Questions for Storytellers Series... Lauren Riley
Meet Lauren Riley, Corporate Communications Manager in-house for Merseyrail.
What kind of storyteller are you? Corporate Communications
Best part of the job? I get a real sense of achievement when I see coverage of a great initiative our organisation has worked really hard on and the staff involved are recognised for the effort they have put in on a regional or national level.
Tell us about a project you have worked on that you are proud of... During the COVID-19 pandemic it has been the most challenging time for everyone across our organisation. One of the main concerns was that our passengers would feel that public transport was not a safe way to travel, however, through regular communications of the stringent cleaning and safety measures we have put in via video, social media, press releases and interviews, we have been able to alleviate those fears and the feedback from stakeholders and passengers alike has been overwhelmingly positive. The transparency, honesty and simplicity in how we communicated those messages has resulted in positive social media and press sentiment in a time when our passengers and stakeholders may have criticised businesses such as ourselves who are continuing to operate in an ever-changing landscape.
A little secret about being a corporate communications manager...
Sometimes you simply cannot control what the press or social media users say about your organisation. Rather than worry too much about it, the best thing you can do is try to make your voice part of the narrative. Refusing to comment on issues can encourage more speculation and negative coverage, so the best thing to do is make your stance heard and be open to dialogue.
Biggest stereotype you hate about your role? That it is all just networking and fancy dinners. I wish it was! During the more challenging times it can be rewriting a press release at 10 pm at night, or fielding calls from journalists for hours on end. No two days ever look the same and, while it can be stressful, it’s definitely one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had.
What’s the biggest change your industry faces in the next year? During this pandemic, we have had to overhaul the way we deliver our services. Over the next 12 months the biggest challenges are going to be ensuring our communications around social distancing on public transport are received and followed clearly by our passengers, and reminding them that public transport is a safe way to travel when there is, understandably, nervousness from people about being in enclosed public spaces.
News outlet or publication of choice and why? Personally, The Guardian has always been my go-to publication for interesting features and comprehensive sports coverage. Professionally, I tend to regularly check BBC News for information relating to our industry.
What’s your content guilty pleasure? Twitter 100%. I spend far too much of my time on the platform!
Favourite news or social media story in the last 12 months? Rebekah Vardy vs Colleen Rooney without a shadow of a doubt. It was Twitter at its absolute finest!
What brands do you think tell great stories and why? Nike has always used its voice – not only to promote their own brand – but to lend its support to movements across the globe. This has been shown in their support of Colin Kaepernick in 2018 and, more recently, in their support of Black Lives Matter.
What do you want from PR people? I am PR people – so just for us all to stick together and understand that we’re all working towards a similar goal.
What makes a great story? A lot of the time it’s simplicity of message, along with a human angle. People don’t want to be talked at by a corporate voice, so having someone from your business deliver the message for you – ideally via video or interviews – gives the reader someone to identify with and feel like they’re part of a conversation, not just a recipient of information.
Top tip for storytellers: Don’t over complicate your message. Avoid corporate jargon and avoid being too self-congratulatory.
For the latest updates from the Merseyrail press team head to: https://www.merseyrail.org/news.aspx