Monday, 28 September 2015

Brebis fundraiser for West Berkshire Mencap

It's always nice to write about fundraising events even when there are lots of photos of gorgeous food that has long since been eaten by the time the photos arrive. Many thanks to the NWN for using this one which actually raised more than it says in the piece as a lot more came in after it went to print.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Experts on contingency planning, direct mail and ‘challenging’ clients will impart their advice to West Berkshire businesswomen at The Athena Network this month.

At the Hungerford meeting on Friday October 9th at Audley Inglewood, Alison Hesketh of Time Finders will be talking about contingency planning for business and your life, sharing advice on planning ahead.
Additionally, the Athena Network regional director Debbie Miles will be discussing seven ways to create a positive impression.

On Tuesday October 20th at the Regency Park Hotel, the Thatcham group will hear Liz Cox of Signature Interiors speak about challenging clients and unsatisfactory suppliers giving advice and guidance on how to turn a difficult situation to your advantage. Toni Kent of TK Copywriting will be discussing how to be remembered after a networking event.

On Wednesday October 21st at Donnington Valley Golf Club, the Newbury group’s speaker will be Claire Stevens of Keeps Printing talking about building a successful direct mail campaign in seven easy steps. Debbie Miles will discuss the language people use in their marketing.

Additionally, there is a Cappuccino Connections event on Friday, 23rd October at Strada from 10am to 12pm in Newbury Marketplace where Sarah Gardner of ATE Ghana will be illustrating how she grew the seed of an idea to a fully-fledged venture. This is free for members and £5 for other businesswomen.

All Athena meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm and must be booked via regional director Debbie Miles on

Job announcements

Sometimes when you're running a business, you don't think you have anything interesting to say, but an appointment press release can be a nice bit of news for the industry and possibly local press. We just received this nice bit of coverage in a business magazine:

Some things to think about when putting together a release like this:

1. Think about the "so what?" Why would a newspaper run a story about this? Is it a well-known business? Will this appointment mean a new direction for the company? While this is news for your company, is it of interest to anyone else? Don't just write it and expect it to be printed.

2. Don't write reams and reams. One side of A4 is more than enough to explain everything unless it's a household name and true industry leader.

2. Always send an up-to-date photo. If it contains a logo, ensure it's the right one! I once was asked to send a headshot out for someone from their former job with their old branding!

3. Don't use company jargon - it doesn't mean anything to anyone outside your industry.

4. Don't send too many of these at the same time - it could send out the message that there's lots of staff turnover at your business.

5. Include a quote about what their plans are. Make it realistic - there's nothing worse than reading a quote which doesn't sound at all like the person quoted!

6. Explain what their appointment means for the customer. If the appointment makes no discernible difference to your customer, it might be one to send internally.

7. Think about who this person is replacing and whether you should mention them. If they're retiring, they might like to include a quote to wish their replacement well. If the previous incumbent is leaving under a cloud, then you might want to think about the politics of sending out a release.

8. You might want to wait until your appointment has passed their probation or until you're satisfied they're going to stay on. I was once asked to send out an appointment release and by the time it hit the newsstands, the person involved was working for the competition!

Good luck!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Leadership with The Living Leader

This month’s Newbury Business News contains our interview with the utterly inspiring Penny Ferguson of the Living Leader.

Over the last 20 years inspirational Penny Ferguson has helped to transform the lives of nearly 50,000 people with her world-famous Personal Leadership Programme.

Penny, who lives in Newbury, is a familiar figure to many corporates and has written two bestsellers on leadership - The Living Leader and 52 Brilliant Ideas – How to Transform your Life. She and her team of eight now deliver training programmes via the Living Leader from their base at Greenham Business Park, Newbury, to big companies, colleges and other organisations across the globe. And now, with the help of her daughter Emma, Penny also wants to influence young people to take responsibility and create better lives for themselves.

But things haven’t always been easy for 72-year-old Penny who has had to overcome a series of intensely traumatic experiences. Prior to a life-changing decision one day in 1995 to change her way of thinking, Penny led a life that wouldn’t have been out of place in a TV soap. Her own mother abandoned her when she was a four-month-old baby, and Penny was sent to boarding school at an early age where she was bullied. She was later raped at the age of 18 and then married three times with six children by the age of 30. Left penniless by three divorces, she decided to turn her life around when she received the devastating news that one of her sons had died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of just 26.

The emotionally-battered housewife realised that something had to change and that something was her.

She said: “For me, there was a pivotal moment when I stood back and evaluated my life one day when out walking the dogs. I took a long hard look at where I was right then and didn’t like what I saw. I recognised at that moment that I was blaming outside circumstances for everything that had happened to me, avoiding the obvious common denominator – me! It’s this insight that enabled me to develop the Personal Leadership Programme.”

Her philosophy revolves around three key ways of thinking; that you choose your own thoughts; you need to understand responsibility at a far deeper level and recognising your own communication and its impact.

Penny adds: “The example I often give is that if you’re stuck at a standstill in traffic for a few hours, you’re likely to be in a bad mood when you get home, probably spoiling everyone’s life around you. But traffic is traffic – it’s you who has chosen to get angry. You choose your thoughts, no one else does. You can blame the traffic and shout or you could listen to a CD or plan a presentation. Once you take control, you are then making the choice and being a leader.”

Penny believes that younger people in particular have a tendency to point the finger at circumstances outside themselves, and has recently started work with a charity called Get Connected to try to support young people turning their lives around. The Living Leader has recently supported Get Connected with a £10,000 sponsorship and her daughter Emma, who is the commercial director at the Living Leader took part in the Luxembourg leg. Penny herself gave a motivational speech at the event, giving her backing in order to share her leadership know-how with a very committed audience.

Penny said: “If there is one refrain that I hear again and again when I am running The Personal Leadership Programme, it is ‘I wish I had learnt this when I was younger’. At The Living Leader we are passionate about helping young people and that is why we now sponsor this amazing organisation that provides help to many disadvantaged young people – I wish it had been in existence when I was growing up.

“I know with an absolute certainty that if we can give young people the opportunities to be heard, to be supported, to be given the skills that will enable them to motivate themselves, they can become outstanding leaders of tomorrow.”

“Growing up I guess I was pretty confused about what I wanted to be or do, either at work or play. My self-esteem was incredibly low and when I was in my fifties, I had finally come out of three pretty abusive marriages, was in debt and altogether a pretty good mess.

“It was only then that I began to discover my real purpose and the last 20 years have been an amazing journey of learning, succeeding, real joy and a feeling of true worth. Apart from having six beautiful children I would have to consider that much of those 50 years were wasted even though I have taken much of that time as painful learning that I can use to this very day.

“If there had been people that I could talk to when I had been in the painful early stages of discovering who I really was and how I could move past the really unhelpful beliefs that then held me back for so many years. I am very certain that my life would have turned out differently and maybe I would have quickly learnt how to avoid such obvious repeating patterns of abuse. I could have truly changed my thinking and certainly changed my life.”

The Personal Leadership Programme is much acclaimed by professionals and heads of industry with massive improvements in turnover reported, but more importantly, feedback such as “improved motivation, more openness, brilliant ideas, a real team now developing, higher quality decisions and improved relationships.” Penny admits to huge pride from a recent conversation with a young person who took part in the programme as part of a college project. Disengaged and isolated at the beginning, after the programme, he told Penny that he was now much happier and enjoying a better relationship with his father.

“What changed?” she asked him. “I did”, he said.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

West Berkshire Mencap invites you to its fundraising dinner at Brebis (16/9)

There are still places for a fund-raising dinner on Wednesday, 16th September, at Brebis in aid of West Berkshire Mencap.

Samuel Mansfield, Chef Patron of Brebis, has designed a unique menu which includes drinks on arrival, canap├ęs, a starter, main course, dessert, coffee, petit four plus a half bottle of wine.
He said: “We’re delighted to be offering our support for the charity through a dedicated evening of cooking. It’s a great way to raise awareness for the work that West Berkshire Mencap does locally and we’re hoping that this will be the first in a series of similar events we will be running.”

Leila Ferguson, chief executive at West Berkshire Mencap, added: “As an enthusiastic foodie myself, we are thrilled to working with Brebis and would invite anyone who is interested in experiencing a wonderful evening of fabulous food and great company to get in touch and to come and join us.”

The evening costs £50 per person to attend. If you are interested in attending please contact The Mencap Centre.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Ditch the car #eastlondon

Thank you Waltham Forest Guardian!

If you're in East London (Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Newham or Hackney), then please get involved! This walking competition takes place from 23rd September to 11th November and there are great prizes just for taking part, as well as a huge prize fund for the teams that walk the furthest!

Check it out here:

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

How to get the best from your architect

We were thrilled to be asked by Absolute Architecture to write a piece about a beautiful project that they'd recently worked on.

The piece appeared in the Homebuilding and Renovating magazine in July with some gorgeous house-envy inducing pictures. The magazine liked it so much that they then came back to us and asked Kate for some advice about "how to get the best from your architect". She duly typed out some tips which have appeared in this month's magazine, positioning her as the expert she is on these matters!

Not everyone would have been in a position to capitalise on the two opportunities that arose here but Kate did all of the right things from a PR point of view.

Firstly, Kate realised that her strong before and after pictures would make a lovely magazine piece and took the time to get professional photographs. She then ensured the architectural story was backed up by a strong human interest piece about the impact that the great design had on the family that lived with it.

Secondly, when the magazine came back to her, she wrote up some great tips immediately. People don't always do this and it is a huge wasted opportunity! Sometimes I could cry when a client is approached by a magazine like this and they say that they haven't got time, or that they can do it next month or even worse, that they don't want to give the secrets of the trade away for free!

Kate was quick to act with practical advice, aware that journalists work to tight deadlines. If you don't come back, or don't place this of high enough importance then a journalist is unlikely to approach you again.

Also, never be afraid to give away your advice and insights for free. It's always worth sharing what you know. It positions you as the expert and when someone needs a person with your skills, they'll instantly think of you.