Monday, 30 June 2014

Publishing to LinkedIn - and why it's good to take a holiday

A lie-in, a walk in the sunshine, a day off or a proper holiday - when did you last take a break from your business?

Perhaps it was the fact that a week in Norfolk is beckoning that made me consider that taking time off is a skill that some of us need to learn.

I used this idea as the theme for my first post on the new LinkedIn publishing platform.

LinkedIn has made several changes in recent months - and probably the biggest is the fact that you can now write your own posts and articles directly on to the world's biggest B2B social network - not just add links to ones you've written elsewhere.

If you can see a little pen (or is it a pencil?) in the space where you share an update on LinkedIn, you too can write an article. Just click on the pen and off you go.

Your existing connections will see your post, and be able to share it, and the articles you publish will appear on your profile so that when anyone new searches for you on LinkedIn they see them too.

LinkedIn has provided some great tips to help you write good content.

Are you thinking this offers you a great opportunity to get your ideas across to the influencers and leaders of the business world, or are you shaking your head and thinking - 'Not ANOTHER platform to update with content?' Maybe you need a holiday? If so, perhaps you'd like to read this post I wrote about the subject on LinkedIn - When did you last take a break from your business?

Monday, 23 June 2014

10 reasons why I love Twitter

When people say they don't like Twitter, or they don't get it, I am reminded of my Dad's baffled and frustrated face many years ago as he tried to show me where I was going wrong with my maths homework.

"But WHY don't you get it, Elaine? How can you say you don't understand it? It's so easy!"

But then, he was a maths teacher.

I respect anyone's right not to like Twitter - really I do - and unlike my Dad I hope I hide any frustration well. He had to accept that I was never going to fall in love with algebra and quadratic equations. I hope I am as understanding if people shrug and walk away after I've sung the praises of the little bird. If you are still sitting on the fence, let me tell you why I think Twitter's wonderful.
  1. It's quick. No-one's asking you to write an essay. It's 140 characters. How long can that take? I can log in from my phone, laptop, desktop PC - anywhere, in seconds.
  2. It's easy. You create a free account. You follow people and read their tweets. You also see the tweets they retweet from people they follow. People who follow you can see what you tweet. That's about it.
  3. All human life is there. I was a journalist for donkey's years - and maybe that's because I'm naturally nosey. Twitter gives me some insight into the lives of people I know, celebrities, politicians and random strangers. Yes, some of it's rubbish and some of it's made up - but when you've been a journalist for as long as me that doesn't shock you.
  4. You can make connections that make your dreams come true. Last year, a random tweet sent to
    Marie Osmond led to me and my daughter meeting her and her brother Donny (my biggest childhood crush) backstage. If my 10-year-old self could have known that was going to happen one day I'd have worried a lot less about that maths homework. That power to connect people is what can make Twitter a fantastic tool for businesses. 
  5. You can make random human connections that just enrich your life. I regularly get tweets that make me laugh, smile and think from people across the world who I would never have reached by any other method - it goes back to the instant nature of Twitter, the speed and the simplicity.
  6. It restores your faith in human nature. Yes there are idiots who post mindless drivel and use Twitter to say things that are unfair and uncalled for - but that's life. You can block them. If they're really nasty you can report them - but there's a lot less of that than you might think. For every twit there are hundreds more people who rush to the support of strangers, who donate to charities and good causes, offer words of comfort and give their expertise freely.
  7. The people, and businesses, that get the most out of Twitter are the ones who understand that there's a 'social' in social media for a reason. They are the ones who understand it's about engagement,  building relationships and loyalty - that it's not just about broadcasting.
  8. If you have a gripe with a big brand you can usually get it sorted a LOT quicker by tweeting them than if you email, write or sit in a phone queue.
  9. It can be very, very funny. I've loved @Queen_UK since 2010 and @TheVintageYear and @stephenfry make me think as well as laugh with their distinctive voices. As a fan of The Archers omnibus on a Sunday morning, it's entertaining to follow the 'tweetalong' as people comment live using #thearchers.
  10. It's a valuable source of breaking news. Twitter has alerted me to more major news stories in recent years than any other form of media.
By the way, this blog post started off as 'Five reasons....', then went to 'Seven reasons...', but when I get started it seems that I just can't stop singing the praises of Twitter.

You can follow me at @EllaJP and I'd love to hear from you about why you love, or loathe, Twitter.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Social media - friend or foe to your small business?

Social media has put massive marketing opportunities within the reach of small businesses, sole traders, little charities and good causes.

With creative content and a real understanding of their target audience they can make things happen in a way that was once only possible for brands with BIG budgets.

There is, of course, an investment in time - sometimes a BIG investment in time - but platforms and tools such as Twitter, YouTube, MailChimp and others can give everyone the potential to make a noise about what they do, mobilise their fans and supporters and reach the influencers who can take their message to the masses.

However, the fact that words, images and videos can go viral in hours does carry risks for the unwary. Stories of poor customer service and ill-judged or inappropriate comments can spread like wildfire.

You don't have to have a massive following on social media to end up in trouble. Journalists now use social media - especially Twitter - as a key source of news. That can work for you and against you. Don't think you can post the odd unprofessional comment, dodgy joke or aside about a business rival, family member or colleague and only a few friends will see it. If enough people Tweet about something, or RT and share it, it can leap on to the news agenda - and quickly.

So identify your audience and your objectives, find your authentic voice and create stories that will strike the emotional response in others that you want to achieve to help you reach your goals.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Newsletter writing with Stafford LiveWiREs

Speaking at Stafford LiveWiREs June meeting
Following on from my blog post Seven Top Tips For Writing A Newsletter, I was delighted to be invited to speak to a women's business networking group this week about writing newsletters.

The meeting of Stafford LiveWiREs was in the beautiful setting of The Moat House Hotel at Acton Trussell.

The room was full of women who have started their own businesses and after my presentation they worked in small groups to plan how to apply my advice and tips into their online marketing strategies.

There was a lot of discussion about the best ways to create newsletters that work well on mobile phones. A number of the businesswomen were rightly concerned that using big images to show off their products and services could be an issue for people accessing their emails on a phone.

One of the regular e-newsletters I create for a customer is also converted into a print version that goes to a smaller number of subscribers via good old-fashioned 'snail mail'. It is worth remembering that sending content by post can still be an effective way of promoting your business. In 2014 we receive far less junk mail through our letterboxes, so newsletters, leaflets and other high quality material that is personally addressed, professionally designed and printed can impress and influence people.

Whether you are sending newsletters or marketing mailshots by email, or through the post, the key is to keep the content relevant to your target audience; think what they want to receive from you and how you can deliver that and meet your business objectives.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Raising a glass to the Pride of Burton

The first Pride of Burton Awards proved to be an emotional night when the achievements of many unsung heroes from East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire were celebrated.

The glittering awards event was held at Branston Golf & Country Club by commercial radio station TouchFM and supported by organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses, Burton and South Derbyshire College, the Octagon Shopping Centre and Punch Taverns. It also raised cash on the night for the Liberty Rose Trust - a Swadlincote-based charity that raises funds for research into children's brain tumours.

I'd enjoyed writing a few nominations for colleagues and contacts and was delighted that three of them resulted in awards on the night.

Much to my surprise I'd also been nominated and was chosen as one of three finalists for the Business Person of the Year - and was in some illustrious company. The award went to Tim McNeilly and Chris Emmerson who took the helm at I C Electrical after the original business was destroyed in an arson attack 14 years ago. They have battled against great adversity and survived the recession without shedding any jobs and now I C Electrical is a multi-million pound company.

Ben Day and George Finch
A standing ovation greeted the announcement of a Special Award  to George Finch (pictured left with Ben Day of TouchFM), a Queen's Hospital volunteer who completed an amazing 31 years' service before retiring on his 90th birthday in February. Another hospital volunteer, Tom Walker, was named as Citizen of the Year while Shirley Dowler - who has completed 47 years' nursing patients at Burton hospitals - received the Carer of the Year Award.

Another Special Award went to Katherine Sinfield, who has thrown herself into raising awareness of the need for more bone marrow donors and vital funds for research and care. Katherine was diagnosed with leukaemia in April 2013 and has written an online blog charting her treatment and her eventual bone marrow transplant in October 2013. Her efforts have led to a 15% increase in potential bone marrow donors in Burton. She was also the driving force behind the first BONE-shaker MARROW-thon in March 2014 which saw more than 100 motorcyclists ride from Birmingham to Burton which, along with a family fun day, raised more than £2,000 for Cure Leukaemia, Anthony Nolan and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

Other awards on the night went to:

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists - and to Touch FM for organising a great night that shone the spotlight on such a diverse range of achievers from business and community.

Pictures courtesy of the TouchFM Facebook Page