Entering business awards is great PR!

I’ve been taking part in a six-week program with Aussie Mumpreneurs to try and get my businesses on track.  Yes, that’s right, I now have four businesses on the go.  Am I crazy? YES!  Do I love to be busy and achieve goals? DEfinitely.  However, I need help with that too.

There are around 20 women taking part in the 6 week program, and each week we’re involved in a webinar that helps us to target different areas of our businesses and this week it was all about applying for business awards with the truly amazing Yvette Adams of Creative Collective.

There were several key points I took from last night’s session:

  1. It’s never too early to start applying for business awards.  Too many business women think that they need to get some experience under their belt before throwing themselves in the pool of candidates for business awards.  Not true! Yvette won her first major award within her first year of business.  Why?  Simply because she had an innovative idea, used her marketing skills to spin that to the judges and made an effort to apply.  The lesson is that we shouldn’t wait until we’re into our second or third year to start entering business awards.  If nothing else, it’s a great way to look at your business retrospectively.
  2. It can take from several hours to several days to put together an application and you need to take the time to do it well.  If your strengths lie in other areas of your organisation, consider hiring a professional to do it for you.  I’ve assisted two businesses in their awards application – both won!  Having a marketing background gives me the ability to add the correct jargon and buzzwords.  Sometimes it’s better to pay a small fee to have the application done by someone with more experience than muddle over it and create added stress to your busy schedule.
  3. One of the major advantages of being a finalist or winner in business awards is the PR and media coverage that follows.  Yvette spoke about the offers she was presented with following her first win, but also that she didn’t rest on her laurels.  It’s great to win an award, but don’t wait for the media to knock down your door.  Have a press release prepared, send it out to anyone and everyone and follow-up.  Media coverage begets media coverage; the more you’re out there in papers, on radio and online, the more you’ll be noticed by other media outlets.
  4. Make sure you differentiate from other businesses.  It’s all well and good to say you offer excellent customer service, but so do many others in your industry.  Do you have a live chat on your site to assist consumer enquiries?  Do you have an innovative ordering system or website?  Make sure you point out those things that really make your business stand out from the crowd.
  5. Often after the initial screening process, the finalists will undergo a phone interview or site visit by the judging panel.  Practice your answers.  I’m TERRIBLE at public speaking and the only way I get over that is to make sure I have all of my thoughts straight in my head.  I recently attended a Garnier function where I was interviewed on camera.  If I had rehearsed the pre-prepared questions first I would have been just fine.  As it turns out, I was so excited I thought I’d just wing it.  Epic fail!  Rehearse with a friend or family member to make sure you can cover everything you want to.
  6. Sometimes, we’re cash-poor in new business and have the time to go through the application process on our own rather than pay someone else to do it.  If this is the case, make sure you proofread your submission, have a friend proofread it, and another friend proofread it.  There’s nothing worse than typos in a professional document.
  7. Provide back up to your broad statements.  For example, if you’re a small business and you claim to be ‘green’ in your practices, make sure you talk about your office recycling systems, your email footer that asks people not to print emails or your other initiatives to save on carbon emissions.  Just make sure you back up anything you say with evidence.  It will make the judge’s job easier as they can see how you’re ‘standing out from the crowd’ without having to delve deeper.
  8. Have some professional photos taken to accompany your press release and any online media.  This is my worst nightmare, honestly I hate being in front of the lens, but I also know how important it is to give an outstanding first impression.  If you engage the services of a true professional, they’ll make you look fab regardless of how you feel.

I’m really motivated after that webinar, and I plan to start looking around for some awards to apply for.  If you’re stuck for where to begin, there will soon be a site up called awardshub.com which will be a database of various awards from your local area to international opportunities.  Too easy.

Have you applied for any awards for your business?  Did it help in ways you hadn’t imagined?

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The (first) wrap up of Digital Parents Conference 2012

Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter would have seen my excited squeals last week as I attended the Digital Parents Conference 2012.  I bought my ticket back in November last year and have been impatiently counting down the days. As a self-professed geek, this was my dream come true!  An event centred solely around social media *bliss*.  After heading off child-free for another week in a row, I drove down the Hume to Melbourne and could barely contain my excitement – until I hit the Melbourne traffic and my not-so-trusty sat nav took me WAY off course.  But, that was all ok, because I was child-free (fist pump) and heading to DPCON12!

There were around 200 women and 7 mean at the conference and I did my best to soak in as much of their awesomeness as I possibly could (awesomeness is totally a word!). Thankfully, the organising team had arranged for those of us who were conference virgins to be teamed up with some veterans.  I was lucky enough to be paired up with Donna and Caroline and we met up before walking up the staircase to a room full of ‘familiar’ faces.  Although the faces were familiar, I actually knew none of them!  Such is the nature of the beast in Social Media.  You feel a kindred spirit in certain people after reading all about their life, and chatting with them on Twitter and Facebook; yet in reality you’re total strangers.  I wrote that morning about how I was a little star struck over it all! Donna sat us down and the day began.

We started off with a quick speed dating session.  Yes, really!  I met a number of people, exchanged business cards and had a good laugh.  What a brilliant way to break the ice, right?

DPCON12 is one of the few conferences where it is not only acceptable to tweet, type and Instagram to your hearts content, it would be odd not to.  So the room was abuzz with the clicking of keyboards and the snapping of images right from the start.

Our first speaker of the day was Darren from Problogger.  He was talking about ‘Social Media for Social Good’ and it really opened my eyes to what people can achieve with SM nowadays.  I’m going to talk more about that in a separate post tomorrow. There’s so many people making a real difference in the lives of others with their SM influence, and they deserve more than a quick paragraph.

During the lunch break, I was able to meet some of the brands who were there and I stepped out of my comfort zone by about 10kms!  I walked up to the Hallmark team first, asking how they work with bloggers and had a lovely chat about their initiatives.  After this first triumph of stepping up and exchanging business cards with a brand, I took myself around to the other stands and found them really engaging.  I also had a go at putting together a mini Dyson for the chance to win a life-size version – I WON  taking home a Dyson handheld which is every bit as fabulous as my upright.

The next session that really caught my attention was the ‘Working With Brands’ panel.  There were two gentlemen representing brands, and the inspiring Andrea from Fox In Flats.  If you didn’t know what an amazingly savvy business woman she was before, you sure did following this session.  I love to see women in business who know their value and have a clear and driven plan to achieve their goals.  It was truly inspirational.  She spoke about the brands she’d worked with and how she approached them.  It’s not about sitting back and waiting for them to come to you. Your blog can be your business (or a strong part of it) and we all need to work smarter, not harder and know the value of what we’re doing.   The PRs weighed in at this point and Twitter pretty much went into meltdown.  The ‘brands’ suggested that bloggers should not be asking for payment in return for sponsored posts (a product exchange would suffice) as readers would become disenchanted knowing there was money changing hands.  The bloggers in the room hit back with full force, with Nicole (the session moderator) telling them that “We can’t feed our kids with a bottle of moisturiser”.  The truth is that many in the room generate an income from their social media persona.  They have found a niche and created a community.  That community was self-evident after the tweet stream that followed.

It was quite amusing to see people in other rooms (attending different sessions) asking on Twitter what the heck was going on!  The power of social media at its best!

I really loved the next session which was titled ‘Blog To Business’, because I make no apologies about the fact that I hope to make an ongoing business and career from blogging.  Some people are purists and against the idea of ‘monetising’ a blog, saying it should be all about the writing.  I see blogging as the new version of newspapers and magazines.   Nikki from Styling You moderated this panel and my favourite quote was from her: “Stop looking over your blogging fence and concentrate on your own blogging back yard”.  She was talking about how so many people compare themselves to what other bloggers are doing, and this can create a lot of negative energy.  I think this quote can be applied to any business, it’s important to take note of your competitors, but it’s also really important to focus on your own successes. Sometimes you simply can’t compare.

After a quick break, Eden (of Edenriley.com) made an announcement that had the whole room clapping and cheering.  Following the conference, she would be heading off to Niger, Africa on behalf of World Vision to try and bring some media attention to the food famine that is currently gripping West Africa.  She had just received confirmation 30 minutes before and you could see she was nervous and excited all at the same time.  Follow her journey on Twitter with the #EdenInNiger tag or via her blog.  It’s truly inspiring.

The afternoon was dedicated to several bloggers sharing their own journey and some had us in tears of pain, while others had us in tears of laughter.  It was really motivating to see where blogging can take you.

I really could go on forever about this day, and I guess I will via a series of posts to give more credence to some of the highlights over the coming week.  My mind has been so filled with new ideas to for posts, and social media that it has given me writers block until now. I  know that sounds strange, but there are SO MANY things I want to say about DPCON12 that I simply couldn’t organise my own thoughts.  This morning I sat down with a pencil and notebook and wrote an old-fashioned list!  Amazing how embracing the ‘old school’ way of doing things can help a tech savvy miss like me.  All I really needed was an HB and a piece of paper…

Seeing stars

I’m sitting in the foyer of the Sebel waiting with fluttering nerves for the Digital Parents conference to start. My stomach is doing flip flops and I’m wishing I had worn one of the other three dresses I tried on this morning.

Every now and then I look up and see a famous person. Well, kind of…

I was typing away a few minutes ago and looked up to see a familiar face walk past. “I know her” I thought to myself. I scratched my head trying to work out where I knew the face. “Is she famous?” I wondered.

Then it dawned on me, it was a blogger I follow. Sarah from abeachcottage.

Now, everywhere I look I’m seeing these ‘stars’. Blogging stars. People who are so familiar to me, but we’ve never met. I feel as if I know them and their lives because I read so much about them.

There’s always that awkward moment when you look at them and realise you don’t actually know them, hand raised ready to wave then quickly snapped down by your side. *Awkward*

I’m really looking forward to the day ahead. Nerves be gone!

Context can be lost without body language

In the last few days, I’ve seen a few Facebook status updates, and tweets that people could easily take offence to.  So much can be lost when you’re limited to 140 characters and you’re missing body language, facial expressions and demeanour.

Social media is a fickle beast, it can be an excellent (and cost-effective) way to promote your business, but it can also backfire when it’s not well-managed.

Here are my top 5 tips on being Social Media Savvy in small business:

1. Beware of the overuse of exclamation marks!  They can really change the tone of a sentence.  They are often overused and I’m guilty of doing it myself.  You need to be aware that you are ‘exclaiming’ something so they’re not appropriate for regular status updates or tweets.  I read a Facebook Post this morning that seemed much worse due to the ! at the end.

2. Never bite when a troll strolls across your Facebook page or enters your twitter stream.  It will look like sour grapes.  By all means, respond calmly: but never take the bait and enter into a Social Media stoush.  It reflects badly on your business.

3. Being ‘Passive Aggressive’ is not cool.  Ever.  Don’t make remarks that are clearly a dig at someone with a smilie at the end.  Don’t write the thinly veiled status updates that are clearly an attack on a business or individual.  Your Timeline and Tweetstream are a public face of your business.  Treat them with respect.

4. Take care to think about what you’re proclaiming when you have a mixed audience.  I read a Facebook fight recently between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.  It was out of hand from the first comment – people are highly emotive about these topics and you’re nearly always likely to make some enemies if you say: “Breastfeeding past the age of X is not necessary” or  “Those who don’t breastfeed are XYZ”.  If you’re happy to have volatile threads of discussion linked to your brand, fair enough, go ahead.  But beware that you will lose some followers.

5. Try to avoid posting your new products all at the one time.  I’ve ‘unliked’ pages that post a stream of 20 Facebook status updates depicting all of their new items one after the other.  It fills your feed and can be easily avoided by simply scheduling them over the course of the day.  Your fans choose to follow you because they like what you have to offer.  They just don’t want to be inundated.

I feel like I’ve had my cranky pants on a bit today, but I think it’s so important to be mindful of your audience.

When in doubt, don’t tweet/post.

Garnier 2012 ‘Take Care’ Ambassadors day

The last week, and the week ahead are like a dream sequence in my life.  You know, that point in a cheesy movie when the music becomes soft with the tinkling of a piano, the screen looks as if there’s vaseline smudged around the edges and everything goes in slow motion?  YES!  That’s how good my life is right now.

Thanks to all of you!

Before Christmas I was reading one of my favourite blogs when I saw a call out from Garnier for 10 ‘Take Care’ Ambassadors in 2012.  They were searching for 10 grassroots projects to support and there was a surge of amazing applications on their Facebook page.  I entered Working Women Australia and was honoured to be chosen by a selection panel to be in the top 20.  From there, my lovely readers, friends and family voted and I was thrilled to bits to be named as one of the ten winners!  Thank you so much.

To say I am humbled to be amongst the group of ten winners is a massive understatement.  Over the coming weeks, I am going to share the projects with you in the “Inspiring Women” section of the blog.  These are wonderful women doing amazing things within their communities.  Selflessly helping others and making a real difference.

So, last Thursday we were all flown in from around the country to attend an induction day at Garnier head office.  We were all staying at the gorgeous Cullen Hotel in Prahran and a lovely gift bag arrived on Thursday afternoon chock full of Garnier products to whet our whistle.  It was a lovely surprise.  I went to bed early that night, with room service.  By myself.  No children.  Bliss!

On Friday morning, we were picked up from the hotel at 8am and taken to The Botanical for breakfast with the marketing team from Garnier.  I floated into that room, with my tinkling movie-like music serenading me.  There’s no way I walked in there – it was all so surreal!

The lovely Natalie Gruzlewski joined us as a surprise guest, and can I just say, she’s even more gorgeous in real life!  Really kind and down to earth.  She sat through three photos I tried to take for Instagram: the first she had her eyes closed, the second someone else did.

After breakfast, we were whisked off to the L’Oreal building where they had laid out the “Green Carpet” for our entry.  See, I told you it was surreal!  A special elevator was waiting for us and we followed the green carpet all the way to a dedicated room which was filled with wild flowers and food.  Oh the food – it did not stop all day!

After having our hair done, we had massages followed by a  skin assessment and hand massage.  I know!  Lucky? Yes!

Unfortunately that was followed by a video (shudder) interview with Natalie Gruzlewski in which I said “um” at least 25 times as my voice quavered.  To make it worse, I then had to stand up in front of the marketing and digital marketing teams and talk about Working Women Australia.  Once again, I became an illiterate fool stumbling over words and literally shaking in my boots.  I must learn to overcome my fear of public speaking.  One day.

Even public speaking didn’t put a dampener on the day! The team at Garnier could not do enough for us.  They were so lovely and accommodating, constantly asking us if there was anything we needed.  They really lived the “Take Care” message and we were so grateful.  It was a lovely day.

After saying our goodbyes and walking back to the hotel, the ambassadors met for a drink and really got to know one another.  I know I’ve made some truly inspiring new friends through this experience, and I look forward to sharing their stories with you all.

To top off that amazing weekend, I’m now off to the DP Conference this weekend.  It’s a blogging/social media conference and will be the  first of its kind for me.  I am going to be a sponge and soak up as much as I possibly can then party the night away with ‘my friends from inside my computer’.  There will be over 200 attendees, most of whom I follow (or will by the end of the conference) and chat with on social media.  I’m meeting them for the first time and my nerves are finally giving way to excitement.

So, that has been my week!  Can you see why I’m floating around on cloud nine?  Life is good and I’m embracing every moment.

Traveling and posting from the airport!

This morning was not an early start, it was more of a late finish.  I left the house at 4:15 to be on a 6:30 flight to Melbourne for my very exciting stint as a Garnier Ambassador.   I’ll be away from home for two nights, and one would think that would involve some packing, and then kissing the family goodbye.
Wrong!
Yesterday was a day filled with packing bags for daycare and school, laying out children’s clothes, packing lunchboxes for two days, arranging before and after school care for two little people and getting myself orgznised.
Now don’t get me wrong, my husband is more than capable of making school lunches and choosing children’s clothes, but when they all have to be out of the house by 7:15, it can be a tough ask to do it all without some meltdowns from the tiny people.  My kids are like me; if  there is some semblance of order, they are calmer and more likely to function without tantrums.
I was surprised at how much there is to do (despite the fact I do it every day). Leaving the house for a few days is so much more than packing my toothbrush  and pjs.
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In other news, I have a new toy! Yesterday I took delivery of an iPad case with inbuilt keyboard, so I’m attempting to write this post from the airport lounge using the WordPress app. I have to say I’m pretty impressed with it so far. It’s a great size, not too bulky and was easy to connect (via bluetooth).  Compared to transporting my laptop, this is much lighter and easier for travel.  It makes any ipad a laptop and is great for seminars or conferences.

Put it in perspective

This morning (and for the last few mornings) I’ve been waking around 5am to get some work done before the kids wake.  There have been a few work issues that have been playing on my mind and stopping me from sleeping past this ungodly hour.

As is my routine, I jumped on Facebook first before tackling the actual work (because that will ease my mind!).  I read that it has been two years since my cousin lost her twin girls, another friend who has recently had a bone marrow transplant is back in hospital after some complications and a blogger I follow is dealing with so many issues after the death of her partner.

Reading those real life, heart wrenching issues really puts it all into perspective.

Yes, work can be tough. Yes it can even be overwhelming.  There are certainly times when it feels all-consuming.

But it’s work.

The only reason I care is that I’m passionate about what I do.  I love seeing someone’s face when they are happy with a completed project and it all comes together.  The flip side of that is that I can become obsessive and over think things.  Doing work until the wee hours and re-doing things that were just fine in the first place.

I have to remind myself of the following: my family is healthy, I have a roof over my head and I’m able to feed and clothe my children.  I have great friends and (some) wonderful family who I can rely on.

So tonight, as I lay my head on the pillow and a million thoughts race through my brain reminding me of all the things I could be doing, I’m going to push them aside and think of my friends and family who have real problems.

Working ‘IN’ your business vs working ‘ON’ your business

A few years ago, if you had told me I would be working for myself, from home, I would have laughed at you.  I’m not a risk taker: especially when it comes to anything related to money and the ability to pay my mortgage.  However, it’s by far the best thing I’ve done in my working life.

One area of being self-employed that I really struggle with is getting the balance right between working ‘in’ my business versus working ‘on’ my business.  I find it hard to make time to update my own website, concentrate on social media and marketing as well as the mundane jobs like book work.  The irony that I teach my clients the importance of all of these things (except book work) is not lost on me.

So this month, I’ve signed up for the Aussie Mumpreneurs 6 week Challenge to try and re-focus my energy on my own business.  We’re halfway through the course, and I’ve learnt so much already.  Each week there is a new expert teaching us some tricks of their trade.   I feel motivated and have a renewed energy, but admittedly I’m still struggling with making time to do the tasks I’ve set myself.  Baby steps.

I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learnt over the next few weeks.  Sharing our knowledge, and helping other businesswomen is what this site is all about. There’s so much competition out there, but if we can network and band together, all of our businesses can thrive.  There’s a ridiculously high rate of small businesses that close within the first five years, and I firmly believe that having a support network would help more women to keep going through the tough times.

I was lucky enough to be part of a fantastic webinar last Wednesday night as part of the course, headed up by Nick Bowditch of Clooee.  It was all about Social Media, focusing on things that we can do in our business regardless of size.  In fact, it wasn’t just for those who are self-employed.  Almost every business needs to be online, or at least thinking about social media and monitoring their competitors.  This seminar highlighted simple ways to do that.

So this week, I’ll tell you a bit about that webinar and you can share some of your thoughts and experience with others in the comments section.  I love to hear from you.

Now I’m off to tackle some of my dreaded book work. Wish me luck!

 

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Bullying isn’t child’s play

Today is National Anti-Bullying Day.  There are discussions and links flying around the net today with resources to help kids in danger.  Bullying is rampant, and I’m not sure what’s to blame, but it seems a lot worse than when I was growing up.

But I’m not talking about kids here, I want to talk about the bullying of adults: in the workplace, in Social Media and in Forums.

Bullying isn’t child’s play.

I remember during my uni days, working at a Caryard to try to pay my way through school.  It was (and still is) a male-dominated industry and there was a clear ‘boy’s club’ mentality.  The blokes would stand around together, making sexist jokes and innuendos and it was ok.  Well, it wasn’t ok, but there was nothing we could do about it.  Like it or lump it was the general consensus.  I worked there for about two years with the fear of upsetting one of the alpha males and losing my job.  I spoke up once about a situation where someone made a highly inappropriate comment, and it was made very clear that I should “Think hard about it” before I made a formal complaint.  Of course I didn’t, but my life was made pretty hard after that.  I was eventually ‘made redundant’ although the role was soon refilled.

If I could talk to my 22-year-old self, I would tell her to stand up for herself.  At the time, I felt I had to be quiet and keep my head down in order to stay employed and also for future employment prospects.  That’s not the case nowadays.

I’ve seen so many women bullied online in various forums, and there’s something about sitting behind the computer screen that makes others feel they can say whatever they want.  It’s not just our children being bullied.  Not at all.  In fact, sometimes adults can be a lot more malicious than teens or children.

So today, I’m wearing an orange scarf to show my support for ALL of the victims of bullying out there.

If you’re a victim of workplace bullying, in any form, please seek help.  I know it’s hard, but you don’t have to put up with it.

If you could be anything, what would you be?

Sitting in the high school library, I remember my teenage friends and I discussing our subject choices that would effectively determine the rest of our lives.  It all seemed so finite and intimidating back then, and I guess it was.  We were teenagers having to decide what we wanted to be as adults.  It was overwhelming.

Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a psychologist.  As a young girl, I spent some time at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and my dream was to be able to help kids similar to those I met during my stay.  As a psychologist.  That is what I worked towards throughout my final years at school and in my first year at uni.  It turns out I had no idea what was involved in psychology.  After one year it was clear that my vision needed to change.  It was nothing like I’d imagined.

After taking a couple of years off and traveling, I discovered marketing.  Now here was a good fit.  I loved studying marketing and the years at uni flew by.  Too quickly.

I love marketing.  I love learning more about marketing.  It’s the geek in me, I know, but I really get off on it.

It may have something to do with going back to uni as a ‘mature age’ student.  Not having the pressure of being straight out of school and trying to find my feet in an adult world whilst concentrating on university.  I felt much more self-assured and I’m sure if I went back to uni at my current age of 35 I would feel even more confident.  There are definite advantages to having life experience under your belt.

I know it’s a cliché, but I wholeheartedly believe that it’s never too late to chase your dreams.  You’re never too old to go back to study something that will make your heart sing.  If that’s nursing or law, marketing or horticulture it really doesn’t matter.  You just need to find that area that will make you want to get out of bed and go to work. The one thing that will engage your mind and keep you going for years to come.

There are options for studying from home and part-time on campus.  You don’t need to  arrange fulltime childcare in order to study again. Also, don’t just look at courses in your immediate area.  I know of a number of women studying from all over Australia at a South Australian university.

Don’t give up on your dream.  There will always be hurdles and reasons not to study, but you just need to find a way over them.

If you could ‘be’ anything, what would you be?

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