Archive for March, 2022

Are we going back to the “bad old days” with the most innovative NHS services?

Posted on: March 30th, 2022 by Tomas White

The measures embodied in the Health and Care Bill are seen as the reversal of Andrew Lansley’s 2012 reforms.  It’s therefore unsurprising that Lord Lansley has had much to say about the Bill, making over twenty speeches on the legislation since it arrived in the Lords.

On the topic of specialised services, he has raised the spectre of the “bad old days” where there were “considerable disparities and consistencies” between services. As Lansley put it, his approach in 2012 aimed to “level-up” services in this area by making sure standards were consistent. Whether or not this was achieved, a number of Lords have joined Lansley in making their concerns known, making this a major subject of debate over the past few months of the Bill’s passage.

But to start with, what actually are specialised services and why do they matter? The term ‘specialised services’ hides the fact that actually, some of the diseases, conditions and treatments covered by this style of commissioning are far from rare, or that this part of the NHS is somehow small.

Specialised Commissioning covers 146 services, from conditions as diverse as blood borne viruses like hepatitis C and HIV, which affect hundreds of thousands of people, to treatment for liver and pancreatic cancers which together kill 15,000 people each year in the UK.  When you run through the list of conditions, you realise how important these services are for the people under their care and why finding the perfect formula to structure these services is both so important, and such a challenge.

On the issue of size, it’s worth noting that specialised services now make up a sixth of the NHS’s budget. In the five years to 2020, its budget rose by an average of 8 per cent per year.

Whilst it is the case that the 2012 reforms helped reduce disparities in the care patients received and their access to specialised expertise, they still clearly exist. For example, the recent GIRFT Rheumatology report said that while the current model for commissioning specialised rheumatology services “is working well in some areas” in others, there has been little change to the informal model which existed before. These services are meant to cover rare and complex diseases like systemic vasculitis which have “a much higher risk of mortality and morbidity than more common conditions”.

Meanwhile, on specialised asthma services, the GIRFT Respiratory report said there is “confusion” with some specialised centres not meeting the required criteria.  Again, getting commissioning right here is vital, given large numbers of asthma deaths are preventable.

Now though, a portion of the budget for specialised services is set to be delegated to Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), the NHS bodies which will commission services for areas covering about 1-2 million people, and it’s envisaged that ICBs will either organise provision as an individual ICB, or with other ICBs.  However, NHS England has said that while ICBs will take on the commissioning of some specialised services, “national standards and access policies” will remain. Other services, such as highly specialised services will remain directly commissioned by NHS England. Still, the changes raise a number of questions: Which services will be delegated?  If keeping national policies in place looks to be the strategy to prevent disparities, what happens when, inevitably, services in one area do not meet the national standards, or the standards in other areas?

Specialised services were subject to a National Audit Office report in 2016. The current reforms seek to address some of the wider concerns in that report. For example, the NAO highlighted that patients felt their care was becoming disjointed between specialised and non-specialised services. In addition, over 70 per cent of Clinical Commissioning Groups surveyed by the NAO supported a more joined up approached to services.

Disjointed care is not just an inconvenience. Research in the US, for example, showed that lupus patients with more fragmented care are more likely to develop serious infections and kidney damage. The barriers uncoordinated care creates can exacerbate inequalities as patients have to fight the system to get the care they need. Giving responsibility for specialised services to ICBs, could ensure more coordination, with a ‘bottom-up’ commissioning structure meaning specialised services are more integrated into secondary care and commissioning decisions are made more precisely on local need.

Another of the NAO’s recommendations was for NHS England to develop an overarching strategy and “communicate this clearly to stakeholders”. The number of Lords raising concerns about specialised services in recent weeks is a sign it has not yet succeeded in doing this. For example, Baroness Neuberger, who is also chair of University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust – a major specialised provider (and therefore a major stakeholder) – warned that delegating responsibility “where there is no evidence base for joining up pathways” will lead to more fragmentation and increased costs.

The diseases covered by specialised services include conditions where outcomes have historically failed to improve, like pancreatic cancer, or where current standard treatments remain inadequate. Wonkish discussion of ‘specialised commissioning’, hides the very real consequences that getting this aspect of NHS reforms wrong would have for some of those patients in the most need.

Media Network: What makes a dream scoop for Sunday Times business?

Posted on: March 29th, 2022 by Tomas White

How to get into the pages of the Sunday Times business section

Pete Lambie talks to Sabah Meddings of the Sunday Times

Sabah Meddings is a senior business reporter at the Sunday Times covering consumer, leisure and pharma.

What are the big themes you’re currently focusing on?

Ukraine continues to be a huge story across the newspaper and it’s no different on the business pages. We’re also very focused on inflation – its impact on consumers and business. Outside of that, it feels like there is an enormous amount of pent-up corporate activity – whether it’s activism, or M&A – that had been bubbling away before recent global events.

What makes a good (or a bad) CEO profile?

A great CEO profile is the right mix of personality, interesting insights into the world of business and fresh nuggets about the company. I always sigh when transcribing an interview full of corporate jargon or a CEO hasn’t been brave enough to have an opinion.

Sustainability continues to dominate the Boardroom agenda – what’s the appetite for it in the newsroom?

Recent events mean the focus on sustainability has understandably shifted, given the scramble to look at supplies of oil and gas. However, in the long-term food security and the environment will be high on the agenda – and we’re always ready to call out greenwashing when we see it.

What top three things make a good Sunday Times story?

The dream Sunday Times story is an exclusive on a deal that no one else has or an investigation into a corporate wrongdoing. However, our readers also really enjoy stories about entrepreneurs, exclusive interviews and will look to the Sunday Times business section for the definitive read on the big corporate or macro story of the week. The trick is to ensure that if it’s a story people have been reading about all week, we include lots of exclusive titbits that our subscribers can’t get elsewhere.

The danger of a live television interview and how to deal with it

Writes Charlotte Grant former ITN presenter and now broadcast consultant at MHP Mischief

The brilliant Jayne Secker demonstrated the power of live television when she snared Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Sky News yesterday.

Jayne Secker said: ‘It’s been reported that you have family links to Russia and that your wife has a stake in Infosys, which operates in Moscow.’

Rishi Sunak replied: ‘I’m here to talk to you about what I am responsible for, my wife is not.’

As MHP Mischief media training clients know, the Chancellor forgot one of the basic rules of handling difficult questions. He should have moved the conversation forward.

Instead, he looked like a rabbit in headlights and gave Sky News a moment to savour on social media. Watch the clip here.

For expert MHP Mischief media training contact [email protected].

Newspaper sales fail to recover after Covid but online subscriptions soar

By former Daily Mail executive news editor Keith Gladdis

The pandemic was a frustrating story for newspapers. The appetite for news had never been higher but the lockdown meant people fell out of the habit of buying a newspaper.

The latest ABC data reveals the Daily Mail’s print circulation has fallen below 900,000 for the first time in more than 100 years. Its biggest circulation rival was The Sun, but the red top no longer publishes its circulation (we do know it was overtaken by the Mail in 2020)

All is not lost. The Daily Mail saw a 1% month on month increase in sales from December to January.

But the real rise is in digital subscription across the industry. The FT has reached 1m paid subscribers and the Telegraph boasted 544,911 digital subscribers earlier this year. The Times is another big winner, figures published yesterday reveal digital only paid subscribers increased by 31,000 to 367,000 last year.

New media special  – More superstars to leave the BBC, heading to podcasts?

By former News of the World political editor Ian Kirby

After losing Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis from its Americast podcast, the BBC is now saying goodbye to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo, whose Radio 5 Live Film Review tops the entertainment charts.

The BBC platform for podcasts – BBC Sounds – has been a runaway success. Revenue from podcasts will top £2 billion next year. But that’s money for the Corporation and not the stars.

Money can be made. Media Voices a podcast that reviews the weekly news charges up to £3,000 for sponsorship even though it normally gets up to a thousand downloads.

It’s also a great opportunity for businesses to get spokespeople heard on a long form format with a highly targeted audience. An audience that’s likely to be far more engaged as they listen on their daily commute, jog or walking the dog.

Substack attracts top writers also seeking to be paid directly for their work

By Abigail Smith and Alan Tovey

Substack, is a media start up that allows individual journalists and writers to make a living setting up their own paid for newsletter platform.

Regional media like The Mill Manchester, journalists like former Economist writer Duncan Weldon and even Dominic Cummings are thriving using Substack.

The onus is on the creator to build a dedicated following willing to pay for their content.

That’s an opportunity for PR. Working with Substack creators to provide content to a highly targeted audience.

Business desks begin to slowly reduce coverage of Ukraine

By Pete Lambie

Movers and Shakers

Abigail Smith

The Times.

Significant changes for the Times’ Business Desk.

Graham Ruddick steps down as deputy business editor, Tracey Boles will come in to replace him in May after her 5-year stint as The Sun’s Business Editor.

Simon Freeman becomes Business News Editor after his move from the Evening Standard earlier this week. Mehreen Khan is now Economics Editor, after after six years at the FT, most recently as Brussels correspondent.


Aoife White becomes Technology and Competition Editor of Politico Europe, after a decade at Bloomberg reporting on competition and technology. Lauren Cerulus has been promoted to Cybersecurity Editor.

Political Insider: Spring Statement

Posted on: March 23rd, 2022 by Tomas White
  • Basic rate income tax to fall by 1p to 19p by the end of this parliament
  • National Insurance threshold raised by £3,000, meaning first £12,570 of earnings are untaxed (though planned 1.25 percentage point increase in NI rates from 12pc to 13.25 from April still going ahead)
  • Fuel duty cut by 5p per litre for one year
  • Employment Allowance raised by £1,000 to £5,000, cutting tax bills for small businesses
  • Promise of future tax cuts for business to encourage investment in training, R&D and equipment


Nick Vaughan

Director and former Head of Operations for Boris Johnson

Chancellor Rishi Sunak entered this set piece in the political calendar on the back of sustained, carefully thought-through briefings into the Westminster commentariat from his team. Treasury advisors spent yesterday evening briefing about the “ballooning” interest payments of nearly £50bn on the national debt. This was designed to dampen the excitement in some quarters, and the more encouraging numbers on tax receipts and public borrowing would indicate headroom that might allow some fiscal loosening.

The view taken by those around the Chancellor is that – as people continue to watch the horrific scenes in Ukraine and with a country barely back to a “new-normal” post-pandemic – a sense of security and protection was the prescription required from this Spring Statement.

Given the last Budget was only in November, when arguably some of the toughest decisions were made, the Chancellor would originally have been looking at today’s Spring Statement as being a mere tickbox exercise, albeit with the “pain” of his previous tax hikes starting to kick in over the coming weeks. However, with a sizeable gulf opening up between wage growth and the rate of inflation – coupled with the unprecedented increases in energy prices and everyday living – a strong response to a very uncertain political and economic environment was required. So it was that Sunak announced – to significant cheers in the chamber – measures to reduce the impact of rising fuel prices on consumers and to slash VAT on energy efficiency measures. The decision to equalise NI and Income Tax thresholds – effective from the summer – was welcomed by the backbenches and will enjoy significant support from conservative commentators and policy influencers. So too, will the further measures to reduce the tax burden on small, struggling businesses.

The Chancellor was also keen to highlight the various signs of optimism in the economy – as he rightly should. Indeed, the employment figures are hugely impressive with numbers now back to pre-pandemic levels. And he was keen to focus minds on the future and on his overarching commitment to reducing the tax burden over the life of this Parliament – announcing a ‘tax plan’ to reassure backbenchers that he really means it. Setting out his priorities in this area – people, ideas, capital – helps him to frame the conversation around where taxes should most urgently fall.

The background to today was one of mounting stories of families going without food and heating. Last November, it was about cancelling the annual holiday, this spring it about whether you can keep your kids warm and fed. Political reality dictated that help would need to be put in place to help families to bridge the gap. The measures announced today are a temporary effort towards doing that with the tax plan providing the longer-term roadmap towards a lower-tax economy.

Yasmeen Sebbana

Account Director and former Head of Private Office and Forward Planning to Keir Starmer

In the weeks leading up to the Spring Statement Labour would have been planning to attack the Government on the cost of living crisis with a series of targeted criticisms designed to build up the narrative that the Conservatives in general – and Sunak in particular – are to blame for spiralling prices and rising taxes.

However the invasion of Ukraine has forced Labour into a position of constructive opposition similar to the one implemented by the Party during the first months of the pandemic. In her response to the statement today, Reeves reopened these core economic dividing lines to hammer home her message that the Government cannot solve the cost of living crisis, as they are the cause of it.

Labour believe they are on to something with their central economic message that Sunak is a high tax, low growth Chancellor. They feel this critique works on two levels. Firstly, any rise in National Insurance is the wrong decision for the Government to make at a time when the country is dealing with a cost of living crisis and that this is not mitigated by the raised threshold. Secondly, this low growth is a result of over a decade of Conservative mismanagement and that the planned tax rises are being used to prop this up. Reeves also reiterated her characterisation of Sunak as wasteful in overseeing £12 billion lost to fraud and unusable PPE. Instead, she argued, Labour would scrap the National Insurance rise, cut VAT on gas and electricity bills and pay for it with a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers.

Reeves’ response is – as always with Statement or Budget responses – part economics, part politics. By pinning the blame on the cost of living crisis as being a result of poor decisions made by the Conservatives, she is able to paint Sunak as a high tax, low growth Chancellor and position Labour as the Party who can now be trusted with taxpayers’ money. She also signals a marked shift from the previous Labour leadership’s focus on higher taxation and instead her emphasis on high-growth and ending waste creates space for Labour to set out their future spending priorities without, she hopes, needing to raise taxes to fund it.

Alan Tovey

Director and former Industry Editor at The Daily Telegraph

It wasn’t a Budget for business (because it wasn’t a real Budget, but a Spring Statement). But then the Chancellor’s hands have been tied not only by events outside his control – Ukraine, the aftermath of Covid, global supply chain issues – but also by Conservative pledges of fiscal responsibility.

He had little room to manoeuvre but did his best, offering up headline-grabbing promises to please voters of cheaper fuel and lower tax for hard pressed households.

But apart from a rise in the Employment Allowance from £4,000 to £5,000, meaning smaller companies will get relief on NI, there was nothing to move the dial.

Markets were unimpressed, but then they weren’t expecting much, so the FTSE 100 edged lower.

Worries that energy companies would be hit with a windfall tax proved unfounded. Despite references to Ukraine and how the UK’s best defence is a strong economy protected by a capable military, there was no arms spending bonanza.

Companies with large fuel costs aren’t exactly celebrating either. The 5p per litre cut in fuel duty helps, but considering diesel was at 125p a year ago and is now 167p, it hardly makes a dent.

Where Rishi did provide a glimmer of hope for business was – as ever – in the future. He acknowledged the UK’s low productivity, attributing it to lower investment, faltering innovation and poorly trained staff. He looks forward to talking with industry about how this can be improved, potential making cheaper investment in upskilling, equipment and R&D. But don’t expect any concrete details until the Autumn, when the (real) Budget comes.

Jamie Lyons

Head of Public Affairs and former Deputy Political Editor at The News of the World

The Chancellor woke up this morning to a slew of demands splashed across the papers.

The Daily Mail demanded Sunak “delve into his bag of tricks” and insisted he could spike the National Insurance hike.

The Sun called for cuts to tax, red tape, the civil service “blob” and bills.

The Mirror pleaded “We need your help, Rishi” pressing him to raise pensions and benefits, scrap the NI increase, and slap a windfall tax on oil and gas giants.

The i called for tax cuts to help businesses invest, while The Daily Express said it expected the Chancellor to help households suffering from the cost of living crisis at the same time as ensuring public services were on a sound financial footing.

For all the Treasury’s expectation management – with sources telling The Sun on Sunday “don’t expect him to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Maybe a few baby bunnies, no more” – the papers reflect what their readers are thinking. As the BBC’s Faisal Islam said, the public now expects more help from the Government than it used to.

But as Patience Wheatcroft wrote in the FT Weekend: “Imagine if the Chancellor decided to be frank about the impossibility of meeting so many demands”.

Sunak was never going to be able to satisfy all those demands. But despite the briefings that this would not be a mini-Budget, the scale of today’s measures mean it will be given the full Budget treatment in tomorrow’s papers.

Much of the focus will fall on the Chancellor’s tax plan. That plan will be set against Mr Sunak’s repeated insistence that he is a low-tax Chancellor. He did not give in to the pressure to scrap the NI hike, but he did take the sting out of it. That may be enough for some papers, but not all.

The FT’s Political Editor George Parker put the figures into perspective. The Chancellor is cutting NI by £6billion and income tax by £5billion. But that’s less than the £12billion he will raise by putting NI up next month.

The fuel duty cut will also be a key focus of tomorrow’s papers. A golden rule of Fleet Street is to only launch a campaign you know you can win. Papers want to demonstrate their influence and it will be splashed across the papers tomorrow as their triumph. The Sun is already reporting it as a “major victory” for its Keep it Down campaign.

As always there was enough in the statement for Tory-supporting papers to get behind while the

Labour papers will insist the Chancellor has not done enough.

There were some big announcements today, but there are some bigger challenges coming with a cost-of-living emergency. As the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said many of Mr Sunak’s headline-grabbing pledged could soon feel like pretty small beer to struggling families.

Moving on: Dan Jones on his new role at the Mail on Sunday

Posted on: March 16th, 2022 by Tomas White

Dan spoke exclusively to MHP Mischief’s James Rollinson at a breakfast event at the Ivy Club in Soho.

Cost of living set to dominate the news agenda

Dan says the cost of living crisis will continue to dominate the media in 2022 – particularly what it means for consumers and their spending habits. He wants to hear from brands and organisations that have propositions in place to look after their consumers, including deals and support payment plans. He has a word of advice for companies who are increasing their prices – be honest! Consumers and journalists will always find out, so businesses should proactively communicate price changes and their justification for the increase.

Campaigns a priority

Campaigns will be a major focus for the Mail on Sunday and he is looking out for issues to focus on and brands to partner with. Dan stressed the importance of focusing on issues that directly affect the Mail on Sunday’s slightly older readership, and urged any brands contacting him to think big. Dan cautioned brands they shouldn’t expect to be front and centre of a campaign, but there is absolutely scope to work together on important issues.

Research your research

Dan’s not a fan of survey stories saying too many were obvious and self-serving. To be effective Dan says consumer research needs to tell a wider story and reveal a genuinely new trend or insight. One example was a survey story he received a few years ago about how the contents of a school lunchbox had changed over the past 20 years, which Dan complimented for being interesting and different. Dan also added that research can be effective when used to give further insight into a brand’s proprietary data.

Early exclusives key to coverage

Dan also explained the different pressures of working for a weekly operation. The Sunday papers are trailblazers, setting the dialogue and news agenda for the week ahead and as such, all stories should be exclusive and pitched early. Dan ideally wants to be pitched ideas on a Monday or Tuesday so he has sufficient time to investigate, analyse data, source additional information and work with PRs on the messaging. As paper fills up towards the back end of the week it becomes much trickier for brands and stories to make the Sunday paper.

Time to get out and meet again

In news that will no doubt be music to PR ears, Dan stressed how keen he is to get back out to meet contacts in person again. While Zoom calls are fine for short interviews and briefing, nothing beats an honest conversation in person, particularly when discussing big and complex issues. With daily news conferences no longer part of Dan’s schedule, he is aiming to arrange at least two breakfasts a week to meet brands and PRs to chat about stories. The Mail on Sunday’s office is based in Kensington High Street, so a willingness to travel to West London will no doubt serve PRs well.

We look forward to seeing what Dan Jones brings to the Mail on Sunday – watch this space!

To watch the highlights from our recent event with Dan Jones, please see below.


Spotlight on: communicating around the Russia/ Ukraine crisis

Posted on: March 16th, 2022 by Tomas White

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has dominated the news and business agenda, with companies and boardrooms having to pivot at pace to discuss the direct and indirect impact on employees, trading, supply chains and reputations. We’ve reflected on some of the themes we’ve seen over the last few weeks to help inform thinking around the challenges that the conflict has posed for companies, including:

  • How companies have spoken about the war and disclosed exposure to the region in announcements;
  • Questions every company should ask before addressing the conflict;
  • The top questions from the media everyone should be prepared to answer;
  • Some of the most interesting media coverage of the conflict and its wider impact.

Putting things into context

Pete Lambie

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, over half of the stories in the business pages have been about the impact on companies, international trade and the global economy.

Similar to what we saw two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March 2020, this is the biggest refocusing of resources on the news desks and reallocation of space in the papers since “lockdown” entered the lexicon. This, combined with the focus from the media on the cost of living crisis, has squeezed the coverage of corporate reporting during results season to a minimum. Last Monday, every single story in the Daily Mail City & Finance section was linked to Russia and Ukraine.

How companies are talking about Ukraine/Russia in RNS announcements

Pauline Guenot, Harry Clarke and Pete Lambie

Financial results

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began towards the end of February, when most companies were preparing to announce results. This meant that the conflict coincided with a point in time at which the majority of PLCs are obliged to be making announcements, posing both a reputational challenge and a significant post balance sheet event for companies with December year ends.

Companies want to know, “Do we need to mention Ukraine within our results statement?” and if so, “How do we do it?”.

To inform these decisions, we sampled 107 results statements that have been issued since the invasion began, finding a clear split in approaches – 55 (51% of announcements) referenced the conflict. Of these, only 20 companies had direct exposure to the region.

Where companies chose to refer to Russia/Ukraine in results statements:

  • 20 did so within the body or notes to financial statements (including Going Concern statements);
  • 18 did so in the outlook statement;
  • 15 referenced it in the front page or CEO quote.

RNS’ clarifying exposure

Several companies have issued standalone announcements to the LSE to clarify their position and/or exposure to the conflict.

The majority of these announcements have used notably emotive language to condemn the invasion:

  • Watches of Switzerland was “shocked and deeply concerned’ by the ‘unimaginable tragedy in Ukraine”;
  • Companies called for a return to peace, notably Marsh McLennan “we join all those calling for a swift and peaceful resolution to this deadly conflict” and Coca Cola HBC, “we add our voice to the many who desperately want peace to return to Ukraine”;
  • Asos was one of the few companies referring to the conflict as a “war”;
  • Plexus included the Russian population in their statement: “our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people, as well as with ordinary Russians who are suffering consequences”.

For those continuing to operate in Russia and Ukraine, the level of condemnation of the Russian invasion varies. Petropavlovsk and Anglo Asian Mining only focus on identifying the risks and financial impacts, with Petropavlovsk referring to the conflict with neutral terms such as ‘events in Ukraine’ and investment trusts holding securities in Russian companies shared their thoughts with the ‘victims of the humanitarian crisis’.

For those making standalone announcements about operations in Russia and Ukraine, we identified four of their priorities:

  • Clarifying continuity of operations and financial exposure, which continues to be a theme, with Inchcape announcing the exit of its Russian business this morning (15 March). There have also been a number of RNS’ even when financial exposure is immaterial, as with Watches of Switzerland (worth nothing that JD Sports issued an RNS Reach to clarify the immateriality, rather than a full regulatory announcement);
  • Protecting their employees, with Imperial Brands continuing to pay Russian employees and prioritising the safety and wellbeing of their 600 employees in Ukraine, and Wizz Air setting an employee and family support scheme;
  • Expressing support for those affected, with JD Sports ‘expressing the utmost sympathy for all Ukrainians’, Wizz Air offering new jobs with relocation support for Ukrainians who wish to join them and Avast helping in the fight against disinformation by maintaining and bolstering its product offering;
  • Offering support for humanitarian efforts, with SourceBio International offering medical supplies, while Coca Cola HBC and WPP respectively supporting the Red Cross and UNHCR.

Five questions we’re asking clients before they talk about the conflict

Antonia Green, Crisis and Risk Specialist

As with any conflict, some are choosing to pause their communications activity while others are pivoting to talk about how they are responding to the situation. Communications strategies will entirely depend on the nature of your business, but there are some key questions we urge clients to consider before taking a stance on an issue (or deciding not to):

  1. What is your connection to the issue? Don’t just consider whether you sell in the region, but do you have teams based there? Do you have investments in the area? Before you come out with a position, you have to know where you stand as a business. Look at your full organisational structure, ownership and product or service offering.
  2. Are you making a business commitment to reflect the stance you are communicating? Empty words of sympathy without a clear action to help improve the situation are not enough.
  3. How is your team impacted? If you have a presence in the region, how are you keeping teams safe and supporting them?
  4. Is your voice needed? Or should you be leaving space for more authoritative or representative voices?
  5. Will your employees feel that your words are authentic and representative of the business? If you publicly commit to a stance or a value that your staff feel your organisation doesn’t embody, they may speak out. You need to do the work internally.

Top questions that every company should be prepared to answer

Alan Tovey

Two weeks into the crisis, companies can still expect to be questioned by the media about their dealings with Russia and how the Ukraine conflict is impacting them. If I were a reporter put in front of a company and given free rein to ask questions, here are the major themes I would look to cover. As for media calls after results and trading updates, expect the normal “how is business/ sales/ profits” questions to go out of the window rapidly as Ukraine remains the top story and journalists have been tasked by news desks to find business angles on it.

1. What is your exposure to the conflict in Ukraine? How is it impacting your business?

  • Conversely, savvy reporters will be looking for those benefiting from the conflict, such as defence companies or businesses picking up sales as buyers seek alternate suppliers if previous ones are no longer accessible.

2. What operations do you have in Russia/Ukraine?

  • Bases or staff there, subsidiary companies.

3. What are you doing to protect or safeguard staff in the region?

4. How much/what percentage of your revenues are to Russia/Ukraine?

5. Are you dependent on Russia for supplies/ components or business critical operations? Will you be making long-term changes to your supply chains as a consequence?

6. Are you pulling out of Russia, or closing/ pausing operations there?

  • If not, expect very difficult follow-up questions asking how this is justified.

7. Will you continue to do business with Russia or Russian companies?

  • Reporters are likely to ask about the stance both in the short and long-term.

8. Do you have any dealings with those subject to individual sanctions? How will this affect your company?

9. How are sanctions affecting your business operations? Are there any knock-on impacts from direct sanctions on Russia?

10. What pressures have you come under from UK/ Western governments/ investors/ customers/ the public/ media to halt dealings with Russia? What form did this take?

We have already gone through several phases of the news cycle, which began with companies’ exposure to and operations in the region, and moved on through the impact of sanctions and the role of advisers and Board members to UK listed Russian corporates.

What we’re beginning to see now is a rollout of the business desk’s pandemic playbook – with the story moving on to “which companies are going to benefit?” (the new breed of “Covid winners” stories), with a focus on defence companies, and “what are companies doing to help?” (as we saw with support for key workers and schools during the pandemic) – this was last weekend’s Sunday Times splash, with a consortium of UK companies lobbying to fast-track employment for Ukrainian refugees.

Articles you should read on Russia/Ukraine

  • The Economist

This is a thoughtful leader column in The Economist reflecting on Putin’s repression at home and ‘re-Stalinisation’ of Russia. Read more.

  • Financial Times

This piece provides an eminently sensible assessment of how tick box approaches to ESG ignore the nuances of an increasingly volatile world. Read more.

  • The Times

A Russian armoured convey being caught by a co-ordinated Ukraine strike was a brilliant use of shocking images to highlight the reality of modern warfare. Read more.

  • The Times

The Times highlights a recurrent PR strategy for CEO’s: the ‘self-sanctioning’ over MeToo, Black Lives Matter and currently the new Cold War. Read more.

Media Network: The Times’ star business columnist on his news priorities

Posted on: March 15th, 2022 by Tomas White

Harry Wallop takes over business column at The Times

Nick Collins

Harry’s first column went live today. Before publication he sat down with his former Daily Telegraph colleague, MHP Mischief’s Nick Collins.

What will your new column cover?

Anything and everything related to business, so long as it’s entertaining or thought provoking. Business is a very broad term: from the price of a cup of coffee, to economic sanctions in Russia, from the etiquette of eating fish soup at your desk to the latest mad-cap trend coming out of Silicon Valley.

Where will you take your inspiration from?

My background is very much City journalism. I’ve always found how people make money and how they lose money fascinating. I’m also amused by the sometimes pretentious, often nonsensical jargon, used by many businesses – and their PR advisors – to claim they are changing the world. Mate, you’re making a widget.

Are there any business stories or themes you want to tackle?

Trying to find wry and curious things to say about office life while World War III kicks off might be a bit of a challenge. But there’s always Elon Musk’s tweets to fall back on.

Are you interested in hearing from businesses?

Strange, but true: yes. If a business is genuinely doing something different and ground-breaking, I want to hear. If a business is running their enterprise in a new and interesting way – be it how they pay their workers, or incentivise them, or gain new customers – I’m curious to hear from them. Any new studies, documentaries or books about office life or entrepreneurship, I’m keen to hear about too.

How UK newsdesks are dealing with the challenge of Ukraine

James Rollinson and Keith Gladdis

Ukraine is dominating the news agenda, but it leaves news editors with a challenge of bringing balance to their news lists.

At the Daily Mail the news desk is pulling together two news lists each day. The Ukraine list serves up around six to seven double page spreads each day. The second contains all non-Ukraine stories and still includes the usual mix of hard news, showbiz, politics, campaigning and consumer.

The news list at The Times is split into ‘top stories’ and ‘other stories’. Normally the top section includes 4/5 different stories but during the war it’s just been Ukraine. There’s still interest in positive human-interest stories, quirky science or tech, talking points to provide much needed lightness to the paper.

At the Evening Standard Ukraine is so dominant that the news desk advises holding any non-critical stories for a couple of weeks at least. At the time of writing, the first 13 pages of the Standard are devoted to Ukraine-related news, more than half of the news section. There remains space online though, with the news desk advising that PRs pitch stories to relevant specialists and correspondents directly.

Ukraine is also dominating broadcast news. Kirsty Hickey, a producer at Ian King Live on Sky News says the programme has been off air because of Ukraine. They are currently only on the lookout for contributors who can speak about Ukraine.

The invasion of Ukraine has also taken over the business pages. MHP Mischief’s Pete Lambie looked at how the proportion of Ukraine coverage on business and city pages has also changed, demonstrating the impact of the conflict on the City and the global economy.

A revamp of the Telegraph’s features desk opens new opportunities

James Rollinson and Alan Tovey

The Telegraph is making changes to its features coverage, with more pieces dedicated to following the news agenda. Editors want to know what events mean, rather than just what happened. This is best illustrated by its open vacancy for a live editor, responsible for daily content which analyses breaking news.

This is a second bite at the cherry for those wanting to contribute to news stories. Features writers are seeking new voices and it’s a chance to put interesting people in front of them, as long as they can offer fresh takes on events that demonstrate their understanding and relevance.

The BBC’s outstanding coverage in Ukraine is the best PR

Charlotte Grant

There was much fanfare when a new BBC promotional video launched last month. Their underlying message couldn’t have been clearer: we provide value for money. It was a rallying response to ongoing criticism of bias as well as Nadine Dorries’ announcement of a licence fee freeze.

But what could be a better advert for the BBC than their Ukraine coverage? Forget the slick TV video (that even had Today presenters tittering over the tagline!) All they needed was Clive Myrie’s calm, considered analysis from a bunker in Kyiv.

The continual bravery of correspondents reporting from the frontline in Ukraine has even led to praise from MPs in Parliament, with a particularly tearful tribute from – a certain Nadine Dorries.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS – some of the key moves in news organisations you need to know

Abigail Smith

The Telegraph: Shake-up for the Business Desk with James Burton promoted to deputy business editor, and Hannah Uttley to business news editor. Szu Chan Ping – formerly BBC – is set to join as economics editor in the summer in a revamp of economics reporting. The Standard’s Oscar Williams-Grut is also coming on board in a news desk role. Banking editor, Lucy Burton, will also be moving roles in April to cover a new employment beat.

Bloomberg: Amongst a series of recent new hires, Bloomberg hires Katherine Griffiths as finance editor covering all things finance, banks, investment firms and the City. She moves having spent over a decade at The Times.

Daily Mail: Gordon Thomson will be stepping down as editor of Mail+, this comes as the supplement is expected to undergo a strategic review, suggesting there may be staff cuts to come.

Women’s Health: making choice in sexual and reproductive health a reality

Posted on: March 7th, 2022 by Tomas White



For the 2 billion women of reproductive age around the world, the impacts of their sexual and reproductive health, such as periods, fertility and menopause, are all part of everyday life. All women have a right to good health care, that takes into account the different stages of women’s lives, from adolescence to old age, yet for decades, this area of health has been underfunded and under-prioritised. This has led to disparities in outcomes for women and has substantial negative impacts on the economy and broader society. It also means that globally, sexual and reproductive health conditions remain one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity for women and girls.

Recent developments in technology, policy and society are shifting the innovation landscape when it comes to women’s health, but do entrenched misconceptions or cultural taboos around sexual and reproductive health impede true freedom of choice? Are women being given all the tools to really able to have autonomy over their own bodies, and who is in control when it comes to accessibility of medicines and services?

Our core aim at MHP Mischief Health is simple. We want to make people give a damn about health.

Driving change in women’s health is something we feel hugely passionate about – as individuals, and as a healthcare communications practice. As healthcare communicators, we have a critical role to play to support the use of our collective voices to challenge preconceived notions and educate society, to demand more for women and girls in their sexual and reproductive health years

That is why we have invested in a series of activities around International Women’s Day aimed at shining a light on both the important progress made in recent years but also the challenges that still exist in this important area of healthcare. As part of this, we have published our report ‘Women’s Health: Making Choice in Sexual and Reproductive Health a Reality’.

In it, we explore the reality of a woman’s ability to choose preventative and therapeutic treatment and their ability to access innovations aimed at improving their sexual and reproductive wellbeing, as well as essential medicines and services. We also look at the role of communication and campaigning in supporting more open conversations, ‘normalisation’ of language around sexual and reproductive health, and the impact this has on driving progress in this space.

In the long-term, we can only imagine what changes greater access and education, advanced technologies and a stronger dialogue can lead to for humankind. It is certain that it will impact our ability to create communities where everyone is heard and empowered to live life fully, without feeling restricted by the reproductive functions of their bodies. We will all play a part in getting to this point as a holistic, supportive and caring environment is the only way to build communities and countries that treat women fairly and respect their health needs.


Join us on 17th March, as we host a panel discussion ‘A Period of Change: The Evolving Needs Of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health.’ The session will bring together influencers, campaigners, and industry perspectives from organisations all working to drive change in this important area – and we have some fabulous speakers lined up.

  • Rachel Moss – Life Editor, HuffPost UK
  • Jayasree K. Iyer – CEO, Access to Medicines Foundation
  • Dr Annabel Sowemimo – Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Doctor; and Founder Decolonising Contraception
  • Mika Simmons – Co-Founder, Ginsburg Women’s Health Board; Founder, Lady Garden Foundation; & Host, Happy Vagina Podcast

To join the event please register here.

Media Network: Cost of living set to dominate domestic news agenda for 2022

Posted on: March 1st, 2022 by Tomas White

All change at the Mail on Sunday as the Sun’s Dan Jones takes over the Consumer and Tech beat

Dan Jones has been the Consumer Editor at the Sun for more than a decade, next week he starts as the Consumer Affairs and Technology Editor at the Mail on Sunday.

Yesterday, he spoke exclusively to MHP + Mischief’s James Rollinson at a breakfast event at the Ivy Club in Soho.

His top tips:

  1. The cost-of-living crisis is going to be the big issue of 2022. The brands that get positive cut through will be those that are doing something to help their customers.
  2. But if you do have difficult news, don’t hide. A price rise is better handled if you are open and are willing to put it into context.
  3. Campaigns are a priority for the Mail on Sunday. Dan wants to work with brands on issues that affect his readers – but remember to think big.
  4. Come to a Sunday journalist early in the week to secure your place in the paper. An email on a Monday means he can take it into Tuesday morning conference.
  5. Good news. Journalists want to get back to meeting in person again. Zoom calls are fine for 20-minute interviews and briefings but nothing beats an honest conversation in person.

Keep an eye on our websiteTwitter and LinkedIn for a more detailed report and video from Dan’s interview.

Personal finance is the order of the day for national media

It’s not just the Mail on Sunday that is focusing on the cost-of-living crisis, writes Alan Tovey the former Industry Editor of the Daily Telegraph who has joined MHP + Mischief’s Capital Markets team.

The Daily Telegraph business desk wants at least one personal finance story on the front page each week and the Sun says personal finance stories are regularly the most read stories online.

This demonstrates the power of stories about what is hitting people’s pockets. The BBC has gone even further, renaming its Business and Economics unit to Money and Work as it decamps to Salford.

The new name is deliberate. You don’t talk about business and economics in the pub, but you do discuss work and money, which as ever is the key to any good news story.

Being an editor ‘makes you a monster’ admits MailOnline chief

In a 15-minute leaving speech, MailOnline chief Martin Clarke revealed he ‘thought he was being shafted’ when he was given the role, writes former Daily Mail news editor Keith Gladdis.

Many at Northcliffe House were shocked when Clarke announced he was leaving after 13 years in charge of the website, but there were a few raised eyebrows when he joked.

“Being an editor does make you a monster, or in my case more of a monster.”

Next week the quietly brilliant and non-monster like Danny Groom will become Acting Global Editor.

ITV looks for more human-interest stories as it extends early evening bulletin

The shake-up at ITV News will lead to major new opportunities to pitch stories to them. Part of their new hour-long evening news programme will have a dedicated slot from 7pm to do more longer-form exclusive pieces. They are interested in all sorts of stories but ITV is a very consumer-focused in their coverage so there should be a human interest angle – it has to mean something to real people.

Also, as Covid restrictions come to an end broadcast and print media outlets have quietly declared Covid dead and so is their coverage of it. Health journalists at The Sun, The Telegraph, Daily Mail and the ITV News have this week all told us their organisations are no longer interested in stories about the pandemic. They instead want to people focused human interest health stories and to explore all the topics that have been ignored while their attention was elsewhere over the last two years.

Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel quit the BBC, who’s next?

Charlotte Grant former ITN presenter and now broadcast consultant at MHP + Mischief and ex-political editor Ian Kirby look at what the departures mean for the BBC.

After losing the likes of Andrew MarrAndrew Neil and Rory Cellan-Jones, there has been talk of a brain drain at the BBC.

It was claimed Maitlis and Sopel were frustrated at the BBC’s impartiality rules or simply wanted more money. Perhaps what motivated them more was the chance to work again with Dino Sofos and his podcast production company.

But what is the future for another podcast star Laura Kuenssberg? Her stint as Political Editor ends at Easter. Friends say she’s keen to ease off the daily news agenda and focus on documentaries. If the BBC can’t create a vehicle for Laura, one of the producers she rates the highest is…Dino Sofos.

30toWatch – the biggest awards scheme for young journalists, is back

Entries are now open for 30toWatch 2022 Young Journalist Awards.

Previous winners include the Sun’s Political Editor Harry Cole, Sophy Ridge of Sky News and Ollie Shah the Associate Editor at The Sunday Times, writes Keith Gladdis.

This year our judging panel will be led by Richard Sambrook the former Director of News at the BBC. He will be joined by top journalists including Pete Clifton the Editor in Chief of PA Media and former 30toWatch winners including John Stevens the Deputy Political Editor of the Daily Mail, Kat Lay the Health Editor at the Times and Peter Campbell of the Financial Times.

It’s free to enter. To enter click 30toWatch 2022 or to nominate a young journalist please email [email protected]