To the Point with Portland
The big questions in media, politics, business and PR, apprehended by leading experts and thinkers in these fields.
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How charities and corporates can work best together
A series of crises of the last few years has resulted in a consistent number of people turning to the British Red Cross for help and support. In this episode of To the Point, Zoe Abrams, Executive Director, Strategy and Communications at the British Red Cross sat down with Portland Senior Advisor, David Page to discuss what it takes to grow understanding of an already high-profile charity and how charities and corporates can work best together.
The media as a mechanism for political currency
The Trump presidency saw significant changes in how and why news stories were covered, with the news cycle being noticeably shorter than in previous years and the rise of social media as a platform for coverage. In this episode, Ali Velshi, host of MSNBC Velshi and NBC News business correspondent, sits down with Portland's Washington DC Director Meghan Powers to discuss the fickle US media landscape, what really drives 24/7 news cycle and the media as a mechanism for political currency.
Rethinking tech policy
Lord Ed Vaizey was dubbed “The Digital Lord” by Forbes magazine, such is his interest in tech, having previously served as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries for the full six years of David Cameron’s government between 2010 and 2016, the longest tenure of any minister in the post. In this episode he sits down with Anita Boateng, policy and public affairs partner at Portland, to discuss how the current government differs to the one Ed served under when it comes to tech policy, the positives and the perils of tech and crypto regulation, and where the great opportunities for tech growth lie.
The new importance of internal comms
The pandemic and the shift to hybrid working have raised the profile and importance of internal comms. Remote workers have different needs and can feel disconnected from their employers if communications aren’t handled right, and workers on the whole are more selective about the jobs they take and what they expect from the people they work with. In this episode, internal comms experts Sue Dewhurst, Liam FitzPatrick and Justin Talbot discuss how employers can better engage their people in times of change.
Comms in the public glare
Working for institutions that are in the media, public and political glare on an almost daily basis presents a unique set of challenges. Each morning you might be met with a stack of press cuttings the size of a doorstep, and that’s to say nothing of the thousands of social media posts about your brand. In this episode, Mike Peacock, Portland Senior Advisor and former Head of Comms at the Bank of England, sits down with Andrew Whyte, who led comms departments at the BBC, Financial Conduct Authority and the Foreign Office. They discuss the hypervigilance required when working at institutions like these, and how you sift through the noise.
The false perception of doing business in Africa
'Twitter opens HQ in Ghana’ is a typical African tech news story that will get reported around the world, but what about the 500+ tech companies operating in Ghana who aren’t getting the headlines? In this episode, Portland consultant Georgie Ndirangu chats with Moky Makura, executive director of narrative change organisation Africa No Filter. They discuss a new report that shines light on persistent, problematic narratives on doing business in Africa, as the continent’s potential continues to be neglected.
The power of language in politics
Frank Luntz is one of the biggest names in the research business, a language expert who has made the reputations of presidents and prime ministers. In the first episode of season three of ’To the Point with Portland’, he sits down with partner Gabriel Milland to discuss the purpose of research, how to conduct focus groups and polling diligently and effectively, and what business can learn from politics.
What role does humour play in politics?
Humour is a long-standing tradition in the House of Commons, at times tickling the general public and at other times infuriating it. So should a politician be serious or light-hearted? For Matt Forde they can and should both. The comedian, podcaster and political commentator sits down with Portland partner Gabriel Milland to discuss the role of humour in politics, how it is employed among the Left versus the Right, and whether politicians come in for more flak than they perhaps deserve.
Lessons from the front benches, battles from the back
Politicians certainly take their lumps, to the point where one might wonder why someone excelling in a career away from politics would make the move to Westminster. David Davis did just this, becoming an MP after serving as a senior executive at Tate & Lyle. He talks to Portland senior advisor and almost-namesake David Davies about the lessons he learned in business that helped him in politics, reflects on the sea changes he has witnessed during more than 30 years in Parliament, and reveals why more power can sometimes be wielded from the back benches than the front.
How boards really operate
The boards of companies are expected to weigh in on an ever-widening range of topics and problems. But when are these new pressures good, and when do they distract from a board’s most crucial and fundamental responsibilities? Dambisa Moyo spent a decade at Goldman Sachs and World Bank, and is currently non-executive director at Chevron, 3M and Condé Nast. She discusses her time in a variety of boardrooms with financial commentator and Portland senior advisor James Ashton, and the pair consider how good, balanced boards can help corporations run better in a complicated world.
Fintech’s march to ubiquity
‘Fintech’ is transcending mere ‘financial technology’ and becoming a core part of a wide array of everyday services. With this in mind, Portland partner Luke Baker sits down with Mark Whitcroft, one of the UK’s leading fintech nurturers and early-stage investors, and a founding partner of Illuminate Financial. The pair look at what the future holds for fintech, how the sector will cope in an economic downturn, why money raised does not always equal start-up success, and the looming presence of blockchain technology.
Can COP26 “keep 1.5 alive” and can business meaningfully address climate change?
Summits like COP26 have a reputation for amounting to more talk than action, but Gillian Tett’s background in cultural anthropology means she nevertheless sees value in these rituals. The Financial Times' US Editor-at-Large sits down with Portland Partner Mary Pollard to discuss what to expect from the meeting of world leaders and how impactful promises made around climate change will prove to be. The current energy crisis leading to more fossil fuel usage is discussed, along with the lessons for ESG arising from Covid vaccine hesitancy, the role of business vs. governments in tackling the climate crisis, and the need to listen to those with wildly differing viewpoints.
How can business and government work together more effectively?
There has long been a feeling that government doesn’t understand the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of business, and business doesn’t understand the processes and realities of government. So how can the two better understand one another? Portland partner Anita Boateng talks this over with Gavin Barwell, a Member of the House of Lords and former Chief of Staff to Theresa May.
Politics outside the Westminster bubble
After serving on the front bench in the House of Commons, Andy Burnham took a bold career pivot and became the Mayor of Greater Manchester. In the first episode of our second series, he talks to Portland advisor David Davies about the strategic move away from Westminster, effecting change away from London, devolution, and the relationship between mayors and prime ministers.
Communications in flux
The comms landscape was undergoing huge changes before the world had even heard of Covid-19, and an array of new dynamics, mediums and incentives now face brands looking to get their stories out into the world. In the final episode of series one, Richard Suchet, Portland Director, sits down with Mark Flanagan, Portland Chief Executive, to consider the new epoch of PR we have entered, and discuss intergenerational values, the alchemy of combining data and insight, and ESG as more than a set of metrics.
Sport under scrutiny
With sports players amassing vast social followings and glossy documentaries attracting millions of viewers on the big streaming services, some sportsmen and women find themselves questioning the utility of talking to the media in 2021. Matt Dickinson, Chief Sports Writer at The Times, has seen first-hand how the relationship between the sports media and the people it covers has changed over the past 20 years. In this episode, he discusses the new dynamic with Ben Wright, a Director in Portland's Sport unit, and makes the argument that there will always be a role for sports journalists, who he sees as providing a level of insight and honest interrogation of facts that platforms like Instagram simply can't.
PRWeek Editor, Danny Rogers, on cause-related campaigning
Social media may have offered brands a whole new way to reach audiences, but it is a high-stakes channel where putting a foot wrong can cause serious damage. In this episode, Portland Creative Director, Leila Mountford, discusses corporate character and cause-related campaigning with Danny Rogers, Editor-in-Chief of PRWeek UK & EMEA and the author of Campaigns that Shook the World, which tracked the evolution of PR and looked at some of the most influential creative campaigns of the last 30 years.
Denise Lewis on the business of athletics
A huge financial gulf exists between football and athletics, with athletes often struggling to secure the resources required to compete at the highest levels, and coaching not being as obvious and viable a retirement plan as it can be for footballers. In this episode of TTPWP, Olympic gold medal winner, Denise Lewis discusses the state of modern athletics, issues of representation and what 'zero tolerance' really means when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs in sport, with Portland consultant and former FA executive director, David Davies.
When does 'purpose' become woke-washing?
'The risk isn't in telling the truth, the risk is in not knowing where the truth lies.' Or so contends David Gallagher, Omnicom's President of Growth and Development, who alongside John O'Brien MBE, EMEA Managing Partner at One Hundred, has written a new book about what it means to be a purpose-led business or leader post-pandemic. Here, the co-authors make the case to Mary Pollard, Portland Partner, that 'purpose' has superseded corporate social responsibility (CSR) and discuss the perils of 'woke-washing'.
Gary Lineker on the business of football
Gary Lineker has had not one but two hugely successful careers, first as a footballer who scored 48 goals for England, and now as the most recognisable face in football television coverage. In this episode he speaks with David Davies, Portland Adviser, broadcaster and former executive director of the Football Association. The pair discuss how football is governed, the importance of the sport to UK towns and cities, protecting smaller clubs from the financial might of bigger ones, and whether football needs an independent regulator.
Can broadcast news be both opinionated and impartial?
The resurgence of LBC, the superstar power of newspaper columnists and commentators, the rise of political influencers on Twitter – opinion is a more valuable commodity than news, it seems.
As a result, broadcasters (regulated by Ofcom) are being forced to test the boundaries of 'due impartiality' in order to hold on to their audiences.
GB News and News UK TV are on the cusp of launching in the UK and they're promising new perspectives and attitudes. Many assume they will be right-leaning.
But is it possible to be right wing and impartial? Where does Ofcom stand on news with views? What is due impartiality? And is it something worth fighting for?
Roger Mosey, the former Editorial Director of the BBC and Editor of the Today programme (and now Master at the University of Cambridge's Selwyn College) debates these questions with Richard Suchet, Director at Portland Communications and a former News Correspondent for Sky News and LBC.
Redesigning work for the future
"WFH" – businesses have had to swiftly embrace it over the past year, but many still have a long way to go in terms of establishing a healthy flexible-working practice. Emma Stewart MBE joins us this episode, the Co-founder of Timewise, a flexible-working consultancy aiming to tackle the lack of quality part-time jobs. Speaking to Louise Winmill, Senior Partner at Portland, the conversation covers how and when to broach the topic of remote-working with employers, what flexibility looks like for frontline workers, 'hybrid bias', and the need to move flexible-working negotiations from the employment market to the recruitment market.
Leadership after lockdown
Over the past year, Atholl Duncan has been gathering first-hand accounts of 100 days in lockdown from some of the world's leading Chief Executives. Here we quiz the 'Leaders in Lockdown' author – who is also an executive coach and Chairman of Black Isle Group – for the wisdom he extracted from some of the world’s most thoughtful business leaders, along with their predictions for how the working world will change because of COVID-19. Playing host this episode is Portland's UK Chair, George Pascoe-Watson.
Female identity in the workplace
Great strides have been made in workplace equality for women in recent years, but has this led to a period of stagnation? On International Women's Day, Raghd Hamid, Director at Portland, is joined by Jo Coburn, BBC Politics Live presenter, and Salma Shah, former Special Advisor to the Home Secretary, to discuss the dual role of women at home and at work, the expectation of women to be 'nice', falling into the trap of starting emails and meetings on an apologetic/unconfident tone and the gender pay gap.
Pinky Lilani CBE DL on kindness in leadership
Kindness is the difference between a successful leader and a significant one; this is what author, motivational speaker and women's advocate Pinky Lilani CBE DL believes. Founder and chair of several awards recognising excellence in leadership and celebrating women in business, Lilani in this episode speaks to host and Director at Portland, Claire Hardy, about dispelling the idea that kindness is synonymous with weakness, how the best leaders have an agenda bigger than themselves, and effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on women in the (increasingly remote) workplace.
Saul Klein on why tech is not just for techies
Tech jobs are some of the most lucrative in the employment market, but there's a perception that they're only for the extremely tech-literate. In this episode, Saul Klein dispels that myth. A technology investor at venture capitalist firm LocalGlobe, Klein has backed a slew of British start-up successes, including LoveFilm, Improbable, TransferWise and Kazoo. In conversation with episode host James Ashton – a Financial Journalist and Senior Adviser at Portland – Klein also discusses how the UK can stay on top of Europe's tech industry, the "New Palo Alto", and how a £50 billion valuation has become the new £100 million valuation.
Alastair Campbell and Jon Sopel on the future of US democracy
In our first episode, political strategist and Portland veteran Alastair Campbell chats with journalist and broadcaster Jon Sopel. The BBC's North America Editor covered the entirety of the Trump presidency, along with the turbulent transfer of power to new US president Joe Biden. Here the pair discuss what America might look like under Biden, the weaponisation of the media, conspiracy thinking in the US vs. the UK, and the possibility of a second American civil war.
'To the point' will answer the big questions in media, politics, business and PR, with help from leading experts and thinkers in these fields. Amid the noise of the modern world, this show from Portland Communications seeks to bring you that increasingly rare thing: clarity.