Great to see one of my Shetland copywriting clients on prime time TV

Ben Fogle New Livesd in the Wild UK Episode 5 on Fair Isle

 

 

 

 

 

I love a bit of travelling. Occasionally even something a bit adventurous like spending a week with a Swiss heli-logging crew or flitting around the Adamants Range in British Columbia in helicopters while researching a novel. But I must admit that my sense of adventure can’t match that of Ben Fogle, who is making a name for himself discovering new lives in the wild on Channel 5. He started with some of the world’s wildest locations, then brought the concept closer to home with interesting people and places in the UK. And that was what brought him to Fair Isle, off Shetland…

Episode 5 of the first series of New Lives in the Wild UK aired a few weeks ago and I happened to catch it. This time, Ben travelled to the remote island of Fair Isle (63 inhabitants!) just off Shetland. During his week on the windswept rocky outpost, Fogle stayed with American Tommy H. Hyndman who moved to the UK 10 years ago to start a new life on Fair Isle.

Ben Fogle meets Mati Ventrillon

At the time of writing, the episode is still available online and there’s more information about making the programme on the Fair Isle Blogspot.  What I was particularly excited about was that Ben’s show featured my client Mati Ventrillon while he was on the island. Oh what a small world it is…

Flying back from Shetland with Fair Isle in the background

Shetland connections

Anyone who follows me will know that I have family connections with Uradale croft near Scalloway on mainland Shetland. It was through Sue and Ronnie at Uradale (as seen on Countryfile and heard on Radio 4’s On your Farm) that I was introduced to Mati a couple of years ago when she needed help with her website copywriting. You see, Mati, who is actually a French-Venezuelan architect, is also passionate about all-things Fair Isle and has single-handedly revitalised the island’s knitwear industry with her Mati Ventrillon Fair Isle knitwear brand.  She also sends her cow to visit Sue and Ronnie for its annual service.

Not only does she now sell her amuradale farm blogazing clothes around the world (apparently, Ben Fogle’s wife gave him one of her sweaters as a Christmas gift), but she has featured on a banner above Oxford Street during London Fashion Week. This is a lady with a brand that is going places – amazing when you think that she is doing it from a small crofter’s cottage powered by a wind turbine on one of the UK’s remotest outposts. And she does her share of fire duty at the island’s dirt-strip airfield too!

Helping Mati promote her brand online

Mati has always had a strong vision for her brand, for promoting the tradition of knitwear on Fair Isle and for telling the story of Mati Ventrillon Fair Isle Knitwear in just the right way. So it was that, after several thorough fact-finding interviews over a sometimes-dodgy phone connection, I crafted the words that define and differentiate her business – with, I hope, the same craft skill and passion that she knits her fishermen’s sweaters and caps.

A joy to work with her

By her own admission, writing in English, and copywriting for the web in particular, isn”t Mati’s greatest strength. Although her English is actually very good, it isn’t her first language and she was wise enough to allow a skilled copywriter to capture her brand in words. It was a joy to work with her and you can see the results of our collaboration on her website. If you find yourself in a similar position, we should have a chat.

MAti Ventrillon website – copywriting by Al Hidden Copywriter

Back to Ben’s Fair Isle

But enough about copywriting for Shetland and back to Ben Fogle’s week with Tommy. During the episode we see the Fair Isle fire engine just after he has landed. That was when I started to wonder whether Mati would be featured. And indeed she was when there’s a lovely segment of the show where she is fitting Tommy with a sweater – perfect for his extreme golfing activities (but that’s another story and you’ll need to watch the programme for that).

mati-on-channel-5

If you find your way to Fair Isle, say hello to Mati and Tommy. And in the meantime, how about treating yourself or someone special to one of Mati’s lovely pieces of Fair Isle knitwear? Ben Fogle’s wife did!

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical, PR and article copywriting. Visit his Shetland Copywriter page

Choosing a copywriting practice

Al Hidden Copywriter: owner-copywriter of a small Cheltenham, Gloucestershire copywriting agency

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing a copywriting practice

Someone recently told me that Cheltenham has the highest concentration of creative businesses outside London. Put all those design agencies, web designers, copywriting agencies, graphic designers, photographers, app designers and other creative consultancies together and it’s guaranteed to be a challenge to find the one that’s perfect for your next creative project.

More on choosing a copywriting practice

So what are you seeking from your copywriting practice? Will it be large and (probably) expensive? That’s fine if you’re a major global brand, but maybe not such a good fit if you’re a micro business or startup SME in Cheltenham, Stroud or Cirencester.

Alternatively, maybe a small, professional, owner copywriter would best fit your organisation; if you’re planning a major pan-European campaign, perhaps not. But if you need a website, a brochure, a few case studies and the occasional press release, the low overheads and corresponding pricing structure of a good one-man (or woman) band is likely to be perfect.

Let’s look at both for a minute. Read more here

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical, PR and article copywriting.

Blogging for chauffeurs – 7 top tips for a better blog

Blogging for chauffeurs
– 7 top tips for a better blog

A Bluetooth keyboard is a great tool for a blogging chauffeur

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you like many of your chauffeur peers? Do you tweet regular status updates and use LinkedIn for professional networking and building business? Maybe you have a Google+ profile and Facebook too. Banter about just arriving at Heathrow or Gatwick for another pickup is all good and well (but be careful about the confidentiality of what you announce).

But to really engage with your target audience and the search engines takes something a bit more substantial. In this article, I’ll share some of the professional blogging tips and tricks that I use. I’ll encourage you to make more of your blogging and I’ve even included suggested topics to inspire you…

chauffeurs can blog whenever they have  few minutes

Professional chauffeuring gives you all the source material – and the opportunities – for inspired blog posts that prospects and search engines will love!

Are you giving prospects (and search engines) the
content they want to read?

How are you taking advantage of your prospects’ and Google’s insatiable hunger for useful, relevant content? Forget the cheap and cheerful, keyword-stuffed SEO articles of yore. Instead, think about creating articles, posts and updates that offer relevant, timely and useful information to your followers. Information that executive PAs will share and holidaymakers will keep until they need a chauffeur. Information that will set you apart from your competitors.

Chauffeurs blog at airports such as Heathrow

Got a few minutes before your next airport pick-up? Capture a few ideas for your next blog post…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above all, content that will gain you points in the world of sementic web search where sharable content is indeed King, and potentially the Ace up your sleeve, when it comes to promoting your services. Here are seven pro-copywriter tips to help you get started.

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Cheltenham based copywriter specialising in Marketing, blogging, Web/SEO, technical, PR and article copywriting – including copy for several executive chauffeurs

‘Mr Facebook’ gets me thinking about content marketing books

‘Mr Facebook’ gets me thinking
about content marketing books

Content marketing books

I was catching up on a bit of BBC Radio 4 comedy  recently. The Now Show is another great piece of BBC radio satire that I usually listen to while driving up the M5 on a Friday evening. This was an episode that I’d missed, but as usual from Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis, it was hilarious – especially when they referenced Mark ‘Facebook’ Zuckerberg’s recent blog confession by saying that Zuckerberg had ‘discovered a new piece of analogue technology – books’.  It got me thinking about the content marketing books that I’ve been reading recently and I thought I’d share: Read more here

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical, PR and article copywriting.

7 steps to your better Meet the Team page

Meet the Team page for Cheltenham-based Elliot Oliver Sales & letting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s easy to write a boring Meet the Team page on your website. Just drag some random information from employee job descriptions, throw it together on your About Us page and drop in pictures snapped by the office’s amateur David Bailey!

Alternatively, follow these tips for creating a Meet the Team page that really engages site visitors, shows your team’s skills and personalities to the full, and speaks volumes about your brand…

1. Before you begin

Before you interview, write and photograph, think carefully about what you want your employee profile page(s) to achieve and the messages you want to convey about your people and your organisation. The best Meet the Team pages are carefully planned and created.

2. Interview the team

Interview the team: talk about their business motivations; greatest successes; interests; likes and dislikes; and get a quote or two.

Then comes the really clever stuff! Read more

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical, PR and article copywriting.

7 top tips for article writing

Article writing and the inverted pyramid

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging articles delight customers, prospects and internet search engines alike. Based on many years of article writing, here are 7 pro-tips to help you when you decide to have a go at article writing yourself. It really isn’t as hard to create valuable content and engage with your audience as you might imagine.

  1. Remember the inverted pyramid. Load your contact so the Who, What, Why, Where, Which, When and How of the piece are included in the first paragraphs. Journalists call it the ‘inverted pyramid’ because it puts the substance of the story at the top. Online, it is important because ‘front loading’ catches your reader’s attention quickly and appears ‘above the fold’ on the first screen of an online page. In print it is equally important. More
Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical, PR and article copywriting.

A must-read if you send or receive CVs…

I was given this inspired Christmas gift by Mrs H. Even after a quick flick through Crap CVs by Jenny Crompton (I’m still reading the excellent Speak Human by Eric Karjaluoto), I can see what a gem it is and the hours of amusement it promises to deliver.

 

 

 

 

The dedication ‘ To all the hopelessly unemployed’ says it all: the contents, so lovingly curated by Ms Crompton, range from the brief (‘HERE ARE MY RESUME AND IM NOT SO INTEREST IN YOUR JOB THANKS MO’) to the hilariously verbose.

I’m excited already, not just because I write military to civilian CVs professionally, but because it’s just hilariously funny. I challenge anyone not to laugh (and laugh, and laugh) and learn.

Have you read Crap CVs? What did you think of it? What’s the funniest CV blooper you’ve ever come across?

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Season’s Greetings 2014 from Al Hidden, Gloucestershire Copywriter

season's_greetings_from_alh

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Client case study writing, Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Revealed: what you get when you pay $5 for an SEO article…

This is my 100th blog post, so I thought it had better be a cracker.

peanuts

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve long wondered what buyers actually get when they pay ‘peanuts’ for SEO articles or other copywriting on sites such as Elance, Fiverr and others of their ilk. I’d heard about the problems with poorly-written copy, writers who don’t have English as their first language and so on…

To find out what professional copywriters are up against from the so-called copy mills, I recently tried a little experiment. Here’s what happened…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in article writing, Marketing, Website and SEO copywriting, technical and PR copywriting.

Customer case studies: Sold! By your client in their words…

Well-researched and written client case studies are an effective way to get your clients to sell you in their own words. Once created, they’re easy to use across many print and online platforms with minimal reworking. Now that’s cost-effective…

Case studies are traditionally short and sweet – and rather clinical. They work by showing how you solved a client problem – to engage potential customers who face a similar challenge. And at the end, you quote your client, saying what a jolly good supplier you are.

But there’s another way, and in this article, I share my approach to writing client case studies where your client sells your business using even more of their words. Read more here…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Client case study writing, Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

How good is your website content?

online content examples by the gloucestershire copywriter

 

 

 

 

In October 2014, I was invited to lead a couple of mini workshops sessions at The Business Kitchen’s introductory taster session held at Maggie’s in Cheltenham. My talk and the accompanying handout went down well with the attendees, so I thought I’d share them with a wider audience here…

For websites to engage humans and search engines, content is (and always was) king. Good content is relevant and meaningful to your site visitors, well written and consistent with your brand. Google’s recent algorithm changes have made content’s importance topical, almost as if content is a newly discovered recipe for online success. In reality, since Bill Gates’ prophetic 1996 ‘Content is King’ essay, the smart money has always been on creating content that helps your site visitors solve problems – in alignment with Google’s guiding principles.

Whether you just want content to read well, or you want it to help your search engine optimisation (SEO), good content writing matters. When SEO performance is important, the difference is that you’ll need to integrate properly researched page keyword sets into your content. Read more here…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

What caught the Gloucestershire Copywriter’s eye this week?

I thought I’d try something completely different this week and flag up three things with writerly connections that caught my attention on radio and TV last week.

Jimmy PAge, LAdies of London and The Gervasutti Refuge

What caught the Gloucestershire Copywriter’s eye this week…

Page reminisces on Plant’s writing ability

Last Tuesday, Radio 4’s Front Row arts and culture magazine featured Kirsty Lang interviewing guitar icon Jimmy Page about the newly-remastered version of Led Zeppelin IV (the ‘untitled’ album) and the inclusion of a -previously unheard version of ‘Stairway to Heaven‘ recorded at LA’s Sunset Sound Studios. What was particularly interesting were Page’s reminiscences about the recording the original album version of ‘Stairway’ at Headley Grange in 1971 – and how Robert Plant wrote and recorded most of the lyrics in just a few hours. To quote Page:

…Robert was sort of sitting down against the wall and he was just sort of writing and writing and writing and he came up to sing at one point after we’d been working on it we’d got the whole of the structure and everyone’s remembering what parts to come in on … he comes in and starts singing and he’s got a major percentage of the lyrics already done at that point and it’s epic, the lyricism of that is epic. The moods that are created as it goes through are all coming to be and, as I say, Robert is just, he’s, he’s just independent of this, he’s, he’s just writing and writing and writing like it’s automatic writing at this point, he’s channeling, you know and he comes up and starts singing, cause he’s got a picture of it ’cause he’s listening to all the routining … it’s pretty inspired stuff…

As a professional writer who knows what it’s like to get in the zone with business copywriting, novel writing and even a bit of songwriting, I could relate to this. I just liked it, the story of how what is arguably the greatest rock song of all time was substantially written and recorded in two or three takes one afternoon.

From Headley Grange to London’s guilty pleasures

The week’s guilty pleasure came after reading a tabloid article about the ITV series Ladies of London. Although I can’t stand soaps, reality TV is another thing and I couldn’t resist a peek at one episode – and then another. There’s something worryingly compulsive about this hugely contrived fly-on-the-wall look into the lives of several British and American London socialites as they cat fight, quaff Champagne and do the rounds of London’s society events. As an SEO copywriter, I was particularly interested in one scene of Episode 1. That was when the oh-so-in-control (and very successful, with her upmarket Gift Library website) Caroline Stanbury’s marketing team announced that they hadn’t got the functionality to change any of their own keywords in the website copy. Oops! So rich, so cool but… such a schoolboy (or schoolgirl) online marketing error.

The ultimate copywriting refuge?

And then there was George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel 4 and his helicopter trip (helicopters: now that immediately caught my attention) to the amazing Gervasutti Refuge at 2833m in the Mont Blanc Massif. Constructed in 2011 to replace an earlier refuge, this ultra-modern, completely temporary, prefabricated pod by LEAPfactory offers sleeping accomodation for  12 people, broadband, solar power and the most amazing views imaginable over the Val Ferret’s Freboudze Glacier, in front of the east face of the Grandes Jorasses of the Mont Blanc range.

And what did I think? How that would make an amazing copywriter’s studio – if only one could keep one’s eyes on the work and not on the jaw-dropping scenery. Whistley Hill overlooking Charlton Kings is lovely, and inspirational, but the Gervasutti Refuge is something else again.

The newly-remastered Led Zeppelin IV, an episode of Ladies of London (well, maybe not) and a week in the Gervasutti Refuge with Mrs H. The climb out of the Val Ferret is a long, hard one if you don’t take the chopper, but surely a stairway to copywriter heaven.

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

The late Steve Jobs and PC PRO agree with me…

When I were a lad, back in the 1980s, selling building products in South East England, face-to-face interactions were the norm. In fact, with the exception of a bit of phone work to set up appointments and deal with customer enquiries (no LinkedIn or social networking in 1983), face time with customers was the norm. Send out quotes by post (yes, post), then arrange an appointment to discuss a job; meet on site to progress the project; meet over lunch at the Newbury Beefeater; and drop in when passing to maintain profile. It was all about building and nurturing relationships.

Some say you can run a creative project with Skype and email alone

Now I see copywriters in distant parts of the country proclaiming that you don’t need to meet your copywriter to run a writing project. Do it all with Skype and video conferencing and email and IM they say as they try to persuade Gloucestershire businesses that you don’t have to use a local copywriter when you are based in Cheltenham, Stroud, Worcester or Cirencester.

And, if the truth be known, you don’t always need to. But from my freelancing experience since 2006, it sure helps. I’ve worked remotely on occasions and done a damn good job without meeting the client. But it isn’t as easy as people make out and they were uncomplicated jobs. And at the end of the project, despite connecting on LinkedIn and phone chats and email dialogue, and despite a happy client, I often feel the relationship hasn’t developed as well as it could have.

Many of my clients disagree…

I’m not alone in thinking this and many of my clients agree with me. Just as I was told that people buy from people back in the 1980s, so I hear it from my regulars in 2014. Am I a Luddite? Absolutely not. I love technology and I love using it as much as the next copywriter, but have you ever tried to look at, handle and discuss a desk full of hard copy source material over Skype? Exactly. Which is why I was heartened to run into two references from the heartland of tech this week that support my assertion that face-to-face communication is by now means dead.

I was browsing a recent issue of PC PRO

pcpro_logo

 

 

 

 

The first reference was in the July 2014 issue of PC PRO, on page 064 to be exact, in the depths of an RWC feature titled ‘Doing business in a social era‘.  Imagine my delight (and relief) when I read the following and felt the warm surge of validation:

In the 20th century we had face-to-face, supported by letters, then telephone then email. In the 21st century, relationships and friendships are online, which supports face-to-face meetings, often using the mobile phone. People still want to meet face to face, but a lot of the mechanics of getting there is done online. Social technologies just change the dynamics of the way you can work and amplify what you can do face to face

Read more: Doing business in a social era | Enterprise | Features | PC Prohttp://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/389299/doing-business-in-a-social-era#ixzz3G2ZzzQmQ

The last person you’d imagine enthusing about face-to-face meetings

The second reference concerns none other than the late Steve Jobs of Apple – the one and only, the very same Steve Jobs who was wrestling with the disastrous Lisa PC while I was selling concrete and mortar in Berkshire. Goodness knows how it has taken me so long to get to Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s excellent and highly-rated 2011 biography of Jobs, but it has, Anyway, there I was immersed in a chapter about the design and construction of a then-new Pixar headquarters building when I came across this:

Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

stevejobsbook_

Thank you Steve Jobs

Thank you Mr Jobs, the visionary creator of tools that enable us to communicate so seamlessly anywhere and anytime. How true and how marvellous to read this within 24 hours of spotting the  comment in PC PRO.

Need I say more? I think not. Whether you call it face-to-face contact, face time, a well-run meeting, dropping in for a chat or just running into a client out of hours, the role of face-to-face interaction is most certainly not dead. In my book it’s vital; like so many ‘old school’ values that are quickly dismissed by the demographic cohort known as Millennials or Generation Y .

Something to think about

That’s something to remember next time you look for a specialist supplier in London, up North or down in the depths of Cornwall. On balance, and everything else being equal, having someone just down the road who can call in to take a brief or discuss the project and won’t need to charge an arm and a leg to do so, is rather attractive.

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Two talented designpreneurs: one Gloucestershire copywriter…

It’s been a while since I last posted. Put it down to a couple of trips away (including Shetland), interspersed with a continued heavy writing workload. It’s that old shoemakers’ kids’ shoes thing – my own promotion suffers…

Working with two inspiring designpreneurs

One of my most recent projects sits nicely alongside another of this year’s writing high spots and both are interesting because they were for women who are pioneering innovative design-led bespoke services. So I thought I would tell you about two of my recent clients, Mati Ventrillon and Britta Curley.

Rejuvenating Fair Isle knitwear

Mati, for whom I wrote a new website,  is based up on Fair Isle, a French-Venezuelan Shetland incomer who became fascinated by the craft and tradition of Fair Isle knitwear, has mastered the centuries-old skills and added her own creative twist and entrepreneurial flair.
mati ventrillon
Mati’s bespoke knitwear has already caught the attention of the UK design fraternity – amongst other honours, Mati was featured in London Design Week a couple of years ago. As well as being a fascinating example of rejuvenating a specialised regional craft form, Mati’s entrepreneurship promises great things for the Fair Isle economy in the future – and offers a tempting array of knitwear for woollen garment lovers around the world.
al hidden copywriter mati ventrillon fair isle knitwear website copywriter

A new take on table design and finishes in Cheltenham

Much closer to my Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, base, Britta Curley’s business, (Curley Burrows) specialises in designing and crafting bespoke furniture with unique surface finishes and detailing. From large carved dining tables to small, coffee tables, every one of Britta’s creations is, like Mati’s garments, a unique work of art. Britta tells me that the launch of her business at September 2014’s Tent London design exhibition was a great success – aided, I hope, by my work as her press release copywriter.
britta curley
If you are a home or business owner seeking a stunning centrepiece table, or an interior designer seeking novel furniture ideas, you really should investigate what Britta’s up to at her studio in Cheltenham.
bespoke furniture in cheltenham: curley burrows

Two design talents – support from one copywriter

As well as both being ambitious, and highly creative, designpreneurs, Britta and Mati both recognised that specialised copywriting wasn’t their key skill and the best use of their time. In Britta’s case she was busy preparing to launch her business at Tent London. For Mati it was the launch of her Mati Ventrillon Fair Isle Knitwear brand online (as well as running a croft and bringing up two young children on one of the UK’s remotest island outposts) that demanded her focus.
In both cases, I was able to take away the research and writing ‘problem’ and create the engaging copy that will tell Mati’s brand story online and introduce Britta to the UK interior design media.

Watch Britta and Mati in future

And my takeaway after working with these two inspiring women? Watch both with interest, commission a Curley Burrows table and dress up for winter with one of Mati’s stunning garments. And if you need a hand getting copywriting off your to-do list? Please remember your Cheltenham and Shetland copywriter
Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Atlantic rower Rachel Smith supports The Children’s Society at WinBiz barbeque

Where’s the time gone? Over a month since my last post – a Shetland trip, a couple of weekends away (including the amazing Adventure Travel Film Festival at Sherborne) and loads of head-down copywriting have kept this Gloucestershire copywriter away from WordPress. Sorry!

To business, and this is an unashamed plug for the forthcoming charity fundraising barbeque by WinBiz Networking at The Hunter’s Hall Inn, Kingscote, Tetbury, on September 11th 2014, at 18.30 (until 21.00). A big chunk of the proceeds (and raffle takings) will be going to The Children’s Society, the WinBiz charity of the year for 2014. You can book here.

Highlight of the evening will be a talk by record-breaking transatlantic rower Rachel Smith, who has kindly waived her usual public-speaking fee to join us. Add in a raffle and delicious food (indoor or outdoors depending on the weather and this promises to be an amazing evening – and a bargain ticket price too!

rachel smith transatlantic rower

Rachel Smith speaks in support of The Children’s Society at the WinBiz Networking barbeque on 11 September 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information and booking details are on the WinBiz Networking website (discounted early-bird ticket prices end on 7 September!).

If adventure travel, rowing, barbeques or just plain old networking ‘float your (rowing) boat’, this has to be a don’t-miss evening. Please book now and support a great cause – The Children’s Society.

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

The Gloucestershire Copywriter’s cure for the summertime blues

Summer’s here!

I’m gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holler
About a workin’ all summer just to try to earn a dollar

Well maybe not, because despite what Eddie Cochran sang in the late fifties before his untimely death near Chippenham, it’s turning into another busy summer packed with website copy, client case studies, brochure copywriting and a great new regular blog-post writing  gig for my old friends Gemini Translation Services in Keynsham, Bristol.

Thinking about vacations

Actually, you won’t hear a holler from the Gloucestershire Copywriter and the only fuss is how to juggle all the great copy coming my way. But the scorching weather here in Cheltenham did set me thinking about vacations and the importance of planning and taking regular breaks – whatever one does.

Planning a trip can be stressful

For anyone in a pressured employed or freelance role, planning a great trip can seem like another unneeded stressor when you’re up to your ears in the daily grind. That’s where one of my local networking contacts, Lucy Thurston of Travel Counsellors, comes to your assistance – as she did brilliantly when we were planning a special three-week trip to Argentina, Chile and Brazil earlier in the year.

Gloucestershire Copywriter – Torres del Paine, Chile

The Gloucestershire Copywriter on tour – March 2014

Let Lucy take the strain

Lucy, who is based in Cheltenham, takes your ideas (ranging from ‘here’s a detailed outline of what we want to do’ to ‘I haven’t a clue, I just need to get away’) and she sorts your trip out using her experience. a network of experts and the backing of Travel Counsellors. Whether you fancy a budget flight and a hotel at the other end or a multi-week southern hemisphere adventure as we did, her organisational skills, customer care and access to a great travel organisation are second to none – and she organises trips for groups too.

Lucy certainly knows travel and she’s a dream to work with. The beauty of using Lucy and letting her do what she does best is that you can get on with the day-to-day while she does all the legwork and puts a great trip together – with all the ATOL bonding and other reassurances you could need. I’ve even heard that she’s been known to leave milk and a loaf of bread ready for clients’ return. Now that’s what I call service (yes, Lucy is that good at what she does).

Lucy Thurston – travel consultant to the gloucestershire copywriter

Lucy Thurston – Cheltenham travel consultant

Come to think about it, Lucy and I have more in common than just being members of the same networking groups. Like her, I free busy people up to do what they do best. I don’t arrange trips to Europe, the Americas or the Far East. Instead, I get copywriting off people’s to-do lists – the business writing for websites, PR and brochures that you don’t have the time, specialist skills or the inclination to do yourself.

Happy holidays everyone

So book a great trip through Lucy, brief me before you go and take a well-deserved break while I write through our scorching summer. Then look forward to some sparkling copy on your return – and maybe a pinta and a loaf too!

Happy holidays everyone! Now, maybe I should take two weeks and have a fine vacation too…

Lucy!

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Vulcan XH558 takes the Gloucestershire Copywriter back in time…

It’s a short but sweet reminiscence this week, prompted by the chance sighting of our only flying Vulcan G-VLCN (military identifier XH558) as it headed for the Weston Air Festival on a recent Sunday afternoon.

Seeing  G-VLCN (I thought our personal number plate was a good one!) flying over was a wonderful experience. I only just caught her, saw her heading south from a bedroom window, rushed to grab the camera and snatched a shot at full zoom just as the V bomber was about to disappear over our neighbour’s roof.

The Vulcan took the Gloucestershire Copoywriter back in time...

Avro Vulcan XH558 about to fly into my neighbour’s open Velux window!

Why the emotion? Well, the last time I saw a Vulcan flying for real was back in the early 1960s when we lived in Bristol. I must have been about five then, when Vulcans – at that time part of our main nuclear deterrent – flew over regularly.

Seeing G-VLCN The Spirit of Great Britain again reminded me how far I’ve come in 50 years. Back then I drew and wrote little stories, made aircraft and hangers out of plasticine. Now, as well as doing all those things (!) the writing’s taken on a whole different meaning.

It’s been a fascinating journey from a Bristol childhood to working as a freelance copywriter just up the road in Cheltenham. I think back over growing up in Bristol, then in Northern Ireland through The Troubles. Then uni at Cambridge (and pistol shooting under the wing of a retired Concorde at Duxford) followed by years in technical selling, marketing, business development, technical writing,, copywriting and PR across southern England. I developed a passion for Switzerland and British Columbia, got married, got divorced, married again, wrote a novel with an aviation theme and settled under the Cotswold escarpment with the two loves of my life – my wife and my words.  It took nearly 50 years from sitting in that garden looking up at the Vulcans, but I finally got back to where I’m meant to be – a passionate creative who loves using paper and pencil (or a word-processor now) and has been known to do aviation and defence-related copywriting.

Over the years, my interest in aviation sustained, probably helped me get into an aviation tech pubs firm where I worked for Airbus (including doing my bit on the A-380 Tooling & Equipment Manual) and Rolls-Royce (manufacturer of the Vulcan’s Olympus engines) and worked alongside people who maintained and flew Vulcans in those halcyon 1960s days… including one who carried the Magna Carta to the USA aboard a Vulcan.

Vulcan XH558

Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

Looking at the Wikipedia page for G-VLCN/XH558, I see that the aircraft first flew on 25 May 1960, which makes me a few months older than her! We’re both going strong after all those years: me with my marketing, website, brochure, technical and case study copywriting; the Vulcan as the only surviving flying example of a bygone age when Britain’s airborne nuclear deterrent really was something to be respected and admired.

That particular branch of the RAF may have gone, to be replaced by a handful of sinister, prowling missile submarines. But the Vulcan continues to rouse the passions of virtually everyone who sees (or hears) her.

Talking of passions, there’s more copywriting to be done…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

What sticks in your mind? The Gloucestershire Copywriter, grapefruit and the Eifel Tower…

Attending Growing Gloucestershire 2014 recently, I was reminded of the importance of using engaging examples to create word pictures and bring stories to life whenever we communicate – using media, or face-to-face.  It’s amazing how a simple example can turn an ‘okay’ communication into a highly memorable one.

Ben Taylor’s presentation at Growing Gloucestershire 2014

My observation coincided with starting to read Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick, and in particular their definition of SUCCESs principles that make ideas stick in our minds. What stood out for me at Growing Gloucestershire was the presentation by Ben Taylor, Assistant Group Chief Executive of Gloucestershire-based metrology (measurement) specialists Renishaw plc.

Made to Stick book

And it does!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoyed Ben’s talk and learned lots about Renishaw’s philosophy and products. If truth be told, it wasn’t the greatest presentation from a technical point of view. But what the talk occasionally lacked there, it made up for with fascinating content, Ben’s enthusiasm and the memorability of several word pictures that he painted to illustrate important points. I loved it.

The Eifel Tower and the grapefruit

In particular, there’s the image of the Eifel Tower and a grapefruit that Ben left in my mind as he explained the 0.08 arcsec accuracy of Renishaw’s metrology equipment. On the face of it, that sounds pretty accurate, but how much more engaging it was when Ben explained that  this meant an angular measurement accuracy equivalent to describing an arc with the diameter of a grapefruit on the side of Paris’s most famous monument at 289 miles/465 Km – the distance, as the crow flies, from where we were sitting in Gloucestershire to Paris.

Got it! (And I can’t stop thinking about this, and by association, Renishaw plc.)

As I captured Ben's idea in my notes...

As I captured Ben’s idea in my notes…

SUCCESs

Let’s jump back to Made to Stick and the SUCCESs acronym proposed by the Heath brothers to encompass all the principles required of a ‘sticky’ idea:

S = SIMPLICITY
U = UNEXPECTEDNESS
C = CONCRETENESSC = CREDIBILITY
E = EMOTIONS
S = STORIES

Thinking back to Ben’s talk at Growing Gloucestershire, it’s clear why the image of grapefruit and La Tour Eifel has stuck so firmly in my mind.

The importance of word images in communication

The takeaway from this, and from Made to Stick, is that carefully considered imagery, whether by word of mouth, graphically, or in copy, really can make a strong and lasting impression on the recipients of the communication. Even better if each method of delivery is supported by the others (hint Ben, a picture of M. Eifel’s engineering triumph next time please). That’s why creative collaborations between copywriter and designer/website designer are usually so much more impactful than dropping copy into a ‘designed’ brochure or website.

Tell me about the stickiest idea you’ve encountered recently

So, what’s the stickiest idea that you’ve run into recently? The one that’s still playing on your mind, reminding you of an event or a business, or inspiring you? Feel free to comment below and tell me.

 

PS: If you didn’t make Growing Gloucestershire this year, make sure to come along in 2015.

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Gloucestershire Copywriter’s tip if you want small-business offices near M5 J13…

This week’s post is an unashamed plug for another of our local Gloucestershire businesses – and proof that when you set out to help someone else you can end up getting valuable and unexpected benefits. Want to know what happened when I called in on Russell Warner at Westend Office Suites at Stonehouse near Stroud, Gloucestershire? There could be something in it for you too, so please read on!

I heard about Westend Office Suites at the WinBiz networking group

I’d already spoken to Russell briefly  a couple of times at the WinBiz networking group (alternate Thursday mornings at Egypt Mill, Nailsworth) and was keen to understand his objectives for Westend Office Suites.

West end Office Suites: perfect for copywriters, consultants or small artisan busionesses

Russell Warner: owner of Westend Office Suites, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I called in – between meetings with potential new copywriting clients – on a glorious Friday. It was a perfect day to see the beautifully converted farm buildings to best advantage. Sitting outside after looking around some of the suites, Rus explained his transition from corporate accountant to office-suite proprietor. As well as being impressed by the quality of the accommodation, I liked his philosophy of building a close and mutually supportive community on the site, his generous approach to parking spaces and his competitive rates. Like me and my copywriting rates, Russell has pitched sensibly and his approach is paying off.

An interesting mix of small businesses

His current tenants include an interesting spread of specialist businesses and even an up-market wedding cake maker (sadly, no samples while I was there!). Although Russell won’t be taking on certain kinds of businesses (for instance, call centres just wouldn’t fit in with the vibe at Westend), he’s still got capacity for accountants, web designers, other creatives and artisan businesses. If I was planning to expand and create a small multi-person writing agency with office premises, I’d be in like a flash. As it happens, I’m not, because one of my grounding principles was not to employ and not to sub-contract – I do everything for my clients and they love the personal service. I’m a Cheltenham-based home-office copywriter through and through!

Westend Office Suites

A wonderful blend of meticulously converted agricultural buildings and a carefully selected mix of complementary tenants…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valuable suggestions for any business networker

As we sat outside and talked, it was fascinating to learn about Russell’s background in accountancy, his plans for Westend Office Suites and his business philosophies. Then, quite unexpectedly, he made a couple of valuable suggestions to help me promote myself at networking meetings – they could apply to anyone offering relatively intangible services such as copywriting, editing, proof-reading or similar.

Westend Office Suites

Impressive offices next to creativity-inspiring meadows and lots of extra-large parking spaces too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice for anyone offering intangible services

What Rus suggested was the importance of bringing along satisfied clients to our networking meetings as guests (as I write this I recall that I have done this, for instance, when Richard Gill of Quantuvis, for whom I’ve done client case study copywriting,  attended WinBiz a few weeks ago – but I need to do it more). My guest meets new contacts, the networking group gets to hear how I helped the client – in their words – and the group meets a possible new member. It all makes perfect sense, as did Russell’s suggestion that I use more before-and-after examples of my work and the benefits it has brought clients. All good stuff and it was really helpful to get an objective external perspective. Thank you again Rus.

Looking for small-business offices in Gloucestershire?

So what’s the takeaway here? Well, apart from those tips for promoting intangible services, my big message is that if you are actively looking for, or considering, rented office accommodation in the Stonehouse, Stroud, Gloucestershire area (minutes from M5 Junction 13) you really should put Westend Office Suites on your shortlist and talk to Russell.

FSB networking and mini-hog roast on 8 July 2014

In the meantime, how about signing up for the forthcoming networking meeting and mini-hog roast that Cotswold Branch of the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) is holding at Westend Office Suites on Tuesday 8 July 2014 from18.30. You can sign up at Eventbrite and non-members are welcome – Russell’s existing tenants will be there too.

If you want office accommodation near M5 Junction 13 in Gloucestershire, contact Russell at Westend Office Suites. But if you want help getting vital copywriting off your to-do list, please contact me about my business copywriting services.

 

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

Graphic design and copywriting: a lesson from Rio’s favelas

Rio’s sprawling hillside favelas – shanty towns – are a long way from this Gloucestershire copywriter’s beat. And they might seem a strange place to find a reminder about the importance of graphic design and copywriting working together for the clearest possible communication. But that, indeed, is what I saw on an impressive BBC2 documentary last night.

The Gloucestershire Copywriter loved Welcome to Rio, Part 1 'Peace'

Welcome to Rio on BBC 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was watching Part 1 of BBC’s pre-World Cup documentary series Welcome to Rio. I’m not a massive football fan, but it looked interesting and, having recently spent a couple of days in Brazil, I decided to watch. The programme, which looked at the lives of people living in Rio’s favelas, gave a fascinating insight into the challenges faced by the residents as they survive with pirated electricity, broken white goods salvaged from Rio’s posh districts and inspiration from some of the most stunning dawn views over Copacabana beach and Corcovado.

A few words make things easier for everyone

The Cantagalo residents featured in this observational series included Brazilian ‘Banksey-style’ graffiti artist Acme. In one scene, Acme is communicating his feelings for the enforced dismantling of the favela with an impressive artwork featuring an octopus (the authorities) and a shark (the people). As he finishes the metres-long painting, a police officer asks what it is about, drags out of Acme the notion of oppressed people battling against the establishment, then suggests that a few words might make the idea easier for everyone to understand.

Get your copywriter in early

And there was the lesson. Too often, as a busy Cheltenham copywriter, I get called into a project when the brochure design is complete or a website is nominally ‘finished’. I do my best, but how much better it is for the client when I work alongside their graphic designer or website company from the start to produce a design solution where words and images complement each other and communicate the desired message.

In fact, since returning from South America, I’ve been working with Stroud-based graphic designer Sam Hemmings (Design Fibre) to create a new brochure for retail location specialist Maximise (UK) Ltd. The project was a joy, with a fantastic client and great chemistry between Sam and I as the classic copywriter-designer creative team.

When words and images work together – it’s perfect

Oh yes! As that Rio cop explained to the exceptionally talanted Acme, perfect communication comes when words and design work together. Now, let’s hope that the England team gel as well as Sam and I did when they take to the pitch in next month’s World Cup.

Let’s hope for Gol! Gol! Gol! (as they say in Rio!) And before that, there are two more episodes of Welcome to Rio to watch over the next couple of weeks…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.