Renee

GDPR in Plain English – 10 steps to take now

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25 May.  If you hold any information on file about people, this new law affects you and you should be preparing for it now.

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What’s different to the current Data Protection Act?

Not a lot will change; it’s still about keeping people’s personal information safe. The way you act with regard to people’s data must still be lawful, fair and transparent – and you must have a clear purpose for handling their information.

If you comply with data protection rules now, much of your work is probably already in place.  The GDPR places greater emphasis on the documentation that you (as the Data Controller) must keep to demonstrate your accountability, so you need to have effective policies and procedures in place before May.  These must be written in plain English.

Make sure everyone in your organisation knows that the law is changing and this will impact on some areas of work, such as filing, storing information on line and contacting people by email. Brexit won’t make a difference – we all have to comply or face horrendous fines.

10 steps you can take right away

  1. Know what information you hold
    Document what personal data you hold, where it came from and who you share it with.
    Maintain clear records of your processing activities.
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  2. Be aware of people’s rights
    Check your procedures to make sure they cover people’s rights, including how you would delete their personal data or provide data electronically and in a ‘commonly used format.’ People have many rights, including to be informed, access their information free-of-charge, have it deleted and not to be subject to automated decision-making, including profiling.
  1. Communicate privacy information
    Review your privacy notices and make any necessary changes. When you collect personal data you currently have to give people certain information, such as your identity and how you intend to use their information. This is usually done through a ‘privacy notice.’ You must now also tell people your ‘lawful basis’ for processing the data, how long you plan to keep their information and that they have a right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if they think there is a problem with the way you are handling their data. The GDPR requires this information to be provided in concise, easy to understand and clear language – in other words, in plain English! If you have inaccurate personal data and have shared this with another organisation, you will have to tell the other organisation so it can correct its own records.
  1. State your lawful basis for processing personal data
    Why do you keep people’s information? Identify the lawful basis for why you’re processing people’s data, document it and update your privacy notice to explain it. Some people’s rights will be modified depending on your lawful basis for processing their personal data; the most obvious example is that people will have a stronger right to have their data deleted where you use consent as your lawful basis for processing.
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  2. Gain consent
    Review how you seek, record and manage consent. (The ICO has published detailed guidance on consent and offers a checklist to review your practices.) Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. There must be a positive opt-in; consent cannot be inferred from silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity. It must also be separate from other terms and conditions, and you must have simple ways for people to withdraw their consent. Consent has to be verifiable and people generally have more rights where you rely on consent to process their data. In these cases, make sure it meets the GDPR standard on being specific, clear, prominent, opt-in, properly documented and easily withdrawn.
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  3. Handle subject access requests
    Update your procedures on how to handle requests to provide any additional information. Under the new rules, you will have a month to comply, rather than the current 40 days, and you can refuse or charge for requests that are ‘manifestly unfounded’ or excessive. If you refuse a request, you must tell the person why, and let them know that they have the right to complain to the supervisory authority and to a legal remedy.
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  4. Deal with data breaches
    Make sure you have the right procedures in place to detect, report and investigate a personal data breach. You may need to notify the ICO (and possibly some other bodies) if you suffer a personal data breach that is likely to result in anyone being at risk of discrimination, damage to reputation, financial loss, loss of confidentiality or any other significant economic or social disadvantage. You will also have to notify the people affected.
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  5. Protect children
    GDPR introduces special protection for children’s personal data, particularly in the context of commercial internet services such as social networking. If relevant to your business, put systems in place to verify people’s ages and to obtain parental or guardian consent for any data processing activity. Children can give their own consent to processing at age 16 (although this may be lowered to 13 in the UK). If a child is younger, you will need to get consent from a person holding ‘parental responsibility’.
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  6. Name your Data Protection Officer
    Designate someone to take responsibility for data protection compliance, if you don’t already have someone in this role. Look into the ICO’s code of practice on Privacy Impact Assessments to see whether this relates to your business.
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  7. International? Know which rules apply
    If your business operates in more than one EU member state, find out which will be your lead data protection supervisory authority and make sure you apply the relevant rules.
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Hopefully, these notes will give you a head start on tidying up your systems in anticipation of the forthcoming changes. This info is adapted from the GDPR section of the Information Commissioner’s Office website where there’s loads more useful advice and guidance to set you straight.

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like help to edit your privacy statement or any other documents into plain English.

Would you like to join me for a glass of wine? (And a free LinkedIn review!)

If you’re free on Thursday, 1st March, please join me at the Art Pavilion in east London for the private viewing of “In a country far, far away.”

There will be some awesome works of art, live music, wine and dance displays – so it will be wonderful if you can come along!

This exhibition has been inspired by tales from countries in war and crisis. My exhibit is a poem dedicated to the first recorded poet – a remarkable woman who lived over 4,500 years ago in the area now known as southern Iraq. Her work has survived almost five millennia, yet I’d never even heard of her until recently! Just think… her message spread across the globe and made a lasting impact without even a whisper of wifi…

While I won’t be giving out social media tips on the night (apart from reminding people to tweet, share and Instagram their favourite pieces of artwork, of course), I will be happy to follow up with a complimentary LinkedIn review for anyone who comes along as a result of reading this blog!

Here are the details, and I really hope you can make it!

If there’s anything specific you’d like to know about making the most of LinkedIn – or any social media – but you can’t make it on March 1st, please feel free to ask.

Looking forward to – hopefully – seeing you there!

How to avoid being annoying on LinkedIn

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training | social media marketingA few weeks ago I received an invitation to connect with another social media consultant. I’m usually happy to link up online with other people in my field as it’s great to be able to share ideas and – occasionally – concerns, and have meaningful discussions about the digital media marketing world. Also, there’s always the chance of cross-referrals if one person is too busy to take on new clients, so it’s good to have other people to recommend.

Some of the clients I coach don’t like to connect within their own industry sphere – and that’s fine.  Although I always point out that if it’s a reluctance to connect for fear of the competition poaching their clients, it might be worth reassessing their current client relationship strategy.  Within most industries there’s enough work to go around, and a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone.

So I accepted the LinkedIn invitation and started a discussion. This person specialises in handling the social media for clients in only one industry sector – we’ll pretend it’s liquorice manufacturers. (It’s not really, but I don’t like liquorice.)

Only, later that day, a problem sprang up.  I received an email via LinkedIn from this person – trying to sell me social media services! And not only that – it rambled on and on about liquorice. My new LinkedIn connection started spamming me within 12 hours of discussing the beneficial crossovers and differences of our respective businesses!

The following day… guess what?! Another communication – this time a group message. When I received the third message in two days I emailed to remind him that I am not his target client and asked that he please stop emailing me. No reply.

On receiving the fourth email, I – very nicely – asked if his strategy when working with clients was to bombard their contacts in the hope that they may turn into future customers… Again, no reply. For the first time ever, I disconnected from someone on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a highly professional social network and, aside from its incredible power in the business world, there is an etiquette attached.  So here are a few tips to keep out of people’s annoyance zone:

  1. Personalise your connection requests: Remind people how they know you or explain why you’d like to connect if you’ve never actually met.
  2. Respond promptly: If you receive a message, reply quickly. Set your notifications so that messages filter through to your email box; that way you won’t miss anything important.
  3. Send a welcome message: If someone adds you (and you accept them), drop them a note to thank them for connecting. It’s also a good opportunity to find out why they connected and what you may be able to do to help each other.
  4. Don’t send spam or irrelevant messages: Be mindful that not all your connections are potential clients – your target group probably accounts for only a small percentage of people. Just like networking off-line, the people you know on LinkedIn will be a complete mix – and not all need your services or products.
  5. Don’t add LinkedIn connections to your email list: With GDPR approaching, that’s not an acceptable way to build an email list – it was never ethical and, from May, it will be illegal.
  6. Never ask people to recommend or endorse you if they haven’t experienced your work. And even if they have, only ask for a recommendation if you know they were happy with you. Ideally, do this at the time of the job so it’s fresh in their minds.

If there’s anything specific you’d like to know about making the most of LinkedIn, feel free to ask. I’ll happily answer questions in the comments – or write a future blog to cover wider topics.

Alternatively, if you’d like to freshen up your profile or spend some time together on a 1-2-1 basis, click here and we can make a date!

Facebook’s new newsfeed strategy will affect you and your business!

If you use Facebook to raise the brand awareness of your business, the past few days have seen a major announcement that will shake up your marketing efforts going forward.

There is a huge change in the way business information will be presented in people’s newsfeeds, which means that your business will no longer enjoy the visibility it has in the past.  Basically – anything you post will be seen by fewer people!

As a personal Facebook user, you may be pleased to know that you’ll see more of your friends’ activity and less business page news.

This is the main point…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training | social media marketingMark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, has decreed that Facebook’s goal is to focus on helping people to have meaningful social interactions with their friends and families. He said, “We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

Feedback shows that ‘public content’ – posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. Mark Zuckerberg basically wants to make sure people’s time on Facebook is well spent and enjoyable.

What this means

This means that the posts you’ll see will be more community-focused from people you know rather than sales oriented from business pages.

Facebook will still encourage posts from large communities around things like TV shows and sports teams. Mr Z says, “Too often, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.” He wants to establish large, vibrant, engaged, realtime communities watching the same events simultaneously. (This will be a good opportunity for advertisers to shift more of their budget away from TV to Facebook.)

How it will affect businesses

In reality, this means that for business owners, the best way to be seen is to invest in paid ads. The good news, though, is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune for properly targeted advertising on Facebook (and Instagram) to help to grow your business.

My prediction is that, from a Facebook user’s perspective, nothing much will change.  We’ll all still see the same business posts in our newsfeed – it’s just that the business owners will be paying for them rather than them appearing organically!

What you can do

  • Accept that you’ll have to invest a little in Facebook advertising. Make sure your demographics are accurate and that you monitor the results and tweak ads accordingly.
  • Ask your friends and family to like, comment and share info from your business page, so that Facebook can see the interaction and recognise you as a community-interactive business.
  • Get into the habit of creating live video content, as this reportedly gets six times more interaction than standard videos.
  • Encourage any form of back-and-forth discussion, such as asking for advice or requests for recommendations.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few weeks.  If you’d like some advice or help to manage your Facebook or any other social media platform, please feel free get in touch.

Global business, LinkedIn profiles and Viking Pirate Women

Sometimes when we’re introduced to people through random conversations, we make business contacts that help us immensely in our work, but to add sugar on the top, we can build relationships that turn into valuable friendships. This has been the case with Kathryn.

A client introduced me to Kathryn a couple of years ago. (He wasn’t a client at the time; he is now). I was looking for a recommendation for a professional service, and he’d engaged her for something similar. Hence an introductory email and we were good to go.

One of the most fantastic things about our digital age is the ability to work with clients and suppliers anywhere in the world. I’ve worked with businesses across the globe from the Netherlands to Australia, via the Ukraine and USA, and my lovely team are all over the place. Kathryn hails from Sedona, a beautiful area of Arizona with russet-red mountains; an oasis of lush landscape settled like a jewel in the heart of the desert.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingKathryn’s in Europe for a couple of months, so we met up to spend a day at the Design Museum in Kensington.  I once went to the Commonwealth Institute on a school trip and this new museum stands in its place. It’s interesting – the Commonwealth Institute slowly vanished as the commonwealth itself shrunk, yet today’s displays include a history of global communication that reflects the globality of our history.

SImaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritinghe’s immensely good company, and stunned me with the title of the lecture she’ll be giving later this month at a Danish conference: Viking Pirate Women! How cool is that?! She’s an expert in medieval literature and this is an opportunity to discuss something that I, for one, don’t encounter on a daily basis. Do you?

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywriting

Doubt they looked like this in Viking times…

Princesses and queens fighting for their thrones, avenging their husbands’ executions and avoiding marriage: these are just a few of the reasons these women took to the seas – often disguised as men in order to secure their places on-board. Sounds very Game of Thrones-ish. Compared to that, we almost live in boring times. They’d have had a few tasty posts if social media had been around in those days, that’s for sure.

While Kathryn’s having fun entertaining and educating the conference delegates in Denmark, I’ll be right here in England, educating people all over the world on the effective use of LinkedIn.  In case you didn’t get my newsletter this month, I’m offering LinkedIn coaching sessions for the introductory price of only £75 – all via Skype, so you don’t have to leave your office. Or home, if you work from home. I’d prefer no pyjamas, but I’ll leave it up to you.

The session covers an awful lot for an hour, so be prepared for fast, hard work – but you’ll achieve so much! An awesome profile, improved search engine status and the ability to find the right people to help you in business. You can click here if you’d like to book a session or find out more – or to sign up to the mailing list for hints and tips on social media.

As tempting as it was to search out an 80s vintage classic Adam Ant lyric, these far less trendy words – actually quite shocking for children – flew into my mind: “We kindle and char, inflame and ignite, … we burn up the city, we’re really a fright.”  With visions of people on Tinder throwing down their reading material so they can hit the town and terrorise the community, this is a good example of the opposite image you want to portray on LinkedIn!! Agree? Let’s chat further! You can message me on LinkedIn, of course – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Lyrics credits: Songwriters: F Xavier Atencio, George Edward Bruns · Published by: Lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

Managing time, feeling creative and a stream of lucky escapes

There but for the grace of God go I. I don’t know who said it, and I’m not particularly religious, but I think it whenever my safety and well-being have been compromised but the danger’s passed.

I have a habit of narrowly missing disasters. (Or should I say, I have the good luck to narrowly avoid them?)

Kings Cross. The fire that was kindling as I rode through the station before the deadly flames engulfed the tragic victims. The Libyan Embassy siege. I walked passed just a couple of hours before PC Yvonne Fletcher was gunned down in broad daylight. I don’t remember now what I was even doing there, but I know I was wearing orange shoes. Pumps. Grosgrain – I’d bought them in Top Shop along with a matching jumper and some kind of weird fishnet scarf.  I was carrying one of those orange plastic basket bags that we all thought were marvellous back then.

There was no social media in those days, nowhere to tell people we were safe or let our loved ones know en masse that we were okay. All night tv was still in its infancy, only broadcasting for about a year in London – although we had that strange robotic teletext thing that was so futuristic. Whichever was you look at it, it was hard to keep up-to-date. There wasn’t even a facility for us to call friends we were worried about; we relied on them finding a public call box to ring home. It seems prehistoric now.  I didn’t even know about the fire until I got back around midnight and my mum was frantic with worry.

7/7 was a close call too. I’d overslept that morning. My mum phoned to tell me the central line was down and I realised I wouldn’t get to my appointment in Holborn on time. And then of course the catastrophic events unfolded on the news. I’d have been in the vicinity at the time of the bomb blast if my alarm had gone off. Again, there but for the grace of God go I.

21360829_10155724413861255_959159822_nAnd now this, a silver arrow shooting out in front of me. Well, not exactly in front of me – I didn’t actually see it. But I was hustled down two flights of stairs at the Oval into an enclosed room along with the other 450 people who were enjoying the networking event, most of us not paying attention to the cricket. Suddenly the sunny terrace, high above the famous pitch where we’d been happily sipping Pimms, was threatened by a security alert. No one knew what was happening. Everyone remained calm, everyone walked nicely, many people looked panic-stricken.  There were mumblings of terrorism. Surely a cricket match isn’t a good target? Or is it? Isn’t anywhere?

When the police evacuated the stadium I walked as quickly as my steadily blistering feet would carry me back to the relative safety of the tube. Rush hour on the Northern Line is quite unpleasant, but two people recognised me as having been at the event and we had a lovely chat, exchanging business cards between the legs of the commuters who weren’t lucky or quick enough to grab seats. I think they recognised me because of my dress, black with a vivid red rose print plonked across the fabric. It struck me that I looked a bit like a walking target, if the archer had taken to the streets with his weapon.

After the stress of that palaver I feel like I should avoid London for a while.  (Until tomorrow, at least!) I should stick to country events; for example, at the opposite end of the spectrum to the sweltering nightmare of the underground, last week’s ceramics fair at Hatfield House was a dream.

21360936_10155724409741255_412055550_nArt in Clay is one of the country’s foremost exhibitions of all things pottery.  Philip’s mum is a potter by trade – I have a lovely collection of vases, fruit bowls and sweetie dishes that she’s kindly gifted to me – so it was great to wander around with someone so knowledgeable and interested in the vast and eclectic collection of products on display. Philip bought a vase – tall, cream, elegant, beautifully curved with a grey squiggly bit at the bottom and a curlicue lip.  I have no idea if that’s a correct ceramicists’ term – I think I may have just made it up.  And if he skims through this blog he’ll probably be thinking I’m describing his ideal woman rather than a vase!

Watching the potters as they demonstrated throwing their clay made me feel (again!) that I want to do something creative.  Fortunately art class has resumed, in a new, Hitchcock-themed venue; still with fairy lights and bananas; still wonderfully calming and focused. Still great fun.  But I want to also do some painting, or even try some of that blobbing about with clay. (Again, probably not the right term…) I haven’t felt inspired to write poetry for a while, although I feel a wave coming on.

21361264_10155724413011255_595205071_nStaying on the pottery theme, I first saw this film in Bermuda in 1991 – and, although the lyrics date back to the year I was born, this song will be forever framed within the confines of white sandy beaches and a turquoise sea. “Time goes slowly by, and time can do so much.”

Time might go slowly by when you’re in love with Sam Wheat, but in business it goes blimmin’ fast.  So I’m offering time management workshops this autumn to set you up for an effectively-managed start to 2018. Call me if you’d like to know more, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being catty, signing contracts and something bizarre

If you’ve been feeling hot this week, spare a thought for me.  I adopted an eight month old kitten at the weekend and had to sign a contract with the cat sanctuary that I won’t have windows or doors open for four weeks.  Yes… Four weeks!!

Charlie needs time to settle in properly before being introduced to my garden, with its nest of pretty (but spiteful) robins and an influx of neighbourhood cats. I think they remember that my old cat flap was broken and allowed them in to sneakily grab food that wasn’t theirs.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe cat sanctuary in Waltham Abbey was amazing, but heartbreaking. I would have taken more cats but my circumstances don’t allow it right now. An allergic boyfriend and future daughter-in-law means that I’m limited to hypo-allergenic breeds, so it was lucky that Charlie popped up.

It was interesting that I had to sign a contract. It had all sorts of stipulations, some enforceable, others less so. It reminded me that the lawyer who kindly drew up new contracts for me a couple of months ago is probably getting frustrated that I haven’t implemented them yet.

I will do.  Up until now I have provided social media services following discussions with the clients and ongoing reviews. I have never tied anyone in to a minimum service period, although I always explain that you need to allow at least a year to show return on investment. Some people just want a six-month push to get them up and running, and that’s fine.

I saw various contracts of historical importance last week at the Churchill War Rooms. It’s a fantastic museum that I’d never heard of until last year; the underground bunker where the cabinet operated during the war. Hundreds of people lived and worked there, just metres below the city, in a capsule world that no-one else knew existed. Decisions were made, strategies were implemented and a small cat wandered the halls waiting for Churchill to tickle his tummy.

One exceptional airman that fought in the war that Churchill led is Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE.  I’ve written about this delightful man before (flying-in-a-spitfire-the-finest-banquet-in-london-and-ladies-in-not-many-clothes/) and was so pleased to see him again last week at a reception held at the Ministry of Defence. We were launching the 2018 Soldiering On Awards to recognise outstanding and inspirational members of the military family. Air Commodore Clarke has won one, as have many incredible people – and animals! (No cats yet, though.)

Aside from politics and military leadership, Churchill was a wonderful artist and writer.  One of his best quotes (in my opinion) is: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Charles Clarke was going through hell when he was shot down and captured by the enemy. He was one of the brave men portrayed in The Great Escape who battled his way to freedom. Another Churchill quote that’s appropriate for then and now is, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

It sure is. If you know of anyone who deserves recognition, please consider nominating them for one of these prestigious awards.  Nominations open shortly – you can check out the categories here.

Determined to find a military-themed song more cheerful than Billy don’t be a hero (which Sharon and I sang repeatedly throughout our childhood), I googled and this came up in Spinditty’s songs about soldiers and veterans: 8th of November by Big and Rich.  It’s the true story of Niles Harris, a 19-year-old boy from Deadwood, South Dakota, who hugged his mother goodbye as he left home for the army to fight in the Vietnam War. Just a few months later, on November 8, 1965, he encountered an epic battle in which 48 of his fellow soldiers died. Niles was injured, but fortunately survived.

The reason this touched me is that 8th November is my birthday! Touching. bizarre and more than a teeny bit creepy. Do you have a song about the day you were born? Even if you’re not a fan of country music, the video is worth watching. The lyrics aren’t overly cheerful, so I’ll simply quote… “Saw the eagle fly through a clear blue sky; 1965, the eighth of November.”

Creeped me out, but on the plus side there’s no excuse for you not wishing me happy birthday this year, haha! You can do that here: @WeekendWitch.

Networking fun, bargain books and grabbing a man where I shouldn’t (again!)

Having skipped most of my networking invitations over the past few months due to work commitments, holidays and funerals (my 101-year-old auntie!), I’m making up for lost time.

As you’ll know if you run a business, online social networking is brilliant for 101 reasons, but social media should be part of your wider marketing strategy. It’s also important to get out there in the real world and connect with people who you might like to do business with.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSo, in the past fortnight I’ve been to four events and met some fabulous people. Of course, Networking’s not just about making new contacts. It’s about building relationships with people you already know, learning more about each other so you can recommend potential clients and remembering names and faces so they spring to mind when someone asks if you know a good accountant, designer, event planner, lawyer – or social media management company!!

Wednesday night’s barbecue overlooking the Olympic Park, high on a hotel terrace with sizzling meats, delicious salad and an abundance of bite-sized cakes, is one of my favourite business events of the year. Run by the Newham Chamber of Commerce, which is far more dynamic than it sounds, it’s more of a party than a business event. I knew loads of people, met some more that I’m sure I’ll see again and was, as ever, greedy with the chocolate brownies.

This was the scene of (one of) my most embarrassing network fails. That night five years ago when my pink suede stiletto slipped cleanly through the gap in the decking, causing me to reach out as I tumbled forward…. grabbing the closest thing to hand in order to break my fall. I grabbed hard. And the closest thing was a man.  Or rather, part of a man. A rather red-faced man!! You can imagine what I grabbed…!!

This story was recounted several times during the evening, including by people who had actually witnessed it, proving that you definitely can attend a networking event and be memorable without even trying!!

Another lovely event was Andrew Segal’s lunch in Richmond. As the sun beamed down on the sparkling river outside, we listened to Royal artist-in-residence Jeremy Houghton  talk about his incredible artworks for clients including the Queen, Aston Martin and Wimbledon. I admire such talent, especially when it goes hand in hand with a warm and engaging personality. Andrew’s latest book, Beads of Blood, is available on Amazon – you can pick up your bargain copy this week for only 99p!

The thing with a lunch or formal dinner is that you get to know the people around you quite well, but must make an effort to chat to others sitting further away, either before you sit down or after coffee. At the Hofburg Palace in Vienna last week, I learned that 18th century dinner guests were only allowed to speak to the people sitting directly on either side of them. No shouting across the table, talking over someone else or hand waving in front of your neighbour’s face. Not that people generally do that at the lovely dinners I’m invited to. But imagine if you were stuck next to two incredibly boring people and simply not allowed to talk to anyone else! A good case for musical chairs.

…Which leads me nicely into Saturday night’s excellent Sing Song Club at my local pub – the Chequers. The event was quickly thrown together as a fundraiser for the tragic Grenfell Tower victims, so it was, in a way, sadly oxymoronic that we had such fun. The band played with karaoke-style wording displayed on a giant screen, but with the clever addition of chords, so musicians in the audience could join in while the rest of us shook home-made percussion instruments and much-loved tambourines. We sang, danced and drank large glasses of Pimms.

The song that immediately sprang to mind for today’s blog was Don’t look back in anger, as we all sang along to that quite rowdily on Saturday, with Sue commandeering the mic and walloping out a tune. But actually, the lyrics aren’t at all appropriate for the severity and nature of the tragedy, so – instead – I’m not quoting anything. I’m just sending love, sympathy and hope to the victims and their families. So much has already been said, there’s nothing new to say. Let’s simply raise a glass, Pimms or otherwise, to a stronger, safer, healthier future for this shocking world, and hope and pray for the positivity needed to get England out of these dark times and back on track.

Women in the spotlight, a medieval wedding and finding your business

I’ve been to my first Slovakian wedding this week, in a medieval castle that retains a Roman inscription in its cliff-face.  It was beautiful. The castle provided a perfect setting for the ‘ceremony of love’ – no religion, no officiality, no formality, just romantic poetry and friends giving readings about the couple’s life together.

I didn’t know them; I was a plus-one. I know them now, obviously, and met some other cool people, including a Bolivian musician and a guy who completed a triathlon in a banana hammock.  We were treated to photos and a full description…

Trencin Castle is a couple of hours’ drive from anywhere, so we flew into Vienna and spent two days exploring the Romanesque city before heading to Slovakia.  I loved Vienna – as you can imagine, not least for its abundance of tea houses with their chocolate delicacies, squelching apple strudel, chocolate mousses, squidgy plum strudel, chocolate tortes and squishy other things that I generally ignore in favour of chocolate.

As with any major city, we were accosted within ten minutes by a street vendor, offering tickets to a classical concert by the Mozart Orchestra in the Konzerthaus. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love most kinds of live music, and I like dressing up – although we went in summer clothes and did not wear the regency dress and traditional wigs of that period, unlike the performers who looked authentic and sounded wonderful.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIt’s such a stylish, decadent city, it was a pleasure just walking the streets or relaxing in the cafés watching the world go by. In the cultural quarter, we collapsed onto street beds – large lime-green coloured weatherproof loungers where we knocked back frozen yoghurt with fruits and chocolate sauce in between lunch and afternoon tea. These beds provided an eclectic contrast to the baroque architecture surrounding us, which didn’t matter as we closed our eyes in the sweltering sunshine.

The palaces we visited were elegance personified.  In the Schönbrunn Palace we muddled through the confusing family tree. I understand it better now that I’m back in London and googling… The men all blurred into one, so I focused on two of the women: Elizabeth, who became the wife of her first cousin, Emperor Franz Joseph I – an arranged marriage that took place when she was 16 and, while he adored her, she hated him. She spent her unhappy life in the spotlight, a beautiful woman travelling, socialising and dieting until being murdered on a trip to Geneva.  A sad story with many parallels to our own Diana.  Maria Theresa was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dynasty – a woman with 11 daughters, only one of whom was allowed to marry for love – just like the couple in Slovakia!

One of their 21st century wedding guests, who was also visiting Vienna, checked out the wedding party’s hotel address on Google, determinedly thumping the coordinates into his satnav despite his girlfriend commenting that it seemed to be a different address to the email confirmation. After two hours of driving in an apparently wrong direction, both believing this to be TomTom’s clever means of rerouting to bypass traffic jams, he ended up in a Slovakian field, 150 miles south west of his hoped-for destination!

The lessons here are: a.) if you run a business that relies on people finding you, it is imperative that your online address is as clear as the crystals suspended from the chandeliers at the Schönbrunn Palace. Head offices at a different location, warehouses, showrooms etc should be clearly defined so there can be no confusion.  Check your markers on Google’s mapping systems. And b.) sometimes it’s worth listening to your girlfriend.

It seems too obvious to quote Midge Ure’s lyrics, and anyway, that’s a depressing song, far removed from the bright, happy trip I’ve just had.  But it’s late and my brain is still in holiday mode… “The music is weaving. Haunting notes, pizzicato strings – the rhythm is calling.”  Rhythm was certainly calling all week, so that’s appropriate anyway. From the classical concert to the two amazing bands who played in that stunning location on a craggy cliff, halfway below the historic castle walls and above the ancient town.

We danced, we laughed, we drank various local nail-polish-removing-type brews. Now we’re back at work and I’m helping my clients to make sure their businesses are visible online in all the right places. If you’d like to be more easily found, give me a call, drop me an email or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Sad songs, happy days and so you win again

It’s always a pleasure to write a winning award application, as the clients I work with are awesome and I totally believe in the services they provide. So I can write from the heart, with passion and, of course, knowledge.

18485663_10208699780441789_90201385747404553_nNordens, the fabulous accountancy firm that I always recommend, won yet another gong this week: ICAEW’s Accountancy Firm of the Year (Essex). It’s the Chartered Institute of Accountants for England and Wales, so it’s a pretty big deal.  They’ve won it before, along with various other prestigious accolades, including the British Accountancy Awards Practice of the Year for London.

I joined the team for a black-tie dinner at Stock Brook Manor Country Club. There was no dancing, but a lot of champagne and surprisingly delicious pork belly – which I’ve always steered well clear of, but my son highly recommends – so I tried it, and now I’m a convert.

18556413_1460548417342827_1240640762771653331_nWe spent the following day on a trip to Ramsgate, a small Victorian seaside town in Kent. Another lovely meal followed our walk along the beach (with brollies). Again, there was no dancing, although I was one of the first up for the coach karaoke on the way back to London. Sharon and I have a long history of duets, so we sang a couple of ‘popular numbers’ together – not our usual repertoire of 1970’s cheerful hits: Billy, don’t be a hero and Seasons in the sun. (For some reason we always sang really sad songs about people dying!!?!)

Back at the office, Nordens have displayed their latest trophy along with their many other shiny, crystal awards. I don’t have an awards table in my own office. My recent CEO of the Year Award sits alongside my Inspirational Woman trophy on a bookcase filled with art books. My collection of social media and business books are nestled onto a shelf on another bookcase (you can get some of the them here) next to trusty dictionaries and thesauruses that were staple tools of my Plain English Business Writing before the Internet made everything available without the need to reach out even a glossily painted fingertip to grab a book.

IMG_0597The bookcases overlook a garden that’s disgracefully full of weeds. I’m slowly cultivating a beautiful outdoor space but it takes time. I’d really prefer a garden like the one I visited yesterday at Ayot St Lawrence’s Manor House. The Tudor property is my dream home, set in my dream garden – complete with azure pool (now I can swim!), tennis court (it’s been a long time), an orchard, vegetable gardens and the most exquisite displays of flowers all around.

When I got home I googled to find out who lives in such a glorious home.  Such a small world – the first people I spoke to about the garden said, “Oh yes, they’re our friends. They used to live next door!” Now, I’m not normally an envious person, and I don’t hashtag anything unless it’s in the appropriate place (Twitter, where relevant and useful, and Instagram, where expected) – however, just for today… #jealous.

This is the Terry Jacks song I was talking about earlier; please note that I didn’t choose the lyrics ‘too much wine and too much song’ even though they are probably more appropriate this week! “You gave me love and helped me find the sun., and every time that I was down you would always come around, and get my feet back on the ground.”

I can help you get your business feet on the ground, if that’s what you need – or I can help you spread your wings and fly. Without social media, who knows you’re there? (Are you there??) I’m here: @WeekendWitch.

 

Seasons in the sun: Writer: Brel, JR, Copyright: Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Carlin America Inc.