Monthly Archives: June 2010

Cool Writing:Swedish style

Sweden is so cool right now.

I don’t know if it’s the popularity of the Stieg Larsson books but Scandinavian style is having a moment. I’m thinking about fresh air, water, blond wood, minimalist style and coffee. There’s got to be coffee, it’s on every page of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and it usually comes out of an expensive machine.

I’m not saying this is the whole thing. I mean, what about Abba and Billy bookshelves and Volvos and Ulrika Jonsson?

But in general the nation’s branding is “cool”.

My favourite beauty product at the moment is a foot cream called CCS and it is inevitably Swedish. It comes in a minimalist tube which is white with blue lettering. There are very few words on the packaging but one of them is “professional”.

I like this; economy matched by style. The perfect word in an uncluttered setting.

So what can you and I observe from all this to make our lives and work better? I could prescribe the wearing of  Swedish clogs forthwith and the purchase of a summer cabin but I will have to restrain myself.

Here are 6 words I will apply to my writing to make it more Swedish.

Stylish, uncluttered,functional and to the point.

A Blog By Any Other Name

My favourite blogger right now is the broadcaster Jane Garvey.

The trouble is, she doesn’t have a blog.

What she does do is contribute to the Woman’s Hour newsletter, a subscription only affair which is sent out weekly by the BBC Radio 4 programme of the same name.

Now Jane has never read Copyblogger or Men with Pens or any of the other blogs I subscribe to. The thing with Jane is, that she is a natural communicator.

Her blog, sorry, newsletter, takes us into a world beyond the broadcasting studio where the content can be a little formal, and introduces us to her life at home. It is a genuinely hilarious and fascinating take on life’s minutiae.

Nothing is too small to pass her notice and so she defuses any notion that she is a grande damme of broadcasting, sitting in a wing-backed chair reading Mrs Humphrey Ward.

Take this recent example;

In my constant pursuit of domestic perfection, I’ve just bought a product guaranteed to unblock all my household plugholes. It was emblazoned with the message “Plugholes need love too!” So if you haven’t got enough on your personal plate, pop upstairs, bend down, and spend a bit of quality time with your plug-hole. It’s so easy to take them for granted, isn’t it?

I am very familiar with Jane’s home life but this kind of thing has me in stitches every time. Maybe I just like to know that she is well and getting on with life, a bit like my mother when I used to be on the radio. But I do think there is more to it than that.

We can all recognise ourselves in the details of her life and therefore make a connection. Her absurd delight in unblocking a sink adds value that you would never get simply from listening to her programme.

That is exactly what a blog should do, add an extra dimension, inviting readers to enjoy exclusive content that they would not get anywhere else.

So I will persist in naming Jane Garvey my favourite blogger, even though she doesn’t have a blog.

I’m 100; don’t give up the day blog

So here it is, the 100th post on Lucy Thorpe’s blog!

I am thrilled that I have stayed the course and can now take up my colours as a pro blogger.

How shall I celebrate?

Well to be honest, I’m far too busy to do anything other than just keep on keeping on with the mountain of work that’s come my way recently.

The brilliant truth is that a blog really does work. Not everyone who wants to works with me reads my blog, but the blog acts as a hub for my business. The mere fact that is exists shows that I have ideas on a range of topics related to the field of press, public relations,marketing and journalism.

I may have down-played the voice over side of what I do, yet just today I was working on an exciting concept album with a musician whose wife I met on Twitter. I play the Richard Burton part in his War of the Worlds-style project! I might even post up a link when it’s finished.   

So if you’re thinking of starting out with social media or you are on the verge of abandoning it as a bad job – don’t. When I think of all the people I’m going to call upon to complete my next work project, 50 percent of them are existing friends and the rest are new friends I’ve met on Twitter.

In a few hours time I’ll declare it wine o’clock and put my feet up. I will be raising my glass to you because without your continued support I wouldn’t have made it.

Cheers!

5 Things I Learned From Taking Time Out

Sitting down at the computer after a few days in the Spanish sun, my head is not exactly in the zone. I hadn’t yet tired of long lunches, relaxed chat and endless reading, thanks.

But as I log in and begin to wade through the e-mails making a to-do list as I go, I am struck by a few simple truths. Some might help me to be more efficient and some just make me feel better about life.

Here they are :- 

  1. A really useful blog post stands out a mile when there are hundreds to skim read. This post from Nikki Pilkington via Chris Brogan really grabbed me. If advanced tips for twitter is what you want then that is what you will get here.
  2. Too much of my e-mail is advertising from companies I no longer have any interest in. Getting rid of them is now on my to-do list.
  3. Google Alerts, which keep an eye on your brand,throw up a lot of rubbish sometimes; old Twitter messages and mentions of people with the same name can be quite annoying.
  4. The blogs you receive via your e-mail don’t look very attractive stripped of their art work and photos but by the same token a stuffed RSS feed is a scary looking place – shut the door and back away slowly.
  5. Even Seth Godin has off days.

So, let normal service resume. Have you learned anything useful from taking time out?

The Art of Brevity

Keeping it short and to the point is something we all need reminding of now and again.

Our local headmaster is guilty of sending out e-mails so wordy that I often hit delete long before he’s got to the crux of the matter.

E-mails, like CVs should fit onto one side of A4

I asked a business leader of my acquaintance the other day, what was the most useful thing I, as an ex BBC journalist, could teach his staff ?

“How to keep it short”, he replied.

The BBC Radio 1 news programme “Newsbeat” expects all its reporters to do this. Their reports last no more than a minute and a half. This apparently reflects the attention span of their audience but it’s no bad thing.

You would think such brevity was a cop-out but it’s actually much harder to do well. There’s no room for fat, the piece has to be reduced to its essentials and the writing must be sharp.

There are lessons here for all areas of what we do.

Ask anyone on Twitter whether brevity is an art form?

Can You Get Publicity For Good Customer Service?

Examples of bad customer service make headlines.

We followed the misery of customers trapped underground on a Eurostar train with horror and trembled with rage and indignation when a breast-feeding woman was thrown off a bus.

Because poor customer service makes good copy.

This is bad news if you are a small business hoping to pick up some good publicity for your customer service. People expect to be treated well and only take it to the papers when things go horribly wrong.

But don’t despair. If you have done something really outstanding for your clients there is only one way to get the recognition you desire.

Tell people about it.

Without word of mouth and a great press release no-one is going to know that you saved someone’s life after they collapsed in your shop or that you re-united a long-lost mother and son after you noticed their surnames were the same.

Opportunities for good publicity will not always seem that obvious and  often come out of the blue. It is up to you to play the hand you are dealt to your own advantage.

Here is an example of something that did not go well.

When bad snow came to the south of England in December, my daughter found herself stranded in a town ten miles away at an ice skating party. Mothers who had  set off  up the motorway to  get them became stuck in heavy snow. It became apparent the children were going to have to stay the night.

The adults in charge took the school kids to a local hotel. It was snowing hard and it was just days before Christmas. They asked for a room, but there were none.

At this point, from my position at home on the other end of the phone ( frantic with worry though I was), I considered calling up the local BBC radio station. Having worked in local radio I could see an outside broadcast live from the hotel with the school-girls who were stranded overnight. What a great human interest segment in the inevitable round-up of snow related stories.)

But, as news reached me of their treatment by the hotel I was rather glad I hadn’t made the call.

They were not very sympathetic to the kids despite rising hysteria and were going to charge a princely sum to feed them with burgers. They just about tolerated them sitting in the lobby and I think a blanket may have been found.

But what a wasted opportunity. They could have pulled out all the stops and garnered great publicity for the way they rescued the stranded children in this modern-day Christmas tale.

In the end there was a hero, you will be glad to know. A man decided to take his chances with the snow and headed off into the night, leaving our group his hotel key. So happy endings after all.

But the hotel? They were dealt a hand and played it badly.

The lesson is; you can get good publicity out of good customer service. But you must have good customer service to start with.

How A Well-written Blog Can Improve Your Customer Service

Imagine being in a relationship where you never meet the other person.

You swap stories and photos, you talk on the phone, but you never get to see their emotions or read their body language.

Can you still connect?

Many businesses never meet their customers, doing everything online, yet they manage to form lifelong bonds persuading them to return again and again.

How do they do this?

For a start, they blog.

Blogging allows you to let the customer into your world where they discover what’s inspired you, where things are heading and how you came up with your signature ideas.

In short, it gives you a chance to deepen your relationship with your client.

A well written blog allows you to extend your customer service beyond the superficial. You don’t just give, you get back via comments and feedback.

If things go wrong your readers are far less likely to bad mouth you if they feel they know you and understand the reasons why the problem arose.

So, while you can’t always look your customer in the eye or shake her warmly by the hand, you can get on the blog and offer her something extra –  you.