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Agency profile: BOTTLE

Jennifer Sanchis caught up with BOTTLE, a PR agency based in Oxford to discuss the power of content and storytelling.

What’s Bottle all about?

New ways to do the oldest thing in the world, which is to tell great stories.

New ways, because there’s a lot that’s changing – the channels and tactics to reach and engage audiences; the audiences themselves and what we can discover of their wants and needs; and how we can measure and improve effectiveness.

Oldest thing in the world, because great stories have always been what gets remembered, passed on, shared, embellished, retold.

We believe if we can energise the brands we work with, with a flow of great stories that earn their way into the hearts and minds of audiences, we’ve done a good job.

What makes a great story?

Well, we’re not writing Game of Thrones or filming Gladiator for our clients’ brands. We do get to make campaigns, as well as short films, articles, infographics and tweets. Some of these look more ‘complete’ as a story, but we treat everything – no matter how short – like it’s an episode in the brand’s narrative. Keeping those episodes flowing means that they add-up to the big-story.

So, we need to reveal the characters. At its simplest level that means there should be a hero in the story. The hero isn’t the brand, it’s the audience. They need to be able to see-themselves in every story, identify with it. The hero needs a mentor – just like Luke has Yoda, and Harry has Dumbledore. That’s the brand. It’s good to know who (or what) the villain is, too. The big story needs to be a drama. It needs to go somewhere. It starts with the hero, unempowered, then they meet the mentor, who gives the hero something special – and together embark on a struggle to overcome the villain. When they triumph, the hero has learned something important. If the brand is Nike – then that lesson, the moral of their story, is ‘Just Do It’.

Are you still talking about PR?

Yes. PR has always been about relevance – so we need to find topical, current, original, creative and culturally resonant ways to connect that big story every day, so that it earns its way. At Bottle, our job is to tell that story, chopped into little episodes, in lots of different ways, and in many channels. We think that’s PR. We think Edward Bernays would recognise that description. Somewhere over the last century, the PR-label became about one channel (print media), the audience became the journalist, and measurement became ‘coverage’. People talked about ‘guarding reputation’ instead of going out and getting a reputation. It’s those definitions of PR that we don’t recognise.

Can you give us an example of your storytelling?

We’re really proud of our ‘Sound Asleep’ digital campaign, for AXA PPP healthcare. We started with an insight – that people were peak-googling ‘can’t get to sleep’ at 3am (good old google trends). That gave us a short-story (‘we’re all too busy googling “how to sleep”, to get any sleep’). But we went on to create three original ‘sound asleep’ stories, with more depth – and more content – at their heart. In one of those, we made two lullabies, one with a School of Music, and one using AI tech, so people could compare the human lullaby-composers with the robots.

As a predominately digital campaign, we can see the reach, engagement, shares – and see it translate into the online authority, and changing perception, of our client.

At the other end, we’ve just completed a brand architecture and identity design project for Blenheim. For us, great brand identity is just one ingredient of telling the Blenheim story, so like all clients, we started with writing their narrative.

For both of these – as well as our core PR teams – we used our creative team, and our digital and insights team, to make stories that earn their way.

I’ve seen on your website that you’re recruiting.

We’re growing, and we want our work to get better all the time. Right now we’re looking for a Digital and Insights Consultant as we increase our strengths in that area, but we are always looking for talented and ambitious PR and Marketing people. As long as they’re interested in doing old things in new ways.

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