Blog : #StripeLife

An ode to the office

An ode to the office

There’s a bit of a tradition at Stripe which started when there was four of us crowded round a single deskphone back in 2007 – when it’s a colleague’s birthday we get cake and candles and we sing happy birthday. That’s it. But oh my god, do I miss those moments. Ten perfect minutes of celebration, joy and community all wrapped in glorious cake-y goodness.

It might be an unpopular opinion, but I miss the office. In all likelihood this is compounded by the fact that I have three marauding kids at home. Even still, I miss the office. I miss coffee and chat with my work wife, I miss the shared moments when you crack a brief, I miss the energy and buzz of big days and busy weeks, I miss spontaneous conversations and random comments that turn into really productive moments. I miss all the teamwork and togetherness that you just don’t seem to get on a Zoom call.

When Twitter announced last month that it would be changing its WFH policy to, well, forever, it set a forward-thinking precedent that could shape the future of how we work. There’s no doubt the benefits of working from home have been huge and have reinforced the value of mental health and work life balance. Letting go of some of the more stressful parts of work life – for me, the commute, the school run and the pressure to ‘be somewhere’ – and then also the realisation that, in fact, productivity doesn’t drop while working remotely.

So yes, absolutely the work is getting done but, in my opinion, it’s just not as much fun. It might sound naff but in a creative and agile industry like PR we don’t just go to work to work, we also go to play and be social. Productivity is important but it isn’t everything. Certainly, for some businesses and their workforces, fully WFH will work like a charm and it’s amazing that this moment has propelled in such positive change. I suppose that when we consider what the future holds for office-based cultures, I’m just not convinced it’s exclusively one thing or another and that maybe the reality is we’ll need a little bit of both.

Perhaps with flexibility, trust and compassion, there’s a chance we can have our cake and eat it.

VIRTUAL STRIPE ACADEMY LAUNCHES

VIRTUAL STRIPE ACADEMY LAUNCHES

Are you a student or graduate thinking about a career in communications? Do you have smart thinking, bright ideas and a passion for communicating?

We know this year will be tough for people starting out in the communications industry. To help talented people kick-start their careers, we’re launching the Virtual Stripe Academy to provide free online training on how things work at an award-winning communications agency.

The Virtual Stripe Academy will provide 12 online training sessions over four weeks. You’ll meet Stripe’s senior team and learn from their experience and expertise – providing industry insight and the skills you’ll need to get started. You can check out the full schedule here. It will run on Zoom from 10 August to 4 September 2020.

The programme is open to anyone studying at college or university as well as those who have graduated in the last two years. You don’t need to study any specific course, but you should have an interest in pursuing a career in the communications industry in the future.

Everyone who completes this training course will be offered the chance to join the new Stripe Mentor programme. The top 10 applicants will be mentored for three months by a senior member of the Stripe team – getting one-to-one career advice and help into the industry.

Registration for Virtual Stipe Academy has now closed. 

MENTORING IS A SUPERPOWER NOT TO BE TAKEN LYING DOWN

MENTORING IS A SUPERPOWER NOT TO BE TAKEN LYING DOWN

I never had a mentor when I was working my way up through the agency ranks, so when someone suggested that I should become one, my initial reaction was to decline. I made the same excuses that I use for avoiding the gym; no time and I don’t have the technique – a classic case of imposter syndrome.

Looking back, I had a subconscious fear of giving the wrong advice and being judged. I thought I wasn’t high profile or experienced enough to be a mentor. It was all in my head but feeling self-conscious is one of the biggest barriers to discovering what could turn out be a mentoring superpower!

To clarify, I’m not claiming that being a mentor makes you a hero (although I love the idea of wearing a cape to my next session), but it does have a positive impact on mental health – for both the mentee and the mentor. And, as many people are still working remotely and are anxious about their futures, the need for a mentor has never been so relevant.

 

What is a mentor?

Not to be confused with coaching, which addresses specific goals, mentoring is about the longer-term holistic development of a mentee. A mentor looks at the bigger picture by assessing overall strengths and weaknesses, and by helping the mentee to realise their own potential for themselves.

So why is mentoring good for mental health?

 

It reduces the feeling of isolation

You don’t have to be living alone or working remotely to feel isolated. Not having anyone to open up to can make your working life feel lonely. Having a mentor, a trusted confidante, can make a huge difference. Simply getting a different perspective and encouraged to find your own solution to a problem gives a sense of relief and empowerment.

K-PowIt helps combat anxiety

Most people experience some level of work-related anxiety, that’s normal. But, add a global pandemic and economic crisis to the mixing pot and anxiety levels can bubble over. It can be hard for people to share their feelings because they’re worried that it will reflect negatively on them, which creates even more anxiety. A mentor helps to get under the skin of the issue; to break it down and tear it apart, before guiding the mentee to find practical ways to move forward.

 

It boosts confidence

Mentees frequently report an increase in their self-confidence because they feel supported.

The relationship with a mentor gives a mentee a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgement. In turn, they get validation from someone with more experience, who they trust and admire. But it’s not just the mentees that benefit. Mentors also experience a confidence boost – the very act of helping someone else to reach their goals, and overcome hurdles provides a sense of achievement.

 

MENTORING MYTHS

A mentor can transform lives but, to do that effectively, you must get past some myths. Here are a few that I overcame:

“I don’t have anything to offer”

Nonsense. You’re a skilled professional that’s being paid to do what you do.

“I don’t have time”

Do what you can. An hour a month is plenty. A mentoring session can happen over a coffee, or a zoom call – whatever works best for you. I’m still too busy for the gym though.

“I’ve never had a mentor, so I can’t be one”

I’m living proof that, that’s not true.

“I cannot relate”

I’m currently mentoring a counsellor with his own practice, an entrepreneur through Virgin StartUp and various people through the PRCA – none of them operate in the sectors that I’m experienced in.

“I am responsible for all of my mentee’s decisions”

Not true. Your role as a mentor is to help the mentee think outside the box and explore all avenues before making ‘their own’ decisions.

spiderman

 

“I haven’t reached my full potential”

That’s good. You’re still striving. But, mentoring isn’t about you reaching your potential, it’s about helping others to reach theirs.

“I can save them!”

I love your enthusiasm and how you’ve moved from imposter syndrome to having a saviour complex! But seriously, mentors aren’t superheroes and are not here to save anyone. But, if they use their superpower wisely, it can be transformative for both parties.

mentoring superwoman

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.

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.

In celebration of #WorldSocialMediaDay we take a look at where to start

In celebration of #WorldSocialMediaDay we take a look at where to start

Like most things, social media has its very own international day of recognition, yes that’s right, it’s #WorldSocialMediaDay and it’s certainly a cause for celebration.

2018 has been one of the most turbulent years in the world of social media – the Cambridge Analytica controversy has shifted public opinion of social media platforms and even more so, the ethics surrounding online information management. As a result, the public’s trust of information shared online by news outlets, public figures and of course, brands is at an all-time low.

Even with what seems like a constant wave of negative reports, social media has and continues to change things for the better for brands. No matter the size of business or the value of a product, micro-brands now have the capability to reach any audience they choose in the same way international brands have done so for years.

There will always be a place for global televised advertising and A-list celebrity endorsements, but social media has given all brands the chance to compete on a level playing field and that is what makes social media so priceless.

As more and more brands begin to acknowledge the value of having a presence on social media, there are still many asking where to start?

Should every brand dabble in the recently launched IGTV? Should every brand pay influencers for partnerships? Can brands even prevent themselves from being sucked into the anti-social media agenda?

One thing common across brands nailing the volatile social media landscape is those with a clear, defined and confident brand identity. An identity that transcends through all content – images, videos and tone. An identity that has helped it navigate the landscape of traditional PR and marketing, so it’s a pretty good place to start.

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Last week in Cannes our work received a highly coveted Cannes Lions award in the entertainment category for our factual, feature-length documentary, Wildlands. A hugely competitive sector in which we were the only BTL agency to be represented.

Cannes is undoubtedly the creative pinnacle in global marketing comm’s. It sets the benchmark and showcases the most remarkable work from around the world. To not only appear but to win among them is a phenomenal achievement.

In 2017, we premiered Wildlands at BAFTA to a global media audience. The documentary assesses the war on drugs in Bolivia and South America as told through the eyes of those from both sides of the law who have helped shape and determine that war. Narrated by NY Times
Best selling author, Rusty Young (Marching Powder, Colombiano) the film has now been distributed globally through multiple digital platforms (Amazon Prime, iTunes, GooglePlay).

We created Wildlands to promote and support the launch of our client, Ubisoft’s, new video game; Ghost Recon: Wildlands. In fact it was the idea that won us the pitch. The game depicts Bolivia as a narco-state, gripped by a drug cartel which gamers must take on and defeat.

Wildlands served as a companion documentary to the game. It asked you to ask the question; is it conceivable that a fictitious video game portrayal of a drug war could be mirrored in a factual reality? Also in a western civilisation where cocaine use is prolific, what questions must society ask ourselves to stop this insidious and destructive drug?

In a world where the likes of Narcos, Sicario, etc. captivates global audiences, we knew we could bring new gamers to Ubisoft through non-gaming platforms, providing an entertainment experience with depth, substance and integrity. Digital VOD platforms then also leveraging algorithms to serve content to those people most predisposed to consume it.

What started life as a UK marketing asset for Ubisoft, was quickly adopted as the lead global marketing asset. Our client’s belief allowing Wildlands to grow to become what we wanted it to be.

All winning work in Cannes is embossed with these three tenets; courage, vision and emotion. They make you feel, make you care, make you think and make you do something. They make you pause, reflect and react.

Wildlands was complex, challenging, riddled with issues and at any one point, we could have said enough. But we didn’t. We didn’t because Stripe, Chief Productions (our production partners) and Ubisoft knew this work was special. This work would present a landmark in video game marketing communications and this work would make you feel, make you care and make you act.

Wildlands has now scooped a D&AD pencil a Clio award and now a bronze Cannes Lion. But it’s most important function is to prove to us all that courageous, visionary and work that moves you will always win. You just need to do it.

How I earned my Stripes

How I earned my Stripes

With the applications for the 2018 Stars & Stripes graduate programme closing later on Friday 4th May, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my experience of the programme, which kicked off a year ago today when I submitted my own application.

What happened next?

Stripe contacted me the following week to let me know I had successfully reached the interview stage of the process, which would be taking place on Stripe’s canal boat/meeting room… ‘the barge.’ An onslaught of thoughts flew through my mind; what would the competition be like? What would I be asked in the interview? Who would be interviewing me? And most importantly, was I going to get seasick on the barge?!

The interview was tough, there’s no point sugarcoating it. When you are up against fierce competition to work for a shit hot company, what can you expect? After a presentation from the managing director, we were put through our paces in speed dating style interviews and a tough timed writing test. Although challenging, the session was really enjoyable and gave us our first insight into what it was like to be a ‘Stripe’.

After this, I received the amazing news that I had a place on the Stars & Stripes programme and my first day arrived in no time.

Slotting into life at Stripe

Any nerves I had about starting my new role were very quickly quashed when I was welcomed so warmly into the team and given a detailed introduction to the accounts I was going to be working on and the training that we would be receiving.

From day one, development was a huge focus and I joined the Stripe Academy programme. As part of this, we took part in sessions on everything from account management to writing skills and pitching, to evaluation and reporting. All of these helped me feel totally equipped to carry out my work day to day.

What to expect as one of the Stars & Stripes

I was catching up with my university lecturers recently and said to them: “if you’d have asked me this time last year what I would have expected to have done and achieved in just a year, I would never have expected it to have been this much.”

It’s a common belief that on many graduate programmes you play a bit of a background role, not really getting involved in key projects, however, at Stripe this couldn’t be further from the truth. On my first week, I set off to Glasgow to attend a photocall followed by a client meeting at The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square about the swanky launch party that was taking place later in the year.

Since then, I have written media releases, social copy and procedures, planned parties, launched products, worked on digital ad campaigns, received a promotion… and this is only half of it!

Applications for the Stars & Stripes graduate programme close at 5pm on Friday 4th May. To find out more and how to apply, click here

Make a Date with Data Protection

Make a Date with Data Protection

So what can I say about GDPR? Sadly for the Stripe team the term doesn’t stand for God Damn Public Relations, if it did we’d ace that.

What I’m talking about is the General Data Protection Regulation, not the most exhilarating topic perhaps, but please don’t stop reading, let me explain…

The regulation is a new law that will come into force across the EU (including the UK, we’re still in it for now) this May. The law makes it incumbent for businesses to safeguard all their staff, client and supplier private information; meaning that they have to be a lot more sensible about the personal information that they collect and store.

The UK’s existing data protection law was created back in 1998, the same year Geri left the Spice Girls, Titanic was top of the Box Office and two PhD students from California created a little-known search engine named Google. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then and the law relating to data badly needed updating for a new generation, one that communicates, shops, banks and does business online.

Almost every week the media reports on yet another company that has either fallen prey to hackers or has inadvertently shared customer information with a third party. This dissemination of personal information leads to an array of problems, ranging from nuisance phone calls (“Have you been mis-sold PPI?”) through to fraud and identity theft.

Last month the user database for popular app My Fitness Pal was hacked. I’ve intermittently used the app to chronicle my various failed attempts to shape up. As a result of the hack, I now know that my contact details and (even more terrifyingly) my weight could be in the hands of anyone. And this is small fry compared to other headlines – the patients whose NHS medical records were hacked; or the Grindr users whose HIV status was sold to a third-party marketing firm…Life is getting a little too Black Mirror, and that is exactly why we need GDPR.

Like most professions, in the comms industry we do, by trade, collect some personal data. In preparation for the upcoming law change, we’re implementing new and secure processes for managing data, emails and encouraging our clients to do the same. Our goal is to ensure all the data we keep on file is up-to-date, relevant to our business, and above all, stored safely.

The law sets a new standard for data protection and makes businesses accountable for how they control and process data. It will require changes in mind set and processes, but ultimately, the outcomes are positive; the law will help us ensure our privacy and reclaim a degree of autonomy in the digital age.

Three cheers for data protection.