PR, which stands for public relations, is an essential part of your business. Actually, having worked as an equestrian PR for the last 10 years, I couldn’t be more passionate about this side of things!

PR focuses on getting the message to the target market, whether that’s by working with magazines or websites, or speaking direct to the consumer. The whole aim is to educate the customer, to help them form a strong and positive connection to the company. Can you see how key it is?

Many people think that PR is just about press releases, but it really really isn’t. If only it were that simple. People do hire external agencies and people to help them, but there’s no dark art to it, many businesses owners are more than capable of doing their own.

When you’re looking at this tag on this website, you’ll find a range of posts – some are tips and tricks and some show the behind the scenes nature of some small business campaigns.

I have a lot of form in equestrian PR, as well as PR relating to country and rural businesses. This means you’re likely to find content relating to that here. But you’ll also find that the vast majority of the areas discussed work just as well for any small business.

The Small & Supercharged Podcast is here!

I’m a teeny tiny bit excited about this – welcome to the Small & Supercharged Podcast – episode 1…

Yep, the Small & Supercharged Podcast has officially launched! Named after the Small & Supercharged Facebook group (the group I set up to help support small businesses, particularly in the equestrian and rural sector), this podcast is going to be embody the group. It’s going to talk about PR, marketing, websites and social media (of course!), but also interview a range of business owners about their skills and knowledge too. The aim of the podcast is to be a real hub for small business. To help business owners feel a whole lot less alone, more informed and ready for whatever challenges their business life brings.

And, of course, for people who want to join the Small & Supercharged Facebook page and feel more of that community love and support, please accept this as an invitation to join the group… just please fill in the questions!

So, without further ado – here’s episode 1, enjoy!

 

If you liked the Small & Supercharged Podcast (and I’m kind of hoping you did!), the please consider popping over to iTunes and subscribing. And if you’d like to leave a review and rating I would be SO grateful. Thank you.

Behind… the new Lavenham Leather Tote by Annabel Brocks

Lavenham Leather Tote - Rainbow Edition - Annabel BrocksIf you follow me on social media, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Annabel Brocks. Not just the brand and the stunning products, but the lady herself too. Belle is one of the sweetest, nicest and most creative people I’ve ever met, and is an absolute joy to be around. I love seeing her Annabel Brocks brand continue to grow and develop, so you can imagine my delight when the new Lavenham Leather Tote popped up on my radar. As this style of bag is new to the brand, I took the chance to catch up with Belle, to find out all about the Lavenham Leather Tote… are you ready?

Behind… the Lavenham Leather Tote by Annabel Brocks

I’m really excited about the new Lavenham Leather Tote – it’s gorgeous! Can you tell me how you came up with the design?

Thank you for your kind words, I am glad you like them! Following the success of our Pina Festival bags lots of customers asked if I could design a larger bag. It had to be roomy enough to carry  a laptop/tablet, bottle of water, make up and generally fit in everything you might need in a day.

I wanted to offer two base colours which work well to complement other products in our collection. I am a tan girl in the summer months but the navy is equally eye catching and can be used in the cooler months too. I wanted a strong colour pop and classic bag so I designed two variants. The classic Lavenham is your day to day bag. Elegant, but with the tassel and contrast stitching it can be dressed up or down. I played around with trims and just fell in love with the rainbow. To me this sums up my designs – contemporary,  fun and the colour pop will brighten any outfit.

Tell me about the special edition lines – what made you create them and how have people received them?

I wanted to introduce Limited Editions for those customers who like to have exclusive products which are not mass produced. We are offering a certain number and once they are gone they are gone. We have loyal customers who like to have something unique.

Tan is a big part of the Annabel Brocks range with many of the belts having a tan base – what made you pick navy and tan for this range?

I always design around what I would wear or need in my wardrobe (so I can of course steal samples!) and the tan to me is such an easy to wear colour for Spring/Summer but I know I will use this year around. However the navy is such an easy to wear colour and I am not really a fan of black bags as I wear blue or white jeans. The navy is so striking worn with one of our sweatshirts or t shirt and jeans. I looked at other colours but you can’t go wrong with tan and navy.

I love the tassel detail on the Lavenham – what made you add this to the bag?

I just wanted to add a bit of interest to the bag and our contrast trim tassel does just that.  I have also incorporated the contrast stitch detail so it matches the design on other areas of the bag and who doesn’t love a tassel?!

What kind of testing period did the Lavenham have? Did it take a while to perfect the design?

I always do all the testing on any protypes and used the bag around the house and used it to go to the office. I wanted  to see how much I could cram in and used it on my daily errands. The children used to laugh as I  used it as an additional shopping bag. Could it carry wine (yes) , crumpets (yes and yum),  a magazine (yes) , a bottle of squash (yes), M&M’s (yes)?  I thought bingo, it ticked all the boxes for me so I was happy to sign it off as an approved new product.

What details about the Lavenham Leather Tote do you really like?

I am biased but I love the simplicity of them, but being a horsey girl, I love the fact both saddle and bridle leather are used to make the bag. The smell, the way it’s a natural leather which is strong and provides the structure which will wear and soften, and I think every crease in leather adds to the charm. The detail is subtle from a distance yet strong when inspected closely. The rainbow Lavenham Leather Tote is one of the best things I have designed. I literally squealed when the sample arrived and I am not letting my one leave my side

To find about more about Annabel Brocks and the gorgeous collection of bags, including the Lavenham Leather Tote, see the Annabel Brocks website.

 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/annabelbrocks/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/annabel_brocks/

Twitter – @AnnabelBrocks

Website address- www.annabelbrocks.com

Do press releases ONLY work if you advertise?

Do press releases only work if you advertiseA little while ago I had someone explain to me that press releases were pointless if you don’t advertise with the publication. I couldn’t disagree more. In my experience (and, let’s be clear, I send a lot of press releases and have been for a number of years!), this is certainly not the case. More than this, it’s really underestimating the full scope of a press release. Let’s have a look at this in phases…

What’s a press release?

In really simple terms it’s a document that informs the press about a new product, services or newsworthy ‘thing’. This has changed a bit in recent times because ‘the press’ now includes websites, bloggers and various other channels too.

A press release is usually a concise text document that gets over the key points in a concise way. It’s not a book. It’s not a brand manual. It’s not your company’s history. It’s newsworthy content delivered in a succinct way.

Then what do you do with your press release?

You send it out to your contacts. These should be people you have reached out to in the media connected to your business (could be niche, national, regional, B2B, B2C… loads of options). The idea (and hope!) being that the person who receives it (traditionally a journalist but could be blogger, website editor, etc etc), sees some merit in what you’re saying, feels it’s valuable to their audience and uses this content. It could be online or in print. That’s the basic idea.

Ah- so press releases only work if you advertise?

No, no they don’t. Some magazines/websites work on a policy that DOES favour the content from advertiser- I’ll give to that. Why? Because advertisers support their business and allows it to run and keep functioning. There. That’s the basics. BUT many do not operate this as an editorial policy. I mean, one could argue that the above is actually advertising in itself, but that’s another debate. Many review and consider content in a press release (if it is worthy and actually new/interesting) for the what’s new sections, or product sections, or editors/bloggers reach out about tried and testeds and further opportunities. I’m not saying ‘this is what should happen, but it doesn’t’, I’m saying this is what DOES happen, because I know it does and have a lot of press cuttings to back this up.

But let’s clear one thing up right now. Not every press release you send will get the exposure you think it should. Some might not get picked up at all. This is annoying. If you were to speak to a magazine and pay, you could well bag yourself some advertorial space in the publication to run your release. Or you might be able to negotiate additional promotional opportunities moving forward. That is true. But people also pay to advertise and their product doesn’t get chosen. It might have a bearing on it (in a keeping advertisers sweet way) but I can categorically tell you that there IS a point to press releases. Even if you don’t advertise.

But if the press release doesn’t get used, it’s wasted

No. Whether it gets used or not, you should not send out one press release about a new product, service or newsworthy thing, mop your brow, and exclaim that the job has been done. It hasn’t. Repurpose the content. Tweak it and write a blog – or even a series of blogs depending on the story. Create a video. Take images and short clips for social media. Create graphics using snippets from the press release. BE CREATIVE. Having a press release written can be the core around the promotion of a new product or service. Repurposing and making sure you extract every bit of juice out of the story makes a press release incredibly valuable – it’s the cornerstone to the rest of it.

So, when you get told that press releases only work if you advertise, if you get asked ‘do press releases only work if you advertise’ then I would urge you to say no… because it’s simply not the case.

What’s lip balm got to do with a Royal Wedding?

Royal Wedding What’s lip balm got to do with a Royal Wedding? This was the exact question I asked myself when an ad for a very well known brand of lip balm popped up in my Instagram feed. Oh- did I forget to mention- it was a special edition Harry and Meghan wedding edition one? Yep- I thought it was a bit strange too… and even though the angle is clear, it still feels odd to me. As a long game strategy, what does it bring to the table?

Has lip balm got anything to do with a Royal Wedding?

In my opinion? Nope. But then I don’t think that half the wedding themed stuff I’ve see has either. I completely 100% understand why people have brought out Royal Wedding themed things, I really do, but for me it’s got to fit the brand. It always has to feel on brand and not like the company is clutching at straws. An attempt to grab a bit of the spotlight when it’s shining a long way away from them and their brand. Do you know what I mean? Capitalising on the things that your brand is doing, that match the values of your brand – absolutely – but when it’s random? It just feels odd. Like a vegan friend eating a steak because it’s now on trend and popular.

But it gets even weirder than lip balm…

Yep… after that Royal Wedding edition of lip balm popped up, I kept seeing everything connected to the Royal Wedding. And don’t think I’m anti that either – I really hope they make each other very happy and live happily ever after. I have no issue with weddings, or marriage, or the Royals, or businesses trying to capitalise on a current event – newsjack if you will – it can have huge value. Note the use of the word can. I think when done well, and in a way that is reflective of the brand’s values, target market, etc. etc, it can be a very valuable tool. Shall we explore some of the other fun wedding themed products I’ve found? Just for kicks… I’m not going to name brands because I am sure there’s more than one doing the same thing… but here we go…

Wedding sausages. The one I found did amuse me as it combined sweet ginger and American mustard, but a wedding sausage still seems a bit of a stretch,

Crisps. I’ve seen ones combining ginger with edible glitter

Swimming costumes. These are very, very special and Harry’s chin groove falls in a really awkward place…

Dog neckerchiefs… because all dogs are pro the Royal family, aren’t they?

Specially designed deep fried chicken buckets. No other words needed 

Wooden spoons. So you can see Meghan or Harry’s face when you’re cooking.

There are more – plenty more… just have a Google.

 

So, why do I object to these? On one hand, I don’t. All of these have attained many column inches online which has, no doubt, raised the profile of the brands involved. It’s probably generated significant sales too. So that’s gone well…

But long term… will it make a difference to the brand, to loyalty, to product development and reputation? Will it make people become raving fans of the brand… or fans at all? For some, it might do. If someone tries one of the wedding themed sausages or crisps and really likes it, they might be tempted to buy more from that brand. Maybe. Or maybe they make a ‘serious’ company that prides itself on a range of values appear more flippant and frivolous?

What do you think? What Royal Wedding themed products have you seen?

Do you think they’re a stroke of marketing genius or a bit tacky?

How Sir Ken Robinson helped me with public speaking…

How Sir Ken Robinson helped me with public speaking…and before you get too excited, I’ve never actually met Sir Ken Robinson… although I would love to…

How Sir Ken Robinson helped me with public speaking

You may remember a little while ago I gave a TEDx talk – it was actually TEDx Malvern on 25th April ’18. I was delighted to be invited to speak and said yes quickly. And then I remembered something. I’m not all that good at public speaking. I mean, I’m far from awful- but it’s not something I do all that much of. This slight niggle somewhat grew until I really started to believe I was a horrific public speaker. I’ve given lectures before, and that hasn’t even really bothered me – I’ve enjoyed it and it’s made me think, but I haven’t been overly worried about delivering such a thing. But this? Well, this felt very different.

Why is public speaking so scary?

I guess it’s a combination of a few things. It’s the worry of making a fool of yourself and forgetting what you’re talking about. It’s the worry of letting people down who invited you to speak at their event. It’s the fear of the unknown and the anxiety connected to the unknown. It’s feeling under prepared (because there is ALWAYS more you can do). It’s what to wear (genuine thing for me – I’ve blogged about what to wear at TEDx too!). And then it’s the detail. Should you memorise your talk? How many slides should you do? How should you learn your talk? What’s the best way? What if people don’t get what you want them to from it? I mean, what if you’re just not that interesting?! Yep. Public speaking is really scary. Well, it could be.

Reality check

I was getting myself a little stressed about this. I am all for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and, as I said, giving lectures, workshops and smaller events doesn’t phase me. I do a Facebook Live once a week on my Facebook page and can think on my feet. And I ALWAYS have something to say. I know the subject inside and out. I mean, it was about social media and I am a complete social media bore… so that wasn’t the issue.

I bought a book – actually, it’s a really good book that I’m finishing a blog about this for next week – it’s called TED Talks and it’s ‘The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking’, written by Chris Anderson – the head of TED. If you’re looking to up your public speaking game- get this book (and, obviously, read my review of it too!). The book gave lots of advice and was also rather reassuring when it came to stumbles and mistakes. How to deal with them and no lose your mind mainly. That made me feel a lot better. Having a plan for if my mind went blank was very reassuring. I’m OK with things breaking – as in- I was never hugely worried about the slides not working as they were there to enhance my talk rather than play a leading role. But having a plan was good.

And you know what else? If I messed up in a big way. If I stood on the stage and couldn’t find a word in my head to speak… what is the worst thing that’s going to happen? I’d look a bit of an idiot (if you’ve seen me trying to parallel park or negotiate with my twin toddlers you’ll know that I’m pretty well versed in this art), I’d be embarrassed, my ego would take a battering. All true. Would anyone die? Nope. Would it mean I could never work again? Nope. Would it mean I wouldn’t see my family/friends again? Nope. So really low risk. And what if I nailed it or, at least, didn’t make a fool of myself? Now, that’s a worth the effort…

And how does Sir Ken Robinson feature in this?

I was speaking to Karen McConnell and Sophie Callahan – my Glam Squad – about one particular wobble. I think it was that I had decided I needed to learn all my talk off by heart, like a robot. I have never ever done any lecture prep or anything like his. Ever. I tend to have bullet points and ideas that I want to explore – mental prompts, but I don’t learn anything parrot fashion. I much prefer a little ad libing around a framework. Although this is just one way to give a speech, I was concerned that the reading-off-a-sheet idea just looks nasty – and it does… so I settled on cards. Anyway, I was speaking to the ladies and Karen urged me to watch Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk– are schools killing our creativity. I’ll be honest with you – the title didn’t appeal at first. I am interested in education, but that wasn’t what I wanted to hear about at that second. Nevertheless, Karen is rarely wrong and she gets me, so I pressed play and we were off.

Now, education in a TED talk format might sound a little dry – hell – I didn’t even want to press play. But I urge you to watch Sir Ken’s talk. In my mind it’s a masterclass. Not only was I completely hooked a few moment in with his relaxed and conversational style, I laughed out loud more than once, I could have listened to him speak for hours… and I have made four more people watch it since and all have has the same reaction.

Obviously I’m not talking about education and I am not half as amusing as Sir Ken Robinson, but it taught me a few things:

  • Relax
  • Chatty is good
  • Making people smile or laugh doesn’t detract from the message
  • Approachable is good
  • People will root for you if you give them a reason

Also, if you watch the talk, you’ll see that (well, if you analyse it to the level I have!), it’s not word perfect. And by that, I mean it actually is. If Sir Ken had learnt it verbatim and reguritated it parrot style without feeling, emotion or humour… it would have been a very hard 15 minutes to listen to. The human quality, the jokes, the chatty style made me feel he was sharing a thought and an idea and I was literally hanging on his every word. I’m not saying he didn’t rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again – I am sure he did- but he didn’t lose his style.

And that’s what Sir Ken Robinson taught me about public speaking… from just watching a Youtube clip.

Autheticity rules, and while some talks work when someone has memorised each and every word, some would lose their soul… especially if the speaker didn’t believe in what they were saying or felt disconnected from it.

 

Behind… the filters we apply

the filters we applyThis ‘behind…’ is a bit different to normal. I usually go behind the scenes of a campaign, competition or product launch. Now, fear not, I’ll be going back there next week, but today I want to talk about the filters we apply. No, not to our social media pics. The filters we apply to our lives and the events that happen to us.

Filters?

Yes. Filters. You can call them frames if you like – lots of people do. Basically, it’s the way you view something. Exciting or scary? Hard work or challenging? Get it? Now, if we explore the filters idea (because, you know, I like social media!), then I think it becomes clear…

Let’s talk about filters

Imagine you take a picture (well, no need to imagine, I’m sure you take a lot of pictures!) and now let’s think of the filter you apply before you show the world.

Let’s look at Instagram’s filters… I’m just going to pick a few to illustrate. Don’t be a filter snob here. I might not mention the ones you like… it’s OK… and if I mention the ones below and you disagree with my assessment, that’s fine too. I’m all about the metaphor!

So, we start with no filter. In Instagram terms (and real life), this is what it is. There’s nothing added or taken away to give a different feel, thought, look or opinion. The picture here is a dandelion.

Now, Clarendon… this makes everything pop, makes it all more vibrant (well, on the image I’m messing around with it does). This has made the image brighter – it looks sunnier than before, everything looks lush, green, rosy and spring like. So maybe, if we flip around to our own filters, Clarendon is an optimistic filter than makes everything look a little ‘better’ than it is.

Reyes… the image I’m using now has lost its vibrancy. The yellow dandelions, the green grass… they feel less than they should be in this context. It’s almost like the image has been subdued in some way. Flipping to the life filter, this could be a filter that makes things look less ‘shiny’. Maybe a really exciting opportunity becomes great or ‘ok’.

X-Pro II… the drama! The colours have become deeper, so has the road surface in the image… it feels dramatic and exaggerated. I don’t dislike what it’s done to the dandelion image, but if you have your X-Pro II filter on in real life, it could be good or bad.

See where I’m going with this?

So, what do filters have to do with anything? How do the filters we apply change anything?

They change how we view things. The filter doesn’t have to change the thing we’re seeing, but it’ll change how we feel about it all. The story we create around it. The picture here, the one of dandelions. What do you see? A weed? A flower? Something yellow? Food? A life line for bees? It’s all of these things, depending on how you view it.

Take a situation. I’m going to use public speaking. So, you get invited to speak somewhere. Now what. Are you scared? Excited? Fearing ridicule? What are you thinking? It’s actually completely up to us BUT it can also change the outcome of this kind of event. It’s a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. My amazing friend, Emma Warren, made me think about this the other day. She asked me how I was feeling about my TEDx talk. I said I was nervous. That I was not good at public speaking. She suggested that each time that thought entered my head I did a physical thing and repeated a basic mantra to change how I viewed it. To change my filter. To switch nerves into excitement. I only did this a couple of times and I felt the worry lift. And then I didn’t think of the disaster scenario again, that was connected to my anxiety. I was still a little anxious – I mean – public speaking is not something I do lots of – but I wasn’t scared. I was kind of excited. If I’d had the wrong filter in place, I wouldn’t have been.

I like the filter analogy. I’m sure it’s been used before (so I’m not saying it’s my idea, I just haven’t seen it myself), but I usually see it referred to as framing. I always understood the concept, but when I was walking the dog, pondering life, listening to an audiobook and saw that the verges were lined with dandelions, everything started to fit together. Weed or flower? Food or decoration? It depends what filter you apply. This depends on your pre-sets (you can tell I work with a lot of photographers, can’t you?!), but it also means that YOU CAN CHANGE IT.

I hasten to add that I am no mindset coach and I’m no expert in psychology, far from it, this is very much my take on it, based on my own thoughts.

Do you apply filters to certain scenarios? Are you aware of the filters you’re applying? I’d love to know.

Is the tide turning on influencers?

is the tide turning on influencers?If you spend any time on social media, you might have seen the story about social media influencer Elle Darby. In case you haven’t, I’ll give you a very brief recap. Elle has an impressive following on Youtube and on different social media platforms. She uses this in various ways and part of this is working with brands to review/collaborate with them. You can read all about Elle and the issue here. She contacted a hotel about a collaboration (which involved her staying at the hotel for free in exchange for exposure). The hotel didn’t take it well and published the email and a rather ‘spirited’ reply explaining why the answer was no.

The whole story is very interesting, and the comments from people supporting both sides are also very interesting. From accusations of bullying to freeloading and everything else in between, the story of Elle Darby and the hotel could signal something else. Is the tide turning on influencers?

Is the tide turning on influencers?

As you may know, I do work with influencers with a number of the brands I work with. Some influencers are worth their weight in gold, go over and above, and the investment made in them in terms of product is repaid over and over. Some don’t. I have worked with influencers who fall into the don’t category and it’s not good. You feel like your client has been ripped off and badly treated and it’s horrible. The client is left with a very bitter taste. And then the client distances themselves from that influencer (or waits for them to do as they are meant to) and it’s a horrible, uncomfortable process. And then, if you’re lucky, the influencer has a bit of a strop when you know full well they haven’t done what was promised AND they’re eyeing up a competitor’s brand. Luckily the latter are in the minority if you put a lot of effort in to finding the right people, but it’s out there.

For a while now, I’ve seen the tide turning on influencers. Not the good ones I hasten to add. There will always be a place for good, genuine people to work with brands they love. Always. But for those who don’t deliver, I think it’s going to be a very interesting year. Brands are realising that, actually, they have the power. And that in many cases their followings far exceed that of the influencer. Of course, the size of a following isn’t the only reason a brand would choose to work with an influencer. It is, however one metric in a range I look at when I assess someone. There is huge value in a lot of aspects of what an influencer can offer and what value they bring to the brand… but that’s a different blog!

So do I agree with what happened to Elle?

Nope. I do feel that she was called out and publicly humiliated and that wasn’t nice or necessary. I didn’t think the email was horrific, but it wasn’t the best. It was actually a lot better than some of the ones my clients get barraged with each day. Of course, pitching it differently could have resulted in a different outcome, much like the tsunami of requests for free ‘stuff’ my clients receive. I continue to be blown away by the nerve of some people, but that is a whole different blog.

In Elle’s defence, she does have a good following. I haven’t spent a huge amount of time watching her content or looking at her following as I don’t think we share that many similar interests, but that’s not a criticism. And in the hotel’s defence, the email was impersonal, didn’t really show an affinity or connection with the hotel, no research had been done and she’d possibly underestimated the size of their own social media following. Also, it could have been the 20th ‘begging’ email that hotel had had that day. But calling someone out on social media like that is never good. And the barrage of hateful comments that have been directed at her are not necessary either.

Is it because people don’t understand the power of an influencer?

Maybe. To someone not involved in the world of social media and influencers, it does look like someone has asked for something for free. End of. But that isn’t the case. Influencers can be big for a brand. If Zoella uses your product on one of her videos, your brand will get a LOT of exposure. That has a lot of value. Look at the stats related to magazines and their circulation, and even website visits… and now look at the size of Zoella’s audience. And now you’ll see what I mean. Of course, Zoella is queen of the influencers, but I’m using her to push the point. The right influencer can do big things for a brand. But unfortunately there are a number of people who sport the ‘influencer’ or ‘brand ambassador’ badge, and they don’t deliver, so they really are just asking for free stuff.

So is the tide turning on influencers?

I think yes, actually, the tide is turning on influencers. I think brands are seeing the true value of influencers, good and bad. I think that this will help the good influencers rise and do much better, but I think that the people who are falling short are in for a tough time. And I do also think that influencers will also start to see the value in the fact that brands are now also influencers in their own right, with bigger followings and better connections. I think we’re in for an interesting time.

Lecturing at the Royal Agricultural University – Equestrian PR

royal agricultural universityI was incredibly honoured to be asked to give guest lectures at the Royal Agricultural University in November, not once, but twice. As a country and equestrian PR and marketing consultant and business coach, my skillset fitted the needs of two of the courses running. I have to say that I genuinely love teaching and working with people (hence the sidestep from straight equestrian PR and marketing to a mix of this and business coaching over a year ago). The one to one equestrian and small business coaching I do helps me with this enormously, but there’s something about being face to face with a room full of people and chattering away to them.

What was the lecture about?

Both of the lectures at the Royal Agricultural University were about PR, marketing and social media. The second one focused more around where I do most of my work, so I’ll focus on this. This lecture, which was a mix of a group lecture and then working with the individual groups, was all about PR, marketing and social media. In essence, how you get the world to know about your product or service. So right up my street. It’s amazing to see how much things have moved on since I started doing this job actually, and speaking to the students really does confirm this. It’s also amazing to look at what additional opportunities are available now, because of how digital and social the world is. But that’s another story.

Not only did we look at some of the amazing stats surrounding the world of social media (and when you start talking about BILLIONS of users of anything, I think that’s pretty incredible to be honest!), but also at how some of the business ideas have a more mainstream angle too. I think that’s a really important point. A lot of my clients are predominately equestrian or country or canine, but so many have a mainstream connection too. If you’re making accessories for dogs, looking slightly outside true canine is a very good plan, because of the sheer number of homes that have dogs. A piece of jewellery, even if designed with equestrians in mind, can have a much more mainstream place in the hearts of people too. And all of this while maintaining the brand’s core values. Just because you could promote what you do in another area doesn’t necessarily mean you should. And sometimes you should, but it’s part of the long term plan.

What happened in the individual groups?

Getting under the skin of businesses really makes me tick as I start to see exactly what’s going on, the USPs and what opportunities are there. This might mean exploring the story behind why a brand or product was created and how we can translate that into column/web page inches/social media campaigns. It could be where a product is sourced. Or its design. Or where the profits go. It could be the ‘scratch’ the product is trying to ‘itch’. What problem is it solving? What thinking is it tapping into? And how can we make sure that, as a business, we are letting people know about this information? You really don’t score any points for keeping products secret (well, not if they’re ready for sale and you actually want to sell them!). I LOVE this side of things. And speaking to the groups was SO interesting. There was a real mix of business ideas coming through and some superb marketing and promotional ideas. As with all clients, I never dictate. I listen to ideas and learn a huge amount (hopefully adding information and ideas to refine and improve!) as well as throw new ideas in the mix, so it was a really exciting session. Lots of brainstorming, lots of ideas, lots of note taking.

So what happens now?

The last class of students I had the pleasure of working with are creating business plans and presentations for a ‘Dragons’ Day’ later this month, as part of their final year’s studies. I’ve been part of this event for, gosh, I think the last four years, and I absolutely love it. I work with two or three other experts in their field and the students have their business plans and ideas critiqued. There’s always a numbers wizard (accountant!) last year’s was Ed Jenner, and I have sat next to Phil Duff (Phil’s quite impressive… not that I tell him that!) on each panel too. Phil is best known for the Ariat brand in the UK, but he has many more strings to his bow. I’m honoured and excited to be part of this year’s panel too. And I’ll make sure I let you know how it goes after the event.

To find out about last year’s Dragons’ Day, you can have a catch up here!

 

 

A big thank you post… Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar

Sweet Images PhotographySo, as 2017 draws to a close, I wanted to write a thank you post. I’m grateful to many people this year, but this blog is going to focus on one group, and these are the kind businesses who contributed to my Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar Giveaway, something I ran over on my Facebook page between 1-24th December. A lot of the products were donated by clients, some I bought, and others were given, very kindly, by people who I have the pleasure of knowing through social media, or through my Small & Supercharged business group on Facebook. And before I give you a whistle-stop tour of days 1-12, I wanted to say a HUGE thank you if you entered any of the competitions or supported my Facebook page this year and during the competition. I appreciate it. I have also LOVED hearing from the people who received the prizes. It’s so nice to hear that they love the prizes as much as I did. So, without further ado…

The Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar Giveaway…

Day 1 – She Means Business Book – by Carrie Green. This was a book that I bought as I recommend it to so many people and I wanted the Advent Calendar Giveaway to be relevant for equestrian and country business owners.

Day 2- Personalised Ornament from Hoofprints Amy, the lady behind Hoofprints, is a client of mine and very, very kindly provided a personalised ornament for one winner. The ornament that was pictured featured my in-laws’ black Labrador Polly (photograph by Sophie Callahan!) and my mother in law LOVED it, so when Amy said she was happy to give one to one lucky Facebook fan, I was thrilled. Thank you to Amy and Hoofprints for the really kind donation.

Day 3 – Wine Down Hoof Pick – Noble Outfitters. Noble Outfitters very kindly donated one fab hoof pick for the competition, so a huge thank you to them. The company sent me a lovely bundle of bits and bobs for my Christmas Gift Guides and the hoof pick was in the Hiho Silver Double Wrap Leather BraceletStocking Fillers one… and I just loved it. I mean, what’s better than a beautifully made hoof pick with a wooden handle? A beautifully made hoof pick with bottle opener and corkscrew, that’s what!

Day 4 – Faux Fur Neck Warmer – Annabel Brocks. Annabel Brocks is best known for its luxurious fully reversible faux fur head warmers made in the UK using lovely tweeds and fabrics… but the company makes more than that. And the Faux Fur Neck Warmer is one great example. The one Annabel Brocks very kindly donated had pale faux fur on one side and bubblegum pink tweed on the other. It was a VERY popular competition! Thank you to Annabel for donating this gorgeous prize.

Day 5 – Sophie Callahan’s 2018 Calendar – Sophie Callahan If you follow me on social media or have followed this blog at all, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Sophie Callahan and her work and I have the absolute privilege of working with her too. This incredibly talented lady very kindly donated one of her gorgeous calendars for day 5. I own one of these lovely calendars and in addition to beautiful pictures, Sophie’s also added a number of key equestrian and country dates too, which is really useful.

Day 6 – Exclusive Double Wrap Leather Bracelet- Hiho Silver. This was the most popular giveaway and people went mad for it. I mean, I’m not surprised. The double wrap leather bracelet is genuinely a thing of beauty… and it’s nothing short of a miracle I allowed it to leave the house to go to its new home! I am very lucky to work with Hiho and am very grateful to them for kindly donating this little gem. The recipient was very excited when I told them they had won it!

Day 7 – Burgundy Boot Tassels – Fairfax & Favor. Oh, I do love this brand… and I was Sophie Callahan Equestrian Calendarthrilled when they said they would be happy to donate this rather festive pair of suede boot tassels. I own a pair of the Reginas and a pair of the Explorers… and also a pair of navy and plum tassels… and I love how they can transform a look. Don’t get me wrong, the boots look gorgeous with their matching tassels too, but the extra touch of adding a dash of colour to them to tone with an outfit is a winner. Thank you Fairfax & Favor.

Day 8 – Eat The Frog Book – by Brian Tracy. This was a book I bought as part of the giveaway because I found that the advice between the covers was simple to understand, kind of obvious really, but absolutely game changing. It’s also a book and an idea that I know a number of my clients have had great success with, hence it made it into giveaway.

Day 9 – Mounted Print – Sweet Images. I’m very lucky to work with the fabulous Rachel Bragg, the lady behind Sweet images, and I have always loved her work. When this very print popped up on her Instagram feed, I asked if I could buy one for my office wall, because I loved it so much. The colours were lovely, the timing was perfect… I LOVED IT. Anyway, long story short, I have one and Rachel very, very kindly donated one for my advent calendar giveaway too. A massive thank you Rachel for doing this.

Day 10 – Arthur Bear – Kate Negus Saddlery. I’ve worked with Julia and Kate Negus Saddlery for a number of years, and the quality of the products she designs is exceptional. Marilyn, the mighty cob, is lucky enough to own a gorgeous Kate Negus bridle and it’s stunning – made using English leather and beautifully crafted in the UK too. Not all that long ago, Kate Negus launched the new Lifestyle Collection, and Arthur Bear is one part of it. A big thank you to Julia for donating an Arthur.

Day 11 – Running In The Rain Scented Candle – Hanrose. If you haven’t heard of burgundy tassels from fairfax and favorHanrose, I have a real treat in store. If you love scented candles, wax melts and all manner of loveliness, you’re very much home with Hanrose… so I was delighted when Johanna, the lovely lady behind Hanrose, offered a candle for day 11. The candle, called Running In The Rain, came in a gorgeous tin and had a lovely fresh scent which would work so well in any room. It was lovely to be able to give a great horsey company a bit more exposure and I am very grateful to Johanna for providing this lovely gift.

Day 12 – Hanging Star – Robin Roadnight. I have been a huge fan of Robin’s since I ‘found’ her via the Small & Supercharged group and then bought a ‘Horsepower’ print for my office wall. And then I was hooked. Robin creates truly beautiful equestrian art, which she prints onto fabric and makes beautiful homeware products from, and the star is a great example. I have a heart hanging up in my kitchen and it makes me smile whenever I see it, and I know how thrilled the winner of the Hanging Star was as they sent me a lovely email. Thank you to Robin for the donation.

 

**The plan was to do one blog thanking all the brands who kindly donated to my Equestrian and Country Advent Calendar… but it would have been a HUGE blog. So part 2 will follow tomorrow! **

Doris & Co – Hold Fast Mug – Advent Calendar Competition

Hold Fast Mug - Doris & CoToday I have one stunningly lovely Doris & Co Hold Fast Mug up for grabs. I have one and use it every day… and get rather cross if others get given it with their tea in… but enough about me and my ‘protective’ feelings towards my Hold Fast Mug…

Why am I giving away a Hold Fast Mug from Doris & Co?

Doris & Co is a sister company to Hiho Silver, and a business I am very, very proud to support. The British made creamware that Doris & Co is known for is beautiful, lovely to hold, beautifully designed… and hard as nails. The phrases and words on the mugs are all thoughtfully chosen and make you feel warm and fuzzy… without any nausea(!). The designs are gorgeous and exclusive to Doris. And the brand is friendly, welcoming, inclusive and fun. I love that the pieces are as beautiful as they are practical. I love ‘nice’ things, who doesn’t, but two toddlers, the naughtiest dog I have ever met and more means that delicate things don’t say ‘nice’ for long. Despite my best efforts. But Doris & Co products are the exception. They’re dishwasher proof, robust, well made… and I haven’t managed to break mine some two years on. I’m not trying to, far from it, but you know what I mean!

Why do I like the Hold Fast Mug from Doris & Co?

You may have noticed a very strong equestrian and country theme to my blog, clients, musing and content. That’s not something that’s done for show, it’s just me. I have horses, I’ve worked with horses in the past. We live at the back of beyond. I spend a fair amount of time outside, and so on. The Hold Fast Mug captures so many of the elements that I love. There’s a strong equestrian theme, there’s a strong nod to the countryside, and you’ll know by now that I LOVE a quote or saying. And ‘Hold Fast’ gives a good nod to that too. It is my favourite mug for many reasons, and if I can share a bit of Doris & Co with you this Christmas, well, the pleasure is all mine.

Would you like to win a Hold Fast Mug from Doris & Co?

I have one Hold Fast Mug from Doris & Co to give away… and the competition is only running until midnight on the day this blog is published. If you read this afterwards and you love the mug too, just pop on over to Doris & Co’s website and see Hold Fast and some equally lovely ‘friends’. However, if you’re in time, all you need to do it pop on over to my Rhea Freeman PR Facebook page, watch the video that will be pinned to the top today and enter. That’s it! Of course, I’d love it if you’d tell your friends by sharing the post.

I hope you enjoy my advent calendar competition – best of luck!