Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Tea & Tips - Advice from a PR expert on how to write a PR plan for your business


It’s Wednesday again, which means the next post in my mini-series of business and marketing tips from my PR expert friend, Rachel Burks.  If you missed the previous posts in the series you can catch up by clicking the links here:

Here's Rachel with today's subject...

How to write a public relations (PR) plan for your business

When you started your business I am sure you had a business plan, a goal in mind, an idea of costs and set of values/ethos about how you want do things.

The reason you are reading this is no doubt because you need help working out how to drive your business forward and how to use all forms of communication to help.

What you need is a communication strategy to ensure you are clear on what to do when. We create these plans to help our clients secure the best in media coverage and to explore all opportunities.

A PR plan enables you to think about what you want to say about yourself, your company, service or product. It pinpoints the audience you wish to reach, the traditional and social media they read/listen to/watch and what techniques you can use to target them.

We collectively have more than 60 years’ experience in writing PR and social media plans and strategies. We only write plans for our clients, but here are the basics for you to use to have a go at writing your own too.

What should be in your plan?

  • Objectives: What do you want to achieve? For example, increased sales, new clients/customers in a particular market or to raise awareness.
  • Target audience: Try and break this down into very specific groups, for example, stay at home mums aged 30 plus.
  • Key messages: Try and identify the three main things you need to say about your company or product/service. Make sure every media release includes these and remember them during interviews.
  • Target media: The more specific your target audience, the easier it is to work out what media they enjoy. We have thousands of local, regional and national media contacts and we closely guard these, they take years to build up and we reserve access to them for our clients.
  • Techniques: For example, media releases, media calls, giveaways and competitions, features in magazines, letters in newspapers and social media activities, the list can be fairly lengthy so try and keep focused.
  • Schedule: Even if there are no particular launch dates or events, give yourself goals and deadlines as these will help you achieve more.
  • Evaluate: Ask new clients/customers where/how they heard about you, check online for coverage, collect cuttings and keep a file. Check the Google Analytics for your website and have a footfall counter in your store if you are a retailer.

 Thank you Rachel – next week she will be sharing some Tea and Tips with me about how to draft a media/press release, I hope you can join us.

Best wishes

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Tea & Tips - Advice from a PR Expert on getting the most out of Instagram...


During the autumn months last year, I ran a mini series here on my blog every Wednesday called Tea & Tips.  I was lucky enough to have a PR expert friend of mine, Rachel Burks, Managing Director of local PR agency Porcupine PR, share some great advice on PR, marketing and handling media for small business.  I'm delighted to say that she's provided me with some more wonderful tips to share with you here each Wednesday for the next few weeks.

This week it's all about getting the most out of Instagram.

In the coming weeks she'll share some tips for:
- Writing a PR plan for your business - 28th January
- Tips for writing media/press releases - 4th February
- How to take newsworthy photography - 11th February
- The importance of a good headline  - 18th February

I'll hand you over to Rachel now to share some tea and tips with you about getting the most out of Instagram...

We’re all more visually orientated these days. It may not be relevant for every brand and business but we think Instagram is a great tool if you’re after a younger clientele. We’re encouraging a few of our clients to dip their toes into this highly visual virtual world and here’s why...

So what are the stats?
There are more than 150 million active Instagram users
Daily likes come in at around 1.2 billion
And on average 55 million photos are shared each day.
Who uses Instagram?
The young and the tech-savvy. So if you have a brand that fits this audience, then it’s an excellent tool in your PR armoury.

What are the benefits?
It’s free
It’s fun with a capital F and offers endless opportunities for creativity
It’s all about sharing experiences via images, video, photo tagging and re-posts
It’s the largest ad-free social network out there.
Want to give it a go – here are our top five tips:

  1. Start with a clear plan of your objectives – what do you want to achieve? If your focus is on return on investment, then this platform is not the best for conversions and sales – although it is free to sign up for, it will take time and dedication to get the best from it
  2. Post creative content that is current, newsworthy, that taps into the latest trends and is seasonal
  3. Use hashtags consistently to drive awareness, particularly during specific PR campaigns but don’t over use them, that can really turn people off
  4. Take care with your posts: Instagram is not an online catalogue. If you treat it as such and make it salesy you will lose followers
  5. Unless you’re working on a specific campaign we wouldn’t recommend more than two to three posts a day. It’s best not to over-do it and saturate your audience. No one wants to be bombarded, especially the young and tech-savvy, they have no time for it!
Thanks for that advice Rachel.  Next week she will give some tips on a writing a PR plan for your business.

If you missed any of the posts from the series last year, you can catch up here:

Meet you back here for a cuppa and some more tips next Wednesday!

Best wishes

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Getting Back in the Swing, Trying to Get My Act Together...


I must confess, I've not had the best of starts to the new year.  Last week I was laid up for a couple of days with the flu bug that's been doing the rounds.  During those restful days between Christmas and New Year I was all ideas and had lots of plans on how to get stuck into new work and the new year.  Then BAM!...I was floored by winter bugs.

It happens.  I'm feeling much better now, but have found getting back into the flow of working a bit of an uphill struggle this week.  So instead of fighting it, I've gone with it and allowed myself to take things gently, one day at a time...

Thankfully, I was pretty organised at the end of last year with getting some new occasions card designs done, so one of the first things I did was place an order with the printers and got those in.

These cards are a fair bit larger than my usual occasion cards - they are A5 sized and I thought a Kraft envelope would set them off  nicely.

As part of my easing back into things, I set to work having a little play with photographing them. 

This year I want to make things easier on myself and find a way of simplifying the way I go about a lot of the day to day stuff.  For me, this year it's all about carving out more creative time without eating into chunks of family time (which I have been very guilty of in the past).  The more streamlined I can make my processes, the better...

So I had a play with a different background for my product shots - mainly to capture the colours on my designs, but to also limit the amount of photo editing time I've had to do in the past with white backgrounds.  

For card images, this set up seems to do the trick and has halved my 'faffing about with images' time (to give it my technical term!) which is a huge bonus - but what do you think? does it work?...

It's certainly helped get my Valentines and Mother's Day products ready to be listed and some of my online shops are already sporting them. 

Next on my list is to get on top of current jobs to carve out some time to develop some new ranges in the next few weeks.  Which is easier said than done as there never seems to be enough hours in the day.   However, I do feel it is getting better and slowly but surely I am finding better ways to manage my time. 

That's mainly thanks to regularly reading the Etsy  & Folksy sellers blogs and a fab book called Creative, Inc by Meg Mateo Ilasco & Joy Deangdeelert Cho  . I have had this book for some time, but have recently made time to go back, revisit it and pay full attention - especially the chapter about balancing your business and personal lives as it certainly stuck a chord with me.  I thoroughly recommend it as a reference book for freelance designers.

Next week I am hoping to begin to run some more of my mid week blog mini series, Tea and Tips
I have some more handy advice from my PR expert friend to share with you.  I also want to bring back my Friday 'Something Pinteresting for the weekend' posts, just to share some inspiration around and let you have a peep at what has caught my eye that week.

Most of all, I am hoping that over the next few weeks, I'll be able to share lots of new work in progress snippets as I get stuck into some new collections for my portfolio and introduce some new products to my online shops.

Best wishes

Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy New Year! Goodbye 2014. Hello 2015.

Happy New Year!

I hope that 2015 proves to be a very happy, healthy, peaceful and creative year for everyone.

I'm not a great one for setting resolutions as such, but do believe in the power of setting goals, so I am never far away from a list of goals and plan of actions.  What I do find the New Year useful for is a time for reflection on the year just gone - to use that as a way to refine and tweak my ongoing goals and plans. The only resolution I will make for 2015 is to continue to be creative and use that as a way to work from home around my family, because that is what I love doing most of all and feel very blessed that I have been able to do that for the past four and a half years...

2014 was a happy year on the whole.  It was a year where I had the opportunity to experiment a little more with new designs and ways of working. There was more time to play and most importantly of all, I felt I had a better work and home life balance with thanks to some very clear set hours and better organisation for working.

Of course there were struggles along the way, but it all worked out OK in the end. 2014 was the year where I felt more relaxed about my work because I had the benefit of experience and a growing sense of creative direction with the work I was producing.  

It was also a year that saw me achieve a couple of  little long held dreams.  Back in January I became a Folksy Featured Seller.  Having began my business with a Folksy shop and this blog, being chosen as a featured seller meant a huge deal to me, it was a wonderful milestone to start 2014 with...

February saw my designs featured on Art Eco Design's stand at Spring Fair International.  
I traveled up to the NEC in Birmingham to go and visit the team on the stand and meet up with some fellow artist friends to go and explore the trends for the year ahead.  

It was great to see the Art Eco Designs team again and I'd like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to them all, we've had another successful year working together and as usual it has been great fun.  I look forward to continued working with everyone in 2015...

This year, with thanks to the team at Art Eco Designs, I've launched my Blooming Lovely range of greetings cards and added lots and lots of new occasions cards to my collection, including some Welsh language versions and special wedding anniversary cards.  I'm currently developing more occasions cards for them which will be launched this year...

Another little dream came true for me back in the summer when my work was featured on one of my favourite blogs - Print and Pattern by Bowie Style...

The summer was also a time when I got to play with my art more. I dug out my crusty old inks and watercolours and challenged myself to do a doodle each morning for a few weeks, simply because I felt like it.  It was very liberating and helped me be more productive with the commissioned work I had on at that time.  What I found fascinating was by making 30 mins of 'play' time each day, I managed to still get my paid work done without adding extra stress - in fact it had the opposite effect, it made it all feel more relaxed and under control because I was glowing with the feeling that I had already achieved something that day. This is certainly something I want to try and do more of  in 2015...

It was really lovely to catch up with some of my creative friends this summer too.  A little road trip to the Contemporary Crafts Festival at Bovey Tracey was certainly one of the highlights of my year.  I spent a wonderful day in very good company drooling over all the beautiful things.  I've already made a note on my new calendar to go again this year, I highly recommend it!...  

As a family, we spent the school summer holidays out and about enjoying the benefits of having such easy access to the whole of the Westcountry from where we live.  Below are some of the snaps I posted on my instagram during that time - just look at those blue skies! I'm so pleased the days are starting to get longer again, I can't wait for spring!...

At the beginning of 2014, I had the aim to develop the range of stationery products I offer, specifically wedding stationery, wall planners and notepad planners....

I'm delighted that I was able to launch the start of these new stationery ranges.  I have plenty more ideas for these to continue working on in 2015 and am really looking forward to it as I love developing these sorts of products...

There are a few thank yous I must say before we get stuck into the new year with gusto.

First and most importantly, I'd like to say a massive thank you to my husband John.  Without all his support, help and encouragement I simply could not do any of this, he has enabled me to build a career doing what I love and I am eternally grateful for everyday I have him by my side.

I'd also like to thank all my lovely design clients, it has been a pleasure to work with you all this past year and I look forward to continuing with projects and setting to work on new ones in 2015.

Thank you to everyone who has ordered prints and products from me this past year, either from my online shops or from my stockist's shops.  I appreciate every single purchase as it enables me to continue on this amazing creative journey where I get to design pretty things each day.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has supported my social networking efforts, your feedback, likes and encouragement keep me going and spur me on - it is truly wonderful to feel part of a very supportive and inspiring online community.

May we all thrive, create and continue to be inspired by wonderful things this year!

Happy New Year Everyone!
Best wishes