where everyone is approachable, and people’s broad and varying interests are celebrated. This was demonstrated during my interview process which touched on literature, travel and politics, so far beyond the simple rehashing of past experience and skills.

PRWeek Best Places to Work awards

My experience so far has been exceptional and so it is no surprise that Lansons has been awarded the Bronze category for PRWeek’s Best Places to Work awards 2018 , including becoming the first agency ever to receive the ‘Rewards Award’, which focuses on rewarding employees through more than monetary value. I have experienced this first hand when I received a promotion and everyone gathered outside our office to celebrate with drinks and food. I was approached and congratulated by all levels of the Lansons structure, which goes to show that in an environment where employees care about each other, and the company’s culture reflects this community culture, you will be successful.

 

Please take this chance to sign up to our newsletter to find out more about Lansons and our culture, industry updates and opinion pieces. 

 

Lansons takes home ‘Bronze’ in PRWeek’s Best Place to Work

Lansons are proud and thrilled to announce that once more, we took home a Best Places to Work award from PRWeek. We were awarded Bronze for the Large Agency category in 2018.

The judges also introduced three new categories this year, Rewards, Culture and Organisational Health and Lansons were delighted to be awarded the Reward Award, becoming the first agency to do so.

“Competition for PR talent is as fierce as ever, so creating a culture that will attract-and crucially, retain- the best employees has become a vital element of running a successful agency.” -PRWeek

<img src="best-places-to-work.png" alt="Lansons winning PRWeek Award Best Places to Work">

 

PRWeek’s three focuses in 2018 for Best Places to Work 

  1. PRWeek collected and investigated insights into three of the main aspects that create a good working environment, these included; Culture, Reward and Organisational Health. They defined ‘culture’ as ‘as how well an agency supports its staff, leaders and clients, and how it responds to feedback about them’. This can also include how an agency views its culture from an internal perspective.
  2. ‘Reward’ is focused on benefits, other than financial, that a company offers its employees, and that fall into the category of well-being.
  3. In the section on ‘organisational health’, PRWeek focused on methods around how agencies address diversity and inclusion in the workplace, how they treat their staff and development programmes. 

Each agency has their own take on the three aspects above, which will of course surround their business objectives, location, agency specialisms and ownership and company structure.

For Lansons, the journey to this point has involved a written entry, covering all the elements that combine to create a great workplace (from development and training and reward to culture and reputation), some bench marking questions (which is a new element of the process this year) and a telephone interview with one of the judges to make the shortlist. Then in March, our team were grilled by a panel of judges at the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall for the final stage in the large agency category. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen. We are aiming for Gold next year!

How to influence people with “neurocomms”

neuroscience secrets for persuasive communications

According to a quick Google search, ‘persuasion’ is a form of social influence and often refers to an active attempt to change a person’s attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours.

As a Director of a strategic communications consultancy, Lansons, it’s my job to help organisations to persuade: persuade consumers to buy a brand’s service or products; persuade employees to change their ways of working; or persuade stakeholders to think differently.

So, it’s incumbent to be equipped with all the tools and hacks that are out there to make sure a message gets heard, and acted upon, by the right people. That’s why in this opinion post, I’ll be outlining key neuroscience facts to know and leverage for really persuasive, effective communications.

Let’s start off with something that you will no doubt have experienced: we are not good at being told what to do! A more effective technique, as suggested by Nelson Mandela: “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”

In Why We Do What We Do’ – authored by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist specialising in applied neuroscience – we look at Robert Cialdini’s* work on the six principles that drive any new behaviour:  

<img src="RECIPROCITY..png" alt=reciprocity">

<img src="social-proof..png" alt="Social proof">

<img src="consistency.png" alt="consistency as neurcomms">

<img src="liking.png" alt="liking as part of neurocomms">

<img src="AUTHORITY.png" alt="authority description">

<img src="SCARCITY.png" alt="SCARCITY definition for behaviour">

[*source: Cialdini, R. 2007. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. New York: Collins]

So where does this leave us?

By applying neuroscience to communications, to what we are calling ‘neurocomms’, you can make sure that your message is persuasive and emotionally arousing enough for people to want to tune in, above the infinite sea of noise.

We had our first Neurocomms Masterclass in February, which looked at applying neuroscience to get the best from change and communications programmes. Some of the feedback we received:

“The course offers a bite-sized insight into the fascinating world of the brain and how it responds during times of change. The course has given me insights that I can use when advising on change comms and leadership scenarios”

Yvonne O’Hara, Head of Internal Communications, Metropolitan Police

“Wow, just wow! A great opportunity to learn more about the mind and connect this with the world of communication. It’s really challenged me to thinka bout the value I can bring to my organisation in a multitude of ways”

Charlotte Cook, Head of Change & Engagement Comms, Simplyhealth

“A fascinating tour of the human state and how having a better understanding of that can transform the way messages of change are perceived and acted upon”

Caroline Rheubotton, Internal Comms Manager, Baker McKenzie

 

Our next Neurcomms Masterclass is Tuesday 22nd May. Places are limited so book ahead to avoid disappointment.

 

Influencer Marketing will work for you

Influencer Marketing.

Whilst waiting for your favourite TV programme to start, there’s an interruption. A bank is advertising their mortgage rates. A young couple begin talking… you’ve already mentally switched off. This is the predictability of brands advertising their own products and services. It’s expected, drummed into our heads, and stops what we’re looking forward to watching. Truthfully, if we could; AdBlocked.

Let’s rewind.

That same couple walk in. Except this time you know the couple. You don’t just know them, but they are great friends who you see weekly. It’s still an advertisement, but a real one. Your friends are talking openly about the ups and downs of their finances. You realise you’re not alone with your own difficulties. 20 minutes later, you’re still hooked.

In less than 100 words, this is why influencer marketing is important. It goes to the heart of what public relations is all about, relationships. Like media relations, a brand will either have a relationship through a consultancy with an influencer, or directly. It’s a mutual relationship where both parties benefit; an influencer has more content and the brand benefits from the exposure.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s just look to the figures. In November 2017 the Financial Times announced they hit 900,000 paid-for subscribers. As of this morning, YouTube behemoth Casey Neistat is nearing 9 million subscribers.

Okay, cheeky example – subscribing is free on YouTube and the Financial Times charges. Let’s look at this another way. Within 20 minutes of Peter McKinnon posting a video on YouTube, he’s already hit 70,000 views. It’s a mistake to think my YouTube star examples instead represent the success of the arts verses the financial industry. The point is that all social networks have personalities who draw incomprehensibly large audiences; people who have earned trust and are part of their audience’s everyday lives.

Influencers portray their relationship with a brand’s product or service in a convincing way. Sure, banner advertising and short advertisements have a place. Push enough views and you might just achieve a 0.01% click-through rate. Or we could follow the money.

According to a recent whitepaper by Prizeology, it’s currently impossible to quantify the size of the influencer marketing industry in the UK. However, we do know that in the US estimated advertiser spend on Instagram alone is $1 billion per year. By 2020 the influencer market as a whole could be worth between $5 – 10 billion. Growth like this is only seen when something works.

We know it works. Over the last year Lansons has run influencer marketing activities for a range of organisations, from financial services to health. Building relationships with bloggers, Instagram stars, YouTubers, the list goes on. Balancing the requirements of highly regulated industries, with creativity that delivers against KPIs.

Right, that’s the sales pitch over. If you’re new to influencer marketing or want to know if it can work for your brand, drop me an email (michaelw@lansons.com) or tweet me (@michaelwhite1), or view our case studies

 

Interested in more content provided by Lansons? You can sign up to our newsletter for our industry leading opinion pieces, news and updates. Sign up here. 

How has your Gender Pay Data Dictated your Narrative?

As the Government’s April 4th (private sector) deadline for publishing gender pay gap data fast approaches, a recent think tank we hosted at Lansons revealed that although most companies have their data ready, many are still debating internally how they want to talk about it.

Last month, we partnered with My Family Care to host a Gender Pay Gap Reporting Think Tank. Through a combination of presentations and panel discussions, three events took place over the day. The purpose was to help companies consider how best to tell the story behind their data to effectively position their results both inside and outside of their organisation.

<img src="shutterstock_700077655.jpg" alt="Gender Pay Gap Reporting">

I had the pleasure of representing Lansons and was joined by experts including Jennifer Liston-Smith, director, head of coaching and consultancy of My Family Care, Ed Bowyer, employment partner at leading law firm Hogan Lovells who talked about the legal challenges, Ann Francke, CEO, Chartered Management Institute who shared some fascinating data that looked at the problems, pitfalls and practices of women in industry, Nina Hamilton, partner at The Omerta Group who talked about attracting and retaining female talent in the financial sector; and Lara Warburton, UK diversity and inclusion manager at Rolls-Royce who shared a great story on how they sourced, crafted and communicated their data.

What was great to see was that nearly everyone, across all three events, had sourced their data. However, many were struggling with how to talk about it. My presentation focused on the six practical steps companies can take to create and communicate a compelling narrative, helping you to turn the reputational risk of gender pay reporting into a reputational opportunity. These are:

  1. Provide context – so that you can confidently explain your data
  2. Understand the cause – outline the underlying factors that have contributed to your gender pay gap
  3. Articulate your plan – how you are improving gender equality across your business
  4. Create a narrative – be clear on the story you want to tell to support your approach
  5. Prepare your spokespeople – help your leaders, managers and customer facing colleagues be clear on the data, the narrative and how to respond to likely questions
  6. Plan your communications – make sure you’re clear on how you will first talk about this with employees, before you publish your results externally

One of my biggest concerns about the gender pay gap is that the response is too individual. Companies produce their individual data and explain the individual reasons for those numbers, such as having more females in part-time roles. Yet so many of these individual reasons are in fact industry-wide issues, such as a skills shortage of senior women in finance or female engineers. We see many companies making strong steps to improve this situation, such as shared parental leave policies and supporting women back into work after career breaks. Yet, I am unclear about how some companies can set such ambitious gender pay targets when what’s needed to achieve them is not fully in their control.

This was why I was pleased to hear Lara’s presentation about Rolls-Royce. Her company is working with its competitors to collectively address the issues surrounding female talent in engineering. Wouldn’t it be great to see more industries – technology for example – come together as a collective and work with Government and other organisations to influence change? Not only would that be great for women, great for industry, but it would be great for these differentiating brands too. The Women in Finance Charter is a good example in the financial services industry. However, more can be done.

We all have a responsibility to make our world a better place. Levelling out the gender pay field is one opportunity where companies can help fulfil that responsibility. Together, I believe they can make a difference.

At Lansons, we can help review your gender pay gap communications plan, help build your narrative and manage a workshop to equip your senior teams to explain the gender pay gap for your organisation. If you’d like to discuss how we could help, please contact us at genderpaygap@lansons.com.

The big issues in Asset Management

A matter of time

Board director and asset management specialist David Masters looks at some of the biggest challenges facing the sector in the years ahead.

As Foreign & Colonial, the first investment trust, turns 150 this year there has been a little controversy around its mooted name change to F&C Investment Trust. Despite the fact that its current appellation is a bit of a turn off to a younger generation of investors, it seems there is a cohort of traditionalists for whom this is a step too far. If all this sounds a bit familiar, it’s hardly surprising. In summary: pioneering asset management entity finds route to modernisation hindered by agents of the status quo. This has been a struggle that the whole industry has been facing for some time, except that “the agents of the status quo” have largely come from within.

There have been some encouraging developments of late. Under pressure from regulators and policymakers worldwide concerned by the sharp growth in passive funds, asset managers are finally finding their voice on the issues that count to the societies they serve. This year alone we’ve heard from some of the biggest players about how the companies they invest in need to better address executive pay, social purpose and, perhaps most tellingly, gun control. Suddenly, asset managers are starting to talk a language more familiar to their ultimate audiences on topics that matter to them.

But it’s not enough to just talk the talk. Asset managers need to live up to the lofty targets they set their portfolio companies. Easier said than done.

Take diversity as a case in point. As Gender Pay Gap reporting has demonstrated, the fund management world is not as diverse or as meritocratic as many of us would like it to be. Of course, when F&C was launched, power and wealth were largely the preserve of white, better educated men.  The evidence is that investors like their fund managers to reflect their own background and social class (1), so it should surprise no-one that the industry was forged in that image, and that its evolution hasn’t kept pace with the outside, economically-divided world. As the distribution and control of wealth both domestically and internationally shifts, so it is incumbent on fund managers to greatly accelerate the pace at which they match this.

Diversity is not just about gender either. Investment 2020 is a tremendous initiative that brings real change in at the grass roots level by targeting school leavers and graduates irrespective of social and ethnic background from beyond the privately educated and Russell Group worlds, but it’s a long-term solution not an instant fix. Attracting the best talent when you’re competing with the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook is a huge challenge when that talent perceives you as rather stuffy and antiquated, assuming it even knows who you are.

The latter is just as vital as the former, as it will help create an environment where all talent can better flourish. And by talent I do not just mean managing money, but all the services and ancillary functions that exist around it.

Effective, structural change needs to come on two fronts. Widening the “gene pool” of talent within the industry, and better utilising the existing talent that is already there.

The industry needs to start adjusting its working practices, in particular eliminating the “socialisation” that takes place within firms that leaves them largely indistinguishable from each other and prone to groupthink. To date, most operational changes have been driven more by cost and regulation rather than trying to better unlock the creative brilliance of the existing workforce. It’s a sector that is bursting with talent, it just needs to be set free.

Therefore, asset management leaders need to further rethink their approaches to workplace culture, particularly timely given the FCA’s recent discussion paper on this topic. Moreover, questions of corporate culture are becoming one of the biggest non-performance factors in manager selection among institutional investors.

Improving workplace culture does not simply mean installing Google-style slides into their offices to appear more trendy (although that would be a very “asset management” response) but requires a better understanding of how to tap into the potential already at their disposal. Given the evidence of increasing boredom within firms, this should be of paramount importance (2).

Language and communication are critical to the success of these efforts. To attract a new generation of both employees and investors, fund firms need to learn to speak their audience’s language, not the other way around. Plain speaking is one of the best and most powerful forms of transparency, because it turns esoteric data into useful, actionable information. A quick tour of the leading, UK retail fund management websites highlights the problem. The potential investor/employee is confronted by a plethora of identikit white, middle aged men, painfully repetitive visual clichés (the default image for “infrastructure” is the underside of a motorway bridge, it seems) and a lexicon that is out there on its own. If this is not connecting well to existing audiences, it certainly is not connecting to new ones at all. Worse. The common, macho language of investment is a proven deterrent to women investors, for example (3).

The regulatory action taken by the FCA against closet trackers also reinforces this issue. Aside from those fined for overcharging, a number of fund managers have been told to address their literature which does not make apparent the extent to which some of their funds are actively managed or otherwise. If the language used was clear and investor-friendly, these problems would not happen.

Many challenges remain. Volatility, technology, interest rates, and MiFID II to name but a few, whilst Brexit and all its tiny but weighty details will continue to overshadow everything we do for the foreseeable future. It’s always easy to criticise, its much harder to actually  create change, but I think this is a wonderful time to be in the asset management sector. It’s the opportunity to make a real difference.

 (1) Kumar, A., A. Niessen-Ruenzi, and O. G. Spalt, 2015. What’s in a Name? Mutual Fund Flows When Managers Have Foreign-Sounding Names, Review of Financial Studies 28, 2281-2321 (2 Ortiz, Peter), 8 August 2017. Why asset management doesn’t have to be boring, Ignites Europe, based on online poll (3) Britain Thinks, September 2016. Playing it safe, women’s views of investing, presentation at FSF event

Lansons Newsletter-Spring

Lansons Newsletter Spring 2018

Our Spring 2018 Newsletter is now live

You can read it here, including all the below topics, our Lansons Newsletter Spring edition will also include all of our upcoming events, Lansons company news and employee insights.

Lansons Newsletter Spring edition

Included in this issue:

  • The Big Issues in Asset Management
  • Neurocomms
  • Gender Pay Gap Reporting
  • How Influencer Marketing will work for you
  • Blockchain
  • A relaxed mind is a productive mind

If you are interested in signing up for the newsletter, to receive it via email sign up here.

When Eeyore became Tigger- The Spring Statement 2018

The Spring Statement 2018- Opinion

The annual Budget statement in the UK has become something of a fixture for business and commentators, with many poring over the output for indications of change that will impact them. The problem of late on this regular economic activity is that the rules have changed and we now have two statements a year, one more important than the other. Today, we had the Spring Statement 2018, a kind of little brother to the big autumn event but nonetheless eagerly anticipated as it could give some indication of the spending and taxing plans to come. It didn’t, really.

We did understand that there will be a variety of consultations on important matters like business taxation, plastic in society, innovation among SMEs, and especially housing with a clear indication that the latter topic is at the heart of future Government thinking to help transform a sluggish, slowly growing, economy.  So more homes, more activity to create them, more spending in the supply of them, and thus more tax income we presume.

So, if one was expecting movement in other key areas – pensions or savings for example – then these are deferred until later most probably.  Even the biggest political topic de jour – Brexit – was barely mentioned today, although we do know that there will be a spending review in 2019 which most likely will come after the withdrawal date from the EU.  The true cost of Brexit is thus postponed or at least not fully known, for a bit, although the current assumptions on the costs to Government over the next few years are set out fully in the OBR analysis. 

<img src=" shutterstock_278343395.jpg" alt="Lansons opinion on the Spring Statement 2018">

 

In a lighter vein what we did learn is that the Chancellor believes he has been misunderstood as a politician, and unlike those who would see him as a dull, plodding, Eeyore-ish type are wrong; in fact, he is a direct opposite to this and is the most Tigger-ish figure in the Government.  This may have come as much a surprise to his Cabinet colleagues as it did to anyone listening as the economic analysis he delivered, in a slightly-less-than-Tigger-ish way than you would expect, was more a party-political listing of why the Government is right, and on track, and others are wrong.

In truth some of the economic data is with him in this respect as the OBR confirms: borrowing and debt are going in the right (down) direction, and there is a little light at the end of his spending tunnel to indicate that fiscal relaxation could come this autumn.  This is realistic progress, but what it means for those currently struggling with inflation outstripping wage growth, remains to be seen.

So, we await the next episode of this gripping economic drama.  Whatever that may contain we should look forward to the Chancellor’s delivery. If he continues to be a Tigger then we can expect a quote: ‘bouncy, pouncy, flouncy and a trouncy creature who is always looking to have fun no matter what the situation might be’.  Can’t wait.

 

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Lansons Briefing- Spring Statement 2018 Highlights

Our own Lansons Spring Statement briefing

Statement Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his first Spring Statement today. He had been clear from the start that this statement would simply give an overview of the health of the economy, and it did just that. Unlike the Budget, it did not introduce immediate tax changes or spending amounts. 

His theme, as was the case with the Autumn Budget, is “building a Britain fit for the future and an economy that works for everyone”. 

Read our highlights – Lansons Spring Statement Briefing

Moreover, if you want to see our opinion on the Spring statement by one of our top industry leading consultants, Ralph Jackson, read our latest blog post on the topic here. 

<img src="shutterstock_414559405" alt="Spring Statement briefing 2018">

Tony Langham, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Lansons has been listed in PRWeek’s Power Book 2018.

The PRWeek Power Book 2018

We are proud to announce that the PRWeek Power Book 2018 will feature our own Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Tony Langham, who has appeared in the book consistently since it’s conception in 2007. He has been listed for building Lansons to be an agency with an enlightened approach to employee welfare, resulting in the agency being a perennial winner or finalist in PRWeek’s Best Places to Work Awards and one of the largest PR agencies in the UK. Moreover, Tony has been recognised for his work on complex issues and being a PRCA board member. 

Described by PRWeek UK editor-in-chief Danny Rogers as “the most rigorously compiled edition since I launched it in 2007”, the book lists the most influential and respected communications professionals in the UK today.

<img src="pancakes.png" alt="Tony Langham listing in the PRWeek Powerbook 2018">

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Lansons wins City Agency of the Year

City and Financial Awards 2018

We are delighted to announce that Lansons has won City Agency of the Year Award at the PRCA City and Financial Awards 2018. The awards are aimed at recognising the talent and impact of individuals, teams and campaigns from the best of the City PR profession. The category was sponsored by Kantar Media and we were up against Instinctif and and Teamspirit Public Relations. 

PRCA City Agency of the Year Award logo

 

We are proud to say that this is the 17th time we have been recognised in an agency of the year category. 

City Agency of the Year Award included in our Lansons awards listings

 

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Lansons is B2B Marketing’s top UK B2B PR agency of 2018

What it means to be the UK B2B PR agency 2018

We are thrilled to be B2B Marketing‘s top UK B2B PR agency of 2018! The B2B Marketing Agencies Benchmarking Report is the go-to resource whether you’re hunting for a new agency partner or simply want to see what’s going on in the market. 

 

B2B Marketing UK B2B PR agency 2018 logo

The B2B Marketing Agencies Benchmarking Report is the go-to resource whether you’re hunting for a new agency partner or simply want to see what’s going on in the market. We are committed to demonstrating our successes through our client work and we are thrilled that this is being reflected in awards. We have a variety of awards to celebrate here at Lansons. However, the UK B2B PR agency is an indication of our standing in the industry and trust by those we work with, our employees and clients.

 

To see our other awards, click here. 

Lansons handles PR for ‘first IPO of 2018’

London stock exchange image

Lansons is handling comms for what is thought to be the first UK IPO of 2018: Investment and financial platform provider IntegraFin Holdings.

IntegraFin is the owner of the Transact platform, which helps businesses manage client investment portfolios and financial plans online. This week they announced their intention to float on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange in March.

The company, which launched Transact in the UK in 2000, has more than 150,000 clients on behalf of over 5,100 financial advisers. It also holds oversees funds worth around £29.7bn. It recently reported pre-tax profits of £37m in 2017, a rise of 41.2 per cent.

Lansons won a competitive tender for the brief in November. It previously worked with the company in 2011. 

Lansons CEO Tony Langham said:

“This is the latest business win resulting from our investment in capital markets expertise. We’re finding that listed financial services businesses like to work with an agency that understands what they do.”

This story featured in PRWeek and can be viewed here

The Telegraph: Fintech outfit IntegraFin plots London float 

Financial Times: Fintech set to kick off this year’s London floats

Evening Standard: Fintech firm IntegraFin is London’s first float of the year

FT Adviser: Transact parent kicks off IPO journey

Professional Adviser: Transact parent IntegraFin to float on London Stock Exchange

Bad Moon Rising

Reputation Management for funds management 

When the whole industry is perceived to be under a cloud, protecting your own company’s reputation is never more important or challenging.

This is the situation currently facing many asset management firms as we enter 2018. Increasing regulatory scrutiny and the rapid development of digital technology helped to expose the fund management industry as ill-prepared for public viewing, and the sector has been struggling to rebuild its position of trust with investors of all types.

This is not to say that fund managers, just like other businesses in other sectors, had not become reasonably adept at handling those issues that life occasionally threw at them – manager or senior exec departures, outflows and under performance, for example.

For all but the largest and well-known, doing so in the relatively closed universe that asset managers used to inhabit, versus the brave new world that asset managers are now being propelled towards are two entirely different things, however, and require a very different mindset. You cannot proclaim social value at an industry level without also admitting public interest at an individual company level.

Reputation and Data

The general approach and processes for managing crises are discussed in our special edition newsletter, but the imperative for protecting your reputation has never been greater. Whilst we often talk about the ‘retailisation’ of the investment market (i.e. the shift towards fund-based products, such as DC pensions), the ‘institutionalisation’ of the funds market is just as important.

Irrespective of how the funds are packaged for the end investor, professional fund selectors are increasingly choosing funds and fund managers in a similar way to that of long-term, large scale, strategic investors, such as large corporate pensions, foundations and family offices.

These criteria go well beyond hard performance statistics and analytics and into the realm of much ‘softer’ data, and the reputation of the product provider is increasingly significant in that process. So that poorly handled crisis now becomes a clear ‘sell’ or ‘do not buy’ signal.

News, particularly of the bad variety, is global and travels fast. It does not recognise legal jurisdictions or national borders. This creates further complexities for an industry where intermediation either by consultants or financial advisors has become king and the distance between the product provider and the end investor has seemingly reached its zenith.

Asset managers often operate in peripheral areas with very small client-facing teams covering fairly large regions, and this can create real containment issues. An uncontrolled crisis can quickly become a global game of “whack-a-mole”. 

Avoiding that requires not just the existence of an effective and road-tested crisis playbook, but also the ability to allocate skilled and experienced resource to where it is needed most. Your reputation is hugely valuable and its vital to protect it.

This article is part of our special edition Crisis and Issues Management newsletter.

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Crisis Management- A time to reflect and rebuild

Crisis management is more complex than one might think, and here, we have managing director Scott McKenzie describing the aftermath of a crisis and how companies should respond. 

two men looking at plans with a hardhat, for illustrating crisis management

At the height of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the then CEO of BP Tony Hayward (in)famously remarked that “he wanted his life back”. He was understandably pilloried as a result for his crass lack of sensitivity, as people had lost their lives, fisherman had lost their livelihoods and wildlife across the Gulf of Mexico had lost their habitats.

Within all of that there is however, an important question: when does life return to normal after a crisis? How do you know when you can have your life back? Perhaps the most overlooked aspects of managing a crisis is knowing when it is over.

Based on our experience of handling crises for clients, there are three elements of the late/post crisis period:

  1. De-escalation of the crisis
  2. Lessons learned
  3. Reputation recovery

De-escalation of the crisis

What we have observed is that most organisations are good at recognising the signals that a crisis is happening and mobilise their Incident Management Teams and crisis protocols effectively.

By contrast, there is not the same rigour around recognising when the crisis is over. When a pattern has been set of Saturday evening conference calls, monitoring round ups being sent around three times per day, and WhatsApp group traffic every evening, it is perhaps understandable that people get a bit too used to it.

Indeed there is a risk that people begin to crave the adrenaline that the crisis has provided, and prolong the crisis as a result. This of course has cost and resource implications – and is frankly a major risk to the organisation.

Managing a crisis is mentally and physically exhausting and senior executives have a duty of care to their colleagues, the organisation and indeed themselves to avoid prolonging the crisis. Allowing unsustainable ways of working to persist can have long term implications for the health of those involved.

On that basis, we would strongly recommend that the client has a clear-headed assessment of the crisis and is able to use the same decision-making criteria they used to escalate the issue into a crisis to start switching things off. After all you can easily go back to calls three times per day if the situation warrants it.

The decision around starting the de-escalation process is of course one of judgement, but can usually be based around stability across a range of key performance indicators (KPIs) over a prolonged period of time.

Lessons learned from crisis management

In any crisis your processes, judgement and decisions will be put under severe pressure. At the point the crisis passes there is the natural drift back towards people doing the day job they have been neglecting in order to handle the crisis.

We would strongly recommend that there is an exercise to evaluate the organisation’s handling of the crisis and specifically to gather lessons learned. There is a temptation to focus these exercises on what went wrong, but in our experience there is just as much validity in capturing what went well so that this can be repeated in future. In sessions we facilitate we focus on four questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What would you do differently next time?
  4. What do we need to change as a result of this crisis/issue/incident?

While all aspects of the session are important, the emphasis should really be in the final question – what specific actions does the organisation need to take to improve their approach to handling a crisis?

One further consideration is when to run this type of exercise. There is a balance between allowing some distance from the crisis for people to reflect, versus capturing issues while things are still fresh in the mind.

We think it’s worth doing in two stages: gather some initial views as part of the de-escalation process (perhaps via a template), and then conduct a further exercise (usually a workshop) when people have had time to reflect.

With respect to the workshop we think it’s important to be objective and that you have a facilitator who will challenge the participants to reflect on their own performance through the crisis, and to be thoughtful around what worked and what could have been improved. On that basis we would recommend independent facilitation of the workshop, structured as above around what went well, what did not work, improvements for the next crisis, as well as identifying actions and recommendations (and owners for those actions).

Reputation recovery

The final and usually the longest part of the post-crisis period is recovering the organisation’s damaged reputation.

Depending on the severity of the crisis this can take many months and years (as BP of course have found out to their immense cost). Based on our experience of working with clients, it’s important to listen to customers and other stakeholders and ensure that any attempts to rehabilitate your reputation are based on what they are telling you. For example, have apologies been made, compensation paid etc.

It would be worth stepping back and asking:

  • Do we need to change anything about our business approach to address the new realities?
  • Which stakeholders do we need to engage with?
  • What messages do we need to reinforce and /or introduce?

Indeed one key area of judgement is evaluating the timing of when to switch the emphasis of your communication from handling the crisis, to more positive communications about the brand. This will partly be informed by your brand and reputational KPIs which will have been monitored closely throughout the crisis, but are also down to a high degree of judgement.

However, once that decision is reached it’s important that people feel you have paid a fair price for any mistakes you may have made before you start telling everyone how wonderful your products are (again).

Longer term, rebuilding the organisation’s reputation goes well beyond the communications effort. You need to look at practical ways you can rebuild trust – for example if the issue was around a product failure – what investments have you made to avoid similar failures in future? You could argue that the best examples go further than rectifying mistakes – they recognise the need to have genuinely learned from the crisis and applied lessons to the way the organisation operates.

For example, our client the Co-operative Bank saw the various crises they faced as an opportunity to re-establish their ethical credentials, by conducting the largest ever poll of customers (and staff) on their ethical policy.

In summary, handling the end of a crisis requires more emphasis, effort and investment than it sometimes gets. Knowing when to de-escalate, how to gather the lessons and how to begin the reputation rebuild are all essential building blocks in handling a crisis.

Scott McKenzie is Joint Managing Director of Lansons and also heads up our specialist change and employee engagement business. Scott has worked on major corporate issues and crises across a range of sectors including healthcare, financial services and manufacturing.

Recent projects include helping a chemical firm develop its issues preparedness protocols, helping a Bank recover from a major reputational challenge and working with a manufacturing company to implement a high profile redundancy programme in a heavily unionised environment. If you’d like to discuss this article or any aspects of handling a crisis or crisis management in particular, then please contact him at scottm@lansons.com.

This article is part of our special edition Crisis and Issues Management newsletter.
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Who is at the eye of the storm when it comes to crisis management?

team looking at statistics on a pin up whiteboard

‘There cannot be a crisis this week, my diary is already full’ Henry Kissinger once famously said on the topic of crisis handling and availability. The reality is that issues and crises strike when we least expect them to – even if we have prepared well for them – so how we handle them, and how critically individuals behave during them are key elements for surviving them.

The lexicon surrounding the analysis of issues and crises is full of such words: survival; stress; behaviour; psychology, etc. But as we know the impact is felt by people, who stands up and stands out, when it comes to dealing with such matters?  Who is the calmest person – the eye of the proverbial storm – that a crisis team needs to include?  In my view, there are several people that require core qualities for such eventualities and any organisation should identify them as they are key to the handling, and hopefully the successful resolution of, unexpected events.

The norm in crisis management is that a collection of mostly senior, and mostly representative of the key functions (operations, IT, communications, legal, dependent upon sector) will be involved in handling issues and crises. I’m not advocating that should change but I am advocating that any individual involved should be properly prepared – physically and mentally – to deal with such issues. Not every CEO that fronts problems fares so well – think of BP and Talk Talk as two examples in the last few years – nor is everyone senior capable of explaining technical issues such as data breaches. And equally not every situation is capable of straightforward honesty without difficulty. 

The boss at VW tried to explain away why testing was done in the way it was, but no one was fooled and it was clearly wrong as the US emissions authorities found; and as for the executives at United Airlines, how their staff treated ‘awkward’ passengers became an internet sensation of the wrong kind.

What your crisis management team needs

I think that every crisis management team needs people with the following qualities, and responsibilities, and if they are the senior folk in the organisation then you are blessed with some of the right talent. 

First is the ‘traffic cop’, the person who deals with the myriad of issues and queries that usually bedevil the early hours of a crisis. Most of this type have formal titles found in crisis plans, e.g. Incident Management Controller etc, but they are the pivot for the rest of the team. The traffic cop manages the inflow of requests and oversees, with others, the outflow of information. They may have legal training and understanding, because of potential liability or risk, but ultimately, they are the heart of the crisis team.

They are supported by the ‘decision taker’, the person who without any need for upward authorisation can call the action as they see it: call a press conference; close the plant; close off all production; dismiss the person who is responsible, etc etc. They will be senior, but must have a calm disposition; this is the person most resembling that ‘eye of the storm’ character. They will be trained to extreme levels to stand the stress of such situations, with endless simulations to test their resolve, but it is their experience and judgment that is essential, not seniority.

Two other people help the decision maker make big calls: you could call them the angel and the devil, but in essence they resemble caution, and daring. In crises, one needs a degree of polarity to enable the team to think in the round, to assess the risks and measure them quickly.

Both people here challenge that: the cautious person for example advises that a workforce issue needs explaining carefully internally as a priority; the more daring person says while that is right, time dictates that different stakeholders – such as customers or investors – are a more critical audience to be involved early. This ying and yang is critical for the crisis team, and should be indulged. The best talents need to be involved in quick decision taking, so extreme views in my opinion can help create that tension necessary for better decisions to be taken by the group.

And finally, there is what I term the ‘rules master’.  This is the person who understands process, who knows the scenarios inside out because they have helped devise them and they will also have been involved in the stress-testing of them. They are more than likely to be in possession of the corporate history of any organisation, so sadly these people may now be in short supply given the quick turnover of senior people in organisations.

The one characteristic that probably unites these individuals is calmness. They should be unflappable when their emotions suggest the opposite, and they should be neutral, detached and thinking of others, when they are clearly involved and thinking only of themselves and their organisation. This is not easy but better outcomes I believe will come from a collection of those type of people.

Our experience with Crisis Management

Our experience of recent international crises we have worked on is that this desired crisis management team is not always evident. In one recent example responsibility was devolved away from the leadership team leaving a vacuum at times where key decisions could not be taken without due authority. Time does not allow for this in a crisis, and playing catch-up can have serious consequences, so planning and preparation is critical – and that comes down to team selection. Training can help, and simulations can hone the skills necessary for this, but temperament is innate.  These types need to be found, nurtured, and be ready.

Many reading this will say ‘we know this, and these people’ or even perhaps ’we are these people’.  As extracts elsewhere in this newsletter indicate, the most important parts of crisis handling are what has come before – preparation and testing – and what we have learnt from the handling, the de-escalation phase. In our experience if those people are involved in preparing for and developing the response then the handling can be improved.

Ralph is a Partner and Director at Lansons, and has decades of experience in advising on, and handling issues and crises in many different sectors and geographies.

This article is part of our special edition Crisis and Issues Management newsletter.

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Keep calm and what crisis?

How it starts

It’s 8.30am on Monday morning. You walk into the office, coffee in hand, and notice it feels slightly quiet for a Monday. You turn the news on and see reports from the police investigating an explosion at your nearest tube station during the rush hour commute. This is the world we live in…

Across the world, we have become acquainted with this scenario. Only today you feel it a bit closer to home…. It’s now 10.00am and three of your colleagues are missing. You try to contact them desperately with no luck. Rumours are starting to spread and people begin to panic. What do you do next? How do you handle this situation?

Let’s consider a different scenario. One where people are safe but your corporate reputation isn’t. Your IT systems have been hacked and customer data is missing.

Luckily, this time your business is prepared and has a crisis management plan in place. But with IT systems down, how do you access the crisis playbook? How do you gather your crisis management team? Most importantly, how do you contact affected customers?

In the meantime, customers are starting to complain on social media; they want answers and you don’t have one. The media want a statement but you can’t reach your CEO. Employees are sharing their version of events in the absence of a clear message.

From terrorist attacks to cyber security breaches, organisations today face many unknown and sometimes unsafe situations. Uncertainty is everywhere and preparedness is the new currency.

Put simply: if you don’t prepare, you will incur more damage. Advanced planning is key to survival.

Planning for a reputation crisis

But how can organisations plan for the unknown? How can they navigate issues and protect their corporate reputations? Here are 10 critical steps to crisis management every business should have in place.

1. Anticipate crises. Some crises are unavoidable, but proactive horizon scanning can help you identify potential scenarios that are likely to impact your business. Not only will this help you prepare a response but it may also highlight that some incidents could be easily avoided by modifying existing standard operating procedures.

2. Be prepared: half the job is done when you have a plan. People need to know what to do and who is in charge during a crisis so having clear steps to follow and a team in place to respond will help you protect people and shield your organisation’s reputation. All your energy should be spent dealing with the complexities of the unavoidable, not addressing what could have been planned in advanced.

3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Understanding your organisation’s crisis response protocols is one thing, but experiencing a live scenario and simulating circumstances close to reality will help your teams appreciate the emotional pressures of a crisis. The stress caused during a crisis dramatically reduces our cognitive functioning, impairing our ability to make decisions and control our emotions.

Crisis simulations enable you to train your emotional response and develop mental resilience in a safe environment. Controlling your emotions and adopting a problem-solving attitude is just as important as knowing the plans inside out.

4. Communicate accurately and immediately. If only to acknowledge that something has happened, express concern and reassure stakeholders that you are doing everything you can to resolve it. In the eyes of the public, no comment is the same as saying, “we don’t care” or “we’re in trouble.” 

Especially in the early hours of a crisis, align your communications – and actions – to human safety and people’s needs first. However, be mindful that communicating something incorrect or inappropriate can be more damaging. Accuracy is key so consider legal and ethical constraints before rushing any decisions.

5. Give the reputation crisis a human face. Identify and train your spokespeople to act as ambassadors for your business in front of the media or any other public group. Your leaders should be seen to be leading so prepare them to face difficult questions, take control of the conversation and avoid being drawn into any degree of speculation.

6. Deliver an honest, transparent and consistent message to reassure stakeholders, minimise rumours and soften potential media frenzy. Your message should be consistent across all communications channels: client communications, internal announcements, media interviews and social media.

7. Keep employees informed. Providing accurate information to employees and guiding them on how they should react to an incident will help you gain their support. Give them clear instructions of what to do and what not to do: what’s your ask of them?

8. Guard your online reputation. Social media can work against you during a reputation crisis, accelerating and intensifying rumours that could paralyse your organisation. Inaccuracies should be corrected, particularly if posted by influential sources or commentators which could have an impact on your share price and reputation. Monitor what your stakeholders are saying on social media and use it to regain control of your message.

9. De-escalation. A crisis should be closed and the crisis management team disbanded once there are no further threats on the horizon.  It’s now time to think about business continuity and how to re-adapt critical functions to return to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible. 

10. What have we learnt? Evaluating crisis management performance and capturing lessons learnt once the crisis has been resolved is critical to shape your future response to crises. Notably, the reputational damage caused by the crisis should be assessed and plans should be put in place to rebuild trust amongst affected stakeholders.

It’s important to remember that a crisis does not have to affect you negatively in the long-term. When handled well, a crisis can ultimately enhance your reputation and increase stakeholder loyalty.

Corporate reputation is a company’s most valuable intangible asset, and as such, it should be wisely protected.

As Warren Buffet said, ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it’.

Claudia is part of Lansons’ team of crisis management specialists, advising organisations on effective reputation crisis preparedness and response. Lansons offers crisis management training designed to improve the individual and collective ability to deal with issues and crises. We also have a considerable track record in managing live crises across various sectors and advising organisations to take the best steps to restore their reputation longer term.

Claudia is part of Lansons’ team of reputation crisis management specialists, advising organisations on effective crisis preparedness and response. Lansons offers crisis management training designed to improve the individual and collective ability to deal with issues and crises. We also have a considerable track record in managing live crises across various sectors and advising organisations to take the best steps to restore their reputation longer term.

This article is part of our special edition Crisis and Issues Management newsletter.

Crisis management

Managing crises has become a greater part of Lansons and our clients’ lives. Over the past four years we’ve won 7 major PR awards for helping the Co-operative Bank recover from one of Britain’s severest corporate crisis. Last year multiple clients were impacted by the “Paradise Papers” and we helped develop more “crisis playbooks” and conducted more “crisis rehearsals” in a larger number of countries, than ever before in our 28 year history.

Research by McKinsey suggests that there are ten times as many publicly known corporate crises than there were in the 1990s. Today, in the era of the ever present threat to corporate cyber security, it’s likely that almost every senior executive, reputation manager and corporate communications director will be faced with a crisis to manage in their career. This special Lansons newsletter looks at the key elements of successful crisis management, with four articles from senior practitioners:

  • Claudia Guembe outlines the 10 key steps to crisis management.
  • Ralph Jackson discusses the characteristics that make great crisis managers, and teams.
  • Scott McKenzie highlights the key elements that lead to the quickest possible recovery after a crisis.
  • David Masters outlines the particular issues facing asset management firms this year.

I have three key observations building on my colleagues’ thoughts:

Firstly, it is vital that organisations put in place the right management and decision making structure during a crisis. This is because they have to be able to act quickly and, more importantly, make the correct big decisions. The right structure often involves overriding many of the silos that normally exist within organisations and establishing a more streamlined structure for the duration of the crisis.

The key elements include: involvement of senior management, typically the CEO; regular (often daily) meetings or conference calls; involvement of communications people and, most crucially, free and unfettered debate of key decisions. The correct decision making structure is one of the biggest factors in the successful management of a crisis.   

Secondly, in times of crisis, it is crucial to consider all stakeholders and all audiences together – in an integrated way – when considering how to react and what to communicate. Many of the greatest mistakes have happened when corporations prioritised investor audiences, because the share price has been affected, rather than considering the whole of society.

Thirdly, and for me, the crucial element for everyone working in “reputation management” (which I’d suggest includes all senior executives as well as communications professionals) is the diligence and thoroughness of crisis preparation, scenario planning and rehearsal.

There are now so many publicly known crises that many of them are soon forgotten. The ones we remember, and that have a lasting impact, are those that were genuinely terminal (as for Harvey Weinstein) or where the crisis was mishandled to the point that a crisis also became a “PR disaster” (as for BP) or, as so often in politics, where the “cover up” becomes bigger than the initial incident (from Watergate through to Damian Green and images saved on his computer). 

The fact that we tend to remember the “PR disasters” emphasises the importance of professional crisis management. We hope that you aren’t aware of most of the twenty significant (and multiple minor) “crises” we helped manage last year, as in our job, that’s success. In our view, the best way to ensure successful crisis management, is to have prepared and rehearsed properly.

On that note, I’d like to wish you a crisis free 2018 but hope that your organisation has planned for a year that involves a crisis.

Tony Langham co-founded Lansons in 1989 and still leads the organisation and works actively with clients. He has been commissioned by the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA) to write the PR industry’s handbook on Reputation Management, which is due to be published later this year. 

Tony Langham co-founded Lansons in 1989 and still leads the organisation and works actively with clients. He has been commissioned by the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA) to write the PR industry’s handbook on Reputation Management, which is due to be published later this year.

This article is part of our special edition Crisis and Issues Management newsletter.

Lansons appointed official partner of London Blockchain Week

We are delighted to announce that Lansons has been appointed as the official partner of London Blockchain Week in January 2018. We will be supporting the promotion of the event, taking a stand, and Tony Langham, will be chairing a panel of industry experts to discuss the pertinent issues surrounding Blockchain and its potential applications in financial services.

As the hot topic of 2017, particularly in the face of rising cryptocurrency popularity, Blockchain is not going away anytime soon. It is considered by many to be the new internet and we recognise the transformational potential that the technology may have for a number of sectors including financial services, law, healthcare, and many more. It is becoming vital for companies to understand the amazing possibilities as well as the reputational challenges that come from embracing this new technology.

Now in its fourth year, Blockchain Week will bring together world-leading experts and forward-thinking companies to discuss this disruptive technology that has taken the world by storm.

The event will kick off with the Hack-The-Block Blockchain Hackathon on Friday 19 January to 21 January 2018, moving into a three-day exhibition and conference from Monday 22 January to Wednesday 24 January, featuring an expo of 40-60 of the hottest blockchain companies worldwide.

Panel sessions at the event will cover topics such as Blockchain & Financial Services Disruption, Blockchain & Government, Global Trends and more.

Lansons will be present at the three-day exhibition and conference from Monday 22 to Wednesday 24 January 2018.

For more information, or if you are interested in attending or participating in the event, please contact us on: BlockchainWeek@lansons.com

This article is part of our Winter 2017 newsletter.

Are you ready for Gender Pay Reporting?

The deadline for publishing gender pay data is less than four months away. Yet, at the time of writing, only 366 out of roughly 9,000 companies legally required to report have submitted their numbers. That is less than 5 per cent. Chances are, many of our readers still have gender pay reporting on their ‘To Do List’ for 2018.

The gender pay gap is a reputational risk you cannot afford to ignore, as well demonstrated by some high-profile casualties over the past year.

Most recently, the FT has exposed sixteen companies which appear to have intentionally submitted inaccurate data. At least one company, Hugo Boss, changed its official submission after the FT pointed out that its results were unusual and asked for an explanation. A reputational blunder much more damaging than publishing the accurate figures in the first place, no matter how bad they may be.  

As we approach the deadline of 4 April 2018, the media will increasingly scrutinise employers seeking to fly under the radar or misrepresent their data. Moreover, gender pay poses a significant risk to employer brand and may lead to recruitment and retention issues.

Women should rightly hold their employer to account. Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money and author of the Women in Finance Charter, has encouraged women to vote with their feet: “What I’m starting to say to women now is, check whether or not your organisation has signed up. If it hasn’t signed up, find out why – and if you don’t like the answer, get out now and join a firm that has.”

Gender pay cannot be isolated as an HR issue, it must be seen as a business priority.

If your gender pay gap is significant, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Instead, consider taking the opportunity to establish a plan to improve the problem, then clearly and consistently communicate it to your employees and external stakeholders.

To help you tackle gender pay reporting as the deadline rapidly approaches, here are ten recommendations to kick-start your planning for 2018:

  1. Be transparent

    First and foremost, it is vital to present your gender pay figures clearly and transparently. Any attempt to be evasive or misleading will do much more harm than good, as well demonstrated by the FT’s investigation.

  2. Provide context

    If your gender pay figure is bad, you probably aren’t alone. While this should not invite complacency, it will help to contextualise your figures amongst your peers and the wider industry.

  3. Understand the cause

    Identify which factors have specifically contributed to your gender pay gap. Examples can vary widely from specialist skills and financial contribution to the business, which may be justifiable but will require explanation, to areas that will need addressing, such as unconscious bias or a weak return to work programme after maternity leave.

  4. Establish a plan

    It is not enough to simply explain why your gender pay gap exists e.g. “The majority of our senior leaders are men” (herein lies the problem). You must establish a plan to improve gender equality across your organisation. This could include a variety of measures, such as introducing anonymous job applications, signing the Women in Finance Charter or launching mentoring programmes to empower women to get into leadership positions.
     
  5. Create a narrative

    You have an opportunity to include a supporting narrative alongside your gender pay data. It is strongly advisable to create your own narrative, rather than allowing the media to articulate it for you. Crucially, point to contributions you have already made to tackle gender equality, as well as a commitment to further improve it. 
  6. Identify a spokesperson

    You are required to nominate a director who will be responsible for approving the gender pay calculations in a written statement. Take this opportunity to establish a prominent spokesperson on gender pay, and potentially wider diversity and inclusion issues within your organisation.

  7. Evaluate your stakeholders

    Having a problematic gender pay gap could present issues with a wide variety of stakeholders. The priority should be your people. But also consider other interested parties beyond the media. Customers, shareholders, suppliers and partners may all have a strong opinion, and communications must be tailored for each audience.

  8. Build a compelling EVP

    While negative media coverage will inflict pain in the short-term, lasting damage will be to your employer brand. Mitigate this by building a compelling employee value proposition. Could you strengthen your return to work programme for women on maternity leave? Or introduce flexible working?

  9. Develop a pipeline of female talent

    Gender pay reporting is an opportunity to profile wider gender initiatives and nurture female talent, such as partnerships with local schools and colleges to provide work experience for young women.

  10. Address wider diversity and inclusion issues

    The most progressive employers will see this as an opportunity to address wider diversity issues in the workplace. Gender pay reporting could be the catalyst to unite your whole organisation behind a shared goal of improving workplace equality.

If you would like to hear more about how we can help you with your company’s gender pay reporting, get in touch with us at: genderpaygap@lansons.com

This article is part of our Winter 2017 newsletter.

In a technological revolution we cannot forget what makes us human(e)

The fact well documented is that we have entered a 4th revolution. After agricultural, industrial and digital we are now entering one dominated by technology and artificial intelligence. This new technology revolution is blurring what we own, who we are and what is real, altering the way we live our lives. It is dominated by market forces powered by machine learning and is impacting our industry and the world around us.

Firstly, disruption in the market by machine learning has created a race to the bottom financially. The ‘gig economy’ – where people work on an ad hoc basis powered by machines – has taken over a number of influential sectors (with predictions for more to come) and driven down prices. On the other hand, whilst companies are driving their prices down there are technology brands like Apple who can demand £1,000 for a phone whilst we struggle to buy a home. Whilst companies and Government try to catch up, society is losing faith and loyalty with the traditional as they know that they can switch providers, relationships and opinions with the swipe of a phone. A recent Populus survey backs this up, revealing apathy towards these traditional systems, from big business to Government:

Before we hark back to ‘the good old days’, this revolution has also been a force for real societal change.  The ability to share views, actions and opinions with everyone has forced people to think about their societal and ethical impact on a world that they can now see and feel at the click of a button. In turn, consumers can now make a choice when it comes to their work place, their business values and how they live their lives. This is having a powerful impact on how companies operate. Where once a CEO could hide behind his/her glass office, they are now expected to be more transparent than ever; to share their personality with the world, to openly discuss business ventures and reveal plans for the future.  This has forced companies and business to think about their approach to society. Those that don’t are exposed across social media like United Airlines or even forced into administration like Bell Pottinger.

So, what can we all do?

  • We must think much more about our corporate social responsibility and ethical impact, within our industry and with our clients. We have already seen a shift to more ethical work, with awards submissions focussing more on corporate social responsibility and new client reporting standards. Moving into 2018, businesses need to lead the way and prove to an ethically aware audience that they share the same values.
  • Crucially, businesses need to shift their thinking towards their business purpose. Many companies believe that their purpose is to make money but this misses the point entirely; businesses need to be thinking about their wider social purpose. This means operating true to a purpose that serves society, respects the dignity of people and so generates a fair return for responsible investors[i]. More challenging still, it also welcomes public scrutiny to prove it values its customers and the society it claims to work for.
  • Finally, businesses must learn to become genuine storytellers. As companies are forced from their glass offices to stand hand in hand with their audiences, they must also learn how to truly empathise and interact with their stakeholders.

What is the best way to achieve this? Insight led, audience first stories that resonate with those that they are trying to reach. In a world filled with data and technology this may sound surprising. But it is within this technological revolution that people crave emotional interaction more than ever before. The companies that understand this will continue to earn that sacred trust, build advocacy and therefore survive the challenging road ahead. 

Lansons prides itself on its story first, channel neutral approach to corporate and consumer storytelling. To find out more about how we can help you define your corporate narrative across paid, earned, shared and owned channels please contact Megan Murray Jones.

This article is part of our Winter 2017 newsletter.

[i] http://www.blueprintforbusiness.org/

Misunderstanding millennials: the future of work is a generation game

As most of us do as we reach the final few working days of the year I start to reflect on the year that has been, and what might lay ahead.

I am a sucker for the Christmas period. I love the usual array of sugary sweet Christmas music and Richard Curtis movies which give us an impossibly nostalgic vision of a snowy London Christmas. It all feels quite romantic unless you’re someone who has tried to commute in the recent snow storms that have hit the UK.

On that basis it is perhaps surprising that my favourite Christmas song is rather unconventional. It is “White Wine in the Sun” by the Australian comedian Tim Minchin. In 5 minutes of wit and wonder Minchin combines a sentimentality based around family, with a scepticism around the commercialism so wrapped up in Christmas.

It’s a song that can easily bring a tear to my eye as it is so intertwined with my own experience of my parents living half the world away in Canada, and my young family rarely having the opportunity to see them over the festive period.

Yet it is also a song about having a clear world view – around standing for – and against – something. Around the importance of family; of people from across the generations (and despite their differences) spending time together and enjoying each other’s company. (“I’ll be seeing my dad, my sisters, my brother, my gran and my mum. We’ll be drinking white wine in the Sun”).

Perhaps then, I was already unconsciously thinking about that theme of generations coming together when I recently attended a Supper Club event on “Managing and motivating millennial talent”. As someone with a deep professional interest in the future of the workplace this is a topic I am fascinated by.

While I enjoyed the debate I was somewhat frustrated by the laziness of labels used for ‘millennials’ (a label I’m also sceptical of incidentally…). One of the speakers talked about millennials having a sense of entitlement, unrealistic expectations, seeing life through a filter, having fake confidence etc, etc. Themes explored by Simon Sinek recently – sparking some controversy (as an aside I completely agree with him when he talks about the value of “consistency” in building long term relationships).

I am sure that social media has helped to create some of these perceptions but it all feels a bit overblown to me. Some of the most analytical, serious and deep thinkers I know would be classified as millennials.

In fairness one speaker did open by asking whether we recognise millennials’ strengths? i.e. a flexible mindset, entrepreneurial, innovative, ethical, societally aware… Indeed in a VUCA world they have an in-built ability to deal with change. And in this uncertain world of Brexit and Trump; and of an uncertain workplace accelerating the use of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotics, they’ll certainly need that resilience.

We all will.

One idea discussed at the event which did stand out was the concept of reverse mentoring. Where a millennial might mentor a senior colleague around a certain topic. I’m a huge fan of mentoring. At their best these relationships are a hugely valuable exchange of knowledge and experience. I think they provide value for both parties – opening up new ways of seeing the world based on someone else’s vastly different view of the world.

I think reverse mentoring may also address some of the misconceptions we may have in the workplace about different generations. And let’s face it with the demographics of people working well into their 70’s and millennials likely to account for 70% of the workforce by 2025 we are going to have to get used to inter-generational working.

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges facing the future of the workplace with so much happening in terms of disruptive technologies and shifts in demographics.

Partly I think it is about resetting people’s expectations of the workplace. The rise of popular psychology has seen an increase in what we might expect from our employer, including being responsible for our own individual happiness. There is a risk that we all expect too much from work.

While employers do have a duty of care to the people who work for them – whether it’s around having great policies and processes to address workplace stress, tackling workplace bullying or harassment, or just making it a great environment to work in, frankly, I’m not sure employers should carry the can for an individual’s happiness. As the celebrated scholar Theodore Zeldin said to me recently when I interviewed him “happiness is an illusion”.

Instead of expecting ‘happiness’ from our employer, perhaps we should simply reflect and enjoy what we have? As Svend Brinkmann referenced in his recent book Stand Firm (which should be required reading for these mythical millennials) most of us are caught up in an “accelerating culture”. Looking ahead at personal development, or career progression. We fail to appreciate what we already have and perhaps, much like our own families, we don’t value it as much as we should.

It is with those reflections that I go into Christmas 2017; grateful for the friends and family in my life, appreciative of the wonderfully diverse colleagues I have here at Lansons, and thankful of course, to the clients who continue to entrust us to deal with some of their biggest challenges.

Merry Christmas!

This article is part of our Winter 2017 newsletter.

Seasons greetings, it’s time to accentuate the positive…

It’s a curious Christmas for those of us who work in reputation management and PR, whether in consultancies or in house. On the one hand, our industry (profession ?) has never been better – we’re integrated in what we do, we help organisations tell great stories, we have great ideas, we use film and all forms of media, we have better data – in fact, all-round, we’re better than we were twenty, or even ten, years ago. Yet the reputations we all manage, primarily companies and Governments, continue, on average to decline. At the end of a year, it’s worth reflecting on this.

One reason is the failure of life in Western capitalist democracies to meet the rising expectations of the people. This dissatisfaction has manifested itself in any number of ways from Trump to Brexit to Corbyn in the last two years. However, it’s also worth looking at the actions of companies and the reputation managers, whether they be CEOs or communications professionals.

In my view reputation management is focusing too much on reputation protection and too little on reputation building. And it’s easy to understand why. The business sector is still behind society’s expectations on so many agendas including gender pay, BAME, sustainability, ethics, taxation, executive remuneration and inequality. This can lead to a defensive feeling in the Boardroom. Most organisations are now forensically aware of the risks they face and have developed a highly effective crisis play book for all situations. They have rehearsed their incident management processes and CEOs have rehearsed media interviews for a cyber security breach. Those that haven’t done these things are now behind their competitors. But my recommendation for 2018 is that organisations give extra senior time to reputation building and choose to accentuate the positive with the same diligence they’ve devoted to reputation protection.

If they do so, those organisations in Britain will chime with a happier mood as the country re-discovers some of its lost confidence. There (probably) won’t be an election or referendum for the first time since 2013 and that will help. Brexit talks will actually progress and the country will start to think more about the future. England won’t win the World Cup, but the nation might be fairly proud of its young team, at least before the tournament starts. The corporations that will prosper will be those talking positively about Britain’s future – as will brands that can capture a sense of a young, agile, progressive society.

And on that note, on behalf of everyone at Lansons, I’d like to thank all of our clients for their continued support and wish everyone the compliments of the season. Here’s to a chirpy 2018…

This article is part of our Winter 2017 newsletter.

Lansons’ Newsletter: Winter 2017

Click to read Lansons’ newsletter – Winter 2017

The latest edition of our newsletter is now available to view.

Included in this issue:

  • Seasons greetings, it’s time to accentuate the positive…
  • Misunderstanding millennials: the future of work is a generation game
  • In a technological revolution we cannot forget what makes us human(e)
  • Are you ready for Gender Pay Reporting?
  • Lansons appointed official partner of London Blockchain Week

Lansons is partnering with Wilton’s Music Hall once again!

We are very excited to be partnering with Wilton’s Music Hall once again. This time we will be joining forces to create a trailer for the weird and wonderful, The Box of Delights!

Head over to their website to purchase a spellbinding ticket: http://bit.ly/2es1qEM

In case you missed it, sit back, relax and enjoy our previous trailers with them:

2015: ‘Dick Whittington & His Cat’ at Wilton’s Music Hall

2016: ‘Mother Goose’ at Wilton’s Music Hall

Podcast: 2017 Autumn Budget Special

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, gave a sobering assessment of Britain’s economy when he delivered his annual Budget Statement to Parliament. Stamp duty give-aways for first-time homebuyers and fresh money for the NHS was overshadowed by a stark warning for future UK economic growth.

As the dust settles on the Chancellor’s statement, Mike Ingram, Chief Markets Strategist at wealth manager WHIreland and Ralph Jackson, senior director at Lansons, discuss what it will mean for business.

Listen to Lansons’ Autumn Budget special podcast

If you are interested in the issues discussed in the podcast please contact Ralph Jackson at ralphj@lansons.com.

 

Phil the magician weaves his magic

On Budget day, the media and commentators trot out those traditional clichés that the Chancellor should be a ‘magician’ and ‘produce rabbits from a hat’ as though we should be witnessing some form of entertaining spectacle. The reality of a Budget statement is that it regularly fails to deliver anything other than a complicated shopping list of promises, re-heated announcements, and the occasional surprising tax raid, or tax benefit, on a sector. 

This Budget comes in a period of continued political instability, and during a process of dis-engagement from the EU which even the most optimistic of observers would say is unclear and troubling, so what we should take from today’s statement? 

We should seek to understand, I believe, these three things: do we know enough about the state of the UK economy to give us confidence in this Government; do we know enough what this means for UK politics and the prospects for the Brexit negotiations; and are we comfortable, or not, about what it means for us individually.

On the latter if you’re a first-time buyer you should be happier not having to pay stamp duty for properties under £300k, but expectations of prices rising to ‘accommodate’ this are already circulating, not least from the OBR. The detailed package of other measures on personal tax, duties, and on the public sector were detailed, complex, and in places quite significant: more resources for the NHS, a focus on education and especially maths skills, business rates and some VAT relief for SMES, and a personal allowance upgrade for all in work.

On the former, is the UK economy in good shape?  No, it seems.  The economy is slowing down, as is national productivity.  This is expected to mean lower tax receipts in the next few years, and greater borrowing, so any economic balancing is still further away.  So, for the longer term – the rest of this Parliament – the picture is not so good, yet the short-term measures announced today, significantly allowing a loosening of spending in the public sector is designed to appeal to audiences the Government needs to address.  Changes to Universal Credit helping those less well off: tick.  More resources to the ‘front-line’ in the health service for all in society: tick.  Help to SMEs on their tax burden to help them grow: tick.  Helping Millennials to get on the housing ladder with lower costs: tick. 

And while those audiences may reflect that the Government has listened and has acted, the benefit is most felt on its own backbenches.  Conservatives MPs grumbling about their leadership and handling of Brexit, arguably have something positive to say in their constituencies.  This may shore up the Conservative’s fragile Minority Government in the House of Commons but it has a price to pay.

The real problem is that the shadow of Brexit still looms over the announcements today.  An extra £3bn is necessary to help in the short-term preparation of the UK’s divorce from the EU, and we still do not know what that actual final divorce bill will look like.  It would seem this ‘elephant in the room’ was deemed not necessary to focus on in today’s statement, yet this has an impact in the next two years.

My assessment is that the summation of all of this is that the Government are probably a little safer than they were perhaps before today’s statement.  Small measures on fuel and alcohol duties do go a long way to assuaging the ‘man in the street’ view that there is ‘nothing for me’ – there is. Some measures are also deliberately Labour-esque especially focusing on a cohort (younger people) in society who found Labour more appealing at the last election.  A lot of people are unaffected by today, and things not changing such as on pensions, gives some people less room to complain.

In conclusion I think we also know two more things.  First, Philip Hammond does a good turn in dad jokes, but probably has the air of someone looking forward to a time out of the limelight.  And second it probably allows for the Prime Minister some breathing space to shuffle her pack now.  UK politics continues to be interesting, even if the economics (and presentation) can be a little dull.

Working with our PROI partners; Why our PROI partnership is more important than ever

In this ever-changing, fast-paced world, we need to work harder than ever us to stay ahead in our industry. The latest AI revolution has changed how businesses operate and how we view the world, as well as blurred what we truly own, versus how much we share with those around us.

This has a massive impact on our industry; with our global view shifting, and trust in big business failing, what will reputation management look like in 5 years time?

This is a time when you cannot just look inwards to make ; we have to all actively learn from the world around us to succeed. This is where our invaluable PROI partnership comes in; who better to learn from that those within our industry who see the world in a different way.

Our PROI partnership offers ‘on the ground’ support through specialist agencies that we know and trust. We have worked together throughout the years to provide consultancy to global briefs, run internal change programmes across continents and even host work experience for partner colleagues to get a feel for how other agencies operate. It is a strong and collaborative partnership, and in a time of technological revolution it is a partnership that is needed now more than ever.

So when I recently attended the PROI EMEA meeting in Bucharest, to present a 2-hour workshop on the technology that is changing our industry, I wanted to encourage this collaboration even more. Rather than just present on Lansons’ own opinion on the subject, I appealed to the wider PROI community to share their knowledge. I was blown away by the response; I received requests to present, videos to play on the day, offers to facilitate brainstorms.

What could have been a one agency view on the latest technological revolution became a rich debate with a global outlook on the future of PR. We saw first-hand the Chinese view on personalisation of content where Twitter is banned, Poland’s approach to the latest ‘Hammock Office’ and how our South African partner uses Augmented Reality to transform traditional direct marketing campaigns.

Furthermore, we then facilitated a global debate on the subject, providing us all with reassurance that we are approaching the future united, with an international support network to steady the ship in uncertain technological times.

I left the PROI meeting inspired by the speakers and the willingness of our partners to get stuck in to the debate. I returned to Lansons brimming with new ideas to share with my own colleagues, eager to work with our PROI partners more in the future. When change causes us all to look inward, the best thing you can do is look further afield for the right inspiration.

If you are interested in finding out more about our international work or you want to discuss a specific cross border or international communications need, please get in touch with the me or the Lansons international team on international@lansons.com.

Podcast: Theodore Zeldin on exploring humans and happiness

We recently hosted an audience with Theodore Zeldin, the Oxford scholar of personal ambitions. Theodore was interviewed by Lansons Joint Managing Director and Head of Change and Employee Engagement, Scott McKenzie. Following the event we recorded a podcast with Scott where he discussed some of the themes and ideas raised by Theodore, including:

  • What is happiness?
  • How can we rethink work?
  • What more can we do to listen and understand others?
  • Why businesses have a broader role to play in dealing with societal issues?
  • Mindfulness – is it useful for managing mental health?

Theodore Zeldin on exploring humans and happiness

If you are interested in the issues discussed in the podcast please contact Scott McKenzie at scottm@lansons.com.

 

Inspiring a new and diverse generation for Lansons – do we really have a choice?

Do you remember your first work experience? Perhaps it was babysitting for a family with far too many children, office experience mostly photocopying and making tea, or pulling drinks you’d never heard of behind a bar… and we wonder why young people are lacking the skills needed to take off in the world of work.

Lansons’ believes in providing fair work experience opportunities to young people from a range of backgrounds to help them develop core employability skills.  It also helps us source talent from the broadest spectrum possible. The 2016 report by CMI and EY foundation, Age of uncertainty, young people’s views on the challenges of getting into work in 21st century Britain, revealed that 56% of young people find it challenging to gain experience relevant to their choice of career, and 32% are concerned they won’t find a job in the near future. We want to help change this and our scheme forms part of our core business strategy of supporting meritocracy, diversity and inclusion.

This summer we were proud to host 18 work experience students as part of our annual programme. Many students have never worked in an office before so we invite them in for an informal chat as a first step to get to know them a little and pair them with the right buddy. People from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly find it hard to get their foot in the door so we genuinely believe in improving social mobility though our links with charity Making the Leap, and a new partnership this year with Social Mobility Foundation.  44% of students this summer came from this wider community, with a focus on disadvantaged backgrounds.  We aim to reach 50%.

We also supported Barking and Dagenham Council’s Insight into Management Programme for a second year and hosted a group of school students for a week whilst they worked on a management task. The students interacted with people throughout the agency and the week culminated with them presenting their final work.  This autumn we also hosted around 30 students from the Women of the Future Ambassadors Scheme which helps connect successful women with sixth form students to provide them with mentors and role models.

Our scheme wouldn’t work without the genuine passion our people feel for their career.  Our junior consultants buddy up with the students to guide them through varied tasks from writing press releases to attending client brainstorms and team meetings.  They genuinely integrate students into Lansons’ work practices and culture to develop both their technical and soft skills.

We all know that the responsibility of developing young peoples’ skills lies not only with employers, but with the education system and governments in a cycle that is inextricably linked. However, as modern-day employers we have a responsibility to pro-actively encourage opportunities for all and support future generations make the jump from school to work.

Do we really have a choice? Not if you’d like a competent, diverse and skilled workforce…

“It has certainly encouraged me to think about PR as a future career and made me feel like it was something that, with the right training, I could certainly do and potentially be good at.” –Work experience student

“My experience at Lansons made me really excited about embarking on a career in communications.” –Work experience student

“The programme was great, I was able to work on different things each day, and I was able to gain a lot of insight into the industry!” –Work experience student

“I learned a huge amount.” –Work experience student

This article is part of our Autumn 2017 newsletter

Director Ralph Jackson is elected to the PRCA PR & Communications Council

We are delighted to announce that Director Ralph Jackson has been elected to the PRCA PR & Communications Council, the think tank of the PR and communications industry. Ralph will take on this appointment alongside his other industry roles with PROI Worldwide

  • Member, PROI EMEA Region Crisis Group Committee
  • Member, PROI Practice on Business Consulting
  • Lead, PROI sub-committee on branding, part of the Business Consulting Practice

 

65 people were elected to the council from 122 nominations. Over 1,500 votes were cast by members of the PRCA. You can view the full list of those successfully elected here and watch a video of Francis Ingham revealing the results of the election here.  

We are very proud to have so many colleagues take on important roles within our industry.

In 2017 Chief Executive Tony Langham was appointed to the PRCA Management Board, which exists to ensure that the PRCA operates in the best interest of its members and the industry.

Lansons Chair, Clare Parsons, was appointed as Global Chair-Elect for PROI Worldwide. PROI Worldwide is the longest-running partnership of public relations agencies, founded in 1970. Since then, PROI has grown to encompass 75+ partner agencies with 5,000+ PR professionals across five continents, 50 countries and 100+ cities

Director Shirley Collyer is Chair of Global Communication Partners and CIPR International. Joint Managing Director and Financial Director, Stuart Graham and consultant Oshin Sharma are also members of the CIPR International Committee.

Digital Consultant Michael White is a Committee Member of the PRCA Digital Group and Public Affairs Consultant, Matthew Young, is a Member of The Young Consultants Committee of the APPC.

Applying what I learnt from my Lansons internship to student life – PR for University Societies

PR has always been a career choice I’ve considered but if you were to ask me – before I undertook my work experience at Lansons – exactly why I wanted to do it or what it really was, I’d only be able to give you a vague answer. I’ve done my research, read countless blogs and job profile pages, but could never really explain it to family and friends in a way where I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. But after just a week working side-by-side with Lansons’ Junior Executives, my grasp of PR is all the more stronger. As a result, I thought I’d apply my newfound knowledge to my reality – the reality of university societies, which includes everything from drama and dance, to sport and languages. Here are my top Lansons-ified tips for students who are looking to boost their societies’ credentials this coming year.

Stand out from the crowd at Fresher’s Fair

As you might already be aware, most societies are keen to draw in fledgling students with free merchandise. Whether that be a canvas bag, a pen, or a few sweets, we’ve seen it all before. If you want to really stand out, follow in the footsteps of Lansons. By using the hashtag #ShawbrookStandsWithYou, handing out pink socks and encouraging people to wear them and share the hashtag, Lansons enabled Shawbrook to stand out from its competitors. Both the colour pink and the unusual pairing of socks with consumer finance got consumers talking and interested in the brand. Applying a similar approach, societies could engage with their potential new members through social media and an established hashtag, while offering a unique freebie that no one else has thought of, or one that doesn’t directly connect to the society they’re attempting to market.

(Student) Media Relations

One key thing I picked up from my work experience placement is that relationships with journalists and the media, really is key. For example, performance-based societies would hugely benefit from marketing their events to journalists. Offer one free ticket to a journalist from your most prominent publications, asking them to write an impartial review, and it will do wonders for your show. This also applies to non-performance related societies. Publications are always keen to hear about what you’re doing, especially if you’re running a campaign relevant to the student body. Offer to write a piece for them on an event of yours, or if you’re a fellow publication, ask to collaborate. On the flip side, creating strong connections with the PR team at your university is also extremely helpful. While you may already be alerted to press opportunities, you’ll also want to receive emails and information quickly and in the most helpful way possible, something you’ll find difficult if the university’s PR team isn’t on good terms with you. In short, maintain good contacts and relationships.

To conclude, my short, yet jam-packed, week at Lansons was a brilliant experience. PR is very extensive, and there’s a lot to learn.

It’s hip to be square!

Social media has created a new form of video and we can’t ignore it anymore.

When TV was first invented, we watched everything in a square format (pretty much, or 4:3 ratio to be exact) until high definition came about and we moved to the beautiful wide-screen (16:9 ratio) format we enjoy today.

But social media is changing the game. The way we consume video content on a daily basis has evolved and it’s all down to that humble mini-computer in your pocket, the smartphone.

We stare at our phone screens constantly, and although we could ‘tilt’ our phones into landscape mode for a wide-screen video experience, that means effort – so we generally don’t bother. Most people keep their phones upright as they scroll through the days’ social and online content.

This has paved the way for the re-birth of square video (with subtitles, so we don’t need to waste time plugging in our headphones to understand what’s happening). This text has become just as important as the video. It’s the hook in today’s video advertising strategy, vying for our time, keeping us entertained and – most crucially – watching.

Requests for square video is on the rise, so it’s time to step up and own it. Let’s create something new, rather than shoehorn a beautifully crafted wide-screen video into square format.

Take this example from one of the latest triple-A games on the market:

https://www.facebook.com/naughtydog/videos/10159098280720246/

The filmmakers haven’t let the square video format own them and become a restriction. Instead, they have used the box full screen instead of being happy with the black bars you’d usually find.

When it comes to shape and size, it’s a new world for video in this ever-changing digital landscape. It’s time to take the squares seriously.

This article is part of our Autumn 2017 newsletter

The threat of fake news

The phenomenon that is ‘fake news’ has swept across the news agenda, muscled its way into speeches and been referenced by Donald Trump more times than I can count over the last 12 months or so. The Independent now has a dedicated section on it’s website for the purpose of identifying fake news and there were so many fake news alerts after the atrocities in Barcelona this summer, Buzzfeed published a video with the sole purpose of debunking these ‘truths’.

It’s not a new phenomenon though, it’s something which has very much plagued the internet since its inception. But with social media continuing to grow as an integral platform not only to connect and communicate, but through which we (as consumers) live our lives, our exposure to fake news is only getting stronger.

The threat isn’t restricted to celebrities and politicians though; businesses face an equal (if not higher) risk. For example, over the summer, supermarket customers found themselves trying to download £100 Tesco and Waitrose vouchers as part of an ‘anniversary’ push from the supermarket giants – in actual fact these vouchers were fake and did not entitle the owner to anything.  

The customers who clicked through to the web page to ‘download’ the vouchers – and found themselves fantasizing about the indulgent weekly shop they were about to embark on – were faced with a confusing form and asked for all their personal details in return for nothing.

Waitrose were quick to remark that the vouchers were ‘in no way related to Waitrose – and we are reporting it to Action Fraud’, and luckily for the supermarket chains, the fact that they’d been a victim of a ‘fake news hit’ was covered more extensively than the actual vouchers,  but the threat of fake news on both B2C and B2B businesses could be catastrophic.

Speaking hypothetically, if it was ‘leaked’ or ‘reported’ that one of the UK’s major banks was about to crash, customer stress levels would go into free fall and at the very least, extensive reassurances would need to be made. Or if it was ‘reported’ that one of the country’s airlines had experienced an issue with its safety checks and procedures, consumer trust would be brought into question.

As communication experts, part of our role is to mitigate the risks of fake news, and while planning for crises is part and parcel of our everyday work, building the threat of fake news into these plans is a relatively new consideration. So we treat it like any other crisis planning scenario and follow the mantra: prepare, prepare, prepare. By having a stringent plan in place to go through this process, we can proactively verify the rumours if necessarily in a quick (but not rushed), informative (but sympathetic) and reassuring (but authoritative) fashion. After all, our most powerful tool is the truth.

This article is part of our Autumn 2017 newsletter

Building a measurement culture

There is no doubt that communications measurement has been one of the most keenly discussed themes in the communications industry. The evolution of the industry has highlighted the need for an effective and rigorous way to measure its value. However, it is interesting to note how this conversation has moved on. Whilst a few years ago the focus was on criticism of flawed and outdated metrics, now it is a discussion of how data analytics based frameworks can offer a solution.

How can a culture of measurement be fostered in consultancies? The first step is to get people on board and excited about it! Whilst every consultant doesn’t need to know the finer details of how an analytics dashboard works for example, understanding the importance of measurement in further improving client relations is vital. Clients are likely to value consultants more if they know exactly how good the work is and what they are getting for the money spent on it.

The next step is to get buy-in from the senior team within the consultancy for which it’s important to understand their priorities and tailor the conversation accordingly. Having sophisticated measurement frameworks that measure the qualitative beyond the quantitative will help in client retention. This in turn helps the consultancy protect its revenue lines. Also, measurement can help in business development; demonstrating that it is taken as seriously as the creative ideas and having clear and sophisticated evaluation can make a difference to a consultant’s presentation to a prospect.

And finally, we move onto having more meaningful conversations with clients and prospects. A great way of starting this is by asking them the right questions. Do they track the traffic on their website and digital channels? If so, can they share the analytics? How do they track sales? Having access to the right data helps in measuring communications work in a much more strategic manner.

Often measurement can be glossed over in client meetings as the focus remains on big campaign ideas. However, it is important to establish at the start clear KPIs which factor in not just the outputs (volume / quality of media coverage) but more importantly outcomes (how does the campaign support the client’s business strategy) and outtakes (how has this campaign or activity impacted awareness? Has it increased advocacy? Has it seen a shift in end-user adoption?).

Big data and analytics have been buzzwords for measurement, discussed at several industry conferences and networking sessions. However, they now need to become part of a consultancy’s day-to-day working.

In 2018, we can be certain that the role of communications will be moving up in board meeting agendas as businesses navigate a complex media and regulatory environment. This will be accompanied by a growing need for budget justification. So, communications consultants will need to start putting measurement at the forefront of their conversations with clients and prospects to remain ahead of the curve.

This article is part of our Autumn 2017 newsletter

Artificial Intelligence will change our lives sooner than we realise

Are you ready?

Is your organisation ready?

It was whilst attending a client’s ‘Disrupt17’ conference, that the enormous implications of AI were first felt. Together with business leaders, I listened to influential Silicon Valley speakers, from the think tank of Singularity University to RocketSpace, the world-renowned tech incubator that helped the likes of Spotify and Uber get off the ground.

Until that moment, I had underestimated the long-term changes that this technology will bring – to every industry, every organisation and every job.

And, it’s because of the huge leaps in machine learning, speech recognition, mapping and visual-recognition technology, that artificial intelligence [AI] is quite literally walking off the pages of sci-fi books and into our lives.

This isn’t just about self-driving cars and virtual butlers. Those Facebook photos you’re tagged in? That’s AI. So are our Netflix recommendations, Spotify playlists and Google and Skype translators that enable us to talk to anyone in the world in any language. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Alexa, your Amazon Echo voice-controlled butler. If you don’t have one yet, you’ll soon be able to ask Apple’s Siri to order one and have it delivered the same day, anywhere you find yourself.

AI is spreading so fast, it’ll soon be integrated into almost everything we touch, kick-starting what many are calling the ‘fourth-industrial revolution’ – the first being steam engines, the second oil and electricity and the third computers.

The only difference, analysts say, is this new revolution is likely to be 10 times faster, 300 times the scale and have 3,000 times the impact of others because once computers invade the physical world and start making autonomous, intelligent decisions, the opportunities are limitless.

But, despite all the advantages that AI will generate, few doubt it will also spell redundancy for many. A recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States quantifies the problem in stark terms.

It argues that jobs are already being lost to AI and are unlikely to come back. For example, robots called Sam [semi-automated mason] are already beginning to replace brickies in America and will arrive in Europe any day. They can lay up to 3,000 bricks a day compared with the human average of 500 – all without fag breaks!

PWC estimates that almost a third of existing UK jobs may be automated away over the next 15 years. That’s a lot. And, it’s not merely routine jobs. Professional services are also threatened. Automated services such as SimpleTax, KashFlow and Rocket Lawyer which prepare annual accounts and tax returns and do simple legal tasks are putting human lawyers and accountants out of work.

Counter to this, Silicon Valley argues that AI will create way more new jobs than it will destroy. Today, millions of people work as app developers, virtual-world designers, self-drive car researchers, designers and makers, ride-sharing drivers, social media marketers – jobs that not only did not exist but would have been difficult to imagine 10 years ago.

What is known is that all of us will be affected. Our jobs will change. The way we work will change. And, the organisations we work for will change.

So, as per my article title, the question is: Are you ready for change? Is your organisation ready for change?

And, here lies our greatest challenge. As humans, we naturally fear change. We find comfort in routines, habits and what feels familiar. Even the changes that we choose for ourselves pose some difficulty and readjustment. 

In our recently published book, ‘Why We Do What We Do’ – authored by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist who focuses on applied neuroscience in the workplace – we look at why most change efforts in organisations fail.

To get ready for change, whether as individuals or as an organisation, here are some critical questions to answer:

  • Why is change happening and how will people respond to it?
  • How will the change affect the organisation – internally and externally?
  • How will you get your people to drive the change themselves?

Our approach would be to apply neuroscience in the any change programme and work with our clients to take the following five steps:

  1. Understand why the brain hates change, how habits are formed and why these topics need to be addressed as a critical starting point
  2. Articulate why this change is important to the business, what is involved and whom it affects
  3. Acknowledge the potential impact risks and minimise these early on
  4. Practise new skills and thinking during real and relevant scenarios (designed specifically for the change)
  5. Equip leaders with customised tools that motivate and mobilise change efforts

The book will be available to buy directly from Lansons at bookorders@lansons.com.

This article is part of our Autumn 2017 newsletter

Post party conferences: who is the better party for Government?

For those not aware of what a political party conference event is like try thinking of an incredibly large and unconventional wedding that goes on for three days or more with more food and drink involved than is medically sensible to consume.  Dysfunctional guests and bewildered observers combine together in an orgy of debate and criticism – all within public gaze – to try and convince each other and the general public that they are the best party for Government.

Coming in the months after a general election, the 2017 political party conference season was even more important than usual as the victors and losers assess why each did, or did not, fare so well.  But as we all know, there were more losers than winners in the June election.  In fact the party that didn’t win thought it did, and the party that did win wore the hangdog picture of a loser.  I’m not going to analyze the myriad debates that took place in Brighton and Manchester the last two weeks, but I am going to assess where the parties stand on what I believe are five key tests for anyone aspiring to govern.  I know we have a Government in place (for now) so this assessment is really a scorecard on where they and Labour are now, just in case there might be another election shortly.  Which I’m told by the Government there isn’t, but they said that earlier this year – so who can tell.

In the Britain of 2017 many things matter to us all, some of which we might agree on.  If you are a politician you have to embrace these many things in a catchphrase that sets you out as the ones that really understands the mindset of the electorate. So for Labour it is ’for the many, not the few’ and for the Conservatives it is ‘building a country that works for everyone’.  Different words, same sentiment.  Here are the five things I think matter:

  1. People want to be safe, and secure, in their daily lives
  2. They want a Government that is economically competent
  3. The electorate wants, and possibly expects, fairness in society
  4. People expect Governments to deliver on their promises
  5. The electorate believe they want change, but really need stability

So who is doing well in each respect?  Here’s my take.

The issue of security has never been higher.  In the digital age everyone is quickly aware of the latest ‘threat to society’ and it troubles them. They expect Governments to resource properly the forces that bring a sense of security, or safety, and no Government can compromise on this.  It is a no win situation, so all parties promise to spend and do more and at the margins argue about who does it best. They shouldn’t bother this is a no-brainer; the electorate don’t elect parties on this, they just expect it to be a high priority.

They also expect their Governments to be good at looking after their money.  The ordinary consumer may be baffled by fiscal rectitude and the like but they know when a Chancellor is not telling it straight (see below on fairness).  No one likes paying more tax, but presented effectively taxpayers know why they should pay more for essential services (health, etc) but selfishly we all think someone else should pay more.  So parties have to balance being tough on finances with a deft touch to persuade voters that they are the ones to trust.  Being an incumbent is not an advantage as this Government knows; equally pointing out that the Labour party’s plans don’t add up only appeals to a narrow populace in the Westminster village and some in the media.  Neither party is a winner here, as economic competence (like security) should go with the territory of power.

We can all judge fairness in different ways.  Take the tax system as indicated above; the general belief is that the rich should pay more than the less well off, which is broadly the case.  But I think the public needs more from its politicians/Governments when it comes to being fair.  Here the Government doesn’t do so well, as the perception is that they perpetuate unfair systems whether it is welfare, education or health.  I think it is also about personalities where, for example, someone like Jeremy Corbyn is considered to be more considerate and compassionate than some in Government.  While his opponents in Government scoffed at his initial approach to engaging at Westminster, the public saw a person who didn’t want to name call and was prepared to put the public ahead of his own interests.  Labour are ahead on fairness not just for the reasons of personality but more for the fact that they have traditionally championed the underdog.  More of the British public like this.  The referendum on EU membership showed that you cannot take the public for granted when looking at such issues, which this Government should be aware of.

Which brings us to the topic of Brexit.  Mrs May’s Government have vowed to deliver on the majority vote on this and will be held to account for it. They know this carries huge risks as they haven’t really clarified yet what it is they are actually going to deliver.  I’m not sure the public buy the argument which is ’trust us, we know what we’re doing’ when they can see on a daily basis that the opposite is more the case.  But being accountable is the thing.  Labour, by contrast, don’t have this problem of accountability and can promise what they like without apparent recourse while in opposition.  The only vote that matters is at the ballot box goes the argument but Labour should be wary of taking the electorate for granted when it comes to making promises that they have no intention to deliver on.  Nick Clegg and the pledge on tuition fees is one most recent example of a significant own-goal, closely followed by Mrs May and social care.  The public mood is one of accountability, and they are tired of being misled.  Both the major parties know this, and would be foolish to be anything other than straight and transparent.  It’s a bit difficult for them I think.

And finally the current mood in Europe is that change might be good, but in reality not too much change.  The success of Labour during this years’ election campaign was driven in part by appeal for their style of politics but also in large measure by a need for change, or for something that is different. The EU referendum also illustrated the ‘don’t take us for granted’ argument where a majority of the country voted for significant change.  Some have argued that some didn’t properly understand what the nature of this change might actually be, but that’s not the point. The point is that democracy allows for the potential for change, it just has been usually the case in the UK that this hasn’t been so profound in decades. The SDP has come and gone, UKIP is not the force it was, and the politics of the far right are not for the many. Yet the centre left is now in the ascendancy here, at least in terms of support for the Labour party, which could lead to significant change in the way politics is undertaken in the UK. The more the Government and Conservative politicians demonize Jeremy Corbyn the more this seems to be counter-productive.  ‘Jeremy is authentic’ Labour activists and journalists alike told me at the Labour conference, as though this was the magic ingredient for success.  If being authentic is the new reality for the electorate, then Labour could be the beneficiary of this.  Talking straight is not always the preserve of politicians but the lure of power (or staying in power) is a key motivator for not wanting too much change on Election Day.

On the above count, the opposition may be marginally ahead on the voter preference for their Government.  But no one should consider themselves sure of this.  Whenever the next election is, both the major parties have a lot to do.

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Rebecca Annable shares her experience visiting PROI agency partner, Walker Sands in Chicago

Rebecca Annable, Lansons account director and partner visited Walker Sands in Chicago as part of the PROI agency exchange programme this summer.

Aside from triple layered burgers, fresh guacamole made in front of you (and at no extra charge like every burrito house in London), pizza pie (whaaaaaat!!??), the 8lb weight gain in 8 days; two weeks in Chicago with the wonderful lot that are Walker Sands was one of the most incredible experiences I have had in my working career. 

Londoners tend to get stuck in this little bubble, perhaps not knowing or really even thinking (through no fault of our own) about what our fellow practitioners across the globe do and how they do it and I certainly found myself wondering ‘I wonder how everyone else does this job? What do they do differently? What’s it like to do this job out of London?  But most importantly how can I learn and change the way we do things for our clients?

What a welcome!

Via a jam packed schedule put together for me by the wonderful Holly Stehlin, I got to live life for nine days U.S. communications style. I’m not sure I really knew what to expect when I travelled up to the 36th floor but one thing I will never forget is the welcome I received and that view! 10 giant doughnuts and 40 smiling faces all greeting me proves that the Americans really are better at this hospitality thing than us.  Straight in for the kill with sessions, brainstorms, briefings and presentations on my role and catch ups with the wonderful CEO Mike Santaro, the content teams, the VPs and what I was most interested in – the Fintech team.  Every single person I met took time out of their very busy day’s to not only teach me about what they do, their roles and experiences but they really wanted to learn from me too. I entered the U.S as a sponge, ready to soak up everything from Walker Sands but what really touched me (and ultimately reminded me of all the things I have done in the last 10 years!) was that everyone wanted to know what I did, how I did it, my experience, my history and how I can help them.

Taking things for granted

For those that know me, my clear passion is media relations and big campaign creation and this is what I wanted to learn about specifically during my trip. I stand by the belief that if you work in comms, media relations is a skill that yes can be quite daunting, but ultimately you gotta do it! We cannot live without each other so I have worked hard at working together and this has paid off. However I’ll admit that I was totally unaware of how U.S comms practitioners built relationships with media – I assumed everyone did it like us but I was wrong. I didn’t even factor in the sheer size of the U.S, where the media are and the distance between everyone. Media in the U.S is a whole different ball game to back home and UK practitioners almost certainly  take for granted the access we have to every single national newspaper at least, on our doorstep. We have a national daily newspaper, a blogger, a magazine, a broadcasting house, a radio station a stone’s throw away from us and that doesn’t count the onlines and the wires. Without the face to face relationships, Walker Sands work twice as hard to build and maintain a relationship with the media – specifically tech. Using social media and a team of dedicated media relations specialists, I watched how they built contacts, respect and a rapport with media across all 50 states. It’s not just a coffee, a briefing, a call or a lunch – it’s sheer dedication to getting to know someone over the phone and online and getting the right media and exposure for their client.

Content Kings

  • Walker Sands are steps ahead compared to a lot of UK agencies when it comes to the tech and content services they provide and the way they deliver them.
  • Walker Sands has a group of incredibly dedicated and intelligent people who are churning out more thoughtful, relevant and insightful content than I have ever seen – in particular their recent report Future of Retail 2017 – The Connected Consumer and the Changing Face of Commerce and then The Future of Gig Work is Female report for Hyperwallet.
  • These types of teams across all practice areas have changed the way agencies work and Walker Sands are the perfect example of it working! Their clients trust, rely and hire them because they have dedicated content facilities and experts.


Walker Sands say ‘At Walker Sands, we believe that PR is more than simply getting placements. We help our clients use the intersection of Public Relations, Social, and Search to build brand awareness and generate new leads’ and they could not be more right and committed to doing so. What blew me away with the pure dedication and expertise at the agency which every single person delivers. Over a two week period I got to share the amazing work we do at Lansons but also admire and compare what we do vs. other agencies outside of the UK. And while I hate this phrase it really is all about content, content, content. Without creativity and the ability to look further than the next hour I believe Walker Sands have nailed something a lot of comms people are perhaps still learning to do in an era of fast pace and ‘there’s always something better’. I would like to thank Walker Sands and everyone I met for the most educational experience I’ve had, I think, since school.

Lansons’ Newsletter: Autumn 2017

Click to read Lansons’ newsletter – Autumn 2017

The latest edition of our newsletter is now available to view.

Included in this issue:

  • Post party conferences: who is the better party for Government?
  • Artificial Intelligence will change our lives sooner than we realise
  • Building a measurement culture
  • The threat of fake news
  • It’s hip to be square!
  • Inspiring a new and diverse generation for Lansons – do we really have a choice?

Tom Baldock, Claudia Guembe and Eva Murphy become partners in Lansons

We are delighted to announce that Tom Baldock, Claudia Guembe and Eva Murphy have become partners in Lansons. This is in recognition of their contribution and commitment to the business and their importance to our future.

Lansons is entirely owned by people who work here, and sharing ownership is a key part of our ethos and an important part of what makes Lansons successful and – we hope – a great place to work.

Congratulations to our new partners!

Finance Monthly awards Lansons Public Relations Advisory Firm of the Year

Lansons is delighted to announce that is has been awarded Public Relations Advisory Firm of the Year by Finance Monthly. The full list of winners can be viewed here.

 

Press release – Finance Monthly:

Finance Monthly Magazine is pleased to announce that its 2017 M&A Awards edition has now been published.

Every year Finance Monthly M&A Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of dealmakers, management teams, financiers and professional advisers who, over the 12 months, have demonstrated their deal making excellence when working on some of the most important deals across
the globe.

Finance Monthly’s research department has spent the past several months carefully researching and identifying some of the most respected individuals and firms from all over the world. The process, compromising of an online vote and personal nominations, culminated in Finance Monthly’s research team collating the totals to compile a definitive list of industry leaders. We are proud that all of our M&A Awards winners show an insight into the market that proves why the demand for expert advisers continues to increase year upon year.

Editor-in-chief, Mark Palmer commented: “The M&A process is a tried and tested formula for the growth and prosperity of a company, and yet, it is a very complex field to navigate. We are extremely proud that all of the individuals and organisations that are listed within Finance Monthly’s 2017 M&A Awards have excelled in helping companies overcome the complications that can arise during these transactions and have contributed to achieving excellent results.”

Finance Monthly would like to thank all contributors and participants in the 2017 M&A Awards. Congratulations to our winners and finalists.

Hurricane Irma – statement from the Alliance of BVI Professional Services Businesses

For immediate release: Thursday 14th September 2017

Group statement from the Alliance of BVI Professional Services Businesses, representing the legal and professional services firms with operations in the BVI:

“Our thoughts remain with all those who have been affected by Hurricane Irma across the region. This is a challenging situation for the BVI and its 30,000 residents, and our priority continues to be the well-being of all residents who remain in the BVI and those who are affected by the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. We have a team of individuals from across our firms working around the clock to provide support, communications and practical help to ensure the people of the BVI and the jurisdiction recover as quickly as possible. 

“Our respective businesses are supporting the BVI Government and enormous humanitarian relief effort required to support the people of the BVI at this time. As a group, we support the BVI Hurricane Irma Relief Fund.  

“As leading private sector businesses we are also committed to doing as much as we can to minimise the disruption caused to the BVI’s business sector following the hurricane, which plays an important role in the global economy and helps facilitate international trade and finance. The BVI Government has already made significant progress in re-establishing critical business systems and facilities, which will be crucial in the sector’s continued recovery.

“Both the BVI Government and BVI Finance have confirmed that the BVI Financial Services Commission, housing services such as the corporate registry and its online company registration portal VIRRGIN, are operational. In addition, the BVI’s beneficial ownership information portal (BOSSs) was unaffected by the hurricane and is also operational. These are major components in getting services back up and running, business recovery and ensuring continuity of service. We will continue to update on progress.

“In the meantime, we would like to reassure our clients, partners and business contacts that we have implemented our respective business continuity plans and are able to facilitate transactions and provide advice for our BVI clients via our global offices and people around the world, until businesses can substantively return to the BVI.

“Many have temporarily relocated staff from the BVI to their offices in Asia, the Cayman Islands and Europe, and some are working alongside BVI qualified colleagues permanently based overseas. We are also working with local BVI businesses which do not have global offices, to support them in getting back up and running.

“We would like to extend our thanks for the many messages of support and offers of assistance we have all received from business partners across the world.

“Relatives looking for information on any of our employees currently in the BVI (from the firms listed below), please contact those firms through the contact methods listed on their respective websites. Clients, partners and business contacts looking for information, please visit the firms’ websites for further details.”

-Ends-

For journalist queries, please contact:

Lansons team, acting on behalf of the Alliance of BVI Professional Services Businesses

Tel: +44 (0)20 7566 9773

E-mail: LansonsBVI@lansons.com

Firms in the Alliance of BVI Professional Services Businesses:

  • Mourant Ozannes
  • Appleby
  • Baker Tilly
  • Carey Olsen
  • Forbes Hare
  • Harneys
  • Kalo
  • Maples and Calder
  • Nerine
  • Ogier
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Rawlinson & Hunter
  • Walkers

 

Notes to editors

  • The Alliance of BVI Professional Services Businesses are committed to rebuilding the British Virgin Islands (BVIs). The welfare of the Islands and the people who call the Islands home are of the utmost priority.
  • For further information on the British Virgin Islands, please follow this link: https://bviglobalimpact.com/economy

 

 

 

Navigating geopolitical risk, and why it matters to your company’s reputation

If there’s one thing that businesses should be starting to appreciate, it’s that political earthquakes, geopolitical posturing and government backed saboteurs will no longer be constrained to outlying markets and distant, far off lands.

Over the past two years shock election results, crucial referendums and sudden regional policy shifts have caused significant disruption across global markets, (although admittedly not as much as was first feared) and brought the impact of geopolitical turbulence to the top of many businesses’ list of concerns and perceived risks.  

With several key regional elections still to come in 2017, and a number of more long-term political issues yet to be resolved, it would seem as if we are set to continue this somewhat exciting, if a little nervy, political trend.

In periods of such ubiquitous volatility, how should businesses manage their own reputational risks, and is it even possible to successfully navigate such large and unpredictable events? Well, in short, yes.

The key to navigating these risks, and any potential reputational damage, lies in understanding the commercial implications that key, sector relevant events have on your own business’ reputation and identity.

Speaking broadly, the geopolitical manifestations of these risks are likely to revolve around changes to trade, international policy and regulation, the movement of labour, domestic industrial strategies and radical changes to foreign policy.  Therefore, what businesses must do, as with all other aspects of their commercial operations, is develop a risk-based contingency plan for sector-relevant events, evaluating what issues have the potential to hurt them, as well as the negative impact of key outcomes. 

At this point I should stress that this does not mean preparation for what is perceived as ‘the likely outcome’. The past year has shown us that this is at very best unwise, and at very worst shows a stunning ignorance with regards to the current political climate. Businesses should have developed a healthy respect for an increasingly obvious trend – institutional ‘wisdom’ is no longer gospel and no outcome, no matter how statistically unlikely, should be viewed as impossible.

There are few examples that encapsulate the risk that foreign actors can create that are more relevant than the steady stream of government sponsored (or at the very least endorsed) ‘cyber-attacks’ and ‘data breaches’ that have recently made headlines across the world. These events have strategically exposed embarrassing information, caused significant disruption to public and private organisations and, allegedly, even interfered in a number of democratic processes. These attacks, which are stylistically separate from criminal attempts to leverage or extort information for financial gain, are designed to test both domestic and foreign structural weaknesses across a wide range of interconnected systems. However, their effects, as I will go on to explain, can often go beyond the realm of backchannels and closed systems.

The WannaCry ransomware attack, carried out in May 2017, is an excellent example of when this geopolitical game playing, reaching beyond government systems and closed doors, can have a devastating impact on unprepared corporations and organisations. 

For those of you that are unaware, the WannaCry cyber-attack began on Friday 12 May, 2017 and affected the IT systems of over 230,000 computers across 150 different countries.

Whilst there has been no official confirmation regarding the perpetrator, the common consensus appears to be that the North Korean affiliated team ‘Lazarus Group’ played some role in the attack. The North Korean regime currently appear to be pre-occupied with developing more conventional methods of warfare, but there is no indication that these sort of government-backed cyber-attacks will stop.

So, why should private sector companies, thousands of miles away, care about what appears to be large-scale geopolitical posturing? Well, in the days following the first ransomware incidents, experts suggested that the vast majority of UK-based IT systems had been affected because they had failed to install up-to-date security patches, and had therefore left their IT systems vulnerable to malicious software.

This example is significant because it proves that what are seemingly distant and irrelevant threats can seriously, and very quickly, damage a previously untainted reputation. It does not take long to link poorly updated IT systems with other, more significant corporate issues. It is logical, in the minds of the public, to link poor IT security with a wider range of undesirable corporate traits, such as an irresponsible approach to data handling, and cost cutting in areas that directly affect an organisation’s security.  This is obviously not good for any company that is heavily reliant on consumer trust. It is also foolishly reckless to assume that only governments can expose flawed IT systems. However, that is another subject entirely.

This is just one example of how geopolitical manoeuvring can affect organisations that appear to be completely undeserving of malicious attention, and companies need to take time to identify what the greatest threats to their operations are, and how to mitigate against such exposure. Awareness and proactivity are the surest way to protect your business, and it is no longer acceptable to plead ignorance.

 

A Day in the Life of an Intern at Lansons

 

My day starts at 7am. Really, it should start around 6:30 however, my desire to blow dry my hair is outweighed by my desire to spend an extra half an hour in bed. My alarm goes off and I’m up – I have 50 minutes to get ready and out the door so I can start my commute into the office. By 8am, I’ve achieved a lot – scalding myself on coffee, the shower, and maybe even the hairdryer which I inevitably used to warm myself up post shower rather than actually dry my hair. Wake up world – I’m ready to be professional!

If all has gone to plan by 8 I’m entering Earl’s court station trying to look calm and composed after inevitably spending £7 on a Golden Berry juice and fruit pot in M&S 4 minutes earlier. For some reason I manage to always get on the tube for 8:08, completely unplanned but now a strange source of pride during the daily commute! 40 minutes later and I’m usually arriving into the office –  I make a beeline for the Tablet – as part of the morning work for one of the accounts I’m on we have to check any coverage for the day on the Tablet and it has to be sent over by 9:30… so I try to make sure I’ve nabbed it on my way through the door!

The Morning

At this point the day becomes less linear. Once I’ve finished the daily tasks I have for clients (such as checking the Tablet coverage) I tend to do lots of different pieces of work for various accounts . Since there is no real “average” day I thought it would make more sense to outline some of the tasks I might find myself doing.

Logging coverage

Usually the morning starts with logging coverage for different accounts, this includes checking emails that have come in overnight with any publication updates, doing a quick Google search and checking the morning newspapers. This is then all collated and logged for future reference.

News hooks

Finding news hooks is one of my favourite things to do for an account as it consists of finding all the upcoming events for (usually) the next 2 weeks and deciding which events are relevant, noteworthy or may be of interest to the client. These range from a company’s financial report being released to the annual world snail racing championships. Yes, that is actually a real event with real sponsors.

Meetings

Meetings will also often happen before lunchtime – this could be anything from an internal catch up where we go through the actions for the week and delegate work, to a brainstorm for an account’s upcoming projects, or attending a client call in which we update them on all the progress we’ve made since the last time we spoke.

The Afternoon

After lunch the office tends to be a bit quieter as people trickle back in at different times so I usually start working on some ongoing projects I have. Some days I’ll have a lot to be getting on with so am busy most of the afternoon. On quieter days when actions are coming to a close or have just passed a deadline I’ll send around an email letting people know I’ve got free time to do any work that might be helpful for them… do this at your own risk because things to do will ALWAYS appear out the woodwork, and usually all at once!

Research

­There is a lot of research in PR; a lot of background knowledge goes into building all aspects of the handling of a client, from understanding their corporate background, to understanding the market they’re in and how to best enhance and grow their reputation moving forward, research is crucial. Research can also be very specific. Some of the research I’ve done has ranged from researching potential spokespeople for certain brands and projects to evaluating competitor behaviours in the market.

Briefing Notes

I have a love hate relationship with Briefing notes, they are easy to write and act as a good opportunity to be nosey about different journalists. However, if you’re asked to draw one up 15 minutes before the deadline and all their recent articles are behind a paywall, they are the worst thing you will ever encounter.

Ongoing projects

I also have a number of ongoing projects to work on when things get a little quieter; these are often not for accounts of my own but for others who need the extra help. For example, one current task is chasing up MP’s to RSVP for a client event, while another is finding contact details for various board members of different companies.

As a PR intern you can never be totally sure what each day looks like and that’s something I really enjoy about the job. Doing an internship in an agency teaches you a LOT about PR as well as about your client’s expertise too. The days are what you make of them because no two days are the same and you definitely get out what you put in so it’s really worth getting stuck in!

From Munich to London: 5 Key Takeaways from my Exchange at Lansons

As part of our international exchange programme, we hosted Nadine Landau, consultant, Klenk & Hoursch (our PROI Partner in Germany) for two weeks in May. Nadine is a skilled international media relations specialist and she has worked on a range of B2B and B2C clients. It was an absolute pleasure hosting Nadine, and we look forward to hosting her again in the future. Here are Nadine’s 5 key takeaways from her experience at Lansons:

Our business is developing at an enormous pace. Digitalisation has accelerated communication and also democratised it. At the same time the battle for public attention has never been harder. Clients are thinking and communicating internationally, and are expecting us to do so as well. There is no way we can stay in our comfort zones and keep on doing business as usual. Thus, it was great news when Lansons offered me the opportunity to step out of my routine and join them for two weeks in London.

But first things first…

I am a consultant at the German corporate and brand communications consultancy, Klenk & Hoursch AG. Klenk & Hoursch and Lansons are both selected agencies of the PROI network which consists of around 75 partners in more than 100 cities. The global network enables us to service our clients in all major economic regions around the world. In addition we benefit from the regular exchange of expertise and knowledge, such as my 2 week program in the UK.

After having worked for 4 years at Klenk & Hoursch – 48 months of learning to find the ideal mix of strategic foundation, creativity and excellence in execution for my clients, I felt quite settled in my job. I had been there and seen it all.

Arriving at Lansons, it was like starting all over again. Everything was new and exciting to me. Working with over 100 colleagues is very different to working with my team of 11 people in our Munich office. I had absolutely no idea what asset management, real estate or public affairs were all about, however Lansons had prepared a comprehensive schedule with various meetings for me, giving me the chance to quickly tap into their knowledge; not to mention the most important appointments such as drinks with colleagues and visiting the theatre to watch Shakespeare’s Othello with Lansons chair Clare Parsons.

To make a long story short: I had two wonderful weeks where I gained new insights and enjoyed inspiring conversations with exciting people! I could write pages on this – however, as I know you all prefer snackable content – I condensed my impressions to “5 key takeaways”:

  • “It’s all about networking“

In London you actually meet journalists and influencers on a regular basis at events, for lunch or even just for a coffee. This kind of “live experience” is of much higher importance than in Germany. Reason for this difference: in the UK most of the important editors are based in London, whereas Germany’s media-landscape is strongly decentralised. You simply can’t meet all your key editors regularly if they work in Köln, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich. However, experiencing the great value of face-to-face meetings with key contacts at Lansons encouraged me to make use of every possible opportunity to get to know our contacts in person – also in Germany.

  • “Getting inspired”

Another press release to be written, another editor to be called… The risk to be caught in the same daily routine is high. Thus, inspiration from non-PR-professionals makes so much sense. It is valuable for work but also for our personal development. At Lansons I attended several non-PR events including a presentation by a psychologist on neuroscience and an event on the female empowerment strategy – these events enlightened me to new perspectives and I came back home fully inspired!

  • “The bigger the agency, the more important employer branding is”

Employees need to identify themselves with the company and need to be kept motivated. The bigger the agency, the harder this task is. Lansons does a great job of doing this with breakfast events for new-joiners, offers for sporting events, beauty appointments and gatherings with drinks – just to name some examples!

  • “Charity is more than just charity”

Many companies do some kind of charity. It’s just something you do as you want to be a good member of society and also – let’s be honest – it’s good for your reputation too. For Lansons charity is much more than just looking good. Years ago they started an innovative partnership with the theatre company High-Tide, in which they provide office space and business support. In return actors of High-Tide stimulate Lansons creative thinking and offer speaker training. Whilst speaking to Lansons’ employees about this partnership, I noticed sparkling eyes and smiling faces. They all emphasised the importance of this engagement for their corporate culture. As the topics they usually handle at work are quite business-focused, they appreciate the experiential, cultural and social aspects of this partnership.

  • “Consider the political factor”

Brexit intimidates many companies in the UK and – of course – also their customers. Communication measures and messaging have to be adapted accordingly. Clients expect senior counsel and navigation of complexities. Even though we are not conducting public affairs at Klenk & Hoursch, my time at Lansons motivated me to also consider the political factor for my clients – asking myself, “Are there any political developments that might mean a risk or opportunity for my clients and our work?”

This was just a snapshot of all impressions gained during my time in London. Thank you so much for having me, Lansons!

Nadine Landau, Klenk & Hoursch

Rosie Everard shares what she learnt working in Hong Kong

I was fortunate enough to spend ten months in Hong Kong with strategic communications firm Ryan Communication. The business at the time was part of our GCP Partnership but recently was bought by Teneo Holdings, the global CEO advisory firm.  

My initial reasons for moving to this city were based on the fact that I have always wanted to live and work abroad, and Hong Kong, being an important financial hub with a different working culture, really appealed to me. For Lansons, it served as an ideal opportunity to strengthen relationships and to build on the work and opportunities that the team already had in place in the region. In this blog I share a few of the things I learnt out there.

Settling into any new job takes time and certainly any shorter a period in Asia would have been tough and unsatisfying. My Ryan colleagues made me feel immediately welcome and I very quickly found my feet and a position in client teams where I could add value. The city is incredibly fast-paced and that carries over into every aspect of life, including work.  

Being a small firm, with young colleagues, and one of only six native English speakers, greater onus and accountability of client work was immediately felt.  It was important to quickly adapt to the Asian ways and style of working. This included (for example) learning to be more direct and efficient, particularly when it came to conference calls which, with the majority of clients headquartered in the UK and US, often replaced face to face contact.

Similar to Lansons, the culture was very unique and special – a blend of lively and quiet natured individuals who had a strong work ethic. Client needs varied, and with a diverse range of skillsets and nationalities (Phillipino, Korean, Malay, Australian, European, Canadian, Chinese and Cantonese) the firm had the ability to execute integrated programmes in other Asian countries and cities, aside from where the firm’s three offices were based (Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore).

LEARNINGS

Asia media landscape

  1. Whilst the Hong Kong and Singapore media is easier to navigate, mainland China has over 4000 media outlets! 
  2. Chinese Government control and censorship over economic and political news is growing tighter.
  3. Similar to the UK, trade press is struggling and many are trying to reinvent themselves to stay competitive. Ownership and the backing of outlets are key to individual companies’ success. For example Alibaba taking over South China Morning Post.
  4. There is a huge trend towards digitalization and moving towards online. WeChat now has over 600million monthly users and acts as the key social and digital platform.
  5. The vast majority of contact with journalists is done via WhatsApp!

What topics are hot in the news?   

  1. Outbound investment and capital controls
  2. Geopolitical risk – Trump, North Korea, China and to a lesser extent Europe and Brexit
  3. Regulatory advances – The SFC often take its lead from the UK
  4. Market initiatives including ‘One Belt One Road’, Bond Connect
  5. Fintech and cybersecurity

Fun facts

  1. Discounting its Asian neighbours, the biggest ex-pat community living in Hong Kong is the French.
  2. Hong Kong is not as urban as you might first think. It has vast areas of green space. Hiking in fact became one of my favorite weekend hobbies! 
  3. Hong Kong has the most efficient “in-town check-in,” system.  Travelers can check their luggage in at the central MTR (tube) station in town, up to 24 hours in advance, and then proceed to the airport bag-free.  
  4. 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China from the UK.
  5. Ovens and baths are both a luxury; most Hong Kong flats do not have one!

My time spent there was invaluable and very rewarding and I return to the UK and Lansons, a more rounded, fulfilled and knowledgeable consultant. I also leave behind a great new group of friends that I know I will keep for life. It is impossible to summarise in such few words my experience, in particular how the two firms differ in terms of processes and approaches;  it is for this reason that I will be holding smaller sharing sessions on specific topics over the coming weeks for my Lansons colleagues. I would like to thank Lansons and Ryan Communication for this opportunity and would highly recommend the city to anyone who has not been before.

The gender pay gap is a reputational risk that you cannot afford to ignore

This morning the BBC admitted that two-thirds of its top earners are men, revealing the extent of the gender pay gap in the media industry. Chris Evans tops the chart making between £2.2 and 2.5m over the last year. In fact, the top seven highest paid employees are all men. Claudia Winkleman, Alex Jones and Fiona Bruce are the only women in the top 10. Although combined, their salary is around £1.2m, just half of what Chris Evans earns in total. I guess the BBC rewards performance, after that stellar Top Gear series…    

The backlash from female presenters has already started, with Jane Garvey sarcastically tweeting “I’m looking forward to presenting @BBCWomansHour today. We’ll be discussing #GenderPayGap . As we’ve done since 1946. Going well, isn’t it?” And Charlotte Smith offering to take one for the team, “I’m happy to accept a pay rise to help the BBC out with its gender pay gap problem.. #notonthelist.”

The BBC is one of many organisations that are likely to come under fire for having a significant gender pay gap. Unless you live under a rock, you will know that employers in Great Britain with more than 250 staff will be required by law to publish figures annually on their own website and on a government website by 6 April 2018.

The BBC is currently providing us with a perfect example of the public criticism you may face if your business does not prepare for the reputational implications of the gender pay gap. Not to mention the ethical reasons for paying your employees fairly.

Smart business leaders will recognise gender pay gap reporting as an opportunity to proactively address the issue head on and position themselves as leading the way on pay equality. Some companies are already ahead of the curve.

Yesterday, UK challenger bank TSB revealed a 31% gender pay gap. However, they turned this into an opportunity to call on UK companies to “come clean” over gender imbalance in the workplace and reveal the “root cause” of why women are paid less than men. Moreover, TSB is introducing measures to reduce the gap. They are starting a campaign to attract more women into financial services, drawing up gender-balanced shortlists when recruiting at all levels and plan to offer programmes to ensure better succession planning for women to reach executive roles.

The bank is publishing its pay gap data on the government site next week, so it remains to be seen how they will communicate, and indeed deliver, their plans. Of the handful of companies that have already reported their figures (just 28, if you’re asking), a couple have gone beyond the minimum requirement to complete the stark Government report. PwC published their gender pay gap figures as a colourful and engaging report, emphasising their employer brand. They refer to action taken to address gender pay gaps, but miss the opportunity to include stories, proof-points and case studies to substantiate their claims.

Similarly, Virgin Money has published their gender pay gap report as an on-brand and digestible report. However, Jayne-Anne Gadhia doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to outline an action plan for rectifying this imbalance, despite the fact she presumably has an interest as female CEO of the company.

Rather than being seen simply as a tick-box exercise, gender pay gap reporting presents an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves amongst their competitors. The savviest brands will see the value in developing a compelling narrative on the gender pay gap and wider diversity issues, providing contextual stories and case studies to bolster their claims. Not to mention the opportunity for employer brand development, using the gender pay gap as a platform to highlight their efforts to address inequality, in order to recruit, retain and develop female talent.

The gender pay gap is a reputational risk that companies cannot afford to ignore. Not only does it provide the media with a potential field-day, as we have seen today with the BBC, but it could also severely damage your employer brand. So unless you want half of your workforce going viral on Twitter for all the wrong reasons, I’d suggest you act now.

If you’d like to talk to us about what you need to do to prepare for the gender pay gap report, and how to use this as an opportunity to enhance your reputation, get in touch: racheld@lansons.com.

 

HighTide Festival comes to London

For almost a decade, Lansons and HighTide have enjoyed a unique, award-winning relationship between an arts charity and business. We share our offices with HighTide, which enables the theatre company to focus resources and funding on achieving their mission: to stage the best new plays by emerging writers. HighTide playwrights are new, adventurous and diverse in terms of ethnicity, political philosophy, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Our relationship with HighTide has been recognised by a number of prestigious industry awards since its inception. Most recently, we were proud to win Bronze for Best Arts and Culture Programme and Best Collaborative Approach at the Corporate Engagement Awards, up against competition including PwC and The Old Vic. If you would like us to help you create your own award-winning CSR programme, get in touch.

Over the years our offices have hosted over 15,000 young artists, that to date has resulted in over 55 theatre productions and hundreds more play developments. In turn, HighTide contributes to Lansons’ creative, vibrant and diverse culture, and we have the opportunity to engage with the cultural sector by attending productions, readings and the annual HighTide Festival.

Many of you – our clients, contacts and friends – have also enjoyed attending HighTide’s powerful and provocative plays over the years, from Peddling at the Arcola to Lampedusa at Soho Theatre. But it has been more of a challenge to attend HighTide Festival, which lies at the heart of the theatre company, since it is held each year in the seaside town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk. That is, until now…!

We are very excited that for the first time, HighTide Festival is coming to London.

This October HighTide Festival is coming to Walthamstow in their own theatre venue The Mix. The Mix is a state of the art 260 seat auditorium, and it will enable HighTide to stage productions on a scale and with the technical resources greater than most studio theatres.

Over the course of 12 days, from 26 September to 8 October, HighTide will present a diverse programme of outstanding live performance, including three headline theatre performances, comedy, cabaret and music.

The headline performances include the world premiere of Kanye the First. Sam Steiner’s first commissioned play is a dazzlingly funny and original drama about identity, guilt, contemporary culture and the second coming of Kanye West.

Patriotism, nativism and modern Britain collide in Heroine, Nessah Muthy’s devastating exploration of the UK today. And the sold-out, critically acclaimed play Girls, which premiered at HighTide last year, will also return.

Described by The Times as “scorchingly intelligent and as powerful as a gut punch”, Theresa Ikoko’s play explores the voices and stories behind the trending hashtags and headlines that so quickly become yesterday’s news; in this case, the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram.

In addition to theatre performances, there are numerous other events taking place, including talks with world class artists. International best-selling novelist, playwright and non-fiction writer Kate Mosse returns for her popular series In Conversation. This year Mosse is interviewing author Author Michael Morpurgo and actress, author and presenter Sheila Hancock. Lansons is proud to be sponsoring this event.

We encourage you to take a trip to Walthamstow in October to experience HighTide’s first London Festival. HighTide will also continue to hold their Festival in Aldeburgh, so if you happen to be in Suffolk, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to preview this years’ dazzling programme before it comes to London.

HighTide Festival in Aldeburgh runs from 12 – 16 September and in Walthamstow from 26 September – 8 October 2017. You can book tickets on their website, or let us know if you are interested in attending at HTGroup@Lansons.com.

Cracking the science of incidental exposure

Are you reading this newsletter in bed? When it comes to the news, the public you’re trying to reach probably are. Today smartphones are now as important for news inside the home as outside, with 46% now accessing news in bed, which is more than people who commute and read. This is according to the Digital News Report 2017 by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism; a ‘must have’ annual read for everyone who works with media.

It’s the psychological aspect of news that really deserves attention, to which business models should follow. For instance, to this day many publications and bloggers alike think of their audience as the people who keep coming back. Whilst statistics show dedicated readerships exist, such as the Financial Times increasing their digital subscriptions by 14% last year and the US showing evidence of a ‘Trump bump’ as online news subscriptions jumped from 9% to 16%, still only one in ten people choose to pay for their news (with the exception of the Nordics, Southern Europe and Asia).

Leading to an increasingly common side-effect of our news being distributed by aggregators (e.g. Feedly and Google News), social media, and TV; incidental exposure. It’s potentially why you’re reading this newsletter in the first place. It came from out the blue, delivered by email or a link shared online, incidentally exposed to you whilst you expected to be doing something else.

Before the loyalty that comes with brand recognition, people choosing to hit subscribe; getting news to appear (or disappear…) in front of an audience matters. It’s partly why Investigations Editor at BuzzFeed, Heidi Blake, made the very public move from The Sunday Times in 2015 as the pay wall restricted sharing on social media and therefore story exposure. There is a reason the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) industry has been valued at $65billion, why in-house digital PR budgets have risen 9%, and digital services by agencies such as blogger outreach are so valuable (see PRCA 2016 report here) – organisations want to be found.

Whilst the science behind fake news is complex, its clear intention is to draw attention to fuel a business model based on advertising. In an age of incidental exposure, the truth can take a backseat. If quality investigative journalism is heaven, then fake news is post-truth hell; both favour business models based on online advertising.

Organisations play by the same rules, becoming their own news publications but incidental exposure comes with another challenge, as aside from our stories and content being noticed, we have to protect recall of our brand. Reuters found that whilst people could remember how they accessed their news in the UK, less than half could remember the news brand itself from search engines or social media.

If your organisation is playing the media game, then the same rules apply to you. Think about how you are drawing people to your website directly, how you’re appearing in search engines, and what your social media presence is like; embrace that incidental exposure exists. Sometimes our company news will naturally take centre stage and draw the crowds, but often campaign content competes against a competitive newsfeed where readers can be drawn anywhere.

Whether you’re reading this news in bed or in the office, the challenges modern journalism faces is a wakeup call for us all.

This article is part of our Summer 2017 newsletter.

Reputation: Does it matter anymore? (spoiler: yes)

It’s Friday night and you’ve had a pig of a day: bag got stuck in the tube door on the commute and you had to overshoot your stop until the doors opened on the right side of the carriage; your Tupperware of quinoa with salmon and mirin dressing leaked all over the document you needed for the big meeting; after the meeting you saw you’d had herbs in your teeth the whole time. Some days you just want to hit the supermarket, buy a bottle of wine and some crisps and not have a real dinner.

Justifying the way you consume products and services isn’t something many people have to do out loud, but a lot more often to ourselves. Feeling guilty about buying a ready meal instead of cooking from scratch, not being entirely sure of the provenance of the chicken but eating it anyway, popping that facial wash with the microbeads in it in your basket and then nudging the bag of lettuce over the tube when you spy your friend at the other end of the aisle in case she finds out you’re not the noble friend-of-the-earth you purport to be.

Sure, it’s a first world problem to panic about how good a life the chicken you’ve just wrapped in parma ham had, but nevertheless, people feel guilt for everything, every day – saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, eating the wrong thing, travelling in the wrong way, supporting the wrong football team… it is our right as consumers to be aware of the bad and to choose to do it anyway. But who wants to be the brand everyone is embarrassed about?

People have choice, and they exercise that right several times every day through their purchases, behaviour and speech. One could suggest that the fact that supermarket own-branded products continue to grow their market share despite not being the most famous consumer brand on the shelf could mean consumers aren’t that fussy anymore…

When lovely Waitrose came up with the whizz bang idea of saying smoked salmon is essential I was delighted (thanks Waitrose – one bit of guilt eliminated from my overburdened mind), and I am not ashamed to buy their value range. But then, it’s Waitrose – I know they’re a good and ethical company. Anyway, were I to be arguing that people DON’T care about a brand’s reputation or purpose, I would make the point about the huge increase in sales across all the value ranges in all the big supermarkets. People want a bargain! They want cheap stuff that doesn’t make them blind! They want something that works and that’s it!

However, it’s just not true. If it were, would companies spend millions and billions developing their reputation, protecting their brand from criticism or copycats? Spend just as much salvaging reputations in the aftermath of a crisis if no one cared anyway? Wouldn’t that money be better off spent making it cheaper so people would just buy it unthinkingly as they careen around Budgens in a panic they won’t be back in time for Corrie? Reputation is Big Business, and that is because consumers do care, and they prove this everyday by avoiding brands and products that have been mired in muck (Nestle and the baby milk anyone?).

When Byron tricked all its illegally employed (by them!) staff into a Home Office honey trap, within minutes a campaign to BoycottByron was live and being shared. The campaign to stop advertising with the Daily Mail because of its editorial stance saw major players pull money from the platform. Of course it didn’t necessarily deter the readers of the paper, but the noise was there, the association of the Mail with hate was (even more) cemented in my mind, and my personal boycott of the Sidebar of Shame remains in place.

If all products were equal and we had no choice, the only thing we would have to go on when making purchasing decisions is brand and reputation. But we DO have choice, and we still don’t always choose the cheapest version of something, or the most effective version (if we did, then no one would shop at All Saints due to the knitwear falling apart if you look at it for too long). Brand, styling, and yes, reputation are all part of the complex world that make up our decision making, and thank goodness, or we’d all be out of a job.

This article is part of our Summer 2017 newsletter.

A look into the implications on the FCA’s final report of the Asset Management Market Study

King Bailey’s Gambit

Given the weight of expectation ahead of the FCA’s final Asset Management Market Study (AMMS) report, there was a tangible sense of disappointment that it did not go far enough from the more fervent reformist quarters. The interim report had promised a number of fairly radical remedies, many of which seemed to be watered down in the final version.

There are a number of reasons why we should not be overly surprised by this. Asset managers do seem to have got their lobbying act a bit more together and perhaps also a sense that, being pegged back on so many fronts by the severity of the initial report, fund groups had ceded a little ground.

The biggest factor, however, is Europe. Although the FCA has stressed that it wasn’t pulling its punches as a sop to a costly Brexit, it has acknowledged that this argument was presented to it countless times during the consultation. But with MiFID II on the horizon, why further disadvantage the UK fund sector by hampering it with uncompetitive and onerous requirements? The UK has long been seen in the EU as a benchmark for regulation, but once we are out there can be no guarantee that this will continue.

Hence, pushing a number of remedies – especially the problematic all-in pricing – into the MiFID II framework seems quite a useful compromise.

Equally, by utilising the existing Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) to enforce the FCA’s new governance requirements also seems like quite an interesting, joined up approach. The SMCR is clearly a very important framework for the regulator. Shorn of its ability to regulate ‘culture’, the SMCR is the FCA’s tool to ensure that individual and corporate behaviour meets its standards. The performance of group and fund boards has long been a concern of the regulator, and this is clearly going to be an area that remains under close scrutiny.

Moreover, the need to always act in the best interests of the investor will become the definitive guiding principle for Directors, subordinating the duty to act to maximise shareholder profits. Doubtless, this will lead to conflicts, and it will be very instructive how both industry and regulator contend with these.

It has been suggested that the FCA might have decided to refer the industry to the CMA, but the regulator has clarified that point by saying that there is nothing that it cannot do that the CMA can. This is not the case for Investment Consultants, who are less regulated and whose fate seems sealed.

The FCA will now consult on its remedies, as it is required, and we will learn more in September. The regulator will also continue to pursue its other angles – including platforms, product design and global custodians. Private equity and hedge funds will also come under greater scrutiny, and not just in how they disclose fees to institutional investors. Insurance linked funds may also come under review – perhaps the surprise is that it is taking the FCA so long to get to them.

For asset managers, the lessons are simple. Always act in the best interests of the investor, and make it as clear as you can that this is what you are doing. Listening to the FCA after the publication of the final report echoed a presentation given prior to the unveiling of the terms of reference – asset managers need to be more forward-looking. Not in terms of guessing the markets, but in terms of better protecting their clients from foreseeable risks.

This is not to suggest that all fund managers are equally deficient. The industry represents a broad church of approaches, some of whom are more forward-thinking than others. We tend not to hear about them so often, however, one of the reasons why the Transparency Task Force, a lobby group, has set up its Progressive Asset Management group (PAM) to support and promote those asset managers large and small who are leading change within the industry. New members are always welcome.

In reality, there is little ‘final’ about the final report. Such is the nature of modern financial regulation. The battle is neither won nor lost. This is by no means the end. History will look back at this and see it as no more than the opening moves in a very cagey game of chess.

This article is part of our Summer 2017 newsletter.

Lansons launches its first book-Why We Do What We Do

Lansons is excited to be launching its first book – Why We Do What We Do – authored by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist who focuses on applied neuroscience in the workplace.

Why We Do What We Do is for busy professionals who want to better themselves and those they work with. And, the insights shared are equally relevant in our personal lives too.  

Some ‘why’ questions that the book looks to answer include:

  • Why do we all need to manage stress?
  • Why are we all biased?
  • Why are we emotional rather than rational?
  • Why do we not remember accurately?
  • Why can’t we multi-task?
  • Why don’t we see the truth?
  • Why do we need to reignite our creativity?
  • Why do most change efforts fail?
  • Why do leaders need to keep learning?
  • Why do we need to improve our lifestyle and daily habits?

The book is available to purchase on Amazon. You can also contact us directly to purchase through marketing@lansons.com.

 

Lansons’ Newsletter: Summer 2017

The latest edition of our newsletter is now available to view.

Included in this issue:

  • Big business looks a lot like Theresa May
  • Lansons launches its first book
  • A look into the implications on the FCA’s final report of the Asset Management Market Study
  • Reputation: Does it matter anymore? (spoiler: yes)
  • Cracking the science of incidental exposure
  • HighTide Festival comes to London

David Masters Discusses TTF’s New Progressive Active Managers Group With Professional Pensions

The Transparency Task Force (TTF) has launched a team to highlight what it recognises as “progressive” active managers (PAMs), who drive good practice in the industry. (James Phillips, Profesional Pensions)

Lansons is proud to be one of the first three firms to join the team. Lansons director David Masters says:

“It’s clear that change is on the agenda for the sector. The TTF’s PAM group is an important platform to get the voice heard of those managers large and small looking to make change happen within the industry.”

Read more here.

Vocalink Brexit Briefing

Overview

Over the last year the UK has entered a period of political uncertainty: initially brought on by the shock result of the EU referendum last year and then compounded by the equally unexpected result of the snap general election in June, after which the Conservative Party lost their majority, forcing Prime Minister Theresa May to agree a deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party to ensure she could continue to govern.

Prime Minister Theresa May has been clear that her ambition is to “deliver the best Brexit deal” for the country, and her Government’s challenge now is to navigate the Brexit negotiations with a reduced Parliamentary majority.

Below we have set out a short note looking at the Government’s forthcoming legislative agenda, as well as some of the political and business considerations needed ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Legislative agenda

The Queen’s Speech set out a total of eight pieces of legislation relating to Brexit, as the Queen announced that the Government’s priority is to “secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union”.

The eight bills are:

  • Repeal Bill: This will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and transpose current EU laws into UK law, to ensure legal continuity when the UK leaves the EU
  • Immigration Bill: This will allow the UK to set its own immigration policy post-Brexit
  • International Sanctions Bill: This will allow the UK to continue applying international sanctions once it leaves the EU
  • Nuclear Safeguards Bill: This will set up a nuclear safeguards regime to compensate for the fact that Brexit will take the UK out of Euratom
  • Agriculture Bill: This will set up a system to support farmers after Brexit takes them out of the common agriculture policy
  • Fisheries Bill: This will enable the UK to take control of its fishing waters after Brexit and to set fishing quotas
  • Trade Bill: This will allow the UK to operate its own trade policy after Brexit
  • Customs Bill: This will replace EU customs rules and allow the UK to impose its own tariffs after Brexit

These bills constitute almost a third of the Government’s legislative programme over the next two years, showing the importance of Brexit to their agenda.

Political implications: Cross-party support for Brexit

Theresa May faces a very difficult position as she has now lost her Parliamentary majority, despite having called the election in the first place to increase her majority to ‘strengthen her hand’ in the Brexit negotiations.

This result had the potential to derail Brexit, but the Conservatives’ alliance with the pro-Brexit DUP should now secure the votes that the Prime Minister needs to pass the legislation required for the UK to formally leave the EU.

Indeed, the official agreement between the two parties prioritises Brexit, stating that: “In line with the parties’ shared priorities for negotiating a successful exit from the European Union and protecting the country in light of recent terrorist attacks, the DUP also agrees to support the Government on legislation pertaining to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union; and legislation pertaining to national security.”

It is also worth noting that Labour also believe that the referendum result should be honoured, and they introduced a three line whip on voting to triggering Article 50, albeit one that some of their MPs defied. Leaving the EU therefore remains inevitable.

There could be some ‘stickiness’ though around the terms of the deal, as Labour are very keen to ensure that workers’ rights, consumers’ rights and environmental protections are safeguarded. They also want the Government to provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.

This leaves the SNP and the Liberal Democrats as the most pro-European forces in Parliament, with the former wanting Scotland to have a special status after Brexit and the latter a second referendum on the final negotiated deal. Between them they do not have the numbers to block Brexit, but if they are able to form links with Labour and some of the more pro-European Conservative MPs the opposition might yet be able to advance some of their demands and force the Government to think again on some of the ‘harder’ elements of Brexit.

Political implications: Conservatives must compromise

As we have shown, the opposition parties either don’t have the inclination, or the votes required, to stop Brexit. In reality, the obstacles to a smooth departure from the EU could actually come from within the Conservative Party itself.

The collapse in Theresa May’s authority post-election has meant that Cabinet divisions which were previous hidden have now broken out into the open. Over the past week, the rift between those in Theresa May’s Cabinet who supported Remain, and those who campaigned for withdrawal, has widened – with the key area of difference being the length of transition period required after Brexit. Although no one is pushing remaining within the EU, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond has publicly called for a Brexit deal which puts the economy first, with an extended transitional deal of up to 4 years. On the other hand, Brexit Secretary David Davis is insisting that the UK will be out of the customs union and single market by March 2019, to be followed by a much more limited ‘implementation period’.

This is not a standalone example either. The recent Government reshuffle revealed tensions between the Remain and Leave camps in the party, with both sides having to be accommodated with equally prestigious ministerial roles across key Whitehall departments, particularly the Department for Exiting the European Union.

The Prime Minister will therefore have to strike a delicate balance to satisfy all sides of her Parliamentary party – and this could have serious implications for the shape and timing of the final deal. She has already conceded to demands to protect EU migrants’ rights by announcing a new “settled status”; further compromises will no doubt be inevitable as the Brexit talks progress.

The talks begin

The formal Brexit negotiations kicked off on 19 June, when Brexit Secretary David Davis travelled to Brussels to meet with European Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.

Both agreed at the joint press conference afterwards that the meeting had been constructive, and initial negotiating groups were established on: citizens’ rights; the financial settlement; and other separation issues. Any discussions on the future relationship in Council has been shelved until “substantial progress” has been made on these three items.

A week later the European Council met, and Theresa May used this as an opportunity to set out her new “settled status” proposal. However, it was met lukewarmly (at best); Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker labelled the offer as “a first step but this step is not sufficient”, whilst European Council President Donald Tusk deemed it as “below our expectations”. 

Going forward, negotiations will be held every four weeks, with the date for the next meeting tentatively pencilled in for July 17. These will continue to fall a week or so before the scheduled European Council meetings, where progress made at the Brexit talks will remain high on the agenda.

Conclusions and broader implications for businesses

The outlook for the next two years looks increasingly uncertain as Brexit looks set to dominate the political and economic discourse. Theresa May has the unenviable task of delivering “the best Brexit deal” with a reduced Parliamentary majority, and will have to find a way to marry the interests of Remainers and Leavers across the whole of Parliament.

The Government will also need to balance these interests against those of the business community, who overwhelmingly supported Remain ahead of the referendum vote. Although most now accept that the UK will be leaving the EU, the extent to which the country retains some access to the single market is an important factor for the City, in particular.

The Government is clear that they want the corporate world to have more input on the Brexit process, and they also want to allay fears that the country is drifting towards a ‘hard Brexit’. To this end, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark recently announced that he is establishing a new Brexit business advisory group, where he will hold weekly meetings with the directors general of the five main business organisations. This should give businesses some reassurance, but they are not likely to be satisfied until these discussions result in tangible action.

Board Director, David Masters shares his view on the FCA’s AMMS report

Today’s publication of the FCA’s final AMMS report shows both that the regulator has listened and that the fund industry has managed to get its message across fairly coherently. But whilst it may be perceived as a slight softening from the stance taken by the FCA last November – particularly around “all-in pricing” (a corner the regulator seems to now be trying to slowly back its way out of) the industry is not in for an easy ride by any means.

There are a couple of interesting points emerging from the final report. First, by shifting some of the burden of governance and duty of care towards end clients into the SMCR, the FCA is sending out a very strong signal about how it wants individual and corporate behaviour to change, and perhaps where it considers the greatest improvements are to be made. 

Second, investment consultants have dealt with this lobbying process less effectively than asset managers. Whilst the regulator acknowledges the undertaking in lieu, made by the big three, to try and avoid being referred to the CMA, ultimately the FCA has said “thanks, but no thanks”. The fact that these undertakings were made in private in a perceived act of “collusion” is an irony few have missed.

Furthermore, it’s clear that the threat Brexit poses to the industry, and therefore the Treasury revenues, has also been taken into account, whether this is explicit or not. The industry needs to sharpen up, but this is not the time for heavy handedness, particularly with MiFID II also on the horizon.

But the biggest takeaway is that the regulator will be closely accompanying the industry on its journey to meet these new regulatory demands. The threat of a CMA referral for the asset management sector may have rescinded but it remains in the shadows. Failure to comply with both the letter and spirit of the final, consulted upon rules will doubtless see it return in some form.

 

Lansons’ overview of the FCA’s AMMS report

Regulatory overview

The FCA has delivered on its promise in its interim report on the asset management sector study to provide remedies that actively work to the benefit of the investor.  The message from this final study is: always act in the best interests of your investors, you have been warned.

The FCA recognises the value of the sector, though, and this final report illustrates well that the industry and regulator have had a prolonged and relatively productive dialogue to agree on remedies that both can live with. The industry may disagree on some points, the all-in fee for example, but they will be aware that tougher measures could have been brought forward – and perhaps still could be. 

The language in this final report should be considered most carefully by commentators, and industry. The FCA ‘supports the disclosure’ of a single all-in fee but this is not the same as a mandatory approach – the FCA is being coy about the prospective disclosure of transaction fees and will consult further. The implications of MiFID II introduces a requirement to ‘provide aggregated and on-going information on all costs’ at least annually (and implicitly looking backwards) which in effect means that the FCA’s objective on an all-in fee may be met in this way.  On box profits the FCA has narrowed its aim to risk free profits, i.e. those where the AFM’s capital is not at risk.  On fund performance, and governance too, the regulator is expecting more and has remedies to improve both.

The language speaks for the investor, and clearly indicates that the regulator has reached its limit with some parts of the sector and seeks more action to provide remedies that materially change behaviour.  Investment consultants, for example, will be referred for a fuller market investigation in September if some further analysis in the next few months confirms that need.  The way in which intermediaries and investment platforms operate is also under closer scrutiny, with a market study announced into investment platforms as part of the remedies in the final AMMS.  Our analysis indicates once again that the retail investor outcomes are at the forefront of the regulator’s thinking as it would indicate that smaller investment platforms in particular are in the regulator’s scope.

However, the regulator has listened to the industry on the active/passive debate with a tone now to this which is more nuanced than previously, demonstrating that those active fund managers have been heard.

While a lot of the detail shows that more needs to be done to convince the FCA that the sector is acting in the best interests of the investor, the balance of this final report indicates a recognition that the sector is important. The regulator has remained firm throughout this study period to seek change in behaviour and performance; the industry has responded to this, and now has the opportunity to work constructively to show how it can respond to the challenges posed.  The final study could have produced a more damaging outcome for the industry, a full competition investigation for example, but this final report indicates that pragmatism on both sides has prevailed.

Political analysis

On the face of it, the FCA’s charge sheet against the industry looks much the same as it did in November 2016.

In November, the FCA’s language was inflammatory – all-but accusing the sector of anti-competitive behaviour, to the detriment of the retail investor. Now, the tone is more reserved but the essential narrative approach remains. The FCA has found high profits, with average margins at 36%. This sits alongside weak price competition in a number of areas of the asset management industry – and particularly on retail active asset management services. The FCA found no clear relationship between fees charged and results delivered – although it did detect some evidence that those charged higher prices simply end up worse off.

Reading the suggested remedies, however, it is clear that the FCA has in fact listened to the sector and moderated its approach – the larger asset managers, in particular, will be relieved. However, the language deployed should give the sector pause for thought and demands a finely calibrated response. Critics will see today’s report as evidence of a sector which is still extracting high profits at the expense of the retail investor. The danger is that if the FCA report is not seen as a sufficient response to this or the industry is not seen to treat the issues raised, further reputational and political damage could be inflicted on the industry down the line.

The asset management sector therefore needs to demonstrate it is taking the essential charge seriously – and is acting to deliver greater transparency and value for retail investors.

Media reaction

With industry and political reaction beginning to filter through to the media there has been a shift in tone from some of the most influential news organisations: The Times reports that campaigners have said the remedies proposed fell “far short of the wholesale overhaul they had been hoping to see”. There is disappointment with the fact that there is no specific measure to tackle the lack of price competition and that it stopped short of requiring all fund managers to adopt US-style mutual fund boards.

The BBC takes a fairly neutral view on the findings, outlining the reforms which will “make competition work better”, whilst including a mix of industry response – from both the Investment Association and Gina Miller, for example. This is Money takes a typically pro-consumer view stating that the FCA’s report comes after it uncovered “devastating evidence of rip-off charges and weak price competition in the industry.” It notes that the FCA plans to set up a working group to consider how to make investment fund objectives clearer and more useful for investors, launch a new probe into the online fund brokers used by DIY investors and also call for feedback on whether it should introduce a phased-in ‘sunset clause’ for trail commissions. Sky News notes that the FCA’s plans will “protect millions of savers from being ripped off.”

Introducing an active-passive dimension into the analysis, Ignites Europe makes an interesting observation in that the FCA felt it necessary to specifically address the “perception that our interim findings suggested that passive funds were preferable to active funds.” It clarifies that “Rather than focusing on one strategy over another, we think it is important that investors understand both the total cost of investing and the objectives of the fund or mandate they are investing in, so that they can choose the product that best meets their needs.” Money Marketing also leads with this angle.

Suzi Ring and Sarah Jones at Bloomberg writes that the FCA’s suggested “changes have been met with a lot of push back from the industry as it looks to shore-up its position in the face of Brexit and fends-off increasing competition from cheaper index-tracking funds that are stealing market share.”

Meanwhile Angela Monaghan at The Guardian argues that the asset management industry “must introduce sweeping reforms to cut costs and improve returns for savers after years of raking in sustained, high profits.” She also points out that the industry has been “subject of a number of reviews since the start of the millennium”, including the 2001 review by Paul Myners and 2012 one by John Kay.

Industry reaction

Chris Cummings, CEO of the Investment Association

Our industry looks after pensions and investments for millions of UK households, helping them to lead more prosperous lives into retirement. With this role comes significant responsibility. We strongly support the FCA’s objective of ensuring our industry serves its customers in a competitive, accountable and transparent manner. Many of the key recommendations work with the grain of European legislation already in the pipeline to introduce more clarity and transparency for consumers. We will work closely with the FCA as it looks further into the detail of how to present costs and charges in the clearest way for savers and how it will develop more independent oversight of investment funds in a way that is effective and proportionate.
We welcome the regulator’s recognition of the industry’s work to date on developing a consistent and transparent disclosure code for charges and costs which can be built on further with consumer groups. The FCA has listened to our calls to make it easier for savers to switch between share classes, which we welcome. Asset managers compete every day to attract clients and investors and are focused on delivering the best outcomes for them. Our priority now is to have a meaningful dialogue with the regulator about the implementation of the recommendations, to ensure savers are getting the best possible deal. A pragmatic timetable is key to achieving this, given the major regulatory changes already in the pipeline and the preparations for Brexit.

Sean Hagerty, Managing Director, Europe, Vanguard

This is an important moment for UK investors. We support the FCA’s efforts to lower the cost and complexity of investing. Consumers should always benefit from lower prices, better quality products, and clearer information. Costs matter. Every pound that investors pay in charges is a pound out of their potential returns, reducing their chances of being able to afford a comfortable retirement or save for a mortgage deposit. Our own proprietary research demonstrates the impact of cost on performance. Our findings show that too many funds fail to meet their performance benchmarks, largely because of the charges they levy.  As an industry, we have an opportunity to reassure people that investing can be a force for good, and for many people, a sensible way of providing for the future. This includes ensuring investors have access to all the information they need, including costs, in a format they can understand. The increased transparency proposed by the FCA will enable an informed investor to choose high-quality, low-cost products which will lead to better financial outcomes for UK investors. 

Daniel Godfrey, founder of The People’s Trust
Investment Managers will be relieved today. The FCA has delivered a report which spares them the harshest potential remedies flagged in their interim report last November. Asset management’s biggest problem isn’t the FCA. It’s the dysfunctional nature of the investment chain that prevents them fulfilling their potential to optimise returns for investors and drive economic growth.

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management
I have stated several times that I am in favour of all-in fees including all costs as the industry has an obligation to deliver what the customer wants. Incorporating dealing charges for equity funds should be straightforward particularly for those managers, like ourselves, who have low portfolio turnover. It is more challenging to calculate all-in-fees for bond funds, but I’m encouraged the industry is already looking at ways of doing this. We need to embrace the concept and commit to finding a solution for the best interests of clients.

I am a vocal advocate of the benefits of involving independent directors in fund governance, having seen how they help elsewhere in the world. While supporting FCA’s general moves in this direction, Aberdeen would advocate going further than the FCA currently suggests by introducing two independent directors on to the Boards of UK open-ended fund ranges.

Gina Miller and Alan Miller, SCM Direct
Whilst the FCA is finally pursuing a pro-consumer agenda it is disappointing that they still appear to be dragging their feet on some key aspects. The UK investment industry has been ripping off the consumer for decades and it is time for the UK regulator to act now rather than have further consultations with the industry and its shoddy trade bodies.

The fact that the FCA feels it has to state there will be an increased ‘duty on fund managers to act in the best interests of investors and use the Senior Managers Regime to bring individual focus and accountability to this’ shows how fundamental the dereliction of duty has been in the asset management industry.

Andy Agathangelou, founding chair, the Transparency Task Force
This looks like a great example of a regulator doing what is necessary despite what must have been mountains of pressure and resistance from an industry that would have lobbied very hard to maintain the status quo as much as possible. To my mind, some of that lobbying has looked like parts of the industry are still in denial about what has really been going on; an example might be the Investment Association’s response to the FCA’s Interim Report, 146 pages that in parts make a brave attempt to argue that the FCA’s analysis, research and findings are wrong.

Martin McElwee, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
It’s clear from today’s report that there’s work to do for the industry. Crucially though, there is no support for allegations of collusion among asset managers nor for a further competition review of the whole industry. It is good to see that the FCA remains open to industry views on how key proposals can be implemented – including the “all-in” fee – and that it has taken on board concerns about adding cost onto UK asset managers in an international market – an important acknowledgement in the context of Brexit.

 

 

PROI Worldwide Appoints Three Vice-Chairs to Global Board

PROI Worldwide has appointed new Vice-Chairs in its APAC, Americas and EMEA Regions. The announcement was made by Richard Tsang, Global Chairman, PROI Worldwide, at the company’s recent annual meeting held in Sydney, Australia.

Lisa Ross, President and Partner of PROI Worldwide Agency rbb Communications based in Miami, Florida, was appointed Vice-Chair in the Americas Region, Lena Soh-Ng, Senior Partner of PROI Agency Huntington Communications in Singapore, was appointed Vice-Chair in the APAC Region and Henning Sverdrup, Partner of PROI Agency Släger Kommunikasjon in Norway, was re-appointed Vice-Chair of the EMEA Region.

Read more here!

Michael White in PRmoment: Adapt to suit a social network’s culture

Michael White discusses the importance of honesty, and knowing your audience when creating shareable content for social with PRmoment. He also shares his top tips for companies saying,

“Social networks are not just communication channels; they are cities, in the case of Facebook a user base the size of an entire country. Each has their own culture, companies who do well online recognise this and adapt.”

Read full article here: http://www.prmoment.com/category/pr-insight/creating-shareable-content-on-social

LANSONS ELECTION BRIEFING – 1 DAY TO GO!

With one day to go before the 2017 General Election, the squeeze across the opinion polls appears to have bottomed out. In spite of the media frenzy over Corbyn’s apparent successful campaign (admittedly against low expectations), we still expect a Conservative majority Government to be returned on 9 June. Opinium’s final poll, released on Tuesday, has the Conservatives on 43% and Labour on 36% – a lead of 7 points. This, based on uniform national swing would give the Conservatives a 52 seat majority in the Commons. We think this is a fair assessment. Indeed, there is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that the Labour campaign outside London is in real difficulties, with many seats till now thought safe still in play. Lansons is therefore predicting a majority for Theresa May of between 50 and 80 seats.

Despite a poor campaign, a victory of this scale for the Tories can be explained by virtue of the fact that the fundamental landscape still favours the party, and reports on the ground suggest that sufficient Labour marginal seats – particularly in the North – are likely to fall. Although Corbyn has done a decent job of stiffening the Labour vote in areas like London – so Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) is expected to retain her seat – the party is clearly in real trouble outside London, with seats such as Bolsover (Dennis Skinner) quite likely to go to the Conservatives. Labour look likely to capture City Minister Simon Kirby’s seat (Brighton Kemptown) – but this will probably be a lone triumph.

Despite increasing the Conservative majority, Theresa May risks returning to office a diminished figure. Her performance has been widely criticised and her team have been blamed for a catastrophic manifesto which has clearly dented chances of a larger victory. In particular, anything below 50 seats will be looked upon as a marked failure. This would limit her freedom for manoeuvre (for example, in reshuffling her top team) and may ultimately shorten her time in office unless she dramatically changes her management style to ensure she retains the support of her Cabinet.

Given Corbyn’s unexpectedly strong performance, we expect him to remain in position unless the Conservative result dramatically exceeds expectations. Despite expected seat losses, the hard left will present their campaign as a victory in the face of a range of handicaps, including the ‘biased’ media and a divided party. The party membership will likely rally behind him, giving him the freedom to continue remaking the party in his image – with real questions around the long-term viability of Labour as an electoral force.

LANSONS ELECTION BRIEFING – 3 DAYS TO GO!

The country goes to the polls on Thursday this week after a seven week campaign.

In our first Lansons/Opinium bulletin, on 2 May, we set out the fundamentals of the campaign as we saw them, and the extent to which that was likely to dictate the parties tactics. Looking back over this now our view of the fundamentals remains. This campaign remains one framed and made necessary by Brexit – where the Conservatives still enjoy a huge lead over Labour. On the other issues which tend to determine voting behaviour – leadership and economic competence – the Tories still retain a strong lead.

Against this backdrop, what is surprising is the extent to which the Conservatives allowed their campaign to go badly off track. Our 2 May bulletin set out that Labour desperately needed to “start delivering a slicker, more competent, performance which focuses on their strengths such as the NHS” and changes “the narrative away from Brexit in order to get cut-through”. Labour has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The Tory Party, which delivered a slick, disciplined, operation only 2 years ago, came to Corbyn’s aid with their disastrous manifesto policy on social care, voluntarily changing the agenda away from areas where they are strong to ones where they are fundamentally weak. That gifted Corbyn an opportunity which he has exploited to the full, turning out an impressively strong performance, and inviting contrast with a Prime Minister who appears comparatively wooden and limited.

There are signs that the Conservative campaign is back on track. The weekend’s terror attacks have also inevitably shifted the public focus back on to security issues, where Corbyn is seen as particularly weak. For the final week, the Tories will attempt to consolidate their position – ensuring the focus remains on leadership, Brexit and security. Where Corbyn figures at all on this, the Tories will want to ensure questions about suitability for office and his past associations with the likes of Sinn Fein are foremost. All parties will also focus on motivating their supporters to vote. Some of the polls which have most flattered Labour have relied on extremely generous assumptions around voting turnout – particularly among the young. In 2015, just 43% of 18-24-year-olds went to the polls. If Corbyn is to have a hope of delivering upon the potential the likes of YouGov have suggested he could reach, he needs to succeed in inspiring the young to vote where all his predecessors have failed.

#GE2017 – How Social Media Responded Last Week – 9 Days To Go!

This week, May and Corbyn took part in a live TV debate, #BattleforNumber10. Unsurprisingly given its young and, overall, more left-wing population, the overall view on Twitter is that Corbyn came out on top, with the phrase #WeakandWobbly being coined to describe Theresa May. Corbyn’s performance at the leadership debate has resulted in a further increase in the volume of conversations around him online. However with Corbyn’s links to the IRA coming back into focus, is this volume of conversation all positive? The answer is largely yes. As although Corbyn’s links with the IRA are being acknowledged on Twitter, it is has been dubbed as old news, with a large proportion praising his current policies on Terrorism.

The Conservatives heavy focus on the strength of May, terrorism and Brexit, isn’t being translated on twitter, with the NHS and Education the second and third most discussed topic online surrounding the election. Labour supporters online are making direct comparisons between Labour and Conservative policies on the key Labour topics such as the NHS and social care, highlighting the Conservatives weakness in these topics. In order to regain their traction online, the Conservatives need to bring the message back to Brexit.

Polls Narrow as Conservative Fight to Regain Control of Campaign Narrative – 9 Days To Go!

This morning the party spin-doctors are frantically doing the rounds across TV and radio, in an attempt to convince the electorate that their leader won yesterday night’s TV Q&A, simulcast live across Channel 4 and Sky News. Divorced from the rhetoric of party political messaging, the view starting to solidify in the minds of commentators is that Corbyn confounded expectations with an assured and, at times, relaxed performance. Theresa May, by contrast was handicapped by her record of governing and suffered from occasionally stilted delivery. Her team will testify that a governing record is always harder for the incumbent to defend, while Corbyn simply had to defend his views, some of which he has to tried to reshape.

The reality is that since the start of the campaign, the polls have narrowed uncomfortably for the Conservatives. This latest Opinium poll has the Tories on 45 points and Labour on 35 points, a narrowing of three on the week before. Equally telling is that the talk of huge landslide-scale majorities amongst Conservative outriders in the media have slowly started to dissipate. No one expects May to lose this election, but the current polls now point to around a 70 seat majority – sizeable but no longer earth shattering.

Corbyn has enjoyed relative success in this campaign by successfully shoring up his base and, after a slightly rocky start, avoiding any dramatic miss-steps. As Opinium’s data points out, 39% of people say their opinion of Corbyn is more positive now than when the campaign began. Historically moderate Labour voters, once disenfranchised by the Labour leader, are now warming to him, buoyed by a populist manifesto and an avuncular personal style.

The impact of Labour’s consolidation of their position is unclear. In a First Past The Post election, much depends on where you make gains; anecdotally, there is some evidence for Labour ‘stacking up’ votes in its strongholds, while many marginals remain in play, with many seats in the North still looking quite vulnerable. Nevertheless, it is almost certain that they will now be able to salvage seats which had previously looked lost. It was not a coincidence that the Conservatives decided to launch their manifesto in Halifax – a Labour held marginal of only 428. Back in the heady days before they launched their manifesto, Halifax was exactly the sort of seat the Conservatives expected to take on their way to a crushing victory. Now though, seats like Halifax and other Labour marginal such as Hampstead and Kilburn, look much more defendable.

So what next, as we enter into the final full week of the campaign? The Conservatives, led by May’s co-chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, as well as strategist Sir Lynton Crosby, will desperate try to turn the campaign back onto the issue of Brexit. This, after all, was why the prime minister called the election in the first place, yet it has been noticeably absent from much of the election debate so far. The mental of image of Corbyn sitting around the negotiation table opposite Michael Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker is one that the Tories will try to paint vividly in the coming days, in the belief that this, more than anything, will be enough instil enough horror in the minds of voters to widen the gap between the two parties once again. The polling evidence suggests this could be decisive – with May still enjoying a considerable (if reduced) lead over Corbyn on leadership. It also plays to a key and unaltered factor in this campaign – the transfer of around 50% of UKIP votes to the Conservatives. This is vital for the Conservatives, and something which, if they retain it to polling day, considerably bolsters their chance s of winning new seats while holding off challenges from other parties.

The Female Empowerment Strategy; Confidence is King

Last week Lansons hosted The Female Empowerment Strategy, a lively panel discussion which considered what it means to be empowered as a woman, and how women in the workplace face challenges to which their male colleagues likely are not exposed.  Lansons has always been a business that encourages and empowers women, a business that doesn’t discriminate and instead supports people to achieve their professional goals, regardless of biology.  I am well aware of the privilege this affords me, that my experience of working life is not one where I daily have to fight just to be treated in the same way as male colleagues, and that is exactly the point – I feel that from this position of privilege comes a responsibility to explore and fight against the challenges millions of women do face in their career.

Our team had been working on the event for months, and as I woke up on the 23rd May to a barrage of breaking news alerts about the atrocity in Manchester the reality hit me that our event wasn’t the centre of the world. The event may have been the centre of my world for the last few months, but in fact there are catastrophically horrible and unexplainable events that regrettably happen every day. The first question Clare Parsons and I asked each other was should we continue with the event? What was the right thing to do? Is there even a right thing?  We shared the same view that when there are people who want to disrupt our lives, the best thing we can do is to carry on.  

Our speakers, Michèle Dix CBE, Managing Director of Cross Rail 2, and Jo Gibbons, Head of Health Industries Marketing PWC, delivered inspiring and motivating anecdotes as to what it means to them to be successful. From referencing job shares to asking (rather than waiting) for advancement opportunities, my key take away from the event is that confidence is everything, for women and for men.

We all need the confidence to support those we work with, and that’s as true for senior colleagues as it is for junior team members; our colleagues are not threats but allies. This in particular struck me, as all too often people see themselves in competition with one another, when collaboration not only delivers better results in a shorter time, but inspires a collegiate and friendly atmosphere, which in turn inspires confidence.   Having the confidence to network, to speak to people we wouldn’t ordinarily spend time with, the confidence to learn from your colleagues and to share your own knowledge – these are all key for feeling empowered and having the ability to empower others.  Empowerment is not about having the loudest voice, but about having the understanding that your voice matters and that regardless of your gender, race or sexuality, you are an important person in any room and your contributions are as valid as another’s.

Whilst having the confidence to take risks, to ask for a pay rise or move jobs will bolster any individual’s feeling of empowerment, there is undoubtedly still a long way to go regarding gender equality at work. Although there are now more women in senior roles than ever before, and there is more support for women returning to work after having children, on too many an occasion are contributions seen as worth less than that of men.  The UK government’s push on gender pay gap transparency highlights this issue and goes some way to challenging the notion that equality is a dirty word, that the whole idea of female empowerment is a challenge to men, but identifying and talking about it is only the first step, now is not the time to stop banging the drum that women and men can and should be equal in the workplace.

In spite of the tragic news from the previous evening Clare, Michèle and Jo’s insight left the room feeling lifted and inspired. They left with me the message that power is not given it’s taken, confidence isn’t always natural but is learnt, and experience isn’t inherent but built. Following the act of terrorism that took place on Monday 22nd May, we all need confidence now more than ever to carry on with our lives, to support each other and to strive to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

Lansons and HighTide: A Partnership

This week, we are delighted to be attending the Third Sector Business Charity Awards 2017 in recognition of our partnership with Lansons.

Since 2008, Lansons and HighTide have celebrated a year-on-year partnership that is unique. Lansons donates office space, reception services and IT support year-round to us. This means we can hold auditions, meetings and even rehearsals in the office, meaning we sometimes get the odd funny look when props and costumes are being wheeled into a meeting room!

The partnership means we can re-invest all our earned income and charitable support straight back into our work, which is so important when you are managing and fundraising for a charity. This donation of office space means that we can run a range of great schemes such as our First Commissions scheme and our HighTide Academy, which focus on developing new playwrights, as well as allowing us to develop and rehearse our HighTide premiere productions. This partnership means we can deliver these projects to the best of our ability without the added pressure of rental costs, meaning we can offer the very best quality to the emerging and talented artists we work with.

In return we offer Lansons the opportunity to engage with the cultural sector by attending our productions, readings and the HighTide Festival. It’s a relationship we are really proud of and hope that by publicising how we work, that more businesses and charities will endeavour to explore working together. In fact we were recently profiled in the Evening Standard in March as an example of a successful office sharing partnership. When you are starting something up, even a small desk in a corner is a godsend to allow a place to focus and be creative, without worrying about your monthly office rent. I’d urge any business to think about what they could offer to a creative start up, who knows, you could be housing the next Cameron Mackintosh or Tracey Emin!

We are keeping our fingers crossed for another win on Thursday to add to our win for best ‘Best Arts and Culture Programme’ at the 2014 Corporate Engagement Awards. This year we are nominated for the best ‘Business and Charity partnership (professional services)’ award, so wish us luck!

Francesca Clark
Executive Producer
HighTide

Election Briefing – 17 Days To Go!

Following the manifesto launches of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats last week, the weekend has seen the Conservative lead erode further, with Labour noticeably narrowing the gap. The Conservatives still enjoy a large 13% lead. However, it is undeniable that the Labour strategy of diverting attention away from leadership and Brexit appears to be paying off, surpassing expectations of their performance. They have also shown a deftness of touch in swiftly capitalising on the ‘dementia tax’ – the social care proposals in the Conservative manifesto. Pressure on May from back benchers, local councils and the electorate has this morning pushed her into a semi U-turn, saying there will be a consultation on social care which will include a cap, or as she described it, an “absolute limit” on the money people will need to pay for social care.

This is an embarrassing wobble in a campaign built around the solidity and assuredness of the Prime Minister. The Tories have heavily invested in Theresa May as their “Strong and Stable” leader, and the person most trusted to deliver on (particularly) Brexit. Though repetitive, this was cutting through with the electorate, and showing that the Conservatives were increasing their vote share with potential to win constituencies in the North, Scotland and Wales – where they have never won before. For the Prime Minister now to be forced into reversing course so swiftly on such a high profile manifesto commitment is seriously damaging.

Though the Conservative poll lead remains large with two and a half weeks to go, the “Tory wobble” will worry Theresa May and her team. Based on current polling averages, May would win around a 84 seat majority – which would be seen as a good, but not fantastic, result against a Labour leader that is seen as the one of the most unpopular in modern times. A key question is in what seats the Labour revival is happening. If Labour is simply piling on votes in areas they already safely hold, they will not need to worry overly. On the other hand, if it is stiffening support in seats that are in play, alarm bells will start to ring.

Though Labour opinion polling has improved, Jeremy Corbyn’s personal ratings have not improved. Lynton Crosby, Theresa May’s election “guru” who won Cameron’s surprising majority in 2015, will need to regather his troops and ensure that the message flips back to the topics of leadership and Brexit. That this is already underway can be seen from the Prime Minister’s speech at which the concession on social care was made. Although the headlines are about the policy u-turn, most of her words actually focused on the negatives of Jeremy Corbyn.

In future weeks, we can expect the Tories to double down on this, with a barrage of negative stories concerning Jeremy Corbyn and his connections with the IRA, Hezbolla and other controversial groups. Crosby will hope that this messaging will refocus the electorates mind on the leadership question and encourage the comparison with Corbyn. The tightening polls may also help them by making the threat of a Corbyn Government seem much more real.

Sophie Church Speaks to PRmoment on Using New Technologies in PR in Today’s World

PR experts including Sophie Church discussed whether or not they thought PR had gotten harder and the reasons why. Speaking to PRmoment, Sophie focuses on the challenges and opportunities of using new technologies and tools in PR today. 

“We hear news in real time, as media outlets are informed; have access to stakeholders’ views and opinions at the click of a button and can analyse consumer behaviour with tools which weren’t even ideas five years ago.”

Read the full article here.

Election Briefing – 31 Days To Go!

The latest polling by Opinium shows the Conservatives with a 16-point lead over Labour, a decrease of 1 from last weekend.

Last week’s Local Elections saw the Conservative Party gain 558 seats. Labour and the Liberal Democrats both suffered losses (Labour -320, LibDems -37), with Labour pushed into third place in Scotland behind both the SNP and the Conservatives. UKIP’s vote all but collapsed, losing 115 seats and only gaining 1.

The media over the weekend were full of attempts to draw insights from the Local Elections into how the General Election will turn out. Indeed, Sky News went so far as to offer a seat forecast based on equivalent vote shares, saying that in the General Election, the Tories would win a House of Commons majority of 48 seats on a vote share of 38% – some way off the landslide predictions we have been seeing.

People vote differently locally versus nationally. Drawing clear conclusions from the Local Elections is therefore difficult; however, a number of factors favour the Conservatives which we think means the actual General Election result is likely to be considerably up from the Sky prediction.

  • The Governing advantage – when choosing a Prime Minister, local issues are superseded by national concerns and, whether the parties admit it or not, this election is about Brexit, an area where the Tories continue to dominate. This is borne out by the last occurrences of Local Elections taking place closely ahead of a General Election, in 1983 and 1987. In both these years, the Conservative Government did much better nationally than locally. In 1983 Margaret Thatcher secured the largest share of the local vote and went on to win the most decisive election victory since Clement Attlee in 1945, with a far greater proportion of the national vote than the Local Elections indicated.
  • The collapse of UKIP – one of the key features of Friday’s results. Locally UKIP has been pushed to the edge of extinction as the Conservatives continue to assume UKIP’s position as the party of Brexit. Its collapse is one reason why the Tories have fared so well in traditional Labour heartlands – and this is likely to carry over to the General Election. As Opinium show below, transfers from UKIP to the Conservatives could itself cost Labour up to 32 seats. This also helps reinforce Conservative majorities – making it much more difficult for the Liberal Democrats to stage a return.
  • Transfers from Labour to the Conservatives – this most likely explains Tory Mayoral victories in the West Midlands and Tees Valley. Opinium polling shows that 10% of Labour voters in 2015 have pledged to vote Tory in 2017.
  • Turnout – difficult to forecast although turnout is usually much higher at General Elections. It is clear that the Labour vote in the Local Elections was considerably reduced. On the other hand, the Conservatives were far more likely to vote in the first place.

The Conservatives therefore continue to run a campaign focused on national leadership and Brexit, while the Labour Party tries to shift the debate onto more favourable territory. Social media analysis shows that the Labour leadership are getting some traction in creating conversations around issues thought to be more favourable to them; however, this is not reflected so far in actual changes in the polls. This is clearly dictating the way in which Labour are fighting the election. While moderates are bunkering down and arguing that a vote for them will deliver a strong local advocate to act as a check on the Tory Government, for Corbyn and his close team, this election is about their future hold on the Labour Party. Large rallies in Labour strongholds suggest Corbyn is at least in part trying to shore up support among party members sympathetic to him. With rumours swirling that he and his right hand man John McDonnell won’t quit in the event of a Labour defeat, maximising his existing support now is the best way that Corbyn can cling to power and push through the internal reforms that many suspect to be the true goal of his leadership.

This week marks a significant moment in the election campaign. A week before ‘manifesto week’ (Conservative are expected to launch theirs on the 15 May, Labour 16 May, LibDem 17 May), we should start to see some of the parties’ policy pledges being trailed much more in the media. With such a focus on the personalities and headline key messages of the main parties to date, it will be interesting to see whether the arrival of a policy debate does anything to impact the national narrative.

Lansons and HighTide are Shortlisted in the Corporate Engagement Awards 2017

We are thrilled to announce that our partnership with HighTide has been shortlisted in The Corporate Engagement Awards 2017, in the following categories:

  • Best arts and culture programme
  • Best collaborative approach


Our partnership with HighTide was also shortlisted for the Third Sector Business Charity Awards 2017 in the Charity partnership – professional services category.

Spanning nearly a decade, our partnership was founded on the simple idea of inviting the theatre company to become a resident in Lansons’ offices to enable them to invest arts funding in theatre production, rather than office space and administrative support. Since 2008, our partnership has grown into a multi-faceted relationship that we are extremely proud of.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

Scott McKenzie Discusses the Perils of a Positive Mindset

Like a lot of men my age I love a sporting metaphor. My colleagues get bored with my tennis analogies and general sports geekery.

However when I recently had to explain to an elderly relative what I do for a living I found myself making a comparison with a football team. And it kind of worked.

I would say that comms practitioners are often required to be creative – promoting their organisation, or brand – much like an attacker in football. On the other hand we must also sense reputational risk like the very best defenders. Of course the most strategic among us can flex between these two states – much like a midfield playmaker…

Before I stretch the analogy too far it did make me reflect on the different mindsets comms people need to have in different situations.

Much of my work centres around business transformation, or corporate issues and crisis. Now there are many positive elements around changing a business but it probably makes sense to start with a defensive mindset – what could go wrong? Have we identified all the threats? Have we mitigated all the risks?

I’m sure that the comms people around Oscar Munoz the CEO of United Airlines thought they were doing that when he sent that fateful internal email to all staff describing a passenger (who had clearly been seriously assaulted) as “belligerent” and “disruptive”.

Yet somehow the comms people had not anticipated that this memo would create the ensuing firestorm. Indeed this piece of – frankly shameful – communications made an already appalling situation so much worse!

So what happened? Did they not sense the danger in an internal email – thinking their 80,000 loyal staff would not leak it? This seems unlikely. Were they so unconnected to the wider sentiment the incident had caused that they felt comfortable sending out something that seemed so tone deaf? Possibly but surely they were listening to the commentary via their social media monitoring?

Of course, it could be the comms people provided Mr Munoz with great advice and it was simply ignored.

That’s certainly possible. But I have an alternative theory. I think the issue was with their mindset. Up until that incident United Airlines had been lauded for their communications. Mr Munoz even won communicator of last year from PR Week US.

So could that have bred some complacency? Believing their own publicity? Maybe.

But I wonder if it simply meant that both CEO and comms team had too positive a mindset to recognise the danger.

In his wonderful (and bitingly funny) book – Stand Firm – the Danish psychologist Svend Brinkmann talks about the modern world being dominated by an “accelerating culture”. Where a positive mindset based on unrealistic aims around personal growth and career progression trumps seeing the world as it really is – which is sometimes pretty challenging, and frankly often quite negative.

In Brinkmann’s view we have sanctified an optimistic and positive mindset at the expense of being able to tell it like it is.

In other words we can sometimes behave like a striker trying to score a goal, when we simply need to clear the ball from danger. Like a good old-fashioned centre half.

Perhaps if the good people at United Airlines had that defensive mindset they would have understood the dangers they were facing. The beleaguered Mr Munoz is now seeking from his Board what every football manager dreads: a vote of confidence.

This article is part of our Spring 2017 newsletter

David Masters Looks at What the Latest Announcements from the FCA Mean for the Asset Management Sector

A few hours prior to Theresa May’s general election announcement on April 18th, the FCA published its Mission and Business Plan for 2017 and 2018. Given the surprise nature of May’s call to the polls, it’s unlikely that the FCA had timed this to be purposefully buried, but within these documents contained some potential bad news for the asset management industry. Primarily, the regulator’s Sector View on investment management largely re-iterated the findings in the interim Asset Management Market Study, suggesting that the fund management sector has found little traction with its lobbying to date, despite acknowledging consultation on the proposed remedies.

Furthermore, the FCA has used this opportunity to express additional concerns, although many of these had previously been telegraphed from within the depths of the interim AMMS report. The regulator is concerned that asset managers pay for unwanted custody services through bundled propositions and that low-margins result in lack of technological investment.(1)  The regulator also raised concerns around a lack of transparency in the services that asset managers pay for, meaning that they (and therefore the underlying investor) are paying more than necessary and that there is a “failure to consistently monitor, assess and deliver on ‘best execution'”.

Fund managers also face further scrutiny around product design – too much focus on investment products that are easy to manage, or suit advisers, rather than meet end-investor needs (2). The FCA also raised the spectre of financial stability again around concerns that that a sizeable failure of one or more firms as end-investors attempt to redeem simultaneously. This they describe as a “disorderly wind-down”. For many asset management grandees, the pronouncements of the FCA over the last few years probably count as an “orderly wind-up”.

The FCA also announced a platform competition review to explore how ‘direct to consumer’ and intermediated investment platforms compete to win new and retain existing customers. But if the timing of this was obscured a little by Downing Street, the timing of the election may provide a little bit of respite for asset managers. It seems likely that the AMMS final study was slated for publication early June or late May. Given how keen the FCA is to promote change within the industry, it may well be that the regulator needs to adjust the timing by a few weeks (although doing so may also create a further risk if the election result brings with it a change in its mandate)

Change within the industry is happening, although at a pace slower than the most agitated reformers demand. Whilst the Standard Life Investments/Aberdeen tie-up does create potential to cut costs and diversify business strategy, the primary reason for the merger is all about distribution. Size and scale will increasingly be major factors in the evolution of the sector. Consolidation remains as inevitable as it always has been, but we should not be complacent about what that will look like. Since there are no really large ‘pure play’ passive managers – Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street et al all have chunky active businesses – why do there always have to be super-sized active-only asset managers? Many of the largest global managers, including Fidelity, have long had a foot in the passive camp, and many others have already shifted into “smart beta”. Therefore, for many “market cap passive” is a natural corollary – whether through organic or acquisitive growth – particularly where their business is driven by scale.

But active is alive and well and will continue to thrive wherever managers can add value – from equity income to systematic trend-following via illiquid assets, activism and unconstrained strategies, and so forth. Moreover, as passive becomes more prevalent in some markets, others will seek to exploit the anomalies that this creates, and so the two approaches will continue their symbiotic relationship.

Whatever strategies they follow and whatever products they provide, asset managers do need to become more “user-friendly” to survive – more inclusive, better communicators and more digitally savvy. This is not just at the retail end of the market. Institutional investors are increasingly digitally oriented, and not managing your online reputation – particularly your “search”, can be quite limiting for your capital raising ambitions. In terms of inclusivity, I’m reminded of the US research which showed that investors preferred mutual fund managers from a similar cultural background to themselves.(3) A major challenge to improving diversity is insuring that the groups that you want to appeal to understand what you do and what its value is, and the asset management sector is finding this the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Which brings us full circle. As a simple conduct regulator, the FCA is doing all that it can to ensure that the asset management sector is as fit for purpose as possible in its view. But it can’t make people invest in funds en masse. That requires an incentivised shift at a societal level, not a cultural level within one financial sector. That is well beyond the FCA’s current remit.

(1) According to the FCA margins in asset management are too high and margins in global custody would seem to be too low – so clearly they have a very fixed view of what would be ‘Goldilocks’ margins. I wonder what they are.

(2) The lack of reference to open-ended property funds at this juncture tells its own story.

(3) Kumar, A., A. Niessen-Ruenzi, and O. G. Spalt, 2015. What’s in a Name? Mutual Fund Flows When Managers Have Foreign-Sounding Names, Review of Financial Studies 28, 2281-2321.

This article is part of our Spring 2017 newsletter

Rollo Crichton-Stuart Discusses How M&A in the UK is Evolving

In the summer of 2016, the chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond gave his absolute backing for the takeover of Arm Holdings, saying the deal was a “big vote of confidence” in British business. Fast forward to the first half of 2017, and haven’t things changed.

The proposed takeover of Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, by Kraft, would have been one of the largest deals in corporate history, but was resisted by Unilever itself and provoked serious political unease over British jobs. Indeed, it was the rumour of political pressure that loomed large, as the papers poured over the rationale for such a quick U-turn. There are still plenty of commentators scratching their heads at the failed LSE/Deutsche Borse deal too. Surely the parties could have foreseen the issues around competition regulations; that the £21bn deal would have effectively created a ‘de facto monopoly’? Whispers of back room skulduggery within Westminster, and on the Continent began to rise and raised eyebrows around the sale, at a time of such economic and political uncertainty, of such an important part of the country’s national infrastructure.

When talking about proposed takeovers of British businesses by foreign companies, commentators, politicians, communities and of course, unions, are quick to remember the aftermath of the Cadbury takeover in 2010. In particular, when the firm confirmed it was to shut Cadbury’s Somerdale factory near Bristol in spite of pledges to keep the plant in operation. And rightly so. The benefits of foreign capital inflows are plain to see but when conducting M&A activity, the question of whether or not a proposed deal chimes with the interests of the UK as a whole, has to be answered. Now, more than ever, the emotive side of any transaction has to be one of the top priorities for any party on either side of a deal. Is it in the national interest? What will politicians say locally and nationally? How will communities be affected? How many pensioners are reliant on Company X’s continued success? By letting a deal go through, will the UK be losing independence within a core growth sector? When building a defence or indeed, planning a raid, in parallel with the investment rationale, these questions simply have to be answered.

There are now calls for takeover rules to be tightened. The business secretary is looking at proposals for how the government should respond to takeover bids for British companies, from foreign rivals. It is expected that any future plan will look to protect key national infrastructure but there is doubt around any broader ‘national interest’ test for foreign takeover bids. Either way, this does not reduce the importance of the ‘emotive factor’ when it comes to M&A; in this time of economic and political uncertainty for the country, the questions surrounding how businesses act in these scenarios will loom ever larger to wider audiences.

It does raise an interesting question though; as we leave the EU, are we at risk of becoming more European through increased protectionism? This may well be the case, and no matter how the General election pans out, advisers and corporates should ignore the emotive side of any transaction, at their own risk.

The team at Lansons has advised on some of the largest transactions in the UK. We are well versed in supporting companies of all sizes, be they public or private, on both sides of the M&A coin and have expertise in advising on financial communications, employee or change management, customer interaction and public affairs . If you would like to talk to us about a defence or potential target, please email Rollo Crichton-Stuart or Tom Baldock.

This article is part of our Spring 2017 newsletter

Anna Schirmer Shares How to Navigate the Key Challenges and Opportunities that Brexit Has to Offer

UK politics clearly has had a busy period over the last 12 months and the future certainly doesn’t look any less busy. The snap election on the 8th June this year is set to affect further changes and with Prime Minister Theresa May having triggered Article 50 on the 29th March, the UK is now on its path to exiting the European Union. It was pure coincidence that the 29th March also marked the start of the 47th annual PROI meeting, a meeting where I joined over 100 colleagues from our network of over 70 independent communications agency partners from around the world for four days of discussions, workshops and talks on themes and trends affecting global communications. With these events coinciding, I wanted to take a step back to reflect on what the current ‘pre-Brexit’ state means for communications consultants looking to execute effective programmes in the UK.  

I shared the following four themes with our global colleagues, as a starting point for a discussion on how to navigate the key challenges and opportunities that Brexit has to offer within a communications context:

1. Are your views and opinions being heard by the UK Government?

One of the clear fallouts from the referendum vote is the fact that the UK is heavily divided on the future direction of the country. Divided in views by age, geography, ethnicity, education, media consumption and many more factors. As a result, the Government is on a clear mission to unite the nation again, to quote Theresa May in her Article 50 speech: “I want this United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before.” 

We have seen this evidenced in a period of relatively neutral policies since the referendum in June last year; in March the Chancellor delivered one of the ‘tamest’ Budgets in years, focused on ‘crowd pleasing’ policies. Hard-hitting policy making is taking a back seat while the Government has turned a firm ear to the ground. As a result, UK politicians are in listening mode, seeking to gather views and opinions from various groups and industries on what the future could and should look like. With this open door, there is an almost unprecedented opportunity for organisations, companies, brands and individuals to engage with the people that will shape the future of this country and to ensure their views are heard and understood.

2. Do you have any ‘good news’ to tell?

Despite the ongoing news on the need for clarity around future trade relationships with the EU, communications advisors should remember that Britain is very much ‘open for business’. There is a genuine desire by the government, industry and media to showcase successful trade relations and inward investment. Countries and companies with UK trade news to tell will be able to capitalise on this opportunity over the next months and years.

3. Are you appealing to minds and hearts?

If the pre-referendum Leave and Remain campaigns have shown one thing, it is that facts and experts are no longer enough to win public support. Expert fatigue has truly swept the UK and the nation’s trust in self-proclaimed ‘facts’ and rationale is on the decline. The public is more probing than ever before – looking for information about the ‘real impact’, how a brand’s or company’s news is going to make them think and feel. As a result, skilful corporate ‘storytelling’ is seeing a renaissance, posing a clear challenge for communications advisers, as it is storytelling that needs to win hearts and minds and storytelling that is under more public scrutiny than ever before.

4. Can your story pass the test of adding real depth to your brand or organisation?

Communications advisers need to be aware that the public will be keeping a watchful eye on corporate stories and has the ability to mobilise at an unprecedented speed if a company or organisation is suspected of ‘just telling a story’. If a story isn’t deeply embedded in corporate behaviour, the company at its heart is no doubt going to face challenges.

Many of us will remember the week in November 2016 when in the space of 24 hours, Bob Jones, a 42-year old father with just over 100 twitter followers, mobilised over 22,000 likes and 13,000 shares for his social media post asking Lego to withdraw its Daily Mail advertising contract. Bob questioned how deeply embedded Lego’s values are, which the company states as “… the desire to make a positive difference … in the world we live in. Doing that little bit extra, not because we have to – but because it feels right and because we care.” Bob raised concern over the newspaper’s recent headlines,  that “do nothing but create distrust of foreigners, blame immigrants for everything and as of yesterday are now having a go at top judges in the U.K. for being gay while making a legal judgement”. Bob explained that “it genuinely bothers me that a great progressive company like yours supports this “news” paper, helping it increase its circulation. Lego to me has always been an inclusive product. [..] Your links to the Daily Mail are wrong.”

Lego, and consequently various other companies bowed to this public scrutiny, which has been united under the #StopFundingHate campaign, confirming they would not renew their advertising and promotions contracts with the Daily Mail and other news outlets. The #StopFundingHate campaign sent a timely reminder to storytellers in the run up to Christmas, the UK’s great corporate storytelling season that is Christmas advertisements – challenging brands and companies not “just to tell us a story” but to ask “what if goodwill to all wasn’t only meant for Christmas?” 

It is clear that the UK and its future direction is in a state of uncertainty at this stage, which has only been further reinforced by the snap election that has been announced for the 8th June this year. But there are already opportunities and threats that are emerging from a communications perspective. It is our job as communications advisers to continuously observe and analyse the environment we operate in and to help the organisations and clients we work for to navigate this ever changing UK landscape.

If you are interested in discussing any of the themes in this post or you would like to learn more about Lansons’ international offer, contact Anna Schirmer.

This article is part of our Spring 2017 newsletter

Ralph Jackson Discusses What We Would Like To Know For The General Election 2017

So now we know that a walking weekend over Easter in Wales has provided a much needed clarity of thinking for the Prime Minister, and we have a General Election on June 8th. 

I don’t think I’m bothered about the ‘U-turn’ comments as I think the reasons for this so-called snap poll are valid.  The referendum on EU membership last year was a defining moment in UK (and European) history.  It led to Theresa May forming a reshaped Government and taking on the challenge of delivering on the electorate’s wishes.  Her ability to navigate a process with a time limit placed upon it was always trying, but more so when faced with the prospect of preparing for an election in 2020 a few months after the Article 50 process should be completed. She wants to have an approach to this task that provides for the best possible outcome for the UK, and she does not want a weaker negotiating position with the EU; she should be commended for that. 

So we have an election to as she puts it to ‘provide her with the mandate’ she needs.  While this election may be ‘all about Brexit’ I think it is important too that the electorate should also get some clarity on what a May-led Government of the future will mean for other areas of society, especially for the wealth generators in the economy.

We already know that those ‘just about managing’ in society are in her thoughts, and that she wants a society and economy that ‘works for everyone’.   So we need definition about what this means as some in society – business for example – might also be just about managing. If you are self-employed you might think you’ve had a reprieve with the tax changes at the Budget being reversed, but we don’t know enough about future tax reforms that seek to bring a better equilibrium (if that can ever be achieved) among taxpayers. We have had potential action indicated on corporate governance and executive pay without understanding what this seeks to really do in terms of behavior change.  And if the media are to be believed we have a feeling in Downing Street that there are enough foreign owners of UK businesses which to some is sensible management of key assets but to others is a beginning of an isolationist agenda.

So this election should afford us some answers to questions around Brexit and what kind of UK May believes she wants to forge. So in education, health, social reform, trade, international aid, and relationships with Europe and the world’s key superpowers we need to understand what a future Brexit Britain under May would look like.  We need real insight on these and not just manifesto-inspired rhetoric.

Pollsters and others will predict what happens in this election and the prospects for success for any of the political parties, so I’ll pass on that for the moment. The British electorate may deliver another surprising result, but a prospect for a landslide win, while agreeable to some, may not be so good for the democratic process.  Good governments are kept honest by a good opposition; let’s hope this election delivers both.

This article is part of our Spring 2017 newsletter

Lansons Makes the Great Place to Work® UK 2017 Best Workplaces List

We are delighted to announce that we have been ranked 26th on the Great Place to Work® UK 2017 Best Workplaces list in the medium category. We are very proud to make the list for the 13th year in a row. This would not be possible without the amazing people at Lansons who continuously work hard to make Lansons a great place to work.

We believe that what makes us unique is how much we truly value our staff.

“Over a third of our people are partners in Lansons. Our commitment to sharing our success with our people is truly inspiring and engaging.”
Helen Proud, Director

Great Place to Work base their rankings on 5 key drivers of trust: Values & Ethics, Communication & Involvement, Teamwork, Recognition, and Empowerment & Accountability. These drivers are of great importance to us and we strive to keep making them a priority.

A huge thank you to everyone at Lansons!

James Dowling Gives an Overview of the 2017 General Election

The latest polling by Opinium shows the Conservatives with a 17 point lead over Labour, and Theresa May personally leading Jeremy Corbyn as “best Prime Minister” by 44% to 19%.

Received wisdom has it that the party perceived to be strongest on the economy and leadership generally wins. Indeed, in 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign team legendarily instructed their campaigners to focus on “The economy, stupid” in their successful Presidential campaign against sitting President George H. W. Bush. This was clearly instrumental in the Conservatives 2015 victory. However, last year’s vote for Brexit has, as with many other things in UK politics, turned this on its head. This is the Brexit election – a poll defined by the aftermath to the referendum – and the ability of the parties to deliver Brexit is key to success.

Politically, Brexit is an issue monopolised by the Tories. They are, of course, associated with it – and it plays to their strengths as the party seen as most able to steer the country to a successful outcome. Their approach to date has therefore been a cautious one which offers few hostages to fortune, and emphasises their ability to deliver for the country.

Theresa May is seen as a huge strength here, positively impacting her party’s’ overall poll ratings – and the Conservatives are keen to capitalise upon this. Indeed, pictures of her campaigning over the weekend showed her standing in front of a blue banner with the words ‘Theresa May: Strong, Stable, Leadership in the National Interest’ and no mention of the Conservative Party. Although it is too early to say whether the leaks by the European Commission of their account of the Downing Street dinner will have an impact, Conservative Campaign HQ will presumably be betting that it ultimately does not, with their ‘strong, stable’ message having the far greater traction.

These are early days in the campaign, with many weeks yet to go, but it would be surprising if this basic playbook changes. The Tories are playing a cautious game which avoids offering any hostages to fortune and maximises their freedom post-election. Their manifesto is not expected for at least another week, but, given the time they have had to prepare it, it is unlikely to be a big document. They are coming under pressure on discrete areas such as the pensions triple lock and tax rises. When asked about this on Sunday on the Andrew Marr Show, May did actually commit to no further rises in VAT. However, she refused to make the same commitment on national insurance or income tax – and on the triple lock, said that although state pensions would continue to increase, the Tory manifesto could revisit the way this is calculated.

By contrast, Labour are in a situation where they desperately need to change the narrative away from Brexit in order to get cut-through. We have seen some attempts from them over the weekend to do this – for example, by announcing plans to put an extra 10,000 police on the streets, and promising ‘consumer rights’ for private renters.

However, Labour also appear frequently to be hampered by very variable performances from their top team, which play into the Conservative narrative around competence and the dangers posed by Labour being elected. We have recently seen Labour go into damage limitation mode following a disastrous interview by Diane Abbott in which she claimed that recruitment of 10,000 extra police would cost £300,000. We have also recently seen the media widely sharing pictures of John McDonnell at a May Day rally in Trafalgar Square, talking in front of the hammer and sickle symbol and the flag of Bashir Assad’s regime. If they want to turn round the polls, Labour urgently need to up their game and start delivering a slicker, more competent, performance which focuses on issues which remain strengths for them, such as the NHS.

This article is part of our Spring 2017 newsletter

Lansons’ Newsletter: Spring 2017

The latest edition of our newsletter is now available to view.

Included in this issue:

  • General election 2017: overview
  • General election 2017: what we would like to know
  • How to navigate the key challenges and opportunities that Brexit has to offer
  • Bonjour! Je m’appelle John Bull: how M&A in the UK is evolving
  • Plus ça change | A look at what the FCA’s latest announcements mean for the asset management sector
  • The perils of a positive mindset

Election Briefing – 37 Days To Go!

Welcome to the first of the Lansons/Opinium briefing emails on the general election. Every week we will be circulating a note, compiled by Lansons political and social media experts and Opinium’s political pollsters, looking at the latest polling, recent events and key changes. After polling day, we will also be sending full analysis looking at what happened.

The latest polling by Opinium shows the Conservatives with a 17 point lead over Labour.

Received wisdom has it that the party perceived to be strongest on the economy and leadership generally wins. Indeed, in 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign team legendarily instructed their campaigners to focus on “The economy, stupid” in their successful Presidential campaign against sitting President George H. W. Bush. This was clearly instrumental in the Conservatives 2015 victory. However, last year’s vote for Brexit has, as with many other things in UK politics, turned this on its head. This is the Brexit election – a poll defined by the aftermath to the referendum – and the ability of the parties to deliver Brexit is key to success.

Politically, Brexit is an issue monopolised by the Tories. They are, of course, associated with it as an issue – and it plays to their strengths as the party seen as most able to steer the country to a successful outcome. Their approach to date has therefore been a cautious one which offers few hostages to fortune, and emphasises their ability to deliver for the country. Theresa May is seen as a huge strength here, positively impacting her party’s’ overall poll ratings – and one the Conservatives are keen to capitalise upon. Indeed, pictures of her campaigning over the weekend showed her standing in front of a blue banner with the words ‘Theresa May: Strong, Stable, Leadership in the National Interest’ and no mention of the Conservative Party. Although it is too early to say whether the leaks by the European Commission of their account of the Downing Street dinner will have an impact, Conservative Campaign HQ will presumably be betting that it ultimately does not, with their ‘strong, stable’ message having the far greater traction.

These are early days in the campaign, with many weeks yet to go, but it would be surprising if this basic playbook changes. The Tories are playing a cautious game which avoids offering any hostages to fortune and maximises their freedom post-election. Their manifesto is not expected for another week, but, given the time they have had to prepare it, it is unlikely to be large. They are coming under pressure on discreet areas such as the pensions triple lock and tax rises. When asked about this on Marr on Sunday, May did actually commit to no further rises in VAT. However, she refused to make the same commitment on national insurance or income tax – and on the triple lock, said that although state pensions would continue to increase, the Tory manifesto could revisit the way this is calculated.

By contrast, Labour are in a situation where they desperately need to change the narrative away from Brexit in order to get cut-through. We have seen some attempts from them over the weekend to do this – for example, by announcing plans to put an extra 10,000 police on the streets, and promising ‘consumer rights’ for private renters. However, Labour also appear frequently to be hampered by very variable performances from their top team, which play into the Conservative narrative around competence and the dangers posed by Labour being elected. We have today seen Labour go into damage limitation mode following a disastrous interview by Diane Abbott in which she claimed that recruitment of 10,000 extra police would cost £300,000. We have also this morning seen the media widely sharing pictures of John McDonnell at a May Day rally in Trafalgar Square, talking in front of the hammer and sickle symbol and the flag of Bashir Assad’s regime. This plays into the Tory narrative of “chaos”.

If they want to turn round the polls, Labour urgently need to up their game and start delivering a slicker, more competent, performance which focuses on their strengths such as the NHS.

Megan Murray Jones Shares How She Made Shared Parental Leave Work For Her

Traditionally, taking time off to look after a new-born has only been available to mothers. Now, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows most couples who are in paid work to both take time with their baby. Furthermore, this leave does not have to be taken all in one go but in blocks throughout the year.

In a time of blurring gender roles and technology permitting a more fluid working structure, it makes sense that a family can carve up the first year with their child to suit the needs of their baby, their career and themselves personally. Despite all this, only 5% of men and 8% of women in the workplace have opted for shared leave. This made me question whether SPL actually over-promised but under-delivered. With this in mind, I was nervous about becoming the first person at Lansons to try it.

I am happy to report that SPL has been a success. I returned to work for one month whilst my husband, David, took the leave to become a full-time dad to 7 month old Jude. After the month I returned back to maternity leave and my husband to his job at Google.

For all those eligible or considering it, here are some of the reasons why it has worked for us and how to make it work for you.

  1. We were willing to try something new. By ‘we’ I mean David, Google, Lansons, Jude and me. Funny as it sounds, ‘we’ suddenly became a unit that had to work together to create a new way of doing things. Lansons and Google had to speak to each other. David was emailing Lansons HR. Jude joined my pre-return work meetings. We all worked hard, embraced the change and enjoyed the process. We couldn’t have made it work without Lansons enthusiastically volunteering to trial Shared Parental Leave. So if your company has never done it before, work together and anything is possible.
  2. We were clear about the projects that I would work on. The new ‘we’ pops up here again (and in every other point below!). I agreed clear projects I wanted to run before I returned to Lansons so the company was clear on objectives and what could be achieved in a month. David and I also clearly set out a realistic expectation of what I could achieve before I left the house (5 minute shower, get Jude up and changed, give him to David to feed whilst I get ready, play with Jude whilst David gets ready, run to catch the train. Given the fact that David used to make me breakfast every morning before he left for work, I felt that I had a pretty good deal here!).
  3. We all met before I returned. I came into work the week before I returned, to meet with a few people about said projects. This also meant I got to see everyone, catch up on Lansons news and get my feet back on the working ground prior to my homecoming! Jude and David also popped in, allowing them to connect with my work and understand my priorities for the month to come.
  4. We embraced the change. David and I agreed that we would fully embrace our new roles. David set expectations with work that he would not be answering emails. I met with everyone that I possibly could; Lansons teams, clients, potential partners. Lansons also embraced my short-term return with open arms, meaning that I was leading on brainstorms and new business activity within my first week.  From a family perspective, we gave each other the freedom to try new things. This meant that I would come home to Jude’s room completely changed, new games being played and new (pretty inventive) food being eaten. I speak for Jude here since he can’t string a sentence together just yet, but I do believe that he has benefited from a new way of doing things.
  5. We all used the time to prepare ourselves for the future. Returning to work after maternity leave can be daunting. This month meant that ‘we’ could experiment with how I could develop my career. I spent time with team members talking positively about my role for when I return full-time. HR helped me understand how my working week could function so I could get back for Jude’s bedtime. David and I got to grips with train times, reacting to Jude being ill when I was in the office and how to share basic baby duties. Dipping our toe into this meant that we learnt a lot but also realised that the future isn’t as daunting as you can build it up to be.

‘We’ made Shared Leave work as we understood that life does not have to be linear; that you can embrace new ways of working that can benefit everyone.  I am now back on maternity leave with a revived passion for child-care and my return to work later in the year. So thank you Lansons for taking the leap; I hope that it works for everyone keen to do the same.

10 Digital Developments Businesses Can Experiment and Get Ahead With

In the time it’s taken you to read this sentence over 40,000 Google Searches have taken place.

By the end of this sentence eight new people will have joined Facebook, adding to their colossal 1.86 billion monthly active users. To put that in perspective, Facebook is bigger than the populations of China, India, and the US.

If I’ve still got your attention (because most people online have less than a 4 second attention span), then over 340,000 tweets will have been sent on Twitter.

It’s no wonder creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, said in an interview with The Guardian earlier this year “People can pick things up on the internet very quickly but they can also drop them very quickly”. For companies looking to manage their online reputation, drive their sales of products and services, or simply trying to be noticed for the first time, the internet provides a number of challenges and opportunities.

There is no better place to explore online possibilities than the biannual BrightonSEO conference. With 4,500+ delegates, 7 different stages, and talks taking place non-stop throughout the day, BrightonSEO is probably more comparable with a music festival than your traditional business event. It offers unrivalled insight into how the best digital teams and freelancers theoretically and practically approach online challenges, with candid explanations.

That is why it’s important for Lansons to join in with the discussions at BrightonSEO, to ensure our knowledge of the continually evolving and frequently disruptive digital industry aligns with our promise of helping businesses communicate more effectively with customers, investors, employees and regulators.

Among the 20+ hours of talks we attended, there are some key developments taking place in our industry that every business has a chance to experiment and get ahead of their competitors with. Here are 10 digital opportunities snippets of fact and insight that may shape your communication plans this year:

1. There was a 140% increase in people using Voice Assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, from 2015 to 2016. It’s expected that in 2020 50% of searches will be voice searches. So when you’re creating content about your brand, consider how people may be able to find it as a result of a voice search.

2. Google is more than a series of blue links. Today we’re presented with star ratings, information boxes, answer boxes – all of this is about using rich snippets online, providing information to people before they’ve even clicked through on a link. Are you top rated on Google yet?

3. People are searching with more than just words and voice, but are now using image recognition. For example, the launch of Pinterest Lens means people can find likeminded products through taking a picture with their camera. Will your product appear in the next search?

4. Alongside working with traditional media outlets, it’s always worth considering how you’re going to use bloggers. As with journalists, it’s about building relationships with the key people, which means understanding what makes them tick. Always keep any emails short and don’t be afraid to tell them what you would like.

5. If you’re using social media already, then have an awareness of what your company purpose is and how your content could help your audience. With the amount of social media updates that take place each second, it’s easy to not get noticed and fall into the trap of providing updates without value.

6. If you think Facebook is just a consumer channel, then it’s time to reconsider your stance. With 32.5 million Facebook users in the UK, representing 55% of the internet-connected population, all companies can use the social network to support business.

7. There are dedicated teams at top FTSE companies who are proactively working towards getting their products and services listed more prominently in Google. This may sound obvious, but there are still plenty of companies that are slow to invest in these areas.

8. It’s impossible to not mention Virtual Reality when discussing upcoming digital opportunities, but VR is becoming mainstream. Developments, such as those being driven by the gaming industry, means that VR could become mainstream by the end of this year/start of 2018.

9. Using paid-for social media is a low-cost opportunity for targeting specific demographic groups and audience interests. Coupled with the right content, paid-for activities should be standard practice of any online campaign. It’s worth trying if you haven’t already.

10. The digital industry is fast paced, with Google making constant updates and conversations on social media continually taking place, only a dedicated public relations programme will keep brand awareness top of mind. Of course, I would say this because this is a blog post for Lansons! But it’s true.   

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far through the article. If you think Lansons may be able to help your digital efforts or if you have any questions, get in touch.

Whilst you’ve been reading 150,000 emails have been sent, 500 hours’ worth of video has been uploaded to YouTube, and 1,440 WordPress blog posts published.

Digital Account Director Michael White Talks About the Need to Use Emerging Tools and Technologies to Challenge Media Relations Briefs

Digital Account Director Michael White talks about the tools and technologies used by PR services today to deliver 21st century work and stay relevant in 2017. He goes on to say that “PR is more than media relations”, and he challenges us to use these emerging tools and technologies to challenge Media Relations briefs.

Read full article here: http://www.vuelio.com/uk/blog/dont-be-afraid-to-challenge-media-relations-briefs/

PR Week, Reputation Institute and CEO Tony Langham Discuss Corporate Governance and Reputation

Corporate governance and the behaviour of businesses and their leaders is higher on the agenda than ever before.

According to the largest study on corporate reputations in Britain by Reputation Institute, corporate governance has a more significant impact on company reputation than ever before. The UK RepTrak study that is based on more than 35,000 ratings from the UK general public ranks companies on the quality of their reputations.

Danny Rogers, Editor-in-Chief at PR Week; Ed Coke, Director of Consulting Services at Reputation Institute; and Tony Langham, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Lansons; join Jon Cronin, Head of Lansons Broadcast PR and Content, in this special podcast at Lansons to discuss the results and the state of corporate reputation in the UK.

You can listen to the podcast by streaming it below or alternatively subscribe to our podcasts via SoundCloud.

The Great Repeal Bill White Paper Summary

After Theresa May formally triggered Article 50, the Government brought forward its Great Repeal Bill White Paper (entitled ‘Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union’) – the draft legislation through which the UK will untangle itself from EU law.

Making a statement to the House as the White Paper was unveiled, Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said that the Great Repeal Bill will provide the clarity that business seek and will ensure that, as the UK exits, the same standards and rules that the EU currently has previously legislated member states, will be copied across to UK law.

David also said that the Bill will provide Parliament with the oversight it has calling for for some time, as it will be given the chance to adapt and amend the final legislation.

Davis was clear that it was not enough to simply repeal EU legislation out of UK law and that it was important to copy across existing European legislation onto UK statue books. This, he said, would prevent legislative holes appearing in the UK. Any aspects of transposed EU law that the UK did not like, can be amended through secondary legislation.

Davis also said that a balance must be found between the need for the right kevel of scrutiny and the need for swiftness, given the finite time that exists before the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019. The White Paper’s purpose therefore, Davis said, was to act as the beginning of a discussion between Government and Parliament as to the best way to achieve this balance.

Davis also concentrated heavily on the role of the devolved administrations during the process. He said that the UK Government would allow devolved administration’s to tweak and amend EU law, once it had been transposed into the UK statute books, providing it fits with the powers it has been given. He also spoke of the need for common UK frameworks to be established between the UK’s regions to strengthen and improve economic relations within the UK.

The Bill which will be formally announced in the Queen’s Speech in May, is not expected to be given Royal Assent until towards the end of 2018, given the scrutiny that Parliament is expected to give it. It is expected to be vast in its scale and purpose, given the sheer amount of EU law that current impacts the UK. It will also take up a significant amount of parliamentary time up, meaning that other Government priorities could be side lined to make room for the bill.

Before then, the Government will consult on the White Paper before it is laid before Parliament. Comments on the White Paper can be sent to repeal-bill@dexeu.gov.uk

Summary

Chapter 1: Delivering the Referendum Result

Chapter 1 outlines that the Great Repeal Bill will put the UK in control of its laws; maximise certainty for businesses, workers, investors and consumers across the whole of the UK; and ensure accountability of the powers contained in the Bill. To achieve this, the Great Repeal Bill will do three things:

  • Repeal the European Communities Act (ECA) and return power to UK institutions
  • Subject to the detail of the proposals set out in the White Paper, the Bill will convert EU law, as it stands at the moment of exit, into UK law before we leave the EU. The Government said that this allows businesses to continue operating knowing the rules have not changed significantly overnight, and provides fairness to individuals, whose rights and obligations will not be subject to sudden change. It also ensures, the Government says, that it will be up to the UK Parliament (and, where appropriate, the devolved legislatures) to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law (once it has been brought into UK law) at the appropriate time once the UK has left the EU.
  • Finally, the Bill will create powers to make secondary legislation. This will enable corrections to be made to the laws that would otherwise no longer operate appropriately once we have left the EU, so that the UK’s legal system continues to function correctly outside the EU, and will also enable domestic law, once we have left the EU, to reflect the content of any withdrawal agreement under Article 50.

Chapter 2: Approach to repealing

This Chapter states that the Bill will ensure that, wherever possible, the same rules and laws apply on the day after we leave the EU as before. The Great Repeal Bill will end the general supremacy of EU law.

This means that:

  • The Bill will convert directly-applicable EU law (EU regulations) into UK law
  • It will preserve all the laws that the UK Government has made in the UK
  • The rights in the EU treaties that can be relied on directly in court by an individual will continue to be available

If, after exit, a conflict arises between two pre-exit laws, one of which is an EU-derived law and the other not, then the EU-derived law will continue to take precedence over the other pre-exit law.

Chapter 3: Delegated Powers in the Great Repeal Bill

This Chapter states that the Great Repeal Bill will provide power to correct the statute book, where necessary, to rectify problems occurring as a consequence of leaving the EU. This will be done using secondary legislation, and will help make sure the Government has put in place the necessary corrections before the UK exits the EU.

The White Paper states that the Government is mindful of the need to ensure that the right balance is struck between the need for scrutiny and the need for swiftness. Therefore the Government said that it has ensured that this White Paper is the beginning of a discussion between Government and Parliament as to the most pragmatic and effective approach to take to achieve this balance.

Chapter 4: Interaction with the devolution settlements

The Government states here that areas where the devolved administrations and legislatures have delegated powers, such as in agriculture, environment and some transport issues, the devolved administrations and legislatures are responsible for implementing the common policy frameworks set by the EU. The Government therefore proposes that the Bill also gives the devolved ministers powers to amend devolved legislation to correct law that will no longer operate appropriately, in line with the power the Government propose should be held by UK ministers.

Chapter 5: Crown Dependencies and Overseas territories:

Chapter 5 of the White Paper concerns the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. While no new information or guidance is outlined the chapter provides an overview of the different relationships that each of the different CDs and OTs have in relation to the EU

It notes that Crown Dependencies, that: “As a general rule, the Crown Dependencies are not bound by EU law, but they are part of the customs territory of the EU.”

The White Paper also provides an assurance of continuing cooperation and consultation as the process unfolds, stating that it is committed to engaging with the Crown Dependencies, Gibraltar and the other Overseas Territories as the UK leave the EU.

The White Paper, adds: “We will continue to involve them fully in our work, respect their interests and engage with them as we enter negotiations, and strengthen the bonds between us as we forge a new relationship with the EU and look outward into the world. This includes technical engagement on any implications of the Great Repeal Bill for their jurisdictions.”

Timeline of Brexit

International Women’s Day: Why the Push for Gender Equality is Not Just a ‘One Day a Year’ Thing

“There should be no glass ceiling; setting up Lansons gave me the opportunity to reframe the world of business.” These were the words shared by our Chairman, Clare Parsons, at a recent women in business event I attended. I haven’t forgotten them. And they sprang to mind again when, on the 8th March – amid the usual chatter and excitement around the Government’s Budget announcement – Lansons showed its support for International Women’s Day and its call to #BeBoldForChange.

From women’s suffrage to equal pay and political representation, gender inclusivity remains high on the agenda as women and men across the globe continue to take a stand against gender inequality. This annual initiative is therefore hugely important to celebrate the achievements of women and encourage EVERYONE to help forge a more inclusive gender-equal world. And of course, this is something Lansons supports in bucket-loads, being a proud advocate of equality in all shapes and forms.  

Indeed, it’s this thinking that formed the very foundations of Lansons back in 1989 when the agency was launched by Clare, in partnership with Tony Langham, our Chief Executive. She wasn’t afraid to launch herself head-first into what was then considered to be a very male-dominated city, and empower the women around her to show the same fearlessness.

And here are a few Lansons facts for you… When Lansons was founded, its first five recruits were all senior women. Today, Lansons is 70% female. 82% of its partners are women, and seven of our ten-strong management team are women. These are statistics we are hugely proud of.

While International Women’s Day happens just once a year, this year’s notion of “being bold for change” is one that we should carry with us always. This doesn’t need to be “big” – you don’t need to turn into the next Emma Watson or scream from the rooftops à la Madonna. This could simply be feeling more empowered to make subtle changes to how you live your life – speaking up to get your views heard, pushing yourself for a promotion or new job that would have otherwise gone to someone else, or making an important life decision such as stepping away from work entirely (because that’s fine too).  

But to tackle gender inequality generally, we must first start by addressing some of the most common examples of sexism still at use today.  How often have you heard the phrases “women drivers”, being “a bit blonde”, or doing something “like a girl”? And when it comes to women at work, while in many ways I love the popular 90’s TV programme Absolutely Fabulous, which saw the hilarious Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley poke fun at the PR world, the “Ab Fab notion” has a risk of being hugely damaging to women in the workplace.

We all have a role to play in forging a more gender-inclusive world, and avoiding common gender traps is just the start of it. As said by Stephen G. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “you can’t talk your way out of something you behaved yourself into.”

#BeBoldForChange

Clare Parsons, Anna Schirmer and Rebecca Mayo Attend the PROI Global Summit in Sydney

Our Co-Founder and Chair Clare Parsons, Board Director Anna Schirmer and Joint MD Rebecca Mayo are currently in attendance at the PROI Global Summit in Sydney. Find out about the event online. They will have the opportunity to engage with global agencies. In addition to sharing their expertise in communications with other forward thinking leaders.

Topics Covered

They will be speaking on a range of topics including;

  • Business consulting
  • Healthcare
  • The Agency of the Future
  • Brexit in an age of distrust and fake news
  • Change of management program

Keep in Touch

Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with the latest news on our representatives at PROI Global Summit in Sydney, and use the hashtag #PROIsummit to join the conversation.

Lansons feature in the Evening Standard for donating office space to charity and theatre company HighTide

Lansons is thrilled to feature in the Evening Standard article on firms that share their office space with start-ups and small companies. For over 9 years Lansons has donated office space and resources to theatre company and charity – HighTide, whose charitable mission is to support upcoming and emerging playwrights with their first commission. By donating space it allows HighTide to reinvest all their donations and income into producing great theatre. Read the full article here.

Louise Ahuja talks to Gorkana on tackling both rumour and fact in the news

Tackling rumour and fact image

With the number of false news stories increasing, Lansons’ Director Louise Ahuja talks to Gorkana on how to tackle both rumour and fact in the news and the importance of being alive to the personalities and politics involved.

“The story broke in some detail, so at the point the journalist calls to alert you there is a need to engage with them to ascertain what they know and if it is the correct facts then best to go on the front foot.  This is when you need to plan in the moment, read the live situation and be willing to throw out the playbook to get the message across you want.”

Read full article:  http://www.gorkana.com/2017/03/so-theres-been-a-takeover-bid-prs-on-tackling-both-rumour-and-fact/

Four easy steps to being a feminist ally in the workplace

I’m aware of the inherent irony of having a man write a blog for International Women’s Day. Particularly when written on behalf of a company where 70% of the senior leadership team are successful women with far more interesting things to say.

I know this because I’ve worked with these brilliant women for six years and spent my professional career modelling myself after them, far more convinced by their considered expertise than the posturing masculinity I’d encountered in so many other professional environments.

As such, it’s with great regret that after so long, I still find myself rolling my eyes skyward to the latest toe-curling comment made by someone who at best is implying that someone’s working style is somehow inextricably linked to their gender and at worst, is making some sort of crass menstrual joke while nudging me emphatically with their elbows.

It’s true that women in the workplace have a long way to go and one of the most important steps in that process is for their male colleagues, clients and allies to recognise their part in rehabilitating the British workplace.

Below, I’ve shared four easy steps to being a feminist ally in the workplace:

  1. Do not tacitly endorse a male colleague’s bad behaviour

Despite recent reports to the contrary, your ‘locker room’ talk is rarely harmless.  So often, the sort of low-level misogyny that manifests as risqué jokes or ‘laddish banter’ can be dismissed as unimportant if a woman isn’t there to be personally offended. But I’m here to tell you – when a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it – you’re still a sexist pig.

These lazy attitudes can permeate a businesses’ culture and start to impact how decisions are made at the most fundamental level. We have a responsibility to represent our female colleagues even when they are not around and hold our male colleagues accountable for what they say – no matter the environment.

  1. Challenge the gender opportunity gap

Women are still getting a raw deal – any cursory look at the figures will tell us that much. The gender pay gap for women in the UK with no children is slightly more than 7% – for those with at least one child it leaps to 21%.

While anyone who has the option to influence pay and promotion opportunities should do their best to make sure these are a true meritocracy, this is not purely an issue of money. Too often women are excluded from high-level or sensitive conversations.  It is also vital to make sure those new challenges and interesting projects are distributed fairly. 

  1. Do not assume to know your colleagues’ experiences

Time and time again we assume that true acceptance and tolerance is the result of adopting an attitude which effectively amounts to the sentiment of ‘we are all the same’. While parity and equality are obviously the goal, this attitude is idealistic to the point of naiveté. An important part of respecting your female colleagues is accepting that their journey and experience of the workplace has been markedly different. Just last year, for instance, researchers from the Trades Union Congress and the Everyday Sexism Project found that 52% of women had experienced unwanted behaviour at work including groping, sexual advances and inappropriate jokes

Sometimes the most valuable thing you can do for a female colleague – or indeed any colleague from a minority – is to acknowledge that you can’t full understand their experience. Instead, encourage them to feel comfortable to share their grievances and do not be dismissive of these. 

  1. Commit yourself to female leadership – and act as an example to other male colleagues

Roxanne Gay, author of Bad Feminist (2014) put it best: ‘often times the only thing women are allowed to be experts on is themselves’. Women’s insights and recommendations are often ignored, despite years of work and experience that speaks to the contrary.

You might hope that this is not the case but in society where sexism is so inextricably weaved into our culture, we must look frankly at ourselves and ask if we are really doing enough. We should make active efforts to address latent and lazy stereotypes. Question people when they begin to tell you what ‘women’ are like. Listen when people relate their experiences to you. And most importantly of all, make your personal advocacy and support clear.

This blog is part of a series we are doing to mark our support of International Womens Day

Head of Public Policy, James Dowling on comms pros and today’s budget

James Dowling, Head of Public Policy at Lansons, discusses how comms professionals will be put to the test immediately after the Budget today, with decisions around efficiency and reform needing to be taken with everyone fully sighted of the communications consequences. Read the full PRWeek article here

The FCA launches a consultation paper on: Reforming the availability of information in the UK equity IPO process

As part of a wider programme of work that is designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of primary markets, the FCA has today, launched a consultation paper (Reforming the availability of information in the UK equity IPO process) proposing a package of measures to reform the availability of information during the UK IPO  (initial public offering) process, that follows its Discussion Paper, April 2016.

Within this Discussion Paper, the FCA identified that timings, sequencing and quality of information being provided to market participants during the IPO process, could be improved.

Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, said: A well-functioning IPO market with high standards of conduct is an essential part of the UK’s capital markets. The IPO process has considerable strengths, but the proposals we have outlined in today’s Consultation Paper are designed to improve the range, and timeliness of higher quality information that is available to investors during the process.”

In its finding, the FCA says the prospectus, is made available very late in the process and as such, analysts within non-syndicate banks and independent research providers generally lack access to the information they need to produce research on IPOs. As such, the book-running syndicate’s analyst research is the primary source of information available during the process. The FCA has particular concerns about this, given, as they see it, conflicts of interest arise during the production of connected research, including analysts seemingly coming under pressure to produce favourable research on an offering, their bank is running.

The Consultation Paper includes a series of rules which seek to ensure that a prospectus or registration document is published, and providers of ‘unconnected research’ have access to the issuer’s management, before any connected research is released. The package also includes new guidance clarifying the FCA’s expectations on analysts’ interactions with the issuer’s management and their corporate finance advisers when considering the IPO mandate and a bank’s syndicate positioning.

Ultimately, the FCA wants to see an IPO process:

-with enhanced standards of conduct during the production and distribution of connected research;

-where a prospectus document plays a more central role; and

-where the necessary conditions exist for the emergence of unconnected IPO research.

Lansons has a wealth of experience advising clients on their corporate and capital markets communications requirements and the team has recently advised on a number of high profile IPO’s in London. If you would like to discuss any of your financial and corporate communication requirements, please contact:

Rollo Crichton-Stuart: rollocs@lansons.com

Tom Baldock: tombaldock@lansons.com   

 

 

Lansons wins 2 awards at the PRCA City and Financial Awards 2017

We are delighted to announce that we won two awards at the PRCA City and Financial Awards 2017 on Tuesday night in the following categories:

Best Crisis Communications Campaign Award

Lansons and PPF: Protecting People’s Pensions: Managing the Reputation of the Pension Lifeboat

Best Accountancy Communications Campaign Award

Lansons: Spanish Property Crash: The UK Fightback

Associate Director  Madeleine Morgan-Williams was also shortlisted in the category Rising Star of the Year Award.

Congratulations to all involved!

Housing White Paper – analysis

The release of the Government’s long awaited White Paper on Housing represents the completion of a policy triumvirate, after weeks of set piece announcements. The Corporate Governance Green Paper, the Industrial Strategy White Paper and now the Government’s policy statement on Housing can be viewed as direct manifestations of the vision that Theresa May laid out for her premiership on the steps of Downing Street in June last year, when she talked about the need for an industrious post Brexit economy and new opportunities for hard working families.

Taking those themes in turn, there is a lot contained within the Housing White Paper that complements the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. The latter – released last month – set out the need to encourage private investment in house building and to target infrastructure development where there is local need, in order to rebalance the economy and increase productivity across the country. This is exactly what the Housing White Paper sets out in greater detail, with a new commitment to encourage more institutional investors into housing and new responsibilities for local authorities across the country to pass new housing delivery tests to ensure houses are built where they are most needed.

Planning laws will be relaxed to encourage developers to build homes more quickly while the Government has also promised to address the skills shortage in the construction workforce to create a talent pool that is capable of building the sheer number of homes we need.

In keeping with the Government’s ideological land grab from the Labour Party, the White Paper also signals a U-turn on a decade old Conservative value: the Government has signalled an abandonment of its commitment to universal homeownership, with new measures designed to make renting more appealing as a long term solution for people seeking a home. Moreover, the announcement that the Government will also encourage three year tenancies, builds on recent proposals to ban letting agency fees. Indeed, what is striking is the resemblance to the Labour housing promises that the Tories so lambasted little over 18 months ago at the 2015 general election.

This was a white paper that was always likely to contentious, and it was subject to a number of untimely delays. It highlighted the ideological dichotomy at the heart of Conservative thinking: while subscribing to the view that growth and economic change is an urgent need, they are also hamstrung by the political difficulties involved in doing some of the really bold things – chief among which is unquestionably agreeing more building on green belt land. It is this that held up the paper for many months as the Cabinet and Tory backbenches squabbled over whether it was right to build on green belt land. In the end, on this point, the powerful backbench Conservatives – boosted by the Government’s razor-thin majority – got their way.

It means we have a Housing White Paper that is on the one hand progressive – and in some places a serious departure from Conservative values – but is also tempered with a traditional vision of a green and pleasant land. Whatever way you look at it, there is something here for everyone.

Continually raising the bar

On Monday Lansons CEO Tony Langham attended and took part in the International Financial Services and Small States Conference. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP and the Centre for Small States, Queen Mary University of London, with the support of Fran Hendy Attorneys hosted the conference which discussed the role of Small States’ Financial Centres. The conference took place at the premises of Wilmer Hale in London.

Tony joined a panel comprising: 

Chair: Maya Forstater—Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Development

Geoff Cook—Jersey Finance
Richard Hay—Stikeman Elliott (London) LLP
Tony Langham—Lansons
Jack Marriott—Maples and Calder

The panel discussed the central role of SS IFCs in the international financial services sector using case studies. There discussion spanned across a number of international financial services, innovation and regulatory matters and the success of SS IFCs in dealing with change and innovation.

This article expands on Tony’s views from the conference:

International Finance Centres (IFCs) and Small States (SSs) have fared better than anyone dared hope in the years since the financial crash of 2007/08. Despite a tidal wave of NGO and EU rhetoric and US FATCA and subsequent FATF – and a host of “scandals” from #LuxLeaks to #PanamaPapers – this vital part of the global financial plumbing is still going strong. However, there are storm clouds ahead, not least because the UK will ultimately be unable to provide protection from inside the EU.  If IFCs and SSs are to navigate the next ten years as successfully as the last, they will have to demonstrate further, quantifiable improvements in governance and transparency – and increase the impact of their international communication.

In the international debate, IFCs and SSs need to disentangle the reasonable requests of the EU, NGOs and others, from the unreasonable. It is reasonable to be concerned about organised crime and terrorist financing. IFCs have relied on meeting OECD criteria for transparency but, increasingly, MONEYVAL reports are focusing on the quality of enforcement of laws and regulations. IFCs will need to demonstrate they’ve responded – not just in their investment in financial crime expertise – but also in terms of incidences located and convictions secured. Conversely, it is unreasonable for sovereign states to influence rates of taxation in rival states – and on this, IFCs will need help from their “fellow travellers” inside the EU, including Netherlands, Luxemburg, Estonia and Malta, as the UK withdraws.

In terms of transparency, from beneficial ownership registers to the introduction of FATCA/FATF to meeting OECD standards, IFCs and SSs have mostly responded admirably, but have won over relatively few of the doubters. Ultimately, this will  have to change. Vastly enhanced reporting of economic statistics by IFCs and SSs, to demonstrate how their economies work, would help their arguments. Greater investment in international communication is also required. Without this, the central IFC and SS argument – that they are a valuable and integral part of the world’s financial eco system – will not be properly heard.

The missing voice in the international IFC and SS debate is often that of the private sector. IFCs appear to lack allies – and global businesses are silent in their support. Over time, mobilising the support of mainstream international financial and professional trade bodies, and the major businesses in these sectors, is also crucial to the long term health of IFCs and SSs.

 

Three tips to help you master storytelling worthy of an Oscar

 

The 2017 award season is in full swing. The Oscar nominations have just been announced, and speculation is mounting in the wake of the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, which saw a record breaking number of awards go to La La Land. The hype surrounding the love letter to classic Hollywood demonstrates the enduring fascination with storytelling. Meanwhile the UK entertainment industry is forecast to be worth £68.2 billion by 2020, becoming the largest market in EMEA. The business of storytelling is arguably stronger than ever.

As a nation of story lovers, it is little surprise that storytelling is a big buzzword in communications. A strong and memorable corporate story can be a powerful tool to engage audiences ranging from customers and the media, to policymakers and employees. But a story told badly in business can go down just as gravely as a poorly executed film, resulting in rotten tomatoes rather than industry accolades.    

Here are three tips to help you master storytelling worthy of an Oscar:

  1. Your brand is not the hero

All stories have a hero, but choose the wrong one and you’ll end up with an audience that can’t relate to the hero’s challenge making them feel disengaged and unsympathetic. It seems logical for your business to play the central protagonist in your corporate narrative, but your brand is not the hero. Storytelling is not really about you, it’s about what you help your audience achieve. The most successful movies are those which enable the audience to relate to the hero, even feel like they are the hero. Make your audience the hero of your story.

  1. Shared purpose

Powerful stories often feature a shared purpose that evokes strong emotions in an audience, inviting them on a journey to accomplish a mission together. Take La La Land as an example. Struggling actress and jazz musician, Mia and Seb, embark on a pursuit to follow their dreams, whilst struggling to overcome the temptation to take the easy option and sell-out or quit. Their mission evokes powerful feelings of empathy in the audience to stay true to yourself in order to make your dreams a reality. The same rule applies to your audience when telling your corporate story. It’s not enough for them to feel good about your purpose; they want it to be their purpose too. Rather than creating a narrative for your audience, it should be made with them. Purpose needs to be shared.

  1. Authenticity

Some of the worst films in history are the ludicrously far-fetched horror movies, or sickly sweet chick flicks with an unbelievable ending. Stories that move us are authentic and believable, irrespective of context. A corporate narrative should not be a strict, inflexible script dictated from the leadership team and cascaded down the ranks. It must be flexible and open for adaptation. Like any good story, we all know the plot, but we each have different ways of telling the tale. We emphasise different aspects and draw on personal anecdotes. Think of your corporate narrative like a plot, which is then retold by your audience. Trusting others to tell your story will make it authentic and believable. This is why a corporate narrative must be short, simple and memorable – so that, like all the best stories, it can be easily retold for years to come.

The entertainment industry has expanded far beyond the walls of the cinema, with the rapid rise of virtual reality, immersive video games and interactive cinema. But regardless of the platform, the old rules of good storytelling remain the same. So no matter if you are sharing you corporate story on digital media, traditional PR or old fashioned face-to-face communication, these three golden rules will help you craft stories that will win over your audience, and with any luck they might just snag you an award win too. 

 

This post originally appeared on the PRCA website: http://linkis.com/www.prca.org.uk/node/h4CBZ 

2016: The year when social media hit maturity

Digital Account Director at Lansons, Michael White, writes about one of the big digital themes of 2016.

Mainstream social media sites have reached maturity, they have come of age; either hitting the precipice of user registrations or continuing to climb further into the millions. They should definitely not be considered ‘new channels’ anymore as more than seven in ten internet users have a social media profile. They are even commissioning journalists and companies to create stories, and public relations teams must be more experimental with sharing stories to be heard among the online noise.

This means there is a pressure for us to create immersive content, such as using 360 video or broadcasting live. It’s no longer about creating a community around stories/campaigns/products, but being noticed by a mature social media audience who expect you to speak their language.

If 2007 was the year of technological innovation when Apple entered the mobile market with the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter began to really gain registrations, and the Amazon Kindle was launched – among many others; then 2017 will see the continuing maturity of the same social sites and a growing field of experimental marketing led by products such as augmented reality headset Microsoft HoloLens.

Aside from the maturity of social media, internet usage as a whole has matured with people consistently spending the same amount of time online, and accessing familiar apps and websites. Ofcom’s “Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes” report reveals that almost nine in ten UK adults use the internet, on any device, in any location and are spending an average of 21.6 hours online each week, which is unchanged since 2014.

Maturity has also spurred some big business deals and content developments. To name a few:

  • Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for a whopping $26.2 billion in an all-cash transaction, a move that is likely to see better LinkedIn integrations across Microsoft products.
  • Live video is now the hot content marketing opportunity. More Facebook Pages are live streaming, 529,000 in total in June 2016, now expected to be nearer a million[i]. 10 million people are using Periscope, with over 200 broadcasts to date[ii].
  • It’s been the year of messaging apps. Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat have all seen huge user growth, giving public relations practitioners the challenge of knowing the conversations that are taking place in private and often encrypted parts of the internet.
  • Never has the internet, social media, and any other online touchpoint been so crucial for all industries across the UK. Especially highly regulated industries such as financial services and health, many of whom have developed social media compliance procedures to meet the expectations of their stakeholders – whether business-to-business or direct to consumer.

In 2016 we’ve seen social media come of age, witnessed continued growth of digital services, and many companies have become comfortable producing immersive video content. 2017 will be about building on these developments to reach their audiences in more creative ways.

[i] http://uk.businessinsider.com/facebook-live-video-stats-from-tubular-2016-7

[ii] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/periscope-statistics/

This article featured in the December 2016 issue of the Lansons newsletter. You can sign up to our quarterly newsletter here.

Predictions for Brexit in 2017

With the UKs historic vote to leave the European Union and the shock election victory for Donald Trump, 2016 has been a landmark year that shook the political establishment. Further votes in France and Germany, in particular, pose more trouble should the voters in those countries also decide to put their trust in populists. Against this precarious backdrop, the UK faces the challenge of negotiating Brexit against an increasingly determined Parliamentary resistance, while also delivering a significant package of economic reforms designed dramatically to improve UK productivity and bolster economic output across the UK.

Whether the UK comes to rue or celebrate Brexit depends on how the Government responds to the challenges it faces – and the ability of private sector partners to spot the opportunity and assert their agenda.

Brexit negotiations

6 months on from the UKs vote to leave the EU and the world is still trying to understand what a Britain outside the European Union will look like. Even the one thing we were told, that Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March, is now in doubt following the High Court’s ruling that it must be taken to a Parliamentary vote. The start of 2017 will see the Supreme Court’s decision on whether Theresa May must ask Parliament permission to trigger Article 50. This creates two potential pats for Brexit at the start of 2017.

Under the first – in which the Government is unsuccessful in its attempt to trigger Article 50 using the Royal Prerogative, a Parliamentary Bill will be required to authorise Article 50. This is a potentially catastrophic set-back, opening up the very real possibility of Parliament forcing positions upon the Government which may give the EU an ability to concede single market and trade access at an unendurably high price. Ultimately, if May cannot overturn this, she could be forced to call an early election.

On the other hand, if the Government wins its supreme court appeal, Theresa May will trigger article 50 on time using the Royal Prerogative. This would set the UK on course for an exit from the EU within two years – by end March 2019 at the latest – on terms that are as yet unknown and relies upon the assent of our EU partners.

Transition arrangements

The Treasury is prioritising transition arrangements ahead of a final deal on single market access. For the financial services sector, this is crucial. We know that many of the larger banks are preparing to put their relocation plans into action in the first quarter of 2017, despite which, these will not be in place by the time article 50 is served. The government therefore needs to obtain clarity on this as soon as possible – despite the likely intransigence of some negotiating partners, who hope to benefit from any relocations from the UK.

Free trade

One of the challenges the UK has set itself is to build far stronger trading relationships with a range of countries beyond the EU. The Department for International Trade (DIT) under Liam Fox has been charged with delivering this. Early attempts by Fox to this end were largely met with ridicule. Although the election of Trump (who has indicated he would look favourably on a bilateral deal with the UK) might help the narrative here, DIT still faces a fundamental issue in that, while the UK remains in the customs union, it cannot agree bilateral trade deals.

For Liam Fox to deliver his remit properly, he therefore needs the UK to depart the customs union. Cutting against this are the needs of businesses such as Nissan, to which the UK had to offer assurances that no exports would be disadvantaged by Brexit. This is potentially expensive for the Treasury if the UK cannot obtain the freedom to cut trade deals without also suffering tariffs to export into the EU.

An alternative route to attracting FDI is suggested by McDonalds’ decision to relocate its international HQ to the UK from Luxembourg. UK business tax rates are at historic lows – it is quite possible the Treasury will decide to reduce corporation tax rates yet further in the coming few years, particularly if the departure negotiations do not go as hoped. This may look particularly attractive In light of the increasingly aggressive approach taken by the European Commission against the tax arrangements of, particularly, US tech firms such as Google or Apple. If the UK is seen as offering shelter against an increasingly protectionist EU, then international (particularly US) firms may yet see it as an attractive destination.

This article featured in the December 2016 issue of our quarterly newsletter. You can sign up here.

 

 

Is it time for UK business to take action to rebuild reputation in 2017 ?

 

“We will explore ways to improve and extend good governance across big business so that everybody plays by the same rules and we create an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few” Theresa May told the CBI in late November. As former Labour Leader Ed Miliband ironically tweeted that day : “More Marxist anti-business ideas. These Tories…”

 

The growing number of Government inspired reviews and consultations, whether cross sector ( like the Corporate Governance Review) or sectoral (as the CMA’s Care Homes Market Study) are often accompanied by colourful, some might say “anti-business”, rhetoric. In its review of the asset management industry (AMMS) the regulator, the FCA, bemoaned the fact that “the asset management sector as a whole has enjoyed sustained, high profits over a number of years”. In the face of this rhetoric and the widespread public distrust of the establishment and the “metropolitan elite” illustrated by the Brexit vote, it’s no surprise that trust in business continues to decline. This year’s IPSOS Mori Veracity Index showed that only 33% of Britons trust business leaders to tell the truth – not only behind nurses, doctors and teachers – but also behind civil servants, lawyers, pollsters, economists and bankers.

Businesses rely on their reputation to secure help from Government or to premium price products or to recruit the best quality staff for competitive salaries. And the reputation of business generally is under threat at a time when business wants fundamental things from Government. As Head of the City of London Corporation Mark Boleat told the Mail on Sunday last week “Britain needs to make sure its tax and regulation is as attractive to finance as possible”  . Sectors wanting tax and regulatory advantages from Government have the best chance of success if they are favourably regarded and trusted by Government.

The central question facing businesses that care about their reputation is whether this storm will blow over and it’s another year of “keeping your head below the parapet” – or whether something more fundamental is required to maintain or recover reputation? It seems that Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors (and one of businesses’ lobbyists) has decided, as he recently wrote in The Telegraph that: “Theresa May is right, something must be done about executive pay”.

I know that many businesses will decide that discretion is the better part of valour. Or that they have excellent reputations individually, regardless of business or their sector generally. But just for a few minutes, ahead of what I believe will be a very tough 2017, I’ll suggest some things businesses could do – if they wanted to take the Government’s corporate governance and  inequality agenda head on:

  1. Physically reconnect with society – decide to spend a greater proportion of the year where stakeholders are (employees, customers, intermediaries, influencers, shareholders, government, regulators) – and meet as many of them as possible. For businesses with multiple locations, should Board meetings move around them?
  2. Consider executive pay and ask whether “society” is right? If the quantum of guaranteed earnings or the rate of increase (relative to the workforce generally) are “unfair” (I’ll leave the definition for another time) – do something about it.
  3. Introduce a greater level of transparency than all of the rules and regulations require, whether that is earnings data or whether senior management pay UK tax.
  4. Make community/society engagement front and central to the corporate purpose (and not isolated as “just CSR”) – and review all CSR/community budgets, asking: how much does our corporate spending act to reduce inequality in society? Or is our spending directed to the areas of most concern to our stakeholders?
  5. Review recruitment policies – do they act to help the whole of society – and is it possible to meet the corporate purpose and help reduce inequality in society? Should companies take and train school leavers wherever possible?
  6. Take action ahead of any Government review and ensure all stakeholders are represented at Board level (particularly employees) if a company believes that is the right thing to do.
  7. Commit to reflect society (or a business’ stakeholders) at all management levels, not just in terms of gender and ethnicity but also disability and possibly even non-university and state education backgrounds.
  8. Commit to talk publicly and be seen on television and the internet, and heard on radio. Challenging times require publicly visible companies and preferably CEOs and management. Be prepared to talk about broader issues and executive pay as well as the company’s products and services.
  9. Commit to report on more than just financials including an organisation’s impact on society and impact on the environment (regulatory action may be coming in these areas anyway, of course).
  10. Invest to ensure that the sector’s trade body is high quality and well-funded, as many are under-resourced.  UK trade bodies tend to be much smaller than those in the USA, and often senior industry players do not get sufficiently involved. This could be crucial in the period when the Government develops and reveals its industrial strategy.

At Lansons, we’d be very keen to meet to discuss ways of gaining reputational advantage, whether you work with us currently or not. We do believe that there will be winners and losers in what Philip Hammond has called a period of “unprecedented uncertainty” – and that good reputation management can play a part in determining who those winners are.

In the meantime, thank you to all of our clients and other stakeholders for your support during the roller coaster of a year that was 2016.  We wish you the compliments of the season and a great break – and we look forward to working with you next year.

This article featured in the December 2016 issue of our quarterly newsletter. You can sign up here.

 

2017: Asset managers year in the sun

It’s been a challenging year for the investment industry. Leaving aside the market turmoil created by a series of geopolitical surprises for the moment, the year started as it ended – largely in the shadow of the FCA’s asset management market study. With the final report due from the regulator in early Spring next year, it will also set the tone for much of 2017.

Thus far, that tone is not particularly positive. The report was fairly scathing in its assessment of the industry’s ability to deliver value for money to end investors, and ultimately criticised the industry for being ‘too profitable’ and poorly governed, proposing a set of corrective reforms and, in all probability, referral to the CMA for effective collusion at the expense of the investing public. Investment consultants fared even worse.

It’s at times like these when you get to know who your friends are. And the silence from defenders and supporters of the industry has been incredible. In the immediate aftermath of the report, the media coverage was entirely one way and the few asset managers who did publicly comment said little other than bland, welcoming platitudes. Since then, a little disquiet has percolated out into the trade media about what some of the FCA’s recommendations may actually mean for investors, but to the outside world the industry appears to stand alone and largely unloved.

For an industry which does genuinely deliver social value through allocation of capital in the real economy and managing retirement savings, this should be a cause for concern. Asset managers now occupy the same place as banks and insurance companies have done: very much in regulators and policymakers sights. For an industry that has purposefully flown ‘below the radar’ in recent years, this is an uncomfortable position. The problem that the industry has is that once you are held above the parapet, it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to get back below it. So, a key challenge for the industry next year is how to live, and ultimately thrive, in the spotlight. Any notion that the industry can simply make a few accessions to the regulator and carry on as normal should not be entertained. That won’t cut it at all.

Life in the public eye is always a difficult balancing act. It’s interesting to note that, after years of public excoriation, the hedge fund industry has started to both engage with the general public and parliament, while in the US the private equity industry had started to wield much greater political influence even before the recent election. Equally, the banking and insurance sectors aren’t shy of occasionally flexing a little muscle to protect their interests, hence the shift in the FCA’s attention away from banking culture. Keeping your powder dry is a good tactic, but only if you know that you are going to get to use it before its already too late.

There are clearly issues that can work in the investment industry’s favour. The UK needs a thriving financial services sector, with asset management at the heart, and the government is certainly cognisant that we will need to work harder to make ourselves attractive as a financial centre post-Brexit. London is home to some of the greatest investment businesses and investors in the world. The impact of losing that would be hugely damaging, economically and socially.

There’s little or no precedent of reversing the findings of an FCA study between interim and final stage, so another question is how much energy and resources to expend trying to reverse the regulator’s views. In the weeks since the study was published, for example, concern over the actual impact of all-in pricing has started to grow – although little of this has permeated into the outside world. Could all-in pricing actually lead to greater costs to the end investor, or reduced returns through reduced response to key market events? After all, it seems logical that trading activity over the course of 2016 will be even higher than many would have expected a year ago given those unexpected political outcomes we’ve had this year. Changing the regulator’s view is also more challenging because of the industry’s prior acquiescence on this front. Key to this has to be the continuing threat of CMA referral – so asset managers need to clearly prove that they have not colluded against the public interest.

Whilst substantial, the challenges facing the industry are by no means insurmountable. It’s important that companies understand the importance of both collective and individual engagement with their broader stakeholder group. Collective action is important, but once in the public eye it’s difficult to protect your reputation purely as part of a wider group. Equally, it’s important that companies ensure that both their external and internal communications is fit for purpose. Given the level of change that the regulator is trying to engender, internal communications will be as important as external in ensuring that fund businesses remain on course.
2017 will have its challenges, but that creates tremendous opportunities. At Lansons, we would value the chance to help you take those on.

This article featured in the December 2016 issue of our quarterly newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it here.

Lansons’ newsletter Winter 2016/ 2017

The latest edition of our newsletter is now available to view.  As the year draws to a close we reflect on the future and how we can learn from 2016 to grow and thrive in 2017. 

Included in this issue:

  • Should businesses take action to rebuild reputation in 2017?
  • Predictions for Brexit
  • How the asset management industry can manage challenges with fit for purpose communications
  • How to get cut through with content
  • Why social media has reached its maturity

Our analysis of the Autumn Statement

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What can we expect from a Philip Hammond Autumn Statement?

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Lansons head of public policy and former senior official at HM Treasury, James Dowling discusses what we can expect from this week’s Autumn Statement in MinuteHack. Read the full article here.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement we conducted a poll with 505 senior decision makers in SME businesses across the UK to understand what they think the Autumn Statement will hold and how they feel about Philip Hammond. The key findings have been illustrated in the infographics below:

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Overview: The U.S. Presidential Election – Trump’s victory

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An overview of Donald Trump the 45th President of the U.S. This document features our analysis on Trump’s policies and what the election result may mean for the UK, as well as an insightful, on-the-ground contribution from our PROI American partner agency, Falls Communications. The piece also includes market research agency Opinium’s take on the breakdown of the American electorate, including insightful analysis on who voted for Trump.

Expect the unexpected – Trump defeats Clinton to become the 45th US President

trump-v-clinton

In the early hours of Wednesday morning it was confirmed that, following one of the most personal and divisive elections in U.S political history, Donald Trump would be the 45th President of the United States. Trump defied the odds, the pollsters and media to claim a landmark victory. However, the question everyone is asking is where now for the U.S.A? Faced with the choice between the establishment candidate in Hillary Clinton and Trump, the political novice, the U.S. has torn up the rule book in what was an historic election result.

Polls had not predicted this outcome nor had the political elite; some would even argue that it was a shock for Trump himself – a reality TV star who reportedly only initially ran as part of a TV deal. However, in the last eighteen months, political upsets have become a common theme, following the 2015 UK General Election result and the outcome of the EU Referendum. Of course, the sense of shock depends on your political outlook. Whilst the (mainly) liberal media was almost united in their belief that the election would return a Democrat to the White House, a different conversation was taking place across the dinner tables of blue collar and Middle America.  People are angry, people want to be heard and when they have that opportunity they will make that statement.

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A key question is how the pollsters got it so wrong. I am sure there will be much more detailed analyses into them than I can provide. However, I believe that it came down to the 11th hour emergence of shy Trump voters, who feel embarrassed to own up to agreeing with Trump’s views.

A significant amount of Trump’s support came from educated men earning over $50,000, who the CNN exit polls put as Trumps core base. In addition, the exit polls showed that there was as much as a 25% shift in low earning voters from the Democrats to the Republicans. Working class voters who felt that globalisation hasn’t worked in their favour changed their long term allegiance from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party as part of a wider rebellion against the established order. This group took inspiration from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and cast their votes for the candidate who offered the most decisive break from the past.

The result has already moved markets across the world. About half an hour into trading, the FTSE 100 was down by 1%, (although it steadied following Trump’s speech), whilst the dollar is slightly weaker against the Pound and Euro. This, it should be said, was less than the UK weekend press had predicted. Nonetheless, many investors across the globe are still to be convinced that Trump can lead the world’s largest economy to safer ground. Such are the extent of business concerns that, today, Chief Executives from more than 1,100 US companies, including Boeing, Coca-Cola and Caterpillar, wrote an open letter to Donald Trump, warning of “an urgent need to restore faith in our vital economic and Government institutions” after the election. The letter comes as some businesses express concern about uncertainty and threats to trade in the wake of Trump’s victory, while seeing opportunities in possible tax cuts and deregulation.

After Trump’s triumph, huge questions remain for his defeated opponent – Hillary Clinton, and the wider Democrat Party. Hillary Clinton had a negative image among the American public especially after the FBI email investigation. The Clinton foundation was also called into question as its use of donations had been dogged with legal questions. Many hard line republicans have also had a long standing hate for the Clinton family since Bill Clinton’s presidency. There was also a perception that her downfall came from the view that she was a continuation of the Obama Presidency. Though he is flying high in the opinion polls, blue collar Americans as well as Republicans clearly wanted change.

Not only has Trump managed to throw a spanner into the works of the establishment, but many Democrats and liberals are now fearful that his legacy will undo Barack Obama’s legacy. The current administration’s approach to tackling the fall out of the economic crisis, affordable health care and gun crime are all key policy issues that are likely to be approached from an opposing stand point by the next President. Where America goes from here will become more clear as Trump appoints his Cabinet and his West Wing staff.

Auditing your Communications Capability is a Critical Investment

 

Scott McKenzie Lansons Communications

Click to view our full Autumn newsletter

 

‘Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.’

– Benjamin Franklin

 

The turbulence of working life in the last few years has made concepts like growth, progress and achievement slightly detached from a reality that, for many communicators, has been more about helping their organisations survive some major existential threats – from the financial crisis, geopolitical shifts and most recently, of course, Brexit.

Needless to say, that great polymath Franklin saw some turbulent times too, and while the American Revolution was probably a more seismic political shift than Brexit will prove to be, even he would be impressed by the rate of change most organisations have had to contend with in recent years.

Our recent study of the modern workplace – Britain at Work – indicated that more than three quarters of employees had gone through major organisational change in the last two years. Whether it is driven by major macro-economic factors, or specific issues and opportunities in the marketplace, most Executive teams are grappling with significant change.

For senior communicators this presents some interesting challenges. In an environment where Executive teams are looking for more innovation, more efficiency, more growth: how should communications evolve in order to keep pace, and indeed anticipate, the direction of travel for the business?

In our view, this presents a significant opportunity for senior communicators to reflect on what the future business requirements might be, and how the organisation’s current communications capabilities stack up.

Over recent months, we at Lansons have been asked by a range of clients to review the effectiveness of their communications.  The diversity of these projects (we have conducted reviews for insurance businesses, pharmaceutical companies, an NHS Trust, a charity, a Government department, and an Industry body) suggests this is something that organisations across the sectors are wrestling with.

Our approach to these reviews is based on a proven methodology, applying a range of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Essentially, we evaluate the current and future business requirements for organisational communications (often interviewing senior executives as part of this process), and then conduct a gap analysis against the existing communications infrastructure, channels, content and capabilities. 

As we are bringing a level of objectivity, we are often able to get to the heart of issues that have been lying latent within the organisation for many years. Our aim is to provide findings and recommendations which have a genuinely practical basis – which can immediately improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communications, but which also begin to look at some of the longer term opportunities for development,  structural change as well as potential investments (in both communications skills and channels).

If nothing else, our approach brings an independent sanity check – validating the current communications plans in place, or perhaps challenging the underlying assumptions.

In our view conducting an independent review is about ensuring the organisation’s communications capabilities are future-proof – spotting trends and opportunities for improvement.  As Franklin also said, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Scott McKenzie is Joint Managing Director at Lansons and heads up our Change and Employee Engagement practice. If you are interested in conducting a review of your communications please contact Scott on +44 (0) 207 490 8828, or at scottm@lansons.com

“Open vs. closed” is dividing the left but uniting the right

 

This post was written by Adam Drummond, Research Manager at our partner Opinium. You can contact Adam directly here.

 

The most notable result from Opinium’s work on “political tribes” is that open vs. closed is as important a political divide as left vs. right and the two largest and most homogeneous tribes are both firmly at the “closed” end of the spectrum.

What we’ve called the “Common Sense” and “Our Britain” tribes are the most right wing of the eight groups we identified and, while they occupy different places on the left-right scale, they are united in wanting a more closed society. Both of these groups voted Leave in the referendum by significant margins and, together, make up 50% of the voting public.

In contrast, other groups that support restricting welfare, low taxes and a small state are at the opposite end of the openness spectrum. What we have called “Free Liberals” and “New Britain” differ slightly in terms of how far they want to go on each of these areas but are broadly united in seeing immigration as a benefit rather than a burden and favouring single market access over immigration controls. However, these groups make up only 13% of the UK even if the approach of the governments led by David Cameron were largely aligned to them.

What was unique about the EU referendum was how, Britain-as-Singapore advocates aside, it placed open and closed clearly on opposite sides of the debate instead of coexisting within larger party coalitions and in the groups above we see such an uneasy coalition. At the moment, the Conservatives have a significant lead among “Common Sense”, the “Free Liberals” and “New Britain” but are virtually tied with UKIP amongst “Our Britain”.

Yet “Our Britain” and the two more pro-immigration groups have utterly opposing views on what Brexit should look like.

Despite this, Theresa May arguably has an easier job than Jeremy Corbyn or any Labour leader would. Outside of “Our Britain” and “Common Sense”, the rest of the country, particularly what we would call the left, are scattered across six different groups with none constituting more than 11% of the population.

The steep challenge for any centre left leader is that while these groups all voted Remain in the referendum, they are badly split on many other issues. The “Progressives” and the “Democratic Socialists” both want a generous welfare state and to remain in the single market, but differ strongly on whether people should be allowed to earn as much as they want as long as they pay their taxes or whether the state should do more to create an equal society.

The more soft-left “Community” group agree with the Democratic Socialists on an equal society but strongly believe that immigration is a burden on society and that “British” is an ethnic identity rather than a civic one, in contrast to the other two groups.

The groups that would be needed to form a centre left coalition are more numerous and more divided than their equivalents on the centre right. Traditionally, economic concerns have been the priority for forming political allegiances and we see that in the party affiliation of the various political tribes in Britain. But globalisation is giving ever greater salience to whether society is open or closed to the outside world and the EU referendum may be just the first manifestation of this divide.

 

 

Lansons’ Autumn Newsletter 2016

 

The latest edition of our interactive newsletter is now available to view.

 

In this issue we reflect on the world of business since the referendum result: how have things changed, is the outlook as bleak as previously predicted and what should happen next?

In this edition…

– Why we urgently need an industrial strategy to outweigh any negative impact from Brexit

– Why an audit of your comms is a critical investment to your business

– The problem with predictions

– How our Brexit offer can help your business

– A selection of our favourite features from Lansons news and views

– Upcoming events for those interested in finance, health innovation and charity

City Perspective: The Problem with Predictions

We would all like a crystal ball; how easy would that make all our lives? In the City, though, we lesser mortals often rely on the written word of economists and analysts. With deep sector knowledge and understanding of macroeconomics they act as a barometer. During the recent referendum the Remain camp were quick to jump on their warnings of an impending recession should the UK leave Europe. A mere 3 months later, the Brexiters are lauding the apparent U-turn of these ‘sages’ amid fresh data showing the economy performing more robustly than expected.

In January, Credit Suisse stated: “If the UK votes to leave the EU, it is likely to entail an immediate and simultaneous economic and financial shock for the UK” but have since changed their tune by suggesting that the impact of the vote, “seems to be less negative than we expected”.

JP Morgan has said that, “the rebound in August takes out the risk of recession”, despite its chief executive Jamie Dimon saying pre-referendum that “Brexit is a terrible deal for the British economy and jobs”.

Goldman Sachs own chief European economist softened the bank’s stance from predicting a “steep fall in activity” to “the downturn in the UK – while still substantial – is likely to be shallower than we thought”.

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However, can we really berate these institutions for their pre-vote predictions? After all, the scale of what was debated, however badly, and the subsequent vote are an enormous leap into the unknown and we will all be trying to understand the ramifications of the Leave vote for years to come. Our post-Brexit world is undeniably both confusing and not without risk.

Indeed, if one casts an eye across the world, there a number of factors beyond Brexit that could have a negative impact on global economies in the near future; there are fears around the pace of economic global growth slowing, fewer monetary policy opportunities open to world powers, political elections over the next 12 months including America, Germany and France, further geopolitical risks across the Middle East, North Korea and East China and, of course, record low bond yields and concerns around impending rises in interest rates.

The trouble is, when it comes to predictions, economists and analysts have a near on impossible task, but we must continue to listen and engage. They, above most, understand the sectors and the nuances that can steer a balance sheet. They are the ones who are constantly working on complex models to ensure their own point of view is as accurate as possible. They are the ones who effectively make their employers put their money where their mouth is, and that is both brave and commendable.

The months and years ahead for investors and Corporates will be tough to predict: clear and sober communications that demonstrate the robustness of a business model and make it simple to understand will help to determine success or failure. Predictions can sometimes go awry, but I for one would rather have information and opinions available to me than not.

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics

Rollo is a financial and corporate communications specialist with extensive experience advising public and private clients on complex communications challenges and global business stories. If you would like to discuss your financial communications requirements with him, please email: rollocs@lansons.com

This article featured in our latest quarterly newsletter. You can sign up on the Lansons website to receive it straight to your inbox.

We need that industrial strategy, quickly

We don’t yet know much about Brexit, but we know that as a result of leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom will lose something, economically. An Oliver Wyman report, for TheCityUK, estimated that a hard Brexit will cost the financial services sector alone up to 70,000 of its highest paying jobs and £40 billion of annual trade. Nissan’s decision to delay further investment in the UK until Brexit negotiations are concluded is being echoed, less publicly, across the country.

The Government’s task is to ensure that the opportunities Britain creates will outweigh what we will undoubtedly lose. The initial signs from Theresa May were encouraging. Within a week of assuming power, she had announced that under her leadership Britain would have a “comprehensive industrial strategy” and Greg Clarke became Secretary of State for the re-focused Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. But since then, the Government’s focus has been on domestic politics and winning the 2020 General Election. Grammar schools are aimed firmly at the “squeezed middle” and Amber Rudd’s disastrous flirtation with naming and shaming companies with a high proportion of international workers, is a direct pitch to UKIP Brexiters. Although the proposal has been withdrawn, it has further harmed Britain’s already damaged international reputation.

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At Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last week I set out to learn more about the “comprehensive industrial strategy” and found that things haven’t progressed as much as they might have in the two months since Theresa May’s initial announcement. There is no formal framework for business and industry to feed into the development of the strategy and no clear protocol for co-operation between Government departments. On the plus side, there is progress on energy (Hinkley Point and, to come, tidal energy) and transport (hopefully airport capacity and HS2) – although it’s unclear whether that will mean we have either a coherent energy or transport policy. In terms of scope, the industrial strategy is intended to include financial and professional services, as well as “industry”. On the down side, there is the familiar ideological resistance to “national planning”, among those that believe the market should rule. I once asked David Willets if he thought we should consider a greater level of industrial planning and he responded by asking me if I was a Marxist. A familiar comment at conference was that we don’t want to do the things that Singapore and Switzerland do, although it seems to me that their coherent approach to attracting quality business is exactly what we do want to do.

Some things – energy policy, major infrastructure projects, mass house building, regulatory environment, taxation policy – are either the preserve of the state or require state intervention. All are important to our future. This week, it’s taking Southern Rail commuters two to three hours to travel 70 miles from Chichester to London – while the Japanese Shinkansen regularly travels at between 150-200mph and it is over 50 years old. Depressingly, the only British politician talking of the scale of investment required to modernise our creaking infrastructure is Labour’s John McDonnell with his £500 billion National Investment Bank. The Government’s tentatively suggested “infrastructure bonds” don’t, at first sight, appear to have the required scale, but we shall see.

Philip Hammond’s first significant announcement as Chancellor, the Autumn Statement, comes on 23rd November. The Economist has already declared that “he will need to stimulate the economy”  although he has himself ruled out a “fiscal splurge”. Collectively, those of us in the private sector need to pressure the Government to outline its approach to developing a comprehensive industrial strategy. Trade associations and industry bodies have never been more important and it’s vital that they act as visionaries for their respective sectors and communicate a wish-list to Government. Individual companies also need to air their views as well as participating in their trade bodies.

As the clock will soon be ticking towards Brexit, our economic losses in terms of jobs, company relocations and  headquarters shifts come ever nearer. To outweigh them, we need the benefits from the promised industrial strategy as quickly as possible.

This article featured in our latest quarterly newsletter. You can sign up on the Lansons website to receive it straight to your inbox.

Our reflections from the Conservative Party Conference 2016

This year’s Conservative Party Conference was strikingly upbeat. It was also, in marked contrast to Labour, packed, with the secure zone itself notably larger than in previous years, and most fringes over-subscribed. The elevated mood was perhaps not surprising given that the party, unlike Labour, has emerged from the fall out of the EU Referendum relatively unscathed and, crucially, united following a bloodless leadership campaign.

However, the elation of the activists was balanced by a feeling of caution – even some despair – amongst the business contingent, with many deeply concerned about the direction of travel on Brexit, and looking to the Prime Minister to bring much needed clarity. Arguably the Prime Minister’s opening announcement – that she would trigger Article 50 no later than the end of March 2017 – heightened business concern, with many expressing real worry at the failure to announce any push for transitional measures before Article 50 is triggered, and the apparent prioritising of immigration controls above all other considerations.

The reality is perhaps more nuanced. At a fringe event Brexit Secretary David Davis, declared that he wants to see all the facts before he makes a decision on the UK’s negotiating positioning, whilst the declarations of ‘red lines’ over immigration were seen by some as instruments to retain the support of the arch Brexiteers that now fill significant seats around the Cabinet table. Instead, Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond used their conference speeches to promote the role of the State in creating prosperity. To mitigate against the perceived risks of a possible ‘hard’ Brexit, the Conservatives announced a new industrial strategy that will play a greater role in supporting markets where they are underperforming and step in where they become dysfunctional. This new approach, coupled with the Chancellor’s announcement that he will remove the 2020 target to reduce the budget deficit, is part of a strategy to position the Tories as custodians of the centre ground of British politics, and re-enfranchise despondent Remainers who had been so dejected by the country’s decision to leave the EU.

This contributed to the sense of a serious pivot away from the liberal economic approach of Cameron and Osborne, with various fringes also looking at the need to ‘reign in’ capitalism and engender a wider sense of business responsibility – and the ways this could be done. In that regard, the Conservatives are clearly making a push towards disenfranchised Labour voters who might have approved of elements of the business strategy of Ed Miliband – and now see no home for their views with Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. The conference was therefore an opportunity to showcase that the centre of gravity of the Conservative Party, and perhaps the country, has fundamentally shifted.

Whilst May senses an opportunity to appeal to the moderate, centrist voter, in the wake of Labour’s internal strife, there was a clear desire to be seen as true to the principles on which the Leave argument was won. Indeed, in a somewhat remarkable reversal, it is now perhaps the pro-EU, moderate, Tory MPs that are now seen as the rebels, with Leaver Peter Bone MP declaring “I’m mainstream now.”

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Our reflections from the Labour Party conference 2016

 

The Labour Party conference was quieter than usual, with fewer fringe events taking place and fewer MPs, businesses and lobbyists in attendance.

Partly, this was because a lot of the action took place away from the secure zone, with both moderates and Corbynites gathering elsewhere. And partly, it was because a lot of businesses appear to have given up on the party, at least for the time being.

It became clear at conference just how divided the party is, and potentially fatally. The mood in the complex and across the fringes was downbeat, where backbench MPs talked gloomily about the party’s future to often half empty audiences. About half a mile down the road, in Liverpool’s Black-E community centre, Corbyn’s supporters gathered to attend Momentum’s ‘The World Transformed’ festival, which we understand was bustling by contrast. With both sides of the party reluctant to mix with the other, there were talks of a few aggressive altercations when the two sides did come face to face.

The moderates all essentially agree on the nature of their predicament, but are themselves divided on the nature of the remedy. While some favour an approach that emphasises constructive engagement with the leadership in the hope of compromise, others see only further resistance in the face of an inevitable push by Momentum to deselect those with whom they disagree. A potential remedy mooted by some was a ‘mutual defence pact’, under which any attempt to deselect any moderate would trigger collective action such as mass resignations that trigger by-elections right across the country.

Moreover, the journalists, commentators and lobbyists we spoke to took were markedly more pessimistic, taking the view that the leadership is incapable of compromise even if it is interested in doing so. Businesses seemed to have given up hope on the party too, as there were markedly few business focused events being held, and even some of those were poorly attended. The “exclusive” New Statesman and Mirror parties also operated very lax door policies. By contrast, the Conservative conference agenda is much fuller, with more businesses holding events and guests lists already full for the events with the bigger names.

So what does this mean for the party? In the short term, both moderates and Corbynites are keen to rule out a split. At least, for the moment, the moderates do not seem to have a viable plan to get their party back.

However, this may change when the boundary review changes come into effect in 2018, as this could well lead to some moderate MPs being deselected. We’d expect that these MPs would want to contest the next election to try to retain their seat or to qualify for their redundancy pay-off – and in which case they are likely to gather under a single, separate, party banner.

 Click the image below to expand – The Labour Party Conference: 10 things we learnt

 

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How to manage your reputation online? – Experts debate

Do you feel in control of your online reputation? The internet continues to radically challenge the business of public relations. Information about you and your organisation isn’t just in the hands of the media, it’s open for anybody to discuss publicly and is searchable.

Episodes of The Thick of It or Yes Minister come to mind when it was journalists who we should be primarily concerned with. Times have changed significantly as global crisis such as O2’s loss of network coverage impact more than just the newspapers, but are spread across social networks.

We live in a time when only an integrated approach to reputation management makes sense. The public relations industry recognises this, but reputation online is an in-depth area where a balance between theoretical and practical perspectives are required.

This is why Lansons organised an event on managing reputation online as part of Social Media Week London. It’s a critical area that we believe needs better representation at Social Media Week; challenging the notion that social media is just about consumer campaigns.

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Our expert panel represented different corners of the industry in a debate aiming to share their knowledge and answer our questions about reputation management. Here are some of the interesting points and some key themes that were brought into the foreground within the 3 categories of law, reputation and social during the debate: 

Reputation

  • It’s important to take a holistic approach to reputation management. There is a balance between reputation and sentiment, and it is important to understand the differences between them.
  • Reputation can seem like an intangible concept but putting it in the framework of enterprise risk instead can make it seem more viable.

 

Social

  • The brand gets mentioned 0.01% of the times on social media, but there are a million other conversations going on around this, which you need to be aware of, so we must find different ways to monitor reputation.
  • A micro – influencer may be much more effective than a high profile/ expensive brand ambassador. Due to the power of social media individuals now have a very effective voice, especially as authenticity is key when it comes to successful brand ambassadors.

 

Law

  • Public relation professionals and lawyers need to work together from the start, as legal input on data being collected on social media is invaluable. 
  • A key issue is anonymity and speed of dissemination when measuring reputation. Courts are now providing support for these cases by awarding aggravated damages for intent to de-frame reputation on a viral level

 

So what does this mean when it comes to dealing with your online reputation?

Appropriateness and tone are critical to effective responses in reputation management. One of the best ways to avert a crisis can be humour as it looks natural, however it can take a lot of preparation. Therefore it is important to really understand your audience, especially as the media now acts alongside a direct connection with the audience online. Within social media, people tend to be organised into sub-communities and are quite fragmented. Therefore it is important to listen and categorise.

 

If you would like more information follow the hashtag #SMWreputation and contact the Lansons Digital Team at online@lansons.com

 

 

 

Lansons boosts financial communications offering with appointment of Rollo Crichton-Stuart

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Lansons is pleased to announce that it has recruited Rollo Crichton-Stuart as a board director to strengthen Lansons’ growing capability in the financial communications space.

Rollo joins Lansons from Bell Pottinger, where he was a senior member of the capital markets team supporting clients across the financial and business services, energy and technology sectors. At Bell Pottinger he also spent two years on secondment at Maersk Oil & Gas UK.

Rollo’s appointment further strengthens the senior team in an area where Lansons is seeing good levels of demand from existing and new clients for advice and support. Recent projects include the IPO of Metro Bank earlier this year. The growth of Lansons’ financial communications capability follows successful investments in other specialist disciplines, including Change & Employee Engagement and Public Affairs, which have significantly broadened and deepened the agency’s core offering.

Chief Executive Tony Langham said: “Clients want highly skilled multidisciplinary senior teams to help them navigate change and manage their reputation – and that’s what we’re delivering”.

Tom Baldock, Director of Financial Communications said: “Lansons is an ambitious agency with a great culture where high calibre practitioners can thrive. Rollo has all the attributes we look for in a senior hire and I’m looking forward to working with him as we expand our capital markets advisory work.”

Rollo Crichton-Stuart said: “I’m delighted to have joined Tom to expand Lansons’ financial communications capability. Lansons has a brilliant reputation for the quality of its work and it’s one of the most forward thinking agencies in the industry in terms of its culture and investing in the services clients really need.  I’m looking forward to starting.”

The Economist launches first ever Worldwide Brand Report with ABC

The Economist LogoLast week The Economist revealed its exclusive partnership with the Audited Bureau of Circulation (ABC) in the UK to produce the first Worldwide Brand Report. Currently The Economist is the only brand signed up to this new way of reporting which publishes the newspapers global digital statistics in addition to overall circulation figures.

The ABC has reviewed The Economist statistics from January – June 2016 to produce The Worldwide Brand Report (that can be found here) which has evolved from the CMR report and presents more digital, regional and global statistics in an easy and comprehensive format.  Aside from the usual insight into the newspapers circulation additional information that is available in the new report includes:

-Actively purchased magazines (print and online editions)

-Daily http://www.economist.com/ unique browsers

-Average distribution of the newsletter

-Social following on all platforms

It is likely that other newspapers and magazines will in time adopt the new worldwide reporting offering and the CMR will be a thing of the past. The extra statistics and insights allow brands to showcase their online strategies, global presence and ability to keep up with changing consumer demands.

The new transparency of information will be hugely beneficial for all professions that work with and try to sell to publications. Media buyers, PRs and marketers will be able to reference the new interactive report when deciding where to place budget, understanding where audiences are really accessing information and how best to present content. As with all ABC reporting the data has been independently verified to industry agreed standards, this will provide peace of mind during the decision making process.

A more thorough method of reporting from all publications would enable communication professionals to refine their editorial approach and allow brands to fully showcase their successes. The first Worldwide Brand Report shows that sales of The Economist have risen by 15% and their total UK circulation having increased by 3.7% in the last year. It seems that detailed, thought provoking content is still in demand; this is good news for us all.

Lansons announces new partnership with charity Mind

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Charity has been at the heart of our agency for over two decades, as Lansons have been committed to fundraising, developing awareness, upskilling and offering pro-bono support to and for various worthy causes since the agency was created over 25 years ago.

Agency engagement is essential to our successful endeavours for the causes we commit to and as such we review each aid organisation yearly, offering everyone at Lansons the opportunity to nominate and vote for charities close to their hearts. When a dear colleague passed away from breast cancer it was unanimously decided to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care for an extended period of 3 years. When that partnership came to a close in June of this year, we were delighted to award the hospice with a cheque for £70,000. This fantastic sum was the culmination of three years of dedicated fundraising, as well as a contribution from the 1% of our profits that we pledge to charitable causes each year.  

We are delighted to announce our new partner, mental health charity, Mind. Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Because of Mind, millions more people have access to advice and support thanks to their information and services nationally and locally, in England and Wales.  Following an agency wide brainstorm, the 23 strong charity committee at Lansons are now planning a programme of events to not only fundraise for this amazing cause but also to engage the agency and the industry as a whole to challenge stigma and discrimination that surround mental health issues.

We will be kicking off support for our new charity partnership with a big launch day in September, so watch this space for details. We’ll shortly be announcing the date for the highly anticipated annual Christmas Fair, rolling out our new initiative ‘Happy Mondays’ and gearing up to some big agency takeover days to tie in with World Mental Health Day on 10th October and next years’ Time to Talk Day on 2nd February. Alongside this we are forming a sports loving team to take part in a big trek/run/swim/cycle/Tough Mudder and creating a series of mental health awareness training sessions for Line Managers to support staff wellbeing – whether they have a diagnosed mental health condition or not.

The range of initiatives for the forthcoming year promises to have something for everyone! 

Scott McKenzie comments on the Byron Burger scandal in PR Week

Byron Burger

Joint MD and Director of Change and Employee Engagement – Scott McKenzie, comments in PR Week’s article on the Byron Burger scandal:

The Byron saga would be difficult to sweep under the carpet. “It has acted in a way that is unethical. Its treatment of migrant workers employed illegally is likely to cast a long shadow over its reputation and it will be extremely difficult to recover,” he said. The company has “been particularly tone deaf to the potential public reaction of ‘shopping in’ the very people it illegally employed”, he added.

“How would you feel if you were an employee at Byron now, knowing that there is a distinct lack of moral backbone being displayed by its leadership? It could easily mean that you are the next person thrown under the bus – hardly a recipe for trust.” 

You can read the full article here.



Pokémon Go: Is it time for companies to catch ‘em all?

It feels like the ‘90s as Blink-182 release a new album and the craze of Pokémon hits the world, hard. Pokémon Go, the new smartphone app that overlays a insanely detailed virtual world across the Earth tracks peoples steps via GPS and uses a form of augmented reality to allow the capture of Pokémon.

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Behind the app, developed by Niantic, is a talented team of engineers who have many years of experience working on Google Maps and Google Earth. The app that spent five years in development is a game changer for mobile games, only made possible by the modern functionalities afforded by smartphones. In the past Pokémon was played on Nintendo’s consoles or through the Pokémon Trading Card Game; Pokémon Yellow on the original Gameboy was a treat.

Launched only in July the app has already surpassed Twitter’s active user base and generated more downloads than games Angry Birds 2 and Candy Crush. In real-world terms this has doubled Nintendo’s market capitalisation to $42.5 billion, making trading history as the company had the biggest daily turnover in Topix index this century – even beating SoftBank.

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If these numbers aren’t enough to take Pokémon Go seriously, then just look around you. People are gathering in cities across the world staring at their smartphones, physically following steps in a virtual world. Together all players have created an augmented reality world where the decisions and actions of each player have an untraceable impact on others.

Your local church has never been more popular because it’s now a Pokémon Gym. That sculpture in your town is now a supply station for Poké Balls. Crowds are gathering because a Lure Module has been installed outside a café.

With more active users than Twitter, Pokémon Go is fast becoming a top gaming social network with plenty of development opportunities to continue growing. As it was only launched in July, no demographic information has been released yet but it may be fair to assume its top audience as between the ages of 16 – 30. If so, putting the popular app into a similar playing field as Tumblr, Snapchat, and Instagram.

So what can companies and brands do to use Pokémon Go to their advantage? It’s all about attracting people through the virtual world to real-world locations.

So far we know that …

 

Until advertising becomes available in Europe for Pokémon Go, it’s difficult to know whether the investment will deliver to business outcomes. One thing is for certain, play the game right and you could attract a group of Pokémon-crazed fans straight to your front door. Whether they’ll do anything more than catch virtual monsters through is another question entirely.

Lansons promotes two to the Board and four become Associate Directors

 

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From left: Maddy Morgan Williams, Jessica Warner, Suzanne Ellis, Katherine Hobby, Emma Beresford, Alice Stevens

 

Lansons is pleased to announce today that Katherine Hobby and Suzanne Ellis are promoted to the board. At the same time Emma Beresford, Maddy Morgan Williams, Alice Stevens and Jess Warner are promoted to the role of associate director. These appointments significantly bolster Lansons’ senior team.

Suzanne Ellis joined Lansons as an associate in August last year with a focus on senior leadership development programmes. She has played a pivotal role in cementing and developing the offering at Lansons and establishing important relationships with c-suite figures in both the public sector and business world, ultimately delivering new revenue streams for the agency.

Katherine Hobby joined Lansons as a trainee ten years ago, she was promoted to associate in 2012 and invited into the partnership in the same year. Throughout her time at Lansons she has fostered strong long term relationships with clients such as MoneySuperMarket and The Isle of Man Government. She is a fantastic motivator both for her teams and her clients and delivers strong, consistent counsel and advice resulting in meaningful outcomes.

These appointments take the number of board directors to 23. The board meets quarterly and focuses on delivering excellence in consultancy and on the economic fundamentals of the business as well as sharing best practice.

In addition to the board appointments, four new associate directors have been announced.

Emma Beresford joined Lansons in July 2012, as an account executive. Emma currently works on Post Office, Barclays Stockbrokers, The Investment Association, Smith & Williamson, and Lightsource. Emma became a partner in September last year.

Maddy Morgan Williams joined Lansons in June 2010 as a trainee executive. Maddy is currently working on Pension Protection Fund, Fidelity, Simplyhealth, Shawbrook Bank and Equiniti. Maddy became a partner in September last year.

Alice Stevens has been with Lansons since December 2009. She has worked across a range of clients in that time including Novartis, Sidel, MoneySuperMarket and the Co-operative Bank. Alice has most recently focused on developing the Lansons change and employee engagement offer. Alice became a partner in 2014 and leads Lansons award-winning relationship with High Tide.

Jess Warner joined Lansons in May 2013 as an account manager. Jess currently works on The Isle of Man Government, Reputation Institute, Investec, Growth Street and PacNet Services.

Tony Langham, Chief Executive, Lansons, comments: “We have completely transformed our business in the last five years to focus on reputation management, change and public relations.  We are growing our high margin work and our business in the first half of 2016 is up on last year. These promotions reward individual contribution and commitment to Lansons success and I congratulate all six of the promoted people.

“We are also determined to ensure that Lansons remains the best large agency to work at in the UK and these six individuals embody the skills, expertise and personalities which we believe will allow us to deliver on this goal.”

 

For further information please contact:               

Cat Barrett

LansonsPR@lansons.com

020 7294 3674

 

Notes to Editors

Additional comment and interviews available on request

 

 

 

Britain, Brexit and managing change

Tony Langham 2012

 

Britain (or at least England and Wales) will be leaving the EU and we all need to accept the result of the referendum. We shouldn’t indulge any blame games or conversations about a second referendum, or complain at how close the vote was. As the whole of the establishment, including the leaders of all traditional political parties, urged people to vote to remain – 52% to 48% is a conclusive result. Businesses need to reassure their staff, customers and clients – keep a clear head, and get on with life.

The nation’s elite also needs to understand its fellow countrymen. London voted to remain in the EU by 60% to 40% with Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow and Edinburgh voting to remain by similar margins. Businesses need to understand the anti-establishment mindset of many fellow citizens to successfully manage their reputation, explain executive pay, engage with employees and handle crises. It’s time for British business to open a new conversation with the British people. Many business leaders and consultants will continue to live, work and advise within the London capital markets bubble, but at Lansons we believe that effective “corporate” communications advice involves greater awareness of society.

In the short term, there will continue to be considerable turmoil, in markets and across politics. Several big purchasing decisions, whether to acquire a company or move house, will be delayed. We have to hope the nation’s plans to handle volatility and uncertainty are effective. We are working with our clients to secure what assurances they can, that what they require from the European single market can be maintained. From financial services to healthcare to manufacturing, it will be the detail that matters. We are also working with our clients to understand and reassure their clients and customers.

We can be certain that London will, over the next ten years, lose some European head offices (particularly of financial services companies) to Frankfurt and Paris – and possibly to Dublin or Edinburgh. We envisage that we will be helping some organisations communicate and manage relocation of headquarters, jobs and manufacturing capacity from the UK to countries inside the EU.

We believe that the task facing Britain is to create opportunities for business that will outweigh what we will lose. Our initial thoughts lie in five areas :

–          Soft power is now even more crucial for Britain and we need to demonstrate the case for greater state spending to enhance this. Vastly increased budgets for The British Council, Visit Britain, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and UKTI would be a good place to start.

–          Sadly, Britain’s business brand has been harmed by the way the referendum campaign has portrayed the UK internationally. Our leading companies therefore need to explain Britain’s strengths and what has happened, to their stakeholders all round the world.

–          In regulated sectors like financial services and healthcare, Brexit can allow Britain to create opportunities. Organisations will still have to adhere to EU and US regulations, to market to those countries, but we can use our independence to create regulatory inspired innovation to attract business to the UK. Taxation and regulation can also build larger clusters in sectors like technology, specialist manufacturing and bio-tech. We are already helping our clients make their case for this kind of innovation.

–          As fewer of the UK’s laws will be made in Brussels, the laws and regulations we create ourselves will be more important to organisations – and we see UK public affairs becoming more important to our clients.

–          We all need to be more global in outlook, as British business has to look towards the USA, China and the Commonwealth in addition to Europe, for future commercial success.

At Lansons, we are positive and forward looking. Britain is a great country and although I believe that we would have been Stronger In the EU, I also believe that we will be Strong Out.

Contact Tony Langham. This article is featured in Lansons Newsletter – July 2016, you can view the newsletter here.

PR Week feature: Tony Langham on moving forward positively after Brexit

 

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After the referendum results were announced on 24th June 2016, there has been turmoil  and doubt from UK businesses, this article from Tony Langham, Lansons Co-Founder and Chief Executive, addresses how Brexit is likely to impact on UK businesses and our industry and how we plan to positively move forwards.

You can read the full article Six ways that Britain can be Strong(ish) Out – as long as we keep a clear head – in PR Week here

Lansons Newsletter – July 2016

Our July newsletter is now available. Click the image below to flick through.

In this issue we reflect on how Brexit is likely to impact on UK businesses and our industry and how we plan to positively move forward. There is also a piece from research agency Opinium and how their polling for our recent report on Brexit showed warning signs for the outcome all along.

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In this edition…

– Outtakes from our recent study on the modern UK workplace and how it fares amongst employees

–  An introduction to some of our new and existing partnerships from the UK and around the world and the initiatives to coincide.

– A selection of our favourite features from Lansons news and views from the last 3 months.

– Upcoming events for those interested in financial services, reputation and regulated businesses and health care innovation.

My week at the Siylab, European Millennials incubator

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Friday morning’s seismic decision left most of us dumbfounded and asking ourselves – has this really happened? Feeling shell-shocked by a decision which does not seem to represent our generation. The political and economic consequences of this decision have left many of us with a bitter taste in our mouth. It also raised bigger questions around what this mean for Europe and for Europeans? Can we now prevent contagion to other countries?

As a French-educated Italian national, who has subsequently lived in Paris, Moscow and London, the EU is more than an economic union or a single free-market to me: it is an identity. An identity that sums up the values that the majority of millennials relate to and that 75 per cent of Brits between the ages of 18-24 believed was worth fighting for.

These are the values which pushed me to apply to the Siylab, an incubator for young Millennials advocating for the European Union, because there is still some will left to fight for Europe out there. So while the people of Great Britain were considering their relationship with their neighbours after more than 40 years of collaboration, young people from across the continent were gathering in Siena to rethink the future of the European project. This is the message I chose to share.

Millennials incubator

SiyLab1Millennials selected

In May, I was selected to participate in the Siena ‘Y’ generation Lab – aka “Siylab”. It was hosted by the University of Siena and the Italian Ministry of Education. The brief was simple: by taking advantage of the collective experience, knowledge and expertise of 37 Europeans ‘Millennials’ selected for a small incubator, deploy a strategy for the next generation of Europeans.


The profiles of the 37 young « Millennials » varied from academics to young professionals and European Commission members. All part of the connected generation ‘Y’ and dedicated to reinvigorating European values.

We were to spend five days in Siena participating in daily seminars and attending presentations from key speakers and specialists to help us develop a clear picture of where the gaps lie and what needs to be topping the European agenda. Mary Fitzgerald, correspondent expert in Libya; Eva Giovannini, RAI journalist; Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament; Peter Macleod, advisor to the Canadian Government for participation processes; Kalin Anev Janse, General Secretary for European Stability Mechanism; Alberto Alemanno, Professor of EU Law & Risk Regulation at HEC Paris were among those supporting our project.

Defining Europe’s challenges

Together we spent the initial days outlining, mapping and discussing the urgencies of Europe. Our different backgrounds, nationalities and ages meant our priorities differed dramatically; some saw the immigration “crisis” as the biggest issue, whilst others claimed it was trade or cultural disunity.

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What was very clear from the get-go, was that for the Siylab participants, the European Union was certainly not dépassée.  

We barely touched upon the subject of Brexit because we felt we were working on “the bigger picture”. Britain wasn’t the only country needing to be reminded of European values – and being completely honest, none of us really thought it would actually vote to leave.

What we did identify was more generally the lack of a sense of community, of awareness on European matters and of a shared vision for the future. All which seemed to have proven to be true on Friday. In fact, according to the latest figures, on Friday morning, the second-most Googled question in the UK was “what is the EU?”…

Europe’s communication conundrum

While the seminars raised central issues varying from refugee influx to political and economic disunity – what struck me the most was the profound miscommunication surrounding European initiatives and its realities.

SiyLab4.JPGMarietje Schaake, member of the EU Parliament discussing Europe’s urgencies

Marietje Schaake, EU parliamentarian, addressed the issue of communicating European initiatives to stakeholders. Too many channels impeach a clear view of Europe. She raised the issue of the struggle to fight populism and anti-European campaigns when the most effective medium remains Twitter’s 140 characters. Challenges facing Europe cannot be summed up in a sentence and this makes lobbying for a new Europe, that much harder against rising populism.

I could understand the challenges in the messaging, images and communications campaign surrounding an organisation which is not au goût du jour anymore.

A new narrative for Europe

After five days of co-working, we all decided a new narrative for Europe was necessary: showing Europe was an enabler for our projects, not a barrier.

The lab ended with the clear premise: this was only the beginning of our action.

SiyLab5.JPGCo-working on a new narrative for Europe with Bill Emmott

Our proposition was: to build a platform, mapping out the best European practices and connecting and enhancing cooperation between cross-national peer-initiatives as well as raising awareness to new generation rights. The aim being to empower millennials to address their aspirations through innovative projects and Europe. The physical manifestation of our project will be a European Millennials Festival with the intention of regrouping millennials around the values of Europe we share.

What was the biggest benefit to me personally?

The strong sense of civic engagement and the true belief in a pan-European Union that I have come away with. I witnessed true devotion and willingness to action for a greater collective cause, but more importantly, I have left with a great new group of friends that I will keep for life.

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So whilst half of Britain decided to leave the EU on Friday, British Europhiles remain, because Europe and being European is about sentiment, people and values – not countries.

If you are interested in finding out more about our co-working days, watch a summary here. To learn about the upcoming Festival, you can read about it on www.siylab.eu.

Lansons Brexit update

 

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As the final day of official campaigning arrives, polls still show that tomorrow’s referendum will be a ‘neck and neck’ contest. The final Financial Times’ Poll of Polls shows a slender one percentage point lead for ‘Vote Leave’, with polls at 44 percentage points to 45.

Polls remain a dead heat even after last night’s referendum showdown at Wembley between big hitters from both campaigns. In yet another fiery televised debate, the ‘Vote Leave’ side were scalded by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Ruth Davidson MP for running a campaign of hate and accused of quitting on the European project. However, the ‘Leave’ campaign fought back in equal measure, with Boris Johnson claiming Friday will be ‘Britain’s Independence Day’ and accusing the EU of being a ‘job destroying engine’ – See The Telegraph, BBC News & The Independent.

David Beckham’s endorsement for ‘Vote Remain’ yesterday has been followed up by some 1,285 business leaders who together employ 1.75 million people, including more than 900 small and medium-sized firms and 51 of the FTSE 100. In a letter published in today’s Times, the signatories argue that Brexit would damage the British economy and they urge people to vote to stay in the EU tomorrow.

Whilst celebrities and business leaders have turned out in force to weigh in on the Brexit debate, it appears claims by politicians and senior figures that tomorrow’s vote will be the most important political decision facing Britain has resonated strongly with the British people. The electoral commission has announced that a record number – some 46.5 million people – have signed up to vote in tomorrow’s referendum. See The Guardian & Reuters.

Meanwhile, in a last ditch attempt to convince readers, the Mirror has today declared its support for ‘Vote Remain’ and urges its readers to do the same. Ahead of tomorrow’s vote, those newspapers who back the campaign to stay now include: The Mirror, The Times, Financial Times, Mail on Sunday, Observer and The Guardian. Yet, in opposition, those publication who are in favour of leaving the EU encompass: the Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times and the Sun.

Finally, the Queen has become embroiled in the Brexit debate today, as it is revealed she asked friends and guests at a VIP dinner party for ‘three good reasons why Britain should be part of Europe’. A spokeswoman from Buckingham Palace said: “The Queen is above politics and acts on the advice of her Government in political matters. The referendum is a matter for the British people to decide.” – See The Telegraph, The Sun & The Independent.

Today’s key events – 22.06.2016

– Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Labour IN chair Alan Johnson MP, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Scottish

– Labour leader Kezia Dugdale speak at a rally in London on the EU referendum (2:00pm).

– UKIP leader Nigel Farage makes a speech on the EU referendum in London (11:00am).

– Jeremy Paxman hosts final EU referendum debate on Channel 4 (9:00pm).

– The Institute for Economic Affairs has published a report on the outcome of the EU referendum and economic freedom.

How to internationalise your thinking

PROI Summit Internalise Blog

Keeping your eyes and ears open, to see and experience new things that challenge your thinking and your perceptions are key for any consultant. Only by continuously being curious about the things we don’t know yet or haven’t yet considered, are we able to offer the best advice, the best ideas and ultimately get the best results for our clients and our consultancies. And what better way is there to be curious and to challenge your thinking than spending 5 days with over 80 of the world’s most talented communications consultancy owners and senior consultants. This is exactly what happened at the end of May, when Lansons once again attended the annual PROI Summit. This year hosted in Atlanta, the summit is a gathering of the world’s largest network of independent communications consultancies.

Imagine a room full of business leaders, entrepreneurs and consultants from over 40 countries, each with their own perspective; shaped by the unique communications needs and aspects of the countries and sectors in which they operate and the client briefs and communications disciplines they specialize in. Lots of questions were being asked, probing and challenging conversations on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’, and on the results and effectiveness of your advice and ideas. But, most importantly everyone was keen to learn from the work and experiences of their international colleagues.

To summarise just a few – we listened to senior leading communications directors from three US corporates talking about agency relationships and the perfect match between clients and consultancy (and the unique elements independently owned agencies can offer). We challenged ourselves on areas of consultancy and communications growth by sectors. The importance of the healthcare and investor relations sectors, both of which Lansons has recently further strengthened our expertise in and regions – Africa remains a key growth area for businesses in general and communications in particular. There were presentations on ways to solve communications challenges, for example, from our Chicago partner who dropped thousands of USB sticks around major cities in America to highlight the importance of cyber security. Or our South African partner making retirement planning a talking point by running a social media campaigns based on pairing two people – one retired, one in their 20/30s, with the same interests and hobbies to showcase that life doesn’t stop in retirement. It is these nuggets of information, the discussions around them and the debates with our international colleagues on their perspectives that we are taking back to our clients to further build on our programmes and make us better consultants.

But it is not just the professional development side of things that the PROI Summit is invaluable for. Since we joined the PROI over 10 years ago, the summit and the partner agencies that are part of our international networks have helped us to advise clients on their global communications needs. It enables Lansons to regularly work on international communications briefs, it also offer us ‘on the ground’ support through specialists agencies that we know and trust. We have advised clients on global restructuring programmes in many countries, ran internal change programmes spanning continents and executed international media programmes.  

The collaboration within the PROI has never been stronger and we have returned from the PROI summit with not only fresh ideas and an even better knowledge of our colleagues’ consultancies but also with requests for new proposals for international work.  

If you are interested in finding out more about our international work or you want to discuss a specific cross border or international communications need, please get in touch with the me or the Lansons international team on international@lansons.com.

Anna Schirmer, Director and Partner, annas@lansons.com, https://uk.linkedin.com/in/annaschirmer

New Brexit report from Opinium, LSE & Lansons – coverage highlights

 

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It is a huge pleasure to collaborate once again with our friends at Opinium and the London School of Economics. This is a remarkable thorough report, offering a far deeper analysis of the electorate than anything we have seen before. Lansons specialises in helping our clients navigate key reputational and public policy risks. 

The referendum on the UK’s membership is key to the business of our clients. We are therefore very happy to support this study

THE REPORT

Our new report provides the clearest understanding of how British consumers are responding to the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. It looks in depth at consumer reaction to the key campaign messages and how this affects their perception of the possible implications for our economy, society and diplomatic relations if we left the EU. Most importantly it examines how these perceptions will affect consumer behaviour in light of a possible Brexit vote on the 23rd June and what the expected costs of this might be in the short and long-term.

COVERAGE

Is Britain ready to risk it with Brexit? Why everyone could be wrong about the EU referendum- Telegraph

Third of EU referendum voters won’t make up their minds until week before poll – Guardian

Undecided Voters Think Brexit Will Leave Them Worse off, Says SurveyThe Wire

You’ve got to be kidding! Now report says Brexit would stop couples having BABIES amid claims poorer families could lose up to £5,500 if we leaveDaily Mail

Latest polls show dead heat in campaignIrish Times 

Couples ‘delaying having babies because of fears over a BrexitEvening Standard

Undecided voters see Brexit making them worse off – surveyReuters

Following the release of the new report on Thursday 9th June 2016, from Opinium, Lansons and the London School of Economics – The Impact of Brexit on Consumer Behaviour – you can view coverage highlights below.

The full report can be downloaded here

 

 

How the Brexit verdict fares so far in Lansons SME polls

Anyone looking at the recent polling on the referendum question would be forgiven for suffering a considerable level of uncertainty over whether the UK will vote to stay in or depart the EU on 23 June. The latest poll – by YouGov for The Times on 18 May – had Remain on 44% and leave on 40%.

That the overall position is close is clear. However, 5 weeks ahead of polling day, it would be fair to assume that many have not yet focused on the question in any detail. Lansons recently commissioned Opinium to poll 500 SME leaders on their views of the referendum question. Overall, the SMEs in our sample favoured remaining in the EU by a noticeable margin – 49% to 41%, with 9% not knowing how they will vote. Underlying this, of the issues that are ranked as most important to all SMEs, freedom of movement and immigration is the highest. This issue speaks to all SMEs, regardless of whether they support staying in or leaving the EU; arguably, to this end, it is the biggest issue that the OUT campaigns could use to push voters into their cohort. On the other hand, the burden of regulation imposed by Brussels – the issue currently most pushed by leave campaigners at SMEs – is far more likely to strike a chord only with those already inclined to vote to depart the EU (rather than those who want to remain). Although it is ranked second in the priorities of those SMEs supporting Brexit, those who are not Brexit supporters do not rate it as one of their top issues at all – favouring instead economic growth and relations with other EU countries after immigration.

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A majority of SMEs also thought that Brexit would negatively impact the UK. More than 50% more SMEs thought the UK would be better off if the UK voted to stay than thought it would be better off if the UK voted to leave (36% to 20%). 45% of survey respondents thought share prices would fall if UK voted to leave; and, 44% thought inflation would rise if the UK voted to leave.

If these results are representative, they suggest that the OUT side has some work to do if they are to persuade SMEs to support them. The two sides are relatively tied (albeit that the larger bloc already favours remaining part of the EU). However, the underlying factors all favour the IN camp. The current tactics of the Brexit side are likely at best to reinforce their base, rather than persuade more SMEs to support them: attempts to push the burden of regulation as a leave message are unlikely to have cut-through except with those who already think we should leave. And this likely to be outweighed by the number of people who think we will suffer some form of negative economic impact – something which the IN camp is pushing hard, and daily, with the balance of economic opinion now clearly pointing to some sort of negative economic consequences if the UK votes for Brexit.

All this suggests that, at least as far as SMEs are concerned, the OUT campaign will struggle unless they change their tactics. Freedom of movement and immigration has real cut-through as an issue. If the Brexit campaigners want to move SMEs on this issue, they need to shift the discussion dramatically in this direction. In this regard, the fact that they are, in reality, two, competing, campaigns – Vote Leave and Leave.EU – does not help. They need to bury their differences and push the same messages if they want to deliver the result they seek.

The importance of websites and digital content for Asset Managers

The Digital World is an every-changing beast and many companies – the asset management industry included – are under scrutiny to develop their websites and digital content for their audiences. However, this is not typically an area where asset managers are considered as world leaders. Some might say that the industry’s foray into the  digital world has been hindered by regulation, others might say that issues around transparency, general unwillingness to engage and a lack of foresight are bigger issues.

Is this fair?

To discuss these matters, and what asset managers can do to navigate the digital maze, host Megan Murray Jones is joined by Michael White, digital specialist at Lansons; Cordelia Hughes, Director of Sales for the Donnelley Financial Language Solutions group, Rosalia Engchuan, Analyst at My Private Banking Research and Craig Rogers, partner in the technology and outsourcing practice at International law firm, Eversheds LLP

Produced by Steven Arnoldi and Megan Murray Jones at the Lansons studio. To listen to more Lansons podcasts please visit our Soundcloud or share your views with us on Twitter via @LansonsLatest.

 

Lansons boosts health offering with appointment of Kate Aldous

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Lansons has recruited Kate Aldous as associate director to join the healthcare team. Kate joined the award winning consultancy last week to bolster Lansons’ growing capability and demand in the corporate healthcare space. 

Kate has 11 years’ health communications experience and has led ethical and consumer healthcare campaigns for leading pharmaceutical companies at a UK and global level. She joins Lansons from Red Door Unlimited where she provided senior level consultancy to clients including Sanofi, Astellas, Pfizer, Novartis, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Lily and AstraZeneca.  Kate was also part of the leadership team responsible for financial best practice and driving new business during her five years at the agency.

Over the last three years, Lansons has significantly expanded its work in the corporate healthcare sector, with significant projects in the public and private sector for clients including Novartis, MSD, and Simply Health, and a focus on corporate reputation and big brands in disease control and prevention.

Scott McKenzie, joint managing director and head of Change & Employee Engagement comments: “We’ve brought Kate into Lansons to help service the growing demand we’re seeing in the healthcare space.  We’re doing a lot more work across the sector, but in particular projects based around business transformation, corporate reputation, innovation and brand.  Kate is a wonderful consultant and her experience will be incredibly valuable as we continue to build our presence in a sector that faces many reputational and business challenges.”

Kate commented:  “I’m delighted to have joined the team at Lansons. I was attracted to the consultancy because of its truly integrated offering and future-thinking focus, which is successfully delivering exciting results for clients, including in the evolving healthcare sector. I’m looking forward to working with some of Lansons’ diverse existing client base, as well as helping to grow the healthcare business further.” 

Kate studied at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and in her spare time volunteers as communications consultant for the charity “For Jimmy”, campaigning to make communities safer for young people.  Kate will work closely with the existing Lansons Health and Change & Employee Engagement teams, reporting into Scott McKenzie.

Lansons and Opinium Brexit study findings feature in The Telegraph

Ahead of the EU referendum, Lansons has commissioned Research agency, Opinium, to carry out a number of polls with 500 SME businesses to gain insight into how they think the Brexit result is likely to impact their business. Once again our findings have featured in an article by The Telegraph on how scaremongering about immigration harms business. You can discover our findings by reading the full article here.

We are also hosting a partnership event with Opinium and the London School of Economics, to coincide with the release of our new report, on assessing the risks of Brexit and its impact on consumer behaviour and the economy, in particular:

-What are the risks, fears, and hopes that British consumers associate with “remain” or “withdraw” victories in the future referendum?

-What will consumer decisions be based upon and how certain are the preferences of the different groups within society?

-How will these perceptions affect consumer behaviour in light of a possible Brexit vote?

You can find out more about this breakfast event and register your interest here.

Lansons Briefing – Queen’s Speech 2016: Analysis

Overview

The State Opening of Parliament took place at 11.30am this morning, when the Queen took to her throne in the House of Lords to outline the Government’s proposed legislative programme for the coming session of Parliament.

There were three key themes to the Speech:

  • Delivering security for working people
  • Increasing life changes for the most disadvantaged
  • Strengthening our national security

The Queen then went on to explain that the Government will continue to bring the public finances under control so that Britain lives within its means, and will continue to move to a higher wage and lower welfare economy where work is rewarded.

To support the economic recovery, and to create jobs and more apprenticeships, legislation will also be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow.

The Queen’s Speech can be read here.

The Government’s briefing pack on the bills can be found here.

Queen Picture

What this means for the Government

The State Opening of Parliament took place today amongst a back drop of disarray and civil war within the Conservative Party, as the rows over the EU referendum continue to rumble on. The Queen’s Speech was therefore a welcome distraction, but what impact will it have on an increasingly un-unified party?

The EU referendum has caused a storm within the Conservative Party, pitting friends David Cameron and Michael Gove against each other and causing high profile rifts between senior cabinet ministers and MPs. Though the vote will take place in 35 days, the debate will continue on for much longer, and this is a fight that will affect the productiveness of the Government with a wafer thin majority for at least the next Parliamentary term.

David Cameron would have consequently been conscious of the need to present a legislative programme that will enjoy the broad the support of his party and, in particular, keep his backbench critics at bay.

It is therefore unsurprising that the bills that were unveiled today did not stray far into new political territory that is unfamiliar to the Tory rank and file. Cameron stuck broadly to his manifesto commitments to deliver security for working people, increase life changes for the most disadvantaged and strengthen national security, all under the wrapper of the Conservative’s “One Nation” politics.

Much of the criticism from the opposition parties has been that, of the 30 pieces of legislation announced, 28 were already known – for example, the plans to legislate for the Lifetime ISA through the Lifetime Savings Bill; further tax raising powers for local authorities through the Local Growth Bill; and, new powers to toughen the UK’s anti-money laundering regime as part of the Criminal Finances Bill.

So far, so good.

In the context of Brexit and the need for party unity, Cameron also made some significant concessions to the right of his party.

Prison reform has been a hobbyhorse of the right ever since Chris Grayling was Justice Secretary. The Prison and Courts Reform Bill will look to address what the Government sees as increased overcrowding, failed rehabilitation services and threats of radicalisation in British prisons. The move is a considerable prize for the current Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a leading Brexiter, who Cameron is desperate to keep on side.

However, it is the prospect of a new British Bill of Rights that will have many on the Tory backbenches giddy with excitement. One of the biggest concerns that Eurosceptic Tories have are the powers that the ECHR has over British law. This was highlighted with the extradition of the radical Muslim Cleric Abu Qatada. This Bill had been spoken about, but until today had not made an appearance as it had been blocked by Liberal Democrats at every stage under the Coalition. A British Bill of Rights is therefore a potentially important appeasement to Eurosceptic MPs as Cameron tries to navigate the unstable waters of the EU Referendum and come out the other side with a Conservative Party in one piece.

Implications for the financial services sector

As far as the financial services sector was concerned, the Queen’s Speech was light on content. The main features are the creation of the Lifetime ISA and the Help to Save Scheme (under the Lifetime Savings Bill) and the creation of two new financial advice bodies, following the review of the Money Advice Service and the conclusion of the Financial Advice Market Review.

The Lifetime Savings Bill is the vehicle for two major reforms aimed at the lowest paid. It creates the Lifetime ISA – the flagship scheme from the last Budget under which individuals saving for either a first home or a pension receive a 25% top-up on annual savings of up £4,000. The other major new reform is the creation on the Help to Save Scheme, under which workers in receipt of working tax credits or Universal Credit who save up to £50 a month would receive a Government bonus of 50% – to a maximum of £600 – after two years. Savers who continue to use the scheme for a further two years could earn up to another £600.

The Pensions Bill implements a number of technical changes to master trust pension schemes (a master trust is a multi-employer occupational scheme where each employer has its own division within the master arrangement) and caps early exit charges to ensure that excessive charges do not prevent occupational scheme members from taking advantage of pension freedoms.

It also creates two new financial advice bodies:

  • A pensions advisory body – out of Pensions Wise, the Pensions Advisory Service, and the pension-related parts of the Money Advice Service
  • A new money guidance body, which would replace the Money Advice Service and be charged with identifying gaps in the financial guidance market to make sure consumers can access high quality debt and money guidance

Taken as a package, these are all clearly pensions and savings-orientated. However, there is nothing in here that was not already known about. Arguably, the reforms in the Lifetime Savings Bill also make limited sense in a world where the current pension tax regime still operates – a legacy of George Osborne’s forced abandonment of pension tax reforms at the last Budget. Indeed, the chances of Osborne revising these reforms is small, given the opposition he faced last time from backbench Tories purporting to be standing up for their, typically, middle class constituents.

A further crackdown on economic crime

David Cameron has been keen to lead the world – and importantly to be recognised as leading the world – on tax and transparency since he became Prime Minister in 2010.

Through his chairmanship of the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in 2013, he put tax, trade and transparency on the global agenda, and sought agreement on a global standard for the automatic exchange of information over who pays taxes and where. At the Open Government Partnership later that year he then announced that the UK would be the first country in the world to introduce a public register of beneficial ownership; a measure that will come into effect next month. His commitment to this cause continued in the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto, which affirmed that: “Tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance and tax planning is an important part of our long-term economic plan.”

Against this backdrop, the recent release of the Panama Papers and last week’s Anti-Corruption Summit have pushed tax avoidance, criminal finance and corruption right to the top of the national and international agendas. It’s therefore of little surprise that contained in the Queen’s Speech was a new Criminal Finances Bill.

According to the Government’s briefing document, the purpose of the Bill is to: “Allow the Government to recoup more criminal assets by reforming the law on proceeds of crime, including provisions to strengthen our enforcement powers and protect the public.”

The main element of the Bill, to introduce a criminal offence for corporations that fail to stop their staff from facilitating tax evasion, was announced by David Cameron in his Commons response to the Panama Papers last month, where he stated: “Under current legislation it is difficult to prosecute a company that assists with tax evasion, but we are going to change that. We will legislate this year for a new criminal offence to apply to corporations that fail to prevent their representatives from criminally facilitating tax evasion.” This policy had therefore been widely expected.

This measure could act as a significant deterrent to tax evasion, as management will have to take responsibility for the action of their employees. However, to be a truly effective deterrent, the legislation would need to allow for prosecution of activity outside the UK and be backed by sufficient financial resources.

The second and third elements of the Bill, as outlined by the Government, are much more vague, with commitments to improving the operation of the SARs regime, providing the NCA with new powers and improving the ability of law enforcement agencies to recover criminal assets more effectively. However, there is very little detail about what this would look like and how this would work. It’s also unclear about how this fits into the work of the new £10 million cross-agency taskforce set up in the wake of the Panama Papers, if at all.

Notably, though, these measures have all been aimed at the domestic tax agenda and do not appear to be targeted any other jurisdictions, such as the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.

It’s also worth adding that the Investigatory Powers Bill will be continued from the last Parliament, delivering on the Government’s manifesto pledge to strengthen the ability to disrupt terrorist plots, criminal networks and organised child grooming gangs.

Infrastructure remains important

There had been much speculation that the Government would announce a fresh Housing Bill at the Queen’s Speech. In the end it failed to materialise, but what is clear from the bills that were announced is that infrastructure remains a key priority for this Government.

The Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill will create a new statutory basis for the independent National Infrastructure Commission, embedding it in the Government’s decision making processes and providing extra weight to its recommendations on exactly what the UK’s infrastructure priorities should be.

New planning powers were widely trailed after the Government released a consultation at the Budget outlining its proposals to make Compulsory Purchase Orders “clearer, fairer and quicker”. This Bill will look to do just that and will build on the work of the newly enacted Housing and Planning Act by further reforming the planning process and speeding it up to minimise delays caused by planning conditions. The measures show that the Government remains committed to its efforts to get Britain building new homes and is fresh recognition of the political sensitivities that remain over the UK’s low housing stock. Indeed, in its explanatory document accompanying the Speech, the Government said that the primary focus of the Bill is to support the Government’s ambition to deliver one million new homes.

Moreover, the Bill also furthers the Government’s devolution agenda by allowing local communities to have a greater say in the homes and infrastructure that they need in their local areas.

Indeed, the continued commitment to devolution is also a central theme that runs through the Government’s Local Growth and Jobs Bill. The Government says the purpose of the Bill is to help grow local areas by incentivising local councils to support businesses and develop their local economies. Applying only to England, the Bill will put in place the framework to allow local authorities to retain the business rates raised from local firms, as first announced at the 2015 Conservative Party Conference.

Both bills therefore show that there is still considerable political appetite for greater devolution powers, which is hardly surprising given the fact that a BBC poll found that 80% of people in England supported having more powers devolved to their local areas.

Finally, although the legislation is in its infancy, the Government has also announced that it will bring forward proposals to respond to the recommendations of the Law Commission’s report on making land work, in order to simplify the laws around land ownership. The fact that the Law Commission’s report is from 2011 suggests that the Government has been impacted by the political opposition, led most vocally by Ed Miliband during his time as Labour leader, who argued that the Government was not doing enough to prevent behaviour such as land hoarding.

Away from housing, the Modern Transport Bill is an attempt by the Government to keep up with a rapidly evolving industry. The Bill contains ambitious measures to kick start the UK’s first spaceport and to encourage investment in driverless cars. The Bill will also provide measures to create a safer commercial and personal drones industry following a number of near misses with aircraft this year.

The legislation has been expected for some time following the release of the Department for Transport’s Individual Performance Objectives for 2015-16, which included the commitment to introduce a Modern Transport Bill following the general election in 2015.

Full list of new bills

Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill

To reform planning and give local communities more control to shape their own areas and build more homes

Digital Economy Bill

Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband

Better Markets Bill

Legislation to improve Britain’s competitiveness

Digital Economy Bill

To make the UK a leader in the digital economy

Modern Transport Bill

To put the UK at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles

Bus Services Bill

Further powers will be devolved in England to directly elected mayors, including powers governing local bus services

Local Growth and Jobs Bill

Legislation to retain business rates, giving greater freedom to invest in local communities

Criminal Finances Bill

To tackle corruption, money laundering and tax evasion

NHS (Overseas Visitors Charging) Bill

Introduced to ensure that overseas visitors pay for any treatment they receive whilst visiting the UK

Children and Social Work Bill

To facilitate swifter adoption processes, improve standards in social work and opportunities for young people in care.

Education for All Bill

To lay foundations for educational excellence in all schools, and a fairer balance between schools through the National funding Formula

Higher Education and Research Bill

Legislation to support the establishment of new universities and promote choice and competition across the sector

Prison and Courts Reform Bill

Significant reform of the courts and prisons system to give offenders a greater chance of successful rehabilitation

Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill

To prevent radicalisation, promote community integration and tackle extremism.

National Citizen Service Bill

The National Citizen Service will be placed on a permanent statutory footing

Investigatory Powers Bill

To modernise the law governing the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies

Policing and Crime Bill

To strengthen accountability of the police service in England and Wales

Bill of Rights

Measures to reform the UK human rights framework

Wales Bill

To establish a strong and lasting devolution settlement in Wales

Pensions Bill

To reform the private pensions system

Lifetime Savings Bill

Measures to introduce a new Help to Save scheme and create a lifetime ISA

Small Charitable Donations Bill

To maximise fundraising power through reform of the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

Legislation to accede to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of the Armed Conflict

Soft Drinks Industry Levy

There will be legislation to establish a soft drinks industry levy.

Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill

To reform the law of unjustified threats of infringement proceedings for patents, trademarks and design rights and to make the UK the best place in Europe for innovation, the patenting of new ideas, and expanding businesses

Draft Law of Property Bill

To bring forward proposals to simplify land ownership law

 

Lansons Briefing – Queen’s Speech 2016: Speculation

Overview

The State Opening of Parliament will take place at 11.30am on Wednesday 18th May, when the Queen will take to her throne in the House of Lords to outline the Government’s proposed legislative programme for the coming session of Parliament.

Lansons has produced this briefing to preview the Bills that are expected to be announced on Wednesday. The Queen’s Speech is expected to be centred around the theme of “improving life chances”, with Bills expected to be introduced to reform the higher education and schools system, to bring in a new tax offence and to reform the housing and planning system.

Lansons will also be reporting on the new legislation when the Speech is made on Wednesday.

Tax Evasion Legislation

The revelations around the Panama Papers have provided the Government with a renewed incentive to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and evasion.

On 11 April the Prime Minister announced plans to legislate for a new criminal offence aimed at companies that assist with tax evasion. George Osborne recently confirmed in Parliament that this would be in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government subsequently launched a taskforce – led jointly by HMRC and the NCA – to look at the issue of tax evasion. There is speculation that its report, which is expected later in 2016, will be taken forward through primary legislation. This would likely be part of the Finance Bill process, in which case, it would either be introduced as an amendment to the Finance Bill currently before Parliament, or be legislated after Budget 2017.

Pensions

Work and Pensions Committee Chair Frank Field has urged George Osborne to support the inclusion of a Pensions Bill in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech. He states that The Pensions Regulator has expressed its concern about regulatory gaps, allowing potentially unstable master trusts onto the market.

Whether the Government has listened to these concerns will be seen if it is included in the Queen’s Speech. Field has used the case of BHS to support the need for pension reform and modernising the British pension system into the 21 Century.

Housing Bill

The 2016 Budget announced that the Government would introduce new legislation that would “speed up and simplify the process for delivering new settlements”.

It was recently reported in Property Week that the details for a new Housing Bill are being thrashed out on the back of the recently passed Housing and Planning Act, in order to give elected Mayors outside of London the power to form Mayoral development corporations. These corporations would be able to take over planning decisions from local authorities in defined areas.

The legislation would also enable local authorities to create “garden settlements”, giving them greater powers to seize land and approve large-scale housebuilding as part of the Government plans to tackle Britain’s housing shortage as well as creating a generation of garden towns.

Business Rate Retention Bill

As part of the Government’s vision for further devolution, a consultation is due in the summer about plans to allow local councils to keep the rates they collect from businesses.

The timing in terms of next steps are still unclear, however the DCLG has already said that primary legislation will be required for 100% business rates retention. This is something that could make an appearance in the Queen’s Speech.

Deregulation Bill

The Government has given a clear signal that it wishes to find ways to improve competition and reduce regulation.

‘Deregulation’ or ‘Competition’ Bills are a regular feature of Queen’s Speeches down the years, often providing a convenient avenue to implement a wide range of small, disparate policy changes.

Energy Bill

In January 2016, the Department of Energy and Climate Change published a draft Energy Bill covering measures on supply and switching, smart meters and competitive tendering for onshore electricity transmission.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has stated that the primary focus of the Bill would be to increase competition in the energy market and keep costs down for consumers.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee undertook pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill and published their report – which overall welcomed the Bill – earlier in May.

Digital Economy Bill

The Financial Times believes that Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, will have its powers boosted by proposals in the Queen’s Speech under a Digital Economy Bill that will also aim to upgrade digital infrastructure and strengthen intellectual property rights.

Legislation is expected to be put forward on Wednesday to improve national broadband coverage and help telecoms customers switch providers, according to people familiar with the plans. Other proposals will help mobile groups improve signal coverage.

The legislation is set to bring in powers for the Government to impose a universal service obligation for a minimum broadband speed of at least 10 Mbps. The proposal could be funded through an industry levy, although the details are still out for consultation.

Cyber Security Bill

There have been rumours circulating around Westminster for some time that the Government is planning to bring forward legislation on cybersecurity, covering government, global commerce, consumer-facing technology and private enterprise, to tackle the problems faced with ensuring security of assets and data online – following the lead of the United States, which has legislated similarly.

The Bill would complement the measures within the Government’s Digital Economy Bill and would allow the Government to implement its cyber security strategy to defend the national interest in an increasingly hostile online environment.

Transport Bill

It is widely reported that driverless cars, drones and a proposed first commercial spaceport for the UK are expected to feature in the Queen’s speech. The Department for Transport has said such cutting-edge technologies are crucial to the country’s economy and that its proposals will help deliver jobs.

The self-driving car market is currently growing at 16% a year and could be worth up to £900bn worldwide by 2025. The Transport Bill is also expected to legislate on allowing driverless cars to be insured on ordinary insurance policies.

The spaceport is part of the Government’s plan to increase revenues in the space sector from £12bn to £40bn by 2030, which would mean capturing about 10% of the sector worldwide. The Government previously said it could provide 100,000 jobs and that it would be ready by 2018, but the announcement would give the Government another two years of leeway before operators including Virgin Galactic could potentially launch from the chosen site.

New measures are also expected to better regulate the drones industry. The DfT said it will explore ways to increase growth and innovation in the drone industry for private and commercial use. However, drone regulation in the UK is less strict than in the US, and there have been calls for the Government to tighten the rules are several near misses with aircraft.

Education Bill

After a ‘U-turn’ on plans to force all schools to convert into academies, watered down laws will require academy conversions in cases where it is clear that local councils can no longer support the remaining state schools in their areas. Councils where children are failing to achieve adequate grades in their exams will also see their schools forcibly converted into academies.

Higher Education Bill

The November 2015 Green Paper to reform the higher education sector in England requires primary legislation and is widely anticipated to be outlined in the Queen’s Speech. The main aims of the paper were to ensure that universities deliver the best possible value for money, reward excellent teaching in universities and encourage diversity and choice in the sector.

It is thought that the Higher Education Bill will also allow top performing universities to charge higher fees, in line with inflation, if they can prove that they are teaching well and increasing contact hours. The proposed legislation would reflect the Government’s desire to remove barriers to new private universities, so as to “broaden access and create more competition”.

Care System Bill

There is speculation that the Government will seek to reform the care system. New measures could include greater support for care leavers into adulthood and adoption, including more emphasis on placing children in permanent homes rather than with a distant family.

Counter-Extremism Bill

A crackdown on hate preachers will be announced as the Government steps up its efforts to tackle the “poisonous narrative” of Islamist extremism. Sweeping new laws will ban hate preachers from working with children and other vulnerable groups, in the same way that paedophiles are vetted to stop them being given jobs in schools.

The national criminal records checking service will be reformed so that the records of individuals with convictions for terrorism, or other clear connections to extremism, will be disclosed to education officials, councils, and other employers.

British Bill of Rights

The commitment made by David Cameron for a British Bill of Rights is expected to appear in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday. A consultation on reforming human rights laws will be held in an attempt to make the Supreme Court “supreme”. Britain will remain a member of the European Convention on Human Rights but will curb the influence of the European Court of Human Rights over British law.

Prison Reform Bill

Sweeping new powers for prison Governors to decide how to spend their own budgets, how to deploy staff and the regimes of sanctions for how long inmates can spend out of their cells are likely to be announced in the Queen’s Speech. The plan which is modelled on academy schools, will allow “reform prisons” to take over failing jails nearby.

House of Lords Reform Bill

Changes to the powers of the House of Lords, as recommended by the Strathclyde review, are also expected in the Queen’s Speech. Lord Strathclyde recommended that there should be a new procedure, set out in statute, which would allow the Lords to invite the Commons to “think again” when there is a disagreement on a statutory instrument between the two Houses (rather than peers being required to block them entirely or allow them to progress unamended).

Who has the best view in PR?

Scott McKenzie, joint MD and head of change and employee engagement gives an insight into office life at Lansons in this article in PR Moments.

My morning stroll to work involves me walking past some of London’s most iconic landmarks: from the Millennium Eye to St Paul’s Cathedral. On a bright spring day the sun shines across London and you get a sense that you really do work somewhere truly special. This feeling is reinforced when I walk through our cobbled courtyard (an echo of London’s rich heritage). Lansons has been awarded by the Great Place to Work Institute for each of the last 12 years, and from the free breakfasts, to the onsite massage, or drinks trolleys to celebrate business as well as personal milestones it has a unique culture that is unlike anywhere I’ve ever worked.

What makes it truly special are my colleagues. It is a diverse organisation with 117 people from across the globe coming together representing different languages, different ethnicities, different world views. Like London, Lansons feels like a crossroads for the world – a place where people come together to exchange ideas. More than that though these global citizens care for each other. There is a tangible warmth and kindness.”

Head of public policy James Dowling comments on the impact of Brexit on SME businesses in The Telegraph

Brexit Images Telegraph

The Telegraph’s recent coverage of Vince Cable and Chuka Umunna and their campaign for the UK to stay in the EU, featured commentary from head of public policy, James Dowling. It also took exclusive results from a joint research initiative between Lansons and Opinium on 500 SME businesses, which aims to understand their stance on Brexit and how they think it will affect their business. Read the full article here, and see extract below.

We are hosting an event on the impact of Brexit on consumer behaviours, on Thursday 9 June, 8:00 – 10:00. If you would like to find out more and register your interest then click here.

A new poll undertaken by Opinium on behalf of Lansons, the reputation management consultancy, and shared exclusively with the Daily Telegraph shows that of the people disposed to leave the EU, regulation was their second-biggest gripe, after freedom of movement and immigration.

The research, which polled more than 500 business owners, found that small businesses favour remaining in the EU – 49pc are for the status quo compared to 41pc who are pro-Brexit. The remaining 9pc do not know how they will vote. 

For those intending to vote to remain, the main reasons cited were economic growth and good relations with other EU countries.

The Leave camp has used the burden of EU regulation as a key message in their campaigning. 

Lansons’ head of public policy James Dowling said that playing the regulation card will ultimately be to the Remain camp’s advantage. 

James Good one

“Attempts to push the burden of regulation as a Leave message are unlikely to have cut-through,” he said. “It was third on a list of concerns, behind immigration, which is top for everyone, and economic growth.

Immigration is the issue with the most cut-through, something that Leavers can use to push the small business cohort into their camp.”

Mr Cable and Mr Umunna gave a rundown of the implications of Brexit for small businesses: they forecast two to three years of uncertainty, followed by exclusion from the free-trade zone, which would affect small firms’ ability to export, and also import goods from the EU. 

Tom Cridland, the boss of the eponymous clothing company, said that Brexit would almost certainly result in “trade restrictions or added financial costs” that would have a severe impact on growing his business.

Comms pros are the bridge between the boardroom and rest of the workforce

Scott McKenzie 2015 (4)

 

Check out Scott McKenzie’s – joint managing director and head of change and employee engagement at Lansons, feature in PR Week, which discusses the importance of communicating boardroom decisions with employees and the visibility of executives to the entire workforce.

You can read more around the topics raised in this article in our recent study of the modern workplace – Britain at Work. The report is produced in conjunction with our partners Opinium, and provides genuine insights into the issues employees and employers are facing across the UK.

Our 2016 study explores themes including:

  • Culture and values
  • People management
  • Organisational change
  • Stress, health and wellbeing benefits
  • The sharing economy

 

 

 

Bottom of the cycle or tipping point: where next for hedge funds?

“History repeats the old conceits. The glib replies, the same defeats” – Beyond Belief, Elvis Costello

The volume of negative media around hedge funds in the mainstream press seems to have turned up to 11 again. Shrinking assets, crowded trades, challenging performance, high fees – the list of criticisms is ever growing. And let’s face it, if Warren Buffet says he doesn’t like hedge funds, what are us mere mortals supposed to think?

But we’ve been here before. Viewed from the perspective of assets under management, the hedge fund industry has long been on a boom-bust cycle. There have been many times when it has seemed to be on the cusp of obliteration, only to emerge stronger and more diverse than ever before. I firmly believe that this process will unfold again, but simply to say “we’ve been here before, it’s no big deal” would miss a few important points.

First, assets have declined in ‘traditional’ hedge funds but as Ignites Europe pointed out recently, ‘alternative UCITS’ products have benefited from strong inflows. The shift here is in investor preferences around liquidity rather than a massive distrust of what hedge funds offer. But further caution is needed. Neither in Europe nor the US are liquid alternatives the sole preserve of hedge funds. A quick glance down a list of US ’40 Act’ funds seems to reveal as many brands from the long-only world as it does migrants from hedge fund land.

This is important. For years, increasing convergence between the long-only and hedge fund sectors has been debated, but in the world of liquid alts, we are already in a post-convergence environment. Whilst, as demonstrated recently by the FCA, trade asset managers aren’t the greatest communicators going, typically they are better at broader stakeholder engagement than the hedgies. Which, coupled with their established distribution networks and marginally more familiar brands, definitely gives them an advantage. It’s increasingly difficult to point to hedge funds’ greater pedigree in the management of such strategies post-crisis, since trad managers have been on an acquisition spree of alternative boutiques and teams – and there is plenty of supply!

The importance of not just retaining assets but ultimately to build more diversified businesses in this context has not been missed by the hedge fund sector. In doing so, many have shifted their centre of gravity towards long-only. The opportunities are clear cut even if realising them is difficult, time-consuming, burdensome and expensive, at least in the short-term. The European shift to DC is one obvious area where alternative UCITS can grow, but this presents a challenge to the favoured business model and, for most, a leap into the unknown. For investors, however, it has to be worth it – the opportunity to better diversify long-term retirement savings is desperately needed. To that end, I think AIMA has been spot on in trying to take on the burden of demystifying the industry a little for the benefit of the general public.

A second point is around the issue of ‘institutionalisation’ and perhaps even ‘consultification’ (if the two can be considered separate phenomena). Given that the investor base of alternatives is supposed to have shifted to long-term, large scale investors, why has the sector experienced such volatile flows? Surely, the whole point of institutionalisation was that it would ultimately have the opposite effect? Yes and no. Yes – but it won’t happen overnight, and the post-crisis manipulated economic environment probably hasn’t helped, and no – certain managers and strategies will have been beneficiaries, but not most. The intermediation between investor and manager by consultants also needs closer examination. To suddenly have to cover hedge funds en masse necessitates huge development among mainstream consultants -a process which remains fairly nascent in reality. Also, we have to look back to the flows into alt UCITS funds – much of which is from institutional investors who prefer the UCITS brand, and the liquidity and transparency that go with it.

Performance and fees are issues which have been covered before, but the increasing focus on short-term performance among some commentators is more a reflection of how the news cycle has evolved than anything else. Equally, performance and fees are issues which reflect the increasing attractiveness of passive at present, which may or may not be the result of our quantitatively-eased environs. I’ve long been a believer that the emergence of passive heightens the importance of active – the yin and yang of investing. As investors shift into low-cost passive, asset allocation becomes more vital, and therefore the ability to create alpha is an ever more important resource for those allocators. Within hedge funds, the zeitgeist is currently with the systematic investors, particularly CTAs – and in the long-only world we’ve seen a massive shift to passive and to smart beta. It’s just possible that there is a link here somewhere – the quants have it. Particularly when you consider that discretionary managers of long-only or hedge fund hues have been on the receiving end of late, especially those with a value bias.

But the passives have another advantage – perceived simplicity. At a time when the electron microscope of public scrutiny is firmly upon the ‘complex’ world traditionally occupied by hedge funds – international finance centres and such like, it’s hardly surprising that investors gravitate to what they are led to believe is straightforward and transparent. AIMA has taken a bold step in tackling education of “ordinary people” head on, but there is plenty more to be done. Now is not the time for the faint-hearted.

 

Lansons is ranked 25 in PRWeek Top 150 UK Consultancies 2016

2016 PRWeek 150 Ranking

We are proud to announce that Lansons has risen one place to 25 in PRWeek Top 150 UK consultancies ranking.

The PRWeek Top 150 rankings provide key insights into the status of the PR sector in the UK. There were 39 new entrants into the list and all 150 agencies generated at least £1m in revenue, showing that PR is shaping up to be in rude health over the coming year. You can find the full list and story here.

 

Looking forward to growing older?

elderly_1688668c

Worldwide there is a dramatic shift in demographics as more people are living longer and birth rates fall in the developed world.   In London – where 32% of the population is under 25 – the number of people over 60 is projected to expand by 48% by 2035, while the population of the under 60s will only increase by 12%, according to a report by the mayor’s Design Advisory Group.

Lansons is partnering with the Agile Ageing Alliance to stage Neighbourhoods of the Future, taking place at NatWest HQ in central London on 11th and 12th May. The London event, is the first in a series of open innovation workshops presented by the European Commission in partnership with Innovate UK, which will take a fresh look at age friendly homes and communities as a means of tackling these sorts of demographic changes head-on. We will address topics as diverse as the changing aspirations of a growing ageing population, the emerging possibilities that smart homes and age friendly cities bring, as well as the role for alternative finance to drive new thinking in age-friendly housing and health. 

The event is part of a wider programme of innovation workshops that form part of a Europe wide consultation process orchestrated by the Agile Ageing Alliance under the direction of the UK’s Creative Skills for Life and Utrecht University. Outputs of the events will inform development of a European Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing.   If you are interested in participating, please email agileageingevent@lansons.com to register for a place.  The full agenda is available here.  Tickets are available at no cost and it is advised to register without delay as spaces are limited.

Why is Lansons supporting this event and the broader aims of the Agile Ageing Alliance? The baby boomer generation have rising aspirations and expectations of what life will be like as they get older yet a big gap persists between current perceptions of what it is and what it could and should be like. In a recent survey Lansons  conducted with Opinium involving 2000 UK citizens, our findings showed that while over 80% of those aged 60 or over still feel young at heart, more than half of UK adults are not looking forward to getting older (51%) and only 1 in 10 of those aged 60 or over are looking forward to getting older.    Products and services for the older market do not resonate as well as they should either-   41% of those aged 60 or over feel patronised by how people their age are portrayed in advertising, and  77% of those aged 60 or over feel that travel and tourism services are mainly aimed at people younger than them.

With almost two-thirds (59%) of under 30s worried about growing old, there is an obvious need to shift the mindset towards more positive ground and reassure everyone  that ‘you can live well in old age’.   The good news is that opportunities brought about by demographic change are increasingly being recognised,  with innovation to make ageing “positive” getting into higher gear.

Despite the pressures on public services and budgets, particularly in social care, there are projects   underway to create age friendly communities, where the contribution of people in later life is valued and encouraged.  For example, the Centre for Ageing Better and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)  announced a five-year partnership in March  to develop and share innovative approaches to tackling social, economic and health inequalities in later life. 

The BetterLivesLeeds  project  is another example, geared at tackling key issues like social isolation and loneliness, a major focus in age-friendly city design. Nationally around 1 million older people regularly go an entire month without speaking to anyone according to Age UK– yet according to the national campaign against loneliness being lonely or socially isolated can have the same effect on a person’s health and wellbeing as smoking 15 cigarettes a day does on physical health.

The WHO defines an “age-friendly” city as one which ensures quality of life for people as they age by optimising opportunities for health, participation in society, and security. To develop these opportunities successfully, however,   the diversity of people in their older years also needs to be understood.  While some may have serious cognitive decline and need 24 hour care, others will be very active in their local communities, looking after their grandchildren or setting up businesses.

Life-long learning and volunteering should be more heavily promoted in retirement planning, since work is one way to tackle isolation. In their report, the mayor’s design advisory group in London advocates the creation of an “intergenerational start-up culture” that would connect experienced older people with younger entrepreneurs, acknowledging that many older people have the potential to become entrepreneurs themselves.

Better housing options, “lifetime neighbourhoods” and intergenerational support networks are also key areas to improve, and may help to keep older people healthier too.  Since lack of exercise can accelerate physical decline and lead to osteoporosis, obesity and other health problems, cities should encourage walking and cycling to prevent age-related declines in strength and fitness, according to an OECD report

Baby Boomers are retiring in a world surrounded with sensors, robotics and Internet of Things (IoT) but how can these innovations be best employed to improve quality of life and sustain independent living?  Nurturing mobility and exercise are core needs in age-friendly design is becoming ever more critical. Top global engineering firm Arup has looked at how authorities are responding to this demographic shift, and published their report, Shaping Ageing Cities, that highlights how cities must adjust in ways that respect, protect and fulfil the rights of older people to maintain their quality of life and happiness.  We are now seeing trends towards “multigenerational playgrounds”, with cities around  the world designing outdoor gyms and play areas suitable for old and young.

In the UK, the government has just announced the building of 10 new towns which will help to promote healthy ageing, encouraging people to exercise more, eat better and live independently into old age. The 10 towns selected, stretching from Darlington to Devon, will comprise more than 76,000 homes and 170,000 residents.  The NHS hopes that by helping to shape the way the towns are built it can begin to address major healthcare problems including obesity and dementia and establish a blueprint that will be followed elsewhere.    

These recent initiatives bode well to promote a society where we can look forward to growing older rather than dreading it- but leadership is required from government, business and a myriad of other stakeholders to explore the opportunities to completely redefine what people want from services as they go through their journey of ageing and how to pay for it.

 

One in four UK employees absent from work due to work-induced stress-related illness in the last year

  • Workplace stress sees a quarter (24%) of UK employees take time off in the last 12 months
  • A fifth of employees (21%) receive no health or wellbeing benefits at work
  • Three quarters of employees (76%) have been through a major organisational change at work in the last two years
  • Only half (49%) of UK employees trust what senior leaders say

 

Across the UK, workers are suffering from stress brought about by their jobs, and this in turn is leading to increased sick days, according to the latest Britain at Work report from reputation management consultancy Lansons, and insight agency Opinium.

Employee wellbeing is of course important in its own right, and employers know that it can be a crucial determinant of their productivity and success. However, the 2016 Britain at Work report, a study of the modern UK workplace released today, shows that around a quarter of UK employees, equivalent to 6 million people, have taken time off work in the last 12 months due to stress brought about as a consequence of doing their job. 

In addition to this, the Britain at Work report reveals that more than one in five (21%) of employees surveyed said they do not receive any health or wellbeing benefits from their organisations, representing a real risk of knock-on effects to wider society as people require mental and physical support from state-funded sources.  Less than half (45%) say their organisation is supportive of those with mental health problems (a scant improvement from 44% last year), and one in six (14%) claim their organisation is actively unsupportive in this area.

 

 

Organisations in flux

The report also found organisational change is a constant in an increasing number of employees’ lives – three quarters (76%) have been through at least one significant change in the last two years – that’s over 20million employees across the country*.  The most common changes reported (by 48%) were an overhaul of IT systems and processes, changes to pay and pension terms (48%), and an organisational restructure (46%) .   Many do not feel they are sufficiently supported through what can be very difficult periods – only half (51%) said they were kept well-informed of changes and challenges facing their organisation, and a fifth (20%) said communication regarding significant changes was ineffective.

 

These statistics are perhaps explained by a lack of management skills and training that have been uncovered by the report.  Whilst 92% of those in management roles said they have the necessary skills and knowledge to manage people effectively, 39% of the group say they haven’t received any form of management training, and only half (53%) were assessed on their people management skills before being appointed to their role.  Against this, 34% of employees say they need more support from their manager.  The gap in managers’ perception of their own ability and the reality goes some way to explaining why only half (49%) say they trust what senior leaders in their company say.

Scott McKenzie continued: “Change is an inevitable part of the modern workplace, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. However, it is crucial that it’s managed and communicated properly, or employees feel disengaged and undervalued.  Management need to be able to inspire trust, particularly in periods of change.  Employees who feel unsupported and disoriented by change, and are poorly led and managed, are unlikely to feel able or willing to improve their performance at work.”

The report also explores issues including pay and reward, career progression, and pride in company and industry, to draw a complete picture of what motivates (and de-motivates) UK workers today.

James Endersby, managing director of Opinium, added: “Using insight and data to inform future business decisions is absolutely vital for businesses across the country.  Today’s results give us a solid picture of the UK workforce as a whole and there are some really important takeaways for employers – particularly now as employment is at a ten year low.  The job market is more competitive than it was a couple of years back, and we know that around a third of employees are likely to be looking for a new job in the next year.  Employers who want to retain staff should be paying attention.”

For a full copy of the Lansons Britain at Work click to download here.

The report was launched on 14th April at Bloomsbury House, London.

 

About the research:

* 20,357,440 = 76% of the UK workforce.

6,374,462 = 24% of the UK workforce.

Methodology

This study is based on an online survey conducted between 11 and 21 March 2016 amongst 3,002 UK employees working for an organisation. The results of the survey have been weighted to nationally representative criteria (gender, age and region):

Demographic highlights

53% of workers surveyed are male 47% are female

45% are aged 35-54

14% come from the South East

15% come from London

10% from the North West

76% work full time

55% work in the private sector 39% work in the public sector

49% work for large organisations (250+ workforce)

76% have no connection with a trade union

23% have been in the same job for +10 years

13% work in Education

11% work in Healthcare 10% work in Retail / Wholesale

28% earn between £15K and £25K/year

 

LEGO, IKEA and BMW Group top list of UK’s most reputable companies, but UK PLCS lag way behind

Reputation Institute’s UK RepTrak® 150 identifies the most reputable companies among the UK general public

LONDON – The Lego Group, IKEA and BMW Group top the UK RepTrak® 150 ranking of the most reputable companies among the UK general public, Reputation Institute announced today, based on more than 50,000 ratings collected in the first quarter of 2016 from members of the UK general public.

WINNERS

The top 10 companies in the 2016 UK RepTrak®, which are all perceived as having an “Excellent” reputation, are:

  1. Lego Group
  2. IKEA
  3. BMW Group
  4. Sony
  5. Rolls-Royce Aerospace
  6. Aston Martin
  7. Rolex
  8. Samsung
  9. Bosch
  10. Kellogg’s

The RepTrak® system measures a company’s ability to deliver on stakeholder expectations on the seven key rational dimensions of reputation: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership and performance.

Companies are ranked on a score from 0-100 based on their overall reputation, and are grouped as Excellent (80+), Strong (70-79), Average (60-69), Weak (40-59) or Poor (Below 40).

UK PLC FALLING BEHIND

UK Plcs are losing out on reputation in their home market. Only two of the top 10 companies are UK Plcs, and international companies dominate the top 50. Home-domiciled companies make up just 26% of the top 50 and 41% of the top 150. 

Kasper Ulf Nielsen, Executive Partner at Reputation Institute, comments “The UK general public has a lower perception of UK companies across all seven dimensions of reputation, compared to international companies operating in the UK. This shows a lack of both emotional and rational connection which is unique to the UK. Across the world, home countries tend to have a stronger reputation, and this lack of reputation capital puts UK Plcs at a disadvantage in their home market.”

As shown below, only four UK companies have been able to build an “Excellent” reputation with a RepTrak® score above 80.

  • 5. Rolls Royce Aerospace (82.6)
  • 6. Aston Martin (82.1)
  • 13. ASOS (80.4)
  • 14. Jaguar Land Rover (80.4)

At the other end of the scale, of the 27 companies who scored “Poor” and sit well outside of the RepTrak® 150 (ranking 251 and below), all but two are UK and Irish companies.

UK companies ranked “Poor” include five utilities and financial services companies, three transport companies, and two gambling and telecom companies. Although it might be unsurprising that UK companies from these sectors perform the worst, there are notable exceptions.

Nationwide Building Society was the top scoring of all UK retail banks, with a “Strong” score of 72.4. O2 also rated strongly in the eyes of the UK general public at 74.9, whereas all other UK telecoms providers failed to score higher than an “Average” performance of 64.

 BIGGEST MOVES

The following companies have seen the largest improvements from 2015 to 2016:

The below businesses have seen the largest declines from 2015 to 2016:

  • 58. Airbus Group (+12.6 points)
  • 228. HSBC (+9.8 points)
  • 9. Aldi (+9.7 points)
  • 48. Burberry (+9.7 points)
  • 140. Hershey Company (+8.9 points)
  • 267. Volkswagen (-27.4 points)
  • 192. SABMiller (7.9 points)
  • 156. Nestle (-7.7 points)
  • 163. Admiral (-7.3 points)
  • 247. EDF Energy (-7.1 points)

Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen AG falls from having a top 10 reputation (ranked 8th) in 2015 to a vulnerable position in 2016 (ranked 267th) following the high-profile emissions scandal.  The critical factor in this loss of reputation has been a huge drop in the number of consumers willing to support the company in specific circumstances, as shown below. 

 

Recommend company

Buy products

Give benefit of doubt

2016

24%

28%

20%

2015

56%

58%

53%

Recommendation and trust of Volkswagen AG has decreased by more than half during this time, which underscores the impact that corporate reputation has on the business.

WHY REPUTATION MATTERS

Reputation Institute’s research reveals that reputation drives business results. The better the reputation, the more support a company gets. For companies with an average reputation, only 12% would definitely buy the products; this climbs to 28% if the reputation is strong, but increases to 76% if the reputation is excellent. “The impact from reputation on the business is massive, which is why the leading companies in the world are managing this asset in a systematic way,” says Nielsen.

In the UK, consumers must consider companies’ reputations “Excellent” in order to have more than 50% of those surveyed claim that they would say something positive about a company, recommend its products, trust it to do the right thing, welcome it into the local community, and work for or invest in it.