Our award-winning story with Sky News and client Semrush

Shining a light on the hidden issues of lockdown

While the online world may throw misinformation and biased information sources at us, it has also opened up new ways of accessing insight into consumer behaviours. This includes sourcing up-to-the-minute popular opinions and widespread sentiments, and the ability to identify trends through aggregated online searches being input all day, every day, around the country and beyond.

Driven by a mission to prove the power of data in storytelling and uncover hidden stories in statistics by using data-driven journalism, and an aspiration to drive positive change by playing a part in the fight against fake news, with Semrush we were able to reveal the worrying uplifts of searches for domestic abuse helplines and associated support groups during lockdown.

Narratives were starting to appear online from individual domestic abuse charities, discussing specific first-hand accounts from victims of violence, about the dangers of being confined inside with their abusers. Just as these voices most needed to be heard, they couldn’t in many cases speak loudly. How then could the true scale of such a sensitive and personal problem be mapped?

We were able to provide an unbiased and country-wide set of statistics through Semrush about searches for advice and support on domestic abuse. We could compare spikes in searches to ‘typical’ levels of online requests on the topic being undertaken before lockdown, and demonstrate that sufferers were being forced to seek support online when they essentially trapped inside with their abusers.

In a lot of cases victims couldn’t speak openly, or seek support or advice, but they could seek help online. Individual support charities couldn’t show the whole scale of this issue – but this data asset could. By providing this comprehensive and independent set of information, several media outlets were able to talk to the scale of the problem on a country-wide level, rather than airing isolated, highly emotive personal accounts that couldn’t translate the issue to a national scale.

The Results


  • Sky News used Semrush stats on prime time TV to show domestic abuse rose = 12.6 M viewers
  • Increased web searches related to domestic abuse based entirely on Semrush stats by Sky News  = Reach of 102.8 M viewers
  • Worked one on one with Victoria Derbyshire for BBC Panorama on domestic abuse during lockdown = The world’s longest running news program
  • SEMrush stats published on 19 other occasions in the UK = Reaching 150,374,500 viewers  


  • In Australia we saw 10 online publications using the data = Reach of 24,285,362 
  • In Canada we saw 5 online publications and 1 TV feature = Reach of 186,290,479 
  • Semrush hosted a global online journalism event in partnership with Sky News about the data-led story
  • Nearly 80 journalists from across the globe registered and became aware of Semrush as a source of reliable and insight-packed data
  • Journalism.co.uk wrote an article about data provision for journalists

Not only was this a massive success with coverage we secured on a national and international level, but we also raised awareness of serious social issues. We helped Semrush become accurate informants and barometers of important conversations that ultimately drive change. We revealed truths about significant stories in our community. An approach we will continue.

This campaign won Semrush the 2020 CMA Award for Best use of Content within Media Relations

Get in touch with us for bespoke data for your campaigns, or if you’re interested in how we can help you with PR.


Assessing acquisition or investigating investment? How can comms streamline the process?

UK M&A activity is on the up: great news for the country’s businesses who faced one of the toughest trading periods many may ever experienced.

Making the decision to sell, or even to seek additional external investment and relinquish total control of a business can be a difficult one for many owners to approach. And yet it is in the plans of many owners to drive their operations to a place of success, before stepping back to enjoy the fruits of their labours – or to move onwards and upwards with the business as it develops.

Still, a UBS study showed that nearly half of all small business owners do not have an exit strategy in place. The same report found that an overwhelming majority of owners hadn’t fully grasped what it takes to sell their business. It can take tremendous planning, not to mention having a good idea of who your ideal buyers may be. Similar thinking is needed for seeking additional investment when looking to grow a business.

While this planning and appraisal of the business is the most important factor, we have also seen firsthand that aligning a comms strategy to these goals can make seeking investment or selling up a more successful process. Knowing who you want to attract to your business sale is a similar process to targeting comms campaigns to helping businesses to grow and attract new clients – the difference is that you’re selling the business itself, rather than its services and capabilities.

Based on our experiences of helping companies to build their profiles to sell or attract the right investors, here are our tips to make your business magnetic to suitable partners:

  • Tell your story. Know what about the company makes it valuable and truly different. We’ve seen a company sold on the strength of one single article alone, which showcased the company founder and what set that company apart, placed in the right media for its target acquisition audiences.
  • Leave your ego at the door. It may be your business, and your hand at the helm, and that’s a vital part of the business’ current journey. But we encounter a lot of owners who are bashful about putting themselves forward within a PR campaign. It needs to be natural and genuine, but the founder’s story is an important piece to add to the jigsaw of a business’ future. The old adage about people buying people is still true – even if you’re looking to sell in part or in total.
  • Your business needs to be distinctive to find the right audiences. Know what sets you apart – this will be what makes the company interesting to buyers. Weaving this into PR has similar benefits to making you stand out to potential customers. So, by boosting your profile you’re not only setting out your stall for acquisition, but also potentially building your bottom line with new business. Win/win.
  • Be consistent. While one article may well start the right balls rolling, it’s unlikely to communicate the full story about a business, its potential, its plans, and why customers keep coming back. Think of an acquisition or investment sourcing journey as a marathon, not a sprint.

Most businesses gearing up to make a change like this may have run PR campaigns for some time, to boost sales to potential new partners and to help the company to grow to its current point.

If you want to know more about how comms can help a company to gear up for success like this,  drop us a line.


Ravensbourne’s BBC Archives update

Ravensbourne updated its BBC archives – so team FR took a nostalgic look at our favourite title sequences.

Colleen: Doctor Who. What else?

Xander: Doctor Who also. Or he might have been looking over Colleen’s shoulder. Or trying to get in her good books.

Kat: Grange Hill. Any child of the 80s would be able to tell you from hearing the theme or just the phrase ‘flying sausage’ that there’s only one theme to rule them all.

Tessa: Feels like she is showing her age… but it has to be Top of the Pops.

Holly: Was barely born when it came out but Knowing Me Knowing You… with Alan Partridge. A-ha!

What’s yours?



A totally fresh perspective on the Big Screen

Anyone more than casually reading this blog will know what big cinema fans we are at FR towers. Seeing the industry we love facing such exceptionally challenging business environments is hard for us.

So we have enjoyed seeing some positive developments this month – especially that Christopher Nolan’s summer tentpole release Tenet now has a confirmed UK release date (in drive-ins and cinemas too). But also that picture houses around the country are being fed with a fresh new releases. Also, we’ve been able to help a bit too, having supported an amazing new concept which could be a look ahead at the ‘future of cinema’ (not our words, but they popped up regularly).

Working with the French architects behind the stunning new Ōma cinema design concept, we spotted immediately that not only is this a breathtaking approach to auditorium design, but it is also perfected suited to deal with the social distancing challenges facing many cinemas.

Typical banked seating rows are making it very difficult for many cinemas to run their screens at anything more than about 30% capacity, while the lack of new releases also means many which have decided to open are screening recent hits for a second time alongside classic favourites.

The ‘pod’ concept of the Ōma, which has captured the attention of movie lovers around the world, not only offers a premium approach with flexible seating concepts possible on each different balcony, but it inherently separates audiences from each other while allowing cinemas to maintain a good capacity of seating.

After working with the Ōma cinema to share an exclusive first look at the design with the Daily Mail’s This is Money section, we knew the design would appeal to cinema fans around the world. We’ve been blown away by just how much – in just a few weeks, mentions and shares of the ‘Star Wars’-esque design have gone truly global, with a reach of nearly 2 billion people – meaning 1 in 3 of you reading this have probably already seen it. In the comments on Reddit, Twitter and plenty of other social channels there were certainly a lot of cinema lovers offering to book plane tickets to Paris right now, to visit a cinema that’s still under construction.

Cinema is facing a lot and trying to adapt quickly. Innovations like the Ōma and nostalgic favourites finding new leases of life like the drive-in, are reconnecting with audiences with the joy of the silver screen experience.

But, it’s also facing new threats – shortening release windows in the USA, the rise of streaming (even if most streaming services don’t directly challenge the big screen, films going to streaming first is a new weapon in the fight), not to mention the scores of screens around the country who have had to survive months with no revenue and no product.

We believe wholeheartedly in the cinema. We think there will always be a place for it. Even if its role has to evolve to meet the new world we all face. 


WFTV Hot Seat – Katia Shannon

Next in our profile series with the wonderful Women in Film & TV UK, , we sit down with Director and Writer, Katia Shannon.

It’s been a particularly busy month for Katia – she has been selected as a Netflix Diversity of Voices participant at the Banff Media Festival, and her latest short Standstill, has just been selected for the Fantasia Film Festival.

Tell us what you’re up to at the moment.

I’m polishing the script for Us & in Between, a film I’d love to make as soon as the situation allows. It’s about love and intimacy in old age so I need the actors to be able to touch each other! I’m also attending virtual film markets, developing a series and VR project and creating branded films with production company Flyer Films.

What’s been your best career moment so far?

Directing Standstill was pretty magical. You can spend a lot of time prepping for a film but only when you step on set does the chemistry you were hoping to create between actors, set, crew and story actually materialise and when it happens, it’s the best feeling.

Last film you saw in the cinema?

Portrait of a Lady on Fire at the cinema with one of my best friends. We were in Montreal, on a dark, snowy winter evening.

What did you think of the story?

Such precise, focused storytelling. I loved that Celine Sciamma rarely gave us an interior establishing shot, escaping the need to show us the ‘set’, which is a refreshing understatement for a period piece and serves the intensity of the story. I loved the way the film gives the maid a voice and through her, explores the grey zones of friendship with the other women of the house.

If you could work with anyone who would it be?

Screenwriter Liz Hannah or Carey Mulligan

When did you realise you wanted to work in film?

I had toyed with the idea before, but I committed to it when I was 15. I remember the moment. I was in the back seat of my friend’s car when her mum asked me the typical mum question about ‘what I wanted to do’. It just clicked that directing was the sum of all the aspects of life I’m most interested in. It’s writing, psychology, business, history, photography, movement, leadership, travelling, working alone and working in groups. I knew I could never get bored.

Summarise your style in three words.

Provocative, Heartfelt, Redeeming

How do you find your stories?

From observation or reading something that I can connect to my own lived experience. And then I develop the world of the story. However, I also love true stories. There’s somehow more potential for people to surprise you in real life, than people would accept in a purely invented story.

What are your top 3 films?

Like Crazy

Pride and Prejudice

The Piano

One thing you’d tell your 16-year-old self….

Striving for perfection shouldn’t stop you from making the first step.

Tell me something I may not know from reading your resume.

I grew up with my grandma living in an apartment upstairs. I saw her every day and we were very close. She would just pop down to ‘steal’ a banana/low-key check out what was happening downstairs/watch whatever film we were watching only to fall asleep as soon as there were action sequences. I learned from her that I could look forward to growing older.

Katia Shannon writes and directs heartfelt films of love and adversity. Her latest, Standstill, premiered at the 2019 Calgary International Film Festival and is currently touring the festival circuit. The atmospheric thriller was also nominated for the EDA award for Best Female-Directed Short at the Whistler Film Festival 2019.

Taking her first plunge in film at the age of 9, Katia wrote the winning script for a national contest run by CBC (Radio-Canada). She studied Film Production at the renowned Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema where she was recognised with an award for outstanding achievement in filmmaking and her student films were selected in festivals internationally.

After graduating, Katia worked on several Hollywood and broadcast titles, as film commissioner for the region of the Laurentides, and as a documentary editor with her work broadcast on Sky UK, Direct TV, Canal D and YesTV. She recently edited the feature documentary Mental States which won the award for Best Social Justice film at the 2019 Manhattan Film Festival.

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