Blog : comms

From hack to flack: Jumping from journalism to PR

From hack to flack: Jumping from journalism to PR

That’s that then;  week one at Stripe done and dusted, week one of being in PR at all for that matter done and dusted after 20-plus years as a journalist.

I loved working my ticket round the weird and wonderful world of newspapers and news websites for longer than was probably healthy, so how has it been then ‘jumping the pond’ and landing in Scatter Cushion Corner?

I’m not really sure how to describe it; ‘challenging’ doesn’t cover it, ‘bewildering’ certainly comes close in parts, but perhaps the best parallel I can find is that I feel like Karen in the wedding scene in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas  –  overwhelmed by a new life in an alien world, spinning around in a sea of sensory overload, but in a good way, still smiling.

Not that I’m comparing my new colleagues to The Mob, or myself to a blushing bride;  I knew from the get go that things would be different here than the newsroom.

Up until now my first week in any new job has pretty much consisted of being told where the kettle is and how to turn the computer on.

But as my first monthly team meeting ended and the clapping stopped and we all headed off back to our desks, loins girded, enthused, focused on the job ahead, I took a moment, looked around, and said to myself ‘Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas any more.’

On the way back to my desk, ever so-slightly shell-shocked, one of my new colleagues smiled and leaned in and said: “You aren’t quite used to the whole clapping thing eh?”

It’s not that I’m not used to meetings, I’ve been to plenty, all sorts.

Like everybody else, memories of most of them have evaporated into a sludge of meaningless doodles, secret shared raised ‘oh aye?’ eyebrows, indecipherable notes, and forgotten action points.

But there are some meetings I remember more than others,  the ones ending with scrunched up news lists being hurled by an irate editor and bouncing off the back of hapless news editors’ heads, or worse, the bear-pit ritual humiliation of a colleague.

That doesn’t appear to be the Stripe way. This first meeting saw the senior managers sitting down with the whole team,  laying out the bones of the business in the weeks ahead, all of it, and publicly acknowledging success (hence the clapping, they’re not Moonies). They invited questions, no matter how prickly, and set proper, clear goals for the days ahead; I wasn’t used to any of that, maybe it’s like this in every PR agency, but I suspect not.

They say that first impressions are important, in this game perhaps more than most,  so here are my first impressions – I’ve clearly joined a motivated, dedicated team of very bright people who are all working incredibly hard. No time for scatter cushions here.

Since day one it has been a whirlwind of meeting new colleagues and clients, trying to learn the ropes, doing my best to get up to speed with the ways of working round here, of trying my best to add value to the whole enterprise, but mostly simply trying not to make any mistakes.

I know I am out of my Comfort Zone; an old friend who also now works in PR after a life in journalism put it beautifully when she said that I was clearly in The Google Zone. When I admitted after a few moments, sheepishly, that I had no idea what that was, she laughed and said:  ‘that’s the whole point, you have to go to the toilet and Google things every five minutes. You’ll be in The Google Zone for a good while yet’.

Stripe is undeniably fast-paced and dynamic – the energy in this place could have it connected to the National Grid –  and it has been a breath of fresh air; give me the Google Zone over the Comfort Zone any day.

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Valentine’s Day stunts, are they for you?

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Valentine’s Day stunts, are they for you?

It’s nearly that time of year again that fills so many of us with dread – Valentine’s Day. We all know that brands love to hijack seasonal events for their campaigns (think John Lewis Christmas) and Valentine’s Day is no exception. For some it’s a natural fit, a match made in PR heaven, but there is nothing worse than brands jumping on board the bandwagon just for the sake of it. House of Fraser? I’m talking to you.

The strongest brands know what they stand for and stick to what they represent irrespective of seasonal events. They stay focused on their core brand messages and drive towards clear brand objectives.

With that in mind and with V-day fast approaching, I took a look at some brands who have stayed true to their identity and created campaigns to make us weak at the knees. Saying that, I have to name and shame the brand which left us bitterly disappointed.

 

House or Fraser’s #emojinal disaster

03 Valentines- Article ImageThis week, House of Fraser has been ridiculed on Twitter after their newsfeed was transformed into an ‘Emojinal’ campaign featuring high-profile celebrities. The social media drive has left many of the brand’s 306,000 followers confused – with one user claiming the person in charge of the brand’s Twitter account must have ‘entrusted a 12-year-old with the password’. To make matters worse, they created and 1 minute video telling Will and Kate’s love story using nothing but emoji’s…the reaction? Not good. Many believe Emojinal is a masterclass on how to ruin a century-old upscale brand with one terrible social media campaign. House of Fraser, I think we need to go on a break.

We know House of Fraser got it wrong, but here are a few stunts we love…

 

Ikea offers a free cot…in 9 months

04 Valentines- Article ImageIn 2013, The Swedish homeware emporium offered the nation’s most efficient parents-to-be a free cot, just so long as their baby arrived nine months to the day from Valentine’s Day. The ad declared a limit of ‘one cot per baby’ with ‘delivery not included’. The campaign proved to be a success featured in the Daily Mail and shared over 10,000 times on social media.

 

Armed forces – going commando for Valentine’s Day

The Royal Navy kept the love alive for Valentine’s Day despite being thousands of miles from home. In a bid to boost their social media following, families used the ship’s Facebook page to post photos and letters to their loved ones – perhaps proving that distance (and a good campaign) can make the heart grow fonder.

01 Valentines- Article Image

 

Parisian Love by Google

02 Valentines- Article ImageThis heart-warming ad shows a man moving to Paris, falling in love with a French girl, getting married and starting a family – except you don’t see any human beings. The whole ad is conducted via Google searches. The video has had over 7,600,000 views and has been shared worldwide. You can watch the ad here.

So a word of advice this Valentine’s…don’t hijack calendar dates, news events and trends to follow the crowd because you could end up breaking up with the followers you have spent years building. Stick to what you believe in and never lose sight of your brand values and objectives. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t, take a step back and save yourself getting too #emojinal.

Creating an ‘offal’ stir: Burns Night with Macsween

Creating an ‘offal’ stir: Burns Night with Macsween

I’ve spent the last three months in a haggis whirlwind. Tasting, researching, delivering, analysing, pitching, writing, and even dreaming about the iconic food stuff made famous by the 18th century Scottish poet. This is what happens when you’re working with Macsween, pioneers of Scotland’s national dish, in the run up to one of the most important periods in their retail calendar, Burns Night on 25th January.

In the fickle and fast paced world of product communications, creating a strong seasonal story is more competitive than ever as brands vie for the same space and media attention. As communications consultants, it’s our job to get underneath the skin of the brand (or haggis in this case) to understand our clients’ objectives and how these translate into stories to reach the right target audiences at the right time. It isn’t enough any more to be the market leader and have a good quality product – to make headlines, you have to have a strong narrative to back it up and get people talking.

The brief for this project was straightforward – how were we going to make a splash around Burns Night, own and ‘premiumise’ the occasion and ultimately help sales to soar?

Our solution – launch the world’s most expensive haggis to highlight Macsween’s commitment to creating only the most delicious, hand-crafted products.

As you can probably imagine, launching a one-off gastronomic masterpiece such as this doesn’t happen overnight. It requires weeks of planning and working closely with the marketing and product development teams client-side to build something worthy of a story; no small feat. In the end, the talented and imaginative team at Macsween concocted a real culinary showstopper – a 3.7kg haggis consisting of Highland Wagyu beef, white summer truffle and edible gold leaf with a £4,000 price tag.

 

Macsween Haggis Coverage

 

Once the product was in place, it was then a matter of developing simple yet effective supporting assets to bring it to life across multiple channels. Like all seasonal stories, timing was key. With January 25th falling on a Monday this year, we needed the story to land before the weekend, targeting shoppers and putting Macsween top of mind for Burns revellers.

The luxury haggis has made headlines across the world, reaching as far as the US, demonstrating that even within the competitive and complicated landscape of brand communications, simple stories are still relevant and can sometimes create the most impact. The power of haggis should never be underestimated.

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.

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.

A Whopper of a stunt from Burger King’s PR team

A Whopper of a stunt from Burger King’s PR team

A round of applause for the Burger King comms team please. I’ve been following Burger King’s recent stunt like a hawk and boy have they done good.  A quick recap if you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past week; with World Peace Day around the corner, Burger King invited McDonald’s to join them in the ultimate peace treaty – a joint burger. *Takes a moment to ponder the deliciousness that is a combined Big Mac/Whopper*. McDonald’s said no; in a move which could have killed Burger King’s stunt dead. But no, today Burger King made the ultimate move and invited a number of other burger chains to collaborate.

Burger-King-OpenLetter

So why is this so great? Well for a start, this part of their activity was simple and relatively inexpensive, other than some design time, web build and some paid media, it probably cost Burger King nothing at all and imagine the ROI. And they have certainly reaped the rewards; they’ve gained global coverage and positioned themselves as the fun, maverick friend to McDonald’s corporate conglomerate banality.

Now the stunt hasn’t come without critics. It’s been debated and slated by many deeming the activity insensitive and adding that it draws the attention away from an important cause. I’m not sure I agree, I’d be interested to know how many people had World Peace Day at front of mind before Burger King reminded us…

And McDonald’s, oh McDonald’s, what a wasted opportunity. In case you hadn’t noticed, social media users love nothing more than a witty repartee between brands. By all means we don’t imagine for a second that you’d allow the burger to happen, but here was your chance. Surely there’s a community manager with a quick sense of humour and some sass somewhere deep in McDonald’s HQ who could have come to the rescue. There’s a time and a place for the corporate comms team, and this was not it.

 

Say hello to a new look Stripe

Say hello to a new look Stripe

When you first start up a business, it’s amazing how much time you spend agonising over the name, creating the perfect identity and defining your brand. And whilst your external image is hugely important, you very quickly realise that it’s the people you employ and the work you do that defines you. Because brands are lived from the inside out, not the outside in.

In the nine years since we started up Stripe a huge amount has changed, not just for us as a business but to the market in which we’re operating. We’ve not only survived, but thrived during a recession, we’ve experienced phenomenal growth, won countless awards and have supported our people to grow and develop.

It’s not always been easy, but despite all the change we’ve always had a very strong sense of what it means to be Stripey both for our people and for our clients. This has been our constant and I believe it’s what’s kept us on track.

As we look towards the future, Stripe is undeniably evolving. With the worlds of traditional PR and digital blurring, we’ve made a huge investment upskilling the entire agency to become digitally equipped – providing clients with one team to deliver compelling content and engagement across their PR and digital channels. We are no longer a team of PR professionals, we are a team of digitally savvy communicators.

So now feels like the perfect time to unveil a new Stripe brand. It’s been shaped by our values, our culture and heroes what we believe sets us apart – our people. And whilst on the outside the way we look is very different, the essence of what it means to be Stripey remains the same.

As we look towards the future there’s no doubt that there’s even more change to come but we’re absolutely ready for it.

5p charge: it’s in the bag: carrier bag charge success

5p charge: it’s in the bag: carrier bag charge success

It’s a key piece of legislation that’s had a big impact.

Six months on from the introduction of the 5p single-use carrier bag charge to retailers across Scotland, there is a reported 80% fall in usage.

Four of Scotland’s largest retailers have also donated more than £1 million to good causes as a result of the charge. Nationwide, retailers that signed up to Zero Waste Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment – an agreement to disclose information on the charge and donations made – are reporting that charities across the country have benefited from funds raised by the charge.

We’ve been working with Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government to raise awareness of the impact of the 5p charge.

On track with IRN-BRU’s ‘Train’ Ad

On track with IRN-BRU’s ‘Train’ Ad

‘Train’ has arrived, and we’ve been working with the team at IRN-BRU to help it leave the station!

The new ad continues the Gets You Through series, which takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how a taste of IRN-BRU can lift spirits and help you see a lighter side of life.

The campaign is the brand’s most successful to date with previous ads including Steamy Windows, Blind Date and Fanny generating more than 10 million online views.

Catch ‘Train’  at irn-bru.co.uk/train and there’s more @irnbru #getsyouthrough.

Serving up Happier Mealtimes

Serving up Happier Mealtimes

Healthy, tasty food is something of a passion for us here at Stripe so we’re very proud to have helped launch the Scottish Government’s ‘Happier Mealtimes’ campaign.

It’s all about championing the sourcing and eating of fresh, in-season food which is nutritious, tastes delicious and also has environmental benefits.

We kicked it off with a taste test of delicious samples at a pop-up food kitchen in Edinburgh’s Festival Square.

The four-week campaign offers advice on how to find and use fresh, in-season foods as well as easy to make, tasty recipes from some of Scotland’s leading chefs and food organisations.

The pop-up food kitchen is also on the road to spread the ‘Happier Mealtimes’ message across the country so keep your eyes peeled!

Find out more at Greener Scotland.