Equestrian & rural business blog posts

Blogging has been so beneficial for my business. I enjoy it too. I started off in copywriting and, for me, this blog is a great way to share equestrian and rural businesses as well as PR, marketing and social media advice. All posts have been written to inspire, educate or to share something that is important to me, my business, or my customers.

The blogs you’ll find in the category are likely to be varied in content. Yes, there will be an equestrian, rural or country connection in them (mainly because that’s just who I am!), but be prepared to see a range of subjects. From business profiles, sharing information about the people behind the brand to social media know-how and how to promote your equestrian and rural business more effectively, you’re likely to find it in here.

Should your website reflect you? Whether ‘you’ are a personal brand or your website is for your company (and, therefore, you refers to the company?). Yes. I think it should. InShould your website reflect you? every case. Your website should reflect you.

When I started working on my website, I went through the process of choosing a new WordPress template. My business was having a slight adjustment in direction to focus more on business coaching and I wanted a site that, while still offered my country and equestrian PR and marketing service, wasn’t so country and equestrian it put people off. Because not everyone is country or equestrian. And not all my coaching clients are. So that was my objective.

I looked at a LOT of WordPress themes. And when I say a lot, I mean a serious amount of themes. And I found one I liked a lot. I spoke to the lovely Amy, my website designer, she had a look and thought it would work (yes, I work with a designer on my sites – they’ll be a blog about that soon!). So it was purchased. I developed the site alongside Amy, and it was nice. It did the job. But something was niggling at me. And I was damned if I knew what it was. It was a nice site. The colours were nice, the layout was nice. It was nice. It was formal. It was professional. It was slick. Now. I am professional, but I’m way too passionate about what I do to be formal. I’m not a big agency in London. I work with a number of talented people to help me deliver a really superb experience for my clients and a one stop shop, but I’m no big agency. The site was the site for a big agency. It didn’t fit. It didn’t really feel right. It wasn’t a reflection of me.

The site was SO close to being completed it was frustrating. But it just didn’t quite fit me. Like a pair of shoes that are a teeny bit too tight – it would be OK, but would get uncomfortable over time. So I spoke to a few people and decided to scrap it. Yes. I scrapped a complete website because it wasn’t me. It wasn’t a reflection of my brand or who I was. I’m a creative- I’m quirky – I’m passionate – I get results – I think outside the box. The old site said I wore a suit and was working 9-5 to pay my mortgage and simply went through a process. And I just don’t do that. So I started all over again so the website reflected me and my brand.

Now, if you’re not your brand, should it still be a reflection of ‘you’. God yes. In a world where there are so many vanillas, why not stand out by being different – by being authentic? So people buy into you and they already know about what makes you tick and your culture before they come and see you/visit a shop/see you at a show? Yep – it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if they don’t like a site that’s a true reflection of you and your company – do you think they’re going to like your company? Not so much. Be you. Be authentic…and let you website reflect who ‘you’ are.

Yes it is. Perfection in some things is essential. You wouldn’t want a heart surgeon who said ‘that’ll do’, but for most of us, perfection is overrated and, more to the point can actually stop Is perfection overrated?us in our tracks. Perfection, if you like, can stop us being the most perfect version of ourselves. In my view, perfection is overrated.

I write a lot of copy. Not just for blogs and social media, but for the press too. I take finding a typo really badly. I hate typos. They make me disproportionately angry. Because I like my work to be ‘perfect’ – or as perfect as it can be. But what happens when you quest for perfection stops you doing things? In this case, what if it stopped me ever posting and update on Facebook? Or Twitter? Or sending out a press release because I was worried about there being a typo I’d missed? I wouldn’t be popular with my clients for starters. With my country and equestrian PR and marketing clients, I’d get emails/calls asking me what I was playing at, and why I hadn’t done x, y or z. And saying I was worried there might be a typo is a pretty poor excuse, isn’t it?

Obviously that was a specific and extreme example, but you can see where I’m coming from. No one is perfect. That’s the truth of it. It’s important to try your best and get things as good as you can in a timely fashion (I’m not encouraging sloppy work and poor attitudes – far from it!), but there’s a point when you have to launch/send/do and trust that you’d done the best you can, so you can move onto the next thing. Perfection can be paralysing. Do, review, redo – don’t get stuck on the planning before the ‘do’ and never do anything. Perfection is overrated. Hard work, good attitudes and tons or effort are what you should be focussing on, along with the best outcome you can perfect in a timely fashion. Perfection isn’t on this list. For very good reason.

How to make video content work for youWe all know that social media is an essential part of any marketing plan, granted, but more and more video is becoming just as essential. See, video is a big player on the world of social media. You might be thinking Youtube, but it far more than that. The great thing with video is that it can be used across a number of different platforms to engage your target audience. This means that although video does take a bit more time to produce. and usually requires some form of editing too, it can be money and time well spent. Let me walk you through an example of a few ways you can make video content work really hard for you.

The first place you might want to put your video is Youtube (and my Youtube channel is here – you know – in case you fancy a look!). You add it to your channel and it’s there for as long as you want it to be. With Youtube being the second biggest search engine in the world, making sure you put time and thought into your description and title can really pay here. So that’s use no. 1.

Now, you can either share the link to the video on Youtube on your Facebook page or, better still, post natively – by which I mean upload it directly onto your Facebook page. Facebook seems to prefer native uploads and they’re much easier for people to view. I’ve noticed the organic reach of my natively posted videos is far in excess of the videos I’ve shared from Youtube. What’s more, the way they’re displayed is much more interesting. And there’s autoplay.

So, you’ve got your video on both Youtube and Facebook. So you’re done. Right. Oh no. Not even close. If you want to make video content work for you, you’re going to have to put in a bit more effort (but not much)…

You can embed your Youtube video into your website, adding it to a blog or a product post. And you can add to your newsletter too, you know, so people get more of a feel for the product and who YOU as a business are. Depending on the video.

And then there’s Instagram. Instagram will take video up to a minute long. So create a teaser, chop your longer video into smaller pieces or make your videos that length.

And then there’s Twitter. Previously videos of up to 30 seconds were required for Twitter, but that amount of time has now been increased to 140 seconds.

And, let’s not forget, this is just your first posting. When you’ve filmed and edited the video, it’s there. And can be rolled out periodically, when relevant.

 

If you think that video editing is beyond you, worry not, Wild Berry Media offer an affordable way to get all your videos edited, ready for you to make your video content work. Have a look at the video page on the website for more.

This is a question I get asked a lot as the blogosphere continues to grow at a frightening rate – are bloggers worth working with and could they help your business?

Could bloggers help your business?The short answer is yes… BUT…

In short, the answer is a HUGE yes. But there’s a big but. You have to work with the RIGHT bloggers. The wrong bloggers are a complete waste of your time and energy. Sounds harsh, but let me explain.

The RIGHT blogger is key to your ‘success’

I get a lot of people contact me, offering to help my clients by promoting their products to their amazing social media network and on their blog. Sounds great – you send over the product, they review it, they take pics, maybe a video, the clients shares it too, you hit all their followers and yours. Brilliant, yes? Well if that person has actually got a following, if they can write, if people care about what they have to say, and if they can take a picture, it is. If they can’t, it’s no flipping use at all. Even worse, some take the product and then you spend hours and hours chasing them to do what they promised they would. That’s just plain boring and plain annoying. And even if they do create an amazing piece of work, the amount of energy you’ve put in to get them to generate it has left a sour taste. It’s annoying.

And when you find the right blogger?

But let’s look at the other side. A blogger who genuinely likes your product and has an interest in you and it, who writes nicely, has a really good, engaged following and does what they say in a timely fashion? It’s brilliant. It’s a superb way to promote a product to another area of your target audience. One great example of a good blog in the country and equestrian circuit is A Girl About Country – by the lovely Harriet Edwards. Harriet has a good, engaged following on Instagram and her blog is really nice. A great example of an equestrian and photography vlogger and blogger is Sophie Callahan. Sophie has a really impressive following across a number of platforms, takes lovely pics and creates really engaging content too. Check them both out.

Are bloggers making a big impact?

I was recently reading about London Fashion Week and how bloggers (good bloggers), were treated incredibly well – the same – if not even better – than magazine staff. Was this wrong? I don’t think it was at all. Yep – it put some people’s noses out of joint, but think it through. Bloggers with good followings, with engaged audiences, have a HUGE reach. They publish content quickly that perfectly appeals to their readership and people lap it up. So they help spread the word, by creating content that taps into the worldview of their audience. Just like a magazine does. But they can write it from a more informal angle. They can talk about things mags don’t/can’t/don’t want to. So tell me, why wouldn’t you treat these people as royalty? If you want as many people as possible to know about your product/service, you work with people with a good reach, good style and that fit your company profile and ethos. Bloggers can do this and then some.

So, can blogging help your business?

Working with the right bloggers can do massive things for your business, but finding the right bloggers can take some time. But is it worth the effort? When you find the right people and they work their magic, increase your exposure and generate interest and sales, it’s worth every single second.

Why Instagram? Well apart from the amazing amount of people who have accounts and are Why Instagram?part of the Instagram community (600 million at time of writing – honest!), it provides an amazing opportunity to show your products to the world. More than this, it’s SO easy to access through the mighty smartphone (which, chances are, I’ll call an iPhone for the rest of this blog, because I’m an Apple geek). It allows people to feel connect to you and your brand, get a sneaky behind the scenes look at your world, allows you to work with collaborators and, actually, see the world a little differently.

Instagram – from a personal point of view…

From a personal point of view, I love Instagram (you can find me here), that’s why Instagram makes up part of my marketing mix. I love snapping away Flat lays on Instagramand sharing bits of my life with the world. I’m very into flat lays at the moment and love how Instagram gives me a really nice outlet for my creativity. And I LOVE seeing other people’s posts. Of course, you have to be careful about who you follow (just so you get content you’re interested in, for no other reason!), but that’s the same with any social network. More than this, I do love the filters (although most of my pics are proudly #nofilter), the ability to edit inside the app, and there’s a raft of other fun bits and bobs like Boomerang and Ripl that allow you to create fun stuff for the platform. And it’s not just pics, it’s vids too. I love it.

Why Instagram… from a business point of view?

From a business point of view, you should love it too. I can’t think of a business that couldn’t benefit from being on Instagram. Honestly. Of course, some accounts will attract more interest and followers than others, but that’s the same with all platforms. It’s a great platform to story tell. To share bits of your business and life with your loyal fan base. You can engage, interact, be part of the community, talk to customers, share in their joy. And that’s before we even look at the advertising product in Instagram. That’s pretty cool too. But then it would be and it’s from the Facebook family. And Facebook ads product is amazing. But that’s the subject of another blog.

And one last thing

Another thing I love about Instagram is that, when I’m walking the dog, riding, out and about – I feel it’s opened my eyes a little more to the wonder that’s all around, because I want to capture it for me and my following. I’m not saying you should be snapping every second of your life, but it’s a fun way to capture the really important stuff and share it!

Should you advertise in magazines? It depends. Not that long ago, the answer would have been a big fat yes, but now. Well, now I’m not so sure…and that’s what I tell my clients too.

Why have things changes?

Should you advertise in magazines?Before I continue, and before you think I hate all magazines, I really, really don’t. A number of publications in all areas do a great job. They produce engaging articles, they have great competitions, there’s a layer of social media built in and they have a great website that continues the user experience online. They have good circulations and an engaged readership. These magazines are good and, if they fit your target market and you have the funds, then these could be a good place to advertise. I say could because you should still research and find out what you’re actually going to get for your money and if this is likely to generate the return on investment it should. It could work for you. And in that case the answer to ‘should you advertise in magazines?’ could be a yes.

And now?

Many magazines have been hit hard – some really hard – by the success of the internet and the explosion of social media on all different platforms. Many have adapted. A lot haven’t. The ones who haven’t have seen drops in circulation, a decrease in quality, a drop in pages, a reduction in the quality of the content inside the publication (but the cover price and ad rates have remained the same). It’s packed full of articles written by PRs because the magazine can’t afford ‘proper’ writers. And this makes me sad. You’ll often find a pretty basic website and dull social media platforms with no real engagement behind these publications. And then you know what happens? They stop. They just can’t afford to carry on. But that’s not the point.

Does advertising in printed media have value?

Advertising in the printed press can have value. If the magazine fits your brand, has a good circulation (or at least a good quality, engaged circulation – you don’t always need huge numbers if the quality is there), has good social media platforms, quality content and ideally adds layers of social media, editorial coverage and other elements to your package, it can be good. Really good. This means you are getting as much as you can and, therefore, have a greater chance of seeing the return on investment you need.

So, should you advertise in magazines?

If you have a really limited budget – and I’m going to be honest here – I would look at social media. Because if you place one ad, for one month or week, and that’s your ad budget gone. Well, you’re screwed really (unless it was the most amazing ad in the world for the most amazing product and everyone bought it). If you have a seriously tight ad budget, I’d honestly look to put this towards advertising on social media – where your clients and target clients hang out. I’d save the printed ad, if you want, for when you have more money to spend on advertising. Obviously I’d look at a LOT of other things too, PR, marketing and promotion isn’t just about ads, it’s about amazing social media content, influencers, content marketing, working with the media – the list goes on and on and one! But that’s just my take on it. The real choice is yours- it’s your money!

Video is a HUGELY powerful marketing tool, there’s no denying that, but one time it can fall down is when autoplay kicks in on a person’s computer/mobile device and there’s no sound. It’s not always convenient to listen to a video, so people scroll on by. And that’s a real shame, but that’s life. However, there is a way you can make your video work even when the sound is off – and that’s through subtitles or closed captions.

Subtitles and closed captions on Facebook

How to add subtitles to a Facebook videoNow, Facebook can has assist you with the closed caption or subtitle process. Previously there was the option to upload the SRT file (and there still is), but that really put me off as it would have taken a LOT of extra work and I was concerned that if the timing wasn’t spot on, it would look a bit rubbish. So can you imagine my delight when a magic ‘generate’ button appeared? Now. A word of warning before you think adding closed captions with the generate button is a two minute job. It isn’t. You MUST check and edit what it thinks you’ve said. It’s written some very interesting interpretations of what I’ve said, and I am very pleased I spotted them before it went live. What it does do is provide timings, a really easy to edit format and a professional finish. And it’s really easy to do. Here’s how.

  1. Upload your video natively to Facebook
  2. On the right hand side of the post, click the dropdown and select ‘Edit Post’
  3. Click ‘Captions’
  4. You should see a little wand with the word ‘Generate’ next to it – click this
  5. And as if by magic it will generate your captions! On the desktop, the video is on the left and the captions are on the right. Press play and you’ll see them pop up on the screen as you talk. I tend to press pause before editing my captions, although when you start typing it stops. I just find it’s better this way.

Will adding closed captions or subtitles to my Facebook video take long?

If Facebook understands the way you speak, editing the captions might be a fast process. If you mumble and confuse it, it’s going to take longer. Either way, it is a good thing to do as it will increase the appeal of your video and allow people to consume it when there’s no sound too, so it works even harder for you. There’s some really impressive stats to back this up – making closed captions or subtitles a must if you want more people to ‘hear’ your message.

I’ll admit it, I have a bit of a thing about packaging. More than that, I think you should embrace your own product’s packaging and see what it says about you. Or, more precisely, who it could say about you.

Does packaging matter?

Before Christmas, I did a fair amount of online shopping. And I was lucky enough to receive some nice products through the post too. Of course, the contents of the packaging were of interest, but how the product arrived was also very interesting. So interesting in fact that I decided to make a series of videos showcasing five great examples of packaging (have a look on my Youtube channel here) and how I felt it added value to the end user and projected the company’s brand values too. Does that seem a bit deep for a cardboard box? It really isn’t. Think of some of the highest end brands in the world. How do they present their products? It it in a battered and bruised box that looks like it cost about 1p and has been beaten up by six people? No. No it doesn’t. Opening your eyes to how stuff is packaged and what it says about the product inside can change a customer’s perception of your brand. It it can add to your customer’s experience. Honestly. Just think about how you feel when you receive a beautifully wrapped gift vs. how you’d feel if your product came wrapped in newspaper?

And so the videos started…

Anyway, I put together a series of videos all about this, showing five great examples over the course of the videos. Here’s a link to the first one. It’s all about equestrian and country jewellery designers Hiho Silver. What does your packaging say about you?Now, Hiho Silver is based in Somerset, has two shops in Dorset and is a must-have destination to visit at all the big equestrian and country shows during the season – and for good reason. Hiho creates the most stunning range of jewellery. There’s something to suit all budgets and tastes. Many pieces are completely exclusive and designed by them. The quality of the jewellery is second to none. The customer service is brilliant. The branding is spot on. And do you know what else is exceptional? The packaging. As soon as you receive the box, you’re instantly excited. And you know that the product inside is going to be good quality…because it has to be…because of the box. The company has also used the packaging and one of the inserts to tell the story about the product inside the box. Why? Because it’s an amazing story, it adds to the product inside and it adds to the overall brand story. If you click on the image above, you’ll be take to a video all about Hiho’s packaging.

And here’s a link to a few more packaging videos…

Doris & Co

Bloom & Wild

Annabel Brocks and Hawkins Organic

…and a longer video combining all the examples above!

The 2016 John Lewis Christmas advert was nothing short of a triumph – in my world, it’s the official start of the festive season and it was brilliant. But it’s brilliant in ways you might not imagine. See, as much as I love to see a Boxer called Buster and a load of woodland creatures have a great time on a trampoline, the complete campaign was nothing short of a work of genius. Actually, I loved it so much, I made a video about it…

What the John Lewis Christmas advert can teach us

On face value, the advert ticks all the boxes – it’s relatable (putting up trampolines is hard. Really hard), it has product placement (everywhere), it was funny (who doesn’t love a bouncing hedgehog?), it had an unexpected twist (who knew Boxers were so good on trampolines). The soundtrack was lovely, the #tag was lovely, everyone was talking about it….tick, tick, tick, tick, TICK.

Now we delve deeper.

Did you know that a whole product range was created around the ad and that 10% of sales from the cuddly toys went to The Wildlife Trusts? That they employed Oculus technology in some of their stores to allow people to explore Buster’s garden using virtual reality? That they had Snapchat filters created for Buster’s garden? That they worked with The Wildlife Trust to allow us normal folk to get a better understanding of what’s going on in our back gardens and, to do this, they products a shed load of free resources on their website? No? It’s more than a bit clever. It’s genius.

I read that the John Lewis Christmas advert cost £1million to make the ad at that by the time the ad campaign ends, they will have spend £6million on it. If you don’t have that kind of spare cash in your back pocket, fear not, there are many, many things you can still take from it. The link between the TV ad and the product range, the collaboration, the additional resources, the way they’re pushing it all across social media using the #bustertheboxer hashtag on Twitter and the Snapchat filter. John Lewis has joined all the dots and created a campaign that works across so many different areas of their business. And that’s what clever. And that’s what you can do. Depending on when you read this blog, you might think it’s too last for Christmas (or too early), but it doesn’t matter, don’t limit yourself to the time people bring on the tinsel, think of how you can create joined up campaigns at other times of the year…yep- it takes more thought than shoving an ad in a magazine, but could yield a far greater ROI when you put a little bit more time into it…

I made a video all about the John Lewis advert – have a look at it on my Youtube channel here.

Getting approached about sponsorship is a daily occurrence for many PRs and the companies they work with. We all appreciate that people want support, and that’s fine, what isn’t fine is how some people choose to ask for this help. Well, I say ask…it’s often more of a rude demand made in the wrong way! If you’re looking for some tips when it comes to help to approach companies about sponsorship, have a look at this video about rider sponsorship don’ts. It might just help.