Professional writer and press manager

Branding and Storytelling: Why you need to take time

As the skies were illuminated by the giant face of the moon; red and speaking of autumnal fires; as nights have drawn in, chattering with thunder that ripples across the harbour, shivering blades of light into sheltered coves; I’ve been running out of hours to meet with Cornwall’s finest creators, designers and all round lovely people. I’ve still done it, though, and been excited to encounter brand new businesses who have pulled together to create a networking event in a few weeks: The Launch 2014.

In addition to creating high quality content that gives value to clients of clients, this week I’ve been had meetings to discuss branding and tone of voice, and how having an expert can really help in these endeavours. To truly create a strong brand and customer loyalty, you need to give your brand enough respect to take time with it.

Kintsugi - using mistakes to create something beautiful

Strong, dependable branding relies on transparency

Just as each of the products you create are based on trials and experience, learning from failures, the incredible art of kintsugi, of not hiding ‘mistakes’ but seeing them merely as part of the process; getting the tone for your branding exactly spot on is not an instant process.

It takes spending time together with your writers, designers and artists, preferably together, in order to create something that truly reflects the essence of your values, goals and motivations. It’s about taking the very best version of you and injecting it with just a touch of caricature to give a story to your prospective customers, or those already existing, in order for them to feel an emotional connection.

Emotions themselves are, of course, complicated, divergent and duplicitous, just as language can be. Creating an excellent brand starts with transparency; which engenders trust. By transparency, one of the interesting aspects I mean is to talk about your processes. People love a story, and real stories follow the true arc of intrigue and understanding, with elements of drama through crises. These crises make us human and overcoming them makes us stronger. Keeping regular contact with the public, through blogging, social media, newsletters and whatever form of contact you are using seems daunting to some companies.

How will I make a story? Some wonder.

But being a strong brand really just means connecting with people. Getting their emotions involved. Make stories from the rises and the falls of your week. Today we were experimenting with new paper and the print wouldn’t stick properly, so it smudged. Yesterday I hand wrote 70 letters, but the wind blew them into the garden and the dog chased the like leaves. these small failures happen to all of us every day and help to establish connections.

brand evokes emotions

Great communications create imagery

People also invest emotion in something driven by senses; experiences they can relate to. If walking through the grounds of a Sicilian holiday cottage becomes the scent of fresh lemons, and sunshine and July’s searing heat; most people can relate to some of that imagery. And some will result in craving that very experience.

Others might hate lemons.

But that’s OK too because you can’t keep all people happy all of the time.

Like building up great relationships in real life, building a brand people trust doesn’t happen overnight. It happens through consistent storytelling, revealing information that demonstrates our failures and celebrates our successes. It happens with commitment, patience and humility.

To arrange a free consultancy regarding your branding and tone of voice, please call me today. But don’t expect it to take 5 minutes! 07729263818

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Great content starts with research

Why high quality content is so important to your SEO

Once upon a time…

…arguably, like humans ourselves and the parts of the world we can lay claim to having created; the internet was a kind of easier place. In its very being both alien and robotic, we had preconceived ideas about the way it worked, and in its infancy, we could program these ideas in its memory.

High quality fibre optics

Endless fibre optic content of cyberspace

Search engines, those newly born sponges they were at the time, were easy to fool with the ‘art’ of SEO. Back then, it was hardly an art; stuffing keywords into content, which was barely legible and certainly not entertaining, but it didn’t really matter. No-one read it anyway, apart from the machines. Which we’d created.

In many ways SEO was a game: the quicker content was released, the more swollen with target phrases, words and repetition, the easier it was to win. We were writing for robots and we were winning. But remember; the internet itself was a robot: a mysterious collection of wires that somehow connected us to parts of the world we’d only read about in books.

A cold, alien space many of us could not comprehend; like all new landscapes a terra incognita, a myth.

With the passing of time, we created social networks, and established digital marketing, optimised branding and organic results. We’ve turned the internet from a frigid hinterland into a fresh and friendlier place. Google rolled out responses, which have levered the cumulative effect of ridding that barren landscape, dominated by machines; of the manipulative practices of game players. Like our closest friends, Google is intuitive to our search wants and needs.

The internet evolved to be less alien and, rather like R2D2 from Star Wars once was and Jibo, the friendly robot, today; it has won its place in our hearts and as part of the family. Along with this has come brand friendliness too. So SEO, naturally, has matured into a friendlier, more human orientated art form.  Creating and maintaining friendships, relationships and trust by aligning content with your audience’s intentions. And being in it for the long haul.

Ultimately, what this means is that success can only be merited when you try to achieve your goals through meeting your clients’ needs. And herein lies the ancient art form of storytelling. Better know, in trendier circles as #contentmarketing. Like all good robots, Google wants to mimic its masters. It does this by tracing your online behaviours and using the gathered data to create a kind of customer prototype.

SEO is a game

If content is king, then research is queen

Your branding needs identity. Your identity must reflect that of a typical member of your audience. If content is king (and these days, it really is), then research is queen. By creating an ideal customer, you can build an idea of where they hang out, which channels of communication they use and what their daily obstacles are. And how your content can help them overcome them.

Just as you do in a real friendship, understanding this prototype, this ideal buyer; their desires, their needs, their questions; and supplying gripping, well researched and high value content will create meaningful relationships.

Just as robots are a serendipitous by-product of evolution, an anthropomorphic creation; the ramifications of this process are that you will naturally build up the keywords and phrases that improve your organic search ranking.

Content marketing

Content marketing magic

With content marketing being the chatter on twitter; the murmuration in marketing; and the bombination on bizitalk, it still strikes me as interesting that businesses are either not using the facility at all, or getting the message so wrong.

Whilst its primary objective still aims to generate leads, interest and hopefully conversions; content marketing is about so much more. As Simon Grover explains in a great post by Quietroom, the potential of losing something is a stronger motivation than that of gaining something. One good piece of content might lead to one, or several, decent sale(s), which is all well and good if your business is based on front-end sales. However, unless you’re an ice cream vendor on a beach in Benidorm, you are probably going to want repeat customers; those who value you, your ideas and your input.

Forging fickle content for the sake of filler is a mistake businesses often make in marketing campaigns. Or worse yet, creating content so drenched in keywords that slippery puddles of desperation ooze across your branding. Unfortunately in a sector so saturated in lists and tick sheets, many businesses are afraid to fly away from the rest.

Create something that feels different.

To speak to customers in a language that is entertaining, distinctive and inarguably yours is what really matters in creating memorable content. Of course hitting out once and commissioning an outstanding piece of crafted content to intrigue, inspire,  and educate your followers may see a peak in traffic for a specific duration, it is maintaining that unique tone across all communications, and for an extended period that is going to make clients care.

Crave something they don’t have. And want it.

Essentially what you’re hoping to create is a resource that is valuable in the content you disseminate; whether didactic, descriptive or entertaining. You see, what you want is a type of engagement that brings people back for more. An experience that evokes emotions. The adage: people won’t remember what you say, but how you made them feel can be assimilated to what you want to achieve here.

Creating a feeling of trust, faith and understanding means they will come back. It may take some time, but they will – at some point. They’ll return because they want to repeat the experience you created for them before.

And when that time comes, they must be made to feel welcome in the same unique tone they have come to expect from your brand; developing the relationship.

A cohesive approach across all outlets requires some strategic thinking. With that said, whilst shaping sheltering content is important in nurturing relationships with your brand, what you’re producing does need to have value for you too. Before you even start drafting your content; have a clear idea of who it’s for and what they will get from it. And also have a clear idea of how it correlates to your objectives as a brand.

If you are considering ordering high quality content, you must have a realistic understanding of the relationships you wish to establish  with clients, and pragmatically envisage a timescale for developing them as such. Trust across the digital airwaves is no less tangible than trust in real life. It takes time and effort from both parties. Through investing in a sustainable content plan over a specified time period, and through partnering this with effective distribution channels you have created marketing magic.

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.

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!