Carrie Rose — The story behind Sandtone, London Under the Microscope and more
Available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts
Carrie Rose is the co-founder and CEO of rapidly growing digital agency, Rise at Seven. Although known for their successful digital PR and link-building campaigns, Carrie refers to Rise at Seven as the “search-first creative agency”.
Carrie has been listed on Campaign magazine’s 30 under 30 and voted a rising star by the Content Marketing Association.
Prior to starting Rise at Seven with co-founder, Stephen Kenwright, Carrie had been working in Digital PR and SEO for about 7 years. She was the driving force behind some very successful and well-known content campaigns during her time at Branded3, and later at the same agency when it merged with Edit.
For her own creative inspiration, Carrie was continually researching and collecting lots of content campaigns she found online. And eventually decided to share them via the Digital PR Examples account on Twitter (a great resource for anyone trying to come up with successful content ideas).
You can also find Carrie via her personal profile on Twitter, where she shares lots of advice about creating digital PR campaigns, building an agency and more.
Carrie and Rise at Seven have been taking the online world by storm over the past year and a half. And at the rate the agency’s been growing, I’m not sure how she found the time for this podcast episode, but I’m very pleased she did.
It was great to catch up with her and find how she comes up with successful content ideas.
What we cover in this episode…
How they came up with the Sandtone campaign
In this section we discuss…
- How they came up with the idea for this wildly successful campaign
- How they took one idea and repackaged it into lots of ‘micro content’
- Why Carrie decided to use some of the company’s own money on the campaign
- How Carrie and the team use social media to build hype around a campaign
- For me, why this campaign really stood out against other ‘colour’ campaigns
The client in this instance was Parkdean Resorts who provide holiday parks in the UK. And during the onset of COVID, rather than pulling their budget, they wanted to double down (in what they called Project BOOM) and own the ‘staycations’ market in the UK.
I’m sure you got the reference, but for those that didn’t, the name and content of Sandtone is a play on Pantone’s colour of the year (which may or may not have resulted in a phone call from the brand’s legal team — we couldn’t possibly say).
One further point of clarification for the non Brits… we briefly mention shopping for paint at B&Q, which is a British DIY store.
Continuing with the conversation, we go on to discuss…
- The importance of having a linkable asset in your digital PR campaigns
- How Rise at Seven ensure they constantly have inspiration in their inbox
- And the importance of looking beyond the SEO industry for inspiration
I mention how, at times, I’ve sat down and gone through every post in Digital PR Examples, Content Curated and numerous data visualisation blogs, including VisualisingData, iLoveCharts, FlowingData, a site I won’t name for fear of being spammed, and the Information is Beautiful Awards.
We briefly discuss another campaign the team at Rise created, about the data that different apps have on you.
We then go on to talk about…
- The importance of bookmarking campaigns you LOVE
- How keeping a bank of content you LOVE helps Carrie come up with creative ideas
- And how that same collection of content can teach you about angles, common themes, popular topics, formats, interesting data sets and more
As an example of that last point, I mentioned how the guys at Verve Search discovered a piece that analysed movie scripts and thought they could maybe do something with the same data. That train of thought led to the idea for Profanity on Film which I discuss with James Finlayson in episode one of the podcast.
Carrie and I continued, covering…
- The danger of going through the motions when coming up with ideas
- How Carrie tries to fit the right client and campaign to the right member of her team
- The challenge of coming up with ideas in areas you’re not interested in
- Why Carrie will happily scrap an idea half-way through if the team get tired of it
At one point Carrie mentions how she can get passionate about a trip to ASDA. For anyone that’s not familiar with the brand, ASDA is a British supermarket (like Walmart minus the shotguns).
We also talk about another campaign that Carrie came up with about choking hazards.
Here, we discuss…
- How Carrie generates ideas from her own life and personal experience
- The role of empathy and curiosity in creativity
- How and why Carrie looks for curiosity when hiring
- The criteria of a good idea
- How Carrie looks for ideas with multiple hooks
How Carrie came up with London Under the Microscope
For Staveley Head, who provide commercial vehicle insurance, Carrie created a campaign where they swabbed the London Underground (and other public transport) and analysed the samples for different bacteria.
In this section, we cover…
- How Carrie created multiple hooks to this campaign
- Why Carrie refers to this campaign as ‘her baby’
- Why her boss said it wouldn’t work (but Carrie did it anyway)
- How Carrie manages to make campaigns look more expensive than they actually are (that’s not to say they don’t charge a good fee at Rise at Seven)
- Why Carrie’s business partner, Stephen Kenwright says Carrie has an ability to “take something small and make it massive” — not just through bigger budgets but a bigger way of thinking
- How to create content that other people can’t
During this section, Carrie talks about working with brands like ODEON and GAME, and putting ‘toys’ in Easter eggs. We also mention John Lewis, a British department store famous for their emotional Christmas adverts, including their 2018 ad featuring Elton John.
We go on to discuss…
- How Carrie warn clients they’ll create ideas that challenge them — and might even raise a few eyebrows in the legal team!
- The benefit of pre-framing the process with clients
- How to take an idea that’s been done before and make it bigger and better
- How we’ve both created things that weren’t so relevant in the past, just for the links — and how Carrie is challenging herself and her team to come up with more relevant campaigns these days
- How Carrie uses social media to come up with ideas
How they came up with a new twist on an already viral campaign — Christmas Tinner
The team were posed the challenge of re-doing a campaign that went viral years ago, and to try make it go viral again. And this time, also pick up links!
During this section, Carrie mentions the (Sony) PS5 and creating content for Misguided.
- How Carrie put extra budget into Sandtone, and extra time into both Christmas Tinner and London Under the Microscope
- Why Carrie decides to over-invest time, budget and energy in some ideas
- Why it’s (occasionally) worth over-investing in your ideas
- Why Carrie started Digital PR Examples
- How Carrie is constantly researching content campaigns (and how this has enabled her to come up with so many successful ideas herself)
- How Carrie takes other people’s ideas apart
- Why Carrie chose two people to stay on top of inspiration and trends and feed it back into the business
We briefly mention Content Curated, another great resource if you’re looking for inspiration.
And Carrie mentions Mark Rofe as an example of a ‘curious’ person. Mark is best known for his billboard, and has recently set up a business selling Christmas Trees (sorry the link’s a little late for this year, Mark — hopefully it helps next time round!).
Carrie and I go on to cover…
- How curiosity can drive creativity
- How Carrie thinks they don’t really have a process, i.e. there’s no set way of doing things
On that point, I mention Gamestorming, a book of creative exercises in which they talk about creativity being a series of spaces to explore, as opposed to a linear industrial process.
We round this section out by talking about…
- How to test your ideas with friends (or your Mum)
- Whether you can really have a checklist for ideas or not
- How Carrie has discovered there’s people who can create stories and people who can promote them — but not that many who’re good at both
How Rise at Seven organise their teams into squads
In this brief section, we discuss…
- Why Rise at Seven have chosen to organise their teams in squads
- What the squads are made up of and how many people are in each
- The roles of the different squad members
- And the optimal size of a squad
And that just about covers it.
I hope you enjoy the show.