Blog : communications

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.

 

Most exciting job on earth? Experienced community manager sought!

Most exciting job on earth? Experienced community manager sought!

We are looking for an experienced, passionate and ambitious community manager to work closely with one of our exciting clients based in London. With an international audience, the role will involve on and offline activity, content creation, influencer management, proactive and reactive social posting, tackling multiple brands and channels simultaneously and everything that comes with that responsibility.

You will be energetic, outgoing, have a love for all things entertainment and showbiz as well as the ability to work in a fast paced culture, but in an organised way. With a solid understanding of how brands use social channels, how they should operate in the social space and the ability to lead an account from planning, delivery through to reporting and analysis, you’ll deliver innovatively and effectively.

If you are curious and creative, with amazing communication skills and a major love of the Mail Online’s sidebar of shame, send your CV and links to your work to talent@stripecommunications.com.

Location: London
Ideal start date: ASAP

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.

Stripe are seeking a senior creative conceptual designer

Stripe are seeking a senior creative conceptual designer

Are you bursting with ideas, a pixel-perfect perfectionist and have passion for the exact amount of white space? Stripe are on the hunt for a talented and ambitious senior conceptual designer to join our Edinburgh team full or part-time and to deliver across both Edinburgh and London clients.

Stripe is a leading creative and digital communications agency known for being a fast-paced, dynamic and fun place to work. We are award winning both for the work we deliver as well as being a great place to work.

You are the next generation of Stripe, helping take creativity to the next level. You deliver outstanding creative, especially in the digital arena, however your experience will include the ability to develop concepts that go beyond digital tactics and tie into emotive ideas that engage and move the audience.

The role requires social asset creation (static, gifs etc), video editing, photography, creative direction, participation in brainstorms, campaign conception and development, an understanding of print and production and the ability to give and take feedback constructively to achieve the best solution possible.

You are a people person, thrive on being challenged and are keen to make your mark in the creative world and across the business.

Sound good? Then send your CV and portfolio to talent@stripecommunications.com.

Closing date is Sunday 1st July.

Stripe back on campus to talk PR at Northumbria University

Stripe back on campus to talk PR at Northumbria University

Ten years ago I graduated from Northumbria University a bit of a crossroads. With a degree in English Literature and Film Studies, an empty wallet and a C.V. which included a variety of trades, from meat-packing to tea-towel printing, you could say I was a little confused about what to do next.

However, rather than selling my soul to become a prodigious blues guitarist, instead I decided to train as a broadcast journalist – before swapping a career as a hack for PR and marketing. The rest as they say, is history.

So when I was invited to deliver a presentation to MSc International Sport Management students at my old university stomping ground, it felt like I had come full circle. Having been asked to share my insight and experience of what industry best practice looks like, I jumped at the chance to hop on a train to Newcastle.

Inspiring future industry talent

The private sector has an important role to play in sharing advice with young people on the key attributes and skills they need to enter the workplace. While I get the sense there is still more work to be done in this area, positive strides are already underway.

Stripe is an agency committed to developing the next generation of communication professionals. As well as regular visits to present to students at Edinburgh University and Queen Margaret University, we continue to hire young and dynamic talent through our graduate recruitment programme, Stars and Stripes.

Each year we take on bright and enthusiastic grads to join our ranks and be part of Stripe Academy, our training and development programme. Now in its eighth year, the programme has kick-started the career of 25 outstanding graduates.

My presentation was focused on providing students with a better understanding of the value of PR, and its effectiveness for delivering impact as part of a brand’s integrated marketing strategy. As well as demystifying the industry, we discussed strategic thinking, campaign planning, media relations, community management, measurement and evaluation, agency life and what brilliant work looks like.

Andrew presenting to Northumbria Uni studentsPR presentation

Of course a sport-themed lecture wouldn’t be complete without some career highlights, and a few sporting anecdotes from a portfolio that has included sponsorship activations and event management, from football to mountain biking. I was delighted to wax lyrical about some of the projects I’ve enjoyed working on recently, such as the IRN-BRU Cup activation with A.G. Barr and the SPFL, Strathmore water’s Do More campaign and the UCI Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup.

But the key takeaway I wanted to share with students was that while the rules of engagement may have shifted over the last decade, the fundamental principles of communication are as relevant today as they always will be.

For me building strong relationships, no matter what industry you work in, will always open new doors and spark fresh opportunities. While creating deep and meaningful stories will always be the difference between a good campaign and a memorable one.

But if you’re thinking about a career in PR, here’s some of my top advice to get you started:

  • Writing wizardry: From drafting media releases to crafting sticky social content, excellent writing skills are an essential tool for PRs. Starting a blog, writing for your local newspaper or simply keeping a diary can help improve your tone of voice, spelling and grammar.
  • Confident communicator: While sending and replying to emails is a daily job, PRs are not keyboard warriors. Starting conversations is what we do best – so make sure you have great set of social skills and enjoy talking to real human beings!
  • Stay informed and be curious: As a PR it’s important to stay on top of current affairs and the wider news agenda. We work closely with the media and speak to reporters every day. With the rise of fake news, it’s best to go straight for quality journalism and pick up a newspaper.
  • Organise work experience: There really is no better way to learn about PR than gaining first hand industry experience. Why not apply for a week placement with an agency, or in a brand’s marketing department. I’d also encourage getting in touch with your local paper, TV or radio station.
  • Make a good impression: Showing interest in the job is a no brainer, but don’t forget to be passionate and enthusiastic about what you’re doing. If you get the chance of work experience, it’s your opportunity to make your mark.
GLASGOW 2018 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS APPOINTS STRIPE COMMUNICATIONS AS DIGITAL AGENCY

GLASGOW 2018 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS APPOINTS STRIPE COMMUNICATIONS AS DIGITAL AGENCY

We are delighted to officially announce today that Stripe Communications has been appointed as digital agency to Glasgow 2018, the inaugural multi-sport European Championships event.

Our brief is to deliver digital and social strategy, campaign ideation, content creation and implementation of paid and organic digital activity across all social and web channels over the next 18 months.  The team will focus on 13 key event milestones such as volunteer recruitment, the mascot launch and the European Championships event itself.

Taking advantage of the strong legacy created by the 2014 Commonwealth Games and keeping sport at the heart of communities across Glasgow and Scotland, this new event will elevate the status of European Champions and attract a potential television audience of up to 1.03 billion across the continent, with a wider audience expected via digital platforms.

Darcie Tanner, Stripe Digital Director, said: “This is a unique opportunity to continue the legacy of the Commonwealth Games and deliver innovative campaign activity across platforms and channels, and we’re excited to start delivering.”

Stripe was awarded the six figure account in February and work began immediately.

The European Championships will take place in multiple venues across Glasgow, such as the Emirates Arena, Gleneagles and a planned new BMX track at Knightswood Park, hosting 3,000 athletes participating in six events over 11 days.

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.

Reality Check

Reality Check

As the UK gears up for the final of Celebrity Big Brother tonight (well, about 2.7 million of you), it raises the question of whether reality television is a platform the communications industry should be taking more seriously.

Love it or hate it, reality television is the genre that refuses to go away, despite reports that it is becoming ‘stale’. Whether it’s met with howls of protest or obsessive chatter, it gets people talking and continues to pull in those all-important ratings – what more could you ask for?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely see both sides of the argument for and against reality TV formats, but you need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to the opportunity it presents: ordinary, everyday people expressing their opinions and openly showcasing behaviour that in one way or another influences the general public. And if, like me, you work in consumer communications, I’m of the belief that keeping up to date with these trending topics is crucial to the service you are providing.

Take a look at your favourite lifestyle magazine’s feed on Twitter right now. How many stories are related to the CBB final tonight? Or how many times have you checked your showbiz app (yes, you know the one I am talking about) and an image of the latest reality celeb has flashed up on the screen? Part of our role as consumer communications experts is to monitor and interpret current media interests and you cannot deny they are ALL about that good old dose of reality entertainment.

That isn’t to say we should endorse drunken babble or bitchy catfights (entertainment guaranteed or not) – take the recent success of Netflix’s Making a Murderer for example, the real life drama of a man accused of murder which has enthralled the world. Or the success of the Great British Bake Off – whose final episode attracted just over 15 million viewers last year, making it 2015’s most viewed television programme. *Cue everything related to cake being top of the national news agenda*

I’m aware that this is at the other end of the reality spectrum from Ex on the Beach, but the popularity of the Making a Murderer series and GBBO points towards a culture obsessed with reality (and cake, obviously) which only goes to further prove that when it comes to resonating with Generation Z, you better make sure it’s genuine and authentic. And there’s nothing more authentic than reality [scripted or not].

So get watching and start taking notes. You might just learn something about the audience you are trying to engage with…

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.

A new Stripe force in London

A new Stripe force in London

It’s official… We’re excited to announce the opening of our new London office and the appointment of Chris Stevenson as our London MD.

Chris joins us from Emanate and over his career has worked with some of the most respected agencies and exciting brands to deliver PR, digital and communications strategies for clients across consumer tech, entertainment, FMCG and sports. He brings his expertise and innovative thinking to lead the business and nurture and grow our reputation in London.

But that’s not all we’ve been up to, as we continue to develop our strategic, creative and digital offering. We’re excited to announce that we have three further new senior players to add to our team.

Anna Russell, former General Manager, Brand Marketing at Audi of America has joined us as Director of Strategy. Anna will be expanding Stripe’s strategic and creative services and continuing the digital evolution of the agency.

Lesley Morton was part of the original start-up team at Stripe and returns as Head of Brand Entertainment. For the last four years she has been working on global brand campaigns and brings communication specialisms across music, arts, film & TV from her previous role as head of the Music & Entertainment team at CSM Sport & Entertainment.

And last but not least, we announce Hilary Joiner as our new Creative Director. With 20 years’ experience in both traditional and digital arenas, Hilary will be responsible for developing and delivering Stripe’s creative capabilities and ensuring that great ideas continue to be a part of our DNA.

We’re kicking off 2016 as we mean to go on. It’s our tenth year and we’re as ambitious now as we’ve ever been. The demand from our clients for integrated communications continues to grow and at Stripe we’re committed to innovating and differentiating our business.

Watch this space…