07 Sep 2023

Top London media law boutique to launch PR agency

Schillings teams up with two respected PR industry figures to help clients manage ‘high stakes’ opportunities and threats

Schillings is launching its own PR and communications agency, in a move the UK libel firm says will make it the first of its kind in the market. 

News of Schillings’ venture comes as it shifts focus toward becoming a broader reputation management business. The firm described the as-yet-unnamed new venture as a “specialist reputation consultancy” that would enable it to offer clients a multi-disciplinary model of legal, intelligence, investigations, security, strategy and communications under one roof. 

The venture will be led by founding partners George Pascoe-Watson, UK chair of the PR firm Portland Communications and former political editor of The Sun newspaper, and Victoria O’Byrne, formerly communications director to the Prince and Princess of Wales and for Sir Richard Branson at Virgin Group. 

According to The Financial Times, both will become equity partners alongside Schillings in the new company, which will formally launch at the start of next year. 

Schillings is known for taking court action against the press in defence of high-profile clients facing scrutiny in their personal and business affairs, and in the past has represented the likes of executive Sir Phillip Green as well as famous figures including Johnny Depp, Meghan Markle and cyclist Lance Armstrong. 

The firm said it was building the new company “in response to an increasingly complex world where licences to operate for individuals and organisations have become dependent on reputation, now made in both the court of law and the court of public opinion.” 

It added there was a need for a “broader and deeper bench of experts” in today’s “age of intensified scrutiny, digital and privacy threats, smear campaigns, complex reputation risks and overnight cancel culture.” 

Gus Sellitto, founder and director of legal communications agency Byfield Consultancy, wrote on LinkedIn that Schillings setting up its own PR firm “confirms the importance of reputation in any dispute, crisis or risk scenario and the value which clients place on it.” 

He noted that Deloitte absorbed crisis specialist agency Regester Larkin into its crisis and resilience business back in 2016 and that Dentons has a strategic communications offering, as does Hogan Lovells. 

Schillings’ move “forms part of a longer term play to offer reputation management services (legal and non-legal) under one roof – with PR now being an integral part of that offering,” he added. 

David Imison, chief executive of Schillings, commented: “With the pace of technological change, intensified scrutiny, proliferation of falsehoods and the ramification of cultural and generational faultlines, the reputational terrain has never been so complex to navigate. Our integrated approach will mean that clients have the resilience they need to capitalise on high-stakes opportunities and successfully manage high-stakes threats.”

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