Prospect presents Laura Oliphant
Laura Oliphant, Stand Agency’s MD was recently interviewed by Prospect Resourcing on life inside and outside of Stand towers.
The interview can also be read on Prospect’s website here.
Right now, Stand Agency is in its third year; did you ever think the agency would grow as much in such a short time and what strategy did you have in mind when you launched?
It really depends when you ask me this question. Some days I think, how did we get to 18 people and other days I see so much opportunity, I wonder why we are not growing faster!
When we launched Stand we had a pretty simple strategy. We wanted to create a great agency that treated its staff and clients well, did amazing work and followed our own rules and not those of other agencies. Three years on and those principles are the basis of our mission and vision.
You have established very strong values and mission statement – tell us what these mean and how you put those brand values into practice within the agency?
At three years old we decided it was probably time to formalise our business plan and look ahead at our next five years. Part of the process was to consult and agree on our vision, mission and values so everyone in the business recognises and buys into where we are heading.
Our aim is to work with brands and organisations that want to challenge a market, service, perception or behaviour – it’s exciting territory.
In terms of what it feels like to work here, our values were created by the whole agency, including our freelancers. They are themed around feeling valued and supported, being proud of the work we do and encouraging individuality in an environment where everyone has a voice.
How does the dynamic work with the co-founders – who does what and how does it all fit together?
Well – it’s easy and it’s fun! We recognise we have very different strengths and styles and that’s why it works so well. We lead on the broad areas of people, process and business growth but we are all involved in the big decisions that determine what kind of agency we are, who works for us and who we choose to work with.
The work the agency has done is fantastic – the campaign work is deep thinking, strategic, creative and hard hitting – why do you feel Stand hasn’t been successful so far in winning awards and what is your opinion on validation through awards?
I do rate the value of awards, especially when looking at differentiation between similar agencies, which is why it’s frustrating to have been shortlisted but not have won. I think there are a few reasons why – the types of campaigns we work on are not always all about a picture story or a stunt so the impact is less easy to capture in a short award entry; we are understated in our style and work as an extension of our clients’ teams so it’s harder to say what is Stand, and finally, it has not been a priority for us up to now but we are on a mission next year so hopefully our cabinet will look better if you ask me again in twelve months time!
Why do you go for disruptive brands within the challenger space and which brands are you itching to work with?
These types of clients tend to be brave and open to more creative and unproven ideas. They know their success is about punching above their weight and they see the value of PR and comms in helping them achieve that. On a purely personal level, the people who choose to work for a challenger brand are exciting, like to work in partnership and recognise results and celebrate them.
We see ourselves as a challenger in the PR space. Quietly punching above our weight, doing things our way to succeed in a very established market. We are also recruiting some of the best people in the sector who like the excitement and opportunities for growth that an independently owned agency presents.
In terms of brands, we want to work in energy – companies like OVO; food – companies like Riverford, finance – companies like Starling. In terms of campaigns, we are passionate about gender equality, sport and health so we’d love to work with England women’s national football team, or The WI.
You have an office in London and also one in Peterborough – how did that come about and how does that work for the teams?
We started day one of Stand in a serviced office in Kings Cross and are now in our own space. In terms of opening the Peterborough office last year, it was because we wanted to recruit someone who didn’t want to work full-time in London! That one person led to another and now we have five people based there. The two offices work as one and we focus on securing results as a team for national and international clients. The offices are only a 50 minute train journey apart so people are encouraged to travel between the offices every week.
You’re well known for your ability to take anything on and just go with it – can you give us an example of when this has worked at its finest (or most disastrous)?
Yes, one of my characteristics is my belief that everything is possible! There are too many examples to single out one but let’s just say I am famous for my big picture thinking. We have an amazing team who pull incredible things off. To everyone at Stand it’s personal and for that reason they will do anything in their power to make things as successful as possible.
A little bird told us you like to sing for your supper… what’s that all about?
I joined a choral choir as part of charity challenge to raise money for a Sue Ryder hospice where a close friend’s young husband died. I thought I would perform in the concert and then bow out but I realised the fear of being so out of my comfort zone helped me forget about everything else. It has been an amazing experience and we have had the chance to sing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and other great performers.
You’re on your bi-weekly 5k run – what tracks are on your playlist and guaranteed to motivate you?
I’m so disorganised before I get going on @parkrunUK or my normal run I just put on a random playlist on Apple Music. It’s a bit hit and miss and during every run I think, I wish I had organised what I was going to listen to!
If you weren’t in PR you’d be…?
Anything that requires you to think on your feet and come up with an immediate answer or solution – a Minister, a surgeon, a Barrister?! Flaw in my plan is the attention to detail – I’m not sure my attention span is quite up to it…!
Whatever it is I’m doing, I need a great team of people to make it all come together and to make working as much fun as it can be. I’d struggle to top the Stand team though!
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