18TH JUNE 2019 | Posted by James Graham

Free your conference to be a festival...

Or your festival to be a brand experience; your brand experience to be a conference; your exhibition to be a meeting; and so on.

The point being, the traditional definitions of an event have become rather open to interpretation and are not always the right start point. Arguably, using any of these terms is starting with an answer, rather than an objective. We’d rather start with an objective, then develop a solution that brings an understanding of your audience and your objectives, together. All in one potent, memorable idea.

And objectivity requires context. Here at Stagestruck, we believe that if you want your event to work hard, you have to think about your audience and the world they actually live in. My rather wonderful colleague, James Boardman, recently wrote about this (see here), looking at the context – the competitive communications context – and how this makes the difference between an event that delights and works hard, and one that gets a, “Meh, it was fine” response…and is forgotten in a week.

This objective approach will free you up. It does require an open mind, and a willingness to challenge what’s happened in the past, but it works. It forces us all to look at what people actually think, feel and crucially, do. (After all, what they say and what they do are often not the same.) Without being too full of ourselves, this is what we do. It’s seen us turn conferences into festivals; made festivals work as brand experiences; forged potent meetings at expos; turned exclusive conferences into inclusive broadcasts, and more. From ball-pits to gameshows; AI hosts to robots; coffee bars to sushi conveyors; even warehouse rave venues that bring back memories of the ‘90s for some of us…and yes, some music. Not for the hell of it, but because we’re focused on the objective.

Set your event free: start with defining what you want to achieve.

For more information, please contact:
james.graham@stagestruck.com

10TH JUNE 2019 | Posted by James Boardman

Today, your internal communications need to work harder to work

The ultimate goal of any strategic change within an organisation is to re-position itself in the market - whether it be an internal shift in mind set to strengthen your customer proposition via your workforce or an external launch of a new product or brand.

Both of these, to be successful, require impeccably executed communications.

In a modern consumer world, where everything is over communicated to beat social algorithms and our audiences are filled with scepticism, breaking through the drivel and making an impact has never been more difficult. Or more important.

Putting the art of advertisement to one side (we haven’t got all day…) and focusing on internal communication, the most common thing that gets forgotten is that your workforce live and breathe in this modern, noisy, entertaining, invasive consumer world. They have become highly attuned to dismissing communications allegedly created to garner their attention, then these high standards also apply to any internal communications.

Reaching your employees and colleagues in an impactful way is nothing new, we’ve been doing it for our clients for the last 35 years. But what has changed with the digital age is how you most effectively break through the battle-hardened, ‘human bulls*it filter’.

And let’s face it, the CEO and leaders of any organisation are now overtly challenged like never before: from Twitter to Glassdoor, the anonymity of the internet has allowed unfiltered feelings – and facts – to flourish.

In short, the real-world context that your internal communications live in is a fierce one.

If you want to change the way people think or act it takes more than just an email or internal communications platform. They have to experience something – in real life, with real people – to evoke any sort of emotional response. An email is easy, quick; almost disposable. Sometimes you need to add gravitas: how you say something communicates as much as what you say. So, if you take the time and effort to share in a considered and interesting way, then your message has a much greater chance of actually delivering the behavioural shift you ultimately want.

In past 12 months we’ve seen a sky rocketed increase in this experiential response to delivery of new communications strategies. We’ve been working with our clients to develop strong engaging experiences that cut through the digital white noise and create lasting memories in the audience’s minds. It is hard work: understanding the barriers to success and thinking creatively around them. It requires resilience to keep battling through the challenges.

Most of all, it requires belief in doing work that works.

For more information, please contact:
james.boardman@stagestruck.com

4TH MARCH 2019 | Posted by James Graham

Brief early to get more from your agency

As a client, the reality is you’re often buying the time of people. Yes, there’s some kit and film and hardware and software and set materials and more. But the really valuable stuff is the time and ideas of a talented team.

Budgets are always tight because we aim to squeeze lots out of them. Even on the biggest projects, the scope will stretch the budget. And frankly, if it doesn’t, we’re not trying hard enough.

So value is key, not just price. Price is meaningless on its own. A low-cost experience that doesn’t work is, frankly, a waste of money.

Think of value as an equation: Value = (Quality/Price) x Service

What is meant by quality? Here at Stagestruck it means effectiveness through understanding, creativity, ideas, design, craft skills, attention to detail, and exemplary delivery. These things all take time to do. Time that’s often judged as just a number in a quote to produce a defined set of deliverables.

Service is about how things are done; with understanding, clarity, expertise, care and passion. If it gets done in a way that means you can focus on what you need to focus on, that’s valuable.

You want the most out of the time you are buying. That’s obvious. So here’s a forgotten truth: you can get more time, and more valuable time, without paying more, simply by briefing early.

Brief early, agree a scope and the budget for time to think, design, produce and create. The scope and budget are set, but if you give more than the defined days to actually do it, the brains will be free to think when they are at their best: those moments where the sub-conscious works magic in the background; not the structured, 9-to-5 time, but the time when your brain makes new connections; the standing-in-the-kitchen-waiting-for-the-kettle-to-boil-times when someone says something to you that unlocks a whole new world of ideas; the time to absorb and stimulate the ideas in different ways; the time to work past the obvious ideas and into the realm of, “Oooh, I hadn’t thought of that and I wonder how we can do it” ideas. The ideas that you need and want. Ideas do not come just between 9 and 5:30, and the reality is you’ll get way more days (and nights) of brain power on your brief, leading to more impactful, more effective ideas. All for the same money.

It gets better. You’ve given people time to get it wrong before they get it right. That’s genuinely empowering them to try new things. The people you work with will appreciate that, and the trust this creates leads to a better, more open, more productive – and more enjoyable - way of working for all.

Sometimes it's not possible to start early, and time is of the essence. That's the way things sometimes are, though it doesn't need to be the rule.

However, finding that little bit of time is a better way to work. It’s about thinking objectively, about the outcomes you want, rather than just the inputs of time, money and information.

Going back to the equation, if price is fixed (and budgets often are, but that’s a whole other topic), then if you can increase the quality and the service, the value you receive multiplies. That’s just smarter.

So, brief early and enjoy the benefits of extra time.

For more information, please contact:
james.boardman@stagestruck.com

5TH FEBRUARY 2019 | Posted by James Graham

You don’t need an event. you need an idea.

More than an event or experience or any communications, you need an idea.

As a business that creates events, experiences and communications business, why would I say that? Surely if you’re wanting an event, you just need a conducive environment, some shiny technology and some on-brand graphics, don’t you? Why would you need an idea?

In short, if you’re wanting to change the way people feel, think and ultimately, behave, then an idea is very helpful. And an event, experience, film, poster etc. is the delivery mechanism (albeit potentially very powerful ones when used correctly).

The human brain is incredibly adept at blocking out information and communication. Ideas are Trojan horses we use to deliver our message. Ideas are how the brain parcels up information; they are ingrained into our psyche and inhabit our culture as memes, stories, legends and archetypes.

Brands are ideas; so are memories. If we can frame our experiences as ideas we are engaging the audience the way their brains work. Ideas create experiences the audience will remember; experiences they want to share.

And ideas live in the mind of your audience. Isn’t that wonderful? You can give them something. It’s not yours, it’s theirs. And if it’s theirs, they’ll actually believe it and do something about it, including share it.

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate.”

I hate to quote a movie, but this line in the acclaimed Christopher Nolan film, Inception, sums up the power of ideas very neatly.

An idea being a virus is an idea in itself, but a very emotive one, here shared in an almost visceral way (Nolan is really rather good at this). Ideas that take hold usually aren’t rational facts. They can be supported – justified - by facts but an emotionally based idea is much more resilient and persuasive (Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s work is a relevant read here). So when we’re talking about ideas, we’re not talking about an idea to “use VR”, for example; we’re talking about an idea that changes how you view your world and how you act within it. Ideas that connect to something the consumer believes to be true.

The Brexit campaign is a great example of an idea taking hold: Take Back Control. The Trump campaign also deployed an idea into the minds of millions: Make America Great Again. That idea made total sense to the millions of people who are working hard to stand still; it made them think Trump could bring back the American Dream for them. Sod the policies, sod reality…just give me my dream.

Ideally, you’ll have the “policies” or facts to support your idea. Otherwise you’ve effectively lied, and that will come back to bite you. So perhaps Guinness is a better example: “Good things come to those who wait”. Here was an idea that already existed in the minds of the British population, and one that made the wait for a pint of Guinness not just bearable, but a benefit. The genius was in appropriating an idea that was already in the minds of the audience – very clever indeed, but one that required the exquisite execution of Britain’s favourite ever TV commercial, Surfer.

So, this points to a need for emotive ideas to be delivered in order (1) last beyond the event or experience itself, and (2) create a genuine change in your audience’s behaviour. And, of course, the idea must be delivered with impact and brilliance to maximize its potential.

I could go on, but if you’re to take one thing away from these few paragraphs, take this: supercharge your event, experience and communications with an idea. (See what I did there?)

For more information, please contact:
james.boardman@stagestruck.com

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