Tag Archives: cheltenham copywriters

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Gloucestershire Copywriter loves these clever airline snack boxes…

I saw a neat combination of cardboard engineering and copywriting while in Argentina recently and thought I’d share it with you.

We made several internal flights with Aerolinas Argentinas and got used to their little in-flight snack boxes. The cleverly engineered containers tick all the boxes. They flatten for distribution, fold into shape easily for filling with tasty treats and carry interesting snippets of information about several top tourist attractions in Argentina. Aerolinas Argentinas even have a Facebook page about them.

Snack boxes from Aerolinas Argentinas – intellgent packaging design meets copywriting at 39,000 feet

Smart packaging design meets intelligent copywriting

Engaging copy

What I particularly liked was the use of brief-but-engaging copy inside the box. As well as the interesting information about the destinations on the airline’s network, there were calls to action for planning trips and booking tickets, reminders about keeping cellphones off at the start and end of flights, and an invitation to scan a QR code to download and assemble more boxes from the airline’s website. We just made sure we collected the full set of five during our flights…

Thoughtful design

It would have been so easy just to make a colourful box for the snacks. But what somebody has done here is to think about how they can use the box to inform and entertain passengers – as well as plugging the airline. It’s an intelligent use of packaging copy. In fact, it got me thinking that I wouldn’t mind being associated with a copywriting project like this one. I knew the years I spent in packaging in the 1990s would come in useful one day!

aerolinasargentinas

Turning onto finals during the approach to Ushuaia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I say good for Aerolinas Argentinas – and they were a much better airline than I had expected – and well-done to the designer chappie (or ‘chappess’) who came up with this somewhere in Argentina.

Felicitaciones!

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

An unashamed plug for the North Devon Animal Ambulance…

Pro Bono work is good. Writing for worthy charities is good. Writing for the North Devon Animal Ambulance (NDAA) is very good, not least because it allows me to flex my writing muscles in an area that’s very different from my usual marketing and technical copywriting beat here in Gloucestershire.

I’ve been writing for the NDAA animal ambulance service since 2007. They’re a great charity, hardworking and making a noticeable difference to the lives of wild and domestic animals in, not surprisingly,  North Devon. What I really like is that, although the NDAA is ostensibly an animal charity, almost every action they take has a bearing, either directly or indirectly, on people. Humans like you and me. That’s good too.

Over the years I’ve crafted press releases, edited a quarterly newsletter and written website and SEO copy for them. In fact, we’ve just finished working on the charity’s third generation website and it certainly shows the power of the Web to allow even a small, volunteer-only, local group to shine.

I say ‘We’ because the new site wouldn’t have been possible without the input of Barnstaple-based Matrix Print & Design and their website wizard Colin Munday of The Web Workshop (near Umberleigh). These are the guys who created the structure and the striking design that has already got people talking on North Devon street corners – and digging deeply into their pockets to help North Devon’s own animal charity..

As for my bit? Some 30 new pages of SEO copywriting on everything from animal rehoming to wildlife rescue in North Devon. And all written around a carefully researched pool of long-tail keywords and key-phrases to give the NDAA an even wider online search ‘net’ with which to hook new volunteers, donators and the much-needed legacy donations.

If you love animals, have an affinity for Devon and the South West, and want to do your bit then contact the NDAA. If you want sparkling copy, but haven’t got the time, specialist skills or the inclination to write it yourself… An unashamed plug for the North Devon ANimal Ambulance

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

Inspiration the Carie Lyndene way – a review

Even busy Cheltenham copywriters need to get out sometimes. That’s just one of the reasons I attended Success Coach Carie Lyndene’s popular Stop Losing Money to Competitors – Start Earning Your Worth courses yesterday. Having now heard Carie speak, I’d recommend her brand of success training to anyone. I defy you not to learn something useful.

A pinch-yourself-to-see-if-it’s-real gem

The two-hour course was at Cheltenham Film Studios (where my long-time copywriting client MA Design is based). It would have been a bargain if I’d paid for it. But as a freebie, it was a pinch-yourself-to-see-if-it’s-real gem that I’d recommend to anyone looking to take their business to that elusive ‘next level’.

I’d only met Carie briefly before yesterday. To be honest, I was prepared for just another get-rich-quick course. But our two hours together was packed with valuable takeaways and quickly changed my preconceptions.

You’ll need to move fast if you want to hear Carie for free, because she’s only planning one more free course before there’s a fee. Go anyway, it’ll still be a steal if she charges for the sessions. Learn more about inspiring Carie and book your place on her Eventbrite bookings page.

Different reasons for attending

Before getting down to business, we attendees swapped notes on our reasons for coming along: these were varied to say the least, ranging from inspiration to grow small businesses to affirmation that an existing approach is correct, support for Carie, and business networking. My fellow attendees were an equally diverse crowd, ranging from graphic designers to a presentation specialist, a virtual PA and a chiropractor. (Yes, it was a good networking opportunity for a Gloucestershire copywriter.)

By the end of the morning, and after Carie had generously spent a load of time talking with us individually,  we went back to work inspired and impressed.

Referencing many of the world’s self improvement masters

A detailed review would be too much of a spoiler for the treat that awaits you when you attend. Suffice to say that Carie’s presentation ranged across the ideas of Bob Burg (the Go Giver), Jim Rohn, Robert Kiyosaki, Michael E. Gerber ( the E-myth) and many other respected thinkers. Most valuable of all was how Carie drew on her 30+ years of business experience to weave these ideas together with her own. Every word was thought provoking and I’m sure no-one in that room didn’t come away with at least one inspiring idea for their business.

As well as getting confirmation that my own professional-lifestyle copywriting approach was right for me,  I was particularly impressed with how Carie happily fielded questions from us during her presentation – and still managed to keep on schedule. That’s a clever trick when you consider how easily some presenters are distracted and led off-topic by side-discussions. Not Carie, which helped because it would have been hard to bottle up all the ideas she’d provoked until the end of the session.

Listen to Carie yourself

Whether you’re a freelance copywriter like me, a graphic designer, a would-be online entrepreneur or anyone else growing an enterprise, you really should listen to what success coach Carie has to say.

Who have you found particularly inspiring while developing your business?

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

MyBizCard woes – anyone else had the same experience?

Have you been asked to complete a MyBizCard.co review for someone? Were you tempted to register yourself and give MyBizCard access through LinkedIn?

Despite being super-cautious about who I sign up with – and up to my ears in work as a very busy Cheltenham copywriter – I was tempted when a trusted contact asked me to do a review. It looked like a good idea so I registered. And then I gave MyBizCArd access to LinkedIn. And yes, then I thought it would be a good idea to contact some of my LinkedIn connections to ask for a review.

And then, like opening Pandora’s box, things started to go awry. First, the site ignored my selected list of contacts and approached ALL my LinkedIn contacts for a review. That was embarrassing because I haven’t done copywriting work for many of them… To add insult to injury, some of the approach emails showed other connections copied in. If that was you, please accept my sincere apologies. It wasn’t my intention.

The penultimate annoyance  came when I discovered that MyBizCard doesn’t show more than three recommendations– and my copywriting clients have been good enough to respond in their droves .

And now, after I and many of my contacts have gone to the trouble to contact each other and respond, the last straw. MyBizCo won’t let me or anyone else see any but the most recent three ratings unless I sign up for their upgrade at $99!

All very dubious indeed. I could say something stronger…

Have you had the same experience? Please tell me what happened to you when you engaged with MyBizCard.co.

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

‘Hire a copywriter’ says Cheltenham strategic branding expert

 

We had a great presentation at the Gloucestershire Business Breakfast Club this morning. After we’d munched our egg and bacon and caught up around the table, Darren James of Cheltenham strategic marketing consultancy gillfoxjames gave a stonking talk about supercharging your email marketing.

As one of the freelance copywriters in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, I’ll talk about the merits of hiring a copywriter as long as anyone will listen. And as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen website and print projects stall because the copy isn’t ready – and that’s usually because the client is trying (unsuccessfully) to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them.

 

‘Use a copywriter’

What’s super-nice about moments like this morning’s is when other marketing or online authorities push the ‘use a copywriter’ message as positively as Darren did. Darren was talking about writing email content and crafting dedicated landing pages that continue your story beyond the recipient’s inbox. But a skilled and experienced copywriter can also help in dozens of other situations: your new website; that much-needed client case study writing; press releases; brochures that actually work for you rather than making expensive waste-bin filler.

When can a freelance copywriter help you?

Anytime, in fact, when you don’t have the time, the specialist skills or the inclination to write your own copy. And you need help getting vital writing off your to-do list and out there working for you.

Thanks for waving the copywriting flag and valuing what freelance wordsmiths can do Darren. Appreciated buddy.

Now tell me readers, what would prompt you to hire a freelance copywriter?

 

breakfast

 

 


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

Try the best email management tip I’ve ever tried…

Here’s the best piece of email management advice I’ve ever found. Try it – it works.

As a busy copywriter in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, I need to get my head down and work uninterrupted. Coming in and out of the zone to answer the phone or check email every few minutes isn’t good for my productivity and the quality of thinking and writing I deliver to my clients – whether its website copy, another client case study or a press release.

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I long ago switched off email notifications – be they sounds or screen

pop ups. I also set my email clients so they don’t check for mail as often as before.  But the most useful email productivity tip of all has been to check email less frequently during the day. At first it sounds strange (unworkable even). But work it does and it helps your concentration as well as your productivity.

The most persuasive case that I’ve ever found for checking email three times a day comes in two recent podcasts from Manager Tools. As ever, this site has delivered the goodies; I urge you to listen to them, try their recommendations and feel the benefits. The comments and feedback on these pages are also very useful – and bear out the effectiveness of this approach.:

Email Three Times A Day – Part 1

Email Three Times A Day – Part 2

 

Does this work for you? How have you tweaked the basic model? Let me know what you think.

 

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

Valuable Content Marketing – the new book every marketer should read

I sat in the sun last weekend and read an impressive new book called Valuable Content Marketing by West Country authors Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton. Now the weather seems to have got better here in Gloucestershire, you could do worse than pour a long drink, find a sunny spot on the patio and read it too. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest – even as an experienced Cheltenham copywriter who already creates valuable content, I certainly did.

valuablecontentmarketing

Unthink lots of what you’ve learned about marketing communications

The basic premise of Valuable Content Marketing is that you should unthink lots that you’ve learned about sales and marketing communications. Instead, you need to stop pushing sales messages, get online and make your marketing valuable to prospects and customers. It’s all about generosity, the good karma of what goes around comes around and making everything from a freebie to your website content intrinsically valuable. By so doing, the pair assert, you will connect with clients and customers in a way they’ll appreciate – and they’ll do business with you when the time is right.

Great stuff – but did they miss one important trick?

Valuable Content Marketing  is easily digestible, nicely laid out and full of ‘instant takeaways that you can start applying to your business immediately. I particularly liked their templates and checklists and mini case studies. But I think they missed one valuable trick. To find out what it is, read more on my Valuable Content Writer website page .

 

 

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

When’s a Bentley chauffeur like a Cheltenham copywriter?

Have you ever found it challenging trying to come up with a novel birthday treat for an elderly (or not-so-elderly) parent?

While struggling to find something suitably entertaining for my 80-something mother, I was stumped. Mum is extremely low-maintenance and undemanding when it comes to special occasions. Then I thought of my business-breakfasting companion David Keffler of Cheltenham-based Azure  Chauffeur Driven Luxury Cars and his beautiful 1996 Bentley Brooklands. A plot was hatched… Aside from the fact that David helped us give Mum a day out that she hasn’t stopped talking about, the experience got me thinking about the similarities between a luxury chauffeur service and my own work as one of the freelance copywriters in Cheltenham.

alandbentley

The only licensed private-hire Rolls-Royce or Bentley in Gloucestershire

I won’t give you chapter and verse here. You can read all about David and his Bentley on his website or in any of the media articles that are increasingly appearing around Gloucestershire as he builds his business. Suffice to say that he’s an accountant who has always wanted to drive around in a classic Bentley – while prudently making sure the car pays its way.

As the only private-hire licensed Rolls-Royce or Bentley in Gloucestershire he’s hit the nail on the head with his Charlton Kings, Cheltenham-based business.   As well as the usual wedding car service, the Bentley (the registration C18 CAl could be for ‘Copywriter Al’) is available for executive transfers, airport runs, business functions – and giving family members an unforgettable experience on spacial birthdays and other anniversaries.

From the moment David collected my wife from Cheltenham, to dropping Mum and two other guests off at our lunch venue, his service was professional, friendly, punctual and flexible. We’re all still talking about the day and I couldn’t recommend the experience more highly. He exceeded expectations and that Bentley, as you’d expect, is so luxurious.

bentleyandmum

Similarities to professional Gloucestershire copywriters

That reminds me about the similarities between David and his Bentley and the service I aim to provide as a freelance copywriter offering a bespoke service for my clients. Whether he’s looking after my Mum or driving big-name celebrities, David has a knack for getting his delivery and the tone of the event just right. And just as the previous experience of a skilled copywriter shines through, so David’s professional background clearly sets him apart from most private-hire drivers.  He does what he does efficiently, imaginatively and discreetly so you immediately feel that you can count on him. Which you can.

That Bentley sparkles like well-polished copy

Just as you may not need professional copywriting services every day, it’s good to know they’re available when you do. It’s the same when you want the class and style that only a classic Bentley can offer. Especially one that’s polished until it  sparkles as brightly as a skilled copywriter’s online or offline writing!

Lastly, and just like me, David and his purring 6.7-litre limousine specialise in providing a bespoke service for businesses and individuals in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the Cotswolds and surrounding counties.

If it’s got to be a Bentley for a special business or private occasion it’s got to be David. But when words have to purr or roar like that mighty V8, please remember Copywriter Al!

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

Simplify your business writing with the madman, architect, carpenter and judge…

They say it takes a while to get into your stride as a blogger and that your mission in the blogosphere gradually evolves. The more I blog, the more I believe I can use blogging to share my skills and insights as a Cheltenham copywriter with you.

Maybe  you’ re thinking of hiring a freelance copywriter or perhaps you could use a few professional tips for your own business writing. If so, I hope that I can help. And here’s a great one to be getting on with…

I was listening to a Harvard Business Review Ideacast podcast the other day when I heard writer Bryan Garner talking about the idea of the madman, the architect, the carpenter and the judge when you’re doing a piece of writing. It’s a cracker, and simple as all the best ideas should be.

The four personas represent four different stages to go through when you are writing anything. You might be putting together a report or an email, or drafting a page of website copy. In each case, you adopt the four personas in sequence.

The madman

Just get down your ideas. Don’t edit or critique them. Just throw them down on the page as you think of them. Like a madman (or woman!).

The architect

Next, adopt the persona of the architect. Add some structure to your ideas, form them into paragraphs. You are creating the master plan for your writing, bringing order to the mad person’s brainstorm, setting out your main points… By now you have an outline for your piece.

The carpenter

Then, just as skilled craftsmen and women come onto site and add detail and finish to the building structure, it’s time to be the carpenter. Following the architectural specification, you develop your ideas more completely – but still briskly, because the judge still has to play a vital role…

The judge

Adopting the persona of the judge, you go back over the work, look at it objectively and critically and edit. This is where you ask yourself whether you could write something better. You polish and craft until your piece is complete.

I told you this was a simple, easily remembered idea. The person we have to thank for this bit of inspired writing wisdom is Professor Betty Sue Flowers of the University of Texas.  If you want to explore her work on what Bryan Garner calls the Flowers paradigm, there’s more information online.

Alternatively, just remember the madman, the architect, the carpenter and the judge next time you have to write something and see what a difference they make.

And if you don’t have the time, the specialist skills or the inclination to do a piece of business writing such as SEO website content, brochure copywriting or a client case study? I’m always here to help organisations like yours in Gloucestershire, surrounding counties and elsewhere in the UK.

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

In praise of Håg ergonomic seats – again

Are you into office-setup porn? Don’t worry, it’s nothing to be alarmed at. I heard the term used while listening to a podcast recently.  The discussion was about people’s predilection for viewing each others’ creative office setups. There’s even a site called The Setup, where creatives post details of the equipment they use to get stuff done. And of course, anyone who visits Lifehacker.com will know they regularly feature creatives’ workspaces  too.

I guess this fascination comes from our desire to see how others do the tasks that we do, or to learn how we could create a better, more efficient, working environment. And then, of course, there’s the idea of a dream writing-graphic-web development setup. Don’t get me wrong, I love my cosy basement office or my kitchen table. But in my dreams? It would have to be a sunny office in one of the chalets at Haldi ob Schattdorf, overlooking the Reuss valley and Altdorf in Switzerland’s Uri canton. For now, I have to make do with the view from my favourite webcam – and memories of the great times I’ve spent in central Switzerland.

What consistently strikes me about these workstation or setup reviews is the preoccupation with computers, desks, multi-monitor setups and peripherals. Too rarely in my opinion do the authors give sufficient attention to the quality of their office seating. That’s a shame – aafter all, you only have one back and it’s easily damaged…

As a busy Cheltenham copywriter I spend hours at my computer. I’ve blogged previously about my fondness for Norwegian Håg (pronounced ‘Hawg’) office seating. Unlike some so-called ‘ergonomic’ seats, the Håg range really is a treat for your back. So much so, that my Danish chiropractor was so impressed that he re-equipped several practices with Håg products.

hag03bristol

That’s why, now that I’m doing more copywriting and editing at a satellite location not far from Portishead’s marina development near Bristol, I’ve invested in another Håg 03 seat. It was a logical decision due to how impressed I’ve been with the Hag 05 and 03 seats in my main office. As ever, I bought my little Norwegian beauty from regular supplier Nigel Eldridge at the Office Backcare Centre in Cheltenham,  Gloucestershire. I can’t sing Nigel’s praises highly enough. If you’re in the Gloucestershire area (or even if you’re not), have a chat with him about how proper ergonomic office seating can transform your working life.

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.

An Airbus, a ‘barking dog’ and a Cheltenham copywriter…

It’s amazing how a little bit of understanding can calm the nerves and make sense of something that at first appears unfamiliar. On a recent flight back to the UK, we were aboard an Airbus A320. If you know anything about the A320 you’ll know all about the so-called ‘barking dog’ that sometimes makes itself heard during push back from the gate, especially if you’re sitting somewhere around the centre of the aircraft – as this Cheltenham copywriter and his other half were last weekend.

a320 airbus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it was last Saturday. As the aircraft was pushed out onto the taxiway and the engines spooled up, the distinctive sound of ‘barking’ filled the cabin. As I immersed myself in Influence by Robert Cialdini, I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation in a nearby seat. With some concern, another passenger asked one of the cabin crew what the noise was and what was going on – and whether the plane was okay.

As I’ve heard many times, the flight attendant smiled and explained that it was the jet’s hydraulics – not a stray mongrel in the freight hold – and completely normal. The passenger looked relieved and settled back with his newspaper. All was right in the world and a few minutes later we were climbing out over the Med and heading north.

An interest in aircraft and several years working as a technical copywriter around Airbus has taught me that the mystery ‘barking dog’ is actually the power transfer unit between the aircraft’s green and yellow hydraulic circuits. It’s particularly noticeable during push back when one engine is running and the PTU drives the hydraulic circuits on the other, as yet unpowered, side of the aircraft. If you sit down at the back, you’ll barely notice it – try it next time you’re on an A320. (Even better, learn the answer and impress friends, family and fellow-travellers with your knowledge…)

barkingdog

There’s a parallel with certain aspects of copywriting. I’ve lost count of the times a client of my freelance copywriting business asked me about the questions starting a website page, a conversational writing style or the use of ‘and’ or ‘but’ at the start of a sentence. To some people, perhaps those brought up on a certain (misguided) understanding of English, such techniques sit as uncomfortably with business writing as the idea of a collie-cross running loose in the hold does with the idea of international flight. Usually, all it takes to set the client’s mind at rest is a clear explanation: questions are a way of engaging the reader’s attention; a conversational style is important for similar reasons; while conjunctions and sentence fragments add pace to website copy that should replicate spoken communication as much as possible.

Just as there must surely be travellers who will remain convinced that their plane is malfunctioning, occasional stick-in-the-muds won’t be told. But generally, people get what I’m doing with words and appreciate the benefit for engaging communication with their audience. That’s when they sit back with their metaphorical cheese toastie and Starbucks Italian Roast and enjoy the flight (read writing project) – while their Gloucestershire copywriter does what he does best from the ‘flight deck’…

Trust your copywriter. By all means ask questions, but be ready to be surprised because business writing is often rather different to the writing we were taught back at school…

And like the ‘barking dog’ on the A320, it’s nothing to be afraid of at all and merely shows that everything is happening just as it should.

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.

Copywriters: look after your clients during the hard times ahead

I read an interesting article on the LBC 97.3 FM website over the festive season. It was titled ‘UK Economy: Workers Face A “Hard Year Of Slog” ‘ and it summarised a number of reports that are warning of a tough 2013 in the UK jobs market.

No surprises then. We know its tough and it isn’t going to get better for a while. Quoting Dr John Philpott, director of The Jobs Economist,  the piece said: ‘workers can expect longer hours, a continued squeeze on pay and fewer jobs being created’.

But what does this mean for copywriters in Cheltenham or elsewhere in the UK? If organisations find themselves caught between the need to promote themselves through recession  and pressure to get the most out of a limited number of people, I believe that this will only increase the value of professional independent copywriters. Small, responsive organisations like mine who offer good value and get the job done fast and accurately with inspired copywriting.

Whether we’re supporting hard-pressed in-house writers or being the sole copywriting resource for an organisation on a ‘power-by-the-hour’ basis, we’re going to be in demand. At this point, it could be tempting to get greedy and exploit the situation in the short-term. Instead, I advocate continuing with fair pricing and great value for outsourced copywriting. What goes around comes around. By playing fair and not exploiting our position when times are hard, we should be in a strong position when the good times return.

From experience with my lovely clients, most have long memories and will remember how we treat them.  Helping helping them through the tough times looks like a great way to build strong, sustainable working relationships – and the decent thing to do. That’s the kind of partnership that leads to profitable long-term repeat business.

They say it costs five times more to win a new client as to look after an existing one. I’ll be looking after my clients through the hard times. Will you be doing the same?

Happy New Year everybody.

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