Endurance, hysteria, fatigue and flapjacks.

Endurance, hysteria, fatigue and flapjacks.

What a weekend!

My friend and I joined the time-honoured tradition that is The Moonwalk London, walking 26.2 miles through the night with 14,998 other women (and men - yes they get it too!) to raise much-needed funds for breast cancer research. Made all the more poignant by the fact that the morning of the event we heard that a dear friend has recently been diagnosed with cancer in her bones, so Lizzy we walked for you and kept you in our thoughts, hearts and footsteps!

Because we were the last group to be released from the traps, we got caught up in the excitement in the tent, participating in all 6 (!) warm-up sessions, spurred on by the rousing speech from Sadiq Khan and propelled along by the pink and sparkly buzz in the tent!

We set off at midnight with a determination to keep up a steady pace throughout, finish by 730am and be home with a cup of tea and bacon butty (in Clapham) by 8am!! What chumps!

Although the determination lasted, the pace did not! By mile 7 we were questioning why we were finding it so much harder than our many 7 mile training walks … maybe because it was 2am! We still had a very long way to go!

There were plenty of highlights to pounding the streets of London by night … the sights, the sounds, the very pink London Eye, a shared strength of spirit, high fiving clubbers as they emerged from underground clubs, waving at tooting cabbies, munching on homemade flapjacks (thanks Jo!), cheering as the sun came up at around 430am and then taking a bit of a dip when we realised at mile 17 that we still had 2 hours to go! Mile 17 - 22 were hard, slow and my hips were shouting the whole way, but we kept together, kept smiling, laughed at each other’s jokes (although they didn’t seem quite so funny around mile 21) and we did it! We cheered as we passed both Institute’s for Cancer Research, marvelling at their brilliance and dedication to overcoming this dreadful disease that affects so many lives.

I’m proud this morning to have taken part in the fundraising machine that is The Moonwalk London Charity Walk. A massive THANK YOU to the totally amazing volunteers who cheerily said good morning to 15,000 walkers (for what must have been over 10 hours!) navigating us all safely across busy junctions, encouraging, clapping, smiling, scooping up those who needed rescuing - you were all fab!

Thanks to friends and family who’ve supported and kindly donated, it means a lot. So far the two of us have raised £1,041.20 which is fantastic.

There’s still time to do more though, if you’d like to donate, we’d really appreciate it and so would those researchers who with every pound get one step closer to finding the cure to this terrible disease! We must keep supporting them, if we have any hope of making a difference.

If you're able to donate please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/victoria-ward33

Thank you x

Is your website earning its keep?

Is your website earning its keep?

 

You’ve got a lovely new website. Spent precious time, budget and resources getting the imagery, styling, layout, content, messaging, key words just right and now you wait, in the hope the business will come.

Will anyone find it?  How long will they browse? (it’s seconds, not minutes!!) Which pages do they visit? What triggers them to leave?  Which blog posts get more interest? Whilst Google Analytics will you tell you this, what do you do with the intel?  

Use it to get better at what and how you populate your website in future.

MOVABLE FEAST

You’ve invested in this online shop window with a content management system behind it so you can drive potential customers to your site, as well as update and add elements every time you want to connect with them. So make sure you do!  Show visitors you’re open for business, you’ve got stuff going on. Update your blog, add news stories, pass on advice, share customer testimonials, latest projects and events. There’s always news to tell.

THE BROWSE, SWEEP

Don’t give visitors any excuse to leave but every excuse to stay. Readers don’t have to pretend to be interested when they’re browsing in the privacy of their own home, with multiple distractions it’s easy to leave when no-one’s watching. For that reason alone, it’s harder to retain someone’s focus and interest.

As you read this now there are 4.2 billion internet users in the world, browsing 1.6 billion websites and 3.3 billion people actively searching Google. That’s mad!

QUANTIFY YOUR KEYWORD SEARCH

When you built your website I hope you got good advice and made sure you optimised it according to what your audiences actually search for, not what you think they search for!  By having a keywords install, we can see how many times a particular keyword search has been made eg: “marquees for hire” registers 2.7 million searches whilst “marquee hire” registers 12.7 million! That’s a big difference!

Don’t miss a trick - it’s worth knowing the most popular keyword terms for your field and building them into your website.

UPDATE & REFRESH

Use your website as you would a shop window, with different displays to ring the changes. Use your projects, case studies and news pages as an excuse to tell and share. Think of events as the trigger to connect with your audience. And if you don’t have time to write updates, either employ a copywriter to do it for you or remove the feed. It’s better to have nothing than a news page that hasn’t been touched for 12 months … looks like you’ve got nothing going on!

Factor in a little time every month and pick out a couple of things that have happened, ie: completed project, industry news, staff changes, funny insight.

Create reasons to inform and connect with your audience, not just going for the jugular with a hard sell when you feel like it. Your audience should feel comfortable, not pressurised. That way they’re more inclined to come back and purchase (or recommend) when the time’s right.

CONCERNED ABOUT SEO?

I’m employed by clients in various industries to write and post every month, so their websites stay updated and dynamic, keeping the competition at bay in the ranking stakes.

PROBLEMS PLEASE, NOT SOLUTIONS

Whilst you’re the expert in your particular field, there are web experts too.  Please, please, please ask ours (https://freestyle.digital) what they recommend if you have a problem with your website, with their extensive knowledge they can often come up with a solution you might not even have considered.  Don’t try and second guess what the solution might be.

TAKE A LOAD OFF

If you’ve got news to tell but you’re struggling to find time to write it, get in touch, I’ll happily take it off your ‘to do’ list.

Focus on "Planet Kindness"

Focus on "Planet Kindness"

Thanks to the youth climate strikes in over 100 countries, you’d have to have been living under a rock these last few weeks to have missed the mounting pressure on government to push through policy to change the detrimental impact we’re having on this beautiful planet of ours. With this in mind, I was thrilled to be asked to talk content with new eco-friendly merchandising business, Meco Merchandise. Having worked in the merchandising industry for decades, Meco’s founder Jane McKeon knows first hand that there is so much more their industry can be doing better, sourcing more thoroughly, having conversations with responsible producers on the ground across the globe about beautiful products made with sustainable fabrics, supplied in a sustainable fashion. So passionate are they about the planet’s future, that with every order placed they donate to the Marine Conservation Society.

This exciting new merchandising company, based in Lymington, asked me to write the content for their lovely fresh website. I was bowled over by the fantastic range of beautiful products; from soft vegan towels, stylish tote bags and hammocks to comfortable cork flip-flops and so much more.

Meco really are changing the face of eco-friendly, brand-able merchandise and doing their bit to source and supply ethically.

Take a look at what they have to offer www.mecomerchandise.com

You get what you pay for

You get what you pay for

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If you value what you do, your business, your reputation and your customers, put a value on obtaining every single one of them.

That, right there, is your marketing budget!

If you value the perception your customer has of you, if you’d like them to remember you, to retain the information you leave with them, put a value on the material you put together to sell whatever it is that you do or offer.

After all, if you pay peanuts ….. you get …. ??

If you don’t value your marketing initiatives and spend accordingly on doing the best you possibly can, first time round, then you’ll end up spending twice as much in the long run. Initiatives won’t be as effective, messages won’t cut through the clutter and won’t achieve the results you were after in the first place.

If a client doesn’t ask for “great” it’s because they don’t really know what “great” looks like so it’s up to us to show them.

Horrible Pirate Content for the National Museum for the Royal Navy

Horrible Pirate Content for the National Museum for the Royal Navy

I was so excited to have been approached by The National Museum for the Royal Navy (NMRN) to pitch for writing all the content for their 2019 season customer leaflets (12 pages of DL) and even more thrilled to win!

Leaflets for each of their fantastic and jaw dropping naval museums: Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool, HMS Caroline in Belfast and the Fleet Air Arm over in Yeovilton. All amazing venues teaching kids about history through fully immersive, hands on (head-ducking!) and digitally interactive exhibits on vessels which have actually been slap-bang in the thick of the action, from the Battle of Trafalgar to the Second World War.

All of the above was already the icing on the cake, but the sprinkles on that icing had to be the news that Horrible Histories and UK Scholastic were teaming up with NMRN to launch the UK’s first ever Horrible Histories Exhibition at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, so whilst the content had to be in keeping with the tone you’d expect from the Royal Navy there also had to be a pirate style element which had to be informative, fun, capture the imaginations of kids but also be approved by NMRN and the team over at Horrible Histories.

It wasn’t until I’d exhausted all research avenues, immersed myself in all things naval and Jolly Roger, mulled over ideas and key messages that I was ready to sit down and actually start writing. When I was happy that it was as good as it could possibly be, I submitted it to the marketing team …. and didn’t see it again until yesterday when it was actually in print, on a beautifully designed leaflet. I’m very proud to say they loved my content and didn't request a single re-write.

Thank you to the fabulous marketing team over at NMRN for being so inspiring, professional, hugely supportive and appreciative.

Horrible Histories Pirates The Exhibition opens 6th April 2019, so grab your cutlass, hoist the mainsail and brace yourself for the UK’s first interactive pirate adventure for buccaneers of all ages, right on your doorstep in Portsmouth!!

For tickets visit historic dockyard.co.uk

You won't want the builders to leave

You won't want the builders to leave

So excited to show you my latest collaboration with Freestyle Digital. I wrote and they designed this stunning website for a fantastic firm of local builders, woodlandsoak.co.uk

Woodlands Oak pay close attention to detail, communicate with clients throughout and clean up every day, making the building process a joy!

Imagine that!

What's your creative process?

What's your creative process?

I don’t know about you but my mind always works better when I’m moving. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to sit still. That’s it, I’m happy to sit still …

My job entails a lot of sitting still, when I’m taking a client brief, interviewing a contact, carrying out an audit or market research, watching Silent Witness (I digress!) and of course writing the content. But when it comes to mulling things over, syphoning out the objectives, sifting through key messages and coming up with a compelling solution … I need to be moving. I’ve come to accept that this is my creative process.

I used to laugh when the Creative team at McCann Erickson used to quietly grab their coats and sheepishly disappear up King Street to “brainstorm” - we were only a hop, skip and a jump from the “Old Duke'“ pub after all - but perhaps in hindsight they had a point. It does take time for the mind to assimilate all the data and for good ideas to rise to the surface. It’s never easy, I genuinely love what I do, but it’s hard and I question whether I’ll be able to do every single job I win … until I’ve done it!

But, I find walking the dog or attempting to run (yuk, spit!) does wonders for oiling the cogs and focusing the mind on what the key issues are. Invariably by the time I’ve reached the end, the solution is staring me in the face and I’ve got the nugget of a great idea.

On the way back from a client meeting this morning I was listening to Paul Heaton (Beautiful South lead singer) talking about his song writing process, he said ‘I’ll be out on my bike or walking and it’ll come to me, either in bits or as a whole.” I found myself smiling and nodding along to the radio, seems I’m not the only one.

What’s your creative process?

Goat Yoga ... I’m not kidding!

Goat Yoga ... I’m not kidding!

If you’re not smiling already you soon will be. This bizarre trend has been sweeping the goat loving nation.  Yoga fans finding a common love of the outdoors and animal-assisted therapy.  Together they improve both their physical and mental well-being from Yoga Classes set in the beautiful Willamette Valley, on the Pacific north west of the United States.

Enthusiasts enjoy practicing yoga whilst appreciating the breath-taking scenery and reap the psychological benefits of animal-assisted therapy, with friendly goats wandering about around them.

Perhaps it’s that they simply love the idea of exercising in the fresh air while hanging out with their unusual friends.  Touted as the best yoga class of all time, apparently you can’t bleat it!!

STOP ... is your web designer giving you the best advice?

STOP ... is your web designer giving you the best advice?

As a website content writer I get to work with some great web design agencies. Agencies who are, every day, building fantastic and responsive websites for their clients … right here in The New Forest.

But how do you know you’ve chosen the right web design agency for your business?

Here’s a handy checklist:

CHEMISTRY

Choose a website design and build team you gel with. If you get along it’ll be much easier to explain what you want, for them to interpret your wish list and turn it into a fantastic website that represents your brand and achieves your objective. You’re entrusting your brand to them after all, so make sure you get to know them, like them, trust them. Lines of communication will be clearer and it might even be fun too!

PROOF OF SUCCESS

Get them to give you proof their websites perform! Whether that’s generating responses, improved click through to enquiry, rising up the Google rankings, gaining followers etc? They should be only too happy to share performance stats with you!

GOOGLE GEEKS

Make sure they know their stuff when it comes to the latest online and Google ranking nuances. Trends change all the time, what works, what doesn’t. Web design agencies are on the frontline so they should know what’s current, what’s relevant and what will affect you most going forward. You need to trust they’re giving you the right and most current advice.

FLEXIBILITY & ADAPTABILITY

Are they going to roll with the punches? A dynamic business environment changes, things happen and you need a team who will adapt accordingly. To appreciate what you’re up against and go with it, to work with you not against you, to have the experience and the confidence to react quickly when you need it. But it’s a two way street, keep communicating so everyone knows where they are.

CHECK OUT THEIR PORTFOLIO

Take a peek at their work, their own website, their client’s websites. Do you like what they do? Have they worked in your sector? Do they have the creative capability? Can they turn it around in a matter of weeks? Is the budget right?

POST LAUNCH SUPPORT

Work on your website doesn’t stop on launch day, there will always be bits that need updating, changing, blogs to be uploaded, images to change or remove so make sure your web designers offer some '“after-care”! It helps to have someone on the end of the ‘phone to do the little updates and tweaks, some agencies will even do some bits for free!

CONTINUITY

Find a team who offer continuity, who will consistently deliver great service and support.

Alternatively, give me a shout if you’d like a first hand recommendation. I’m happy to help!

Writing for highly skilled marine engineers

Writing for highly skilled marine engineers

It was a pleasure to write the content for a very talented team of marine engineers over at Dave Crawford Marine in Lymington. Servicing a huge range of marine engines for all manner of boats for over 33 years, these guys really know their stuff.

Freestyle Digital have built and designed this lovely, fresh, fully functional and oh so easily updatable website for Matt and his team.

Take a look at www.davecrawfordmarine.co.uk

The creative process is draining

The creative process is draining

There’s no two ways about it, the creative process can be draining.

Whether it’s coming up with a strapline, headline for an advertisement, longer term strategic messaging or content for a full website, the bit between my ears has got to be absolutely switched on and focused.

It takes a bit of time to come up with the magic; to do the research, ask the right questions, the focus, the concentration, playing around with ideas, making notes, mulling it over … until it all just clicks into place.

It’s all worth it though when Client’s come back with comments like;

“you nailed it!”

“thanks so much!”

“it’s brilliant!”

“you worked your magic!”

I would be nothing without my clients, so thank you!

Thank you for giving me great products and services to write about, it’s a pleasure doing business with you!

I'm a chameleon, what are you?

I'm a chameleon, what are you?

No, not a a small slow-moving Old World lizard with eerily protruding eyes that rotate independently! But I do have the ability to adapt to my surroundings!!

I adapt every day in order to understand my client’s business and morph the words I write to suit their tone of voice. I write content that sells what they do, to initiate a response from their target audience, whether it’s on a leaflet, website, press article or blog post.

“Prove it!” you say? Ok, well in the last 24 hours, I’ve written content for a Pilates instructor (teacher, sorry not instructor), a mortgage and investment planning adviser, as well as blog posts for the cruise ship and Superyacht industry.

Earlier in the week I was talking to a chiropractor who helps his patients with their long term health and wellbeing, a builder who’s doing amazing things to improve people’s living spaces (think real-life DIY SOS!) and a local manufacturer innovating and tooling global products, virtually on our doorstep!

It’s a privilege to get to know my clients and what they do, to get under the skin of their business, understand their objectives (both business and marketing ones), identify target audiences, buyer and non-buyer behaviour, the market and competitors. Just some of the things I review before putting pen to paper or finger to keypad! Then I’ll come up with the most compelling content strategy for their audience, do the research, interviews and write the copy.

I've spent a 25 year career getting to grips with different client’s objectives; from high quality eyewear in an hour (Vision Express) to international business machines (IBM), non mains LPG solutions (Calor Gas) right through to local SME’s offering battery applications (Alpha House Ltd) and an increasingly popular Lymington based nursery (Shallowmeads) - so I’m used to listening, understanding and delivering.

So, whatever you’re doing, I can write about it!

Go on … test the chameleon!!

Let's rename it "getting stuff done Friday"

Let's rename it "getting stuff done Friday"

Like a deadline, the last day of the week seems to focus the mind, the thought of the weekend ahead, having a break, taking time out with the kids.

I don’t know about you, but I get a regular flurry of new business enquiries, approvals on jobs I’ve quoted for and writing commission sign off’s during a Friday afternoon. It got me thinking, is it the impending deadline of the weekend and needing a clean slate before Monday that focuses people’s minds on getting stuff done or is it just that they’ve managed to get through another week, fire fighting, fielding enquiries, managing the day to day chaos? I think people just want to get another thing off their plate before they have a breather.

Either way, it’s always a privilege when a new client asks for help, I get that fire in my belly at the thought of a new challenge, whether it’s blogging about filter manufacture, website for the building trade, marketing literature for the latest battery application or a case study for a new garden design.

Above all, I love getting stuff done. So, if you’ve got a writing job that fills you with dread every time it pops into your head, hand it over. Then you can concentrate on the weekend!

After all it’s “getting stuff done Friday!'“

"I love it when a plan comes together"

"I love it when a plan comes together"

There’s nothing quite like planning ahead, knowing what you’re aiming for and putting an achievable, measurable plan in place to achieve it.

The best type of plan is the marketing kind. A well researched framework of focused, results orientated marketing initiatives for the up and coming season/year. With it, your business can stay one step ahead of the competition, proactive to existing and potential customer’s needs, not reactive. You’ll only kick yourself that you didn’t do enough when your competitors take chances and get themselves in front of your audience before you!


Planning ahead gives you the benefit of exploiting any seasonality there might be to purchasing your products or services, linking your product to industry initiatives, exploiting publicity opportunities, maximising your creativity so you stand out in the crowd and build in response mechanisms so that you can track who responds from your banner ad, poster, leaflet, blog post?  That way you can work out what works and what doesn't!

Planning doesn't mean spending more it just means spending better.

Happy planning.

 

 

Walk the talk

Walk the talk

Taking a client brief in the traditional sense might mean sitting down, armed with pen/laptop, briefing form/list of questions and interviewing a client from across the table whilst laboriously taking notes.

Surely to encourage free thinking, this creative process lends itself to being conducted in a far more creative environment? McCann’s Creative Director (shall remain nameless) used to march his creative team around the streets of Bristol city centre to thrash around ideas, to encourage blue sky thinking. Not at any point did they stumble into “The Old Duke” (pub!) oh no, no … absolutely not! So, today a client and I met in our own beautiful creative surroundings: the sea wall.

It’s great to have the flexibility, and the confidence (that comes with experience) to interview a client, whilst walking our dogs. Chat about her business, her vision, what sets her apart, her customers, perception and thrash out which direction to take the business in.

We can discount the white noise and agree the approach, content and tone of voice when it comes to writing the content.

The product? That’s a surprise.

You’d be amazed what business can be done when you walk the talk!

Go on, get out there, it’s glorious.

Where's my doppelgänger?

Where's my doppelgänger?

4 times this week new business contacts have been absolutely convinced that they've met me before because I look so familiar! 4 times!

I know I've got lots going on but I'd like to think I'm pretty good with faces and generally I know if I've met someone before, even if I've temporarily forgotten their name.

Anyway, I don't know about you, but this happens to me. A lot.  

Either I have a very common face and look like lots of people or (and this is slightly more exciting!) I have a doppelgänger!  

So, if there is a Vicks Ward double out there, how do I go about tracking her down?

Suggestions please on a postcard....

 

Writing for award winning superyacht designers

Writing for award winning superyacht designers

I'm thrilled to show you a website I wrote a couple of months ago for super yacht interior designers, Mark Berryman Design, whose striking website (designed by Freestyle Digital) went live today. A pleasure to write for a team where only the best is good enough.  Take a look @ www.markberrymandesign.com

"I need content written, but I don't have the time."

"I need content written, but I don't have the time."

Something I often hear clients say.

When business owners come to me for copywriting, they're often concerned it will take up valuable time they simply don't have.  It won't.

Whether it's for a blog post, strapline, brochure or website, I don't need much from you to get started. 

It's a really simple process, we just need a little time to chat:

1) I'll do a little background research before we talk.

2) We talk (over 'phone or in person) - I ask questions to get the info I need.

2) I listen - tell me what you do, buyer behaviour, what you need to achieve.

3) Research - I'll investigate your product, market, competitors, likes/dislikes, successes and failures.

4) The magic - all that info whirs and settles in my brain.

5) I start writing.

6) You'll receive a Word Document with all your content.

7) You're free to amend, delete or add any other info you like (so far, I haven't had a client change much!)

What are you waiting for?

Let's get cracking.

 

Writing with personality

Writing with personality

A new business contact told me this week she would consider working with me because she could see I was passionate about writing (and marketing) and "got the feeling I could write with personality!"  Were the pink shoes the giveaway?

Yes I write from the heart, with passion, enthusiasm and an unwavering focus on the end game.  I will write the copy that reflects your brand and achieves results.

To make my clients stand out, I've got to be a cut above and so does my content.  I've written for IBM, Lloyds Bank, my local garden centre, plumber and chiropractor and everything in between, so I'm nothing if not adaptable.

If you're good at what you do, it should be perfectly obvious from the way you present yourself.  

So ... be confident.  Less is more.

If you want bland, rambling content, you've come to the wrong place.

 

What does your 9-5 look like?

What does your 9-5 look like?

What's the norm when it comes to your working day?

Like many, my working day looks pretty unconventional. Just like my husband's yoga tree! But it doesn't mean I get less done. Quite the opposite actually.  If you want something done, and you want it done well, I'm your gal.

As a freelance copywriter, general workaholic (because I love it!) but above all mummy, I work the hours I need to get the job done, surpass client's expectations and still get to laugh at my husband's yoga practice.

When it comes to the working day, it's definitely not 9-5, but it never has been for me.  In a previous life (pre kids) working in advertising agencies, the day could start as early as 7am and finish anytime after 10pm.  Just as long as the job got done, on time and the client was happy, well 'thrilled' actually, then all was right with the world!  Never mind the fact that you might not have a social life or the cat hadn't been fed for days!

For me the focus has always been the job in front of me and the deadline, whether it's interviewing for the latest press release, campaign planning or writing content for a website launch.  I work the hours required.  There is always a deadline, it might be in a months time, but invariably it's tomorrow!

I've never let a client down and I don't intend to, but it does mean I work funny hours.  But is that acceptable to my clients?  Well, no-one's complained yet.  But I do wonder, am I right to assume it's OK to send a client an email at either 7am or 10 o clock at night?  Surely it's the client's prerogative when they check their emails?   I might be writing the latest blog post for a plastics manufacturer and the client might be overseas visiting customers.  I need approval before uploading it to their website.  My 7am is actually their 2pm, so I email it.

The working day has become so much more fluid.  I love working freelance, it allows me the flexibility to do a job I love (writing), use my marketing expertise (25 years), walk the dog (Elsa), be outside (a lot) and see my kids do stuff they love - yoga poses on an island at sundown! 

A recent YouGov (polling firm) survey reported that only 6% of people in the UK actually work the traditional 9-5.   Plenty of you are being just as effective (if not more so) job sharing, remote or hot desking, freelancing or working flexi-time/shifts to accommodate other life commitments.  

Surely if we have a better work life balance, it will be better for our mental state as well as our productivity levels.  I know I'm much more efficient during the hours I've designated to work, because I'm absolutely focused on delivering the best I can, every time, on time.  Only that way does my business keep moving forward.  After all - "you're only as good as your last job" - my first boss used to delight in telling me!  It's down to me, no-one else.

The aim: for every client to come back for more and happily recommend me.

So far, so good.