'If your client doesn’t own the story, what’s the point?' - Creative Q&A

PRWeek grills creative comms figures on how they got where they are, their career highlight, solving creative writer's block, and more. Today we speak to Niki Hunter Ekins, managing director at Splendid Communications.

'If your client doesn’t own the story, what’s the point?' - Creative Q&A

How did you get where you are now?

I started out in a small boutique agency, Gabrielle Shaw Communications, working on food and drink brands. That fired a passion in me that’s lasted my whole career.

After a year-long stint at Exposure, I found my forever home at Splendid Communications, where I’ve been for the past 15 years. I get the perfect mix of working on my food and drink passions, news generation for all kinds of brands, and broader lifestyle culture. I love creating campaigns that deliver real-world value to people and clients.

What's been your creative career highlight?

A recent highlight was our Every Plant Burger Helps campaign for Tesco, in the lead up to COP26, supporting a Tesco commitment to increase plant-based, meat alternative sales by 300 per cent by 2025.

Knowing that price and taste are perceived barriers to eating plant food, we teamed up with Tesco head of plant food innovation Derek Sarno and TV presenter Angellica Bell to surprise Tesco shoppers with Tesco Plant Chef burgers, and bust the myths.

Data from Oxford University revealed that if the nation switched just a fifth of its annual beef consumption for a plant-based alternative, we could save CO2 emissions equivalent to driving 27 billion fewer miles in cars. Commentary from WWF added further weight.

We turned the campaign around in just three weeks and, despite a packed media agenda, it really resonated, landing more than 170 media articles.

Food, news generation, sustainability, making a real-world difference – this ticked all the boxes for me.

... and lowlight?

A certain celebrity went partying the night before a campaign they were fronting was due to land. They broke their collarbone while attempting to pole dance, and several outlets ran with this story instead. We still secured a national newspaper front page for our branded story though.

What's your favourite campaign of the past three months (not one that you or your organisation were involved in) and why?

Barbour’s Christmas campaign, which sees Paddington Bear rewax Mr Brown’s jacket. The bear attaches his luggage tag which said, “Please look after this bear”, but on the back Paddington has written “Thank you for looking after me”. The campaign celebrates 100 years of Barbour’s rewaxing service. I love how this gives the heritage brand modern-day relevance with a heartwarming mix of nostalgia and sustainability.

How do you solve creative writer's block?

Stepping away from the laptop and talking out loud about the subject keeps my brain actively working and looking at different angles. If you see me muttering to myself in the street or at my desk, that’s what I’ll be up to.

How should PR grow its creative prowess?

I still see lots of campaigns that are fun and talkable but it’s hard to see the role for the brand. Just because an idea will get lots of coverage doesn’t always mean it’s right for the client. Be your own harshest critic; if your client doesn’t own the story, what’s the point?

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