Innovation 50 – our latest campaign with Mills & Reeve is live!

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Innovation 50 is now live!

This week, we launched a flagship business innovation campaign for Mills & Reeve called the ‘Innovation 50’ to identify and celebrate the Midlands’ most forward-thinking businesses. The campaign is a hunt for the region’s best, most innovative companies and Mills & Reeve will publish the top 50 index in September following the application and judging period.

Mills & Reeve will collate all applications and a panel of the city’s business leaders will select the Innovation 50 from across five categories:

  • Manufacturing, engineering and utilities
  • Creative and digital
  • Science, technology and healthcare,
  • Retail, consumer and leisure
  • Financial services

On 4th September the Innovation 50 will launch with and will be available as an online downloadable index for all to see!

Keep track of the campaign activity and find out more by visiting the website and following the Twitter account.

New chapter for Story

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©Mathew Growcoot

©Mathew Growcoot

Story Comms has kicked off 2017 on a high, ushering in four client wins, expanding its specialist team and moving into brand new offices in the heart of the Colmore Business District.

Story has been appointed by the British Business Bank’s Midlands Engine Investment Fund to become its long-term PR partner following a competitive pitch process. The fund, which will connect 10 LEPs across the Midlands, will provide growth funding to the region’s SMEs.

As well as flying the flag for the Midlands Engine, Story has also been selected to deliver communications strategies for inward investment bodies Drive Midlands and Enterprise Telford.

Completing the wins is national property firm CEG, which has brought Story on to support its £1million co-working office space, Alpha Works. The 14,000 sq ft hub is based on the 21st and 22nd floors of the city’s iconic landmark Alpha Birmingham.

The four new partners join a client roster that includes Marketing Birmingham, the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, law firms Mills & Reeve and Anthony Collins, SME investor Finance Birmingham, and The FA.

Reflecting Story’s rapid growth, two new faces have bolstered the team. Account manager and corporate communications specialist Sophie Zumbe has joined to support the delivery of high-impact reactive media relations and multichannel content campaigns across the agency’s client roster. Having honed her professional services credentials through work with the likes of Shakespeare Martineau, Menzies and NFU Mutual, Sophie will be championing an agile media approach and developing the firm’s thought leadership and complex copywriting function.

The firm has also welcomed account executive Arya Chopra to the team following her tenure within the PR team at destination marketing organisation Marketing Birmingham. Arya will be working across multiple accounts to deliver quantitative ROI reports, supporting with research and media relations activity.

Amanda Lowe, Managing Director at Story Comms said:

“It’s no secret that Story is passionate about the Midlands and its renaissance as a thriving and globally relevant region. That passion is reflected in our latest fleet of client wins – all of whom are playing a key role in the area’s growth. From attracting inward investment to supporting the region’s fast-growing businesses and regenerating its skyline, we are excited to be working with clients at the heart of these changes.

“As an agency we are focused on being the home of industry leading talent and so I am really excited to welcome Sophie and Arya to the team, as we continue to grow our presence as a key player in the B2B and public affairs communications community.”

Due to its expanding portfolio, and a burgeoning pipeline of project work, Story is currently looking to bolster its team with flexible and part time roles across all levels – with a particular focus on shaping roles around the industry’s most talented professionals.

Lowe added:

“I believe the best results are produced when businesses have a talent-first approach, empowering individuals to have the freedom and structure to work in way that works for them. We’re keen to provide the flexibility and culture that the region’s brightest comms professionals want and need to thrive.”

Mayoral Top Trumps – what did the candidates have to say?

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Facts and figures aside, we wanted to hear more about the rationale behind the Mayoral candidates’ comms strategies straight from the candidates themselves. Who did they believe their target audiences were and how had they planned to persuade the West Midlands electorate that they were the right person for the top job? Here’s what they said…

James Burn, The Green Party

“The campaign has been a real eye-opener. Most people are still unaware that there is an election for Mayor about to happen, and do not know the differences between the candidates. This election has certainly not captured the public’s imagination, and a fair number of people are hostile to the idea – and that’s because a Mayor is being imposed on us from above.

“Birmingham and Coventry have both voted against a Mayor before, but they’re having one anyway, and unlike the London Mayor, there’s no Assembly to hold the Mayor to account. That’s why I’ve been campaigning so hard to make sure that the Combined Authority and Mayor listens to everybody in our region – not just those who are interested in politics. If the Authority doesn’t work for everybody it will be a failure.”

Pete Durnell, UKIP

“My target audience is quite simply anyone who may potentially vote in the mayoral election, and my strengths are in understanding ‘ordinary people’, and hopefully in communicating my message clearly and succinctly to them. A recent survey put my support at 15.7 percent of those intending to vote, which compares favourably with national opinion polls. I do not have finances available that other candidates do, one of my opponents is rumoured to have spent around £1 million on his campaign, and I will spend less than £10,000. He has an army of activists available, I don’t, smart use of social media is the only way I can hope to even come close to competing.”

Beverley Nielsen, Liberal Democrats

“I feel the campaign has gone well so far. However, I feel there is a gathering momentum at present as the General Election has sharpened the view on the Mayoral election, raising the profile of it and making people more keenly aware of the differences in the party positions as well as the different experience of the various candidates.

“I have been primarily influenced around the need for greater investment – not cuts – to improve our competitive position and productivity. I have been very focussed on growing our own homemade success through a focus on our SMEs and manufacturing businesses. I have also been focussed on our Human Goldmine, the young talent that will power future growth and how we stop the brain drain as well as ensure more opportunity given high youth unemployment levels in the region.”

Sion Simon, The Labour Party

We did not receive a relevant response from Sion’s team.

Andy Street, The Conservative Party

“The seven months I’ve spent on the campaign have been a genuine joy – I’ve had the opportunity to get around and speak to so many different community groups, individuals and businesses that I’d never have had chance to otherwise. Part of it has been a case of listening, but also spreading the word about the mayoral campaign. The reaction has been really positive. People appreciate the opportunity to be part of something like this and I feel awareness is gradually increasing.”

Mayoral Top Trumps – Story reveals whose campaign packed the biggest punch!

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West Midlands Mayoral Top Trumps

Recent hustings – the proverbial ‘weigh ins’ if you will – may have built anticipation for the big event, but as news junkies, communications geeks and constant seekers of impactful strategy, Story decided to take to its tools and put the spotlight on the comms campaigns of the candidates for the West Midlands Mayor.

Our analysis – which assessed the candidates’ campaigns across eight measures – reveals:

  • The Conservatives’ Andy Street leads the pack on Facebook with the largest audience
  • Sion Simon, Labour’s candidate dominates Twitter with most followers
  • The Liberal Democrat’s Beverley Nielsen’s website authority trails just short of Simon’s
  • While, both the Green’s James Burn and UKIP’s Pete Durnell command 13% of media share of voice

So, whose social media prowess has convinced you? Whose website has persuaded? Join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #MayorTopTrumps.

For details on how Story conducted this research, please email

People sharing a pizza

The four golden rules to remember when looking to get your content shared, talked about and loved

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The PR world no longer relies on media coverage like the simple days of old. Success now also hangs on the ability to create something that social media can take under its wing and run with.

Anyone with a smart phone and wifi can now become a creator and curator of content. The audience has rapidly become today’s publisher as well as consumer, so getting them behind a campaign has never been more important for amplifying results.

Over the past six months, we’ve worked alongside John Lewis to bring its newest flagship shop to Birmingham’s Grand Central. After two successful creative campaigns to help launch the store, we’ve distilled those hard won lessons into some top tips.

Here, Story Comms account executive Sophie Drake discusses the four golden rules to remember when looking to get content shared, talked about and loved…

#1 Have a good story to tell

Good contacts, networks and relationships all become redundant if there isn’t something exciting and new to share with the world. Your content doesn’t stand a chance of being embraced if it isn’t interesting, educational, fun or never seen before. It has to be special for someone to endorse it on their own networks.

The John Lewis #Brumscape campaign featured a first for Birmingham – the biggest photograph ever taken of the city. It was something that had never been seen before. This, combined with some super stats about the production of the photo, got people talking and sharing over 5,000 times.

#2 Do your research

Sending out content without knowing who, where, why and how you are sending it is like shooting in the dark. To make sure #ForwardBirmingham, the stunning video about Birmingham, hit its mark, Story carried out in depth research into Birmingham and its networks. The aim was to get the community proud of the city and our findings pointed towards no better way to do so, to have the very same people in the film!

Birmingham also has a vast Twitter community. Real people connect and talk about the city daily, and many of these are people that really care about Birmingham such as Brumpic, I Choose, BrumHour and Birmingham Updates. To become victorious with a campaign, its vital to know, talk to and support the existing champions. #ForwardBirmingham trended number one in Birmingham less than one hour after its launch and trended number one in the UK after two hours.

#3 Be prepared to release control – it’s a true test of emphatic content sharing

Prepare, spend days on campaigning, speaking to contacts, briefing the media and planning until the cows come home. Then share the content. The rest of the story is mostly up to the rest of them, and if the job is done well and the content matches the hard work and preparation, the rewards can come flowing in.

#4 Go beyond the screen, connect with the person first

To connect with people on a deeper level, there needs to be a personal element. This is what gets audiences sharing, liking and creating about a campaign. Both #Brumscape and #ForwardBirmingham represented a city that people are passionate about. The former won people over by inviting them to engage and find something personal to them within the image, the latter provided an uplifting and real edit of the city and its direction, something for them to be proud of.


Coverage, coverage, coverage

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At Story we pride ourselves on our straight-talking approach and work that gets results – while not forgetting to have a jolly good time in the process!

Recent months have been no exception. For the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP – and city partners – we announced Birmingham’s intention to bid for the Commonwealth Games 2026. We rallied the region and secured more than 400 pieces of national, trade and regional press coverage including a live feature on Sky Sunrise, FT columns, Good Morning Britain bulletins, i Paper features, BBC Radio 1 breakfast chat and a ten minute feature on ITV News. The buzz created saw the story sit pretty on the UK Twitter trend list for more than three hours on launch day (bring it on Liverpool!)

Another thing you should know about Story is that we love experts, a lot. We get our kicks from making them the go-to guides for their media, their industry and beyond. We put one of our latest clients into action earlier this month at the Midlands Business Insider International Trade Forum. Steve Allen, Head of Mills & Reeve Birmingham and President of the British-American Business Council shared his wisdom and experience on exporting to North America at a roundtable alongside business leaders, trade experts and journalists.

Aside from sporting shout-outs and specialist shindigs, we keep our noses to the ground for expert commentary opportunities. We pounced on Sports Direct’s staff welfare debacle and took home some top trade coverage in HR Magazine for Berwick Partners HR lead Debbie Sutton.



Story steams ahead

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Last week we saw our proud mugs in the Birmingham Post as we announced new clients wins and our PRWeek Awards shortlisting. Read about new clients including The FA, Greater Birmingham LEP and Anthony Collins Solicitors here.

Last Tuesday we headed to London where we were shortlisted for ‘New Consultancy of the Year’ at the UK’s PR ‘Oscars’ – the PRWeek Awards. We saw our name up in lights alongside industry heavyweights and were the only Midlands agency to land a finalist place.

We’ve also been busy building our first trophy cabinet after scooping both ‘New Consultancy of the Year’ and ‘Integrated Campaign of the Year’ at the PRCA Dare Awards. Our inaugural visit to these prestigious PR awards won’t be our last!

Our very own Sophie Drake has also been in the spotlight after taking home the ‘Future Face of Communications’ trophy at the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce’s Future Faces awards. Sophie saw off strong competition and we were more than a little bit proud – and loud – on the night!

Finally, wish us luck! Later this week we are up for Creative Communications & Digital Business of the Year at the Birmingham Post Business Awards – take a look at the finalists here.

Until next time….



Ten questions for…. Katie Trout, Director, Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership

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We like to bring you the opinions, insights and never-before-known facts about leaders from across our region. This month we put LEP Director Katie Trout in the hotseat…

1. What have been the big successes of the GBSLEP?

The partnership working that the LEP has helped to engender. We wouldn’t have achieved any of our successes without strong collaboration across the private, public and academic sectors. It’s this joint working that underpins the confidence Government has in us as a region.

Another is that we have set a strategy that has strong buy-in across all sectors. There was no shortage of excellent strategies in the past but they often duplicated each other or said different things. Having one consistent sector-based strategy has given us direction and focus.

There is much more to do but with partnership working and a clear strategy, we are well placed to meet all our aims.

2. The region’s political landscape is changing fast. What’s your view on the impact the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Midlands Engine could have?

The creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) presents a fantastic opportunity to drive economic growth further and faster and to undertake real public service reform across the three LEP areas of the Black Country, GBS and Coventry & Warwickshire. Crucially, the WMCA as a legal body with decision making powers granted by parliament, can have further powers and funding devolved from Whitehall to the local area.

The pace of progress in forming the CA has been phenomenal. In the space of a year, the CA has been set up, an ambitious Strategic Economic Plan published and the largest single devolution deal agreed with Government.

3. What are the big challenges facing Greater Birmingham and Solihull in the next decade?

Our first challenge is to drive forward the local economy through a period of intense political uncertainty following Brexit. We must all continue to work together to deliver our plans for growth and maintain confidence levels.

Skills remain a significant challenge. There is a disconnect between the skills that our young people have and the jobs that are available in our local economy. If we don’t address these issues, we will not achieve the positive impact on peoples’ lives nor the long-term, sustainable growth that we need. However, there is no shortage of individuals and organisations keen to deliver the transformational change we need; from schools, colleges and universities to the wider business community. It’s about coming together to develop a new model of working.

4. What challenges does the LEP in particular face?

Capacity. A small executive supports the LEP Board to deliver its Strategy for Growth, backed by numerous partners who do a fantastic job, many of them from local authorities. Councils face the prospect of budget reductions over the coming years, and this could impact us. We will need to look at new ways of resourcing activity; working even more closely in partnership and through structures set up by the WMCA.\

5. What made you move to Birmingham?

I moved to the West Midlands for work and then to the city after spending three years living in Worcester. I love the place and feel that Birmingham is now my adopted home. I think I’m also sounding more Brummie than Surrey now!

6. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a lawyer having been inspired by watching lots of episodes of Perry Mason.

7. What was your first job?

My first ever job was working in a bakery in a small village in Surrey on a Saturday morning. It was a great place to work, not least because I got to take home as much cake and bread as I could carry at the end of my shift. My parents loved it!

My first full time job was working at Malvern Hills District Council. It was a brilliant introduction to working in a local authority. Due to the small size of the council, I got involved in so many different things.

8. What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

I was told when studying for my history degree to ‘assume nothing and question everything’. It has stood me in good stead in my career.

9. Favourite restaurant in Birmingham?

I love places like Sushi Passion, Pickled Piglet and Cherry Reds in the city centre. There are also some great curry houses like Ashas and Itihaas, but you can’t beat the Balti Triangle for taste and value. Carters of Moseley is also a real favourite for a special treat.

10. Favourite TV box set?

I am currently watching House of Cards and I am hooked. I also still can’t get over Making a Murderer, which I watched a few months ago.

Image by Jas Sansi Photography

Three next steps for the Midlands once Article 50 is triggered

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The Midlands region, like the rest of the UK, faces a period of uncertainty as negotiations get underway to leave the European Union. Here we take a look at the three crucial steps the region must take once Article 50 is triggered.

Make a success of the West Midlands Combined Authority

Devolution gives those at the forefront – in this case the 12 local councils and three local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) that make up the WMCA – control over decisions and budget on transport, infrastructure, housing, business and skills, and perhaps even healthcare. As part of the agreement, Whitehall has committed to making an annual contribution of £40 million for 30 years to support its activity. In a post-Brexit world having control over our own destiny away from Whitehall is of huge benefit. Getting this right has never been more important.

Backing The Midlands Engine

The Midlands Engine is the inward investment name for a region of more than 11 million people, worth £222 billion to the UK economy and boasting the most diverse range of industries in the country. At the Conservative Party Conference it was given several public endorsements from the PM as well as other senior ministers, allaying fears the project could disappear along with George Osborne and David Cameron.

The Engine focuses on five key themes – skills, innovation, transport, promoting the region and finance for business. If the Midlands region matches the predicted growth rate for the UK over the next 15 years, there is the potential to create 300,000 jobs and boost the national economy by £34 billion.

The importance of the Engine should not be underestimated when looking at foreign direct investment in particular. Key to this will be MIPIM 2017, where public and private sector partners from across the Midlands will unite under the Engine banner to showcase the region and its investment opportunities.

Making sure it’s business as usual

While the political and economic landscape continues to shift at a national level, here in the Midlands business and political leaders have an obligation to communicate that this region is open for business both to those in and outside of the EU –  and will adapt and react positively to any impending changes. This is vital in ensuring large scale infrastructure projects continue – and that we attract further inward investment.

This region is undergoing a transformation unlike any other. Maintaining the momentum regardless of the referendum result is integral to our long term economic success – businesses need to remain steadfast.


Stepping up to the mic – take your media moment…

By | Uncategorised | One Comment

Being interviewed on TV or radio is for many, a daunting prospect – like, would rather walk over hot coals daunting. But having thousands or even millions of people listen to your story can be truly transformational for a business. So what happens when it’s lights, camera, action? We’ve asked friends on the other side of the microphone – senior journalists at Sky News, the BBC and ITV – to share their top tips on how to handle the spotlight.

Terry Goodwin, News Editor, BBC

  • Know your subject. You should always know more than the person asking the questions
  • Don’t start reading off your notes, unless you need a particular figure or phrase. You lose credibility if you don’t sound natural – you’re having a conversation!
  • What angle are you taking? Be clear about the message you’re putting across – and don’t waffle
  • In most cases, don’t sell or plug. In a pre-record, it’s the least likely bit broadcast media will use

Gareth Owen, Planning Editor, ITV Central

  • Don’t script it too tightly – and I mean on paper, or memorised! It sounds terrible on telly and radio, and will not cut through to the viewers and listeners. Just try to remember three key ideas or themes rather than words and sentences
  • Don’t keep talking for the sake of it. If you have nothing more to say, just stop talking. You’ll only end up gabbling. It’s our job to fill the dead air
  • Leave your industry buzzwords and jargon in the office! People at home DO understand what ‘consulting stakeholders about this’ means, but it screams ‘corporate’ and many will simply glaze over with boredom. Try ‘talking to people about this’ instead

Lisa Dowd, Sky News

  • Know who you are talking to. Is it BBC Newsnight or BBC Newsround? Your answers should be tailored to their very different audiences
  • Be succinct with your answers – and get your point across within 20 seconds. Broadcasters rarely have time for any more than that. You might find your answer ‘chopped down’ otherwise
  • For TV think about what you’re wearing – tidy hair, no distracting jewellery, ties or make-up. You want people to hear what you’re saying, not be thinking about what you look like
  • Arrive in plenty of time for interviews so you’re not feeling flustered. Broadcasters are often working to tight time constraints and you could be the umpteenth interviewee of the day
  • Finally – answer the question! Simple – but some interviewees have a tendency to ramble. Keep to the point and use simple language – no jargon.