A little known fact about me is, I learned to speak in Bolton, ‘up North’. By the time I was six and we moved ‘down South’ my own mother could barely understand me.
One of the first days at my new primary school was an eye opener, for them more than me. The teacher asked the class to recite the rainbow, as I proudly bellowed out ‘I can sing a rainbow’ in my strong northern singing voice, the rest of the class, turned to stare in unison as they recited a completely different version. I soon found myself the centre of unwelcome attention. My nonplussed teacher asked me to explain, so I sung her my rendition of ‘I can sing a rainbow’. Ignoring the fact that my version of the rainbow was scientifically inaccurate, she fetched Mrs Unwin with her guitar. Proudly, I taught Mrs Unwin, who arranged a guitar accompaniment as I sang.
The very next day in assembly, Mrs Unwin taught the whole school my version of the rainbow. And so the south was introduced to the rainbow song. But here’s the thing…
You know when the wrong words to a song get stuck in your head and become the words that you sing every time? Well I, at the age of six, always sang
‘Listen with your ears, Listen with your eyes‘
And that, is what I taught Mrs Unwin, and that is what Mrs Unwin taught the whole school. Oops! I knew it should be ‘look with your eyes’, but that wasn’t what was stuck in my head, so that wasn’t what came out of my mouth.
Have you ever stopped to think it just doesn’t make sense?
Importance of Passing on Accurate Information
So why am I telling you this? Now more than ever we are ‘informed’ by social media. People read a message, interpret it their own way, then re-tell it in a way that makes sense in their heads. The crucial part is, many of us are guilty of accepting it as truth without question. For a growing population Facebook is fast becoming a replacement for News at 10.
Reinventing the lyrics of I Can Sing a Rainbow’ is of limited consequence. Passing on misonformation in these anxious times, is quite another matter. As a content writer, I have a responsibility to check everything I write and every source I use for accuracy, my reputation and that of my clients depends on it.
Work hard to seek out the truth, not the truth that you want to believe.
Can you recall how searching for something on the internet used to be? Random results, but far fewer of them.
And now? Reams of results, abundant ads, oodles of organisations clamouring for your click. How does your content compete?
Write Purposeful and Relevant Content
Worldwide, internet users are carrying out over 3.5 billion searches every single minute.. 40,000 searches per second. Rather than adding to the treacle sea that is Google, we need to be making the data we put out taste the sweetest. Content needs to be relevant, purposeful and should motivate and inspire action.
Three Rules of Content Generation
Know your audience: Who they are, what they want, how they look for it
Provide a solution: Answer questions, solve problems, add value
Keep it short: Searchers don’t have the time or inclination to wade through waffle
I am not asked to be an after-dinner speaker often, but as Burns Night approached, the phone rang…
The Chairman of Royston & District Round Table used his charm. I remember the daunting feeling of not really knowing where to begin, so I thought I would dig out my speech and share it online should other lassies find themselves in a similar position.
Traditionally, the ‘Reply From The Lassies’ is in response to the toast to the lassies from the laddies. It is supposed to be humorous and entertaining, no pressure there then.
A Reply To The Laddies On Behalf Of The Lassies
Ladies, Gentlemen, Tablers, 41 Club… I thank you for the opportunity to reply on behalf of the lassies. Thank you Graham for your kind words.
So, it would appear this reply is an excellent opportunity to focus on the vices and lack of morality of the laddies, but I have been told we are keeping the speeches short, so I can’t be mentioning all of them.
I thought I might focus on the similarities between Robbie Burns and the guys of Royston Round Table. Now let’s see, Robbie, unusually for his day, viewed ladies as equals, yet he was a bit of a womaniser, he liked his drink and had his fair share of debauchery…
Re the drinking… Let me tell you, I’ve been tangled up in the odd Sunday evening ‘business meeting’ at the pub. I can confirm the drinking bit, and the debauchery bit. It is utterly pointless asking any of these guys for ‘just a water’, you take your life in your hands by getting involved.
Re the debauchery, I have also witnessed some impressive erections… There was the time the guys offered to erect the market stall for me. A plethora of poles everywhere, a lot of head scratching and in response to my helpful suggestion of marking the poles for future use their reply was a resounding, ‘Where’s the fun in that?’
Continuing the theme of erections… The Round Table camping weekend. Each new family arrives, tired, in the knowledge that they have the ordeal of erecting their tent. The guys rally forth, bringing chairs, wine, and Pringles and form a helpful semi-circle to watch the entertainment. Helpful hints from the circle are usually forthcoming.
We love our Tablers, and wouldn’t have them any other way (mostly) But, in support of the poor, long-suffering lassies who love their laddies, vices and all, I’d like to share this little story with you.
Ladies – I received chain letter recently, unlike most chain letters, this one looked promising, so I kept it.
It read ‘This letter was started by a woman like yourself in the hope of bringing relief to other tired and discontented women. Just bundle up your husband or boyfriend and send him to the woman whose name appears at the top of the list. Then, add your name to the bottom of the list and send a copy of this letter to five of your friends who are equally tired and discontented. When your name comes to the top of the list, you will receive 3,125 men – at least one of them is bound to be better than the one you gave up.‘
Ladies, please charge your glasses… On behalf of the lassies I would like to thank you, members of Round Table and 41 club, for organising a splendid evening and a chance to bring us all together in friendship. Please charge your glasses.. Ladies, may I ask you to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to the Laddies
If you should feel the need to hire me as an after-dinner speaker or content writer, please contact me
Years ago, a fight broke out in my sitting room. I raced in to see my two warring toddlers, pulling at the toy they both passionately believed should be theirs. In each of their heads, they were in the right.
Ordinarily, I would have told them off, removed the toy, talked about what things are worth fighting over and what things are not, then found a way to reach a compromise. I’m not sure why, but that day, that isn’t what happened. That day, I sat on the floor with arms outstretched and said,
Oh dear, what are YOU going to do to sort this out?
That was the moment that changed the future of our family life.
Conflict resolution, a life lesson to save the world
From the safety of my embrace, both children looked at each other and set about the task of resolving the problem, anger and tears forgotten. They fully understood ‘sorting it out’ was their responsibility. The potential to hold on to resentment years down the line disappeared. Henceforth, that was the way we rolled.
If we stop children fighting?
We end up with adults who lack the emotional maturity to deal with opinions they disagree with or behaviour they don’t like. Instead of being able to discuss their feelings directly with the person involved, resentment and anger build up unchecked, a ticking bomb inside that fuels irrational and disproportionate response. They are unable to address the problem at the time, or in the future. To them, it’s easier to stay at war than face the problem. Hence, families, friends and nations ‘fall out’, damage is done, potentially forever.
The explosion, the war, the consequences are never worth it. Lives are ruined or lost as people refuse to talk, sulk, act in anger and continue to believe only they have the moral high ground. If only they had sat down and talked.
Let children learn how to deal with challenges, or life will be tough
Children cannot develop this vital life skill if they aren’t given the opportunity to deal with challenging circumstances. They need to learn to listen and understand that the opinions of others have value, and may also be right. When subjected to hurtful behaviour, children (and adults) should have the opportunity to address it in a rational way. That can’t happen if someone else has waded in and stopped the disagreement. Negotiation, debate and resolution allow the processes of understanding and healing.
Doesn’t affect you?
As onlookers we can all do something, if conflict involves family members or friends, we can enable them to appreciate there is another way of looking at every situation. Staying silently out of the firing line is an easy option, but it doesn’t resolve anything.
With politicians and their inflammatory, dangerous actions, we can protest, object, lobby for change, or preferrably, not vote for these people in the first place. The world would be a far better place if it was run by people who have emotional maturity and the courage to sit down and resolve the conflict.
I would like to thank my children for inspiring the post. They grew up to be fine young adults who go through life able to get along with others around them, both making the world a better place.
Here we are, new year, new decade, new climate…same planet. We have little control of any of those things, time only moves forward, and we don’t deserve to ruin another planet, even if we could survive on one. The land we fight over, build on and devastate will be there long after we have killed each other and everything else on it.
Business Goals for 2020
There are things we can do, in fact must do, if we are to retain any of the control we seem to crave. It isn’t enough to be SMART, SMART has brought us to this point, we need to be SMARTER, much smarter. Whoever you are, business or individual, we are all responsible.
Businesses have a far greater impact, and therefore responsibility. More and more people are making ethical choices, Apps like Goodonyou, Buycott and GoodGuide will have people voting with their feet, and rightly so. Be a business customers walk towards, not away from.
Wishing you all, a responsible and ethical new year.
After an evening with friends who spent their time alternately fanning themselves, I had a flash of inspiration, in the form of the Three Little Pigs. So I thought I’d try my hand at writing a poem. It’s been fun, I might carry on, as the mood takes me. Here’s to all the women enduring their own unique menopause, past and present, ladies, you are wonderful.
Menopause, menopause, why did you begin?
Now I have hairs on my chinney-chin-chin
Sweat runs down my sides, face beetroot red
Little control over what my mouth said
I huff and I puff and the weight that I’ve gained
Makes my clothing too tight, stitches are strained
A wobbly belly, wrinkly skin
A shrivelled up uterus, lurking within
My brain’s in a fug, I leak when I sneeze
Once magnificent boobs heading down to my knees
I have not a clue what I came in here for
Or what we just talked about moments before
Rhino-hide skin and more delicate bones
Tight vocal chords, set to ‘old woman’ tones
Ms Grumpy, Ms Cranky both wait in the wings
To leap centre stage at the slightest of things
But I’m female, I’m strong, I’ve coped with much more
I’ve recently been involved in the creation of a product (I am being deliberately vague here). Not my usual ‘bag’ of content writing or business support, something altogether different.
The quality of the final product mattered, a lot. The client had employed a Project Manager who had been working on it for ten months. Every facet had been planned meticulously leading up to the actual product creation over the course of five days.
The day arrived. A team of specialists had been recruited, each individual briefed, and highly skilled at what they do. Stakeholders had come to observe the process, flown in from across the globe. As production was due to commence the first meeting was called where the Project Manager passionately voiced how much this project meant and that they would be picky throughout the process (alarm bells).
From this point, it may have been sensible to allow the professionals to step in and do their job, but that isn’t what happened. The Project Manager felt compelled to step in at every stage to analyse, dissect and re-invent, showing their authority, and worth. Throughout the numerous discussions time for production of the product ebbed away, along with its potential.
Days of frustration as each professional was compelled to justify their actions and wait as unnecessary changes were made. Observers shifted to ‘inputters’, decision became indecision and the big picture became a pixellated, distorted mass of disjointed fragments.
Almost everybody involved remained polite. They listened and responded to each new view, doing their best to please. Many changes were made, often ill-informed and illogical, rarely working towards achieving the goal. Time spent actually creating the product fell from around 80% to around 20% leaving no time for critical appraisal and fine-tuning at the end. I dare say the Project Manager walked away with a huge payment feeling they had worked hard. They may not even realise the detrimental effect of their interference throughout, and they certainly will never realise the difference in quality, had they simply allowed the professionals involved to do what they do best.
Understand your role, play to your strengths, and allow others to play to their strengths too. Ultimately, a team can be greater than the sum of their parts if they work well together. Above all, know when to step back!
I attend the Optimisey Events in Cambridge each month. It is a regular meet up for SEO professionals to find out what is going on in the SEO world and keep ahead of the curve. Bear in mind that Google make some 3,200 updates per year, it is some curve to keep ahead of.
The Latest From SEO Professionals
This month’s speakers were Jasmine Granton, Digital PR at Aira Digital and Jono Alderson, Digital Strategist at Yoast. These guys know their stuff and share it well.
Jasmine’s top tips:
Think about the end user
If you want journalists to cover your news, relevant pitch to relevant journalists
Jono’s Top Tips
Spend energy moving forwards and upwards
Focus on the basics, the quality of your product and service matter above all else, the rest will follow
Consider your audience’s needs/interests first
Add value to others, it isn’t about what you can get, it is about what you can give
Getting the Fundamentals Right
As a Content Writer, I need to factor SEO in to everything I write for my clients. Good quality, useful content that reaches and adds value to a relevant audience is a major asset for any business and a worthwhile investment. Having a top quality product and offering the best customer service are the fundamentals, telling people about your hard work is vital.
Next month’s event will be pearls of wisdom from Koozai’s Hannah Butcher & Natalie Mott. We’ll be hearing the latest on content marketing & SEO strategy, I can’t wait for my clients to benefit.
This article is about improving your business. It is not about finding gimmicks to make people buy your products, it is about being the best you can be so people want to support what you are doing. It is about the impact your business has on the planet. In terms of the environment, we all have to do better.
A Moral Responsibility to Care
I just took delivery of 48 loo rolls from Who Gives a Crap. I like their marketing style, and the £5 voucher sent by a friend I trust was great too, but those aren’t what persuaded me to buy. I chose to buy from this business because I love what they are doing. 50% Of their profits go towards providing toilets for the 40%, yes 40%, of the world’s population who don’t have one, an outrageous statistic. The product is great quality (‘like wiping with unicorn tears’) and I felt a moral responsibility to support them. I also now have enough loo roll to last the year.
Businesses That Get it Right
I am cutting down the amount of plastic we use in the household. Bar soaps, no clingfilm, re-usable shopping bags, cups, bottles, bar shampoo, Smol washing and dishwasher tabs, glass bottle milk delivery… you know what I’m talking about. Small but necessary steps, not enough people taking them.
I ordered some products from Lush, the place with the overpowering smell and synthetic appearance as you pass by. When you go in and talk to any staff member it turns out hey are all natural and they’ve been saving the planet for years. Lush have had outstanding ethics from their 1970s origins, they’re just not bragging about it. Their packaging is not plastic, they encourage re-use, the ‘polystyrene’ chips used in delivery boxes are in fact biodegradable potato starch. Labelling is clear, contents are ethically sourced and involve no animal cruelty. I wish they could address the dichotomy between the impression they give on the outside and the company they are on the inside, the brightly coloured bath-bombs are fun but don’t shout ‘natural’ to me.
What Can Your Business Do?
Whatever steps you take it doesn’t have to cost the earth (excuse the pun).
Listen, learn, educate, inform, get everyone on board at every level
Reduce plastic use
Choose an energy provider who uses renewable energy
Recycle, and make it easy to do so
Save energy at every possible opportunity, carry out an audit
Source ethical materials
Ask suppliers about their ethical policies
Plant trees, bring in plants
Ask for advice from any of the free expert sources
Have you ever worked for that ‘difficult to get along with’ boss? Or have you ever been in a workplace that took plenty but gave nothing back? Life is short, working hours are long, if employees are unhappy they will find a new place to work. We would and should all choose to work and thrive in a place that makes us feel happy, healthy and supported.
Make everyone feel like they belong
Create a supportive community, welcome your carefully chosen newbies and nurture them. The start is the precursor to what follows. Happy people are far more likely to be positive, creative, and productive. We don’t need evidence, it’s obvious, but in case you need to put a case to the decision makers who may not be able to see it, have a look here.
How to Create a Happy Workplace
Communication – Keep the dialogue open, a workplace rumour-mill can be far more detrimental than any truths you openly discuss. Listen to everyone in the workplace, solutions are as likely to come from the person on the shop floor as the ‘shirt and tie’ behind the desk, they know what works and what doesn’t.
Honesty – Be open and transparent, good relationships are based on trust. People will mess up, mistakes are learning opportunities, they need to know they can be open without fear of recrimination but knowing they’ll have the chance to learn how to get it right in the future.
Awards – Employee of the week/month, recognition awards, achievement awards – None of this has to be costly, or monetary based. Dangle a carrot in front of the donkey to move it forward, smack it on the backside and you get an unhappy, stubborn donkey. Noticing achievements costs nothing, but reaps rewards aplenty.
Motivation – Encourage others to do well, share common goals, know what you are striving for, the small goals as well as the large ones. Rewards for achievement or simply recognition and acknowledgement, just don’t let it be ignored. There is nothing wrong with healthy competition, it can be a powerful motivator especially if the focus is on the achievement and not any perceived failure.
Physical Wellness -Provide easy to take opportunities to look after physical health. Make drinking water available (preferable from a tap not a bottle), allow breaks, get plenty of fresh air. First, listen to staff throughout the organisation to find out what they are interested in. Encourage participation and you will benefit from a fitter, happier, stronger workforce and a drastically reduced sikness rate. Businesses like Innerfit focus on workplace wellbeing by providing highly regarded lunch-time workouts, wellness talks, one-to-one sessions and pop-up sessions. Consider providing that for your workplace.
Supportive Relationships – Human relationships are not perfect, it’s OK to gel better with some people than others. Everybody has some good in them, highlight that and keep focus on good characteristics. It’s worth mentioning here, positive recruitment is key, employ people who are suited to the role, as well as the team.
Mental wellness – Look out for each other, make time and take time to ask how colleagues are doing, remove the stigma and encourage people to speak up before a problem grows too large. Life can throw curve balls at any of us, acknowledge that and provide support when needed. According to Forbes, a recent survey revealed that the largest source of workplace stress is cited as ‘the boss’. The study also revealed that workplace stress has increased by almost 20% in the last 30 years. Provide mentors and make sure every employee is able to speak to someone in confidence. Don’t be that boss that causes stress.
Play to your strengths – Don’t allow people to struggle in jobs they are not suited to. If possible, train them or move them into positions that match their skill set, they will feel happier and perform better. Encourage peer learning, share examples of good and bad practice and be prepared to learn from them.
Community – Not just the workplace community, but the community around you. Be seen to be actively engaged, take an interest and participate in community events. Here are a few ideas to start you off. The feel-good factor for the team is a side-effect, this is on top of profile raising and developing a fan base of supporters for the business.
Environment – Create environment champions – People with knowledge, training and decision making power. Look at the environmental impact your workplace is having and reduce, reuse, recycle. Many small and large changes are easy to implement, some are less easy but possible with effort. We all know by now, but knowing and doing are separate things. Individuals and businesses have a moral duty to care for the planet. Imagine how good you’ll all feel knowing you are doing good, not causing harm. Here are a few ideas to be going along with.
Supporting small businesses is what I do, it comes as part of the package. I want the businesses I work with to succeed so I happily invest my time and energies into making your business as good as it can be. Have a look here for a list of my services.