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How you can create the right branding for your business

Guest blog on branding - Julie Grant Photography

When I started my business in 2015 I thought all I needed was a logo and some business cards and my branding would be sorted. I had a huge list of “To Dos” and branding was something that I could put a big tick next to.

I was good at this business lark!

Then, when I started to read more about marketing the words Ideal Client kept coming up…

Who is your ideal client? Which product would your ideal client choose? Where can you find your ideal client?

The answers were easy. Everybody was my ideal client, so they’d like all of the products and they were everywhere. Move on.

But it continued to come up time and time again so I decided to do some research into this whole branding thing.

Turns out, a business is way more successful when they have a clear message and how do they create a clear message? Through having an ideal client and a strong brand. Not only are businesses more successful, decision-making becomes much easier too.

So when we use the term branding what are we talking about exactly? We are talking about the overall message that a business conveys. Some key elements (but not all) are the logo, the colours used, the fonts, the language and importantly; the imagery.

I will touch on each area below:-

Message

Who do you want to attract? Who is going to buy your product or service? A 20 year old man is likely to be attracted to a very different brand to a 75 year old woman.

Logo

Should it be clean and simple? Bold and colourful? Monochrome? Do you include a motif? Any words? Do you have more than 1 logo?

Colours

Did you know that colours carry very strong messages with them? Red can suggest passion, excitement and importance, whereas Green can signify new beginnings, growth and nature. A couple of well-known brands that use colour well are Virgin and BP. For me, the red of Virgin says adventure, fun and excitement, whereas the green in BP says light, nature and energy. Both very different messages, but equally powerful for the companies concerned.

Fonts

When you start to search for fonts you will find that there is a choice of hundreds! From gothic to script to comic sans and everything in between. What message does your choice of font say about your brand? Is it sophisticated and high quality? or do you want to be seen as fun, high energy and lively? It really can make a huge difference to what people will expect from your company.

Language

The language that you use is extremely important. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar may go unnoticed by many, but to some it will indicate poor attention to detail and could even be a deal breaker. Some people prefer you to get to the point by being bold and direct, whilst others will enjoy more elaborate language, overflowing with metaphors and similes. There is a well-known company in the beauty industry that always addresses it’s clients as Darling. I can’t stand it!! I don’t know why, but it makes my skin crawl… The company in question has a huge following so this approach clearly works for them. I guess I’m just not their ideal client, and that’s absolutely fine.

Imagery

Which is, of course, the most important part (don’t worry all you graphic designers, I’m only joking, it’s all important! but great photographs are high up the priorities). The photography that you use is an essential part of your company’s message. Make it too generic and people will just scroll past. Incorporate all of the above elements and your ideal clients will instinctively know your style and you will have their attention. Add to this the notion that a picture can say a thousand words and suddenly you have the ability to deliver a very clear message. Many companies use lifestyle images to suggest that the purchase of their product or service will improve your life – and it works exceptionally well! Who doesn’t want to have more money? do lots of fun stuff? or spend more time with their family?

People buy from people that they know, like and trust. By getting your branding right (I have lots of tools and resources to help with this) you will be able to become more visible, save yourself hours of time and attract your dream clients.

Please contact me for a free consultation.

Julie is a specialist Personal Brand Photographer, who helps local businesses to become more visible, stand out from their competitors and to attract more of their dream clients by providing them with a bank of beautiful on-brand images.

“I didn’t realise how much my business needed this! Since having my photographs taken professionally, I feel so much more confident posting to social media and I am now attracting more new clients than ever. Thank you” Emily.

Julie Grant - personal brand photographer creating beautiful branding images.
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Why you need a Lasting Power of Attorney

Guest blog on Lasting Power of Attorney - Westcotes Wills

I listened to Money Box on Radio 4 last week and they were talking about lasting power of attorney documents.  Professionally I draft these documents (along with wills) so I know how invaluable these can be.  What struck me the most was the lack of publicity power of attorney documents get compared to a will. They are just as important and for many people even more so than a will! So, this year I am making it my mission to spread the word.    

Why should lasting power of attorney documents matter to me?

One family had to raise money through crowdfunding to a pay their mum’s day to day household bills as they couldn’t access her bank account.  Their mum wasn’t old, she was in her 50’s.  I am in my early 40’s now and 50 doesn’t seem so old as is once did.  It was utterly heart-breaking listening to the lady speak about her situation.  It also got me thinking back to one of my former colleagues, who in their mid-twenties seriously injured himself from diving into a shallow swimming pool whilst on holiday. He was in hospital and rehab for a long time.  It took his family over 10 months to be able to manage his finances.  Is this what you would want for your family?

You are never too young for a lasting power of attorney!

I don’t think any of us feel we would need a power of attorney in our 20’s, 30’s or 40’s.  But people do, accident and illness happen.  Rent, mortgages and household bills must be paid whether you live in on your own or you’re in a shared household with friends or family. 

It will be ok, my family can help me. 

No, if you become ill or unable to manage your own affairs the banks and building societies first duty is to protect the vulnerable person.  Joint and single name accounts can and will be frozen. 

Just because you live with someone, or are related to someone, or have a joint account with someone does not give you the legal right to manage their finances.  The journalist and GMB presenter Kate Garroway has spoken about the difficulties she has had with her family finances in the last year.  Her husband is still seriously ill in hospital with the after effects of COVID-19.  She had no power of attorney in place.  I am not sure she will have had her deputy order through yet either!  

It’s ok they can just apply for a Deputy Order if they need to.

Yes, families can apply to the courts for a deputy order to manage a loved one’s finances but it is more expensive (more than double and have on going costs), time consuming (9 to 12 months +) and stressful (4 forms not 1).   

Deputy orders are not as flexible as a power of attorney and often a deputy will have to re-apply to the court to carry out a particular course of action (e.g. house sale) where as an attorney can just get on with managing the finances and assets without having the extra cost and hassle.  A deputy must pay recurring fees for ongoing supervision, where as an attorney doesn’t.  The cost of all these fees come from the finances of the person they are supporting. 

It’s easy to put off because you think it might be hard or you just don’t know where to start.  There are a lot of good resources available on the internet and the government website www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney is a great starting point.  You can draft the documents yourself or if you don’t have the time, energy or inclination there are people like myself who do it on a professional basis. 

If you have a question no matter how small on this then give me a call 07920 061946.    Let’s make sure it’s not your family having to crowdfund to keep the roof over their heads. 

Kirsty’s note

Rosie O’Hanlon-Hills is the owner of Westcotes Wills, helping to make life easier for you and your family by drafting wills and lasting power of attorney documents you can all understand.

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Where are you with your exercise goals?

Guest blog header introducing blog on health, fitness and exercise by Laura Jane Griffiths.

It’s that time of year again, the time of year where the guilt of what you eat and drink seems to hit twice as hard. Where the first day you swop to eating fresh fruits and vegetables and start to exercise – you feel like you are already onto a winning streak.

You set a new years resolution, a goal for 2021 – to make a change – get fit and healthy, drop a stone and exercise regularly.

Yet every year most people (not all) last until around the end of January, maybe the beginning of February, before it all falls by the wayside. Why? Read on and find out….

1: Why do people fail?

Two simple things – motivation and expectation! When people start exercising they talk about motivation “I’ve set a goal, I want to make a change, I feel so motivated”. The problem with motivation, it has a life span. Sometimes you can be motivated for a long time, other times it’s a short burst.  People try to keep up their motivation but with the constraints and pressures of everyday life it isn’t always possible. Combine this with setting unrealistic expectations (aka expecting immediate results) and you have a recipe for “giving up”.

What’s the first thing you should do this January? Be realistic with your goals and change the word motivation to discipline.

2: We change our lifestyle for the wrong reasons.

Everyone talks about exercise and fitness being a lifestyle change and it is, however we need to ensure we are doing this for the right reasons. Reasons not to – guilt, social expectation/ social media, others comments, because it’s that time of year? The reason you exercise has to come from within, it has to be because you see all of the benefits of it. It can’t be focused on weight loss and numbers on the scales (big mistake…I’ll explain why shortly). It has to be because you want to feel great, positive and energised FOR YOU. You have to want to build this discipline into your life in a way that works for you and makes you feel great.

3: Numbers on scales and good/bad food.

We are raised in a culture that puts TOO much focus on the numbers on the scales. These numbers can be the most demoralising thing you focus upon. Our weight can fluctuate every day – losing a lb can mean LITERALLY NOTHING. (Sorry to burst your bubble there). Picture the scene, you’re training everyday, feeling positive, energised – dare I say – motivated and then you step on the scales. You haven’t lost a 1lb in the last week. How do you feel? Rubbish. In one swoop you have mentally undone all of the hard work you have put in. Little do you know that on that particular week you hadn’t managed to drink enough water that week, or it’s that time of the month in your cycle…

So stop fixating on the scales instead start taking pictures, focusing on the changes you can see in your body, the strength and positivity you are feeling.

Get rid of good/bad food. FOOD IS FOOD. Every bite, mouthful you consume contains calories – our body’s fuel.  Change your mind-set and start to understand that fuel is what your body needs. So alleviate that Christmas guilt, you didn’t indulge in bad foods – you may have eaten more calories than you required but I bet you had a great time! To lose weight you just need to eat fewer calories than you are burning. Simple. Don’t starve yourself, don’t deny yourself – just become mindful of what volume of food you require – your optimum calorie intake.

4: The first steps to making sustainable change.

If you try to take on too much at once you will ultimately overwhelm yourself. Make one small change at a time and ensure it fits into your lifestyle in a sustainable way.  My recommendation is find an exercise regime that is bite sized to begin with. Something you get a quick win from and that makes you feel good. I run At Home HIIT, it live streams workouts to you everyday that last just twenty minutes but are extremely effective and challenging – get that win in early!

5: Set realistic goals and remember every workout is a win!

Whatever change you are making set your goal and be disciplined enough to complete it. That is your goal. Don’t focus on weight and numbers focus on how amazing your body is that it can support you everyday through exercise AND LIFE. Focus on how positive it makes you feel, the benefits to you mental health and well-being.  This is how you will succeed.

Don’t forget to make it fun, reflect of how brilliant you are everyday and use this to maintain that, ever important, discipline.

Have a great 2021.

Laura

Kirsty’s note

If you need support with your health and fitness goals you can find Laura online here or on Facebook where she runs an awesome community with workouts you can access online and do anywhere. (OK maybe not anywhere – you do have to get out of bed!)

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What is PR?

What is PR - guest blog

PR (Public Relations) is a long-term promotional strategy aimed at building authority and influence over time. It’s a form of marketing that can be used to generate positive awareness of a company or brand and its products or services.

“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”

– Chartered Institute of Public Relations

I like to think of public relation as a form of ‘attraction’ marketing. You can attract people to you, and your brand through PR.  

Rather than pushing out a promotional message saying how great you are, in the form of an advert for example, PR is focused on helping others come to that conclusion themselves through what they have seen and heard from others.

Those ‘others’ might be the media, it might be celebrities/influencers/industry leaders, or it might be through other people – friends and family etc.

I particularly like this quote because I feel it states the difference between advertising and PR really well:

“Advertising is saying you’re good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.” – Jean Louis Gasse

While advertising messages are biased to highlight the positives of a particular product or service, in contrast, people speaking highly of you or perceiving you as an expert based on something they’ve read, heard or seen, is more persuasive and therefore more powerful. 

What PR is not

PR is NOT…

  1. …advertising

You earn it, rather than pay for it. PR is about reputation and this has to be earnt and is developed over a period of time.

  • …a quick fix

My suggestion would be that if you need to sell a certain amount of product or service quickly, advertise rather than rely on PR. Positive goodwill and media publicity shouldn’t be relied upon to generate sales, especially not within a short time frame.

  • …a guarantee of business success

You can generate a ton of positive press coverage about you and your business, and be highly regarded by potential customers, peers and other third parties, but still not have a successful, profitable business.

Rather than rely solely on PR, I believe businesses should use it alongside other forms of marketing. PR should be part of an integrated marketing strategy, where all aspects of marketing work simultaneously alongside each other.

Why should businesses use PR? 

PR can be used by business owners to promote who they are and what they do, to establish and protect their image and reputation, and to build credibility and influence. In my mind, the potential benefits far outweigh the costs!

For example, being featured in the media is attractive to business owners, and rightly so! There is a vast number of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programmes, websites, online publications, blogs, podcasts and video channels out there, all hungry for fresh and relevant content. The opportunities are there for the taking!

By using PR tactics such as press releases, networking with journalists, and pitching story ideas to the media, you can put yourself on the radar of journalists who are seeking content and potentially gain valuable exposure for your brand and your products and services.

Leveraging the power of the media, which has large, established audiences, is a great way to increase your visibility, build your reputation, grow your audience, attract new email subscribers, and sell more of your products and services.

Of course, this can be great for your business!

What are some of the benefits of PR?

There are loads! These are just some further ways that you could benefit:

1. PR is more credible than advertising.

 If a newspaper, magazine or online publisher has chosen to include you within a piece of content they produce, then they are effectively endorsing you and your brand.

 Although you don’t have complete control over how your company is presented in the media, a positive editorial mention, for sure, packs a far greater punch than an advert in the credibility stakes.

2. Potential reach

My local paper has a circulation of around 19,000 and is read by over 50,000 people every day. National and online publications reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. So, being featured in the media helps you and your business to get exposure to a potentially huge audience.

3. PR exposure is free but worth a lot of money

 Advertising is expensive. Ads in magazines and newspapers costing anything from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds to take out. The Daily Mail charges between £20k-£60k for a full-page advert!

In contrast, publicity in the media is free. Yes, there is the cost of your time and effort to secure the publicity (or the cost of a PR expert if you choose to outsource), but this can pale in comparison to the equivalent cost of an advert within that same publication.

4. Boosts your SEO

Getting a mention and having your website linked to from a high domain authority site, such as that of a newspaper or media outlet, can help you rank on Google.

Not only that, but the fact that online press coverage remains published forever (unless it’s taken down at some point) is working for you all year round and helping you and your brand name to get discovered in organic search.

Is PR suitable for every business?

Yes, in my opinion, PR can and should be used by businesses of all sizes.

If you have a service-based business or have expertise in a particular area, journalists writing on that topic could be interested in hearing what you know. If you have a product-based business, it could potentially be the perfect fit for a product round-up type feature or gift guide.  

There is likely to be a journalist out there right now looking for exactly the kind of content that you can provide! 

Isn’t PR expensive though?

An independent PR consultant or freelancer, like myself, would be the most flexible and more affordable option for most small businesses. PR agencies, working on retainers, can cost multiple thousands if not tens of thousands of pounds per month, and you’ll typically need to commit to a six-month retainer at a minimum.

To minimise the cost of PR, many small business owners do their own, as they might also do their own email marketing, social media marketing or accounting. But if PR isn’t something that you understand how to do or don’t enjoy, then outsourcing can often be the more cost-effective option and help you can achieve results more quickly.  

What are your three top PR tips for small business owners?

1. Recognise that you are an expert

Many business owners doubt their own expertise and don’t consider themselves worthy of being featured in the media. I would say, aim to fight the inner critic that is telling you that you aren’t an expert in your niche. Adopt a positive mindset and recognise the value that you can offer journalists.  

2. Prep before you pitch

Before pitching yourself to the media, read the publications that you are trying to target and become familiar with their regular features and which journalists work on which sections of the publication. Develop a deep understanding of the publication, its target audience and the kind of content that they typically run so that you can align your PR pitch accordingly.

3. Recognise that PR is about serving journalists

The media doesn’t exist to promote your business. They don’t give away their valuable media space lightly.   Journalists want genuine news, credible experts and, usually, timely responses. Aim to serve journalists and that effort could reward you with a positive piece of money-can’t-buy coverage for your small business!

PR takes time and effort to implement. It is a long-term, rather than a short-term, promotional strategy. Yet, it can potentially reap great rewards. I hope I’ve excited you about the possibilities!

Any professional photographers reading are welcome to join Zoe’s free Facebook community, ‘PR-Savvy Photographers’ for PR and content marketing tips, support and accountability.

Zoe Hiljemark is a PR and content consultant with 16 years of marketing communications experience. She works exclusively with professional photographers, helping them to attract, connect with and convert dream clients via impactful publicity and content.

www.zoehiljemark.com

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How to stay sane by using exercise at home

Being in lockdown and having restrictions placed on our movement is going to affect us all in different ways. If you’re like me just the knowledge that you can’t go anywhere is enough to sometimes bring on that feeling of suffocation. I might not have actually had any major plans but knowing I can’t spontaneously decide on a day out and then just go is a little stifling!

So what about all those really simple things that we took for granted before like visiting family, going to the shops or going to the gym or out for a run? We can’t do most of these things now either let alone those bigger outings or holidays.

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Up and down the UK gyms are standing empty and thousands of people are wondering how they can continue to stay fit and exercise on a regular basis.

The quick reaction would be to get out for a walk or go for a run during the one exercise period we’re each allowed every day but it’s not always as simple at that. Maybe you’re on the high risk register and you’re not allowed out at all, maybe you have been displaying symptoms and you need to fully isolate. Maybe you have seen floods of people all deciding to suddenly take up running so social distancing seems hard. Or maybe like so many other people I have spoken to you just don’t want to risk being out away from your home when you absolutely don’t need to be.

A group of people getting exercise running down a highway

Don’t panic, you can still exercise at home, stay fit and help to protect your mental health at the same time.

Here are my top 3 tips for being active at home:

  1. Put together a simple routine using only your own body weight, there are lots of moves you can do at home. Why not give this a try, repeat the whole routine 2-3 times.
    1. 15 squats
    1. 15 lunges (each side)
    1. 30 seconds star jumps
    1. 30 seconds high-knees
    1. 15 squat jumps
    1. 15 push ups
    1. 30 seconds jogging on the spot
    1. 30 seconds mountain climbers
  2. Turn up some music and dance around the living room for a crazy 20 minutes
  3. If you have a garden put a couple of things out to mark a set distance and then do shuttle runs between them, you don’t even have to just run. Try the following and aim for 20 minutes total.
    1. Run
    1. Skip
    1. Hop
    1. Jump
    1. Frog jump
    1. Bear crawl
    1. Side step

The key is to have some fun and create some variety. By still exercising at home you can stay fit, get fitter if that’s your goal and of course continue to support your mental health through the release of “happy hormones”. Let’s not forget that by creating fun and imaginative ways to stay active at home we can also keep the boredom at bay.

I’d love to hear how you are staying active – you can reach me at lbland81@gmail.com and of course if you need some support right now then head on over to my website for some more ideas and access to some very yummy healthy recipes www.laurab-fitnessmentor.com

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Why brand consistency is important

Why brand consistency is important

In a nutshell, your brand is your most valuable asset. Whether at home or in the workplace, we all have brand preferences. Firm favourites we use often, ones we’re following and may well try out next time, and those, for whatever reason, we dislike, mistrust, and prefer to avoid.

Successful brands connect. They have personality, inspire confidence, and are easy to recall. They’re distinctive, making good use of engaging, clear, consistent communication.

Inconsistent branding endangers that relationship. From a customer’s standpoint, it’s confusing and careless. After all, if the brand doesn’t care, why should its customers? Damaging your brand’s reputation will have a negative effect on not only your brand, but your bottom line too – ouch!

John Lewis’ Never Knowingly Undersold (NKU) pricing promise has served them well for almost 100 years and played an integral role in driving loyalty and lifelong customers. If ease, choice, and fast delivery are top of your list, Amazon is likely to hit the spot. Meanwhile, Red Bull is busily ticking all the boxes for speed loving thrill seekers. What these brands have in common is consistency and that does have a value.

The most recent Brand Consistency Benchmark report found “The average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently” to be 33%.

Building brand loyalty involves the whole brand experience from start to finish and beyond. As business owners, we all want to attract new customers and a growing number of repeat customers over the longer term.

The first thing to check is your brand resources – do you have everything you’ll need to stay on track?

Logo masters – various file formats so you’re covered for large and small, online and offline applications. Remember, there’s nothing worse than seeing a logo stretched out of proportion, pixelated, or in the wrong colours.

Image library –key images in high and low resolutions, not forgetting social media profile pictures and avatars – the small profile image which displays on your timeline.

Colour palette – colour breakdowns so that you’re good to go for litho, digital and desktop, (Pantone, CMYK & RGB), as well as Hex for web/online.

Brand fonts – usually comprising a pairing for on and offline use.

Strapline – summing up the essence of your brand or company, including its values and personality. Ideally short enough to be remembered and memorable enough to stand the test of time.

USP – differentiates your brand.

If you’re missing any of these elements, talk to your logo designer about working together to develop and complete your brand identity.

The other essential is your Brand Personality Framework. It’s a set of assigned human traits, or characteristics, which help towards building an emotional connection between your prospects and your brand’s personality.

There are five key dimensions – Competence, Sincerity, Excitement, Sophistication, and Ruggedness, each with its own set of traits. Red Bull’s personality is Excitement, as is Nike’s, Rolex and Apple are Sophistication – you get the drift? Even big brands make the occasional gaff though. Harley Davidson (Ruggedness) over-extended their branded product range to include cologne. No surprise it failed being at odds with Harley’s masculinity and strength values.

Google has lots of framework chart examples, which you can use to determine which section your brand resonates with. Try not to overcomplicate – your brand’s personality will change and evolve over time. Once you have your framework, keep it in mind. It will prove an invaluable checklist for all your future brand activities.

Two-thirds of us use more than one channel to make purchases. With all the online and offline opportunities to make an impression, consistency across all channels and touch points is more important than ever.

https://birkettconsultancy.com/
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Social Media: Why outsource when you can do it yourself?

Guest blog - Anita Popat social media

As business owners, we wear lots of different hats to fulfil a variety of roles required to run a successful business.

Social media is usually one of the things that keeps dropping to the bottom of the to-do list. This could be because you need to prioritise more important tasks or just because you don’t give it the attention it deserves.

Let’s be honest; it takes time to constantly think of fresh content ideas to stay ahead of your competition and be interesting, relevant and engaging on top of that!

To be successful on social media you need to be consistent to build that “know, like and trust” with your audience. If your efforts are haphazard then you’re probably not going to achieve this effectively.

Networking events are the perfect analogy for this. When you attend a group regularly, you’re likely to form good relationships and will eventually make a judgement as to whether you like and trust them based on your conversations with them. Guess what, it’s EXACTLY how it works on social media.

Nowadays, potential customers will do their research before getting in touch with you. They will most likely check out your social media profiles before your website, so it’s important that your channels are consistently updated, showcase your company values, your business expertise, what problems you solve, your team and why someone would want to work with you…in a subtle way of course!

On top of this bear in mind that the algorithms (the rules which affect your post reach) can change on a monthly basis. You could have learnt something last month and be ready to put it into action this month only to learn that the algorithm has changed again, so you need to relearn…do you really have the time to keep doing this?

If the thought of this already sounds overwhelming, then outsourcing is probably your best option.

So, here are some reasons why it makes sense to outsource your social media if it keeps falling to the bottom of your to-do list:

  • Let the expert(s) stay up to date with industry trends, news and algorithms so you can take advantage of what’s working right now.
  • You will have a more consistent presence to build that know, like and trust.
  • You won’t have to constantly think about what to post as it will be done for you.
  • You will have more brand awareness and potential clients recognising you when you’re out and about.
  • You won’t have the expenses of full time staff or need to spend time recruiting and training them to get them up to the required standards to make an impact on your business.
  • Most importantly, you can spend your valuable time growing other areas of the business.

It’s worth considering where your strengths lie and what you could outsource, as you’ll be saving time, money and sanity in the long run!

Anita Popat

www.anitapopat.com