Equestrian & Rural Digital Marketing

Digital marketing can sound scary and ‘big’, but I promise you two things. One, it is as big as you want it to be. And two, you need to get a handle on it and make it work for your equestrian or rural business.

This kind of marketing can take many forms. I think of it as anything that is digital – as in – online. There are lots and lots of ways you can promote your equestrian or rural business online and so this area contains quite a lot of information.

But please, please, don’t be afraid of it. This form of marketing is a real gift as the entry level in zero – you can start with no financial outlay and the effort you put in can really deliver amazing results if you just give it a go.

Karen McConnell Royal highland ShowI for one was completely blown away by Karen McConnell, aka Karen & Clan and KAEquestrian’s Royal Highland Show content… did you see it?

As an ambassador for Hiho Silver, and as a friend, I did know what was happening before it did. In a full disclosure kind of way. But an idea is just an idea, isn’t it? It’s the execution of these things that REALLY matters, and Karen completely surpassed my expectations (which were pretty high, let’s be honest!). More than this, I genuinely felt like I was at the Royal Highland (and I really wasn’t, I was in Worcestershire!), saw new products thanks to her Instagram Stories, and also have not got a serious liking for Holland Cooper… which was something I didn’t have before. I didn’t ever dislike the brand, far from it, I’ve always been very impressed by what Jade and the team have accomplished, think the showroom is to die for and more, but seeing the outfits styled in a way that I would wear. And seeing how they all endured all day wear. And hearing Karen rave about them too means that they’re now firmly on my list of stands to visit at the next event I go to.

But I digress.

The whole content plan leading up to and during the Royal Highland Show was geneuinely superb, so I asked Karen a few questions to get the inside info from the show. You ready?

Behind… Karen McConnell’s Royal Highland Show coverage

Why did you pick the four brands you did to work with?
I chose HiHo Silver, Mackenzie & George, Fairfax & Favor and Holland Cooper as the four brands to work with on this project as I absolutely love their products. They all stand for the height of style and quality and together, I think, they make up the perfect country outfit.

Did you learn anything new about the brands working so closely with them?
Absolutely, Obviously when you start asking about the different products and manufacturing processes, you develop a better understanding of the products themselves but the most interesting part for me is getting to know the personalities within the teams that ultimately make up the overall personality of the brand. As a consumer, when I find a brand whose personality I like and get on with, I’m completely sold and as a blogger it’s absolutely vital that our personalities gel in order to create content that complements the brands I’m working with. I feel after working on this project together, I know all the brands a little better, love them even more than I did before and hopefully they know me a bit better too.

Karen McConnell Royal Highland ShowWhat did you enjoy the most about the Royal Highland Show? How long have you been going?
I’ve been going to the Highland Show since I was a child and it’s always a great event with loads to see (and buy!). It really does pull the whole of Scotland’s rural community together (as well as lots of others from south of the border and further afield) and this year, wall to wall sunshine just made it even better. As always with these events, although I love the attractions and shopping, what I love most is bumping into friends, clients old and new, and meeting new people with similar interests.

How did you come up with the idea of working with a brand a day, and how did you find implementing that during the event?
I knew I wanted to do something different at this year’s Royal Highland Show (last year was all about the equestrian side of the event), and with country style and fashion becoming such a large part of the Karen & Clan blog, it made sense to me to feature all my favourite country fashion brands who were exhibiting at the show. A brand a day just made sense to me as that way I got to really dedicate my whole day to showcasing the brand to share with my social media audience. It also worked well when I did IG story takeovers for Hiho Silver and Mackenzie & George. Implementing the format was really easy, I always knew where my focus needed to be.

What were the favourite pieces you got to wear and use from each brand – just one from each (I know it’s hard!)
Oooh, this is such a tough question! If I had to pick only one item from each of the brands they would be…..
Hiho Silver – The Bumblebee Necklace – I only spotted this on the website the other week and instantly loved it. I’ve not taken it off since the show, so cute!
Mackenzie & George – The Windsor Maxi Clutch in Navy – I’d coveted that for a while and it’s even more beautiful in real life. I got it embossed with my initials too which makes it even more special.
Fairfax & Favor – The Heeled Amiras in Tan – I wore these three of the four days at the show and they’re super stylish and surprisingly comfortable. I’ve never owned a pair of over the knee boots before and I was nervous about whether I could pull them off (in my head they were only for tall people!) but I LOVE them.
Holland Cooper – Another really hard choice but I really loved the Cadogan Jacket in Stone Herringbone (link to Duke) I wore on the Sunday. Its military influence is super-cool but the gorgeous tweed makes it instantly classic in style. I loved teaming it up with the matching Carrie Cap too (I know that’s two products – sorry!)

You’ve done a huge amount of research into what to wear at country and equestrian shows for your Royal Highland feature. What would your top tip/s be when it comes to clothing for these kind of events?
I think dressing for a country show you need four key ingredients – a gorgeous tweed blazer or cape, a comfortable pair of boots (you’ll be walking all day), a great bag and fantastic accessories. If you have all of those things, all you need are your favourite pair of skinny jeans and a shirt and you’re good to go!

To find out more about Karen’s trip to the Royal Highland – here are some must see blogs and vlogs…

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Thursday

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Friday

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Saturday

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Sunday

What’s in my bag – Royal Highland vlog

What to wear at a country show – vlog

How to mute someone on InstagramIn May 2018, Instagram announced the introduction of the mute feature. In the last month, Instagram has announced some ginormous changes, granted, but this one, I think, is an important one. First, I’m going to tell you how to mute someone on Instagram, and then we’ll chat about why…

How to mute someone on Instagram

I believe there are two ways to do this: one from an image in your feed and one from their profile. Both seem to work in a similar way- tap the three dots, select ‘Mute’ and Bob’s your Uncle. It’ll give you the option to mute just the posts on the main feed or the posts AND story. And it really is just a few taps away. From the reading I have done, these people will be completely unaware on their new muted status too… so that’s a win,

The other thing is, it’s really, really easy to unmute. Just visit the profile, tap the three dots on the right next to their name and select unmute. You can unmute stories, posts or both. It’s really very easy.

Why would you want to mute someone on Instagram? Why wouldn’t you just unfollow?

This is a very, very fair question and I have been giving it a lot of thought.

Instagram has said that mute has been introduced to allow people to personalise their feed more, to see the content that they want. And before you think ‘well, I’ll just unfollow’, don’t forget that Facebook has offered the ‘unfollow’ option for a long old time now… and lots of people use it. Mute might be new to Instagram, but to social media it isn’t.

I think that, in today’s social media and digital world, unfollowing someone is like a virtual slap in the face and being told that they don’t want to be your friend anymore. It’s a bold statement. Realistically, it’s a click, but people take it really badly and it’s used as a gauge for someone’s like/dislike of you… sad but true…

So – a few reasons why you might want to mute someone on Instagram:

  • Maybe your friend is doing something seasonal you have no interest in and although you love them, you just don’t want to see all the images of something you have no interest in.
  • Maybe people are posting too much and it’s drowning out the content from friends and family members you really, really want to see.
  • Maybe you follow a large number of people because they’re clients or even potential clients and even though you like to keep in touch and see some of their pics, you don’t want to see all of their pics.
  • Maybe you like their Stories but not their posts. Or visa versa.
  • Maybe you’re trying to become less addicted to your phone and Instagram feed and want to give yourself less to be distracted by
  • Maybe you’re suffering with a horrible case of comparisonitis – you know it’s your issue but you need a bit of space away from everyone’s shiny Instagram feeds…

I kind of think I see muting someone as a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ thing. What your friend/the person you’re following is posting is not wrong, and you don’t like them any less as a person (you’d probably unfollow in both these cases), but you just don’t see their content in the same way as before. You’re still able to go and visit their profile and like/comment away whenever you like, so it’s not so much a ‘go away’, more a way to give yourself a little bit of mental space.

I know there are conflicting views on the mute feature – personally I can really see where it can add value. But I do also agree with the fact that you shouldn’t follow people just for the sake of following them… and then mute them. If you want to build genuine engagement on a genuine account, when a follow from you actually means something, use mute wisely. And if you don’t want to build this kind of account, I’m not so sure that social media is the place for you to hang out… because the ‘social’ part is really important!

Are you on Instagram? I’m @rheafreemanpr – come and share your views on ‘Mute’ over there…there’s a Tip Tuesday post all about it.

Are you posting content that matters?Are you posting content that matters?

You may think that this is a really odd question – I mean – of course you are. Aren’t you? Of course you’re posting content that matters. Or are you posting content that’s there to simply get a reaction? Not a reaction that aligns with your business… or your goals… or your customers… just a reaction. Any reaction? I’m seeing more and more people post content that doesn’t really matter and doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to get an reaction. Of course, if that’s your only objective, then go ahead. But to me that’s a LOT of effort for zero result.

What is ‘content that matters’?

Content that matters has a purpose beyond just being a piece of content. Maybe you’re sharing a client story? Or maybe you’re sharing something to help inspire and motivate? A useful blog or podcast your heard/read that you thought had value? What constitutes ‘content that matters’ differs from person to person. It depends on the objectives of your business/page/profile, but it should always add value. Otherwise what is the point? Well, I think I might know the answer…

Are you trying to outsmart the algorithm?

Ok, I get it. Social media’s algorithms can make our job more challenging… but let’s just break it down a little… can we? Social media (I’m talking Facebook, Instagram, etc etc) is built on the people who use it. The companies who run these platforms want the user experience to be good and engaging and interesting. They want to keep people on their platform for as long as they can (because, let’s be honest, that makes them an even more appealing advertising platform). But a recent algorithm update states that it has changed to help people have ‘more meaningful interactions’. Meaningful is the keyword here. Yes, Facebook’s algorithm does look at a range of factors to see if your content ticks this box… and reactions, shares and comments do factor here… but if your content is seen as engagement bait, your content could actually be demoted. In December ’17, as a response to user feedback, Facebook started demoting posts with this ‘engagement bait’ type content. To enhance the user experience.

Why posting content that matters, matters

There are a few reasons why posting content that matter, matters… hopefully one of these will strike a cord…

  1. When someone reads a post, you’re taking up their time. Time is the MOST valuable commodity that we all have the same amount of… don’t waste it!
  2. It’ll take you as much time to create GOOD content as it will poor quality
  3. Content that doesn’t add to your story or to your customer’s story is a waste of your skills
  4. Everything you put out on social media should, in some way, align with your business, your beliefs or your goals. If it doesn’t do this, why post?
  5. You can create engagement bait style posts. You might get a lot of engagement. Yay. But are these people actually interested in you or your business? Even a bit? Will they like the page and stay around, engage, ask questions and maybe even become a customer? If you’re asking them to tag a friend who is… I don’t know… blonde… are they going to buying your course/product/service? Engagement matters (a LOT), but PROPER engagement, from your tribe, your fans and people who get you is what to aim at. Not just random people who have a friend with a certain colour of hair!

So, that’s why I urge you to make sure you are posting content that matters – not just click bait or engagement bait to get some reaction. It’s a hollow victory, and no one needs those!

Want to keep up to date with more social media, PR and marketing hints and tips? Join my newsletter list here.

How to use CanvaCanva. One of my favourite online places to be. I am a HUGE fan of Canva and regularly recommend it. I still find it amazing that not everyone knows about Canva, so I thought a blog that gives you the basics of how to use Canva would be a good call. Because it is such a game changer.

What is Canva?

Canva is a free – yes FREE – graphic design ‘tool’. It’s accessible online, it all works through the internet (you don’t need to download anything) and it is genuinely amazing. With loads of inspiration, design templates and even online tutorials about how to use Canva, it’s a really superb space. There are also paid for options (whether you want to buy an individual image or upgrade your package) but I’m not going to talk about them because I can honestly say I am yet to use them. I think as I have a lot of my own images, that helps a lot. Although the resize function would definitely be handy… so I’m not ruling it out. The reason I mention this is because there are so many platforms that are free to use, but if you want to do anything else, you have to pay. And when I mean anything else, I’m talking basic functionality here. I’m not having a pop at these kind of sites as everyone needs to make a living – I get that- but you can really create quality graphics, ads, posts and a LOT more for nothing through Canva.

How to use Canva

I am not saying that Canva should replace quality design – it shouldn’t. While I like to think I am OK-ish on the design spectrum, I am not a graphic designer. Graphic designers don’t just know how to use clever bits of software, then KNOW how to design. This can make the difference between an OK design and something that’s superb.

But, in my experience, Canva is incredible for making a graphic designer’s work go further. So if you want to add your beautifully designed logo to – I don’t know – a quote, Canva allows you to do this. So you’re using the graphic designer’s work with Canva. Equally, if you’ve taken an image you want to put onto social media, Canva allows you to do this. Ideally, you’d have a brand manual too, which would give you things like the hex colours, font families and other guidelines and how to use your marketing collateral so it stays on brand. But these guidelines can (and should) be integrated into anything you create through Canva.

I have also used Canva for bigger things – I have designed adverts through Canva. This is not something I like doing (but that’s because of my skillset, not Canva!), but it has that functionality as you can download your design as a print ready PDF, set the dimensions so it’s sized correctly, and even add bleed if needed. This means that Canva is more than just a tool for online graphics, memes, quotes and more, it’s also very, very capable of creating artwork for print too.

Canva templates

As I said, Canva has a huge range of templates available for you to use, for free. These will, usually, be to the correct size for what they say – like ‘Facebook Cover’ for example. However, if you have something specific in mind, you can just set your own dimensions – that’s the beauty of Canva – it lets you create what you actually need. When you’ve done your stunning piece of artwork, you can then download it in a range of formats, making it great for online as well as print.

Some of the template options are completely designed ready for you – you just change the words and the images as you like and they’re ready to go.

How to use Canva – what do I do?

I actually created a draft of my logo in Canva and then had a graphic designer refine and tweak it, but as I had the framework I could really show what I was thinking! Day to day, I use Canva for social media posts and blog images above everything else to be honest. It means I can quickly create the graphic I want with zero compromise, and I can use the elements I have had designed by a graphic designer in my designs too.

How do YOU use Canva?

If you haven’t used Canva yet, I would urge you to go and have a look on the Canva website here. There is also an app version that I have on my phone, but I have never really got on with that. I can do minor tweaks to designs and then screenshot them if I want to use them on Instagram, for example, but in my opinion the desktop version is head and shoulders above the app.

If you do you Canva, I’d love to know how you use it and why! Pop on over to Facebook to get involved!

What I learnt from giving a TEDx TalkIn April, I gave my first TEDx talk at TEDx Malvern. I learnt a HUGE amount in the run up to and during the experience, but I needed a bit of time to reflect before I could write this. I wanted to share with you what I learnt from giving a TEDx talk… it might just help you if you’re planning to give a TEDx talk or if you’re just looking to improve your public speaking.

What I learnt from giving a TEDx talk

For ease, I’m going to pop these in a kind of long bullet point form…

  • Public speaking is not as scary as I thought. I’ve always told myself that public speaking is scary… because I have had a few public speaking brushes before and all made my heart pound a bit. This time, I genuinely wasn’t scared. Which was weird. On the lead up to it I was a little anxious, but from the point I got in the car to make my way there, I really wasn’t…

 

  • I’m not as bad as public speaking as I thought. In my head, I had decided that I was not a gifted public speaker. And to be clear, there is PLENTY of room for improvement, I’m not denying this for a second. But I’m not bad. And the fact I have admitted to myself that I’m not bad has given me a huge confidence boost. Silly, isn’t it? We have the power to change how we feel about something so radically by shifting our perception from awful to ‘not as bad as I thought’. However, saying you’re not as bad as you thought, well, in my case, means I want to go on, learn more and do more. Saying I’m point blank terrible makes me want to run for the hills. So I’m not as bad as I thought. And I am happy with that.

 

  • Break it down. If you think of the whole TEDx talk ‘thing’ as one big chunk, it’s overwhelming. Breaking it down makes me much easier. I thought of it in a number of different ways and tried to work on a bit of it regularly, so what to wear (parts one and two!) was one thing, the draft of the talk, recording the talk, learning and ‘performing’ the talk, writing the cards, preparing the slides, sourcing the images, etc etc. I even broke some of these into bits – so I had a very vague outline for the talk I was giving and then started to fill bits in… and leave bits to get more info on and come back to. If I’d thought ‘right – today I am doing all things TEDx’ I would have come unstuck quickly. Because while I knew who I needed to speak to and needed pics from, getting images takes time… not a long time but with time differences it does. Chipping away at it and breaking it into bitesized chunks was much easier.

 

  • I can do slides. It turns out that I although I have seen a million (slight exaggeration) Powerpoint presentations before, I haven’t actually done one myself. I didn’t realise this until I started working on it and very quickly hated the design options available to me. I hated them so much that I designed every slide in Canva and imported it as an image into Powerpoint. So I don’t do slides in a conventional way, but I can do them.

 

  • Slides should not make up your talk. I watched a lot of talks on Youtube before my TEDx talk and I found one theme in common with what I thought were the best talks. The slides were limited (in some cases there were none), enhanced the talk by adding images/video/key facts, and were clear and easy to read. The ones I disliked the most had the talk on them… I mean, why have someone read something to you from a screen? Of course, some more technical talks benefit from more detailed slides with facts, figures, graphs and charts. Mine wouldn’t have. And although I could have added more slides with more images, I was quite happy with what I did.

 

  • Go with your gut. When I was talking through the slides with my Dad (who, turns out, has done loads of presentations using Powerpoint…) he was pretty sure I was putting over the wrong kind of thing. He said that images weren’t really right for slides. And they should be more dynamic than mine. Well I wanted images and I didn’t want crazy moving parts – it’s just not me. I’d also watched a lot of talks and realised that everyone is different and there’s no ‘right’ way. You do you. So I did me. And I was really pleased with what I’d done.

 

  • What you wear matters. This is something I’m slowly beginning to realise. Your clothes aren’t just about how you look, it’s how they make you feel. I put a fair amount of thought into my outfit (and was ably assisted by Sophie Callahan and Karen McConnell) and I was pleased with how I looked. Looking at the pics taken on the night, I was cross with how my shirt creased at the front… I would probably wear something different in style next time because of this, but I felt confident and happy (and it did look really good before an hour’s car journey and an hour sitting down in a theatre!)

 

  • Enjoy it, because it doesn’t really matter. Don’t think I’m being flippant here. I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity and TEDx matters a LOT, but I decided that enjoying it, to me, was important. This was also a bit deeper because if I worried myself stupid and told myself that it mattered SO much, I would have been scared of making a mistake. Of stumbling. Of losing my thought. This would make it a lot more likely that I would and, if I did, I would struggle to get back on track. When I decided that I would give it my best shot but, quite rightly, acknowledged that no one was going to die if I messed up, I was able to enjoy it and really think I delivered a much better talk as a consequence.

 

  • Preparation matters. I felt fairly confident in what I was doing for many reasons – and one was the amount of prep I had done. I had had a fairly quite week to make sure I had time to prepare (thanks for the kick in that direction Emma Warren!) but it made a huge difference. I didn’t over rehearse what I was saying but I had a few good run throughs, had everything ready in plenty of time- I’d even allocated time to iron my shirt! Preparing things on every level helped me feel a lot more confidence for my TEDx talk.

 

  • Cheerleaders. For various reasons, I didn’t know anyone at who attended the TEDx talk. There was talk of different people coming with me but I didn’t push the point and it didn’t happen – the talk sold out very quickly too, so that was quite a large factor. But you know what? It didn’t matter, because while no one was sat in the theatre, I have the BEST bunch of cheerleaders who were with me every step of the way on my phone. I had SO many lovely comments come through email, messenger and text during the day and had lots of messages asking how it had gone too. I think I was in the car for about 30 mins replying to everything before I started on my way back. That made me feel incredibly special. Your cheerleaders don’t have to be in the same room… or even in the same country!

 

  • I want to do more of it. A rather unexpected result of my TEDx talk was that I want to do more public speaking… yeah, I was surpised too. As soon as the event had finished and I was outside chatting to some of the attendees, I was approached about giving other talks, so that was nice.

 

  • You need to step beyond your comfort zone to grow. And to get that lovely buzz that’s a mix of pride, achievement and possibility. It’s a nice buzz.

 

  • If plan A doesn’t work out, there’s a load more letters… and if you get stuck, ask for help. I had put a post on my Facebook page asking for a case study element for my talk. Whether I didn’t explain it properly or what, I don’t know, but none of the responses were what I needed. This was a problem as it really illustrated the point. It wasn’t until I was speaking to Sophie Callahan that the idea hit me. And I should add that it was her facial expression that gave it away. See, I was looking for someone in my local area who had connected with someone in a rural location through social media. Of course, the answer was looking me straight in the face – I was the perfect example. You know sometimes people say things are too obvious? Yeah – that.

 

  • You can condition yourself. I started off being nervous and managed to feel excited. This was due to something Emma Warren, my lovely client and friend suggested. In essence, it was when you feel a pang of ‘Oh Christ, what have I done, it’s going to be awful’, do something to change the game. She suggested I rubbed my hands together and said ‘I’m so excited about giving my talk and sharing my knowledge with the people there – it’s going to be great’. Or something like that. Damn me it worked. I only did it twice… and then I struggled to get worried about it. Weird. But it worked!

 

So that’s a snapshot of what I learnt from TEDx. Although I feel that this could have applied to all public speaking and all of the above will definitely help me in the future.

If you’d like to see my TEDx talk, you can have a look at it here. I hope you enjoy it. And HUGE thanks to Jane at Confident Rider and her friend Vivre for helping me illustrate how incredible social media is…

Behind the different types of instagram storiesOh, Instagram Stories – how I love thee! I’m a big fan of Instagram Stories, and get a tiny bit excited when a new feature is unveiled. As Focus has recently joined the Instagram Stories family, I thought it would be a good chance to have a chat about the options currently available, the different types of Instagram Stories, and how you might be able to use them. I use quite a lot of these in my own Instagram account...

The different types of Instagram Stories

So, just to recap on how to get into Instagram Stories… open your Instagram app > press your home button (bottom left) > press the camera button on the top left.

Now you’re here, should we explore the options together?

TYPE – if you have something to say or you maybe want to introduce a poll, Type is a good option. You can select different colours an different font styles. You can also hide hashtags quite easily on the Type background.

LIVE – pretty much as you’d expect, this is for you when you want to go Live. I am going to cover Instagram Live in more detail in a different blog because it’s a different beast to Stories (in my opinion), but when you want to go live, it’s there.

NORMAL – this is for still images and short videos. To take a pic, just tap the button once. If you want to record a short video, hold the button down. Colour will fill around the edge of the button and this is your countdown timer. Each clip is 15 seconds long if recorded through the app. There are ways you can chop a longer video up into 15 second clips, but 15 seconds is how it will display.

BOOMERANG – I love Boomerang. It’s a really simple way to creating a more dynamic shot. It actually works by taking a load of photos and playing them in order and reversed. Nifty.

FOCUS – a bit like my beloved Portrait mode. Focus allows you to bring the person into focus and the background becomes blurred. This works on still images and videos.

SUPERZOOM – this is a bit of fun. Select this if you want to zoom in on something in an amusing way. You can also select the style of your Superzoom from Dramatic, Beats, TV Show and Bounce. Just tap the little musical note (oh yeah- there’s music).

REWIND – plays the video in reverse. I’ve only tried this once… I tend to use Boomerang instead.

HANDS-FREE – lets you record a video without having to have your finger permanently welded to your phone screen, which is a bit of a win.

STOP-MOTION – I love stop motion. I created my Christmas campaign using stop motion (OK, I used an app and posted on FB, but still). The stop motion in Instagram Stories required a lot of tapping but it’s a fun way to show a sequence of events or process.

As if that wasn’t enough, you can also add text, stickers, GIFs, hashtags and tag people to all of the above!

Instagram Stories should be fun to watch and do – so mess around with the different styles inside the app… if you don’t like the result, delete it and no one ever need see it. And if you post it, it’ll be gone in 24 hours anyway! Enjoy!

If you’d like to see how I use Instagram Stories, you can find me at @rheafreemanpr

…and feel free to tag me if you’ve tried something new on Instagram Stories as a result of reading this!

Can you be an ambassador for too many brandsCan you be an ambassador for too many brands? I was asked this question for a recent Facebook and Instagram Live. Not only was I very. very sure of the answer (yes), but there was a lot of support for this from business owners too. There are, however, variables on the number. Being a brand ambassador can be great for brand and ambassador, but it’s not always. And, as a brand ambassador, if you’re overstretched and underdelivering, it won’t end well.

Can you be an ambassador for too many brands?

You might have noticed a surge in the use of the term brand ambassador. It used to be a fairly rare ‘thing’ but, with the rise of social media, it’s become a lot more popular. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it’s a grey area. Having a lot of anything can reduce its kudos and can make what should feel like a rare opportunity a lot less ‘special’. But that’s a different subject.

People who are active on social media, who produce good content and engage with their audience are more likely to be asked to be brand ambassadors. When you apply for this accolade or are asked, the chances that any brand worth their salt will have done a little research into you and what you do. Now, these people (who are active on social media, have good engagement, etc) are not all that common… and that means that they can find themselves on the receiving end of a lot of requests. Yep, it’s really flattering and yes, you will probably get lots of lovely free things… but let’s just take a breath and have a little think…

If you are a brand ambassador, the brand will expect something from you

It doesn’t have to be a kidney or your first born, but there will be some pay back. If you’re supplied with products, the brand will expect to see these appear on your social media feeds, on your blog or vlog… and they will expect you to use the items. All of these things take time. Yes, you get the free stuff, but it all comes with an expectation. And so it should… giving stuff away for free is REALLY easy. But if that were the objective, you might not have been picked and the ‘contest’ would have been very different.

So. Yes. You get free things. But they’re not free. You’re expected to give something back and that will take time.

Some brands are flexible

Some brands give brand ambassadors a free rein and don’t give strict criteria. I personally think this is a good policy and you get to see who ‘gets’ it and who really doesn’t. It can be quite eye opening from the other side of the fence. This does not mean that every single post has to include a brand’s product, but it should feature organically in the content because. Wait for it. YOU SHOULD WANT TO WEAR OR USE IT. If a brand is flexible on the content you create, nurture this and support them. But be aware that just because they aren’t kicking off, they will be watching and waiting.

Lots of brands = no time

If you are looking to create content for lots of different brands, be aware of how much time this will take. You might find that, very quickly, you run out of time because of what you should be doing for others. This might mean your own social media suffers, or worst still, that your real life does! This is a real, genuine issue. Being a brand ambassador should not take away from your enjoyment of what you do. And having too many could well do this.

Conflicts

Lordy… this is a big one. Many brands have more than one type of product, and some have MANY. If you’re the brand ambassador for a retailer, they will carry lots of products. So what does this mean in terms of who else you can be an ambassador for? You need to find out. If you’re saying that ‘this x is the best ever’ on one post, and your next post states that something else is… what does that prove? You’re fickle? You can be bought? Your advice can’t be trusted? No one wants this… and you certainly don’t. If you work with people who have very specific products, you can take on more brand ambassadorships, if you work for people who have a range of products, this becomes a lot more challenging…

 

So, yes, you can become an ambassador for too many brands, but the actual number depends on a lot of factors. Being clear on what is expected from each party is crucial from the get-go, and from then you can work out whether or not they fit in with your current constraints and other brand ambassadorships.

If you’d like more hints and tips connected to PR, marketing, influencers, business development and more, don’t forget to join my newsletter– you can subscribe here

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.

Seven ways to use Instagram StoriesYou might have realised that I’m a big fan of Instagram Stories (hop on over to my Instagram if you’re yet to!), but the good news is that they’re not JUST fun. In fact, they can provide a great way to connect with your audience. I was asked about Instagram Stories a little while ago in one of the Facebook Live sessions, so decided that it would be a good opportunity to talk about them and different ways to use Instagram Stories.

Seven ways to Instagram Stories

Depending on the nature of your business, blog or Instagram account, you can choose to use your Instagram Stories in a number of ways…here are seven ways to use Instagram Stories that you might find useful…

  • Document. Unlike your main feed images that are more than likely well thought through and carefully composed with a key point or message, Instagram Stories don’t need to be. They can be used to document what you’re up to in your day. Yes, you want to have a point to the Story, but it doesn’t have to be as specific as a main feed image.
  • Behind the scenes. Stories are a great way to show what goes on behind the scenes at where you work. It could be the creation of a product, getting ready for a show, packaging, personalisation… the list goes on.
  • Events. Instagram Stories provide the perfect place to put show and event content up. This kind of falls into the document category, but still.
  • Interviews. You can use Instagram Stories to record micro interviews with people. Brand ambassador? Customer? Team member… if they have something concise to stay, use Stories.
  • Poll. Yep – you can use Instagram Stories to ask an opinion and then integrate a poll into the Story that people can vote on.
  • Promotion. Promote a blog post using Stories. You can take an image of it on the screen, add an image or a graphic you’ve created, or even make a short video. It’s up to you. You could also use Stories to promote a specific hashtag on competition. Honestly, there’s SO much scope.
  • Share a thought. Instagram Stories can be the perfect place to share a thought. I do this a LOT.. usually when I’m walking the dog or waiting for my children to wake up from a car ride. It’s a nice way to connect with your audience authentically and let your personality come out.

And this is JUST the surface of it all and a few ideas. I use my own Instagram Stories for all of the above and more. I’ve showcased products for competitions through Stories, shared client posts. shown press clippings (with permission) and lots more.

How do you use Instagram Stories? What do you think of the ways to use Instagram Stories listed above? I’d love to know. And if you’d like to see my Instagram Stories in action, please do come and follow my Instagram at @rheafreemanpr

Small and Supercharged Giveaway

The Small and Supercharged giveaway bundle

Have you seen the Small & Supercharged giveaway? This AMAZING competition has recently launched on my Facebook page and the prize bundle is INCREDIBLE. I want to say a ginormous thank you to all the businesses who have donated prizes (I’m going to walk you through them all below) – the winner is going to have a very good day when this bundle of joy arrives!

What’s the Small & Supercharged giveaway?

The Small & Supercharged giveaway is a simple competition with a few purposes. First of all, it’s to celebrate my Small & Supercharged Facebook group getting over 1000 members. To me, that’s just plain crazy. It’s such a fab group and I am SO proud of it, but I didn’t imagine it would grow at such a rate and do so much good. To get to over 1000 fabulous members is amazing to me. And I wanted to celebrate.

So – I posted in the group and asked if anyone would be interested in donating a prize to the prize bundle. The idea would be to promote S&S and this milestone, of course, but it would also be to promote some of the amazing members inside the group. The remit was that anyone could donate a prize as long as it didn’t cross over the path of someone else who had already agreed. I didn’t want have a prize bundle made up of, I don’t know, 20 saddle pads, for example. As great as saddle pads are, that wouldn’t work as a prize. But luckily the diversity of the group shone through and an amazing bundle was created. Here are the prizes in the bundle – in alphabetical order by company name for fairness!

Hiho Silver Friendship Bracelet

Hiho Silver Friendship Bracelet

Who has donated to the Small & Supercharged 1k giveaway bundle?

Black Nova Designs has given a USB stick and a year’s hosting

Bling in the Show Ring has given a stock pin with pink, pearl and white elements

Doris & Co has given a lovely British creamware ‘Hold Fast’ Half Pint Mug

Equestriman has given a branded baseball cap

EvoEquine has given a tub of natural leather balm

Haynet has donated a lovely branded mug and pen

Hettie Company has donated a beautiful tweed iPad case. Made in Britain and soooo pretty!

Hiho Silver has given a stunning Exclusive Sterling Silver Horseshoe Friendship Bracelet

Hoofprints has donated a Small & Supercharged branded mug and coaster

Mackenzie and George

Mackenzie and George

Horse Riding With Confidence Scotland has donated a gift voucher for a session

Horsemanship Magazine has donated a magazine subscription

Horseshoe Hearts & Gifts has given Linked Horseshoe Hearts

Huf Designs has given a beautiful turquoise SKUP

Inkpot & Press has donated a Kikki K Goals Journal – ideal for stationery lovers!

Loch Leven Equine Practice has given an extensive equine first aid kit. Not only are first aid items included, but it comes in a great bag with a handy guide.

Lois Rose Fine Art has given one colouring book

Lotte Simons Photography has donated a stunning equine photo print

Mackenzie & George has given a handmade feather brooch by Wendy Goode, and a new leather keyring with branded brass rivet

Mother Bee has given a bundle of goodies for horse (Soothe & Protect), human (Soothing Lip Balm & Yard Hand Rescue) and tack (Leather Balm)

NKC Equestrian has given TWO places on an equine first aid course

My Dogs Deli has donated a box of canine goodies

Rowan & Ruby has donated a gorgeous tweed keyring

Safe Care Equine has donated two bottles of Total Body Wash

Super X Country has given a pink bobble hat from its current collection

Safe-Care Equine, The Herbal Horse, and Lotte Simons Photography

Safe-Care Equine, The Herbal Horse, and Lotte Simons Photography

Tail End Jewellery has given a £40 gift voucher

The Collar Club has give a subscription box for dogs

Tidy Tack Rooms Ltd has donated two saddlepad storage bags

The Equine Business Assistant has donated a pen, horse paperclips and a voucher for a hour of services

21st Century Rider has donated a Back On Track saddlepad

White Horse Leather has donated a leather headcollar

Wimpy Eventer has given two books: How To Get Your Leg Over and How To Stay On Top

 

I’ve added Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive, and a Project Book notebook

How can you enter AND find out about all the amazing prizes above?

Well, that’s simple! In order to enter, just pop on over to my Facebook page. The post is pinned to the top of the page and you can find out more about ALL the companies involved and tagged there too. Please give them a little social media love and support. Without their generosity, this giveaway would be, well, non-existent, if you can show them a little love that would be fab.

And what if you want to join Small & Supercharged?

Wimpy Eventer, Haynet, and Hoofprints

Wimpy Eventer, Haynet, and Hoofprints

Then be my guest – just come on over and ask to join the Small & Supercharged group on Facebook. Just one thing, PLEASE answer the questions. At time of writing this blog, I have 94 requests pending approval. Why? Because most of them didn’t answer the questions and I can not see from their profile if they’re a good fit for the group. I know. I take my role of creator and admin a *bit* too seriously.

Anyway, a HUGE thank you to the Small & Supercharged group for their help with the giveaway. And best of luck to you if you enter… entries close at the end of May ’18.