Visual tips to bring your business stories alive

29 June

I’m here to tell you that you ARE creative. And with a bit of practice and consideration, you can choose vivid words and images to communicate your business story on the web. Admittedly, this is a skill which requires practice but today I am going to show you some examples of how other businesses are using words and imagery in memorable ways.

First up is the cafe Love Supreme in Stoneybatter. This image is so incredibly simple; some hand drawn text scribbled beside a freshly brewed espresso. I believe them when they say that this coffee is lovely. In fact it makes me want to peddle across the city to sip one myself. No fancy cameras and lighting here – just a simple mobile phone photo.

Love Supreme
Next up is Sugru, a company that sells a silicon rubber that can be used to fix and adapt any object you can imagine! “Sugru is mouldable glue. Stick it, shape it and it will turn into rubber. We invented it to make fixing and making easy and fun.” Sugru have built a thriving community of users who share their repair and creation stories. Sugru help people to find better ways to do things, with or without their product. This is an example of a visual link to a ‘how-to’ post – Sharpen scissors with aluminium foli. The image, when seen on Twitter or Facebook, immediately lets the reader know what to expect. They can see at a glance if it is of interest to them.

How to tips from Sugru

And finally, Copyblogger are well aware of the power of text and images combined. They teach people how to successfully promote their businesses on the web! Here they use an image of a speeding train to illustrate the idea of the power of showing up daily in the world.

Copy Blogger image

Once you get this concept, it’s a matter of considering your key idea every time you communicate an idea or article.

What image will help you illustrate your point and make it memorable? It’s great to stretch the imagination here. Get playful with your words. Literal translations can be boring. A great piece of advice I heard is to think of words and images as design elements. Have fun combining them in new ways. The web TV is a blur of constant choice – think about it; we all want to be surprised or jolted into doing something that will make our lives better!

So where can you find eye-catching images if you can’t create your own? I wrote a previous post with a link to some great free stock image resources. Today I’m adding two great new websites that are bursting with quality visuals.

The first is Pexels.com
All images here are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the photos. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So that attribution is not required. All in all the photos are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.

Pexels.com

And the second resource is StockSnap.io. Again, all photos on StockSnap fall under the Creative Commons CC0 license. That means you can copy, modify, distribute any photo on the site, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission!

Stocksnap.io

I’ll be showing you how to add text to your images in a follow-up post. Here’s how you can get started – search for images to illustrate your written ideas. Name and save images that you can use in your social conversations. We’ll get creative with words in the next post! If you would like some one to one tuition, I can help you learn this skill. Let’s have a chat first!

Further resources:
Read my blog post with links to other free stock photos websites.

Smartphone Storytelling Workshops

1 August

This morning I heard about three different Smartphone Storytelling Workshops happening in Dublin and Cork. Video is becoming huge for business. Why does this excite me so much? Well…

One, I’m in the middle of editing my first business video which I made using my Samsung Galaxy S111 (it’s completely nervewrecking but I’m doing it!)

Two, I’m super excited about the possibilities of video for business

And three, I’d love to learn more about this new skill and get more confident about talking to an inanimate box!

How about you – have you ever thought about making a short video for your website? Imagine if your customers could get a sense for what you are like before they get to meet you in person?

I can’t begin to describe the mixture of terror and exhilaration that I’m feeling at the moment. I took up blogging in 2008 to avoid having to attend networking events or talk publicly about what I did. But blogging changes you in weird and wonderful ways! I would never have guessed that it would lead to public speaking or making a video; two new achievements that I’m proud of!

By publicly telling you about this video, I’m committing to sharing it! I’ve come up with a new in-house training offer and a video seemed like the perfect way to tell you about it. I’ll be sharing the video as soon as it’s edited!

In the meantime, I want to tell you about some people who can train you to make your own videos (or make them for you). I believe that this is a skill worth learning and an investment in your business.

Aileen O Meara Video

Aileen is a former RTE producer and correspondent. She is running a workshop on how to make short videos on your smartphone, how to trim them on the phone’s video app, and how to publish on YouTube or social media. The next workshop is on August 8th in the Harbour View Business Centre, Dun Laoighaire. Book online.

“I’ve been running Smartphone Storytelling workshops for over a year now, and I find that the obstacle most people have is their own attitude. Like learning to drive a car, people don’t think they can do it until they actually get behind the wheel and with a bit of help realize that yeah, it’s not that difficult. And the new Apps make it even easier than ever.

What makes it easier is the gadgets we show you – a tripod that clips to your phone so your shots are steady, some microphones you can add to get best sound, and how to frame your shots so you’re not in the dark. We include lessons in that wonderful and well kept secret: YouTube Editor as well.”

Angela Mezzetti – Ocarina Productions

Angela is an experienced producer and journalist and former Newscaster on RTE Television and Radio. She produces television and corporate DVD’s and videos. She is giving a workshop on how to create smartphone videos on 11th September in IMI Sandyford. For more details, call Angela on 01-2895264 or contact by email angela@ocarina.ie

“The addition of a video hugely increases your search engine optimization. Watching a video makes consumers more confident in doing business with you and drives engagement with your website especially from mobiles and tablets.

Your web-ready video will be beautifully lit, with excellent picture and sound quality. We specialize in making people at ease in front of camera and will help you craft and deliver your pitch in a relaxed comfortable way”

Christian Payne – from Documentally

Roger Overall, (himself a documentary photographer and business storyteller) has invited Christian Payne to Ireland to deliver a workshop on smartphone videography. The workshop takes place in the Tyndall Institute, Cork, Ireland on Monday 22nd September, 2014. Details about booking can be found on Roger’s website.

“Your smartphone is a media production and broadcasting powerhouse. Renowned mobile storyteller Christian Payne (from Documentally) will show you how to use video to create and publish effective stories – for yourself, for your business, for your cause, for your organisation, for anything…

If you want to learn how to use your smartphone to reach your audience efficiently, this is the workshop for you.

If you’re a business owner, marketer, PR executive, content marketing agency — you’ll pick up valuable insight and practical tips about telling your story (and that of your clients) from your smartphone.”

Trembling business owners take note; Lottie Hearn from Press Play Presentations will soon be releasing her book ‘Confidence on Camera – how to present with impact on camera for online video, webinar, video-conference and TV!‘. Lottie is The Video Coach who trains you how to overcome your on-camera fears and discover what’s holding back your video presenting success. Her book will be published later this year and I can’t wait to read it. Speaking from my own experience, confidence is one of the key skills required for video presenting!

It might be the long weekend but I’m going to be editing my video – Hope you all have a great weekend. I’ll be back with my video debut soon!

Business links:
Aileen O’Meara Video
Angela Mezzetti – Ocarino Productions
Roger Overall – documentary photographer and videographer
Christian Payne – from Documentally
Lottie Hearne from Press Play Presentations

How to understand your fridge noises

22 July

Today I found out that we’re not the only house that has a speaking fridge. A pic from Lottie Crumbleholme bounced into my Twitter feed today and it made me laugh. I was fed up clicking links like ‘The 5 best ways to optimise Pinterest shares’. This happy infographic made me stop and smile. The fridge manufacturer obviously knows how boring white fridge manuals can be. And they know that we need daily humour in our lives!

My big passion is for helping business owners to be human on the web. Why should chatting online be any different to chatting in person? Why do we get caught up in jargon? I believe that we should forget about our awards and benefits and look at how we can help make our customers lives more healthy/fun/adventurous/secure/delicious/meaningful… {or ‘hissy’?!} What do you think?

fridge-noises

Are you tired of ‘Top 5’ format posts? What sort of content appeals to you? Let’s get to know and think like our customers – that way, we can create content for real people. I now give one-to-one training to help businesses understand their customers and what they need help with. Let me know if you’d like some help and support – I promise, we’ll have fun!

Image credit:
This image is from Lottie Crumblehome – She is a Graphic designer / researcher at the Royal College. You’ll find her on Twitter or her website.

Free stock photos for bloggers

16 February

No matter whether you are a baker or a builder, you need to have a visual brand. Did you know that images combined with text help us understand and connect more? Forget your logo; this is about telling the story of your business through pictures and words. As bloggers, we need to source (or take our own) images and copyright is a massive issue. Yesterday I stumbled on a listing of sites that share free stock photos. Today, I’m sharing it – that’s what the blogging community is all about!

Image copyright has become a huge issue online and rightfully so – photographers need to be credited for their work. And this doesn’t just mean adding a credit or link. You must seek permission before publishing any image on your blog. The other option is to learn how to take your own images but it’s great to have other choices.

I have made a collage below using images which I found on these sites. Images that you can crop, add text too or do whatever you want

free stock photos for bloggers

So get ready for a visual party. I suggest you set up a private board on Pinterest to save your favourites. I bet these images will trigger blog post ideas.

  • Little Visuals – “Sign up to get 7 hi-resolution images zipped up in your inbox every 7 days. Use them anyway you want.”
  • Unsplash – “10 new photos every 10 days.”
  • Death to the Stock Photo – “Free high-res lifestyle photography sent to you monthly, to do whatever you please. For your blog, social channels, mockups or even to hang on your wall if you’re so inclined. No need to credit us – but we always love a nice shout out.”
  • New Old Stock – “Vintage photos from the public archives.Free of known copyright restrictions.”
  • Superfamous – “Photographs on this page are available under a CC Attribution 3.0 license.”
  • Picjumbo – “Totally FREE photos for your works. New photos daily! Every. Single. Day.”
  • Gratisography – “Free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. Click on an image to download the high-resolution version. New awesome pictures added weekly!”
  • Getrefe – “Refe is a marketplace of the best mobile photos. Here are free photos for your personal or commercial projects.”
  • IM Free – “A curated collection of free resources, all for commercial use.”
  • SplitShire  – “Delicious free stock photos for personal & commercial use. Do what you want with them, for personal and commercial use. Yes, everything free of charge, just an attribution if you like my work or offer me a coffee through donation to help me maintaining this site free for you.”

A big thanks to Dustin Senos who shared this great list over on Medium.com – another amazing blogging community site!

The next collage of images were found on The Pattern Library – a Willy Wonka-esque collection of bold, colourful patterns. Sometimes, you need a people-free image to create an info-graphic! Simply add your own text. I’ll be including a ‘how to’ tutorial on this soon.

copyright free patterns for bloggers

You’ve no more excuses not to get visual now! Start thinking about what pictures speak your language. Experiment by taking some of your own photos. If you don’t have a ‘proper’ SLR camera, take a mobile phone photography course with Photo JoJo for just $10! If you’ve any questions about visuals on your blog, let me know and I’ll include them in a blog post for you!

 

What does it take to get to the top? Online video for business

7 February

Online video for business is where it’s at. Words have a powerful effect on how we think. Combine those words with pictures and you strengthen your message. But watching moving images with words invites us into a whole different world. We get to think and feel like the people in the film. Businesses are coming up with really clever ways to move us. Here are two of my current favourites. Both are on the theme of cycling; the first one will get your heartbeat rocketing and the second will wind you down!

I absolutely love this motivational cycling video because it screams about the skill and endurance that are required to succeed in the world of competitive cycling. The jerky jump-cuts and stop-motion photography bring the pain alive. The audio chops up exaggerated breathing sounds with army major roars. We feel the pain and we can imagine the rewards! It’s impossible to watch this film and not feel a strong connection with the subjects. The motivation coach is right when he says that getting to the top doesn’t happen overnight.

Mountivation Cycling Development Academy – Boot Camp. from Henry Iddon on Vimeo.

Is your adrenalin still pumping? Let’s slow the pace down a bit with this gem of a business story. The Inverted Bike Shop is the story of a bike enthusiast, who loved bikes so much he made his own and then wanted to share them with others. 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn was born. He understands his customers inside out and he offers an intuitive service based on what his customers really need. It’s told in simple language by people who love what they do. It’s not a fast paced like the one above; the power lies in how the story is slowly revealed.

This whole business is built around bikes and people. When someone comes in the door, we sit down with them and ask them, ‘What do you see yourself doing with this bike?’ We’re almost like a therapist in a lot of ways; we get to the heart of what they’re really looking for in a bike.

The Inverted Bike Shop from Show Love on Vimeo.

What do you feel when you watch these two films? They both trigger different emotions don’t they? I’ll admit that the first one makes me want to sit in a cosy cafe with a large coffee and cake. But maybe that’s ok; I’m not their target audience and being a competitive cyclist is not high on my list. But I could imagine having that coffee while chatting about my dream bike in Brooklyn!

I’ve gathered some more great business stories for you to read too. If you need help getting clear on your business story, I’d love to help you. I’m always up for a coffee and my classes are ongoing.

For more info on the businesses above:
Mountivation Performance Matters – Film by Henry Iddon
718c bicycle shop, Brooklyn – Film by Show Love
 

Irish butchers are blogging brilliantly!

25 January

BE. EXQUISITELY. DIFFERENT.

Alex Franzen dropped that perfect idea into a blog post about how to get noticed in the noisy, super-saturated world that we live in.

I never imagined I would be featuring butchers’ blogs on my site! And yet, I discovered two Irish butchers who have have found a way to chat and help their customers online. My message in this post is simple; you can write a blog about any business once you learn how to excite your audience.

It all goes back to what Alex says in her post

If everyone else is emailing … don’t email.
If everyone else is cold-calling … don’t call.
If everyone else is doing purple this season … bring back neon green.

Be strategically contrarian.

To this I could add, if most butchers only exist in the 3D world, you have an eager online audience all to yourself!

First up are McLoughlin butchers, based in Dublin.

mcloughlins craft butchers2 1
McLoughlins butchers

McLoughlin Butchers have been trading since 1965.  Their website proudly describes how their high standards and the traditional butchering methods are still in use today. They talk about the strong links between themselves, the farmers and their customers.

To encourage interaction, they even have this great resource to allow customers to “Ask your butcher a question”. Anything you ever wanted to know about meat…

The rest of the site is set up to answer questions their customers might have; “Get the best cuts” and “Tasty recipes” as well as information on all of their meats.

mcloughlins craft butchers
 

Next I discovered James Whelan butchers, with shops in Dublin and Tipperary.

James Whelan butchers are based in Tipperary and also promote high standards and traditional techniques. They are passionate about sourcing quality meats in Tipperary and offer a home delivery service. Pat Whelan tells us how each product is “hand selected, tasted and tested by me”.

Customer service is also key to this business. How about this for a promise of quality;  If you are not completely happy with your order, simply contact us and we will go to extraordinary measures to make things right…

The site and blog are packed with an encyclopedia of helpful content and resources. Dip into recipes, video guides or a day in the life of a butcher.

Something that caught my attention was a butchery demonstration – This is a live event where master butchers talk you through some knife skills and meat butchery. The line-up includes ‘Knife play‘,  ‘A celebration of pork‘, ‘The sweet secrets of beef‘, followed by ‘Nibbles and natter‘. Sounds fascinating, even if I’m not a huge carnivore! These evening classes take place in Avoca Food Hall, Monkstown as well as the Avoca food market in Rathcoole.

pat whelan butchers collage
James Whelan butchers

These two butchers understand that their customers don’t just want to buy meat from them. They are looking for information and inspiration. The aim of both sites is to develop a strong ongoing relationship with their customer.

So what can the blogging butchers teach any business that is considering writing a blog?

  • Focus less on your products or services and zone in on what your customers need help with. For example; show a busy parent how to create quick, mid-week meals. Or educate them about the different cuts of meat, so they can experiment more when cooking.
     
  • Replace the concept of a ‘blog’ with an ‘interactive website’. Give meaningful words to blog-style sections that will appeal to your audience. Be playful with your words.
     
  • Use language that talks directly to your audience. Show that you understand their needs.

Are you thinking about writing a blog but are unsure about what to write about? I can help you do that! I give small workshops and one-to-one introduction to blogging classes. Read my post on the 5 common fears about business blogging and how to tackle them. I’ll give you the confidence you need to launch.

What do you think of these charming and helpful butchers? Can you see how friendly and interactive an online site can be? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Connect with these butchers online:
McLoughlins butchers
James Whelan butchers
 

Bottling Christmas…

29 November

The fact that I don’t love Christmas is irrelevant to this post. I do love real Christmas trees that grow outdoors and I’m a big fan of a US company called Juniper Ridge. They have a brilliant marketing story. When I say marketing story I don’t mean ‘made  up’ story. The best business stories are real ones that tell people why you do what you do.

Juniper Ridge are the world’s only wild fragrance company. They bottle and sell natural scents found in nature.

According to the ‘About’ page, ‘Juniper Ridge was founded in 1998 by hiker, mushroom-forager, and wilderness enthusiast Hall Newbegin‘. What makes this company so different is their obvious passion for being out in nature. All employees are trekkers and hill walkers. Producing scents and perfumes came as a result of wanting to share the outdoor experience with other nature lovers.

juniper ridge christmas in a bottle

We are the world’s only wild fragrance company. We’re hikers and backpackers, not fashion or luxury-industry types. We distill colognes and perfumes from real plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings found hiking the backcountry. A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end.

Juniper Ridge happen to have a very visual product and they use imagery to tell their story. It’s interesting to compare the different platforms that businesses choose to tell their story. Have a look at the Juniper Ridge facebook page, Instagram account and blog. They have almost 28,000 followers on Instagram, so they’re obviously doing something right! There’s definitely an element of ‘armchair travelling’ when you follow these trekkers online.

juniper ridge
 

In my coming posts, I plan to feature businesses who don’t have a very visual product or service. What different ways are there to tell a story, other than with plain text? I’ve already written about using audio effectively. I’m really interested in business videos at the moment. Short video content is the next big thing. We’re going to have to learn how to be comfortable in front of the camera! I’m going to research companies that are either making or using video content. Let me know if you find any great examples. Drop me a line if you’re too shy to comment!

Using audio to tell your business story

23 September

Your blog should educate your readers. But have you thought about how you’re going to excite and entertain them? Today, I want to get you thinking about using audio to tell your business story. In a sometimes overwhelming world of text, listening to someone telling a story can be riveting. Like video, it connects you with the subject in a much more powerful way than reading.

This is a teaser for a longer post I’m researching about using audio for blogs. I’m on holidays at the moment but I wanted to plant a seed while I’m away! The audio snippet is of Richard, an Indian cook (and an ‘Amazing‘) talking about how he loves to cook meals for his family.

What sort of impact does this 1 minute audio clip have on you? I imagine myself sitting in the kitchen beside Richard. I can see the spice mixes and copper pots and I’ve even created a picture of what Richard looks like. Definitely a moustache!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on audio and whether you enjoy listening to podcasts. Drop me an email or leave me a comment below.
 

A shorts story – Patagonia

10 June

What emotions do your customers feel when they buy from you? I’m not suggesting that you manipulate these emotions! I want you to think about how they align with your passion for what you do. Your passion is what your customers want to know about. And your blog is the perfect place to share it.

Patagonia are a long-established outdoor clothing and equipment company. The emotions I associate with their products are adventure and a love of the outdoors. The clothes you wear are tied in with your memories of events. That’s one of the reasons Patagonia have such loyal customers.
 

worn wear patagonia

When your customers start telling stories about how much they love your brand, you know you’re on to a good thing! Surfing couple Keith and Lauren Malloy set up a Tumblr site called Worn Wear: True Stories of People and Their Patagonia Gear. These two were inspired by the years of use they were getting from their surf gear, so they decided to start a blog where people could share stories about their favorite piece of Patagonia clothing.

Here’s one of my favourites from Melissa from Vermont;

patagonia worn wear

“Dear Patagonia,

I bought these blue Stand-Ups in 1988, in Connecticut, right before I took one of my first extended road trips around the country. That summer I traveled with a friend, cutting a kind of figure-eight through the United States. Since then the shorts have been with me to every state except Hawaii. Over the course of 25 years they have climbed mountains in New York, Colorado, Alaska, Vermont, Montana, Wyoming. They have visited the desert and the sea. They’ve sat quietly in the car across Texas and the Dakotas; they’ve seen small shacks in Louisiana, ancient Indian dwellings in New Mexico, vast fields of corn in Iowa and thirty Dead shows. The stand-ups have never, ever let me down. Each spring, they’re the first item of clothing I take out of storage. I slip them on to make sure not too much damage was done over the winter (to me, not the shorts), and then I get lost in the dream of the road, of the kind of adventure that is waiting for us all the time, and of this trusty pair of shorts that have been with me everywhere.”

-Melissa

People choose to buy for a number of reasons; mostly it’s to do with how the product or service makes them feel. So it makes sense to be aware of what these emotions are, right? I teach business owners like you how to confidently tell your business story online. In order to do that, I help you understand who your customers are and what they need help with.

I offer one day workshops to small groups as well as one-to-one sessions. I successfully blog for my business and can help you do the same. I am easy to contact and would love to hear your ideas! My next workshop is on Sunday 7th July. Early bird tickets are available until 21st June.

Credits and links:
Image via The Wornwear blog
Pataginia blog : The Cleanest Line
Patagonia on Tumblr
 

Time to blow some bubbles

23 April

Today is a special day for me; nerve-wrecking and exciting in equal measure!

In my mind I am rewinding 18 months. The idea for Three Thought Bubbles was inspired by a quote I read; what are the three things that you would like people to believe about your business? It got me thinking and my answers inspired me to talk differently to my customers.

why do you do what you do 2

Today I am launching Three Thought Bubbles; fun workshops, teaching business owners how to blog with heart.

I’m thoroughly bored of websites, although I know they serve a purpose. Most of them are static and full of corporate talk. Is there a human in there? Really?! I believe that we need to start communicating online in a much more human way.

Using social media has made me more social! Made someone with a fear of networking events start connecting with other business owners. The difference is that I have found a way to talk about what I do in a way that feels comfortable to me. Firstly, via blogs and Twitter and then in the ‘real world’! These 3d meetings have led to great collaborations as well as mutual support in business. And most importantly, my customers get a sense for how I do business before they meet me in person.

I’ve decided to teach my workshops for two reasons; I want show other businesses how blogging can help them on a business and personal level. And I’m driven by a passion to share these skills and collaborate with other creative people.

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me in launching this business. A special thanks goes to the loyal group of new friends and allies that I have met on-line. Photographer Aine Teahon is one of them and I’m so grateful for the photos she took of my workshops. Designer Karen Seery created my branding and website and interpreted my ideas perfectly. She was a dream to work with. Next up are my endlessly creative friends and family. And finally, my favourite husband Ben!

So, have I got you thinking about how you tell your story? Would you like to learn a new skill in a relaxed environment? I’d love to meet you at one of my workshops! My next class is on Sunday 26th May. If you can’t make this one, be sure to sign up for my mailing list.