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What being Agency Employer Brand of The Year means at Stripe

What being Agency Employer Brand of The Year means at Stripe

Thursday night at the Marketing Society’s St Andrews Day dinner, we were awarded Agency Employer Brand of the Year. It’s fair to say we’re no stranger to winning awards for our work, but to be recognised for the way we treat our people was pretty special and here’s why.

When we set up Stripe we had an ambition beyond doing great work for our clients and that was to create an agency that genuinely put people first. In a business where your product is your people, it’s ridiculous to have to say it, but all too often agencies are driven by nothing but the bottom line. In my opinion that’s back to front. At Stripe, we believe happy people = great work = happy clients. This philosophy hasn’t just been good for our people, it’s also been good for business. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve achieved year on year double digit growth and consistently exceeded our targets.

That said, when you run a small business, making a commitment to your people isn’t easy and the investment in time is huge. We don’t have the luxury of an HR department, so it’s down to our leadership team to define and deliver our people strategy day in day out. In many ways I believe this is why we’ve succeeded – everyone owns it and everyone delivers it.

Ultimately our people are our brand. ‘The Stripes’ as they call themselves define our culture and we try to let them own it as much as possible. Beyond that our philosophy is simple – it’s about supporting people to be the best that they can be. We do that through all the usual stuff like regular and consistent communication, providing forums for two way feedback, coaching, training, flexible working, reward and recognition. More importantly, it’s about giving people opportunities, empowering them and pushing them to realise their potential. But we also recognise that employees are real people beyond the doors of Stripe and we try to help them balance their lives with work as best we can.

This isn’t always easy and I’ll be honest, sometimes we don’t get it right, we are human after all. We do however take our responsibility to our people seriously. When the life of every individual is so precious, surely every business has a responsibility to do that?

Stripe grows our team with four new appointments

Stripe grows our team with four new appointments

Hot on the tails of our recent digital expansion, we’re excited to announce the addition of four new and very talented Stripes to our growing team.

Andrew Boocock is a former senior account manager at Gardiner Richardson managing B2B and consumer accounts, joins Stripe as an senior account manager in our Edinburgh office. Prior to agency life Andrew was a sports journalist for the BBC.

Hayley Angell, an Aussie native, communications specialist and former keynote speaker, has taken up the role of account manager in  our Glasgow office. Hayley brings with her a wealth of experience and passion for integrated marketing campaigns, social media strategy and great writing.

Elaine Cowan joins Stripe as PA to the Board. Drawing on her experience of juggling commercial property marketing and raising a fearless toddler, Elaine is set to bring more than a little order to the Stripe board.

Ana Zamora, a seasoned receptionist and paella-maker extraordinaire joins Stripe in our fast-paced front of house role.

Nurturing the next generation

Nurturing the next generation

This week I sat in on an interview with our client The Robertson Trust and three beneficiaries of its Scholarship Trust bursary. I was inspired by the young adults who were just starting their careers. They had drive and determination to succeed and I don’t doubt we will see them at the boardroom tables of major companies in the future.

The Robertson Trust’s scholarship programme has been running since 1992 and since then has been helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds realise their full potential, by providing financial assistance through its bursary scheme.

Equally as important is the on-going support the Trust gives the students. Part of this is helping them find internships. For the three students I met this week, an internship has led to full-time permanent jobs in their chosen profession.
Director of The Robertson Trust, Kenneth Ferguson, talked to me about the need for more companies to take on interns. He explained that it provides a huge opportunity for the individual, but also allows the organisation to train and nurture a new employee from the early stages of their career, creating a loyal, hard-working team member.

Stripe’s graduate recruitment programme, Stars and Stripes, has been running since 2009 and has been hugely successful with more than a third of our current team now made up of graduate trainees. We also have regular paid internships throughout the year and we work closely with universities to engage with the most suitable candidates. We invest heavily in training our graduates because we want them to be the best they can be, but we also want to deliver brilliant work for our clients and that means ensuring our team are committed and fluent in the skills required for the job.

But it’s not just about the skills, a young intern, fresh from University or College can bring infectious energy and buzz to an office. They bring a different perspective to client activity and drawing on their current life experiences can help make or break a campaign.

Technology means that in many ways, Generation Z have it easy, but actually life has never been tougher for young adults and that’s especially true when it comes to finding a job. Employers have a responsibility to develop the next generation for the benefit of both their business and society. What better way to do this than investing in an intern and therefore investing in the future.

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

Crisis communications: preparing for the worst

“You just have to deal with the situation. It’s not until afterwards that you realise how much it affects you emotionally” said one participant at an event Stripe was hosting this week.

In the wake of a tragic accident at a primary school, she was the local authority’s communications specialist – briefing councillors, consulting with emergency services and arranging plans for the school’s memorial. She was following protocol and process in the midst of a community’s grief.

This is surely the dark side of PR and comms if ever there was one: planning for worst case scenarios, considering how an organisation could respond, and pre-empting the emotions and sensitivities involved. Nothing prepares you for the reality of being at the centre of a real crisis, but having communications plans in place can be the difference between offering heartfelt condolences and being swallowed by your own emotions and negative media coverage.

Last week, CIPR Scotland hosted an event on ‘using digital channels in crisis communications’. The speaker talked about research from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that showed 40% of organisations don’t have plans in place in case of a crisis.

The CIPR event focused on developing digital procedures for crisis situations. This included:

  • Act immediately – even if you need time to develop a public response.
  • Push pause on all planned content, including scheduled social media posts. Ask yourself “is this content suitable in the current circumstances?”
  • Integrate all parts of your communications structure into the crisis plan. This should range from social media and website content to SMS services, telephone hotlines and email bulletins.
  • Review your organisation’s tone of voice and spokesperson – sometimes the response needs to come from the CEO. No one else.
  • Start monitoring online discussions immediately – you need to understand what people and saying and why it’s being said.
  • Ensure internal communications is included at all stages. Getting your staff to understand the situation and how to correctly respond is vital.
  • Update your website. Add relevant information and check the tone being used on the homepage.
  • Engage your stakeholders and keep them updated. We develop these relationships and networks for a reason.
  • Always remember the emotions involved and act appropriately.

These considerations apply to brands not directly involved as well, as was demonstrated on Friday evening as the world watched and mourned for Paris.

As news poured in about the atrocities, many brands continued to post scheduled or automated content. The public reaction was disgust, even by those in the communications industry itself. Ad Week has run an article on how brands showed support without being insensitive. Facebook, Airbnb, Google, Skype and Verizon have been recognised for their appropriate support.

We can’t always predict when a crisis will occur, but real-life dictates that it will happen. It’s up to us to know how to respond, react fast and hope we never have to.

Find the edge of your comfort zone and then jump

Find the edge of your comfort zone and then jump

A good friend once told me that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

Wise words for a copywriter you might say, but particularly poignant in my current circumstances. This year I decided it was time to test my nerve by leaving the familiarity of home behind for a brand-spanking new adventure.

Now fear of the great unknown is a very normal human characteristic. We are wired to be risk averse. But is trying something new really all that scary?

The answer is of course, no.

In fact being brave and throwing yourself into what seems like uncomfortable experiences is the best thing you can do to develop and grow. It’s all about adapting to your surroundings (this is especially true as a PR).

Broadening my personal and professional horizons was a core motivation for leaving home comforts behind and joining the crew at Stripe.

I’ve always harboured the ambition to work with a team of adventurers – exploring new creative possibilities for inspiring change and doing things differently. And on the evidence of my first few weeks at the agency, the team strives to be bold with its ideas and brilliant in its delivery in all that it does.

Of course starting a new job is a unique and compelling challenge. Unfamiliar surroundings, alternative processes and different ways of thinking can be bamboozling at first.

But thanks to the warm welcome I received by my new creative partners in crime I’ve soon felt at home. A bag full of bounty and a haul of locally brewed ales obviously help.

However, it’s the friendly personalities of the team that make this new chapter in my PR story worthwhile. If the measure of a successful team is its people, then Stripe’s glass is more than half full.

Suddenly being out of my comfort isn’t all that bad. In fact I’d recommend it.

So be bold and dare to be brilliant. It’s the only way to earn your stripes.

The new Barbie ad: leading a campaign for change?

The new Barbie ad: leading a campaign for change?


The new Barbie ad ‘Imagine the Possibilities’ hit the screens last week and its timing was spot on. It’s been a month of conversations about equal rights for women – thanks to the film release of The Suffragettes and, of course, that gender pay-gap essay.

Now, we have a women’s libber Barbie too. Let’s just hope she doesn’t come in a box…

Well done though Mattel, I’m sure the launch was perfectly planned to coincide with the film’s release and the rest will have been the PR gift that’s kept on giving.

It’s certainly got people talking – like all bold, new campaigns should. Of course, some people love it but there are haters of its very nature too. It is still Barbie after all.

Personally, I think Mattel has nailed it – it’s inspiring, positive and shows that girls can aim for more than their dream house, shopping and marrying someone like Ken. It’s emotive too. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it a brought a wee tear to my eye.

I did have an ironic laugh however, when someone pointed out that when you click through at the end it takes you to this.

Not quite in the same vein somehow, Mattel. There is something to be said for thinking about cross channel/platform communications.

However, at least it’s taking positive action and trying to (finally) break beyond traditional gender stereotypes by inspiring little girls to aim high.

What’s also been hugely encouraging is that male icons have been joining in the pro-feminist conversation too.

Bradley Cooper responded to J-Law’s essay by encouraging women to stick up for themselves and aim to change mind-sets. James Bond’s new film Spectre features a fifty one year old love interest, and Daniel Craig (rightfully) slammed an interviewee recently when she suggested Bond had ‘succumbed to the charms of an older woman’. “I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age”, he replied.

Nice one James.

Could it be then that the tides are starting to turn?

While they’ve attempted to shift perceptions in the past, with the likes of Computer Engineer Barbie – complete with a pink laptop. In reality, there’s probably a long way to go until Barbie is taking over the boardroom, stops accessorising in pink, puts on weight and, is played with by the boys as much as girls. But, if this is just the early days of its evolution then it’s a good start.

We know how challenging – and hugely rewarding – it is to try and drive behaviour change via campaigns. It takes time and the objective to win hearts and minds must be ongoing.
So let’s hope this good work from Mattel doesn’t stop here.