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.

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.

 

 

 

I was planning to write this blog before Badminton Horse Trials but, with a number of clients exhibiting at the event and lots of exciting things to tell the press about, as normal, my blog got knocked down the priority list! That said, this blog, all about how to survive a horse trials, is now written with a fresh appreciation of the kit you really should pack in your bag to ensure you have the best time possible.

Now, just to be clear, although the title may suggest I’m not a fan of horse trials, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I love going to horse trials with Badminton and Blenheim definitely at the top of my list. They’re quite different to each other, so I’m not saying which I like the most…it wouldn’t be fair (!).

Onto the serious matter of how to survive and thrive at a horse trials…here are my top tips.

1. Get organised. In order to arrive at a reasonable time without stressing yourself out, it’s best to get organised at least the day before. This year I took my dog Jam with me, so in addition to tickets, money, maps and more, I also had to remember her breakfast, her two leads, poo bags and waterproofs in case it rained.

2. Maps. Not just for getting there, but for the show itself. I had a number of clients to see at Badminton, so I printed out a map of the tradestands and marked where I needed to go. This may sound a little too organised, but some of these tradestand villages are HUGE, and if there are some stands you really want to see, it’s worth printing out a map, finding the stand numbers and marking on where you want to go. Honest.

If you’re planning to walk the XC course, especially on a non-XC day, consider printing out a map of here too. I didn’t this year, walked a good way…and realised I’d missed most of the XC course. Not a huge problem, but a little annoying!

3. Drinks. Yes, make sure you take a bottle of water with you/be prepared to buy at the show and drink it! It’s very easy to forget to drink when you’re taking in what’s going on and having fun…but the headache you’ll get and general feeling of being less than 100% that follows isn’t ideal. I’m not saying you should only drink water as there are some fab drinks places around the shows, and this year the lovely Hiho Silver offered their customers tea or coffee on the stand in stunning Doris & Co mugs. Very well received by everyone.

4. Food. Yes, you’re going to have to eat! You can tackle this in a few ways: 1) you can stop at a supermarket and take advantage of a meal deal 2) you can pack a lovely picnic of your favourite things 3) you can make the most of the food stands and tents and sample all the delicious food available. I tend to do a mixture of one and three, just because then, when it’s 10.30 and I’m starving and in the middle of something, I can eat the food I have stashed away…ready to enjoy the food tent later.

5. Comfortable boots. It’ll depend on the weather, obviously, but boots are good…and for god’s sake make sure they’re comfortable. If you’re thinking of wearing heels (it’ll be in a field, come on!), flip flops (seriously?!) or anything similar, THROW THAT IDEA AWAY. YOU’VE LOST YOUR MIND. Even on a warm day, you’ll be dealing with long grass (if you walk the XC) and maybe mud/dirt in the shopping village. And you’ll be deal with other people. When someone in their size 12s treads on your foot, you’ll be pleased you’re not wearing beach wear!

6. Ready for all weathers. I was very, very lucky at this year’s Badminton, but it can often be a mixed bag, If it’s warm, put a lightweight waterproof in your bag and, if it’s cold…make sure you coat has waterproof qualities. Or take a brolly…but be aware of taking people’s eyes out as everyone runs for cover in the shopping village.

7. Car parking. I always take a picture of where I leave my car – obviously including some point I can refer to (not just the car). Having temporarily lost a car in a large car park once before it’s pretty important for me!

8. Backpacks. They might not be the most elegant of bags, but a backpack can be worth its weight in gold. As I said, I took a dog this year, and it was very useful being ‘handsfree’…well, from the bag at least. It also means that you’ll stay balanced, as I’ve been unbalanced with bags before, and it really does make everything ache after a while!

 

I’m sure I’ve missed some tips, but these are definitely the top ones that come to mind. Obviously the whole point of going to events is to have a good time…and the tips about should help you do this!

Yes, it’s 2015…and my ‘Happy New Year’ post is a bit, well, late…so sorry about that. Rest assured that although late by some 12 days, it’s a heartfelt Happy New Year!

The New Year, I think, is an interesting time. I’m not talking about New Year’s Eve when people seem to seize the opportunity to drink their body weight in alcohol and make a complete fools of themselves, I’m talking about the hopes and ‘resolutions’ that people make for the New Year. I’ve actually given this a lot of thought recently, not just as the clock struck 12 on 31st December, but in the following weeks too. I was chatting to my niece about New Year’s Resolutions at the weekend. She’s 10, but actually speaks quite a bit of sense (not all the time, just in case she’s reading this!). Her resolution was to ‘be more generally awesome’, and I have to say I kind of like that. An all encompassing ‘be a better version of you’ seemed rather good and uncomplicated. I didn’t follow up with the next question, that I’d ask any friend or even client, which is ‘and how are you going to do that then?’. See, that’s the interesting bit of the puzzle, isn’t it. The how. And, another interesting point, what stops us from ‘being more generally awesome’ on any other day of the year? Is it the thought that we can’t, or the thought that we might not, or the memories of previous things that stop us from just kicking on? New Year is a good excuse to have a vision, a plan, not just for ourselves but actually for our businesses too. But so is the start of any other day of the year. It’s a new day as much as the 1st January is a new year, isn’t it?

So, now for the how. How are you going to achieve your resolution. Let’s just take the ‘being more generally awesome’ example…because, let’s be honest, it’s a pretty great resolution to have. How can you be more awesome? How can your business be more awesome? And what does that mean to you? Would being more awesome involve stressing less? Getting more done in day? Having a plan? Being less tied to the desk and more free to enjoy your life? Is it getting the work/life balance fixed? For your business is it getting more people to know about you? Is it having a plan for your social media? Is it going to more events? Is it selling more product? When you’ve narrowed down what you want to achieve, it’s easier to pull out the threads and see how you can achieve this. If you need help, in whatever aspect of your life or business, whether this is PR support or even how to make your iPhone receive emails when you’re out and about or how to manage your stress levels, then crack on and do it. We all need a little help sometimes. It might be that a Youtube tutorial fixes it. It might be that you need to employ the help of an expert or consultant in some field. It might mean that you have to change habits and form new ones…and that takes some doing.

So, here’s to a New Year where we can all be more ‘generally awesome’…