24 September, 2018
To mark Amazon’s 18th birthday, we asked founder Louise Morriss for an insight into the company’s history and future plans.
What made you start Amazon?
I’d worked in a few agencies, handling big consumer brands like Disney Channel and Persil. It was fun for a while, but I’ve always been involved with causes and campaigning organisations. I wanted to put my PR skills to work supporting organisations I believed in. And I wanted to work with like-minded, brilliant people. So I started putting a team together.
All this time, have you only worked for charities?
We’ve mostly worked for charities and public sector organisations, yes. Our specialism is important to us and to our clients. We’ve worked with healthcare brands too, which came about through charity-corporate partnerships we established. There are businesses and brands we’d happily work with (for example in publishing, natural health, green businesses), but we’ve turned companies down in the past and would do so again. If they conflict with our core work, we’re not interested.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen over the years?
Earlier on, it was all about charities becoming more ‘professional’, getting more considered and creative with their comms, which in turn meant greater impact. Then there was the shift away from public sector spending on comms, as austerity kicked in. Plus massive developments in technology, which has changed what we do and the way we do it. What interests us now is the context in which we’re all working. Society is divided, people are losing trust in the media, government cuts are putting enormous pressures on services, and charities are under increased scrutiny. At the moment, we’re helping clients become more strategic, so they can demonstrate impact, build trust and influence change.
What’s been your highlight? And lowlight?
For me, when we achieve mainstream coverage of a complex, niche issue, that’s a great result. Also, any time we get the attention of funders and policy-makers in a way that helps our clients affect change. And every time we see a direct link between our work and a charity’s income, uptake of services or volunteer recruitment. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some incredible and inspiring individuals – our clients, their beneficiaries, but mostly my colleagues. Seeing their passion – and seeing them flourish – is definitely a highlight!
I’m glad to say lowlights are few. Projects don’t always go as planned and relationships can be complicated. Stories get bumped and strategies undone by events. But after 18 years, I’d say we’re pretty robust!
What’s the best thing about Amazon?
The team. It’s a genuine privilege to work with such skilled, smart, switched-on people.
What are your plans for the future?
It’s easy to look at what’s going on in the world and feel glum, but for many it inspires positive action. Greater openness about mental health, a focus on equality, young people becoming more tuned into politics, and powerful movements like #MeToo. It’s important to recognise the context in which we work. For us, we’re heading into an exciting time. We have some excellent work underway with our clients, new prospects that look interesting and challenging (in the right way), and we’re seeing a shift towards working strategically to influence change.
I don’t know where we’ll be in another 18 years, but we’re as fired up now as we were at the start.