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STARS & STRIPES 2021: APPLY NOW!

STARS & STRIPES 2021: APPLY NOW!

Stars & Stripes is back for 2021. If you want to kickstart your career in comms we’re looking for smart candidates who have big ideas and an ambitious attitude.

We want to bring bright, new talent into the industry and our Stars & Stripes entry level programme is open to both grads and non-grads. If you’ve got a passion for communications and creativity, we’re offering three outstanding candidates permanent, paid positions – two in Stripe’s Edinburgh office and one in our London office.

We’re an integrated communications agency delivering brand, social, PR and digital – so if you’re interested in any of those areas and think you have the potential to thrive, Stars & Stripes is open to you.

If you’re successful, you’ll be working with some of the UK’s most exciting brands, take part in Stripe IQ – our immersive training and development programme – and will be mentored by some of the industry’s smartest minds.

To apply, email stars@stripecommunications.com with your CV, office preference (Edinburgh or London) and a cover letter telling us exactly why you want to work for Stripe.

You must also respond to the following challenge:

  • Tell us about yourself in 280 characters or less (emojis welcome!)
  • Write a short, snappy piece of up to 400 words describing a recent creative communications campaign that you loved and why

The closing date for applications is Friday 9 July 2021 at 5pm. The candidates with the strongest submissions will be invited to a selection day at Stripe and successful applicants will join the Stars and Stripes programme in September 2021.

UNLOCKING TEAM WELLBEING DURING COVID

UNLOCKING TEAM WELLBEING DURING COVID

The thought of exercising on a cold winter morning was a mountain I was not willing to climb at the start of 2021. Despite the best intentions for a daily dose of activity before the working day, my snooze button was beginning to see more action than my push-bike.

I was not alone in my sedentary start to the new year. According to former Olympian and leading sports scientist, Greg Whyte, the combination of Lockdown 3.0 with a further reduction in activity levels during winter, meant Britain was headed for a ‘perfect storm’ on physical health and mental wellbeing.

The new normal of working from home and its negative impact on our co-workers’ wellbeing has long been at the forefront of all our minds since the pandemic hit. We believe in taking a people-first approach – so it was important for us as an agency to be proactive and create simple initiatives to engage and help support the Stripe team during what has been a difficult time for everyone.

 

Small steps to positive change

12 months ago, we formed an all-agency wellbeing committee, putting in place an action plan focused on supporting the team’s mental, as well as physical, wellbeing.

Small and simple changes to daily working routines were soon implemented; regular screen breaks, no meetings over lunch, option to use dial in ‘walking-talking’ meetings rather than desk-based zooms, fortnightly check-ins and coaching to ask how each other was getting on, a weekly all staff meeting to share news and keep people connected, and an optional online social to bring some humor into the working week.

We also offered our teams online yoga practice and meditation every fortnight in rotation. The sessions are still ongoing and allow people to wind down and bring relaxation and movement to their week.

 

Stripe Edinburgh to London challenge

One of our biggest initiatives this year in defiance of the cold winter months and the start of Lockdown 3.0, was the launch of Stripe’s Edinburgh to London Challenge, encouraging the team to cycle, run or walk the 406 miles distance between our two offices.

The focus of the challenge was not to find out who was the strongest or fittest Stripe in the agency but supporting each other to be more active and making the challenge as accessible as possible, with a mutual goal which we could all work towards.

Using the Strava App and setting up a dedicated Stripe Club, the team was able to record their miles whilst providing kudos to their co-workers in real time. We created an all-agency Spotify playlist of tunes to help us stay motivated during a workout and relayed progress updates to the team on a weekly basis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A total of 33 co-workers joined the challenge and for some, the idea of taking part in a collective exercise activity was just the spark they needed to change their routine from the couch to getting outdoors.

The team smashed their target, completing 554 miles in less than a month with prizes given out to those in each office who completed the most miles.

As an agency, we have all felt the benefits of investing in team wellbeing. Helping to keep each other motivated and engaged during this time has helped to foster a new sense of purpose and camaraderie amongst us all which will continue long after lockdown ends.

And as for my snooze button: What can I say? Balance is now my new mantra on how to be more active and lead a healthier and happier lifestyle during lockdown.

Long time no see London: Stripe is back in Shoreditch

Long time no see London: Stripe is back in Shoreditch

After 6 months, 9 million zoom calls, a dear friend and colleague going on maternity leave with no proper send off, a much loved team member emigrating with no proper send off, work lows and work highs, a distinctly average Zoom summer party, new team members joining remotely and endless days of rummaging in a kitchen cupboard for that mid-morning break, we finally returned to the office on Monday.

We all had the same feelings you’re having reading this (if you’re still working remotely); will I be safe? Will the commute be terrible? Will the masks be annoying? Will people be responsible about social distancing and hygiene? Isn’t it easier working remotely? There are probably more to add to that list. Like most, we went back into the office in two bubbles on rotation, designed to ensure continuity of our business in the event of any lockdowns and changes to our ways of working in the future.

Before we went back and we carefully and meticulously completed our ‘safe return to work’ plan, it felt like we were writing the ‘suck the fun out of work’ plan. Those tactile moments of a shared birthday cake, the work drinks, all the stuff that helps make going to the office is fun for all swiped away with a sanitised hand.

So, in short, we didn’t know what to expect really. I personally knew I was losing love for work, working in a remote environment. It was becoming a grind and something to endure versus something to enjoy. I came to the realisation I am only as effective in my role as I want to be when I am inspired by other people to challenge my thinking and make me challenge myself and that that is not as effective when done remotely.

That first day back in the office was the most I have enjoyed a day’s work in 6 months. Most of us in PR went into it because we are people people. We enjoy company and we enjoy a work culture that is fun, collaborative and inspiring. Otherwise you could happily clock in your work hours driving an HGV up and down the M1.

I have struggled to describe articulately just how much good it did for us all. Because really, it’s everything that being together means. The chat about my lockdown DIY haircut, the dubious music choices on the office stereo, the nefarious celebrities laid bare on the Mail Online sidebar of shame that warrant our attention, the listening and helping, the ideas building and ruminating, the support and the friendly ear, the encouragement, the many many laughs, the caring, the people.

Lockdown rushed the conversation about remote working. It has thrown us forward to the extreme of remote working and made us adapt with no preparation in what most likely would have taken 5-10 years. Whilst we’re all aware we may not go back to a full 9-5 five days a week any time soon, what I have come to realise is that balance is so critical. My opinion is that creative businesses, operating in creative office/work environments with creative people in them will deliver greater end product than when those same people are forced only to converse via video conference.

This is not a ‘pro return to work rant’ I have loved being closer to my family, seeing them more, being home for every bedtime and just knowing more about their lives, that working from home has granted, but I also know that I am happy when I feel like I am doing a good job at work and I do a better job as part of a connected team working together in person.

Stripe is a people business where people matter. What going back to the office this week has made me realise is that the people in our business, that I am lucky to call friends and colleagues are what matter most to me and there is no virtual facetime substitute for the real thing.

Merlin Entertainments appoints Stripe Communications London as retained PR and social media agency for all London attractions

Merlin Entertainments appoints Stripe Communications London as retained PR and social media agency for all London attractions

We’re very proud to announce the expansion of our partnership with Merlin Entertainments as the retained PR and Social Media consultancy for the London portfolio of attractions including; Madame Tussauds London, The Coca-Cola London Eye, SEA LIFE London, The London Dungeon and Shrek’s Adventure! London.

We were first appointed as retained PR consultancy for Madame Tussauds in 2016, and our work with Merlin Entertainments now includes the entire London portfolio of attractions, providing domestic and international press office management, brand campaigns, news hijacking and all issues and crisis management for the London attractions. Our social media remit includes development and implementation of social media strategy for all attractions plus ongoing community management and influencer strategy and engagement.

Some of our recent work with Merlin Entertainments has included; when Madame Tussauds London displayed Donald Trump outside the US Embassy when the US President declared on Twitter that he would not be visiting the UK to open the new London embassy building in Vauxhall. Also, recently in December when the London Eye played host to the nation’s favourite nanny to coincide with the European premier of Mary Poppins Returns.

Our London Managing Director, Chris Stevenson, said, “It is a privilege to work with some of the UK’s most iconic attractions and a team with boundless ambition to produce bold and innovative work. It is a tremendous collaboration between the Stripe team and Merlin Entertainments London marketing team and we are confident 2019 will be another huge success working closely together.”

Gemma Cracknell, Marketing Director, Merlin Entertainments said, “Stripe have been a valuable agency partner to us since their original appointment and we are delighted to have expanded the scope of their role to include all of the London attractions. They have already delivered some outstanding results for us across our attractions and we look forward to continued success with Stripe as a key agency partner.”

Trump embassy visit: Using fake news to make news

Trump embassy visit: Using fake news to make news

On Friday 12 January, the world woke up to the news President Trump had cancelled his visit to the UK, originally scheduled for February, citing the US embassy in London as his reason for the change of plan.

For many, it was just another ill-advised tweet from Trump. For us, it turned into the perfect newsjacking opportunity, putting Madame Tussauds London front and centre of the international news agenda and giving the people of Britain what they were promised – Trump.

As other people began arriving at their desks, we’d already pitched the idea of taking Donald Trump’s wax figure to the US Embassy. Whilst domestic and international media descended on the London Embassy, we would bring them what they really wanted – the most infamous man in global politics.

The first call was to our friends at the Press Association, to validate they’d be interested and to package our content. Was it something they’d be interested in? Obviously! Next, the amazing Madame Tussauds PR team sprang into action, getting Donald’s figure out of the world-famous attraction and ready for his moment in the spotlight with only a moments notice. There’s nothing better than a client that works fast and shares your vision, just as determined to make it happen as we were.

As we arrived at the now infamous (and amazing!) US Embassy we were greeted by the world’s media. Our number one priority was to protect the wax figure, then to give everyone the shot they wanted when we were ready for them. Not easy surrounded by over 100 people. In fact, before we’d even had the chance to fully unveil the uncanny likeness, photographers were snapping and members of the public were trying to capture their selfie.

We stayed outside the embassy for 30 minutes – in that time we did live broadcasts with BBC and Sky News, we facilitated interviews with Washington Post, CNN and Al Jazeera and we dealt with the courteous Metropolitan Police who had been notified of the media scrum. We drafted media comments, quotes and news alerts within the space of 20 minutes.

CNN Trump Tweet Madame Tussauds Stripe

While we were busy working to finalise the stunt, a social media storm was taking place. Our content was being shared by major news outlets, publishers, celebrities and influencers across

Trump madame tussauds wax work Stripethe globe. And all of it positive, congratulating Madame Tussauds London for their wit, satire and speed of reaction to deliver this moment. Highlights included CNN, Mashable, Sophia Bush and The Poke. Then came the Twitter Moment, a personal career highlight!

Brands clamour to create newsjacking opportunities but few succeed and only a handful have succeeded to this scale. Four words define successful newsjacking: Relevance. Timeliness. Simplicity. Distribution. We take for granted that this was a simple activity to execute, but its simplicity is only driven by a well tuned and tried and tested approach to capitalise on these moments when they arrive. Use the media to craft your story, don’t second-guess them. Build strong relationships so that they become a sounding board to deliver them what they need, how they need it.

Madame Tussauds London was featured on the six o’clock news across BBC, Channel 4 News, ITV and Sky News, was covered internationally on CNN and Al Jazeera – as well as securing front page of Saturday’s The Times. Despite this, it was the social content, both earned and owned, that delivered above and beyond what we had hoped for.

How often are we asked to make something go viral? Well, this time we did it. With over 24,450 online mentions and over 27m impressions within a 48hour period, it may have been a bad day for Trump, but it was a good day for Stripe and a GREAT day for Madame Tussauds London.

To the Wildlands and back

To the Wildlands and back

“Let’s make a feature length documentary on the war on drugs and release it alongside the launch of the video game.” When I sit on my sofa with my laptop and write that it sounds easy.

A couple of points to note. We had never made a feature length documentary film. We knew nothing about film distribution. We had a great idea but no idea on how to translate that into something you could sit and watch on a Saturday night.

This week, Wildlands premiers on iTunes and Amazon Prime, followed by GooglePlay, and following an international film premiere at BAFTA. It’s still hard to believe we dared to achieve that.

The term branded entertainment content covers a multitude of sins. Some examples in our industry barely doing those three words justice, some genuinely making a step towards how brands can create meaningful connections to their consumer.

Ubisoft – one of our founding clients in London and one for whom has defined for me, a collaborative partnership, visionary marketeers and a true desire to innovate in a dynamic and fiercely competitive category – tasked us to launch Ghost Recon Wildlands, a video game exploring a fictional narrative of Bolivia in the grips of a drug war and on the cusp of becoming a narco state.

From this brief, we recognised the opportunity to harness global interest in a morbidly entertaining subject matter and create a companion documentary to enable real life comparisons with a fictional video game world, realised from the stories of those who shaped it in Wildlands, the documentary.

The journey to make Wildlands was like going horse riding for the first time and they hand you Desert Orchid. It bolts off at 100 miles an hour and you hope you have the courage, desire, concentration and instincts to finish the race. It turned out we won the race. Wildlands won a D&AD pencil at this years’ awards, followed by a Silver Award at the Clio awards for Branded Content. We hope many more will follow.

We travelled to the slums of Medellin, the coca fields of Bolivia, and small-town America to discover the stories of those who have shaped the war on drugs from both sides of the law. Our real-life characters mirrored to and characterised in a video game. We created branded entertainment content to accompany, celebrate and elevate our clients’ entertainment product – what we achieved was genuinely innovative and won critical acclaim from a notoriously cynical industry.

We hope you enjoy the film (and buy the game).

Craving experiences

Craving experiences

Last month, Madame Tussauds London launched Alien: Escape, a terrifying multi-sensory experience, developed with one of the most genius creative companies in the world – Creatures Inc. When we first began working on Alien: Escape, I didn’t know what to expect. Isn’t that the beauty of working in PR though? You start a project with no previous knowledge and by the end you’re an absolute pro – whether it’s a video game, a food product, a documentary, or an experience inspired by a popular film franchise.

Alien: Escape is a multi-sensory experience, which follows the release of the critically acclaimed blockbuster film, Alien: Covenant and challenges guests to navigate a trail of blood, gore, chaos and danger. The mission is simple: Run. Survive. Escape. It is also the most terrifying experience Madame Tussauds has ever worked on, with a recommended age of 15+. If you don’t believe us, you can see how terrifying our celebrities rated it at the launch event.

Madame Tussauds London introduces Alien Escape
Michael Fassbender Alien Covenant

But why do we need them? Are we craving new experiences more than ever before meaning that we no longer need material belongings? Not really. In my opinion, we are still very much a commodity focused society. We love our products and we definitely like to show off with them even if we don’t admit it.

And because we love our products so much, they have been made much more accessible for us. In Western societies, it seems almost unreal to own an iPhone with a model starting below the number 5. No really, who has iPhone 4 anymore? The market is overly saturated and since we all use similar brands and products, we have changed the focus and become much more ‘spiritual’. We’re frantically looking for things to do, because we have everything.

Certain brands have realised this social trend and have adapted accordingly. Snapchat and Instagram are all about experiences – capturing places, people and things we have seen. Facebook has added a permanent “Feeling (happy, excited, tired, sad etc.)” to our status updates.

Any forward thinking brand that seeks leadership in its sector has to realise the potential in triggering some sort of emotion – whether this would be comfort, loyalty, excitement or fear. Madame Tussauds London has definitely raised the bar with getting its audience to show fear with their horrific new Alien: Escape.

SEA LIFE LONDON AQUARIUM APPOINTS STRIPE COMMUNICATIONS TO LAUNCH NEW ‘OCEAN INVADERS’

SEA LIFE LONDON AQUARIUM APPOINTS STRIPE COMMUNICATIONS TO LAUNCH NEW ‘OCEAN INVADERS’

We are excited to announce that Stripe Communications has been appointed as the retained PR agency to launch SEA LIFE London Aquarium’s brand new attraction ‘Ocean Invaders: Enter the world of the Jellies’ which is due to open for Easter 2017.

The 12-month project brief will see Stripe deliver creative PR communications plans supporting the announcement, launch and ongoing creative ideas for its latest stunning attraction. The selection follows Stripe’s recent appointment by Madame Tussauds London as their retained agency after winning another competitive pitch earlier in the year.

The Stripe London team will be managing the account and working with Merlin Entertainments London attractions marketing and PR team with work already well underway.

Chloe Couchman, Head of PR for Merlin Entertainments London Attractions, said, “Stripe have demonstrated a quality of creative thinking that will deliver real impact supporting our latest exciting experience. The team demonstrated a strong understanding of our core audience and the London attraction landscape as well as passion and drive to create memorable moments to give our attraction stand out in a highly competitive market.”

Chris Stevenson, Stripe Communications Managing Director said, “It is a privilege to work with SEA LIFE London Aquarium and a Marketing and PR team with the vision and ambition to deliver highly creative and innovative work. We are also delighted to extend our relationship with Merlin Entertainments London Group. With such fantastic attractions to work with, we expect to deliver outstanding memorable moments for them in the months ahead, driving London tourists into these wonderful attractions during key sales periods.”

Stripe’s London office is headed up by Managing Director, Chris Stevenson, who joined Stripe in January 2016 and has overseen the rapid growth of the agency’s client roster which now includes prominent national and international brands such as Ubisoft, Madame Tussauds London and Paddy Power.

UBISOFT UK APPOINTS STRIPE FOR CONSUMER AND CORPORATE PR BRIEF

UBISOFT UK APPOINTS STRIPE FOR CONSUMER AND CORPORATE PR BRIEF

We are delighted to announce that we’ve been appointed by Ubisoft UK as the retained agency for its consumer and corporate PR, working alongside the in-house PR team. Our brief is to deliver creative PR communications plans supporting all of Ubisoft’s major video game launches in the UK including Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Watch_Dogs 2 and South Park: The Fractured But Whole. In addition to this, we’ll support the French video games giant with corporate positioning and issues management in the UK.

Ubisoft logoThe account will be managed by our London office and will report in to the Ubisoft UK marketing and PR team with work having commenced from June 2016.

Mark Slaughter, Ubisoft UK Marketing Director, said, “Stripe have demonstrated a quality of creative thinking that will deliver real impact to our national campaigns this year. The team showed strength in that they could not only deliver great product campaigns but also help us realise our ambition to be recognised as one of the world’s leading entertainment brands.”

Stripe’s London office is headed up by Managing Director, Chris Stevenson, who joined in January 2016 and has overseen the rapid growth of the agencies client roster which includes Magners, Paddy Power and now Ubisoft.

 

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…