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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

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.

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.

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.