Great design needs great content

Brand Publishing: Are you content with what’s underneath?

A brightly burnished, branded website is exciting for us all. Especially ones with fashionable, hand drawn graphics incorporating sharp branding. Clever colour schemes to match memorable images and sear logos to our ever-exposed brains.

What’s going on though, when you start scratching that shiny veneer?

Many brands are pouring their business investment expenditure into revamping the aesthetics of their websites to lure in prospects like bees to conical celled flowers. Rightly so. A stunning website is vital to attracting clients.

But what keeps them there, and beckons their return is what’s underneath: the website content. Great content at that.

A land of contrasts

When visiting Iceland during February earlier in the year, I discovered the amazing story of the poetry that migrated to Iceland during the Second World War. Having long been a fan of Icelandic music – its darkness, duality, longing, and the way it so aptly mimics the scenery –  the story of the seafarers sent to fight on a sprawling mass of magma, in the North Sea, fascinated me.

After losing over 200 Icelanders during the war, the women were enveloped by the desolate poetry brought over by British troops. The drab and terrifying words of such authors as Siegfried Sassoon and his protégé Wilfred Owen lulled Icelandic women to whisper ég elska þú into the luminescent skies. Elska means to love. Despite finding the bleak scenery and volcanic landscape inhospitable, the men found female hands at cannery row were liberal with their love.

Trading primarily in fish sourced in from the icy seas, cannery women would give up their love under endless skies. Winter everywhere: within the frozen igneous rock containing tiny worlds, on the twisted branches grabbing at the sky, inter-crossing each other with the same complexity as a modern bus map; the men found the landscape portentous.

When birds look into houses, what impossible worlds they see

Yet, as Nabokov said “You can get nearer and nearer to reality; but you can never get near enough, because reality is an infinite succession of steps, levels of perception, false bottoms, and hence unquenchable, unattainable”, the molten lava burning beneath the curvatures of land and surging to the surface would fashion new topography.

How does this relate to content?

carved from high quality basalt content

Mirroring the basalt columns of Iceland’s geography

It’s about what’s underneath; how that feeds into what’s on the surface. As the winter sun sinks over the bay, Hallgrímskirkja, a modern church that resembles an organ with its stepped sides reaching up to a pinnacle, stands overseeing Borgartúni. Carved from glassy basalt; forged from rapid cooling magma, this modern landmark is a metaphor for choosing high quality content.

Its unique figure quietly disrupts the mountainous backdrop and contradicts the sharp frozen air, belying something of what’s going on under the surface. Rolling beneath the frozen fields seethes the spark of fire.

This fire embodies what clients want from content. Something unusual, something different and something that changes their view. Answer their problems, enrich their lives and ultimately create content of value and you will see return.

To speak to me today about breathing fire into your content, however big or small, please call me on 07729263818 or use my contact form.

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Moving on Up

Setting up a company demands determination, plus the coordination of many different skills. Being an entrepreneurial person, at the earliest phase, you’ll be occupied with the business all of the time: roadmapping, advertising, organising, collaborating and documenting accounts. This article covers the crucial time period of shifting from a startup to an SME. Your revenue growth ought to be an indication of when this organic period has arrived. However, despite there being an organic time to transitioning, ultimately you are the boss and you govern whether to develop your company, or perhaps preserve its existing steady rate. The time must be right for you

#1 Be in the growth zone

You personally need to be prepared for the growth yourself. What this means is understanding that you can no longer manage everything yourself, and relinquishing responsibility over some areas. If you’ve grown rapidly, you may have become overwhelmed. Prior to making the transition, you need to first understand how things are going to change and prepare for the new challenges that will inevitably arise.

#2 Outsource or employ?

Growth will ultimately lead to you needing some help! Don’t try to go it alone. Seek opportunities to try outsourcing. Many companies offer freelance accounting or freelance content management, social media management or even PA services. You may wish to expand and take someone on for a permanent role, but in the interim transition period, the wealth of excellent freelancers available on the internet is really worth tapping into.

Platforms such as People Per Hour can offer cost effective solutions to finding people, whilst twitter groups such as Bizitalk really help you to connect with other small businesses and establish relationships that way.

Ultimately, this person is going to help make your schedule easier. Of course, it makes sense here to play to your strengths. I previously mentioned that my Dad does my accounts for me because I am stereotypically a writer who has trouble with numbers. I often get asked to write for numbers people who don’t get on so well with words. So choose someone to help with what you can’t do, before getting help with what you can!

#3 Stick to your guns

Usually, at the very beginning you’ll kind of want to do anything to build up a portfolio and reputation, in the hope that referrals will lead to other business. And whilst endorsements from others are the best form of advertising, you will need to make sure you can cover your overheads.

Once you initiate the transformation that’ll develop your company, you must keep tabs on which customers are working out better for you. No business can sustain being employed for free,and you must stick to what you know is the right price. It’s better to have one genuine customer who appreciates the quality of your work, over time; than 3 who are underpaying you and possibly even taking advantage.

That said, number 5 on this list is really important too. Always weigh up what’s working and what’s not and make tweaks to perfect it.

#4 Focus

Set yourself attainable goals and evaluate your progress towards them on a regular basis. Be dedicated to these aims, as opposed to expansion: growth is a by-product of your effective organisation. Expanding to become an SME should never compromise your business ideals: these are what makes you, you. Or what makes your brand unique and ultimately what led your customers to you in the first place. Get your focus right: managing your business how you want it to be managed and you will acquire the clients you deserve.

#5 Innovate

Being the boss is pretty cool because it means that if you think of a great new idea; you can innovate without checking with someone else! If you’ve seen a risky strategy that you’re sure you can govern: do it! If you’re heart’s set on sending each client a chocolate lolly with their service order: send it! It’s your time to experiment and move with the times. Taking risks is what led you to startup in the first place. don’t be afraid to continue into SME ship!

Right now, self employment is 40% higher than ever before and seemingly rising. It’s a great time to be transitioning, as many companies seek expansion in the final quarter of the year. 57% say they foresee growth in the next few months. Join them, by ensuring that you get the help you need and stay focused on what makes you unique.

7 Deadly sins of press release creation

When articulated well and containing useful, relevant information, the humble press release can still achieve excellent results in promoting your event or company news. I’ve been handling press releases for Bristol businesses and many others reaching the length and breadth of the UK and US now. Whilst unable to guarantee publishing, avoiding committing the seven sins of bad PR should put you in good stead for consideration by journalists, bloggers and media types.

#1 Your title is not striking

As the opener, the title is the first thing a journalist will see. If it’s clunky, badly written or too long, it may well be the only thing they’ll see. With this in mind: make it punchy and a good condensed version of the key newsworthy angle of your release. Opting to use puns or wordplay is only really successful if it’s actually funny.

#2 You’ve written it in the first person

Many companies make the mistake of more or less lifting the content of their press release from their ‘About Us’ page. A press release is never written in the first person. It should never say “we’ve achieved” this or “I believe” that. It’s always written as though someone else is presenting your story: hopefully the myriad journalists who see it as newsworthy. Of course, quotes from the CEO or MD are kept in the first person.

#3 You’ve not exploited quotes

Touched upon above, it’s really important to emphasise the importance of quotes. Once you’ve decided on an angle for your story, include quotes from yourself or a company spokesperson. As well as being the only part of a release that is acceptable in the first person, quotes are the only thing journalists can’t change. As such these are an opportunity to really sell your idea, event or news.

#4 Punctuation sucks

Anything from a rogue apostrophe to overuse of CAPS will make the decision to delete you release for good, easy for potential journalists. Editors, reporters and journalists are busy people with tight deadlines to consider. Think of this when creating your press release. It needs to be as ‘ready to use’ as possible to, ultimately, save time. If you’re not sure on the rules of English, ask someone to proof your news who is. Or employ a writer to create your press release for you.

#5 Where’s that?

No stone should be left unturned when it comes to exactly who your company are and where to find them. As a subheading, include a summary before your first paragraph including who and where you are and the angle. Part of my service includes undertaking this research for clients, but many journalists won’t be this patient and if you don’t include all information, they may well reject your press release.

#6 It reads too much like an advert

This is a tricky balance to create. Essentially, you do want the release to act as a form of free advertising for your company. However, you can’t make it too promotional. Foremost, a press release should be a presentation of facts, so keep it factual and use objective copy as opposed to using too much hyperbole or making unrealistic claims about your company.

#7 Irrelevant content

Again, a really common mistake companies make when creating their press releases for submission is forgetting to find a newsworthy angle. Although you may wish to promote a 30% sale, which is great news to existing customers, how is it relevant to the readership of your target press? You need to relate the benefits to the journalist’s readers in order to maximise their chances of publishing. Read news in that sector and relate your release to an angle.

These are just some examples of mistakes I have seen when companies send me their ‘sketched out’ press releases. Of course, if you’re sending it to a professional writer to create, then an outline of what the news is and who you want to attract with it should be satisfactory. Please see pdf. examples of my releases on Cision to look at structure and word count. Or contact me today to see what I can produce for you.

Website content

Confessions of an accidental business woman #1

I say accidental because I naively envisaged sitting behind my computer all day typing creative articles and being paid for it.  For a time this was an accurate depiction of life as an original creative copywriter. But to sustain it, I have had to learn about databases, marketing, PR, SEO, web design and many other cogs in the smooth(ening) running of my pepperetically* (well oiled would be a lie) oiled machine. This was not always the plan. And I say businesswoman, which still makes me laugh, as it does with so many of my clients from SMBs and sole trading ventures. I’m still little me sitting in my office tapping away at the keyboard and trying to juggle all sorts of additional tasks.

I’ve decided to launch Confessions of an accidental businesswoman as an aside to the regular blog, which will feature once a week and tell readers about my mistakes in business, so you can avoid making them yourself!

My Confession

I confess that when I first started I didn’t really know who my target audience were. I didn’t have my invented character sitting beside me to ‘chat through things’ and the posts were clunkier with no real direction. Being a professional writer is one thing and being a businesswoman is another.

Avoid doing the same thing

Having a strategy in place will ensure you avoid making the same mistake. Get to know who your target audience are and build content tailored to them. My top tip for a solution to this problem is outlined below. I make mistakes, so you don’t have to.

The Solution: Invent a character

No, not as in who you should be. You should be you. I’m not a fan of impossible statistics but you should 110% be you, as this is who your prospects and customers want to buy from. But you should invent a character who is your consumer. They need to fit the demographic and be a friend; a confidant and a sounding board.  Imagine that everything you write is essentially having a conversation with that person. This achieves two things: you build a relationship with the character in quite the same way as you would with a ‘real’ person. You show your thoughts and feelings and speak in a language that is easy to understand. Symbiotically, whilst you are revealing your true self to them, they will believe in you; which is more likely to convert them into a customer.

Of course, with all the best will in the world, we all make mistakes and every person in a small business will have their own confessions to make. I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below if you have some words of wisdom to impart for other people in SMEs and SMBs.

*my own portmanteau of peppered and sporadically. Meaning my machine could be oiled more frequently. It’s s sort of a homonym of peripatetic which has left my mind with images of a lazy, migratory pepper pot!

 

Why Google’s algorithm change means you should use small PR companies

Those with their fingers on the algorithmic pulse ought to have been aware of Google’s latest changes in the form of Panda 4.0. But what will it mean for your business?

Google is renowned for being a smart company. As it strives to provide rich content for searchers, changes have happened to the way in which ranking works yet again. Focused on a developing the most efficient form of search, Google has and will continue to make changes to where results are placed within its ranks. Designed to weed out sites with flimsy keyword loaded drivel in the content pages, as writer I wholeheartedly endorse these changes because they mean more sites will be providing quality content.

In terms of blog posts and regular articles, ensure that your content is being updated regularly and with real information. It’s pleasing to see that many SMBs and SMEs are following this trend; providing solutions to industry specific questions and building relationships with clients.

An article I read yesterday forecasts a bleak future for large PR wires who prefer the tactic of spamming writers with many press releases, bursting with flimsy links but no real content. The great thing about using a small company to write your press release is knowing that it has been created by someone who cares about their company, so won’t rush the release just to make up numbers.

More importantly, a smaller company has a reputation to consider;and as such is less likely to risk spamming journalists. It’s better to take time building specific lists tailored to a journalist’s own preference. I always put a copy of the release onto my Cision news page and promote this using social media as well as sending to relevant journalists, which ensures the release is gaining exposure. This method of distribution takes time and effort to constantly evolve and respond to changes, but that’s how Google are working and more widely how all technology is adapting and small businesses should adapt with it.

It’s a recommended form of distributing to take time to build a targeted list, maintaining relationships by phone call rather than just emails. Effectively, the more penalties incurred by automated press release sites;, the higher benefit there will be to real PR services who genuinely wish to support clients, rather than being overly spammy.

Google is big brother: they are watching you, they know what you’re going to do next and this latest development is ensuring press release distribution companies are taking their jobs seriously and contacting the right people with the right information.

For free, no obligation advice on press release or any other content, please call or email for a chat and I will do my best to help you.

 

7 ways a press release will help your business

In an ever more digitalised world, the face of marketing is constantly changing. With a reported 4.3 million people working from home in 2014, many small and medium businesses and enterprises are managing everything from their own home offices. But there does come a time when each small business has to seek help elsewhere.

I, for example, am a words person. When it comes to numbers I’m all fingers and thumbs. I’ve been known to end up with a calculator shaped dent in my forehead after doing my accounts. Thankfully my Dad takes care of those now;  he used to be an accountant at Island Records. (Well, allegedly this was his title, but seemingly getting high with Aswad was ‘part of the job’!) Similarly with behind-the-scenes website maintenance, I have sought the help of WordPress guru Paul Sandford.

So, if you’re thinking of getting help with press release submission, these are my ideas about how it will help your business.

#1 Press Releases give you more exposure

Whatever your business or trade, we can all do with more exposure. Finding ways to le the maximum number of people know about your great products or services is one of the most important things for new or small businesses. When I write press releases I build a bespoke list. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, depending on how niche the area of your press release is. For example, I recently wrote a press release for a chocolate company who wished for it to be submitted to wholesale press organisations. The pick up rate of this piece was through the roof. It was very niche.

That said, I wrote a release for a company in the construction industry recently who got an average pick up rate of 5 publications but also gained custom through a journalist forwarding the email to her parents.

#2 A Press Release increases your social media followers

As part of what I do, I like to help promote clients’ services and businesses as much as possible. By using relevant hashtags, linking to the article about the service and interacting with other social media users, this furthers your exposure online by gaining interest in your social media.

#3 A Press Release will boost your SEO

By using SEO savvy linking in your press release and encouraging online publishers to link directly to your site, a press release will be good for your SEO ranking. The use of keywords will enrich your content, links will strengthen your position and also the mentions to your site using hashtags on social media will enhance your web presence.

#4 A Press Release gives you an authority voice

Within a well written press release there should be quotes from the spokesperson for the company. This is usually the CEO or Managing Director. These quotes are valuable because journalists can’t change them. Any other information used in a press release can be modified. Getting an important message across in an authority voice will give prospects confidence in you and your business.

#5 You can make some great contacts through a Press Release

Whether it’s journalists who will prefer to deal with you direct or bloggers willing to review your product or services, you will make some valuable contacts through sending out a press release. As always, be courteous and these relationships will strengthen as time goes on. Similarly, the journalist receiving your press release will always have your details on file (in their email). Even if they don’t immediately contact you, they may need an opinion or information about your product or service at a later date.

#6 A Press Release will improve hits to your website

Many journalists will click the link in the press release to see what your company is about. This of course will add more page views to your site; therefore increasing its statistics page.

#7 You will own a first class piece of copy about your site

So long as you or your writer put some effort and research into it, you will end up with some razor sharp copy and insightful statistics about and around your company. You can put it on your site, you can add it to a newsletter, you can even have it printed on a t-shirt! Whether you see it appear in any nationals or not, your press release will keep working for you long after you have submitted it.

If you want an expert to create and distribute a first class press release for you, please order one from me. You can call me on 07729 263818 to chat about your requirements or send a message over to laura@palavermaven.co.uk

 

 

 

How being a teacher prepared me as an excellent employee

Awoken by another dream of standing in a classroom unprepared for a lesson, whilst paper balls fly around my head, my eyes focused on the sandy graveyard for flies encasing the windows. Panicked breaths punctuated the morning’s motoring murmur as I began to prepared for another day of battle.

Whilst I always loved teaching and seeing the creative young minds develop, I also lamented the loss of time for writing. I worked hard and was dedicated, but most of the reading I did was educational or children’s books, and the longest writing I did was producing resources for lessons. I gave up teaching to become a full time writer and I haven’t looked back since.

When I first thought about leaving teaching, I was terrified but below are some reasons why teaching has prepared me to be an excellent employee. (I should know, I employ myself!)

#1 Teachers are organised

Having to prepare lessons and their related resources, books and homework takes inventing an organised system. Teachers have to develop their own way of being organised, which also means they are independent. As a writer, prioritising and creating timetables helps me to be efficient, meaning I draw upon these organisational skills daily.

#2 Teachers work long hours

Most teachers like to get into school to have a little bit of time in their domain before the students arrive and will spend several hours after classes in that room, tidying, making displays and marking books. Particularly when starting my business Palaver Maven, I worked really long hours. This included writing for many hours of the day, but also tweeting regularly and creating and updating my own website as well as the many clients I was lucky enough to have found. I thought then, and still think now, nothing of working 12 hour days: it’s just normal to me.

#3 Teachers are resilient

No matter how bad things got in teaching and no matter how exhausted I was, I still had to come in refreshed the next day. Teachers are some of the most resilient people I know. This has been really helpful when setting up a business. I had to be persistent in contacting people and resilient to inevitable criticism in order to persevere.

#4 Teachers are diplomats

“OK, so Adri, please apologise to John for calling him stupid and John please say sorry to Adri for pulling her hair, and now have a hug.” Teachers are almost always negotiating and being diplomatic. Be it between learners, or colleagues and parents, these skills of diplomacy are invaluable in any profession. Particularly as a writer, sometimes it’s necessary to liaise between different departments or to make suggestions for edits. How you frame this is key to getting good results.

#5 Teachers are intuitive

One of the things that makes great writers really great is their intuition. As teachers, we get to know a variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds and have to make a connection with them all. This means we have to be empathic. This is great in any job, but especially as a writer because writing excellent copy is about creating worlds that include people.

#6 Teachers are reflective

As par for the course in teaching, we constantly analyse and reflect upon lessons and how to modify them in future. Making small adjustments minute by minute, teachers are always striving to achieve more, which makes them progressive and reflective workers. Being able to adjust and improve my practises as a writer has really helped me to grow my business.

#7 Teachers are fantastic editors

Well versed in common mistakes, teachers can spot an error a mile off. Admittedly, I had the upper hand here as I was an English teacher. Misplaced commas or incorrect capitalisation were my bread and butter, but it makes error identification and correction quicker, the more you do it.

#8 Teachers know their subject

The best way to really understand something is to teach it. Again, having taught Media, Journalism and English I had a massive advantage for my industry, but teachers will have a very thorough knowledge of their subject and probably a good understanding of related areas too. Also teachers are really good at explaining things.

 

A History of Press Releases

Writing a decent press release is a noble art. I say art, but the reality is probably more corporate than creative. And I say noble, but the reality is often more Machiavellian than morally motivated.

Why use press release?
Press releases are generally used by companies to present information in a straight-forward and factual manner, often in response to an event, a positive change or sometimes a PR crisis. They have been described by American publicist Fraser Seitel as “the granddaddy of public relations writing” and are generally sent to journalists in order to persuade them to feature the information in whichever publication they represent. Apparently many journalists hate them. I say apparently but I know this from the articles I’ve read and the emails I receive from some journalists!

Where did it all start?
In the late 1880s it was common for the US congress members to visit Newspaper Row in Washington D.C. in order to pass on titbits of information about their political manifestos. However, it is widely felt that the first official press release was sent by an American PR man named Ivy Lee in 1906. A train crash in Atlantic City, New Jersey, left 50 dead but resulted in the creation of a useful public relations tool – perhaps not the fairest of swaps.
Following the crash, Ivy Lee convinced his client Pennsylvania Railroad to let him write a statement offering an explanation of what had happened and allegedly the New York Times printed Lee’s press release verbatim.

Press releases today
Over a century later, press releases are still used as an attempt to lead journalists firmly by the nose to whatever an organisation may consider to be a newsworthy story. Having worked in house on magazines, I know many press releases get scanned for quotes and statistics and then are discarded. However, the remit of press releases has increased, with many small businesses and startups using them as a way of reaching out to customers. The key is to steer clear of an indiscriminate use of press releases lest you be accused of ‘churnalism’ or drown your audience in information they do not wish to hear.

What the future holds
A floundering print market and the onslaught of its supercilious competitor – the internet – have changed the manner in which press releases are submitted. Many commercial websites offer fee-based press release writing services which aim to make news about a company more visible and more easily found via search engines. This has created a more level playing-field for smaller businesses that would ordinarily be unable to afford the rates charged by large PR companies. Many of the people I work with are SMBs and SMEs or startups launching their product. An element of originality can be introduced via the use of Video News Releases (VNRs) and these can be turned into podcasts, blogs or community websites. Furthermore, it is now common to include hyperlinks and keywords within press release content in order to capitalise on web-marketing potential and boost SEO.

Despite developments within the market in which they are used, Ivy Lee can rest peacefully in the knowledge that the press release is likely to remain a PR “granddaddy” for some time yet, given the pickup rate I’ve seen recently.

For a bespoke press release about your SMB or company, please use my order form and I will write and distribute your Press Release within 2 days.

Startup 15: The Social of Media

As a startup business myself, I have enjoyed providing a service to support other start-upss in gaining exposure through Press Releases and social Media  and maintaining it through well crafted content. Fortunately the nature of my work allows me to encounter people from a far reaching variety of industries: from cutting canvases to marketing mangoes; labouring over language to pushing pixels.

It’s very rewarding meeting so many people for whom starting a business has moved from a dream or an idea to a reality and empowering to share successes and lessons with such people.

Maplace.co is an example of just that. Below is the Maplace Press Release I have sent to organisations today. This is a truly social media: empowering other startups and existing businesses by offering a low cost platform for their advertising and outreach.

Passion will drive you forward: Maplace for Startup 2015
Two Czech citizens became so disillusioned with menial work in the UK, they decided to make a new map. Passion and perseverance pushed them to achieve this nomination.

In the days of digital ownership becoming a household name, Maplace.co has launched an innovative platform for businesses to gain online exposure. Essentially an innovative map application designed to allow consumers to purchase a piece of our planet, people have been snapping up their maplace for just £1 GBP.

In a time when physical property ownership is a controversial issue, following the global recession, Maplace.co encourages users to make their mark on places of significance to them. Registering to use the app is free, with normal rectangular ‘plots’ commanding a token payment of £1. Own your street, your first school, somewhere you went on holiday for just £1.

Partly like a global Monopoly game, partly a multi location social media; the app was born out of the dream of self employment, and breaking free from the mundane. Winning the nomination for Startup15 would see popularity in the innovative platform rise exponentially: raising the online profile of thousands of companies across the globe.

The journey so far has not been easy. Co-founder Rose Nekudova said, “We came to the UK to try and start the business and we knew it was going to be tough. The long hours in low wage jobs made us miss our families and we were almost ready to return to the Czech Republic. Instead, we managed to use our feeling as motivation to succeed. We want to empower other startups around the world by providing a platform for them to advertise and interact with the public”

Maplace.co is the first ever social platform allowing people to own their place on the world map. By uploading logos, businesses can get their brand noticed anywhere in the world: the more recognised, the better. Like owning houses on Mayfair in Monopoly, recognised spaces will be more lucrative for participant businesses. Own Big Ben and advertise from there. Buy up big buildings to capitalise on their notoriety.

True innovation and perseverance created Maplace.co: a revolution in technology, limited only by the imagination. This innovative concept winning the startup15 award would mean enabling other startups to gain exposure through a cheap solution to advertising: making it put the social into social media.

To find out more about Maplace.co, visit Maplace.co

About the founders:

From humble beginnings, we were spurred on by a true belief in our product. Our hope is that people will use Maplace.co to connect with others and create a unique online community. We hope to inspire others with our story.