Re-rewind when the crowd says Bo!

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One of the things I loved about growing up in the 90s was discovering ‘The Rewind’. That moment at the party when the crowd responds loudly to a song and the DJ spins it back to the beginning. Oh man, that was a lot of fun. However it was often not so much fun for the DJ whose responsibility it was to get that moment right. There’s nothing more tense than a rewind followed by an  awkward silence while he (or she) struggles to find the beginning of the record. Trust me, it’s a lot of pressure when you’ve got a room full of eyes glaring at you while they wait for the party to start again.

The last few months have felt like a long rewind moment for me. There’s been the excitement of retraining for a new career, taking on new projects and new responsibilities. At the same time, there’s the angst around trying to refocus and head off in a brand new direction. 

You see, the rewind bit is relatively easy. You can stop doing what you were doing… with the right motivation. Maybe it is the promise of a brighter future or the relief from a challenging past. However the tricky part is setting yourself up doing something new. There’s likely to be questions like: 

  • Will I make it in this new venture?
  • Is this the right decision right now?
  • How will I match the financial or emotional security of the previous job, and of course
  • What happens if I fail?

Just like the nervous DJ, you have a number of tools at your disposal to help make the resetting and restarting process as painless as possible. DJs have their headphones, and all kinds of meters, markers and faders which when used appropriately helps them get the party restarted with little interruption to the good vibe. 

This months’ mailer is dedicated to all who were going through a period of Rewind, Reset and Restart. So, welcome to the party 🙂 and watch this space.

First Steps to Social Enterprise 2014 course launch

Olmec Empowering Communities invited Ruth Amarquaye to be part of the panel of speakers at the launch of this year’s First Steps to Social Enterprise with the aim of ‘Inspiring BME Women Into Enterprise’.  This launch was a free event with lunch provided by a successful participate of another Olmec course, and of course the opportunity to network and find out about the stall holders.  On the panel there was John Mayford, Director of Olmec; Makeeda Hewitt, Programmes Manager at Metropolitan Housing, Ruth Amarquaye of Ideas Genius; Caroline Odogwu of She Is You UK, Bala Thakrar of Naitika and was chaired by Annetta Bannett (Empress Nia Jai) of Impact Diversion.

Each member spoke of their involvement with Olmec and Ruth shared about her experience during the course:

“Right from the start of te course we knew got on when myself and two other ladies got under the table to fix it in place so the wobbling didn’t distract us from learning.  It was a group which felt more like a family and I am most grateful to Sam Obeng, or Uncle Sam as he became known as and Nathan Brown for going the extra mile to ensure we understood our legal forms and responsibilities.  Ideas Genius did not go on to becoming a Social Enterprise, but we have successfully embraced social aims and are working towards being a success business. Thank you Olmec.” Following the speaking, various people offered a workshop which gave a taster to elements coveredon the 12 week course. These included Nathan Brown, Sam Obeng and Nick Howe, Enterprise Manager of NatWest Business Banking.

Applications are now open for the next cohort of the First Steps course and we will encourage every BME Woman who has a dream of being in business to apply.  Even if you do not end up as a Social Entrepreuneur, you will end up as an entrepreuneur who makes a social impact.  You have until 31st August to submit your application and you can find out more at Olmec’s website

#IAMWRITINGTHEBOOK: How To Plan Your Book.

The hardest part of writing a book is not starting it; it’s completing it. This is because somewhere on route, from the first to the last page, we get a little lost. What begins as an exciting burst of creative energy fizzles into a dull fraction of your incomplete work. What happened?

It works like this: If I plan to get to Manchester from London, I don’t simply start driving until I run out of steam. It’s good to have a destination and key milestones on route. I know I’ll need to go via either the M40 or the M1. Then when I get to Birmingham, I consider, do I take the M6 or the Toll road?

With our 13 Step Book Plan, you stand a better chance of reaching those milestones on route to your completed book. You’ll need a pen and pad for this (or computer, however our preference is actually writing it out). Here goes:

Write the numbers 1 to 13 along one side of a piece of paper. These will be the numbers for thirteen sentences you’re about to create, so give yourself plenty of space.

2. The Beginning. Write a sentence about how you want your book to start next to number 1. The characters, location, expertise or knowledge that you want the reader to know in the beginning. If you’re writing a novel about a person on a self-discovery journey, where will they start? What is their current emotional state? If it’s a business manual think about what level of knowledge you expect from your typical reader? If you’re teaching a new method, what should they already know: do they have a degree in Management, have they worked in a business or know nothing at all? Write it as a single sentence, e.g. The reader has never written a business plan or Marcel is about to have his life changed by the mysterious girl on the bus.

3. The End. How will the book end? What’s the last thing you want to communicate before your reader closes the last page? What is the big revelation or the nugget of wisdom and experience that you want to share? Try to communicate that as the sentence that just goes just before the words ‘The End’. Write this out next to number 13. For example: And they lived together in Barbados for the rest of their lives… or So now you know everything you need to make vegan burgers.

4. Meet Me Halfway. Consider the middle point between the beginning and the end. Halfway through the book, what do you want -to- the reader to know? Write a sentence next to number 6 which states By this stage of the book… we will know the heroine’s secret or we should understand the difference between Dating and Courting or I have introduced my mediation technique. Remember it’s about being halfway through the physical pages of the book, not necessarily of your story. This is the 50 page mark if your story book is 100 pages long. You don’t need to count pages, just have a sense of what you want to have written about when halfway through.

5. Half the Halves. Do the same for the points midway between the beginning and the middle (i.e. number 4) and halfway between the middle and the end (i.e. number 10). Again write a By this stage of the book… sentence about what you want to be saying a quarter and three-quarters into your masterpiece.

6. Step It Up. You will have two empty numbers between each of the major milestones of your book. Think of these as two steps to get from one stage to the other. Write in here two important moments or bits of information which will follow each other to get from the beginning to the quarter mark, then quarter to the halfway mark… and so on. You will find that this is where a lot of your thinking, rethinking, changing, rewriting etc. happens. That’s fine. All your thoughts here are helping you really define your story. When you come to write the book itself, you will find that you’ve already had those random thoughts and are less likely to go off track. 

7. The End. Yes, that’s your 13 Step Book Plan. If you’ve put all your energies into getting this part right, you will find the process of writing feels smoother than previous attempts.

The difference now is that you have a destination, a route and a map. When you get lost, you simply look back at your map and get yourself back on track. I hope this has helped you make progress.

The B Word

Some phrases stick in your head for a long time. A rather colourful Product Development lecturer once commented that ‘accountants are the condom on the (man parts) of progress’. I have censored his statement here for obvious reasons but the intent of his remark is clear. Looking at creativity by what your budget allows you to achieve limits your fullest potential.

So why do budgets – the B-word – have such a bad name? After all, managing budgets is a great skill to have. We are encouraged to be wise and mindful of our resources. 

In creative terms, working with a budget as you develop your ideas or ambition is like buying a dress and then dieting to fit into it. Of course you should be aware of your current financial means. However, they should not dictate how ambitious you can be.

A good idea comes from being able to think freely and creatively. That should also apply to how you view using your money. A helpful process for thinking this through is:

  1. What could you do if money wasn’t a concern?
  2. Are you able to fund it with your existing budget?
  3. How else could you get it done?
  4. Who else would be interested in getting the most out of the idea? (see post on partnerships)

Budgets are a tool rather than a permission to make something amazing happen. The discipline and strategy of budget management are good for things you want to control. However, chances are you do not want to limit your best possible ideas before you have had them because you don’t think you can afford it.

To get the best out of your creative process, teams or efforts, forget the B-Word. At least until you have a good enough idea. Then use your best budgeting skills to make it happen.

Idea 2.0: Upgrading Your Vision

You start out on your creative and ambitious journey with high hopes. The sky is the limit, and you’ve got just what the world needs to make it a better place. You make the best cupcakes. You are a genius with raising capital. You are the best motivational speaker for your target audience. In short, you’ve found your purpose in life! You sell most of everything you’ve got and invest heavily into your business or career. Good? Great!

Then something happens. As you work through it, there are a few new things you discover. Things are not exactly how they first appeared. This isn’t a bad thing. Often after immersing yourself deeper into something, you discover so much more. Your original idea was just the tip of the iceberg. You can do so much more here! On the other hand, after spending some time in the reality of your ambition, you realise it is not quite what you expected.

Now what do you do? No one wants to appear to be making a u-turn. Would your stakeholders, fellow investors, family, friends and haters see you as flighty or as a failure? Would they say of you that you lack commitment or, worse, your vision was shaky to begin with?

Take heart. The first thing to recognise is that you know more than anyone else about what is truly happening. If you have seen a better opportunity for your business, then it is in your interest in the long run to explore it. Also, if you have misjudged your original vision, the best thing you could do for yourself is reconsider.

In the creative relationship, there are three parts: you, the business and your idea or vision. Ideally, all three will be in harmony. When they are out of sync, a decision has to be made. When minor adjustments does not bring it all back together again, it might be time to upgrade your vision.

Here are some suggestions of how to handle it:

Check your emotions. What you might be experiencing is excitement about new opportunities. There isn’t anything specifically wrong with your first goal. You’re simply enthusing about a new challenge. Put it to the side for a while; you might feel differently about it later.

Build on idea one. Consider whether this is an add-on to your current ambitions rather than a brand new idea. Some things might take time to build and your first idea might be the foundation for a bigger opportunity. It will give you more contacts and credibility in for the future.

Compare both visions. Be rigorous with evaluating the benefits and costs of both options – with the same criteria. Compare like with like, rather than like with love. It will help to write them out with equal depth. Be very honest with yourself here. It may help to do this with someone objective.

Sell on or shut down. Your original thought was a good one, although it might not be the best one for you. You may not be the best person to take it forward. Is there anyone else excited about it that you can hand it on to? You could consider licensing it to someone, selling it on or closing down the business completely.

Bernard P Achampong

Make PR a priority for your business in 2014!

However brilliant your product or service, if nobody knows about it then your business will struggle to make sales, and a business without sales is a failure in motion.

Here are some tips from PR expert Jessica Huie on how to make sure your business is planted firmly in the awareness of your target audience in 2014:

• Inject your human interest story into your branding

Nothing is more powerful than authenticity in PR. If you genuinely believe that your business adds value to your customer’s lives, then its important to communicate that personally. By being visible rather than relying on your faceless brand to sell itself, you allow your customers the opportunity to understand the ethos behind your brand and your business values, and if you are marketing to the right audience then your values will resonate with them and make them more likely to buy. 

We live in a society overwhelmed by choice, which make it all the more necessary to let your customers understand your own personal human-interest story. Do this by asking yourself what the inspiration behind your business was, what is your vision? How are you improving, changing or inventing something which will benefit your audience? Give your customers an insight into the entrepreneur behind the business through your PR materials and watch how effective this PR approach can be.

• Be patient and consistent

PR unlike advertising is not a quick hit. It requires a consistent and ongoing effort in order to be most effective. A customer’s buying journey begins with awareness followed by familiarity before moving to consideration purchase and then loyalty. So the more that customers become aware of your brand the better – hence where the outdated all publicity is good publicity line comes from. Equally unlike advertising (which is more expensive,) PR is not guaranteed. It requires the creation of a news angle e.g.; ‘Huie’s brand secure record sales targets in Selfridges,’ ‘Celebrities endorse Huie’s brand,’ in order to capture the imagination of the media and inspire them to write about you/your business.

• Create a 12 month plan

If we consider the first part of the year, New Years Day, Valentines, Mother’s Day, these occasions may well have an impact on your customer’s buying patterns. Creating a press release which is ‘pegged’ on to these occasions will increase your chance of securing media interest, so plan ahead and be aware of media lead times so you don’t miss out on a PR opportunity.

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• Stay abreast of current affairs and their relevance to your business

If we look at the stories currently in the media, Rail fare increases, 100 year jail sentences considered, the Princes Trust survey findings that three quarters of a million young people in the UK have nothing to live for due to unemployment levels, each of these news stories may represent a PR opportunity depending on your business or service. By staying aware of current news you can include reactive PR into your strategy as well as proactive, producing press releases offering a contribution to a current news debate, a solution to a problem being discussed or an alternate opinion.

• Truly understand your customer

A useful exercise is spending time thinking about your customer in depth. Where do they live, how old are they, where do they grocery shop, go on holiday, are they property owners? Once you can answer these questions you’ll begin to create a picture of your customer which will allow you to easily move on to the next point…

• Seek out ideal potential partners for cross promotion

By truly understanding your customer you can identify other brands that share your target market. This synergy create the perfect opportunity to collaborate with brands who may be bigger or more established than you and cross promote by marketing to their audience as well as your own and of course returning the favour. List five brands that are not your competition, but share your target audience as your partnership targets.

• Be giving

It was one of rap music’s richest entrepreneurs, Russell Simmons who said “you can never get before you give.” It’s a blueprint which can be hugely effective once you work out what you can actually afford to give away.

Free stuff creates a buzz, creates awareness, encourages people to try your products, creates positive brand association and a buying habit. In this era its easy to create a product designed purely to be given away free. Think E-books and audio tapes, the ideas are endless.

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• Be creative

Creativity for me, is the best part of PR. Unlike advertising, which has a very set agenda and sales pitch, PR is whatever you decide to make it. Are you a fashion brand? Then create a piece for the royal baby, run a take-away food chain? Deliver to the homeless on Christmas day. PR can do good whilst creating opportunities to secure media coverage in the process.

• Think global

Your business reach is only as limited as your mindset. If you or your PR team are creating a press release then why limit your focus to the UK? The vast majority of media is also online now and if your business is international then you’d be crazy not to raise awareness globally. That said, focus on one territory at a time for maximum impact.

• Ensure you have effective tools

Undeniably the most important tip. Your press release is your business shop window and will create a first impression. Ensure it is professional, and includes all of the crucial information, and use the first paragraph to sum up your news angle succinctly. 

Jessica Huie, Founder of JH Public Relations and Color blind Cards is an entrepreneur with 15 years media experience, having worked with some of the UK’s best known celebrities, entrepreneurs and brands. 

JH PR’s Do Your Own PR package includes a tailored press release, founder’s biog and media contact list and is priced at £300. 

To kick off 2014 with an affordable PR campaign that impacts, contact JH Public Relations info@jhpr.co.uk 0203 282 7577 www.JHPR.co.uk

The Brownstone method for success.

Remember that 90s R&B girl group?  The chorus to their hit ‘If You Love Me‘ is a simple model for turning your dreams and ambitions into a success:

  • Say it – Declare it and share it; not wishful or empty words. Once you understand exactly what you want to achieve, you can communicate it – in detail, over and over again.  Got it? Good. Now you’re in the best place to begin.

  • Do it – There is nothing more powerful to making your dreams real than starting to do it. Doing it means trying, failing, and trying again.  Do it until you get it right. Do it a little bit at a time; practice, build up, save up… whatever it takes. It’s simpler one step at a time.

  • Show it – Once you’ve done it, let people know about it. It’s your testimony. Tell them where you were, where you are now and how you got here. Showing your success will also inspire others to do the same.

And now you’re ready to start your next dream.