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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #8

Back in Business

Did you go out yesterday? Super Saturday. It was raining here, so I didn’t bother. Not in the mood for shopping or being in a crowded pub, so I stayed home and made some calls. It’s been a busy week, and I had to take my daughter to Heathrow on Tuesday. She’s spending the rest of the summer in Sardinia with her dad, so I’m getting used to being on my own again.

A friend made a comment the other day about being an unpaid skivvy and how she’s glad to get back to work (she runs a vegan café and has been doing takeaways). I know how she feels. I’ve enjoyed spending more time with my daughter and having a co-working buddy, but it’s been hard work. Lots of shopping, cooking and cleaning on top of my paid work, which women tend to do more of.

I need a break. 

A friend said her neighbours are having an existential crisis about having jobs with no meaning. The pandemic has polarised jobs into two camps: essential and nonessential. We’re celebrating key workers—teachers, doctors, nurses, supermarket staff and delivery drivers because they’re out there doing important (and visible) jobs. It’s easy to feel demoralised and fed up if you’ve been furloughed, worrying about redundancy, or doing less visible work like IT, marketing and social media.

If you’re feeling that way there are some good tips in this piece by The Enterprisers Project. Read more

 

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation. Newsletter

The Shift: Issue #7

A Conversation on Creativity With Dannie-Lu Carr.

What tools do we need to deal with life’s challenges and work creatively in the face of adversity, so we can come out stronger at the end of it?

Dannie-Lu Carr is the founder of three signature online programmes: Flaming Leadership, Warrior Women and 28 Days of Defiance and also a Published WriterAward-Winning Theatre DirectorSinger-Songwriter and the founder of Creative Wavelengths™—a new language for creativity. Her work is described as “brilliant, not for the faint of heart… for courageous souls…” We first met 10 years ago at a women’s networking event in London, and thought she was a real dynamo with an enormous heart. 

TS: You coach on leadership and personal impact with a focus on empowering women and LGBTQ. What stories do you want to bring to light, and what was the catalyst to start your consultancy?

DLC: My work on fearless leadership and personal impact is really about giving people back their sense of self and the tools to speak articulately about their ideas and points of view. I work with people to develop and trust their judgement and dare to put themselves forward to galvanise innovation and change where it’s needed. We still live in a very hierarchical world mostly, which can unnecessarily intimidate, undermine, dominate and control. Nobody wins with this way of working.

My goal is always to create a more level playing field where ideas can be shared, and we can respect points of view. The best people to lead these changes are those who haven’t automatically been given the metaphorical floor historically and understand how it is to have a different insight about how things were in the past, hence the predominant focus on women and LGBTQ.

The catalyst to start my consultancy was about giving people the tools to deal with challenges without them having a devastating effect and also to work creatively in the face of adversity so they can weather through and come out stronger.

What’s your coaching style? What techniques do you use to help people get past their blocks and seriously step up?

My style is informal, honest, to the point. It’s the best way to cut through the nonsense noise in our heads and environments—the noise that creates a lack of confidence and procrastination. I have a ‘just do it’ approach once people have unpacked what is really going on for them and have the clarity. I use a range of techniques, but probably the edgiest is bringing my theatre training (the honesty of communication and saying what is) to the business world.

Teaching is a two-way thing. Any advice you’ve taken on board that has changed your outlook or challenged your thinking?

I always say that I endlessly learn when I teach. When I am advising and coaching others, it isn’t unusual for a voice to kick off in my head that says something like, “this advice you’re giving to Jane you need to do this with X in your own life”. The biggest thing I have learned to do is to be humble when someone points out my own shortcomings rather than get defensive. To take a ‘fair enough, I have to own that’ position is always gold. Usually, the things that fly at us as the most uncomfortable to swallow absolutely hold the most wisdom and insight for us. 

Your online programmes: 28 Days of Defiance, Warrior Women, and Flaming Leadership are described as brilliant and “not for the faint of heart, for courageous souls.” What’s your creative process, and who or what has inspired you?  

First, I listen to my clients. I’ve always got my ears pricked for their challenges, wants, etc. Then things churn around in my head for a bit and my subsequent process is that I then raggedly sit on the floor amidst a heap of pen and papers and brainstorm in an intense burst. Or several of them. That’s how I nail and fine-tune. Then I take the ideas out to the world, and it goes from there. In terms of inspiration, people inspire me all the time. I think people can be magnificent with their insights, ideas, resilience and drive. There are a tonne of women out there, past and present, who are/were incredible—Jude Kelly, Anita Roddick, Malala Yousafzai, Jacinda Ardern… I have an endless list, to be honest. When women stand up strong and in their boots, they can be so powerful. 

Someone said you have a form of ‘business magic’ in terms of how you approach problems and conflicts at work. Can you give us an example? 

In short, I listen to as much as I can before I address where the assumptions and unconscious biases might be for all parties involved. This flushes out the emotion that can give any of us humans blind spots. Then I drill into—what is the actual issue really at play here? Then last, how can this be articulated to feel you are expressing yourself fully while respecting the other person’s point of view? That’s pretty much my framework. 

You’ve written a brilliant book on assertiveness. We can swing between unassertiveness and OTT behaviour. How do we find the middle ground—i.e. getting what we want without rubbing people up the wrong way? 

This is a huge passion of mine. It’s actually very easy to find a middle ground, but we don’t have that many role models in terms of people who practice this. It is one of the major reasons that I really rate Keir Starmer. He executes the middle ground with aplomb. It’s about taking the personal emotion out of it and being in an adult position. It isn’t about point-scoring. It is about addressing the issue at hand as honestly as you can while remaining aware of your potential impact on the other person. Often, we feel like we are assertive when we are falling short. And people get confused between assertive and aggressive when they are actually very different states of being.

You’re the founder of Creative Wavelengths™ a new language for creativity. What is it, and how can it help us to raise our creative intelligence?

I have spent about five years developing Creative Wavelengths—it is nine keywords that pinpoint exactly what is happening around any creative process and/or collaboration. Creativity is often shrouded in mystery, and the surrounding language is very imprecise, which causes issues with people taking it seriously or holding the value of it and what it needs. Having a shared language that is time-efficient and gives permission for a deep and precise conversation allows us to elevate our understanding of creativity and therefore raises our overall creative intelligence and our ability to cut through the noise and access the critical insights for innovation and deep resonance. 

Any business problems you’d like help with right now or opportunities for collaboration?

I’m always open to discussions and potential collaborations. We are living in a very unpredictable world, way more than ever before, and we need smart and courageous people to come forward and tackle these issues, rather than being stuck in a place of victim and fear. I’d like my clients to recognise that coaching and consulting is the most critical thing to invest in and come away from the old mindset that it is a luxury and therefore the first thing to go. How do they expect to weather storms like this without access to understanding and adopting new ways of doing things? Rhetoric, of course. 

THE LIST  

Oh wow. I could write a book on creative inspirations… here’s a handful of some of my favourites:

BOOKS

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

PODCASTS

Reasons to be Cheerful 

Woman’s Hour

The Tim Ferriss Show

The Brutal Truth

WEBSITES

Forbes

The 99 Percent

TED

Harvard Business Review

www.dannielucarr.com

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #6

Shaking Things up in Advertising – The Gerety Awards.

Joe Brooks and Lucia Ongay were at another advertising awards event full of white, middle-aged men in black suits (this time it was really obvious).

“This is bullshit, we have to do something about it,” said Joe.

So, they did something radical and start the first advertising awards show with an all-female jury.

They launched the Gerety Awards in 2019 with a question and a challenge for industry leaders:

“What does a woman have to do to get onto an advertising jury?”

The awards are named in honour of Frances Gerety—the copywriter who created the slogan ‘A diamond is forever’ for De Beers in 1948. She wrote all their ads over the next 25 years, creating new strategies for diamond sales following the Great Depression. Women could only work on briefs aimed at women.

Ad Age called it the most famous tagline ever, the 20th-century slogan selling romance.

Everyone should know about Frances (especially if you’ve ever given or received a diamond ring). More about her here.  

The goal is to provide a global platform for talent and support initiatives that champion diversity in the creative industries. To celebrate excellence in all advertising and comms through a female lens. The industry norm is male-dominated juries. The target of 50/50 panels isn’t enough since women make 80% of purchasing decisions. Read more. 

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The Shift: Issue #5

7 Steps Brands Can Take to Show Black Lives Matter

Blackout Tuesday is a collective action to protest against police brutality and racism.

On Tuesday, June 2, businesses taking part stopped operating and showed their support in different ways. My social feed was full of black squares tagged #BLM, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackoutTuesday, and #TheShowMustBePaused—the hashtag created by two women as a day of reflection and conversation for the music industry.

It felt like more brands were on board and speaking frankly—using the words ‘black businesses’ rather than ‘diversity’ for one. But are they doing it out of genuine compassion and a desire for change or because of peer pressure and corporate crisis management? It’s easy to post a black square online and hashtag a movement, but there’s not much point unless you’re taking action behind the scenes.

Will the interest in black-owned businesses continue beyond the current news cycle and create lasting change? Read more

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Copywriting projects – June 2020

It’s June, my birthday month. A special anniversary this year – I’m 46 years young and also celebrating 20 years as a freelance writer!

What am I working on in June?

Here’s an overview.

  • E-shots and newsletter for a retail trade body
  • Annual Review 2020
  • Social media copywriting for a journalists’ trade union
  • Promoting #ForgottenFreelance and #NoFreeWork campaigns
  • Developing a new blog series – thought leadership pieces from the gift card industry
  • Social media reporting
  • Writing blogs on perimenopause and sex, and menopause and sex (yes, two different things!) for a sex tech startup. A slight challenge as I have Safe Search on while homeschooling
  • Boilerplate for a press release
  • Email newsletter, The Shift, my weekly (Sunday) update on work culture
  • Research – listening to podcasts on marketing and work trends: Hot Copy, Is This Working? Call Paul, Being Freelance, The Copywriter Club. I go by the 25% rule and spend the first hour of the day working on my business rather than in it
  • Pandemic check – updating my website SEO, links, blog, checking tone of voice etc

It’s a diverse range of content and comms across very different industries.

I use a variety of platforms – MailChimp, WordPress, Hootsuite, Microsoft Outlook, LinkedIn, Twitter, G-Suite, Substack, Zoom, SurveyMonkey, Disciple app.

It’s all about communication right now. Getting the right tone and shifting things online – meetings, webinars, podcasts, apps. Finding ways to keep people connected while they’re working from home and having systems and processes in place to manage remote teams.

Being direct is essential – so have one message or call to action per email, use bullets, and keep it short. No one wants long emails with too much information. There’s no point planning too far ahead either as we don’t know what’s coming and things are changing so fast. Focus on the next couple of months. 

Now isn’t the time for a hard sell but don’t disappear on your customers either – keep in touch, a weekly email is fine. People will appreciate you being there and doing stuff. It’s an opportunity to show people how you’ve responded to the crisis, your values and teamwork. Once this is over, we’ll remember the brands that took action and helped others, and we’ll be loyal to them.

Add a personal touch – a sign off from the CEO in an e-shot, or call your clients to see if you can help. Offer to keep in touch via their personal email if they’ve been furloughed. Ditch the Survey Monkey and ask for a quick email update instead. Make it easy for people to keep in touch with you.

Use Zoom for online meetings as people are familiar with it and using it personally. Don’t share a meeting link on social media and set a password to join. Make it fun – jokes, canned laughter, music, drinks. Don’t aim for perfection; keep it real. We’re all in this together.

I was inspired to see how the Jigsaw team have been using Zoom – they are a social bunch! Check out their blog post here.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked across many industries, and it’s been interesting to see how clients are adapting to the new normal. It’s great to share ideas and see how trends in one industry may help another. It’s one of the joys of being freelance – you see things from a different perspective and bring fresh ideas.

If you need help with your copy and content, feel free to get in touch. I’m here to help. nicci@niccitalbot.com.

Sign up for my weekly newsletter, The Shift – exploring new ways of living and working.

PS. If you’re struggling to concentrate, try the Pomodoro Technique, a time management tool. Set your 25-minute timer and work on one task at a time with no interruptions. Short break. Rinse and repeat. I also use Do Not Disturb when I need to concentrate – all calls and notifications off for a calmer working day.

I don’t want to go back to normal, do you?

See this as an opportunity. It’s a good time to think about how you live and work and make some changes.

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Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

Corona Diaries: Day 1 of Lockdown (Artist in Residence)

Day 1 of my ‘Artist in Residency’ – a nicer way of looking at it. Thanks to Sky Dylan-Robbins, Executive Director, Video Consortium, who said, “Despite the anxiety that today’s torrents of bad news may induce, there’s something to be said for taking a moment to breathe, reassess, and do something we haven’t had time to pursue.” Yes! Like announcing on Twitter that I’m going to be learning Italian over the next three months to show solidarity.

27 million people in the UK watched Boris’ historic speech last night enforcing a lockdown and telling us we must stay at home. Sound speech, clear messaging and tagline – “Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” Note the wartime language: “In this fight, each and every one of us is directly enlisted. On the frontline. Beat the virus. An army of volunteers.” A bit belated, he’s clearly in anguish at having to take these measures, but they are necessary given that the UK saw its highest number of coronavirus deaths in one day, with 87 dying in 24 hours. I’m glad we’re finally joining the rest of Europe. 

Woke up at 6.30 am with the sun streaming through the window, dogs barking and birds singing. It’s not great timing, is it? We’ve been stuck indoors for months due to crap weather, and now, just as everything’s coming back to life, it looks like we’re going to be inside for another three months. Still, I’m not running a marathon on my balcony like that fabulous Frenchman – our restrictions aren’t that draconian.

1.18 pm: text from GOV.UK: “CORONAVIRUS ALERT. New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” 

Slight confusion about messaging. The fam all had the same text advising them to stay at home. ‘You may get additional advice on your health condition shortly’. My mum thought this was irresponsible “cos people will be led to believe they are on the 1.5 million list of at-risk people when the text appears to be a confirmation of government policy to the population as a whole. Loads of folk will be panicking for nowt!”

Friend texted in despair after spending 2.5 hours on hold trying to get through to the Universal Credit helpline for some advice. “There’s no other way to continue a claim than to call them. The system is going to stop loads from getting any help at all.” 

Working from home: everyone seems to be using Zoom for online meetings – positive feedback, it’s easy to use. £11.99 for small sessions of up to 100. There’s also a free option, which apparently ends calls after 40 minutes (sounds like an excellent productivity tool!). One of my clients (retail trade body) is digitising its platform for members so we’re exploring webinars, online conferencing, and a portal/forum as all physical events are on hold. Great to see lots of positive news/PR stories coming out about retail and how ‘self-isolation is changing our gifting style’, i.e. we’re buying more gift cards to help loved ones feel better. I’ve already bought three this month for birthdays and Mother’s Day. 

So, I’ll be working on a ‘sunny news blog’ for the retail/gifting world with positive stories. There’s also a free school meals initiative for coronavirus which involves gift cards, so lots of scope for retailers.

Funny how having a tight brief for a client or a ‘lockdown’ in this case helps with creativity – we have to work with what we have so there’s less room for procrastination. As Douglas R Hofstadter said, “I suspect that the welcoming of constraints is, at bottom, the deepest secret of creativity.”

Update on self-employment: 

Proposed amendment to the Coronavirus Bill: “Statutory Self-employment Pay”. If it’s accepted, it compels the government to introduce Regulations for freelancers: 80% of their monthly net earnings, averaged over the last three years OR £2,197 per month, whichever is lower. Write to your MP to support this: ow.ly/53iz50yUow7 – more news on self-employment tomorrow.

5 pm: Had a jog to Bexhill. Seafront was full of joggers, dog walkers, and bikes… cycling is going to be huge this year. Older people are great at social distancing, but millennials don’t seem to have the hang of it yet and carry on walking straight towards you, so I had to do a bit of dodging. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t want to catch this, thanks. Popped into the Co-op on the way home for loo roll and eggs (max 15 people at a time, self-employed bouncer on the door). Empty shelves, which is no surprise, but now the wine shelf and fridges have been stripped bare too. It’s official: the UK’s holing up for three weeks. 

Why aren’t retail staff wearing masks? I’ve been in all the supermarkets, and none of the checkout staff or security are wearing them. The chaps in the corner shops are. This is madness given the number of people they are coming into contact with and the delivery drivers bringing in new stock. We should be looking after these people as well as our NHS staff: they’re on the ‘retail frontline’ after all, and they have to put up with the public all day long…

8 pm: Channel 4 News. The teen on group chat with her mates all night, trying to host a Netflix party. Few tech glitches so it didn’t work, but we’ll try again tonight. Great idea, Netflix!

Some positive news:

After tweeting Dr Mark Ali (Private Harley Street Clinic) to suggest he should offer free COVID-19 testing for frontline workers, I see there’s been a massive backlash about him profiteering from a national crisis. He’s now lost his contract with the supplier so no private testing on his website. Still, he’s made a packet in a few weeks – perhaps he could donate some to the NHS.  

ExCel Centre in London to be turned into coronavirus hospital for up to 4,000 patients

Coronavirus: Joe Wicks keeps children fit with online PE classes

Your NHS Needs You – NHS call for a volunteer army. Join the GoSAM App. 405,000 recruits in one day! I’ll make calls and write letters of hope. 

Free Minecraft education pack to help kids stuck in quarantine. Armchair travel to the international space station and the inside of the human eye. 

Coronavirus: Can Couples Meet up? Couples should test their strength of feeling over whether to isolate together is the official advice from England’s deputy chief medical officer. “Couples need to make a choice and stick with it.”  

Company gives away 100,000 free sex toys and gifts to women stuck in self-isolation

Prada: the latest fashion brand to make medical face masks. Great to see the big brands making medical face masks, hand sanitiser, and funding studies into coronavirus and immunity and intensive care units. 

Enjoy reading this?

Clear messaging (& tone of voice) is crucial at all times – not just during coronavirus!

If you need a little help with your marketing activity in the coming weeks – get in touch today. Nicci@niccitalbot.com.