Monday, 4 April 2016

Weekly Wrap Up: Predicting the future with social media

Last week it was revealed that a new trading platform,, aims to inform traders about potentially market-moving events hours before they hit mainstream news outlets. How do they do this I hear you ask? No, not through a call center like room filled with psychics. The platform simply tracks social media conversations.

I use the word ‘simply’, as the website actually analyses 22bn bits of data every day from various social media channels, including twitter and blogs, alerting users if it spots a spike in activity or sentiment. So, just a bit of light cyber stalking then.

Closer to home, such technology could change the way PRs handle crisis communications for their clients. Imagine if your organisation’s communications advisor could pick up a potential crisis situation before the press did, even if it was only by an hour or two. That way you and your advisor would have between 20 and 120 minutes (that is the length of time estimated by between the event being flagged and a price movement) to calm the waters, correct the error, prepare for the storm, and mitigate the situation.

The platform uses an example that it identified the Smiler roller coaster crash at Alton Towers within minutes, nearly an hour before media reports were published and Merlin Entertainment’s share price dropped by 10pc. Another example where the algorithm caught on was with the public opinion fallout regarding Volkswagen. By picking up the words “recall”, “pollution”, “cheating”, “EPA”, “scandal”, “tests”, “pollution” and “emissions”, the platform caught wind of the potential story around two hours before markets closed that Friday. News outlets subsequently picked up the story after trading hours and shares in the car manufacturer had fallen 16pc when markets opened on Monday.

However Gareth Mann, Chief Executive of stresses that “it’s not a predictive analytics engine, it’s an indicator that something’s going on that you need to look at.” In case you were wondering too, the algorithm, which continually evolves and learns as it goes along, uses only 10pc of the data available to it, ignoring information that would not be relevant to the markets such as a person tweeting ‘I don’t like my phone’ compared to a conversation about company results or a CEO’s behavior.

If this technology is proved to consistently work, it is a real game changer for all industries that involve reacting to unexpected human or business catastrophes. That also includes the media, who wouldn't want to miss out on this prediction tool. This shows how much social media has taken hold of our daily lives. We look to social media platforms for news and more specifically flash news before traditional media outlets. Even the press now look to these areas by way of informing themselves.

Social media platforms are becoming the first port of call where customers or the public make complaints or voice their grievances, therefore it is important for organisations to be fully engaged with these outlets in order to get a better grasp on public sentiment that could potentially affect their reputations. Perhaps it is time for the communications industry to adapt this technology so that in the near future, it can benefit clients and Companies by helping them to be better prepared to respond to special situations.

Last week, Crowe Clark Whitehill appointed Lisa Mead as its Private Client tax partner. Ashurt appointed Nick Elverston and Amada Hale to its global TMT team.

Cyber stalking – The action of searching for people online in order to find more information about them whether this is for business purposes on LinkedIn.

Sunset Boulevard
Glenn Close will be performing in her West End debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber's celebrated musical Sunset Boulevard at the London Coliseum 1 April–7 May.

Christie’s Lates
On the first Tuesday of every month, Christies will keep their doors open late. Between 6pm and 8:30pm for a post-work drink, to hear experts talk about art, interior design and collecting, and to see what happens behind the scenes at 85 Old Brompton Road

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Friday, 18 March 2016

Weekly Wrap Up: Brexit you got to let me know

Brexit. This spurious word has been on the tip of the entire nation’s tongue for what seems like an eternity. The question of whether Britain should remain in the European Union or not is a pertinent one and is no doubt sparking much debate throughout households around the country. Over the last few weeks, we have watched David Cameron’s attempt to re-negotiate the terms of Britain’s membership in the EU in an attempt to appease the nation and subvert the increasing support for Brexit. The conclusion of all the campaigning and the ultimate result will be realised in just over three months’ time when the British public will vote on whether to remain in the European Union or not. Perhaps though, in the meantime there are lessons in crisis communications and reputation management that can be learnt from the current state of affairs. From a communications perspective the debate and the two possible outcomes can be compared to a crisis situation for a large conglomerate. Comparisons can be drawn from the scandals facing Volkswagen or TalkTalk and in the even more recent past Uber. What these crises and Brexit have in common is that the consequences remain unknown both in terms of the ultimate outcome and the fate of those involved. The politicians and the company executive’s fates will be/are determined by their actions. In other words, the stakes are high for all parties involved.

The Brexit crisis has come to a head over the last few weeks as key politicians in Cameron’s cabinet have pledged allegiance to the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigns, ultimately revealing whether or not they stand behind him. So, who are the key players and how are they faring in the crisis so far?

First, we turn to the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Arguably, he is at the centre of the crisis and perhaps in the most interesting position in terms of what he can achieve but nevertheless he has the most to lose if the vote does not go in his favour. David Cameron has been furiously re-negotiating the terms of the UK’s membership to the EU in an effort to improve the UK’s position as well as encourage the public to vote no to Brexit. What has he actually achieved though? And how is he handling himself?

According to BBC News, in terms of Britain’s sovereignty, Cameron has secured a commitment to exempt Britain from a closer union with the EU as well as negotiating a new “red-card” power, meaning if 55% of national parliaments agree, they can veto a commission proposal. It remains to be seen whether such a power would ever be used and whether the government could ever mobilise that kind of multi-national support. On the other hand, in terms of migration and benefits, Cameron had to concede one of his most crucial points. He failed in his original demand to ban migrant workers from sending child benefit money home in the face of strong opposition from Poland. According to the Mail Online, voters consider this a major failure in Cameron’s negotiations. An opinion poll concluded that 62% think net migration to the UK from the EU is too high and Cameron’s failure arguably means that migrants will not be discouraged. From a crisis communications perspective this is a major loss for Cameron. In this debate public opinion is everything and given the migrant crisis, migration issues are at the forefront of voters’ minds. The concession that Cameron made will undoubtedly encourage some people into the Brexit camp.

On the other side of the debate are those that believe the negative aspects of being a part of the EU far outweigh the positives. Michael Gove’s allegiance to the Out camp was not wholly unexpected due to persistent rumours of his position. On the other hand Boris Johnson’s is seen as a demagogue but has been generally well received. He has positioned himself as deeply pro-European and does not believe it is necessary to equate voting out with being anti-Europe. In the Telegraph, he detailed his views on the subject concluding that he will vote no but that ultimately, his opinion and those of his peers will be forgotten. In reputation terms, perhaps it is Gove who has taken a bigger risk. Not only has Gove allied himself with the exit campaign, but he has also explicitly criticised Cameron’s concessions. The Independent reported Gove stating that the EU agreement is not legally binding and as such the concessions agreed by Cameron could well be meaningless. In terms of Gove’s reputation, it is difficult to fully understand the ramifications of his decision to so publically undermine the Prime Minister. It can be argued that in the political sphere these sorts of tactics are necessary to get ahead. However, they can also have a negative impact on public perception and significantly affect reputation.

Ultimately, the crisis is not yet resolved. The debate has descended into political infighting and scaremongering, resulting in a lack of clarity around the issues at hand. The ramifications for the UK of remaining in the EU or choosing to leave cannot be predicted. However, it seems that, if the vote is to be a true representation of public opinion, politicians need to devote more effort to discussion of the two sides of the argument rather than simply resorting to political infighting or attacking the opposition. It remains to be seen whether Cameron, Johnson or Gove have damaged their reputations or whether they, in fact, will benefit from their respective stances. Arguably, they are all staking their careers on their positions. Nevertheless, the power to resolve this crisis remains in the hands of the people, who, in the eternal words of The Clash will be thinking on the 23rd, “Should I stay or should I go?”

Abchaps hosted two market lunch events this week, where guests were given the opportunity to discuss topics specific to the oil and gas sector and the environment in addition to a more generalist discussion on the budget broadcast Wednesday lunchtime. Abchaps also attended a Gorkana breakfast where Daniel Coatsworth editor of Shares magazine spoke about the publication’s aim to ‘empower the investor’

This week, Investec Investment Banking appointed Serge Rissi as a Director in its financial sponsor transaction group. Eversheds appointed Ian Gray as its international managing partner based in the Middle East. Howard Kennedy appointed Philip Vickery as senior associate of its business and property tax team.

Brexit – Britain’s exit from the EU

Potter down to Albion Street in Rotherhithe on Saturday for a taste of all things Nordic. The pedestrianised stretch between London’s Finnish and Norwegian churches will be lined with dozens of stalls selling Scandi snacks, crafts, homewares, jewellery and toys.

Like looking like a wally? Burn off those Saturday booze calories with the annual Where’s Wally Fun Run. Walk, jog or run the 5km or 10km course which in 2016 relocates to Clapham Common. The £22 registration fee includes your 'Where's Wally?' costume and a medal on completion and all funds raised will go to the National Literacy Trust, who will use it to help disadvantaged children learn to read and write.

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Weekly Wrap Up: Turing took the forbidden fruit

“We are dedicated to helping patients, who often have no effective treatment options, by developing and commercializing innovative treatments”. This is the statement waiting for visitors to the ‘About’ section of Turing Pharmaceuticals website. However, having seen any of the myriad news coverage recently you could be forgiven for not finding this sentiment particularly credible. This week, the “fully integrated” biopharmaceutical Company returned to the world’s headlines, and whilst in the UK it may have been overshadowed by the Autumn Statement, it deserves no less attention.

Turing Pharmaceuticals has been courting controversy since August, when it acquired the exclusive rights to market Daraprim from Impax Laboratories. Contract Pharma reported that this was a strategic effort by Turing to begin fulfilling its promise to combat serious infectious diseases. Prior to the acquisition, Turing had been a one drug shop, having acquired Vecamyl, a hypertension medication, earlier in 2015. However, the acquisition of Daraprim was undoubtedly what brought Turing into the public eye.

Daraprim is a drug that is an antiparasitic medicine used for the treatment of toxoplasmosis and acute malaria. Both toxoplasmosis and malaria prey on those with weakened immune systems, and therefore are likely to infect those suffering from HIV and AIDs. Additionally the drug has a number of “off label” preventative uses, again, for those suffering from HIV. Clearly, Daraprim is an invaluable life line, and significantly improves the quality of life for those suffering from HIV or AIDs by helping protect them from additional debilitating diseases.

Initially, the purchase of Daraprim was positively received in the media. Turing’s Chief Executive, Martin Shkreli, was quoted as saying that the acquisition put the Company on target to bring “novel medication to patients with serious disorders”. Shkreli also stated his intention to invest in the further development of the drug to yield an even better clinical profile, as well as plans to launch educational efforts to raise awareness and improve diagnosis for patients. Shkreli’s intentions appeared, at least on the surface, honourable, it seemed as though his primary interest and that of his Company was the welfare of patients suffering from unquestionably awful diseases. Medical professionals were similarly impressed with Shkreli, noting, “Turing’s commitment to improving treatment for patients with toxoplasmosis is commendable” (Louis M. Weiss, M.D., M.P.H., Professor, Departments of Medicine and Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City). Unfortunately, the positive stride that Weiss and other medical professionals perceived Turing’s actions to represent was not to be.

What came next will surely go down as how not to handle situations when sentiment turns against you, as the New York based start-up destroyed any good will the medical industry or public may have held towards it by immediately hiking the price of its drug by over 5000%. The New York Times noted that the drug originally retailed for $13.50, compared to the $750 per tablet Turing was expecting people to pay. This controversial move would make the drug unavailable to many people and clearly at odds with Turing’s company mantra. In an interview with CNBC, Shkreli was even unapologetic about the decision, arguing that the drug had been priced too low and his Company needed to make a profit, stating that it had previously been like selling an Aston Martin for the cost of a bike. Following the ensuing backlash from both media and medical professionals Turing cowed to public pressure, and pledged to roll back the increase to ensure the drug remained affordable. However, following this week’s announcement, it is clear that this was an empty promise. The Guardian reported this week that Martin Shkreli has declared he will not lower the price of his medication after all.

Turing Pharmaceuticals, and in turn Shkreli’s, actions are perceived as the worst kind of profiteering through incontestable monopoly comparable. However, there is hope for the patients who have had their medication taken away from them, and as Tim Worstall argued in Forbes, “markets work”. In the face of the gross (potential) profit taking by Martin Shkreli, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals announced that it has made an alternative to Daraprim that would cost roughly a dollar a pill, or $99 for a 100-pill supply. The fact remains that, Turing’s monopoly although threatened, may remain if the new drug is proven to be less effective than Daraprim. Also, the irreparable damage that has been done to the reputation of the nascent Turing Pharmaceuticals in both the medical and financial worlds might eventually lead to the Company folding, leaving the world without the sole producer of Daraprim. With this in mind, it seems Shkreli should be asking himself the pertinent question; were the potential profits worth it? Did his workforce deserve the wave of negativity he has foisted upon them?

Reputation management is vital to corporate relationships, and if Turing has plans to acquire further companies or source more investors, it is conceivable that the private equity firm would need to reconsider its public relations strategy. If Shkreli and the Company does not show willingness to change, it is arguable that will burn the bridge of ever taking his Company public, surely the exit he envisaged when he founded it…

This week, Abchaps attended the Gorkana financial debate in aim to discuss the communication challenges in today's financial services market. The panel included Alex Letts CEO of Ffrees, Christina Sandk├╝hler of La Salle Investment and Editor of City AM Christian May.

We also hosted a market lunch, where we discussed general topics such as the Pjizer – Allergan merger and Switzerland’s alternative Bank Schweiz.

We attended a Scottish whisky tasting event at Marriott Harrison’s in anticipation for St Andrew’s Day. We took the opportunity to discuss new appointments at the law firm over a dram or two.

Macquarie Capital appointed Ben Bailey as head of Telecommunications, media, entertainment and technology in Europe. Prior to the appointment, Ben led the internet and digital media investment banking team at Jefferies.

Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management appointed Jane Parry as head of marketing and communications. Parry joined Canaccord Genuity from Duncan Lawrie Private Bank.

Clyde & Co appointed Robert Wilson as partner in its clinical negligence team. Robert joined Clyde & Co from Capsticks.

“Toxoplasmosis” – an infection caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii.

Christmas has come, with all the John Lewis baggage that this entails, and therefore this weekend, Tate Modern is holding its own twist on a traditional Christmas Market with all the usual trappings of mulled wine, but set in the grandeur of the turbine hall.

For the second out of office hours, why not use the Tate to Tate service, taking you from Modern to Britain, for the exhibition on Art and Alcohol. Booze has been one of man’s greatest muses since fermentation was discovered. Pride of place is given to George Cruikshank’s ‘Worship of Bacchus’.

Finally, if you fancy emulating the antics of art, why not try the Absinthe Masterclass, taking place at Vinopolis. The green fairy is blamed for Van Gough’s madness, and whilst it’s unlikely to make you cut your ear off, it will probably lead you to a slightly fuzzy Monday.

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