Author: Celeste Allen

All, Arts & Heritage

What It’s Like Visiting London’s Museums Again


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After nearly four months of being closed, museums and galleries across England were able to reopen their doors at the beginning of July. While it took the CBA Content team – me and Rachael – a month to book our return visits, it was well worth the wait.

To follow in our footsteps and see what it’s like visiting London’s museums again, read about our individual experiences below. First up is my trip to the V&A, then Rachael takes us to the Tate Modern and finally, a visit to the Queen’s House.

The V&A, South Kensington

The Victoria and Albert Museum holds a special place in my heart. I went there when I studied abroad in London in 2010. I used to spend afternoons in its National Art Library. I’ve brought my sister and mom there, who could spend the whole day in the gift shop. And before lockdown, I used to go often, with friends on Friday nights or just to walk around on my own.

So when they reopened on August 6th, I was among some of the first visitors in line. It wasn’t a planned trip, as I booked a ticket online the morning of, however that only added to the magic of the day.

Waiting to enter the V&A.

The entry process was seamless and not crowded – having a designated time slot helps everyone stay at a safe distance from others throughout their visit. Once inside, I was greeted by a lovely, facemask-donning guide. You could almost feel her excitement for being back in the museum. We were all so happy to be standing in the sculpture hall again, able to see the fantastic fashion display, ceramics, paintings and many more cherished objects.

Since only the ground floor was open, the guide explained that you could walk freely around the rooms or follow an online self-guided trail (architectural tour, Britain and the Caribbean tour and more). After talking more though, she recommended I check out her favourite rooms: the Cast Courts.

Michelangelo’s David, standing more than five metres tall in the Cast Courts.

For the next two hours, I was spellbound by the reproductions of Michelangelo’s David, Raphael’s School of Athens, Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise and the huge Trajan’s column, which is displayed in two pieces as it wouldn’t fit under the 25-metre-high ceiling.

With no crowds to snake around, it was like a private step back in time. The Cast Courts transported me to Italy and the Renaissance, much like they’ve been doing for Londoners since 1873.

The mosaic floor, nicknamed ‘Opus Criminale’, between the Cast Courts.

The best part? Spending most of my visit in these two magnificent rooms and not rushing to see something else. Stopping to learn about why reproductions of art are important and how they influence artists today. Noticing the mosaic floor between the courts for the first time and reading about the women convicts who built it. My first museum trip after lockdown is one I will never forget: quiet, eye-opening and enchanting.

Tate Modern, Bankside

Despite museums beginning to reopen from the start of July, it’s taken me a little while to ease back into visiting. I was waiting to hear some feedback from fellow culture-lovers on London’s museums’ procedures so I could make my mind up on how safe it was to go back.

After reading some glowing reviews, and seeing photos of amazingly empty galleries on Instagram, I decided to take the plunge at the Tate Modern. While my experience will hopefully help ease any worries about the safety of visiting galleries and museums, remember we are still in a pandemic: wear a mask, keep your distance, and only do what you feel comfortable doing — it’s okay if you’re not ready to make a visit!

Kara Walker's Fons Americanus sculpture
Kara Walker, Fons Americanus (2019)

Upon arrival at the Tate Modern you’ll need to enter through the Turbine Hall entrance. This is actually something of a bonus: you’ll get to see Kara Walker’s impressive sculpture Fons Americanus right away! You’ll show your e-ticket for your allocated time-slot (free for the main collection, but must be booked in advance) at the entrance, where there’s also a hand sanitiser dispenser so you can clean up before you head in.

Staff and visitors need to wear a face mask at all times, and it was great to see this religiously adhered to throughout my visit. A one-way system has been arranged through the galleries, which didn’t feel unnatural or restrictive. You’d most likely follow that route on an ordinary visit and it was a great encouragement to explore side rooms you might otherwise have missed. It also incentivises you to spend more time with the art in a room before moving on since you can’t double-back to see it again.

Evelyne Axell's Valentine painting
Evelyne Axell, Valentine (1966)

The gallery was a little busier than I expected for a Monday morning, but there was still more than enough space to socially distance while enjoying the exhibitions. There’s no time limit on your visit so you can stay as long as you want, but Tate is strict on arrival times. Don’t turn up too early for your time slot or you’ll be asked to wait outside.

The good news is that, unlike some other galleries, it isn’t hard to get a ticket. I booked on the morning of my visit and still had my pick of time slots, so it’s a great option for a spontaneous gallery trip!

Yinka Shonibare's The British Library installation
Yinka Shonibare, The British Library (2014)

I shared a few highlights over on Instagram — I was particularly enthralled by Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library, and Igor Grubić’s film installation East Side Story (not pictured).

Overall, this was a fantastic way to ease back into the museum world post-lockdown. I felt safe, relaxed and confident that the experience was well-managed by the Tate team.

Queen’s House, Greenwich

After a successful visit to the V&A, I was excited to plan my next art-filled adventure. The Queen’s House in Greenwich had recently reopened with a rare reunion of the Armada Portraits, the three surviving portraits of Queen Elizabeth I after defeating the Spanish Armada.

The exhibition, Faces of a Queen, opened briefly before lockdown and luckily returned for a few weeks in August and September. Having never been to this classically-designed gallery before, I quickly realised the house contains a lot more art and historical significance than I imagined.

Walking up to the Queen’s House in Greenwich Park.

The building itself is an architectural masterpiece. Walking up to the gallery entrance – which was virtually empty on this August Bank Holiday – was a painting in itself.

Once inside, all visitors follow a one-way system, beginning with an impressive collection of art by Van Dyck, Reynolds, Canaletto and more. Since the entry times are staggered, there were never more than six people in a room at a time. It felt like another private tour. It was magical.

Faces of a Queen exhibition at the Queen’s House.

We got to see the Armada Portraits after a wander around the Great Hall. A very welcoming tour guide, wearing a mask and standing a safe distance away, told us about the iconic portraits and how amazing it is to see them next to each other for the first time in history (the other two were on loan from Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery).

The rest of my visit was filled with royal family portraits, maritime sculptures and to my pleasant surprise, contemporary art pieces. In fact, it was in a room full of Stuart style paintings that I saw my first Kehinde Wiley (Wiley is the American artist who painted Obama’s portrait for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery).

Ship of Fools by Kehinde Wiley.

Stepping out into Greenwich Park after the Queen’s House visit, I felt London’s majestic embrace. Seeing and experiencing the city’s art and heritage again had restored a sense of adventure, wonder and discovery.

All, Content Tips, Marketing

Why Marketing is Indispensable (and How to Show its Worth)


Marketing is undeniably human. It’s based on ideas, creativity and lateral thinking, on understanding people’s needs and wants, and how they think and behave.

For this reason, marketing teams are an irreplaceable asset to any business in the museum, arts and cultural heritage sectors. Effective marketing helps identify visitor demographics and audience trends, improve engagement and affinity with your online community and content, and ultimately, make your business money.

However, when businesses hit upon hard times — as museums and heritage sites have under the pressure of Covid-19 — they streamline to stay afloat. Marketing budgets are often one of the first to be cut: UK companies reduced their marketing spend by 6.1% overall in March of this year in light of the pandemic.

So how can we prove our worth and the indispensability of our work to keep clients on board and marketing a priority? These two approaches can make all the difference.

The value of asking ‘why’

We’ve talked about the importance of knowing your values before, and aligning with brands and businesses that share these core values. We also think the easiest way to understand a company’s core values is by asking them why they are marketing their brand and what they wish to achieve in the long term.

By asking museum and heritage professionals why they’re seeking our services, whythey’re pursuing (or not pursuing) a certain marketing goal, and why engaging with their visitors is important, you begin to show marketing’s worth. By digging deeper and uncovering the ultimate goal, you demonstrate how marketing is intricately linked to growing their community and driving ticket purchases, new memberships, donations, and other revenue streams.

No alt text provided for this image

This end goal, a culmination of increased profitability and uplifting core values, is what we describe as the ‘ultimate result’.

When asking the big why questions and trying to uncover the ultimate result, it helps to remember what your client might want to achieve. In the arts and cultural heritage world, for instance, they might be seeking:

  • Authority and thought leadership in their market
  • Deeper connections with their community
  • Fostering a greater passion and interest in art/history/heritage
  • More footfall through exhibition doors
  • Digital innovation leadership

By asking ‘why’, you not only gain the knowledge of what the museum or heritage organisation is looking for, but you help them understand it too. This not only demonstrates your worth by helping them reach their ultimate result, but it also allows you to do your job better by factoring this end goal into every step of the marketing process.

Measuring success

Marketers often help businesses understand intangible things: how their audience sees the world, what they think of the brand, and how to engage with visitors and community members in a more meaningful way. Which inevitably leads to two main problems when proving the value of marketing:

  1. The results aren’t always instantaneous
  2. They often aren’t measured in the same way as other aspects of the business

Where is the link back to earnings, to the idea that what we’re doing adds value in the same way as other projects and initiatives?

That’s why proving our worth involves effectively measuring the results of our work. Marketing is a loop of test, learn, overcome and adapt to challenges — so in order to show what you’re doing is working, a method of tracking the ultimate result needs to be determined.

Tracking website performance

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

The good news is that measuring the ultimate result doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as tracking metrics and trends in Google Analytics and built-in social media analytics platforms, such as:

  • Engagement rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Time spent on site
  • Likes, retweets and replies
  • Session duration
  • Source of traffic
  • Newsletter open rate
  • Click-through rate

Measuring the impact of your content marketing in line with the museum’s or heritage site’s ultimate result shows the tangible value of your work. It allows you to put the needs, wants and behaviours of their audience in context while demonstrating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts in a clear, quantitative format.

Showing the value of marketing

The key to showing the value of marketing is to create that light bulb moment for your team director or client: help them make the connection between the company’s ultimate result and how specific marketing tactics (research, content, analysis) get them closer to that goal.

Where should you begin? By having open conversations at the planning stage of the marketing campaign about what they hope to achieve. That way, you’ll be able to test, learn and overcome challenges more effectively, and get the business closer to their ultimate result in every stage of the process.

Once you’ve measured the outcome of a blog, newsletter, or social media campaign, the data that backs up your success (or points you in the direction of improvement) will show your team or client how you’ve got them closer to their ultimate result and helped grow the business through marketing.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Have you had similar experiences as a marketer? Let us know what tips you use for showing the value of marketing in the comments on LinkedIn.

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Blog, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips

5 Art Galleries With The Best Digital Content Strategies


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As museums and galleries prepare for reopening on July 4th, we think now is a great moment to take a look at the best digital content strategies in the gallery world.

Since digital content will continue to enhance cultural experiences outside of physical exhibitions, it’s important to keep your online audience top of mind. Because as lockdown has shown, remote and virtual experiences are meaningful ways to supplement gallery visits, providing additional information, learning resources, fun activities and DIY interactions which increase engagement and give something extra to your visitors.

In light of this, we’ve rounded up five galleries, big and small, that have made significant strides across the web and social media. These galleries have approached content in different ways that are equally effective, offering distinct and unique online experiences for visitors far and wide.

The Serpentine Galleries

Known for: Pioneering exhibitions of contemporary art across two galleries in Hyde Park

The Serpentine Galleries has just had an extensive digital rebrand, making its website and content better than ever.

Its Art & Ideas section serves as a content hub, collating articles, podcasts and films exploring the ideas behind their displays and the artists who created them. From in-depth discussions on exhibition themes to artist interviews giving behind-the-art exclusives, the ‘Art & Ideas’ tab is a great resource for extra content related to goings-on at the galleries.

Click on the What’s On tab and you’ll find details of current, upcoming and online exhibitions. Each has extensive background information, high-quality images of work on display, and some have video trailers too.

The Serpentine’s most recent online exhibition, which ran from 14th May to 30th June, was called do it (around the world). Its premise was to provide “an ever-expanding set of creative instructions by leading artists – simple enough for anyone to do,” developing since 1993 in various forms.

This year, 30 international creative figures from the fields of art, music, poetry, fashion and design provided instructions, inspiration and tips for people creating art from home. It was hosted by Google Arts & Culture, and the Serpentine is cleverly encouraging people to share their creations with the hashtags #doit and #doitaroundtheworld to boost engagement through user-generated content.

These online resources are currently serving the Serpentine’s audience in lieu of a physical exhibition and will continue once their doors open to the public again. Encouraging engagement and connection beyond the gallery walls creates a tighter-knit community around local exhibitions, and brings the wonders of the gallery into homes around the world.

Over on social media…

The Serpentine Galleries’ Instagram feed is where the action happens. Their colourful grid features artwork, videos, photographs and poetry, each with detailed captions and intriguing insights. The Serpentine also shares interesting third-party content, such as interviews and discussions, related to their exhibition material.

The Wallace Collection

Known for: 18th Century French Art (Rococo and Baroque), 16th-19th Century European Art, Armour and Porcelain

The Wallace Collection’s digital strategy is known for being one of the best in the game. They have an extensive online collection database with high-quality images and expert knowledge provided in the descriptions.

Visitors can explore the collection through highlights selected by staff, or use the detailed search engine to find specific artefacts or paintings. The collection can also be navigated by gallery — so if visitors know where their favourite painting is hung in Hertford House, or just want to see how the collection is arranged room-by-room, this tool adds another layer to the online experience.

The blog is full of detailed articles and videos spotlighting specific artefacts in the collection. It’s organised thematically through blog series, recently covering royalty, animals, light and dark, movement and music, and war and peace. The Wallace Collection also runs a ‘Treasure of the Month’ blog series, highlighting an item in the collection with images you can zoom in on to see its intricacies while learning about the object’s history and significance.

This level of detail, organisation and breadth of online resources sets The Wallace Collection apart from many of its counterparts: its digital experience is distinct from a physical visit, but we think just as insightful and valuable.

Over on social media…

Twitter is where the Wallace Collection’s social presence comes to life. Posting almost daily, they share facts about their paintings, artefacts and artists, providing context as if you were in the gallery space.

Tate

Known for: Historic British art and contemporary art across four galleries in England

The pinnacle of Tate’s online strategy is its learning resources. Front and centre on the main homepage is the ‘Play, Learn and Create’ section, showcasing resources for kids and adults looking to expand their art knowledge.

Tate Kids has its own dedicated website, with activities, games, quizzes, informative articles and videos to help kids learn the importance of creativity and spark an interest in art. There’s also a Kids Gallery showcasing art submitted by children across the world, which is a great way to boost engagement with children and parents alike.

Back on the main site, the Explore Our Galleries Online segment features a selection of galleries from all of Tate’s sites, including a modern art exhibition from St Ives and Walk Through British Art from the Tate Britain in London. The experiences are structured by room with high-quality images of the artwork and matching descriptions.

Visitors can explore 78,000 artworks, 4,000 artists and 22,000 archive items on Tate’s site, navigating by theme, alphabetically, by collection or medium. Finding your way around the website couldn’t be easier.

This is another great example of how online experiences can complement physical visits, with fantastic resources and additional exclusive information for multiple audiences.

Over on social media…

Tate’s Instagram is bright, colourful and informative. It has an intriguing selection of story highlights and IGTV films including ‘Making a Pot like Grayson Perry’ and a behind-the-scenes look at working at Tate during lockdown. They also moved their popular Friday lates series online, “bringing an artist-led programme direct to you, wherever you are.” This Friday (3 July) it’s all about LGBTIQ+ artists, with a mixture of talks, workshops, films and music, all accessible via Facebook.

Courtauld Gallery

Known for: French impressionists and post-impressionist paintings, the collection of the University of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art

The Courtauld Gallery has had some time to make sure its digital content strategy is up to standard: it’s been closed since late 2018 for a major redevelopment. Throughout this time, it’s kept visitors engaged through comprehensive virtual tours through each room of the gallery, digital exhibitions, and thought-leadership articles and webinars led by the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Under the Gallery tab on the Courtauld’s website you’ll find Watch and Listen sections hosting videos and podcasts on a variety of topics, including some famous names and faces discussing art! For those who don’t fancy a virtual tour, they also have high-res images of their collection by medium: paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture and decorative arts.

The variety of ways to explore the collection makes it very accessible to all kinds of audiences. The Courtauld benefits from the expertise of its academics and students when putting on events such as the Open Hour, an online series of lectures and performances on “all things art history.”

Over on social media…

The Courtauld Gallery’s Twitter shares highlights from the collection, online event details both from the Institute of Art and third-party associates, and places to learn more about art history. They post frequently, keeping audiences engaged with thought-out and attention-grabbing messages.

White Cube

Known for: Contemporary art in two small locations in London, Mason’s Yard and Bermondsey, and in Hong Kong.

White Cube’s clean, airy website is both calming and reminiscent of the illuminating gallery spaces in their physical locations.

There is a dedicated tab for online exhibitions, where three are currently on display. The exhibitions are presented in an infinite-scroll format, with high-quality images and informative captions alongside behind-the-scenes photographs of the artist’s studio and inspirations. It feels as immersive as visiting the gallery in person: it’s user-friendly, you don’t have to click around the site for more art or information as it’s presented on one page with an effortless flow.

White Cube’s News and Events page is regularly updated with the latest from the gallery, while the Channel has videos covering a huge range of artists previously or currently exhibited. The videos give the artist’s perspective on their works and guided tours of online exhibitions, providing digital visitors with an extra layer of experience.

Over on social media…

White Cube has a striking Instagram feed of intriguing artworks, in-depth descriptions, and news of upcoming displays and events. On IGTV there are videos from the Channel section of the website, presented with subtitles for accessibility in mobile use, which helps reach an audience that may not have seen them on the website.


The closure of museums and galleries during the coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for change in how cultural institutions engage their audiences outside of the exhibition space. Taking the opportunity to develop an online content strategy, keeping up with regular visitors and drawing in new ones through accessible digital resources, has primed these galleries for a successful reopening and a thriving future.

At CBA Content, we’re dedicated to helping museums and cultural organisations build an inspiring and impactful content strategy, no matter where they are on their journey.

We can help by creating a custom content map for your business with market and audience research, content ideas and promotional strategy, or by creating bespoke content for your organisation. Get in touch — we’d love to see how we can help.

All, Art, Content Creation, Content Tips, Cultural heritage

Your Museum’s Online Story Is More Important Than Ever. Here’s How To Get It Right.


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In London, there has been a 22.5% increase in web traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The British Museum has seen a 120% increase in traffic to its website compared to last year. People have more time to spend online during lockdown, and the data shows that they’re using that time to connect with art, culture and history.

Chris Unitt’s article shows the Google Trends data on how people are searching for museum experiences

Having a strong digital presence is important all the time, but with people still largely staying at home, it’s even more important now. Museums are enjoying an attentive audience who are actively seeking out resources. Which means with the right content strategy, it’s easier than ever to engage your audience.

We know it can be overwhelming to kick off a new content plan at the best of times, never mind in the middle of a pandemic. Taking it one step at a time, this blog post will show how easy it can be to begin your museum’s digital journey, or to guide your existing strategy to success.

Getting to know your audience

The vital first step to any content strategy is getting to know your audience. Take the time to find out who they are, where they hang out online, what they’re interested in watching, reading and looking at. This can simply mean listening to their conversations online and staying active in their social media communities.

You might think: ‘I already know my audience — they’re the ones coming into my museum and enjoying our exhibitions.’ While this is true, visitors to your museum often only represent a fraction of what your online audience could be.

One of the many benefits of a good digital strategy is its inclusivity. Online museum resources benefit not only those who would ordinarily visit in person, but those who can’t do so due to geographical limitations, socio-economic barriers, scheduling constraints or disabilities.

The Wallace Collection have an admirable online archive with detailed descriptions for each piece. Here’s Canaletto’s ‘Venice: the Bacino di San Marco from the Canale della Giudecca

An inclusive online story, with resources that cater to all sectors of society, means more people can benefit from what your museum has to offer, and can encourage those who might not ordinarily visit to make the trip.

Where to start

Twitter is a great place to start when getting to know your audience. Its public forum means you can listen to a wide variety of conversations and find out what your audience is passionate about.

There are organised discussions hosted in Twitter’s cultural heritage world — some weekly, some monthly — that orchestrate a dialogue open to all. Museum Hour, Heritage Chat and Archive Hour are three such examples, often hosted on a specific theme and engaging a wide audience from museum curators to visitors.

When tweeting, make sure to use relevant hashtags and tag profiles to increase your reach. Don’t be afraid to join in on conversations: respond to polls, reply to questions, retweet interesting facts or information. Have personality and be human!

Knowing what your audience wants

The easiest way to understand what your audience wants is to ask them. Conduct social media polls, open up Q&A sessions, ask for feedback on your website. As we mentioned in the last section, your online audience doesn’t always hold a mirror to your in-person audience: it’ll be bigger, broader and represent a wider range of voices.

The Museum Hour discussion on Twitter is held weekly, covering different themes each Monday – a great tool for understanding your audience and the museum sector.

Remember that your online resources will never replace a visit to your museum for those who would visit ordinarily. Rather, digital content is an alternative to visiting in person, and a great opportunity to offer something extra that might not be feasible in a physical space.

For example, in our last blog post we wrote about London’s Courtauld Gallery’s Open Hour Zoom series which ran throughout May, with expert speakers addressing audiences of up to 600 people on a range of topics and themes. An event of this scale would be impossible for the Gallery to hold in its premises, with speakers and audiences from across the UK attending for a one-hour seminar.

An opportunity to connect with new people

To create valuable experiences online, keep a clear idea of your target audience in mind: Who is likely to access your digital content, and what are they looking for when they do?

It’s also important to be inclusive. People of all ages, digital literacy levels, and socio-cultural backgrounds will want to get involved, as will people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions that might require information to be presented in different ways.

Don’t be overwhelmed by this breadth of audience, though — it’s an opportunity to reach people you might not have reached before, and provide them with a valuable experience of what your museum has to offer.

Here are some content ideas to spark your inspiration:

  • Kids’ educational content: teaching packs, drawing challenges, treasure hunts and games to keep kids entertained while learning
  • Online book clubs: Suggested readings with video call or Twitter discussions
  • Virtual tours: Get inspired by English Heritage and show your online audience around your museum/heritage site
  • Establish your online archive: Upload high-quality photographs of your artefacts and artworks for people to enjoy from home. It’s even better if they have informative captions!
  • Share your expertise in blog posts: Blog posts are an easy way to break into your content strategy. They don’t take a big team to create or any specialist equipment, and are a valuable platform for sharing knowledge and information.

The Great Fire of London game, sourced from the Museum of London’s schools resource page

Next steps: Building a digital culture

Developing a digital strategy could mean a cultural shift within your museum. Leading the change from the top down and the bottom up is integral to creating a successful digital culture, so every member of staff is informed, knowledgeable and as excited about the change as you are.

There are many helpful digital culture resources available online. As part of the UK Government’s Culture is Digital initiative, Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund have commissioned a Digital Culture Compass tool. It includes a Charter to help cultural organisations lead their digital change with core values centred on people’s needs, and a self-assessment Tracker to help assess organisations’ current use of digital, and set targets for the future.

The Digital Culture Charter helps cultural organisations lead their digital change in a values-led, change-responsive way

Sprout Social offers an Ultimate Social Media for Museums Guide, an extensive handbook specifically for museums looking to build their social media platforms. It’s helpful as it gives particular tips for museums and cultural organisations wherever they are on their journey. Informative and approachable, the guide gives introductions to the most popular social media platforms as well as a tutorial on building a social media strategy.

These tools are a great starting point as you begin enhancing your online presence. Building a digital content strategy is no mean feat, especially in an industry that has traditionally operated within four walls. However cultural activity and engagement during lockdown make one thing clear: people remain passionate about art, history and heritage, seeking out museum resources online and sharing experiences virtually.

At CBA Content, we’re dedicated to helping museums and cultural organisations build an inspiring and impactful content strategy, no matter where they are on their journey.

We can help by creating a custom content map for your business with market and audience research, content ideas and promotional strategy, or by creating bespoke content for your organisation. Get in touch — we’d love to see how we can help.

All, Art, Community, Content Creation, Culture

Experiencing Art and Culture in Lockdown: What’s Changed and How Will We Adapt?


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Before lockdown, we might have filled our Saturday afternoons with a trip to a museum after brunch with friends, ending the day in a South Kensington pub to discuss the exhibition we’d seen.

Now the galleries, museums, cafes, pubs, and other weekend hangout spots are closed due to COVID-19, we’ve had to make our own fun when it comes to experiencing art and culture.

Fortunately, virtual tours, webinars, podcasts and video series allow us to get our culture fix from home. Museums and galleries across the world are working hard to bring cultural content into our living rooms, keeping that connection with art and history alive.

As we start to look towards the end of lockdown, it’s becoming clear that our relationship with museums will look different for a while yet — potentially changing for good. So how have we adapted and what will art and culture experiences look like in the future? Here are a few ways we see people enjoying and engaging with art, history and heritage in the months and years to come.

Enjoying culture from home

Some gallerists, museum curators, artists, tour guides and culture vultures have seized this opportunity, offering online material to satisfy our cultural cravings. The British Museum, for example, now has nearly 4.5 million objects and 1.9 million photographs in its digital archive, after adding 300,000 new images since their doors closed. The Museum’s online traffic is up 120% on last year, highlighting the importance of a strong digital presence to complement its physical collection.

The British Museum is the world’s largest indoor space on Google Street View.

Google Arts & Culture has been a fantastic resource for exploring museums and galleries around the world during lockdown. Using hi-res image technology, you can wander round an exhibition, looking at high-resolution images of famous artworks and artefacts from your sofa.

You can browse artworks by time period, colour or museum collection, and the platform has editorial pieces highlighting weekly favourites, hidden details, and stories behind pieces of art.

Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, museum curators, historians and art experts, we’ve actually been treated to more content than we might have experienced during a physical visit. Podcasts, mini online festivals and virtual tours offer expert insights, stimulating conversation and a behind-the-scenes look at museums and historical sites.

One such museum creating content waves is the Courtauld Gallery in London. They’ve been hosting an ‘Open Hour’ each Thursday in May: a new, free digital events series with talks by industry leaders, explorations of individual works and live poetry readings.

With live-stream events, conferences and Q&A’s being offered widely for free, it’s easier than ever to join the conversation around art and culture. It only takes a quick hashtag search on Twitter – #MuseumFromHome, #GettyMuseumChallenge, #MuseumMomentOfZen – to see fun, helpful and inspiring updates in real-time.

The power of virtual connections

Since mid-March, the cultural sector’s physical presence has been greatly diminished. At the same time, unsurprisingly, virtual engagement has skyrocketed.

This digital connection has helped fill a void during isolation. It’s provided a means to interact with people and places near and far. More than that, it’s given us the unique opportunity to get to know and learn from museum curators, gallerists and art experts.

Through video and social platforms, they share their favourite artefacts, uncover the story behind paintings and discuss the power of art to move us, entertain us and transport us to another place and another time.

Barnaby Wright speaking at the first Courtauld Gallery ‘Open Hour’

Virtual museum tours aren’t anything new, but there’s been a surge in their popularity since the lockdown began. They’ve allowed us to continue to see and experience art even while doors are closed. And now that, in light of this crisis, we know online tours can be done in a fulfilling, informative way, they could play a vital role in the future of museums.

Online experiences allow people to explore exhibitions and displays that fascinate them regardless of where they’re located. They open up history and culture to all sectors of society: those with disabilities who find some museums and galleries difficult to access, people in rural areas who don’t live near a major exhibition, people with unusual schedules who can’t always visit during opening hours, and many more. This inclusivity and accessibility is essential to the future of the museum industry.

File:Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao (31273245344).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Fancy a visit to Bilbao’s Guggenheim? You can do it from your sofa.

Of course, nothing can truly replace a visit to a museum, experiencing culture with other people, with strangers, and seeing artefacts and art in person. But this renewed online connection will undoubtedly change the way we experience museums for a while yet.

How will museums look post-COVID-19?

In some countries around the world, museum and gallery doors are beginning to reopen, testing the waters for socially distanced visits. At the Brandenburg State Museum for Modern Art in Cottbus, Germany, which reopened on 1st May, lines on the floor in the museum foyer mark the advised distance between visitors, and the total number of visitors at one time is limited to 100.

Neon tape marks social distancing for ticket purchases at the Gropius Bau museum in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In Brussels, Belgium, safety measures planned for reopenings in mid-May include one-way visitor traffic, a quota of hourly admission numbers and a halting of audio guides for hygiene reasons. Sensible suggestions — and they could give an indication of what to expect in the UK once we’re at the stage of reopening museums.

Across the pond, a ‘drive-by art’ exhibition in Long Island, NY last weekend displayed another way we can recreate the gallery experience outside. The works of 52 artists were displayed on front lawns, fences, driveways and pavements, with local residents turning up in their cars to see the exhibition.

The sculptor Monica Banks winked at the signature hedges of the Hamptons with “Brains in Our Arms,”  steel wool octopuses positioned in her own hedge.

Monica Banks’ steel wool octopus sculptures ‘Brains in Our Arms’, in her hedge in Long Island. (Photo: Bryan Derballa for The New York Times)

The organiser, artist and theorist Warren Neidich, is planning another exhibition in Los Angeles later in the month, also based around the question of: “how do we show empathy and solidarity in this new age?”. Whether it’s east London street art or front garden sculptures, community art is something we can all enjoy, safely, while social distancing. 

What about the theme of upcoming exhibitions? Interestingly, the chronicling of this historic pandemic by museums has already begun, with the V&A, Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery collecting items and photographs of life in lockdown.

Impacting almost every aspect of daily life, it’s likely that COVID-19 will be the subject of artistic and historical exhibitions fairly contemporaneously. The Brandenburg State Museum for Modern Art, for example, has reopened with a video about solutions devised by history’s artists and architects for personal protection in public, such as Weegee’s ‘Boy Meets Girl – From Mars’ (1955).

“Boy meets girl - from Mars” by Weegee (Arthur Fellig), ca. 1955, New York (NY), gelatin silver print, image: 8 1/2 x 7 3/8 in. Accession number: 16855.1993. Credit: Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993. © Getty Images/ICP

Weegee’s ‘Boy Meets Girl – From Mars’ (1955)
(Photo: Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993. © Getty Images/ICP
)

As we tentatively look towards the end of lockdown and the reopening of museums and galleries, it’s difficult to say what the ‘new normal’ will be for the cultural industries. If current trends are anything to go by, the future of museums involves socially distanced visits with reduced numbers. On the business side, a strong digital strategy has and will be more important than ever.

People are still hungry for art, history and heritage: virtual tours, informative content and expert insights continue to keep cultural experiences intact. For museums, now is a great opportunity to reevaluate the accessibility of culture: digital exhibitions have the potential to open up the world of art and history to vast sectors of society that might otherwise miss out. If there is a silver lining in this, let it be a celebration of culture made available to everyone.

All, Audience Research, Blog, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips, Writing & Editing

How to Make the Most of Your Content (Without Reinventing the Wheel)


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Keeping up with your business and personal wellbeing is particularly overwhelming at the moment. It’s a constant challenge to try and be productive, stay connected to colleagues, clients and customers, and come up with fresh content ideas. Today, we’re here to help lighten the load by making that last to-do item – content creation – much easier.

Chances are you already have great content on your website, social media pages, video or podcast channels. Content that you spent hours crafting and promoting with tweets, LinkedIn posts and Instagram stories.

While producing fresh content is an effective marketing strategy, it doesn’t always mean churning out new material.

In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to get the most life out of existing content: reusing and repurposing content you already have, and how to prolong the shelf-life of upcoming material.

Let’s start by reassessing your current approach to producing content. Because now, more than ever, is a good time to check in with yourself and your community to see how we can best help each other through the coronavirus crisis, together.

#1 Reassess

Take a step back for a moment. Have you been following the same content strategy for the past few months, year, 18 months? Are your messages still relevant to your audience? Do they align with your business?

Don’t panic. Reassessing your content strategy is as easy as reading your analytics platforms and listening to your community – things you’ve likely been doing already.

First, check in with your audience. Who are they?

  • Gender
  • Age group
  • Financial demographic
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • What media do they consume?
  • When are they most active online?

It’s easy to find out this information. Many social media platforms have built-in analytics you can access for free (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for instance). Then try actively listening to your audience’s conversations on Twitter and Reddit to bring timely topics and challenges to light.

Another tactic is to ask your community members directly about their current situation either in conversation or through customer surveys.

Next, determine when and where your audience is most active so you can expand your reach on that platform. This will help to focus your time, energy and effort, and better keep your target audience in mind.

#2 Repurpose

Now that you’ve identified who and how you can help, let’s take a look at your back content catalogue and ways we can repurpose it to catch your readers’ attention.

Think of it as clearing out your wardrobe. Some clothes fit well, suit your style and are in great condition – keep those! Others might need a refresh before throwing them on: restitch a seam, mix and match with a newer item. And some simply don’t work anymore: your style has changed, they don’t fit right and they’re out of fashion.

Before you go off creating new content (or shopping for new clothes), see what’s already there. The creativity comes in figuring out how to repurpose it.

Fresh content, less time and resources.

Just remember to ask yourself, will this new, reimagined content resonate with my audience on their most active platform? There’s no point in repurposing something that won’t catch anyone’s attention!

Here are a few ideas for making ‘old’ content new:

  • Reshare evergreen content (articles, videos, podcasts that your readers will always care about)
  • Reminisce on past events with ‘on this day’ posts
  • Expand on a successful social post and turn it into a blog
  • Repurpose a popular blog as a YouTube video or podcast episode
  • Create a LinkedIn slideshow using existing video content

#3 Refresh

As the weight of coming up with new content ideas begins to lift, let’s finally turn our attention to refreshing your content calendar and long-term strategy.

Start with your social calendar – particularly the plans you had in place for this spring/summer. Do they still resonate with your community’s interests and challenges? Will the content you intended to share be helpful during the coronavirus crisis?

Hubspot‘s social media calendar is a great tool for refreshing your strategy.

The same goes for your blog, YouTube channel, podcast, livestreams, or any other content you produce: what will help your audience? This might not be your product or service – that’s okay. Instead think about how you can be there for your customers right now.

Save yourself time and energy while you reorganise your content plans. Be intentional with your messages and choice of platform. Did your research show your community isn’t hanging out or engaging on LinkedIn or Facebook? Redirect your attention to where they are active and where you’re more likely to gain traction.

Three tips to remember

In summary, here are three simple things to bear in mind when you’re looking to get the most life out of your content.

  1. Reassess your audience. Find out where they hang out, what they enjoy and when they’re active online.
  2. Flip through content you’ve successfully produced in the past, and see how you can repurpose it, give it new life and help your audience in a new way.
  3. Refresh your short-term approach and let it guide your broader strategy. Make sure your content fits your core values and aligns with what your audience values – that will give it longevity and make it ideal for repurposing in the future.

This blog is the third in a mini-series about getting through the coronavirus crisis. The first post is all about checking in with yourself and your community, and the second helps you get creative and stay connected through this period!

All, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips

Get Creative and Stay Connected During Lockdown


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As we find new ways to connect with our community and adjust to this ‘new normal’, it’s difficult to know how we should be offering to help.

Like always, we want to provide solutions and make it easier for people to reach their goals. Only today these problems and goals look a lot different.

Now, more than ever, our job is to add value to people’s lives. Whether you’re a tour guide or clothing brand, here’s when thinking outside the box comes in handy: how can you (not just your product/service) help people through these unforeseen challenges?

How to stay connected

The first step to staying close to your community right now is by being present and acknowledging what’s going on around us. Listen to and connect with your community on a personal level and pivot your approach to meet them wherever they’re at.

This means throwing any agenda out the window. Just as our lives aren’t the same right now, neither are our jobs – don’t think about how you can sell your service, focus on how you can best be there for your customers.

By being a guiding light through the haze, you can build that all-important connection with your audience and keep them engaged with your brand. When daily life slowly returns to normal, they will remember you for your funny video, engaging podcast or cute animation that brightened their day, rather than conducting business as usual.

Be a friend, and recognise your customers’ shifting needs, offering solutions inside and outside of your trade. They’ll thank you for being there as their needs and wants change over time.

Thinking outside the box

Businesses of all sizes and types are adapting their offerings to cater to our current way of life. Whatever you did before social distancing, you can now do from the comfort of your home.

Being able to connect with the outside world through Instagram Live workouts, National Theatre livestreams or Zoom-guided mindfulness sessions certainly help with feeling less isolated.

This is an opportunity to get creative with how you use content to help people through these stressful and solitary times.

You can try:

  • Testing out new media formats: a podcast or vlog instead of an article
  • Using Loom, Zoom or IGTV for a video tutorial
  • Getting arty with an animation, gif, infographic or colourful doodle
  • Hosting an interactive experience on Instagram or Facebook Live

User-generated content is another great way to build connection:

  • Collect photos of your products from customers to share on your Instagram story
  • Strike up a conversation on Twitter
  • Write a blog post about your audience’s stories

Where to find inspiration

Across the internet, you’ll find people who are helping in lots of different ways. To get you started, here are some inspiring content campaigns we’ve spotted over the last few weeks.

We (Celeste and Rachael) also chatted about our favourite content offerings in our first-ever IGTV, filmed together remotely from our living rooms!

Stripe & Stare has opened its inbox to stories about frontline working heroes, offering a free box of their sustainable knickers each week to the randomly chosen winner. The team also plans to start a blog on the stories they hear to spread thanks to those working hard to keep us safe and healthy.

Katie at Look Up London is doing virtual tours three times a week. With her expert Blue Badge Tour Guide knowledge and Google street view technology, it’s almost as good as the real thing!

Freelancing Females have turned their Instagram feed into a handbook of advice for working from home. They’re lifting up other creators by sharing their visuals, and helping us get through this — one WFH day at a time.

HistFest took their Spring 2020 festival online last week, with talks from leading historians streaming free on YouTube, covering topics such as 19th century shipwrecks, the victims of Jack the Ripper, and the history of celebrity.

Photographer, film maker and all-around visual story-teller Xanthe Berkeley runs online film making courses. To help people get creative and inspired in this period, she’s been offering free film making tips and tricks on her blog!

View this post on Instagram

I created this stop motion for @thewhitecompany a few years ago, but it’s still one of my favourites, so I’ve revamped it with some text and music. At the time, I remember being so pleased that I managed to shoot this without messing up the recipe and having to start again 🙈 . Thanks to everyone who’s been trying out my free “Creating Stop Motions On Your Phone” lesson on my blog… One of the best ways to get started with Stop Motion is to use your phone. Would you like to have a go? Head over to my blog to get started… Also, coming soon is a mini online course with project ideas, more tips & tricks and lots of creative fun to have with Stop Motion, while staying at home. . #xanthefilms #handmadefilmmaking #StayHomeMakeSomething #stopmotion #inspiremyinstagram #documentyourdays #makefilmscourse #hurrayforplay #vllo

A post shared by ☆ Xanthe – Photography & Films (@xantheb) on

This blog is the second in a mini-series about getting through the coronavirus crisis. The first post is all about checking in with yourself and your community, and next we’ll look at how to get the most life out of your content!

All, Audience Research, Community

3 Simple Ways to Check In With Yourself and Your Community During the Coronavirus Crisis


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As the world continues to fight the coronavirus outbreak, we find ourselves adapting to new ways of life and work.

Our routines look vastly different, the economy has plunged and uncertainty looms overhead.

It’s certainly not business as usual, so how do we carry on? With this new space between us and our friends, coworkers and clients, how do we work with and support each other?

By taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, and by connecting with others on the phone and online.

This applies to your business as well. At times like this, it helps to go back to your roots.

By checking in with what matters to you and your community on a personal level, you can better align your values with your business and network’s needs.

Here are three simple questions to help you pinpoint what’s important right now and provide your community with something they really need.

This blog is the first in a mini-series about getting through the coronavirus crisis. The second post is about getting creative and staying connected during lockdown, and next we’ll be talking about how to get the most life out of your content!

#1 What are my core values?

The first step to identifying your core values is to take a moment to think about how you feel. This might sound silly, but what you’re feeling – specifically the emotions you enjoy experiencing – will guide you and your business now and in the long term.

Grab a pen and piece of paper (trust me, it helps) and think about what matters most to you, inside and outside of work:

  • Do you value certainty? Do you feel completely lost without a clear plan for today, next month, next year?
  • Or do you thrive on variety, experiencing different things often and doing what you can to mix up your routine?
  • How about feeling connected to others? What role does love and compassion play right now?
  • Do you always feel the need to contribute and be a part of the solution?
  • Does your happiness derive from achieving something significant? Something that is respected by others?
  • Are you driven by growing, learning, stepping outside of your comfort zone?

In this list, of things that mean most to you and the emotions you want to feel regularly, you have your values.

Once you’ve established what you value, your priorities will become very clear. Because whatever pushes you closer to these positive emotions is important and helps you live your values.

The next step is understanding what your audience values.

#2 What does my audience value?

Just as your priorities have shifted over the last few weeks, your audience’s have too. More people are working from home around partners, children and housemates, and everyone’s routine is shaken up.

Engagement is taking a hit as paid promotions aren’t striking the chord they ordinarily do, and people don’t have their usual commuting time to enjoy an article or video; you can almost hear the collective sigh on social media as the world looks increasingly bleak.

That’s why now, more than ever, it’s important to connect with your community on a human, personal level, and not as a brand to a consumer.

People will remember you for putting a smile on their face with an uplifting Instagram doodle, or helping their kids learn about art or history while they’re not at school.

Your community’s needs look a lot different than they did a month, six weeks ago and so do the problems they are trying to solve.

This means your content and messages should take on a gentler, more advisory and helpful tone: people need a helping hand and guiding light during these unpredictable times. Take a look at our next article for tips and inspiration for creating content that can really help!

#3 How can I help?

We may not be doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, or an essential worker on the front lines, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help and make a positive difference.

Brands across sectors are changing tack to support people through this crisis. Even if you can’t mass-produce hand sanitiser in a distillery like Brewdog or manufacture non-surgical masks like sustainable fashion brand Reformation, you can still support your community by extending a helping hand, whatever form that may take.

Work-from-anywhere gurus are giving free consultations to help people adjust to a remote lifestyle, fitness buffs are leading home workout classes to keep spirits high and bodies healthy, and chefs are livestreaming recipe tutorials so customers can enjoy their food at home.

Some of these things are directly helpful to our lives, health and finances, but some simply make us feel good and keep us happy. Now is the time to think outside the box: how can you and your business help people get through this?


We’re all trying to figure it out. As we get our content marketing heads around how best to approach this crisis, we’re here to help you too.

Throughout April, we’ll be helping you come up with a plan for creating content that aligns with your community. Whether that’s experimenting with a new media channel or joining forces with another entrepreneur, the all-important first step is aligning your brand with what really matters to you.

It’s cliche but it’s true — we are all in this together!

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Blog, Cultural heritage, London

Why Walking in London is The Best Way to Explore Its Past


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To put it simply: London is a city best explored on foot.

While we have the most comprehensive public transport system in the UK, taking you anywhere in the city (more or less) seamlessly, it’s incredible how much you miss while underground or on a winding bus route.

One of London’s greatest charms is its web of towns and boroughs, enchanting in their individual ways. The boundaries blur as you pass from Hackney to Shoreditch, Soho to Mayfair, Camden to Islington — and each area’s distinctive charisma represents the ebb and flow of city life.

A city of contrasting culture

As the streets entangle, you can experience vastly different architectures and atmospheres in a matter of metres.

Take Oxford Street for example: the Roman road which once led to a gallows is now lined with retail stores, endlessly busy with shoppers and traffic.

Oxford Circus c. 1904
Photo: Louis Levy postcard on Flickr

Step down a side street and you’ll find St Christopher’s Place, a peaceful pedestrian quarter with boutique stores, restaurants and endless Victorian charm.

Fact: St Christopher’s Place was redeveloped in the 1870s under the patronage of social housing advocate Octavia Hill — later a co-founder of the National Trust. It was transformed from a slum into a thriving neighbourhood with local cheesemongers, drapers, lamp and bookmakers setting up shop.

Wimpole Mews, Marylebone
Photo: Rachael Davis

London’s mews, originally built to cater for horses, coachmen and stable-servants of wealthy townhouse residents, are another favourite of ours to explore.

In West London, for instance, swap the tourist-swamped Portobello Road for some cute and cosy Notting Hill mews. The modern owners take pride in their city cottages with beautiful flowers adorning the window boxes – you wouldn’t see these pockets of domesticity from a double-decker bus!

London through the centuries

The ancient city is now unrecognisable amongst the high-rise buildings, busy city life and abundant traffic. Skyscrapers like The Shard, The Gherkin and Walkie-Talkie have changed the way we view the City of London at street-level: they dominate the skyline, altering our perspectives and reshaping the dynamics of the streets.

20 Fenchurch Street (Walkie Talkie) from Lombard Street
Photo: Rachael Davis

Walking through the City of London on a peaceful Sunday morning, however, you can see the fusion of pre-Great Fire buildings with more contemporary, glass-fronted behemoths. Stop by The Olde Wine Shades in Martin Lane, a survivor of the Great Fire built in 1663, for a glass of red that’s gone down in history!

Heading east, see the depth of London’s past on a walk between Hackney’s Tudor National Trust property Sutton House and the 2012 Olympic Park in neighbouring Stratford.

Fact: Built in 1535 when Hackney was a rural village, Sutton House is one of London’s last remaining Tudor houses.

After exploring Sutton House’s rich history, spanning from the 16th century to the 1980s, take a walk across the Hackney Marshes or along Hackney Wick Canal. You’ll end up in the modern, beautifully landscaped Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, an emblem of contemporary London!

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford
Photo: Rachael Davis

How to start your adventure

To curate your own walking tour, a great place to start is English Heritage’s Blue Plaque directory. Search by person, borough or category, and see otherwise unremarkable buildings in a new light.

Or take a leaf out of architectural historian Dan Cruickshank’s book (figuratively and literally: Cruickshank’s London: A Portrait of a City in 13 Walks is a source of inspiration) and uncover the city’s layered history by foot.

Explore world-famous buildings and little-known wonders; bustling roads and tiny streets; townhouses of the rich and famous and East End corner shops of decades past.

London lives and breathes, two millennia from its conception. Walk it, experience it, love it — and let us know where you end up!

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Cultural heritage, Culture, London

Show Some Love For London: 5 Ways To Celebrate The City’s Culture


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While Cupid and romantic gestures normally take centre stage on St. Valentine’s Day, we’re here to show some love for the city we call home: an ode to London, one of the world’s great cultural capitals.

Whether you want to illuminate your evenings with rising stars at the National Theatre, or clear your mind with a walk along the River Thames, London has something to warm everyone’s hearts, from the history buff to the foodie, theatre-lover to art connoisseur.

To celebrate its rich and limitless culture, we’ve rounded up our favourite ways to fall in love with London, today and always.

1. Discover unique heritage sites

To love London is to love London’s history, and with two thousand years under its belt, this city has a lot to share.

From UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Maritime Greenwich, Westminster Abbey and Kew Gardens, to preeminent landmarks of Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, the majestic monuments and buildings certainly throw light upon the history of London.

St Pauls Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral
Photo: Rachael Davis

When it comes to cultural history, however, it’s the stories of ordinary people in ordinary places that are most enlightening. Look off the beaten track for little-known wonders, such as Britain’s smallest police station in Trafalgar Square, the icon of Modernist architecture 2 Willow Road, or a taste of the darker side of London’s history (infamously south of the river) at The Ferryman’s Seat or Cross Bones Graveyard.

2. Trade for wares at a London Market

From Portobello Road to Spitalfields, Borough to Broadway, London is famous for its markets. They are a cultural staple with histories longer than most of the city itself, though they have vastly changed over the years.

Borough Market
Photo: Jonas Bengtsson on Flickr

London Bridge’s Borough Market started over a thousand years ago, after the construction of the first medieval bridge over the Thames. The road which is now Borough High Street was once a vital passageway between London – the walled city on the north bank of the river – to the ports and towns of the south. The market was conceived as a place for farmers, bakers and fishermen to sell their wares to travellers. Now, it’s a foodies’ mecca: “an institution of international renown” where you’ll find street food, produce and restaurants from a variety of cuisines.

Greenwich Market’s beginnings are similar with its start as a market for livestock, meat, fish and animal produce in the 14th century. Now it’s London’s only historic market within a World Heritage Site – Greenwich Maritime – and is known for artisan crafts and street food.

3. Explore London’s greenery and the River Thames

Parks are an essential aspect of London’s culture. They create pockets of greenery, giving Londoners space to reflect, exercise, walk dogs and meet friends while connecting with nature.

London is very green: 47% of Greater London is green space, 33% of which is “natural habitats within open space” according to Greenspace Information for Greater London.

The emphasis on parkland within the city dates back centuries, with the eight Royal Parks being a core aspect of city life since the Tudor period. The Royal Parks were originally Church property until King Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries and seized the land, turning much of it into private hunting ground. The parks gradually became open to the public after Henry VIII’s reign, and now they are open for all to enjoy.

Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Photo: Rachael Davis

In addition to the grand Royal Parks, there are also dozens of public parks and commons such as Battersea Park, Victoria Park and Holland Park – a must-visit for its Kyoto Garden.

The River Thames and its surrounding canals are another refreshing source of natural inspiration within the city. There’s not much better than a Sunday stroll along Regent’s Canal, or through Little Venice – and if you’re feeling adventurous, the Thames Path walk will guide you from the beautiful Cotswolds countryside to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich, with plenty of sights to see along the way.

4. Experience The World Stage

Since the Elizabethan era, London has been the epicentre of performing arts in the UK. Shakespeare’s legacy is still making waves in the city, not least at the famous Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames, which he helped open in 1599. The theatre’s third reconstruction has two stages – one open-air and one indoor – with a year-round calendar of world-class performances.

The Globe Theatre
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the south bank, London’s performing arts scene is booming: from plays and musicals to ballets and operas, the capital is spoilt for choice when it comes to theatre. Head to the West End and Soho for big-name musicals, the National Theatre for world-class plays on three separate stages, and smaller theatres like Orange Tree, Lyric or The Cockpit for off-beat, independent and fringe shows.

In the summer, be sure to check out one of London’s open-air theatres. There’s one in Regent’s Park with productions of musicals, Shakespeare plays and more, and an outdoor opera theatre in Holland Park. It goes without saying that the open-air performances at The Globe are a delight on summer evenings, with tickets for as little as £5 in the ‘peasant’ stands!

5. Embrace the vibrant art scene

London’s art scene is diverse, wide-reaching and, for the most part, free. Explore art from the Middle Ages to today in galleries ranging from national institutions – such as the National Gallery, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and Royal Academy of Arts – to smaller contemporary exhibitions on Mayfair’s Cork Street and in the East End.

Royal Academy of Arts
Photo: Rachael Davis

On a day when it isn’t raining (or even when it is, this is London after all), step outside and soak in the vast array of public art that can be found in all corners of the city. The Royal Academy of Art’s Walking Tour is a great place to start: it takes you from Piccadilly Circus to Regent’s Park, Westminster to Battersea, with a fascinating range of sculpture along the way.

Many of London’s famous landmarks also feature intricate sculptures and engravings. Though you might be hard-pushed to make out the details of Edward Hodges Baily’s statue of Lord Nelson, you can always get up-close and personal with Maggi Hambling’s expressionist Oscar Wilde near Charing Cross…

‘A Conversation with Oscar Wilde’ by Maggi Hambling
Photo: Luke McKernan on Flickr

With all of these treasures right in our backyard, how will you choose to celebrate London’s one-of-a-kind culture?

Tell us your favourite way to paint the town red in the comments below.

All, Art, Arts & Heritage, Content Creation, Culture

The New Cork Street: 5 Reasons to Visit Mayfair’s Galleries


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For Londoners and visitors alike, Mayfair retains a reputation of opulence, wealth and exclusivity. Take the dozens of art dealerships off Piccadilly, for instance, selling collectors beautiful authentic paintings with seriously steep price tags.

While I certainly wasn’t looking to buy any art when I visited Cork Street for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I feel out of place in the swish, upmarket galleries on these quiet Mayfair side streets?

After a recent morning outing to three galleries, however, I needn’t have worried. My visit was a huge success: friendly and unpresuming staff, no entrance fees and a diverse range of people appreciating world-class art.

Antony Gormley’s ‘In Formation’ at White Cube, Mason’s Yard
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

The galleries had a much different atmosphere to that of larger, institutional galleries like the Tate Modern or V&A. Innovative exhibitions, inspiring spaces and the discovery of lesser-known artists were pivotal aspects of the experience.

So whether you’ve been considering a gallery visit that’s a little off the tourist-beaten track, or you’ve previously felt intimidated by the reputation of Cork Street, here are five simple reasons to get down to Mayfair.

#1 They’re free

One major advantage of seeing art in London is that many museums and galleries are completely free. It’s a big part of what makes the cultural scene in this city so great: it’s accessible and open to all who wish to explore it.

You might not expect smaller galleries to be free, such as the chic but ample collections in Mayfair, especially given their premier locations and overhead costs, but wonderfully, they are.

This makes it even easier to pop in at your leisure, pick up a complimentary pamphlet on the current exhibition and artist, and stay for as long or as little as you like.

#2 You don’t need a whole day to visit

A visit to somewhere like the British Museum or National Gallery could comfortably take a whole day. While this is great if you want to immerse yourself in art for an extended time, it can be daunting if you’re busy and don’t have much time to spare.

If you’re in the Mayfair area on the other hand – on a lunch break or visiting nearby attractions – it’s easy to fit in a gallery visit and have a rounded experience in under an hour.

On my recent outing, for instance, I spent around an hour absorbing Alfredo Jaar’s 25 Years Later at the Goodman Gallery: a thought-provoking photography exhibition in commemoration of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. In that time, I watched a 28-minute film installation called We wish to inform you that we didn’t know, based on Clinton’s 1998 speech attempting to justify the US’s apathy for the genocide, while refusing to use the term ‘genocide’ at all.

The Silence of Nduwayezu by Alfredo Jaar
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

In contrast, at the neighbouring Stephen Friedman Gallery, I spent a pleasant 15 minutes with the minimalist work of American artist Ed Baynard. His flat, graphic style is reminiscent of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, and the exhibition focused on his still-life work from the 1970s.

I could have spent less time at the Goodman, or more at Stephen Friedman – but if all you’ve got is 30 minutes on your lunch break, you can still have a full exhibition experience in one of these Cork Street galleries.

#3 They feel more personal

Everyone’s always talking about the newest exhibition at London’s big-name galleries. And hey, we’re never one to knock them: the V&A’s Mary Quant show was wonderful, and Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings at Buckingham Palace was a major highlight of 2019. But these displays are often crowded and some times difficult to appreciate when a swarm of people are around.

When you visit a smaller gallery, especially mid-week, you are treated to a more intimate, personal experience with more time to connect with the art.

Wall Number One by Ed Baynard
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

#4 A perfect blend of inclusivity and exclusivity

Everyone’s welcome, but not everyone knows they’re welcome.

Once you leave the bustle of Piccadilly, the streets of Mayfair are peaceful and contemplative. As you step into a gallery it feels like you’ve arrived somewhere special: a carefully-curated exhibition, tucked down an architecturally-stunning street in the most culturally diverse city in the UK. You’re about to witness world-class art that many people don’t know is on display.

To sweeten the experience, friendly and welcoming staff are on hand to help you with any questions you may have, often providing information packs to guide you through the gallery. They invite you to take your time to absorb the art, so when you step back into the world, you know you’ve just witnessed something pretty unique.

#5 The regeneration of Cork Street is promising

Cork Street’s reputation precedes it in some circles: an elitist and traditionalist collection of timeworn exhibitions that isn’t receptive to avant-garde, contemporary projects. But the galleries on and around Cork Street are making a concerted effort to rid themselves of that reputation, and regenerate into a fresh, forward-thinking space that invites radical artists to exhibit.

Burlington Arcade as it reaches Piccadilly
(Photo: Rachael Davis)

This attitude shift can be seen by a physical transformation, too: over the last three years, 60% of the street’s frontage has been redeveloped, increasing gallery space by over 100% to 43,000 sq ft.

The Pollen Estate, as the development is known, seeks to “reignite the spiritual home of modern and contemporary art in London, making it as important in the 21st century as it was in the early 20th when it launched the careers of Francis Bacon, Max Ernst and Paul Klee.”

The fact that galleries are working to shift their out-dated reputation is extremely positive. Mayfair galleries’ new message that art should be accessible and available to all, encouraging fresh ideas and perspectives from international cultures, is one that Londoners will welcome with open arms.

Our city is vast, multicultural and open – all it takes is a trip to Cork Street to see that.


An Art Walk Around Cork Street:

Goodman Gallery, 26 Cork St, W1S 3ND
Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington St, W1S 3AN
White Cube, 25-26 Masons Yard, SW1Y 6BU
Victoria Miro Mayfair, 14 St George St, W1S 1FE
Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row, W1S 2ET

All, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Cultural heritage

New Year, New Directions: CBA Content in 2020


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A new year means unmarked pages waiting to be filled with exploring, learning, growing and creating. It also represents a fresh and refocused start – a time to reflect, set goals and channel positive energy into the next phase of the business.

At the end of 2019, we kickstarted our reflections and ran a series of our ‘5 Favourite Things’ across our social media channels to explore the best bits of 2019, and some things to get excited for in 2020.

Now as the holiday season wraps up, we are ready to pinpoint and share our biggest goals and brightest visions for the next twelve months.

Join us as we begin the best year yet! 

1. Develop our niche

Uncovering the stories we are passionate to tell is essential to the next stage of CBA Content. This year, we’ll be focusing solely on the UK’s arts and cultural heritage sectors!

Leonardo da Vinci exhibit
Admiring Leonardo da Vinci’s work at the Queen’s Gallery.

We believe in the power of art and cultural heritage to preserve the history of a place and enrich the future of a people, so by honing our niche and writing about what we’re really excited about, we can help provide resources for people who want to learn about the UK through cultural experiences.

How are we going to do it?

When it comes to art and heritage, there’s nothing like first-hand experience. Being based in London, one of the most prominent cultural and historical hubs in the world, we are incredibly fortunate to have world-class exhibitions, museums and galleries, and lovingly-maintained heritage sites with centuries of history on our doorstep.

By getting out and about, being the eyes and ears of cultural happenings, and connecting and collaborating with London’s arts and culture writers, we can immerse ourselves in the beating heart of this city’s cultural scene.

2. Have more meaningful conversations

Since launch, CBA Content’s client base has primarily been built by word of mouth and personal introductions, which has resulted in some truly amazing partnerships and creative content.

This year, however, our goal is to initiate more conversations in the arts and cultural heritage space, with everyone from historians and culture vultures to content marketers and creative producers; that way we can better understand their problems and help them come up with valuable, one-of-a-kind solutions.

By opening up these conversations, we’ll be able to learn about what really makes our dream clients tick: What are their aspirations and goals? What do they fear, and what are they most excited about?

Asking these important, humanising questions will give us a richer picture of the world they inhabit, so we can get to the heart of the challenges in the arts and cultural heritage sectors and offer the best services to tackle them.

Which brings us to another cornerstone of our business…

3. Pitch, write, pitch, write!

At the start of 2019, our director and content producer, Celeste, wrote that she aimed to pitch “more articles to more publications in the hopes of getting rejected more (yes, rejected!) and published more. The fear of being rejected is what usually held me back from not pitching articles in the past, but those days are over.”

We’re hanging onto this attitude in 2020, doubling creative ideas and getting our name out there. (Without giving too much away, our earnest pitching and engagement with publications we really care about is already starting to pay off…)

Blickling Hall in Norfolk
Take a seat, you’re in for an exciting adventure this year!

This year, get ready for more informative and intriguing blogs, eye-catching social posts, creative collaborations and content experiments with video and live streaming. 

Currently, Celeste is working on an illuminating article for her alma mater on the London Arts Experience – a guided tour of museums, galleries, theatres and private collections organised for alumni in December.

Over the coming months, we plan to bring fresh ideas to publications such as KCW Today, Time Out and The Guardian, connecting with strong leaders in the arts and culture world on both a local and national level.

4. Launch a new website for our new direction

CBA Content has undoubtedly transformed since we launched the site which means our corner of the internet is in need of a revamp. This year we’ll be refreshing the look and feel of the site from blog to portfolio and putting together a new menu of content offerings.

While we’ll be providing largely the same services – marketing strategy, content creation and social media guidance – we’ll be changing the way these services are packaged. Our new packages will be tailored to overcome the challenges organisations face in the arts and cultural heritage industry.

A nifty brochure of our services is coming soon – sign up to our newsletter so you don’t miss the launch!

5. Look beyond the horizon

The journey is just as important as the end goal in our view. After all, if you don’t enjoy the path to your ambitions, is it really worth it?

That’s not to say everything we do is fun and games (invoicing and backend coding – no thanks), but when you are solely responsible for the direction and success of your business, it’s essential to do something you love. 

Celeste in front of the London Eye
Looking ahead to the new year.

That’s why we are concentrating on things we are extremely passionate about, and helping people who are just as interested in arts, culture and history as we are to tell their stories.

So here’s to 2020 – a year of exploration, meaningful conversations, learning and writing about the art and culture that expands our horizons, and the history and heritage of where it all began.

All, Arts & Heritage, Community, Cultural heritage

Victorian Trees and Tudor Pies: Exploring Customs of Christmas Past


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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the holiday season, where we reflect on the year gone by, spend time with friends and family and inevitably indulge in our favourite traditions.

During this festive time of reflection and celebration, have you ever considered how far back Christmas traditions go? I certainly hadn’t, until I went on a Christmas tour of Sutton House in Hackney, East London, last week.

Sutton House
The view from the tall windows would have been very different when Sutton House was built in 1535. (Photo: Rachael Davis)

The beautiful yet unassuming Tudor house was built in 1535 when Hackney was merely a village in the countryside. Its scenic backdrop was not the trendy, busy and thriving central London neighbourhood it is today – indeed, the London we now know and love has grown up around Sutton House.

Home to merchants, Huguenot silk-weavers, Victorian schoolmistresses, Edwardian clergy, First World War soldiers, and 1980s punk squatters, the house has seen centuries of Christmases, with traditions growing within its walls and alongside the capital’s flourishing culture.

The Tudor Kitchen, Sutton House. (Photo: Rachael Davis)

Surprisingly, the iconic Christmas tree has only been a tradition in England for less than 200 years. The humble mince pie, however, can be traced back through centuries of English gastronomy. Inspired by the tour of Sutton House, I began to dig a little deeper into these beloved Christmas traditions.

Deck the Halls with trees and candles

You might already know that the Christmas tree originated in Germany, with roots going back to the medieval period, however, less known is its original name – the ‘paradise tree’. Put in homes to represent the Garden of Eden, candles were often added to the tree to symbolise Christ as the light of the world.

It wasn’t until the Victorian era that the Christmas tree became a fixture in English homes, when German-born Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, popularised the tree. In 1848, this magical illustration of the Royal Family below was published and has since been credited with inspiring the tradition in homes.

‘Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle’, from Supplement to the Illustrated London News, December 1848. British Library Collection.

Candles on the tree were a staple of Christmas decor for middle-class families, though the combination of naked flames, hanging decorations, paper-wrapped sweets and drying tree branches was a dangerous one. After a series of house fires caused by candles falling off Christmas trees, people decided it was not a great idea to light their tree with candles.

The alternative we now use, electric lights, did exist but were not affordable for many until the 1930s. A publicity stunt by the Edison Electric Light Company in New York in 1882 saw the first use of electric lights on a Christmas tree, although it was fifty years before the price of electric lights came down and the decoration became widespread.

While trees for Christmas are a (relatively) recent addition to our festivities, one surprising tradition that has survived throughout the centuries is the mince pie.

‘Best pie you ever made, my dear’, John Rae, 1916. From ‘Story of the Mince Pie’ by Josephine Scribner Gates, 1916.

Where’s the meat in mincemeat?

Sweet, rich, fruity and boozy in a crisp pastry, mince pies go equally well with mulled wine or a cup of tea. But they weren’t always this way: looking back to the early 17th century, the mince pie would be strictly off-limits for vegetarians!

Mincemeat was imagined as a way to preserve meat using spices, avoiding salting or smoking; that’s why early mince pies were a savoury affair. Take this recipe from the famous cookbook, The English Huswife, for example, to see how the delicacy was made in 1615.

Gervase Markham’s recipe includes “a Legge of Mutton, [a] good store of Currants, great Raisins and Prunes, a few Dates sliced, and some Orenge-pils sliced,” topped with sugar and wrapped in pastry. LSE Digital Library.

Gradually, meat in mince pies became less prevalent, though the Georgians (ever the opulent crowd) used to add barely-detectable meat to their fruit pies as a display of wealth. Over the centuries they have become less savoury, and more like the decadent sweet treat we enjoy today.

Rethinking and reliving traditions

Everyone does Christmas a little differently, from the cheerful decorations to the delicious ingredients of Christmas dinner. Traditions are constantly evolving, some new and others carrying on through the centuries – all serving generations of family festivities.

To truly immerse yourself in the customs of Christmas past, be sure to visit the National Trust’s Sutton House in Hackney. Their guided tour ‘500 years of Christmas’ is running every week until the 22nd December. We personally recommend it for an informative, fun and enjoyable evening out!

All, Content Creation, Content Tips

Like Mary Quant, Dare to be Different in Your Content Marketing


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London-born fashion designer Mary Quant has gone down in history for her striking, daring and exciting takes on ordinary clothes in the 1960s. She is best known for popularising – some even say inventing – the miniskirt, and making fashion fun, accessible and practical for the modern woman.

Fast forward to 2019 and you can see how her influence has left its mark on modern popular fashion. Everyday women’s fashion is still very much focused on a marriage between comfort and style, being practical while having fun.

Mary Quant was jolting England out of a conventional attitude towards clothes.”

THE SUNDAY TIMES, 1963

During a recent visit to the V&A Museum, where Quant’s revolutionary designs are currently on display, it was easy to see how much of an effect she has had on women’s fashion and lifestyles. It also led me to think about how we, as content marketers, can take a leaf out of her book.

Mary Quant's Miniskirts
Miniskirt line-up at the V&A Exhibition

Mary Quant showed that functional doesn’t have to mean dull; you can brighten up a practical pinafore with a funky pattern, or cut the length of a skirt to make it easier to run for a bus (and look great in the process). This same rule certainly applies to content marketing, too – stellar content will serve its purpose and carry information, but it doesn’t need to be dry and dull!

Putting the ‘fun’ in functional

Quant wanted “relaxed clothes suited to the actions of normal life,” and so created high fashion versions of the practical clothes she’d worn and loved. Pairing short tunic dresses with bright-coloured tights and high, conservative necklines with short skirts, she put the ‘fun’ in functional and showed that sensible clothing didn’t have to be boring.

“I liked my skirts short because I wanted to run and catch the bus to get to work.”

MARY QUANT

In content marketing, it can seem clearer and more straightforward to simply give information to the reader without much embellishment or pizzazz. And while it’s always important for us to deliver the message we wish to convey, whether in the shape of an informative blog post or comprehensive white paper guide, to keep the reader engaged you need to add a bit of flair.

For example, if you’re writing about a topic that’s been covered a thousand times in the past, think about your unique selling point and individual take on the subject. Just like Quant took an ordinary skirt and chopped inches off the hem to make a staggering new product in the late ‘60s, try and make your subject matter engaging, fresh and something people genuinely enjoy reading. Inject some character into your writing, take a new angle on the subject and make it your own!

Mary Quant Collar Dress
High necklines and short skirts at the V&A Exhibition

Not sure how to make your content pop? These are good places to start before putting pen to paper:

  • Listen to your audience on social to discover their interests, pain points, wants and needs
  • Think outside the box when producing a piece of content: would it work better as a video, podcast or webinar? What images or infographics can better illustrate my point?
  • Make your topic relevant to your readers’ lives (i.e. explain your subject matter using a popular TV show or widely-loved food – if it will resonate with your audience, try it!)

The power of style and substance

Formal, informative content is all well and good; it serves its purpose, delivers what it says on the tin and gets information to your audience. It shows you are a reliable resource and you know what you’re talking about; however to give readers a reason to return to your site it’s important to create engaging content. An entertained audience is a captivated audience who will ultimately learn more and gradually trust your brand with each interaction.

Mary Quant’s designs subverted conventions, keeping some aspects of the traditional and functional but adding a daring edge and quirk. As content marketers, we need to do the same: deliver on both style and substance so that our audience is kept focused and absorbed.

Mary Quant and Models
Mary Quant and models, 1967

What are some ways to capture and hold your reader’s attention?

  • Include compelling photos and images
  • Write headlines that inform and intrigue
  • Don’t be afraid to use wit and humour to add colour
  • Put your own spin on the subject matter

When you’ve got your audience excited and engaged, they will be more dynamic and empathetic towards your brand. Give them something that delights them, and prove your worth by showing off your knowledge – it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation!

If you’d like help to boost your reach and engagement through custom content, email me here and we will come up with a plan that brings your story to life.

All, Content Creation, Content Tips

Use This Victorian Trick to Know Your Readers Better


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Thomas and Jane Carlyle’s home in London was the place to be during the Victorian Era. Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Lord Tennyson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are a few of the literary giants who visited the writers’ home, engaging in worldly debates and friendly chats by the fire.

The Carlyles moved to Chelsea in 1834 and lived in the same house for the rest of their lives, for a total of 47 years. During that time, prominent editors, novelists, poets and critics visited the couple but more notably, they left an impression on Thomas and Jane.

Guests would write about their evenings in the parlor, spent conversing with Thomas or listening to Jane play the piano. The best part? Anyone can visit their home today and relive these stimulating soirées.

Throughout the well-preserved house – on the sofa, in the study, atop the mantlepiece – there are printouts full of details about who visited the Carlyles and what kind of impression the couple made on them. The vivid descriptions of Thomas and by Thomas were my favorite because they made you feel like you were sitting right next to them, almost inside their minds hearing their thoughts.

Elizabeth-Barrett-Browning

“We have passed an evening with Carlyle. He is one of the most interesting men I could imagine, one of the great sights in England to my mind. I am a Carlyle adorer!” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

From a content marketing perspective, these characterizations are invaluable to what we call “audience research.” They tell us who these people were, how they talked and what they thought.

Harriet Martineau

“She is very intelligent looking, really of pleasant countenance; was full of talk, though unhappily deaf almost as a post, so that you have to speak to her through an ear-trumpet.” – Thomas Carlyle on Harriet Martineau

Even from this short account of Harriet’s visit, we know she presents herself in a fashionable manner and loves to engage in conversation. She might not be able to hear well, but that doesn’t seem to affect her rapport with Thomas.

Another recorded memory, from none other than Oscar Wilde, gives us direct insight into how people felt about the Scottish writer and philosopher:

Oscar Wilde

“How great he was! He made history a song for the first time in our language.” – Oscar Wilde

These written impressions are incredibly helpful in understanding not only Carlyle’s profound influence on the literary world but also the language his admirers and friends used and the sentiments they shared.

If we look at this in terms of knowing your audience and creating content tailored to their wants and needs, you already have a clear picture of what these Victorian intellects:

  • Think
  • Do
  • Feel
  • Crave
  • Desire

While being able to empathize with your audience is only a part of producing content that your readers care about, it is perhaps the most important. Why? Because if you can identify with their feelings and attitudes, you can relate to them on a personal level and help solve a problem that matters.

As Copyblogger so eloquently explained: “It’s about entering the conversation that is already going in a person’s heart.”

How do you use your blog, newsletter, podcast (any type of content) to have more meaningful conversations? By collecting illuminating quotes like the above. Maybe not from 19th-century journals but from online polls and surveys, industry-wide conferences, social forums and meetups.

Once you begin immersing yourself in their world, a clear picture of how they talk, think and express themselves will emerge. Hold this picture in your mind when you create your next piece of content and see how much closer and more loyal your relationship to your readers becomes.

With that, I leave you a beautifully-written tribute to someone who admired Thomas Carlyle immensely – Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens

“[E]very new meeting ripened it into more and more clear discernment of his rare and great worth as a brother man; a most cordial, sincere, clear-sighted, quietly decisive, just and loving man: till at length he had grown to such a recognition with me as I have rarely had for any man in my time.” – Thomas Carlyle on Charles Dickens

All, Content Creation, Content Tips

A Summer of Content Adventures and Sunny Outlooks


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It’s the last Friday of August and the start of Labor Day weekend in the US – the perfect time to look back on summer and ahead to the fall.

These past three months have been full of travel and content adventures. Both uncovered new territory and CBA Content, in particular, benefitted from new collaborations and content marketing campaigns.

As with any business endeavor, there is value in reflecting what worked well and what could be improved upon next time.

So with that in mind, let’s consider the most valuable takeaways from summer and look forward to the next (exciting!) chapter of CBA Content.

Summer in the rearview

At the beginning of summer, there was a lull in producing content so I focused my efforts on building my portfolio and pitching new clients.

While the portfolio came to life on the site, my letters of introduction didn’t make much headway. On the plus side, I could easily share and celebrate the work I’ve done so far. But on the downside, my prospecting strategy could use some real honing and a fresh pair of eyes (more on that below!).

Then in July, things picked up and CBA Content was in a buzzing weekly routine, collaborating with a new client on a new type of content.

OmniCX, an all-in-one ecommerce platform, teamed up with CBA Content to produce a white paper on creating a convenient, more enjoyable customer experience.

Although it’s still early stages, OmniCX’s partnership has been awesome so far. Not only is the team inspiring to work with but the content we collaborate on is too.

At the same time, CBA Content continued to join forces with the Big Wigs Workshop, British performancewear line EVOSSI and outdoors magazine The Beyonder, strategizing on marketing plans, optimizing landing pages, writing blog posts and creating content for social media.

To wrap up this summer of highlights, I wanted to mention a workshop I recently attended on building a freelance business that supports you financially and creatively. In other words, achieving that elusive balance between success and fulfillment.

The workshop not only encouraged me to take a step back and rethink CBA Content’s goals for the future, but it also helped hold a mirror up to the relationships we’ve formed and the stories we’ve told – Is it the picture we hoped to create? What will the next chapter look like?

Fall on the horizon

After a summer filled with meaningful conversations and engaging content, September is shaping up to be a stellar month for CBA Content.

In the next few weeks, CBA Content will be growing in size (introductions coming soon!) and capabilities. Fresh outlooks, diverse skill sets and unique experiences are just a few things I’m ecstatic about, not to mention the amazing stories we will get to bring to life together.

For marketers, business owners and agencies, CBA Content will roll out new packages complete with different levels of services. For the rest of the community, get ready to hear more about CBA Content’s own story and what makes the work we do worthwhile.

Who else is ready to feel the air get cool and leaves change color? Because a transformative season is on the horizon.

To the next chapter of CBA Content!

All, Content Marketing, Content Tips

White Papers Made Simple: Their Star Role in Content Marketing


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At its core, a white paper is a guide that solves a problem for its reader.

So not unlike a blog post or ebook?

Correct, these content types all work to solve a problem for their audience, but white papers have certain qualities that set them apart. For example, white papers are:

  • Longer than blog posts and shorter than ebooks. The length depends on the level of research and detail (anywhere from six to 50 pages)

While these are the basic ingredients of a white paper, let’s see what goes into the whole recipe.

What is a white paper?

A good way to think about white papers is like a spruced up research report: they present a problem, hypothesis and solution backed by sound research.

There shouldn’t be any unsubstantiated claims or branded sales offers in white papers. Their value comes from giving its readers a specialised understanding of a topic so they can confidently take the next step in solving the problem themselves.

Research from books, industry reports and online articles give white papers credibility.

Since white papers are thorough by nature and carefully put together, taking anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to create, they tend to be professional in tone and design (read: not boring, just polished).

Plus, their structure and layout tend to follow a similar pattern:

  • Title page
  • Brief executive summary
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • The problem
  • The solution(s)
  • Businesses who exemplify the solution
  • Conclusion
  • References

To give you a clearer picture of what these evergreen guides look like, here are some examples worth checking out:

  1. The Sophisticated Marketers Guide to Content Marketing
  2. The Complete Guide to Lead Nurturing
  3. Google Cloud Security and Compliance Whitepaper: How Google protects your data

Why write one?

Just as you might whip up something special to impress your house guests, a business might publish a white paper to demonstrate their expertise in a particular field.

White papers are like fancy desserts, used to impress and entice your audience.

By sharing professional insights and solutions with your community, white papers help:

  • Establish authority in your industry
  • Build trust with your audience
  • Your sales teams identify prospects
  • Guide customers along the buyer journey

As a result, they’re a powerful way to engage and grow your ideal audience.

Perhaps the best way to see its value is to put yourself in your readers’ shoes: you come across a free guide to getting listed on the first page of Google; or personalizing your customer experience; or creating a podcast from scratch.

Whether SEO, personalization or podcasts are central to your business, you’ve just stumbled upon a treasure box of specialized knowledge, helping you be better at your job. So you decide to share a stat from the white paper on your social page, bookmark it for future reference and browse the company’s website who published the white paper.

From a reader and business point of view, I’d say that’s a pretty awesome piece of content.

How to make it a star content player?

As we’ve discovered, white papers are robust resources for the people they are written for; but they are also extremely helpful tools for the company who wrote them.

By including the below features in your white paper, your sales and marketing teams will be able to make the most out of these content guides:

  • Make stats and infographics shareable so readers can share interesting findings with their own community (Don’t forget to make the white paper itself easy to share)
  • If one of your company’s products aligns with a solution in the white paper, you can use it as a call to action at the end (i.e. “Book your free consultation today”)
  • Ask for your reader’s contact info (name, job title, etc.) before they download the white paper so you can follow up on leads
  • Use the white paper as a starting point for other pieces of content: blog posts, social media, newsletters, podcasts.

As you can see – from the valuable research it brings to light to the bond it forms with your audience – businesses have the ability to strike content marketing gold with white papers.

When readers stumble upon your white paper.

So long as it puts forward a problem your audience has and solves that problem using research and compelling visuals, your white paper is on track to resonate with your prospects and customers.

Would you like help creating a white paper for your business? Let’s build something awesome together. Get in touch at celeste@cbacontent.com.

All, Audience Research, Content Marketing, Content Tips

Leonardo’s Drawings: An Enlightening Exercise in Understanding Your Audience


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By the end of his life, Leonardo da Vinci had drawn thousands of sketches on the human body, horses, plants, architecture, engineering, maps, forces of nature – anything that captured his imagination.

500 years later and these drawings give us one of the closest and clearest looks into the Renaissance master’s mind.

Leonardo self portrait
A presumed self-portrait of Leonardo from 1512. He died in 1519. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

To celebrate his artistic and scientific achievements, the Royal Collection is showing 200 of Leonardo’s drawings at Buckingham Palace. So, as anyone on the other side of Green Park would do, I hopped on a bike and went to see the drawings in person.

After admiring the genius’ sketches and detailed observations, the biggest thing that stood out to me was how Leonardo saw and studied the natural world: he didn’t see art and science, painting and technology as separate spheres but as equal parts of the whole.

Which comes as no surprise then that he worked across sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, geometry and more.

Leonardo even left his mark on, you guessed it, content marketing!

A Collective View of the World

By seeing the similarities in different fields of knowledge, Leonardo took a collective view of the world. He embraced correlations and spotted connections between things that seemed separate on the surface.

For instance, when it came to painting, Leonardo didn’t see it as merely an art form; he considered it a science. A painting he thought “should be a rational, objective depiction of natural effects.

Inside the exhibit at Buckingham Palace.

That’s certainly one of the reasons he obsessed over proportions, drew muscles, tendons and ligaments from every angle and described the movement of water in meticulous detail.

Through his drawings and notes, you begin to understand that Leonardo never just looked at something and jumped onto the next. He made observations in the context of nature and the world around him.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

His subject’s drapery is so realistic it appears to glide across the ground and the rivers in his maps seem to spread out like veins in the body.

The presence of nature is never lost in his art. The natural world, however, is what fuses his work together and makes his creative and scientific contributions invaluable, even five centuries on.

A Unified Approach to Content Marketing

As content marketers, our goal is to connect with people in a meaningful way. We want to share knowledge and expertise with others in hopes of making their lives better.

Everything we research, plan and create for a business is based on one thing – audience. Their readers’ wants and needs, passions and fears. Because the more we understand the audience, the greater (and longer-lasting) the impression we can have on them.

In other words, a company’s audience is what powers and unifies any effective content marketing strategy.

Your audience is to content marketers what the natural world is to Leonardo da Vinci.

Follow in the artist’s footsteps and think of your content, product or service and business channels (store, website, social media) as equal parts of the whole. They are all working to serve one thing – your audience.

This unified approach to content marketing will only make your customer relationships stronger. Because when you build a product that matches your prospect’s needs, create content they can relate to and provide a positive experience across platform, you are putting your audience first and giving them another reason to trust your solution over someone else’s.

Last Thought from Leonardo

Keeping your audience top of mind will also help guide future content creation and business ideas.

If it serves your customer, then it is worth pursuing.

Focus on the solutions that benefit your audience the most and organize your content and resources from there.

As Leonardo looked for answers in nature, you can find the answers in your audience.

advanced, All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Idea Generation

My Favorite Way for Coming Up With New Ideas (and How to Generate Your Own)


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Consider these three facts:

      • The best pizzeria in the world doesn’t use menus that’s how easy they make it for you to decide – Marinara or Margherita.
      • Growing lavender is a gradual process that takes some nurturing if you want it to last for years.
      • Shakespeare is the master of capturing and holding an audience’s attention.

So: pizza, plants and playwrights – what does that have to do with content marketing?

Quite a lot actually.

These three P’s are valuable ways of getting your customers to say yes, writing evergreen content and keeping your readers engaged.

While they may not seem related on the surface, they’re excellent ways of understanding the ins and outs of content marketing.

How does unrelated Thing 1 explain Thing 2?

When you take something you already know (Thing 1) and apply it to something you don’t yet understand (Thing 2), you begin connecting the dots and drawing conclusions based on their similarities.

Two ideas don’t have to be twins to be related.

Recently, and quite excitedly, I learned there’s a name for this method of connecting the dots called exaptation.

According to Trello, exaptation is “the ability to reach beyond a specific field of expertise and concoct new uses for an older thing.”

Originally used by biologists to explain the evolution of a trait over time, exaptation can also benefit content creators during the ideation phase.

All you need to do is look beyond your field of expertise and apply a completely separate concept, skill or practice to the idea you’re trying to bring to life.

Examples of exaptation

Now that you know how exaptation works, let’s come up with some real-life examples for your own site.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned pizza’s power to persuade its customers and lavender’s link to a successful content strategy. These are just two occasions I used exaptation on my own blog, but here are some other ideas to help you craft unique, compelling articles:

      • Use a TV character or movie scene to explain how your customer will benefit from using your product
      • Pick a cuisine or dish to describe the “ingredients” of your service
      • Apply patterns or relationships found in nature to your client’s needs and subsequent solution

As you can guess, there are endless cross-disciplinary connections you can make; just remember to choose ones that will resonate with your readers. Forming a bond between your message and a 1980s sitcom, for instance, isn’t going to click with a Gen Z audience.

Will readers get the correlation you’re trying to make?

So before tying two things together, always ask: who are you speaking to and will they make the connection?

Also, as a rule of thumb, if a connection feels forced, don’t use it.

To prevent forcing a connection, try and think of different ways the two ideas can be joined. Or explore new links and choose the one that works best with your topic.

Mastering exaptation

How do you get better at linking two things that aren’t visibly related?

By first collecting as many forms of inspiration as possible.

Whether that’s a quote you came across in a novel, an observation you made while walking the dog or a painter whose work you admire, put them somewhere you can easily go back to.

For me, that means writing things down in my notebook or phone, taking photos of captions and images and bookmarking online articles and art I find interesting.

Because in my experience, the more intriguing ideas I collect, the easier it is to see correlations between two separate spheres.

Soon enough your content treasure chest will be overflowing with ideas and people will be calling you the Master Exapter!

All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips

A Shakespearean Guide to Writing Killer Landing Pages


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“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

The playwright behind this quote and many other famous lines of speech is none other than the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's home
The house where Shakespeare was born and grew up in.

Like most of his plays and poems, this quote from Hamlet still holds meaning some 400 years later. To a content marketer, for instance, it means don’t create empty messages. Tell stories that resonate with your reader and provide something worthwhile in exchange for their time.

While landing pages may not have been on Shakespeare’s mind in 1599, his writing continues to inspire people in an infinite number of ways.

One way it’s sparked my imagination is by prompting me to share three tips for creating killer landing pages – with a Shakespearean twist.

So, without further ado:

1. Keep thy language consistent

No matter how a prospect finds your landing page, whether it’s via an e-newsletter, online ad or social media post, it’s important to keep thy message consistent.

The headline of your outreach message (email, ad or social post) should match the headline on your landing page. They don’t have to be a perfect match, but the more the two are alike, the better.

The closer the match, the better. (Photo: Twins from The Comedy of Errors)

Why should they correspond to each other? So that the prospect doesn’t get confused and lost and in the worst case, leave your site.

When you keep the language and look and feel of the ad/copy the same as your landing page, it’s easier for your reader to engage with and see the benefit of your offer.

And remember, your offer doesn’t have to be sales-focused. Landing pages can be a way for people to sign up for your newsletter, watch your latest video or access a free trial of your service. They can also act as content hubs that house blog posts by topic.

Landing pages are fantastic at focusing your audience’s attention and encouraging them to interact with your solution. Once you’re ready to promote the page, simply keep thy language consistent.

2. Make thy message clear as day

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Hamlet gets at the heart of the matter yet again. For when it comes to landing pages, write as clearly and concisely as possible.

Get to the point right away and support that point and only that point throughout the page.

Persuade your visitor with punchy phrases, not flowery ones. If you snuck in a pun or thought your prose was a creative triumph, best to leave it out. Now’s not the time to let your inner Shakespeare shine.

Don’t mislead your audience. Stick to your goal. (Photo: Hamlet and Polonius)

A clean, easy-to-follow layout goes hand in hand with straightforward copy. That means:

  • Using white space to let your message breathe
  • Putting the most important information at the beginning of paragraphs
  • Breaking up text into bullet points (see what I did there?)

How you design the page can be as powerful as the message itself. Because if everything is presented in a clear way and flows in order, your solution sinks in quicker with your reader and gives them a better chance of signing up to your service.

Shakespeare urges thee, be brief and clear as day.

3. Entice thine audience to take action

What’s a landing page without a call to action?

A whole bunch of missed opportunities to get closer to your community.

That’s why a prominent call to action in the form of a button or bold linked text is so important.

How do you seamlessly encourage your prospect to take the next step? Make sure to:

  • Design the button so it stands out and is instantly recognizable
  • Use copy that aligns with the page’s headline and overall message
  • Only ask for essential contact information (The fewer forms they have to fill out, the better)
  • Repeat the call to action (One button should always be visible as the visitor scrolls)

It helps to think of the call to action as a door lock. Your reader holds the key (i.e., contact info or payment details), they just need to be enticed to unlock it.

OK, Shakespeare would’ve come up with a much better analogy, but all this Hamlet talk is beginning to rub off on me.

So before I start rattling off soliloquies and pitting life’s woes against each other (“To be, or not to be?”), go forth and create landing pages that will really win your crowd over.

The stage is yours.

Via Giphy.

All, Audience Research, Community, Content Tips, Marketing

4 Illuminating Steps to Listening to Your Audience (and Learning to Speak Their Language)


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Have you ever traveled to a foreign city without planning anything except your plane ticket?

If you have, I bet you felt lost and a bit overwhelmed by all the decisions you had to make on the spot – directions, accommodation, activities, meals.

Most likely though you did some research and planning ahead of time so you knew what to expect. You might’ve flipped through other people’s itineraries online, picked up a guidebook or even started learning the language.

Prepping for a trip to a new place is a lot like getting to know your community’s needs: the sooner you begin immersing yourself in their culture, the quicker you will familiarize yourself with their world and be able to communicate with them in a meaningful, authentic way.

The question is, how do you immerse yourself in your community and start making connections with ideal customers? By following the four steps below and always adhering to the golden rule of research – listen.

1. Tap into social media

Whether your audience hangs out on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, social media is a fantastic place to get to know your community.

If you’re just building your audience, join Facebook groups and follow relevant hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. Chime in on the conversation and provide helpful answers.

Facebook group
Facebook groups are great places to listen to your audience.

As you interact with different members, take note of how they express themselves: which words do they use to discuss their frustrations and pain points?

Social media is a powerful way to see what your community is talking about. Be it their interests, complaints, hobbies or headaches, you can learn a lot from online dialogue.

This insight can then be used to create content that will resonate with your audience – that’s the goal!

2. Uncover keywords

While you’ve begun taking note of your community’s feelings, questions and remarks on social media, uncovering keywords people are searching for is another beneficial way to gather intel.

Using tools like Google Keyword Planner and Wordtracker (more on that here), you can see what your audience is actively looking up in your field on the internet.

Not sure where to start?

Begin with a few keywords (four to five) you think your audience is searching for then see how they rank in popularity and competitiveness using the tools above.

Remember: you want to focus on keywords with a high search volume and low competition.

Focus on keywords that are trending up over time.

Once you’ve eliminated any words that don’t seem to be getting traction through search, use the same tools to discover related keywords (this is a great way to come up with new topic ideas for blog posts, too!).

After checking the number of impressions these related keywords receive, along with how competitive the word is, you should have a short, solid list of keywords that your audience is actively using.

Before finalizing your list, it’s always a good idea to see how your keywords are trending. Because, you guessed it, you want to create content and optimize your website using keywords that are trending up.

With your golden list of keywords in hand, you now have a valuable understanding of your community’s search and social behavior.

3. Ask for and listen to feedback

When you’re living and breathing your business day in and day out, it’s easy to forget that not everyone sees your products and services the same way you do.

That’s why it’s important to ask your customers and clients for their feedback and opinion on using your product/service.

This precious type of intel can be collected in a variety of ways:

  • A brand or performance survey (incentives help attract responses)
  • Customer reviews of a product, service, experience, podcast or any interaction with your brand
  • Comments on a social media post
  • An online discussion like a webinar or Instagram Live
  • A client testimonial

All of these give your community the chance to open up about their perception of and experience with your business.

Using these different feedback systems, you can understand how others talk about your brand, what they like most about it and what they’d like more of. It’s direct insight that allows you to tailor your messages so they fit exactly with the needs and wants of your customers. That’s priceless.

4. Meet IRL

Now it’s time to close the computer screen and meet your audience face to face.

This allows you to physically be a part of your community and make personal connections that run a lot deeper than an email or online chat.

Check out an event or put on one yourself to build trust with your community.

Plus, it’s a fantastic way to hear what your audience have on their mind. Whether in a group setting or one-on-one, you’ll be able to hear the passion, excitement, distress or concern in their voice.

You begin to see what’s holding them back and pushing them forward – two important elements of creating tailored content.

So where do you meet your community IRL? Here are a few places to start:

  • Conferences centered on your field of expertise
  • Meetups in your area geared towards sharing and learning
  • Networking opportunities (alumni, industry-led, company-wide)
  • Events put on by you, designed to bring your community together

To recap: these four ways of getting to know and understanding your audience will make your content and connection with them much stronger.

In fact, immersing yourself in your community and learning how to speak their language should be the first thing you do before creating any piece of content. Because if you don’t know what your audience is interested in and looking for then how will you get their attention, much less have them visit your site?

That’s where tapping into social media, keyword research, listening to feedback and meeting people IRL come into play. Cracking into even one of these treasure chests will benefit your content and most importantly, build trust with your audience.

All, Blog, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Marketing

The Magic of Matilda: How to Use Content to Help Others


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By the time she was two, Matilda had learned what most people learn in their early 30s: how to take care of herself.

I’ve always thought being able to take care of yourself is an achievement in its own right.

So doing it while you’re learning to talk?

That’s a superpower.

Rewatching the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda this past weekend, I quickly realized this brilliant little girl has more to teach us than how to take care of ourselves; she’s also a shining example of someone who uses their own superpowers to help others.

First UK edition of Matilda.

Since magically flickering the lights on and off or making objects fly off the wall won’t bring people closer to your brand – we’ll leave that to Matilda – let’s talk about another superpower that will: meaningful and fascinating content.

As a content marketer, your gift is being able to gracefully guide potential customers on an enlightening journey from “distant acquaintance” to “happy, returning client.”

With Matilda as our leading light, here’s how you can use your blog, newsletters, website and social media to bring your ideal customer one step closer to your brand.

1. Extend a warm welcome

Let’s just say Matilda’s conniving parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, aren’t who you’d want to mimic when communicating with your audience.

Instead, invite readers into your corner of the world wide web by extending a nice, warm welcome.

Matilda’s mom comparing herself to Miss Honey (via Giphy).

Whether this is on your social media channels or a search results page, let people know who you are and what you stand for.

Introduce online acquaintances to your core values. Shed light on your company’s origins – how did this all come about?

The trick is being able to do this quickly and succinctly so that casual browsers can pick up on your brand personality and ethos at a glance.

Attractive headlines and compelling visuals help get your message across in a short timeframe, however, it’s important to remember that if it’s relevant to your potential customer’s lives, it will attract the right audience.

2. Find common ground

Matilda forms a special bond with her teacher, Miss Honey, that grows even stronger when they realize how turbulent both their upbringings have been.

They grew up in hostile environments and shared some of the same experiences and feelings.

This is the kind of relationship your blog posts, social media and outreach messages should aim to create: one that is built on human connections.

You can do this by being authentic, sharing your beliefs and speaking from your heart.

Let your passion shine through (as long as it relates to your core values) and don’t be afraid to stand up for what is important to your brand. Because it’s your genuineness and enthusiasm that will resonate with your ideal customer.

Gradually these tribe-building messages will create common ground between you and your reader so, in turn, they will want to check out your website and learn more about what you do.

3. Show them how you will make their lives better

If only it was as easy as Matilda makes it look, eating cereal with no hands or scaring Miss Trunchbull using only her eyes.

It’s clear to Matilda’s friends and family she can make things move with her mind. Your audience, on the other hand, wants to know what unique powers you hold.

Matilda making breakfast (via Youtube).

This is where helpful and educational content comes into play.

Show your community how your solution works; describe what your product looks like in detail and paint a picture of their life with it (i.e. the positive benefits it will have and improvements it will make).

Think about what it is that someone seeing your clothes, consulting services, real estate listings, etc., would need to know before clicking to find out more. Write down these descriptors and competitive differentiators and communicate them using your blog, customer stories and relevant research.

Appealing to your prospects’ emotions is an essential element of this type of content because even though you aren’t speaking with them face-to-face, there’s a person on the other side of that screen.

4. Guide them to the next step

While Matilda knew exactly what she wanted to use her power for – to drive Miss Trunchbull out of town and get Miss Honey’s house back – your enchanting content will need to give its readers more direction.

At this point in the customer journey, your prospective client has gotten to know you. They like what your brand stands for and feel like you simply understand their needs.

Successful content will have your customers dancing on tables.

All they’re looking for now is a way to show their support, whether that’s by signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media or buying your product.

That’s when your persuasive writing and unmissable call to action signal to the reader, “right this way.”

Use a straightforward yet enticing tone to seamlessly guide them to download your e-book, join your webinar or click “Complete purchase.”

This step might be the most valuable from a business point of view, but it’s important to remember the previous steps your ideal customer took to get to this stage; not every move closer to your brand will result in a click, sign-up or download, although it is just as significant.

Matilda’s heroism didn’t bring her a more “normal”, fulfilling childhood overnight. She practiced her extraordinary gift and used it to help others.

In the words of the movie’s narrator and director, Danny DeVito: “Having power isn’t nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.”

All, Blog, Content Creation, Content Curation, Content Tips, Marketing, Website Tips

5 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Online Business


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Overheard in the office this morning: “The sun’s out so I can’t complain.”

After a few grey days and long months of winter, that pretty much sums up my feelings exactly.

Spring has officially sprung in the British capital!

Even if I’m still in boots and a jumper (hey, it’s London) the sunnier weather signals a fresh start — a chance to dust off those landing pages, make your social media shine and brighten up the ole blog.

The best part? They’re easy, and dare I say, fun updates to make.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and breathe some new life into your online business.

These five tips will tidy up your digital space in no time and give it that glow other websites wish they had.

1. Revamp Your Headlines

Headlines and page titles play a huge role in attracting visitors to your site.

They’re not only the first words people see when they land on your website, but they also tell readers exactly what they will gain by clicking on your content. Or at least, in theory, that’s what they should do.

To see if your headlines are providing as much value to your community as possible, open up your blog or a landing page on your site and ask:

  • Is the benefit clearly stated?
  • Do you want to click to read more?
  • Can you easily understand what the article, video, landing page, etc. is about?

Every title on your website should pass this three-part test with flying colors.

In fact, you can even apply this “rule” to your social media posts too.

Because headlines are THE chance to pull your reader in.

If you’re feeling stuck or not sure how to craft a compelling headline, look at magazine covers and newspapers. Try to incorporate their bold punchiness into your titles.

The Onion is a master of this, although I would say it takes a certain brand to pull off this type of headline:

Think of the benefit your reader will receive by clicking on your page and put it right into the headline.

Above all, keep your audience top of mind when writing headlines. Because if it’s meaningful and relevant to their lives, it will catch their attention.

2. Perform Better on Google

Wouldn’t it be awesome to know which search terms are taking people to your site?

Google Search Console is a free tool that tells you just that and more.

Once you connect your website to the Search Console, you can see:

  • The search terms that pulled up your company’s pages during an organic search on Google
  • How many times one of your pages showed up in a user’s Google search results (the tool calls these “impressions”)
  • How many times a user clicked on your URL via a search
  • The click-through rate for each URL (i.e. the percentage of impressions that received clicks)
  • The position of your URL on the search page

This is a wealth of information about how users are finding your content through search, so how can you use it to your benefit?

A nifty video on using Google Search Console.

As digital marketing guru, Neil Patel, suggests, you can use it to zone in on search terms that aren’t resulting in clicks.

Jot down the search terms that have a high number of impressions but a low number of clicks.

Then try searching for the term yourself and seeing how your webpage appears in Google.

For these underperforming search terms, that can mean your SEO title and meta description aren’t clear and compelling enough.

Like your headlines, the Googler should know exactly what the content is about just by skimming it: short and to the point.

Next, make sure the description below the SEO title is also crystal clear. By giving the reader a bit more context while piquing their interest, your meta description can be the difference between them visiting your site or not.

No matter how you choose to use these insights, this tool is a quick and easy way to see which keywords are bringing people to your site. That’s gold.

3. Read More Tags & Widgets

I recently noticed it was next to impossible to discover new content on my website.

At the end of my blog posts, there was a small clickable link to the next post, but even I had trouble seeing it.

blog screenshot
On my blog, the links had to be changed to black and increased in size (see above).

For websites built using WordPress, Squarespace or Wix, the title of the previous blog post will typically appear at the bottom of a post, under a “Recent Posts” section or via a link to “Newer” or “Older” articles.

If this is difficult to find on your blog, try making the link bigger and more visual.

If your website is built using WordPress, you may also be able to add a widget to your footer to give visitors another way of discovering fresh content.

footer screenshot
The Recent Posts widget is fully customizable. Here’s how it looks on my footer.

This update, made by adding a “Recent Posts with Thumbnails” widget or “Read More” tag to your website, is one of my favorite tricks because it’s a small change that makes a big impact.

Plus, it extends the shelf life of your content. What’s not to love, right?

4. Boost Your Instagram Profile

With 1 billion people using Instagram each month, it’s easy to see why businesses choose to grow their community on the app.

It’s not a one-way relationship either; people interact with brands on Instagram.

According to Hootsuite, 60% of users discover products on the platform and 75% take action, like visiting the business’s website.

A content-packed Instagram bio with Linktree and Highlights.

This is why upping your Instagram game is so important.

Here are two simple ways to do that all within your Instagram profile:

  • Add Linktree to your bio so you can share multiple links to your website at one time
  • Use Highlights, or curated Instagram stories that do not disappear, to draw in your followers

Both of these tools are free and easy to use, not to mention a quick way to share more of your brand with your community.

What type of links can you add to Linktree?

The beauty is you get to decide. It could be your latest blog post, newest product, About page or even a music playlist. All you have to do is upload the link and switch it out whenever you see fit.

Highlights, on the other hand, are much more visual.

Pro tip: Canva has free templates you can use like this one to design your Highlights.

These permanent Instagram stories can be made up of photos, videos or both and can be a window into many aspects of your business: events, blog, services, tips and inspiration, ambassadors. Even the office pet.

Most importantly, they give your brand another dimension, a more personal one. Because what’s the point of social media if not to connect on a personal level?

Now, give Linktree and Highlights a go and watch your Instagram profile come to life!

5. Revive Your Blog

We’re not talking a full overhaul here, just some fun keyword search to give you new topic ideas for your blog.

I say fun because you sort of feel like an undercover detective when you find out what people, in general, use the web to search for.

Let me show you what I mean, with the help of two free tools:

  • Google Trends tells you how often a keyword was typed into Google over a period of time.
  • Wordtracker is similar in that it estimates how many times a keyword was searched for over a set time, but it also shows you how competitive that keyword and related search terms are.

Google Trends is a helpful way to identify seasonal trends, dig up relevant topics that people are interested in right now and see which geographical regions are seeking out your content.

A snapshot of topics and queries related to Van Gogh over the past month in the UK.

Alternatively, Wordtracker’s value comes from the competitive analysis it performs on a keyword.

It effectively tells you how many businesses are paying to get that keyword seen by as many people as possible.

That means you should focus on keywords with a high search volume and low competition. Those are the topics people are interested in but aren’t being overly covered by other brands.

‘Easter’ has been searched for roughly 60,500 times in the past month.

Once you start plugging in your own keywords and getting a feel for these tools, you’ll see how handy they can be for producing fresh and relevant content for your audience.

And with that, you are well on your way to giving your digital storefront that special springtime glow — one that radiates sunshine and success.

Looking for help to achieve that glow? Drop me a line at celeste@cbacontent.com.

All, Arts & Heritage, Content Creation, Marketing

Dare to be Like Dracula: The Mesmerizing Power of History & Horror


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Vampires look like humans. Some so beautiful they hypnotize people.

Three such mesmerizing vampires seduced a lawyer from England, Jonathan Harker, when he visited Castle Dracula for the first time.

It’s not until after Harker escapes from the female vampires’ deadly spell that he realizes Dracula, his host, only wants one thing: human blood.

Bran Castle
Bran Castle, also called Dracula’s Castle. Stoker may have used it as inspiration for his book.

This fictional story is from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written in 1897 and renowned all over the world. Today, the book’s basis in history and connection to real people and events is what fascinates me most.

Because it uses fiction to tell the truth about a brutal 15th-century ruler, Vlad the Impaler. He and Dracula shared a thirst for blood, one while defending Transylvania and the other while trying to survive and grow the domain of the undead.

This idea of fiction being used to shed light on the truth is key to all good storytelling. Whether you’re writing a novel about vampires or a blog post about your business, the ability to educate and entertain your audience is powerful.

Here’s how you can incorporate history (fact) and horror (fiction) into your marketing strategy to capture and hold your readers’ attention.

Inform with the facts

Without Dracula, Vlad the Impaler’s life and bloodthirsty reputation might have remained largely a mystery.

The fact Vlad’s father’s name was Vlad Dracul and he became known as Draculea, “Son of Dracul”, is no coincidence; the ruler’s name and his cruel punishment tactics (impaling his enemies on stakes), were the perfect inspiration for Stoker’s vampire.

Vlad the Impaler
Vlad the Impaler

Knowing this gives Dracula another dimension. The vampire becomes more real because of Vlad and thanks to the Wallachian prince, readers are more invested in Stoker’s bloodsucking creature.

As a business, think about your different dimensions. Give your audience everything they need to know to make an informed decision about your product or service.

Using your homepage, landing pages, blog, newsletters, social media — all your content channels — set the scene, describe every benefit of your offering and paint a real picture of how your reader’s life will be transformed by your one-of-a-kind workshop, sustainable clothing line, etc.

There are a number of ways to do this including:

  • Sharing the story of how your organization came about
  • Telling your community exactly who you are (reinforce your core values)
  • Describing exactly what your thing does (material, look, feel, etc.)
  • Explaining how their life will change for the better (testimonials, case studies, research)
  • Providing them with something of value: a solution, an answer, expert advice

Think of what is relevant to your community right now. Pinpoint the stage they are on in their customer journey and produce useful content that they care about and can gain something from.

Give them Vlad. Just try not to scare any customers away.

Entertain with fiction

This is where the terrifyingly good content comes into play.

It’s the wolves howling outside the castle and the paleness of Dracula’s skin. It’s the blood from a shaving cut that causes the vampire to pounce on his house guest.

Dracula_by_Hamilton_Deane_&_John_L._Balderston_1938
Poster for a production of “Dracula” by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

In Stoker’s case, the gory details and bone-chilling plot twists are what entice the reader, leaving them wanting more.

Most likely your content won’t grow its audience by frightening them (unless you run a haunted house), but if you incorporate the elements below into your blog, newsletter, social posts, you will draw in and engage with your readers:

  • Use eye-catching headlines that clearly state the value readers will receive in exchange for their time
  • Create a bond with your community by being passionate about your product and speaking from your heart
  • Satisfy readers’ desires with a series of blog posts on a popular topic. Then package it into a free e-book!
  • Give a new perspective on your industry. Be different than your competitors.
  • Make sure your call to actions pop on the page and are easy to understand
  • Choose compelling images and user-friendly designs

Remember that your content marketing should imitate fiction in its power to captivate an audience, make them feel a special connection to the story and persuade them to keep reading. Your content shouldn’t ever be fake, fabricated or untrue.

Virginia Woolf put it succinctly: “Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction… “

People want the facts, but they also want to feel and experience something. That’s the bloody truth.

via Giphy

All, Community, Content Creation

March of the Penguins: 3 Rituals to Enrich Your Client Relationships


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Emperor penguins are extraordinary animals.

For starters, they return to the same stretch of frozen water every winter to mate and give life to the next generation of penguins.

In between finding a mate and nudging their chick onto the ice for the first time, they endure brutal weather elements (up to -60°C / -76°F), lose up to a quarter of their body weight when laying an egg and take turns traveling tens of miles back to sea to eat, restore their energy and provide food for their hatchlings.

Every March and April, emperor penguins make their way to Atka Bay, Antarctica.

This blew me away, knowing hardly anything about emperor penguins and their synchronized breeding habits before watching David Attenborough’s new show, Dynasties.

If Attenborough’s voice isn’t reason enough to watch the show, the concept certainly is: each episode follows a different animals’ fight for survival, beginning with the chimpanzee and ending with the tiger.

Episode two is dedicated to the emperor penguin.

While watching the penguins embark on their journey to Atka Bay in Antarctica and nine months later, seeing the new generation of penguins set out for the sea, three rituals stood out to me as a way to build bonds with your readers and grow meaningful relationships with your clients.

Here’s how the march of the penguins can benefit your business:

1. Find (and know) your match

Once the penguins make it to the nesting grounds, males begin courting the females and eventually pair off as mates for the rest of the season.

They create a bond that lasts for nine months, sometimes longer. A bond that gives birth to, protects and feeds a newborn penguin.

two emperor penguins
Emperor penguins bond with one mate each winter.

Think of their strong partnership as a symbol for the relationships you would like to build online.

You won’t be raising a chick with your readers, but you do wish to have a great rapport with them.

The first step to establishing that connection is to come up with a clear picture of your ideal reader. Ask yourself:

  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What do they desire? What do they fear?

Once you have this person in mind (giving them a name helps!), you can more easily come up with content solutions that they are looking for. Because you know what stage of life they’re in, what they’re pain points are and how your service can help them overcome these obstacles.

If you are just starting your business and not sure what your ideal reader looks like, make one up. Come up with someone who would realistically be interested in your product and adapt him or her as your business takes shape.

Knowing exactly who you are speaking to makes creating content and forming a solid bond with your readers easier.

2. Show them you care

Antarctic seabirds not only bond as mates, but as friends and fellow parents.

When the female penguins return to the sea after laying their eggs, for instance, the males become sole protectors of the egg. That means keeping the egg warm under its belly and protecting it from blistering winds for weeks on end.

hatchling
A hatchling keeping warm under its parent’s brood pouch.

To shield each other and their eggs from severe elements, male penguins huddle together, trading places inside and outside the group to survive.

As soon as the females come back with food, the chicks are carefully placed under mum’s belly so the males are free to fish.

Just as penguins meet every task with care and attentiveness so too should content creators.

Plan out how you can help your reader (from ritual #1) warm up to your business. Think about how you can gradually gain their trust.

Some ways to do this are by:

  • Sharing your story and why your organization exists
  • Describing what your product/service does and how it benefits them
  • Bringing customer feedback to life with testimonials
  • Providing useful, practical advice in an entertaining and memorable way
  • Speaking from the heart

Nurturing this bond with your readers is essential. And oftentimes, being generous with your content’s value leads to more worthwhile relationships.

3. Give them something they can use

Before the chicks can leave their parents’ close watch, they must learn how to walk.

A forceful nudge usually does the trick, sending the chick onto the ice for the first time. It might feel like tough love, but as mum knows best, it’s time for the penguin to make their own way to the sea.

emperor penguins
A hatchling getting the hang of this ice thing.

While you won’t be teaching your readers to walk (unless your target audience is toddlers of course), your content should aim to offer them something useful.

This could be in the form of a video tutorial, a benefit-driven listicle, webinar or e-book. There are countless ways to provide value to your prospects and customers, so understanding how your audience consumes and responds to different types of content will help define your content strategy.

If your readers are mostly millennials, perhaps a Facebook live will resonate more with your audience than blog posts.

The great thing about content is that you can always put it out there, gauge interest and do more of what works.

To get your creativity going, here are three ideas that keep your reader top of mind.

Like the nine-month journey of raising a new emperor penguin, quality content takes time and commitment. When you’re able to look in front of and behind you and see the community you created through meaningful content, you’ll be sliding belly-down on ice towards success.

All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Writing & Editing

How to Immerse Readers in Your Content


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When we arrived at the Music Box Village, people had already taken their seats.

The film hadn’t started yet but it was plain to see that the show had already begun. We were the actors and actresses, lovers and mistresses, dancers and revellers, dressed as Voodoo maidens and Rio Casanovas.

Coinciding with Valentine’s Day, the night was a tribute to the tragic love story of Eurydice and Orfeu. We were invited not only to celebrate their romance but to take part in their fabled fairy-tale.

View from above at the Music Box Village.

Besides showing up in costume, the evening didn’t come with any instructions. So while the movie screens were still blank, my friend and I made our way up to an improvised treehouse.

There were lots of huts and hidden alcoves around the open-air venue and if you looked close enough, you could see instruments attached to doorframes, windows, walls and ledges. Little did we know, they would be ours to play at the end of the night.

So how did the Music Box Village turn a group of festive spectators into performing musicians? By following the three golden rules for immersing readers in your content:

1. Invite Them In

Although my friend or I had never been to this venue, the invitation told us exactly where the party was located.

The only other explicit details were to dress up. Which helped because once we saw people in costume, we knew we were in the right place.

The Casa Samba group wore elaborate costumes.

Try and do the same for your online community and give your content a way to stand out.

If people can’t find your tech video review, instructional webinar or latest podcast, then how can they watch or listen to it, much less immerse themselves in it?

That’s why the most important thing to consider when publishing your piece of content is, how will my readers and prospects find it?

Come up with a plan for sharing your content, whether that’s on social media, your own site, someone else’s blog or via a newsletter. And think about how you can use a combination of these, such as sending out an e-newsletter and posting it to Instagram.

It’s also a good idea to give your readers just a taste of the content like you are letting them in on a secret. That way they have to click through to your website or landing page to experience the piece in full.

Then they are more likely to explore other pieces of content and potentially sign up for one of your services (the ultimate goal!).

2. Show Don’t Tell

From the moment we entered the experimental village, our senses were filled with colorful costumes, Brazilian music, samba dancers, Capoeira performers and more.

This perfectly set the scene so when the movie, Black Orpheus, began you felt like you were being transported to Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.

Carnaval with a Voodoo twist.

Although the Music Box Village could play to our senses a bit more easily, you should always consider different ways to engage your audience.

Catch their attention with compelling imagery and headlines. If it’s a travel narrative or lifestyle feature, describe what you saw, how you felt, who you talked to as clearly as you can.

The more you can bring your content to life (include photos, embed a video, link to your products or services) the better you can capture and hold their attention.

3. Hand Over The Reins

After the Casa Samba performers finished their group dance, the Brazilian beat drummers opened up the circle. It was our turn to join in.

They pointed us to the dance floor with their drumsticks and soon enough people were making their own music all around the village.

That’s the same response you should be going for with your content. Keep them entertained throughout the piece and seamlessly guide them to the next step.

Whether that is asking them to leave a comment, share it on their social media, sign up to your newsletter or purchase one of your services, make sure your viewers and readers know what to do next.

Remember, signposting your content with relevant links and tagging posts by category will not only help your audience learn more about your business and area of expertise, but it will also improve your company’s search ranking.

As you can see, being able to immerse readers in your content is a powerful achievement. One that the Music Box Village has so masterfully demonstrated.

If you’d like help creating this type of experience for your readers, I would love to hear from you at celeste@cbacontent.com or through this contact form.

All, Community, Content Tips, Marketing, Website Tips

A Bed & Breakfast Guide to Attracting New Visitors to Your Site


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The sun was setting as we walked up to our bed and breakfast in Broadway, a charming village in the Cotswolds.

Andy opened the door with a warm handshake and a smile, welcoming us inside so we could drop our bags before he gave us a tour of the house.

Starting in the entranceway, he gave us a brief history of the house,  which used to be the station master’s house in the early 1900s. This is the exact location, he explained, where the steam railway’s operator lived and managed the train line.

Inside the Old Station House
View from inside the Old Station House B&B.

By the door, Andy pointed out some flashlights that we could borrow at night and just inside the door he showed us a table full of brochures and guidebooks on Broadway and the surrounding countryside.

As Andy led us through the breakfast room, living room and up to our bedroom, my boyfriend and I immediately felt welcome and at home knowing exactly where everything was and how everything worked, from putting in our breakfast order to indulging in a nightcap before bed.

He pointed out the obvious (“Here’s the snack bar”) and the not so obvious (“The hallway lights are on a timer”), leaving no questions in our minds. Little did he know, but Andy was perfectly exemplifying how your website’s content can attract more people and convert more prospects.

Using Andy as our guide, here are three benefits of being as clear and transparent with your site’s visitors as possible. 

Your readers feel welcome

During Andy’s tour, he told us since we were staying in one of the smaller rooms that we could spend as much time in the living room as we’d like. 

Oh, and the light in the bathroom, he made sure to tell us might not turn on completely (it’s only happened once or twice) but the light above the mirror should be bright enough if needed.

Fireplace
Our favorite feature of the house.

His explicit instructions and homey tips for our stay put us completely at ease.

To provide this sense of comfort to your audience, use straightforward headlines on your blog posts that tell readers exactly the benefits they will receive by clicking through. Also, make sure your landing pages have uncomplicated titles, use clear language and a clean layout with ample white space.

It’s easy for customers to find their way around

Shortly after our arrival, we knew exactly where we could find things, and if not we knew we could ask Andy. The first morning, we even knew to put the long spoons we used for jam in a tall, clear glass so they wouldn’t leave sticky spots behind.

Everything was intuitive and easy to follow.

That’s what your website should strive to do — seamlessly lead your visitors from one page to another while providing them with the information they need to learn more about your service and purchase your product.

You can do this with the headline and layout suggestions above along with call-to-actions that pop out on the page, an easy way to contact you directly and user-friendly navigation.

These guidelines also apply to things like your business’ social media posts and newsletters — always aim to make your outreach messages clear with unambiguous directions so that your readers know exactly what to do next and are therefore more inclined to click to learn more.

A return visit is more likely

The night before we left the bed and breakfast, Andy reminded us that the steam railway reopens in March and when the weather is warmer, the village is buzzing with things to do.

He also told us he’d be happy to pick us up from the train station next time and if we wanted to go on a new hike, he would drop us at a footpath in the town nearby and show us which pubs and gardens to stop at along the way.

Inside the bed and breakfast
Train station touches were found around the house.

In other words, he gave us many reasons to come back. And I’m certain we will!

So when thinking about how to get visitors to return to your site, think about what you can offer them: free expert advice, exclusive deals and discounts, an online course, downloadable templates. Be creative! Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and ask, why would I go here and not somewhere else? 

If you get stuck, remember Andy and his wife, Jenni — the perfect hosts. They made us feel right at home by giving us a carefully thought-out tour, precise instructions and multiple reasons to plan a return trip.

All photos by Alex Chirita.

All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Marketing, Writing & Editing

The Crystal Ball of CBA Content: 5 Bright Visions


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It’s only natural, or supernatural rather, to look at the year ahead each January.

In the past, I kept my goals largely to myself, but now that I’m fully responsible for the direction and success of my work life, I’ve decided to spend some time reflecting on the past year and set goals for this one.

So let’s gather around the crystal ball of CBA Content and look into the future. With a little imagination, you will see five visions have already appeared!

So, what are they and what do they mean?

Here are five bright plans for CBA Content this year:

1. Pitch more articles

Writing is at the core of CBA Content. Whether it’s in the form of proposals, brainstorming sessions, compelling headlines or marketing materials, writing is how I communicate, create and bring ideas to life.

While writing will remain the foundation of my business, I plan to use it more as a research, reporting and journalistic outlet. That means pitching more articles to more publications in the hopes of getting rejected more (yes, rejected!) and published more.

The fear of being rejected is what usually held me back from not pitching articles in the past, but those days are over. My “Pitch Log” gained its first entry of 2019 yesterday and will soon see its second.

*scribbles down “New story idea” on to do list*

2. Be patient

Failure and success — landing that byline or new client project — require patience.

The first part of the equation, not hearing back or being turned down, is all too familiar to the seasoned freelancer. But for me, someone who is still learning the ins and outs of this independent work life, understanding that the next collaboration will take time to secure and get off the ground will be key in 2019.

In the early days of CBA Content, I was quick to say yes to anything. Even after a client project was in motion, I’d accept new responsibilities and take on more without batting an eye because that comes with the territory, right? Be flexible, balance your time, be the solution even if you don’t have one yet.

Yes, those are important, but so too is patience. This year, I will remember that you don’t have to jump on every single opportunity. Instead, I will practice putting myself out there more, worrying less about silent prospects and dedicating more time to building quality partnerships.

Which leads me to my next goal…

3. Focus on quality over quantity

The most obvious way to grow a freelance business is to take on as many clients and new projects as possible. Jump from one marketing campaign to a social media update to a blog post, whether for the same brand or not.

Because the reasoning goes, the more work you do, the more money you’ll make. But, there is another way.

Instead of piling on each request that comes your way, take a moment (read: be patient) and list out the pros and cons of the project. Ask yourself: How will it benefit you in the long run? Can you leverage this type of work to win new business or grow your existing partnership? Do you have the bandwidth to take it on? etc.

It’s easy to be distracted by the numbers game, thinking because you have more to do, the more successful you are; however, this year I will be more discerning about the types of projects I take on. Having one quality client partnership with a clear path forward is better than having three short-lived ones.

4. Embrace my creativity

This vision is based on another astrologer’s predictions which means it’s doubly important (stay with me!).

Time Out London, one of my weekly tube reads, published a 2019 cultural horoscope this week and I love the way CBA Content’s stars (aka mine) have aligned: “Expect new-found courage and creative energy over the next 12 months, Leo.”

So besides visiting the National Gallery and V&A more often, I plan to use these artistic adventures as opportunities to think in new ways, connect the dots and grow my work.

I’ve got my notebook in hand. Now, time to follow the stars, explore and absorb.

5. Celebrate!

After all, how are you supposed to achieve your goals without celebrating along the way?

The kind of celebration I’m talking about is showcasing my work and sharing it with all of you more often. Whether that’s through my website or on social media, this is something I really want to get better at.

In the short term, that means creating a portfolio of the marketing projects I have worked on so far. It also means keeping my list of published work up to date.

In terms of the big picture, I want to celebrate the fortunate opportunity I’ve had to start CBA Content and pursue my passion for helping others tell their stories, all in a city that I love — London.

Now that’s something worth celebrating. Cheers to 2019!

All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Marketing

Why French Cuisine is Good for Content Marketing


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“[T]hey know what to do with every scrap of hoof, snout, entrail, and skin … Because they grew up with that all-important dictum. Use everything! (And use it well.)”

This is how Anthony Bourdain describes the French style of cooking in his book, A Cook’s Tour.

I picked up his collection of food and travel tales before my last plane trip and have since been reliving his fearless and much-missed spirit through his writing.

He brings up French cuisine when talking about creating magic with food. To him, these classically-trained chefs are experts of taking the most unglamorous ingredients — “boiled tongues, tails, bones, and cheap root vegetables” — and turning them into something delicious, like pot-au-feu.

Not unlike how content marketers strip down a business’s purpose, down to the core, so that they can then reconstruct its message in many different meaningful and relevant ways.

Because when done right, content marketing doesn’t appear as a business-driven message at all, but as a story you want to read, a song you want to sing, a feeling you want to have.

So how do you go from a word or an idea to captivating someone’s attention and evoking emotions? Like the French, start with the basics and build from there.

know the exact ‘ingredients’ of your business

What does your business do for its customers that is better and distinct from the competition? In other words, what are the main elements that go into your company’s special sauce?

mixing ingredients
What ingredients go into your business?

Is your product or service easy-to-use? Eco-friendly? High-quality? Backed by research?

Once you know the essential components of your business, then you can begin to shape your brand’s point of view and unique approach to a particular problem.

This thorough understanding of what goes into your offerings will make it much easier to create effective landing pages, start a conversation on social media and focus your e-newsletters.

keep it simple (especially when the idea is complex)

Remember, as Bourdain points out, you have to start with “scraps and trimmings and fat, ground up and seasoned” to get pâté.

In marketing terms, that is to say, if you are trying to communicate a complicated concept to your audience, there are always ways to break it down and reconstruct it so that your customer not only understands the message but can also relate and empathize with it.

Marketers can do this by being empathetic themselves, trying their best to absorb the pain points and desires of your prospects and customers.

By putting yourself in their shoes, you can more easily see what questions they might have and what problems they are seeking to solve. Then, tell them how your business can be their solution in a clear and to-the-point way.

Talk to them, person to person. And tell them what to do next.

Which leads me to tip #3…

use your words — in a myriad of different ways

Your underlying message will remain the same for the most part (e.g. we’re credible, we’re classic, we’re dedicated, etc.) but how you present it will vary in every context.

On a landing page, for instance, you’ll have a headline, subheadline, copy and call-to-action to convey your message. This checklist will help make sure your content is easy to read and understand.

Creating a post for social media, however, will take on a different tone and appearance. It will be conversational in style, shorter and visually engaging.

There are lots of other content types that your marketing strategy will include and therefore lots of options when it comes to putting it together and sharing it with your audience. Sometimes fewer words will work better, or a graphic or a series of newsletters.

What’s important is how you decide to tell your business’s story (hint: follow the French’s lead to create something truly special):

Those shrewd and wily French toiled mightily over the years, figuring out ways to make just about everything that grazed, creeped, swam, crawled, or hopped, and every growing thing that poked through soil, rotted on the vine, or hid under dung, into something edible, enjoyable — even magical.

All, Arts & Heritage, Creators

How Creators Create: A Plastic Surgeon’s Love of Pottery


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He credits his early creative drive to spending three years in kindergarten — the advantage of being grouped together with his older brother — and his later breakthroughs in breast reconstruction, he believes were due in part to specializing in a more creative field of medicine: plastic surgery.

Given his background, pottery seems to be a natural art form for this doctor, and my dad, Dr. Bob Allen, to take up, but we all know that artistic flair doesn’t appear out of thin air. So, where does he draw his inspiration from and what can he teach us about the positive side effects of being creative? He shares that with us and more below.

1. Did someone or something inspire you to begin making pottery?

In the early days of my profession, when my job was busy and not balanced, I thought developing an outside hobby would be good for my work and my mind in the long term. Pottery offered a way to use my hands like a surgeon; I could create something that wouldn’t have complications. And with pottery, the fruits of your labor are immediately apparent, molding the clay this way, shaping it that way until you’re satisfied.

Thinking back, too, I’ve always loved looking for Native American pottery on the South Carolina coast, where I spent a lot of time growing up. Finding these old treasures in the sand reminds you that this is an art form that’s been part of humankind for thousands and thousands of years. It holds up to time. I admire that.

2. How does being a reconstructive surgeon influence your approach to pottery?

Plastic surgery is one of the more creative fields in medicine. There’s no right or wrong way to solve a particular problem. It’s innovative, so when I figured out it was relatively easy to innovate and made a breakthrough in breast reconstruction, around age 40, that emboldened me to be more creative with pottery.

Dad's pottery
One of his vases inspired by Picasso.

Introducing something new to the field also made me look to the arts and humanities more as a source of inspiration. I began blending the two, arts and humanities with science, and that has proven to be a worthwhile experiment for me.

3. On the flip side, how has your creativity had an impact on your profession?

If your vocation and avocation overlap, that’s a very positive and desirable thing. Especially when you are able to be creative in your profession, that tends to have a domino effect on your outside hobby, like pottery, and you become more artistic and expressive.

When you enjoy being in a creative environment, I also find that you make more time to study other things of interest, like physics, astrology, history or whatever it may be. Letting your mind explore these subjects, in turn, helps nurture your creative side even more.

4. What are you working on now?

A piece of pottery made from many hands.

My brother created a flat, round clay plate to use as my blank canvas and my mother provided the inspiration for the design — a crayon drawing she did of my birth. She drew the intimate, hospital scene from memory, roughly 40 years later, and it’s been hanging in my office for over two decades now.

Recently, It’s taken on a new meaning.

Dad's pottery
His mother’s original crayon drawing with his first sketch (on the left) and his reinterpretation (on the right).

I decided to use it as a way to introduce an upcoming keynote lecture I am giving, called “The Theory of Everything”. The universe started with a big bang and so too did my life, according to the title of my mother’s crayon drawing, “A Star Is Born”.

It’s not a copy, though. Whereas her drawing probably took her less than 45 minutes to sketch, this piece is more dynamic and bold. She lightly and partially colored her subjects in on an 8×10 sheet of paper. I’m painting a 12-lb, 20-inch slab of clay in very bright colors. Mine looks like an album cover, a lot less modest and much more shocking interpretation.

I’ve had a lot of fun with it, probably spending 15 hours on it so far. It’s rewarding to get to go back to it and continue working on it as often as I like.

5. How do you figure out what you’ll create next?

That’s the fun of it — you don’t know!

I didn’t know I was going to do this painting of my birth after having it in my office for roughly 28 years. The idea popped into my head after thinking about this talk I am working on.

Originally, I thought I might use Picasso or Matisse as inspiration and paint a self-portrait in one of their styles. When you draw ideas from other artists and innovators, which I often do, you understand that a lot of them are interested in the innocence of childhood and how to tap into the free-spiritedness of it all.

Books, like the one I refer to when drawing different body parts, also guide my pottery designs. It helps to know, too, that pottery can be changed before it goes into the kiln. The glaze is water soluble so you can completely remove portions of your painting, change the colors and put in fine details as you go along. In the piece I’m working on now, I’ve changed her hospital gown to seersucker pajamas and painted on red lipstick and long eyelashes. Adding more detail to her ears is next!

6. In what ways has your pottery changed throughout the years?

Centering your piece — throwing moist clay on the wheel while it’s spinning and getting it totally centered so it does not wobble — is the very first thing you do. And in my opinion, the hardest thing.

As soon as it gets off center, it begins to fall apart, so you’ve got to get it just right. Over time, this gets easier, like molding a very thin piece of clay. A beginner potter tends to make thicker pieces, similar to when I started out. Once you get a feel for how to press and pinch the clay, you can then start making larger, more advanced pieces like vases, water pitchers and platters.

Dad's pottery
Two pieces, painted in the Picasso style that he admires.

I’ve learned a lot since taking up pottery. Like any craft, it takes time to perfect and make something you are proud of. After you’re happy with shaping the clay, you let it sit for a week and dry out. Then you carve and fine tune it, fire it, glaze (paint) it and fire it again. The process takes about four to six weeks from start to finish if you keep up with it. For me, it’s time I look forward to spending.

7. What advice would you give to people who are looking to be more creative?

That’s the key — if you’re looking for an outlet to express your creativity, you’re going to find it.

If you’re into poetry, read it, write it, go to poetry readings. Get it down on paper.

Take up a new hobby, like sculpture or photography. You don’t have to limit yourself to one thing, that’s the great part. Music, for instance, is another extraordinary creative outlet — one I’d like to learn a lot more about in my next life.

Throughout history, going back to the prehistoric age when people painted on caves, humankind has proven to be very creative by nature. So to nurture that part of ourselves, our inner being, is a positive thing.

Give shape to your creativity. Let it breathe. Go back to it. Bring it to life.

All, Arts & Heritage, Content Curation

12 Summertime Workspaces Bound to Give You Digital Nomad Envy


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The air is warm, the breeze is welcome and the backdrop, spectacular — a scene fit for a seasoned digital nomad.

Even though I can’t say I’m one of them (well, not near the extent of the remote workers below), I have always believed that a change in scenery has the power to inspire and energize.

Seeing as Southeast Asia or Northern Spain isn’t on my work agenda anytime soon, I rounded up 12 envy-inducing snapshots of #workhardanywhere pros.

So, until you and your laptop set out on your next adventure, sit back and revel in these wondrous office spaces.

1. Amphoe Mueang Krabi, Thailand

Why is Thailand one of the biggest hotspots for wanderlust workers? This view probably has something to do with it.

2. Bali, Indonesia

This part of the world (Southeast Asia) has clearly perfected the art of working remotely.

3. Zürich, Switzerland

A cute cafe turning caravan life into the next big trend.

4. Gili Islands, Indonesia

Yes, another one from Indonesia because, c’mon, who wouldn’t want to work and lounge here?

5. London, UK

I saved this one for a rainy day.

6. Istanbul, Turkey

This view slightly resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco — another reason to add Istanbul to the bucket list.

7. On a Train in America

Have you ever been on a cross-country train ride? This traveling coder pretty much sums up everything I dream would happen on a long-distance train trip: good views, productive days, cozy nights.

8. Avilés, Spain

This coworking space has it going on — a place to siesta and be successful.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl56yXvhV7k/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=w7f8vgbwnwqx

9. On the Road in Spain

Or, if you prefer being on the move, pack up your van and grind on the go.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl-UEPAHnIB/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=wiabldd8cc46

10. Bali, Indonesia

Does this mean Bali is the best place to work remotely? I’ll let you decide …

11. New York, USA

A productive oasis tucked inside New York City? Now that’s hard to find.

12. Tulum, Mexico

Maybe you’ll be sitting across this table in Tulum one day … and if not there, maybe somewhere else as equally inspiring.

View this post on Instagram

If you’re going to go nomading in Tulum (which I do recommend!) be aware that WiFi is super hit or miss there. I couldn’t rely on my Airbnb or at one hotel I stayed at, so luckily I found some places that had good setups with enough outlets, nice waitstaff who let you sit all day, and fast speeds. Save this list if you’re planning on going! You’re welcome 🙂 🌴Beach spots: 1) @azuliktulum (pictured) 2) @almatulum 3) @nomadetulum 🏠Pueblo spots: 1) @babelcafetulum 2) @tulumartclub 3) @frutomistico (vegetarian) . . . . . . #workandtravel #workhardanywhere #laptoplifestyle #officeoftheday #digitalnomads #officeview #beautifulplaces #girlslovetravel #girlssthatsparkle #exploretulum #locationindependent #digitalnomad #womenwhotravel #digitalnomadlife #digitalnomadgirls #femmetravel #tulumbeach #tropicalliving #tulumart #girlswhotravel #solotravel #tulummexico #wearetravelgirls #lifestyledesign #tulumvibes #nomadgirls #workingremotely #homeiswherethewifiis #coworking

A post shared by Digital Nomad ✨ Christa (@christabellatravels) on

Let me know where your favorite place to work is in the comments below. And don’t worry, it can be as close as your backyard — because as these photos have shown, the workplace has no boundaries.

All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Marketing

3 Ways Mary Poppins Can Magically Boost Your Business


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If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sort

 

Does that bring back any childhood memories?

Luckily for Jane and Michael Banks, the qualifications set out in their Perfect Nanny advertisement brought Mary Poppins down from her cloud and into their playroom.

A little magic could’ve had something to do with it, but I think Jane and Michael’s detailed letter painted such a clear picture of who they wanted that there was only one answer: Mary Poppins.

After rewatching the film on a plane trip recently and babysitting two of my favorite kids last week (No, I’m not comparing myself to Mary Poppins … well, maybe just a smidge?), it occurred to me that Jane and Michael’s advertisement perfectly exemplifies how your business should approach its marketing strategy — with precision, passion and purposefulness.

Using their nanny wish list as a guide, here’s how your company can incorporate the three P’s (above) into your content marketing plan to successfully connect with and grow your audience.

1. get to the heart of your business and audience

Jane and Michael had been around enough nannies to know exactly the type of person they didn’t want. So instead of getting stuck with another unfavorable caretaker, they wrote down every desirable trait they could think of:

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Like the Banks children, get to know your product or service better than anyone else. This not only includes the technical aspects of your business (what it is, how it works, why it’s better than others, etc.) but also understanding your audience and what they are thinking throughout the customer journey.

One way to do this is through empathy mapping, where you write down what your prospect or customer is thinking and feeling before, during and after they have purchased your product. This will help you visualize your ideal customer, create a bond with your audience and tell the story (i.e. provide the solutions) they care about.

2. relate to your customer on a personal level

Once you’ve come up with your ideal customer (a specific name helps, too), it will be a lot easier to focus your marketing message and give your brand a voice.

Like Michael, don’t be shy about what you like and dislike — “and never smell of barley water”.

After all, your business was created to attract like-minded people. The type of people who agree on one thing and have an aversion to others.

Your service is not for everyone, so your brand’s story shouldn’t be either. Appeal to your audience’s emotions and stand up for what your business believes in, as long as it is relevant to your mission. Wondering the best way to do this? These three tips will help get you started.

3. Don’t forget your call to action

You’ve done your research, you know the ins and outs of your service and you’ve begun to connect with your ideal customer on a personal level. Now, how can your prospects take the next step and purchase your service?

Through your call to action.

Jane and Michael do this with their newspaper advertisement, of course. They even instill a sense of urgency — “Hurry, Nanny!”

Sure enough, the next day, Mary Poppins arrives and blows the competition away (quite literally).

To achieve the same effect and present your audience with a magical solution, you need to thoroughly and directly communicate what your product or service does. Describe its features on a landing page, create a video showing how it works, post photos of what it looks like.

At the same time, your action content is illustrating the benefits of choosing your service. The goal is to clearly depict how your product will make their lives better. Customer testimonials and case studies are great at this.

The last and most important step is to then provide a simple, obvious way for them to: follow you on social media, download your ebook, sign up for your newsletter, buy your clothes.

Whatever it is you would like your prospects or community to act on, make sure you give them an easy way, like a colorful button or pop-up window, to do so.

If sending your message up the chimney will help your ideal customer find you, then follow Mr. Banks’ lead. All I know is that a bit of Mary Poppins magic will make your business “practically perfect in every way.”

All, Content Creation, Content Tips, Marketing

How to Grow Your Content Strategy Like Lavender


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Walking through lavender fields in south London last weekend, I was filled with happiness.

The beauty, the sight, the smell was all a delight.

This new experience wandering through rows of lavender got me thinking — is it possible to give your audience a similarly positive experience through content?

Turns out, yes it is.

Lavender has three qualities that make for an exceptional content marketing strategy.

1. Grow gradually

Just as lavender takes one to three months to sprout, it will take time for your content to attract and engage new readers.

As a business, you will use different types of content across a range of online channels (your website, social media, newsletters, etc.) to draw in prospects, interact with followers and encourage them to take a specific action.

None of this happens overnight and no one piece of content magically makes your company successful. However, knowing which content is used to produce specific outcomes will help you gradually grow your business.

Here’s a quick rundown of content types:

Attraction content helps build a following.

It’s content that:

  • Communicates the value your reader will get in exchange for their time
  • Is free to consume
  • Specific, relevant and eye-catching

Bee pollinating lavender
Your content should attract readers like lavender does to bees

Action content motivates behavior.

It’s content that describes:

  • What your business stands for
  • What your product or service does
  • How you solve your audience’s problems
  • A clear next step for your reader to take

Authority content illustrates your expertise.

It’s content that:

  • Helps your audience by offering solutions
  • Shows you are a leader in your field
  • Your audience can trust
  • Encourages other people to link to and share

Affinity content creates a bond.

It’s content that:

  • You and your audience agree on
  • Your reader believes in and likes
  • Is passionate, genuine and important tor your brand

2. Nurture your evergreen

Lavender is an evergreen plant, able to last years after its flowers are dried out. This quality also makes lavender a very versatile shrub. It can be used as decoration, perfume, a deterrent (to pesky mothballs), in tea and much more.

That is the goal for your content: to be long-lasting and to offer a number of solutions.

Always think about how you can extend the shelf life of your content and adapt it across different platforms. Ultimately, you want any future visitor to be able to use, learn and benefit from your content in some way.

You could create a video, for example, on how to use your service and publish it on your  YouTube channel. Or write a blog post series on one topic and turn it into a podcast (or vice versa).

The possibilities are endless; just remember that evergreen content will benefit your readers long after it’s published.

3. Prune at set times

While it’s recommended to prune lavender soon after it’s been planted and once a year following that, you’ll want to look after your blooming content strategy on a more frequent basis.

There are multiple ways to tweak and improve your content plan as you go:

  • Analyze the metrics to see which content performed the best
  • Collect user comments and answer their pain points with solutions
  • Ask your audience for feedback, using a customer survey for instance
  • Listen to what your prospects are saying on social media

The great thing about content is that it is adaptable and easy to adjust throughout all stages of your marketing strategy.

Taking the time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, is crucial. It lets you see what resonates with your audience and in turn, gives you the insight to grow worthwhile relationships with your customers.

So, the next time you feel stuck in your content creation process, take a deep breath and imagine you’re in a field of lavender. Its purple leaves now represent much more than a soothing remedy.

Celeste in lavender fields
Lavender is good for the soul … and your content strategy!

All, Content Creation, Content Tips

For the Love of London: What This Content Creation Venture Has Taught Me So Far


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Keep laundry and other chores on Sundays.

Set alarm clock (and get up) on weekdays.

Grab a newspaper from the tube station every day.

This sounds more like personal to-dos than work ones, doesn’t it?

That’s because ever since I decided to go it alone and start my own content creation business, I’ve had to put my personal life in check. And make myself follow a routine so I won’t do everything humanly possible besides work and end up having regular freak-outs.

Taking the leap

About a year ago, I was on the fence about moving to London.

Then, I just went for it.

There was only one catch — I had to come up with a business plan and show that I was serious about my proposed freelance venture through letters of recommendation and sufficient funding.

With the help of a lawyer, massive support from my family, friends and colleagues, and a bit of luck, I was granted an entrepreneur visa to legally live and work in the UK.

*cue the fireworks*

The bumpy beginning

After two months of sorting out legal documents and making my content creation business “official”, cbacontent.com went live!

At the time, I was energized and ready to take on anything. My website had the essentials (background info, published work, my writing and marketing services), but the truth was, it wasn’t giving people in search of content solutions what they needed.

Referrals from colleagues afforded me the opportunity to meet with and pitch a few businesses on content marketing. That was a start!

Plus, something had to come out of all this cold-emailing.

But, nothing did.

My impatience was getting the best of me and I had too much time to think about what I was doing wrong.

It was deflating, absolutely. But this wasn’t going to be the end of my London dreams.

Learning my way

Instead of feeling my way through this black tunnel, I learned my way.

I signed up for Copyblogger’s advanced course on content marketing and am now one of their Certified Content Marketers.

I put my new video skills to test (thanks, Xanthe!) and started creating short films for Instagram.

I became fascinated by Shakespeare’s Globe and the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, researching and writing articles on both.

Tennis, our family’s favorite sport, became my next subject of interest (thanks to my brother’s business, Zen Tennis!)

In between everything was endless hours of reading entrepreneur, small business, freelance, content marketing advice online and in print. As a matter of fact, I’m in the middle of my favorite writing book now — Ann’s got content jokes, I love it.

All the while, I have listened to my family and friends. Because there’s no way I would have gotten this far without them.

Taking the lead

Then, sort of all at once, things started falling into place.

If you would’ve told me six months ago that three of my proposals would be accepted in one week, I would’ve laughed. And cried from happiness.

But, that’s how it happened.

Of course, all of my solo-business troubles have not magically disappeared, however, those troubles are slowly turning into mini-triumphs.

After months of second-guessing myself, tirelessly updating my site, gradually getting used to a home office and fixating on the negatives rather than the positives (sorry, Mom!), I am very excited to be officially producing content and marketing strategies for other businesses.

It’s liberating really, to collaborate with other people and help tell their company’s story while growing their brand and mine at the same time.

This new job ain’t so bad after all.

*knocks on wood*

Onward I go

Looking ahead, far into the distance as this is only the beginning, I plan to remember where I started.

I will continue to learn my way through creating quality content for other people.

I will let my interests lead me and fascinations intrigue me.

I will read, listen to and follow the teachings of pioneers and intellects.

On paper, my business may only consist of me, but so far, its success has been based on many amazing people, countless experiences and lots of inspiring stories.

Here’s to meeting, making and telling much more!

All, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Marketing

Real Talk: What’s Content (and Why Should You Care About It)?


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You’ve heard this term, “content”, being thrown around a lot lately.

“If you’re not producing content, then do you even exist?” they say.

The word even makes up half of my business’s name.

But really, what is it? And why does it matter to your business?

Since there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, let’s use something we’re all familiar with to talk about different content types and functions — weddings.

Just like there’s no one way to throw a wedding, there’s no one way to create and use content.

All the colors of content

Blog posts are probably the most common type of content that people discuss, but there are many other shades of content out there.

Consider going to a New Orleans wedding versus a Greek wedding — the first traditionally has a second line during the reception while the second usually includes smashing plates for good luck.

Likewise, different types of content can be seen across a variety of businesses. If you primarily manage a YouTube channel, for instance, you will produce mainly videos. Or, if you teach writers how to put together a novel, then you might have a webinar series that takes them through each step of writing a book.

Depending on what you specialize in will determine which type of content will resonate most with your audience.

This list will help get your creative juices flowing when deciding which way to educate, entertain or persuade your community:

  • Articles, including blog posts and guest posts
  • Videos, including live streaming
  • Infographics
  • Newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • E-books
  • Photos
  • Checklists
  • Case studies
  • Social media posts
  • E-courses or webinars
  • Promotions or sales offers
  • Whitepapers

quality content matters

Now that you have an idea of how wide the content spectrum is, let’s turn to the important role it plays on your website.

And while we’re discussing the benefits of creating content, it’s safe to assume that we’re talking about quality content and nothing less.

Because just as every wedding detail is carefully thought out, so too is engaging content.

Now, what kind of effect can good content have on your business?

The short answer: a powerful one.

The impact of good content can be more abstract, like building your authority in an industry, or more tangible, like direct sales.

In addition to helping you become a greater authority in the field, content has the ability to create a bond with your community, act as a sounding board for customer pain points, solve prospects’ problems and tell your audience how life will be better with your product or service.

More concretely, content can attract new prospects or subscribers, spark new relationships with strategic partners, cultivate feedback from customers and increase your ranking on search engines.

what will your ‘happily ever after’ look like?

As we’ve discovered, your business’s “happily ever after” will take on a life of its own.

Think about your company’s personality and the characteristics that define your target audience. Is your community more social and driven by visuals or more traditional and drawn to long-form articles?

Whatever it is that groups you and your audience together, try recreating that in content form. Don’t let the endless avenues put you off. Rather, embrace the possibilities, test it out and produce more of what sticks.

P.s. If you’d like help creating content for your company, email me here and we can put a plan into action.

All, Community, Content Creation, Marketing

The Royal Wedding’s Guide to Bonding With Your Readers


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“She looked back at us!”

“We totally made eye contact!”

That’s pretty much how it went (times 100) after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry rode past my friend and me during their wedding procession around Windsor.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry riding down the Long Walk in Windsor. Photo by Sydney Bailey.

We felt a real connection with Meghan, especially after seeing the personal and modern touches she put on the royal affair and feeling her American influence on the ceremony.

It’s the sort of bond your business should strive to create with your community, whether that means someone unfamiliar with your brand or a knowledgeable customer.

You can create this special rapport using what some people call “affinity” or “tribe-building” content.

This type of writing, packaged as a blog post, social media update or newsletter, can be achieved through a number of techniques, which Meghan so gracefully demonstrated on her big day.

Duchess of Sussex, take it away.

lead with your beliefs

There were little things Meghan intentionally did on her wedding day because she believed they should be done that way. She walked down most of the aisle unescorted, something no other royal bride has done.  It was also the first time a British royal wedding had an American preacher deliver a sermon.

While these weren’t the only significant wedding decisions Meghan and Harry made, each of them sent a modern, more inclusive message to the world.

Meghan stayed true to her roots on her wedding day and the same should be the case when you create affinity content.

Since you want to attract people who share the same beliefs as you, it’s important to let your audience know what your company is passionate about. There is no point in trying to be all things to all people either because your business should stand for one particular person, not everyone.

By leading with your beliefs — those relevant to your brand — your message will narrow in on your target audience, attract like-minded people and lay the groundwork for a meaningful bond.

Speak from your heart

As cheesy as this sounds, I could feel the love emanating from Meghan and Harry. You could hear it in their vows and see it in their first kiss.

Without getting sappier, the royal couple was the epitome of two people who fell in love and came together in holy matrimony.

These are the vibes that you want your tribe-building content to give off.

Be passionate and play to the emotions of your audience. Your message should draw out a feeling from your reader — the same feeling you have towards a problem or desire.

Once they realize they share that feeling with you, they begin to relate to your company on a more personal level.

In your approach, it is OK to be upfront and candid with your reader, but also remember not to overdo it. Over-the-top statements or exaggerations can come off as phony and backfire with your audience.

be true to yourself

This last ingredient brings out the best in your community bonding skills.

From the outward displays of Meghan’s American background to the inward love she felt for Harry, it was Meghan’s authenticity that shone through every step of the day and captured people’s hearts around the world.

There are many reasons people feel a connection to Meghan. Maybe because she’s American or a women’s rights advocate or was an actress on Suits.

And there are also reasons why people are just beginning to be charmed by her. Because she is something  — American, biracial, feminist, etc. — and symbolizes ideals — the American dream, the power of love, a fairytale life — that people hold onto and want to be a part of.

Meghan is human, just like you and me. We can relate to her, which is huge considering that’s not always an inherent trait in the royal family.

That’s the key — to genuinely relate to your prospects and customers. Because being open, leading with your beliefs and speaking from your heart is how others will begin to trust you, like you and have a rapport with you.

Now, keep calm and bond on!

Horses
Two Windsor Greys make way for Meghan and Harry’s carriage.

All, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips

3 Compelling Content Ideas to Win Over Your Audience’s Heart


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The last bite of seafood pasta had been twirled onto my fork and finished off.

None of us wanted to leave this restaurant, its beachy, open-air construction built right into the cliff.

To remember it, we took a photo with the very friendly staff before saying ciao and grazie. It was a 30-minute walk back to the ferry, but just as we were leaving, our waiter said, “No, no, why don’t you take our boat back to the main beach? It’s a three-minute ride and free for people who eat at the restaurant!”

My friends and I quickly exchanged glances, all thinking the same thing: No way! They are SO nice here, this is the best restaurant in Capri!

And just like that, they won our hearts over. Their free shuttle saved us time and energy, which after walking everywhere on our trip, was very much appreciated.

restaurant photo
My friends and I with the wonderful restaurant staff!

For them, it was a small gesture to show how much our business meant to them, and for us, it made us feel like queens of Capri.

The restaurant’s complimentary boat ride is also a great example of how your website should interact with your own prospects and customers.

You want to leave a positive, lasting impression on your visitors and one way to do that is to give them something for free that will help them, or their wallets, out.

Here are three ideas for giving your website that little something extra. Because little things can go a long way and have a powerful impact on your audience.

1. A downloadable freebie

Don’t you love when you go to a website and they give you something that you can actually download, print off and use? It feels like you’ve been let in on a secret and since it’s free, you think you’ve hit a mini jackpot.

And it’s not just your audience who is gaining something. A lot of the time, these freebies are given in exchange for an email address, so if someone does download your cheat sheet, recipe or city guide, you will have a way to communicate with them in the future. To offer them similar solutions.

Think about what makes sense to offer from your brand’s perspective and create something they will enjoy and get good use out of. For instance, you could give them:

  • A  template or checklist for doing X (editing your own photos, writing a novel, etc.)
  • A calendar of events that pertain to your company’s industry
  • An e-book or professionally-designed document that compiles helpful information on one topic into a downloadable PDF

2. one-time purchase offer

You’ve probably seen this on e-commerce sites before, but another way to entice your customer to buy your product is to offer them a discount.

Depending on how and when you would like to offer this on your site, it could come in the form of a “new member discount”, a percentage off their purchase for a limited time or free shipping.

This can also be a win-win for you because if visitors have to sign up for your newsletter in order to receive the discount, then you will have their email address and access to their inbox. If this is the case, consider mentioning the discount next to the newsletter signup button on your site. More on how to successfully do that here.

3. expert knowledge or advice (with no price tag)

Using different mediums and channels, you can get really creative with this one.

There are many ways you can share valuable information with your audience, but some of the most popular and engaging solutions include:

  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Blogs
  • Live-streaming (i.e. Facebook Live, live stories on Instagram, etc.)

The cool thing about podcasts is that they attract people who genuinely want to hear more from you and your brand. They actively choose to listen to your show because they are interested in your specialized topic.

Separately, I watched a video recently where vlogger Thomas Kuegler said one of his followers got to know him way better after watching one or two of his videos than she did after reading his articles for a year.

That’s a pretty big impression and a reminder of the kind of impact video or live-streaming can have on your community.

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced that blogs are good for business, think again. There are many benefits of blogging, from increasing traffic to building your authority and trust with readers.

Sure, blogging or discounting your product may not be as glamorous as a free boat ride across the Isle of Capri, but it will have you feeling like a million bucks when customers start raving about your company.

All, Content Tips, Marketing, Website Tips

Easy as (Pizza) Pie: How to Make Your Customer Say Yes


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Marinara or Margherita?

Coca-Cola, birra or acqua?

That’s how they take your order at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples, what some consider to be the best pizza place in the world.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt that this was the pizza Elizabeth Gilbert affectionately described in Eat, Pray, Love, but part of the restaurant’s appeal is also its simplicity. They make two types of pizza in one brick oven and offer three kinds of drinks while you wait.

No menu. No-nonsense decisions. Just happy customers.

Pizza from L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele
I heart pizza and websites that make it easy for me to say yes.

So, how can you make your online customers act and feel the same?

By creating content that clearly defines your product or service and motivates behavior.

More specifically, by addressing these four questions and incorporating their answers into your sales and signup pages.

1. Why choose your service over someone else’s?

Framed on the wall next to our table in the pizzeria was the excerpt from Eat, Pray, Love that details Elizabeth’s infatuation with their Margherita pizza. And on adjacent walls were family photos and pictures of celebrities at the restaurant.

These customer memories and stories are like testimonials for their business. They tell visitors what others think of their pizza and how this tradition has been passed down through generations. Together, they bring this famous Napoli experience to life.

So before asking someone to subscribe to your newsletter or buy a pair of your shoes, give your offer some context and let your customers know you are an authority in your industry.

For example, you could include a testimonial from a past customer to show how your product helped solve their problem. Or add a certification badge or award you received to the page as a symbol of your brand recognition.

Bottom line: give them a way to trust your service and assure them you are the best solution to their problem.

2. What exactly are you offering?

At the pizzeria, everyone around us was at various stages of digging into their pizza so we knew exactly what to expect. Plus, the smells coming from the brick oven were so divine you could almost taste the dough.

Brick pizza oven
Seeing and smelling the pizza just made us want it more. Photo by Christie Jones.

Even though your website can’t capture your customer’s senses the same way, it can use descriptive writing and visuals to tell them what your sofa feels like, how it looks inside a living room, what it’s made of, etc.

Similarly, a sales page dedicated to purchasing your e-book can include a picture of its front cover or a sneak preview of its opening chapter. The landing page could also include a table of contents and a summary of what the publication is about.

In other words, the more tangible you can make your offer, the better.

3. How will it make your customer’s life better?

The pizzeria has it easy here because when does pizza not make life better?

In all seriousness, spelling out the benefits of purchasing your product or signing up for your service is a crucial part of getting your customer to say yes. There are many ways to illustrate the value your solution provides, but these questions are a good place to start:

  • What positive outcomes will your customer gain from this purchase or expert knowledge?
  • How will your product or service make your customer feel?
  • Is there research or data that backs up your user-friendly software or posture-correcting pillow?

This is where case studies and glowing customer reviews can help convince others to take the next step. If favorable stats support your business idea or people have flattering things to say about their experience using your service, put them next to the offer.

Remember, real-life examples and scientific evidence are great ways to reassure your customer that your product works.

4. Is it super easy for your customer to take the next step?

As you’ve gathered by now, the pizzeria couldn’t have made it easier for you to order a pizza pie. So easy in fact, I sort of wish every lunch order was that uncomplicated.

That’s the goal you should shoot for when creating a call to action (CTA)keep it simple and specific so there’s zero confusion on what to do next. Visually and verbally, your CTAs should stand out on the page and clearly lead the visitor to sign up or complete a transaction. More on how to do that here.

So the next time you offer a solution to your audience, don’t leave them in limbo, wondering whether they should say yes. Instead, show off your specialized experience, help them visualize your product, spell out the benefits and take them directly to the next step.

Serve them an irresistible slice of your business and they won’t be able to say no.

All, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips, Website Tips

This Content Checklist Will Make More People Want to Visit Your Site


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Bathing suit…check.

Passport…check.

Boarding pass…check.

If only improving your website’s content was as easy as preparing for a trip to the coast of Italy (I may be going there this weekend and it may be consuming all my thoughts).

Well, if you knew how to prep your content and had a focused checklist to follow, I think it could be as hassle-free as flying into the Tuscan sunset.

The real challenge is figuring out how to make your website dispense gelato and pasta carbonara on demand.

gelato
Content goals: To make your website as irresistible as gelato.

For now, though, let’s get to that content checklist so you can create a customer journey that people are excited to be a part of.

#1 Does it make sense?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that other people aren’t living and breathing your brand like you are. Whether you founded the company or recently joined the team, it’s likely you know a great deal more about the service or product than the casual web browser.

That’s why it’s important to put yourself in their shoes and ask if the content on your homepage and landing pages makes sense. Equally important is making sure the visitor clearly understands the purpose and point of your newsletter, about page, blog post, etc.

These  questions are a good place to start when determining if your content will easily click with your reader:

  • Is the brand statement, or the core of your business, prominently conveyed on the homepage and/or about page?
  • If this is the only page your visitor goes to, does it give enough background information on the product or service you offer and describe its benefits in a straightforward way?
  • Is your content inviting and accessible? For instance, do you use sub-headlines and bullet points to break up text? How about visuals to give your audience a clearer idea of whatever it is you are promoting?
  • Do you use industry jargon that others might not understand? It’s best to rephrase in those cases.

#2 Is it attention-grabbing?

One of the best ways to capture and keep your audience’s attention is with an enticing headline. That can mean the title of a landing page, a headline of a blog post or the subject line of an email.

These helpful descriptors have the power to make someone click, open, share or skip completely, so it’s always worth getting the headline right.

Here are some pointers on how to do exactly that:

  • What is your reader getting in exchange for their time? Put the benefit in the title and tell them right off the bat. This will intrigue them to click and find out more.
  • Is the headline an inside joke only your company would understand? Or, are you trying to show off your creative writing skills? Remember, it’s always best to leave puns or clever phrases out of headlines. The clearer the better.
  • “How To” or list headlines (“3 secrets to healthy-looking skin”) are great ways to structure a title because they make you think about the reader and the value you are providing.

#3 Do your readers know what to do next?

Before hitting publish on a new landing page or sending a sales email, make sure to include a clear call to action (CTA) in every piece of content. After all, the point of your business is for people to buy your product, sign up for your service, share your article, etc.

In order to get visitors to take that next step, your CTAs should be eye-catching and benefit-driven. It should be a no-brainer why you would click on a button to register for an online course or download an e-book.

Below are some tips for crafting effective CTAs:

  • Visually, does the CTA button or sign-up form stand out from the rest of the page? Putting it in a bright color or using bold text could really make it pop.
  • As for the copy, does it tell your visitor exactly what they will receive after entering in their personal information? Author Jeff Goins is really good at this.
  • Consider adding a photo of the e-book cover, screenshots of the online course or any other visual that helps give your reader a better idea of what they will be getting.

This checklist may be more detailed than the one you have for an upcoming weekend trip, but if you let it be your guide when publishing content on your site, your audience will enjoy the final destination (your digital storefront) a whole lot more.

P.s. If you would like help improving your website’s content clarity, headlines and CTAs, my free custom marketing evaluation is for you. Get a leg up on the competition and sign up here.

All, Content Tips, Website Tips

Put a Spring in Your Website’s Step With These 3 Revitalizing Tips


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Cafe doors are flung open. City dwellers flock to the park and I’m sipping on the first iced coffee of the season.

It’s only mid-April but with temperatures in the 80s (close to 30°C), London has fallen under a summertime spell.

Of course it won’t stay this warm for long, but while it does, let’s follow the capital’s lead and swap out the old for the new: it’s time to hit refresh on your website.

These three steps will not only revitalize your site, but they will also prove to be helpful guidelines when publishing content in the future.

1. Eliminate clutter

White space is your friend. It lets your content stand out on the page and gives your reader a more pleasant browsing experience.

Remember, you may only have 7 seconds to grab your visitor’s attention, so don’t let a cluttered layout turn them away before they settle in.

  • Remove out-of-date and irrelevant information like which high school you attended on your About Page. Or photos of your pets (unless maybe you run a pet business).
  • Take down graphics or visuals that don’t serve a purpose. They should either compliment the content on the page or serve as a signal to take an action.
  • Delete sidebars on landing pages — site pages dedicated to making a purchase, describing a service or getting visitors to sign up for a newsletter. The less distracted they are the better.

2. Lose the bulky blocks of Content

Long, dense paragraphs are the last way busy visitors want to learn about your company. Rather, focus on providing multiple entry points so readers can easily soak in your service.

  • Break paragraphs into small, bite-size chunks that are easy to skim. They shouldn’t be more than 4-5 lines long and variation in their lengths is a plus.
  • Use subheads (titles of subsections) and bullet points to break up blocks of text. They jump out at the reader and convey messages much quicker.
  • Mix in other forms of media like photos, videos, infographics and playlists to keep the reader engaged. Making them shareable is even better!

3. Give your social life A Boost

Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to go to the pub and make small talk. This step is all about sparking meaningful conversations online and making your content super easy to share.

Let social media be your megaphone.

  • Display social buttons on every page so visitors can follow you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also, adding shareable links at the bottom of blog posts and other content pages will make it easy for your audience to share your business tips, e-books, videos and so on.
  • Post any new, freely accessible piece of content onto social media. The tone and style will need to be adapted for each platform, but it will immediately widen your content’s reach.
  • Make signing up for your newsletter easy and obvious. Add the form to the bottom of each blog post and consider having it pop up on certain pages. Giving visitors a clear way to receive company updates is essential to creating meaningful customer relationships.

Apply just one or two of the above tips and you’ll begin to notice small changes in the way that people respond to and engage with your website.

Think of your online business as a work in progress. But less as “work” and more as a fun touchup, giving your site a pep in its step.

It’ll have you feeling like…

excited gif
via GIPHY

All, Community, Content Tips, Marketing

The Simple Art of Differentiating Yourself (and Attracting an Audience)


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One of the first things you see when you exit the train station in Bath, Somerset, is an iconic British telephone booth filled with flowers.

I’ve seen lots of red telephone booths, some lined with books inside, others vandalized and wreaking of urine, but never filled with purple primroses and intertwining ivy.

I took a photo of it thinking it’d be the only one in town.

Luckily, there was another one just around the corner.

Turns out, this is a trademark of Bath’s. Or another way of putting it — it is their unique selling proposition (USP). They reimagined an antiquated communication system and turned it into something you might encounter in a Lewis Carroll book.

It catches your eye and makes you think, why doesn’t London do that?

But that’s exactly what adds to Bath’s unique appeal. The city is smaller, quainter and has special touches like flower-filled phone booths.

Like Bath, your business needs to have a reason why people decide to visit your website or storefront.

What do you do differently and better than your competitors? It is this distinction, your USP, that will attract the right people to your brand.

Here’s how differentiating yourself and promoting your USP can be the simplest way to grow your audience and increases sales.

YOUR USP sets you apart

Roughly 2.6 million blog posts have been published so far today.

That’s a whole lot of content options for your audience to choose from.

Why would they visit your blog then and spend time on your site?

Because they value whatever makes your product or service different — a love of all things handmade, an eco-friendly approach or a long history of exceptional performance.

Your brand personality, motto or experience jumps out at them because it is relevant and/or appeals to them.

YOUR USP zooms in on your audience

A direct (and positive!) result of setting yourself apart is a clearer picture of who you are trying to reach.

Whether you share a belief with your audience or have a similar personality or way of doing something, that likeness is what groups you and your community together.

This likeness, originating from your USP, is baked into everything you do, and gradually attracts the right people to your brand.

So rather than casting a wide net in hopes of attracting a bigger audience, concentrate on your distinguishing trait and focus on drawing in those who you have something in common with. This will make it much easier for your target audience to recognize you and become a valuable part of your community.

YOUR USP naturally generates engaging content

Once you decide what your special X factor is, put it at the center of everything you do.

That way you have a guiding light, so to speak, that makes it obvious which direction your blog posts, newsletters and company’s content should take.

If achieving a meditative mindset is at the core of your yoga clothing line, then your content should revolve around a mindful lifestyle. You could write a blog about morning routines for a productive day. Or shoot a video of your favorite meditative poses. Or team up with a healthy food store and host a yoga event.

The possibilities are endless when you clearly define what makes you different. 

Whatever your X factor may be, it is essential in catching your audience’s attention. It not only provides a meaningful connection to your community, but it also makes it much easier to create compelling content.

Think of the flower-filled telephone booth and capture your customer’s imagination with your USP.

All, Community, Content Creation, Content Tips

3 Meaningful Ways to Connect with Your Online Community


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We had 30 minutes to kill before the next bus to Chatsworth, so we started making our way to a coffee shop around the corner.

Before going in, I noticed a man in a big green coat and checkered Sherlock Holmes hat talking to my boyfriend.

He had just arrived from Baslow, a town over, and stopped to chat with my boyfriend, Alex, about his camera and photography.

After checking his watch and waving for us to follow him across the street, he said he’d love to treat us to coffee before meeting his friend.

He led us through a nearby hotel lobby, telling everyone hello along the way (he even knew their names), and offered us to take a seat while he added coal to the fire.

My boyfriend and I were smiling as we sat down, both thinking, “He is so nice! This never happens in London!”

Our new friend, John, had made the perfect first (and lasting) impression, and here’s how your blogs, newsletters and social media posts can too.

John Trevarick
Photo of John Trevarick by Alex Chirita

1. Be friendly and warm

If you plan to catch your reader’s attention as they flip through lots of other attention-seeking content, as is the case on social media, your message should be inviting and personable.

Like John, who introduced himself with a smile and a handshake, be friendly in your approach.

  • Use a conversational tone
  • Lay out your text in bite-size pieces
  • Introduce your message with a strong headline or relevant greeting
  • Upload a photo, video or GIF that matches the nature of your message
  • Make sure readers can easily access your content if it is on another platform

2. Be engaging

You want to find something in common with your audience so they feel like they are a part of the conversation. If your readers aren’t interested in the topic or can’t relate to it, then they will skip right over it.

John immediately asked us what we do in London, come to find that all three of us—he a singer, Alex a photographer and I a content creator—can relate to the difficulties of trying to make a career out of a passion or art form.

Yes, John had a long, successful career and had been through a lot more ups and downs, but he genuinely cared about our professional goals and how we planned to reach them.

He created an enjoyable, two-way conversation that was relevant to our lives—the second key to making a meaningful connection with your online community.

  • Narrow in on what your audience cares about
  • Think about your content’s purpose—does it solve a problem, entertain or act as an announcement?—and stick to it
  • Write a punchy headline that draws in your readers (and doesn’t mislead them)
  • Be passionate and genuine in the delivery of your message
  • Ask a relevant question and invite readers to leave comments or feedback

3. Be giving

It’s important to always give your audience more than whatever you are asking for.

In exchange for your reader’s time and attention, your content should provide something of value: a solution, piece of advice, helpful information, service or special offer.

John not only told us entertaining stories that are now fond memories (he met Tony Bennett once and sang him his favorite Tony Bennett song!), but he also insisted on paying for our coffee and looking him up the next time we visit Derbyshire.

He turned a spare 30 minutes into a new friendship.

How can your content do the same?

  • Offer a free e-book with authoritative advice or tips
  • Host a video chat where you answer your viewers’ questions
  • Give special offers on your products or services
  • Put on a contest and reward the winner with a prize (big or small)
  • Produce an entertaining podcast or post a cool behind-the-scenes video. Get creative!

There are countless ways to connect with your online community, but creating content that is friendly, engaging and giving will make those connections meaningful and relevant.

Thanks, John, for showing us how it’s done.

P.s. Here’s a short video of our weekend in Derbyshire.

All, Content Tips, Marketing

The ‘This Is Us’ Approach to Evaluating Your Online Business


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While catching up on one of my favorite American TV shows, This Is Us, Beth and Randall (a married couple) played a game called “Worst-Case Scenario.”

It’s like a mental check they do with each other when something goes wrong.

For example, when their foster daughter, Deja, is being difficult and moody all the time, they imagine what would happen in the worst-case scenario. Randall suggests Deja will kill them in their sleep and end up on the streets doing drugs (dark I know, but that’s the point). Then Beth, trying to top Randall, suggests Deja will kill them while they are awake and eventually turn their other two daughters into prostitutes.

As you can see Beth and Randall are pretty good at the game—taking it to the extremesbut once they’ve thought about the worst-case scenario, it’s easier for them to see the bright side of things and confront the difficult situation head-on.

The beauty of the game is that you can play it with anything, like your website and online business. And before jumping to conclusions and thinking this is some cruel exercise, don’t worry. It’s actually kind of fun (and completely harmless) to think how terribly wrong some things can go.

Plus, you end up seeing things in a more positive light once you’ve considered the worst.

So let’s play

Worst-case scenario: your website doesn’t have any content on it. There’s no blog with helpful posts or inspiring ideas for your visitors. There’s no newsletter sign-up form to connect with your audience. There are no landing pages to promote your products or services.

The result? No one can find you on Google, no one will visit your site and no one will buy your eco-friendly clothes or use your professional catering service.

Now let’s pretend we’re playing with Beth, who considers another, grimmer situation.

Worst-case scenario: your website is bland and doesn’t offer anything new or interesting to your visitor. Equally as bad, the homepage claims that your real estate experience is “simpy the best”. There are no calls to action and your blog posts from 2010 are full of real estate jargon no one can understand.

In other words, if someone lands on your site—cold, unprofessional and outdated—they will immediately leave. There goes another potential customer.

On the bright side

Your website isn’t like this in reality. And if it is…well hey, at least you have a website, right? Not quite…we should talk about how to spruce it up if that’s the case.

As a business owner or someone who is trying to gain exposure online, it’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to get right.

Before creating content and providing solutions for your audience, think about the big picture:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What makes my product or service different and better than the competition?
  • What are my customer’s pain points and how can I help them?

Knowing the answers to these questions first will make it easier to organize your website and produce meaningful and engaging content for your online community.

Make your website the best-case scenario

The next time you step back and reflect on what your website is doing well and what it can improve on, take Beth and Randall’s approach: what is the worst outcome of running your online business like “x”?

Nine times out of 10, your website is not headed in that direction. You know what makes your product stand out from the competition and your passion for helping others is contagious.

Start there—with the traits and knowledge that you already have—and a clearer picture of how to grow your online business will emerge: should you share your tips with followers in a different way, or do you need to reposition the content itself?

One thing is for sure: your website is easier to confront than an unruly child.

See now? The best-case scenario is totally attainable.