THG founder and CEO Matthew Moulding has taken to social media to take aim at frequent media intrusion and the era of “fake news.”
Posting on LinkedIn, Moulding began by announcing that today is his birthday (so happy birthday, Matt) before revealing that each year he tries “to create new habits and adopt some new perspectives.”
It seems that over the last year, one of those new habits has been to stand more firmly against an intrusive, and sometimes simply incorrect media, despite the standard advice for listed companies being to “sit tight, maintain a British stiff upper lip, and accept it – it’s part of being a public company. We’ve followed that advice, no matter what came our way.”
Moulding cites two particular incidents, one that helped lead to his new mindset, and the second an early test of his resolve.
The first saw his mother being mocked by “some in the business media” after emailing a journalist to ask if he had anything else to write about following a “perplexing” degree of interest, and not just in Moulding himself: “We were under siege on a daily basis, as were my family and many people at THG,” he explained. “I accept that negativity comes with the territory, but seeing it forced onto loved ones stirs a whole different emotion.”
The second, which was thankfully at least less personal, happened just a few days after Moulding’s switch of mindset. This incident saw an unnamed newspaper report that a number of global beauty brands had stopped working with THG. The story even named brands, but Moulding notes in his post that “it was an obvious, fabricated story.”
Moulding adds that such stories inevitably affect a public company such as THG: “The norm with negative stories against listed companies is their share prices fall,” he says. “It’s just a matter of by how much. This is a level of predictability you can bet your house on!”
The newly determined CEO’s first step was to seek board approval to issue an Registered News Service announcement (RNS), the system which allows the international financial community to see company updates, “calling the story out as completely fake and untrue.”
The board agreed, although Moulding does note the irony that making an RNS over a false story actually serves to bring more attention to the story. “We couldn’t keep sitting back week after week,” he asserts.
The next step was the appointment of lawyers, and a “full internal investigation” at the paper concerned, which Moulding says agreed with his claim there was no evidence to support the story. Once again though Moulding notes that, much like with the RNS, the end result can seem somewhat back-to-front: “The story was deleted online, with a small apology placed somewhere where nobody can find it. We spent c£50,000 in fees, without recovery. But an apology was deemed success. How so?” he wonders.
The THG chief ends his birthday message by pondering the motivations for publishing fake news, though he doesn’t give us any firm conclusions, leaving us to fill in the blanks for ourselves.
As for this year’s resolutions? North West media lawyers and their bank managers may be disappointed to learn that more gym and Spanish lessons feature highly. Moulding also promises he’ll be making more LinkedIn posts in the year ahead, “if only to keep Mama Moulding from taking matters into her own hands.”