Rewarding awards

This summer I’ve been working with a number of clients on awards. From helping them with their applications, to promoting well-deserved nominations and wins.

And that’s the thing with awards; they’re rewarding on so many levels.

Yes, knuckling down to pen a piece about how great a business is and why takes time (and patience!), but it’s worth it.

  • Focus – if you don’t have a business plan before writing, you will afterwards, as award applications are great for focusing the mind on past achievements and future aspirations.
  • Objectives – trying to determine these why running a thriving business can be tough and lost in an already overloaded to-do list. But if you have to commit them to paper for an award application, you’re then committed to them for the long-term.
  • Morale – just being named a finalist can boost team morale 100%, and then if you go on to win it’s stratospheric!
  • Recognition – fundamentally, this is what it’s all about, as third party endorsement what you’re doing is brilliant is all the recognition you need. And this in turn will bring fabulous public relations, media, marketing and business development opportunities to help further grow your business.

So, next time a batch of ‘last chance to enter’ award emails come your way, don’t reach for the delete button as the rewards could make it well worth your while.

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Chancellor’s Budget: balanced and sensible

This week Chancellor George Osborne delivered his sixth and final Budget as part of the current coalition government.

And all in all, it was a relatively balanced and sensible offering.

As a local business owner, what was in it then for the small business community?

  • Abolition of the onerous annual tax return
  • Removing class 2 national insurance for the self-employed
  • Extending small business relief
  • Reviewing business rates
  • Ambitious ultra-broadband plans
  • Cancelling planned fuel duty rises
  • Changes to venture capital trusts and enterprise investment schemes

In his own words, Osborne was sending a clear message about future growth of the UK economy through the country’s many and growing entrepreneurs: “…if you back enterprise, you raise more revenue…”

But a note of caution, with the fast-approaching general election in May, not all of these ideas could become a reality.

As Guildford-based solicitors Barlow Robbins noted: “With polling day just over seven weeks away, Mr Osborne’s sixth Budget was always going to be heavily laced with politics.  Some of the proposals the Chancellor announced may not survive to become legislation depending on the result of the election.”

Indeed.  So while I welcome all of the above, forgive me if I don’t break out the champagne just yet, despite the fact wine duty has been frozen…

Captivating copy – top tips

Writing well is an art not a science; and for those of us who do it for a living, it tends to come naturally and with ease.

Here’s a few of my top tips for captivating copy, which I regularly share with delegates on my training workshops.

Plan: Before you even begin, stop to think why you are writing and who you are writing for.  The objective will channel what you should include and what you shouldn’t.  You should then be in a position to draw up an outline plan of the structure of your content.

Focus: Now you have a plan and are clear on the why and who, stay focused.  Stick to your planned structure and make every word earn its place: if it’s off-message, it’s out.

Content: Keep it simple, avoid jargon, be clear on what you say and what you mean and state your main points upfront – don’t bury them!  In terms of the overall length, keep it tight and don’t overwrite as less is definitely more: quantity does not denote quality, very often the reverse.

Edit: Fresh eyes also bring fresh ideas.  Reread your document, and ask a colleague to also read through as very often how you read what you wrote may not be how they read it.  And finally, proofread for typos and spelling and grammatical errors.

In summary, whatever you write make sure you do it well and get it right.

Skills = success

Every business – large or small, local or global – needs skilled people to drive its success: more so now, than ever before.

And while each employee brings their own core skills to a role, as they progress so too does their need to learn more and broaden that skill set.

The answer?  Training.

As the Department for Work and Pensions notes: An effective workforce is fundamental to a successful organisation.  Good practice includes ensuring that some form of ongoing external training or online training package is provided. 

I run bespoke workshops for organisations keen to teach their people the art of good business communication.  Anything from advanced writing and editing for marketing and business development purposes – e.g. external articles and client bulletins – to effective business writing for everyday use – e.g. email correspondence and proposals.

In today’s e-enabled world, communication via the written word is at an all-time high and growing.  For those who are less adept at conveying their message, this can prove challenging and career limiting.  I find a simple half-day workshop, with top tips and interactive exercises, really can enhance ability, build confidence, and mean the difference between adequate and exceptional.

The power of effective writing should never be underestimated: “Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience.”  Steve Burnett, The Burnett Group.

The whole is greater than the sum

Just a quick blog this month as I’m up to my eyes in work and loving it!

In my capacity as Surrey Chambers of Commerce council member and co-chair of their Business Women in Surrey (BWIS) group, I recently wrote a column for the Surrey Advertiser business page.

Here’s the abridged version…

Earlier this month BWIS held its latest event – Ask the Marketing Panel – organised on the basis of feedback requesting marketing and communications (marcomms) help and advice.

Our impressive panel was made up of marcomms professionals from all walks of the business world, including charity (Rainbow Trust), corporate (Sony) and public sector (Surrey Police).

Interestingly, while the experiences of each where quite different, the overall issues remained much the same: tight budgets; overstretched resources; new versus traditional media.

As a communications professional of 20 years standing, I remember the pre-online world.  Including the days when photos were collected in their hardcopy form from the photographer’s studio and biked to the printers/press room to meet urgent deadlines.  Thank goodness we now have email and JPEG!

However, as wonderful as modern day technology is in all its various guises, it’s important to ensure it adds to and complements other more traditional tools rather than replacing them entirely.  From the traditional (newspaper) to the new-born (Twitter), each plays its own role in the communication chain and each complements rather than replaces the other.

Just as they should in the marcomms world.

By all means embrace Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with gusto, but don’t underestimate the power and effectiveness of magazine and newspaper advertising and editorial or organising face to face meetings and events.

I regularly email, text, tweet and call my clients.  But nothing works better than simply getting together in a room from time to time for a catch up meeting.

Modern day technology provides several slices of the marcomms pie but is not the pie itself. Remember, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

What a year!

This month Claire Dee Communications is celebrating its first birthday.  And what a year it’s been.

Having stepped off the corporate ladder after 11 years working in the City, realising my dream of running my own business was the natural next step to take.

 So I drafted my business plan, calculated my figures and took everything along to an independent business adviser for a sanity check.  Will this work and can I do it I asked?  Absolutely, she replied.

And she was right.

A year on Claire Dee Communications is a successful and profitable business with a broad mix of local and international clients and an established presence in the Surrey business community.

How did we do it?  There’s no secret formula or magic bag of tricks just common sense, hard graft and self belief.

Here are my top three tips: 

  1. Plan – it may sound boring but it is essential.  Know your business inside out on paper before you kick-start anything for real.  If there are flaws or weaknesses it’s best to discover them at the planning stage than further down the line.
  2. Seek advice – and make sure it is independent professional advice.  My husband, mum and circle of friends were hugely supportive but not impartial.  The business adviser was; as was her constructive criticism.
  3. Believe – belief in yourself and your business is the fuel that feeds the fire in your belly.  If you don’t believe why should anyone else?  I love what I do and am passionate about my subject and my clients recognise this and buy into it.