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All work and no play

We all know that too much work and sitting in front of a computer dulls our creative juices. But when you’re trying to put finger to keyboard and write, what is the best way to become creative? Every good journalist or creative writer has their own strategies for writing. Some love the loom of a deadline to get writing, even if this involves staying up until the wee small hours. Others need peace and quiet in a darkened room or the buzz of a noisy café. I, for my own part, need fresh air and exercise – there’s nothing like a brisk walk or quick run that irons out the furrows in my brain and makes everything seem clearer. If I ever suffer a writer’s block, I know my only solution is to leave my desk, go outside for 15 mins good exercise and the block has been removed.

But here are some quick do’s and don’ts when writing:

  • Don’t start writing when you’re dog tired
  • Plan – a good plan will give you focus and structure
  • Research your subject first rather than halfway through as that will ensure it reads well
  • Check and check again – badly written copy is sloppy and puts the reader off in the first sentence
  • Be brave – push yourself with content and language but make it readable
  • Can it be said in 5 words instead of 10? Be succinct!

And with that word of wisdom I’ll close!

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Successful social media for a business

Most forward looking businesses know they must do social media to keep their reputation live, encourage sales and ensure people ‘see’ them online regularly. Love it or hate you cannot argue about the power of social media today and that power cannot be ignored. But it’s often worth taking a long hard look at how you do your social media. Many companies think the best way is to hire someone who is active on their own personal social media, perhaps a recent college graduate or someone who enjoys posting regularly about their own lives. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes these people can be perfect for certain businesses but social media for businesses and personal social media are two different talents. Social media for business must be strategic, have a plan and target audience, and a clear objective so that you ensure you’re reaching the audience you wish to talk to. This may only be a few hundred people or tens of thousands, but there’s no use in chattering on social media but your target audience can’t see or hear you. So we would recommend hiring someone with a track record and understanding of social media for businesses.

To help you here are a few social media for business tips:

1. Select the social media platforms that your target market look at – usually this will be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and You tube.

2. Create a plan so you can schedule posts, and know that you’re posting different content at different times.

3. Create a library of good, relevant photography.

4. Brief your social media team to ensure they are giving informed messages in the company style.

5. Make sure your posts are varied, interesting and will engage clients.

6. Do not post the same information and pictures across all social media platforms at the same time – it’s likely your followers may follow you across all social media platforms and the biggest turnoff is seeing the same content all the time.

7.  Try and create a call to action so that people engage in posts.

8. Use video – this often has better results than static images.

There’s many more tips that I may share with you in the future but it’s worth bearing this all in mind. And be brave – it can be fun and rewarding!

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How times have changed!

When I started out in PR a few decades ago it was a very young industry and only the bigger or braver companies had PR teams or engaged agencies. Reputation and growing awareness around brands was just as important as it is today but with global communication being much slower, the whole pace of life was slower. Then, when you launched a product you held a big launch event, issued press releases and press packs with hard copies of photos and all press releases were sent via snail mail. Inevitably one of the busiest departments in the PR agency was the mailroom – now a redundant area! But in some ways it was hugely fun and challenging – you often met up with journalists to brief them, or my favourite, which was very pioneering at the time, was when we visited the magazine houses and took Covent Garden Soup cartons round each food journalist. Naturally we were very popular at lunchtime but it really encouraged sampling and we got some great press coverage. After any event you waited nervously for days, or even weeks to see what coverage came through via the media monitoring and chased the press to see if the launch was a success.

Nowadays we email, text or ring the press to contact them and sadly in consumer PR rarely get to meet the people we may depend on to publicise our clients and brands. Who would have thought back in the early days that such a thing as social media would even exist and we’d  be attached to our phones trying desperately to influence consumers with the latest food product, drink or gadget.

In many ways doing PR now is easier with so many tools to hand but equally it is more complicated and varied. Most notably the pace at how brands rise or fall is has changed. But at the very heart of it communication is still the same – we still strive to tell a story about a company, a brand, an idea or a product. And of course storytelling goes back not decades but centuries so perhaps PR is rather an old industry.

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5 steps to remember before starting a PR campaign

Too often we hear people saying “I really need some PR”, which of course they probably do, but there are a few things that should be done before shouting to the press and social media about how great your product, organisation, idea or service is. Here’s a brief outline of 5 things to do before you engage a PR consultant:

  1. Define your target market – who are you pitching at? who do you want to buy your products/take up your services? Ensure this is your key target market, not just everyone aged 18-60!
  2. Set out your objectives – what do you want to achieve from the campaign? More sales or just raise awareness?
  3. Define your messages – what is your USP? why should people buy your products or engage with you?
  4. Think about your strategy – does your target market read newspapers, watch TV, are on social media or all of these?
  5. Ensure whatever you are promoting is looking great, ready for the market and isn’t going to crash in the first week. Ensure production is running well and you are in a happy position.

THEN you can engage your PR consultant and give them a brief and in this way your results should be much better.

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What will your New Year resolutions be?

As soon as the wrapping paper is cleared away and the last scrap of turkey eaten, it’s a good time to look towards the coming year, rather than reflecting on what could have been, should have been or you’d like to have been in the past year. It’s easy to start the New Year with a list of resolutions or challenges but as soon as work kicks in, in full force these get confined to the recycling bin of life (“I’ll do that next month/year/millennium”). So set yourself just one or two realistic tasks for each month. Perhaps it’s stop work half and hour earlier and exercise; or paint that room that you’ve meant to do for the last 5 years. Give yourself a timescale – within a month is a good start – and a reward at the end  – ‘if I do this then I’ll treat myself to a night out/away’. Its good to start on a positive note and little steps to a better life can give huge dividends. Now where do I start? Think I’ll pour a glass of wine and think about it….

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Why trade shows are so important
Springboard Events Scotland's Trade Fair Spring at SECC Glasgow.

Why trade shows are so important

Love them or loathe them, trade shows are an integral part of many businesses in allowing them to expand to markets and customers that they might not necessarily reach in day to day business. You may say we’re biased since we work for some trade shows but with many years of experience in this area, we know how important they are, as long as you make them work for you. For many exhibitors who might be small, one man businesses, trade shows allow you to network with other producers and showcase your products to your audience, who as trade customers will be keen to give constructive feedback.

Call us old fashioned but nothing quite beats the face to face selling. Despite every sales technique in the book we are all still humans and interaction is important so meeting your customers and buyers allows you to sell your product quickly and efficiently.

For buyers, trade shows can’t be avoided if you want to find out what’s new and innovative in your business. You might find 3/4 of the Show irrelevant but that one quarter may be the little gems that make your business a success.

But for both exhibitors and visitors the most important thing is be prepared. For exhibitors prepare your stand and make sure it shows your products in the best possible light. Look and feel good about it as this will immediately attract custom and of course, follow up after speaking to trade customers. For visitors look through the exhibitor lists and activities at the Show and prioritise what you want to see and hear – in this way you won’t waste any time.

Above all enjoy getting out and seeing people – it can make you feel good about your business!

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The secrets of succeeding in retail

Retail is a challenging place to be right now but those who succeed are the ones who’ve gone that extra mile, who know their customers inside out and who never rest on their laurels. In a brand new blog on the Scotland’s Speciality Food Show website, entitled ‘Retail Voice’ Sue Montgomery from Ardardan Farm Shop, near Glasgow, shares the secrets of her success and what makes their shop so great:

http://www.scotlandsspecialityfoodshow.com/blog/susan-montgomery-ardardan-estate-farm-shop-cardross

 

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Recipes go down well

Delighted that Demijohn’s delicious recipes have been featured in The Herald newspaper not once but twice in recent weeks. If you’re in need of inspiration here’s where to look:

http://files.heraldscotland.com/life_style/16355799.recipe-of-the-day-fresh-pea-and-mint-salad-by-demijohn/

http://www.heraldscotland.com/life_style/16384411.recipe-of-the-day-rhubarb-and-mead-pavlova-by-demijohn/

Enjoy!

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Not another charity lunch

Charity lunches or dinners seem to be endless these days but recently I was privileged to be at the Women of Scotland Lunch. You may think this is just another ladies who lunch but it is not. Founded 61 years ago it was set up for women in Scotland to network, hear inspirational speakers and raise money for charity. Over those years many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised for different charities every year. This year we raised over £25,000 for Bloodwise, which is a blood cancer charity dedicated to funding research into all blood cancers. But it was not just the money raised we were “entertained” by some truly inspirational speakers. STV Presenter Laura Boyd spoke of how leukaemia has affected her and not just in having the disease but the after effects of having a baby – hardly a dry eye. The ‘real’ Calendar Girls who did the first naked calendar and inspired the film, musical and stage production also gave a poignant and at times funny account of their experience raising money for blood cancer AND the tragic events that inspired it all. We were also fortunate to have the Scots Makar, Jackie Kay, speak which was inspiring, fun and interesting which really made for a thought-provoking afternoon.

And I haven’t even begun on the networking opportunities, the lunch and so much more. A truly worthwhile event!

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Cooking up a storm

What better way to showcase a new kitchen than to have a cookery demonstration, which is exactly  how client Kitchens International officially opened their new showroom at Martin & Frost, Fort Kinnaird, near Edinburgh. Chef Tony Singh MBE showed how to get the most from these beautiful kitchens by cooking up a delicious Spicy Lamb Pattie, called a Nuhra with the most delicious marinated onions, as well as putting together a Ceviche of Scallops with pomegranate, ginger and lime. My favourite ingredients – lime and ginger – really made this a special dish and there was unanimous approval of both dishes.

With many press, clients, potential clients and VIP friends attending it was the perfect way to show what its like to cook and work in a designer kitchen. We all longed for the special features – ovens that can be set by wifi, huge induction hobs, Quooker boiling water taps and so much more – if you can pop in and take a look at the kitchens – the designs will blow your mind! Now back to cooking those dishes…

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