Blog : Social

Influencer culture in Lockdown: where do we go from here?

Influencer culture in Lockdown: where do we go from here?

A lot has been said about COVID-19 marking the end of influencer culture as we know it. Consumers are tired of seeing social stars brag about their lavish lifestyles or preaching from their #gifted million pound home, promoting products that we ALL know they don’t and would never use – Khloe Kardashian and Febreeze, what?!

I get it and we have felt the same. Particularly as we navigate what is going to be an incredibly difficult few months for everyone.

However, for all the covidiot influencers who have got it seriously wrong, a lot have also risen to the occasion, helping to spread important messages to otherwise hard to reach, younger audiences.

As these uncertain times continue (sorry!) and conflicting messages and cluttered news just gets worse, audiences are desperately looking for people who they can connect with, trust and rely on – the micro influencer. Those who are genuinely experiencing the same things their audience are and who can share real content their followers can relate to.

In Finland, social influencers have actually been defined as ‘critical operators’ throughout the pandemic. They have used their platform to communicate Government guidelines and speak to a traditionally hard to reach audience. And what better way to reach your audience than working with the people you are trying to reach?

Influencers are always a key part of our campaigns and although the big names out there will always be big, it’s the micro influencers who are coming out on top for our clients at the moment.

Throughout lockdown, we’ve run influencer campaigns for the Scottish Government, Young Scot and Baxters to name a few – all of which have been used to spread a message quickly and efficiently, something a traditional media campaign just couldn’t do.

But why micro influencers?  They are the most flexible and can create content quickly that is authentic and believable. They are close to their audience and know what they respond well to. With fewer followers, they are much more likely to engage and respond to comments – they genuinely care and want to help their followers, which reflects well on the brands we work with. Finally, they are real. Without management teams, ulterior motives or big production budgets, their content is incredibly personal and personable and resonates with their audience better.

Post-pandemic, I think we can expect to see all influencers take a step back and take stock of the content they’re sharing. The high profile, aspirational type content still has its place but moving forward, honesty and authenticity is going to be key.

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.

 

Planning, managing and celebrating #TheMoment with Glasgow 2018

Planning, managing and celebrating #TheMoment with Glasgow 2018

After 11 days of incredible sporting action, the inaugural multi-sport European Championships drew to a close on Sunday evening. Titles were won and lost, world records smashed, and we were right in the thick of it.

Stripe’s work on Glasgow 2018 started way back in February last year. Our first task after being appointed as the Championships’ digital agency was to set out a unique strategy to reach sports fans, families and the local community in the run up to the Championships, to generate awareness and help people understand what this new event was all about. With a focus on organic and paid social we set this strategy in motion, engaging these audiences and encouraging them to help us bring #themoment to life, starting with the first of our key milestones: 500 days to go.

In the 500 days that followed we delivered some amazing work: created thousands of assets; planned and published posts across Glasgow 2018 profiles; produced films for online and TV; launched the official mascot Bonnie the Seal; recruited volunteers; live streamed with athletes and ambassadors; ran over 200 hundred social ad campaigns; measured and reported on all digital activity; and a whole lot more besides.

With Glasgow 2018 marking the first time that the six featured sports have come together to hold their European Championships, we needed to constantly analyse, evaluate and evolve our approach. Established multi-sport events like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games and recent single sport events here in the UK like London 2017 offered insight into what can work to engage sports fans and non-fans alike, but a new format presented new challenges.

We knew that the awareness and understanding piece of our work was going to be a much bigger challenge than that faced by other events and we weighted our strategic focus accordingly. This meant conducting a detailed research piece at the outset, really digging in to the conversation about other events, Glasgow as a host city, and the individual sports. We profiled our domestic and international audiences, segmenting our tactics for each based on all our findings to help us tailor both organic and paid social activity.

We also developed a bespoke measurement framework specifically for Glasgow 2018 that allowed us to evaluate activity in terms of not only the awareness and engagement benefits, but also hard metrics such as sales for ticketing campaigns. By combining in-built social platform insights, website analytics including UTM tracking, social listening tools, custom attribution modelling and enhanced ad reporting thanks to employment of the Facebook pixel, we’ve been able to accurately measure everything we’ve done and consistently deliver results.

Throughout the journey to the Championships, our priority was balancing of great creative with great insight: delivering brilliant ideas and content that really resonates whilst ensuring we were able to measure the value of what we do and provide genuinely useful insight that helped the combined Glasgow 2018 and Stripe team push things forward. As the Championships themselves kicked off two weeks ago, our day to day activity changed but not the way we worked.

On the 1st August we changed gear and moved to near round-the-clock measurement and monitoring of conversation surrounding the Championships, seven days a week. For twelve days we tracked key conversations, influencers, opportunities and issues. We watched Adam Peaty break another world record and set Twitter alight, we shared the home crowd’s disappointment when Ross Murdoch just missed out on a medal by the narrowest of margins, and we celebrated when Laura Kenny’s comeback led to a well-earned gold (and a mention from Elton John).

The Stripe team was responsible for gathering data and insight on all online discussion in real time and delivering reports at regular intervals each day, as well as spotting and working up reactive content and creative opportunities to maximise impact during the Championships.

Now that the event is over, all that’s left is to reflect on an amazing 18 months of preparation and hard work that resulted in one heck of a payoff. We’re still pulling together our wrap up report of everything that’s happened since that first milestone campaign, but we already know for sure it’s going to point to a hugely successful event and we’re so proud we got to be a part of it.

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.

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.

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.

Halloween brand watch

Halloween brand watch

Whether you’re the person that puts on a pair of mouse ears and calls it a costume, or goes all out to hand-make a 3D cupcake costume that looks great but means you can’t sit down all night (yes, I am the latter), we can all appreciate good Halloween jesting.

It’s the one night a year when every brand, no matter what they’re selling, can show their creative and personable side by giving a nod to All Hallows Eve. Social media is the perfect platform for pushing these out and driving traffic, and Twitter in particular has been rife with spooky videos, pictures and hashtags.

These are some of my favourite contenders from this year.

Google
Google Halloween 2015
Always a fan of a Google Doodle, in the name of research this morning I spent a solid five minutes playing their Halloween flying game. Aimed at either children or bored office workers, it’s an interactive winner. I racked up a high score of 350. Beat that.


Cadbury Chocolate
Cadbury Halloween 2015
For excellent use of a hashtag and for uniting the nation over some of our favourite fallen (confectionery) heroes, Cadbury have made the list for #CadburyCraveyard. This social competition features cute stop-motion and animated videos and gives people the chance to win a limited edition rerun bar of Fuse or Marble. But what about Creme Egg Twisted, Cadbury?! When will it be making comeback? That’s the real question.


Tesco
Tesco Halloween 2015
Up next it’s Tesco’s social campaign – ‘Introducing Spookermarket’. Torn between wanted to see this in my local branch and knowing that I would definitely be the person who loses the plot, mows down fellow shoppers with my trolley and bolts after even the tamest of scares. It’s a great, family friendly one and the hidden cameras capture the hilarity.


Chipotle
Chipotle Halloween 2015
Americans generally put us to shame when it comes to all things Halloween and this is no different. Purveyors of fine Mexican food, Chipotle have expanded on their usual #Boorito costume competition to create the Endless Line video. This is tongue-in-cheek, Halloween with a heart. Poking fun at tasteless, processed fast food, it’s dry, hilarious and well worth a watch.


Adobe
Adobe Halloween 2015
Hands down winner of Halloween from now and until the end of time is Adobe for their #ScaredSheetless campaign. As a company that I get weekly updates from on my laptop, but aren’t entirely sure what they do, I am so impressed by this camp and hilarious video. It’s a great take on their mission to rid the work-place of paper. Love!

Just for good measure here’s a video of a pug dressed as a ghost. You’re welcome.

Happy Halloween!

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!

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.

 

A toast: Stripe to deliver digital & PR services for Burn Stewart malts

A toast: Stripe to deliver digital & PR services for Burn Stewart malts

We’ve a hugely exciting brief here at Stripe after securing the account to deliver digital and PR services for Burn Stewart Distillers’ malt whisky brands.

Burn Stewart Distillers is part of the Distell Group Limited, Africa’s leading producer and marketer of spirits, fine wines, ciders and ready to drinks. The company owns and operates three malt distilleries: Bunnahabhain (Islay), Tobermory & Ledaig (Mull) and Deanston (Doune, near Stirling). It has a blending and maturation facility in Airdrie, a bottling hall and dry and finished goods storage site in East Kilbride, and operates a sales and marketing branch in Taiwan.

We’ll be working with the team at Burn Stewart to deliver global digital and PR activity across its Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory (including Ledaig) brands.

Our remit will cover: digital and social strategy development, web optimisation, design and e-commerce, community engagement, CRM and influencer outreach and management of traditional PR and events.

Activity across the three brands will centre on showcasing each malt’s personality and optimising owned channels to create a compelling user experience for domestic and international markets.

As our Digital Director Darcie Tanner put it: “Each Burn Stewart brand is rich in storytelling potential, making this a really exciting brief.”