Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Ad Hoc PR Support

Although I work with the majority of my clients on a retained basis, I also offer an ad hoc PR support service.

This type of service is perfect for a one-off project, which could be:

  • Website copy
  • Brochure copy
  • Setting up social media
  • Temporary social media management for (eg) maternity cover
  • Awards entries
  • Blog writing

Retained or ad hoc?

The benefit of working with retained clients means I have the opportunity to get to understand their business thoroughly. As the relationship builds, so does the trust – and the client can clearly see that the service is meeting – and hopefully exceeding – their expectations.

With an ad hoc service, it’s more a case of having to very quickly understand the culture of a company, get their tone of voice straight away, and to present them as they wish to be seen. Having worked in so many sectors over the years means I am often able to jump feet first into a project. On the odd occasion it takes a few stops and starts to get it right.

Examples of recent ad hoc PR support

  • In the latter part of 2017 I took on a three-month contract with Dartmoor-based company Directions to manage social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for three accounts based in Suffolk – two hotels and a pier! Now that was a challenge, as I never had the opportunity to see the businesses I was representing. After a week or two of tentatively feeling my way, I got into my stride. By the end of the contract I believe I had enlivened all the accounts and left them in a positive shape to be managed in-house.
  • I worked with Ross Pollard at bathroom and kitchen designer Vision Installs to sort out his website, which had been half-way finished for longer than he wanted. I tidied the existing content, wrote new content and created case studies. The website became one that Ross felt able to point potential clients to.
  • I’ve helped Griffin Chartered Accountants with blogs, press releases and most recently, an awards submission. We’ve yet to find out if they have made the shortlist, but Griffin gave me so much quality information to work with, that I’d be surprised if they don’t. Griffin are featured in my portfolio as I work from them on an occasional rather than one-off basis.
  • Website company Cloudberry Digital needed blogs for some of their client websites. These are mainly food and drink based, so I had fun researching a variety of foodie companies and products. I always feel writing a blog should be much more than an SEO exercise, a blog should be written to be read.
  • I’ve also written press releases for a variety of small businesses including Exminster Garage, Baking Matters, Barrel Tops and Gleave Media.

What’s next?

If you are interested in dipping your toe in the water, using an ad hoc PR support service is a good way of finding out a) if we click and b) if you get value for money. You can then decide on whether you want or need to move into a retained client service. For more information please contact me.

 

Snow on River Otter

Snow go!

Snow in Devon

Like most people in the country, experiencing snowfall that banks up and snows you in, is not a usual occurence. I had been watching the weather reports with interest, and while I slightly poo-pooed the coming armageddon (I refuse to call it emmageddon), I was also sensible, stocking up on logs for the woodburner and checking I had oil in the tank, and fuel in the car.

When the blizzard struck in the afternoon, it wasn’t unexpected. I had cancelled a meeting earlier in the day ‘just in case’, which transpired to be a reasonable decision to have taken.

As happens every time with major snowfall in Devon (the last being 2010), everything suddenly ground to a halt – well, after Tesco had been emptied of bread and milk. We do always seem to panic when there’s no bread or milk, don’t we.

Social media

As the weather worsened I saw lots of businesses shutting and letting people know on Twitter and Facebook. I called my clients with retail businesses and cafes to see if they were closing, and added updates on social media. One was just about to close, others were soldiering on. The following day, however, all of them were closed – bar the amazing Tickety-Boo where chef Dave was holding the fort.

Home working

Working from a home office has its benefits. Many people were unable to get to their place of work, but for me all that was required was to switch on the desktop and carry on regardless. Until the power cut, that is. Living in a rurally located village in East Devon does mean that I am slightly beholden to the vagaries of the power supply – the lines don’t always bear up in extreme weather. A number of villages in the immediate area were affected, others elsewhere.

No phone, no desktop, a laptop with limited battery life – at least the mobile gave me contact with the outside world. We’re fortunate in having a woodburner and LPG gas supply as well as electricity and oil, so the house, and office, remained warm. Now, I can always write, power or no power, so I started on a feature for a magazine. But then things took a different turn – I decided to check on an elderly neighbour and tramped through the snow with a flask of tea, only to discover he had no heat at all, his being all electric.

On a day like that, work can take a back seat. I stopped trying to get anything done and made a number of trips to the neighbour, with hot water bottles, blankets and soup (many other people were also busy helping neighbours in need, or taking supplies to people stuck in cars). I ‘forced’ my housebound teenagers to come for walks with me in the snow, which they, after grumbling, loved.  My dogs had a field day.

The upshot was that I had to work at the weekend to catch up. Well that’s life, I often work at the weekend, so I just did more. It’s been a peculiar few days, but it’s just a few days.

And yes, when I nipped into Tesco after the thaw set in, there were more people there than during the Christmas rush. All buying bread, and milk.

Teenager in snowPickle in snowSaffy in snow

London PR for Diespeker

London Calling – London PR

I’ve been working with agency Terra Ferma Media for five or so years as an associate. Initially managing social media for a number of their clients including Ellenborough Park, Mantis Travel and (my favourite for kudos alone) Bear Grylls Survival School, they then asked if I could write the copy for their client Diespeker & Co’s new website. Naturally I said yes! This led to an invitation to handle the PR for the London natural stone and terrazzo company, which I leapt at.

Three years’ on and last night, an email landed in my inbox. The client wanted to tell his outsourced marketing team that his turnover had doubled over the last year and that he was extremely excited by this news! As was I, of course.

Impactful

There’s little doubt that the work we’ve all been putting in has had a significant impact on the success of the business. Diespeker’s website, when it launched, was – and still is – way ahead of competitor websites in terms of content and style. We add regular news updates and the stories we tell are not only about projects, but Diespeker’s supported charity (Stem4) and MD John Krause’s exploits as a marathon runner.

I was really pleased in November when Diespeker won Manufacturer of the Year at the South East Manufacturers Awards. Although I wrote the submission, the proof is in the pudding – the work that Diespeker is doing with bespoke terrazzo is unequalled by any other manufacturer in the UK.

The future

We’re about to embark on a company magazine, which I’m delighted to be editing. I know we’re entrenched in digital, digital, digital, so it’s lovely to be working on a print publication for a change. There’s also going to be a launch later this year, of an offshoot business aimed more at the luxury interiors market. Can’t wait!

It’s a privilige to be working with Diespeker & Co, to be part of the company’s journey to greater and greater success.

Yet, although I love my visits to London, the buzz of the Smoke and seeing old haunts (we passed by a flat I once lived in, in Streatham, on my last visit), I also love returning to Devon. It’s always fascinating taking the train, and watching the regular commuters in their daily routine. I have the best of both worlds, I think.

 

 

Pirate ship at Tickety-Boo

Tickety-Boo launches pirate ship

Ahoy there! Pirate ship sets sail at Tickety-Boo

I started working with Tickety-Boo in 2016 – the coffee shop and play kingdom opened in August with a successful launch event. Even then there was talk of a second section in the play kingdom, as there was space at the rear of the building.

Fast forward to 2017 – as a venture, Tickety-Boo has become a great success. This had led to a bronze award win at the Devon Tourism Awards.

The need to extend the play area, add more seating and create rear access to the play area became pressing. So it was all hands on deck (literally) to make a pirate ship, and fit out the area. I peeked in from time to time to watch progress; the boat being built, the walls being painted, the carpet going in. All the time mentioning the need for a launch event.

Stuart and the pirate ship This week I had a phone call from Stuart, the owner of Tickety-Boo. With the onset of the Christmas holidays, he had decided to open the new section as it was reaThe first pirates on the pirate shipdy. In the event, there was no time for a launch. But we had to do something to officially open it. So I drove to Ottery St Mary to take photos, borrowed some children (with the permission of their mum) and persuaded Stuart  to pose in the ship. Sadly I didn’t have time to get him a pirate hat!

The photos went straight up on Tickety-Boo’s Facebook page and immediately the likes, shares and comments started mounting up (there are currently over 200 likes on that post). Customers had been aware that the extension was being worked on, and word spread fast. Perfect timing for the Christmas holidays. In the end, a soft launch did the job just fine.

Facebook

Facebook has proved a really successful platform for Tickety-Boo. The Facebook community is edging towards 2,000 with no hard push or adverts, just relevant content including competitions and menu updates. The community is very engaged, making comments, tagging people and sharing posts. Comments are almost always positive, and reviews always good, with a 4.9 rating. Tickety-Boo doesn’t need hard sell, its success is down to a combination of hard work, customer service and a real commitment to the local community.

Go check out the pirate ship if you have little ones. It’s a beautiful thing (and the cakes are amazing!).

Winners Tickety-Boo receiving the bronze awards

Winners all

Thursday November 23rd 2017 might go down in history as ‘the most awards in one evening’, with lots of worthy winners. Well, in my world, at least.

Tickety-Boo

Winners all glammed upIn Devon, my coffee shop clients Tickety-Boo were finalists in the Devon Tourism Awards. This was extremely exciting as these are really very prestigious awards. The event was held at the Guildhall in Plymouth and Tickety-Boo’s owner, Stuart, took his team along. They picked up a bronze award, and everyone was delighted. Recognition indeed for a very young business.

DEBI

Meanwhile, also in Devon, I was attending the Devon Environmental Business Initiative (DEBI) Awards as I’m a DEBI Director. None of my clients were entered on this occasion, although Rusty Winners in the DEBI AwardsPig was a previous finalist and Otter Garden Centres were category sponsors. These awards celebrate all that is green in Devon, with winners this year including Sungift Energy, Millbrook Cottages and Sonya Bedford from Stephens Scown, crowned this year’s Environmental Champion. I had a chat with Sonya after the awards event, she really does love her work.

Diespeker

Winners Diespeker MD John Krause collecting awardsIn London, at the same time, Diespeker & Co, my client via agency Terra Ferma Media, was attending the South East Manufacturers Awards, organised by Insider Media. This was the first awards we’d put them up for, and they were finalists in the Manufacturer of the Year (under £25M) category. We weren’t expecting a win, but they did it – a brilliant result.

The icing on the cake came the next day when Solicitor Derek Jordan from client The Family Law Company was announced as a finalist in the Devon & Somerset Legal Society Awards. Derek is a really dedicated solicitor, working in Plymouth to help clients often suffering in domestic violence and abuse situations. I hope he wins as he really does make a difference.

After all that excitement I am exhausted! But now it’s time to look at the Exeter Living Awards…..

Can’t hold a candle to – feature writing

I have written on more than one occasion about the pleasure I take from working in so many diverse sectors. It suits my personality (and clearly my brain) to move from one subject to another throughout the day. Amongst the many hats I wear, one is as a feature writer and sometime restaurant reviewer, for Devon Life, Exeter Life, Devon Home Magazine and Taste Buds. Feature writing brings me into contact with even more businesses and inspirational people.

The most recent encounter was with Richard and Sargon from The Recycled Candle Company. They had recently opened a shop in Ottery St Mary, where a number of my clients are based. Intrigued, I went to say hello and have a nose. Although the shop wasn’t quite ready, I knew immediately that it would be fabulous. I had a quick chat with Richard and asked if I could pitch the Featurie writing Richardstory – he agreed. I also purchased a rather gorgeous candle as a birthday present for a friend.

Devon Life liked the idea and commissioned a double page, so I returned for an in-depth interview. It was a fascinating to find out about Richard’s early fascination with candle-making, the blips along the way, how he met Sargon, the inspiration for the various scents and how they ended up opening a shop in Ottery St Mary. The process of using old wax to make new candles is truly interesting, though there were some trade secrets I was not allowed to divulge – on pain of death!

It is always an inspiration to talk to individuals who are following their dreams in business. Often for these people, it’s not about becoming millionaires (although I’m sure no-one would complain), it’s about having a passion. That’s not a word I normally like to use as it’s bandied around too much in the corporate world these days.

The feature on The Recycled Candle Company is destined for Devon Life’s January issue which should be on the shelves mid-December, hopefully in time to give the shop a boost for last minute Christmas sales. If those Christmas tree candles don’t fly off the shelves, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

What’s up next for my work in feature writing? I’ve recently finished a feature for Devon Home about bathroom flooring and a review for Taste Buds for the Woolacombe Bay Hotel – that was fun and there was prosecco involved.  I’ve pitched some new ideas so watch this space.

Feature writing researchFeature writing research

Our awards table

On the awards podium

Attending the awards

This was the third year I attended the Food & Drink Devon Awards. The first time was in the company of Jeff and Jennie Cooper from Taste Buds Magazine – which I write for from time to time – when the awards were held at Exeter Golf & Country Club. Last year, with the awards close by at Deer Park Country House, I went again as a guest with Jeff, celebrating a gold and highly commended for client Otter Garden Centres along the way.

This year I went under my own steam to represent Otter Garden Centres. Sadly, Otter’s restaurant manager Simon was unable to come to the event, so I attended alone. Luckily I’m not shy and started chatting to chef Noel Corston at the drinks reception. It truly is a small world as we discovered in the course of our conversation that we had both lived in a suburb of Southampton called Chandlers Ford – not known to that many people. On my table were several marvellous folk, Lizzie from Hunts Cider, Ann and Neil from Waterhouse Fayre and Sabine from Sabine’s Macarons, and we had some great conversations through the evening.

Gold!

This year, Otter scooped two gold awards, one for their multi-award-winning raspberry jam and the first gold for their strawberry jam. With no Simon, it was down to me to scuttle up to collect the award from sponsors Stephens Scown and media foodie type, Nigel Barden. You’ll know him if you listen to Simon Mayo on Radio Two (which I do!). Hunts also picked up a gold as did Waterhouse Fayre.

On the podiumAs I am not usually the person to actually collect an award as this is quite rightly done by my clients, it was interesting (and slightly nerve-racking) to have a moment in the limelight with the camera of the talented Nick Hook snapping away. Fortunately I didn’t have to make a speech….

Back at the table we were all treated to a glass of fizz by a generous Sabine and her husband.

It was a pleasure to attend and to collect the two gold awards, even if by default, and to celebrate Devon’s fantastic food and drink and to meet some lovely folk. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday evening.

Taster Day Segway

Escot Taster Day

I have known Escot near Ottery St Mary for many years – my children spent many happy hours at Escot Park playing in the wonderful gardens, messing about on the pirate ship, watching otters and birds of prey displays.

Escot House

That part of Escot that I am so familiar with is now a visitor centre by charity Wildwood Trust, whilst Escot’s owners, Lucy and Mish Kennaway, are concentrating on promoting the house and grounds as a venue for weddings, conferences and activity days. They’ve actually been hosting events for well over 20 years, including the wedding of the couple that run the Beautiful Days festival which has been held at Escot every August since 2003. Anyone local will know of the festival, and I’ve been along a fair number of times myself.

Last year, the Kennaways asked me to write the copy for their new website, and I was delighted to oblige. This year I have been helping to promote the venue itself alongside Hannah Thompson of Six Degrees Marketing. Escot hasn’t raised its head above the parapet in terms of promotion for a while, and we decided to run a taster day so potential clients could see the venue and try some of the activities on offer with onsite activity providers, Devon Country Pursuits.

Taster Day

On the day, Devon Country Pursuits set up Segway and archery, whilst Lucy showed visitors around the three conference rooms and Lynsey baked fresh biscuits and, the hit of the day, honey mustard sausages.

Most people Taster Day Archerydecided to try the activities and naturally I had to show willing with a turn on the Segway. It was great fun and I’m tempted to book an afternoon there myself, to have a Segway Olympics. There are many other activities besides, including quad biking, interactive treasure hunt and swamp walk – the latter my son did on a school visit many years ago. Suffice to say, it’s messy!Helen on the Segway at the Taster Day

My trusty DSLR camera was ready and willing, and I managed to get some decent action shots – including Helen from The Creative Business Network who squealed the loudest when she was taking a turn on the Segway!

A number of positive enquiries came from those attending the event, with some firm bookings made. Others who couldn’t make it expressed an interest in making future bookings. All in all a successful event which was a pleasure to be involved with.

Plus I got to sample a number of Lynsey’s yummy biscuits.

Taster Day biscuits

Summer party welly game

Here Comes Summer

We Brits know how to party when the sun comes out, and businesses are no exception.

Everyone expects a staff meal at Christmas, but summer is the time to make the most of good weather and put on an outdoor event. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Getting staff together in the sunshine always lifts morale.

Long-term client Otter Garden Centres holds a summer party for all employees at its Ottery St Mary branch each year. But it isn’t a question of sipping a drink, oh no. Instead, there are  school games. Games involving eggs, wellies and sacks. You get the picture. The weather held and everyone threw themselves into the games – quite literally in the case of the tug-of-war. No cheating went on at all… The management team were great, acting as Head of PE, Head of Maths and Headmistress. There was even a Miss Bossy Boots. I was there, snapping away and getting some great shots of people letting their hair Summer event at TFLC Plymouthdown (and falling over), ready to send to Devon Life Socials.

In Plymouth in June, The Family Law Company hosted a summer celebration, inviting local practitioners, barristers and clerks to thank t hem for referrals. I love that Carrie, who put the event together, mentioned that it was nice to meet up with people who they are often in opposition with at court. Down pistols for the sake of Pimms! (Press release)

This weekend it’s the turn of Coverstructures, celebrating the completion of its stunning new offices on the Finnimore Estate. Owner Stuart Phillips is holding a family day replete with bouncy castle and mobile catering provided by another client, Rusty Pig. I won’t be attending as I’m off to Greece for a summer break, but I’ve booked a photographer so watch this space. but I’ll be back in time to help out with a small celebratory event for Tickety-Boo, another of Stuart’s businesses, which will be celebrating

I’ll be back in time to help out with a small celebratory event for Tickety-Boo, another of Stuart’s businesses, which will be celebrating it’s first birthday mid-August. Hopefully there will be cake.

All too soon it will be autumn, and then time for Christmas parties!

Summer tug of warThe summer school teamSummer and everyone's falling over

Dining at Rusty Pig

Copywriting Rusty Pig’s oinking new website

Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary is a long-term client. I first met owner Robin Rea when I wrote an article about him for Devon Life and we’ve been working together ever since.

I’m sure Robin won’t mind me saying that his website wasn’t really showing off the business as well as it could. So, it was with some relief that he told me he’d commissioned Rob Archer of Archer Studios to create his new website. Even more exciting, he was working with one of my favourite photographers, Matt Austin for images. Now, I have nagged Robin about images for years! Although I’m handy with my DSLR, the difference between my efforts and those of a professional have been documented before.

Copywriting

There was some discussion about how the copy was going to be written, and I was delighted when Robin agreed to me taking it on. I worked closely with Rob Archer to agree a word count for each section and played about with tone of voice until I got it ‘just so’. This type of website is not copy-heavy, and I really enjoy the discipline of cutting back the words whilst managing to keep the personality of the business. I also had to work fast – fortunately tight deadlines have never fazed me.

Launched

The website has now launched, and is a million trillion times better than the previous version. Take a peek at Rusty Pig and while you’re at it, why not book a table using the new booking facility!

Matt Austin’s images have been worth their weight in gold. Not only for the new website, but to illustrate a feature article I recently wrote for Devon Life, all about hedgerow cocktails at Rusty Pig. So nice to have wonderful photos to hand. And I’m proud of my headline ‘A sting in the cocktail’.

Rusty Pig feature