Blog : PR

The 2022 FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s PR juggling act

The 2022 FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s PR juggling act

“The winner to organise the 2022 FIFA World Cup is, Qatar!” These are the words declared on 2 December 2010 by Sepp Blatter that remain fresh in the memory of so many in the footballing world. They are also the words which have arguably changed a nation and how football is run forever. I will always remember the atmosphere in Aspire Park in Doha. Men, women and children, faces illuminated looking up at a giant screen. The declaration ceremony was taking place a world away in a much colder Zurich. The area erupted when ‘QATAR’ was pulled from the envelope. People shouted, screamed and some even cried with happiness. It was then that I realised that this was to be much more than just a football tournament. It was going to be a catalyst for change on a political, cultural and human level. It was going to be about sport breaking down stereotypical barriers, and a unique opportunity for Qatar to leave a lasting legacy to change perceptions about the country on a global scale.

However, no more than a few hours later, the world’s media scolded the decision and brought Qatar’s biggest ever party to an almighty halt. Allegations of corruption and bribery soon followed and even now in 2016 casualties of the decision continue to be thrust into the media spotlight with the bid now under FBI investigation. Qatar is having what we like to call in the industry, a ‘PR nightmare’.

Despite the opportunity before them, I have to agree with comments made by Nicholas McGheehan, Gulf Analyst at Human Rights Watch recently that Qatar seemed to be “catastrophically” unprepared for the scrutiny that followed this big decision. Its efforts at public relations have been poor, especially in comparison to the United Arab Emirates who have been more effective in handling the country’s image around the world.

I’m a strong advocate of giving the underdog a chance at proving themselves. But I also have to acknowledge the negative image which has been portrayed so far amidst the allegations of corruption, bribery, human rights abuses, lack of footballing history and the uncontrollable climate issue. I have been lucky enough to live in Qatar and I agree that they have a lot of work to do to combat this negative reputation and I certainly don’t condone the said allegations. But what Qatar is being denied is a chance to tell both sides of the story. Qatar has gone from a relatively anonymous backwater to strong economic and political power, becoming a key player in global affairs. Its vision and ambition has to be admired, but one has to question if Qatar being thrust into the global media spotlight was too much too soon?

Amongst the damning headlines, Qatar has also been catching the eyes of the world by means of its vast wealth. It is the richest country in the world per capita and has been involved with the purchase, investment and sponsorship of some of the world’s biggest brands including Harrods, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain and The Shard. Despite rapid development and eye catching purchases, Qatar is still a developing country with a number of teething problems and in my opinion not being able to control its image has been a major issue. This has created a problem in that FIFA sponsors including Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Budweiser are facing increasing pressure from groups to pull out of sponsoring the 2022 World Cup due to the allegations. So far, a few have voiced concern, but none have pulled out. A move which could be explained by the monetary and advertising value that the World Cup can bring.

Overall, Qatar’s PR juggling act is a tough one. On one side they are trying to promote the 2022 FIFA World Cup as a great event and a unique opportunity to showcase Qatar as a country, but on the other it is trying to counter negative press around current teething problems as a developing country. It will always be remembered for being the first World Cup in the Middle East, the first World Cup to be held in the winter and also being known as one of the most controversial decisions in the history of sport. Qatar needs to work on its global image and make sure that any activity is appropriate and doesn’t open it up to further criticism. Global sporting events magnify a country’s flaws and I look forward to observing with interest how Qatar’s leaders overcome them in the years prior to 2022. The clock is ticking and solutions and demonstrable change needs to be seen. Organisers have a chance to promote Qatar for the right reasons and to deliver a memorable tournament to live up to the campaign hashtag, #ExpectAmazing.

A few of our favourite Twitter moments

A few of our favourite Twitter moments

Today our favourite microblogging platform turns 10. It’s become part of our everyday and to celebrate the milestone birthday, here are a few of Stripe’s favourite Twitter moments.

When the power went out during the Super Bowl 2013, Oreo was super quick to respond and became the out-and-out winner of the annual advertising frenzy – impressive considering the mega budgets of the TV commercials during a Super Bowl.

 

When the news broke that Jeremy Clarkson had punched a producer because he was hungry and had subsequently been suspended by the BBC, Snickers sent him this care package. Well played Snickers, well played.

 

The 2014 Oscars. Ellen DeGeneres was hosting. Selfies were on the rise. Cue the most retweeted tweet by an absolute mile: The Oscar Selfie.

 

JK Rowling has no time for internet trolls and knows how to nail the perfect shutdown. For that we salute you.

Her tweets also feature the odd rap lyric.

 

28 April this year will mark the fifth anniversary of Ed Balls tweeting his own name. He has since become an internet phenomenon. 

 

A witty exchange between Tesco and a customer portraying the British sense of humour at its best.

 

Talking of the Great British sense of humour, we had to include James Blunt. He wins at Twitter.

 

When hashtags go bad. To launch Susan Boyle’s 2012 album, the team went for this… #susanalbumparty.  How did they not notice this?! Or did they realise and just let it slide, knowing the hilarity that would unfold?

#susanalbumparty tweet

 

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the long-suffering John Lewis who regularly gets mistaken for retailer John Lewis. Easily done I know, but his witty responses never fail to raise a smile.

 

Here’s to the next 10 years – we can’t wait to see what’s next…  #LoveTwitter

Conquering the Regional Powerhouses

Conquering the Regional Powerhouses

When dealing with big brands, it’s easy to forget about the unique cultures and personalities of the regions and aim everything at a UK-wide audience. It’s important however for brands to tailor their campaigns and give a nod to those who identify with their regional culture just as much as they do their UK identity.

It was a visit to Liverpool last week for the personal appearance of the world’s leading make-up artist, Charlotte Tilbury at the John Lewis branch, which really highlighted just how much of a media pool there can be serving just one city and showing the worth of a brand addressing a city outside of London directly.

Stripe worked with Charlotte Tilbury’s PR agency to invite Liverpool’s media to a lunch time press session at John Lewis Liverpool, giving the local media what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Charlotte Tilbury and get some of her celeb-worth tips in an intimate afternoon tea setting, surrounded by all of her sought-after products.

These lifestyle journalists and bloggers, like many of their Liverpudlians take the beauty industry seriously and so when I first met with the journalists there was lots of excitement and anticipation. This was certainly the perfect location for John Lewis to have launched their only Charlotte Tilbury counter and for Tilbury to make an appearance. We often get plenty of thanks from media after events; for the experience and goody bags etc, but never have I seen such appreciation, truly flabbergasted.

The media opportunities are vast when working with regional media, whether it be around retail or food and drink. Each region from Scotland, to the Midlands, to the far depths of the UK in Cornwall, have their own niche media pool with their mix of glossy magazines, online lifestyle publications and local city newspaper – some ‘local rags’ reaching circulations of 80,000 and more. And if you do have a national message you want to share regionally, Trinity Mirror’s shared content unit compiles content for all of their city publications from the Birmingham Mail to the Manchester Evening News, with a successful collection of online news sites reaching a multi-million size audience.

We can’t forget about the blogger and vlogger presence too. In a media world that’s shifting ever more into the digital world, we’re working more and more with regional bloggers, whether it’s inviting them to parties hosted by Sourz or getting them in to try the latest new restaurant in their city, they certainly have a presence in their home cities which can be utilised. It’s no longer about just reaching the UK-wide audience, but getting somebody who lives and breathes the region’s culture and blogs or vlogs about it to their fellow Geordies or Brummies or whoever it may be.

My piece of advice for conquering the regional media pool; get on the phone, make an appointment for a  face-to-face meeting, visit the city and get to know the region’s personality and the publication is yours to fill.

Is whisky suffering an identity crisis?

Is whisky suffering an identity crisis?

I attended an event this week at the £3million freshly refurbished Scotch Whisky Experience that got me thinking; with other tipples like gin, craft beers and even wine (apparently ‘wine punks’ is an actual thing) experiencing shake-ups, challengers and consumption renaissance, why is Scotch finding it so hard to join the party?

Undoubtedly whisky is one of the UK’s greatest exports (38 bottles were shipped overseas every second in 2015, generating £3.95billion for the UK balance of trade), building this success on quality, craftsmanship and provenance. But as it continues to wrestle with itself on how to attract younger UK consumers, so essential for sustained growth, whisky may be being shackled by the very image it’s strived to create.

On the one hand an appreciation of the finest spirit, lovingly and slowly created, to be taken seriously, savoured and appreciated, and on the other, the declaration that there are no rules, no drinking rituals (to add water or not), cocktails are fair game and hey, just have it your way. It will be argued each has their place, but are they complementary or contradictory?

Now I totally understand the importance of history, of brand essence rooted in truth and of premium product quality, and I’m certainly not advocating throwing the baby out with the bathwater (there are some whisky brands doing really beautiful, unique things), but there are lessons to be learned from other heritage brands – Mulberry, Burberry or Pringle – that have successfully managed to marry time-honoured craftsmanship with contemporary appeal and aspiration. The way these brands are choosing to make and market themselves in a way relevant to consumers today is critical – both to current growth and to future longevity.

Having worked in-house at The Glenmorangie Company after its sale to LVMH, a whole ‘new world’ of whisky marketing was embraced. It was different. It was exciting. It was refreshing. Today there are some whiskies; Haig, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich that I believe are doing it differently; creatively attracting, engaging and targeting (younger) audiences, but they are in the minority.

So while there are buffs who may consider this post in itself blasphemy, without adapting to the digital expectations and marketing savvy sophistication of modern, younger consumers, whisky could be in danger of alienating the very drinkers it will come to rely on.

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.

Love, Emojis and Heroes – What’s Rockin’ 2016

Love, Emojis and Heroes – What’s Rockin’ 2016

2016 is the year of the consumer. Through all platforms, across all trends, the customer is claiming back their mind and their body and is in full control of their media space. So adapt or die.

Digital comes of age. It’s still the media juggernaut, but this year we’re digging deeper into the analytical matrix.

The consumption of digital content is through apps and is fully mobile. Our desire for portability and our rejection of always digesting information in real time is set to continue, so we must continually maximize content to match and strive to work out where, how and when.

What’s new this year is the way we’re evaluating our digital data and its impact on strategy, which aims to make social more viable and valuable. Businesses want ROI and so ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ aren’t enough. Although they demonstrate awareness, in 2016 we’re looking for love.

Creative virility is super for vanity, but advocacy now reigns supreme. Excellent consumer experience converts consumers to brand activists and thus maximises social connectivity. The focus is on follow through, so perpetuating the circle of client happiness and truth. Even our beloved emojis, (now used more than not) are to be scrutinized for the data they can yield. (Insert happy face with wrinkles, drinking a nice Riesling).

Content will see a further move away from static to video. Interactivity will keep your customers clicking in the appropriate direction. Understanding the right degree of personalization and making content relevant is crucial too. Know your platforms, be ready to pounce on the new. But the big technological trend that will impact content is virtual reality, already popping up on Facebook and YouTube with the emergence of 360 Video.

It’s an Olympic year, so sport and our pursuit of a healthy lifestyle are on the podium. Keep up with the gurus and influencers in this spectrum; the frontrunners will be worth their weight in gold. And let’s not forget there’s an American election in November so corporate and financial businesses should be on high alert with their spin on this.

Creativity, our stalwart, is always about the story leading the customer through the media jungle, entertaining and delighting them on the way and delivering them a happy ending. A campaign with a conscience is a seasonal vogue, but if there’s one thing that’s always in style, it’s an honest to goodness, strategically grounded, fantastic idea.

Our affection of all things seventies has been turbo boosted into the stratosphere with the sad death of David Bowie. As music is fashion and fashion is music and Bowie’s creative brilliance is the embodiment of both, never has he been so culturally pertinent. See his genius penetrate through both artistic mediums and long may it continue.

And that’s it, health and prosperity (with a bit of strategy, innovation, creativity and integration) for 2016 from Stripe HQ.

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.

The new Barbie ad: leading a campaign for change?

The new Barbie ad: leading a campaign for change?


The new Barbie ad ‘Imagine the Possibilities’ hit the screens last week and its timing was spot on. It’s been a month of conversations about equal rights for women – thanks to the film release of The Suffragettes and, of course, that gender pay-gap essay.

Now, we have a women’s libber Barbie too. Let’s just hope she doesn’t come in a box…

Well done though Mattel, I’m sure the launch was perfectly planned to coincide with the film’s release and the rest will have been the PR gift that’s kept on giving.

It’s certainly got people talking – like all bold, new campaigns should. Of course, some people love it but there are haters of its very nature too. It is still Barbie after all.

Personally, I think Mattel has nailed it – it’s inspiring, positive and shows that girls can aim for more than their dream house, shopping and marrying someone like Ken. It’s emotive too. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it a brought a wee tear to my eye.

I did have an ironic laugh however, when someone pointed out that when you click through at the end it takes you to this.

Not quite in the same vein somehow, Mattel. There is something to be said for thinking about cross channel/platform communications.

However, at least it’s taking positive action and trying to (finally) break beyond traditional gender stereotypes by inspiring little girls to aim high.

What’s also been hugely encouraging is that male icons have been joining in the pro-feminist conversation too.

Bradley Cooper responded to J-Law’s essay by encouraging women to stick up for themselves and aim to change mind-sets. James Bond’s new film Spectre features a fifty one year old love interest, and Daniel Craig (rightfully) slammed an interviewee recently when she suggested Bond had ‘succumbed to the charms of an older woman’. “I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age”, he replied.

Nice one James.

Could it be then that the tides are starting to turn?

While they’ve attempted to shift perceptions in the past, with the likes of Computer Engineer Barbie – complete with a pink laptop. In reality, there’s probably a long way to go until Barbie is taking over the boardroom, stops accessorising in pink, puts on weight and, is played with by the boys as much as girls. But, if this is just the early days of its evolution then it’s a good start.

We know how challenging – and hugely rewarding – it is to try and drive behaviour change via campaigns. It takes time and the objective to win hearts and minds must be ongoing.
So let’s hope this good work from Mattel doesn’t stop here.

Stripe secures Midori UK digital & PR brief

Stripe secures Midori UK digital & PR brief

We’re raising a glass here at Stripe after being appointed by Maxxium UK to handle digital and PR services for its melon liqueur brand Midori.

Fact: the distinctive green liqueur was first launched in 1978 at the legendary Studio 54 – arguably the world’s most famous nightclub in its day.

We’ll be shaking up a cocktail of digital and social strategy development, community management, CRM and influencer outreach as well as traditional consumer and trade PR and communications.

It’s all aimed at building awareness among the core consumer targets to strengthen the brand’s emotional connection with fans.

Maxxium’s Nick Barker, who is Brand Manager – liqueurs, had this to say about us: “Stripe’s pitch demonstrated a thorough understanding of the Midori brand and target audience. They have created a compelling digital and comms strategy to help us deliver, and it’s great to have them on board”.

It’s an exciting brief – cheers!