Here are some of our latest obsessions, successes and joys.

10
Oct
Nyree

When Twitter Makes the Difference… And When It Doesn’t

Posted by Nyree

By Rebecca McLeod

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Especially in relation to badgers, but more of that later.

When does Twitter make a difference?  And when does it just make us think we’re making a difference… but in reality distracts us from doing something that really would make a difference.

Bear with me on this one…

Sometimes Twitter is like a comfort blanket.  You surround yourself with like-minded people and seek reassurance in your homogenous views.  You are indignant at the same things and you are happy about the same things.

In essence Twitter can be a big, comfy duvet of views and people just like you. You can wrap yourself in it tightly, like a giant caterpillar, and conveniently forgot that anyone, anywhere disagrees with you (at least in any meaningful way).

When you are in your snuggly Twitter duvet there is no need to change the world.  Look, it’s just fine the way it is. After all, everyone agrees that reducing the time limit for abortion to 12 weeks as per Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘announcement’ is just plain wrong.  Look at my Twitter newsfeed… oh wait, that’s just my Twitter newsfeed.

But sometimes Twitter is a petri-dish.   It’s where germs of ideas and movements grow. A trigger for people to take action; to march; to sign a petition; or just to annoy their work colleagues about something that needs to change.

So what’s the difference between Twitter inertia and Twitter change? For me, it’s all about what happens in the real world.

Once you’ve been sucked into the world of Twitter, are permanently glued to your iPhone and take perverse pleasure in piecing together the day’s news stories from other people’s comments on them, it can be hard to remember that not everyone is in love with, or even on, Twitter.

There are still vast swathes of people who can’t be reached directly through social media.  And here, more traditional means (newspapers, television, good old-fashioned leaflets and letters) triumph.

And weirdly enough, that’s when Twitter comes into its own.

Look at @NoMorePage3 ‘s campaign, which asks editor of The Sun, Dominic Mohan, very politely to “drop the bare boobs” from his newspaper.  It started gaining traction and support on Twitter, but moved pretty quickly to mainstream media like Newsnight, This Morning and Glamour Magazine.  It got the support of columnists like The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan and Caitlin Moran.  And as I type the petition is heading towards 50,000 signatures.

The same can be said of the anti-badger cull campaign.  At one point it seemed not an hour would pass without someone asking me to sign on Twitter. And that campaign has now far surpassed the threshold of 100,000 signatures needed for The House of Commons to at least ‘think about’ debating it.  But it wasn’t Twitter on its own that did that.  It was the support of animal charities like the League Against Cruel Sports; celebrities like Brian May; and the wide spread appeal the campaign had in the mainstream press.  After all, which newspaper picture editor can resist the opportunity to print a cute badger pic?

Twitter is a great sounding ground.  A great place to test ideas, swap thinking, listen to others more expert than you and come to a better understanding of a topic.  It’s a great place for a campaign to start and be refined.  But it’s not a great place for a campaign to stay. Not if you want real change.

 

28
Sep
Nyree

12 months – a lifetime or no time at all..?

Posted by Nyree

By Laura Oliphant

Yesterday I sent my 10Q questions to the vault for another year.  Anyone who hasn’t come across this idea should really take a look.  It was developed for Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah and the idea is that over 10 days you answer a series of questions about your reflections on the past year, and your goals and predictions for the future – on a world and personal level.  You can focus on what you’d like to change, what you would like to do more of, or just an experience that got you thinking.  Once you’ve answered your questions you send them to a secret online vault and a year later – ta- da, they come back to you.

 

I was introduced to 10Qs three or four years ago by an ex colleague (twitter Adam Clyne) and each time I am sent the previous year’s answers I am surprised.  Firstly because I’d forgotten all about them and definitely what I thought a year ago, but also because it seems life can change so little but yet so much in 12 months.

 

On one level, life is just the same.  I (and probably many others) promise to make more time for me, not to shout at your children’s delay tactics for going to bed and do something exciting every week (that was definitely going to fail).  Give or take a bit of tweaking, I’m saying pretty much the same this year.  But then on another level, life can change significantly.  It can ‘turn on a penny’ as the saying goes.

 

In terms of what has changed for me in 12 months, and I guess the reason I am writing this blog, is Stand Agency.  12 months ago, I had taken another role and had stopped thinking about whether I should start my own business.  Then ‘life turned on a penny’ and in May this year, Stand Agency was born.  I couldn’t be happier but I definitely didn’t plan it.  I guess that says to me that opportunities arise and the skill is in spotting, and making the most of them.

 

The changes in the last 12 months definitely encouraged me to more ambitious with my predictions and goals I sent to the 10Q vault.  I set myself some serious challenges because you can achieve an awful lot, even if you’ve not been planning it for months.

 

10Q is an opportunity to Reflect. React. Renew.  But maybe that is something we should do throughout the course of everyday life, not just when we get our responses back from the vault?

 

10
Sep
Nyree

What who you’re FOLLOWING says about you

Posted by Nyree

By Francesca Rivett-Carnac

On Monday we started our week at Stand Agency with a social media session, led by our newest addition to the Stand team, Blair (you may have read his blog a couple of weeks ago A Scot in London: an introduction). Once we’d finished discussing new and novel ways to build brand profiles on Twitter, the conversation turned to our own Twitter profiles and the brands and people we follow. It was insightful, entertaining, and it got me thinking about the way it’s no longer necessary to compartmentalise our personalities and interests into work and non-work.

Looking around the room I saw a top team of PR professionals, united in our drive and energy. We work together each day. We don’t always agree with each other, but collectively we come up with great campaigns and deliver brilliant results for our clients.

But an inspection of our Twitter profiles revealed something else – a bunch of individuals with wildly different interests and motivations outside the four walls of our office.

Take Laura. PR strategist extraordinaire, who has advised more businesses and charities than you could shake a copy of PR Week at. But rifle through her tweets and followers and you see something quite different. A fashion-loving, celeb-following, foodie with a penchant for fluffy tweets and updates on her training regime.

Then there’s Rebecca. PR director by day, political tweeter by night, following activists, leftie campaigners and mummy bloggers, sharing their views on everything that’s wrong in the world. You don’t mess with Rebecca McLeod when it comes to sexism or politics.

Blair, Stand’s resident Scot, would appear from his Twitter profile to be football obsessed. Football, with a bit of politics thrown in for good measure. And tea drinking. Meanwhile Nikki, our brilliant Essex raised university graduate, is always off to check out the latest cool bar or restaurant between trips to Ikea. And I follow a hodgepodge of local Hackney businesses, music people and artsy fartsy magazines that talk about stuff I don’t really understand.

In a different time or perhaps a different sector, our team at Stand Agency may not have thought it was worth sharing our passions and hobbies with our colleagues. But encourage a raucous and colourful mix of interests into the office and you suddenly have a whole world to draw inspiration and entertainment from beyond your own.

Twitter is nothing new, and neither is the idea that you can share your real personality and interests with the people you work with, rather than hiding behind the emotionless façade of a professional. What struck me on that Monday morning was that the things that make you tick outside of work can often bring something new and interesting to your job and the people you work with.

Share what gets you out of bed at the weekend with the colleagues you get out of bed for each weekday morning. The results might surprise you.

 

28
Aug
Nyree

A Scot in London: an introduction

Posted by Nyree

By Blair Grant

As the sunlight gleaming off the River Clyde slipped into the distance with my train pulling out of Glasgow Central, I knew there was no turning back.  I was finally moving to London.

 

Funnily enough, any of the nervousness which was certainly there as my taxi drove past my now old flat and the BBC Scotland building disappeared as I took my seat in carriage B, only to be replaced with excitement.

 

I settled into the journey, reading with great interest the New Statesman’s fantastic London edition, as the woman opposite unknowingly lessened my mood by slurping loudly from a bottle of cheap white wine.  I politely refused as she offered me a swig from the no doubt warm bottle, grunting: “I don’t have any glasses”.

 

We’ll skip my arrival, the stress of trying to find an electrical fan (who would have thought it so hard?) and more importantly a flat – note to self for future reference: do not attempt to fit nine flat viewings in during one day – and go straight into my first day here at Stand Agency.

 

Now everyone knows you have to make a good first impression when starting a new job.  Clean shaven, the costume de rigueur comprising a sharp suit, crisp shirt and polished shoes and above all else, getting into the office early.

 

I have friends in London and have visited many times, however, crucially I have never been on a ‘rush hour’ train.  On Monday morning I lay awake at 5.30am and mentally prepared myself.  I envisaged extricating myself from the mass of Metropolitan Line bodies with a mixture of guile and force.  I was ready. I needn’t have bothered.

 

Arriving at Finchley Road tube station it gradually dawned on me that I was going to be early for work. Too early.  I read my copy of City A.M. and found a nice cafe to while away the hours – yes hours – until I was supposed to be in work. It was an experience, to say the least.

 

But I’m here now, I have a flat and I have my electrical fan and I’m absolutely loving working and living in London, something I’m sure those reading will learn more about during the coming months.  My background is a political one with understandable interest in the political landscape of Scotland and while far from being an aficionado, I’m sure you’ll hear all about that, too.  Referendum debate, anyone?  Watch this space.

 

 

21
Aug
Nyree

Is there any reality left in reality TV?

Posted by Nyree

By Nikki Peters

As the viewing figures for X Factor saw a drastic drop from 11 to 8.1 million for the first show of this series, many speculated that the demand for reality TV has dried up. Maybe it is heading that way but the question on my mind whilst watching X Factor auditionee Zoe Alexander outburst on Saturday night’s show was where’s the reality gone in this particular reality show?

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of Reality (noun) provides some clues to what we should be seeing when it comes to reality TV:

  • the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them
  • a thing that is actually experienced or seen, especially when this is grim or problematic
  • a thing that exists in fact, having previously only existed in one’s mind
  • the quality of being lifelike or resembling an original

In case you had better things to do on Saturday night, here’s a brief re-cap on how this current debate started… Zoe Alexander turned on the X Factor judges when they gave her four resounding “it’s a no from me”’s because she showed no originality and was too much like Pink.  Her problem, the production team had told her to replace her choice with a Pink song.  Now the bleeped out outburst definitely increased the drama but I am questioning whether it really did X Factor the good they thought the drama and extra column inches might bring?  Viewers definitely switched off but the longer term impact comes from people like me saying “hang on, don’t think I am stupid enough to think this is real, give me more credit than that.”

 

Reality TV as we know it hit our screens in 2000 with Big Brother and the contestants were all real, sometimes boring, people. This concept endeared the British public who tuned in to watch the natural personalities develop and interact in the house. This honest approach to reality TV continued through Pop Idol, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and many more.

 

There was, however, a turning point for reality TV when producers started making changes to the format. There are pre-audition auditions for contestants to weed out the “uninteresting” and only broadcast the good, the bad and the ugly to viewers. Some contestants were followed to their homes by camera crews piecing together their personal stories to be used at later stages in the competition. Finally there is the division of air time for contestants. When you vote to save contestants how will someone you have seen a 30 second clip of fare against their rival whose family you feel you know inside out?

 

The Truman Show leaps to mind at this point. Where reality was created for Jim Carrey’s character and edited so he experienced what television companies believed he should. I can’t help but feel like this when watching some reality TV and I’m not convinced that fiction is more interesting than fact. I think the reality was what made us tune in and now that has gone, we have switched off, or better still, rented a film – remember that…?

 

 

21
Aug
Nyree

Stand Agency wins Chartered Management Institute brief

Posted by Nyree

 

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has chosen to work with Stand Agency on its latest project after a three-way pitch.

 

Stand Agency will promote the CMI Management Book of the Year competition which, backed by the British Library, celebrates the country’s finest business and management books. The competition this year has already attracted entries from high profile names including: Former Tesco CEO, Sir Terry Leahy; Financial Times columnist, Mrs Moneypenny; and Anders Dahlvig, the former CEO of IKEA.

 

Piers Cain, Head of Knowledge Management at CMI said:

 

“We’re delighted to be working with Stand Agency on the CMI Management Book of the Year competition.  They brought a fresh approach to the competition and impressed us in the pitch with their understanding of our business and willingness to go beyond our initial brief.”

 

Laura Oliphant, Managing Director of Stand Agency said:

 

“We’re really excited to be working with CMI and the British Library.  They are fantastic organisations and the Management Book of the Year looks set to be a huge success.

 

“Our approach to the brief centred on using the authors and content of the books to generate debate and discussion about management and leadership in the UK.  We can’t wait to get started.”

 

The CMI Management Book of the Year has previously been promoted by Kindred as part of their retained contract with CMI.

15
Aug
Laura Oliphant

More than volunteering

Posted by Laura Oliphant

By Laura Oliphant

Along with thousands of other Games Makers I recently finished my spell volunteering for the London 2012 Olympics.  Well before we received our public thanks at the closing ceremony and the personal thanks through emails from the likes of Lord Coe and the First Lady, pin badges and a special edition relay baton, I completed nine long shifts whilst still juggling the day (and home!) job.

 

You’ll be relieved to know I have no plans to use this blog to gather sympathy for my long hours or get more thanks for being a Games Maker.  Instead I wanted to share my view on how I think London2012 recruited and throughout the Games energised 70,000 volunteers to be the positive face of the Olympics, and how we can apply some of this Games Maker magic in our day job as communicators.  Whilst most of our clients won’t be asking people to get involved in the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, engaging big groups of people is part of our everyday challenge.

 

I became a Games Maker to use my professional skills and experience to help ensure the world’s media got a professional and efficient service, hopefully resulting in positive headlines for London2012.  However as I got into the role it became less about me and more about feeling part of a powerful movement.  It gave me a new confidence – I talked to strangers and they talked to me.  I felt proud to wear a (far from flattering) uniform and flash my accreditation (and pin badge collection) in public.  I think I showed a different me and after hearing another volunteer sing Happy and You Know It over a tannoy at the Olympic Park to keep the crowd entertained, I think others did too.  When I hung up my uniform for the last time, something was missing, I’d lost a bit of the purpose in my step and all too soon I started to look down when I passed people on the street rather than greeting them with a smile.

 

So back to the point of this blog…  What can we learn from the Games Maker programme when developing campaigns focused on engaging big groups of people?  The obvious thing is to try and make your target audience (whether volunteers or groups of professionals) feel part of united group, a collective. Give that collective a name or identifiable brand and develop ways of ensuring they recognise and identify with each other (thankfully I’m not recommending a purple and red uniform here).  We know it is vital to communicate with audiences regularly, but vary the way you position and deliver that message.  As a Games Maker I was thanked every day but how, when and by whom was always different.  It got my attention and made me feel valued.  Finally, remind your target audience of the difference they’re making.  Whether it’s through a smile, a song or waving a pink hand like many did at the Olympics, or through the more traditional ways we can volunteer or provide our support to causes.

 

Now back to my post Olympic therapy – watching all 16 days of action I missed on catch-up whilst wearing my Games Maker uniform.

 

 

27
Jul
Francesca Rivett-Carnac

How do you behave when you know no one is watching?

Posted by Francesca Rivett-Carnac

By Rebecca McLeod

And does it matter? That’s just one of the questions we’ve been thinking about at Stand Towers this week.

It all started with 21 bottles of bubbly which went missing before our party (yes we know, serious stuff!). The usually excellent Ocado customer service team seemed pretty un-phased when we phoned to complain… after all what could they do to remedy the situation? Nothing it would seem!

But as soon as we tweeted about our distress, we were showered with money-off vouchers and the experience became very different.

So is it just about making your complaint more public?  Is using Twitter to complain the 2012 equivalent of phoning Anne Robinson’s Watchdog?

Or is it more about who is responding to your complaint and the power they wield?

Well first of all, it’s a problem if companies are treating customers differently based on which method they chose to lodge their complaints.   Yes social media brings customers and brands much closer together, which is a great thing.  But companies need to look at how they can replicate this closeness via other channels.

It seems to us at Stand Agency that it all comes back to a good old-fashioned ‘joined-up approach’.  We all know PR works best when it’s properly integrated into a business and works with all the other business functions: where the organisation lives up to the comms and the comms lives up to the organisation.

But until this joined-up model is used everywhere, maybe the best judge of a company (or a person for that matter) is still how they behave when they know no one is watching!

 

 

17
Jul
Francesca Rivett-Carnac

Too little, too late

Posted by Francesca Rivett-Carnac

By Laura Oliphant

When it comes to talking about the G4S Olympic security bungle, the term “too little too late” springs to mind.  Too few security staff, emerging too close to the Olympic start date.  But as communications experts, there’s another “too little, too late” we’re interested in.  No public comment and assurance until days after the shortfall became public.

Whilst I don’t agree with Jeremy Hunt’s view that a failure to meet commitments with an event of this size is “completely normal”, I accept that even with the best planning, things do go wrong.  But, as every media training session and textbook recommends, when things do go wrong, a timely, accurate and assuring response is essential.  From what I’ve seen, I don’t think G4S (who is incidentally recruiting for a PR Manager) and the Olympic team kept their media training handout.

When quizzed by PR Week, G4S’s PR team said CE Nick Buckles was “too busy getting the delivery right to talk to the press”.  But we’d argue assuring the public in the UK and all those travelling to the Olympics from overseas about the state of our Olympic security is getting the delivery right.  It was heading towards the weekend when Buckles, Hunt and eventually Lord Coe started to respond to media and public demand and went public with their views on the security situation.  But during the previous 3-4 days the story had appeared in every paper/ news site, across the twittersphere and had been the topic of many a conversation at the work water cooler.  The debate was fuelled by the families and supporters of service men and women understandably peeved that leave was being cancelled to meet the shortfall.

Whilst media interviews and public apologies wouldn’t have increased the number of security staff G4S could supply, there’s an argument that their reputation, public image and share price would have fared a bit better.  I also suspect the story wouldn’t have rumbled on quite so long, risking more damage to an already fragile perception of the Olympic organisation.

That said, I am a huge Olympic supporter, and as a Games Maker I’ll be playing my part in being timely, accurate and assuring in my comments to the world’s media…

 

11
Jul
Francesca Rivett-Carnac

Is sex really the way to sell the Olympics?

Posted by Francesca Rivett-Carnac

By Rebecca McLeod

We’ve all seen (and discussed) the images.  That picture of the beach volleyball team in Parliament Square reminding us all about busy roads during Olympic season(!), Victoria Pendleton in various states of dress and undress in Esquire, Zara Dampney’s naked leap for GQ Magazine… I could go on…

But what does it all mean?  And what are we supposed to think?

The PR person in me is applauding the great coverage in magazines and media that wouldn’t traditionally cover the Olympics. Not to mention the brilliance of the link between beach volleyball players ‘stopping traffic’ and Olympic road safety.

Part of me agrees with Sarah Ditum who points out that naked athletes make better pin-ups than ‘naturally skinny’ celebs in her article for The Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ today.

But a large part of me just feels a bit ‘sad inside’ about it all.  And yes, I’ll admit it… in some ways let down.

I mean, do we really need the nakedness?

Olympic fever is starting to sweep the nation after all.  The torch relay seems to be a hit everywhere it goes (and it’s been everywhere), Team GB is making daily headlines with team selections and athletes picking up their kit… so what’s with the naked thing?

It’s not just the female athletes doing it… the men have got stuck in too. The Olympic hockey team got their kit off for a charity recently (garnering admiring looks in our office).  And male and female sports stars have been pin ups for years in one guise or another.

I think if I’m honest, the thing that’s making me ‘sad inside’ is that this is the Olympics.  Of all sporting events, surely the Olympics should attempt to project itself as wholesome? Isn’t the Olympic dream all about things like ‘taking part’ and amazing feats of human endurance and skill?

Maybe it’s just me, but I would rather Team GB were remembered for their sporting achievements at London 2012, rather than their toned and bronzed bodies. That’s one part of the Olympic dream I would like to keep alive.