Instagram, Press Releases, Blogging and all things PR, with Elaine Fleming

Instagram, Press Releases, Blogging and all things PR, with Elaine Fleming

How do you know your story could be newsworthy? Is there a special kind of magic needed to write newsworthy press releases? And if so, can anybody tap into it so their stories are snapped up by journalists? 

Let’s find out in this week’s Whin Big podcast, where we meet Elaine Fleming, Director & Founder of Ginger PR. We unravel the success formula behind attention-grabbing press releases, discuss how time tracking can change the way you run your business, and learn how adding a cheeky sprinkle of antagonism into your daily social media posts can go a long way to making an impact online!

As always the show notes are here to guide you through the podcast episode, so do listen to the podcast for even more advice, tips and resources for building PR into your marketing efforts. 

The role of public relations in today’s marketing strategies 

Elaine has worked PR for over 18 years and has seen a change in the role PR plays in her clients’ marketing plans. Whilst media relations is still at the heart of everything they do at Ginger PR, they have to be flexible for today’s clients. This means offering a wide range of marketing services such as social media account management, traditional marketing services and even content creation. 

“Media Relations is the jewel in our crown but clients have a wide variety of needs. We’re working with them to elevate their brand presence and increase awareness and that doesn’t come from just one avenue.” – Elaine

The value of public relations 

Elaine feels there is a real lack of understanding in the value of PR, across the marketing and advertising industries, as well as client level. She enjoys working with clients who come with preconceived ideas of how PR will work for them and showing them the value of Ginger PR’s approach.

“If someone was to read an advert and recognise the value in it that’s great. But if they read an article written by a journalist then it has three times the effect on the reader. That’s how PR can be so effective.” – Elaine

Scheduling time to work on Ginger PR’s PR

Understanding the importance of creating space to work on the business is important to Elaine. She started to use time tracking (a tool she previously scoffed at) to identify gaps to work on her own PR. Time tracking has been eye-opening for the business. As a team, they have identified projects that use more resources than necessary and it has helped them catch the little tasks that should only take five minutes, but in reality, take much longer. A very useful tool!

A snapshot of the GingerPR time tracking spreadsheet

A PR agency’s social media strategy

Elaine combines an informal posting strategy on Facebook and LinkedIn with her main focus on Instagram which is the platform that Elaine personally enjoys using and is most comfortable with. She told us about going through a nerve-wracking process of switching Instagram accounts to separate her personal and business accounts. The switch gave her a fresh perspective of Instagram which lead her into a consistent pattern of posting the company’s logo every second day. 

Elaine has found a posting strategy that works well for the business and has built up a bank of useful props and other techniques to keep her grid fresh and interesting whilst keeping a consistent brand identity. These are all discussed in more detail in the podcast.

“When I advise people about which marketing channels to use for business I always say to use the channels you’re on as a user. If you spend your downtime on Twitter because it’s your favourite – then market on Twitter. Even if it’s not a perfect fit, you’ll do a better job of marketing on a platform where you’re comfortable and you know the community.” – Katie

Blogging strategy – what to do when you can’t stick to a writing habit

Both Katie and Elaine agree that finding – and sticking to – a blog writing schedule is tricky. Elaine shared her technique for getting around that. She uses inspiration from her favourite Instagram captions to write short blogs which she then posts on LinkedIn.

Understanding PR when you don’t understand PR

As director of The Whin, Katie wanted a clearer insight into certain aspects of PR. If you have been thinking of building PR into your marketing strategy then you’ll find out exactly how to know when your story is newsworthy and what the links are between your ideal customers and the range of publications that may print your stories.

The 4 steps to writing great press releases

Learning that journalists receive hundreds of emails and press releases each day, Katie asked if there was a special magic to writing a press release that stands out from the crowd.

Elaine agreed that magic is always helpful, but she also shared four important points to cover when writing. As always, there is a lot more detail in the podcast so don’t forget to listen so you can catch even more useful stuff:

  1. Sum up the whole story in the first two sentences. Get all the relevant information in there and it becomes your first paragraph. You can add the rest of the detail after.
  2. If your story has a geographical location – use it in the early sentences so journalists can see the relevance straight away.
  3. Use quotes – this is your chance to inject personality and energy into the piece. Newspapers want to entertain and excite.
  4. Get a quote from an industry specialist. A third party quote makes all the difference (and is where a PR agency comes in very useful)

“I like writing Instagram captions. You can cut straight to it and there’s always a nugget in there. There’s no intro or rambling. You just top and tail it and have something fresh and tight there. It works for me. I like it neat.” – Elaine

Links to other resources & websites

www.ginger-pr.com

Ginger PR on Instagram

Ginger PR on Facebook

Ginger PR on LinkedIn

More about Elaine and Ginger PR

Elaine has worked in PR since graduating 18 years ago. She’s worked for a number of Scotland’s best agencies and creatives over the years. She set up Ginger PR ten years ago and has grown the independent agency to offer a wide range of services to the lifestyle and business sectors.

The ‘Not a Strategy’ Approach to marketing on Instagram

The ‘Not a Strategy’ Approach to marketing on Instagram

When it comes to marketing your business on Instagram, do you hate the idea of working to a timetable or content planner?

You’re not alone. In fact, here at The Whin, we like to keep our social media marketing as loose plans, rather than strict rules. And if you want to get the most out of your posts on Instagram without tracking data or planning weeks ahead, this week’s podcast helps you do just that.

In the intro to this episode, I mentioned that I’m really excited to be speaking at the upcoming Social Selling Summit, on the 17th and 18th June. It’s free to register, if you’re interested, and it would be great to have you along!

Instagram marketing for people who hate strategies

Some people love to work to timetables and plans, but I am not one of those people. As soon as a plan or schedule is in place I rebel against it. I’ve made peace with that and have used my personality type to make my style of marketing easier and more enjoyable for me and my audience.

In fact, it’s a subject that comes up a lot. We talked about marketing for your personality in episode 21 and in episode 7 “I don’t think – I just do” we talked to Marc Keys about his avoidance of content plans.

There are four key areas in Instagram marketing that will help you connect with your audience and convert your audience into customers. In this week’s podcast we look at each area in more detail and set out ideas for how you can have a loose plan rather than a tough timetable.

Choose the right images and pictures for Instagram

Pictures are a vital part of your Instagram marketing. How do you know what kinds of pictures to post? And what can you do if you have basic equipment and photography skills?

In the podcast, we share our favourite tips around this theme, which include:

  • Choosing image categories that represent you and your business
  • Identifying the right photos and selfies for your brand
  • Quick wins for improving the images you take
  • When to use free stock images and graphic design tools

“Have a look at the Instagram accounts you admire and see if you can identify categories that could work for you, too.”

Find winning Instagram caption topics

Often the captions you write will connect with the image you post – if it’s a picture of a product for example. This week, we delve into ideas around crafting captions that help your audience get to know you better:

  • Finding a way to share information about your product or service through your selfies
  • Sharing a story that makes you more relatable
  • Bringing the conversation back to what you do or how you do it

“We’re not working with a strict strategy here, it’s just a few ideas of what you might want to create and what your audience might want to see and hear from you.”

Select 3 or 4 Instagram hashtags to use over and over

Hashtags are essential to connecting with people who are interested in what you have to offer. There’s a common belief that you should use as many as possible, all relating to the type of business you run. In the podcast, we talk about why that’s not a great idea. Instead, we look at:

  • Using hashtags that will connect to potential customers
  • Finding 3 or 4 hashtags that we know will work and using them regularly
  • Making use of our energy and inspiration at the time of posting to add other hashtags in when we need them.

“Having a few hashtags in your pocket to use consistently will be really useful.”

Make Instagram marketing fun – or at least enjoyable!

Insights are a great way to discover how your audience engage with your posts. However, tracking data and stats sounds a lot like having a strategy so I play a game instead.

  • Check out your best performing posts
  • Work out what worked well
  • Commit to beating your score by posting new content using the same techniques
  • You’ll either win or you’ll run out of steam. Either way, you’ll have posted great content to your account!

Links to other resources & websites

Canva – for graphic design ideas, templates and stock photos

Unsplash – more free stock photos

Looking to outsource? We’ve had a few guests on the podcast who’s skills might come in handy. These links will take you to the page for each episode where you can find all their contact details and social media links.

Claire Watson – professional headshots and lifestyle shoots

Andy Johnston – graphic and brand design

Rachel Anderson and Louise Oliver – virtual assistants

For more advice on growing your Instagram audience without having a strategy

It’s common to ignore Instagram marketing if you rebel against strategies and planning but we’re sure you’ll find some great ideas in this week’s podcast. We’ve included ideas you can use this week to get started on growing an engaged audience. 

This not-a-strategy approach to Instagram marketing is one of our favourite topics. We love finding new ways to make your Instagram marketing easier and more enjoyable. The no-strategy approach has worked for our guests here on the Whin Big podcast and it can work for you too.

If you have questions or ideas for podcasts you’d love to hear from in the future – please drop me a line, and follow The Whin on Instagram for more great tips and ideas to get the very best out of Instagram for your business.

Engaging on Twitter and Reflecting on Your Priorities, with Helen Denny

Engaging on Twitter and Reflecting on Your Priorities, with Helen Denny

Ever dreamt of escaping the restrictive 9-5 to grow a more flexible and positive business?

This week’s Whin Big podcast is with Helen Denny from Not9to5 – an event and training consultancy that supports individuals and businesses transitioning to a more flexible work life.

You’ll hear great advice on growing an engaged audience on Twitter and Instagram, using hashtags for better engagement and balancing marketing and networking both online and in the real world. Helen talks about the connections between nature and growing your own business.

How a flexible workweek can improve health and business growth

Working 9-5 is not for everyone, but as research continues to show the benefits of working more flexibly, the numbers of businesses and individuals looking to shift to flexible and more balanced work-life are growing. Proving just how much you can achieve away from a desk or a stuffy office this podcast comes from Katie’s home set-up. Helen talks to Katie from the comfort of her boat in Edinburgh. Flexible working at its best!

Social media tip: Twitter and Instagram reach different audiences

Ever wondered if Instagram and Twitter are a good combo for your social media marketing? Helen discovered this combination is a great way to capture the attention of quite different audiences. Here she talks about what works for Not 9 to 5 and how she tweaks her strategy to make the most of the varied demographics on each platform.

“Did you know Instagram’s algorithm knows text-based posts are more likely to have a sales focus so will have far less reach?” – Katie

Scheduling social media content versus sharing live

All too aware of how quickly things change in life, Helen avoids scheduling too far in advance and prefers to balance a shorter-term scheduling plan alongside sharing content in-the-moment. Is this something you could build into your own strategy to free up some time in your week?

How blogging can add value to a social media plan

When you work on your own business – as you know – it can be hard to commit to writing a regular blog, even when you really want to do it. In the podcast, Helen talks about how she reflected on her business and used her own contacts to make space for making the blog a reality. Try out the same techniques Helen used with the reflective questions in the podcast. What can you streamline in your own business to achieve goals.

“Don’t give up if people don’t answer your questions at first. Building trust takes time, but if you keep showing up you’ll get there”. – Katie

How to grow a fully-engaged social media following in 4 key steps

So far, Not 9 to 5 have had a flexible approach to growing their audience online. Finding a way to grow an engaged online community is high on her priority list. Katie shares her top tips for doing exactly that. Listen in for more insight into these tried and tested tips:-

  • Use questions as a way to encourage followers to engage
  • Avoid coming across as salesy with easy techniques
  • Your followers want to be helpful. Ask for insight and opinions on key parts of your business to bring them into the conversation
  • Make sure your face is part of your social media – you’ll build trust when people see you regularly
  • Keep going and don’t feel deflated
  • Showing up, even if you find it tough, goes a long way to building trust

“We want to focus on something that’s a bit different so our audience will get a fresh perspective”. – Helen

How to create balance between your home and working lives

If you know you have work to do to make life more streamlined you’ll be glad to know there are straightforward techniques for supporting you with that. Helen has shared some of the coaching questions she uses in her training and coaching sessions. They’re included below so you can take them away and reflect in your own time, but be sure to listen to how Helen describes the whole process in the episode, as that really helps to put them in context.

Pause and reflect for balance

  1. Take a moment to think about your business over the last 12 months. What have you achieved? What are you most proud of? What challenges have you overcome? What were the biggest hurdles?
  2. Reflect on here and now. Use this time to think about where you are NOW. What solutions can you identify to overcome the blocks? Are there people in your network to support you with this?
  3. Look ahead: A new approach to goal setting. Start with where you want to be in 5 years and work backwards. What steps can you put in place to get from here to there?

Links to other resources & websites

www.not9to5.co.uk

Not9to5 on Twitter

Not9to5 on Instagram

More about Helen and Not9to5

Helen works with individuals and businesses in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh and is based in Edinburgh. She works with a network of partners and associates to deliver consultancy, training and events in the three cities. Not 9 to 5 hosts the annual ‘Highland Escape’ event – a three-day event that blends transformational coaching, business school and relaxing retreat into one. Guests use the time and environment to pause and reflect on their business and set goals and accountability for moving forward in a way that balances work and life in a more meaningful way.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

When talking about WordPress websites, people are usually referring to one of two services. This blog includes affiliate links.

What is WordPress.org

WordPress.org is a service which lets you download the free WordPress software, and a host of themes and plug ins. This software you can then install on your server and use it to build your website. Although the software is free, you’ll have to pay elsewhere for hosting and domain registration.

What is WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a service which lets you build and run your website using the same WordPress software, but without having to download it, to buy server space, or anything else. It’s essentially a hosting service with WordPress software built in. You can register your domain through WordPress.com too.

Should I use WordPress.org or WordPress.com?

The short answer: WordPress.org.

If you’re sure you want to build your website in WordPress, then the question is less about how you get the WordPress software, and more about how you want to host your website. If you’re not sure what a server is, or hosting, we can use a simple metaphor.

Imagine your sever is the building that your website lives in. Like choosing a home for yourself, you’ll find that many of the basic features are the same. Houses have walls and doors and a roof. Your hosting will have a control panel, email tools and security certificates. A nice house will have more space and extra features, and so will a better server. In general with hosting, as with housing, you want to compare the prices and features offered and choose the combination that works for you.

Where to host a WordPress website

My own recommendation, after years of working with clients across all kinds of hosting platforms, is to host your website with SiteGround. You get 24/7 support, which you’ll probably never need. They offer a one-click WordPress installer to make thing easy for you. So although you’re using WordPress.org software, you never actually have to visit the site!

 

Price wise, you can get SiteGround for £2.95 + VAT per month for up to three years! 

In terms of the features you get, with SiteGround, you can choose any theme you want, or even install one that’s been designed for you. You can add payments through any merchant tool you like (WordPress only allows PayPal), and you can add SEO and performance enhancing plug ins to make sure your customers find your website and can use it quickly.

WordPress does have some great features built in, including Jetpack, which protects from spam, supports some SEO features, and lets you schedule social media posts to publish at the same time as your blog posts. If that’s the only thing swaying you however, you can install Jetpack on any WordPress site, and it has variable pricing depending on what you can afford.

Do I need to buy a domain name?

WordPress.com allows you to register a domain name, if you haven’t already, as part of the price of your plan. Any additional domains are charged at $18 per year for a .co.uk website. SiteGround also offer domain registration, at around $14 a year for .co.uk domains. If you do need to register domains, however, there are cheaper options, and unlike hosting options, there’s not much difference in service between one provider and another. Namecheap.com offer the best value domain names that I’ve found, with prices around $7-10 for a .co.uk domain, so I’d recommend you check out their options before deciding where to buy.

The Final Word

I’m a huge fan of WordPress and genuinely think it’s the best tool around for building your website. WordPress.com is a great option if you’re nervous about setting up hosting and domains, and you don’t have a budget for additional support. However, I’d always opt to use the WordPress software, free from WordPress.org. If you’re comfortable setting up your hosting, or you can connect with a web developer or WordPress expert, you can really benefit from the additional flexibility, and set up a faster and more effective website for your business.

I will get a small commission if you purchase any SiteGround product through one of these links, but I’ve chosen to affiliate with them because I love their product so much!

How I quit my job to become a successful entrepreneur with no clients lined up

How I quit my job to become a successful entrepreneur with no clients lined up

Leaving my job in 2016 didn’t feel brave at the time. I’d saved up a bunch of money and I was looking forward to 6 weeks’ worth of Scout camps and volunteering. I was going on an adventure! Winning my first clients felt easy as well. I just had to email 10 people I knew (many of them also through Scouting) to see if anyone needed help with their social media or their website. I got a gig writing Facebook content for one small business and built a Wix website for another one. A few weeks later I started copywriting for an agency where the graphic designer had a kid in my Cub Scouts.

The network, experiences, and sense of adventure I gained through Scouting were fundamental resources to help me leave my safe, sensible job and enter the world of self-employment.

A taste of what life might be like

Back in 2014, I applied for a role in the International Service Team at the World Scout Jamboree in Japan in the height of summer. Based on the skills I had, and my general distaste for extreme heat, I put myself down to work in the media team – mostly an indoor job – and was assigned to be a sub-editor on the Newspaper team – result!

Then I started looking at how far it was to Japan and wondered if there might be more adventures to be had if I extended my trip beyond just the 2 weeks of the Jamboree. I messaged an Aussie friend and a few weeks later, I had a plan. Australia’s not exactly on the way to Japan, from Edinburgh, but it would still be less flying than if I made two separate trips. Only one small issue remained – I’d need to be off work for almost the entire summer. I wanted to take a full month of annual leave from 10 July to 10 August 2015.

Fortunately, my team at work were reasonably accommodating, and my leave request was granted, on the condition that I promised never to take more than 2 weeks leave at a time for a very long time.

Time flew by and in July 2015 I arrived fresh faced and excited, ready to start work on the Jamboree newspaper as part of a team of 25 other volunteers – photographers, reporters, graphic designers and other editors. That very first day I also made friends with a stick insect, although that’s only incidental to our story.

 

The editorial team (That’s me on the bottom left with the ridiculous headband)

Every day I got up at 5.30 (it was too hot in the tents to sleep any later), and queued along with thousands of other volunteers for breakfast. By 7.30 I’d be ready for my 20-minute ‘commute’ across the enormous jamboree campsite into the media centre (which had shade and fans and WiFi, and was my idea of heaven compared to the rest of the Jamboree site…) We had a team meeting every morning where Ger, our fearless leader, would assign task to everyone for the day.

We had goals, we had plans, we had deadlines. We made our own decisions, we solved our own problems, and we ate a lot of ice cream on the patio in the shade. And by the time we got to issue four, we were a tight knit team, and I was having the time of my life.

And that’s in spite of the fact, I was working about 14 hours a day (with the occasional ice cream break). I’d gone to the Jamboree along with more than 100 other Scottish Scout leaders, and only spoke to any of them for a few minutes each day. We worked so late each night on the newspaper that the canteen delivered food to us because we were never finished in time for the dinner service.

I said to my friend Kay one evening as we sat scoffing our bento boxes, waiting for final proofs to read over, “I wish my real life was like this.” I’d been in the world of work for 4 years at that point, and none of the jobs I’d had so far had brought me anything like this much satisfaction. I knew it was time for a change.

The moment I realised what I was meant for

By issue 8, poor Ger, our fearless leader, was getting burnt out. While I sat with the other editors sat on the patio eating ice cream, chatting, and waiting for the reporters to get their articles out, he had to go to meetings with the other team leads and talk about grown up things. He needed a break and I wanted a challenge.

Enter Katie, Lieutenant Editor!

Standing in front of the white board that Tuesday morning, I was so happy. I felt like I was doing exactly the thing that suited me. I loved leading the team, I loved helping people figure out their articles, I loved making the decisions and solving the problems with everyone’s help.

When I got back from the Jamboree, and back to my grey office walls and fluorescent lighting, it took me all of 8 seconds to start planning my escape. I was going to take my writing skills, my creativity, and my love of the internet and I was going to get me a job in Marketing.

Unemployable?

The problem was that all the marketing agencies looked at my official experience – writing informational web pages with little room for imagination and innovation – and decided that didn’t count. I didn’t have the experience they were looking for in the roles I wanted to do. I got offered a couple of roles where I’d be copying and pasting other people’s content into Buffer, day in day out. I’d be just as frustrated and bored as I was in my existing job, but on half the salary. I figured there had to be a faster way to get where I wanted to go.

By Christmas time I’d decided I’d go freelance for a while and do some marketing for people who I knew. Six months or a year of marketing experience, tacked on to my previous career history, seemed like it would be a better offer, and a chance to demonstrate that my skills really did transfer. I figured I’d show that I could walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, and would get hired on the back of my results.

So I made the New Year’s Resolution in 2016 that I would leave my job that year by my birthday (in July) and start freelancing. Went to my first ever Business Gateway workshop on the 14th January (and met the wonderful Andy Johnston), and started working on a website, and a brand.

At the same time, I started signing up to Scout camps for every week of the summer. I booked in 10 days with my own troop, then two weeks at Blair Atholl Jamborette right after. When I booked a third Scout camp, another 10 days over in France at an event called Roverway, that I knew I really would have to had in my notice. I knew if I didn’t book those camps, I might never have had the guts to meet with my boss and resign, because I found it hard to explain exactly what I was leaving for.

Quitting without a job lined up

It felt really hard to justify my decision to leave when I didn’t have a single client, another job or anything at all lined up. All I had was a few grand in savings and a lot of enthusiasm. If it hadn’t been for those first two guys who took a chance on me when I was all brand new, I’m not sure where I’d be now!

And of course, when I did start freelancing, I realised how much I loved deciding my own schedule and working on my own terms. I learnt so much so quickly, figuring out branding and pricing and managing my time. I realised I didn’t like copywriting, but I loved making websites. I didn’t like Twitter but oh boy did I love Instagram. I certainly didn’t know back in 2016 how much time and energy I’d come to invest in training myself, and getting help from others.

Everything was going grand until January 2018. I’d just started working with Digital Boost clients through the Business Gateway and I was going to deliver my first workshop the next month. I’d met a start-up founder in November and had just invoiced for a piece of work we’d done together. I was working with Andy on designing my new brand – The Whin – and had paid a good chunk of the cost already. And then the first Digital Boost project hadn’t finished and the payment terms on the start up’s invoice were so long and all of a sudden, I realised I was as skint as I’d ever been in my life. I had to borrow £100 off my parents so I could afford to buy groceries for a couple of weeks.

For a few days it really felt like I might have messed it up. Maybe I hadn’t worked hard enough, or networked with the right people, or charged enough for my services. I wondered if I wasn’t as good at marketing as I thought, despite all the time I’d spending researching and learning and working on my skills. By that point I’d realised I didn’t ever want to go and work for a boss in a marketing agency after all. I needed to find a way to stay independent, and carry on working for myself, but I was struggling so hard for every half-day workshop and 4-page website. How on earth was I going to turn it around? It felt so grim. But then I got lucky.

I’d been chatting back and forth with my old manager about coming in on a contract to work on some specific online forms. I’d worked on online forms in my old job and really enjoyed the aspects of user experience and service design. It was only three days a week for three months, but it was a gift, and it came at the exact right moment. After those first three months, my contract was extended, I was promoted to project manager and I got a pay rise, and most of July off. And about 5 months, as much as I was enjoying having reliable income, I was SO ready to be done again.

Even though this time it was on my terms, I still wasn’t really happy. I didn’t have the authority to make decisions and have a real impact. And if I had the authority, I wouldn’t have got to spend time on doing the user-focused stuff that I really loved. I have the utmost respect for all my colleagues there, but the contrast between working there and working with a solo-business owner could not have been more stark.

I was done. I was ready. It was time to launch The Whin.