I’m moving!

Long time no see, everyone!

Yes, I have been a bit lax of late on the blogging front, but I have a very good reason.

I am moving house!

Well, not literally….this will be the last blog post (and it’s a brief one) on this site, as my website has been moved to WordPress, and my blog is now going to live very comfortably at www.catherinepoole.co.uk/blog/.

I hope you’ll join me over there, and watch out for some new posts coming in the not too distant future!

Information overload – what’s your best learning style?

Do YOU have information overload when it comes to choosing which way you learn?

DeathtoStock_Creative Community6

You can’t have failed to notice that I like to talk a lot about the benefits of using intelligent transcription and how it can help individuals and small businesses make more of their online audio or video content. Your content is valuable and it stands to reason that you’d like to make it even more valuable by turning existing words into new content, such as blog posts, social media posts, online articles and e-books.

But what about online courses and learning information?

Do you buy online courses? Perhaps you create and sell them yourself as part of your business or perhaps you’re thinking about it (in spite of the whole hooha over the new VAT rules due to come in on 1st January, but that’s another story altogether!).

Over the last couple of years I have been a prodigious browser of courses available to buy at the click of a button, and have even bought a few. It’s enough to make your head spin sometimes, there are so many available, and it’s hard to know where to start.

What would make you choose one course over another?

The cost? The blurb on the sales page? Testimonials from satisfied customers?

Content that’s accessible for your own personal learning style, perhaps?!

Things like cost and recommendations are extremely important, of course, but I often wonder if people stop to consider the implications of what’s involved in accessing the course content before they click on the old Paypal button. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the content at all, but I often wonder if buyers of online courses think about how they prefer to access learning material before they buy a course.

I wonder too if businesses that produce online courses are missing a trick when it comes to making their content more accessible to more people.

As mentioned above, I have bought a few courses since the start of 2013 and I’m afraid to admit that (whispers), I haven’t finished all of them. Now, this could be down to various reasons, namely procrastination (horrors!), lack of time, not managing my time properly (cough) and that old chestnut, just not getting round to it. Perhaps you’re in a similar boat!

I’ve realised that I actually prefer to READ my learning material. I have to be in the right mood to listen to or watch a webinar, and I will admit that I’m easily distracted by other things on the computer whilst they’re running. But give me a book and a comfy sofa, and my focus is only in one place.

You might now be able to guess where this thread is heading!

I think it’s always worth considering how your customers are likely to access their learning materials, and provide the content accordingly. If this means providing an intelligent transcript of the audio of a set of webinars or videos, then I really do believe you’ll be adding a lot of extra value to what you’re offering.

What do you think? I’d love to know how you like to access your content online, so please either leave a comment, or pop over to my Facebook page and let me know.

More on the pesky problem of spelling and punctuation…

Anybody who happens to see my Facebook posts on a regular basis won’t have failed to notice that I’m a bit of a pedant when it comes to spelling and punctuation. I have talked about the whole issue of apostrophes elsewhere, and I think it’s time to expand on this a wee bit!

If you run a business or if you’re starting to think about it, it stands to reason that you want all your business bits and bobs like your website, your business cards and your social media pages to look tip top. You want to come across as professional and trustworthy without losing sight of your own individuality, so what you’re aiming for is to create an eye catching personal brand, and it goes without saying that you probably want to spend a bit of time working on what you want to say to get the customers flocking in.

Unfortunately it can be very easy to spoil the effect of a lovely website or sales page with a few pesky old spelling and punctuation or grammar mistakes.

Here’s a selection of some of my favourites and a few hints and tips on how to correct the errors.

Although I’ve covered this before, I think the dreaded misplaced apostrophe deserves a recap, and it’s most commonly used in a plural where it is not needed.

To give you an example, how about book’s. The plural of book is books. The only time you need an apostrophe is if you plan to write something like, ‘The book’s an excellent read’ (short for ‘the book is an excellent read’) or ‘The book’s contents’. If you have several books, you might say something like, ‘The books’ covers were all shiny’.  The apostrophe always goes at the end if it’s the possessive of a plural.

Continuing on the subject of apostrophes, it’s is short for it is, where its is a possessive, e.g. ‘the tree has lost its leaves’.

Confusion is common when it comes to your/you’re and they’re/there/their.

You’re is the contraction of you are and your is a pronoun, e.g. ‘you’re going shopping later’ or ‘your mum’s going shopping later’.

They’re is the contraction of they are.

There can be used in a sentence with a verb e.g. there is a bird in the sky.

Their indicates possession, e.g. their house is lovely.

Not to mention the use of should of instead of should’ve (the contraction of should have).

Moving on, what about words that sound the same but have different spellings?

A few examples are…

Accept/except. Stationery/stationary. Affect/effect. Compliment/complement. Principle/ principal.

I accept your apology for eating the chocolate, even though there is nothing left for me in the fridge except cheese.

I bought some stationery before I went to catch the train, which was already stationary at the platform.

She knew how to affect him, and the overall effect was spellbinding.

Her friend gave her a compliment on the beautiful shoes that complemented her dress.

He refused to change his mind as it would be against his principles, despite being confronted by the principal person in charge.

Even pedantic people like me can be guilty of slip-ups – have you ever found yourself looking at a word for so long that it starts to look wrong?

Yup, me too.

The moral of the story is, if you’ve got important words out there that you want other people to take seriously, always get someone else to proofread them before hitting publish!

Lights, camera, action!

If you’ve been following my posts over the last few months, you might have noticed that I’ve been talking about some of the ways you can get out of your comfort zone when it comes to getting your message across, and these have included speaking at a networking event and being interviewed for a podcast.

Some of you might even have noticed that I made myself accountable in my last blog post and said that I would record myself talking on video, so here I am in all my glory!

Yikes!

This is a big ‘eek’ moment for me. It’s one thing getting up in front of people to speak if you can’t actually see yourself, but it’s quite another thing seeing yourself on the screen as the webcam records you speaking.

By the way, this is the easiest way to get started if you want to try and video yourself. We do have a family handheld camcorder, but I imagine you probably need a tripod for this, unless you fancy trying some sort of wobbly video selfie!

I’ve watched quite a lot of videos on people’s blogs and websites recently, and I think they can be a great way to get your personality across. It’s easy to become a bit faceless in business, particularly if you’re largely web-based and might not necessarily meet your clients face to face, and I think the most important thing to remember is that you don’t actually need to look picture perfect. In fact, it’s probably better if you look as normal as possible, as you’re then more likely to come across as a real person, if that makes sense, rather than one of the candidates on The Apprentice.

Hands up if you feel intimidated by highly polished videos with high production values and perfectly groomed business people – I know I do! Okay, so you might not want to appear on video in your pyjamas, for example, and I know that the lighting isn’t going to be perfect on my video and it might be slightly grainy in appearance, but you have to start somewhere.

At this point I’m going to tell you that I will be transcribing my video and putting the text of the content underneath for you to read, so this will give you an idea of how intelligent transcription can add value to your content, especially when it takes out the ums, ers and hesitations of when you’re speaking!

In this very simple example, you can choose either to watch the video OR to read the transcript (or you can do both, of course!). If you’re recording your own videos, you get them transcribed and you want to go back at some point in the future and, for example, turn a series of video posts and blog posts into an e-book, the written content will be there for you to use.

So that’s it for my first video attempt! I hope you enjoyed it, and I will talk to you soon. ‘Bye!


 

So, what do you think?

I’d love to hear what you think about video versus blog and how you can use a combination of the two as part of your content marketing strategy, so please either leave me a comment, contact me via my Facebook page or drop me a tweet.

Do you hate the sound of your voice?

When I was 12 years old, I was given a Philips radio cassette player for my birthday. Remember them?!

If you’re old enough to remember the eighties, you’ll know that not only could you record songs off the Top 40 every week (not forgetting to press pause at the right moment to cut off whichever Radio One DJ was wittering on at that time), but you could also record yourself speaking! My sisters and I had a lot of fun recording the songs and then our own voices to pretend we were the DJs. The only trouble was that it meant I had to listen back to my own voice, and I quickly realised it sounded a lot different in reality to how it sounded in my own head!

Fast forward 30 years and not much has changed!

I posted a few months ago about getting out of my comfort zone. This involved getting up in front of a group of people at a networking event to talk about my passion for what I do when it comes to using intelligent transcription, either to improve the way your words look on paper or add value to your content.

That’s fine, but I still couldn’t hear how my voice actually sounded, not really, and although I thought about recording myself while I was practising, I chickened out.

Then I was offered the opportunity to be interviewed for B50 Radio, the podcast for Business 50, a Scotland-wide networking group. Yikes, this would mean actually listening to the sound of my own voice!

I decided to go for it, of course, as it meant I was able to talk about how I can help people add extra value to their content, and I suppose I could have avoided the recording altogether if I really didn’t want to hear myself speaking. When I received notification that it had been published I realised how foolish I was being, and I clicked on the link to have a listen.

I’d love it if you’d have a listen too and let me know what you think.

The point is, everybody has something about themselves that they feel self-conscious about, but I’ve learned a big secret recently.

Nobody else notices!

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard someone say, “Oh, I hate the sound of my voice”, I would be in the money, plus I always say to them, “Your voice sounds fine, what are you on about?” See what I mean?

Plus getting the opportunity to talk about your business by whatever means, whether it’s via a podcast interview, a face to face interview or speaking at an event, gives you the chance to position yourself as an expert in your field, and what could be better than that?

I’m still feeling uncomfortable with the thought of seeing as well as hearing myself, so my next challenge is to do a video blog post!

Watch this space…

Is your marketing message causing confusion?

We all know how important it is to get our marketing messages across clearly, and some of you eagle eyed readers may have spotted this recent picture on my Facebook page

odd text

At a first glance, this suggests to me that presenting the voucher will get you one free child, and at a saving of £9.50, that’s a bargain for a completely new member of the family!

My mother has been picking me up on any and all misuse of the English language since I was a child, and that’s probably why I’m such a pedant now (I should point out she still tells me off for using the word ‘hopefully’ incorrectly in a sentence, so I’m very careful not to use it in her presence). One of her bugbears is the use of the phrase, ‘for free’, when it should be ‘free of charge’ or ‘for nothing’. The picture above commits a similar wording crime, so my suggestion is that it should be re-worded as ‘1 free child place’ or ‘1 child goes free’ – what do you think?

This is why it’s so important to get somebody else at least to glance over your copy and content before it goes out to the wider world. If there’s any chance that what you’re saying could be misconstrued in any way, you might have looked at it so many times that you’re no longer noticing the mistakes, and somebody else will be seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes. I know I will be reading this post several times over before hitting ‘publish’, and even then I will worry about the odd typo.

And if you’re at all unsure about your spelling, punctuation and grammar, regardless of what you’re writing, it goes without saying that you should be getting somebody to proofread your work.

I’ve still been busy looking out for misplaced apostrophes on my travels, and this one is a recent favourite.

apostrophe alert

They nearly made it! So near and yet so far….plus you only get one cappuccino.

I’d love to see some more #apostrophefails, so if you spot one when you’re out and about, please pop over to my Facebook page and share your findings!

How can transcription help your content marketing?

It’s an inescapable fact these days that we’re constantly bombarded with information and it’s difficult to get noticed in a huge and sometimes bewildering marketplace. This is especially true if you’re a one person business and you’re often trying to do everything yourself!

How do you get your message across in a way that’s not constantly sell, sell, sell, and is actually helpful to your existing and prospective customers?

I attended the newly launched Content Marketing Workshop in Fife last week along with a good number of other business owners, keen to find out more about how blogging and podcasting can help businesses communicate better. Although most of those attending had no experience of podcasting, there were a fair few who were already blogging, so this got me thinking about the different stages of content marketing and how transcription can help content marketers from beginners to experts.

Let’s say you want to start a blog, but you struggle with writer’s block and you just can’t seem to get those words down on the page. If you find it easier to articulate what you have to say verbally, try picking up your smartphone to dictate your thoughts before getting them transcribed and edited into a readable format.

If you’re a seasoned content marketer and you’re already regularly recording podcasts or YouTube videos, you might want to think about re-purposing that content to use again. Once a piece of audio or video is intelligently transcribed (i.e. taking out all the ums, ers and repetitions), you’ve got yourself a blog post, a set of social media posts or a chapter for an ebook.

You could also try putting a transcript alongside your video posts – not only is this good for SEO, but it means your content will appeal to different learning styles. After all, not everyone wants to watch a video, some prefer to skim over a piece of text and pick out the bits that interest them most.

This thinking also works for audio learning tools such as webinars – how many times have you signed up for a webinar, only to find you never get round to listening to the recording? Providing a transcript solves that problem in one fell swoop.

I’d love to hear your ideas about how you might re-purpose your content, so please either leave me a comment or head over to my Facebook page and let me know how transcription might help you.

The problem with apostrophes…

apostrophe

It was brought to my attention the other day that International Apostrophe Day happened to fall on 15th August, and it completely passed me by! Despite missing the momentous day itself, I decided to mark the occasion with a small celebration of this important and useful, yet often misused, punctuation mark.

Anybody who knows me well will appreciate that I am a bit of a pedant when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar, and my pet hate is the misplaced apostrophe. I took the attached picture a few months ago in a well-known Scandinavian furniture superstore, which only goes to prove that no-one is immune to this particular problem.

So what are some of the simple rules to remember when it comes to the apostrophe?

“Apostrophe s” (’s) is used for the contracted form of is and has, and also for the possessive (i.e. belonging to someone) e.g. Catherine’s finally got round to writing another blog post or Catherine’s blog post on apostrophes is really useful. Don’t forget that if a noun is plural, e.g. pizzas, the apostrophe should NEVER go before the ‘s’, and is only needed after the ‘s’ if it’s possessive e.g. the pizzas’ toppings were delicious.

Returning to the cringeworthy photograph above, please note that ‘it’s’ is short for ‘it is’, and not ‘its’, which is the possessive form of ‘it’. If read in full, the first few words of the above statement actually say, everything in it is place…doesn’t make sense, does it? 

I’ve come across a few exceptions to the rule recently and I’m not sure I agree with some of these, the bookshop Waterstones being one example. Apparently they decided to drop the apostrophe before the ‘s’ to make it more accessible online, but since Sainsbury’s still manages to retain its apostrophe on its website (although not in its URL), I’m not sure this argument can be upheld!

I’m always on the lookout for pictures of apostrophe and punctuation fails, so would love to hear from you if you’ve come across any howlers on your travels. Please share with me here or on my Facebook page.

Are you ready for the summer holidays?

It’s the time of year where parents across the land wonder where on earth the time has gone and how it’s already the end of the summer term! Business owners in particular will be used to a certain routine which will invariably go to pot once children are added to the mix. 

Yes, I know it’s still a few weeks ’til term finishes south of the border, but the Scottish holidays always seem to creep up on me, and due to a quirk in the calendar this year they are seven and a half weeks long! That’s quite a stretch of time when you’re trying to run a business and want to keep things ticking over but not at the expense of spending time with your children while they’re off. 

So how can you lessen the load and make the holidays easier to cope with if you’ve got school age children? 

1. Set your priorities

Can you work less over the holidays? Are you already being productive with the time you have available? Make a list of what absolutely needs to be done and focus on the most urgent or important tasks when you have time. If your time is limited, my advice is to use a timer. It’s amazing what you can fit into half an hour when you set yourself a mini deadline! There’s a good chance your clients will be aware that your time is limited over the holidays, so don’t overload yourself with extra work and make sure everyone is aware of what can be achieved realistically. 

2. Automate, automate, automate

Applications such as Hootsuite and Buffer are a godsend when it comes to automating your social media, so it’s well worth setting aside a period of time at the start of each week to schedule your Facebook and Twitter posts. If you need to write blog posts or newsletters over the holiday period, why not spend one evening doing a ‘blog bootcamp’ and get a whole bunch of them written and scheduled. 

3. Childcare swap

Unless you’re planning on spending every single evening working, ask one of your business owning friends with children if they fancy setting up a reciprocal childcare arrangement that works for both of you. 

4. Holiday and activity clubs

Every time I empty my children’s school bags another leaflet falls out advertising a summer activity club, so there’s certainly no shortage of them! If you know you want to try and have at least one really productive week over the summer, it’s worth looking into an activity or sports club where children will be occupied during school hours or mornings, at the very least.

5. Outsource!

If you’re really struggling, can you outsource some of the burden to someone else? If you need help setting up your automatic systems or you’re struggling to get those blog posts or newsletters written, or you just can’t handle the admin, a virtual assistant could help by taking some of these tasks off your hands and give you the freedom to enjoy more time with your family over the long break.

Enjoy the summer, whatever you’re up to!

 

 

 

Are you making yourself memorable?

Have you ever taken part in speed networking? It can be quite good fun! I was at an event last week where we sat in little groups of five, the organiser blew a whistle and we all got to speak to the others at the table for a minute before everyone switched and joined another table.

The only problem was that by the time we got to the end of the session, I’d pretty much forgotten what half the people did, and to be honest, I was so busy thinking about what I was going to say that I wasn’t always paying attention to the others anyway!

This got me thinking about the way we communicate our business to others. How can we make ourselves memorable with what we say to help people understand how we can help them, especially when we have to get it across so quickly?

For instance, I might tell the throng that I specialise in intelligent transcription.

So what? How does that help me?

So instead, I might change that to…I help creative people make their audio and video content more valuable with intelligent transcription.

Better, but what on earth does intelligent transcription mean?!

It occurred to me that while some people might have an idea of what transcription is, they might be baffled at the ‘intelligent’ bit, so I decided to explain briefly that it basically means taking out the ums, ers, hesitations and repetitionsfrom a piece of audio or video when you’re getting it down on paper. I got a few nods and smiles at this realisation, so I must have been making some sense!

Just because you’re an expert in what you do doesn’t mean others are, so if you’re able to explain your product and service in a way that gives others an ‘a-ha’ moment, so much the better!

How do you get across what you do to make your business and yourself memorable?