Park Street Partners adds Sally Costerton to its roster

Firm also announces an Autumn special offer for its ‘coronavirus-adapted’ leadership communications offer covering media and presentation skills

5 October 2020

Park Street Partners, the communications and business consultancy set up in 2018 by former MHP Chief Executive Gavin Devine, today announced the appointment of high-profile corporate communications expert Sally Costerton as a new Partner.

Sally is the former UK and EMEA CEO of H&K Strategies and is an ex-Chair of the PRCA.  Over the years she has led and mentored numerous teams running communications agencies.  In addition, she is widely regarded as one of the most experienced and capable client advisers in the business, providing senior strategic insight and support to major global clients particularly in the technology sector.

Gavin Devine said: “Today marks another big step forward for Park Street Partners with the addition of Sally to our existing line up of expert partners.  Sally and I have known each other for years and everyone who knows her understands the depth of experience, good sense and expertise she brings to the team.”

Sally commented: “I am delighted to be joining Park Street Partners and looking forward to workings alongside Gavin again. I’ve been following the progress of the partnership since Gavin first shared the idea with me and I’m delighted its original concept is working so well.”

Park Street Partners has also announced special Autumn rates for its leadership communications products delivered primarily by specialist partners Chris Roberts and Adam Batstone.  Both offer bespoke presentation skills training courses for executives due to appear in the media, making external speeches or addressing their own staff.  All of these courses have been adapted for the pandemic so that they can be delivered remotely over video and to equip leaders to tell their stories effectively using systems such as Zoom or Teams.

With clients increasingly recognising the need to ensure their management teams communicate effectively using new online channels the price of these courses will be reduced by 20% during Q4 of 2020, meaning that there has never been a better time to book in some expert training.

Gavin added: “I’m also delighted to announce special rates for our wide range of leadership communications services.  During the pandemic it has never been more important for corporate leaders to engage effectively with internal and external audiences, and this Autumn is a great time for clients to take advantage of the training and other services offered by Adam and Chris at really competitive prices.”

More details of the leadership communications offer can be found on the Park Street Partners website.

For more information:

www.parkstreetpartners.co.uk

Gavin Devine

grd@parkstreetpartners.co.uk

+44 7535 750505

Indebted and Ungrateful: How the elderly stole the future (again)

Anyone unlucky enough to read my tweets will know that I have one or two issues with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.  People giving thanks to ‘Dishy Rishi’ really get my hackles up: it is not his money, it is ours.  And visiting local restaurants and pubs in Surrey over recent weeks and finding them full (only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays) of affluent pensioners on fat final salary pensions really does get my goat.  Every single one of them could afford to be there unsubsidised, and therefore not adding to the debt their grandchildren will be repaying in many decades’ time.  But yet there they are, enjoying a jolly good feed and chortling contentedly when they get twenty quid off the bill.

My point is not that we shouldn’t support the hospitality sector.  We absolutely should, and the intentions of the Eat Out scheme are good (although giving consistent advice about how to avoid infection would surely have built up confidence amongst customers just as effectively as bunging them a tenner).  What I object to is people who don’t need to do so taking handouts from the Government.  Because those handouts are effectively subsidies from younger people to older folk, from grandchildren to grandparents.  And that is simply unfair.

Earlier on in the year there was a contretemps about the end of free television licences for everyone aged over 75.  Even now some “furious pensioners” are saying they would rather go to jail than pay up.  But for pensioners who are well-off – which is an awful lot of them – £157.50 is a drop in the bucket, and there is simply no logical reason why they shouldn’t pay if they can.  After all, free TV licences are yet another direct financial support from young to old – which is particularly outrageous when it is the elderly who really like to watch ‘Auntie’ while youngsters consume Netflix and YouTube.

More broadly, the Economist recently published an article noting that the reliance of the Conservative Party on older voters means that choices are made that hold back economic growth and harm the prospects of future generations.  Taken as a whole (of course there are individual exceptions), people over 60 are likely to oppose house building in areas that need houses, immigration in sectors that need brains and brawn, globalisation and trade, deregulation, new infrastructure projects and a host of other things that drive growth.  They favour spending on the NHS over spending on schools.  They don’t much like social change.  As the Economist puts it: “increasingly, Britain is governed in the interests of voters with an insatiable demand for healthcare and pensions, while a sluggish economy struggles to fund them”.

The article features quotes from a focus group of older ‘affluent eurosceptics’ who seem particularly sour about the attitudes of younger generations.  Kathleen observes that “the generation under me just seems to expect everything to be given to them… Everything I’ve got I earned”.  Really, Kathleen?  It is a bit of a stretch to claim that anyone really ‘earned’ the greatest part of the wealth of most middle-class people, namely the gargantuan rise in the value of houses over several decades.  And it’s not really fair to be sniffy about younger people when you are happily cushioned by a final salary pension puffed up by years of strong performance by bonds and stocks; I’m sure your children, let alone your grandchildren, would love to have the chance to ‘earn’ one of those.  But they can’t.

Obviously not all pensioners are the same.  Many would reject Kathleen’s perspective, and of course there are plenty who do not live comfortable lives in retirement.  But those who can afford it should think hard about accepting a subsidised meal or a free TV licence.  They should perhaps reflect too on whether voting for their own short-term interests, for hospitals over schools, for the Green Belt over development, and for Brexit over Remain, is fair on the generations that will come after them.  I’ve speculated before (tongue in cheek) about whether pensioners should be allowed to vote if they persist in doing so selfishly: they definitely shouldn’t accept a national-debt-funded reduction in their bill when they’re in their favourite restaurant.

Be bold but be cautious, simultaneously: How the PR industry can recover fast from the pandemic

Covid-19 has shaken the PR industry much like the rest of the economy.  In some ways we got off lightly; for large parts of the industry pivoting to working from home has been relatively easy, and some service areas, such as public affairs and employee engagement, have been busier than ever before.  But there has been real pain too, for example for anyone focused on hospitality or travel, or for businesses dependent on events or marketing spend. It has been a difficult period.

And the medium-term looks gloomy: as economies struggle to recover from the hammering they have taken in 2020 it is inevitable that communications budgets will come under pressure.  Expect the usual pressure from procurement and questioning of agency spend that always comes during a downturn.  But upheaval like this always brings opportunities as well as challenges.  Bold players can definitely take advantage of the coming months.

One obvious area for PR companies to focus is on consolidation and non-organic growth.  Inevitably some weaker companies will become available for purchase.  Likewise, experienced and high-quality people will be available for hire as they are laid off by agencies and from in-house roles alike.  If they are able to pick out the diamonds from the dross, ambitious businesses with sound finances could find ways to grow rapidly and add new skillsets, putting themselves in a much stronger position in a year to 18 months’ time.

Another opportunity may come as in-house teams are slimmed down and, in some cases, more senior and expensive communications leaders are let go.  This could mean that clients lean ever more heavily on their agencies – but only if they give the best and most trusted advice that makes a real difference to commercial operations, not just to comms.  Bold companies will find ways to be indispensable and add real value in the next few months.

But I think there are real risks if companies think they can be bold in other areas of their businesses, particularly when it comes to staff and office space. What might look like smart, decisive, steps taken now could prove to be anything but when the dust eventually settles.

Most obviously, dispensing with staff in order to make short-term cost savings could cause huge distortions in the future. For a few years after the last financial crisis the whole industry faced a dearth of good mid-level staff because so many companies had decided to pause recruitment in 2008 and afterwards. Some companies did better than others if they managed to hold onto their teams. It would be smart to proceed with caution when it comes to this, every agency’s most precious asset.

This time around we face a unique pressure to reduce the size of offices and change their configuration to allow for social distancing and/or a better work-life balance for those people able to base themselves at home. All of this makes sense, on the face of it, but smart companies will recognise that it comes with trade-offs, particularly when it comes to building affinity between staff and company and providing ways in which people can learn from one another. There are actually reasons that humans, and perhaps particularly those in the knowledge economy like PR folk, crowd together in offices within cities. We shouldn’t get rid of those advantages lightly.

The best companies will move slowly and understand that they will have to invest in maintaining links between their staff and in allowing colleagues to learn from one another. New forms of training and better means of communication will be needed. And firms should also realise that in six to 12 months we may have discovered ways to live with Covid, or even have a vaccine, and returning to office work even just for three days a week might look to be a very good idea. The new normal is not the new normal just yet, and making decisions that can be changed later has to be a good idea.

In short, to emerge quickly from the pandemic PR firms must be bold and cautious all at the same time. Moving rapidly and decisively in everything outward-facing is smart; being thoughtful and more deliberate when it comes to internal matters is smarter still.  We all need to hold our nerve, and fight the good fight with the slash and burn bean counters.  This too shall pass.

PSA: anti-racism is not an Instagram challenge – by Lucy Devine

I was prompted to write this by a conversation I had with a group of friends around a week ago, following the tragic murder of George Floyd. We were all desperate to demonstrate our support and solidarity, but posting on our story felt somewhat disingenuous. As immensely fortunate white individuals, and having never posted on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement before, it felt awful and wrong to hop on the bandwagon just because it is now ‘trendy’ and ‘fashionable’ to do so. We didn’t want to be silent, but also didn’t want to project a performative ‘white saviour complex’.

While I was absolutely horrified by George Floyd’s senseless murder, I was not surprised. The persistence of systemic racism, not just in America but worldwide, is by no means a new phenomenon, which is perhaps why this new wave of anti-racist activism can come across as hollow in many instances.

The recent trends that have emerged over the past couple of days have arguably proven this to be true, whether it be tagging 10 people on your story alongside the hashtag Black Lives Matter, or posting a black square as part of the blackout today. As white people participating in these challenges, particularly if it is our first time posting about BLM, we are diminishing and reducing the very real struggles that black people face every single day. It reeks of white saviourism and often stems from a selfish desire to be seen as assuming a moral high ground.

‘Blackout Tuesday’ should not just be a checkpoint, a moral box to be ticked. It should not be something that stays on your story and in your mind for 24 hours, only to be forgotten and buried after that. It should not be a ‘challenge’ to stand up for equality and anti-racism. This performative activism fulfils a self-serving purpose and enables us, as white people, to maintain a clean conscience.

Participating in these trends without any taking further action is not only ignorant and lazy, it perpetuates the problem and demonstrates our inherent privilege. We must acknowledge that, for black people, this is so much more than a post on social media; this is their everyday reality. In turn, we must make fundamental changes in our everyday behaviour. We may be able to switch off from social media and the BLM movement, a privilege afforded to us by the colour of our skin, but this should not be the case. Yes, these online conversations are vital, but consistent and constructive dialogue with family and friends offline is equally as important.

This is not intended to come across as a preach about racism and white privilege, as I am certainly not the best equipped or educated to do so. Instead, it is just a reminder to be mindful of your intentions before posting on social media. Are you posting in order to inform others, or to prove to others that you are informed? Is your post stand-alone virtue signalling or is it matched by tangible action? This is not to say don’t post at all — but don’t post simply because you feel left out, guilty or under pressure. Use your privilege in other ways: educate, donate, protest, implement real change.

Do not let the consciousness that has been generated over the past couple of weeks become futile and in vain. Continue to educate yourself and hold yourself, and those around you, accountable for your words and actions.

This was originally posted on Medium by Lucy Devine on 2 June 2020.

NEWS: PLMR and Park Street Partners announce Strategic Partnership

Leading communications agencies PLMR and Park Street Partners have announced a strategic partnership with effect from 1st June 2020.

The new partnership will allow both agencies to collaborate closely on new business development and joint work for clients, as well as supporting each other’s growth plans.  The agencies will share resources, talent and insights, working together or operating independently depending on client and business needs.

PLMR and Park Street Partners, both of which are shortlisted in the PRovoke Awards for EMEA Agencies of the Year 2020 (as Best Public Affairs Consultancy and Best New Consultancy respectively) have already this year worked together on joint campaigns for clients across a number of shared sectors including energy, housing and transport.  The new partnership takes these relationships to the next level.

The agencies will cooperate on new business where there is mutual benefit, sharing experience and skillsets,  working on marketing activities, and supporting their growth and company cultures.

“We see this as an important initiative which will benefit staff and clients alike,” said PLMR’s Kevin Craig.

“Our approaches to clients and our work are very similar.  This partnership will not only benefit our business’s  progression and development, but working with someone of Gavin Devine’s calibre means we are adding an additional dimension and wealth of agency experience to the operation of PLMR’s senior team in a crucial phase of our growth.”

“The partnership is a reflection of both agencies’ desire to stay forward looking even during the most challenging business climate.”

“This new partnership will bring major benefits to both agencies,” said Park Street Partners’ Gavin Devine.

“Being able to support one another and collaborate across all aspects of our work will bring very significant benefits, in the case of Park Street Partners by adding a top drawer full service element to complement our existing network of experts approach.”

“The PLMR senior team have a compelling vision for growing their business strongly over the coming months and years.  I hope to play my part in helping them realise their ambitions to grow both organically and through strategic acquisitions.”

Notes

PLMR is a fully integrated public affairs, PR, crisis communications and digital agency was founded in 2006. It has offices in London, Birmingham, the East of England and Scotland, and is one of the fastest growing communications companies in the UK. The agency delivers award winning work across a range of sectors including social care, energy, education, FMCG, health, planning, transport and technology.

Park Street Partners was founded in 2018 and is a virtual agency based on a network of experts across a wide range of communications disciplines.  It was set up by Gavin Devine, the former Chief Executive of MHP Communications who between 2004 and 2016 was part of the senior leadership team that took public affairs boutique AS Biss & Co through mergers, acquisitions and major strategic recruitments to establish MHP as a nearly 200 people strong agency in London, Hong Kong, Brussels and Edinburgh.  He was then Chief Executive of Newgate and COO of Porta before founding Park Street.

Gavin is a well-known senior public affairs and corporate communications professional who has advised some of the biggest UK-based and multinational companies and other organisations.  He is on the board of the PRCA and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Public Affairs Board, and was awarded an MBA in 2004.