Thursday, 28 February 2019

"And the winner is........"

Awards ceremonies seem to be the order of the day from autumn through to spring and as business owners, we can use awards as an ideal way for businesses to get wider recognition - even if you don't actually win.

Recently I helped represent Glide Media at the South West Tourism Awards, held at the Aerospace Bristol museum, sitting under the magnificent and beautiful Concorde 216. This regional event awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold awards to tourism businesses in a range of categories.

Attending the black tie evening event were the nominees of course, but there were plenty of additional non-tourism businesses also, either as award sponsors or because they provided services for the nominees.

There were over 100 awards in total given out over the evening, so that's around a hundred business that were being showcased to a few hundred attendees on the night, but then showcased again in the follow up PR after the event.

As a resident of Gloucestershire I was disappointed that there were so few Gloucestershire nominees, but I couldn't tell if it was because businesses had not entered or were judged not to be of award standard. I suspect the former as we have some brilliant tourism offers in Gloucestershire and the surrounding area.

However, it does highlight that if as a business you have the opportunity to enter for awards, you should. Certainly many awards are now self nominating, or if not you can ask your clients to nominate you. Then you are on your way to gaining more market exposure.

You need to choose carefully what awards you want to go for. Some schemes have a fee for participation, but there are plenty that do not charge. Perhaps start aiming for local or regional awards that are relevant to your line of work, then you can branch out nationally.

What else can you gain from awards? Attending the ceremony gives you a chance to network with like minded people, other businesses and suppliers - even perhaps some friendly rivalry with your competitors! Swap business cards, meet new people, showcase your business, then you can sit down, have a drink and listen to the compere.

But then you win. What happens next? For a start, in addition to any PR or media coverage the award event generates you can boost this with your own efforts. Update your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds. You can do this on the night with a smartphone, building tension with a "will we, won't we win" narrative. If you win, you get the scoop. If you don't win, never mind, tag and praise the winners in your posts. They will probably thank you online and then you will can get further mileage from your own social media post.

Usually awards come with some form of online badge which you can share through social media and put prominently on your website. These are the sort of things we marketeers really enjoy playing with and gaining as much mileage as possible for the lifetime of the award for our clients.

Remember, marketing is creating awareness of your products and services and their benefits. Awards recognise, quality, achievements or a Unique Selling Point (USP), and as they are run by a third party you can really ramp up the bragging rights on being nominated or winning, without worrying about being unduly modest.

So try entering for some awards. Hopefully you'll win as well as getting some great media exposure!

If you'd like help in marketing and promoting your business, why not drop Copper Phoenix a line ?

Friday, 1 February 2019

Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

Copper Phoenix is approaching its 10th anniversary and it was high time to update the website which had become a little unused and unloved due to long term contracts taking up my work time.

The fact I had long term contracts is no excuse to have a slightly dated website and it was with some quiet internal embarrassment I was advising clients that they needed to update their own websites, make sure they are mobile compliant and ideally have an HTTPS security certificate etc, when I knew I was not practising what I preached.

So, it was time to head back to my web designer Andrew Eberlin at Brighter Side for a revamp and after the always efficient and courteous service from Andrew, the new Copper Phoenix website is now launched.

Thinking back over the 10 years to when I first started my business made me realise how some technology has changed but that starting out in a new business venture will still require some basic tech savvy to get started and stay safe. Or if you don't think you know, you at least know who to ask about it.

Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know at start up:

Protect your data

This may seem obvious, but business owners may not think about it until they can no longer retrieve missing data. There’s not necessarily a fully running IT Department who can get you out of the fix. You will have invested your time and money in getting started so you need to protect your data from bugs, viruses and anyone else who may find your data useful to them.

The simplest way is to back your data up to the Cloud, so you can retrieve it should you need to on to alternative devices. This is best if your laptop or tablet go “bang” and you have to start with new equipment (or you forget to take it to that vital client meeting…). 

Make sure your devices are encrypted or password protected too, with a decent password that isn’t easily guessed, using upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.

Another option is to back up data to an external hard drive or memory sticks but that means the backup data is only available in one place, unlike the Cloud option.

Make sure your website is HTTPS

HTTPS websites are more secure, and will add an extra layer of security, especially if you are selling anything online. They are trusted by both search engines and customers, as more people recognise the additional security level in this post GDPR world.

Google prioritises HTTPS websites over the older HTTP websites in its search algorithms, so you may be missing out on SEO by not being HTTPS and therefore not being found by your prospective clients.

Your web developer will know more about this (and far more than me) so ask them how to get the best security for your important “window on the world”.

Be smart with your smartphone

As well as being a telephone our smartphones contain vast amounts of data. Sometimes your smartphone can double as your laptop for retrieving and sending information or even showing presentations.
Take steps to ensure this is protected with strong passwords and all apps that contain sensitive data are protected too.

Should your smartphone be lost or stolen make sure you have systems in place to manage the risk of data or personal information being lost. Mobile Device Management (MDM) software is available to help businesses manage the security of their mobile IT and business equipment.

Avoid public WiFi

Like many small businesses I have spent a lot of time in coffee shops in between meetings or when out and about, as they are great places to meet, network or get a sugar/caffeine hit. It is tempting to use the often free public WiFi for emails and other work related online activities but these networks are rarely secure, so be warned.

If you are sending/receiving any sensitive data then consider using your mobile phone tethered to your laptop to get a secure internet connection, even if it means using your mobile data.

Email – help a Nigerian prince smuggle his millions of dollars.

I think most of us will recognise this type of scam. The badly worded email, the amazing rewards for helping the “prince” out, most of us will be able to recognise this for what it is and avoid.

But some emails are craftier, some even seem to come from colleagues or suppliers with attachments.

Be careful. If you think you recognise an email by sender, just check the email address is the one you are expecting to see, check that their grammar/writing style is consistent with their usual emails and that messages are not too short and vague. These could be Impersonation emails and sent with ill intent.

If you have any doubts ring before opening or clicking on anything, especially when you are asked for money or to pay an urgent invoice. It may be that your supplier was rushing to catch a train and sent a disjointed email via their smartphone at speed, or it could be malware or ransomware.

In my first 10 years with Copper Phoenix I have been lucky in not having much go wrong with my IT; email possibly hacked once (changed password and upped security), laptop going pop before a presentation.

Get good understanding of the IT basics and good support from IT professionals - then you can concentrate on running and growing your business.

If you would like some help in marketing or promotion then have a look at Our Services to see how we can help you.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Why The Old Ones Are The Best

Recently I entrusted my life to a piece of 80 year old technology. I was given a flight (and did some flying!) complete with an open cockpit (see above picture) in a WW2 era biplane trainer, a Tiger Moth.
This was a boyhood dream come true, but as I gingerly shuffled up the wing so as not to put my feet through it, then climbed into the open cockpit and looked at the canvas sides, big control stick, wooden handled throttle control, exposed wires and metal, it was a bit of a shock to see how very basic it all was. State of the art in the early 1930's, but not at all 21st century.
We had to have someone swing the propeller to start up and as we taxied to the runway, because the 'plane was a "tail dragger" i.e. a wheel on the tail so the nose of the aircraft pointed up to the sky, we had to weave from side to side so the pilot sitting behind me could have a vague idea where we were going and if anything might be in the way. It seemed ungainly, impractical and potentially dangerous. 
We rolled onto a tiny grass strip to the modern tarmac and awaited permission to take off (a radio and intercom being the only modern concessions to the 'plane), as there were helicopters doing circuits of the airfield. These fast flying manoeuvrable machines only emphasised our tiny biplane's ancient origins.
Then, we were given clearance to take off, the throttle opened up and smoothly and without drama we were airborne and climbing. Wow! The little 'plane was suddenly in its element.
The next 30 mins saw me taking control (under supervision), experiencing a loop the loop and a "Victory Roll". Despite the small size, it's apparent fragility and obvious antiquity I felt far safer in the old trainer than I do in modern jet airliners (even while I was upside down hanging on my seat straps).
Later, on the ground, while reliving it all, the experience got me thinking about redundant technology. Obviously aircraft design has developed very quickly - only ten years after the Tiger Moth had been launched the first jet plane was taking off. But here was a basic, functional design that was created in 1932, and had not needed to be improved upon since for the job in hand, as evidenced by the number of Tiger Moths still in use as trainers, still doing aerobatics and still teaching pupils to fly. How many other pieces of technology do we use regularly that are that old and that useful?
Much as I love heritage and history, I'm a big, big fan of technology. I love digital marketing and the reach, communication, statistics and sheer possibilities that it provides. I am also aware that in some markets there are people becoming digitally excluded through the propagation of new communications and marketing methods, who view modern technology with mistrust, a lack of understanding or fear.
Has the way we do things changed that much? We still use traditional marketing methods don't we? We still use print, posters and flyers at times but perhaps we underestimate the benefits of these traditional methods more than we realise. For example I was reading a comment from someone on Facebook (quoted below), thanking his housing association for sending communications material in hard copies to him:
Nice, also, that I received my copy (like the Quarterly Magazine) in 'real' (hardcopy) form, in a nice white envelope through me letterbox. One can keep such things on one's coffee- table, for awhile, to browse through etc etc, without having to 'fiffle- faffle' with one's PC. ie: It is a more 'occasional' way to absorb. info.... just as effective as having to 'focus' on a PC screen, which can get tiring to the eyes after awhile...
It's interesting reading. I have no idea of the age of the author, but despite what he says about hard copy, it is noteworthy that his "thanks" were still communicated digitally through social media. But that sort of proves that traditional and modern can live side by side doesn't it?
While we're rushing to expand our digital marketing, our apps and converting customers to online engagement, it is always worth evaluating your target market and stopping to ask what is the best form of communication for a particular audience?
Will I use modern aircraft in the future after my bi-plane flight? Of course, I'll have to. I can't travel great distances in an 80 year old aircraft, I have no protection from the elements, there's no luggage capacity, the ratio of pilot to passenger is impractical and it would have been a little chilly if I'd not been wearing specific flying clothing. But it did do the job it was designed for; it also made me happy and appreciate that what is now old, or what has been superceded, does not necessarily make it redundant or pointless.
So in future, planning communications strategies and deciding on the methods of delivery to your target audiences, just remember that sometimes, like the Tiger Moth, the old ones are the best.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Keeping Albert Happy

Recently my wife and I went to a tourist attraction in Hampshire. We were looking forward to it, it was a quiet day and all was well with the world. 
Then at the ticket office we bumped into Albert and his parents. Now Albert is not his real name, we will protect the innocent here, but he was a young lad, probably about eight years old and an only child. The member of staff on admissions said he'd enjoy the museum  as there were pirates in there, to which Albert looked interested and his parents immediately gave great exaggerated whoops and bending into his face said "How exciting Albert, pirates!"; they also took the child activity trail they were offered.
Now, from experience museum trails can vary considerably in quality and interest but as we had no view of this one we were not going to judge. But Albert was not looking very exited at the prospect of filling in an activity sheet with his amazingly enthusiastic and constantly whooping parents who seemed to think it was essential that each whoop and exclamation of some new found fact should be communicated to Albert, even though he was quite a considerable way away at the other end of the room. It was also part of the enthusiastic whooping that the parents should make every effort to catch our eyes (the only other people in the room) to ensure that they were seen to be educating their child. 
For Jo and I this became excruciating, intrusive and very annoying as we tried to read and take in the information panels. We are all for young children coming to museums, it has been strongly encouraged in our families, but all we could hear were comments such as "Albert! Albert! Come and find three different types of wood!". At this particular point Albert was quite engrossed with a model of a ship and obviously wanted to know more about that with his pointing and asking, rather than looking for three different bits of wood but to no avail - the activity sheet had to be completed.
And so it continued to the point that Jo and I made the decision that this parental noise cloud following us around was too much, so we left the museum to come back later. We spent the next hour plotting a course around the attraction maintaining the maximum distance from Albert's parents.
Because actually it was the parents and not the child causing the problem. It was them not understanding their child's interests and natural discovery of exhibits that was causing the issue, by trying to force him to learn in the way a museum's kids trail had decided. They wanted him to do the children's trail whereas he obviously wanted to find out things in his own way. He was interested in the models and dioramas and his parents would have been better off looking at these with him instead of trying to answer all the questions on an A4 piece of paper.
Many "Children's' Trails" I have experienced are actually quite poor and only designed probably to say there is something to do for children rather than being designed for children. Albert may have been a problem child or just wilful but the parents were not allowing him to find his own level of interest and were spending a great deal of (loud) energy bending him to the fact that the approach they had adopted was the only way to do it (and making sure all around them were seeing that they were "good parents" in doing so).
What can those of us working in Heritage and Tourism learn from this? 
Firstly, try your children's' trail on some real children to see if they find it engaging. Don't make the assumption that what you find interesting or what the message of the museum is will appeal to an ordinary young visitor.
Secondly, adult exhibits and interpretation can stimulate the interest of children, but it is probably better to add in a layer of simpler interpretation for younger visitors to engage with rather than filling in a separate piece of paper that smacks more of school learning than holidays.
Not all child activity trails are poor, but many seem to miss the mark.
We last saw Albert slowly walking back to the car park with two slightly deflated and silent parents. They had given up on the trip. We were glad that our visit was now more peaceful but couldn't help having a little sympathy for Albert, whose growing interest in some exhibits had not been noticed and no doubt he would be going through very similar defined learning exercises again in the future. 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Are We Getting Rid of our Traditional Christmas?

I started back to work this week and already the decorations have come down in the workspace. I see that many of the houses I've been driving past over the festive period have removed their decorations, the Christmas street lights are turned off and many friends are posting on Facebook how they've packed all the Christmas "stuff" up and it's back in the loft, as they are fed up with them.


What has happened to celebrating Christmas until Twelfth Night? This is (depending which calendar you follow and perhaps subject to another Blog) either the 5th or 6th December. That is this weekend so if we're really celebrating Christmas we should be doing so until the end of the Festive Period (the clue is in the description?).

We happily sing or listen to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which features many varied presents  none actually requiring batteries either, but how many of us are actually aware that this was how we celebrated Christmastime, over a period of some days?

I'm sad that many of our festivals are being diluted, becoming overblown or just forgotten.

For example:

Mothering Sunday has become Mother's Day, presumably to bring it in line with Father's Day, that appeared from the USA

Hallowe'en (please note the correct spelling!) has become Americanised and now is seemingly developing its own season, even though we celebrated it first in England!

Bonfire Night has become Fireworks Night (with many people increasingly not celebrating it on the night itself) and the significance of the Bonfire is being lost.

Father Christmas has become Santa Claus - another push from over the Pond.

(I won't even start on "Train Station" seemingly now replacing "Railway Station...)

I believe tradition is important and we should keep traditions going as a continuance of National Heritage and identity: of course some elements will change and I'm not against that, but we are now becoming more commercially driven rather than changing the celebration itself. I was saddened but not surprised to see the Easter Eggs appearing in Tesco before New Year's Eve - only about four months early.

So as to people getting tired of their Christmas decorations and taking them down early, may I suggest a tip?

Stick with tradition and put them up on Christmas Eve - or if that's too much, just don't put them up so early!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Big Pit Winding House

Big Pit Winding House
Originally uploaded by CopperPhoenix

I spent a very enjoyable Saturday following a heritage trail walk in and around Blaenavon.
Well worth a visit, worth stopping in at the World heritage Centre first to understand the historic impact Blaenavon had on iron production around the World.


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