This week, Talent Partner, Carla De Sa sat down with Co-Founder of Aisle 8Agency, Lauren Stevenson to discuss the life of an agency head, what drew her to PR and comms and what she sees for the future of the industry.
Lauren has led some of the biggest brands in PR and Communications over the past 10 years and now turning to her own agency, Aisle 8, collaborating with today's most popular brands.
Starting at the very top, tell us who you are and what you do
I’m Lauren Stevenson, Co-Founder & Director of Aisle 8, a communications agency, which offers digitally remastered communications. We have a team of 34 in Farringdon, London and work with brands such as Away, Our Place, Vuori, Mango, M&S, Reiss and Jo Loves by Jo Malone CBE.
I studied marketing at university, and I clearly remember sitting in the lecture theatre for the PR module, thinking I could be really good at this. The blend of creative and strategic thinking and harnessing relationships to build brands made me run back to my laptop and research PR agencies. I wrote to three including the then luxury fashion agency Aurelia PR and global agency, Ketchum for work experience during my final year of university both of which I would end up working for. Ketchum for almost five years.
Talk to us about your agency and the industries you service. What does a typical day look like for you in this world?
Since we launched Aisle 8 in 2014, the industries that we work in have grown significantly. We started with fashion and beauty clients and now have a roster that includes travel, automotive, beauty, fashion, food, fitness and wellness and jewellery.
Every day is different and that’s what makes it so interesting. A typical day is spent with a breakfast meeting with clients, editors or content creators and then meetings with my team or clients to work through the launches, campaigns, media relations, events and partnerships we are working on.
A lot of my time is spent working with our directors on developing and refining the communications strategies for our clients but I also still love working with the media and content creators to discuss and deliver coverage results for our clients. The excitement of seeing a feature in The Times or The Daily Telegraph or an Instagram post or Reel about our brands will never fade for me.
You’ve worked on some truly gorgeous 360 campaigns for the likes of Ferrari, Mango and Jo Loves by Jo Malone CBE, are there any that stand out and if so, why?
We have worked on so many campaigns and launches for our clients over the years that I’m so proud of, so it’s hard to pin point my favourite. I’m really proud of our work with Away. Since launching the brand, it fully disrupted the travel world and has become much more than just a suitcase brand, with products you see everyday and a community you want to be part of.
We have also created some spectacular experiences with Ferrari, hosting drives through the Cotswolds, Portmeirion and Italian countryside and taking a group of media by helicopter to Goodwood Festival of Speed to experience the speed, technology and functionality of the cars on the world famous track.
We have worked with Jo Malone CBE and Jo Loves for almost five years, telling Jo’s story through podcasts such as How I Built This with Guy Raz, Happy Mum Happy Baby with Giovanna Fletcher, interviews on This Morning and BBC Breakfast, as well as beautiful experiences for the launches of fragrances such as Cobalt, Patchouli and Cedar and Rose Petal 25.
What can you tell us about where fashion and lifestyle marketing/PR is heading right now and what key trends you have seen so far this year.
PR has changed dramatically since my career started in 2002 when I used to scour the endless piles of magazines for client coverage. Now we work across vast social, digital and broadcast platforms, as well as direct to consumer activity. Our role as communication experts has become much more commercial, not just in terms of driving commercial sales, that the channels are now driven by investment and paid partnerships.
New social and media channels are appearing all the time and we have to be nimble and pivot where necessary for our clients. We have worked through covid where our office was shut for almost two years and our creative and experience-led world was confined to people’s homes. During that time we launched brands into the UK market, we conducted founder interviews and launched new products and most importantly we kept our team employed and motivated.
When we look to the future, it’s feels like it’s hard to predict what’s round the corner as could anyone has for seen what we lived through with covid? But we know that story telling, authenticity and behaving sustainably is key. We live in a precious, fragile world so we have to ready for every eventuality, in turn working with brands we respect and want to do better.
Getting into the Director aspect of your role, can you share what areas in your role need you to think/lead/focus on with this in mind?
We have to be dynamic and ready to evolve the way we work. Our world is ever changing, whether it’s the media landscape, social media regulations, climate change, political implications and dare I say it again, covid. As directors we have to be ready for everything and be prepared to not only counsel our clients but fully support our teams. I’ve feel like I’ve learned so much in the past 20 years and we have to keep learning. We are leading teams who are growing up in a digital world, being the first adopters for social channels and we need to be able to advise and make the right decisions. It’s an exciting place to be.
For all the aspiring marketers looking to make a name for themselves in the fashion and lifestyle industries, what is one piece of advice you would pass on?
Being nice, reliable and going the extra mile, goes a long way. I know it sounds like simple stuff but I’ve been through many interview processes, I’ve worked with many people and had a number of different bosses, MDs and CEOs.
When I go back to those three emails I sent to PR agencies in 2001, sitting in my inbox is an email reply from the then CEO of Ketchum London (an agency that then had 150 people). He replied to my email saying how nice it was to receive my email that he would forward it onto the relevant people. He did and I later worked with him two years later. I never forgot it.
Whenever people talk about our agency, they say we are nice people, we work really hard to go the extra mile and we always deliver. I’m very happy with that.