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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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.