Professional writer and press manager

Communication is at the heart of writing

It’s not easy blowing your own trumpet is it? I find it hard! I mean, that’s kind of ironic since my job is to blow other people’s: you’d think it would be easy for me. But alas. I write blog pieces that contain ideas and strategy and tips for small businesses, to help them. Rarely do I say we got a client published in the Guardian the other day. Or we liaised with the front page of MSN Lifestyle to get our clients’ amazing work noticed.

But we do it. Silently, whilst also thinking of valuable blog posts to give hints and tips to other small businesses in the area. For example, through our monthly package with The Cornish Seaweed Company, we’ve seen them feature everywhere from BBC’s Saturday Kitchen to The Guardian Sustainable Business section. Chocolarder have been in the Spring edition of Home and Garden, as well as Delicious having profiled recently, and many other exciting things happening.

Seaweedguardian

As a business, content is not good enough.

Seems an outlandish statement for a freelancer in Cornwall and Devon, right? I mean a good half of my week is dedicated to writing content for companies. But what I mean is that being content with erm content isn’t good enough. It needs to be exciting, engaging and shareable in order for it to provide a high ROI.

Every single expenditure you make on behalf of your business needs to be quantified; hence some companies are hesitant to outlay money for content marketing, PR and communications.

Yet, this element is essential to getting your message heard. You need to have faith that you’re choosing a content writer who prioritises ROI. Much of my week is dedicated to helping promote other businesses, via social media channels and article creation, and by weaving a network of contacts to hold clients together and increase outreach.

Freelance writer with ROI in mind

Content writing needs to evidence ROI to be justified

Initially, upon launching my career as a freelancer, I had a steady flow of clients, and spent days writing articles and white papers; living out my dreams of just playing with words all day. But, like you, a time came when I had to find a way to expand my client base. Here, I learnt the key role communication has in business.

 

 

 

Communications is as the heart of good writing

Some client news stories my packages have helped

You can be making the best product or service, but the world needs to know about it. This is best managed through a series of communications. I mostly use twitter, blogging and press release for myself, and offer packages involving these from just £150 per month. The ROI of this helped one client’s sales quadruple as a result of the work. So the ROI on £150 a month was in excess of 10 times the expenditure.

I have produced content that has wowed big companies in London: from Innocent drinks to Thompson Holidays, and Tasting Britain. However, I am a Cornish girl who is passionate about our beautiful county and enjoys finding communication solutions for local businesses.

 

The power of words is not enough: they need to be communicated to the right audience as well. And this is my job. To discuss how content, copy, white papers or PR & s

ocial media can help raise your profile, give me a call today on 07729263818. Or use my contact form to drop me a line.

Professional writer and press manager

Perfectly Content: A Brand Love story

Remember the early stages of falling in love? The quickening heart, the pervasive thoughts, and the butterflies in your tummy?

Does your brand inspire that kind of excitement in your audience?

The trope of marketing paralleled with love stories is nothing new. Although the advent of tinder and related dating apps, does eerily match the behaviour of buyers on online. Communicating with prospective customers relies on devices to woo prospects into falling in love with you. Well, your brand at least.

Freelance writer Cornwall creates brand love stories

Creating imagery makes readers fall in love with your brand

Rather like the idea of tinder, where you want someone to swipe right and choose you, you now have just a matter of seconds to try and hook visitors in when they visit your website. Remember it’s likely to be done via smartphone these days too.

When looking for a date, or potential match, whether it’s online or in ‘real life’, the first thing we look at is appearance. Yes, it’s true that the first thing to make or break the decision making to stay on the page lies within its design; the words you use are what keep people there. Which is why you should always write for people, as opposed to engines.

Because after deciding they have a handsome, pretty, kind, caring or nice face, we then look for compatibility. So even if you have a product that tastes amazing, people are looking for a feeling too. It’s belonging, it’s empathy and it’s something that eases their conscience.

These days we feel guilty about spending money, so anything that helps us feel our money will go to real people, good people, helps ease the way we feel about spending it.

And this is why we need to create a chemistry between curiosity and conversion. The magic happens here in effective communication. My friend will immediately swipe left when someone misspells something, uses bad grammar, or uses stale clichés.

Gone. Like that.

Next, the crucial bit that creates desire, comes down to how they describe themselves.

Content creation in Cornwall relies on its diverse landscape

Content shows how unique you are

All too often we read the same words in an About Us section. We read that people are passionate, expert, or professional. But we don’t know anything about them. This is really important for brands. Write, rewrite and edit this piece of information so it distils the essence of who you are and what you stand for. Or hire a writer who can communicate your brand.

Use language that sparks interest; find exciting ways of communicating content outside of words. Use images, video, infographics and quizzes to gather information about your audience and build a picture of who you are talking to.

And talk to them.

Through content marketing, use words that incite emotions. Without wanting to sound too ‘English teacher-y’ (bearing in mind this was my job for 5 years), these are created through imagery, connections, poetic devices and tone of voice.

To make someone fall in love with your brand, endear them to what makes you unique.

Since I grew up in Cornwall, it’s in my blood. Everything I write, and some of the brands I write for, are riven with its scenery and images of its surging seas, clattering cliffs and burnished beaches. This is what makes it unique, which is why I love writing about it. I write copy for clients in accounting to zebras too, and what makes people fall in love with them is communicating who they are and their moral compass.

To speak about anything from straplines to features, give me a call today on 07729263818 or chat via email about hiring me.

Such an inspirational place as Cornwall produces creative writers

Cornwall is synonymous with clear beaches and crystal water

Professional writer and press manager

Setting business resoultions

So, I implemented a much needed hiatus from updating over the Christmas period. Catching up on real life and hanging out with friends and family can be an all too distant memory for many other small business managers like me!

I’m not a massive fan of resolutions, since so many people set wishy-washy goals without achievable steps. Myself included. This year, to save me from tears, I’m focusing on goals that are attainable.

Seasonal dust beginning to settle, we welcome what I believe in the rest of the country to be a wintery cold new year. Down here in Cornwall it’s still been a respectable 8° at its lowest, most of the time. Apart from the 2 days of ground frost, which excited me so much I actually got my camera out to photograph its glittering beauty.

winter frosts resemble new beginnings in business

Crisp content glitters like the frost of winter

Last year, I focused on one resolution: to write more. Crikey! I don’t think I could have expected this to be fulfilled with quite the ferocity it was. Some weeks producing over 10,000 words of content for just one client, and adding to that heaps of calls, emails and meetings. Still, I achieved it, due to its simplicity.

So what resolutions can small business owners make, and stick to in 2015?

Outsource

Whether it’s accounting, content creation or social media; weed out the aspects of progression that are time consuming and outsource them to an expert. Generally, this means they will spend a focused amount of time, which is likely to be much less than you, on achieving goals within that area. Outsourcing is the first step towards progressing because you’re focusing your own time elsewhere.

 

Having recently acquired several new clients, I am excited to see that more and more small companies are understanding the value of outsourcing a multi-skilled writer. Building case studies, content and even branding and marketing strategies for different companies allows my clients to do what they do best, and gives me the same opportunity.

Remember to schedule relax time

So, OK right now after having had some time off, you can see how vital that time is. Productivity, motivation and enthusiasm are all restored with lashings of resilience if you allow yourself to enjoy some time off. It’s simple, and yet so many of us are forgetting to do it. Hopefully the inevitable rest many of us have managed to glean over the festive period reminds us of the importance of this!

Commit to Content

I know: it’s easy for me to say. Indubitably, large companies have all got this underway now. Producing excellent content is a strategic endeavour, which brings with it a range of benefits, ultimately resulting in the same thing: more sales.

Boosting organic SEO, developing trust relationships and demonstrating your authority within your field; content creation is a game changer for anyone whose business has an online element. Which should be almost everyone in 2015!

Excellent on brand writing will raise your profile

A successful media campaign yields impressive results

Promote your business

Whether you have a budget for advertising or prefer to carry out an email marketing campaign, make a commitment to a consistent promotion, so people know you’re still there: offering them a solution to their problems.

Through regular interaction on social media, we have seen The Cornish Seaweed Company’s exposure raised significantly through appearing twice on Saturday Kitchen. This has not happened overnight but rather through regular promotion and contact with a relevant audience. It’s a similar story with Chocolarder who sold out of all stock this Christmas due to massive press exposure from our campaigns.

However you choose to do it: from flyer drops to social media or through press release and blogging, decide on a strategy and implement it. Sales for one of my clients have increased by more than 5 times.

Essentially breaking your goals down into bite size chunks and working through them empowers you to feel like you have achieved something.

Anyway, I’m still getting my head around this whole getting back to work thing. And it’s Sunday and the kettle’s boiled. Happy new year.

Professional writer and press manager

Can your brand afford not to have a professional handling social media?

Clearly intended to invite controversy, the title of Steve Farnsworth’s article Is Social Media Beyond A Public Relations Professional’s Skill Set is pretty effective at producing clickbait.  And that’s its intention. Any article’s intention is to inform people of its angle, but more importantly to incite a reaction: igniting enquiry. I was no rebel for resistance when I saw this little gem early this morning.

Having actually read his article, and the article that incited him to write it, it transpires that I agree entirely with both articles’ premise, and wish now to contribute my own opinion on the relationship between being a PR professional and managing clients’ social media accounts.

Weaving together a raft of skills gained, from marketing to content creation, from social media to journalism and everything in between; it’s the job of a PR professional to create brand messages that are seen by the public. Be that in 140 characters via twitter or an extended blog post about the latest news, and company developments; everything counts as content, and everything creates a dialogue between your brand and the public.

By opting to choose a professional in modern PR, you should find someone who is able to strategise your social media usage, ensuring they:

  • create targeted, insightful content to appeal to a wide audience of prospects
  • educate and inspire both existing customers and prospects to engender trust and build a culture of respect for the brand’s authority
  • generate targeted leads and new sources for lead generation through engaging relevant prospects
Expert content creation is linked with social media

PR Professionals need to wear the hats of experts in marketing and social media today

PR, like SEO, content creation and arguably sales and marketing in general, is a movable feast. Particularly in the digital area. It’s a long lasting relationship that incorporates all kinds of skills and knowledge, which change daily.

Like mighty oaks on a still night, the principles are unbending: you want to increase exposure, focusing on targeted prospects, present a positive public image of the company and build trust relationships. But where PR has changed is that it’s interlinked with content creation. And it’s essential now to offer value to prospects and existing clients. This often happens in the form of linking content marketing to social media. And to being available on social media channels to answer questions and develop dialogue.

For example, embedded into my work with Chocolarder and The Cornish Seaweed Company, is recipe creation to engage prospects. This is giving people who are interested in the product something for free. They don’t have to use Chocolarder chocolate or Cornish Seaweed to create the recipe. It’s personal choice. However, since many people have also read the copy in the About Us section, and interacted via social media, the majority have a vested interest in the ethos of the company and will choose their product.

Giving prospects something valuable to take away

Content creation includes recipes

The result is that by giving people a valuable product, albeit free recipes or advice, you strengthen your position as an authority on the subject, whilst also creating desire through subtle marketing. Gone are the days of the hard sell, with individuals preferring to invest in companies who create a feeling.

It stands to reason then, that the same person who is creating the tone of voice across all channels –  blogs to brochures, and pins to tweets – ought to be responsible for managing PR campaigns. So in retort to Farnsworth’s question: A PR professional is more than qualified to manage social media. So long as they’re forward thinking, modern professionals who understand the evolutionary and fluid nature of all things digital. Preferably with an online portfolio demonstrating a varied toolkit to draw from.

I can offer content management and brand development across all channels, including PR campaigns or management.

Some of my clients choose to outsource my services, and for others I have an in-house role. How much or little involvement you wish me to have depends entirely on your business, your budget and your preference. If you want me to suggest ideas; I’m full of them. However, I’m also pretty well qualified at just converting words into stories.

To have a chat about any of this, please feel free to call 07729263818 or email me laura[at]palavermaven.co.uk.

Professional writer and press manager

The Importance of Being Earnest (In Your Copy)

So since it’s my job to create engaging and readable copy for both myself and clients, does it not display some arrogance to assume I can write good copy and what’s more tell you about it? Maybe. But then it’s not as if I just woke up one day and decided to be a copywriter. Writing is a skill I have honed through years of hard work and practice.

And editing? Editing is a skill I still hone daily. Thankfully my MA taught me the importance of editing, right after my BA taught me to just write until the page has enough on it to motivate you to carry on. At least, that’s how I write. I know this is not the same for everyone.

Anyway, back to the topic in hand: the importance of great copy.

I’ve worked with scores of small businesses, and OK I’m maybe a bit more eagle eyed than some ‘normal’ visitors to your website, but if I see typos, misplaced apostrophes or random capitalisation, I really might go and look elsewhere for my product. It implies a lack of professionalism: not checking things through.

copywriting is an acquired skill

Well crafted copy should invite you to look deeper

For me, though, the spelling and punctuation is merely the tip of an ever approaching iceberg. I love to be entertained. We all do. So if I land on your website, of course I want to see some pictures explaining what you do, but I also need to read about it.

But I don’t just want to read like a manual. I want to hear a story. I want to care enough about the characters, feel connected enough with the vision to actually buy into the ideas of your company.

But for some reason loads of companies still think it’s ok to write boring copy.

For what it’s worth, when I’m writing copy for clients these are the factor I consider, and advise you to do the same.

Make a relevant, snappy headline.

OK, articles about writing always bleat on about this. And I have got it wrong heaps of times myself. So I am definitely qualified to tell you: choose your words carefully! Whether this is the headlines of news items or actual page sections: make it clear what the customer will read.

Be funny.

Don't be afraid to be funny in your copy

When I write for Tasting Britain, I reveal funny facts about my life

Don’t be afraid to make jokes, puns and be funny. It makes people like you and trust you and feel comfortable. Even bad jokes are OK, so long you as you acknowledge that they’re bad. So, more importantly write to potential customers the way you would talk to them.

Just be yourself.

I know this isn’t a dating advice column, and even if it was that is so tired and clichéd, but seriously: just be natural. Speak to potential clients through written words the way you would face to face. Client relationships, after all should be about longevity and trust. Who trusts someone who says ‘utilise’ instead of use just because it sounds bigger? Not me!

Don’t dumb down

That said, don’t dumb down what you’re trying to say either. If it’s appropriate, people can handle technical terms or big words; hopefully using context to help understand. There is definitely no need for pretention – it won’t make you seem any more trustworthy.

Be personal

Address the customer as ‘you’, use personal pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘we’ or even mention names. This all helps engender trust and build relationships, which is your primary goal once you have got people on your website.

For more about how to raise your online profile, please read other blog posts. To have a chat about how I can help you, please call 07729263818 or email me laura[at]palavermaven.co.uk

Professional writer and press manager

Copywriters in Cornwall need a change of scene too!

OK, I am lucky enough to live on the most southerly and most diverse peninsula in England. The incredible landscape of Cornwall is woven through my prose, and in addition to its inky threads tangling into branding; it provides quirky, memorable copy from the many creative types spanning Land’s end to Launceston and Boscastle to Barripper. Indubitably, the place I call home is one of the most beautiful I’ve been to in the world.  And I’ve been to a few places. In fact, I’m in one now. Surrounded by gently flitting hummingbirds and amazing variations of butterflies, I’m in a cloud forest in Ecuador as I type.

An expert in communication, I absorb the sounds; feeding my imagination

The sights and sounds of Mindo are inspiration for any writer

When I first heard the name cloud forest I think I imagined something like you’d find at the top of the faraway tree. In many ways, Mindo is like that. It’s a paradise: toucans, quetzals and the aforementioned hummingbirds call, chirp and play amazing games in flight as dense foggy clouds hug the tops of mountains; lined with banana trees, palms and other exotic flora. The night-time chorus of crickets, cicadas, birds, geese, frogs and untold other wildlife is relaxing, bizarre and comical all rolled into one.

What does all this have to do with business? Well, it has to do with the essential properties of taking a break. I properly started Palaver Maven this year. And, as most entrepreneurs or new business owners will tell you, this meant I worked tirelessly to get it off the ground. I worked every single day. Many days for sixteen hours. Many days these didn’t seem enough. I pissed off my partner replying to work emails on romantic meals, I neglected birthdays, forgot parties and generally dedicated to my work in a commitment I had never given to anything before.

valuable content comes from being relaxed enough to strategise efficicently

Like all copywriters in Cornwall, Devon or the Outer Hebrides, I love my typewriter

I still do, of course. But the telephone ringing, and emails pinging, and the several different charity projects I had on the go eventually began to consume me. One of the reasons I’d chosen to be self employed was because I’d previously struggled with the pressures of teaching. And it all made me realise I needed to take a step back, be somewhere else and evaluate what’s important.

Time off, even the smallest amount of it, allows you to look at things with fresh eyes, and it’s allowed me to let go of control. I love words: playing around with them, reshaping somebody else’s, and creating my own. I’ve been fully immersed in speaking Spanish since I got here, and it’s made decision making for the new year all the easier. Having a distance from using English: the language I love so dearly, and shape so frequently, has blistered a new approach to it.

Whilst not all small business managers, or copywriters, can fly to Ecuador to work in the rainforest; everyone can take a step back and use the time to evaluate their goals. Everyone can find some inspiration to increase their creative output, and if you can’t: look for it. Have even 20 minutes to entirely step away from work tasks and just let your mind wander elsewhere. Listen to the video above and the gentle sounds of the forest.

If you have any marketing, writing,branding or social media related questions, please use my contact page or call 07729263818 and we can chat about what I know will work for you.

Professional writer and press manager

How did I get onto the front page of Google for ‘Copywriter in Cornwall’?

Carving ornate oceanic clefts to beguile his mistress, the pufferfish seeks to let the world know humans aren’t the only ones impressed by ‘culture’. Today, we walk the landscape of a world where we’ve never had such an easy way to be powerful communicators ever before. As whistling and clicking languages evolved into complex grammatical systems, we now saturate the fibres of the internet with these snippets of culture.

Investing in crafted content yields a high ROI

Primarily focusing on high quality content, SEO’s landscape is changing

Proving that the landscape of SEO has really changed; in just 2 months I have managed to use expert communications and copywriting alone to secure a spot on the front page of Google. In saying secure, I mean ‘hesitantly hover’ and in saying communication and copywriting, I am not denying that I have acquired some SEO skills. I just mean: if I can do it, then so can you. My seaweed harvesting, cutting and drying clients are enjoying similar exposure. So I’m going to share with you some of the ways I’ve done things, to help your brand too.

Start local

Purely focusing on high value content will help your brand get recognised

If you type copywriter Cornwall into Google, you will see my name!

Having grown up in Cornwall, and spent over 25 of my 34 years here, I am aware that the place is small when compared with other counties up and down our island. My work is not limited to Cornwall. I liaise daily with people from Penzance to Aberdeenshire and Narbeth to Norfolk; plus many overseas folk too. However, the population density of Cornwall has made hitting the top spot here easier than when I lived in Bristol.  Once clients start recommending you to others, you’ll soon acquire wider connections.

Care about your content, and make readers care too

Expertly written and high value content is the most valuable thing you can invest in. I don’t mean financially. Although, by all means hire me to write for you, or have someone in-house do it; but, be it in time or money, this expenditure will have the most impressive ROI. Patiently tending to the science and flavour notes of roasting, winnowing and making his own chocolate, Mike from Chocolarder and I have some lengthy conversations to ensure we get his message right across his communications. Mike cares about his content, I care about words and it makes his followers care about his brand. His sales have recently quadrupled, due to implementing an integrative strategy in his marketing.

Harness the behemoth that is the media

Whether it’s announcing a new product or partnership, giving an expert opinion on a news piece, or publicising a forthcoming event: use the media to get your name out there. I met a guy through the amazing internet lift-sharing phenomenon blablacar who gave me this bit of advice: drench the media. He had met a DJ who loved Lana Del Rey, decided he wanted to work with her and managed it; through soaking social media sites with links to his stuff. This collaboration, of course,catapulted his career. When used correctly, the media and the press release act as validations of your authenticity. Particularly when they come from high quality sources, such as authority newspapers.

Understand linking

In saying this, I have not spent any money on backlinks, nor have I really traded them. I have guest posted, and asked others to guest post for me: to give a different perspective, or talk about a different theme. This still prioritises content, as I have only asked people whose writing I know is of a high quality, and interest to give value to my readers. However, something I only learnt this summer is how to use linking effectively.

If you look at the anchor phrases (the words in red) used in any of the links in this article, you’ll see they generally explain what something is, or does, as opposed to just stating its name. What this does is links the keywords to the site: strengthening their potency.

Using pictures breaks up the text

Pictures offer high value content to readers

Picture tags

Another thing I have figured out only recently is that Google likes pictures. That’s probably because my friend, editor, and expert writer Jack ‘Koukouvaya’ Oughton said that exact phrase to me when giving me editorial guidelines for my Tasting Britain submissions. When you add pictures to your posts: not only do they look better, but actually you get to give descriptions, which usually naturally emphasise your key words.

In both my life and my writing, I like everything to be as natural and organic as possible. And somehow following these steps has helped me reap the rewards. I deplore bragging, but am telling the truth when I say if I can do it, so can you.

If you do want some advice or consultancy on getting your brand noticed, call me for a chat or drop me an email. But be warned: I love chatting! It’s what Palaver Maven means!

pa·lav·er: Idle chatter. Talk intended to charm or beguile.
ma·ven : A person who has special knowledge or experience; an expert

07729263818 or laura(at)palavermaven.co.uk.

Professional writer and press manager

Why Social Media is Vital to Your PR Strategy

Blustery winds and the onomatopoeic sounds of leaves started November, which seems to be rushing by in a whirlwind of excellent and yet crushing marketing campaigns; gearing up for Christmas. This years’ #FollowTheFairies campaign has been nothing short of excellent in terms of representing the exact post I had scheduled for this week. It portrays the dichotomy of our lives in glittering glory.

content trends rise and fall

Brands in Cornwall can reach anywhere in seconds with social media

One of the things I’ve learned in my varied life as a teacher, chef and now writer; is that people will always be talking about you.

Back in the 80s when we just told our friends what we thought about someone or something, it had an effect on things within a certain locale. But obviously through social media these thoughts and opinions can spread far and wide. Word of mouth is powerful, and now it’s never been easier to digitally let words out of your mouth or off your fingers and across the mosaic of wires we call the internet.

This cascade of chatter, like the November seas, has its rises and falls.

 

As the name Palaver Maven was intended to suggest; I’m an expert in creating chatter. And I love to do this across all channels. Since I initially tried to reject it in the early 2000s, the rise of Social Media has been exponential. In recent years, I embrace it as wholeheartedly as I did the rebrand of Opal Fruits. I mean it took me time, but it grew on me.

Social media, of course, gives people another platform to talk about you.

Or your brand.

And now they can do some real damage if they want to, or help to create a buzz. If someone mentions your brand on any social media, it’s going to get picked up by other users of that platform.

Conversations, allegations, accidents, or emotional experiences can spread as easily as water from behind a dam. And not only that, but they can reach further and wider than Brunel could have ever perceived.

Pretty much once they’re out there, these soundbytes, snippets of opinion; you have no control in the matter.  If your company is not harnessing the extreme power of social media in today’s world, then you are missing valuable conversation with not only customers, but prospective ones. Of not only answering queries as they come up, but also celebrating the great stuff. Admitting the errors. Of making followers active.

These days, people trust social media more than other forms of marketing. It’s a friendly place. It’s an arena for real people to emote about what they like or dislike. What’s funny; their views on current affairs.

What about the magic and sparkle?

The reason this post links so well with the #FollowTheFairies campaign is that the small acts of ‘kindness’ exhibited by the fairies, were reported by local news; quite the way a traditional press release might be. However, that hashtag incited many people to create ongoing murmurations online and suddenly: we knew who the fairies were. In some ways we’re disappointed to know that the magic has gone. In the same way we did with the fairies, we want to believe.

By now, be it through local press or online presence, or often a combination of the two, people have helped to endorse the fairies and what they are doing. This is why social media use and strategy needs to be an integrative part of your business’ marketing plan.

An endorsement on social media is free advertising.

More than content with my Michel Roux Jr chat

Being endorsed by a celebrity can change things over night for brands

Because it takes no more than the click of a button: it’s easy to endorse a brand. Positively or negatively.

When working on a press campaign recently, a little bit of interaction with a celebrity chef increased my clients’ site activity; sales; and responses from ‘traditional’ press. Having seen the brand pinged about via twitter and other social sites, it was beginning to feel ubiquitous; rapidly increasing followers.

 

 

 

 

To talk over branding or content ideas with a Palaver Maven, please subscribe by leaving your email in the box below, call or fill out the contact form.

Web content that captivates

How to Improve User Experience on Your Website

From last week’s post about the brilliant, inspiring minds we meet in Cornish businesses at The Launch event, we were lucky enough to connect with Victoria and Stuart from Cornish Pixel. Their website is beautiful.This is a guest post by Victoria from Cornish Pixel.  Victoria writes the weekly Cornish Pixel blog which provides advice on helping businesses make the most of their online presence.

 

Pencils are a copywriter's best friend

Excellent writers know where they are with pencils

I don’t really like computers; I’m a pencil and paper kind of girl. You always know where you are with a pencil. It sits comfortably in my hand and it moves wherever I choose. It doesn’t get sick and the only update it demands is a ten-second spin in a pencil sharpener. Of course, its life isn’t limitless and it will one day die. Luckily, its twin brother can be bought for 20p. I love pencils.

Unfortunately, the same feelings cannot be felt for my new computer.  It seems neither PC nor tablet, but a frustrating combination of both. And whilst it looks pretty and could probably double-up as a GCHQ code-breaker, it’s a huge tease!

This latest oh-so-cool time-saving device is actually costing me time; its favourite game of hide and seek is killing me. I can often be heard yelping across the office: ‘Aaarrrgggh! Where the hell has my desktop/settings/photos/documents/control panel disappeared to?’

Much consideration has been given to the design and technical capabilities of this particular computer, and the experience of the user has been neglected; style over substance. A curse many websites also fall victim to.

Of course, websites should look good (and ideally like they weren’t designed in the 90s) but, it is far more important that web visitors enjoy being on a website, and are able to access all the information they need simply and quickly. Therefore, it is vital that online businesses consider the ‘user experience’ (UX).

A good web designer/developer should be versed in user experience design or UED/UXD.  Being able to craft a beautiful looking website without considering how the site will make a potential online customer feel, is much like serving a scrumptious looking roast chicken with an unexpected rose-pink centre.  Looks wonderful, but makes the customer sick.

Effective web design should prioritise the needs and wants of its users; websites should not be an opportunity to showcase the designers’ fabulously versatile and kooky creativity.  If I visit a website looking for a supplier of paving slabs, I do not need to see an eye-popping headache-inducing cabaret show of a homepage. I will not think, ‘Ooh look, they can put on a show like Jean-Michel Jarre, their patio slabs must be awesome.’ Instead, I’m more likely to bounce off the website immediately and find a more-soothing and inviting website to browse.

People do not visit websites to be entertained, unless they’re after Netflix or Foxy Bingo. They visit to find information. No one needs to see an outdated Flash animation on a homepage; of images turning, rotating, spinning and swirling.  It’s puff.  And it’ll make users feel like they’re staring into the hypnotic eyes of the snake in Jungle Book.

Keep browsers on your website by following these tips:

  1. Try not to make visitors dizzy and disorientated with over-stylised moving images. Keep things clean, simple and pleasant to view.
  2. Avoid irritating visitors with pop-ups and ads. They’re an annoying distraction.
  3. Do not test visitors’ patience by making them search for information. Ensure site navigation is straightforward and intuitive.
  4. Avoid boring visitors with useless information. Keep all written content succinct.
  5. Do not use an illegible typeface. Choose one which is easy-to-read and doesn’t require special spectacles.
  6. If your website’s ‘call to action’ is to contact you or buy a product, ensure the steps the user takes to reach your desired outcome are as straightforward and apparent as possible.
  7. Make sure your website can be easily viewed on various platforms such as tablets and smartphones. Users browsing on a mobile device will not wait for large files to load. They’ll bounce off to a responsive website instead.
  8. Encourage interaction by connecting with your social media platforms.
  9. Avoid 90s’ clipart and irrelevant photos. Choose appropriate images to foster positive feelings.
  10. Don’t make customers hunt for your phone number. Ensure your contact information is easy to find.

Websites should be inviting, comforting and useful; like a cup of tea and a bowl of soup on a winter’s day. If your website is an uncooked chicken, don’t be surprised if customers go elsewhere to find both style and substance.

We know a thing or two about user experience and web design. Hop on over to Cornish Pixel to learn more.

Thanks for reading.

Victoria.

 

Author bio: Victoria is the co-founder of digital agency, Cornish Pixel.  Based in Wadebridge, the team offer bespoke web design, e-commerce and SEO services to businesses across Cornwall. Pop over and say hello at www.cornishpixel.com or via Twitter: @cornishpixel.

Professional writer and press manager

Developing character: the multiple personalities of a content writer

This post may debunk the magic. Read on at your discretion…

“you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.”

Excellent branding, as I’ve often said before, starts with excellent planning, and also entering into and maintaining a dialogue with your audience. We’ve always been told, in any industry, that customer service is the most important factor. Which it always will be. Essentially, great customer service is about communication. All good relationships are about communication, and excellent branding is making a commitment to a long relationship.

What it also involves is an element of magic. And what I mean by that is not some terrifying display á la The Great Danton or Houdini. It’s the element of magic that Michael Caine, aka Cutter, in the film The Prestige refers to when he says “you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.” And creating amazing stories across all brand communication channels is much the same kind of magic.

People must realise there is a lot more to a brand than the lovely pictures that get shown on social media and the crafted stories spun to engage and inspire readers. Behind every business is accounts and finances; admin; bills; payroll; training; outsourcing; and whole host of less-than-exciting menial tasks that a small business simply cannot function without. And yet, what they buy into are the snippets of stories, the development of character: the suspension of disbelief.

we know it's not really magic, but we don't want to know the truth

Storytelling in branding is like magic

Coming up with a strong and believable branding story requires creativity and strategy and excellent storytelling. It also requires the attributes of a professional writer. You need to sound like the protagonist. Your brand is leading the story, by becoming an authority voice. Kathi Kruse wrote an excellent post about the techniques used within a good content strategy, and essentially boiled hem down to the literacy points I would have taught my kids when I was teaching: show don’t tell, build drama, write about the stuff you like. All of this is advice that excellent writers such as Marquez, Atwood and Murukami would give.

It’s no surprise that with this level of detail, professionalism, strategy and time, many people choose to employ a professional writer to create tone of voice.

Part of my job as a content writer and branding consultant is to help craft these stories for my clients.  And to do this well, first I need to spend some time with them, really getting to know their character, the character of their brand and start to shape a direction for the story of this character to go in. The peaks and troughs. Ups and downs. How would they react to current affairs?

In any one week, I might be an American business man imparting his marketing secrets; a food expert reviewing restaurants and products, a young fashionista describing the newest makeup on the market; or a yoga expert evaluating the effectiveness of different anyasas. I also have my regular posts, where I review food and drink products and restaurants, write for The National Curriculum.com website and give marketing and content writing advice right here.

I imagine long running soap stars must have the same problem!

At times, I  have focused so sharply on this array of characters that I almost feel I have multiple personalities. I write only for brands I care about, and so immersing myself in their worlds is no hardship. But once a project is complete; which can happen for any number of reasons; I find myself missing hanging out with my friends. I imagine long running soap stars must have the same problem!

Just as we do for a good story, a movie or book; we need to suspend disbelief when ‘buying into’ (in the psychological, time investment sense) a brand. And if you can ignite that same sense of curiosity, excitement and empathy, you will build a successful brand and see sales increase.

To find out more about my services, stay tuned via my e newsletter once a month. Sign up by popping your email in the box below, but please feel free to contact me by phone or email too.

 

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