British Liver Trust’s Fine Art auction fundraiser at Ringwood Meeting House

Hampshire based charity the British Liver Trust is looking to raise vital funds during its Fine Art auction at the Meeting House in Ringwood on April 16.

The “Love Your Liver” campaign will have pictures and paintings from local people which reflect Ringwood Town and its surroundings available for the highest bidder.

People keen to get involved are asked to donate their pictures, paintings and drawings, or those from a local artist. All work will be fully credited and catalogued.

The charity, which is run by volunteers, supports people of all ages suffering from a wide range of liver problems and offers advice on how to have a healthy lifestyle.

John Challenor, of the Ringwood Support Group for the Trust, said: “I was lucky I had a liver transplant and am keen to give something back by supporting the charity to help others in need.

“The Trust does excellent work but needs assistance to ensure it continues to help people who suffer from various liver conditions.

“We hope people will donate any of their pictures or paintings and come out and support the Fine Art auction, which promises to be an exciting day, with all profits going to the charity,” he added.

For more information email: john.ringwood2@gmail.com

Best ways to deal with a bad online review

The best way to deal with a bad online review, as I’m sure you already know, does not involve getting into a public slanging match.

More than likely you are angry or hurt at receiving such feedback but taking the emotion out of the situation and keeping things in perspective is the path you should look to take.

Perhaps a customer didn’t get as good a service as normal or a minor mistake has been overplayed. In any case you feel the review is unfair, wrong and even defamatory.

So what to do about it? Here’s a few tips on what to do with a bad website review.

Keep calm

In life there will always be someone who will complain, someone you can’t please or someone who will go out of their way to try and cause mischief. And one or two negative reviews when you have other perfectly good reviews are not going to ruin your business, whatever you think. Even the best of restaurants and hotels, for example, will have less than favourable reviews from time to time but it doesn’t stop people repeatedly using them.

If you suspect it is a fake review rather than a genuine customer with a grievance then by all means contact the review website it is hosted on who should be able to confirm whether it is a genuine review or not. If not, then you might be able to get it removed.

Also check the guidelines of the review website as if someone has named you or identified you or shown sexist or racist language, the review might be removed because of that. So your first stop is to see if the review meets the guidelines on the review website.

If someone has a genuine complaint you might want to fire back straightaway to defend your reputation but it is best to cool down and take stock. Often most negative content is quickly forgotten about and as time goes on will be extremely hard for anyone other than the most determined searcher to find.

If you do respond

If you feel you are left with no option but to respond then keep it short and simple and do not use emotional language. Avoid being defensive or making accusations and try and be as open and honest as possible.

Anyone can make a mistake or fall below their standards on occasions so don’t be afraid to admit it and apologise. If you feel the reviewer is wrong, say there has clearly been a misunderstanding and say you would welcome the chance to make amends. Adopt a friendly and helpful tone and avoid heavy corporate speak.

Avoid referring to the issue on your own website as this will only highlight a customer’s attention to the negative information. In reality many potential customers don’t check out the companies they buy from so it is unlikely clients will even be aware of the negative feedback.

Never ask someone to take down their review

Resist the urge to ask or influence someone in to taking down their review as this could well backfire. Instead, deal with the problem in a helpful and positive manner, which will instead put you in a favourable light and may even lead to the person to taking down the review.

Focus on building a positive online profile

It is best to concentrate on creating positive information about you on the internet which in turn will help burying any bad reviews. For example, you can ask happy customers to write a good review which will help will push the negative review lower down in a search so it is less noticeable.

Avoid getting into rows on social media

If someone makes a negative comment it is best not to engage publicly. Responding in such a way will only serve to highlight the initial complaint. Otherwise, see if you can privately message that person where you may want to suggest a time to call – making sure you maintain the calm and helpful approach advised above. Remember that anything written down can become public so be careful what you write.

Richard Branson – effective to do lists

I have always been a great believer in making lists – but now here it is from the King of entrepreneurs – Richard Branson. This was taken from a tweet at the beginning of the year.

Here are 10 simple steps for making a list that you will be able to stick to:

1.   Write down every single idea you have. No idea is too small, and no idea is too big either.

2.   Always carry a notebook. You need somewhere to write your ideas down, and while using a folder
on your phone is better than nothing, a piece of paper is far more memorable.

3.   Find a list method that works for you. Doodles, bullet-points, charts what suits you best? I I find a           combination of short phrases and scribbled pictures works best for me.

4.   Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day. Cut your day up into chunks, and you’ll get lots more done.

5.   Mark off every completed task. There are few more satisfying things than ticking off a job well done.

6.    Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working. There’s no point setting targets if you don’t know if you are hitting them.

7.   Set far off, outlandish goals. Resolutions shouldn’t just have short-term endpoints. What do youw want to have achieved in five years’ time? How about 50 years?

8.    Include personal goals in your lists, not just business. There’s no real separation between work and life, it’s all just living. The same goes for lists.

9.    Share your goals with others. You can help motivate each other further and hold each other to account. But remember that, in the end, you are doing this for yourself.

10.  Celebrate your successes then make new lists of new goals. The cycle should continue as you make more and more progress. I have boxes and boxes of old notes, filled with old lists, and I’m busy making more.

So there it is – Richard Branson – his tips on making effective to do lists.

Writing the best blog posts for Google

Writing the best blog posts for Google is perhaps far easier than you may think.

If readers enjoy your blog posts then so too will Google, which frowns upon keyword stuffing and other techniques designed merely to manipulate the system to drive as much traffic as possible to a site.

Your best bet, therefore, is to focus on your readers and produce posts that are useful to them, while being easily understandable. Include keywords in the title while making sure this best sums up the article. Now is not the time to be mysterious.

After you’ve made sure you’ve include your main search terms in the title always keep in mind who you are writing for in the context of your article – your customers. Your blogs are a chance to explain things to your readers.

You have contact with your customers every day, so you know the areas they may need help with or that interests them. Your customers are unlikely to be the only people who have questions about those things, which means you’re adding value to potential customers too.

Remember, if you can inform or entertain your reader in a blog post, they’re far more likely to share it through their social media accounts. That means more readers and more links to your blog.

The best policy is to write naturally about your subject matter and, if you’re doing that properly, you should find yourself using relevant keywords along the way rather than obsessing about stuffing in as many as possible because you think Google will like it.

It’s worth remembering that blogging is a long term game so don’t expect instant results. You could be up against sites that have been blogging for years.

Keep writing fresh, engaging content and you’ll start to see the results in time with growing numbers of people coming to your site.

But don’t underestimate the value of your blog in the short-term either, with it providing your customers – and potential customers – with useful content that will help build trust and ensure they carry on using you; or convince them to use you.

If you require further information on how we can help you keep your web content fresh and up to date then give us a call on 07990 634192 or email us on steven@groves-associates.co.uk

Crohn’s disease survivor Jasmine Stacey launches lingerie range

Crohn’s disease survivor Jasmine Stacey wanted publicity to mark the launch of her new lingerie range. But despite her best efforts she had been unable to get any media exposure. After reviewing her press release we made some changes and were able to secure her the coverage she was after.

Here’s the press release:

Crohn’s disease survivor Jasmine Stacey has launched a new luxury lingerie that allows women with stoma bags to feel sexy again.

The 24-year-old, who had an operation to remove part of her intestine in 2011 to keep her alive, says she was inspired to come up with her stylish brand after discovering there was little choice of seductive garments for women in her position.

Determined to help others like herself and show you can still be beautiful despite undergoing the life changing procedure, Jasmine believes her items will boost the self-confidence of those who wear it.

Jasmine, of Bournemouth, has suffered with Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, for 14 years. Surgery left her needing an ileostomy bag to move waste out of the body because her colon was unable to function properly.

While having to come to terms with her ordeal was hard enough, her situation was compounded by the reality that she could no longer wear attractive underwear.

“I was 20 when I had the operation and missed the lingerie I used to have before surgery,” Jasmine said. “After looking around I realised that there was nothing similar and decided to create my own collection after gaining my London fashion accreditation.

“I want to take the stigma away from having a stoma bag and prove you can still be sexy with underwear.

“I want to get the message out there that it is not as bad as people think and that young people have stoma bags as well as old people.”

She added: “We hope our underwear is stylish without being flimsy and empowers women to feel confident whether they have stoma bags, scars, or simply want more stomach control. The lingerie is designed for all types of women in mind.”

Awareness of Crohn’s disease was recently raised in the national press when a group of 11 sufferers, including Jasmine, appeared in a raunchy photo shoot wearing underwear showing off their stoma bags for charity Purple Wings, which supports bowel disease.

The roaring success of the campaign has reaffirmed that the pouches, similar to colostomy bags, are no obstacle to being beautiful.

Jasmine’s lingerie, created from the finest British silk, takes inspiration from current catwalk trends with its ultra­feminine and daring identity.

Jasmine Stacey Collection will be on offer at the upcoming trade market The Lingerie Edit at the Savoy Hotel in London in January, which will be attended by many leading stores and boutiques.

Response to press release

This above press release by Groves & Associates resulted in widespread coverage both nationally and internationally that saw sales for Jasmine Stacey Collection massively boosted.

Here’s some of the publications it appeared in:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3275562/Nurse-Crohn-s-disease-unveils-range-lingerie-high-waisted-pants-make-women-stoma-bags-feel-sexy-again.html

http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/16/this-young-crohns-sufferer-has-designed-a-range-of-luxury-lingerie-to-help-women-like-her-feel-sexy-5443746/

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/fashion-beauty/470956/What-is-Crohns-disease-woman-designs-sexy-underwear-sufferers

What to write about on your website

Write about things that matter to your business

Your business is probably operating in a niche. For instance, we operate in business process and media support so blog posts tend to focus on these areas.

Whatever it is your business does, your blog should focus on that by providing content that will stimulate your readers.

Believe it or not but there is plenty to write about on your site ranging from company and industry news to customer reviews, for example.

But as well as this, thinking about what your customers want to know will give you a good base to begin. So, for example, what are the 10 questions you’re most commonly asked by potential customers? Make a list of those and you’ll probably find you’ve got a list of 10 potential blog post titles.

You know from experience that the answers to those questions are valuable to your customers, so a post that covers any of those topics is likely to make for interesting reading.

Use your social network

Social media sites are a great way to bring more people to your blog. It’s important to promote anything you’ve written via your social network accounts.

If you’ve already built up a social media following, you can assume that those people will be interested in your blog posts and might even share them with their own networks.

If you’re a bit behind the social media curve, regular links to well-written, interesting blog posts will help to attract a following.

Show you’re an expert

I don’t mean to the extent that you start patting yourself on the back, but simply by covering the subject matter in your field you can demonstrate your expertise in the area.

Your blog might reassure potential customers that you’re the person they want to work with, or even result in you being considered a trusted voice in your industry.

Write for other people’s blogs

Offer to write guest blog posts for websites that you think will be read by potential customers (excluding your competitors’ websites, of course).

This is a great way to draw attention to your own blog and demonstrate your expertise to a wide audience.

Finish with a call-to-action

At the end of the blog post, tell your reader what they need to do next. Should they be leaving a comment with their views on the subject matter?

Perhaps your want them to sign-up to your mailing list to receive future blog posts by email. Or maybe they need to contact you right away.

Where we come in

We are in a position to undertake these varied tasks for your business where necessary, as you probably don’t have the time to spend on this. You may give us a brief or we may recommend blog ideas before carrying out research and interviews.

Taking the journalist approach, we may seek to write up copy in a news format by, for example, speaking to the Managing Director or an employee of an organisation on any given company or industry event, therefore adding to the professional nature of the article.

Or we can simply write up the post on behalf of the company in standard blog form. Either way, we make sure you are happy with what is written.

The same approach could be adopted with satisfied customers by telling their story and, therefore, selling the benefits of your service or product on your website.

Effective time management & customer service

Today I would like to have a moan about a particularly annoying habit, linked to an event, which is irritating me so much I feel like I am losing the will to live.

It is something which I am sure you will have experienced at some point too.

So what has got my goat? Well the route of my annoyance, when I examine it in an objective sort of way as much as I can, given my outrage, is that my time is not seen as valuable as the person I am trying to contact.

Alternatively it could be the lack of time management skills these people must have. After all, what is the point of saying you will do something when perhaps realistically you have not got the time to do it.

Let me give you a bit of background. For the last week, within a busy schedule I have been seeking advice from a professional body. The advice I require is urgent and important and I am paying for it. They are well aware of the urgency from my initial enquiry by email and the many subsequent telephone conversations I have had with a Very Helpful PA. (Who must be inwardly groaning when she hears it is me on the phone again!)

Initially my request for advice was met with a very positive and efficient response. “If I don’t speak to you Monday, we will talk Tuesday”.

Because I wanted to ensure I was able to have a pen and paper to hand when I received this important telephone call I telephoned The Very Helpful PA who gave me a heads up as to when this was likely to be.

No telephone calls were forthcoming on Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday morning I telephoned again. “He” will call you in the next hour or so I was assured. No telephone call. Annoyingly I had waited in especially and changed my own work schedule to make sure I was not on the phone myself.

Early Wednesday afternoon I called again. The Very Helpful PA said I will speak to him at once and get back to you. As promised she returned my call five minutes later to inform me that “He” who had promised to speak to me Monday or Tuesday was too busy, but the information had now been passed to “A Lady” who would call me either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.

It is now coming up to 3pm on Thursday, still no telephone call despite another rather mutually apologetic call to the Very Helpful PA. a little earlier.

The thing is, not only has my time been wasted, but so has the very helpful PA’s time.

OK, so “He” and “The Lady” are very busy people. I can understand that. I am busy too. But in an age when we can communicate by phone and email 24/7, would it not have been good etiquette to have got back to me in some form, or at least send me a holding message.

The result of all this is that I am feeling under pressure and as a result quite stressed. Worse than that – I have not got back to the people who are waiting on me to make a decision, based on the advice I have been waiting for. So a bottle neck has been created.

Managing your own time is not just about you – it’s about the people around you whether it is in the workplace or home. It is really important to build in slack, and not set unrealistic deadlines, which is what effective time management is all about.

And right now I am guessing that there are three people who may feel under pressure, on the time management front, the very helpful “PA”, “He” and “The Lady” who has now been passed my information.

Even that doesn’t make me feel better though. Maybe it isn’t their time management skills which are in question perhaps they just don’t care. After all they may just think their time is more valuable than mine.

And guess what I won’t ever be using this company again! And I certainly won’t be recommending them to anyone else!

This is an important reminder for me, that time management is not just about my own time management it is about respecting other people’s time too.

 

Always seem to be running late

If you find yourself constantly playing catch-up, running late, or generally find life is running you and you are not running your life – then  STOP catch your breath and take control.

There are some very simple steps you need to take – and one very important rule you need to adhere to. “Invoke the rule of self-discipline”

You also need to recognise that if you “do what you have always done – then you will get what you always have”. I know it sounds corny – but it is so true.

One essential ingredient to taking control of your time is to get in the habit of forward planning. This is where the self-discipline comes in.

I can hear you inwardly groaning “I have not got time to think about tomorrow – I am too busy thinking and sorting out today.” Well getting into the habit of taking a few minutes each day thinking about what (you know), you will be doing in the next few day will help with all the stuff that comes along you don’t know about.  And the self -discipline to do it each day no matter what, will help you not just save time but help you recognise where your time pressure points are. You can then adapt, reschedule or prepare.

Forward planning is just a habit – the five minutes you spend writing lists or getting organised for tomorrow can save heaps of time in the long run as well much unwanted stress. It is just a question of taking time out of today to take a look at what is coming over the horizon tomorrow.

Don’t procrastinate! Don’t wait until you are falling asleep tonight to plan tomorrow. Do as much planning as you can the evening or day before.

It may not be your entire life solution, but it will definitely help when you are under pressure.  You will be more prepared, in control of events and less stressed (and probably less irritable with those around you).

Here are some very simple examples of forward planning.

Have you checked the following – as these are just the sort of simple things can create a difficult start to a day:

  • Have you got cash for a car park/train/ bus
  • Is there fuel in the car
  • Do you know what you plan to wear tomorrow?
  • Do you know where the house keys / car keys are(my own nemesis)
  • Prepared for all the next day meetings / events

If you are still struggling with time keeping ask yourself

  • What can you do differently
  • What are the flash points
  • Get buy-in from the family or co-workers so you all manage your time better

Try some of these time management tips

Adopt a tight and consistent schedule. Routines will soon become second nature and you will do them without a second thought.

  • Have a clock in every room.
  • Set the clocks a few minutes fast.
  • In your diary mark your appointments a few minutes early
  • Set your mobile for 15 minute/ 30 minute intervals to keep you on schedule.

Remember

  • Build slack and travel time into your schedule
  • Be realistic about timings or what you can achieve in any given amounts of time>

 

How to make your own luck

There is no such thing as luck.  Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.

I heard that quote a very long time ago.  At the time it really struck a chord with me – which is why I am sure I remembered the words.

I found it very empowering.  To me, it meant that I could be the destiny of my own good fortune. I did not have to wait for my fairy godmother to appear and grant my wishes. I could make them happen myself by making sure I was prepared – and ready to grab the opportunities life presented to me when they appeared unannounced and without warning.

Of course some people do seem to be born lucky, or are in the right place at the right time …..or are they?

When you investigate a little further you will nearly always find that these people were in the right place because they saw that potentially there was or is  an opportunity and they did whatever they needed to do to be in the “right place”.

Now when I am talking lucky, I could be talking about absolutely anything.  But in actual fact most of the time when you examine those “lucky” people, stuff has not just happened to them, it has come about often with planning, hard-work and focus on their end goal.

They may also keep going when others face an obstacle which stops them getting to where they want to be.

A small successful business man said to me recently – that he was often told how lucky he was to have such a successful business in the current climate.  His  comment was “I find the harder I work the luckier I am”.

Remember you really can make your own luck in life. It may not be easy – it may not happen overnight.  Just remember. There is no such thing as luck.  Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.

The ten minute time saving rule

This little time saving tip can really help you make the most of your time even when you think you don’t have any free time.

How much can you do in ten minutes.  You might be surprised at how many little jobs take less than ten minutes.I ask this question because in my own quest to save time and increase productivity it is something that I have observed. People who seem to be good with managing their time use the “ten minute rule”, whether they know it or not.

If you are wondering what the ten minute rule is – it is very simple.  What can you do in ten minutes in “hanging about time”.  Now even the most busy of us have these moments of dead time when we are waiting for something or someone.  It might be at home when you are waiting for the dinner to finish cooking, or waiting for a train, bus – or insert your own hanging about time issue here.

In fact this hanging about time can be very frustrating, tapping your fingers waiting for that watched clock and deliberating about how everything takes longer than it should maybe true – but is not a good time management strategy.

So getting in the habit of using these few spare minutes to complete the odd small job can really increase your own personal efficiency. Making a phone call, a little bit of filing, reading through a report, or paying a bill. All of these tasks can be completed in ten minutes.

There is just one important caveat I ought to mention about the ten minute rule.  You  must make sure  that you complete the job within the ten minutes.

If you don’t then the ten minute rule will turn into a pumpkin in Cinderella terms. The ten minute rule will work against you not for you.  Instead of completing more tasks you will end up  probably chasing your tail the rest of the day as you will be running behind schedule.

But caveat aside, the next time you are hanging around waiting for something or someone, instead of getting frustrated, think the ten minute rule and see what little jobs you can do to strike off your To Do List.