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Alder Seminar Series – Under the spotlight: key trends in entertainment crisis comms

Alder hosted a breakfast seminar – Under the spotlight: key trends in entertainment crisis
comms – with our specialist entertainment partner, Ben Todd. Prior to joining Alder,
specialist partner Ben Todd was Simon Cowell’s spokesman; European Head of Media for
Cowell’s company, Syco Entertainment; and Vice President, Communications for Sony
Music UK. Before joining Syco, Ben was an award-winning show-business journalist at the
Daily Mail, and a senior executive at both the Sunday Mirror and Express Newspapers.
Over the course of the morning, Ben and our guests discussed key principles for handling
entertainment journalists; insights from Ben’s three-decade career in the industry; and the
latest sector trends and client vulnerabilities.

Much of the discussion was around the machinery of the newsroom. “Understanding how a
story has come to a journalist’s attention is important for your broader communications
strategy. Is a professional tipster involved? Is there a leak on the client side? Is social media
speculation to blame? Or is the journalist simply fishing for a story? Knowing the
personalities and motives behind a story is key to effective management. ”

Entertainment clients are always vulnerable to people reacting to stories on social media,
however our team is increasingly advising clients on stories originating on social media. “We
now see page three stories springing from a handful of hostile or speculative tweets, often
entirely groundless. If rumours go viral, clients can feel strongly about publishing ‘full
disclosure’ statements immediately to reassure their fans – however, it is crucial that all
communications are fully reviewed, particularly in cases where police investigation or
litigation may arise.”

Ben ended the discussion on the value of collaboration between lawyers and
communications professionals for client outcomes. “It’s a hard power/soft power dynamic:
the lawyer’s tools of formal letters, injunctions and litigation are very different to those of
communications counsel, who draw on their experience of journalists and their
idiosyncrasies to mediate the more delicate aspects of relationships with the press.”

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