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

Living in the present

Meet Alison Goode founder of new online gift company A Present Affair. Not content with running a business on her own, Alison continues to work as a wardrobe mistress and as a PA to a music promoter. Her enthusiasm, determination and desire to embrace the digital world will hopefully inspire other women to follow their business ambitions. Alison shares her story and imparts some great advice for anyone thinking about working for themselves.

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in Liverpool,the youngest of three children. I now have two children of my own aged 11 and 22. We live in Buckinghamshire with my husband who works in the music industry as a lighting technician.

After leaving school aged 16 I was very lucky to get a job in the theatre working in the wardrobe department. I loved every minute of it. I have been doing the same job ever since, I’m now 47! I left Liverpool to go on tour with Postman Pat, yep you read that right! Don’t be fooled, that tour was wild.

That job was followed by working on various shows in the West End, before moving into the music industry where I have worked ever since. Before the children were born I toured full-time with many pop bands but have now cut it right back to one tour a year, but I still work on lots of concerts throughout the year. As well as my wardrobe and styling work I am a PA to a music promoter and book artists for big events.

I recently launched a new online gift box company, A Present Affair. This venture began almost three years ago with my friend and business partner but after she went through a life changing health issue we put everything on hold. Although fully recovered she felt she had to step away. I had two choices, close it down or take a deep breath and go for it. I chose to go for it.

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

My work as a wardrobe mistress never involved using any sort of digital technology, it didn’t even exist when I started out! Since working as a PA and launching A Present Affair I have had to learn a whole new set of skills. It has been extremely hard as it isn’t something I grew up with like todays young women. I booked a 1-2-1 session with Hayley owner of Southwood Social Hub and she talked me through lots of ideas and how to raise awareness for my brand etc.

I have learnt so much and continue learning everyday with regards to technology. I love the way you can connect with people across the globe and get your ideas and products out there for all to see. My gift box company is a visual product, so social media is a very important tool now days for reaching potential customers and finding great new products. Also through social media (particularly Instagram) I have met some amazing women who have supported me through the tough days.

Technology is moving so fast that it does feel overwhelming sometimes trying to keep up, find out what works for you because it’s almost impossible if you are working alone to keep up with everything!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a business?

  • When I found out I would no longer have a business partner it completely stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t talk to anyone or do anything for a couple of weeks. I spent days just crying and saying to myself I could not do it alone. I slowly picked myself up, thought of the time and money already spent and decided to try.
  • For anyone thinking of starting something I would say talk to people. Ask for advice and maybe a few hours help. Most people don’t have the budget to employ someone in the beginning so take one step at a time and you will be surprised at what you can do.
  • The most important thing for me was having that one person in my life that puts everything into perspective when you are having a wobble. I have an old friend who is never fazed whatever life throws at him. As soon as I tell him what I am worried about he takes the fear away. Some days that quality has saved my sanity. There are some fantastic groups online you can join to meet people who can understand and relate to what you are going through.
  • Remember, when the days seem overwhelming and you feel as if you can’t carry on just stop. Go for a walk, get a coffee or call a trusted friend and talk it out. Things will always look better if you just step away for a moment and just breath.

Alison is following

@marniandmowgli
We toured together over many years, she was the hot dancer and I was the wardrobe mistress telling her to “just put the bloody costume on, you look gorgeous!”. This amazing lady has been so supportive to me as we launched our new ventures at the same time.

@whattheschujj
For her total lack of pretension, her intelligence not forgetting to mention her very wicked sense of humour.

I have to give a mention to @helloruthuk  and @lara.quin who have kept me going with cake, emails and laughs when the days threatened to overwhelm me.


Alison’s work

apresentaffair.com
instagram.com/apresentaffair
facebook.com/apresentaffair
twitter.com/present_affair

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

CV reality check

I work from home a couple of days a week, and like all women I end up doing chores in between work. Loading the washing machine, unloading the dishwasher (and reloading), checking the fridge for missing items before the inevitable ‘top-up’ shop to the supermarket later (I feel a sad sense of achievement if I can avoid going at least once a day). My ability to multi-task is second to none, as is my ability to procrastinate. The internet has been calling me today with its cheeky loveliness and I’ve been powerless to resist. However, and quite unbelievably, amid endless cups of tea, a quick power-up in the form of a few ‘Waitrose-mini-hot-cross-buns’, I have actually written my CV. I know, I’ve even impressed myself.

I run this magazine alongside my day job, and I’m currently trying to find time to launch my freelance business (digital marketer and editor). During this process I’ve been going through my CV for the first time in a long while, and oh my lord it’s been an uphill struggle. Does anyone else find writing in a self-promotional style buttock-clenchingly awkward? I’m happy to write about other people and tell their story, but when it comes to listing my own experience and achievements I feel out of my comfort zone, much like Nigel Farage at a Eurovision party.

Writing down your professional story is an exhausting process, but once you’ve written it you can spend an infinite amount of time refining it, or as I like to call it, disappearing down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest (goddamn you Pinterest). There are so many styles and designs these days for CV writing that I find it all a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to stick to my guns and opted for simplicity. A clean design coupled with riveting lists of experience and achievements *should* speak for themselves.

Part of the reason I’ve done this, is so I have a clear vision of what I can offer, what I know and how much that is worth to a business (and I don’t just mean financially, don’t underestimate sparkling wit and personality). If you’re thinking of returning to work, looking for a new job or perhaps starting a business, writing a CV can be a cathartic process – think AA meets NCT (but with jobs) – the first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, and remember, it’ll be worth the pain! It’s a good idea to get other people to check for errors obviously, but most importantly, writing about yourself in the third person (always a bit weird, but necessary in this context) helps you think objectively about what it is you have to offer. Which, I can guarantee will always be more than you think – age for once is a distinct advantage!

Desk reality: clearly need to buy A LOT more wine by the way

I’ve used two photos to illustrate visually what I mean about having a ‘CV reality check’. The main image is obviously not mine but an idealised, Instagram composition (credit to desk of dreams creator: Emma Highfield). The second one is the reality of my home working situation (it’s my kitchen table surrounded by crap). My point is that you need to think of a CV as you would the picture perfect desk – it’s a contrived version of reality. We recognise the same concept in the real picture, i.e. there is a table and a computer, the similarities end there sadly. So don’t stress about how to present yourself on paper – just write it down and tidy it up later.

We all have bundles of experience to offer future employers, particularly once you’re over the hump of, ahem…35 (ish). We should learn to celebrate our achievements for what they are, not compare ourselves to Instagram perfection (that gorgeous desk can bloody well piss off with all its neatness). Being a mum unofficially qualifies you as a PRINCE2 practitioner, referee, chauffeur, wine taster extraordinaire, UN diplomat (I could go on). Basically you’re awesome, even if at first glance your CV needs sprucing up.

How to boost your brand online

If you’re thinking about starting a business or have a business that needs more strategic direction, then you could benefit from branding knowledge and expertise. One thing is clear though – success will not come overnight. “Building an online brand can take years” says Janet Murray, PR consultant and business owner.

It’s always prudent to speak to experts if you want to impartial advice. With that in mind I spoke to Janet Murray owner of Soulful PR – she specialises in teaching and empowering people to take control of their own PR. By sharing her expertise, individuals and businesses can raise awareness of their brands and attract more customers without hiring an expensive PR company or writing numerous press releases. With a proven track record in pitching, writing and editing, Janet has had countless stories published in national newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Times, Sun and Daily Mail. Having worked as a journalist for over 15 years she knows what other journalists are looking for in a story “and, crucially, what they’re not”.

If you’re looking for some straightforward, easy to implement advice then follow the simple rules outlined below and you can start to measure success in the short term.

Janet Murray Soulful PR
Discover how to get media coverage in national newspapers and glossy magazines by visiting Soulful PR (image credit: Janet Murray)

Regular content

The key to successfully promoting yourself or your business depends on ensuring your customers are receiving useful, valuable content alongside the product or service you are offering. With so many businesses embracing online marketing you need to stand out from the crowd and offer something extra. Janet strongly suggests “posting regular content: blogs, vlogs, podcasts, newsletters, at least once a week”. By adding value to your business offering you can create a community of people who engage with you and share your content amongst their colleagues and friends. People are increasingly media savvy and will spot a hard-sell so by providing genuinely useful content in the form of an article (you might be a food company providing recipes), or video content (a yoga instructor providing YouTube video exercises), you can start to build subject-related content.

Janet Murray Soulful PR podcast
Janet regularly posts free, useful content such as Podcasts

Be consistent

Building a successful brand means being consistent across all media channels. In simple terms this means ensuring your brand identity is distinct and recognisable so you can start to build a strong presence across all your social media platforms. Creating graphic elements with a strong aesthetic, colour palette and photographic style have helped Soulful PR build a beautiful Instagram account (see images below). Janet’s top tip in this area is to “hone your skills on one particular social media platform” and once you have established a look and feel and built an engaged audience then you can focus your efforts on replicating this success on other platforms. Rather than spreading yourself too thin over multiple platforms, this way you can experiment with one and when you feel you’ve nailed it (this will be measurable by analysing your insights, comments and follower numbers) apply this winning formula for continued success to other platforms.

Janet Murray Soulful PR

Janet Murray Soulful PR

Data capture

Often overlooked when starting out – collecting email addresses from people visiting your site is an important way of gathering data and reaching out to your customers. “Too often successful businesses discover too late that they’ve missed an opportunity to collect customer data”. Set up an account with an email marketing platform such as MailChimp from the very start and begin to capture email addresses by offering useful, exclusive content. Use this information to talk directly with your customers in the form of a newsletter and offer discounts. By creating a special ‘club’ for people who subscribe you can entice them in – but don’t forget people don’t give away their details freely (do you?) so offer something they don’t get on the website as a casual browser.

Collaborate

Don’t be afraid to “work with your competitors” says Janet. The internet has democratised information in such a way that users have become arbiters of consumer choice. Just look at the plethora of comparison sites like moneysupermarket.com and Google Shopping etc. Use this to your advantage by working with and linking to your competitors. It might seem like an odd thing to do but by creating a niche for yourself as the “go-to business to discover what’s happening in your particular industry” you can make competition into a positive attribute of your business identity. Also by keeping an eye on what your competitors are up to you can be quick to offer alternatives.

Invest wisely

When starting out in business it’s difficult to know how and when to invest in your brand. One piece of advice Janet feels strongly about is your brand identity (unique logo, website, marketing collateral, product design). We all have such short attention spans these days and the internet is a visual medium so investing in a strong brand which is aligned with your company values can really help make you stand out from the crowd. Websites which hark back “to the 90s” won’t help you either. These things needn’t cost a lot of money particularly if you can’t afford a graphic designer or a web designer. There are plenty of free online tools now that can help you create artwork and logos, such as Canva and website building sites such as WordPress and Wix. The important thing is to keep it clean and simple if you go down this route – you can always add photographs and illustration to liven up content – sites which offer free photos such as Pixabay are a good place to start if you don’t have a budget. If you are using your phone camera to take photographs then try using apps such as ColorStory and Snapsneed – both excellent photo editing tools which enable you to add filters, crop images, overlay text etc.

Janet Murray Soulful PR
Keep your messages simple and clear. Complicated and confused communications could alienate your customers (image credit: Janet Murray)

More top tips

If you’re starting out and have limited funds you can access free information from Janet to help you with PR matters: blog posts, online training programmesFacebook communitypodcasts.

If you are a bit further along your business journey and want to take things to the next level then Janet offers in-depth training and services: Soulful PR Studio (£42 p/m, or £378 per year); book coaching or consultancy (£300 – £2300 +VAT); sign up for the Done-with-you PR service £5000 (&VAT).


Janet is following…

me and orla Sarah Tasker

 

 

 

 

Sara Tasker: Me and Orla

Me and Orla is a highly successful lifestyle blog by Sara Tasker. With a focus on beautiful, ethereal photography and styling, Sara documents her life in rural Yorkshire with her daughter Orla. Her success on Instagram has created a demand for courses teaching others how to take better photographs and grow an online brand. Janet has learnt a great from Sarah about how to improve and grow her Instagram account and is a big fan of her work.


Janet’s work…

Janet Murray Soulful PR

www.janetmurray.co.uk

twitter.com/jan_murray

instagram.com/janmurrayuk

Email: janet@janetmurray.co.uk


By Amy White