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

15
Apr
Francesca Rivett-Carnac

A recipe for inspiration

Posted by Francesca Rivett-Carnac

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.

22
Mar
Francesca Rivett-Carnac

UnderSTANDing the Budget

Posted by Francesca Rivett-Carnac

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.

Hmmm….

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 thatvery 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.

 

18
Mar
Nyree

As the horsemeat scandal gallops on…

Posted by Nyree

By Nikki Peters

Before this year I hadn’t given horsemeat a second thought. Now, almost three months after it hit the front pages it still occupies plenty of column inches.  I’ve found myself thinking about the ‘real’ contents of my ‘quick fix’ lunch. And the way I look at horses has changed for good. At Stand we like to look to the positives though, so I’ll be using this blog to look at three possible beneficiaries of us finding horsemeat in our Findus.

You and me

I think we’ve become savvier and it will be harder for other suppliers to pull the wool over our eyes.

If us lot at Stand are anything to go by, people are taking a keener interest in what they buy. Never did we consider that large supermarkets could dupe us into buying horse, cat, dog or bearded dragons. We assumed there were rigorous procedures and frequent testing and had no idea how many countries were traversed in the journey from farm (I said I was optimistic!) to our tables/baskets. We were wrong and we do so hate to be wrong.

Obesity

Now, let me make it crystal clear, I’m not suggesting for a second the cause of obesity is horsemeat. But the ongoing suggestion that cheap, fast food = more chance of horsemeat has definitely resulted in people asking “what’s in our food?”  Experts are being increasingly vocal that home cooking a lasagne for four people can be as cheap as pre-packed and not too taxing (even for my limited culinary ability) and recent figures suggest the sales of fast food are dropping since #horsegate.  With these encouraging signs it would be a huge shame if this was not jumped on as an opportunity to encourage more people to question where their food comes from and the importance of a healthy diet.

Local Butchers, for local people

One of our lovely Standettes’ brother-in-law is an independent Butcher and he’s seen a huge rise in footfall since mid-January. The uncertainty of the origin of meat is definitely driving some people to their local butcher where there is more assurance that you are getting the meat you thought you were. But this got me thinking why I am still shopping at the supermarket rather than at my local butcher.

1)       “It’s quicker” – I am not that busy and important on a Saturday morning that I can’t spare an extra 10 minutes, despite my delusions of grandeur.

2)      “It’s cheaper” – well yes shopping a butcher is more expensive than a 99p Findus lasagne (what isn’t?) but not more expensive than comparative meat.

3)      “It won’t taste any different” – this was just plain wrong. The meat from my local butcher is far tastier than its supermarket alternatives and, as an added bonus, you can ask someone about tips for cooking.

For me, the lies have been the most distressing part of this whole affair. Contaminated meat with tranquilisers and all sorts of medication that was never intended, nor fit, to be in the human food production chain certainly shocked me. We don’t want this sort of shock again and, potential suppliers, we are on the lookout.

All in all, I think the horsemeat scandal has been a positive tidal wave to hit the UK. In the last week alone there have been two high profile examples to us Brits taking the bull by the horns (not literally) and making changes. Which? Discovered a 30% drop in shoppers buying processed meat while The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply have called for stricter regulations in tracking supermarkets supply chains. We are now looking beyond the label of anything we buy, which must be good for ethical shopping.

08
Mar
Nyree

What’s in a T-shirt?

Posted by Nyree

By Rebecca McLeod

What’s in a T-shirt?  Well until last week I would have answered: ‘Not much at all.’

But that was before those T-shirts, that excuse and Twitter came to the rescue.

Last weekend, Twitter, or at least the small corner of Twitter that I inhabit, was up in arms about a collection of T-shirts being sold on Amazon by a company called Solid Gold Bomb.  The T-shirts were from a collection of ‘Keep calm and…’ T-shirts –  so far so vintage and harmless?  Well, not really.  The ‘Keep calm and…’ T-shirts were finished with statements like: ‘Rape Them’; ‘Hit Her’ and ‘Knife Her’.

Cue a lot of people on Twitter (including me) getting very angry; tweeting Amazon to demand the T-shirts were taken down; and tweeting Solid Gold Bomb to ask them what on earth they were thinking (although the hope is that they weren’t thinking at all).

By the time I got to hear about the story, Solid Gold Bomb had already put out a statement, covered here by Sky News. But it seemed to raise more questions (and fury) than it answered.

I’ve compressed the report, but in essence, Sky reported the Solid Gold Bomb comment as:

“We have been informed of the fact that we were selling an offensive T-shirt primarily in the UK… This has been immediately deleted as it was and had been automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against 100s of thousands of dictionary words… The scripted programming process that created the slogan was compiled by only one member of our staff, but we accept responsibility for the error”.

Hmmmm. Not the approach I would have taken.

Is Solid Gold Bomb really trying to blame the computers?  Are we actually living in the nightmarish world of The Terminator films where amoral computers are in charge and running amok without any human control?  Who programmed the computers in the first place?  Who decided that it would be a good idea to let these computer-created T-shirts go straight onto the internet for sale without any further checking? Why didn’t Sold Gold Bomb know that these T-shirts existed?  What responsibility does / should Amazon have? If it’s all down to a random computer programme, why does a ‘Hit Her’ T-shirt exist, but not a ‘Hit Him’ version?

I could go on… but you get the idea.  Twitter was full of questions just like these, and the fact that Solid Gold Bomb immediately removed both their Facebook and Twitter pages directly after releasing the statement didn’t help.

So what lessons can we learn?

Well, I’d like to think (in my more idealistic moments) that we are becoming less tolerant as a society of ‘jokes’ like this.

In the wake of Savile and sexual harassment scandals in politics; the old: ‘It’s just a joke’; ‘Don’t take it seriously’ lines seem to be trotted out a little less often.  And that can only be a good thing.

Helped, of course, by the fact there is nowhere to hide from social media.

People can draw attention to things, galvanise others, and demand action like never before.  Whereas even a few years ago, removing the T-shirts and releasing a short (incredibly apologetic) statement might have sufficed… now you have to be willing to engage with your critics… and apologise directly.

Now, your statement won’t just be read by journalists, it will be shared, picked apart and questioned by people on social media and in their own blogs – and if it rambles on for pages, or just doesn’t ring true… it won’t stand up to scrutiny by the media (new or old).

Now that the traditional media cycle has gone out of the window, and news is 24 hours and social media fuelled, your reputation can be damaged in minutes.

With all that in mind, you’d think that people wouldn’t leave their business processes and reputations purely in the hands of computers.

13
Feb
Nyree

Good things come in small packages

Posted by Nyree

By Francesca Rivett-Carnac

 

It’s been a busy few weeks at Stand Agency, which is why we’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front. Amid book awards, national media briefings, nationwide tea parties and lots of other exciting stuff that we can’t tell you about quite yet (but hope to soon), we haven’t had a chance to breathe and tell the world what we’ve been up to.

 

We know that as a PR company we should do better, but we’re like lots of businesses that struggle to prioritise communications. With us it’s largely down to time (our clients come first in the PR pecking order!) but with other businesses the problem often goes beyond that.  We’ve noticed that when it comes to communications, lots of potential clients who ask our advice know their PR needs to work harder for them but they don’t know where to begin.

 

And that’s where we come in.

 

We had a bit of a light bulb moment a few weeks ago. As a small business ourselves, we know that signing up to a long-term project or ongoing retainer can feel like a big commitment. When it comes to PR, sometimes what’s needed is a different set of brains. A fresh pair of expert eyes and ears that will tackle your communications challenge, and send you on your merry way to PR perfection.

 

We now offer one-off sessions for businesses and organisations who don’t know exactly what they need from their communications. There’s our Stand Strategy workshop, where we’ll work with you to establish everything you need to write a compelling communications plan. Or if you’re after some creative genius try Stand Brainstorm for some killer ideas for your next campaign. Wondering why your communications activity isn’t having the desired effect? Let our PR doctors come and give you some Stand Surgery. Or if digital communications is still a bit of a mystery, our Stand Digital masterclass will help build your presence and reputation online.

 

We think a problem shared is most definitely a problem halved, and we’re confident that in a session we can help to clarify a client’s thinking and put some steps in place to ensure communications activities have impact and are more effective in the future. It’s all about starting small to think big.

 

And on the subject of starting small, we’re busy creating a little campaign by Stand Agency that will help some of the most exciting small businesses get ahead in their communications.  All will be revealed soon!

22
Jan
Nyree

Stand Agency passes PRCA CMS audit just seven months from launch

Posted by Nyree

Stand Agency has achieved its Communications Management Standard (CMS) – the gold standard of service for the PR industry from the PRCA just seven months after it launched in May 2012.

 

CMS is the internationally recognised industry quality certification system for PR consultancies. The Standard is an assurance to clients that Stand Agency adheres to strict quality standards in management, communication and service delivery.

 

Passing CMS means Stand Agency is now eligible for FAPRA, the PRCA’s free client matching offering service, which is a key part of the Agency’s growth plan.  Stand Agency was given well over the pass mark for their performance in eight, independently examined areas, achieving full marks in sections such as business and financial planning.

 

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive PRCA says: “Well run businesses consistently deliver the results clients are looking for. The Communications Management Standard was developed specifically to ensure that PRCA members have the systems and structures in place to meet and exceed clients’ expectations. The Standard has been so successful that is has now been adopted in 11 countries around the world.”

 

Laura Oliphant, Managing Director Stand Agency says: “Passing the CMS audit so soon after our launch demonstrates that combining agility and creativity of a small agency with attention to detail and processes of a large agency is a great balance. Stand Agency has grown quickly, breaking even within six months through continually building our client base. We were keen to complete the CMS early on to become part of the PRCA’s matching service to help us continue this growth.”

08
Jan
Nyree

Stand Agency’s New Year’s resolutions

Posted by Nyree

By Penny Jones

 

So! It is that time again – an opportunity to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next; full of good intentions and determination. And we at Stand Agency are no different! Well, maybe we’re a bit different. Why don’t you be the judge of that. Below are our individual and collective resolutions for 2013,  an earnest mixture of achievable goals and hopelessly unrealistic dreams.

Wish us luck! We will keep you updated with our progress…

Start each day with a walk. Having recently been introduced to the fabulous Walkit by Francesca, Penny has decreed that she will no longer endure a minute longer crushed into a tube carriage than is absolutely necessary and will be commuting on foot from now on. Highgate to Kings Cross: 4.2 miles. Great exercise and fresh air a far more appealing way to start the day! (Until it rains…)

Try out some new recipesLaura has launched a Supper Club in a monthly attempt to challenge her mid week catering skills for 8 (as well as drink good wine and gossip)

Abstinence – no more beer for Blair. Well, for a month anyway. Blair is Stand Agency’s sole advocate of the dry January tradition this year, making the rest of us feel a mixture of pity, guilt and – in Penny and Nikki’s case at least – absolute incomprehension as to how or why anyone could even attempt such a feat. Good luck with this one, we look forward to toasting your success on 1st February. With a large beer, of course.

No more Norovirus – poor Rebecca has been struck down by the dreaded bug sweeping the country. Not an ideal way to start the year, we wish her – and anyone else suffering – better.

Diversity in veg. Francesca is determined to eat some different varieties of vegetables this year (rather than her current staple of tomatoes and wilting lettuce) and has some exciting ideas about how to prepare them: mixed with cheese or sprinkled with chilli or submerged in cream or roasted… in fact, she has made this sound so appealing that it may yet be adopted by more of us!

Altruism in business. A collective resolution here: we have been blown away by the support we have received from other small businesses and start-ups since the launch of Stand Agency –

introductions, tips, friendly support… and often from people we had never met before. Big companies have a tendency to be more secretive and less willing to help each other. The small business community is exactly that – a community. We believe that if you help and support other businesses, you never know how they might be able to help you in the future. So this is exactly what we resolve to do!

 Get healthy. Whilst rejecting the idea of completely giving up anything she likes doing, Nikki is on a mission to improve her general fitness and has adopted the cunning approach of hijacking her friends’ more rigid New Year regimes as and when it suits. Getting fit is also a 2013 goal of Blair’s – perhaps a run around Stand Towers at lunch, guys?

Experimenting. Another Stand Agency collective resolution here – this one is all about not being afraid to take risks, and trying different ways of approaching things. We are all committed to an experiment or two in 2013 without being held back by fear of failure. Aren’t we brave?!

New experiences in London. Penny received some great books about exciting things to do in London for Christmas, and is full of inspiration as a result – strangely, quite a few of the activities on her to-do list seem to be based around experiencing pubs. Hmmm….

 Continue the cake. Okay, so it isn’t technically a resolution, and jars somewhat with the ‘get fit’ objectives of some of the team – but Stand Agency simply wouldn’t be the same without its regular injection of baked goods, courtesy of Laura. The Standard was set high early on this year with an exceptional lemon and polenta creation. Keep up the good work!

Yes.  Say yes to more invites, ideas, offers and questions!  Good things happen to those people who put the time in – whether social or professional so let’s see what happens when the people at Stand says “Yes!”…

 

18
Dec
Nyree

Have an outSTANDing Christmas, one and all!

Posted by Nyree

By Nikki Peters

As the most excited member of the Stand Agency team, I have volunteered to write our festive blog. Mulled wine at the ready? Then I will begin…

Last Christmas

This time last year there was no such place as Stand Agency. Our lovely HQ was filled with architects and half of the Stand Agency team had yet to meet. This time of year offers itself up for some reflection and for us, it’s been a heck of a year! There have been big moves, little moves, job moves and sign moves but whatever the distance travelled, we take it in our stride.

Have a happy holiday

The first ever Stand Agency away day signalled more yuletide cheer. We pondered and pondered about where to go to celebrate Christmas and then Laura struck with a wave of genius. Paris. What could be more glamorous and Ab Fab than a day trip to Paris? We climbed the Eiffel Tower, dined on gorgeous fromage and coiffed some lovely vin rouge. The day was – trying hard not to show off – perfect.

Silent night

Christmas is a great time of year for us in PR. No, I’m not talking about the soirees and the champagne.  I recently attended a PRCA event around Christmas crisis communications, which highlighted how PRs can generate coverage for their clients’ gaps during the quieter news period. The newspaper industry doesn’t close its doors for the whole of Christmas, far from it, but there are articles we can place in advance to secure some good news stories for our clients.

 The night before Christmas

Secret Santa, Christmas cards and decorations are all areas which I have taken to with huge seriousness. To me, these are vital. The Stand Agency tree is, of course, up already. Its gareish pink beauty and taxidermy style robin may scare children but to us, this is Christmas. Cards have been signed, sealed and posted with endless sugary drinks to take the taste of envelopes away (my excuse anyway!). Secret Santa will take place on Wednesday and by that stage I may have burst with festive excitement.

Auld lang syne

Any new year’s resolutions at Stand Agency? World domination but 2014. Well we can dream can’t we? We are aiming for more growth, more exciting challenges and more outstanding results for our clients. We will be going into 2013 with great hopes and dreams and we can’t wait to get stuck in to the next chapter. We’re hoping 2013 is prosperous for you too.

Merry Christmas everyone!

20
Nov
Nyree

We are looking for an intern to join our team

Posted by Nyree

We are looking for someone to join us, initially on a short-term basis, who is really keen to start their career in PR. Here is a brief description of what the job entails so if you are interested, please send a personalised letter and CV to the address below.

 

Key roles and responsibilities

  • Daily monitoring of online and print news media to track relevant client and agency issues, markets and competitors
  • Carrying out desk research for new business proposals and pitches
  • Supporting team on client work including social media activity, drafting copy, compiling media lists, competitor analysis, case study interviews and media sell-ins
  • Collating client media cuttings into weekly electronic coverage book
  • Monitoring PR industry news sites and forums to ensure team is informed of industry moves and competitor wins
  • PR and social media activity to promote Stand Agency

 

Skills required

  • Positive and helpful attitude
  • Ability to grasp concepts quickly
  • Ability to work well in a team
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Good time management skills
  • Good verbal communications skills
  • Good presentation skills
  • Good telephone skills
  • Keen to learn and progress
  • Flexible approach to tasks and projects

 

Experience required

  • Entry-level position
  • Degree level educated or equivalent
  • Proficient in Microsoft Word, and basic level of Excel and Outlook useful
  • Demonstration of commitment/enthusiasm to get into PR, e.g. completion of work experience, or university roles/responsibilities

 

Do you have what it takes to stand out? Please send your CV and a covering letter to Francesca Rivett-Carnac at Stand Agency Francesca@standagency.com

12
Nov
Nyree

You take the high road, I’ll take the low road and the media will take a different route altogether

Posted by Nyree

By Blair Grant

As covered in my last blog, I only moved down to London a few months ago and it’s been nothing if not eventful.  The move instilled a new vigour in me, a health-kickp, if you will, and I joined a football team.  Within forty-five minutes of my first game I was off injured, within an hour, I was in an A&E unit, and within four hours, I was told I had broken three bones in my wrist.  The follow-up outpatient appointments saw me fill in overseas visitors’ forms while my passport and driving licence were photocopied (repeatedly), as questions over my employment history and ethnicity from a sceptical receptionist rained down.

As I read the disparaging remarks aimed at the Scottish independence campaign in a three-day old Sunday broadsheet, it got me thinking about being a Scot out of Scotland and the differences in Scottish reporting to that of English.

A lot has happened since as I sit here, the speed of my typing still hampered by the accident.   A momentous agreement was reached between First Minister Alex Salmond and the Prime Minister David Cameron that confirmed the Scottish Parliament’s power to hold a referendum vote would be granted, one in which a Scottish Government press release, stated: “. . .will be respected fully by both governments.’

I was off work for a fortnight due to the injury and as I sat on my bed, devouring strong painkillers and contemplating how I was going to tie my shoelaces, I managed to catch up on my reading of the debate and political fallout.  As I sat down to my water and co-dydramol a particular headline struck me: ‘Hopelessly flawed and never quite what they seem – but leaders cling to referendums for comfort’.  It was a feature in the Independent, arguing that the process will drag on and go nowhere, a piece which nationalists would claim to be typically ‘Londoncentric’.

It was an article all too familiar in those weeks, but the UK national press has had a varied stance on the northern hinterland far beyond the Watford gap and its efforts to ‘escape’ from the union.  Most opinion pieces brought the argument back to Europe in general, with the local elections in Belgium and the continued furor surrounding Catalonian independence a welcome point of comparison.

Another focus was the widespread assumption that the SNP – perhaps justifiably –  had been out-fought by the Prime Minister in agreeing to a single question on independence, excluding the option for devo-max or the much maligned second question.  In the main, publications in Scotland have accepted that Alex Salmond had no choice, while the grin of some of the journalists of their sister publications in England is almost detectable in their articles.  The differences in reporting either side of Hadrian’s Wall has been staggering.

The debate will run and run, one on which I’ll certainly take more than a passing interest in.  I look forward to seeing the tone from publications on both sides of the border as we get closer the 2014 referendum. Let’s hope the pieces are more balanced in tone than the precarious political topic they focus on.