Tag Archives: cheltenham copywriter

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

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.

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.

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.

The Gloucestershire Copywriter’s shelfie …

The selfie is dead – long live the shelfie!

According to a recent piece in The Guardian, selfies may have been the thing in 2013, but pictures of bookshelves are now much more interesting. Others are already on the shelfie bandwagon (or should that be bookshelf?) started by Instagram, including Radio 2’s Simon Mayo and the New York Public Library.

copywriting shelfie

The Gloucestershire Copywriter’s shelfie

As part of my continuous professional development, I read a lot around copywriting, web and SEO copywriting, PR writing, technical communication, branding and other topics relevant to my craft.

So here’s part of this Cheltenham copywriter’s reference library – my reference shelfie. It’s the perfect complement to over 30 years’ practical, real-world experience in sales, marketing, technical writing, PR, and of course in-house and freelance copywriting.

Now, please tell me about the most useful writing books on your reference shelf.

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

What makes a Gloucestershire copywriter?

Hot on the heels of my last post about CV writing, I took a trip down my own career memory lane when former boss, Martin Clarke OBE, got in touch for a chat about some writing support. As well as his briefing, our conversation was a great opportunity to revisit old times – and to remember former colleagues who are no longer with us.

Martin is one of those super-influential people that everyone should meet during their career (another is Mike Rigby, from whom I learned so much about PR writing at MRA before going freelance). Now the chief executive of the British Precast Concrete Federation (the recent OBE was a well-deserved reward for services to the concrete industry), Martin was the group marketing manager at ARC (later part of the Hanson plc empire) when we worked together in the 1980s.

Reminiscing over coffee reminded me about the importance of the diverse experience we gather throughout a career. From childhood, I was always interested in graphics and writing, yet, by twists of fate and circumstance, my CV shows 15 years of selling, market research report writing, marketing management and technical writing before I launched my own business as one of the copywriters in Cheltenham.

Sometimes during that time I felt I wasn’t on the right course, but with time and focus on what I really wanted to do, I moved myself into the place I’m meant to be – and where, I believe, I was always meant to be.

So what about those years in quarries, selling mortar to hard-nosed contracts managers, or estimating for a packaging operation (alongside the PR writing), or managing promotional projects for Bradstone Garden Products? Looking back at my CV, and the years of experience it represents, I can now see with startling clarity the value of all those experiences. And so, I believe, do my clients. You see, I’m not some Johnny (or Jilly) come lately aspiring copywriter fresh out of college with their shiny English degree. I’ve been round the block a few times, and the quarry, and the packaging works, and the aerospace tech pubs department and the PR agency, and it all adds up to what makes me, well, ‘me’.

Add a bit of innate writing ability, some creativity and a lot of writing practice to those experiences and you have a unique resource: someone who really understands industry and business and marketing; someone who’s been where you are and stood in your shoes. Someone who can convert what you do into a meaningful story for your chosen audience.

Yes, sometimes it’s good to look back and reflect on what shaped the person you are now. And why certain things happened (or why you made them happen).

Then you look to the future and apply everything you’ve learned to the next copywriting project.

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

Atten-shun! Military to civilian transition CV writing

I had the opportunity to deploy my military CV writing service for a client recently.  I’m not one of the mass-CV generators; there are plenty of people offering this service. What I offer is a bespoke service for anyone who wants the attention to detail, fact-finding and writing that a professional copywriter can offer – especially if it’s a military to civilian CV, with all the special challenges this brings.

army

My most recent client, approaching the end of their military career, fell into this category and presented all the challenges of military CV writing: the requirement to demilitarise terminology; the need to turn military experience and achievements into benefits that will appeal to civilian employers; and the usual CV presentation challenges. At least there was plenty of great material to work with; members of the armed forces come with amazingly varied experience, loads of training and a wealth of skills  that should set civilian employers’ mouths watering. It’s well known that, once the transition to a less rigidly structured civilian working environment is managed effectively, ex-military personnel have loads to offer in business or administration – particularly in areas such as transport, logistics, risk management, training and project management.

The project went like clockwork (like a well-planned and executed military operation, in fact). And from the start I was reminded that all the usual skills that I deploy as a Cheltenham copywriter came into play. There was the thorough fact-finding, using a combination of a fact-find form and a thorough telephone interview. Then came the organisation of the document. Not all CVs are ordered the same way, and military CVs demand a specific approach. Then came the identification and presentation of the candidate’s skills, experiences and differentiators to put their case strongly to any potential recruiter. This took a bit of encouragement, but the end result was that my client started thinking the right way. I was able to pack the finished CV with actions, personal characteristics and achievements that will resonate with a civilian. And all the time, the relentless translation of military jargon into language that your typical civilian manager would understand…

The final document was a concise, well-structured CV that put the emphasis in all the right places, sold the candidate strongly and, importantly, allowed scope for the person involved to tailor certain sections to specific vacancies in future. That’s important for any candidate: because every vacancy is different and every CV must be tailored. As a CV writer and editor, building-in this capability is an important part of the document design and writing role.

With so many military personnel coming out of the forces, there’s a great opportunity for civilian employers to access this pool of skills and experience. And for the CV writers, like me, who specialise in military-to-civilian-transition-CV writing and editing. What’s more, while using many of the same skills,  it makes a refreshing change from my usual website, brochure and client case study writing.

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

You can benefit from what this Gloucestershire copywriter’s been up to…

I occasionally indulge in a little bit of self-promotion on the blog, especially when it demonstrates the real benefits that a Cheltenham copywriter like me can bring to clients like you.

Today is one of these indulgences. so I thought I’d showcase a couple of recent projects, both drawing on my SEO copywriter skills and experience for Gloucestershire businesses. Both websites, for a local chauffeur-butler service and a specialist recruitment consultancy, also involved carefully designed tone of voice and brand language. In one case inspired by a much-loved fictional character from the 1920s (very subtly, to avoid any sense of parody); in the other, based on the combined characteristics of a prominent business and media celebrity and a popular TV chef.

Homepage for Azure Chauffeur Driven Luxury Cars, Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire

Homepage for Azure Chauffeur Driven Luxury Cars, Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire – SEO copy by Al Hidden, Gloucestershire Copywriter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When working out a voice for my copy, I often ask clients to think of a prominent media figure who they feel suits their brand. As well as giving them something concrete to imagine, this also gives me an accessible reference source using YouTube, iplayer and other online sources. It’s amazing what characteristics you can pick up by listening to or analysing a couple of hours of TV or radio presentation. Then it’s just a matter of judiciously applying the agreed tone of voice to the copy – enough to give the inner dialogue in the reader’s mind a bit of colour, but not too much.

New website for Bluefish Contracting Ltd

Website copywriter for Bluefish Contracting Ltd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first came across this technique when a client, after hiring a respected branding consultancy, briefed me to write as 80 per cent Kevin McCloud and 20 per cent adventurer Steve Backshall. The key moment came when the client reviewed the first draft and expressed surprise at a particular turn of phrase. I explained that Kevin would definitely have said that – I knew because I’d watched quite a bit of his content and transcribed over an hour’s worth during my research.

‘You went to all that trouble?’ asked the client, obviously impressed.

‘Of course,’ I explained. ‘Wouldn’t anyone?’ It just seemed like the obvious way to tackle the challenge I’d been set.

Since then, I’ve increasingly used this technique as web and brochure copywriter for various clients. It’s surprisingly easy to do (well, I find it so) and it gives great results. So if you’d like your website copywriting in the voice of anyone from David Dimbleby to Julia Bradbury, just let me know. I may be Al Hidden the Gloucestershire copywriter, but I can be anybody you like for a modest project fee!

And your website or brochure copy will come alive because I have this skill.

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

Recycling old bikes for Africa – this Gloucestershire copywriter approves

If you’ve got an unwanted bike, there’s a great Gloucestershire charity that recycles bikes for Africa to help students in Gambia get to school or college.

I recently combined a meeting with one of my copywriting clients with a visit to Jole Rider in Tetbury. While there, I dropped off an old touring bike that had belonged to my late mother-in-law. Mary would have been thrilled that her trusty Raleigh Trent (complete with original Brooks sprung saddle) was going to help the kids rather than gathering dust in a garage or going for scrap. Whether the old Trent will actually go to Gambia or go into Jole Rider’s Heritage Collection remains to be seen – either way it will be helping the Jole Rider cause which is good.

Al Hidden Gloucestershire Copywriter at JoleRider, Tetbury

Taking a break from the usual SEO, brochure and case study copywriting at Jole Rider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My visit was a good opportunity to catch up with David Swettenham and his partner Helen King (like me, a copywriter and novelist until Jole Rider took over her world) who started Jole Rider. They founded the charity a few years before I became a freelance Gloucestershire copywriter in 2006. Now, having recently moved from an old hangar at Hullavington, their modern, spacious Tetbury unit is a great location for developing their work. In fact, as I arrived, the latest 423 of more than 12000 bikes were heading off in a container. With your help, the magic 20,000 bikes milestone can’t be too far away.

David Swettenham and Helen King with the classic Raleigh Trent

David Swettenham and Helen King with the classic Raleigh Trent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, have you got an old bike that can be done up by the Jole Riders team and sent to Africa or sold to raise funds at their associated Bike Shed retail outlet? If so, please contact Jole Rider through their website. It’s a wonderful cause and they’ve already done brilliantly. They’ll appreciate any more support, no matter how small, as they continue their work.

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

Writing in Shetland (again)

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog posting front over the last few weeks. Put it down to a combination of loads of work (mainly website and client case study writing – love it!) and a bit of travel. I was back up in Shetland a couple of weeks ago. It was our third trip and the place just grows and grows on me – especially when the weather is as good as it was for our week there.

While I was up north, I was invited to pen another guest post for Uradale Organics – and be able to legitimately call myself a Shetland copywriter, or at least a copywriter in Shetland. It’s always a pleasure to help promote Ronnie and Sue on the croft above Scalloway – particularly so this time as they have spent the best part of the last year sorting out the mess from the massive peat slide that nearly swept the croft away just after our visit last August. If you are interested in organic beef, lamb or wool – or any aspect of the modern face of Shetland crofting – this is a fascinating blog to follow.

Uradale Organics blog

The Uradale Organics blog is a fascinating insight into Shetland crofting in 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you will see from the post and the rest of their blog, success (and a wee bit of fame) has come out of the post-cataclysm events. Not least because the croft was featured on BBC Countryfile when they did a Shetland special a couple of months ago. Keep up the good work at Uradale.

 

And by the way,  if you’re reading this and you happen to be Shetland-based organisation that could use a bit of creative Web, SEO, brochure, technical or marketing copywriting

 

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

Music for Gloucestershire copywriters…here’s my current Top 5

It was re-reading Hi Fidelity  by Nick Hornby that got me thinking about my current Top 5 for copywriting music – and suggested an idea for a very brief post as we all sit and melt in the Scorchio! summer of 2013.

First off, I must say that if I do listen to anything it has to have no (or very unobtrusive) lyrics. Unless I’m on a very untaxing task, lyrics are too distracting. And as for listening to Radio 4 or anything else that’s remotely intellectually stimulating, that’s an absolute no-no.

So, to the current Al Hidden Top 5, and here’s what this Cheltenham copywriter is listening to…

  1. Rachmaninoff:  Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra
  2. Zero 7:  Simple Things
  3. Radio Swiss Classic (at this very moment, Edvard Grieg Piano Concerto / Symphonic Dances)
  4. Hotel Costes: any of the first five Costes albums (Etage 3, La Suite and so on…)
  5. The original soundtrack album: Ne Le Dis a Personne (Tell No One)

Music like this, a some website copy to write, a bit of client copy-editing and a good old-fashioned press release to craft. Now that’s what I call summer!

What do you listen to while you work and why? Feel free to post a comment and share…

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

A plan after Growing Gloucestershire 2013… then it changes

I had a plan and it was a good one. After attending the impressive Growing Gloucestershire 2013 conference I’d sit down and write a load of blogs that had come to me during the presentations. Each would be brief but powerful and I’d have them all done within 24 hours. Then real life intervened.

Loads of new clients

A new client (there seem to have been quite a few of you recently – thank you!) urgently needed conventional and online press release writing for their client. How could I resist, it was for the architectural sector and I love writing for building design and construction related services. Then Mrs H took us off for a couple of days in Wales (only just though) – strictly no work allowed. Then long-standing client Energist needed a load of emails and postcard copy, plus a reworked website page on the run in to new Part L Building Regulations. And in the middle of all this I lost a couple of days through post-concussion syndrome. Copywriter: 6-feet tall; low office ceiling beam: 5-foot nine inches. Moment’s attention lapse. Ouch!

Catching up after Growing Gloucestershire 2013

So here I am nearly two weeks later, having just caught up with my post-Growing Gloucestershire LinkedIn contacts, celebrating the completion of a stunning 26-page aerospace-defence brochure, recovering from a sore head and I’m still buzzing with the excitement of the conference at The University of Gloucestershire’s Park campus.

For this Cheltenham copywriter, the two high points were Dame Fiona Reynolds’ comment about how the National Trust (NT) handled rebranding and brand language on her watch. I asked whether brand language work had gone alongside the visual branding work. She assured me that it had, and told me how she had banned the use of jargon, insisted on the use of we and us and emphasised the use of ‘our’ when talking with members and prospective members of the charity. What about the use of ‘You’ – after all, this is one of the biggest differences one can make when talking with readers in print. But no, and for a very good reason.

Brand language at the National Trust – ‘we, us and our’

The whole NT rebranding was about a shared brand experience (have you noticed how National Trust restorations are now much more open to visitors?). In order to get that openness across in their brand language, this particular communication challenge used ‘we, us and our’ to emphasise that the new charity was a shared resource.  I get that in this particular case, but there’s still a hugely important role for more-you-than-we in most business communication –as I showed my recent client to his delight in the aforementioned aerospace brochure copywriting. More on that in a future post.

The importance of grammar, spelling and proofreading

My second highpoint at Growing Gloucestershire was a point made by the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Fiona Spencer in a presentation on 10 Top Marketing Tips. Given that a lot of her content was high-level marketing stuff, I was thrilled to discover that Tip 10 was the importance of proofreading and Fiona’s assertion that spelling and grammar still matter. That’s a big +1 to that. As I am forever telling anyone who will listen, you’ve got to be aware of the dangers of the hidden assassins (the gunshot that kills before you hear its sound) in your copywriting. Particularly online where the subtlest annoyance can send a visitor off to another part of the InterWeb before you know it. That’s where a skilled copyeditor and proofreader can transform your draft writing.

Bye, bye sore head…

So there you have it. A few thoughts inspired by Growing Gloucestershire and only two weeks late – for very good reasons. Watch this space for more… And, by the way, my head’s a lot better thank you. Which is why I can write this instead of curling grumpily in a corner while the room spins uncontrollably and bad elves hammer 6-inch nails into my skull as they seemed to be doing last Friday.

Good job too. There’s a load more copywriting on its way in the shape of client case studies and website/SEO copy, Write on Al!

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

Disappearing files (or why Word users should understand FAT32 and NTFS)

I use Microsoft Word. You probably use Word. And we both know it can be a pain. As a busy Cheltenham-based copywriter, I recently had a weird experience with disappearing MS Word 2003 files (I have no idea whether the same thing can happen with later versions). In fact, it was more than weird, it was frustrating as anything and it coat me quite a few hours before I (fingers crossed) got to the bottom of it. What was even more frustrating was that online forums, though alluding to the symptoms, didn’t give me a fast answer. Eventually, my own trial and error and a forum post that I hadn’t picked up on before, gave me the answer. I’ve put things right now and all seems to be well with Word.

So just in case you run into any of these symptoms or weird error messages, here’s what happened. It all started with the appearance of worrying error messages (including those listed below) when I was working on a suite of SEO category pages for a client. All was going swimmingly until MS Word suddenly closed – taking my website copywriting with it. Worse of all, in Windows Explorer, the files had changed to 1 kb files. When opened, these contained a few lines of gibberish. Nothing more.

Error messages sent to torment a Cheltenham copywriter

 

 

 

Ominous error messages

Here are extracts from some of the MS Word error messages I encountered:

‘Word cannot complete the save due to a file permission error…’

‘There is an unrecoverable disk error on file… the disk you are working on has a media problem that prevents Word from saving it…’

‘Word failed reading from the file (…). Please restore the network connection or replace the floppy disk and retry.’

‘Word has lost data due to a bad network connection or missing floppy. Documents relying on this data are going to be saved and then closed.’

‘Word experienced an error trying to open the file. Try these suggestions. Check the file permissions for the document or drive. Make sure there is sufficient free memory and disk space. Open the file with the Text Recovery converter.’

‘Do you want to retry the save.’

‘Word has insufficient memory. Do you want to save “…” as Rescued document…’

Not what a busy copywriter wants to see

None of these is what a busy copywriter (or any other MS Word user) wants to see – especially when they accompany the complete loss of the document and your last couple of hours’ work. And just for the record, there was plenty of free space on the disks, I wasn’t using a floppy disk, and the hard drives had all been tested and were in good condition.

As Toyah Willcox once sang, it was a mystery.

More hair tearing and brow furrowing followed, along with re-installation of MS Word, virus and malware checking with every application on my system and half-a-dozen online scanners too. And all the time, it was one of the busiest periods of the year so far… The last thing I needed was lost content, lost documents and lost time. Worst of all, when I sought fresh perspectives, the ominous spectre of a complete Windows re-install kept coming up.

Out of desperation  I started working with Apache Open Office and that pretty much solved the problem – except that I couldn’t use the MS Word spelling, grammar and readability checks or run PerfectIT. So it wasn’t ideal and certainly wasn’t a sustainable long-term fix.

FAT32 formatting and Truecrypt virtual volumes

The clue to the eventual solution came from the references to disks and media. Then IT expert Tim Isles mentioned the problems that FAT32 formatting on removable disks can cause.  And that got me thinking, because the problems always seemed to occur when I was working off virtual disks created using TrueCrypt volumes.

A quick check of the formats revealed that I’d created the volumes using FAT32 instead of NTFS. And then I found an obscure reference to this online. In one forum, symptoms akin to those I’d seen had been reported to anti-virus company F-Secure. And they had mentioned the problems with FAT32 formatting. That was when I created new volumes in TrueCrypt, made sure they were formatted to NTFS and started using Word 2003 again. And everything has been working fine for several weeks.

Result!

By the way, an interesting coda to the story came when I worked on a MS Word 2003 file that was on a removable SD card. Exactly the same symptoms occurred and of course, when I checked the SD card I found that it was formatted as FAT32.

If you’re baffled by similar symptoms and error messages, this could be the answer you’re looking for. If it is, I’m pleased to have helped.

 

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

Dru yoga comes to a copywriter’s rescue…

It’s been a week or so now since we did Airbuses and barking dogs. Forgive me for the longer than usual break, but two things have conspired to make blogging a mightier-than ever challenge. Life as a Cheltenham copywriter would have been a whole lot more difficult if it hadn’t been for the generous help of a neighbour who teaches Dru Yoga.

First, there’s been a very welcome rush of work requiring quotes – and writing! That’s a good problem. Spring is well and truly sprung and several projects that have been in the pipeline for a while have finally gone live. I’ve got SEO copywriting, client case studies, website product and category page writing and more on the go at the moment. All my favourite stuff. Lovely!

But circumstances have conspired to make looking after clients and getting work done harder than usual. Last week, some thieving toe-rags decided to vandalise (or try to steal) the copper wires in my telephone exchange here in Cheltenham. Nicking copper has to be the big growth industry around here – as elsewhere in the UK at the moment.  Anyway, the result was that several hundred Cheltenham properties have been phone-less since the middle of last week. That’s never happened before…

Combine the two events and you’ll understand why being a Cheltenham copywriter has been less than easy since 27/3/13. BT says the phone line will be fixed by tonight, but the day’s nearly over and it ain’t working yet.

The last couple of days have been made easier by the generosity of one of my neighbours, Dru Yoga practitioner Karan Walsh. Karan very kindly let me access her Wireless-Internet. It hasn’t been ideal, because I’ve had to work on the 15-inch screen confines of my laptop, but it’s been a whole load better than trying to work with an old dial-up connection as I did for the first few days… Thank you Karan.

‘Glacial’ is the word that comes to mind. How did we ever manage back in the old days?

So, by way of a thank you to Karan, here’s a link to her Dru Yoga in Cheltenham page on yogahub. She’s a great yoga instructor and passionate as anything about the Dru variety. If you’ve never tried yoga, give it a whirl (Mrs H did and loves it).

On the other hand, if you’re more interested in getting copywriting off your to-do list, please contact me. I’ll write while you go to Karan’s yoga class!

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

A Cheltenham copywriter’s appeal for no double spaces at sentence ends

It’s something about people of a certain age – often, but not exclusively, women trained in secretarial skills and PA-ship (or whatever you call skills as a personal assistant). Every office I’ve ever worked in seems to have at least one – sometimes more. They were always adorable, but there was one thing that was guaranteed to cause a serious office domestic. That was  space. Not the kind associated with Apollo or Star Wars or suchlike but simple, white apace.  Or more specifically, two spaces. At the end of paragraphs.

It drove me mad before I became one of the copywriters in Cheltenham. And it still does when someone sends draft copy with double spaces after every full stop.

Them too. The merest mention of not having two spaces at the end of every sentence seems to get them up in arms. ‘It’s good secretarial practice’, they’d cry; ‘It’s what we were taught at secretarial school’; ‘It’s what I’ve always done’.

nodoublespace

But why?

In one respect they were correct. Putting two spaces after every sentence was taught at secretarial schools, it was considered best practice and it is what they have always done. But that was years ago when computers and word-processing weren’t even a twinkle in Bill Gates’s eye. Times change and for decades there’s been no good reason at all for continuing to do so – especially in Microsoft Word, or any other word-processing software. Here’s why.

Let’s think back to why, all those years ago, the practice of double-spacing was introduced. It came about because typewriters (you know, those clattery machines you see in old black and white movies) don’t have proportional spacing. Because of this, you have to enter two spaces at the end of a sentence. If you don’t, your typing doesn’t look right. End of.

But word processors changed all that, so with Microsoft Word, WordPerfect and all the others that have come and gone over the last 30 years the need for manual double spacing has disappeared. You see, word processors include a feature called proportional spacing. The software spaces words and sentences so they look just right on the page. The typist, whoever he or she may be, doesn’t need to worry any more.

But some do and it drives me barmy when I get a page of text packed with double spaces. You can search and replace to get rid of them, or set Word to get rid of them, or use an editing tool such as PerfectIT to clear them away. But I just wish people would stop putting them there in the first place. Like putting a hyphen after a colon (:-) it’s just wrong – and for very good reason.

Aargh! Rant over. That’s better.

Do you still put double spaces after every sentence? Please, please, please tell me why.

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

Cheltenham copywriter asks Gloucestershire managers: are you robbing yourselves?

I was listening to Erik Fisher’s excellent productivity podcast, Beyond the To-do List, in the car as I drove back to Cheltenham across the Cotswolds yesterday afternoon. His guest was social media and content strategy guru Jay Baer. Something Jay said resonated with my recent observations about the role of freelance copywriters – and sent an important reminder to business owners and managers in Gloucestershire and elsewhere.

Are you robbing yourself of opportunity?

Baer said: ‘You need to do only the things that you are uniquely qualified to do. If you’re doing things that other people on your team can do, you’re robbing yourself of opportunity.’

This quote came in the context of growing an organisation’s social media presence through blogging and podcasts and suchlike. Baer drew on his own experience as he grew his own social media interests and was making the point that with only so much time and a lengthening list of things to do, you should concentrate on those where you can make a unique contribution to your organisation. Put another way, you should think carefully before you burn time on things you can’t do so well (or don’t enjoy doing) – like copywriting, your accounts or designing your website.

It all comes down to time, skills and inclination

I’ve been saying this for years, and seeing the consequences when it is ignored. Too often, websites sit idle while managers struggle to craft effective website or SEO copy. Much needed brochures remain unwritten because other urgent business tasks get in the way. And client case studies remain just an idea because no-one has the time to research and write them. It’s a shame, when it is so easy to get all of these jobs done and working for you.

Those of you who have heard me speak at business networking or other meetings will know that my elevator pitch includes the following lines: ‘I craft the words that you don’t have the time, the specialist skills or the inclination to do yourself. I get vital copy off your to-do list and out in the marketplace where it can work for you.’

Identify what you do best and stick at it

Time is a factor, so it pays to identify what you do best and stick to it. That’s why many marketeers (who are fine copywriters) will appoint a freelance writer. Doing so frees them up to do what they do best. And to do what makes best use of their time when their hourly rate is a lot more than a good copywriter’s. Besides, they often find it exceptionally hard to ring fence a few hours a week for concentrated creativity.

Clients are often amazed how quickly a skilled freelancer can get a project moving and deliver results –  often after the job has stalled for weeks or months. And of course, as a copywriter I bring professional skills and love writing – not everyone does.

That’s why I write day-in and day-out – so you don’t need to. To do anything else would be robbing myself of the opportunity to do what I do best.

‘Crime prevention’ begins when you hire a skilled freelancer

Are you robbing yourself of the opportunity to make the most of your unique skills by struggling with copywriting or something else? It’s a crime when you could be outsourcing the work to a specialist?  Don’t be a victim and don’t let that copy stay unwritten. Whether you need a graphic designer, an accountant or a wordsmith, ‘crime prevention’ begins by hiring talent and freeing your time for more of what you do best.

Got a favourite productivity podcast I should know about? Please share.

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

A good proofreading podcast could have been even better…

I’ve been listening to the Manager Tools and Career Tools podcasts for a couple of years. They’re an eclectic mixture of  management and career-related topics presented by Michael Auzenne, Mark Horstman and Wendii Lord. If you haven’t listened yet, please do so. The quality of thinking and the professionalism is outstanding.

Six keys to successful proofreading

Every so often, one of their podcasts touches ground close to that of this Cheltenham copywriter’s specialism. A case in point was last week’s podcast on how to proofread. When I saw the topic I was onto it in a flash and on the whole I was impressed by the focus on these six points:

  1. Set Word to help you
  2. Don’t let Word check grammar
  3. Read backwards to proof a document
  4. Choose your time and place carefully
  5. Common writing mistakes to look out for
  6. Have someone help you proofread

A good start, and I realise that you can’t cover everything in a single podcast. But I’d add a few more points to elevate this from being a very good cast to a great one.

Exception dictionaries

There was no mention of setting up and using an exception dictionary (or exclude dictionary) in Word. Sure, they talked about teaching the default Word spell-checker to accept custom terms, but an exception dictionary takes this a stage further by forcing Word to always flag words that you might be using incorrectly. Examples would be ‘bear’ and ‘bare’, or ‘to and ‘too’. Setting up an exceptions dictionary is a bit fiddly, but worth the effort. Once it’s done, it’s easy to update the underlying .txt document. Rather than reinvent the wheel by explaining the ins and outs of doing this, here’s a link to a good reference.

PerfectIT

Another addition to your proofing toolkit should be Intelligent Editing’s PerfectIT. I’ve been using this tool for a couple of years and it’s a superb tool to complement MS Word. There’s a free version, but I’d strongly recommend paying the modest fee for the paid for software. Used in conjunction with the standard MS Word spell-checker, this is a valuable tool for achieving stylistic consistency in a document.

I was also interested to hear the discussion about beginning sentences with conjunctions such as And and But. Although the presenters sort of conceded that you could ‘break the rules of grammar’ to use this, I think they were behind the times on this. Good writing is about communicating clearly and effectively, and often as it is spoken. Good copywriting gets its punch, energy, flow and conversational feel (conversational needn’t be unprofessional) from techniques such as beginning sentences with conjunctions and using sentence fragments.

TextAloud

That’s about it. I’d definitely advocate the use of text-to-speech software to help with proofing (I swear by  TextAloud with one of the many available custom synthesised voices). Try it and you’ll notice the difference between it and the standard Adobe or Microsoft system voices.

A final challenge

Lastly, the Career Tools presenters set an interesting challenge about an occasion when it is acceptable (read: correct) not to have matching quotation marks around speech. That would be when you have two paragraphs of quoted speech. You start the first para with a quote mark, leave it off at the end of the para, begin the second para with another, then end the quote with a closing quote mark.

Career Tools and Manager Tools: they’re two interesting podcasts whether you run a copywriting practice or you’re an owner or manager of an organisation that hires freelance copywriters. And that means pretty much everyone, because any organisation that uses words to communicate can use a skilled, experienced copywriter.

I would say that wouldn’t I!

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

Copywriting, Fred Zeppelin and catching up in Worcester

I was on a copywriter’s night out and it could have been 1969 or the early 1970s again (I’m showing my age).  A small venue in Worcester (the Marrs Bar), a thundering four-piece rock and roll band on stage, and some of the best known rock music of the last 50 years. All that was missing was the smoke haze. And the beer was dearer. But when Fred Zeppelin came on stage you could shut your eyes and imagine it was the real thing.

They were note perfect and their lead singer even looks remarkably like Robert Plant as well as sounding like the man who is arguably the greatest voice in rock. The nice thing was that over the last 20 years the Fredz haven’t set out to do any more than replicate the music of Zeppelin note for note. That their current lead singer looks and behaves remarkably like Plant is a bonus. There were just enough of the trademark gestures and mannerisms  to be authentic – without ever lapsing into an embarrassing parody of Kidderminster’s finest. I’ve seen Plant in concert several times and watched hours of Zeppelin video over the years. This guy was good, as were his stage mates.

It coulda been 1969 again...

It coulda been 1969 again…

They played a ton of our favourites (but not Stairway…): from ‘Rock and Roll’ to ‘Kashmir’, and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ to ‘The Song Remains the Same’. And it was loud, which you’d expect from any half-decent tribute to Led Zeppelin.

We were in Worcester to hook up with one of my longest standing and most loyal clients – Phil from Mosaique in Tewkesbury. As well as discovering the delights of the UK’s leading Zeppelin tribute band, it was a great opportunity for a Cheltenham copywriter to catch up with a Worcester-based agency creative director over a beer or two  and a damn fine pre-gig Balti.

Phil and I go back several years now and can list a long line of creative projects that we’ve collaborated on. We started with newsletters and technical datasheets for Toyota, progressed to security systems for Cooper Security and wrote about flooring for Karndean International – plus a fistful of smaller projects. It’s amazing how much you can write in five years, and the fun you can have writing it. It was good to catch up and swap war stories from the art-direction frontline.

As for Fred Zeppelin, here’s a band that does what it does brilliantly, offers astounding value (£8 a ticket to see ‘Zeppelin’) and knows how to give an appreciative audience what it wants. Come to think about it, that’s rather like what it takes to be a successful copywriter in Gloucestershire

Oh yes, and one other thing. The drive up to Worcester reminded me how close the town is to my Cheltenham office. So if you’re looking for copywriters in Worcester and you appreciate old-fashioned face-to-face service (as Phil and his colleagues at Mosaique do),  please don’t rule out this Cheltenham boy.

Let’s rock ‘n roll with some inspired copywriting. And in the meantime, if you get the opportunity, how about checking out Fred Zeppelin for yourself?

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

Why freelance copywriters get employed

Freelancers get employed because they are expert at something. In the case of copywriters, it’s because we’re expert business writers – for website copy, brochure content, case studies, articles or other written communication that must inform and persuade. Because we’re usually available for hire on a flexible basis, there are good business reasons to use our services:

  • You can hire us on a flexible basis.
  • We bring skills that you, or your team, don’t have.
  • We give you writing capacity at times of change.
  • We inject fresh perspective, creativity and energy to your copy.
  • We provide specialist skills to help you through peaks and troughs of workload.

That’s handy. And when it comes to costs, you have plenty of flexibility too:

  • Hire a freelance copywriter according to budget.
  • Avoid the employment cost of a staff writer.
  • Avoid employment risks.
  • There’s no ongoing employment relationship.

As thousands of organisations already know, it all adds up, particularly under the challenging economic conditions prevailing in the UK as this is being written. What’s more, Not only is lots of copywriting capability available from freelancers, but some very talented writers may only be available on a freelance basis.

So what are the characteristics of a good freelance copywriter – in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire or anywhere else for that matter? In addition to being able to write fast and well, to a set tone of voice or style guideline, and to understand customer benefits, many of the key characteristics are those of any good freelancer. Read more here

 

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

Windows desktop management made easy for copywriters (and everyone else)

As a busy Cheltenham copywriter, I’m always on the lookout for productivity tools that help me work smarter. Like mastering keyboard shortcuts, moving to dual monitors was an eye-opener for my writing , researching and editing productivity.

Now I’ve started using two free utilities to make the best use of my available screen real estate. I’d recommend that you give them a try too. Whether you are a copywriter, a web designer or just a busy manager using one, two or even three monitors, my discovery, allied to a few simple keyboard short-cuts  makes working in multiple windows so much easier. And that means saved time and money…

Multiple monitors managed with two simple utilities.

WinSplit Revolution and MultiMon make life more productive for this Cheltenham copywriter

Here’s my typical scenario: the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, an email client and a web browser open on one screen, with a Word document and a spreadsheet in use on the other – and probably a couple of other applications open in the background. Historically, sizing and positioning these, and switching between full screen and part-screen, was a distracting fiddle.

 

But with WinSplit Revolution and Multi Mon (the free version of the acclaimed UltraMon monitor management utility) it’s easy to position windows in quadrants or halves of your multiple monitors, quickly resize them and even switch them between monitors – and all with a few keyboard short-cuts involving Ctrl + Alt, the cursor keys and your keyboard number pad.

Amongst other things, MultiMon gives you the convenience of a second task bar on your second monitor and an easy mechanism to jump windows between monitors. WinSplit Revolution lets you use Ctrl + Alt and the nine Num Pad keys to position the active window. It’s fast and easy to maximise the use of your screens. There’s even a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + Alt + F) that puts a Windows Fusion slider on screen so the size of two adjacent windows can be simultaneously adjusted.

windowfusion

WinSplit revolution’s Windows Fusion function lets you resize two windows simultaneously

With your windows set up, sized and positioned, it’s couldn’t be easier to switch between them using the Alt + Tab keyboard shortcut. Layers of windows and awkward manual dragging and resizing are things of the past now – which means more time for your copywriting (or whatever it is you do) and less time wasted on juggling the Windows desktop.

Using these two utilities with multiple monitors is one of those discoveries that I’m sure will change the way you work for ever. And even if you only use a single monitor setup, WinSplit Revolution is a great way to manage your screen. Give them a whirl; they’re small, fast downloads and you’ll be improving your productivity in minutes. I only wish I’d had these six years ago when I started out as a freelance Gloucestershire copywriter…

Tell me how you get on. And what your favourite productivity tool is.

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