Three is the Magic Number for Suited Comms

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Specialist professional services PR firm, Suited Comms is going from strength to strength as it marks its third anniversary. Having established a solid roster of clients across the legal, financial and business services arena, the Birmingham-based boutique agency is gearing up for further growth, with seasoned PR professional, Sara Burgess, joining the team as a senior consultant.

In 2018, Suited Comms saw revenues increase by more than a third, ending the year on a high by securing the Midlands and South West PR brief for leading insolvency and business recovery practice, Begbies Traynor. The team has also expanded its training offer and is launching a suite of new courses tailored to the marketing and communications needs of the legal sector.

Sara Burgess brings almost two decades of expertise in the professional services sector to the team, having led PR programmes for Eversheds Sutherland, REED Recruitment, Bridgepoint Capital and Interlaw during her tenure at some of the Midlands’ largest communications agencies, as well as working on major blue chip accounts such as npower and Siemens. The move sees her reunite with former colleagues and joint directors of Suited Comms, James West and Joanna Barnsley.

On joining Suited Comms, Sara said: “Suited Comms offers a unique approach that is tailored for the professional services sector, which sees highly experienced PR practitioners both plan and deliver the work. This senior-level consultancy is especially valuable for professional services clients, where the subject matter is often complex and nuanced. I’ve amassed a significant amount of experience in this sector and have always enjoyed the work enormously, so Suited Comms is the perfect fit!”

Suited Comms director, James West added: “Sara is a hugely talented and experienced PR consultant and a real asset to our growing team. What’s more, having known and worked with Sara for many years, we’ve really hit the ground running as a senior team of three and are looking forward to putting our collective expertise together to expand our growing client base.” 

A budding opportunity for professional advisers

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An in-depth report on cannabis is perhaps the last thing you’d expect to see from one of the big four accountancy firms. Yet just last week, as Canada edged ever closer to fully legalising recreational cannabis use for adults, Deloitte Canada published its 2018 Cannabis Report – a study estimating total sales of cannabis related products will exceed $7 billion in 2019. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find fellow heavyweights PwC and EY also offering similar in-depth consultancy and insight on this budding market.

The Canada experience is bringing into laser sharp focus the huge opportunities ahead for professional advisers looking to get an early (ish) foothold in what promises to be a hugely dynamic (and disruptive) multi-billion-dollar global industry.

We say ‘ish’ as the savviest operators from venture capitalists and data analysts to management consultants and lawyers are already all over the sector in North America and Canada, where medical and recreational cannabis has been available in parts for some time and the associated financial, regulatory and sales and marketing infrastructure is evolving rapidly.

In Europe however, it’s a different story. While medical cannabis is available for patients in a growing number of countries (such as Germany and the Netherlands), here in the UK, cannabis remains an illegal substance, even for medical use. However, there’s an increasing clamour from the likes of lawmakers, healthcare professionals and high-profile charities for that position to change as more and more persuasive evidence emerges regarding the plant’s medical benefits for a range of issues from multiple sclerosis to pain management. What’s more, several high profile cases of children with epilepsy who need the medication but are currently prevented from acquiring or using it here are gaining major traction in the media, adding further weight to calls for reform.

Just when the UK might change its stance remains uncertain, though there does seem a certain inevitability to changes in the law to allow medical access. What is abundantly clear however (as we found out at last month’s excellent inaugural Cannabis Europa conference) is the huge opportunity the prospect of further reform across Europe presents for professional advisers. As the packed meeting rooms at the Barbican attested, myriad businesses and entrepreneurs are looking to take advantage of the fresh opportunities the emergence of a completely new European industry will bring. And as with any other new industry, each will need trusted professional advice on a range of business-critical issues from auditing and sales strategy to M&A and taxation.

Naturally, those professional and financial services organisations that can underline their credentials in the space at an early stage will be well placed to steal a march on later market entrants. PR and reputation management will play a major role in the growth of this industry and Deloitte’s Canadian operation and its big-ticket counterparts have of course long recognised this.

With predictions that Europe’s annual cannabis industry could in time end up being worth as much as 56.2 billion Euros per annum, it will be fascinating to see which professional services firms this side of the pond will be among the first to follow their innovative lead.

It ain’t over until the CEO sings…

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In a day when two of the UK’s biggest supermarket brands – Sainsbury’s and Asda – announced details of a proposed merger, Sainsbury’s CEO, Mike Coupe, hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Earlier in the day, he put in an impressive performance on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Breakfast programme, handling a tough line of questioning from journalist, Sean Farrington, calmly sticking to his key messages of lower prices for customers, the fact that no stores would close and the significant contribution to the economy that the merger would deliver. He even remained unflappable when breakfast show hosts, Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden got in on the act in a ‘three on one’ style interview. Even Nicky Campbell felt the need to congratulate him at the end of the interview, saying nicely dodged when he asked Mr Coupe if he had ever shopped at Aldi.

It was all going so well…

Then, later in the day a video of Mr Coupe emerged online where he was singing the 42nd Street classic ‘We’re in the Money’ while he waited to be interviewed.  An unfortunate choice by anyone’s judgement, particularly as the backlash to the merger focussed on potential job losses.

In media training courses, we often advise clients to do some warm up exercises before they go into a broadcast interview. However, it shows just how comfortable Mr Coupe is in an interview scenario to do his ‘warm up’ while sitting in front of a camera – even if he knew it wasn’t live – and provides a useful reminder that even the most accomplished spokespeople cannot afford to completely relax. The incident was swiftly addressed in a statement that showed genuine personality, with an apology and an explanation that Mr Coupe had been to see the musical 42nd Street last year. Bet he wished he’d been to see something else that night instead…