Saturday, 17 September 2016

Small Business, Big Difference conference

I'm delighted to be one of four small, independent businesses from the Burton area who are organising a #SmallBusinessBigDifference conference next month in support of the Small Business Saturday UK campaign.

Burton Small Business Group logo
We call ourselves the Burton Small Business group, and the rest of the team is Liz Strama of HR Protected, Tilley Bancroft of Red Door Studios and Cheryl Morris of Creative Word PR. Together we have organised a packed morning of speakers at the conference at Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium on Wednesday October 12 from 8.45am to 2pm.

The event is being officially opened by East Staffordshire's Mayor, Councillor Beryl Toon and her consort and we will then have 10 speakers on subjects as diverse as cyber security for business, employment law, PR, social media and visual branding. There will be something for every owner of a small business - whatever stage they are at in their growth. The event will end with a networking buffet lunch.

The great news is that it's FREE to attend- but you must apply for a place by completing the form on our Burton Small Business website. You can download it here and then email it back to But HURRY!! The closing date for applications is Friday September 23 at 5pm.

Last year I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the #SmallBiz100 - 100 businesses chosen to represent the UK's five million small businesses and be profiled nationally, one a day, in the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday in December. The opportunities and publicity it gave me have really transformed my business, so I encourage every small business to apply. One of those I encouraged this year was JD Magic, run by Jack Dent and I'm delighted to say he will be featured in this year's #SmallBiz100 on October 31.

JD Magic a smallbiz100 company

Jack is also going to be mingling with delegates at our #SmallBusinessBigDifference conference and also speaking about his own inspirational business journey. 

We're also delighted to welcome Claire Mulry - a key member of the national Small Business Saturday UK team - who will be talking about the year-round, grassroots campaign and giving businesses ideas on how they can get involved and benefit.

More details and updates about speakers will be appearing on our brand new Facebook Page - Burton Small Business - and on our established Twitter channel @BurtonSmallBiz.

After being asked to become a Small Business Saturday Champion this year, I'm working closely with Derby Small Business Saturday Champion Yvonne Gorman of Essential Print Services. Yvonne organised a 'Flash mob' photocall this week, and I went along with Jack Dent and Lesley Mason from The Mug Tug. Here's one of the great pictures taken that day by JAKT Photography.

Small Business Saturday photocall in Derby

Yvonne is helping to publicise our conference and we're happy to share the word about the Business celebration that Yvonne is organising at Derby City Council's offices on Small Business Saturday morning itself, December 3. This is FREE to attend and everyone is welcome. Details are here on the Derby City Council website.

We'll also be joining forces to publicise this year's national Small Business Saturday bus tour which visits Derby on the morning of Monday November 7 before travelling on to Burton in the afternoon.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Ten tips to make your digital content work hard for you

10 top tips to make your digital content work harder
Stories, news, features, opinion pieces, blogs and social media posts: there's so much new material going online every day, is it still possible to create content that reaches and influences your target audience?

We believe it is, and here are our top 10 tips to make sure that the content you create works as hard as possible for you and your business.

1. Know exactly WHO you want to reach and influence. Before putting a finger on your keyboard make sure you have thought deeply about your audience. Create some 'customer personas' for the people you want to connect with and have conversations with: think about their age range, gender, profession, lifestyle and location.

2. First impressions matter. Everyone makes mistakes, but do everything in your power to make sure your content is free of 'typos', spelling and grammar mistakes. If you can, employ a proofreader to look through your content, or ask a friend or relative who's hot on accuracy and attention to detail to give it the once-over before you post it. If you spot an error later, edit it if you can.

3. Images are important. People take more notice of digital content that includes an image. It can add impact and is part of the story you are telling. If every blog post you upload includes an image then you, and your fans, can post it to other sites such as the visual-bookmarking site Pinterest and drive more traffic to it. Remember to use alt tags on images when you're creating content for your website, blog or an email newsletter.

video marketing makes you memorable online
4. Videos make you memorable. The importance of online video keeps growing all the time. If you're not yet using video as part of your content creation strategy you need to think about it - seriously. You can take short video clips on your smartphone that are ideal for platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, but you may want to work with a video company to create longer, professional videos for YouTube and your website.

5. Stir up an emotion. It might sound odd suggesting that you want to make your audience cry or get angry, but if you're working for a charity then perhaps you do want to create content that moves people to take a desired action. Content that makes people smile and laugh will make you memorable and may even go viral. It's important to stay true to your brand identity and create and share content that's appropriate for your business - but always think about how your content will make people feel.

6. What problems can you solve for people? Once you know clearly who your audience is you need to think about how the products and services you provide can make their life easier or better. Compelling content that engages your audience has to be based on what people want to see and hear from you. Listening and watching what people are saying about your sector on the internet will give you valuable insights about the frustrations and difficulties your customers experience - and then you can tell them how you can help. Don't forget to include clear calls to action so that your audience knows what to do next.

7. It's not all about you. You'll quickly turn people off and lose followers and readers if you're not giving them content they value. This means toning down the 'me, me, me' and thinking about 'them, them, them'. Don't just broadcast sales messages and news about you and your business; be generous in sharing and talking about third party content that your audience will find interesting and useful.

8. What's trending and topical? A key way to raise your profile online is to become  a 'go-to' expert in your business sector - so keep an eye on the news and be quick to give your opinion and angle on relevant breaking news. 'Trending' topics on social media can be part of your story, but don't 'hi-jack' hashtags that are irrelevant. It's as unattractive and ineffective as Cinderella's stepsisters trying to cram their ugly feet into the glorious glass slipper.

9. Have measurable objectives: review, re-do and repeat. You need to get a return on the valuable time (and sometimes money) you spend planning, creating or commissioning digital content. So create goals that you can measure such as click-throughs to your website; newsletter sign-ups; online enquiry forms completed. Diary time to review them. See what's working and what's not and adapt your strategy and your content. It's a never-ending cycle of tweaking your plan, measuring and reviewing to get the business results you want.

10. Keep your brand image consistent. Make sure your business is instantly recognisable wherever you are creating and sharing content by using colours and logos consistently. If you have help from one or more people to create and share content, and to engage with followers, on your digital channels ensure that everyone is 'talking' with the same voice so that people learn what to expect from you.

Friday, 17 June 2016

How Snapchat can help businesses looking to target young audiences

Snapchat for business by Caittom Publishing
If 17-25-year-olds are one of your target audiences, then you might want to take a look at Snapchat.

Launched in September 2011, Snapchat is first and foremost a mobile photo/video messaging app, but it's started to offer some interesting options, paid and unpaid, to businesses and brands.

To get the attention of the people who are using Snapchat you have got to have something to share that they will value – and the usual rule of thumb is that it needs to be fun. It’s not a place to be worthy or dull. You may also find it useful as a research tool; you can listen and learn from the content that brands and organisations are already creating on Snapchat.

Snapchat generates a feeling of excitement and exclusivity because content disappears after 24 hours. Many people use it as a one-to-one or group messaging app. They send ‘snaps’ - videos, pictures and messages to friends.

The second feature is ‘stories’. Videos clips that you post on Snapchat can’t be longer than 10 seconds, but you can upload a series of videos, and photos, and they can be compiled into one update (or story) for your friends/followers to view an unlimited number of times until the photos and videos expire. Content can be made public or visible to friends only.

Starting off on Snapchat is a simple process. Creating an account is free and just as easy as creating a Twitter account once you’ve downloaded the app to your phone.

Snapchat encourages creativity with drawing and captioning tools that allow you to show your personality and your sense of humour.

Snapchat stories could be used by businesses to create:

• Teasers for new products, services or offers.
• Competitions/giveaways/discount codes.
• Behind the scenes peeks at your business.
• Bite-sized tips and advice.
• Short video clips from live events that you are hosting or taking part in.

Unlike Twitter, Snapchat does not have a way of browsing to find people to follow, so once you have created an account you will need to promote it online, perhaps offline too.

Many organisations, such as National Geographic, use social media platforms to promote their presence on Snapchat.

Snapchat also generates a ‘snapcode’, like a QR code, allowing users to add them. Some people or businesses promote their snapcode by using it as their profile image on some social media channels, or share it offline. For example, a snapcode could be promoted in a store and anyone with a mobile phone, who had downloaded Snapchat, could 'snap' it and instantly follow that account.

Sponsoring channels in the ‘Discover’ section of Snapchat has so far required major investment by brands. You can read here how Burberry used this option earlier this year.

Personally, I think the success of Snapchat to reach and engage younger consumers has had an impact on how rapidly other social media channels have rolled out updates and new features this year to appeal to a similar demographic.

Snapchat itself is evolving all the time and with its users now watching an estimated 10 billion videos every day, new advertising options are being released to businesses as Adweek reported here.

Keep an eye on it, download it and have a play, because Snapchat could soon become an important platform for businesses to tell their stories – and not just the luxury brands and big corporations with major marketing budgets.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

How to use Twitter to promote your business

One of the keys to business success is to establish good communications with your existing customers and the people you would like to do business with in the future.

The rise of social media in recent years has created cost-efficient platforms that business can use to talk directly to their customers, and - as importantly - listen to their concerns.

Twitter is still one of the most popular social media channels in the world - despite recent concerns about its future. At the moment it is still a good way for businesses and organisations to connect with the people it wants to reach, inspire, entertain and influence.

Because businesses make up a sizeable percentage of Twitter's users, the platform has created easy-to-use features with them in mind.

It's always worth understanding as much as you can about what your target audience WANTS from you and your business on social media because you can only hold their attention if they are getting something they value from you. If all you are tweeting are sales messages your Twitter account will have a limited appeal Always think about creating and sharing a variety of content types that entertain, interest, provide help and show support for others.

Caittom Publishing advice to businesses on Twitter
To raise your profile on Twitter, and keep your followers engaged, you need to be posting the content they want to see. 

Never forget the 'social' element of social media. Twitter is a place to build relationships and have conversations. Listen to what your customers are saying and understand how your products, services and events can make their life better and easier.

Be generous in acknowledging and supporting suppliers and associates. If you are a member of any business organisations, networking groups or associations, engage with them on Twitter. When others share your tweets it pushes you out to new audiences - and when you show support for others they are likely to reciprocate.

Keep track of what tweets are getting the most reaction from people by regularly reviewing the wealth of data that you can find in your Twitter analytics. 

Set some targets that you can measure, using both Twitter's own analytics and the Google analytics for your own website. These might include how many people have clicked a link to look at a page on your website, or completed a web form to make an enquiry, or signed up to your newsletter or downloaded a free fact sheet you have created. 

Use your smartphone to stay in touch on Twitter says Caittom Publishing
Remember to use your tablet or smartphone to stay connected with your Twitter audience when you are out and about. Customers will appreciate prompt responses if they send you a question through a tweet or a private message.

Images and videos are an important element of Twitter content and can convey information quickly in an engaging and entertaining way that makes you memorable. Think about infographics and images that you can overlay with text to add more content to a single tweet.

Videos of up to 30 seconds can be uploaded directly to Twitter from your smartphone. Be creative and think how you can make people smile - they'll remember how you made them feel and look out for your tweets in future.

If you have some cash to spend on promoting your business on Twitter, take a look at where you will find  information on the available options. You can set objectives and a fixed budget and you will only spend the money when users take the action you want. It's easy to stop your promotion at any time, or add more money if you are seeing results.

You can choose the type of  users you want to see your promoted tweets based on interests, gender, their location and the type of device they are using to access Twitter.

If you need some more help and advice in using Twitter to promote your business, or want to organise a training session, contact Caittom Publishing.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Proud to be a Small Business Saturday champ

I am delighted to share the news that I have been chosen as one of 15 entrepreneurs around the UK to become a new Small Business Saturday champion for 2016.

This means that I'll be promoting this year’s event, on Saturday December 3, and encouraging more of the UK’s 5.4 million small businesses to get involved and take their place in the national spotlight.

Last year I was one of Small Business Saturday’s Small Biz 100, and soon applications will be open for THIS year's #SmallBiz100. I'd urge ANY small businesses to head over to the Small Business Saturday website and register for the newsletter that will let you know when you can apply. While you're there you can also add the details of your business to the website's small business finder.

Small Business Saturday UK website screenshot

Being one of the #SmallBiz100 was a great boost to my business: it gave me the chance to meet and network with some inspiring businesses; a day when my business was promoted nationally across digital media and I met Chancellor George Osborne at a London reception.

Small Business Saturday plays a really important role in focusing on what small businesses can offer in terms of products, services and levels of customer care.

If you think about it, most people in this country either own a small business, work for a small business or know somebody who does! Small, independent businesses add choice and diversity to our high streets and put money into the local economy.

Mike Cherry FSB Small Business Saturday in Burton
Photo; Joanne Cooper Photography
On Small Business Saturday 2015, an estimated £623 million was spent with small businesses across the UK – up £119 million on the previous year.

In Burton, I was part of the team that held a 'flash' small business conga through Burton town centre. We danced through the streets to the town's Market Hall where we were joined by Mike Cherry, himself the owner of a Burton small business and now the national Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.

Michelle Ovens, Campaign Director for Small Business Saturday UK, said: "Last year, small business owners, local authorities, a wide range of other organisations and members of the public embraced Small Business Saturday more than ever before. This year we aim to reach more people, get more engagement, and encourage more people to support small businesses because of the benefits they offer to both our local and national economies.

"Our Champions have a crucial role to play in mobilising that support and in ensuring that Small Business Saturday comes to life for small business owners in their local areas. They are our feet on the ground.”

As with previous years, events will be planned throughout the UK in the run-up December 3 as well as on the day itself. This year there were will be an expanded nationwide bus tour, details of which will be announced later in the year.

The build up to the fourth annual Small Business Saturday event will include Inspire, a series of free workshops around the country led by prominent small business experts and entrepreneurs. These will also be streamed live online with webcasts available on the Small Business Saturday UK YouTube Channel after each event.

Along with my colleagues in the Burton Small Business group I'm starting to plan events and publicity in the Burton area to help raise awareness of Small Business Saturday and get more businesses involved - so watch this space! Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts and ideas, or want to know more, please get in touch with me.

If you missed our Small Business Conga, enjoy this video below by Red Door Studios.

Small Business Saturday is a grassroots, not-for-profit campaign, which benefits from the backing of leading business organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses, Enterprise Nation and Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.

American Express originally founded the ‘Small Business Saturday’ initiative in the US in 2010 and continues to support the campaign in the UK, as part of its on-going commitment to encourage consumers to shop small. The campaign is also supported by PRS For Music, TalkTalk Business and Vistaprint.

Monday, 4 April 2016

10 tips for more effective PR

I was recently asked to speak to a West Midlands business networking group about PR, with a focus on how to get publicity for your business. Public relations is not one of my core services - but I work with some great agencies and companies who do provide this service. As a former news editor I also have plenty of experience about what makes a good press release.

Here are my 10 top tips for Do It Yourself Public Relations, which I shared at the Connect Networking meeting. 

1. Spend some time thinking about who is your target audience of ideal customers. Think about their gender, their age, the work they do, the interests they have. Where are they getting their news and information? Make a list of the specific newspapers, magazines, websites and social media channels that they would read regularly. 

2. What can you say or share that will interest and influence these people? Is there a compelling story about why and how you formed your business that would interest and inspire others? Do you have a link with a charity or not-for-profit that is close to your heart? Could you create free resources relating to your business that would help others, such as tips for planning a stress-free wedding or organising a new website?

3. Always remember that to win people's attention you need to add value by providing information that helps others or makes their life better or easier, not just self-promotion.

4. Choose the publication you want to send your story to carefully (think back to point No.1). I would recommend reading several editions of any newspaper or magazine before trying to pitch them a story. Similarly, get to know the style and content of any online publications you want to target to ensure you are not wasting their time and yours with words and pictures that they would never use. Look out for the bylines of writers on similar stories to yours and don't be afraid to pick up the phone, introduce yourself and ask them how they like to receive press releases. The easier you can make their life the better. Are there any smaller, local publications or free titles that may be looking for good, local content? They MAY offer you an advertising deal to run alongside your story. Weigh up the benefits and what you can afford to spend.

5. Make sure you have a relevant, professional-looking image to send to illustrate your story and send a small version of it with your release, DON'T send huge images to any publication without being asked, but tell them there is a high resolution image available if they want it. Keep your press release to a page - two at the most - and include all your contact details. If you are targeting a magazine, many of them have long lead times, planning their editorial schedules months ahead in many cases.

6. Think about other possible outlets for your story or press release. Do you belong to the Federation of Small Businesses, a local chamber of commerce or business clubs and networking groups that publish members' news online or in print? You should also self-publish any news and stories you create on your own website, blog and/or social media channels. LinkedIn has its own publishing platform, Pulse, which makes a great home for any content that would be interesting or helpful to other businesses and professional people who could be your future customers. Not all your press releases will find a place in a third party publications, but you can self-publish them all and then promote them on other social media channels such as Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

7. Become a 'go-to expert' in your field. Make local and national BBC stations, as well as the press, aware that you are accessible and well-informed about your specialist subject. Don't be shy. Rolling 24-hour news coverage means there's a huge appetite for content and opinion, which is why accounts such as BBC Have Your Say on Twitter have appeared.

8. Create a calendar of regular events that you could produce content about for your own website, blog and social media channels. Some of these pieces may also make an article for a newspaper or magazine. For example, a therapist might use the clocks going forward to provide a topical peg on which to hang an article on how to get a better night's sleep using natural therapies and relaxation techniques. Look at the 'events' section when you are logged in to Twitter's own analytics as well as local and national 'what's on' websites for inspiration. Make your content calendar a living document that you update and adapt all-year round.

9. Make it happen: create your own media opportunities. For example, a crafts person could organise a competition for children to  promote their family-friendly venue or the classes/workshops they run. Get together with complementary businesses to run a one-off workshop - FREE or at minimal costs. Send a press release to promote it and then a follow-up article after the event with pictures.

10. Make time. When running a business it's easy for your own PR to go to the bottom of your long to-do list of jobs. Diary some regular time and treat it as seriously as you would a meeting with a paying customer.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Seven ways to avoid wasting your time on social media

You are a busy business with 1,001 things to do - and social media makes that about 1,006.

So how do you avoid wasting your time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and the rest?

Social media can become addictive. Maybe you have logged on to your laptop, or pulled out your smartphone, and then realised that half an hour (or more) has gone by and you've got little to show for it - apart from some trivia facts that might wow your team mates at the next pub quiz.

Here are my top seven tips for making your time on social media productive and beneficial to your business.

1. Decide from the start what you want to achieve through social media. Without a plan social media can become a random assortment of words and pictures fired out to the world at general. Think about WHO are your ideal customers, and on WHICH social media platforms you will find them. For each social media platform that you use, create a one page summary that reminds you WHY you are there, WHAT you will do each day/week or month and HOW you will measure success.

2. Get trained and get confident. If you don't know what you are doing, ask for help. Some people take to social media like a duck to water, but others flounder and can waste a lot of time trying to find their way around. Investing in training can save you a lot of time and stress in the long run, and time is money. You will enjoy using social media more when you feel confident about what you are doing.. 

3. Measure actions and reactions. There are lots of  social media measurement tools and apps out there, but you can get plenty of useful data from the free analytics that you will find within each platform. Followers alone is not a true measure of 'success' on social media. 'Reach' and 'engagement' will give you a more accurate picture of how many people are seeing the content you create and share and whether or not they like it. If you know what's working you can do more of it. Use the analytics to refine your original plan.

4. Listen - don't just talk. It's a good rule of thumb to listen twice as much as you talk. The more you know about your customers and what matters most to them the more you understand about how you can make their life better and win their loyalty. Don't just rely on notifications to follow conversations about your brand or company: not everyone will know your official Twitter handle or LinkedIn url. Use the search box in each social media channel to check for mentions of your business and its products. 

5. Post consistently - not feast or famine. Nothing looks worse than an abandoned social media channel where the last post was a couple of years ago. You need to decide on a schedule and make it happen. This may mean, for a small business, that you need to focus on ONE channel rather than trying to manage every platform. To hold the attention of your audience you need to be giving them something of value on a regular basis. Never forget the 'social' in 'social media'. It's not about 'sell sell sell'. No-one likes being sold to, and if you KEEP doing it you'll find your followers show less interest in what you have to say. Make sure you show support and gratitude to happy customers and the businesses that supply you with services and products too.

6. One size does not fit all when it comes to posting on social media platforms. There are scheduling tools that will let you post the same words to all your accounts, which at first glance looks like a great time saver, but your Facebook audience will be interested in different content to your LinkedIn audience. Your Twitter followers may not be fans of Facebook, so when they see a Twitter post that includes a link starting they may feel excluded and think you are more interested in your Facebook fans than them. Another turn-off to many people on social media are the direct messages that are clearly powered by third party tools. People aren't fooled when you pretend to reply personally, and if your message is just urging them to sign up to your newsletter or visit your website they'll probably be even less impressed.

7. Don't hijack hashtags. Another way to undo your good work on social media is to attach a #hashtag that is trending to a sales message for your business when there's no connection. It's a great tactic when your brand or business can say something about a trending topic - such as a major sporting event or an issue such as the sugar tax - but be very careful about jumping on the bandwagon just for the sake of it.

Success on social media does not come overnight but it is an important part of your overall marketing strategy. So think about the WHO, WHICH, WHY, WHAT and HOW of your business social media plan and devise a schedule that fits the time and resource you have available - and then measure to see what is working and adapt your plan accordingly.