Monday, 24 June 2013

Business analogies, dangerous muffins and boyfriends with roses

A weird and wonderful thing has happened in my garden and it struck me as a good analogy of my business.  The spindly peach rose bush that I replanted in the hope that it might revive itself, has spread, strengthened and flourished – and… changed colour!  It is so beautiful that I actually stop working to stare out of the window and give myself a little clap for being so horticulturally clever.  Even if only by pure accident.

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These are my favourite roses

When I was Brian’s girlfriend he spent his summers in Wisbech working on a rose farm.  I thought it was funny at the time but he loved grafting those flowers; I had no idea what he was talking about, but now I understand.  Cut coloured buds are stuck onto different twigs so they can produce a sort of hybrid rose.  In my case, the original white flower was supressed in favour of the newly crafted peach one.

Well, roses need care.  Just like a business venture, you have to tend them with love, cultivate them and get rid of dead wood to encourage new growth.  If you fail to look after the bush, it can die or suckers can spring forth.  Most people chop off the suckers.  By replanting my rose then leaving it alone, the suckers actually overtook the main plant and, stemming from the original flower, they bloomed white – stronger and healthier than the peachy flower that had so tempted me in Costco.  (By the way, friends also need care, and I forgot to wish Brian happy birthday last week; hope you had a lovely day!)

I love business analogies.  This one shows that if we don’t devote the time and effort we should to our main products and services, suckers can wind their way through to change the focus of what we do.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It does reflect my business in a good way!  Circumstances meant that I neglected my plain English training for a while, allowing the social media strand to take over.  It turned out to be a fantastic thing.  That side of the business is flourishing beautifully and, just as there’s room in my garden for all colour roses, there’s capacity in my organisation for all types of training.

So I made a point of running a Plain English workshop last week.  As advertised, I took some home-made baking for the delegates.  Instead of my usual blueberry muffins I tried my hand at Nutella brownies, from a recipe someone posted on Facebook a Imaginative Training social media blog | WeekendWitchcouple of weeks ago.  I do make a point of telling people that I have no health and safety or food hygiene certificates, so when I was recently invited along to a business networking group at London Bridge, my invitation stated “bring your dangerous muffins.” It made me laugh.  (Those people are still alive!)  I’ll be offering more plain English workshops soon, muffins included!

You may have noticed that I finally have a favicon (the little icon on your Internet browser tab).  Huge thanks to Wumni, the fabulous graphic designer who heads up WeCreateMedia.  She very kindly set it up for me at the weekend after I’d spent many hours trying to do it myself and before I threw my laptop into my 1930’s deco fireplace in frustration!!  Wumni and I co-presented a workshop for start-up businesses last year; she spoke about corporate branding and I covered social media.  Together we helped set twenty emerging entrepreneurs on the road to brilliant web visibility – I love that!

Let me know if you’d like to run an in-house workshop.  Some learning, fun and a muffin will surely brighten up this dull grey summer.  ‘The more I get of you the stranger it feels; now that your rose is in bloom. A light hits the gloom on the gray.’  You can always find me here, sometimes working, sometimes picking flowers: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Corporate branding, inappropriate behaviour and following the dream


A weird thing came over me on Tuesday: I had a sudden urge to clear out my wardrobes in the middle of my working day.  Trancelike, I climbed the stairs.  Then, like a woman possessed, I began a three hour tirade of climbing up and down the step ladder and chucking stuff around the room.  Amongst the treasures I recovered from the wardrobe tops was a bag of Steven’s old press cuttings.

Imaginative Training | Social Media BlogI married a child actor thinking I’d live the celebrity lifestyle.  Of course, he wasn’t a child when we met – behaves like it sometimes though!  (Oh, I am going to be in trouble…)  I posted the press cuttings on Facebook to an incredible response.  If only he’s carried on down that path…
The roads we choose in life are rarely the ones we imagine setting out on.  We begin our journey then have to make decisions at every fork or crossroads.  It was a course of snap judgements that led me away from my place at art college and, more recently, into social media consulting.

But the art dream is still there.  I’m taking part in two art exhibitions later this year with Martyn and, although I’m writing poetry to complement his paintings, my desire to be more creative is growing and I’m determined to follow that dream (one day!).  I tweet a lot about design and one of my favourite recent retweets was a branding colour chart showing corporate logos and the meanings of their colour choices.

Imaginative Training | Social Media blogI really should have purple branding – it’s the colour of imagination, creativity and good witchcraft!  Also of Cadbury’s…  And, I did, in fact, have a purple logo for fifteen years!! I only changed it last year when I created my current website, changing it then to turquoise.  This greeny-blue shade is the colour of trust and strength, bordering on the floaty hues of peace.

The lovely dress

Interestingly, a glance at my iPhone shows almost all my most used social media icons are blue: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, WordPress, Dropbox, Mailchimp.  So that’s ok.  It makes sense that someone who trains people to use social media effectively would also be blue.  But that’s not why I chose it.  For those of you who’ve joined me in the past year, I previously had a photo on my homepage wearing a turquoise evening dress… I simply worked the colourway around that.  No sophisticated creative concepts, just me and a dress I love!

But then again, clearing out my wardrobe proved that I have ten purple dresses!!  I also have a purple Pinterest page… So I do feel like I should go back to purple branding now…. What do you think?  I wore purple for one of my trips into London this week.  It was the hottest day of the week and the tube was sweltering.  It never ceases to amaze me that a country that limits the number of people in nightclubs for health and safety reasons, allows almost four million people a day to squash into little metal carriages with soaring temperatures and a lack of oxygen, to be plummeted up to 220 feet below street level.  It’s a disaster waiting to happen.  Again.

Anyway, on this particular purple day, the woman opposite me was indiscreetly breastfeeding and the man next to me started touching himself.  Nice.  Inappropriate behaviour always makes an interesting start to the day.   The king of purple says, “Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing; it’s time we all reach out for something new – that means you too.”  If you’re reaching for something new (not on the train!), let me help you promote it – social media marketing that gets your business noticed.  Ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Social media games, outrageous fashion and an obsession with A Clockwork Orange


David Bowie Is… truly amazing!  You probably already know that I’m a huge Bowie fan as I’ve borrowed his lyrics a few times, so I expected to enjoy the exhibition at the V&A.  But I wasn’t prepared to be so completely blown away.  The dynamic and comprehensive display of artwork was superb, without even beginning to think about the music, videos and film media.  I had no idea that he was such an accomplished artist, and his impressive array of paintings gave me plenty to gasp at.
Imaginative Training social media blogArtistic examples spanning school to drug rehab period in Berlin, stage designs and page doodles show clearly the road not taken.   Had he not come from a musical family he could, perhaps, have become London’s answer to Andy Warhol.  And, in fact, it was interesting to learn about his fragile relationship with Warhol, as well as his obsession with Clockwork Orange.  (Brian recommended that book to me in 1985 and I still haven’t read it.)

I loved the original album cover artwork, the lyrics scribbled on pages torn from school-type A4 notepads and graph paper, and the many references to those who provided his inspiration. I was impressed with his total control over his ‘brand,’ art direction and attention to detail.  But mostly, I loved the incredible costumes.

On leaving the V&A and Bowie’s zany colours and outrageous garments, I headed to Earl’s Court for the Graduate Fashion Week’s gala fashion show – full of zany colours and outrageous garments!  One of my clients is a sponsor for GFW so we had super dooper catwalk seats behind Zandra Rhodes and a free pass for exclusive areas, complimentary champagne and white chocolate and raspberry organic ice cream…

My client provides strategic business Imaginative Training social media blogadvice to emerging fashion designers and helps them to create viable enterprises that don’t compromise their creativity.  He gets a great reception when he lectures, but this time the guest speaker outshone us all.  Victoria Beckham definitely attracted the highest number of students in her session on developing a fashion label.  Huge congratulations to the catwalk winners, especially Lauren Smith, whose dreamlike appliqué and paper clip designs waltzed her away with a £20,000 cheque and a contract to design a capsule range for George at Asda.

But not congratulations to Facebook! Two weeks after the social media platform updated its Scrabble app there has been nothing but complaints and upset.  My three years of accruing high and higher scores wiped out in one sweep.  My top scores – a 583 point game and highest word score: upstater, covering two triple word tiles: vanished.  All I read on Facebook for the first few days after the scrabble annihilation was people questioning why?  “If it ain’t broke…”

You may recall me telling you about exploits with Naked Scrabble Buddy (not those sort of exploits!!) but actually, it’s more than that.  As with any social media, I have secured business over the little green squares by developing a relationship with potential clients.  Social media games that allow you to interact and build relationships are valuable in any number of ways – one being business.  Another being straightforward friendship, of course – I built my friendship with the Cake Lady over the Facebook scrabble board and she is celebrating right now as I’m typing this… so, happy birthday Sharon!

Of course I should end this with David Bowie’s Fashion (turn to the left…) but I’ve used those lyrics twice already.  So instead, ‘While colour lights up your face… let’s sway – sway through the crowd to an empty space.  If you say run, I’ll run with you; if you say hide, we’ll hide.’  And if you say “please can you teach me how to use social media to market my business more effectively?” I’ll say: “Sure.”  We can chat about it here: @weekendWitch.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Casino copywriting, collaborative poetry and disco queen of the airwaves (not)

I don’t normally mention things I’ve watched on TV, but I loved the documentary on Now – that’s what I call music! Didn’t know it was Richard Branson’s baby but I remember so clearly sipping malibu and pineapple at The Clachan in Carnaby Street as Maz unwrapped the first cassette. Brian Dilly bought it for her birthday – he’s vanished into the mists of time so who knows whether he’s still dancing to Men Without Hats??
Reading through the playlist evokes so many memories (some probably best forgotten…) Getting off with Mike to Paul Young at the Ilford Palais (never good to kiss a colleague!), Marion knowing someone who knew Howard Jones, breathing the dopey air watching UB40 at the Hammersmith Palais, dancing in the bedroom to Human League (still do that!), smiling into my John Taylor mirror and pretending it was our wedding photo…
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I was 18 then – and yesterday my youngest son turned 18. That’s weird. We celebrated with a fantastic night of dinner and play at the Grosvenor Casino in Gloucester Road where my networking friend Nina hosted an evening of total fun and laughter. Maybe not the most responsible family activity, but everyone had such a good time. We had lessons in Roulette and Blackjack – I managed to play without spilling my bubbly – followed by a perfect meal, then more playing. I definitely recommend it for a great night out in London. I met Nina last year through Biscotti networking mornings at the casino, and my regular-ish attendance has secured a fair amount of business – both social media training and copywriting.
My copywriting work has also landed me at the feet of a group of creative people, and I’m proud to announce that my poetry will be featured in two collaborative art exhibitions later this year! On Tuesday, I trotted along to the Mulberry Bush pub in Southbank with Martyn where we met a handful of extremely talented artists. Together, we will create a gallery full of street art, mosaics, sculpture, painting and poetry. Martyn’s painted a picture about people misbehaving and I’ll be supplying the words. I’m so excited about this – exhibiting, collaborating and working with such a great bunch of gifted and inspired artists. I’ve wanted to exhibit something, somewhere since I was about 13!!
And while we’re talking about being 13… You may have heard that a Jewish boy’s Bar Mitzvah is at age 13 – most people would get that right in a pub quiz. But fewer people are aware that this celebration recurs every seventy years – a sort of rebirth, if you like. So when a Jewish man reaches the healthy age of 83 it’s definitely cause to pop open the bubbly! And it was so lovely to celebrate Carol’s dad’s special day. Friends and family gathered to share his achievement in reaching a ripe old age; long may he continue enjoying life!
Social media blogThanks for all the comments about my second radio appearance this week, chatting to Penny Smith on BBC Radion London. No, I wasn’t tempted to sing. And yes, next time I’ll try to actually answer the questions the interviewer poses rather than something else on my mind.
As disco queen Donna says, “It made me feel proud when I heard him say: You couldn’t find the words to say it yourself. And now in my heart I know I can say what I really feel… ’cause they said it really loud, they said it on the air, on the radio whoa oh oh…“
If you can’t find the words to say it yourself, I’ll happily find them for you. Copywriting, tweeting, telling the world what you do…. Ask me here: @WeekendWitch.