I survived the summer holidays

The summer holidays are a metaphor for everything that is great, and ‘challenging’, about parenting. A 6-8 week period of intense family time which rouses emotions ranging from serene contentment: “oh how wonderful to have such precious time to creating everlasting memories”. To scenes of complete and utter irritation: “when will this fresh hell be OVER?”. That kind of thing.

I love my little munchkins, but my word do they test my patience. Over the summer three ‘phrases’ have echoed around my head (and I’m sure yours too). So, as a way of drawing a virtual line in the sand and to signal the beginning of a new school year, I have suggested some solutions for future holidays. Don’t forget October half-term will soon be upon us!

P.S. I’m considering introducing a reward based system (blackmail) for blatant misuse of these phrases for future holidays.

1) Indistriminate use of the word ‘mummy’
We wait months for them to say it and then wish they would find literally any another way of starting a conversation. This summer I estimate the daily tally of “mummy” with no valid follow up question or coherent statement has probably reached 50 a day (it could be more). The word makes me recoil before they’ve even finished uttering it “mmm-uuu-mmm…”. I’ve developed a nervous tick, but on the plus side I’ve honed my razor sharp response “YES?!?” down to a nanosecond.

Solution:
Refuse to answer to “mummy” unless there is a genuine question that only you can answer. My default now is “is it a question daddy could answer?”. Answer is usually, but relunctantally “yes”. Also, suggest that asking a question without prefixing it with “mummy” will elicit a more favourable response. Deduct imaginary points for blatant misuse of the word just because they like hearing their own voice. How many times have you heard “mummy” on repeat and it’s clear they’ve either forgotten the question or they’ve developing a form of tourettes.

2) “I’m bored.”

This is a tricky one because I’m sure as a child I was deeply annoying. I find myself repeating words my parents used to say: “Only boring people get bored”. If you’ve found yourself using this old chesnut, have no fear it simply means you too are displaying a similar lazy kind of behaviour but just in the context of parenting. No shame in it, we’re all guilty of this, particularly if you’re trying to work around the kids at home. Parents can get bored too. In fact I think I’ve said to my kids several times this summer: “I spent most of my childhood being bored. Welcome to my world”. Yes, I’m both lacking in any kind of creative parenting style and a hypocrite.

Solution:
Find other bored parents with their bored children and hangout together. You can have a good moan over a cuppa and they will probably wind each other up and then play nicely 20 minutes before you’re due to leave. Classic.

3) What are we doing today?

“Nothing. We’re just doing jobs at home.” If your children are anything like mine you can only get away with this a few times in the course of six weeks. Their generation is living the middle class dream of café society, cultural days out mixing with different people and going on two or sometimes three holidays. They don’t know they’re born, which is why we go camping (just to keep it real). Joking aside though, their expectations are so high these days. I blame the parents (i.e. myself). We’re all having kids later in life and we miss the lattes, lunches, boozy dinners and mini-breaks. As a result we’re all desperately trying to recreate it with our kids. But are we creating little monsters who want it all?

Solution:
Actively seek out opportunites to detatch from the luxuries of modern life and let them go feral. We need to go feral too: perhaps not in the hygeiene department, but we all need to find our inner ROAR and go wild. Take a walk in the country, enforce a digital detox, go for a swim outdoors, breathe fresh air.

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

The designer creating a freelance community

Francesca Tortora is a graphic designer and founder of Doing It For The Kids (a collaborative blog for freelance parents). A creative soul who pursued her passion for design after a well-timed redundancy offer enabled her to leave a career in project management. Francesca clearly has her head screwed on about the realities of being a working parent and her common sense approach resonates with lots of other people through her blog. With ambitions to grow the online community while still developing her graphic design business, Francesca is one busy lady.

Tell us about yourself

I’m a 30-something, born and bred Londoner, mum to a feisty toddler and freelance graphic designer (see examples of her artwork below). I used to work in project management/arts administration but retrained as a designer in 2011. I realised that I was essentially working to facilitate lots of other people’s creativity, and that I’d much rather earn money being creative myself. So I started working part-time in my then job, went to night school where I undertook a portfolio course in graphic design and was very ‘lucky’ to be offered redundancy pretty much as I finished my year of training. That small pot of money allowed me to take a financial risk and give freelancing a shot. I said I’d give it 6 months max and if it didn’t work out, I’d apply for a PAYE job — nearly six years later I’m still self-employed and genuinely wouldn’t have it any other way.

Francesca Tortora artworkFrancesca Tortora artwork

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

I’m in the kind of job where I’m basically tied to my iMac. Digital technology is an inherent part of what I do – as much as I try to sketch and start projects on paper, every piece of work I produce will be processed digitally – to the point where all of my software now (Adobe CC and Office 365) is installed and managed via ‘the cloud’. But the biggest thing for me, is that digital technology allows me to work flexibly and totally free of the traditional office setup. This has always been my aim but is particularly important to me now as a parent. A lot of freelance designers will still be asked to go into their client’s studios for instance, but I have never needed or wanted to do that. If I’m working on a job full-time for a few weeks, I can speak to my clients whenever they need me via Skype, they can send me marked up PDFs and I can screen share, showing them updates and amends in real time. Digital technology – (and a damn good Wi-Fi connection!) allows me to work exactly where and how I want, and means that the client also doesn’t have the hassle of finding me a desk, a machine and a clean mug! From a marketing perspective, social media has obviously completely revolutionised how sole traders like myself get their work seen. Having said that, how much work I personally get directly through social is questionable. In my experience, the majority of my work still comes through good, old fashioned word of mouth.

And both digital technology and social media have been instrumental in allowing me to launch my passion project: a new site for freelance parents, Doing It For The Kids. In its current form DIFTK is essentially a blog, but the site is almost secondary to the stuff I’m trying to do on social (particularly Instagram) where my aim is to create a community of like-minded people who are all tackling the mad unpredictabilities, sense of isolation and endlessly unique challenges that come from being a parent and working freelance.

DIFTK logo

What are your top tips for freelancers juggling family life?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I really do think we’re going through a difficult transition at the moment where women are under a lot of pressure to work and earn money, as well as cook, clean, look after the kids, all while somehow stringing a coherent sentence or two together and looking amazing (!!). We’re essentially being asked to do everything but often with very little support. So many of us now live in another city, country or continent from the traditional ‘village’ of extended family who would, in previous generations, have been nearby to help us out. The expectations on our shoulders can be daunting. So just be kind to yourself. If you have to put CBeebies on all day to allow you to work – so be it. If fish fingers are on the menu for the third day in a row – so what. Your family will not suffer as a result. You’re doing an amazing job. Trust me.


Francesca follows…

joy choI’m an absolute fiend for colour and a bit of fun in my work and Joy Cho of Oh Joy! has the stuff in absolute bucket loads.

 

 

 

small print booksSince having a kid, my love of children’s books and illustrators has become a bit of an addiction and Jenny Thomas of Small Print Books is forever introducing me to an amazing piece of print that I don’t yet know about.

 

 

Holly Tucker of Not On The High Street is forever posting interesting tips and discussion points around being creative and running your own business.

 

 


Francesca’s work…

francescatortora.com
doingitforthekids.net
instagram.com/doingitforthekids
facebook.com/DoingItForTheKids
twitter.com/DIFTK