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#EURchoice

#EURchoice

Young voter turnout is lower than any other demographic in the UK. That’s why the Scottish Youth Parliament briefed Stripe to develop and run a national campaign to encourage young people aged 18-25 in Scotland to register to vote ahead of the EU Referendum.

The campaign has already reached more than 400,000 young Scots and made 2.1 million impressions with the hashtag #EURchoice and the bold slogan “Get registered. Get voting. Get heard.” Using engaging videos and images we’ve rolled out content across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

We also created localised Snapchat geofilters targeting Scotland’s most densely populated areas.

Mock up group
This campaign is about young Scots standing up for their rights and getting their voices heard. It’s a tough issue but we know from our research that it resonates with young voters and drives behavioural change. So…

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What PR lessons can be learnt from ‘Boaty McBoatface’ debacle?

What PR lessons can be learnt from ‘Boaty McBoatface’ debacle?

If there is one thing that we can all agree on – the naming of a polar research ship is not something which would traditionally generate the kind of nationwide media coverage it has over the past month.

When former BBC presenter James Hand jokingly entered a public competition to name the new £200m state-of-the-art ship, which is due to be built in 2019, he could have had no idea that his suggestion of ‘Boaty McBoatface’ would garner such public support and capture the imagination of the country so successfully.

Garnering quick support from the blog-o-sphere and social media channels, the ‘Boaty McBoatface’ suggestion soon went viral, with the public overwhelmingly endorsing the comical name for the new ship- and why not? It’s neither offensive nor particularly outlandish but I challenge anyone not to adopt a wry smile across their face every time they hear the name mentioned on TV and radio. It’s pretty much impossible.

Eventually, after achieving over 124,000 votes online, Boaty McBoatface triumphed in a bigger landslide than Labour’s famous 1997 general election victory. This is where the story takes a massive wrong turn – veering off the edge of a cliff and turning the PR dream into a politically correct nightmare of epic proportions.

Because, we all now know, Boaty McBoatface did not win – the decision was quickly taken out of the hands of the public and moved in-house to the Government who have now decided that the RRS (Royal Research Ship) David Attenborough is a much more befitting name than poor ‘Boaty McBoatface’.

In the public poll, David Attenborough came 4th overall – nowhere even close to the popularity of Boaty McBoatface – so why was the decision made to award the 4th choice as the overall winner?

By this point, Sky News, BBC, the Daily Mail and most of the British press had dedicated countless minutes and column-inches to the story which captured the hearts of a British public, looking for a rare glimmer of positive news amidst the daily turmoil of foreign conflict, asylum seekers, the Calais ‘Jungle’, a government at war with the NHS and junior doctors and massive job losses at BHS and in the country’s traditional steel and coal industries.

From a communications perspective, this is where major lessons could and should be learned.

Why was the decision made to, despite overwhelming public support, cast the social media competition aside and take the decision out of the hands of the public? Why even have a public competition in the first place if the decision is ultimately going to be taken by the ‘powers that be’ rather than allowing people a rare moment of joy?

Positive PR could have easily been achieved had they taken the nationwide publicity and utilised it to the advantage of the Royal Research Society. The RRS has probably never had such a far reaching media story and if the Government had been smart it would have harnessed this popularity and made the most out of it. It’s what we in the industry call an ‘easy-win’.

Instead the Government with its ill-thought decision has not only missed an open-goal of Chris Iwelumo-esque proportions, but blasted the ball into the back of its own proverbial net.

Just think of the goodwill and opportunities that could have been afforded to the RRS had they allowed ‘Boaty McBoatface’ to become a reality – the research ship could have eventually become a national tourist attraction, such is the level of support attributed to it.

I think there are two main lessons to be learnt from ‘Boaty McBoatface’ –

  1. If you’re not willing to let go of control and give the public the overall say in a public competition – don’t do it in the first place. The Government would have been well aware of the potential risks attached when opening up a naming competition to the public.
  2. If you do go ahead with such a competition – whatever you do, don’t backtrack once you’ve gone live and score an own-goal from a PR perspective. The public is more shrewd than it is given credit for and it is exactly this type of scenario that fuels scepticism of politics and politicians.

The Government has now backtracked on its original backtrack and announced that while the polar ship itself will not be named Boaty McBoatface, one of its remotely operated sub-sea vehicles will be named Boaty in recognition of the vote. A more futile attempt to save some face, I can’t remember.

Overall, I can’t help but feel that a massive opportunity has been missed.

To paraphrase a much used quote “Boaty McBoatface is dead. Long live Boaty McBoatface!”

A sad day for the New Day

A sad day for the New Day

After only two months in circulation, the New Day is to close due to poor sales. But why did such a seemingly popular addition to our daily news fail so quickly?

I was convinced it was going to revolutionise the newspaper industry. The bite-sized, easy to digest news is just what we need in our busy lives, while its bold graphics made it stand out, and its attention grabbing front pages captured readers instantly. It had a fresh take on features, focusing more on people than products, and it made striking use of photography, giving it visual appeal.

The New Day felt like it came from the same family as Metro, Shortlist and Stylist: easy to read, informative and entertaining. But what the latter three publications all have in common is their distribution method. You can pick them up on public transport or from stands in high footfall locations, and the major appeal is the cost: all three are free.

Could the New Day have survived if it had been a free sheet? I would say undoubtedly yes. The premium advertising rates charged by titles like Metro or Stylist surely go to show that revenue can be generated by creating a title that people look forward to reading.

Of course there have to be limitations on the number of publications that are distributed on our transport networks, but why not give people a choice of what they want to read? Maybe that’s the real way forward for print media? People have a choice of which newspaper to buy, so why not give them options on which one to pick up for free?

I’m sad to see the end of the New Day, and I’m not alone. Its Facebook page is full of supportive comments. Who knows, perhaps Trinity Mirror will take heed of some of the positive vibes and find a way of giving it another day…

The 2022 FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s PR juggling act

The 2022 FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s PR juggling act

“The winner to organise the 2022 FIFA World Cup is, Qatar!” These are the words declared on 2 December 2010 by Sepp Blatter that remain fresh in the memory of so many in the footballing world. They are also the words which have arguably changed a nation and how football is run forever. I will always remember the atmosphere in Aspire Park in Doha. Men, women and children, faces illuminated looking up at a giant screen. The declaration ceremony was taking place a world away in a much colder Zurich. The area erupted when ‘QATAR’ was pulled from the envelope. People shouted, screamed and some even cried with happiness. It was then that I realised that this was to be much more than just a football tournament. It was going to be a catalyst for change on a political, cultural and human level. It was going to be about sport breaking down stereotypical barriers, and a unique opportunity for Qatar to leave a lasting legacy to change perceptions about the country on a global scale.

However, no more than a few hours later, the world’s media scolded the decision and brought Qatar’s biggest ever party to an almighty halt. Allegations of corruption and bribery soon followed and even now in 2016 casualties of the decision continue to be thrust into the media spotlight with the bid now under FBI investigation. Qatar is having what we like to call in the industry, a ‘PR nightmare’.

Despite the opportunity before them, I have to agree with comments made by Nicholas McGheehan, Gulf Analyst at Human Rights Watch recently that Qatar seemed to be “catastrophically” unprepared for the scrutiny that followed this big decision. Its efforts at public relations have been poor, especially in comparison to the United Arab Emirates who have been more effective in handling the country’s image around the world.

I’m a strong advocate of giving the underdog a chance at proving themselves. But I also have to acknowledge the negative image which has been portrayed so far amidst the allegations of corruption, bribery, human rights abuses, lack of footballing history and the uncontrollable climate issue. I have been lucky enough to live in Qatar and I agree that they have a lot of work to do to combat this negative reputation and I certainly don’t condone the said allegations. But what Qatar is being denied is a chance to tell both sides of the story. Qatar has gone from a relatively anonymous backwater to strong economic and political power, becoming a key player in global affairs. Its vision and ambition has to be admired, but one has to question if Qatar being thrust into the global media spotlight was too much too soon?

Amongst the damning headlines, Qatar has also been catching the eyes of the world by means of its vast wealth. It is the richest country in the world per capita and has been involved with the purchase, investment and sponsorship of some of the world’s biggest brands including Harrods, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain and The Shard. Despite rapid development and eye catching purchases, Qatar is still a developing country with a number of teething problems and in my opinion not being able to control its image has been a major issue. This has created a problem in that FIFA sponsors including Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Budweiser are facing increasing pressure from groups to pull out of sponsoring the 2022 World Cup due to the allegations. So far, a few have voiced concern, but none have pulled out. A move which could be explained by the monetary and advertising value that the World Cup can bring.

Overall, Qatar’s PR juggling act is a tough one. On one side they are trying to promote the 2022 FIFA World Cup as a great event and a unique opportunity to showcase Qatar as a country, but on the other it is trying to counter negative press around current teething problems as a developing country. It will always be remembered for being the first World Cup in the Middle East, the first World Cup to be held in the winter and also being known as one of the most controversial decisions in the history of sport. Qatar needs to work on its global image and make sure that any activity is appropriate and doesn’t open it up to further criticism. Global sporting events magnify a country’s flaws and I look forward to observing with interest how Qatar’s leaders overcome them in the years prior to 2022. The clock is ticking and solutions and demonstrable change needs to be seen. Organisers have a chance to promote Qatar for the right reasons and to deliver a memorable tournament to live up to the campaign hashtag, #ExpectAmazing.