Thursday, 28 March 2013

Lucy Porter review

Mum's the word - a review of Lucy Porter at the Corn Exchange, Newbury

(This review appeared in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, 21st March)

Lucy Porter‘s friendly voice has been missing from her usual Radio 4 panel shows of late, so it was a real treat to see her in the flesh when she appeared at the Corn Exchange with her show People Person.

She explained her absence in recent months by explaining that she’d been pregnant twice in the same tax year – a phenomenon which is apparently known as “Irish twins” but is “nothing to do with Jedward”.

As all new mothers will know, those first months with a young baby can be lonely and isolating, so the first half of the show sets the scene about her need to find like-minded friends and to audition for new ones to replace those she’s lost. “In your thirties your friends just disappear. I don’t mean they die, they move to Birmingham, which is worse.”

The first half sees Porter talking about motherhood and she sets the scene by taking us right from her disastrous first date with her husband (not to push the Jedward joke, but who turns out to be fellow comedian Justin Edwards, who plays politician Ben Swain in The Thick of It), right through to their wedding, conception and the trauma of buying a Swedish pram.

In her laidback and chatty style, she then recounts how the befuddled new mum can easily be convinced that she should be taking her children out to a whirlwind of activities such as classical music performances for infants and baby salsa.

With motherhood often comes an overdose of daytime television and I always knew that too much of the BBC’s Dom Littlewood, whom Porter describes as a “Cockney Gollum”, would send people over the edge. Watching his programme about benefit scroungers prompted Porter to develop an unhealthy obsession with the Argos website reviews, before taking advice from pregnancy magazines to get out and be sociable, if not to become a “mumpreneur”, a neologism which made the whole Newbury audience wince.

There’s no ground-breaking comedy here and nothing is demanded from the audience, except perhaps to picture what might be meant by a “wizard’s sleeve”. However, Porter is a charming raconteur and gives such detailed background to her anecdotes and the characters therein that it is like chatting to a friend.
How fitting then, that the second half of her show turns to an actual incident where she encounters her ideal new best mate. Starting with a chance meeting in her local cafĂ©, where the two share a love of the same author and similar tastes in music, the episode has a twist that you’ll see coming but doesn’t dampen the impact.

All in all, it’s a feel-good evening about friendship, motherhood and according to the Argos website, “batteries being an excellent source of power.”

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

10 tips for making relationships with the press

I've had the pleasure of being asked by the West Berkshire Athena Network to talk to three of the district's groups on how to get your name featured in the press.

I thought I'd share my tips here. They may sound obvious, but they should help!

1. Get to know your trade publications and local press. Make sure you’re familiar with them and know their style. Buy your local paper and take five minutes to read it! You'd be surprised at how many people demand coverage and then don't even know if their story has gone in!

2. Find journalists from your target publications and interact with them on twitter.

3. Know the deadlines. Call your target publication taking care to avoid deadlines! Make sure you speak to the right person and ask them if they'd be interested in your story. Keep to the point as busy journalists are likely to ask you to email them something with all the relevant details.

4. Once you've written a press release (which should definitely not be more than two pages), run it by someone else to check as you’d be astonished by some of the mistakes that can creep in. Cough cough...I can do this for you....

5. It doesn’t just have to be press releases. You can respond to relevant news stories, write tip sheets, reply to the letters page, distribute your own regular newsletter, write a blog, announce things on Twitter.

6. Look out for journalists who are looking for case studies and experts perhaps on the newspaper’s twitter feed or specific forums. Reply swiftly, not a week later!

7. Adopt a charity.

8. Keep an eye out for those weird and wonderful “national days” that make a useful hook for your business.

9. Make sure everything you send is accompanied by a good quality photo.

10. Little and often. Don’t expect one release to change everything; keep going and ensure you get something published little and often.


Monday, 25 March 2013

West Berkshire - The Athena Network. Who you can hear in April.

West Berkshire businesswomen are invited to try out the Athena Network which has four meetings across the district every month.

Each meeting contains structured networking, lunch and a speaker on a business topic. This month’s topics include direct mail, personal image, power of positive thinking and social media.

The Newbury North meeting takes place at the Donnington Valley Hotel on Wednesday, April 10th with a talk from Claire Stevens of Keeps Printing who will be discussing direct mail as part of an integrated marketing campaign.

Lis Allen

The Hungerford meeting takes place at The Bear Hotel on Friday, April 12th where personal development coach Lis Allen, who recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, will be discussing a “mountaineering mindset for growing your business" and talking about her trip.

The Thatcham Athena Network is at the Regency Park Hotel on Tuesday, 16th April and will contain a talk on using social media to promote your business with Henna Hibberd of Berkshire Fitness and Wellbeing.

The Newbury South meeting will take place at the Hilton Newbury Central on Wednesday, 17th April and includes a talk from Victoria Lochhead of Newbury Image and Colour about Personal Image and how to “understand colour and improve your confidence.

Debbie Miles, regional director for the West Berkshire Athena Network, said: “We are always looking for new members to ensure our meetings remain vibrant, so if you’re a local businesswoman and want to try networking, please come to a meeting in April to see how collaborative networking works.”

All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm. For more information, contact Debbie Miles on 07891 503225 or


Monday, 11 March 2013

Elevator pitch

Have you ever opened up a newspaper or magazine to find an article about a new product or on a local businesswoman?

Did you think that you could have achieved the same sort of coverage if only you’d had the marketing spend, the time or the resources?

That’s where I can help.

I used to be a newspaper reporter so I now use my news sense, professional writing skills and heightened nosiness to get you into the press without paying for advertising.

I’ll sit down with you and we’ll discuss some of the things that might give good press coverage – perhaps it’s the 10th anniversary of your business, or one of your colleagues is running the marathon or you’re supporting a charity?

I then write you a release, you approve it and I send it to the relevant papers and websites and perhaps radio and TV. You can also use it on your blog, your newsletter or even your FB page!


A former nurse from Inkpen who set up a travel company almost by accident is celebrating the 15th successful year of her prestige Mauritius travel business.

Susie Freeman from Susie Freeman Travel is re-launching her website to coincide with the anniversary of setting up the business.

Back in 1998, the mother-of-two hit upon the idea of auctioning off a holiday complete with flights and five-star accommodation as top attraction in a fundraising ball, after enjoying family trips there herself.

The idea raised so much money that she realised that her talents might be better suited to organising bespoke trips to Mauritius. Her business has now expanded into the Seychelles and South Africa and she has royalty and celebrities alike on her client list.

To mark the anniversary of her launch and also 45 years of Mauritian independence in March, she has re-launched to include her latest destinations, special offers, news and mouth-watering photography.

She said: “In those 15 years, we’ve had thousands of very happy clients and we have built a reputation for our first-class service, attention to detail and VIP treatment.

“We know every hotel general manager on the island and visit a few times a year so that we can guarantee our guests the very best in quality. However, despite our high-profile client list and the desirability of Mauritius as a destination, it is far more affordable than most people realise. With the cold weather and wet days that have been the staple of our English summers recently, you may be interested to know that Mauritius represents great value for money. For example, a family of four travelling to one of our all-inclusive resorts would pay far less than they would if they spent their holiday in Europe.”

As well as having many friends on Mauritius, Susie has become a minor celebrity there in her own right. Not only does she contribute to the economy and raise the country’s profile in the UK, but she is a fervent supporter of the Diabetes Association in Mauritius and has donated £1 per passenger to this charity since 1998.

She even ran a half marathon there, raising a further £12,000 for the cause.
Susie is holding a Mauritius-themed champagne reception to celebrate her 15 years in business at Lielow swimwear boutique in Hungerford in May for her clients. Anyone who “likes” her Facebook page via the Susie Freeman Travel website between now and the end of March the opportunity to go into a prize draw for two tickets to the event where one of the attendees will win a five-night half-board stay at one of the best hotels in the world. The prize is accommodation only at the One&Only Le Saint Geran- Mauritius for a couple and is worth about £3,500.


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Monday, 4 March 2013

Newbury Image and Colour

The wonderful Victoria from Newbury Image and Colour took on possibly her most difficult assignment to date when she gave me a colour consultation and then took me shopping last week. If you've met me in real life, you'll know that "scruffy", "dishevelled" and "untidy" are all words that could be used to describe me.

I wrote the piece below for Victoria to put on her forthcoming website and thoroughly recommend that you give her a try. Apparently, women spend on average £80,000 on clothes, accessories and make up throughout their lives, so if you can save any of that by knowing your "rules" then it's going to be a massive time and money saver.

Unlike most women, I dislike being a slave to fashion and don’t like shopping for shoes and clothes.

I like to be green and haven’t got the cash to splash on clothes that I’ll wear once before they go out of fashion. Rather than shopping at boutiques, I’m more likely to find my clothes at charity shops and on eBay.

As a result, I’ve ended come up with an odd, mismatched wardrobe and have come to rely on wearing black shoes, black skirts, black dresses, you get the idea….

That’s why Victoria Lochhead has been an absolute saviour. She took a couple of hours to sit down with me and work out my “rules”.
Firstly, she did a colour consultation over coffee and worked out the colours that complement my natural colouring and bring out the best of my features. Apparently, I am a “winter” and suit colours such as grey, brown and black (I knew it!), but these can be contrasted with burgundies, pinks and blues.

She then worked out my proportions and “scale” to ascertain the best kind of materials, fabrics and patterns that I should stick to. It sounds so obvious, but it had never occurred to me before that as a substantial woman, I should avoid dainty fabrics and patterns that can get lost on me. A mental note was made to discard certain tops and skirts that were in my wardrobe!

Victoria was so gentle with me and so enlightening that I almost forgot that the fun bit was yet to come. After establishing a set of rules, she took me shopping!

Entering the shop, I made a beeline for a floaty, but garish 70s dress before remembering to apply my rules. I found a wrap dress in black and was heading to the changing rooms when Victoria appeared with an armful of fabulous things to try on – things that I would never have thought to pick – a long patterned dress, a striking electric blue dress and a gorgeously soft purple cardigan.

As I was trying things on, she appeared with more and more amazing clothes that I would have left on the rail for someone more elegant and confident than me. Everything she chose was fabulous and really made me feel and look better. Fortunately, we both had places to be in the afternoon, otherwise I could have stayed all day trying lovely clothes on!

I came home with a bagful of beautiful clothes which cost £50 – who hasn’t spent that on ONE item?!

The only problem I have now is deciding what to wear first. If Victoria can make me feel and look good, then she really can help anyone – move over Gok Wan!
Thanks Victoria!