Thursday, 29 March 2018

Weeknotes 5 - when a rest is as good as a rest

Just back from The Galapagos Islands.  Oh yes, the Mayor took a holiday.  No internet, all jobs handed over to other members of the team and me alone communing with nature.  I barely saw a person for 10 days, let alone kept up to speed on the news.  Time flew.  

I packed paperback novels, took my ukulele and borrowed a great camera.  I thought I'd have time to fill as the boat moved from one island to another.  I thought I'd be twiddling my thumbs.  But time flew.

I dozed, I daydreamed and I watched iguanas walk oh so slowly across deserted sandy beaches.  And I slept.  Time flew.

According to City AM this week, the cost to the UK economy of the business world's sleep deficit could be up to $50bn a year.  This is measured in higher mortality, lower productivity and probably a whole load of bad decisions made when the mind is just frazzled.  Sleep deficit catches up with you. 

I learned so much on my holiday.  Turtles are wonderful creatures, sea lions swim alongside you fearlessly in the Galapagos, and I don't seem to suffer with seasickness (unlike some of the people on the catamaran I was on).  But I also re-taught myself how to sleep.  It was wonderful.  

So, that's the lesson of this week's notes.  A change isn't as good as a rest - although changing your location to the middle of nowhere helps separate you from all that's filling your head.  A good brisk walk won't wake you up if you would do better closing your eyes.  After years enjoying the fast pace, it's obvious that I really needed a good kip. 

Friday, 23 February 2018

Weeknotes 4 - When you see everything differently

Yes, I missed a week.  A trip to Madrid threw my schedule into a bit of a state and my last week’s notes were sacrificed.  However, I’m back and this time I mean business.  In fact, it’s the very business of PR and media relations that’s been filling my mind with questions.

This week, I travelled down to Sussex to meet a client for dinner.  He’s someone I’ve worked with for years and he’s shared many words of wisdom that have influenced how I’ve run my own business as well as a heap of insight that can be shared with the media.   We had a great chat, as expected, however as the bill came and the last coffees were quaffed he questioned me about the significance of media relations.  With fake news, alarmist reporting, clickbait and the ocean of comment out there, was any of this getting through to the right people?  And wasn’t it only going to get worse as people stuck within the small circle of opinion that they found comfortable and avoided press because it just ‘didn’t help them understand the full story’.  I argued the case for my industry.  I used the usual lines about credibility, building a comfort factor amongst people who don’t know you, shareable content.  Maybe it was the caffeine, consumed too late after a very long day, but I wasn’t completely happy with my answers and thought about them as I surfed the net in the hotel room later that night. 

This discussion with a strategic heavy-weight, someone who I admire and have always listened to and believed, showed that I need to dust off my arguments but, more importantly, it showed I needed to take a closer look at how the PR industry and Wordville in particular is responding to the media weariness that is very real amongst so many professional people. 

Radio 4’s Media Show had a discussion about Jeremy Corbin’s reaction to news stories about him this week and about how the younger generations were not engaging with the media.  Trevor Kavanagh, political columnist of The Sun, assured us that the press ‘still has a place, the ability to delve into things in depths which social media doesn’t’.  It wasn’t very convincing.  If the national press that he works in is still relevant across generations, then surely people shouldn’t need reminding of that. The power of perception has shifted and his argument did sound a bit old-school.

At Wordville, we’ve often taken an original approach and work frequently outside the usual media channels to get clients noticed.  It feels like it’s more important than ever to question all the outreach.  I don’t have any answers yet, and I’m certainly not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  A good night’s sleep and a hotel fry up was what I needed to recognise that this offers an opportunity for Wordville not a death knell.  The game’s a foot. And the game’s changed. 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Weeknotes 3 - The Epitome of Now

Matt says this is the time that most people give up.  You know, after a few Weeknotes you wonder what more you can say.  Well, for me, loads.  My issue will always be squeezing it all in. 

Managing time has been my theme for the week.  I spent quite a while on a new business proposal for a client I really want to work with.  It’s a risk and always in the back of my head are what an old boss of mine said ‘it’s expensive to come in second’.  I don’t want to add up all the hours I’ve spent on new business that I didn’t win.  I’ve gotten better over the years at assessing if Wordville stands a chance and so only investing the time and effort when it’s worthwhile.  Meeting the people helps.  You can see pretty quickly if they are the kind of people you want to work with (they’re having exactly the same thoughts I know).  Now, if I quit a new business pitch, it’s usually after the first meeting.  A kind of speed dating for business growth.

This week, one of our clients has written about how a CEO can combat stress and it seems that a lot has to do with time management and prioritising successfully.  I went to a Time Management course a decade or so ago and I remember two things from that training.  Firstly, that eight of the ten people attending the course were late (funny that) and, secondly, that you can’t control time only the activities you fill it with. 

I’m addicted to the Pomodoro Technique, as everyone in the office who has to suffer my ticking kitchen timer knows.  I can pack a whole lot in when I’m swapping activities every 25 minutes, rather than every other minute.  And I really like the ticking now – it’s like a happy little sidekick that is working as hard as I am.

I can’t promise to always be on top of things.  In fact, I only listened to the WB40podcast five days after it came out.  The podcast is hosted by Matt Ballantine (my unintentional transparency coach) and Chris Weston.  This week, Chris started the 55th episode with a discussion about how time had flown since starting their podcasting.  “We are right in the moment … in the epitome of what I’d call now.”  I love that line.

So, with Pomodoro kitchen timer ticking, proposal being proofread, reports to write and a quick trip to the vets scheduled because the dog has hurt his nose, here am I, writing Week Notes - in the epitome of now.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Weeknotes 2 - 2nd February 2018

Keeping my promise to be open and also to take time each week to consider what I've learned, what worked well and what I could have gone better, here is Week Two of my #weeknotes.

I spent a good part of the week interviewing people for a magazine article.  Each of them had struggled to find work because of a disability.  They'd received support and had made progress towards getting a job.  Many of them talked to me about how cut off they felt without work.  It wasn't about the money.  They wanted to work to put their skills to good use and to connect with others.  They wanted to work to combat loneliness.

In the UK, we now have a Minister of Loneliness and this week the The Washington Post (amongst others) has written about how Europeans are struggling with feeling isolated.  Could social media help?  I admit to being hooked on Facebook and often post jokes or photos when I just need an audience to share something with (and require a little more response than the teenage eye rolls I get from my sons).  But social media also paints an unrealistic picture and, if you compare yourself as you're scrolling through the fabulous lives of others, it can make anyone feel separate, less interesting and alone.

I also had a chat to a friend who is running a marathon in the Sahara desert (that's one that'd go down a treat on social media).  He's doing it to raise money for a London charity, The Camden Society, that supports people with disabilities, many of whom are housebound .  As well as providing care, they also provide company.  It struck a chord with me.

What did I learn this week?  That I don't know very much about loneliness but I know it affects all ages, races, socio economic groups.  I hope the Minister of Loneliness does a great job - and that my friend Matt makes a fortune with his fundraising.  What I don't do well?  Sharing my own time and keeping an eye out for others who might be lonely.  I'm going to work on that.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Welcome to Weeknotes 1 - 26th January 2018

An intriguing lunch with Matt Ballantine this week caused me to rethink how transparent I am in my working life.  Although cautious, I agreed to adopt some of the tools he uses.  I signed up to a lively and informative WhatsApp group (note to a beginner, mute the notifications - some people start chatting very early in the morning and if you sleep with your phone in bed with you you'll be woken at the crack of dawn).  And I promised to share Weeknotes - a sort of stream of consciousness about the week just experienced.  Here's mine:

It's been awards week.  Oscars announced.  Wordville won an award:

Most Outstanding PR & Marketing Company 2018

Why, thanks for that. 

And I had some heated debates about whether Management Today's proposed award for men who have supported woman to break through the glass ceiling was a bit 'iffy' and felt like handing out a prize for doing the right thing - or really an award for not doing the wrong thing.   

I also drafted an award for a client, which was inspiring.  Growth is great - or so they say - but it was impressive to catalogue all the achievements the company has made on behalf of the staff, clients and community.  

So, as someone who has always been a little cynical about awards, here am I in 'awardsville'.  I'm still conflicted about awards but admit I'm considering ordering the faux crystal trophy that comes with Wordville's latest.  Well, once you've got one you sort of need to keep it up. 


Monday, 27 June 2016

Ten steps to perfect modern business portraits (Part Two)

Modern business portrait – head-shot not mugshot

Naturally, you want to look good in your business portrait, so what are the top 10 things to think about to ensure your photos are great? In the second of this two-part blog, we are going to look at five things you can do to make yourself look great, from what you wear through to how stand in front of the camera…

1. OutfitFor your killer business portrait I would always say wear something classic, especially if you aren’t planning to get your portrait re-done every year. Imagine you are going for a job interview, you want to be the very best most polished version of yourself and the same goes for your shoot.

For the guys - A simple white or pale blue shirt and blue/grey blazer works well for a more corporate look, open collar no tie looks much more modern than a tie or suit. An ‘I mean business’ look is a shirt, open collar, rolled/pushed up sleeves, nice chunky watch and no jacket. This works well but if you are carrying more than a few extra pounds you many want that jacket on to streamline your look. Avoid anything heavily patterned like hounds-tooth and checks - it just makes the viewers eyes go funny.

For the ladies, again, classic is best. It depends on your business and the image you are looking to portray. Whatever you choose it needs to be well fitting - baggy clothes and shapeless tops simply make you look bigger in a photo, so more structured and tailored always looks more polished. A crisp white shirt looks awesome, again avoid heavy pattern and anything that will date quickly. Black can look a little harsh so always try to soften black with something coloured and more feminine. Jewelry works well here - something bold and with a bit of colour can often pack a punch, looking contemporary and stylish without dating too quickly.

Whatever you wear it should be something that you feel good in, empowered and attractive.

One thing to note is that if your shoot isn’t first thing in the morning, then take a spare top/ shirt with you, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve turned up to a shoot to find the ‘model’ has spilled their (usually ‘his’) lunch down their front. Not a good look.

2. Hair and make-up – Ladies, your make up should be worn slightly heavier than usual, although a natural make-up look is always pretty timeless. It’s a good idea to take your make up kit and hairbrush with you to the shoot that way you can apply extra if needed. Loose powder works well to stop any shine, (think of the news presenters getting their noses powdered moments before going on air, male and female). You will most likely have a favourite side to your face, perhaps without even realising it.  If you have an off-centre parting, it’s likely to be the side with more hair. Ensure you have photos taken of both sides. Your photographer should be able to see which looks best but ask them to take both sides anyway. Guys, get a haircut in advance if your hair needs it. Don’t wait until the day and then suddenly remember. Brushing your teeth prior to the shoot is always a good idea.

3. Posing – The most flattering angle is always ¾ to the camera. To achieve  this, stand with your feet at 45 to 90 degrees to the camera, then twist from your waist towards the camera.  If you can shift your weight into your back hip that will make your hips and legs look slimmer. Think about all those celeb photos, they twist, they pose and they shift their weight back away from the camera. You want to do the same in a less obvious way. If your weight is in your back foot you will know, you will be able to lift the foot closest to the camera and still maintain your balance. It’s always going to be more flattering if the photographer is slightly taller or a little bit above you.

4. Facial expressions – Try to remember to keep your chin down a little. It’s a natural instinct to try to minimise a double chin (or the worry about one) by looking up and trying to ‘stretch’ your chin out. This has the total opposite effect in a photo, it simply highlights the chin area. Remember in a photo, whatever is closest to the camera looks the largest. We want your eyes and smile to look largest, so chin down a little (think Princess Diana and those puppy eyes in a less dramatic way). Another top tip is to push your forehead forward just a little, not too much, but a little can tighten the jawline and skin wonderfully!

5. Hands – This is a funny one. Your hands are about the same size as your face, go ahead, try it. If you have your hands in a shot in the foreground they can look even bigger! To avoid giant hand syndrome. You want those hands tucked out of the way, certainly relaxed and with your fingers together. The only exception to this is the ‘talking heads’ type shot where you want some hand movement as if someone is in conversation or being interviewed. In this case, it’s important not to have any pointing, or aggressive looking hand gestures. You want to aim for a gentle explaining type hand movement. Try resting your elbow on the table and keeping your hands up fairly close to your face.

If you are having a head and shoulders shot, it's good to remember that as soon as your hands move up, say if you put your hands in your pockets, then your shoulders become more hunched and the line of your neck and jaw is altered (in a bad way!) If it’s a ¾ length shot then a hand low on the hip can create a nice shape to your waist and an interesting line through the image.

Liz Carrington is a professional photographer, founder of THE informal SCHOOL OF PHOTOGRAPHY and likes straightforward people and almond croissants. Find her at and and follow her at

These shots were all taken by Liz in natural light on location to demonstrate the ten steps. Thanks to our wonderful model Katie, interior designer extraordinaire, who can be reached via

Friday, 17 June 2016

Ten steps to perfect modern business portraits (Part One)

Naturally, you want to look good in your business portrait, so what are the top 10 things to think about to ensure your photos are great? In this two-part blog, photorgrapher Liz Carrington looks at the right environment for creating brilliant portraits, identifying five key points to consider if you want ‘head and shoulder’ portraits for corporate or professional use.

1.Photographer – it goes without saying  that a fabulous photographer is the first thing you need. With the best will in the world, if you have a fusty old photographer, who has been doing things the same ways for donkeys years, your portrait is unlikely to look fresh and modern. Similarly, if you have an inexperienced photographer, or perhaps a friend or colleague taking your photo, it’s unlikely they will know the tricks to ensure your portrait is as flattering as possible. Grab yourself a fab photographer with a style you love and off you go…

2. Time – One of the keys to creating a wonderful portrait is to allow enough time. Now I know you are busy and I know there is work to do but trust me, you need a little time for the magic to happen. I would allow at least 30 minutes but more likely an hour, especially if you’re going to be shooting in multiple locations and aiming for a few styles of photograph. An hour is enough time for you to relax into the shoot, without clock watching, enough time to try a few different poses, styles, lighting arrangements, backgrounds and expressions. With a good photographer, an hour will pass very quickly. Give yourself the best chance to have a flattering relaxed-looking portrait. You will be glad you did.

3. Natural light – This is an easy one. If you are having your photo taken, natural light is likely to be the most flattering light. Use windows and light-filled spaces to bounce the light all around and fill in any shadows. If it’s a super bright day and you want to avoid the harsh sunlight, bounced light works best - this is why photographers use reflectors and shade. However, there are times when you will be photographed with studio lighting - a little more intimidating perhaps, but the even lighting gives a great glow. 

4. Location – Its important to get a good selection of shots from your shoot, as time is precious and whilst you are doing a shoot, you need to get good value for your time. I would recommend at least 3/4 different set ups and looks for one shoot. Your photographer will scout these locations out in advance and have an idea what will look great. Windows work well, interesting walls and walkways with perspective are good too, as are stairwells. You will need to trust the photographer on this one, but be prepared to move around and try a few things.

5. Style and feel – Are your shots to be used on a corporate website, are they for Linkedin and social media? Do you need more than one look and can this be achieved by simply using several set-ups and taking your jacket off and rolling your sleeves? Professional photographers know that you are likely to need different shots for different media and different PR purposes. You don’t want the happy smiley shot used for a news story about redundancies, nor do you want a serious shot for a lighthearted piece about a fun charity event for instance. You will know what type of shots are most relevant to your work, but ensure you get a selection as your PR or Marketing team may need something else too.

Liz Carrington is a professional photographer, owner and tutor at THE informal SCHOOL OF PHOTOGRAPHY and likes straightforward people and almond croissants. Find her at and and follow her at follow her at

These shots were all taken by Liz in natural light on location to demonstrate the ten steps. Thanks to our wonderful model Katie, interior designer extrordinaire, who can be reached via

Watch out for Part Two of Ten Steps to Perfect Modern Business Portraits ... on Wordville's blog.