Feature writer Segway Safari

Segway or bust – feature writer

Feature writer

Alongside my PR service, I am an occasional feature writer for Devon Life.

I’ve written about many different subjects over the years, and interviewed some interesting Devon folk. But possibly my favourite features are those that involve an ‘experience’.

So far I’ve been horseriding after a break of many years, gone gliding with the Devon & Somerset Gliding Club, flown into the clouds to watch skydivers leap from a plane (I was offered a jump, but had to decline) and, my most recent experience, tried a Segway Safari.

I pitched the idea as part of the magazine’s ’13th edition’ and was delighted to have it accepted. The Segway Safari runs at Escot Estate, an area I know well from dog walking and from the work I do with Escot House. Devon Country Pursuits is the onsite company offering the experience, along with numerous other activities including paintball, laser tag, interactive treasure hunt, archery and clay shooting.

Segway Safari

This was such good fun, and we were blessed with a lovely day in late May, when the bluebells were still very much in evidence in the park. Andrew Butler came along as feature photographer, and appeared to relish the chance to ride a Segway himself. We had a great morning that included a training session and the Safari itself.

Andrew chose his spots for photographs, whilst instructor Max and I attempted to pose for the camera without falling off.

Segway is surprisingly relaxing and exhilerating at the same time. It’s an activity that I would be tempted to do again.

You’ll have to pick up a copy of the magazine to read the full experience.

Devon Country Pursuits loved the article, and suggested next time I try quad biking… watch this space.

Segway feature writer

Diespeker Magazine

Hot off the Press – the Diespeker Magazine!

There’s been a lot of talk about the death of print since the digital era began. Newspapers are closing – or at the least, shrinking, magazines are folding and online publications becoming ten-a-penny. But there’s nothing like print, you can’t beat a quality publication.

I grew up with the Twinkle comic as my main weekly reading material, gravitating to Jackie then the fabulous Cosmopolitan magazine. My dad read the Express and the Telegraph, my mum the Daily Mail. I, being a bit of a socialist, turned to the Guardian, devouring its alternative take on the world. I’m still a fan today.

I’ve been a writer throughout my career. My ambition was to write for magazines, but I only started after a move to Devon and career change into PR, when I began writing occasional features for Devon Life. I’m now on the contributors list. Made it.

But what of print in the corporate world? In the good old days I wrote copy for company brochures, manuals and leaflets. But what company has a corporate brochure now? Everyone has a website where up to date information is easily accessed by potential customers and clients. I’ve seen many annual reports, but not many glorious glossies celebrating the successes of a business.

Fast forward to January 2018.

I was asked by agency Terra Ferma Media to be the content editor for a magazine they were producing for Diespeker & Co. I couldn’t possibly say no. I manage Diespeker’s PR, so I know the company very well. Working to TFM’s flatplan, I scoured the content I had from the past two years, cherry picking the very best stories and repurposing them. I generated new content, via interviews and tracking down project stories. I worked like a demon to meet the deadline, while the design team worked on the overall design, and pulled together images to illustrate the content.

Finally, it was ready and the magazine went to print. There was then a lull, and then, a huge surge of excitement, as the magazine was presented to the MD. I was dying to see it. Finally, my copy arrived with a fanfare (well from me, anyway). It’s fabulous, a really beautifully produced magazine that people will actually want to pick up and read. I’m a very proud copywriter.

There are a limted number of printed copies, and of course the magazine is available online. If you want to take a peek you can order a digital copy here.

Magazine pageMagazine page

 

 

 

 

Legal Hero Norman Hartnell

A True Legal Hero

Awards Success – Legal Hero

Last year’s Devon and Somerset Law Society (DASLS) Awards were a great success for The Family Law Company. Three solicitors won their categories, and we made much use of the term ‘hat-trick of awards’. They were all female solicitors and this added to the kudos – law remains a male-dominated sector.

Fast forward to this year’s awards. Of the two submissions I worked on, the first was for Plymouth solicitor Derek Jordan who is a rock for difficult domestic violence cases. I spoke to Derek at length and felt humbled by his commitment to standing up for vulnerable clients.

The second submission was for Norman Hartnell. Norman is the founder and Managing Director of The Family Law Company – his ethos underpins the company’s refreshing attitude to family law. Norman is the last to blow his own trumpet, so the submission was carried out in secret. His colleagues asked me to enter him for the Legal Hero category.

I spoke to people at length to gather information and everyone had nothing but praise for him. His commitment for the past 25 years (and more) has been to turn family law from a combatative process to one that attempts to keep couples amicable. This is especially important where there are children involved.

The submission seemed strong to me, but you never can tell with awards. The judges decision, as they say, is final.

The Legal Hero award was to be announced on the night, so there was no shortlist. I could only keep my fingers crossed. I was delighted that Derek was shortlisted, particularly as his area of work is by far and away a less ‘glamorous’ area of law.

Unfortunately, the heavy snow we experienced in the South West in March scuppered the original awards event. It moved to May and Norman was unable to attend, as he was on holiday. However, the team FaceTimed him with the news that he had been announced as DASLS Legal Hero 2018. There were certainly a few tears shed.

Although Derek didn’t win on this occasion, he was acknowledged as a finalist. I am hopeful that he will win on another occasion, as he thoroughly deserves to.

Legal Hero DASLS AwardsWell done to Norman. Having worked with The Family Law Company for several years and been touched by family law issues in my own life, I agree with everyone, you are a true Legal Hero.

The award was collected on Norman’s behalf by Rachel Buckley and Stephen Sowden.

Post-awards news report here.

 

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.