Celebrating The Life Linguistic – Or Just Chatting Shit With Copywriters?

Celebrating The Life Linguistic – Or Just Chatting Shit With Copywriters?

So last week, despite being firmly in the middle of my lovely two week holiday, I strapped on my best copywriting helmet and braved the sodden winds of Bournemouth beach for Copy Cabana. I actually discovered this gem of an event last year – about three days too late for the 2016 event. So I swore to myself I would get tickets the second they went on sale for 2017’s shindig, and thanks to the lovely Vicki Ross, I damn well did.

 

For those of you who aren’t quite as sadly dedicated as I am – Copy Cabana is the name given to the gathering of over 300 copywriters to talk about words. And believe me, the very best words were on display. From the moment the first people sidled through the doors (and were then told off and sent away for being 10 minutes early), the room was buzzing with ideas chatter that could only come out of copywriters.

 

It. Was. Amazing.

 

It was great fun too. I’m really glad I didn’t bother with heavy eye-makeup, because the speakers had me staring wide-eyed in wonder, laughing so hard I was in tears (I’m pretty sure the guy next to me thought I was having a nervous breakdown) and moved to the point of tears. I left feeling inspired, uplifted, and I’m pretty sure I drove my husband mad on the drive home with my excitable chattering. But I also learned some pretty amazing stuff too, and I wanted to share that with you lot. Because you all deserve to learn too! Strap in guys, this is a long one.

Fall in Love With The Devil In The Detail

 

Sarah Topping was the speaker I was most looking forward to seeing at the event, so when they announced that she was up first, I couldn’t contain the excited squeal (again, sorry Andrew!) Sarah Topping has my dream job, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more jealous of a human being. She cut her teeth by waddling through the Puffin/Penguin/Penguin random house offices writing all sorts of exciting and colourful copy. Sarah taught us all about the devil in the details, and how you really do need to put the research work in if you want great results. When creating book blurbs of a few hundred words, Sarah will read the entire book cover to cover, just in case the main character dies in chapter 4. Likewise, when writing anything you should know all of your facts before you start, or else you could write something completely wrong.

 

Seriously people, do your research.

The Robots Are Coming

 

I have never heard such a simultaneously terrified and angry outburst as when Glenn Sturgess and Pete Stephen announced that the robots are coming to steal copywriters jobs. This fantastic and informative talk had us all panicking that in 20 years, AI will be so sophisticated that it can write copy better than us. They even gave us a lovely poem, written by AI:

 

‘But it’s not all doom and gloom!’ they cried. ‘Copywriters just need to adapt!’ So instead of fearing the robots, we should be using their unlimited analytical and pattern recognition to test and improve our own writing (while we still can). In 20 years, we may be calling ourselves digital anthropologists instead of copywriters.

 

Everyone Loves Ice Cream

 

Next up was the most delicious speaker of all – Kerry Thorpe, Communications Lead for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Once I had got over my sudden desire to work at Ben & Jerrys (dogs, picket fence desks and 2 pints of free ice cream a day?!), Kerry revealed to us that that carefully crafted whimsical tone we see plastered over ice cream tubs isn’t all it seems. Instead of being just a clever piece of marketing tone, the teams at Ben & Jerry’s really live and breathe the ethos. Social responsibility, cheeky fun, experimentation and truly amazing ice cream – that’s what they’re all about. Kerry reminded us that companies who truly embrace their identity are the ones that create these standout brands. They do what they love, and it shines through in everything.

Care, And Care Hard 

 

A surprise insertion, the 4th speaker at this illustrious copywriting conference was….

 
A window cleaner.

 

Yes, you read that right. But he was a window cleaner who reminded us that we do our best work when we actually care about our customers. The same goes for any business, any service, anything. Care, and care hard. Or what’s the point?

 

Avoid Going Up Shit Creek

 

These ladies truly amazed me, in part because they run their content marketing school from a pub, and that’s pretty awesome. But they’ve also created some amazing graphics that describe exactly what the content marketing journey is like, and give you a compass to navigate it with. For example, their map of ‘content island’, which needs no follow-up:

 

They encouraged us as copywriters to get a bit more involved in the content strategy element of what we do, and help our clients do the same. Something I fully plan to embrace (watch out clients!) They also provided me with my first favourite quote of the day:

 

Dogs aren’t just for Christmas, and content writers aren’t just for web copy’

Something About Poetry

 

I’ve got to be honest here; there was a chunk of Rishi Dastidar’s section that completely flew over my head for two reasons:

 

  • I have about as much poetic talent as a duck on stilts.
  • Something he said sparked a fire in my brain, and I was scribbling down a children’s story idea so fast I’m surprised my page didn’t catch fire.

 

But in all seriousness, Rishi was great. His points about the creativity of copywriting and poetry (and their similarities), and how as copywriters we should always be trying to mix the magical into our everyday copy, just as poets do.

 

Guide To Wine Writing

 

Our celebrity appearance was Joe Fattorini (he presents The Wine Show on ITV) taught us that subject experts are quite shit at writing about their subject area, because they have the ‘burden of knowledge’. This is something I rabbit on about quite a lot (though I say ‘blinker vision’) and really shows when it comes to wine. Joe regaled us with tales of his days donating wine to the homeless in exchange for ‘real reviews’, and how the ‘fancy’ wine copy is often lying to you (ask me how later). Experts who use posh language to impress their customers rarely do, and instead, you should be looking for the real reasons people use your product if you want good sales. For wine – relaxation and because it’s enjoyable.

 

This spawned my second favourite quote of the day, when he described wine as ‘a wank in a glass’. And no, I’m not explaining that one any further.

 

Care Again

 

I don’t actually have many notes from Karen’s speech, mainly because I was so engrossed in listening to her stories. As the fundraising manager for World Vision UK, she has to reach out and pry money from the hands of privileged Westerners and give it to poor children suffering in the world’s harshest places. All she did was read us some of the letters they send to their supporters – telling the stories of these poor children and how their donations helped. By the end, I was reaching for my wallet too. Emotion might just be the single most important weapon marketing has, and we don’t use it enough.

Tone Of Voice Isn’t Bullshit

 

Remember when I said some of the speakers left me laughing so hard I was crying my eyes out? That was this guy. Every other word out of Nick Parker’s mouth was a mixture of laugh out loud comedy and genuine genius, which made his talk about tone of voice all the more impressive. He shared some fantastic examples of good and bad tone of voice with us, and coined his own names for the 10 tones of voice that provide marketing gurus with the fuel they need. A few of my personal favourites included ‘Ronseal’, ‘Big Friendly Giant’, ‘Playful Children’ and ‘Foolbiscuits’. But more to the point, tone of voice isn’t all bullshit. It’s the hand of Midas that turns your ‘meh’ content into true marketing gold.

Everyone Is Biased

 

Making a complete U-turn, Elle Graham-Dixon made everyone take a good hard look at themselves. With some simple riddle, she exposed the gender bias of everyone in the room, making us all feel like awful human beings. Although she did try to make us feel better by explaining it’s our brains who are lazy and make presumptions, not us. Still, Elle’s half hour segment about bias and stereotypes sent every copywriter in the room away with a new desire to write more inclusively, use insights instead of stereotypes and be the change we want to see. Bravo Elle.

The Art Of Being Interesting

 

Our final speaker of the day was promoted as having written the most expensive marketing book of all time (£3000 a copy), and being an all-round ultimate copy guru. Unfortunately, as a speaker he just wasn’t my cup of tea. No offence to Steve Harrison, but sometimes people don’t gel. Maybe I was getting tired (it was very warm in that seminar room). It’s not you, it’s me. Etc etc.

 

Steve did make some really good points, even if I didn’t connect with him as a speaker. And I know a lot of other copywriters there loved him. He reminded us that we really should be focusing on the problems the end readers of our content have – and not the problems the client who commissioned it has. We shouldn’t be writing content to get the client more sales; we should be trying to solve their customer’s problem. That’s how you generate buzz around a brand and turn passive readers into real-world sales.

 

And that’s it. My first experience of Copy Cabana was inspiring and insightful, and it’s definitely changed the way I think as a copywriter. I can’t wait to see what they have in store next year! (No pressure Vicki and Andy!)

 

Oh, and thanks for sticking with me for nearly 2000 words. I promise the next blog won’t be as long.

7 Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging

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Why?

Why?

This blog is a bit more personal than my usual pieces of advice, so I want to start it properly. So, if you don’t know me, hi! My name is Charlotte and I’ve been a copywriter for nearly 8 years.

I didn’t set out to become a copywriter, quite the opposite. I wanted to be a children’s author. I love children – the excitement and wonder of their imaginations is contagious, and in some ways I think I still channel my own childlike wonder in my own life. I’ve found myself in one of those wonderful positions where I have no children of my own, yet am surrounded by them on a nearly constant basis. If it’s not my 2 young nephews then it’s my small horde of 24 Brownies, who I voluntarily look after for 2 hours every week. The good thing about this is that I can give them all back whenever I want (which is sometimes never). The downside is that a large group of these children will never age. They only stay with me from their 7th birthday to their 10th, and whenever one leaves another pops up to take their place. This means I am permanently surrounded by inquisitive, eager children who are desperate to learn everything about the world around them. Honestly, it’s why I love Girl Guiding.  But I digress, let’s get to the point.

Last week, one of the aforementioned children asked me what I do as a job.

‘I’m a copywriter.’ I said.

‘What’s that?’ she asked, a bit confused.

It means that I spend every day writing stories for people who run businesses.’

‘Oh…Why?’

Any parent reading this probably shuddered at that question. Thankfully at 8 years old, this young girl is past the dreaded ‘why’ stage, and instead was genuinely curious about why people need someone like me to write stories. And it made me realise, I get asked this question every single day. Not by children, but by business owners who are puzzled by what I do. So I wanted to address anyone who doesn’t know what a copywriter does, or why they need one.

What Does A Copywriter Do?

In the broadest sense of the word, copywriters are the people who handle the words of the business world. We help create taglines, direct mailers, annoying jingle lyrics, web page content, email newsletters and basically anything else that helps businesses advertise and promote themselves. But I prefer to think of it as writing brand stories. A good copywriter won’t just assemble a bunch of well-formed sentences into a piece for you. They will take the time to get to know your brand, and weave together a compelling story that encourages people to buy from you. Each and every piece of copy you put out there is another chapter of the story, that when connected with the others creates a narrative readers can understand and connect with. But it takes someone with the right skills and mindset to create that complex, engaging story, and that’s where a copywriter comes in.

Why Do You Need One?

Anyone can pick up a pencil or sit at a keyboard and type words. In that respect, everyone can write. But now everyone can take those words and put them in exactly the right places, with the right tones and partners to create a specific effect – that’s when you become a writer. If you want to make sure your prospects and clients are receiving the right message about your business, you need a copywriter. If you want them to understand your business and services on a deeper level, to feel confident that you are the right choice and trust that you know what you’re doing, you need a copywriter. Hell, if you want to come across as professional you need a copywriter! Copywriters are a critical part of business marketing and can make your investment give a much bigger return, purely because you’re sending out the right message. When all of the big, successful companies out there have copywriters on staff, you should too.

27,000,000 pieces of content are shared online every single day, and the only way to get yours to stand out is by being well crafted, different and unique. A good copywriter can help you understand what makes your business so special, and bring it out in ways you couldn’t even dream of. So, if you’re looking for someone to tell your brand story and make you stand out, find yourself a really good copywriter and don’t let them go. Don’t know any? Well, I’m sure I can help you!

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Cameras, Conversions And Cats – An Interview

Cameras, Conversions And Cats – An Interview

This month we learnt a very important lesson. When being filmed, make sure your cats are out of the room!

Let’s backtrack a bit. Earlier this month we had the amazing opportunity to be interviewed by Karen from The Right Site. Karen is like the Yin to our Yang – we help you attract people to your website, and Karen helps you turn those people into paying customers once they’re there. It’s a match made in heaven, so of course, we have a lot to talk about. She asked me if I would be willing to do a short video interview with her about blogging and how it relates to conversion. It all sounded great to me, and you can see the finished article here.

Rocky Beginnings

Of course, starting is always the hardest part of creating content and that was just a true for in this case. From a cat insisting on being in the frame, the doorbell going, the cat insisting on trying to eat the camera and the phone ringing, everything seemed to be conspiring against us. The second we hit the record button and started talking, something would interrupt and force us to start over. If anything this made the experience better- everyone relaxed and laughed a lot, and it meant the conversation felt more natural. It worked out some of my pre-filming jitters (I’ve never been much of a natural on camera) and by the time the camera was finally rolling I’d almost forgotten it was there.

Don’t Rehearse, But Do Prepare

Contrary to our instincts, it’s actually better not to be thoroughly rehearsed for a video interview. We’ve all seen that one person on TV whose answers are so scripted it might as well be a robot reading them. That’s the danger of rehearsing your answers before the interview. It strips away all of your personality and passion, and while the words might be perfect, the video will come across as a bit flat. Of course, to prevent this, Karen didn’t actually tell me what she was going to ask. ‘Stuff about blogging’ was my brief, and to be honest, this made me much more relaxed about the whole thing. While some questions did catch me off guard a bit, it allowed me to showcase my knowledge by answering them in a natural way.

What I learnt from this experience is –if you know the topic of your interview it’s always best to do a bit of homework, but avoid scripting your answers as much as possible. This means you aren’t likely to be caught out by difficult questions, but your interview will flow much better and be more interesting for your viewers.

Blogging And Conversion

I won’t give away all the secrets from the video, but I can give away a few insights we didn’t have time to cover. A lot of people don’t see the link between blogs and conversion – after all, blogs just sit on your website, and conversion is all about calls to action, follow ups and hard sells, right? Wrong. How many times have you read reviews or guides before you have bought a product? If it’s service, have you looked for references, or asked to see previous work? All of that is part of the buying cycle, and your clients will look to your blog for answers. If you fill your blog with interesting information, industry insights and updates on performance, you are showing your prospects that you know what you are doing, and why they should buy from you. We talk a bit in our interview about why ‘content is king’ and why businesses are producing content both intentionally and unintentionally. That content all fits together like an invisible jigsaw in your prospects minds, and at some point, the final piece will slot in and they will make the decision to buy. Without that newsletter with your latest offer, without that blog post about how you can solve their particular problem, that prospect might never make the decision to buy. Ultimately blogs are useful for a lot of different reasons, and converting leads into sales is definitely one of them.

So that’s that. We had a fantastic time with Karen, and would love to thank her for her time and tolerance of our office furry friends! Again if you want to watch the video, just click here, and for more advice about conversion and how you can improve yours, get in touch with Karen.

7 Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging

Every business should be blogging.   There really isn’t a question about it anymore. Blogging isn’t some new-fangled form of marketing with no proof behind it. They’re been around a fair while, and they’re here to stay. By now, all the savvy businesses are...
Read More

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Relax, I’m not here to deliver some big sermon on swearing, or tell you that you need to pump your copy full of expletives in order to be noticed. Nothing like that. Today, I want to talk about a whole different type of ‘F’. You see, people don’t read in straight...
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Google, google, google. There isn’t a day goes by where we aren’t reading something about Google. How to get your website to page 1 is the main one, since occupying that coveted page 1 spot will gain you more clients, more exposure and ultimately, more success. And...
Read More

4 Benefits To Story Driven Marketing

Brand storytelling isn’t a new concept. So in a sense, this blog might just be rehashing old ideas. But here’s the thing. Only the bigger businesses seem to be doing it. Why do you think the John Lewis adverts get such attention every year? Because they tell a story...
Read More

Which Hogwarts House Does Your Content Belong To?

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a bit of a Potterhead. Harry Potter came out in 1997, when I was just 6 years old. As an avid bookworm, I had my head in the first book almost as soon as it could get from the book shop shelves and into my eager hands. I grew up...
Read More

This month we learnt a very important lesson. When being filmed, make sure your cats are out of the room!

Let’s backtrack a bit. Earlier this month we had the amazing opportunity to be interviewed by Karen from The Right Site. Karen is like the Yin to our Yang – we help you attract people to your website, and Karen helps you turn those people into paying customers once they’re there. It’s a match made in heaven, so of course we have a lot to talk about. She asked me if I would be willing to do a short video interview with her about blogging and how it relates to conversion. It all sounded great to me, and you can see the finished article here.

Rocky Beginnings

Of course, starting is always the hardest part of creating content and that was just a true for in this case. From a cat insisting on being in the frame, the doorbell going, the cat insisting on trying to eat the camera and the phone ringing, everything seemed to be conspiring against us. The second we hit the record button and started talking, something would interrupt and force us to start over. If anything this made the experience better- everyone relaxed and laughed a lot, and it meant the conversation felt more natural. It worked out some of my pre-filming jitters (I’ve never been much of a natural on camera) and by the time the camera was finally rolling I’d almost forgotten it was there.

Don’t Rehearse, But Do Prepare

Contrary to our instincts, it’s actually better not to be thoroughly rehearsed for a video interview. We’ve all seen that one person on TV whose answers are so scripted it might as well be a robot reading them. That’s the danger of rehearsing your answers before the interview. It strips away all of your personality and passion, and while the words might be perfect, the video will come across as a bit flat. Of course to prevent this, Karen didn’t actually tell me what she was going to ask. ‘Stuff about blogging’ was my brief, and to be honest this made me much more relaxed about the whole thing. While some questions did catch me off guard a bit, it allowed me to showcase my knowledge by answering them in a natural way.

What I learnt from this experience is –if you know the topic of your interview it’s always best to do a bit of homework, but avoid scripting your answers as much as possible. This means you aren’t likely to be caught out by difficult questions, but your interview will flow much better and be more interesting for your viewers.

Blogging And Conversion

I won’t give away all the secrets from the video, but I can give away a few insights we didn’t have time to cover. A lot of people don’t see the link between blogs and conversion – after all blogs just sit on your website, and conversion is all about calls to action, follow ups and hard sells, right? Wrong. How many times have you read reviews or guides before you have bought a product? If it’s service, have you looked for references, or asked to see previous work? All of that is part of the buying cycle, and your clients will look to your blog for answers. If you fill your blog with interesting information, industry insights and updates on performance, you are showing your prospects that you know what you are doing, and why they should buy from you. We talk a bit in our interview about why ‘content is king’ and why businesses are producing content both intentionally and unintentionally. That content all fits together like an invisible jigsaw in your prospects minds, and at some point the final piece will slot in and they will make the decision to buy. Without that newsletter with your latest offer, without that blog post about how you can solve their particular problem, that prospect might never make the decision to buy. Ultimately blogs are useful for a lot of different reasons, and converting leads into sales is definitely one of them.

So that’s that. We had a fantastic time with Karen, and would love to thank her for her time and tolerance of our office furry friends! Again if you want to watch the video, just click here, and for more advice about conversion and how you can improve yours, get in touch with Karen.

Tackling Creative Block

Tackling Creative Block

‘What the hell and I going to write about???”

If you’ve ever been called upon to write a blog, a newsletter or just some creative content for your business, this thought will undoubtedly have crossed your mind. This is often the stage when creative block leaps in, erecting a solid wall between you and the language centre of your brain. Suddenly you can’t even come up with a simple sentence or a title, and the blank pages glares out at you accusingly. Our first piece of advice here is don’t panic! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE suffers from creative block and one point or another – even us! So instead of worrying and panicking

Why Does Creative Block Happen?

While no creative block is the same, there are generally 4 reasons we will experience the big bad block. There are some blocks that are more common than others, but each is one you might come across at some point in your life, and being able to identify why you are feeling blocked is an essential part of being able to get around it.

Mental Block: A mental block is the most common, and happens when you become so locked into your particular way of thinking that you stop seeing other options. This means you are approaching the problem from a limited perspective, and are unable to see other ways around it.

Emotional Block: Creativity isn’t always about figuring out which word comes next. It can be an intense and powerful process, and this can leave us feeling very emotionally confused. Maybe your subject is painful, embarrassing or weird, or you have become so deeply invested in your creation that you don’t want to lift the curtain and discover what happens next.

Work Habits That Don’t Work: Perhaps the problem isn’t in your head, but actually in the space around you. I for one know that I can’t work in a messy environment, and spend time every morning ritualistically cleaning and tidying my workspace before I can begin. Maybe for you, you’re working at the wrong times, in the wrong places or with the wrong systems in place to encourage your creative genius out of its shell. Experiment with different working patterns until you find something that works for you.

Personal Problems: These things are often unfortunately beyond our control, and so the best thing you can do is focus on resolving the problem before you can start up the creative fires again. If that means putting back the deadline by a week so you can finish moving house, have that big chat with the friend you fell out with or take some time off to grieve for a loved one, it doesn’t matter. Your personal and mental health should always come first, and often if you try to power through your work will suffer too.

How Do I Beat It?

While all creative blocks are different, there are a few tried and tested ways to break through or climb over the creative block and find your way back to progress.

Talk It Through. Sometimes we get stuck creatively because we have been so involved with a project for so long that thinking of the next thing to talk about is impossible. So rather than going over it again and again in your head, find someone completely unrelated to the project and talk to them about. This can help take that knotted ball of string of thoughts in your head and unwind it, letting you see the next steps, or things you may have forgotten. So collar a co-worker or your best friend for a cup of coffee and explain your project to them.

Walk Away. When you are suffering from creative block, there is nothing less productive than starting at a blank screen. So remove yourself from the room and do something else. It could be moving on to a really boring bit of admin, doing the washing or just going for a walk. Put the project out of your mind and don’t focus on it for a while. The best ideas always strike when you aren’t expecting them, so don’t obsess about the fact that you can’t think of anything to write.

Impose Some Boundaries. As we said earlier, sometime creative block happens because we have too much freedom. So if you’re struggling, put some boundaries in place for yourself. This might sound backwards, but even Wordsworth agreed that “the sonnet’s scantily plod of ground provides fertile creative soil for artists who have felt the weight of too much liberty”. So set yourself a word limit, a time limit, and a deadline. Swear you won’t have one more cup of tea or biscuit until you’ve hit your word count, and stick to it.

Take Yourself To Inspiration. Don’t wait for it to come to you. Instead of feeling miserable that you can’t create something right now, take yourself away and experience some culture and creativity. There is no shortage of galleries, museums and exhibits in the UK, so take advantage of it! Explore new ways of expression, expand your knowledge and find out about something new – you never know what exciting thing’s you’ll find.

But Remember, Creative Block isn’t Always Bad…

I know, shocker right? But creative block has a wonderful duality about it – it can have you pulling your hair out in frustration, but it also reminds you that you are unique. Some people struggle with creativity, and some experience floods of it and become overwhelmed, paralyzed by the options. But creative block often helps us do our best work in the long run. When you feel the shadow of creative block, this can be your mind (or your gut) telling you ‘you could do this better’. And then we do what most people do when faced with that challenge – we rise to it. We stay up all night drinking coffee and pouring over that one sentence, that one brushstroke that just isn’t quite right. It’s this obsession that defines a great creative, and it’s creative block that helps us find it. So don’t get frustrated when you hit the wall, instead just grab your pickaxe and start breaking it down one stone at a time!

7 Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging

Every business should be blogging.   There really isn’t a question about it anymore. Blogging isn’t some new-fangled form of marketing with no proof behind it. They’re been around a fair while, and they’re here to stay. By now, all the savvy businesses are...
Read More

The F Word (And Why Your Content Needs More F’s)

Relax, I’m not here to deliver some big sermon on swearing, or tell you that you need to pump your copy full of expletives in order to be noticed. Nothing like that. Today, I want to talk about a whole different type of ‘F’. You see, people don’t read in straight...
Read More

How To Get Your Blog Ranking On Google

Google, google, google. There isn’t a day goes by where we aren’t reading something about Google. How to get your website to page 1 is the main one, since occupying that coveted page 1 spot will gain you more clients, more exposure and ultimately, more success. And...
Read More

4 Benefits To Story Driven Marketing

Brand storytelling isn’t a new concept. So in a sense, this blog might just be rehashing old ideas. But here’s the thing. Only the bigger businesses seem to be doing it. Why do you think the John Lewis adverts get such attention every year? Because they tell a story...
Read More

Which Hogwarts House Does Your Content Belong To?

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a bit of a Potterhead. Harry Potter came out in 1997, when I was just 6 years old. As an avid bookworm, I had my head in the first book almost as soon as it could get from the book shop shelves and into my eager hands. I grew up...
Read More