Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Do It Digital - launching December 23

Small Business Saturday may be over for another year but the drive to help small businesses grow and thrive continues 365 days of the year, even at Christmas and New Year.

The team behind SmallBizSatUK and the #SmallBiz100 will launch 100 Days of Digital later this month in a bid to help small businesses learn more about all things digital.

From December 23 to March 31, 2016, they'll be offering 100 days of digital help, advice, training, tools and local engagement for small businesses. A website is coming soon at but you can also follow them on Twitter at @DoItDigitalUK

I'll certainly be keeping an eye on what they post, because although I'm looking forward to some relaxation with family and friends over Christmas and New Year I usually use the holidays to catch up on some reading and research. That's not really work is it?

Small Business Saturday, and the day before, were busy for me. You many have seen the picture on social media, by Suzi Ovens, when I was one of the #SmallBiz100 invited to exhibit at The Treasury on December 4.

It was a surprise to be introduced to the Chancellor George Osborne and have the opportunity to tell him about my business.

I also mentioned to him about the Women In Rural Enterprise networking group that I help to run in Burton-on-Trent. It was good to hear that he knew all about the national WiRE organisation and the work they do helping women start and grow their own businesses.

I am very grateful to the talents of Joanne Cooper Photography, Essential Print Services and Sweet Memory Lane who provided the goodies and the promotional materials which kept people flocking to my exhibitor's chalet in the iconic Treasury Drum building all afternoon. There was also time for a quick trip to Downing Street to pose for the obligatory 'steps of No 10' picture.

The day after my trip to London, on Small Business Saturday itself, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Derby about the growth of small businesses in Burton-on-Trent, and also to promote the Small Business Conga that was happening later that morning. This was an event organised by the Burton Small Business group, which includes my Caittom Publishing business, HR Protected, FCM Associates and Red Door Studios.

We were delighted to welcome Mike Cherry, national Policy Director of the Federation of Small Businesses, as our guest of honour. You can hear from him, as well as all the Burton Small Business partners, in this video of the event made by Red Door Studios.Thanks to Reflex Print for the marshall's jackets and the canvas shopping bags we gave out as we danced, and thanks to everyone who supported us. I wonder what we can come up with to top this next year?

Friday, 13 November 2015

Calling Burton businesses to join Small Business Saturday

I love being part of the Burton Small Business group, and we're leading a very exciting event for all local small businesses in the town on the morning of this year's Small Business Saturday - December 5, 2015.

If you work for, or own, a small business in the Burton-on-Trent area and you're free for just half an hour on the morning of December 5, please come along and join us. All the details you need are here

When you've read it you will understand why it is important that you sign up to the meet up event and let us know you are planning to attend. It will be a great PR opportunity.

We've also updated and expanded our free small business guide, with help from our partners The Growth Hub, Else SolicitorsThe Chartwell Practice and Sherwin Insurance Services Ltd, and you can now download it from our website.

One of my Burton Small Business colleagues, Tilley Bancroft of Red Door Studios, helped me make a short video promoting our event which you can watch here

Elaine Pritchard Small Business Saturday

Being one of this year's #SmallBiz100 has really opened up some doors for me - and I'll tell you more about that in a future blog.

Meanwhile, do take a look at the Small Business Saturday website and see how you can get involved this year.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

RIP little star - Twitter's traded you in for a heart

One of the little things that made Twitter different from other social media platforms was the stars displayed beneath tweets, which encouraged users to 'favourite' them.

One of the questions I am most frequently asked, when I'm helping businesses and organisations get to grips with Twitter, is 'What is favouriting?'

It seems that across the world people have been asking the same question. So from today the star has started to disappear, to be replaced by a heart and the word 'like'.

It seems to be part of a drive by Twitter and its new CEO (who was one of its co-founders) to make Twitter easier and more appealing to users. In recent weeks we've also seen the introduction of polls that can now be easily created with a choice of two answers:

Each poll closes after 24 hours and automatically displays the results.

Here's a blog post I wrote today for Cartwright Communications about the Twitter changes:

Let me know what YOU think about the changes. Do you still 'heart' Twitter? Or is it no longer your favourite social media channel?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

LinkedIn changes get its users buzzing

Do you like LinkedIn because it is not the same as other social media networks?

Do you appreciate its business focus that allows you time away from the gimmicks and gizmos of other social media channels?

Well, in that case you might be one of the users feeling a bit peeved about some of its latest changes.

Both the LinkedIn messaging system and LinkedIn Groups have had a massive overhaul.

For example, when you send a message to your LinkedIn connections, you can now add a sticker of a cup of coffee, or a cat, a GIF or an emoji from a selection that LinkedIn has picked to add a bit more 'personality' (so LinkedIn says) to the conversations you're having.

Many of us dislike change, but social media channels need to keep evolving and they are bound to look at the trends and changes in how people are creating and sharing content and communicating with one another.

One of the issues we have as loyal users of channels and websites is that they often don't tell us that change is on the way. We just log on one day and it all looks a bit different. My favourite image creation website is one that has had a new look this week.

I've written in more details about the LinkedIn changes to messaging and Groups in a blog this week for Cartwright Communications.

The changes certainly aren't going to make me abandon LinkedIn. I'm a big fan of the way it can bring buyers and suppliers together and help businesses and professionals to raise their profile and showcase their products and services. I'm looking forward to delivering a sold-out course on using LinkedIn for Business for Enterprise Nation in November in Burton-on-Trent. I'm also going into a number of Midlands companies in the coming weeks to help them make better use of LinkedIn and delivering some one-to-one coaching.

Do leave me a comment if you have an opinion to share about the recent changes to LinkedIn. I'd love to know whether you are 'for' or 'against'.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Big thanks to Smart Little Web

Being one of this year's #SmallBiz100 companies is proving to have lots of benefits for me and my company. One recent unexpected bonus was a glowing review online for my Caittom Publishing website from web development company Smart Little Web.

Smart Little Web reviews Caittom Publishing website
It's always good to get an independent (and expert) opinion of how you are promoting your business.

When you focus on helping businesses to find the right words to reach their target audience, as I do, you would hope that your own message is getting across.

I was delighted to get the Smart Little Web seal of approval for the content on my website. You can read what its team thought about my website - and those of other recent #SmallBiz100 companies - in this article on its blog.

Smart Little Web is also a #SmallBiz100 company, chosen by the Small Business Saturday team to represent all the UK's small businesses. One of the 100 is profiled each day in the run-up to this year's Small Business Saturday on December 5. Read more about the Small Business Saturday movement here. Maybe next year you might want to apply to be in the #SmallBiz100? I can thoroughly recommend it.

I joined the Federation of Small Businesses soon after I set up my business five years ago. It was lovely to feature on the cover of the Staffordshire & West Midlands edition of FSB magazine The Voice, along with Birmingham #SmallBiz100 company and fellow FSB members Bert & Gerts. Thanks to the FSB's Karen Woolley for all her help and support.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Five million small businesses - and my five fantastic years

It's five years, almost to the day, since I took the leap of faith and started my own business. I've never regretted it for a second.

A few months ago I was wondering what I could do to celebrate this milestone, but thanks to Small Business Saturday UK that's all sorted now.

I've been a massive fan of the Small Business Saturday UK concept since I first heard Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna talk about it at a conference held by the Federation of Small Businesses.

This year, the third annual Small Business Saturday takes place in the UK on December 5 and it's a day dedicated to celebrating small businesses and encouraging people to make a special effort to spend money with independent small businesses on that day.

This year, I thought I'd fill in an application form to be considered as one of 2015's Small Business Saturday 100. There were lots of questions to answer about what I did, what I thought about small businesses and what I did to support other small businesses. I thought no more about it - and then in August came the email that said I was one of the 100 for 2015.

So what is the #SmallBiz100?

For the 100 days leading up to this year's Small Business Saturday on December 5, a different UK small business is featured each day on the campaign's website and across social media.

Look out for me on September 30, my day in the spotlight, on the Small Business Saturday Facebook page, their Twitter feed (keep an eye out for the hashtag #SmallBiz100), Google+ and of course on the campaign website's own calendar. In previous years the SmallBiz100 have been invited down to London, so I'm currently waiting to hear if there might be a similar opportunity this year. I will certainly be meeting up with the campaign bus on its travels this autumn.

What's the point of Small Business Saturday UK anyway?

Small Business Saturday is the UK's most successful small business campaign. Last year 16.5 million adults went out to support a small business on Small Business Saturday with 64% of the UK being aware of the campaign.

It's worth remembering that the UK’s five million small businesses between them provide 60% of private sector jobs and nearly 50% of private sector turnover.

National Campaign Director Michelle Ovens explained: "Although the campaign focuses on one day, the goal is to have a lasting impact on small businesses by changing mind-sets, so that people make it their mission to support small businesses all year round. Most people in this country own a small business, work for a small business or know somebody who does, so supporting a small business on Small Business Saturday is absolutely personal."

Why does it matter to me?

I think one reason why I'm excited about being in the #SmallBiz100 is that it gives me an opportunity to share my story and hopefully inspire others to embark on the adventure of starting and running their own business.  I get to do what I love every day and get paid for it. Who wouldn't want to do that if they could?

Equally important to me is the opportunity to show my gratitude to all the small businesses who have been part of my journey so far.

No man, woman or business is an island and I'm proud that some wonderful small businesses have done work for me and trusted me to work for them. Now, the dilemma is do I start trying to name check them all and risk missing out someone? I think I might tackle that at some point this year - but that's a post for another day. Maybe I'll create my own Elaine's SmallBiz100? For now - thank you all for your friendship, encouragement, inspiration, service and custom.

What is coming up next?

Well, I'm proud to say that along with Alison Bradley and Lorraine Holden I'm still leading the WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) networking group for working women in Burton-on-Trent. We're thrilled with how the group has grown this year and by a happy coincidence there is one of our monthly meetings on Wednesday September 30 (my SmallBiz100 day). ALL women who work (paid work, self-employment or volunteer work) are welcome to join us from 7pm to 9pm at the 
Brewhouse Arts Centre, Union Street, Burton, to hear Karen McElroy of freelance PR company FCM Associates talk about how to turn PR into profit. More details are on our WireUK page.

Last year, I joined forces with FCM Associates, HR Protected and Red Door Studios to found the Burton Small Business group to keep the Small Business Saturday feeling go all year round. We've just updated our free guide for small businesses, which you can download from our website.

I'm very excited about the launch of a new LoveBurton website, which is taking place on September 22 including a Buck's Fizz reception and a buffet sponsored by Enjoy Staffordshire and website company Webb2b. I believe it will provide important new promotion and support for our local small businesses.

There are also some great plans brewing for how we'll celebrate Small Business Saturday on December 5 in Burton town centre. Watch this space. All I'll say for now is that it's got lots of legs!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Colouring (or coloring) my view of running

For more than 40 years, 'running' and I have been sworn enemies; from the first time the teachers lined me up with half a dozen classmates and made me start running along a bumpy grass track at primary school sports day, it was a match made in hell. On that first outing I couldn't understand why my legs couldn't move fast enough to catch up with the other children and my cheeks burned with embarrassment as I crossed the line in last place.

It was a scenario that was replayed countless times in PE lessons, school cross country runs (the worst!) and sports days for the next 11 years.

'I CAN'T run', I'd say, by way of explanation as fellow pupils either sniggered or tried to look sympathetic depending on their position on the 'mean girls' scale.

I HATED it, just HATED it. On the longer runs, my legs ached, my lungs burned and because I KNEW I would finish last I always did.

In my early 20s I flirted with the old enemy by trying a spot of after-work jogging each day to get a bit fitter and put the stress of the day behind me - but my good intentions didn't last long.

Last year I downloaded the Couch to 5k app on my phone. You can read more about that and my journey here on LinkedIn  Now, after too many months 'off' from running (there's always an excuse to hand), I'm running again in preparation for my FIRST 5k in aid of Burton YMCA. You can sponsor me and the rest of the team here.

Burton YMCA Color Run team

What I've learned about running in the last year is that the biggest challenge is silencing the little voice in your head that says, 'Stop now. You know you can't do this. You don't need to do this. Just stop and walk for a bit'.

The secret is to distract yourself from these negative thoughts. That's why for my first 5k I was keen to do the Color Run (This idea started in America, hence the US spelling). If you've not come across this idea before, you get showered with colours at the end of each kilometre - and if that doesn't distract you from the voice of doom in your head, nothing will.

So, if you'd like to show solidarity with someone who's spent most of her life thinking that running a bath was the most exercise she'd ever do - AND support the great work of the YMCA, visit our Virgin Money Giving fundraising page.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Five reasons not to use a copywriter

A professional copywriter could save you money and time
Picture: Joanne Cooper Photography

1) "I can write a bit. I'll do it myself and save money".

Perhaps you can write and perhaps you'll be able to create concise content that answers all the questions your customers may have and inspires them to call you and place an order. Great!

Or is the reality that the task will keep getting pushed down your 'to do' list? Will you start it, put it aside, pick it up again and get frustrated as time marches relentlessly on?

Working with a professional copywriter means you can get the job planned in and delivered on YOUR schedule and spend your valuable time on what you do best and the tasks in your business that you really enjoy.

It can actually often be more cost-effective, quicker and produce better results if you delegate content writing to a professional.

2) "I don't trust anyone else to explain what I know I want to say".

There are lots of ways in which you can work in partnership with a writer. Perhaps you want to produce a rough version or bullet point notes that the copywriter can expand on and edit? Perhaps you want them to interview you about everything relevant to your business and let them produce a draft you can refine and amend? Some businesses give a writer their existing brochures and leaflets as raw content.

A good copywriter will take the time to understand how your business ticks, and who the people are that you want to reach and influence. They can advise you on getting the balance right between what you want to say and what your customers want and need to hear.

An effective blog, website or newsletter has to answer the questions your customers have, generate trust and inspire readers to pick up the phone, send an email or place an order online.

Some business owners are so close to their products and services that the fresh perspective that an independent writer brings has additional value.

3) "I'm worried that costs will escalate if we keep having to make changes".

At the first meeting or conversation with your copywriter (many will offer you a consultation face-to-face or by phone or Skype free of charge) find out how amends and changes will be costed and what the sign-off procedure will be. Get a clear quote in writing before you agree to commission the writer so there are no nasty surprises - for either of you.

4) "I'm already paying a website developer - they can write the content".

The skills of a website designer or developer are very different to those of an experienced  and qualified writer. If you have the budget to employ a creative agency they may well employ writers as well as designers, developers and marketing specialists. But if you are working with a smaller business you will often find that your web developer does not want to write the content. If you try and twist their arm you may end up with content that needs more work to make it fit for purpose. There are some talented, multi-skilled individuals out there who are true masters of more than one specialism - but generally you wouldn't expect most plumbers to be able to re-wire your house as well.

5) "I don't know how to find a reliable writer".

If you were looking for someone to carry out work on your house you might use a directory to find businesses in your area, look at their website and check out online reviews and testimonials. You might also ask friends, family and colleagues for recommendations. The same approach will help you put together a shortlist of  copywriters. Your local business club or networking group may also be able to recommend freelance writers that its knows and trusts.

I would always recommend a face-to- face meeting if at all possible to understand more about the writer's background and the work they have done in the past. It's important that the two of you hit it off and have trust and confidence in each other in order for the finished content to meet and exceed your expectations.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Winning the attention of an online audience

Maybe it's the fact that I'm in the cast of the 100th production by Burton-on-Trent's Little Theatre Company this month that made me start thinking about winning the attention of an audience.

Whether you want to get bums on seats in a theatre, or whether you want to get people along to your business networking event, or whether you want to get people looking at your online and social media content the basic rule is the same - you need to advertise.

Kevin Costner's character in the film Field of Dreams heard a voice saying 'If you build it, he will come' - but for the rest of us building a great website or other social media channel is no good unless the people that it could help know that it is there.

That means that we often need to cross-promote on multiple channels to reach the people that may become our future customers and to stay engaged with our existing customers. The most successful businesses use social media to listen to their customers, to find out more about how they can help them and to reward their loyalty.

Every day there are more apps and digital channels vying for the online attention of a global audience. If you want to reach and influence the slice of that audience that can help you achieve your business objectives you need a content creation and marketing plan that identifies:

  • Who your target audience is
  • Where they are hanging out online
  • How you can make their life easier/better
  • What content you can create and share that they will want to see

Monday, 20 April 2015

Is your website REALLY mobile-friendly?

They're calling it 'mobilegeddon'.

Who are 'they'?

In this case, various bloggers, web designers and writers who want us to be aware that from April 21 onwards, websites that are not mobile-friendly are going to be penalised in Google's search results.

As with all the changes it makes to the way websites are ranked when people search for relevant keywords and phrases, Google's not given us firm details of what the impact will be; we can only wait and see.

The most dramatic of the predictions have claimed that websites that are not mobile-friendly will 'disappear' from all search engine results.

A more likely scenario is that if a website is already performing well in searches on PCs and laptops, its position in results when people search from those devices will be largely unaffected. However, when a potential customer is searching from a mobile device, it will be the mobile-friendly websites that will appear first. Websites that are not mobile-friendly may not be shown at all in the results of searches carried out on smartphones and tablets.

With many websites getting at least half of their traffic from searches on mobile devices - for many it's much more - this could have a major impact on whether they are found by potential customers or not.

Look at your own website on a smartphone and if you have to pinch and stretch the content on the screen with your fingers to be able to read it then your website is not considered to be mobile-friendly. But if you want to be sure how Google sees your website you can pop the URL of your website into this page:

If your website doesn't get positive feedback from the test page, give your web developer a call.

Caittom Publishing website

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A writer promoting Pinterest? What's that about?

I loved scrapbooks when I was a little girl.

I was never one of those elegantly creative scrapbookers who designed albums full of beautiful pages cleverly constructed with images and lovely typography. I was the sort of collector who hastily cut out pictures of pop bands, films and TV shows I loved and glued them on to the pages of a store-bought scrapbook. It was a way of keeping the things I loved, the things that made me happy, close to me.

I think that's why I love Pinterest.

Some people describe Pinterest as a virtual scrapbook - but it's probably more like a virtual notice board.

You can pin images and videos that you find online, or which are stored on your own computer, laptop or mobile device. You can also follow other people's Pinterest boards and pin their images to your board.

Pinterest gets less coverage in the UK than social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, but it can be a great way for businesses to raise their profile and engage with customers. Using their own images - and sharing 'pins' from other people's boards - they can show their vision and values and tell their story in a compelling and interesting way.

One of the Pinterest accounts I have set up is for amateur theatre group, Little Theatre Company.

The boards I have created include a mixture of rehearsal shots of our productions and also complementary videos and images I have found by searching on Pinterest. It's easy to eat up the hours once you start browsing boards created by brands, companies and individuals across the world.

I'm going to be talking about Pinterest at the WiRE Burton network group on Wednesday March 25 at the Brewhouse arts centre, and explaining about getting started with public or private boards, how to link to your website and how to drive traffic and engagement.

Pinterest is all about visual appeal - so it may seem strange that a writer is talking about it at a networking group - but the words you use on Pinterest will be key to helping you build an audience.

Also, sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

How to win the battle against writer's block

We all have days when inspiration seems to desert us - but when a deadline looms for something that HAS to be written we have to find a way to break through that so-called writer's block.

I've written a new article on LinkedIn's Pulse platform this week about my seven top tips to get the job done when you are all out of ideas.

Pop across to LinkedIn and read Seven tips on beating writer's block and let me know what's worked for you.

Tips on beating writer's block

Monday, 2 February 2015

Is 2015 the year of LinkedIn?

Is 2015 going to be the year of LinkedIn? It's certainly looking that way from where I'm sitting.

With 300 million members, this social network has enjoyed plenty of success to date - but I'm hearing more and more people saying they've created accounts but they really don't know how to use it.

There's so much more to LinkedIn than just creating your CV online. Your personal profile is an important opportunity to make a great first impression, not just on LinkedIn but across the internet as a completed profile will be one of the first results returned when people 'Google' your name.

What makes a good personal profile on LinkedIn?

I recommend avoiding overused 'buzzwords' such a 'motivated', 'passionate' and 'creative' in your summary and the experience section of your profile. Instead think about who you want to reach and influence on LinkedIn. Do you want to reach new clients, business partners or recruits? What do they need to know about you; what problems can you solve and how can you add value? LinkedIn allows you to upload or link to examples of your work, videos, blog posts, presentations, images which really help to tell your professional story.

Customising the URL for your personal profile makes it easier for you to be found in search results and it looks more professional than the default list of letters and numbers that LinkedIn tags on to your name.

The headline for your personal profile will default to your current job title, but you can edit this in to something more meaningful for your target audience, and include the keywords for which you want to be found.

How to use LinkedIn to raise your profile in your industry or sector

By writing articles on LinkedIn's own publishing platform, Pulse, and also by commenting on articles created by others, you can establish yourself as a thought leader, build relationships and reach out to new, useful connections. Think carefully about the headline and cover picture for your article to attract readers. Articles you create will sit on your personal profile - another useful way of demonstrating your skills, knowledge and ideas.

Look for relevant LinkedIn groups and pages where you can extend your network, offer advice to others and build relationships. Be generous in your support of your connections and look for opportunities to show your company's vision and values.

Many businesses can benefit from having a company page on LinkedIn which can show job candidates why your business is a great place to work. Your existing employees can be important ambassadors to spread the word to their own networks when you add new updates to your company page. Ensure all employees and partners have included your firm in the experience section of their personal profiles. This automatically makes them followers of your company page and pulls your logo into their profiles.

I'll be covering these points and lots more concerning making quality connections on LinkedIn, ways to contact them, privacy and confidentiality, personalising your home page and keeping tabs on your rivals and what's new in your industry at workshops, training sessions and one-to-one coaching in the coming weeks,

If you're interested in training or coaching tailored to your business needs, contact me here for a chat about any help you need with writing you profile and creating articles, groups and company pages.