I like big books and I cannot lie

blur book stack books bookshelves
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Books, books, books. As far back as I can remember I have always had a book on the go.  I absolutely love reading whether it be for escapism or personal and professional development.

As it is World Book Day I have put together a list of some of my favourite books.

Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman

The Crying Tree – Naseem Rakha

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

One Day – David Nicholls

We need to talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver

Non-Fiction

How to be a woman – Caitlin Moran

Brilliant Life – Michael Heppell

Change your life in seven days – Paul McKenna

The Freelance Mum – Annie Ridout

The Friendship Cure – Kate Leaver

Hot Feminist – Polly Vernon

Chase the rainbow – Poorna Bell

Like a Queen – Constance Hall

Things I wish I’d Known: Women tell the truth about motherhood – various authors

Shattered: Modern motherhood and the illusion of equality

 

What are your favourites?  Did any of them make my list?

 

 

 

 

Why I love PR

When I first embarked on my career, I envisioned myself as a Carrie from Sex and the City type. I had visions of floating round in beautiful clothes and then writing a column full of my musings that women across the country would love.

After three years doing a journalism degree, I got a job working for a news agency and very quickly realised that maybe journalism wasn’t for me. So I started to think what could I do which would allow me to write, talk to people and get out and about and I decided PR was the career for me and I haven’t looked back.

So, why do I love PR:

• I love finding out about people and their stories. When I first work with a client, I have a big in-depth chat with them so I can find out more, establish what the story is and look for any hidden gems there might be.

• Writing, this has always been a passion and PR gives me the chance to write in various styles, to date I have written general press releases, a thought leadership piece as the voice of large company, a piece on behalf of a 15 year old girl for a teen magazine, a regular first aid column and an article as a meat packaging expert to name a few.
• Helping businesses be seen and heard. I work mainly with SME’s, not for profits and social enterprises and a lot of them think they don’t have a story, won’t be heard amongst everybody else or that they can’t afford PR and I like helping them realise they do, they will and they can.

• Organising events. In my non-work life I love a party and PR gives me plenty of opportunities to come up with ideas for client events whether it is a ball or and in-store event to thank loyal customers I enjoy the whole process, coming up with the idea, the planning, getting everything organised and seeing it all come together.

What do you love most about your job?

www.beckandcallpr.co.uk

Putting PR into 2018

franklinMany people in business are now busy planning for 2018 before they finish for Christmas.  Lots of you will be thinking about how you want to grow your business, what events you’ve got planned, what products you want to promote and what new clients you want to attract.

You might also be thinking that you don’t need PR to do this, or that it is too expensive or even that you don’t really understand what it is and how it can help your business (you can read more about this over on a previous blog ).

If you are thinking about how to utilise PR in the next 12 months read on.

When planning for the year ahead consider the full year and plan for six months, you may need to revise the plan after two of three months depending on what results you see in the early months of the year and changes to your business as the year progresses.   Once you’ve got a vague idea of what you’ve got planned for the next 12 months use this quick guide to help you use PR in your business.

  • Look at the past 12 months – Did you receive any media coverage?  If so what was it about, was it planned, or did it just happen?  Think about what things resulted in positive coverage and why? Can you revisit and follow up on any of these angles?
  • What are your business objectives? – Are you wanting to reach new clients/customers, increase footfall, expand your range, raise your personal profile?  Once you’ve decided what it is you’re aiming for consider your key messages as they will give you the backbone of your PR plan.
  • Create a media release calendar – Look at what is happening each month in your business and consider which things you want to inform the media of.  Think about whether these things are of local or national interest, do they work for radio and TV or just print media and which outlets attract your target audience?
  • Media List – So, you know what you want to tell people about but rather than contacting publications straight away, stop and do some research, find out who writes about what on each publication (if you can target a journalist who has interest in your topic this will help secure coverage).  Build a database of key reporters, locally or nationally depending on your aims.
  • Establish publications calendars – You can contact a regional daily a week before an  event and still have a chance of getting coverage but for a monthly magazine you may be looking at three months ahead, so it is important to know their schedule.  Offer yourself as an expert in your field, put yourself out there as somebody they can contact if they ever need info about your industry or a quote for a story.
  • Case studies – Journalist love real life case studies as they give weight to stories and make them real.  If you have happy clients or a client with a unique tale then ask if they are happy to be a case study, interview them, get their details and put the case study on file to be used in relevant releases.
  • Social media and blogs – Write about your industry, let the public know what you’re about, what you’re doing and how great you, your product and/or business are.  Remember though that once something is published online it is there to stay and may generate feedback, which even if negative it is usually advised that it is best to respond in a constructive way rather than ignore or delete.
  • Speaking opportunities – People buy from people, so one of the best ways of engaging is getting in front of perspective customers this could be at networking events and try and find opportunities to speak about your industry this could be at trade shows, as part of a panel discussion or doing a webinar.

It may take a while to discover which things work best for you, but the more methods you use the wider audience you will reach although saying that it is better to do one thing really well than lots poorly. If it all seems a little overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin you could always delegate to somebody in your business who is more media savvy or get a PR professional to help you.

This blog was written by Rebecca Slater of Beck and Call PR www.beckandcallpr.co.uk

10 Ways PR can help your business

cropped-33362-beck-call-public-relations-logo.jpgIf you think that PR is just for big businesses think again. PR is a tool that can help all businesses. It’s a cost effective way of spreading the word about all the great things you’re doing, which will help differentiate your company from your competitors.
So, how can PR help your business?
1. It’s cost effective
A press release is a fraction of the cost of an advertisement and can often only be the cost of a call or email to the right person. An example of this is, over the past year I have been working with a client. The PR coverage achieved for them has reached more than 800,000 people and if it had been paid for advertising would have cost nearly £45,000.
2. Raises awareness
PR lets people know that you exist and what you offer. The more people see or hear about your business the more likely it is that you will spring to mind when they require your services.
3. Can improve your reputation
Everybody has an opinion about companies they come into contact with whether it be staff, customers, suppliers or investors. Having somebody work with you on your PR will allow you to manage your reputation.
4. It’s good for your bottom line
PR is less expensive than advertising and the benefits of PR can be much more substantial. One good media placement can lead to a substantial increase in sales and growth, and because many small businesses have a unique story to tell, they are interesting to the media.
5. Build brand values
Every business has messages they want to convey to their customers about their product, the type of business they are and who they are. Public relations is ideal for communicating these and, over time, helping you build a loyal customer base.
6. Gaining credibility
Great PR can give your business credibility. A positive endorsement from a third party in the form of a news story generates much more credibility than an advertisement.
7. Builds online reputation
In a world where more and more news is online, PR can help build your online reputation and improve your SEO. Once the positive press is online, there it will stay, meaning that whenever anybody searches for you they find stories about you. Your business will reap the benefits.
8. Supports other marketing and advertising activities
PR is a great way of supporting your other marketing activities. By integrating all of your marketing you can ensure that consistent messages are being delivered. If you are running an advert this will probably see an increase in people searching for information about your company, so it can help to have some positive informative articles out there
9. Can assist in a crisis
No business wants to be in a crisis but if it does happen PR can help turn it around and ensure that you get the right messages out to the public, staff and your stakeholders.
10. Help you achieve your business goals
Whether your goals are to increase sales or to raise your profile, PR can help you achieve them.
Hopefully you found these tips useful and informative. If you would like further advice or support then please get in touch. Call us 07974 306914 or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

How I became more productive

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I would list procrastination among one of my greatest skills although by no means very useful. Working for myself, from home I realised that procrastination was not the way forward and whilst it wasn’t leading to me not getting work done, it was leading to me doing work evenings and weekends more often than I would have liked and I wasn’t as productive as I could be. Since making a few changes to my working day I have now normally finished my working day by 3 or 4 pm, am still getting the same results for my clients and very rarely find myself working weekends, unless a client has an event or I want to.

So how did I do it? Here are the four things that I found worked best for me.
1. Ditch clients
I know, I know, this doesn’t seem to make any sense as we are in business to make money not throw it away but trust me on this. Over the past few months I have told a couple of long term clients that I think it is best for us to no longer work together. There was nothing wrong with these clients in fact they were lovely people running very successful businesses but they weren’t right for me.

One of them, large client, was very disorganised meaning that I spent lots of time waiting for further direction, trying to organise the client or having to reschedule all my other clients to fit in jobs that they hadn’t mentioned before, at the last minute, which was stressful and not fair on other clients. The other one wanted more work than they were willing to pay for, which was my fault for setting my rate too low when I started out and not charging what I was worth.

I also realised that doing this work I had become distracted from doing what I had set out to do which was to do more work with non-profits and SME’s. I was in the fortunate position that I had a large client that paid well and meant I could afford to get rid of the other clients who were taking up so much time. Do you know what happened? Once I freed up the time I had been dedicating to them I found I had more time and suddenly had a wave of requests from individuals and SME’s so was back to doing what I loved.
2. Write down everything you do
The second thing I started to do was to write down every task that I did throughout the day, not a to do list, a list of every call made, every email I replied to, each bit of research undertaken etc as and when I did it. For example as soon as I finish this I will add wrote blog to today’s list.

The result of this was that yes it probably took a few more minutes to do but at the end of each day I could see how productive I have really been, as often if I was just crossing off write press release off my list I would think “How did that take four hours” by writing down everything relating to that task it gave me focus and made me appreciate how much can go into what can at first seem a simple job.

3. Work out when you work best
When I first started out I was still in a 9-5 mind-set which after more than 20 years working in offices was no surprise. Unfortunately this meant that I would often be up at 7am or back from the gym at 8am and then be waiting to start work or some days find that I had completed all my jobs for the day by 3pm and be searching for stuff to do to keep me busy until 5 or 6pm (not really a productive use of time).

So, I decided that I would work when it suited me. I have one client who I work for every day between the hours of 10am and 230pm, but now if I am up and dressed by 7am I get started on my work for other clients then, meaning I can get in three hours of work before I start on my contract work. This also means I am working at a time when I am most productive and that if come 230pm I don’t have more to do I can finish the day feeling guilt free.
4. Use an app to monitor tasks
I have found using myhours tool extremely helpful. It allows me to log all my clients, what tasks I do for them and how much that client pays per hour. Not only does this enable me to see how my day has broken down, but also helps me know what I should be charging when I quote on jobs.

I initially found that I was under estimating how long things took as I wasn’t taking into account research, follow up calls, reports etc. Now when somebody asks for a press release I can look back over previous similar projects and see how much time the whole thing took, meaning I quote more accurately which is good for the client and also means I have a better idea of how much work I can actually add to my workload as well as reducing the risk of doing an extra three or four hours work on a project free due to my own poor estimates.

If you have any tips on how you became more productive please comment.

Rebecca Slater runs Beck and Call PR visit www.beckandcallpr.co.uk for more information or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

Working from home & self-employment – My top tips

When I tell people that I work for myself from home lots of them say they wouldn’t have the motivation (believe me when you know you won’t get paid unless the clients work is done, you have motivation). Other people assume that I sit around in PJ’s all day watching Jeremy Kyle and not actually working, as great as that sounds I don’t think anybody would pay me for that
Like any work, of course there are days when my motivation is greater than others and I power through my to do list like a machine. Other days I am sat at my desk and at the end of the day I still feel I have achieved very little. To help me on my way I have certain things I do.
1. Exercise
This won’t be for everybody but I start each day with a gym session, not only does it keep me fit but it also clears my head and wakes me up before my working day starts, it also gives me a chance to see people (working from home means seeing other people is not always a daily occurrence). I would suggest everybody tries to fit a bit of exercise into their day whether it’s the gym, a run, doing some stretches when you get up or getting out for a walk when you take a break. It really clears your head.

2. Get dressed for work
I don’t sit at my desk in a suit but I don’t work in my pyjamas. I feel that by getting dressed, doing my hair and make-up I get into a work frame of mind. Also I’m not sure how keen my husband would be on returning home each day to me in PJ’s with my crazy bed hair.

3. Try and keep normal working hours
I generally try and keep to normal working hours this ensures that work time and social time are kept separate and obviously most of my clients work normal hours so I need to be available for them.

4. Take a break
I always take a lunch break, something I rarely did as an office based employee. Nowadays lunch might be at 3pm but I still take some time out to eat, read the paper or just chill. I have quickly realised that not taking a break doesn’t add to my productivity or creativity in fact the opposite happens.

5. Don’t over promise
When you’re self-employed work can be feast or famine. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by how busy you are and other times you may panic you’ll never get work again, during these famine times don’t over promise. You may need the work/new client/customer but make sure you only promise what you can deliver as otherwise they won’t be using your services for long.

6. Network
Even in your busy times try and make time for networking. You may have as much work as you can cope with but there will always come a time where client relationships end and you’ll need to replace that work. If you’ve already built relationships with those in your networking groups there is a chance that you may have already met your next client but, people buy from people and relationships and trust take time to build so it is no good starting networking when you have no work and expecting after your first meeting that you are going to leave with loads of work. It takes time. The other good thing about networking aside from the business benefits is the chance to get out, meet new people and speak to them face to face (working from home means a lot of phone calls and emails)

7. Market yourself
When you’re busy it can be easy to focus solely on your work and forget about your business. Try and set aside some time at least once a week (I do this daily) to market yourself and your business whether this is writing your blog, updating your social media, contacting prospects, creating newsletters, it’s really important to keep engaging with people and letting them know you’re there. You never know where the next bit of work might come from.

8. Go the extra mile
Your client has asked you to do x,y,z and you’ve agreed. Don’t let your work end there, if you come up with an idea or see or hear something that you think could be useful to them, let them know. Your clients probably don’t see you that often but want to know that you do consider them and it’s not a case of out of sight out of mind. Sometimes the client may not like your idea but at least they know you’re always looking for ways to help them, which will make them more confident in using a self-employed homeworker.

9. Get organised
I have a hand written to do list which I put together at the end of every Friday. This means I can relax and enjoy my weekends as I have already planned what I have to do the following week so don’t need to think about it, it also means that come Monday morning I can just crack straight on with work as I have already done my planning. My to do list always ends up getting added to on a daily basis but at least I have a base to start from and can prioritise my workload. By prioritising I can take advantage of one of the biggest benefits of working for myself, I can schedule in a cheeky afternoon off for lunch with friends or head off early for a weekend break.

10. Be patient
Going from a regular income and having a manager advising on what needs to be done, to becoming solely responsible for generating your own clients, setting your own rates and having no set time to start and finish work can be scary. There have been times when I have thought I am not going to make any money at all but it all works out in the end. If you’re new to this way of working the one thing I would say is be patient, use the quite times to market yourself, research businesses you want to work with and to get out and meet people.

If any of you have any suggestions on things you do to make working from home for yourself work for you let me know.

You can find out more about Beck & Call PR visit www.beckandcallpr.co.uk or email sayhello@beckandcallpr.co.uk

Benefits of using a home worker

Since becoming a self-employed homeworker I have pitched for lots of work, some of which are advertised as home-based and others where they have been looking for an in-house employee.

As you would expect some of those looking for somebody office based can be sceptical about using somebody who is self-employed and works from home. Often worried that if they can’t see a person in the office then work isn’t happening, but there are numerous reasons why companies big and small would be wise to consider the self-employed home worker as an asset rather than a liability to their business and luckily for me many do.
If you are looking to recruit here are some reasons to consider the self-employed home worker.
Flexibility for you
With some self-employed people like me you may have the opportunity to pay in a way that suits you whether that be a monthly retainer, an hourly rate or by the project. This can work out cheaper for your company than paying a monthly salary when there may be times when work is lean. So you only pay for the work you need when you need it.
• Paid to get the work done
Rather than paying a salary you are paying to get the work done, so the person working for you may not be in the office and they may be doing work on a Friday night instead of during the 9-5 but they will be getting the work done to meet your deadlines as their livelihood depends on it. So there is less “I’m not getting paid so I’m not doing it” or “it has gone five so I’m going home”. So, whilst a self- employed home worker may have a more flexible lifestyle in that when things are quiet they might take a few hours off when the work needs to be done they are likely to be doing it until whatever time it takes to get the work completed.

• No time chatting to colleagues
Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you view it us home-workers don’t have any colleagues to chat to. Having been an employee myself it is amazing how much of the day people spend chatting to colleagues, sending emails and checking social media, all of which the employee is paying for. I’m not saying these things don’t happen with the self-employed but as mentioned before there can be more impetus from the self-employed to get their heads down and get the work done.

• Technology means it isn’t necessary
I make a point of visiting all my clients as and when they need it for some who are local this can be weekly or monthly and for those further away like my client in Devon we meet as and when needed but with all the technology we have at our disposal the mobile phone, email and of course Skype I can be contacted at any-time and am able to take part in meetings from wherever I am.

• Higher productivity
Studies have shown that people who are allowed to work from home are more productive due to less distractions, no stressful commute and their gratefulness at being allowed to work at home. This can only be a positive for your business.

• No hassle of Tax, N.I, holiday and sick pay
The final advantage is less paper work and less outgoings for you. If you use a self-employed worker they are responsible for sorting out their national insurance and tax. As for holidays and sick pay the self-employed person is responsible for these.
Using a self-employed homeworker may not work for some businesses but I would advise any business not to rule it out.

I run Beck and Call Public Relations, you can find out more at www.beckandcallpr.co.uk