Case study – Digital PR central part of the mix to build an accountancy niche in fashion

Posted on: September 9, 2012

This case study was prepared for use in the forthcoming Digital PR training course being developed for the Professional Marketing Forum (www.pmforum.co.uk).

Natasha Frangos is a partner at haysmacintyre (www.haysmacintyre.com) Chartered Accountants and corporate finance and tax advisers which is based in Holborn and comprises 26 partners and 150 staff. She was admitted to the partnership in 2009. She returned to work from maternity leave towards the end of 2011 on a part time basis and has just started working full time again.

“As a new partner I knew that I had to develop business and to create a reputation and portfolio of work. I analysed the client base and found that we worked for a couple of established fashion businesses – which included household names, red carpet fashion designers, online retailers, some branded jean outlets and a jean manufacturer that offered an electronic fitting service in Selfridges. I’ve always had a passion for fashion and thought it would be great to focus my attention to develop a niche in the area. It took a while to convince the other partners who were concerned about whether the fashion industry would have the right sorts of clients for us and the perceived risk in the sector. I persuaded them by showing that I would be careful in my targeting.”

Building networks

“The first challenge was to build my networks in the fashion world so I looked at sector specific events where there were unlikely to be hoards of accountants. And I joined a number of clubs – one of which was the Fashion Business Club (which is now called The Industry) which had been set up by two women – a PR specialist and an employee of Burberry – who wanted to create a London forum for like minded people. We met each month at the Swarovski Crystal Lounge at Oxford Circus. Amongst the journalists, designers and others I met here I made valuable connections with the founders of fashion businesses and editors of magazines.

Another group was UK Fashion and Textiles who invited me to do some seminars for them.”

Traditional PR

“I had produced a draft article – I think it was on raising finance for new fashion businesses – and offered it to Drapers, the leading fashion magazine, and it was published in both print and on-line versions. They also asked for other articles and I provided one on the changes in the Companies Act which meant there were increased financial penalties for late filings and shorter filing deadlines. I brought these blogs to the attention of the FBC and was asked if I would write regular guest blog posts for them which I was happy to do – I tackled subjects as diverse as corporate funding, Enterprise Investment Schemes and top tips on cash flow management – all tailored, of course, to the fashion industry.”

“At the same time, our firm launched a new web site which had the ability to have integrated blogs on sector and specialist services so I started writing a fashion blog there too. People started to get in touch with me having seen the articles in Drapers and the blogs at FBC and on the haysmacintyre web site. Some of the people who got in touch were really too small for us, but I met with them nonetheless and often provided some free advice to build goodwill”.

Refocusing of efforts and integration of PR with e-marketing

“I realised that I needed to rationalise and refine my approach to avoid spreading myself too thinly and concentrated on just a few clubs and groups where I had made successful connections. From before I was a partner I had been involved in the firm’s sponsorship of the Young Guns entrepreneurs network – and I was comfortable amongst the younger people there – many of whom were in the creative (including fashion), media and technology space. My growing reputation in the fashion sector was helpful here, I started to send links to my relevant fashion blog posts to contacts and I won some project work with a well known specialist gift on-line retailer as a result. Whilst sometimes I recycled material with a different emphasis there were other topics – such as R&D tax credits – where I teased out a creative industry angle. Sometimes I would use the blogs in small mailers to selected creative industry contacts on our internal database and this too generated clients – in one case an online furniture retailer”

Online reputation encourages professional referrals

“My growing online reputation reassured the retail team at RBS that I would be a suitable adviser for fashion clients and as a result I was asked to do some work for a high end fashion designer and his company. Further blogs on topics such as HMRC’s new stance on interns who worked without pay – a common occurrence in the fashion sector – were sent to clients and contacts alike, generating further dialogues and work. I was also asked to provide an article for the newsletter of Davenport Lyons solicitors”.

Events

“I used social and traditional media to generate interest in an event we hosted where we invited Amanda Wakeley to talk about how she created and grew her business – and stage a fashion show (see http://kimtasso1.wpengine.com/accountants-fashion-networking-event-with-amanda-wakeley). This was a great success and she put me in touch with her finance director who, after indicating they were well served by accountants, did call in relation to the interns blog”.

Sponsorship of Fashion Press Week

“Having met Sam Fearn of Fearnhurst PR at FBC, haysmacintyre agreed to sponsor Fashion Press Week in 2011 http://www.fashionpressweek.com/. This involved us presenting a Café Finance to provide general financial and tax advice alongside Mishcon de Reya solicitors who were providing  free legal advice. We won a new client from that exercise. As a result we are also now working with Sam on the new venture BIPO http://www.bipo.co.uk/ which is a new service that connects the media with brands”.

The future

“Being so busy on my return from maternity leave, I haven’t blogged as much as I did before and will now start increasing activity in that area. To be honest, the most value for me in blogging is in having regular, relevant material to send to my fashion clients and contacts as part of the general relationship management programme”.

As we talked about developments in the world of fashion and accountancy Natasha mentioned the new regulations that will allow a reduced 10% rate of corporation tax on profits generated from patents from 2013. As I left her, she was already starting to draft her next blog on the possible value to those in the fashion accessories business and pondering the merits of registered designs against trademarks and patents.

Natasha’s biography, contact details and blog are available at http://www.haysmacintyre.com/ourpartners/Natasha-Frangos-2.aspx

And a rather poor attempt at fashion blogging from yours truly can be found at http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/blogs/showblog.php?post=2517

 

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