Laura Oliphant, co-founder and MD of Stand Agency, reveals the type of client she loves, the rise of "Impact Relations" and how to produce campaigns which tackle difficult subjects.
What led you to set up Stand Agency? And what makes the agency different to other consultancies?
It’s hard to believe when an agency says it’s different - it’s a bold claim when we are all in the business of comms. We stay focused on our positioning of changing the way people think, feel and act, and it seems to work.
When we set up Stand in 2012, our aim was to create an agency that we would all want to work for, and with. Going out on our own enabled us to pick and choose clients, and we focused on brands who have a challenging brief, want to change opinion or behaviour, and make an impact by their work.
We still seek out those kinds of clients, and behaviour change and Impact Relations remains at the heart of what we do.
Is there a particular type of client you like to work with?
We like brave clients, ones who want to work in partnership, and have a clear position and purpose at their heart - or want to work with us to find one.
This could be challengers who want to bring something new to their sector, established brands who want to be viewed differently or charities who want to get the public behind their cause. It’s not just about the work, these organisations are often run by people who are creative, driven and curious, which suits our style.
How do you go about tackling difficult or taboo subjects as part of a campaign?
This is the kind of brief we excel at. We have got people talking about everything from death, loneliness, old age and the rise in gang culture. We highlight the issues and get people talking.
When creating campaigns, you can’t be too subtle. People are constantly bombarded with information and content, and if you want a campaign to land about something not on their radar (or in their conversations), it must grab interest and attention.
Know your target audience and talk specifically to them. We know it’s tricky to talk about uncomfortable or sensitive subjects, so we include prompts and ‘conversation starters’ in our campaigns to help kick start those discussions.
Finally ensure your client has realistic expectations. It takes years to change attitutes and behaviours, you have to keep plugging away.
One of your key offerings is "Impact Relations". What is this and how important is it to comms strategies?
Impact Relations is an initiative we first heard about in the US. It is something we have been doing since the start of Stand, so joining the global community was a natural step.
Following an agreed framework (one of which is creating a comms narrative), it encourages organisations to look beyond their reporting and accounts, and focus on how they can influence positive social and environmental change.
Impact Relations is in our DNA but it is not something talked about enough here. More organisations are considering the impact economy, and creating value beyond profit as a business imperative, and we want to work with them to ensure it also forms a core part of their brand positioning.
How do you look to measure your work?
The debate on how we measure PR has been going for as long as I’ve been in the industry. I’m convinced we still undervalue what we do, so instead of PR measures, we encourage clients to link our activity to business objectives from the start. This helps clients put a value on what we do beyond clicks and column inches.
Finally, what does the rest of 2019 look like for Stand?
Busy! We've won new clients and have made some great hires, so I expect there to be a period of bedding in. August is usually a quieter month but we’re in full-on planning mode for a number of autumn campaigns.
Business development and diversity remain important, but our aim is to focus our work in some key areas where we have a proven track record. Impact Relations is also a key area for us – making sure it runs through the agency like a stick of rock - both in terms of the clients we work with, and how we run our own business.