The communications briefing: Bell Pottinger partners forced to repay profits

Industry

Bell Pottinger partners forced to repay profits

The former partners of PR firm Bell Pottinger, which went into administration in 2017, have been forced to return almost £500,000 in profits they received from the business before it collapsed. However, James Henderson, chief executive of the firm until he resigned shortly before administrators were called in, is reportedly disputing demands to pay back a total of £400,000, taking the position that he did not earn that much. BDO remains in discussions with a further 17 of the 44 partners and is requesting proposals for repayments, according to the administrators’ report.

Financial Times The Daily Telegraph

Cision to be acquired by PE firm for $2.74bn

PR and marketing software company Cision reached a deal to be bought by private-equity firm Platinum Equity for approximately $2.74bn in cash, or $10.00 per share. The purchase price represents a 34% premium over Cision's 60-day volume-weighted average price ended on October 21st 2019. There will be a “go-shop” period when it will consider other offers from the date of the agreement until November 12th 2019. “This transaction will provide shareholders with immediate and substantial cash value, while also providing us with a partner that shares in our commitment to customers and employees and can add strategic and operational value”, Cision chief executive officer Kevin Akeroyd said in a statement.

PR Newswire

Signal AI raises $25m in Series C funding

London-based Signal AI, a start-up which offers AI-powered market intelligence and media monitoring for PR and communications professionals, raised $25m in a round led by Redline Capital. Formerly known as Signal Media, the company has widened its remit from aggregating news data, into social media, broadcast and radio. In addition to selling services directly, the company now partners with third parties to build analytics around more targeted subjects, such as a changing regulatory climate in a specific area, which in turn is sold on by the third parties to other clients.

Tech Crunch

Meltwater announces integrated product suite

Media intelligence firm Meltwater announced the launch of Fjord, an intuitive product suite enabling end-to-end campaign execution from media outreach to post-campaign analysis. Additionally, the Meltwater Mobile app allows for instant notification and ad-hoc searching and analysis, as well as the ability to access all of the content from saved searches and tags in the desktop application. “As we see the convergence of news and social media, we also anticipate that there will be an even greater requirement for businesses to prove the ROI of their efforts across paid, earned and owned media. Meltwater is helping to break down the silos between different departments, by enabling teams to uncover the insights that matter to them, while working together in the same intuitive product”, said Niklas de Besche, the company’s executive director of product.

Globe Newswire

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson joins Tulchan

Ruth Davidson, who stepped down as leader of the Scottish Conservative party in August, joined Tulchan Communications. She will be paid £50,000 for 24 days’ work a year, advising corporate Britain on how best to address such issues as climate change. She argues that there has been a radical change in what is expected of companies, and that the attitude of “’let’s make a lot of money and tick the CSR box’” is no longer sufficient to satisfy shareholders, staff and consumers. Ms Davidson explained that her new role, which she will undertake while serving as MSP for Edinburgh Central, “is about helping people get ahead of where it is going, letting them know what government thinking is, what campaigns are brewing outside of that”. The Public Relations and Communications Association – of which Tulchan is not a member – criticised the appointment, commenting: “It is simply wrong for lobbying agencies to employ legislators. The possible conflict of interest in doing so is clear, and damages the reputation of both our industry, and of the political process”. George McGregor, chair of the PRCA’s public affairs board, tweeted: “[Ruth Davidson] is welcome in the public affairs community but only after she has stood down as an MSP”.

Evening Standard Financial Times

Harold Burson on burnishing corporate America

Harold Burson, the 98-year-old founder of Burson-Marsteller (now Burson, Cohn & Wolfe), discussed how he would apply his 70 years of experience in the public relations industry to improving perceptions of corporate America in the eyes of the public – and says the first thing he would do is redistribute wealth. Arguing that corporations should put stakeholders above shareholder, he said that large companies are “social institution[s]”; a view recently adopted by a panel of corporate leaders in the Business Roundtable, which has redefined its “Principles of Corporate Governance” to promote practices that are more accountable to communities and employees.

KUAF

Celebrating the power of the Scottish advertising industry

“As nations go, there are few that can match Scotland in terms of brand identity, and the country has a heritage of advertising uniquely Scottish products and services”, wrote Keith Weed, former global chief marketing officer at Unilever, and a non-executive director at WPP. That history will be celebrated at the inaugural Lead Scotland event on November 14th in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, bringing together speakers from the Scottish Government and organisations like STV, Channel 4, Direct Line Group and Sky. Billed as where advertising meets politics, the event aims to shine a light on the advertising industry in Scotland, which supports some 42,000 jobs across the country.

The Scotsman

Political

Facebook steps up anti-election meddling security in UK

Facebook has set out fresh commitments to protect elections from interference and misinformation should the UK go to the polls, including a dedicated operations centre that will monitor and remove materials and activities that break its rules. From next week, adverts relating to social issues such as immigration, health and the environment will have to go through the same verification process as political adverts, which requires advertisers to share who they are and where they live. Posts reported by Facebook’s UK fact-checking partner Full Fact found to contain fake news will also feature more prominent labelling. However, Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of policy solutions, said the new protocols do not extend to fact-checking what politicians say. “UK electoral law needs to be brought into the 21st century to give clarity to everyone – political parties, candidates and the platforms they use to promote their campaigns”, he said. “The law may not be changed before Britain goes to the polls again, but we are determined to play our part in protecting elections from interference by making our platform more secure and political advertising more transparent”.

ITV News

Campaigns

ASA criticises ‘irresponsible’ weight-loss ads

The Advertising Standards Agency ruled that a post on entrepreneur Katie Price’s Instagram account advertising appetite-suppressant drinks produced by Boombod – whose products were also advertised by TOWIE star Lauren Goodger – “promoted a diet product in an irresponsible way”, making health claims that breached the UK advertising code. The watchdog also censured a post by Georgia Harrison, who appeared on the 2017 series of Love Island, advertising a different appetite suppressant, V24 weight loss gummies, produced by the company Protein Revolution Limited. All three women were deemed to have “desirable and aspirational” lifestyles and body images, and did not need to lose weight, but their adverts created the impression that it was necessary or advisable for them to do so quickly. The ASA has banned the two companies from producing the adverts again in the same form.

And finally…

Man City denies advertising for fans online

Manchester City denied advertising for fans online, after apparently appealing for social media influencers to create content “which has an element of FOMO [fear of missing out] at its core” and “showcases the electrifying atmosphere that only Champions League live football matches can deliver”. The advert appeared on Tribe, an app that connects brands with people with large social media followings. Sources close to the club have denied direct involvement, and suggested that the advert was instead posted by an agency with which the club has worked before, without the knowledge or permission of anyone at the club, which is apparently reviewing its relationship with the agency in question.

The Independent

PR news this week, with thanks to Early Morning Media