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Archive for June, 2013

Cougars gear up for Carlisle’s first Urban Challenge

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Local ladies rugby team, The Cougars, prepare for the coming season with some pre-season training by entering the No Ego Challenge on the 21st July.  The team, who play in the Championship North 1 hope to raise money for the club and inspire others to get involved in playing ladies rugby.

The Carlisle Cougars ladies team travel throughout the UK, but are looking to recruit some fresh faces to join the team, after a number of players moved on after last season; one player even lured by the prospect of playing International Rugby.   With this in mind Cougar’s chairman Charlie Brown jumped at the chance to be involved with the ‘No Ego Urban Challenge’ which is the first of its kind to hit Cumbria.

The Urban Challenge is a high adrenaline 10K adventure/obstacle race set in and around the historical city; unlike other popular ‘mud’ races, this one does not take place in a muddy field, but in a city landscape.  The Challenge includes over twenty obstacles which include climbing trucks, tackling tyre mazes and plunging into freezing water tanks.  The No Ego Urban Challenge course will follow a route from the Sheepmount Stadium, past the River Eden and through Rickerby Park; taking in some other well know sites around the city, including Carlisle United’s Brunton Park, in which competitors will contend with multiple terrains ranging from flat tarmac to slippery mud hills.

Several of the Cougars have accepted the challenge and are going to run the race, using it as some pre-season training. Other team members have decided that being an obstacle is more their thing and are going to form part of the final obstacle to be revealed on the day; helping or hindering their fellow team mates.

The Cougars will join other local sports teams at race HQ and hope that their presence on the day may inspire other women to join the team and give rugby a try. Experience is not necessary and age should be no barrier, the team consists of housewives to doctors and vets, with an age range of 18-42!

Cougars captain Hannah Sherlock says

“Rugby is for everyone, whether you are super fit and looking for a different challenge or out of shape and want to get fit, it’s about having fun”.

The league sees the Cougars travel across the UK and travel proves to be the most expensive outlay for the team; therefore the No Ego Challenge is proving a good way for the team to raise extra money to ensure they make it to their matches.  The ladies spend a lot of time fund raising and in addition this year they hope to get sponsorship and raise funds to buy a new kit; with 3 seasons of wear and tear on a rugby pitch their current kit is looking a little battered!

Fundraising for events like this can have a significant impact on groups or charities whose operating costs run into hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.  The No Ego Challenge team not only want to help their partner charities, but encourage other charities, organisations, businesses and clubs to join in and get teams together to help raise lots of money.  By entering a team the entry fees are reduced by up to 28% depending on the number of people per team and entry date.  Competitors also receive a 50% discount on a second race in 2013.

Other races lined up for 2012 include a Mud Challenge in Preston on 14th September and the second Mud Challenge at Greystoke Castle on 26th October.  Dates of a Northumbria based race are to be confirmed and competitors are advised to keep checking the No Ego Challenge website www.noegochallenge.com

5 tips for Professional Social Networking

Monday, June 17th, 2013

I get asked many times about what you should and shouldn’t write on social media.  To me it seems really simple as I do it day in and day out, but for those who are new to it, or are only just starting to use it for business for the first time it can be a daunting task.  What do I write and when and how do I write it, are questions I’m often asked.

Some of my clients have it nailed and use it really well.  Country Puddings for example get it spot on with a nice mix of professional posts informing people about what is going on in the ‘Pudding kitchen’, new recipes, updates and offers.  Though I’ve seen a few social media faux pas in other businesses, so I thought I would share some of my top tips for posting professionally on social media.

1 – Stay professional

Although to many of us our business is our baby and reflects us and often the owners are the people who make the business tick, we still need to think about what we write in the public realm.  Think about how you want people to perceive you and your business and try to remain professional when you post things online.  It is fine to put your personality across, you just need to be mindful of how this comes across to other viewing your posts.  Remember who your target customer is and would you be happy with them reading what you write?

2 – Separate your personal and professional profile

A big mistake I see people making time and time again is linking personal and professional profiles.  I have a separate Acorn Marketing Facebook business page and a separate ‘Lisa Coates’ personal profile.  I write posts about work, clients, updates, industry news etc on my work page and link with people I have a business connection with.  However, I try to keep my personal page separate, making friends with actual friends not business acquaintances.  There are certain things in my life I like to keep private, as well as certain comments and posts that wouldn’t be appropriate to post in a work forum.   By having two accounts you can write relevant posts for that audience and remain professional with out any awkward moments, slip ups or accidental posts for all your clients to see.

Businesses should have ‘likes’ not ‘friends’.  Want to change a Profile to a business Page? Click here to see how

3 – Think before you write

When writing in a professional context really think about what you write, before you write it.  Not only the content of your post, but the tone of your post.  We have all had an email or a text which we may read in a way it is not intended and been offended; well this can come across the wrong way in social media as well.  Make sure what you are posting is in the right tone, relevant to your customers and appropriate.  The worst thing you can do is offend someone on social media by writing something inappropriate or offensive, particularly if it comes out the wrong way…remember keep that professional hat on.

4 – Stay relevant

One of my pet hates is reading about what people have had for breakfast or that they’ve just walked the dog (unless they own a cafe or a professional dog walker.)  By having a separate profile this can eliminate this problem and you generally switch to professional mode, when you switch to your business page.  Think about what your customers, or potential customers are interested in.  Make it relevant to them; what do they really want to know.  Tell them about the latest developments, news, events or offers.  Ask yourself the questions ‘Is this really relevant to my business and my customer.’  Some people really struggle to know what to post online, but each and every business has interesting things to say – what would you tell your customers on a day to day basis about what you are doing…if they are your customers they are going to be interested in the work you are doing; without telling them about what you watched on TV last night…surely you’re more interesting than that?  If you really struggle, set up some Google Alerts to give you ideas of what to post, read other blogs, industry websites or journals or download the ‘Flipboard’ app which is like a personalised newspaper, which can really help you to post relevant information.

5 – Find what works for you

There are no hard and fast rules to what you should post, when and how often.  The best piece of advice I give is to find out what works for you.  For example, I spend half an hour in the morning checking emails and social media then crack on with work.  I then spend a bit of time at lunchtime and again at the end of the day.  This works for me as I look after many accounts, but might not work for others.  Perhaps once a day is enough for your to check your profiles?  That is fine…after all you have a business to run.  However, once you are online keep it up; there is nothing worse than looking at ancient profiles that are never updated, so it is essential it works for you.  There are lots of apps, website and gadgets that can help you manage your social media.  Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are two platforms that can help you manage your online presence.  ‘Pages’ is excellent if you manage several facebook pages.  I also love Flipboard (mentioned above) to give me ideas about new things to post.   Finally Buffer allows you to schedule posts; you can just rack up lots of things to post about and Buffer will send these out throughout the day for you…without you having to do anything.  There are lots of tools to help you make it easier, but one thing is for sure we all need to embrace social media and start using it, before it leaves you out in the cold and even more baffled when it all changes again.

If you need any help just drop me a line at info@acorn-marketing.co.uk

Penrith Chamber Stars of Business Awards

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Well, if you know me well you will know I have been working hard over the past few months getting ready for the Penrith Chamber of Trade Stars of Business Awards and annual dinner.

The Chamber has suffered over the past few years with a stuffy image and I was determined to shake off this image and show people what the Chamber can be all about.  This was my third Chamber annual dinner and my second Stars of Business Awards and I can honestly say I think I’ve managed to break the spell and make the event and joining the Chamber more appealing.

Our first year we had Hollywood themed with casino tables, last year we had an Olympic themed ‘do’ and this year we celebrated the “Best of British” and I was really proud to say that with a bit of hard work, some extra PR and Marketing we had double the amount of applications for the awards this year and tickets sold out in April!

The event itself went well, the food was delicious; with each course supplied by local food producers (I am proud to say pudding was supplied by my client Country Puddings and was delicious…what do you expect!)

Informative speeches by President Richard Utting and stalwart of Cumbria Business, John Dunning, founder of Westmorland Ltd.  I was touched that he mentioned me in his speech – my Grandad was the first Manager at Westmorland Services for 40 years.  He spoke about local people and the great connections we have in our county and that Penrith is the place to do business, at the heart of Cumbria!  I hope everyone took something from the speeches.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of awards with winners including Woggle Goggle, Karen James of Kiddlywinks, Cranstons and The Winter Droving (which I am proud to also be involved in as well!)

Finally we rounded off the evening with a ‘Best of British Village fete’ – Active8 events team helped me pull it together and helped entertain the guests with traditional fairground games such as Hoop la, Beer pong etc.  There were even fish (well carrots in bags) to be won.

We had some excellent feedback, though I am still shattered.  I thrive on events like this and am already thinking what we can do next year!

Penrith shop invests in new equipment to meet demand

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Owners of Sands in Penrith have recently invested in a state of the art sun bed due to increasing sales and demand in the Solarium part of their store, which launched on 4th July 2013.

Across the UK it has become increasingly popular to achieve the perfect tan with 10% of Northern Europeans using sun beds on a regular basis for tanning purposes1.  Seeing a gap in the market Sands in Penrith, which traditionally sold gifts and cookware decided to branch out and diversify their business into the sun bed and fake tanning industry 25 years ago.

The sun beds have always been popular, however Sands has seen demand and the usage of their sun beds increase over the past few years.  They often have long queues and have struggled to keep up with demand from people who want their 5 minute sunshine fix.

As a result the owners have invested in a new state of the art Luxura Hapro X7 sun bed, in addition to their four existing sun beds.  However the Luxura Hapro X7, which is manufactured by Dutch company Hapro International is no ordinary sun bed and boasts a wide range of benefits for users.

The Sunbed, originally launched in 2012 has 38 tanning tubes and is ergonomically formed to support the whole body.  Other features include face tanners, an air conditioning system, Smartvoice to talk customers through the menu options and extra long tanning tubes to guarantee a top to toe tan.   A three-dimensional sound experience and ambient lighting features ensure attractive surroundings during the tanning session.

The Luxura Hapro X7 guarantees the safest, most targeted tanning as well as using Intelligent Power Control which optimises the performance and effectiveness of the tanning tubes and uses energy in an efficient manner, saving up to 25% energy per tube.

“There are often queues of people waiting to get their 5 minute sun fix and we really don’t like to turn people away when we’re too busy.  The new sun bed will help ease capacity at popular times for customers who are in a rush.  With the awful summers we’ve been having in the UK and less people going abroad on holiday, we’ve found sales increasing as people really love the sun beds as a way of keeping healthy and also relaxing” comments Lauren Tarrant who runs the Solarium.

While many organisations do not recommend the use of sun beds, it is recognised that they can have significant benefits to health and well being, including improved psychological wellbeing, increased confidence and self-esteem.  They can help to alleviate the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or Winter Blues and offer a source of relaxation.   UV light can help to improve various skin conditions like Psoriasis, Eczema and Acne and the pleasant warming effect of sun bed treatments can soothe muscular aches and pains.

However, the greatest benefit of sun bed use is its link to Vitamin D, which is essential for good health and lowers the risk of infections and disease.  6 out of 10 adults in the UK are Vitamin D deficient and studies suggest that moderate use of sun beds can raise the levels of Vitamin D in healthy adults by an average of 40%2.

Although we all know the risks associated with using sun beds, tanning in a sensible manner creates a whole host of health benefits.  It is overexposure that causes the health risks, but in moderation sun bed use is good for you and the staff at Sands provide guidance to their customers about the healthy tanning and sun bed usage.