Stripe Communications Blog

Nobody panic – helping you manage out of a crisis

Nobody panic – helping you manage out of a crisis

Despite the fact we are in the middle of a huge crisis, from a comms point of view things have been relatively straight forward. The Government has led the way and businesses have followed.  No one is alone, we’re all in it together, which in many ways has made it easier to message and deal with.

But as we start to see things transition into ‘next normal’, businesses have to be prepared for managing their own news and reputations. The media are going to switch their attention away from the Government and will be looking for stories about the fallout. So, everything – from financial struggles to redundancies, closure of offices, pulling back from investment, employees not being supported or treated appropriately, to additional spikes in infection – will prove challenging to manage. Whilst much of this is unavoidable, brands and businesses will be held accountable for their actions during this time, and even the mighty can fall with one wrong move.

Last week, myself and Scotland MD, Morna McLelland, sat on a Marketing Society Inspiring Minds panel to discuss managing comms during a crisis; here’s a summary of some things for brands and businesses to think about.

1. Be Prepared (and know when an issue becomes a crisis).

None of us ever saw ‘global pandemic’ on the risk register of any business we worked with, but every business should be thinking about the potential risks and challenges facing them.  These could be financial, operational, people, product or customer related.  Prepare your own risk register, work through the scenarios, and ideally, plan how you would respond.  If you know something significant is going to happen, take as much time as you can to prepare.  Think about who in your organisation will need to be involved, what are the key stages or dates you need to work around, how will you make decisions, and how will you communicate with each other?

2. Understand your audiences

Who are the people you need to influence and communicate with?  These could include investors, stakeholders, politicians, customers, and employees.  Map out your audiences in relation to your issue.  Who is most important, what do they need, what do they want to hear, and how will you reach them?

3. Make your message relevant

Ideally you should boil your comms down to four key messages. When you write them, remember your voice, keep them short, and ideally work with a PR professional to ensure that the words you use can’t be edited down by a journalist or taken out of context in any way.  Revisit your audiences and then make sure you tweak messages depending on who you’re talking to – tailored comms will go down much better than one size fits all.  Be consistent.  Admit mistakes, be clear, and show empathy.

 

4. Don’t believe your own hype

Of course you believe in the business you work in but that can sometimes cloud your judgement on how people externally will interpret your message. Use someone external to stress test your messaging and approach, and get a real-world view on things.

5. Be clear on your voice and who is representing you

When you speak, how do you sound?  If a brand is talking, make sure you don’t ignore your brand personality but be flexible.  Even the most irreverent brands need to know when to play it straight. Be real, be authentic, and above all else be honest.  The brands who fare best in a crisis are those that are relatable and real – hiding behind corporate masks will do very little to engender any kind of empathy. Get clear on who is going to be your voice. There is of course a role for the CEO but it’s important to consider different people for different roles and to ensure the most effective communicators are used at key moments.

6. Join things up

Make sure that your communications response looks at all the comms channels at your disposal, from PR, internal channels, customer newsletters, social media, stakeholder comms, third party networks and direct communications (picking up the phone or sending someone an email).  Timing and the sequence of this is especially critical and will be dictated by your audience mapping.

 

7. Use third parties to provide a different voice

Is there a third party that could support your story? Can you signpost existing help and information resources?  Or similarly, if you know someone is going to be especially negative then you might want to brief them directly in advance.

8. Understand the mood, and how it changes over time

How your story lands will have as much to do with what you say as the context in which it is landing.  Make sure you have a good read on the external environment and are sensitive to what’s going on around you. At the moment we are ‘all in this together’ with a collective goal, but that’s unusual. Be aware of wider economic factors that are influencing opinion – both good and bad – and how your messaging might need to change.

9. Communicate often and think ahead

Keep people updated (even when you have nothing to say).  Never stick your head in the sand or ignore questions. Review your social content and frequency of communications as people hunger for information, reassurance or guidance. And while you’re in this now, and will undoubtedly be focused on getting out of it as quickly and painlessly as possible, think ahead…what could be the future implications; unemployment, shareholder unrest, staff well-being and mental health, and are you equipped for that too?

 

10. Get specialist help

Managing reputations in a crisis is something that can’t be taught in a book or by reading a blog. The process and nuances come from years of experience so get someone in that knows what they are doing and absolutely have them at the top table throughout.  If you manage something badly then it’s going to take five times longer to clear up and by then your reputation could be severely damaged. Surround yourself with experienced experts that can help you and provide calm and confident support.

As a final thought, while no-one loves a crisis, if handled correctly they can define a business and the leadership team within it. Even when delivering the toughest of messages, if you are relatable and act with integrity and compassion then things might not end up quite as bad as you think.

 

Content, Distribution and the Chuckle Brothers

Content, Distribution and the Chuckle Brothers

I have read the headline ‘Content is King’ many times since lockdown and I roll my eyes every time I see it. It is such a cheap, throwaway statement. Essentially, it’s only driven by the notion that right now, people have no option but to sit at home and watch it, because they have nothing better to do whilst on lockdown. A captive audience (not in the good way).

Content is like a good joke. You probably remember 1 out of a 1000. Anyone can make a respectable piece of content that has the core elements to make it digestible. But using my lockdown weight gain as a source for inspiration, who wants a dull, digestible and waistline diminishing rice cake, when you can have an enjoyable, indulgent ‘I need my fat trousers’, memorable, doughnut.

Content can appear in your social feed like getting unwanted attention from a stranger on the bus, peering over your shoulder and commenting on what you’re reading. You don’t welcome the intrusion and the contents of such an intrusion is usually arbitrary and irrelevant. So how do doughnuts and creepy people on the bus shape our thoughts on content?

For the past two years we’ve been developing a feature length documentary that started life as a pitch concept. The film is called David vs Goliath and is currently on Amazon Prime (soon to be appearing on iTunes, Google Play and others.) In the first month it was trending in the most popular movies in the UK and sustained in the top 10 documentaries for three weeks. It was brand funded. The premise of the story was: we take David Haye (David) a man who had never played a hand of poker in his life and challenge him to take on Grosvenor Casinos’ ‘Goliath’ (the biggest poker tournament outside of Vegas) and we follow his journey over 18 months, in a fly on the wall documentary. That was it. Simple.

David vs Goliath Film Poster

We protected the story and the narrative arc of the documentary like a drunken 20 year old would protect their kebab, staggering home at the end of the night. We knew that the brand would not only flourish when not forced in to the conversation, but facilitate the story and be seen by customers as a means to potentially facilitate both a perception change in their view of poker, but also the environment in which it’s played.

We live in an era where we obsess over short form content, with limited attention spans, with draconian social media platform restrictions with which we wrestle vociferously to shoehorn in key messages, etc. But there is an exciting opportunity in long form story telling. The art is finding the story, the author, the principal characters, the book and shop in which you’re going to sell it (if you follow the analogy) – but most importantly an interesting reason for existing in the first place. A lack of focus on any one part and you’ll never make it on to Richard and Judy’s illustrious book club. In the case of David vs Goliath, distribution was critical. In the case of long form content, the right distributor holds the key to unlock access to platforms to reach your consumers and create a subsequent, desired behaviour change among them.

Grosvenor Casinos, who were the client for this project, understood (here comes another analogy) that if they didn’t come across as the desperate tinder date, obsessively texting, sending selfies, and talking about themselves, but appeared as discreet, intelligent and discerning in their presence, then they would be lucky in love. Not endlessly waving their brand in the face of would be suitors (no associated analogy please note) was the way to earn respect, credibility and meaningful engagement.

If you’re a client, don’t be intoxicated by your own brand and its story. Listen to objectivity and the challenge of your agency consultants to help shape and craft your story for consumers. If you’re an agency, don’t kid your clients or waste their money on puff content that the you ‘at home in your pyjamas, eating your indulgent doughnuts’ wouldn’t give a moment’s attention. Obsess over the craft of the story.

Finally, think about distribution. Think about your content, short form or long form. Think about the journey and the emotional connection you are attempting to make and the natural role the brand can play in that equation. If a natural role does not exist, start again.

So Content isn’t King. A final analogy to leave you with. Content is ‘Barry’ to Distribution’s ‘Paul’ Chuckle. And we all know with only one chuckle brother forming the all important partnership, all you’re left with is a sad ‘to me…’

STRIPE EXPANDS SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM WITH GROUP ACCOUNT DIRECTOR APPOINTMENTS

STRIPE EXPANDS SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM WITH GROUP ACCOUNT DIRECTOR APPOINTMENTS

Stripe today announces a series of promotions that strengthen its senior leadership team in Edinburgh.

Stepping into new Group Account Director roles are Nadine Reilly, Shaun Bell, Adele Thomson and Kirsty Grierson, in recognition of their contribution and ongoing commitment to the business.

Managing Director, Morna McLelland, said: “Our new team of Group Account Directors will continue to deliver strategic, creative and exciting work while building and maintaining our strong client relationships. As part of our new Senior Leadership Team, they will be firmly focused on maintaining business growth and development of our people.”

Established by CEO Juliet Simpson in 2006, Stripe now has offices in Edinburgh and London and employees over 50 staff. The company was revealed as the seventh fastest growing consultancy in the UK in the 2019 PR Week Top 150.

Want the best creative solutions? Then prepare to go to Mars

Want the best creative solutions? Then prepare to go to Mars

Where’s creativity heading in today’s marketing context?
Well, there’s a ship about to leave the pod and it’s heading out-of-this-world.

Having recently attended the D&AD Festival 2019 (physically) and The Adobe Experience Festival (virtually) my take outs are looking into the stratosphere.

Just as we’re all feeling comfortable that we’re digitally up-to-speed, private space travel is bringing together entrepreneurship and enterprise in an explosion of converging technology, and futurists are now telling us to prepare for the post-digital era.

Boom! The sonic pop of this concept is blowing my mind.

So why should this matter to me as a Creative Director?

The answer is that these missions are working examples of how the combination of creativity and innovation is the key to the future. Not just as a savvy business model but as the way we need to think.

Right now, what better creative platform is there than to say you’ll be the first human on Mars? What higher technological challenge is there than to be responsible for the innovation to actually get there? What’s not entirely genius about owning both the creative and technological thinking of the journey and the experience?

Sophie Hackford, a speaker at Adobe’s 2019 Experience Festival, tells us how augmented and virtual reality are set to have a significant impact on the customer experience.  Looking at trends in the most popular gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Secondlife, gives us a glimpse into the commercial landscape of the future; spaces where avatars of ourselves are building lives, interacting, buying and selling virtual commodities.

The internet is becoming more and more immersive. UX and digital design trends are a response to these interactive and 3D environments. Communities are already engaging with flawless virtual influencers, and even our Hollywood stars and CEOs could be succeeded by both digital and synthetic avatars of themselves.

Hackford continues that if ‘virtual intelligence can automate experience’ then events in the future could become so good, no-one will want to leave and if you do miss a must-go social event, then there’s no risk of FOMO, you can travel back in time to take part in the 3D virtual world.

Where does this leave creative communications professionals?

In a fascinating, expansive place…but am I concerned? A little. Not just of the monitoring and morality issues, but more by the capacity my brain has to take all this tech on board. Time to grab an innovation geek and make them my new BFF.

And here’s where we go back to basics. Creativity can’t be automated and when fuelled by great strategy and insight it’s the driver of all enterprise, especially in communications. Looking at this year’s D&AD pencil winners, and observing as a judge at  the ‘Pioneering Spirit Awards’ for the Marketing Society Scotland, it’s clear that creativity is agile as well as migratory. If there is an understanding and skill to adapt, then creativity fits seamlessly into any new habitat and is the vehicle to get you there too.

What should we take out of all this?  Well for me it’s that creative and innovation in marketing terms should no longer be considered as separate skills. ‘Creativation’ is the future. See you on Mars.

Sophie Hackford, Futurist, Technologist, Researcher and Anthropologist Keynote Speaker, Adobe The Experience Festival 2019 https://www.adobe.com/uk/events/experiencefestival19/recordings.html

#DandAD2019 https://www.dandad.org/en/d-ad-creative-advertising-design-festival/

We’re hiring for an Account Manager in Edinburgh!

We’re hiring for an Account Manager in Edinburgh!

Stripe is an award-winning creative, communications agency looking for an experienced Account Manager to come and join our Edinburgh team.

Are you a motivated and ambitious self-starter with a desire to play your part? Do you want to make a difference to your clients? Do you want to run stand-out campaigns? Do you want to be part of a fast-growing agency?

The right candidate should have at least 3 years’ communications experience – either agency or in-house – and thrive in an ambitious, lively, challenging and fast-paced environment.

We’re looking for an Account Manager who has:

  • A can-do attitude
  • Great media skills
  • A passion for creative thinking
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Unwavering team spirit
  • Excellent client servicing capabilities
  • Great attention to detail
  • Self-motivation and drive

The role involves work on a range of consumer accounts and gives you the opportunity to develop your communications career across a wealth of campaigns.

Salary is dependent on experience.

If you think you fit the bill, then send your CV to talent@stripecommunications.com and tell us why Stripe is the right place for you.

Closing date is Friday, 22nd June.

STRIPE’S GRADUATE PROGRAMME: APPLY NOW!

STRIPE’S GRADUATE PROGRAMME: APPLY NOW!

Are you looking to kick-start your career in communications and bursting with creativity, big ideas and entrepreneurial spirit? Do you want to work in an exciting, innovative and agile communications agency?

We’re looking for smart thinking and enthusiastic people to join our Stars & Stripes graduate programme in Edinburgh. This is your chance to work with some of the UK’s most exciting brands and to be part of Stripe IQ, our immersive training and development programme. It’s also a chance to work collaboratively to see your ideas come to life.

This year the Stars & Stripes graduate programme celebrates its 10th birthday. To honour this, we’re offering two outstanding graduates permanent, paid positions in Stripe’s Edinburgh office. Competition is fierce so be prepared to go all out and prove you have the drive and ambition to kick-start your career and become a valued member of the Stripe team.

Stripe is an integrated creative communications agency delivering brand, social, PR and digital. The Stars & Stripe programme is open to anyone who thinks they have the potential to thrive in those specialisms.

To put yourself forward for the role, email stars@stripecommunications.com with your CV and a cover letter telling us exactly why you’re the right person for this role – please include any relevant experience. You must also respond to one of the following challenges:

  1. Write a short, snappy blog of up to 400 words describing a creative communications campaign that you love and why it works.

OR

  1. Provide a piece of work that shows how you would influence behavioural change. This can be for any organisation or client and can take any format – from an exciting idea or activation to a piece of creative content, GIF, visual of a stunt, design or video. Your response doesn’t necessarily need to be slick but it must demonstrate that you can think cleverly, creatively and strategically. If you have design or digital skills, feel free to show them off.

The closing date for applications is 26 April 2019 at 5pm. The candidates with the strongest submissions will be invited to a selection day at Stripe. Successful applicants will join the Stars and Stripes programme in August 2019.

Stripe: more than red noses

Stripe: more than red noses

Today is Red Nose Day (RND), and a great opportunity to get out there and, in Comic Relief’s own words, “do something funny for money”.   We’re supporting RND at Stripe (not by buying plastic noses but paying to wear red and tell the worst jokes), but what about the rest of the year?  What are we doing as a business and as individuals to play our part and ‘give back’ beyond baking cakes and taking the calorific content of morning tea to epic proportions?

It’s a good question.  Let’s face it, we don’t really need £10 worth of homemade cookies and cakes at 11am, but it’s easy, quick and visible.  It lets us all feel OK that we’ve done our bit for charity.

While fundraising is hugely important, what’s harder is really being committed. What’s harder is standing up for something we believe in, tackling difficult issues, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, taking the path less travelled, thinking and acting differently. And asking your staff to do all that when you’re already a busy agency.

At Stripe, giving back is high on our agenda.  We believe it’s our duty to support the communities we live and work in, to provide opportunity, to inspire, assist, encourage and champion.  It benefits those around us and invigorates our staff, challenges perspectives and encourages fresh thinking year-round.

So, are we walking the walk – you decide?  For the past 12 years, we’ve offered every Stripe a Passion Day to support a cause close to their heart, had a companywide charitable focus for the year and given guest lectures to inform and inspire the next generation of communicators.  We’ve worked free of charge to address the taboo of self-harm, to challenge sexism and outdated mindsets in the communications industry and to raise awareness (and funds) for a specialist Breast Cancer unit.  We’ve slept out in freezing temperatures to support the end of homelessness in Scotland, we’ve improved school playgrounds, cycled across the country, paid every single internship and mentored rising stars.

We’re doing all this not because we have to, but because we want to. So, while we’re absolutely doing something funny for money today, it’s important to us to give back and pay it forward year-round.

International Women’s Day 2019: What’s more important than balance is equality

International Women’s Day 2019: What’s more important than balance is equality

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Balance for Better which of course makes perfect sense. It’s what we’re all striving for and although we’ve come a long way in the last 12 months, there’s still a huge amount to be achieved.

So, if this year is all about balance it got us thinking about where that left us at Stripe. You see, our workforce is 80% female and although we have a 50/50 Executive Board, our Management Board in Scotland is 100% female. Does this mean we’re in the wrong? Should we be beating ourselves up for not having more men in our business? Some would say yes, that we’re creating an environment which is positively discriminating in favour of women.

I disagree. Balance is important, but what’s much more important is creating a level playing field for every one of our team to fulfil their ambitions regardless of their gender. What’s more important than balance is equality.

We didn’t start out to create a female led business but when two thirds of people employed in our profession are female, Stripe isn’t unusual. However with only 30% of women making it to Board level, this is an area where I’m proud we lead the way.  Whilst we’re far from perfect, we’ve learnt that the key to retaining senior women isn’t about HR policies, it’s about culture. Management teams need to create an environment where all staff are supported to have a flexible working day where they can be there for family when it matters and that their career won’t suffer as a result.

I also believe if you have female leadership in a business it sets the tone and positively impacts how women are recruited, promoted and retained. This is why it’s so critically important that women are equally represented at Board level, because without that cultural shift at the top nothing will ever change.

At Stripe our culture is everything. It’s not driven by gender but is dictated by the common values that we all share. Our values are universal, but emotional intelligence plays a large part in our decision making. We treat our people as human beings rather than employees – recognising that what goes on outside of work can hugely impact their performance in the office.

Don’t get me wrong we combine this approach with a good dose of commerciality. Last year we had our most successful year and grew by 35%. That doesn’t come without a huge amount of hard work, personal sacrifices and not being afraid to make tough decisions when we need to.

Over the years we’ve kept our heads down and worked hard, rarely taking time to stop and recognise what we’ve achieved. But when we thought about this we realised we weren’t just doing a disservice to ourselves and our people, we were neglecting the fact that we have an important role to play on International Women’s Day.

And that role is to inspire. No one should have to work in an environment where they aren’t treated with respect or where there isn’t an equal playing field and people need to vote with the their feet if that’s happening to them. By telling our story we hope to inspire all future leaders to build businesses where the only thing that defines you is your talent and your values.

So, this year we are standing up and are proud to be who we are and of what we’ve achieved. We may not have perfect balance, but we will always strive for equality and surely that’s what’s important.