This session was held in an impossibly picturesque village hall in Oxfordshire with lunch in the next door to a pub, supplied by a local small holder: absolutely perfect for a specialist food and travel PR agency.
Sauce Communications have grown from 2 to 25 employees in the last 15 years and founders and directors, Nicky Hancock and Jo Barnes felt many of their newer recruits had a grasp of parts of the Sauce story but not all of it. They wanted an away day to focus on building the story together so that everyone in the business could tell a consistent Sauce Communications story.
Once they had all piled off the coach from London we got to work. There were parts of the story that everyone knew well; ‘passionate about food and travel’, ‘supportive to each other’, ‘fun, informal, collaborative as an agency’. But when Jo told the story of why the company was set up we had our first important insight; Sauce was set up to do things differently from the traditional agencies of the day. She told us that from the start she and Nicky were personally committed to the success of their clients which was natural to them but new in the industry. Where traditional agencies might have applied their staple approach and hoped for the best, or held information back from the client to make themselves seem more expert, or abort and blame the client if the campaign was not a success, Sauce was personally committed to creating a campaign that suited the client by working with the client, and in the face of adversity, Jo and Nicky would show resourcefulness and tenacity rather than retreat. So ‘personally committed to the client’s success’ and ‘resourceful’ were central to their identity. To the new passionate PR team members at Sauce, this seemed a given, of course they would be personally committed to the client, but that is exactly why Nicky and Jo had hired them. It was important to identify because personal commitment and resourcefulness was such a shared value for the whole team it was not always recognised as one of their most persuasive USPs.
Nicky then started telling the group about the landscape of food and restaurants in London at the time they set up the business and we came to our second important insight. Sauce Communications were there from the start of a huge food revolution in London where ‘quality dining’ changed from being a small cluster of fine dining restaurants to an explosion of cuisine and dining experiences in London and Sauce played a key part in that, working with some of the pioneers of the time.
Finally we talked about the quality of their clients and I mentioned that I found their website quite a good guide on where to choose to eat. Jo said they actually turned more people away than accepted them as clients nowadays because it was vital to them that they felt passionate and excited about what was being achieved at the restaurant or hotel. So we had another important word here, ‘discerning’ and ‘selective’.
We then went on to write a two-minute introduction piece using the language and themes we had found during the day. Nicky and Jo felt it was mission accomplished. The team, both newcomers and old timers, were really fascinated to hear their founders talking about the early days of the agency and the landscape of the industry at the time. They certainly felt they all left with a common understanding and even greater pride in the organisation they worked for. For Nicky and Jo it proved to be a valuable opportunity to review their story. A few weeks later when I caught up with Jo she told me “that session really consolidated for me what the Sauce Communications story is and how I should tell it going forward. We started using lines from that two-minute piece straight away the next day in press releases”.