More than a mummy blogger

Who said you had to stick to one field of expertise in your career? Certainly not Helen Farmer, a freelance writer, editor, voice over artist and family celebrant. Originally from the UK, Helen lives in Dubai with her family and writes an award-winning blog called The Mothership. She writes about the highs (and lows) of being a working parent living abroad. Helen shares her career story and proves that being a mum needn’t restrict your career options.

Tell us about yourself

I knew from age 14 which degree I wanted to do, and tailored all my education options and weekend jobs to getting on it: a Broadcast Journalism course at the University of Leeds, where all of the tutors were current BBC employees, and work experience took place at the same studios where Countdown was filmed. It was competitive to get on, and even more so once I was there, with stressful projects and my fellow students frequently in tears in our ‘newsroom’ (this is back in the day when we felt lucky to have a room with internet access). I quickly realised that this wasn’t for me, and my first job was in print, working on a small magazine in Northumberland where I was both writing features and selling ads. I learnt a lot about both disciplines – fast. Afterwards came a stint in PR and marketing, working for one of my property clients. Then came a move to the Middle East age 24. In truth, it was a choice between moving abroad and moving to London – and Bahrain scared me less than the capital. Classic Northerner!

I worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency before moving to Dubai with a rather regrettable ex. Thankfully, while the relationship didn’t last, the UAE has been a fantastic place for my career. For three years I worked for a guidebook publisher, writing and editing books for expats all over the world, before launching their website. Next came three years as deputy editor on an entertainment magazine, where we worked hard, but enjoyed the best the city had to offer, from concerts to dining, plus interviewing visiting celebrities and reviewing hotels all over the world. I stayed with the same publisher and was promoted to editor of a new magazine, one I was able to be instrumental in creating, that’s all about normal life in an extraordinary place. We supported small businesses, sought out inspirational people and created a really feel-good title that I’m immensely proud of to this day.

And somewhere in there I met my husband and got pregnant with my first daughter and starting blogging, launching a website called The Mothership. I went part-time when she was a year old, then a few months later decided to go freelance, focusing on the blog, writing for other titles, working as a voiceover artist and start training as a family celebrant, allowing me to create and conduct wedding blessings and baby naming ceremonies. Something of an eclectic mix.

Helen also works as a wedding celebrant.

It’s been a year since I went freelance, and I wouldn’t change a thing (apart from the unreliability of payment). My blog has been nominated for (and won) awards, I’ve written for some of my favourite magazines, and I’m loving my work as a celebrant. It also allows me more time with my toddler and newborn baby. Yes, it’s chaotic, and there’s always something for me to be doing, but it’s working.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

I’ve always written, so starting The Mothership was really just a way for me to deal with the newness and weirdness of being a mum. What has followed, however, has been fantastic, and one of my favourite parts is the social media community I’ve built – I’m all about those ‘me too’ moments in parenthood, the ones that make us feel less alone and less mad. That it’s okay to admit that you don’t love every second. Digital technology has also been really helpful for the celebrant side, from brides connecting with me on Instagram to having Skype meetings with couples from all over the world.

What are you tips for managing a multi-faceted career?

I love a routine, so after nursery drop off at 8am, the mornings are for work, then it’s pick-up, and more work during naps, and then it’s family time. I usually meet brides via Skype or in the evenings, then weddings take place in the afternoons – the first ceremony I did was a month after giving birth, and my mum was in the hotel lobby with the baby in case I needed to breastfeed her!


Helen is following…

Anna Whitehouse AKA Mother Pukka: we met in Dubai (her husband was my editor) and we all became friends. I really admire how she’s using her platform to promote flexible working in the UK, and doing it with a sense of humour. And I really respect her transparency when it comes to working with brands and doing sponsored posts. She’s a breath of fresh air – and I can’t wait to see her at a wedding in September. Mummy bloggers gone wild…

I did a yoga class with Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn) last year, and it changed the way I think about exercise. She’s truly inspirational, and has made me feel less self-conscious about being the biggest girl in the gym. Her Instagram feed is full of laughter and advice, and I’ve started doing her Every Body Yoga video classes via an app called Cody.


Helen’s work

themothershipdxb.com
instagram.com/themothershipdxb
facebook.com/themothershipdxb

Empowering women to succeed in business

Meet Jessica Rogers, a professional coach who helps women who run their own businesses. She shares her career story, coaching tips and suggests some great women to follow.

Tell us about yourself

I started my career in marketing children’s entertainment brands and went on to manage well-known toy brands such as Star Wars and Transformers. I liked my job to an extent and I was successful it but I always felt like there was something missing, it never felt quite right.

When I had my first child, whilst negotiating my return to corporate work, I started seeing a Life Coach, it was through this process that I decided to do some coaching training as self-development. After my first month I realised that I loved it and I was good at it, I had found the ‘thing’ I had been missing for a long time. So I quit my job and threw myself into the training. I started my coaching business working with women returnees in large businesses as that is what I knew and I felt well qualified to help these women.

Now, I coach women who own and run small businesses that they are looking to upscale. We work together to clearly identify what they want to achieve and the practical steps they need to take to make it happen. I also provide interactive workshops and coaching sessions for women returnees as part of the TechPixies programme.

I’ve also always had a yearning to work with young people – I started off coaching and mentoring unemployed young people on a south-east London housing estate. Over the years I have coached young people in and out of education, now I do project work for a local group of colleges working with students who have been identified as being “at risk”. This work is really important to me as I feel that giving young people the space that coaching provides can set them on a positive path of self-awareness and taking personal responsibility for their future life and career.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

When I first started coaching nine years ago I saw most of my clients in person, partly because I went to see them in their place of work but also because some people felt uncomfortable about not being able to see me. Now, whilst I still do a lot of phone coaching I also coach by Skype and FaceTime, which has meant I have a wider range of clients in a wide range of locations.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with social media, I love the connectedness it brings and I love finding new people to engage with, but I hate putting myself out there. When I ditch the fear and do it I love what happens but I have some blocks around it that I am working on!

What are your top coaching tips for women?

  • Be true to yourself – always: don’t waste time comparing yourself to others – “plow your own furrow”.
  • Trust your gut: if something doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t despite how attractive others may want you to think it is.
  • Surround yourself with the right people: those who inspire you to aim higher and who have your back.

Jessica is following…

Jenny Garrett: I have known Jenny for about four years – we met on Twitter! Over the years she has been my coach and I have taken her self-development courses and attended her Happenista retreat. Whenever I have any contact with her she never fails to inspire me with her lovely manner and wise words.

The Step Up Club: I love how these two women give positive useful tips for everyday life in a stylish and accessible way.

Life According to Her: The vibe and no nonsense tips from Ahyiana in this feed really resonate with me.


Jessica’s work 

jessicavrogers.co.uk
instagram.com/jessicavrogers
twitter.com/JessicaRogers76

Top 10 Takeaways from Blogtacular

I attended Blogtacular last weekend (a blogging and online conference in London). Rather than write a blog post detailing my thoughts on the event I thought it would be fun (and a good way to test out new skills) to try my hand at recording a Podcast. I used the Opinion App on my phone, so bear with the quality. I think it sounds OK and it goes to show what you can do with mobile technology these days (record, edit, overlay music and share).

Stop dreaming, start doing

The Step Up Club is a fresh, new voice in the women’s career conversation. We are here to celebrate all women – whatever your job. The two of us sit at either ends of the creative/corporate spectrum: we know that it’s just as valid to aspire to career contentment, as it is to want to become your company’s next CEO. We are the authors of the newest women’s career manual: Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day. Through our stylish events, online content and newsletter, our aim is to make women feel empowered, boost their skill set and broaden their network to really love their work and life.

Phanella is a former lawyer and banker who retrained as an executive career coach, working (alongside The Step Up Club) on women’s leadership and diversity with all kind of big companies as well as individuals. Alice is a former fashion features editor at The Times, Marie Claire and Red, who alongside The Step Up Club continues to write freelance for many of the broadsheets and glossies. Between us we have five children and live in North West London.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

Getting our message out there has definitely been enabled by social media and digital technology. Our book, of course, exists offline and contains a huge body of content, career workouts and advice. But without our blog and social feeds, it would be that much more difficult to get the more personal element of support out to our community of women – many of whom can’t make it to our events in person. We are working on a full online programme to reach and connect these women, but in the meantime we rely on these other channels to have an impact.

It is hard, when Instagram and similar feeds are bursting with edited images of life perfection from all corners of the world. It takes a mind of steel to remain completely unmoved by this – but as we say at the start of our book, finding success (and when we talk about success, we do so with a view to all facets of life) is about celebrating our own uniqueness and not allowing ourselves to have the lives of others impressed upon us negatively. Sure, it’s brilliant if other women inspire us to reach our own goals, but it is also important that we stay true to our own beliefs and values, which is why we spend a lot of time helping readers (and attendees at our events) unearth theirs. We like to refer to values as the hashtags of our lives: we can’t get away from social media, but we can let it help us guide us towards our own success.

What are your confidence building tips for women in business?

We feel passionately that confidence is an integral part of career success, fulfilment and enjoyment. Confidence turns our thoughts into actions, it is the emotional driver that we hold within ourselves and women do tend to struggle more acutely with confidence levels. Why? Because our internal thoughts, the ones that make us empathetic, kind, unique and brilliant, also have the capacity to hold us down. Who hasn’t succumbed to the voice inside their heads that says we aren’t good enough, or that that other person is much more capable? Of course, everyone has these thoughts but when we allow them to feel comfortable within our heads – when we let the proverbial devil dwell for too long – it has a negative impact on how we feel, how we function and in turn, how others respond to us too.

Confidence is not innate, which means that we all have the capacity to change our internal rhetoric and in turn, build our confidence. Also, in our book, we explore fully the practical tips that you can employ to also improve your confidence levels from the outside in. Neither will happen overnight, but if you can break the negative belief cycles that dictate your thoughts, and implement some positive physical changes – standing bigger, speaking more slowly and taking the time to really listening, all of us can become a more confident, self-assured version of your current self.

Finally, we believe that each of us is uniquely brilliant. We each have our own unique definition of success and if we play to that – no one else’s – then we will feel more confident about our careers.


Alice and Phanella are following…

Style Me Sunday: We love Nat’s no bullshit message, incredible sense of style and massive smile. She is gorgeous inside and out. We are especially loving her Friday finger slot.

Cherry Healey: We’ve both been watching Cherry on TV for years and she brings the same sense of humour, openness and honesty to her social feed and in real life.


The Step Up Club

We send out a weekly newsletter with loads of career advice, our latest blog posts, first dibs on our event tickets – they often sell out here first – and (coming soon) discounts on our favourite work related brands. At the moment we’re giving away an exclusive excerpt from our book that WILL help readers define their personal success when they sign up. Just follow this link: bit.ly/SuccessGiveaway.

Let’s get digital

Meet Claire Greville, a Digital Mums graduate who has since set up her own social media consultancy Greville Social in Bristol. Claire studied Accounting and Finance at university and had a successful career working in higher education, before making the difficult decision to take redundancy after they were unable to accommodate her flexible working request (sound familiar?). So with no idea of what she was going to do, but with a bit of time to reflect on what kind of job would suit her and her family, Claire stumbled across a Digital Mums Facebook advert, and the rest (as they say) is history.

Why did you choose Digital Mums and what was it like doing the course?

Funnily enough, I found Digital Mums through Facebook (I understand now that it was a cleverly targeted advert!). I was scrolling through my feed one afternoon in October 2015, when I spotted the details. It seemed almost too good to be true as it was exactly what I had been looking for – flexible, rewarding work which I could do from home. I immediately checked out their website and the course sounded really interesting, so I emailed for more information. I did lots of research about Digital Mums in the meantime, but I was getting more and more excited as I thought about it. I loved social media, and the prospect of being able to work for a business as part of the training was very appealing. I decided to apply, and a few weeks later, I was offered a video interview for a place on the course. I was quite nervous but I really needn’t have been. Nikki (one of the co-founders, pictured on the left below) was lovely, and before I knew it, I’d been offered a place on the Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme starting in January 2016.

Digital Mums co-founders: Nikki Cochrane and Kathryn Tyler.

The course itself was a fantastic but very intense experience. It was 20 weeks long, but run over six months, in order to accommodate some of the school holidays. The ‘live learning’ aspect was brilliant. I was paired with a business from the very first week of the course, and I was able to apply everything I learned each week straightaway, which meant that I retained all of the information I was taking in (and there was a lot!). It was also a great way to learn about managing clients and their expectations.

Every student is put into a peer group with five other mums, and my group ‘The Katherine Ryans’, was such a fantastic support. We spoke every week of the course, through Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, and I’m still in touch with them now. The course finished at the end of June and there was a scary final report to hand in, but I passed with flying colours. I took a few weeks off over the summer before starting work for a small digital agency based in London. I did that for a couple of months, but quickly realised that I would prefer to work for my own clients, so I set up my own social media consultancy, Greville Social.

I currently have three clients, all of whom I work for remotely. I still provide social media consultancy to the lovely business that I trained with: Cambridge Academic Performance. I’m just about to start running a new Facebook campaign for Green Ginger Design, a fantastic web designer based in East London. And I’m currently managing Facebook and Instagram for Eye Heroes, a small charity who are campaigning to prevent avoidable blindness in the UK. I’ve also recently been selected as a mentor for Digital Mums, working 1:1 to support another mum through the course and beyond.

My work/life balance is now exactly what I could only dream of two years ago. Gone are the ridiculously early morning starts, and the stressful commute. I now have time to walk my sons to school every day, before I settle down to work in my home office. I do most of my work during school hours, and all of my clients are happy for me to work remotely, keeping in touch with them via phone, video calls, and email. As my work is so flexible, I even have time to do a little bit of volunteering in the local area, helping out at my sons’ school, and also running a local community group’s Facebook page.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing a Digital Mums course?

Make sure you’re absolutely committed to doing the course. It will take over your life for six months and you need to be prepared to put the hours in every single week. It’s not something that you can do half-heartedly as you need to keep up with each week’s tasks and assignments. There isn’t time to fall behind, and the deadlines are strict.

I was fortunate that both my children were at school when I started the course so I studied during the day, but there were plenty of mums on the course with younger children. Just think about how you’ll manage to find the time to study as well as look after the kids. And don’t worry if you haven’t studied anything new for a long time – all the other mums will be equally as nervous as you are. But the support you will receive from your peers and Digital Mums both during the course and afterwards will increase your confidence ten-fold.

The support from the #DMCollective (Digital Mums graduates) continues to astound me every day, and I feel genuinely honoured to be part of such a talented and inspirational group of women. If you’re a mum looking to change your work/life balance, then I highly recommend the Digital Mums course. 

What are your top social media tips for small businesses?

  • Be selective: you don’t have to be on every platform. It’s far better to do two platforms well, than five poorly. Work out where your target audience is hanging out, and focus your time and efforts there.
  • Be consistent: establish a tone of voice and stick to it. Turn up every day – post at the same frequency, preferably at the same times, so that your followers know what to expect from you.
  • Be social: it is called social media after all! Don’t just promote yourself. Take an interest in others, join in conversations, and you’ll start to build relationships, which will pay off in the long run.

Claire is following… 

Mother Pukka: such an awesome inspiring lady who champions the Digital Mums #workthatworks movement. I love watching her Instagram stories.

Jools Oliver: is effortlessly stylish, and the sneak peeks into her life with Jamie and her five gorgeous children are fascinating.

Talented Ladies Club: I love their mixture of motivational quotes and practical advice, as well as inspirational stories about working mothers.


Claire’s work

grevillesocial.co.uk
facebook.com/grevillesocial
instagram.com/clairegreville
twitter.com/clairegreville

Ever feel like an imposter?

Yes, that old chestnut. Don’t worry we all do sometimes. I regularly have moments where I have to reality check the self-doubt I feel. Talking to friends and family helps (and being give a metaphorical slap around the face). I don’t whether this is a particular trait amongst women, but I know a lot of us feel like this. Raising the subject publicly acts a reminder to myself to have more confidence in my own abilities, but also to reassure anyone reading this that (despite appearances) even the most apparently switched on people have wobbles too. You’re human and it would be a bit odd if you didn’t.

I’m not usually keen on labels (I don’t feel they are particularly helpful), but in order to illustrate the point I’m making, I want to talk about ‘Imposter Syndrome’: a recognised term in clinical psychology that eludes to a number of behavioural characteristics. The basis for these feelings broadly manifest themselves in the following ways:

  1. A belief that you’re not capable or accomplished, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  2. Difficulty believing or accepting genuine praise and recognition.
  3. Feeling like you’ve somehow faked your success.
  4. Fear of being outed as a fraud.

If you’ve taken time out of a career to have children you may feel this more acutely. That’s why support from fellow women is such an important part of validating your experience and sense of self-worth. Lack of career confidence is a huge barrier to achieving your ambitions, even if on paper you have everything going for you (and I guarantee you have). Receiving praise and recognition for your professional achievements, no matter how small can be the difference between making or breaking someone’s spirit. Often it’s the kindness of strangers that affects us more than the unconditional words of approval we hear from those closest to us. If you’re feeling like this then my top tips are:

  1. Talk to other people:
    I guarantee other people will have felt like this at some point. It’s such a cliché (but it’s true) a problem shared is a problem halved. Families are great, but speaking to objective people who know your industry can give you a more constructive insight into how good your knowledge and skills are.
  2. Write it down:
    Make two lists: one outlining all your achievements and experience; another ordering any areas of concern you have. Next, make a list of actionable goals (can you tell I like lists?). Make a realistic plan of ways you can work on your professional development: attend a training course to enhance your skills, refresh your CV/LinkedIn, join a business networking community.
  3. Meet up offline:
    There is no substitute for meeting people IRL (this is an acronym young people favour, instead of saying ‘in real life’ – I’m down with it). Share your experiences with like-minded women and support each other.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up:
    Remember we’re all winging it to some extent (some of us are better at appearing to look like we know what we’re doing).
  5. Find time to chill out:
    Put things into perspective. I find a large glass of wine and cake really helps (sorry I meant exercise, yes, exercise definitely helps too).

Written by Amy White

Solving the work puzzle

Meet Anna Ives, owner of HR Puzzle, an independent HR consultancy. Anna’s story is strangely similar to mine in many ways – she took redundancy from a career job whilst pregnant and then struggled to find flexible employment post-baby. The frustration we collectively feel as women in this regard seems to be having positive outcomes however. Firstly, women are campaigning harder than ever to achieve flexible working rights for all (not just mums and dads), and secondly it’s breeding a new generation of female entrepreneurs, surely something to be celebrated? Anna’s new company offers support, advice and assistance to those very women.

What led you to setup your HR consultancy?

Picture the scenario, you’ve just found out you are pregnant, you feel amazingly happy, scared, excited and in shock all at the same time. You’ve made the decision to only tell your family and a few close friends before your first scan and you’ll tell your employer after that. Then you get called into a meeting at work and are told the life changing news (at any time, let alone when pregnant) that you are being made redundant.

That’s precisely the situation I faced just over two years ago. I literally couldn’t believe it. I had worked at the insurance company in question for about two and a half years as a HR Business Partner. I had graduated with a BA in Business and HR and started my first role as a HR Assistant 10 years prior. I had experience in working in a number of different sectors such as the NHS, education and local government, as well as large national and multinational private companies across IT and communications, insurance and service provider consultancies. I even went back to university to gain a Masters in HR Management (studying part-time, while working full-time) and I’m a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD).

What was I going to do? I didn’t want to be out of work for the next six months of my pregnancy (although it would be lovely, and I wanted to have time off with the baby when she arrived).) So, I took a few short-term contracts and ended up working two days before my little girl Beatrix was born in November 2015.

Fast forward nine months and I felt I was ready to start looking to return to work, I was fully aware the redundancy money wouldn’t last forever and I was looking forward to finding a new flexible/part-time role. After about two months of searching I hit a wall, I just couldn’t find any flexible or part-time positions in HR. I knew I didn’t want a full-time role, and it had always been a dream to set up my own HR Consultancy, so why not now? So with the rest of my redundancy money I set up HR Puzzle. I specialise in helping mums and women with SMEs, for those who already have or want to take on an employee/s and all things HR related.

How is digital technology and social media enabling the way you work?

The whole process of setting up and running my own business was new to me. Digital technology has enabled the flexible working pattern I require. Not only does it allow me to work where I want, and when I want, but also allows me to serve clients who aren’t always local me to. I can send emails with a sleeping baby lying on me, or after we visit the park and she is napping on the way home in her buggy. In many cases HR can be dealt with remotely and digital technology enables this.

Social media has also taken on a whole new meaning. I have always had a love affair with Instagram and it was one of the things that inspired me to set up my own business. Lots of really inspirational women, some who are parents, and have great careers or have their own business – showing you can have it all.

I have found lots of great people to speak with and to also help share my journey with through social media. I also regularly use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It does take a long time but I can already see the rewards and it’s a great way to find new opportunities. After all I wouldn’t be writing this piece on here if it wasn’t for the power of social media.

What are your top tips for women starting a new business?

  1. Follow your passion. It may sound like a cliché but when you do, it doesn’t really feel like work. What I am really passionate about is helping others, especially those I can relate to – in this case women and mothers.
  2. Find a shared work place. I started off working at home to save on costs and a few months in was going stir crazy. I’m a people person and I am at my best when around others. I found a local hot desk via Wenta who offer loads of free business support including a three month free trial. This really helped with bouncing ideas off others in similar situations. I even joined a few Facebook groups who have meet-ups for those who work from home.
  3. Market your business. There are lots of free ways to do this out there, especially on social media, so make use of it. Join groups, follow others (even those with the same businesses) and comment on people’s posts. You never know where this will take you. Don’t get me wrong it’s a long and hard process but it will pay off. Why pay someone else when in the early stages you will have the time to do this yourself.

Anna is following…

Laura from @themodernnursery: she actually inspired me to set up my own business. Her blog post about how she started her business when she had her little girl inspired me to do the same.

Next is my new girl crush! The gorgeous @Eimearvarianbarry. I first heard her of her when I signed up to a Mothers Meeting session on “How to Get Social Media Savvy”. She is so down to earth and talks nineteen to the dozen but you can’t help but watch her. She has two little girls and works around them flexibly, another inspiration of mine.

Finally, it has to be @blossomingbirds not only do we share the same name but again she is an inspiration. She has a really good career and is a mother with two little girls, and has an amazing blog. I just don’t know where she gets her energy!


Anna’s work

hr-puzzle.com
instagram.com/hr.puzzle

My HR services include contract writing, policy & processes, employment law advice, recruitment, training, company handbooks, performance issues and absence management.

I am also campaigning for more businesses to take on flexible roles and helping to support mums with getting back to work after maternity leave/applying for flexible working, just to name a few.

I have some great events coming up, but one that I am really excited about is the Mums Enterprise Roadshow, a child friendly work and business exhibition for mums on a mission (#shootforthemoon). I will be an exhibitor at the London show on Monday 25th September 2017.

The blogger making her own luck

Meet Sunita Harley an HR consultant, blogger and event organiser. She is one busy lady and is organising no fewer than 10 social and networking events around the UK this year.  Sunita has also been asked to speak on a panel at Blogtacular and has recently been nominated for London’s Top Mummy Blogger Award by The Mother Hood. So who better to ask about how to run a successful blog and host events than Sunita.

Tell us about yourself

I blog over at Lucky Things, chatting about confidence, career, wellbeing, life and style. Having gone through IVF myself, I also spread awareness of IVF experiences and the support available.

My career is pretty diverse – from editorial, fashion, the music industry and DJ-ing (where I appeared on Top of The Pops a few times!). I’ve spent the last the past 15 years working with talented teams in corporate HR and now run my own HR consultancy. One thing I love about my HR expertise is that I also coach business women and  bloggers on their confidence and strategies to achieve different things.

I know myself that life is full of ups and downs. So I try to encourage others to look after their own confidence as well as their online and offline wellbeing.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work?

Well, I’ve realised how you can support people through blogging and social media. If I had thought of looking at blogs or Instagram when I went through IVF I think I would have benefited from loads of support. If I have a business query, I check out other blogs.

I’m a connector and this is important part of my work. I love Instagram as it connects me with lots of different people. With my HR consultancy, things like LinkedIn and Instagram are super helpful.

What are your top tips for running events?

DO

  • Plan ahead as much as you can, this means getting save the dates out or confirming dates even if it’s months in advance. This also means working how much you need to do, what’s a priority and what’s manageable.
  • Do your research. Ask people what they want from an event – never assume.
  • Make sure you eat and drink well before or during your event. When you’re an organiser, it’s easy to switch into hostess mode and forget about yourself. When I mention drink well, I’m recommending staying hydrated (not loads of booze!).
Sunita and friends at a recent Lucky Things event in London.

DON’T

  • Don’t try and do everything yourself. Ask for help or accept offers of help even with small things on the day.
  • Don’t worry if something doesn’t go to plan on the day. Events are really hard work. Sometimes there are things beyond your control or they might be insignificant in the big scale of things.
  • Don’t be afraid to try things out. Some event ideas will work, some won’t. It’s your intention that’s important and you always learn something from each one.

How do you make your blog a success?

Start with you
Figure out how much you can actually blog. Blogging could be a 24/7 thing if we had enough energy and hours in the day. I’ve seen bloggers overwork or put too much pressure on themselves when blogging should be fun.

Don’t set high expectations
We can’t do everything and be on every social media channel constantly. Don’t worry about what other bloggers are doing – focus on what you want to get out of your blog.

Be a collaborator rather than a competitor
OK, so a bit of competition is healthy at times as it ups our energy and drive. But don’t let it consume you. Collaborations are one of the best ways that my blog Lucky Things has gained exposure on different social media channels and to different reader groups. When people have approached me about appearing in interviews, it’s been a great way to get to know other bloggers too.

What do people want to read about?
If you want people to read your blog, then think about what people want to read about? The blogging sphere is saturated with blogs. So what makes your story or your blog stand out? People love reading about top tips. They also enjoy reading about who the blogger is. Your story will make your blog stand out? A lot of people come to my blog for practical tips, whether it’s about career, wellbeing or IVF. I’m super excited about speaking at Blogtacular this year about looking after our wellbeing whilst blogging and managing life and work online.

Promote your posts via social media
Don’t be shy to using social media platforms to promote your blog posts. Bloggers put in a lot of effort when writing posts. Mention your blog posts on your favourite social media corners. I always flag new (and old) blog posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Different people like different platforms. If you’d like to read more blogger tips, check out this blog post.


Sunita is following…

@the_mama_works: I love Sarah’s Instagram posts. Her mottos always give me a boost. Her advice always feels practical.

@kemikids: Yvonne is a true business woman who also has a strong and bold heart. Her captions on her Instagram post are inspiring.

@mother_pukka: Not only is Anna the first blogger I came across who also loves 90s hip hop, she’s also making serious moves to push forward the #flexappeal campaign. This is something close to my professional heart as a HR bod. Who doesn’t want to work flexibly?

I’ve been lucky to have met Sarah, Anna and Yvonne in real life over the past year. I love how supportive, focused and down-to-earth they all are. They have all given me good advice.


Sunita’s work

luckythings.co.uk
instagram.com/luckythingsblog
facebook.com/luckythingsblog
twitter.com/@luckythingsblog

Lucky Things Meet Up: social and networking events for women. In 2017, I’m organising 10 events to take place around the UK. They always feature a talk so people leave with some practical takeaways for their own personal and professional development. Lucky Things Meet Ups are known for being friendly and inclusive events which I love. You can check out the video promo here if you want to see what we got up to at the January Lucky Things Meet Up.

During my HR career over the past 15 years, I’ve coached clients to work on their professional and personal goals.  If you’d like to find out more about how coaching can help your confidence, business or career pop over to this corner of Lucky Things.

As my blog focuses a lot on career, confidence and wellbeing, it’s lovely that I’ve been nominated for 2017 London’s Top Mummy Blogger over at themother-hood.com (only 20 of us have been selected). I’m pretty proud that I’m not a blogger with huge numbers of followers – but proving that you can still get involved in interesting things when you’re a so-called “micro-blogger”. Take a look and if you’d like to vote for me, I’d of course appreciate it! Voting opens at the end of April over at themother-hood.com

Getting to grips with digital

Meet Maxine Kerley, a digital marketer and owner of Digital Bon Bons, a marketing company for parent and children focused businesses.

Tell us about yourself

I am a digital geek and I can’t hide it. I’ve worked for a number of different industries over the years from a dental software company to a fashion brand and it was while I was working for this fashion brand that I really discovered and fell in love with digital marketing. I say love because I really did, it hit me hard and to have something you do for a living be a passion as well – I’m grateful for that.

I’d had experience working with parent and children focused brands in previous job roles and it was while I was on maternity leave with my daughter Ava, that I really started to get to know these type of businesses and what their challenges were. I returned to work in 2015 and then last summer created Digital Bon Bons – a marketing company helping business owners reach their target audiences of parents and children, digitally. I officially launched on New Year’s Eve 2016.

Top tips

Getting to grips with digital marketing takes time and making a business work online can take even longer. For a business owner, you want to see results for all the efforts you’re putting in. I’ve collated together some tips that can help you get started.

Get verified

You have a fantastic website and it’s live but Google doesn’t know about it and it won’t until you verify. You need to tell it that it’s there, waiting to be crawled and picked up for search results. This is done using Google Search Console, so you will need a Gmail Account to do this, but a Gmail Account is so important, especially if you want to take advantage of Google Analytics too. Once verified you will start seeing your site appear in listings.

Have a plan

To really make a success of digital marketing in your business you need to have a strategy outlining your goals. Ask yourself – “What do I actually want to achieve with my digital marketing?”. Is it website hits, e-commerce sales, thought leader? Whatever your goals, you need to have these on record. The next step is creating a plan. This will detail how you will achieve those goals, the actual methods that will be put in place across all the digital platforms you are using. This will not only help you stay focused but will save hours of time, crawling the internet for content ideas, posts, designing newsletters late into the night.

Local search

You want your business to get found when people type words into search engines – this is all down to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and one of the big topics so far this year is about ‘local search’. If you have a local business, for example, a class or a bricks and mortar shop then you need to be thinking about local search. Using tools like Google My Business to highlight all your business information is really key. This means when someone is searching and your business is applicable, it will not only pop up in the page results but also on the right hand side with a box full of your images, website, opening times, address and reviews.

Use tools

Being your own boss is hard work and time management is an issue a lot of my clients struggle with when it comes to social media. With so many platforms and trying to reach the right customers, it can be overwhelming trying to keep up. A social media management system is a huge help in not only planning your posts and content but also for providing reporting so that you can see how well it is all going or where your challenges are. I’ve used several systems over the years so some of my recommendations are Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social (ideal for larger businesses), Planoly and Later. The last two are specifically for Instagram and while they won’t automatically post for you like other systems for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, it does prompt reminders for you. Come on Instagram, change that API and help us business owners out huh!

Digital success definitely doesn’t happen overnight, even though it may seem that way for some. It takes work and planning but it can be done and you can do it.


Maxine’s following…

Doing it for the Kids
When I launched the business I discovered Frankie’s account on Instagram and it was brilliant. For a newly launched business I felt like I was amongst friends. The community she has created around DIFK is brilliant because not only are there regular blog posts from inspirational people but you always feel you have support and you’re never alone.

A Branch of Holly
Her blog is filled with productivity tips to help keep you focused on what you want to achieve in your business. I’ve read so many of her amazing post on helping you manage your time, how to achieve better results in your blog and much more. She is truly fantastic at what she does.

Emma Gannon
I discovered Emma on Twitter first and before I knew it I found her Podcasts and I just couldn’t stop listening. She interviews truly amazing women about their journeys, their inspiration and it’s funny and light.  Her website is a fantastic hub of life online and last year she published her first book of the same name all about growing up online. So many things I identified with having grown up with Yahoo Chat and AOL, not to mention a dial up modem.


Maxine’s work…

digitalbonbons.com
instagram.com/digitalbonbons
twitter.com/digitalbonbons
facebook.com/digitalbonbons
pinterest.com/digitalbonbons

The authentic face of PR

Kelly Pike is an arts and culture PR Consultant based in Bristol, and owner of Folk Public Relations. The phenomenal rise of digital and social media has changed the landscape of public relations. With that in mind we asked Kelly to share her thoughts on the industry, the age of the social media influencer, and how best to promote your business online.

Tell us about yourself

A lot of things can lead a girl into PR and for me it was books and a love of talking to people. Non stop. I spent most of my career working in London publishing houses looking after household names and award winners of all kinds. I loved it. Big time. But children and London’s crazy property ladder saw a move to the south-west and Folk Public Relations was born. Slowly and on the back of very little sleep. I specialise in arts and culture PR but am excitingly branching out into some mama-brands such as This Mum Runs.

How has digital technology and social media changed the PR landscape?

Recently I’ve found myself thinking back to the start of my career, in the early noughties. Back then we used to joke about bloggers asking for review copies and how really they were for their nan or a present. Not for promotion. Publicity was very traditional then. It probably hadn’t changed for decades. Digital technology and the social media revolution have changed my industry more than many. It’s not enough to get great coverage in a women’s glossy or a TV show. Now a campaign needs to feel holistic and organic. And it needs to feel real.

Social media is a key part of this. We’ve seen the traditionally fairly separate disciplines of marketing and publicity merge so that quite often now publicity includes social media marketing and all my plans will include social media influencers now in the way they used to include celebrities.

It’s actually quite nice because I think it all feels a bit more authentic. Influencers are already your target demographic so what you end up with is publicity which feels much more authentic and real. And PR which feels like that is much more likely to end up creating the much courted and incredibly elusive word of mouth affect.

What are your top PR tips for women wanting to promote themselves and their businesses online?

What social media has also done, of course, is make promoting yourself much more accessible. Social media influencers should be the core part of anyone’s campaign; sometimes the only part of your campaign. And because you can usually contact them directly through Instagram or twitter, there’s no excuse.

Make it authentic
You need to get to know the influencers and treat them as people. Chat to them, make friends. It’s social media after all. Then they are much more likely to want to help you by featuring your product. And you gain some new friends. Win, win. It all makes sense really. Call it PR karma if you will.

Stories
If a career in book publishing has taught me anything it’s the power of the story. Stories sell; stories get under the skin; stories help people connect with a product. Everyone has a story and the key to a great PR campaign is finding its story. I will always ask my clients if there are any personal stories behind what they are selling. And there is always something – be it that eureka moment, a journey through adversity or a family member who inspired them.

Read the papers
Whilst social media adds depth and voice to your campaign and many great brands have started out there, you lose nothing by knowing the media. I keep a reference collection of newspapers to remind myself of columns and writers and headlines which work well. And I read as much as I can. You then start to get a sense of where your story will work best – life and style sections for example, or first person columns. Keep and eye on the news to see if you can use it as a launch pad for an opinion piece.

And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone
I’ve noticed that fewer people like to do this. It feels almost rude but it’s still the best way to make sure things happen. At least you know they’ve heard you when you speak to them.

Don’t give up. Keep being you. Making friends. You’ll get there in the end.


Kelly’s is following…

This Mum Runs: I recently started running. I never ran. Ever. I would stand in the cold and laugh in people’s faces weekly at the park run as I waited yet again at Park Run. I would never run. But then I came across This Mum Runs and it’s ethos has been a total game changer for me. Mel Bound is an incredibly inspiring woman who has made it her mission to empower women who felt like they had lost themselves, or felt lonely, isolated, depressed or just lacking in me-time and give them headspace through free social runs and a hugely supportive, welcoming and active Facebook community. She also runs a totally parent friendly business and she recently was picked as a figurehead for a huge Facebook campaign #SheMeansBusiness and was picked by the Sunday Times as one of their 100 disrupters.  They have done incredible things in the south-west but are expanding to London in April. I urge all mums everywhere to check her out.

Doing It For The Kids: One day when I was felling a bit worried about where my next project was coming from I came across Frankie and her blogline Doing It For The Kids. We got chatting and before I knew it I was writing for her. It has hugely increased my love and engagement with Instagram because the community of freelance parents there are so supportive. We’re all going through the same issues. It’s great to not feel alone. Plus I got some projects out of it


Kelly’s work

folkpublicrelations.co.uk
twitter.com/publicistkelly
instagram.com/bristol_mama