Words by Lauren Regan

Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, lies nestled in the heart of Newcastle’s busting Ouseburn Valley, a stone’s throw from the city’s vibrant quayside. The mission is simple, to bring the joy of children’s books to families across the world through innovative exhibitions, events and activities.

Seven Stories holds a special place in my heart. I spent seven years of my career working as part of their marketing department and it is the role that I get asked about the most. What was it is like to talk about children’s books all day? And I always have the same answer. It was bloody hard!

To put it simply, we brought children’s books to life.

I was surrounded by storytellers every day. Brilliant authors waltzed through the doors and entertained rooms full of excited families with their daring tales. It was apparent that the best storytellers weren’t the novelists, they didn’t use the most, the biggest or the fanciest words, in fact the complete opposite. The best storytellers were the picture book writers. The authors of the books which have very few words but every word has been toiled over and carries meaning. They repeat their message over and over – any parent will be able to quote Julia Donaldson’s “Oh wait, oh no…It’s a Gruffalo!” – these messages are memorable and the audience will be shouting them well after they forget what the story is actually about.

Storytelling is in my blood but it’s also in yours. Our entire civilisation started with people sitting down and telling stories to each other around a fire; where the best berries were, how to catch a mammoth, have you heard that a guy two hills over has found out the rubbing two sticks together can make this cool thing called fire? None of us would be here today without the power of stories. Studies have shown that effective storytelling will actually affect the listener or reader’s brain. Our brains light up when we hear stories, so much more than when we are fed factual content, and not only that, we remember them. People re-tell stories that make them feel something, whether that’s at the bus stop, around the dinner table or on social media – powerful stories get people talking.

Did you know that every story ever written is simply an iteration of one of seven plots? Rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, rebirth, and the most interesting from a brand storytelling perspective, overcoming the monster. For effective brand storytelling you need to find each of your customer’s monsters, slay it and become the hero by helping them over come it. Your service or product exists for a reason, if it didn’t benefit your consumers, you simply wouldn’t exist. By understanding your customers’ pain points you show that you understand them and their world and have a relevant place in their lives, much more than a brand who is simply broadcasting their own agenda.

Your overarching brand message should be clear and concise and it should be simple enough for a child to understand and repeat. No, scrap that. Write your brand stories as if you are trying to explain it to your drunk friend in a loud bar. You have to shout over everyone else’s noise, they keep wandering off and getting distracted and all you want is for them to listen and remember the one simple thing you are trying to tell them.

The world is one, big noisy bar and while your customers probably aren’t drunk all of the time, you’re competing with global distractions coming at them from every angle. What is the one thing that you want them to remember about your brand when they wake up in the morning, with a fuzzy head, hungover from the marketing messages that bombard them every day?

Everyone has stories to tell and I am constantly surprised by the amount of businesses who think that they don’t have anything you say. At O we often question each other to search for the ‘so what?’. Whether you’re launching a new piece of baby-tech, unveiling a new family-friendly venue or introducing a new product; unpicking the real-world reasons behind your story allows your customer and stakeholders to become part of the narrative and gives them a hook to re-tell the story to their peers.

Stories help us to make friends, and ultimately, isn’t that what it’s all about?

The importance of provoking an emotional response

You can tell the tension is slowly building up as the instrumental piano in the background intensifies, becoming louder. Next shot, two men sit at a bar enjoying two bottles of beer that appear hardly relevant to the whole setting, as the camera focuses on the younger man’s face. And then he drops the bomb: “I wanted to actually ask you to legally adopt me.”

We are sure that most people who have made it 2:25 minutes in to Budweiser’s Father’s Day campaign video know exactly what moment we’re referencing above, because it is the precise moment when you burst into tears, at which point what follows in the remaining minute or so isn’t even relevant anymore.

In just a clever sequence of shots, the ad makes a point to 1) show what is being advertised, 2) what greater social cause is being endorsed and 3) ideally, it will make you cry. It is at exactly minute 2:17, next to a conveniently but not inauthentically placed bottle of Budweiser, that the younger man unfolds the legal documents for his adoption, and by all accounts that is everything you need to remember.

Recent years have been flooded by advertisements that follow the same pattern – a quiet beginning, intensifying instrumental background scores, emotional punchlines. This is hardly a coincidence, as neuroscientists have long championed that emotions leave longer-lasting impacts in your memory than rational facts. In fact, this is so much so that a study by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising found that advertisements with purely emotional content generated twice as much profit as ads based solely on product-related facts.

It turns out, then, that an advert’s ability to lure in viewers by means of storytelling has a far greater influence on customers’ decision to purchase a product than the advert showcasing the benefits of said product. In the context of an over-saturated mass market, it is no longer sufficient to create a brilliant product; brands have become more and more aware that in order to win customer’s trust, they must first appeal to their basic human principles.

Gillette’s Father’s Day advert was a great example of how storytelling has come to be the driving force behind remarkable campaigns that almost seem to be selling audiences a lifestyle rather than a product. The advert, on the surface, shows a young transgender man shaving for the first time under his father’s supervision – not that big of a deal, right? Wrong. Not only is the advert making a bold statement about what manhood has come to mean in the 21st century, but it also plays on a deeply embedded cultural myth of the father mentoring his son into becoming a ‘real’ man, which is why the ad has currently gained over 10K shares on Facebook, and thousands of reactions across all social media platforms. Not to mention, the ad checks all the boxes for emotional social cause sob-stories, but it does so in such a genuine manner that we can overlook the melancholic violin in the background.

Documentary cinematographer Ken Burns once said that “all storytelling is manipulation” and as proven by recent campaigns, it appears brands are nowhere close to jumping off the emotional advertising wagon. In a fast-paced world where no product is irreplaceable, companies must make an effort greater than ever before to get to know their audiences, understand the causes they stand by and the narratives they associate with themselves in order to ensure their products – and brand – are relevant on the market.


It may sound counter-intuitive, but taking time to relax and invest your spare time into soul-fulfilling hobbies is actually the best trick to improving your productivity at the work place. A study conducted by Harvard in the mid-2000s revealed that, across the sample of American corporations included in the research, those companies whose employees reported higher rates in stress and sleep deprivation lost just over $63.2 billion a year in productivity. We take our time off very seriously here at O and we would encourage you to also find ways to recharge and feel inspired. Hopefully, this list will serve as a starting point:

Apps Otter Voice Notes – Face-to-face interactions with our clients play a huge part of our day to day tasks, but sometimes putting everything that has been discussed in a meeting on paper can feel like an overwhelming task. Chatting makes ping-ponging ideas back and forth so much easier than through emails or Slack messages, which makes transcribing an absolute nightmare. Fortunately, we found an app that almost does the job for us. Otter is a speech-to-text app designed to save us all some time and take the weight of pressing play, pause and rewind endlessly while transcribing important audio material. A quick disclaimer is worth noting – as much as the developers have worked on the app’s speech recognition algorithm, some accents may be harder to process than others, so it’s worth proof checking the documents before sending them off.

Tagomatic – We work very closely with social media here at O and we’re always keeping up to date with what is trending online these days. However, finding the best hashtags is no easy job but thankfully there’s an app that has our backs. TagOMatic essentially works as an endless collection of hashtags which you can browse through to see not only which ones fit your posts best, but also what other related topics are doing much better than the hashtags you would normally use.


Digital Doesn’t Have To Be Disruptive – A long, but very insightful piece on the myths and false expectations businesses sometimes hold against digitalisation. Although by no means a new phenomenon, Furr and Shipilov argue going digital has long been perceived as a disruptive business decision, leading to the word slowly becoming stripped of meaning and casing confusion among executive boards.

Indra Nooyi and the Vanishing Female C.E.O – This article makes a really good point about the state of the contemporary female CEO following former PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi. Kolhatkar’s comments about the dwindling numbers of US female chief executives in recent months despite “more women than men are now earning college degrees, and about as many women as men go into business careers.”

From empowerment to performance: Why brands need to shift the narrative around women’s sport – With the FIFA Women’s World Cup having recently ended, there’s no better time to talk about the gender bias woven into many of the official communications recently released by sponsoring brands. In this piece, Rogers makes a great point about the dichotomy between male and female-centred advertising, claiming that for so long narratives around women’s sports have focused on empowering them to pursue traditionally masculine career paths, instead of valuing the top-tier physical ability and skill World Cup female footballers possess.


The Habitat – Did you know that at the top of a remote Hawaiian mountain there is a planet Mars simulator called The Habitat? If you’re a science fan but have a soft spot for Big Brother-y type plotlines, this podcast is perfect for you. Gilmet’s The Habitat tells the story of six scientists and engineers selected by NASA to live on fake Mars for a year, in hopes of generating more concrete insights into what challenges future astronauts will face on their trip to the red planet. Structured as a mix between daily diaries sent in by the fake-Mars crew and contemplative bits produced by podcast host Lynn Levy, The Habitat presents itself more as a fascinating social experiment than a scientific endeavour. As relationships flourish and tensions arise, the classic reality-show plotline slowly transforms into a surprising investigation into the intricacies of human interaction and the importance of space research.

Uncover: Escaping NXIVM – If you’ve been keeping up with the news, then surely you’ve heard Keith Raniere has been found guilty of all charges against him in the world-renowned case against NXIVM. Despite the publicity, the media coverage on the details of the six-week trial has been rather scarce, leaving many confused as to what the controversy was all about. Uncover’s first season provides a brilliantly written analysis into Raniere’s NXIVM, a rapidly-growing sex cult marketed as a self-help community. Perhaps what makes this story even more gripping is the candid relationship that unravels between host Josh Bloch and ex-NXIVM member Sarah Edmondson as she unravels the secrets of a group she’s been involved with for more than a decade.

Song Exploder – This is the perfect podcast for a curious mind with a soft spot for behind-the-scenes insights and a massive passion for music. The concept is pretty straightforward: the host, Hrishikesh Hirway, invites musicians on the show and asks them to dissect the process of making one of their songs. Although the podcast is now considered old school due to having premiered in 2014, the episodes never get old, making it a great listen for your commute or the soundtrack to mindless tasks that need to be done.


Stranger Things: Season 3 – If you aren’t caught up with the previous two series of Stranger Things, then you might want to reserve a weekend or so for binge watching  the previous seventeen episodes and become fluent in the show’s jargon, as it will make understanding the freshly-released seasons so much easier to follow. Now, without dropping too many spoilers, we can only say this: the third season is set a few months after the cast comes to the conclusion that the Upside Down is posing much greater threats to the world than they might have thought. As the Hawkins crew starts venturing into adolescence and young adulthood, relationships blossom and feuds burst out, all the while human world is faced with enemies old and new.

Killing Eve: Season 2 – We have mentioned Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s work in a previous Monday Musings, and we can’t help that we love her work so much. After a seductively addictive first season in 2018, the critically acclaimed BBC One show returned to the screens in April this year with a whole new set of challenges for both MI5 agent Eve Polastri and her designated assassin, Villanelle. Scoring a roaring 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, the second season plays a fascinating twist on the hyper-masculine detective/spy genre and reveals a more profound interpretation of the film noir, the tension between Villanelle and Eve building up as a commentary on the power of modern femininity.

Paper bags at Boots – is it right to be putting the boot in?

It’s been a week since Boots announced it was replacing its usual plastic carrier bags with unbleached paper versions and that while the 5p price tag still applies (with larger 7p and 10p options), all profits would go to charity – BBC Children in Need to be specific.

The well-known health, beauty and pharmacy chain rolled out paper bags into 53 of its stores across the UK that same day as a test bed, pledging to have them in all 2,400+ stores by 2020. The figures work out based on a 12-month period ending this April that over 900 tonnes of plastic from Boots store operations each year will be removed.

A post on the Boots website explained:

“The new Boots bags are made from unbleached, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified recycled brown paper, which is printed with water-based inks so the bags can be easily recycled at home. Sourced and manufactured in the UK, the bags display the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) standard, which helps consumers to recycle correctly…”.

A huge step that shows Boots’ commitment to being a responsible retailer and acknowledging its part to play in reducing plastic pollution.

However many have been quick to call them out for switching to plastic bags for some medical prescriptions recently. When concerns started to appear on social media about this noticeable change, Boots responded that they were also looking for alternative ways to package dispensing products, including a compostable solution.

We’re big believers in CSR and brands backing up their pleas with purpose, not just for the power it can have in the PR mix but the real benefits it has in the world. Of course, the predicament that Boots has found itself in does undermine or counteract these latest plans and their effort in limiting single use plastics, but should we not be focusing our attention elsewhere to retailers ignoring their environmental impact completely? Looking at you ASOS.

A “token gesture” it is not if you consider how major it would be if others of the same scale followed suit. So we’re here for it. What’s even better is that our very own intu Eldon Square and intu Metrocentre are among the first shopping centres for the bags to be available in.

We don’t know about you but we’re heading straight down to our local Boots to applaud a bold move and if we forget our own bags, we’re safe in the knowledge we’re supporting a worthy cause in BBC Children in Need. Who knows, it might even make it onto an Instagram story!



Inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places, which is why keeping up to speed with what is going on in the world is so important for us at O. We have returned this week with another list of apps, shows, podcasts and articles that have been sparking our interest lately and stimulated our curiosity to extend our knowledge further. We would love to hear about some of the best things you have discovered recently!


Flora: Focus & Study in Forest – We’ve tried all sorts of apps with tips and tricks for productivity yet nothing has been as effective and fun as Flora. On the one hand, the app is grounded in the Pomodoro technique, which implies staying intensely focused for slots of 25 minutes at a time. On the other hand, what differentiates Flora from all other similar apps we have tried is its fun twist on competition and interactivity. The way the app works is quite straightforward – every time you wish to be productive, you plant a seed in your digital garden, estimating how long you want to go without checking your phone. As minutes go by, the plant grows bigger and eventually turns into a tree – however, if you can’t stay away from your phone for as long as you initially anticipated, the plant dies. What is even more fun is that Flora allows you to connect with fellow teammates or work buddies, which leads to hilarious competition between productivity gardens. Oh and last but not least – every time you use Flora money, your virtual tree transforms into a real-life one, contributing to making the planet a little more breathable!

Too Good To Go – Did you know that 1.9 mil tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK? What is more, the overwhelming majority of products thrown off the shelves is still in good condition and ready for consumption. Considering recently voiced concerns about the environmental crisis the world is heading for unless action is taken, food waste seems like something small that we can all participate in reducing. Too Good To Go is a good way to start contributing to a more sustainable food industry. Developed to look and feel similar to Deliveroo’s trademarked interface, the app aims to connect customers with local restaurants that do not wish to waste away their daily leftovers. The app works on a pretty simple system; there are two main timeframes when food is up for grabs (lunch and dinner). During those pick-up times, each partnering restaurant has a limited number of ‘Magic Bags’ (the surplus food that needs eating). But here’s the catch: unlike other food delivery apps, you have no control over what food you are going to get from your restaurant of choice. All you have to do is pay for the Magic Bag (sometimes for as cheap as £1.75!) then hope for the best. One major drawback is that Too Good To Go does not include the delivery, which means you will have to go and collect the food yourself.

Nichi: Collage & Stories Maker – There’s no denying it, Instagram stories are here to stay as one of the most powerful tools of visual communication. While our profile feeds reflect the curated events we want to permanently share with the world, our stories reveal a more ‘genuine’ and ‘impromptu’ side to how we present our everyday lives. Of course, that does not mean they don’t take time to beautify, which is something Nichi creators aren’t afraid to speculate on. Developed by a team of Chinese designers, Nichi is the perfect tool for super kawaii story layouts heavily influenced by Asian aesthetics. The app is mostly free, with the majority of elements and pre-sets free of charge, so why not give it a try?


There’s Nothing Wrong with Posing for Photos at Chernobyl – An interesting analysis of the social media controversy that ensued following the success of HBO’s Chernobyl. Taylor Lorenz makes a compelling case on dark tourism and ethical sightseeing, ending with a great argument in favour of Instagram as the contemporary tool for documenting our lives and cementing the past within a broader social consciousness.

Why Our Devices Stopped Playing Nice With One Another – A brilliant satirical take on what visionary science fiction fantasies about the technologies of the future actually feel like in 2019. We are surrounded by devices every day and our daily chores are arguably dependent on them, yet we still haven’t discovered a way to make peace between Alexa and Siri, or iOS and Android.


The Shrink Next Door – You’ve probably heard of Wondery before – they’re the critically acclaimed network that created the now super-famous Dirty John podcast-turned-Netflix-documentary-and-series. Their stories are impeccably researched and brilliantly put together in easy-to-follow episodes that have us waiting on our toes for more. Their latest release in partnership with Bloomberg – The Shrink Next Door – is just another testament to Wondery’s incredible grasp of what makes audiences come back week after week for a new episode. Released in May of this year, the podcast tells the story of a celebrity and socialite therapist called Ike, told from the perspective of veteran journalist and neighbourhood of Ike’s, Joe Nocera. Known for the eccentric parties hosted at his Hamptons residence, Ike’s life appears, on the surface, to be filled with the glamour and extravagance of Manhattan’s high society. However, when Joe discovers that his neighbour is gone, everything he has ever known about Ike and his estate came crumbling down.

The Intelligence – The Economist’s podcast, released late in 2018, is the perfect cure for a boring commute. Swap endlessly scrolling through Instagram or boring radio show hosts for these 20-minute episodes packed with all you need to know about current world affairs. Episodes come out daily and include topics from all over the world, starting with UK politics and venturing all the way into topics such as Jared Kushner’s plans for the Iranian-American conflict, or the re-election of Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari. Definitely a must-listen for anyone interested in (fairly) unbiased and to-the-point journalism!

The Chernobyl Podcast – You will have heard by now what an astounding success the HBO and Sky original series Chernobyl was. But if you’re curious by nature and feel compelled, like us, to know all the details about what wasn’t shown on screen about the series, then The Chernobyl Podcast is the perfect fix for you. Every episode of this five-part show is an incursion into the challenges of staying true-to-life and an act of transparency on Craig Mazin’s part, the creator and writer of Chernobyl. Moreover, the podcast is filled with jaw-dropping accounts from witnesses and survivors of the 1986 nuclear explosion that didn’t make it into the script, which makes for a fascinating yet uncomfortable listen. Don’t get discouraged though, it’s worth every minute of it!


Barry – If you’re looking for new things to get out of your Amazon Prime subscription, let it be Barry. The show, co-created, produced, written and sometimes directed by Saturday Night Live legend Bill Hader, follows the story of a hitman hired to kill a young Hollywood celebrity, who gets trapped in an acting class that makes him reconsider his life plans. Bitten by the acting bug, Barry abandons his mission and embarks on a journey towards a slightly more conventional career, finding a supporting and accepting community of young professionals hoping to make it big in LA’s theatre scene. The series masterfully handles dark humour and tense plotlines in a way that has attracted much critical acclaim for its comedic genius, which is exactly why we suggest you give it a try!

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj – This Netflix-original variety show aims to explore social, cultural and political landscapes in depth and find answers for issues that divide us as a society. The episodes, running for just about 20-something minutes, are packed with well-documented facts about topics such as the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, hype culture, student loans, the Sudanese crisis or cricket corruption, Minhaj’s political satire setting the show apart from any other of its kind. Season finale for Volume 3 has aired in mid-June this year, so you have just about 19 episodes to binge on your next weekend in!



instagram social media spotlight

Whether you’ve just dipped your toes into the world of Instagram or you’re somewhat of a seasoned pro when it comes to knowing your carousels from your boomerangs, it’s the social media platform where you can let your creative juices flow!

Instagram is here to stay and it’s never been as important to nail your social feed, as this visual platform takes no prisoners in an ultra-competitive landscape of businesses all vying for those crucial followers and social engagements.

So what can you do to stand out from the crowd? How can you grab the attention of a potential client or customer? It whittles down to creatively portraying your brand story in a visually appealing way. Crafting impeccable copy and mustering up inventive ideas can be a challenging process, but don’t sweat it. We’ve asked our team to select some of their favourite creative brands on Instagram. Let’s get visual!

Taco Bell

The ever-popular American fast-food chain Taco Bell is killing it on Instagram. Following social media’s version of the rule of threes, the brand’s visual execution is phenomenal and importantly makes your mouth water with an abundance of tantalising imagery.

The vibrant style of the Taco Bell Instagram page is without a doubt one of the brightest lights when it comes to social media within the fast-food industry and with over 20,000 followers alone on the firm’s UK Instagram, and 1.3m followers on its global handle, the world is taking notice.

Image taken from Taco Bell UK Instagram feed


Synonymous with creative content, GoPro has been the chief architect of a revolutionary period of inventive video from adventurers across the globe. Naturally, this has proven to be a hotbed for user-generated content and has bolstered GoPro’s presence in the social media world with over 15 million followers.

Dubbed the world’s ‘Most Versatile Camera’, the brand’s marketing efforts has also been at the forefront of the product with ‘Share With #GoPro’ plastered across all forms of marketing both offline and online. GoPro’s harmonious relationship with its audience has been a pivotal contributor to the virility of content produced through its renowned products.

Image taken from GoPro Instagram feed


Gardening superbrand Flymo is a popular choice for both pro and amateur gardeners alike, boasting a range of products from robotic lawnmowers to leaf blowers and hedge trimmers. Over on Instagram the brand’s famous orange colour can be spotted splashed across the timeline in a range of posts, including behind-the-scenes at events across the UK and video clips of the products in actions. The place for garden inspiration and motivation to get your lawn into tip-top shape, Flymo’s Instagram will have you dreaming of the summer and rushing to grab that mower out of the shed.

Image taken from Flymo Instagram feed


Holland and Barrett

One of the world’s leading health and wellness retailers, Holland and Barrett, has worked hard to venture outside the ordinary remits of expectation when you typically think of consumer products. H&B illustrates that content does not have to be one dimensional and focuses its efforts on colours schemes, with an integrated approach to incorporate its wide range of products. The ‘grid’ style slant is a tested method on Instagram, but H&B combines this with many sections seamlessly syncing with product combinations to create one of the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram accounts out there.

Image taken from Holland and Barrett Instagram feed


Pets at Home

Last, but not least, Pets at Home, a brand who knows its audience and importantly what content its consumers are most receptive to. What’s that? Well, it’s UGC content from those purr-fect or paw-fect faces. So why can Pets at Home inspire your Instagram feed? It’s down to knowing that you don’t have to solely shout about the particular products you sell or services you provide, but the story behind them. In Pets at Home’s case behind every product purchase, whether it’s an accessory for your beloved dog or a tin of cat food, there’ll be a trusty animal companion!

Image taken from Pets at Home Instagram feed

We hope the examples from these brands have given you some food for thought on how you can up your Instagram game.

If you want to learn more about the impact of a strong social media presence and how we can develop your businesses online outlook, drop us an email on




Award-wining video game designer Jenova Chen once said “creativity is not talent but attitude” and we could not agree more. We can all train our minds to be creative by immersing ourselves in a whole range of things that we can use as inspiration in our daily lives.

Great ideas can come from a whole host of sources, so we decided to compile a list of the apps, podcasts, books, articles, and just about everything in between that has been inspiring us recently. Here are the things the O team has been enjoying – we are curious to know what you have been drawing inspiration from!


Bear – It’s not rare that we experience lightbulb moments in the most unexpected of circumstances, sometimes with our laptops far from reach and only our phones on hand to save the day. For the longest time, the generic notes app has served us well, although its lack of structure and limited features soon started turning our creativity off. Until we discovered Bear. There is something truly satisfying about Bear’s user-friendly interface that does not sacrifice beautiful design over high speed and versatility. What we love most about this app is how easy it is to browse through your notes and personal hashtags, which makes it the perfect app for anyone fiercely passionate about organisation and pretty notetaking. (Sadly, though, the app is currently exclusively available for iOS users).

Unfold – Speaking of organisation and gorgeous layouts – Unfold is the go-to app for Instagram stories that stand out. Not only is it incredibly easy to use, but it also offers eight packs of layout templates that are so versatile they can suit any theme and aesthetic you might be going for. What is even better is that, unlike many other layout apps we have tried, Untold works on a single-purchase basis, getting rid of restrictive premium memberships. Aside from the built-in free layouts pack, layout pack prices range from £0.90 to £1.99, which makes it even more satisfying to use.

Headspace – We know that feeling passionate about your work can sometimes take up a lot of headspace, making it hard to disconnect. While we know that handling stress and mental health is a very personal topic that everyone approaches differently, we really stand behind this game-changing app. Headspace is a London-based company offering guided meditation services that not only help you take a break from work and offer the opportunity to de-stress, but also works wonders for anxiety and insomnia.


Superbrand, so what? – A look inside at one of the UK’s most recognised brands, Biffa’s head of marketing Guy Maddock reveals what it’s like to be classed as a ‘superbrand’ and how a business can use that title for a commercial advantage.


Conversations with Friends – If you have walked past any bookstore recently, the name Sally Rooney will likely ring a bell. Her two books, the first ones she has ever published, have caused a phenomenon among avid readers, one comparable to the hype only well-seasoned authors seem to stir. Rooney’s prose is sharp, clever, unpredictable, and surprisingly relatable, even if many struggle to describe the plotlines of her books. What we enjoyed the most about Conversations with Friends (Rooney’s debut) is not so much the narrative structure – which, at a first glance, does not seem particularly complicated – but the author’s fine social commentary. Conversations with Friends has perhaps some of the best dialogue in recent fiction and a breath-taking underlying feminist analysis of the dynamics between love and friendship, hate and admiration, social class and moral values, politics and gender.


The Daily­ – We really value being up to date with world affairs, but sometimes staying in the loop can get confusing and frustrating. If you feel the same, you will really enjoy The New York Times’ news and politics podcast. They are doing a fantastic job analysing international news and producing easily-digestible, half-hour pieces explaining the who? what? where? when? and why? constituting current affair news stories, each episode just the right amount of information for listeners to not feel overwhelmed. Truly a must-listen for those curious to have a clearer understanding of what is going on in the world.

Serial – We know there has been an abundance on new true crime shows recently but we cannot recommend this podcast enough. It doesn’t have half of the gritty and gore-y details of most shows, instead betting on host Sarah Koenig’s phenomenal journalistic style to capture your attention and keep you thinking about the story she unfolds one episode at a time. The podcast’s first season is notoriously brilliant, so much so that HBO is in the works to produce a docuseries based on Koenig’s research. Every episode is easy to follow and does a great job at refreshing your memory about names, characters, and how facts are interconnected, so there is really no reason why you wouldn’t want to give it a try!

Getting Curious with Johnathan Van Ness – If you enjoyed the cast of Netflix’s Queer Eye, then you are absolutely going to be hooked on Getting Curious. There is something truly comforting about spending 40 minutes every week with host Johnathan Van Ness, whose quest to unpack and seek answers to his curiosities about the world is just as entertaining as it is unexpectedly informative. The podcast does not have a particular theme, but the format is very easy to get used to – every week a new expert comes on the show to share their insights on topics such as “Why Is Immigration a Queer Issue?”, “What Is The Tea with Vaccines, Hunty?” or “How Can You Turn Marginalization Into Activism?”.


My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman – We have been long-time fans of Letterman’s humour and wit, so when his Netflix-original show came out last year we were particularly excited to see what he had in store next. With guests such as Barack Obama, Tina Fey, Malala Yousafzai or Jay-Z, the bar was set really high for the season two – and it delivered! Released all at once at the end of May, the five new episodes depict conversations between Letterman and guests such as Melinda Gates, Ellen DeGeneres and Kanye West. Definitely worth the watch if you are curious about what goes on behind the scenes in the lives and minds of world-renowned creatives – we definitely felt inspired!

Fleabag – We know we may be a bit late to join the bandwagon, but this show is so brilliant we had to mention it. Described as a comedy-drama, the show depicts the tumultuous life of a quirky and nonconformist young woman living in London. We fell in love with the smart humour authored by screenwriter and lead actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge from the first season, but it’s most recent episodes, released in April, truly stand out as genius. The show only has a total of twelve half-hour episodes so far, which means you can easily binge watch it on BBC iPlayer!

Explained – Netflix has a lot of really good docuseries we would encourage you to explore, but if we had to pick one that caught our attention the most, it would definitely have to be Vox’s Explained. We are big fans of the investigative work Vox has been producing on YouTube, so the idea of more in-depth content about complex contemporary topics made perfect sense to us. There are fifteen episodes in total, each narrated by a different celebrity (of which Kristen Bell, Yara Shahidi and Nick Kroll are amongst), which makes the experience feel like a podcast, but visual! Among some of our favourite episodes are ‘Designer DNA’, ‘Astrology’ or ‘Political Correctness’, but we really recommend you go through all of them and discover your own favourites.


Words: Sammy Sadler, account manager

We’ve been hearing for years now that digital is the way forward and nowadays many of us prefer to receive information through video, with HubSpot revealing that 78% of people watch online videos every week and that isn’t set to slow down. It’s the reason that video marketing has soared in popularity and the ‘traditional’ way of doing things may not always be as effective as it once was.

As someone who studied journalism at a relatively traditional level with a huge focus on the written word over anything else, I was naïve when I left university to think that an article packed with paragraphs was enough anymore. We now rely on social media and RSS feeds to share our stories, videos are illustrating much more than an image can and podcasts are delving into topics in a more engaging way than books we find in the library.

We live in a world saturated with content and finding something to say that will set you apart is becoming harder.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should totally disregard written material altogether. In fact, the changes to audience consumption has opened up a whole range of creative ways to showcase your words. News articles, informative blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, leaflets and all image-led creative assets require copywriting in some form to engage an audience in the first place and will often entice your audience to take some form of action.

Even though the good news is that the need for information is still very much there, the fact that consumer habits have changed means that the way you write content has to adapt. You have to write about things they want to find out, feel or understand.

Below are five tips to consider before you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to ensure your copy will create an impact.

What do they want to hear?

Understanding what your customers want to hear is the holy grail of good content marketing. It’s by far the best way to start an editorial calendar by finding out what they are searching for, what they care about and the things they don’t understand. You can do this by talking to or surveying your customers, or by using technologies such as the common search terms people are using on Google or

By planning some key words and topics ahead of starting your copy, you’ll know that your piece or social media post will be directly tailored to the desired audience. A/B testing is great for this, especially with email marketing and advertising to ensure that your messaging is having the best impact.

How long does it have to be?

It’s a simple thing to consider but one that we can forget once we start typing. Before writing anything, consider what format the copy needs to take and create a structure for where you will include things. If you’re pulling together an informative whitepaper, the chances are that the document will be text heavy but blog posts on your website don’t need to be War & Peace. The minimum amount of words for a blog post to be optimised for SEO is 300 words and on social media, posts should be snappy and to the point.

Who are you?

Who do you want to be as a brand? Often when we get into writing copy we’ll forget what we stand for and we end up writing something that could be written by any business. Stick to your brand’s tone of voice and stay true to the topics that you feel matter.

Is it topical?

Everyone wants to read something newsworthy and relevant, so using an editorial calendar will keep you on the right track in terms of things you can use as topical hooks to get your point across.

And don’t’ forget that the best pieces of content are usually quick, insightful, personal and relevant – so there’s nothing wrong with a quickly put together opinion piece or reaction.

What’s the point?

Are you writing something to inform the reader? Maybe you are trying to entice customers to buy something or donate to a cause? By establishing the main message early on and regularly relating back to any call to action, you can avoid going off on tangents that will need to be edited out later on.




Words by Rebecca Connolly, account manager

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can sometimes seem like an added burden to your business; another box to tick and more work to file… but CSR really can add value to your company and boost internal and external comms.

What is crucial to every business success? Trust! Remember, people buy from companies which they can rely on and CSR activities help to boost trust. If done well, CSR can also increase staff morale and engagement which can aid staff retention and talent attraction.

Contributing to a charity, backing sustainable schemes and encouraging ethical practice are all things that will make you stand out from the crowd. Here are just a few ideas to get your CSR juices flowing:

Supporting local charities

Committing to a charity can give your business a competitive edge and also boost your relationships with colleagues and clients. Choosing a charity to dedicate a year’s fundraising to will not only help your team bond as they work towards one brilliant goal, it’ll also give those colleagues who are more introvert a chance to shine and take the lead on something they feel passionate about.

Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) run the initiative ‘CHUF Champions Challenge’, which encourages businesses in the region to go head-to-head and raise as much money as they can in order to be crowned winners. This simple yet effective competition brings businesses from different sectors together to work towards one rewarding goal of supporting a local charity.

St Oswald’s Hospice has recently launched ‘Better Together Business Club’, encouraging businesses in the region to network whilst donating a small fee to the hospice which will go towards funding two hospice nurses’ salaries.

The World Transplant Games is a fantastic opportunity for your business to get involved with CSR. The Summer World Transplant Games take place from Saturday 17 to Saturday 24 August 2019 across Newcastle and Gateshead, in renowned sporting venues including Close House Golf Resort, Sunderland Aquatic Centre, Gateshead International Stadium, Sport Central, the Northumberland Club and Newcastle Gateshead Quayside. The Games celebrate and highlight the importance of organ donations and how transplant recipients are given a second chance at life. For information on how your business can get involved, click here.

Better Health at Work

Workplace health and wellbeing should be at the heart of every business, no matter how big or small the company is. If employees feel like their mental or physical wellbeing is taking its toll, this could impact the business further down the line. The Better Health at Work Award is an initiative that encourages businesses to get involved with health in the workplace to motivate employees to take steps to improve their personal health and wellbeing. The award has inspired us to participate in lots of fantastic healthy activities and events, including four members of the O Team running this year’s Great North Run. Find out more about the award here.

One off donation

Donating to local charities and shelters is an easy ‘feel good’ way to boost your business’ CSR with minimal preparation needed. Here at O, we support the local Women’s Aid branch with our O Giving Tree every Christmas and we have also partnered with Smart Works, donating work clothes and accessories to women who go to Smart Works for interview attire and help with job success.

Simple office ideas

Taking the time to step away from your desk and chat to your colleagues is a great way to switch up internal and external comms and work in a different way than you may be used to. Bouncing ideas off each other to boost your CSR can help engage your team and give them something that isn’t necessarily a client-related or work task to get involved with. Think about introducing something new to your business quarterly to help benefit the environment, increase sustainability, improve health or do something amazing which has a feel-good factor.

Here are a few ideas that we’ve done here at O:

  • O Running Club – kick off an activity which encourages employees to improve their fitness, even if it’s just for an hour a week
  • Choose a local charity to shred your confidential files – there are plenty of charities that do this, so you’ll be contributing to a good cause whilst handling important business
  • Healthy team lunch get-togethers – we often come together as a team for a fun themed lunch such as St Patrick’s Day, Olympics, Christmas, Wimbledon and Halloween. We task members of the team to bring in a dish of their choice and although it’s not essential, the team often try their hand at making their dish themselves!

Broadcast PR – How to nail a pitch


Broadcast outlets communicate to engaged audiences every day and shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to media relations.

We opened our doors to some of the region’s PR community recently to host a CIPR North East event on broadcast PR.

It was great to have BBC Look North’s TV planning editor Adrian Pitches and Bauer Network’s news operations manager Matt Jones join us to shine a light on what goes on behind the scenes and the best approach when it comes to pitching a story.

Here’s what we took away from the session…  

  • Think like a planner

Put yourself in the shoes of the TV or radio contact you plan to pitch to and what will excite them. Is your story a ‘first’, will there be human interest, have you got a case study willing to be interviewed (real people preferred over celebrity ambassadors), will viewers be inspired, is there a link with a big event going on in the region and for TV – what’s the visual? Tick a few of these boxes and you have a story to pitch, but if you don’t, be honest with yourself that media relations time may be better spent elsewhere.

  • How to pitch

An email is preferred, and it’s worth putting in a call to the planning desk before you hit send, then to gauge feedback later in the day. If you have a press release include it, but make sure the first paragraph is on point. It should be concise, direct, sum up what’s happening and be jargon-free. Images and video content help to show what the visual could be, so are welcomed too. Within the email, make the opportunity as accessible as possible by being clear about things like dates, timings and who’s available for interview. News and planning teams are inundated with emails every day, so make reading yours as easy as possible so it’s not lost amongst the others.

  • Consider every platform

TV and radio outlets are multi-platform and push out news online and on social media too. Your story mightn’t get the go ahead for broadcast, but is it the right fit for another channel? More often than not TV and radio teams have people working in digital roles on the lookout for online and social content, so even if your story isn’t broadcast-friendly, it’s still worth getting in touch to pitch it elsewhere.  

  • Get the timing right

Give planners as much of a heads up as possible as they like to plan at least a day in advance, but if something breaks or it’s a reactive opportunity, still pitch it in as they can get film crews or reporters out on location quickly if the story is right. Embargo press releases if needed to help plan features in advance – all media love an exclusive including TV and radio. Anything from a first look around somewhere new to a first interview is great content. TV-wise, the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday Monday is usually a slow news day, so you might have more chance of securing a feature if you time it around then.  

  • How you can help

Newsrooms are stretched when it comes to resource, and can’t always commit to sending out a film crew or reporter. This doesn’t mean your story won’t get featured, as there’s things you can do to help secure your spot. You can record an interview for radio with a smartphone using the voice memos app and email the file to the reporter. For social media, if you have high quality video footage and imagery which could have been taken using a smartphone too, share it.

Happy pitching folks! Stay tuned on our social channels for our next event.