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#8 Back in Business

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

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

I need a break. 

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

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

My work has stepped up lately – it’s all about communications rather than selling. And getting the tone of voice right. One of my clients is a trade organisation so has gone above and beyond to support its members – a new digital platform, blog, webinars, social events, sharing campaigns, advocacy, and doing lots of press.

If you’re not finding value in your paid job, then start a side hustle doing something you enjoy. This newsletter has given me a focus and a weekly deadline. I’ve made some great connections and it’s interesting to see how publishing and journalism are evolving with new online models. More here on how Substack has spawned a new generation of newsletter entrepreneurs. I’ve asked Lauren Razavi (Counterflows) to come and talk to the NUJ on July 13 about making money from email newsletters. She’s also running some great freelance masterclasses this month.

I’ve enjoyed: working remotely, daily jogs, Peleton, reading, podcasts, long chats, cooking, online conferences like Creative Women – stuff I wouldn’t have been able to go to IRL. I’ve been quite productive. Funny how having constraints can make you feel more creative and focused – we have fewer distractions.

I’ve missed: hugs, massages, seeing friends & family, working in cafes, watercooler chat. 

The DMA is running a campaign for Great British Creativity, focusing on the value creativity can bring to UK businesses, so I got in touch and offered to write some copy. Enjoyed this mini-documentary: Madmen v Mavens – on the future of copywriting.  

Interesting chat with Lemur Press in New York about reprinting one of my old books – the fine art of the blow job – yes, it’s still top of the Google search, apparently, 12 years on. I’ve written to my publisher to ask for my rights back and all seems well. Be interesting to see if I earn more from a reprinted version that pays royalties rather than a flat-fee deal. A bit of extra cash would be very welcome.

I’ve also signed up to The Copywriter Underground. My goal is to earn 10k a month. I did it with my last contract, so I can do it again. It’s all about mindset, hey. I’ve been listening to their excellent podcast which has me realise how diverse the industry is and how the title ‘copywriter’ really doesn’t do it justice.

I can’t think of a better word though. Content writer sounds a bit wanky. 

There are so many different kinds of copywriting and lots of opportunities with emerging industries – SaaS, AI, VR, fintech. As we’ve seen over the last few months, brands will always need good copy.

The Links 🔗

Sunak (future PM) considers £500 vouchers for all UK adults to spend in coronavirus-hit firms (and £250 for kids). Tories giving out free money…this is a big shift 😉 Tried and tested in Wuhan, Malta and Taiwan, so why not the UK? Bring it on. 

Why news organisations’ move to capitalise ‘Black’ is a win

Tik Tok launches Tik Tok for Business – a new platform for brands and advertisers.

What the Dutch can teach the world about remote working. “I’m judged on whether I deliver value, not the fact that I sit at a desk for nine hours a day.” Like the idea of having free places to work where you trade a service for a workspace. 

Big Tech may not be afraid of a boycott. But it may fear a regulator

Kanye West declares he will run for US president in 2020. Written in the stars, surely? 

New Marketing 🎧 with Ayo Abbas: Marketing in Times of Crisis – jam-packed with tips, hints and takeaways you can apply to your business right now. 

Emma Gannon’s Ctl Alt Delete 🎧 – #270 Julia Cameron: Creativity, Criticism & The Artist’s Way

The Tip

How to return to a younger version of yourself to create better content. “The easiest person to have empathy with is yourself. And if I’m having empathy with a younger version of myself, then I can create what I think is much better content, because I’m able to understand my customer or my theoretical customer.” Darrell & Stefanie in The Copyblogger 🎧.

Try writing a letter to your teenage self – you’ll be surprised what emotions come up.

The Brand 

Aromatherapy Associates
I’m addicted to Deep Relax, their first and bestselling oil. Add a few drops to the bath or massage in before you shower and breathe deeply… feel those shoulders drop. You’ll smell fabulous all day (or night) and get the best night’s sleep.

Geraldine Howard co-founded the brand in 1985 and started out giving treatments and making products from her small Fulham flat. It went on to become of the UK’s biggest beauty exports with a strong brand story around the healing power of aromatherapy. She died of a rare form of eye cancer in 2016. Here’s to a genuine beauty visionary who said her greatest achievement was “seeing the incredible results that essential oils had both on the quality of the skin and on the way people felt.” 🙏

If you’ve not tried it, you’re in for a treat. 

Email me if there’s anything you’d like me to share in next week’s newsletter – before and after haircut pics welcome!

PS. I have a new logo – what do you think? Bit Mondrian. I’ve gone for primary colours for a change, and it really cheers me up.

Credit to my good friend and colleague, Sheriden Booth, an experienced marketer, photographer and graphic designer. We’ve been working together for the past couple of years, and she has a great eye. If you need some marketing help or a fresh design, I recommend her services. She’s also been looking after three kids and working full time during the lockdown.

👏 👏 👏 to all the supermums (and dads) out there…

Photo: Unsplash

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Blog Business Communications Creativity

#7 A Conversation on Creativity With Dannie-Lu Carr

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

Dannie-Lu Carr is the founder of three signature online programmes: Flaming Leadership, Warrior Women and 28 Days of Defiance and also a Published WriterAward-Winning Theatre DirectorSinger-Songwriter as well as the founder of Creative Wavelengths™ – a new language for creativity. Her work has been described as “brilliant, not for the faint of heart…for courageous souls…” We first met 10 years ago at a women’s networking event in London and I thought she was a real dynamo with a huge heart. So, I’m over the moon that she’s now living around the corner from me in St Leonards…

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

DC: My work on fearless leadership and personal impact is really about giving people back their sense of self and the tools to speak articulately about their ideas and points of view. I work with people to develop and trust their judgement and dare to put themselves forward to galvanise innovation and change where it is needed. We still live in a very hierarchical world for the most part, which can unnecessarily intimidate, undermine, dominate and control. Nobody wins with this way of working. My goal is always to create a more level playing field where ideas can be shared, and points of view can be respected. The best people to lead these changes are those who haven’t automatically been given the metaphorical floor historically and understand how it is to have a different insight from how things have been done in the past, hence the predominant focus on women and LGBTQ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE LIST  

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

BOOKS

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

PODCASTS

Reasons to be Cheerful 

Woman’s Hour

The Tim Ferriss Show

The Brutal Truth

WEBSITES

Forbes

The 99 Percent

TED

Harvard Business Review

Get in touch at www.dannielucarr.com

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Blog

#6 Shaking Things up in Advertising – The Gerety Awards

Changing the narrative for future leaders 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They have an all-female panel in 10 cities – a fantastic collective of cool creative women (check out their bios here). There are 10 ‘cuts’ – media, innovation, entertainment, communication, craft, experience, works for good, health, pharma, and portfolios, and two criteria: the originality of the idea and the execution.

See last year’s winners here. Great to see Viva La Vulva (Essity Bodyform/Libresse) win across three categories – a fantastic ad.

The response has been positive – it’s a much-needed shift, although some sceptics question the logic of an all-female jury. Wouldn’t women prefer to stay at home with the kids?

Entries have been extended to July 17 and the winners will be announced in October. They’ve banned COVID related entries – “it’s not a cultural moment, it’s a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Check out the ‘who we support’ page – local and international organisations like She Says offering free mentorship and events for women in creative industries. The aim is to get people together to share their experiences (they have a WhatsApp group with 150 members). “Everyone can help each other – something that should be done not only in advertising but in many other industries,” says Lucia.

Interesting to read how the diamond industry has been devastated by the pandemic.

Time for a new approach to customer comms, De Beers?

www.geretyawards.com

Thanks to Glenn Fisher – your podcast is getting me through lockdown (love the jingles). Listen to the interview with Lucia Ongay herewww.allgoodcopy.com.

Categories
Blog Branding Business Communications Marketing

#5 7 Steps Brands Can Take to Show Black Lives Matter

This week, I want to talk about Blackout Tuesday – collective action to protest against police brutality and racism, and what brands can do to support the global struggle against racism.

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

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

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

Courier magazine interviewed Ali and Jamila, the founders of Brooklyn Tea in New York, to get their take on it. They believe it’s a mixture of things – a rise in interest in black-owned businesses, some peer pressure and corporate crisis management, but also genuine compassion and a desire for change. Most people want to do something to help – and pledging economic support is the fastest and easiest way to take action.  

The shift in brands and celebrities becoming more politically active is in part driven by Millennials and Gen X. We expect them to take a stand on social issues and use their economic power to drive change. When a brand pledges support online it raises the bar for others in their sector. Social media is also helping to bridge the gap between rich and poor. We have a call-out culture which means we ask questions and hold people to account. We prefer to buy from companies that share our values and beliefs – especially during a global recession. And if political leadership is weak, we turn to brands for help, which is what’s happening across America.

Courier asked Charlotte Williams, founder of SevenSix, a diversity-focused social media & influencer marketing agency in London, how companies can demonstrate inclusivity. You may have posted a black square, diversified your feed, and tagged a few black businesses, but that doesn’t mean you’ve finished the work. If you don’t speak up, people will ask why. As Netflix said in a recent tweet, “To be silent is to be complicit” – we have a platform and we must use it to help others. Ditto, Ben & Jerry’s.

The work needs to be done behind the scenes, in the boardroom, and beyond. And it will take time – as Charlotte’s PR colleague said, “You can’t end 400 years of systemic racism with one week of strategizing internally.” 

So, what can we do now? 

Here are seven steps brands can take to communicate better values, show they care and want to see change.

  1. Do the work behind the scenes – Mark Ritson in Marketing Week: ‘If ‘Black Lives Matter’ to brands, where are your black board members?” He did some research and came up with 46 examples of companies who claim to care about black lives on social media yet have managed to construct a leadership team that’s all-white. “Companies need to become the change they are tweeting about. Walk the walk before you tweet the tweet.”“One black COO is worth a billion Black Lives Matter tweets”.
  2. Donate to causes – “Open your purse” has become a rallying cry on social media for celebrities, brands and organisations to put their money where their mouth is – criticism of Disney, Spotify, and Amazon, amongst others, for their working practices.

Beauty brand Glossier is one of the first to do so – pledging $1 million to Black Lives Matter and black-owned beauty businesses. Lego has called for the marketing of all police-related products to be removed and donated $4 million to support black children and help fight racial inequality. Pokémon, YouTube, and many others have stepped up.

If you use George Floyd’s name in your content, then make sure you donate to his official memorial fund.

If you can’t donate to a charity because of company rules, then set up your own fund against social oppression. Offer grants, internships and mentorships to support underrepresented BAME communities in your industry. 

3.     Use your social platforms. Rather than just posting black squares and hashtagging BLM, use your channels to share useful info and resources that can help the movement. Host black-owned businesses on your platforms and share their content with your audience to help them gain more exposure. 

4.     Take your time to build a solid strategy – don’t feel pressured to post immediately just because everyone else is. Not all brands have to speak out on political issues. And there’s not much point if you’re not taking action behind the scenes.

Good example of this from Yorkshire Tea who posted this tweet in response to a far-right activist who said she was ‘dead chuffed that Yorkshire Tea hasn’t supported BLM. 😁’.

Please don’t buy our tea again. 

We’re taking some time to educate ourselves and plan proper action before we post. We stand against racism. #BlackLivesMatter 

PG Tips and Teapigs also chipped in. Solidaritea.👏 👏

5.     Set some targets to hire diverse talent and support organisations that are campaigning for change. Tip from a reader in the Ann Friedman Weekly, “Set an alarm on your phone for 3, 6, 9, 12 months from now and when it goes off, look at your life and count how many Black businesses, orgs & artists you’re still supporting. How many antiracism resources are you using? How many of your own bias have you addressed?” I’m on it! 

6.     Look at your supply chain. Do the brands you’re working with have values that match your own? Involve black businesses in your supply chain. Look at every level of your business and commit to diversifying things.

7.     Educate yourself on black history, white supremacy, and racism issues. Talk to kids about race, justice and inequality. Speak to black-owned companies, find anti-racist charities, books to read, organisations to support. Good round-up here from Time Out.

As Tommy Rufal, senior account executive, Wimbart PR, says in PR Week: “There needs to be an understanding that diversity is a necessity rather than a trend and if we’re going to see meaningful change, it’s going to take a long-term commitment to self-reflection, education and some uncomfortable conversations.”

Which is what’s going on with call-out culture on social media – hopefully, it will lead to more uncomfortable – and constructive – conversations in the boardroom. It’s also what we’ve been doing this for the last 12 weeks of lockdown so let’s keep at it!

Huge respect and thanks to everyone working hard to find ways to create change.

If there’s anything you’d like me to share in next week’s newsletter email me at nicci@niccitalbot.com. Sign up here. Find me on Twitter @niccitalbot.

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Blog

Copywriting projects – June 2020

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

What am I working on in June?

Here’s an overview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on self-employment: 

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

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

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

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

Some positive news:

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

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

Coronavirus: Joe Wicks keeps children fit with online PE classes

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

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

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

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

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

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