A tale of two coffee shops

Picture the scene: York station 8.30am Friday 7 October. It’s FREEZING and the unseasonable 29 degrees from earlier in the week is long gone. A steady stream of shivering commuters. Two coffee shops.

The first coffee shop has posters of an ice cool drink trying to entice customers with a slogan using the words ‘summer coolers’. The second has a blackboard outside it with pictures of autumn leaves and the slogan ‘Settle back in’, a picture of a mug of warm frothy coffee and then the words ‘Perfect for right now’.

Which coffee shop would you go into?

I not only went into the second one, I bought the very drink pictured on the blackboard – it looked and sounded too good to turn down.

See how powerful marketing can be? Five days earlier, the temperature had been sky high and I’m sure a ‘summer cooler’ was exactly what everyone wanted. But not that morning and one of the outlets was quick enough to adapt their marketing.

Another example of how this unpredictable weather has caught out a company with their marketing campaign is a flyer I received through the door from a holiday company promising ‘winter warmers’ when it was almost 30 degrees in Yorkshire. I was quite warm enough thanks! The flyer went straight in the bin.

So when you’re planning a marketing campaign, make sure it is relevant not ony to its audience but to the climate in which they will receive it. Be sensitive when you’re offering expensive goods during these difficult economic times. Don’t send a newsletter out to your employees celebrating success if there has just been an unemployment announcement. Every single piece of communication should be targeted – from a newsletter to a blog to a tweet. I wrote this blog on Friday night, for example, but who would read it then? So I held it back to publish on Monday.

If you’re planning a marketing campaign and would like some advice, please drop me an email on fiona@wordsbyfionakyle.co.uk

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The power of professional photography

Importance of professional food photography

Professional food photography makes these pancakes look so appealing (Phillip Shannon Photography)

I have been lucky enough to spend several years working on newsmagazines for companies like Procter & Gamble and Honda, the pages of which were adorned with beautiful, professional images of their employees and their products. For organisations like this, a photography budget is often a given when embarking on a new magazine, brochure or website.

For a smaller company with a limited marketing budget, professional imagery might be lower down on their list of priorities. But in my opinion, it is one of the most important items to spend money on. A company that produces, for example, food or high-end products that they make themselves, should think twice before taking their own pictures. With the best will in the world these pictures often turn out dark and unappealing. And why would someone want to spend their money on a product that looks like that?

If you are planning to send out a press release about your business then sending a professional image with it significantly improves the chances of your story making it into the press. Check out my previous blog post for more about this.

I spoke to Phillip Shannon of Phillip Shannon Photography based in Leeds to find out his opinion.

He said: “Choosing the right person or trade for the job is a rule which most people adopt. When you are running a business, you would hire the right staff, accountant or managers to make sure that the running of your enterprise is economic, successful and, of course, profitable.
 
“When it comes to photography, the ‘image’ of your business, brand and reputation rests upon the quality of the work produced. In times when you may be looking at saving costs, don’t be tempted to go down the DIY photography route. Unless you possess the experience, skill, and equipment of a professional photographer then the result may be far from acceptable. Marketing and promoting your company’s product is all about the visual and how it looks to the potential customer. The power of an image should not be underestimated.
 
“Say you run a food business, for example, and you may use the finest ingredients from local sources, but if the food photography on show to your clients and customers is poor and shots are produced without the skills of an experienced food photographer then the results could be terrible for your business.”
 
Mike Tattersall of Indie Ices, Leeds, is a client of Phillip Shannon Photography. He said: “Working with Phillip to produce the images of my product is always money well spent. You receive the great skill of a professional which reflects in the images produced. I often receive great comments on the images and, as people eat with their eyes, I get sales and leads into companies when we produce them.”
 
So, from a client’s perspective, the costs associated with buying commercial photography is an investment in the future success of your business. The results achieved by using a skilled professional photographer with the right experience is money well spent, and can produce real, measurable results.
 
Why not get in touch with a photographer, chat through your brief and at least find out how much the charge would be? It may well be less than you think and, in my opinion, the question you should be asking yourself is: “Can I afford not to use professional photography?”.
 
For more information about Phillip Shannon Photography, visit http://www.phillipshannonphotography.com/ 

How to… get in the local press

The professional image which got the attention of the local press

So I’m launching a new business/product/event – to me it’s the centre of my universe, surely my local newspaper will want to cover it…

Nope. To them it’s not news – loads of new businesses launch every day. Thousands of new products hit the market each week. So how do you get decent publicity for your business without paying a fortune in advertising?

Well, all I can tell you is what worked for Words by Fiona Kyle. Obviously to me launching a brand new copywriting and proofreading business was a huge deal. But let’s be brutally honest – my business is not newsworthy. Plenty of people offer a similar service (although not in quite the same way or to the same standard I would obviously argue!). Yet my story appeared in the Yorkshire Post and on thebusinessdesk.com which my fellow Yorkshire-types will know is a fairly big deal for the Yorkshire business world.

The simple answer is you have to work out what is newsworthy about your particular story.

Case study – the Yorkshire Post

The Yorkshire Post did a fantastic article about my business and those belonging to my friends Gaby and Emma. I got in touch with a journalist who works for the paper and explained that we were all mothers who had set up our businesses after working together on a local event as volunteers and that I was keen to set up a local networking group for ‘mumpreneurs’. The paper was interested in the debate around the term mumpreneur and we got a great feature out of it.

Case study – thebusinessdesk.com

I was lucky in this case that I went to school with a key player at the businessdesk.com so I had an easy ‘in’. Building relationships with journalists can be a great way to learn about what they really want from a story and for them to come to trust you as a source (so don’t just ply them with any old stories!). Again though, my story is not newsworthy on its own but combined with Gaby’s much more glamorous business, the human interest of our friendship together with a professionally taken image of the two of us and we got some more great coverage from it.

Hints and tips

  • Think before you start out on a PR campaign – is my story newsworthy? If not, is there another angle I can approach it from which makes it seem more unusual.
  • Write a press release but keep it to one side of A4. Email it through to a contact at a local paper. Follow it up with a phone call a few days later to check it was received and see if it was of interest.
  • Get a professional image taken  – resources in local news can be really stretched so if you send a great picture they can use, your story is much more likely to get in.

If you would like to chat about more tips like this, or need help writing a press release or finding an interesting angle to approach it from, please get in touch on info@wordsbyfionakyle.co.uk

If you build it (and tweet about it) they will come – tourist attractions and social media

The Yorkshire Dales

When I first launched Words by Fiona Kyle, I contacted several local tourist attractions who weren’t yet making use of social media to let them know that I was available to help if they needed me.

I had a reply from a representative of one of them who invited me in for a chat, with the proviso: “I am rather sceptical about Facebook and Twitter”.

To ensure I didn’t waste this precious opportunity, I set about researching local tourist attractions who were using social media and also asking advice from marketing experts. What I discovered was so fascinating, I wanted to share it here.

To start with, I was given feedback by some wonderful people (all relationships forged through Twitter) working for very different Yorkshire attractions.

Jill Murray of Kilnsey Park and Trout Farm  is a relatively recent convert to Twitter and still developing a Facebook presence. However, she quickly realised the value of Twitter, saying: “We started using social media as it seemed to be an invaluable opportunity to speak to the people we want to contact. Suddenly we have a potentially huge audience of both visitors and people within the tourism industry which is amazing! We’re absolutely delighted with the results so far.”

Amy Ball, Acting Curator of Craven Museum and Gallery, added: “When our new website launched in September 2010 (with a link to our Facebook page) the referrals were high. The first four or five months, Facebook was our second most popular referral site. From a search engine optimisation point of view, having as much web presence as possible is also of obvious huge benefit. Google now searches Twitter and it was this that prompted me to set up the museum’s Twitter account.  When the museum launched our Shakespeare First Folio exhibition it was covered by BBC York. They tweet all of their news stories and because of the Shakespeare hashtag, the article link was retweeted by the Shakespeare Folger Library in Washington DC! I saw this as a new resource for connecting with other museums, similar businesses and people who did not know about the museum in Skipton.”

Most tourist attractions are now really jumping on the bandwagon – the West Midlands Safari Park, for example, rates social media so highly that they have hired a new member of staff purely to handle it for them.

So that’s the attractions themselves but what do Yorkshire’s finest marketing experts have to say about the importance of social media for the tourism industry? I posted a question on the Yorkshire Mafia’s LinkedIn discussion board to find out.

Ian Shepherd, of Graft Marketing, contacted me to say: “Marketing through social media is not about sales the following day, it’s about positioning yourself so that when people are looking for places to visit, you’re in their head. It’s all about building relationships – you can serve your visitors better by better understanding them. It is a wonderful way to get into conversations with your customers.”

Mark Longbottom, of social media consultancy Design58, agreed: “The return on investment is in the relationship and how the tourist attractions, by understanding their audience, can better understand how to serve them. I have clients who run restaurants, night clubs and creative ventures, to just touch the iceberg of who may benefit. All have had value added by being able to talk to their audience, talking is the most important aspect, not technology. Talking will go on and this is just a more effective way to converse where able.”

I have thoroughly enjoyed this exercise and met some fascinating and lovely people. I am a true believer in social media and its value as a marketing tool whatever industry you are working in. Thanks to everyone who got in touch to share their experiences.

Never underestimate the power of words

Jenny (right), the girls, babies and their GUMIGEMs

I’m proud to welcome Jenny McLaughlan of GUMIGEM, the original UK teething necklace. Jenny has written a fascinating guest blog about the importance of communication for a small business.

As a new business with limited finance to spend on advertisements, I rely heavily on the use of social media, editorials and the content of my site to get my message heard. It is only since discovering Words by Fiona Kyle I have finally recognised the value in taking time and thought around this area. I know it sounds daft, of course you should be careful and thoughtful about what and how you communicate, but as a small enterprise it can be a real struggle. With so many things to juggle, you just tweet, post, update your site and send emails without really considering what they are saying!

One challenge is that you think as you write and although you’re sending out the right message and informing people about your products, sometimes when you have a product and a business that you know inside out, your communications have a certain level of assumed knowledge in them without even realising you’re doing it. So when you think you’re being clear about how to enter a competition or indeed certain key points about your product, it is vital to get another pair of eyes to have a look. They don’t have that same insider knowledge and can quickly assess and identify gaps in your communication. An example I would give of this is my first ever batch of flyers which had the words ‘for mum to wear…. and baby to enjoy!’ What does that mean? Well to me it made sense, but in actual fact to everybody else it did not! It did not tell anyone what the product actually was.

Social media has been the main source of attracting customers to my site, and this too needs careful thought. On Twitter you are limited to just 140 characters, something I personally find so difficult as I always have a lot to say! So how do you get something that is punchy but also interesting? The aim is to engage people and encourage them to follow you, visit your site and ideally become a customer. That’s a lot to achieve in just 140 characters. Talk too much about your own business and you put people off, focus on more personal issues and you don’t get them making a trip to your site. So getting the balance right is key and this is something I am still learning about! The way we do business is changing as technology advances. This has many advantages as it frees up our time as we are able to engage and reach customers far faster than the traditional way of having to seek out face to face engagements. The disadvantage is that the words we choose and how we communicate, just like first impressions, last. They build up your personality and send people a message about who you are and what you are about. So never underestimate the power of words.

For me I am very guilty of being rushed, this means you don’t pay as much attention to the detail as you should. Newsletters with spelling mistakes and poor grammar just send out the wrong message and can look so unprofessional. Another reason for just taking a step back once in a while and asking for someone to give it the once over, it may be frustrating you have to wait another day to get that exciting newsletter out there, but then at least it’s right, looks professional and will have more impact.

It’s a learning curve and like all things in life, we won’t get it right all of the time. Some people like Coke and others Pepsi, some will like your chosen style of communication, others won’t. But as a business you want to aim for communication that has interest, impact and is heard and not drowned out by all the other tweets, posts and websites out there. So my lesson and one I am still very much learning is that what we say and how we say it is as important to a business as the products we sell. Without the right words and communication, we won’t succeed.

Thanks so much Jenny for your guest blog and a really interesting insight into getting your message heard as a new, small business. For more information about GUMIGEM visit http://www.gumigem.co.uk or email sales@gumigem.co.uk

If you want to chat about how to get your message out there, please drop me a line on fiona@wordsbyfionakyle.co.uk

Why I love print

Call me old fashioned but there is something I just love about printed communications. Whether it’s newsletters, magazines, prospectuses, a shiny corporate brochure or even a plain old flyer, when a job comes in from the printers, there is something really special about it.

I am really glad to know that one of my clients has a corporate brochure in the pipeline for me at the moment. Although I am a copywriter, I will be a project manager for the brochure and am looking for a graphic designer to team up with to produce something that will really blow the client’s socks off. And don’t get me wrong, I sincerely hope that I can help him out with his website too and I will put everything into that and it will look just as great and read just as well but… Anyone else feel the same?

It’s the combination of nerves and excitement as the guy from the printing company brings your samples into the office for you and you open the package and know you’ve done a good job and the client will love it.

Obviously there is less need on today’s world for printed communications. But I have worked with many companies where they still love tangible publications – whether it’s because they enjoy reading them while travelling for business, taking them home to share with their families or because they spend all day sitting at a computer and want to take time out to look at them.

Now, there are some wonderful digital communications out there too. My old company produced some AMAZING digital magazines and websites for companies like T-Mobile and it would be great to have the opportunity to work on something like that again. If I get enough of them at Words by Fiona Kyle maybe I will change my mind!

The night before the big launch

So, this is it. After months of preparation, Words by Fiona Kyle goes live in the morning.

This business has become like my third baby! I can’t wait to hear what people think about it after it all being secret for so long.

I have worked in the communications industry since I left university in 2000. In that time I have been lucky enough to work with companies and organisations including Honda, Procter & Gamble, NAAFI and FirstGroup plc, helping them to communicate with employees, customers and potential customers. Now I want to work with local companies and fellow mumpreneurs to bring what I have learnt in my career to them.

Words by Fiona Kyle offers copywriting, editing and proofreading for all forms of marketing communications, whether that is newsletters, websites, leaflets, press releases, adverts etc.

I would love to hear from you – please get involved! Check out my website www.wordsbyfionakyle.co.uk or drop me a line at fiona@wordsbyfionakyle.co.uk

In the morning I will be pushing the button and Words by Fiona Kyle will be out in the big wide world. I can’t wait!

Fiona