Lockdown easing: a tentative return to the gym

Lockdown is easing in the UK and more venues are opening up to welcome back customers, like restaurants, cinemas and gyms. Personally I’m over the moon, but equally tentative.

My hometown has seen an increase in the Indian variant so there is enhanced testing, and a Coronavirus vaccination mobile unit giving out jabs to over 40s in the town centre.

Is it safe to use the gym?

The conditions in the gym are good as far as I’m concerned. People are more respectful of personal space, which was sometimes a problem, when gyms were crowded before Coronavirus. I like my personal space when I workout.

Everyone seems more mindful of keeping the equipment clean too; more mindful than before. With the booking system my gym has introduced, it should help avoid any overcrowding. Personally, I’m quite happy so far with the new arrangements and measures my gym has taken, and I do feel safe.

Having said that, there is a studio room adjacent to the gym with hardly anyone in there. That’s where you’ll find me, cleaning everything I use to within an inch of it’s life, and keeping my distance – just in case. I could be a carrier with no symptoms, for example.

Yoga video

It felt really good to have some space to practice my yoga workout, instead of indoors at home, like in lockdown conditions. Here’s a short video.

A yoga video

Yoga video

I have been doing less Yoga, and walking a lot more outdoors instead, but even I am sick of this rotten bad weather we’ve had lately in the UK.

Here is a Yoga video from my birthday the other day. It’s motivating me to get back on the mat. I’m also volunteering with a local charity called Volunteering Matters, as a Health Champion. I’ll be helping local people get back into exercise following lockdown with local council-run opportunities.

Yoga, thankfully, can be done at home if you have the space, and it’s a good time to start again while the rain persists outdoors.

Yoga video

A good laugh at the weekend

I’m listening to Comedy Club (Series 7) by Daliso Chaponda, Lauren Pattison, Tom Stade, Joe Sutherland, narrated by on my Audible app. Try Audible and get it here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd?asin=B087D5L584&source_code=ASSORAP0511160006

I’ve just been listening to this comedy podcast and thought I’d share it because the weather is rubbish and maybe you could use a laugh like me.

With Audible, your first listen is free, then you can purchase a subscription for £7.99 for one free book or podcast per month. I am not an Audible Affiliate marketer, although maybe I should be!

Book review: ‘Chavs’ by Owen Jones is pure class

Owen Jones is a leftist Labour Party activist, and journalist.

Owen Jones debunks stereotypes in “Chavs”

“Chavs” was first published in 2011 following a Labour defeat and the formation of a government coalition between The Conservatives and The Liberal Democrats.

The book gives a refreshing insight into the demonisation of working class people to reductive stereotypes of layabout, troublemaking “chav” or “chavette,” and he does it really well, with a mountain of convincing evidence.

He also calls on all working people to unite and seek better conditions for us all, and not the *race to the bottom* of who can do the job for the least amount of money.

Working class stereotypes and the law

Income isn’t a protected characteristic, therefore if you are discriminated against for a low income, you do not have the same protections in law as someone with a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, marital status, or disability. 

Stereotypes in the press

Owen Jones compares the treatment by the press of Sharon Matthews with Madeline McCann, two international news stories of families whose children went missing

He argues that the Shannon Matthews case resulted in a whole “underclass” of people being stigmatised and tarred with the same brush as the working class mother who lied to the press. At that time, TV shows like Jeremy Kyle and Benefits Street set out to pillory and demonise the people who don’t work. Jeremy Kyle was later taken off air after a guest on the show took his own life.

On yer bike

The book contains a comprehensive history of the miners strike in the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher’s defeat of the miners strike, and other Conservative policies, undermined the power of the unions in the UK, and their policies destroyed many good employment opportunities besides mining, for the working classes, such as manufacturing. He offers a great summary of what went down and how it still impacts British society today.

You’ve only got yourself to blame

Criticising working-class people is politically useful for a Conservative-led government determined to drive through cuts that will disproportionately hurt the same group. Some of the first programmes to face the axe after the 2010 general election included free school meals and help for the young unemployed

Owen Jones, Chavs

Today’s working classes often work in low-paid, temporary positions, making homeownership more difficult, plus there’s a significant lack of affordable social housing, or affordable private rental accommodation.

The pernicious idea you are responsible for your own success if you have aspirations for better should be challenged. Along the lines of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, a Conservative mantra, or, assuming working class people have no aspirations to begin with.

A doctrine of personal responsibility is applied to a whole range of social problems affecting certain working-class communities – whether it be poverty, unemployment or crime. In Broken Britain, the victims have only themselves to blame.

Owen Jones, Chavs

It removes the responsibility off the government to do something about the challenges good people face.

A new movement

Like many Labour Party members these days, Owen Jones has a lot of legitimate complaints about Tony Blair’s New Labour, that was even praised by Margaret Thatcher for a perceived shift to the right.

Now we need a new vision, to unite as workers and guardians of the Earth, a future of green jobs seems to be the way ahead.

Class politics with a green tinge.

Owen Jones, Chavs

I work in marketing but I haven’t worked for a while following illness. I recently phoned a care agency and offered my services. The helpful lady I spoke to explained the reasons for the low pay because it isn’t ‘skilled’ work, even though it involves driving to multiple appointments, and she said “well anyone can care can’t they?”

No, they really, really can’t.

Owen Jones calls for *all* working people to use our combined influence to pressure for better employment rights and for a new and fairer society.

Perhaps a new society based around people’s needs rather than private profit.

Owen Jones, Chavs

Here are some memes I made up for the 24-hour-Labour-party-people, if you’re interested. Credit to The Economist for the Red/White design- I’m not a designer!

Copywriter: What is Tone of Voice in Marketing?

Just like music and colours, words can have different tones, and qualities.

Tone of voice, it’s the *way* you say it.

Don’t take that tone of voice with me

*Don’t you speak to me with that tone of voice* sounds like a parent chastising a child, but tone of voice is essential to marketing, and a consistent tone of voice across channels keeps you on brand.

The tone of voice is the “quality” of the way the words “feel”, so it helps to speak the words and understand context, to understand TOV. 

Words to describe tone of voice

Examples include; warm and cold tones, brash and loud, angry, calm, patronising, sympathetic, empathetic, vehement, old-fashioned, colloquial, friendly, formal, polite, rude, impatient, fun, and even Dickensian – what the Dickens do you mean, Sir? 

Examples of tone of voice

TOV may be communicated with adverbs.

 e.g. “Sit down” she said, *angrily*

“Bottoms up”, he winked, *playfully*

Now, compare and contrast the “feel” of the next paragraph with the second paragraph.

“Judge Kerrigan is bored by the pedestrian advocacy of a twenty-something upstart apparently channelling an unholy trinity of the Jeremies Paxman, Clarkson and Kyle as they superciliously showboat their intellectual advantage over the bewildered Mr Tuttle.”

The Secret Barrister, Stories of the Law and how it’s Broken

“In hindsight, intentionally making terrible tea could legitimately rank as the highlight of my dull, dreary days in the corporate world.”

James Smith, Not a Life Coach

Both are written with formal vocabulary and use humour, but which one “feels” friendlier, warmer, less formal in tone?

Now let’s compare two email extracts.

“Not-so-short shorts. The wardrobe must-have to instantly add casual cool to your look this season. Choose from our range of versatile & stylish shorts to find your new transitional dressing hero.”

H&M marketing email

Here the tone is salesy, friendly and informal, for a young fashion brand. It features a CTA to browse shorts on the online shop. 

Now compare that to this email copy:

“We stand with refugees. Dear Lucy, You may be following recent developments regarding proposed changes to UK asylum policy. In particular, the plans would see asylum-seekers treated differently depending on how they arrive in the UK.”

UNHCR marketing email, the UN Refugee Agency

The tone of this copy “feels” more formal, and urgent, and serious, because it is. The refugee crisis in Europe and the UK is catastrophic and a shame for so many people. This email features a CTA to read a Q&A about UK asylum.

Brand guidelines

A tone of voice document is an integral part of any marketing brand guidelines and strategy. A copywriter should work with the brand manager to set clear guidelines for TOV on all touch points to ensure a company speaks to customers in the right way.

For everyone who doesn’t work in marketing, tone of voice is about being sensitive to the subject matter and knowing your audience.

What does a Copywriter do?

A copywriter is a professional writer who writes promotional literature for clients.

Writing inspiration can happen anywhere

This ranges from writing a tag line you see on a billboard, to TV or radio advert scripts, to blogs and websites, tweets and Facebook campaigns, brochures, Google Ads, leaflets you get in the post, the writing on the back of a crisp packet, to the letter from your bank manager congratulating you on the purchase of your first property.

Copywriters write anything and everything they are asked to by their clients! 

It’s not the kind of job where you can hide away doing nothing, because in a way, you are creating something each day, like a blacksmith or carpenter, only your tools are words.

What is a content mill?

A content mill is a slang word for a workplace where content writers’ productivity is measured against KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – say, how many unique articles you can write in a day.

Content mills lack spinning jennies, but they can contain huge amounts of ennui. Some people refer to them as sausage factories because of the production line nature of content mills.

What is an SEO Copywriter?

A Search Engine Optimisation copywriter writes with the specific goal of improving the search engine ranking of their client.

Keywords are the best tool for an SEO Copywriter, along with writing targeted meta tags and meta descriptions with a CTA -Call To Action or command.

Your keywords will relate to your niche, and the more targeted your niche, the better chance you have of doing well in the search engine results page – SERP- against your niche competitors.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research can help you to write targeted copy for your audience.

Think about keywords you want to rank well for in the search engine, then research what people interested in your topic are querying Google about. Your keywords should be around your specialist knowledge or niche. Then check for how these words are performing on GoogleTrends.

For example, I’m a Copywriter and my blog is about reading and writing, with some extras thrown in. On Google Trends, if I take the word Copywriter, here’s what I get:

What do the pictures mean?

The first image shows the majority of searches for ‘Copywriter’ are in England.

The third picture shows related topics and it’s very interesting to see a 400% increase in searches for ‘What does a Copywriter do?’

This seems like a natural choice for the title of my blog post!

What do Advertising Agency Copywriters do?

An advertising agency copywriter works for an agency and may have dozens of clients they write for. This is where your MadMen (TV series) earned their stripes in the 1950s, although modern workplaces are very different! Essentially, an advertising agency copywriter writes for their agency’s clients.

Did you know you don’t need to work in an advertising agency to be a Copywriter? If you want to work in advertising, many companies and charities hire writers in-house and do not outsource that work to agencies. If you do work in-house, it helps to have other general marketing skills such as social media and Google Analytics.

Copywriter Certification or Courses

Yes, there are certificates and qualifications available for Copywriting, but academic smarts can only help you so much. You do not need a degree to be a Copywriter, although my Degree in English Language & Literature has helped.

Some knowledge and experience of advertising and marketing can help, but ultimately, you need to be a do-er and produce written content, daily. I think the only qualifications you need are a decent standard of writing in your chosen language, preferably as your first language, and a willingness to research new topics and write about them- within a limited time frame, or ‘to deadline’ as it’s called.

What do copywriters do? They write whatever it takes to meet the brief and delight the client. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s to post lockdown hairdos!

Artists impression

Things are opening up in my hometown so I treated myself to a hair cut and threading. Here’s an artists impression of before and after. Cameras should not be allowed in our hair salons, like our courtrooms, to protect the innocence of whoever needs a haircut.

The threading was painful but it was worth it because now my eyebrows are even instead of the Roger Moore I had going on after plucking them myself.

On a serious note, having my haircut and sitting in front of a mirror while it’s done makes me uncomfortable, so the one I went to today did a dry cut, and I was in and out within half an hour- bliss for anyone with anxiety. I can’t believe I used to spend hours having highlights, although didn’t we all in the 90s? A dry haircut is also cheaper, useful following a tight few months.

Here’s to everyone’s post pandemic hairdos! I hope they turn out better than you expected.

Vegan recipe: I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling mushroom soup

After a long walk this morning with the overcast sky, I felt like something warm and nutritious to warm me up again. Here’s a simple mushroom soup recipe and method:

You’ll need: Button mushrooms, 1 clove of garlic, 1 vegetable stock cube in a pint of water, 1 or 2 portions of rice noodles, soy sauce, 1 lime , plus optional chilli sauce.

My mushrooms were 22p reduced; I hate to see food go to waste so I bought them and made up this recipe.

Gently fry one chopped garlic clove for 60 seconds, then add your mushrooms and turn up the heat. Fry your mushrooms until they are nicely browned.

Browned mushrooms in a pan

Next, take your pan off the heat and add the pint of stock water to the frying pan. Return the pan to the heat and allow to simmer.

Stock simmering in the pan

Then, add your rice noodle nest- one per person.

Allow your noodles to simmer for 5 minutes.

Now, add soy sauce to taste. If you want to go for the hot and sour route, you could add chilli flakes of chilli sauce at this point, along with the juice of a lime, or I’ve used mango chutney before and that worked well too.

Today I just added soy sauce.

Now dish up! I hope you enjoy a warm bowl of mushroom noodle soup on an overcast day.

Copywriter: What is a great omnichannel experience as a customer?

Does your product meet the hype?

What is an omnichannel experience?

This is supposed to be a seamless experience between any touch points you have with a company or brand. By touch points, it may be a billboard, a radio advertisement, a visit to a bricks and mortar store, a phone call to customer services or a tweet.

Across all of these touch points, or places you interact with a brand, your experience should be pain-free and consistent across all channels. A bad experience at any point in your customer journey could result in you dropping out of the sales funnel.

Consequences of a bad omnichannel experience

So you may decide not to make a purchase, or you may decide after you have made a purchase that you don’t want to make another one, or you may even complain on social media. Given word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, companies are keen to give you a great experience with a brand from start to finish of your purchase, in the hope of turning you into a repeat customer. 

Examples of good omnichannel experiences

This specialist marketing site goes into more of the theory of omnichannel experiences, but you can skip through that if you wish, to reach the examples of great omnichannel experiences such as Disney and TopShop.

In essence, you are looking for companies that provide a seamless experience across: 

  • Websites and online content that works across mobile, tablet and laptop technology
  • Responsive online content
  • A variety of online content e.g, LEGO is practically a multimedia company these days that happens to sell plastic building blocks. Such is the level of great content offered on their site including online gamification, avatars and even a multiplex cinematic experience. Or as people outside of marketing say, a film. 
  • Excellent standards of customer service that is also on message and even tracking the source of the original touch point- i.e. “where did you hear about us?”

What makes a great omnichannel experience in my experience?

Here is an example from my own experiences.

I wanted to buy a book, so I chose an author I’ve seen on Twitter, and who I’ve read about in the press online. This author is a comedian, and well known public figure. Therefore, they have social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and it’s possible to interact with their content, and even the comedian himself, on these platforms.

Having checked the reviews on Google, Audible and in the press, and from the content I had seen them produce on social media, I decided to buy their book.

Their social media links to their website with links to more online content and where to buy the book, and other content. I bought the book this way, from their recommended retailer, although second hand options were available on Amazon, but I personally believe the money should go directly to the author.

I read the book, enjoyed it, and so I wrote a review on my blog. I tweeted my positive review and @theauthor, who then responded by saying thank you and sharing my review with their followers and publisher. 

Overall my experience was very good, and I have already made another purchase. Overall, I’d say this is a good omnichannel experience, because at each point I interacted with the brand, ie the author’s public persona, I had a positive experience.

An author who appreciated my good review of his book

How can marketers provide a good omnichannel channel experience?

In the corporate world, key departments need to work cross departmently to ensure everyone is on message for a campaign:

  • Customer Service
  • Communications PR and Internal Comms
  • Product
  • Marketing
  • Bricks and Mortar outlets

Internal Comms can brief everyone on a campaign and in my experience, you need buy in from all departments for the big vision of the campaign, so they can sell it with passion and hopefully, some love.