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A day in the life: Yasmin Ahmad

A day in the life: Yasmin Ahmad

Ever since joining the Stripe PR train in 2013 I’ve found it near impossible to sum up my job in one word, sentence, or even a paragraph for that matter. My friends always ask “What is it you actually do?” and since the day I started I’ve found it hard to put my job into a string of words that my non-comms industry friends can digest. So, to give a little taster of what a day in the PR  and communications world is really like I’m going to break it down for you….*

*Please note: a cheeky chocolate biscuit or two may have accidentally slipped off the copy…

7am
I’m an early riser and find it much easier to peel myself out of bed in the morning than keep my eyes open past 10pm. Before getting ready for the day, I have a quick scroll through my social channels to see what’s been happening in the world and check my emails to ensure no comms emergencies have happened overnight.

Work wear in PR ranges from relaxed and comfortable for a day at your desk, to power dressing for client meetings or pitches. Today it’s a pair of jeans and relaxed shirt. After a bite to eat I jump in my Fiat 500 and face the morning M8 traffic.

9am
Officially, the day kicks off at 9am but I try to get in early to get my head into the day. Being an account executive means that finding, mounting and sharing client coverage is first on my list. Once all coverage has been sent over I grab a few newspapers and catch up on the day’s news. Together, the team will highlight and share exciting or relevant news – this can be anything from a great PR stunt to the latest app launching.

10am
Once I’ve scanned my to-do list I get on with the day’s tasks – I try to highlight three priorities to focus on. We regularly use the morning to issue and sell in media releases to target press. Getting our client news in front of journalists can often be quite challenging so ensuring we sell is crucial.

11am
One of my daily tasks is to manage social media on behalf of clients.  We’re all familiar (and most likely, addicted) to using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on a daily basis but taking control of a business account and community managing each page requires a lot more time, planning, and precision than your average personal post.

12.30am
It might not happen every day, but Stripe encourages staff to reclaim their lunch break following this Stylist campaign. Not one for working out at night, I try to use my lunch breaks to get a bit of fitness in to my life. After a 28 minute workout (Kaylia Istines Bikini Body Training Guide) I return to my desk to eat a few slices of avocado on toast.

2pm
If you’re going to work in this industry, you need to enjoy creative writing. I often use the afternoons to tick off some of my writing tasks – media releases for me range from the latest Stewart Milne Homes showhome opening to new A/W fashion at Buchanan Galleries. 

3.30pm
I have a Stripey Thinking session in the diary – this is the company’s creative thinking process. Through a dedicated facilitator, we use a system of categories, post-its and creativity to come up with captivating ideas for the next big client campaign, photocall or event.

4.30pm
Back at my desk I try to tick off a few more task before the day ends. PR is an extremely fast paced business and there really is never enough hours in the day to get what you need done.

5.30pm
5.30pm passes and I continue working to get the task at hand complete. Unlike many other jobs, once the bells rings for the day, it’s not a matter of stopping what you’re doing and heading home. To ensure tomorrow is a little easier, I stay and finish off what I’m doing for that all satisfying tick off the to-do list.

6pm
Before I head home I look ahead at what tomorrow has in store and plan out my day. Doing this the night before means you can dive straight in to the day’s work and don’t miss any upcoming deadlines.

8pm
My evenings usually consist of a little home cooking, catching up on my favourite TV series and ultimately relaxing before another day in the manic, yet rewarding, world of PR and comms.

Magfest 2015 – Create Inspire Evolve

Magfest 2015 – Create Inspire Evolve

On Friday 18th September we headed to Edinburgh’s Surgeon’s Hall for the fourth PPA Scotland Magfest. A day of presentations, discussions and celebrations of all things magazine. In 2015, this means not just chatting print, but addressing the various communications channels and challenges that modern publishing is presented with.

Create

Magfest 2015 kicked off with Cannes Lions CEO Phil Thomas tackling the topic of creativity head on. ‘Any brand can be creative’ he said, and the award winners at Cannes Lions illustrate this as well as anything else. Just consider the now infamous Volvo trucks spot featuring Jean Claude Van Damme – the biggest winner the festival has seen yet, despite the distinctly ‘unsexy’ product. Creativity matters not just because it can be a force for change and for good, but because it directly drives higher ROI for businesses. This is important for brands to get their heads around, and for the agencies that work with them to reiterate. Not their capacity to be creative – all know this, though not all apply it – but the evidence that great creative work itself delivers higher share value and drives long term business impact. Bravery pays off.

This sentiment was echoed by several other speakers. For BBC Worldwide, creativity is part of how they do business, not something they apply from time to time. Marcus Arthur explained that the BBC Worldwide team know that if they’re creative and build the reputation of the BBC then financial success will take care of itself. This focus on being creative and getting the best ideas to come to fruition delivers better results than focussing on the finances as the sole end in themselves.

Driving Online revenue Panel Discussion at Magfest 2015

Throughout the day the spectre of ‘disruption’ was present: disruption of the publishing industry, of TV, culture, advertising models, customer loyalty and news discovery. For the BBC, as for many of the other businesses in attendance, creativity has been what has allowed them to overcome some of the challenges that disruption has created and led to new and exciting outcomes they perhaps had not anticipated.

Inspire

Disruption need not be seen as a negative force, but an opportunity that should inspire change. For example, the last few years have seen ever more conversations about the ‘death’ of newspapers and the decline of print, but to paraphrase Francesco Franchi of IL magazine, “it’s not that newspapers are dying, it’s that one way of making newspapers is coming to an end”. This is by no means unique to the newspaper business, and how individual companies react and adapt is helping to inspire others and shape the long term future of a swathe of industries.

Evolve

To mitigate some of the risk that goes hand in hand with treading new ground, more and more publishers and brands are looking at how they can intelligently apply data. Our own Darcie Tanner spoke about how organisations of any size can make sense of ‘big data’ and draw useful insights from the mass of information out there and data got called out as a priority consideration in a number of talks throughout the day.

Darcie Tanner, Stripe Communications at Magfest 2015

Kerin O’Connor revealed some of the ways they’ve used data at The Week to inform their evolved print and digital model and consistently grown both strands by ensuring they really understand their audience. With staggering renewal figures and a progressive test and learn approach to new activity, they’re continuing to see returns and have sidestepped the issues that have affected many peer publications.

Kerin O'Connor, The Week at Magfest 2015

Understanding your audience was also at the core of Mimi Turner‘s session, where she discussed how The LAD Bible has come to know more about the tricky to reach 18-24 males group in the UK than perhaps any other organisation. With a reflective, community led proposition they are committed to going where their audience directs them and making it easy for them to find what they want. She advocated a shift for publishers from being ‘doers’ (which is a role now belonging to the audience) to being listeners. This is a tricky notion for some brands and publishing businesses to apply, having kept customers and audiences at a distance from the inner workings of their business , but if they’re to succeed in a modern, integrated communications landscape then it’s something that can’t be ignored.

What was clear from all of the speakers and the discussions amongst attendees was that the sector isn’t sitting still and there’s a lot of positivity about what the future might hold. With so much changing and so much interesting work happening to meet the challenges this brings, it’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing.

The journey of a rugby shirt fit for a giant

The journey of a rugby shirt fit for a giant

Similar to my first two months working with Stripe, the journey of the Strathmore rugby shirt has been fast-paced, dynamic and exciting.

It’s safe to say that everyone in the office was thinking two things throughout this project: 1) when will we stop hearing about this shirt? And 2) has Ben relocated to Murrayfield Stadium? The Strathmore team spent weeks planning and navigating through the various complications of this task. But the feeling of accomplishment when it all came together was exhilarating. As a recent graduate, getting so much hands on experience into something of this scale was really motivating as I take my first steps into the world of PR Comms.

As a sports fanatic, I was thrilled when I was added to the Strathmore team. Strathmore, as part of their Do More sponsorship of sport, are the official water supplier for Scottish rugby, swimming and gymnastics. And with so many big events this year like the Gymnastics World Championships and the Rugby World Cup, I can’t wait to get a taste of the action.

The idea of the shirt was born in one of our ‘Stripey Thinking’ sessions in early August where the best creative ideas are born at Stripe HQ. To wish the team good luck ahead of their Rugby World Cup journey we decided to create a massive rugby shirt which fans could sign before the Scotland v Italy summer test match. The journey began when we had to find a supplier who could create our 8m x 5.5m shirt fit for a giant. Following a week or so of planning, designing and discussion, we were finally given the green light to crack on with production and planning the in ground activity. This involved ordering staging, a marquee, branded signage and astro-turf.

The shirt was delivered to Murrayfield the day before our photo call with Scotland internationals Blair Cowan, Fraser Brown and David Denton. This was one of numerous times during this project I was lucky enough to stand inside an empty Murrayfield stadium. The buzz the players must get when the stadium is full must be out of this world! The photo call was a success and the weather was perfect. We got some great shots and video footage of the players.

It was quite surreal getting to interview David Denton and Fraser Brown in the stands, asking them about their active lifestyles and preparations ahead of their upcoming matches. I think this is why I enjoy PR, because it has a good balance between media relations, event management and journalism – plus the perks of running around Scotland’s national rugby stadium.

Match-day came around quickly and following the set-up of our fan zone, we started welcoming in the fans to sign our shirt. Over 750 signatures and 25 Sharpie pens later, the mission was complete. A big pat on the back for Team Strathmore and everyone else involved, which was made even better by Scotland triumphing against Italy 48-7 in a record-breaking win – boom!

I think the biggest learning experience since arriving at Stripe has been realising all the different components that go into making a project firstly happen, and secondly, a success. With strong teamwork and a genuine passion for the brand we managed to put the pieces of the jig-saw together and I can’t wait to Do More with this account going forward.

Stripe goes to Holi Festival of Colours

Stripe goes to Holi Festival of Colours

We’ve enjoyed a colourful 2015 so far with one of our fave Friday drinks, Sourz, what with the launch of Sourz Rainbow Ice at the beginning of the year and the Club MTV tour during the summer. But this weekend we hit the ultimate, as Stripe’s very own resident shot-girls took our PR machine to London for the Holi Festival of Colours, which Sourz was sponsoring.

Alex & Rebecca at Holi Festival

Myself and Rebecca – shot-girl-in-the-making and newbie to Stripe – headed over the border to my homeland to give journos from the likes of ZOO and Bar Mag the Sourz’ Holi Festival of Colours experience, complete with many helpings of Sourz Rainbow Ice and bags of coloured powder. We can even go as far as to say, one journalist received a marriage proposal in the Sourz tent – genuinely. She said yes too – congrats Lucia! This defo wasn’t part of our running order.

We had some great fun in the experiential tent, striking heaps of poses in the gif booth – there was just as much powder paint in the tent by the end of the day as there was in the main stage arena. With a Sourz Rainbow Ice bar, there were plenty of shots on offer to keep people refreshed. The tent was an opportunity to give fans and festival-goers a souvenir to take home – some classic snaps of the great time they had with their best mates.

We were also able to showcase a new piece of video content they’ve just released, ‘Sourz presents: World of Colour’, which sees Sourz visit 8 cities across the world in 10 days – a megahunt for colour captured in a one minute film.

The weekend was the perfect way for us to round off our summer of colour. It was great to be able to see how well two brands can fit and it gave us the opportunity to experience the famous coloured powder explosions of the global Holi Festival of Colours, giving our media friends the opportunity too.

Until next time…

Ahead of the curve: the Kardashians leading the way?

Ahead of the curve: the Kardashians leading the way?

Kim K and the rest of the clan have been busy this past week, all launching their own personal paid-for apps and websites. So is this a sign of things to come? Will we all be forced to pay to see content published by our favourite celebs, and eventually vloggers and bloggers?

Most importantly, will you be paying the Kardashians your hard earned cash monies for a sneak peek into their world?

Admittedly I am biased on this subject. I look upon them as my extended family (my name starts with a K after all and I do spend every Sunday evening with them thanks to E!) so it is more than likely I will pay for access to their ‘exclusive’ content’ and show favour to at least one of them. But what about the rest of the world?

According to TMZ, they are jumping on board with a staggering 891,340 signing up to the four sites in the first 24 hours of launching, despite their paywall of $2.99 (roughly £1.87) a month. 74% of those were for Kylie, 10.8% for Khloe, 9% for Kim and 5% for Kendall (Kourtney’s has yet to be unveiled).

This isn’t the first time we are seeing online content sneak its way into our purse/wallet. The Sun operates on this system, as does The Guardian and The Times, but the Kardashians? Surely one would be forgiven for thinking it is ludicrous to expect your average, everyday follower to start paying to see what they get up to.

Wrong. Welcome to the era of Generation Z my friends. Sit back and watch as they prepare for world domination. For you wouldn’t complain about buying your paper in the morning, so as we move steadily towards a world of instantaneous content online, why should this be any different?

It may also prove a useful tool for brands in the long run as they look to direct their focus on specific target audiences through these platforms, such as a 23 year-old comms professional, interested in hearing the latest fashion and lifestyle tips from her favourite reality TV family…

Love them or hate them, the Kardashians are ahead of the curve in my opinion. They are setting a trend that I fully expect to see our most popular bloggers and vloggers embrace over the next few years. For we live in a world where nothing comes free, unfortunately.

Now, who else thinks Kara Kardashian has a nice ring to it…

Reaching audiences: diversity matters

Reaching audiences: diversity matters

When Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman in Vanity Fair this year, she said: “I’m not doing this to be interesting. I’m doing this to live.” It was a powerful comment that’s stuck with me.

Last week the Equality Network hosted the first-ever Scottish LGBTI Awards – which shortlisted the Scottish Government’s ground-breaking One Scotland campaign for the Public Sector award. Our campaign slogan, “Scotland believes in equality”, is a bold message – honest, aspirational and indicative of work in progress. It resonates. For the general public, it’s a show of support. For visitors to Scotland, it celebrates diversity credentials. For campaigners, it shows the government is listening. For minority groups, it’s proof that they matter in our nation.

In 2014, on behalf of the One Scotland campaign, we commissioned a YouGov survey that found three-quarters of people agree Scotland has made great progress towards equality over the past 10 years. It also showed 89% of Scots believe more work needs to be done to ensure people are treated equally. There’s a desire for change that you can almost taste in the air.

To make it happen, everyone has a part to play.

As communications practitioners, it’s vital that we take diversity and equality into consideration when developing a campaign. It could be as simple as including subtitles on an online video, translating marketing material into the most relevant languages for your audiences and sense-checking that your messages won’t offend anyone.

One of the most important factors is audience profiling. The Department for Education released data this summer that shows school pupils in the UK speak 311 dialects and in some schools English speakers are the minority. In one school, the Daily Express found 342 of the 360 pupils considered Punjabi their first language. In that area, it would be critical to develop a campaign that worked in Pubjabi – not just in English.

CIPR’s Diversity working group has developed a series of research papers, reports and webinars which support PR professionals with an interest in diversity and equality. Did you know 16% of adults in the UK are functionally illiterate and the average reading age is nine years old?

Diversity Infographic 2015

When you start to think about diversity it can feel like a can of worms, but it genuinely affects everyone. It shouldn’t be seen as a choice, it’s a fact of life.

Two days of daylight with VELUX

Two days of daylight with VELUX

Three Edinburgh Stripes packed their bags and headed south last week all in the name of daylight. No, we weren’t just fed-up with the dreich Scottish ‘summer’, we were off to attend VELUX’s 6th Daylight Symposium.

Tobacco Dock, East London
The biennial, two-day event brought together over 350 people from across the globe to discuss and debate.

I know what you’re thinking – how could you possibly discuss daylight for two whole days. From health, to architecture, to learning, to sleeping patterns, to nature, the lists goes on. Daylight influences and plays a role in everything we do.

Tobacco Dock Interior
Experts in architecture, design, engineering and building congregated in the Tobacco Dock – one of the most Instagram-able buildings in East London – to hear 35 daylight themed lectures.

Having set up in a seat in the back row, team Stripe unpacked all manner of cameras, Dictaphones, videocameras, notebooks and laptops and set to work. Amongst hosting media our job on the day was to man the social media channels. Four in total – Twitter and Instagram for VELUX UK & Ireland and Twitter and Instagram for The Daylight Project.

Flipping between all four, searching hashtags and scrolling through newsfeeds, we live tweeted during the talks. We had to be on the ball to draft instantaneous creative content. We pulled out nuggets of information and quotes from the speakers, overlaying them over stand-out pictures or did a quick Google search to source pictures of the buildings the speakers were talking about.

Trying to negotiate complex daylighting data into 140 characters was a bit of a challenge, but as the engagements rolled in I loved the buzz.

One of the many highlights for me was at dinner on the first night. We got chatting to a building surveyor from Holland who told us how excited he was that VELUX had retweeted him during one of the talks. There was a bit of a jazz hands moment as we owned up.

In honour of freshers’ week: My dear graduate self…

In honour of freshers’ week: My dear graduate self…

It seems a bit ridiculous, considering I just graduated over a year ago, to be passing on life advice to future and recent grads. That being said, a year is a long time and I personally think that in your twenties you are thrown an abundance of life experience – mostly because you’ve done something wrong! But at the ripe old age of 24, here are five pieces of guidance I want to pass on my fellow and future graduates.

  1. Relax
  2. Learn
  3. Challenge
  4. Listen
  5. Positivity

So to start with, RELAX. Okay so student life is stereotyped to be the laziest time of your life, but clearly whoever thinks that has not been up for three days straight being haunted by the terrifying dissertation and the imminent failure that you believe is coming. After graduation you feel you can shake it off and go on to your next hugely amazing life step – but that doesn’t always happen. If things haven’t gone the way you envisioned after graduation, it’s okay. Your dream job could actually be your nightmare, you could end up only making the tea throughout your internship – that’s fine. Take what you can from these experiences and move forward. Everything will eventually fall into place. After graduation I worked almost two years in retail, throughout which I attended various interviews and undertook several internships in a variety of fields, to finally land on my feet at Stripe.

Next, you need to learn. Yes, university might be over but the learning just keeps coming! When you’re out in the scary adult world there isn’t anyone to give you the answers, you need to keep asking questions in order to learn. If you didn’t get that job, ask why. If you did get that job, ask why. Focus on your positive attributes and learn from your negatives.

Always have your game face on. If you’re not ready for the challenge, who’s going to bother challenging you? Go into every opportunity with ambition and enthusiasm, and don’t be afraid to challenge systems and present your own ideas.

Know when to listen. Being eager and inquisitive will get you so far, but remember that sometimes the answers are already there, you just need to take some time to sit back and absorb the information around you. Be observant of those around you, body language can sometimes give away more than words ever will.

Finally, stay positive. I am an eternal optimist. I do believe, at the end of the day, everything will fall into place and it will be fine. However, this is hard. Sometimes it can look like your life isn’t going anywhere or you’re being thrown problems you can’t deal with, but you can handle it. Life will only throw you what you can take, and if that means a taking a big breath and working that bit harder, then so be it. So graduates of the now and the future, give yourself a slap on the back – we’re doing alright.

Could you be Stripe’s new PA?

Could you be Stripe’s new PA?

We are looking for a supremely organised, upbeat, all-round superstar to play a key role in our busy team as a part-time Personal Assistant.

Stripe is a fast-paced, dynamic kind of a place and we need a driven, flexible and reliable PA to provide a range of essential administrative and business support functions.

Reporting to the agency’s directors, and primarily supporting the management team, our PA will help keep the business running smoothly – enabling our team of consultants to deliver industry leading, award winning work for our clients.

Strong communication and interpersonal skills are a must for the job, and we need someone who is proficient with IT and a stickler for detail.

A degree level qualification and/or experience in a relevant field or environment would be a bonus.

The role is for 20 hours a week over five days. Hours are flexible however we would need cover for specific core hours.

Salary is appropriate to experience and skill level.

To apply for the role please send in your CV – and explain why you think you’d be great as our PA –  to talent@stripecommunications.com by Monday 14th September.

A Round Up of 360D: Insights from the Digital Community

A Round Up of 360D: Insights from the Digital Community

On Thursday 3rd September, a few of the Stripes journeyed to the 36OD digital conference at the SECC in Glasgow. Hosted by some of the biggest thought leaders in the digital and tech landscape, the all-day event promised to make our heads hurt with information overload. From learning about the BBC’s commitment to facilitating a coding education for the next generation to the insights and advice from some of Scotland’s newest and most ambitious digital start-ups, the day did not disappoint.

Kicking off with a Buzz

The morning started with the Director for Brand Strategy Europe at Buzzfeed, David Pugh-Jones talking about what great content looks like and what it should achieve. Given that 75% of Buzzfeed’s content is found via social media, it’s clear that while great content is paramount for the content publishers, distribution is also at the forefront of the business success. One of the key differentiations David made was the distinction between creating content that is to be consumed versus content that they want to communicate and start a conversation with. Does this fit in to his approach of content being optimised for the share rather than the like? Well, it’s certainly demonstrating where he feels his priorities are which is in getting people talking and engaging with their content, not just resonating with it and hitting “like”.

One key aspect Buzzfeed is building upon is the move to talking about and creating content on a more serious tone e.g. breaking news. We have probably begun to see content from Buzzfeed in the wake of tragedies such as the recent Virginia journalist shootings. The question was asked, can Buzzfeed really have an authoritative voice on serious breaking news when its rise to fame is associated with posts about the 10 cutest cats? Interestingly, David claimed that it is easier for someone like Buzzfeed to go from funny to serious than it is for other well established news publications to do it the other way round.

Making it digital with the BBC

Jessica Cecil from the BBC gave an insight into the changes in digital behaviour for the next generation. The BBC is working to ensure children in the UK are receiving the support they need to take on a digital role in future employment. One way they’re hoping to achieve this is by gifting first year pupils across the country with a micro:bit – which is in short, a pocket-sized code-able computer. More children are not just playing games but they are also creating them, showcasing the intuitive learning behaviours young people are demonstrating today. The hope is to create a lasting impact on the future of digital in the UK and really ensure that we are at the forefront of the industry worldwide. With the BBC committed to helping children become efficient in coding, I would anticipate the future digital talent pool to get bigger and better – something all organisations should be excited about.

Money on the mind with Visa Europe Collab

On to the world of finance, Steve Perry, founder of Visa Europe Collab, spoke about the new international innovation hub that he is leading. Visa Europe Collab has been built in order to find the most promising ideas in financial technology and to make them a reality. Steve is passionate about working with promising start ups who offer valuable and innovative payment solutions. The way he sees it, making a payment should be as easy as breathing, so if don’t notice payment technology or a solution from Visa in the checkout process, Perry doesn’t care that you don’t notice it’s Visa that made your life easier. In his view, Visa are doing their job well if you don’t know you are using one of their solutions or technology.

But that’s not all…

The afternoon saw us treated to a pitch/advice session from some of Scotland’s emerging digital entrepreneurs, including Cally Russell, the 27 year old founder of “tinder for fashion” app Mallzee who also featured on Dragon’s Den. What all these innovators have in common, is an opportunity to disrupt the current digital landscape, dictate the direction and lead from their point of view. Whether it be changing the way people shop or utilising online returns data to provide actionable insights for businesses, the panel provided great insight into their individual journeys’ towards success.

The conference demonstrated just how ambitious Scotland is in shaping and disrupting the digital landscape. One key comment from the Jon Bradford of Techstars was his belief that it is companies and start-ups who look to “what’s next” that will flourish ahead of copying what’s trending in the digital world. With well-established digital powerhouses such as Sky Scanner and Fan Duel headquartered here in Edinburgh, and the entrepreneurial spirit coming to fruition in the form of emerging and innovative tech start-ups, Scotland’s role in defining what’s next in digital looks promising.