Director: Melanie Riley
Number of employees: 5
Languages: French, German, Italian, Arabic
Overview & History:
Bell Yard Communications was one of the first to practice Litigation PR in the UK and remains its best-known proponent. Founded in 2002, the agency has worked on a wide range of criminal matters and civil disputes across a variety of sectors. It also supports clients facing regulatory scrutiny and during public inquiries, as well as offering reputation management, campaigning and profile-raising PR for lawyers. Whether HNW individual, corporate or small business, law firm or chambers, charity or finance house, Bell Yard assists clients where there is a desire to communicate on matters involving the law. This focused offering differentiates the consultancy from other agencies — notably its instructions largely come via the legal community.
Melanie Riley leads Bell Yard’s Litigation PR work. The agency has a wealth of experience across a range of matters including: commercial and breach of contract disputes; high-profile employment, libel and divorce cases; consumer class actions and newsworthy IP and personal injury claims; extradition matters; as well as handling inevitable media interest in criminal cases involving attempted murder, rape and fraud.
Recent dispute assignments include representing a Gulf States Sheikh; the creators of iconic mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap; and a liability issue involving a hotel group. Other litigation clients include an international charity, a high-profile whistleblower in the banking industry, a charity’s former CEO and a trader accused of currency rigging.
Historically a claimant firm, Bell Yard now sees an even split in claimant and defendant advisory work. The agency believes the key to any successful litigation PR assignment is assiduous preparation and the ability to marry expert understanding of the legal process with a sharp awareness of what makes a good story to create a strong narrative.
Bell Yard can be instructed at any stage of a case: from pre-action correspondence to court filing, from eve-of-trial positioning to media management through court hearings and judgment communications. For best effect, Bell Yard advises lawyers to consider early engagement so that PR implications of disputes are given due consideration throughout the litigation process.
The firm is adept at advising on traditional and social media strategies as well as engaging internal and other stakeholder groups. Bell Yard offers full implementation on an assignment or can amplify a client’s existing PR team (whether agency or in-house) adding litigation know-how and advice.
Reputation & Issues Management:
Bell Yard’s reputation management work supports clients through sensitive situations such as coroners’ inquests, regulatory probes and enforcement actions, and public inquiries. The agency has seen recent growth in demand for advice relating to #MeToo complaints and cybercrime incidents.
Clients vary from victims and their families, professionals, regulated entities or organisations where reputation is on the line. Bell Yard is skilled at advising on and handling delicate issues often with a human dimension, highly charged matters or ‘hot topics’ in either the media or politics.
Examples include Bell Yard’s role supporting the Dame Janet Smith Review into the BBC’s culture and practices during the era of Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall; and pro-bono assistance to the family of PC Keith Palmer killed in the 2017 terrorist attack on Parliament and Westminster Bridge. The consultancy also assisted an organisation subject to sexual harassment complaints against its founder.
In addition Bell Yard recently supported a business subjected to a data hack, with a crisis communications programme to reassure affected audiences, address regulators and help restore business as usual.
Bell Yard works with individuals, communities and special interest groups to raise awareness of an issue, expose the impact of a flawed government policy or to seek to overturn or amend existing legislation, not only via the media but using a range of communications channels.
In this area, the firm’s work on extradition is longstanding and well known. Melanie Riley has represented almost all high-profile victims of US requests for extradition including the NatWest 3, Gary McKinnon, Christopher Tappin and Babar Ahmad. Since 2004, Melanie has consistently sought to highlight the inequality of the UK/US extradition regime through the stories of those affected.
Legal Sector PR:
Bell Yard undertakes profile-raising PR assignments for clients in the legal sector, including law firms, chambers, recruitment agents and litigation funders. The service includes:
■ Brand positioning and message development
■ Media relationship-building
■ Thought leadership campaigns
■ Article writing and editing
■ News agenda surfing and commentary
■ Corporate communications
■ Media training
■ Awards and directory submissions
The agency prides itself on helping clients to create compelling messaging that highlights their expertise and on generating opportunities for intelligent commentary. Notable clients in this area include a UK Top 100 criminal and private client law firm and a highly-regarded white collar crime practice in London of a US law firm.