This week Stand Agency joined a community of PR agencies and individuals across the world who practice Impact Relations – a fast-growing communications discipline that supports the work of pioneering businesses and organisations who are driven by purpose as well as profit.
Here are some of our latest obsessions, successes and joys.
Since we started working with The Reading Agency last year, one message has really stuck in my mind.
“We should be encouraged to read in a way that feels right for us”
Reading in a way that feels right for us. Not right for our school teachers, or well-meaning parents, friends or the people we follow on Instagram. For some, that might be a newspaper. For others, it might be a comic, a short story, or the biography of a sports star. A few might choose to read War and Peace, but I wonder how many of us have struggled on with a book because we’ve believed without question that it’s the ‘right’ thing to read?
By Fran Rivett-Carnac
We’re probably not the only ones who have noticed the little cloud of gloom that seems to have settled over our nation. If it’s not the endless stories of a bleak economy, it’s the fact that hats and gloves are still making an appearance in April (although today is looking more promising…)
Even the most optimistic and cheerful among us – and believe me there are a few here at Stand Agency – can sometimes wake up in the morning feeling a little uninspired. And a recent marathon week of brainstorms got me thinking. Being inspired and motivated leads to colourful ideas, brilliant work and a happy team. But what do you do when you find yourself completely devoid of inspiration when you need it most?
This blog is dedicated to anyone who has ever been there. It’s Stand Agency’s take on inspiration, and where we get it from.
The great outdoors. A bit of fresh air works wonders for the brain. For Penny it’s anywhere with trees. For Rebecca it’s a stroll down the street in the sun, to clear the mind and get all the connections working.
Food. Yes, we wouldn’t be Stand Agency without bringing food into the equation. Food is Nikki’s top creative inspiration, especially chocolate. Which is of course why it’s essential for us to have treats at every brainstorm…
People. We can’t all think of brilliant ideas all the time. But talking and bouncing ideas off each other means the tiniest kernel of an idea from one person can inspire something brilliant in another.
Solitude. But it’s also about having time to process your thoughts alone. Some of us come up with ideas in very mundane places… on the toilet, having a shower, in dreams, or in Rebecca’s case watching Peppa Pig (yes, Peppa Pig)
Exercise. Get a sweat on. Penny says the best way to get the thoughts flowing is going for a swim in the ponds on Hampstead Heath. If the idea of jumping into freezing cold water horrifies you, try getting the wind in your hair and going for a run.
Of course, we know it isn’t always feasible to drop everything and head out for a swim or an episode of Peppa Pig. If you’re at your desk with nowhere to run to, here are our two final thoughts:
Possibility. Rebecca is most inspired by knowing what’s possible. Think big and the rest will follow.
React to the negativity. Rather than being constrained by austere times, Laura believes it makes her more creative. React to the negativity and be more interesting and provocative to shake up the grey out there.
So there you have it. A recipe for inspiration a la Stand Agency. For those of you who are feeling a little grey today… we hope this helps you get back to being brilliant.
By Penny Jones
In case you didn’t notice, the (not terribly) highly anticipated Budget 2013 was delivered this week amongst the usual unpalatable heckling and jeering from the House of Commons – as well as a quite unusual embargo-busting balls-up from the Evening Standard, with potential implications on the government’s practice of pre-briefing press (watch this space…)
So, as the Budget technically affects us all, we at Stand Agency thought we would share our personal highlights and lowlights from this year’s announcements. And first up, because I am writing it, is BOOZE! Might as well start with the important stuff and work down.
There are mixed feelings amongst the Stand crew on the 1p reduction on a pint of beer. Whilst Blair considers it to be one of his highlights, he also feels it is somewhat futile: “It’s good, but is a bit like being given £10 off a Ferrari, and will hardly have much of an impact when wages are falling”. A fair point. Fran is also ambivalent: “Drinking will become an emotional rollercoaster with the joy of 1p off a pint followed by the sad reality of more expensive wine.”
I am more decided in my opinion on this one. Why just beer?! What about CIDER George? Wine? Rum? All other drinks I like? It feels discriminatory and is, in my opinion, a headline grabbing non-event. Channel 4’s Jon Snow clearly agrees with me, pointing out via Twitter that, if you drink10 pints a week, it will save you £5 a year.
Onto lesser matters. The economy. Rebecca notes the not insignificant fact that the growth forecast for 2013 has been halved, pointing out “no matter how you dress that one up it isn’t good news”. Blair’s optimistic -sounding conclusion that it is ‘Budget of hope’ is revealed as misleading when he clarifies that it is the Chancellor’s hope (that his decisions pay dividends) to which he refers. Blair himself apparently does not hold out much hope for Osborne, simply pointing out the recent loss of our AAA rating.
Nikki was delighted to hear that the government has pledged to boost spending on infrastructure by £3bn a year from 2015/16. Why? “I like going places, and I like doing it quickly”. You can’t fault the girl’s logic. She was less excited by the childish bickering and trading of insults we had to endure as we listened live to the announcement. A feeling shared by us all.
Another common theme in the office was disappointment at the relevance to us as individuals. This is something I certainly found, and have struggled to identify anything that will have a significant impact on my life. I do single out the 20% tax relief on childcare on behalf of my sister, who has three children. Drinks are on you sis! Oh, wait, with three children, you don’t go out….
Lack of relevance was something Laura also observed, as a non-smoker, non-beer drinker and very occasional driver, she found that “very little of what Mr Osborne said got a cheer from me on a personal level”. Having started a new business in the past year, Laura was, however, encouraged to see some measures aimed at supporting small businesses. Although none were substantial on their own, she notes that a 1% reduction in corporation tax, a new £2k NI allowance and an increase in Government procurement from small firms (Stand Agency sits on the Agile comms framework) has to be good news.
Perhaps the most widely-relevant initiative, and Rebecca’s chosen high point, is the increase in the amount at which people start paying tax to £10,000. Although it doesn’t come into force for another year, it will make a big difference to most people. Fran was pleased to hear that there was some support for first-time buyers: “maybe now I’ll be able to buy a house before I’m 80!”. She was less enamoured with George Osbourne’s lack of focus on the environment. “Cancelling fuel duty rises and giving tax breaks for shale gas? On your bike Osborne!”
All in all, a mixed bag. Nothing hugely controversial, nothing hugely exciting. Will it make any difference? Ask us again in a year.
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!
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…
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.