Thursday, 21 September 2017

12 tips for effective pre-Christmas business communications. And a partridge in a pear tree!

Let’s be thankful we’ve made it this far through the year, although some people believe the world will end on 23rd September. Assuming we get through the latest apocalyptic prophesy, businesses should be looking at how to best communicate with their customers, now ... before it's too late!

Here are some tips to ensure as stress-free a time as possible for you in the run-up to the festive season:
  1.       Publish your opening hours on your website, social media and wherever else is appropriate, well in advance
  2.       Ensure you give an emergency contact name and number if appropriate
  3.       Remind customers about special offers or seasonal services
  4.       Give special offers to existing customers as a thank you for their loyalty
  5.       Do seasonal competitions to increase your database for New Year promotions
  6.       Offer free delivery before Christmas if appropriate
  7.       If you have a small business and giving anything free is difficult, give something extra by way of great service or a very small free gift to make people feel good (like a coffee and mince pie if they’re coming into your shop) – or team up with another company and do something together to share the cost
  8.       If you have a food, clothing or other appropriate business, give some left-over products to a local charity
  9.      Take on seasonal staff – you might need extra help to cope with the extra business 
  10.      Product returns usually increase after Christmas; make sure your customers and your staff know your policy so everything runs seamlessly (especially if you've taken on seasonal staff or part-timers)
  11.      Make sure you train new staff as well as refreshing the skills of existing ones who might be under pressure if you get really busy, and explain your seasonal offers to your team so everyone is up to speed
  12.     Reward your team with a bonus to say thanks for working hard – if times are tough financially, you’ll be amazed how much a kind word, a smile and a few extra hours off can help!

I'm off to buy some Easter eggs now. I believe they're already on sale in M&S!

Monday, 11 September 2017

He’s behind you! Oh no he’s not. Well, he could be …

And before I start, no messages with comments about using ‘he’ instead of ‘she’. No slurs intended. It was simply the first thing that came to mind. Nothing to do with feminism. I’m normally a meritocrat but in this case, it was first typed, first kept.

OK, moving on … what’s the PR and marketing slant of this post?

The panto connotation in the title relates to The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio being produced by my wonderful clients, JW Productions. No, it’s not me although the initials are the same. 

JW Productions have been bringing traditional theatre pantomime back to the Brighton & Hove area for the last five years. They specialise in superbly acted productions all year round aimed mainly at the children and family community audience, as well as producing some wonderful thrillers, drama and avant-garde stuff. It’s a small, local, independent company which receives no funding.

The thrust of PR is to influence, educate, communicate and persuade. Marketing is all about finding a niche in the market and selling something profitably.

I have therefore educated and communicated about this year’s panto production, Pinocchio, which will be at The Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts on the University of Sussex Campus at Falmer from 20th December 2017 to 6th January 2018.
And now I’d like to persuade you to consider how you can be involved. Casting is already well under way but if you really wanted to, I guess I can arrange an audition! But what I really mean is: how your business could be involved from a PR and marketing perspective.

Here’s how … get your company’s name behind Pinocchio and these will be the benefits:

Raised brand awareness

Put your brand literally in the spotlight. You’ll get positive PR, credibility and expose your brand to all those people going to the shows who could buy your products or services.

Emotional connection

People often spend with their heart. Seeing your brand connected to a Christmas panto shows you care enough to get involved at the community level so it becomes instantly more appealing.

Media Exposure

We’re hoping for lots of coverage from our media partners in the area (print, online, TV and radio) so it’ll be extra positive exposure for your brand too.

We’re working on collaborating with a number of iconic companies and venues in the city with some exciting promotional events using Pinocchio and his chums.


You can have your promotional materials at the event to promote what you do, and give-aways will ensure an additional shelf life for branded items. You could, for example, test the market with a product before investing in a larger marketing campaign or simply use the exercise to get your logo ‘out there’ with an existing target audience.


Through the panto website and extensive print and online advertising, social media messaging and, of course, word of mouth.

Use the event as a corporate hospitality opportunity, or to reward your staff. Have it as an end or extension to a conference or your own event.

The Charity Champion package is particularly useful for a large-scale CSR push, and photo potential galore, particularly if you end up on stage in costume!

Here are more details:

Pinocchio Package - £7.5k
Headline Sponsor (3 required)
You get:
Logo on all print media (30k flyers and 1k posters)
Full page advert in the souvenir programme
200 tickets
10 mentions on each of their social media platforms
6 VIP tickets to press night and the post-show reception with the cast
Foyer presence
2 mentions in the MailChimp mailer (database of 8k)

Geppetto Package - £6.5k
Sponsor (5 packages available)
You get:
Logo on all print media
Half-page advert in souvenir programme
50 tickets
5 mentions on each of our social media platforms Foyer presence
4 VIP tickets to press night and the post show reception with cast

Figaro Package - £6.5k – Charity Champion
(2 packages available)
You buy a WHOLE performance (320 seats) and get:
Full page advert in souvenir programme
10 mentions on each of their social media platforms
2 mentions in the Mail Chimp (8k)
Foyer presence on the night of the performance
A pre- or post-show reception can be arranged for your guests

Jiminy Cricket - £2.5k
Ambassador (10 packages available)
Would suit smaller businesses looking to gain local recognition
Quarter-page advert in souvenir programme
25 tickets
3 mentions on each of our social media platforms
2 VIP tickets to press night and the post-show reception with the cast

If you’re interested – and I do hope you are – please contact me on or on 01903 812275.

I’m all ears. Or should that be nose? Well, it is Pinocchio!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Cruising out of your comfort zone

I’m lucky enough to be able to go on many cruises. If you follow realchimeracomms on Instagram, you’ll be able to see a selection of photos from our working adventures around the world.

Recently it struck me that there is some correlation between being on the high seas and our working lives ...

Stepping out of your comfort zone

I’m claustrophobic. I never wanted to go on a cruise. I couldn’t bear the thought of being encased in a large metal box on the high seas. Being over thousands of feet of potentially treacherous water, miles from anywhere, also frightened me. I’d always said I’d never do it.

Something life-altering happened, after which I decided to live for the moment. I decided to try a cruise. I started with a short one. And the miraculous thing was ... as soon as I stepped on the ship, I felt at home. I’ve since done plenty of cruises as it’s part work, part holiday. It’s a marvellous life and I love it.

I’ve been on many ships now including one where we were in the middle of a ‘weather phenomenon’ and another with Force 10 gales. Of course, it’s challenging and the sea can be kind to you or very brutal. Being at the heart of Mother Nature is incredibly invigorating and you just have to put your faith in fate.

If I hadn’t been determined to try it the first time, I would never have known that I would come to love going on cruises, travelling the world while working with clients, and seeing places I never thought I would.

This has shown me how to take unchartered waters when it comes to work situations. Just because it looks frightening, it doesn’t need to be so. It’s amazing how good you feel after doing something you really didn’t think you could.

The many benefits of being reticent but doing it anyway

Business survival depends sometimes on taking that risk. Being nimble, flexible and agile, and diversifying if necessary. If I’d carried on doing exactly what I’d always done, I wouldn’t have discovered a whole world of delight and wonder.

If you’re stuck in a rut, the courageous thing to do is ‘something different’. If you’re scared of speaking in public, for example, the more you practise and the more prepared you are, you really can step of your comfort zone and do it anyway.

Take your blinkers away and upskill. Challenge yourself to learn something new to benefit yourself and your business. Keep up-to-date with new technology (which can be very scary) and open up new horizons.

Having a great crew around you

Every efficient ship needs a great crew, working together as a team. Seeing how every crew member on cruise ships is part of the whole, believing in the very best customer service to look after their guests, as well as how intricately the organisation of each ship works, is truly inspiring.

Getting the very best people around you for the benefit of your business (team members, suppliers, contractors etc) goes a very long way to ensuring you will be ship-shape and sea-worthy.

Happy sailing!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Business survival : getting the best from yourself

“I feel so lonely as a freelancer” and “I’m the boss but it’s really lonely at the top” – these are two phrases I hear frequently from clients and networking colleagues alike.

Even very successful business people feel isolated and there are all sorts of reasons why. 

One of the best remedies is to get yourself a mentor; one you trust, can engage with, and is experienced and skilled enough to be able to be a real support to you as you go on your journey. And yes, I hate that word too. Let’s say ‘ride’ instead.

I’m a mentor for Entrepreneurial Spark in Brighton, an organisation powered by NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, KPMG Enterprise and Dell Technologies across the UK. In England and Wales, they also work with Pinsent Masons and in Scotland, Harper Macleod. E-Spark is “a people accelerator and work with you as the entrepreneurial leader to develop your mindsets and behaviours.”

I’ve been doing this for nearly two years and find it very interesting and rewarding. Here’s what I get out of mentoring:
  •         I meet lots of businesses, both start-ups and those which are in the growth stage
  •         I’m able to help these business people based on my 35+ years of experience working in and for a variety of different organisations, both commercial and not-for-profit
  •         I’m delighted when my advice, support and contacts have helped businesses develop and grow
  •         I’m also delighted when I see the faces of those business people when they learn something new from me; when my suggestions are taken on board and prove themselves as relevant and useful, and provide solutions to problems
  •         I love hearing “I couldn’t have done this without your advice”, “You’ve completely changed my perspective” or “I would never have believed I could have done this so quickly and easily”
  •        This is another hideous phrase, but I do love ‘giving something back’

I’ve done mentoring in various guises throughout the years, from being the first mentor in the Women in Housing scheme to Ride the Wave from Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce over the last couple of years. 

Sometimes through mentoring, people find the right thing for them is to move on from their jobs because they’re in the wrong place. That sounds negative, but it’s actually incredibly powerful and positive because often they’ve been stuck in a rut or just stuck generally, and they realise why.

I find I'm mentoring clients frequently too. It's part of helping their businesses be successful. As PR and communications should be core to every business, taking a strategic look as we do for our clients means sometimes mentoring is a useful by-product.

Mentoring isn’t about me doing it for you. It’s about empowering you to make the changes yourself, opening up your mind to other possibilities, and generally being there so you don’t feel so isolated.

I offer mentoring generally on an hourly basis, so if you think I can help you or one of your team in whom you wish to invest, just contact me on

Thursday, 23 March 2017

How the challenges of the newsroom create effective business learning

Interview with John Young - local TV journalist, news presenter and business owner of John Young Media

Chimera Communications' Managing Director, Jill Woolf, met up with John just after his first Newsroom Business Bootcamp in the city, and chatted to him about how and why his business John Young Media came about. 

John Young on TV
Jill: Great to see you, John. Tell me more about how your career has developed and how your Newsroom Bootcamps came about.

Like so many people, I found that after many years working for the same employer (a quarter of a century at the BBC, in my case!), I wanted to step outside of my own comfort zone. My Editor at BBC South East Today knew I was interested in schools and educational stories — so when teachers sometimes asked if he could send anybody in to talk to pupils, he would send me in. I would go to a lot of trouble to make the talks fun and interactive — the kids loved it — and I spotted a business opportunity: for a fair price that state schools could pay, create workshops that used the buzz of live TV news reporting to give pupils an in-your-face experience of deadlines, decision-making and getting things done. 

Jill: What prompted you to bring your already well-established Newsroom Bootcamp into the business arena?

Word spread — and I found business-owners and team-leaders asking if I could run the same sort of workshop for them. They, too, wanted to test themselves (and their teams) with the pressures all employees face: confidence in a meeting, dealing with change, trying things differently. After three successful pilots, I’m now finding it a wonderfully rewarding experience to bring the same sense of energy and humour to an adult audience. 

Jill: How do you feel the first one went in terms of translating from a school and college environment to working with business people?

It was a joy. Young people can be great fun to work with, but part of the challenge can be getting them to trust you at all. They may all enjoy it, but half of them may be silent, the other half boisterous. Adults are more giving and trusting from the word go! (And the coffee from an office is generally much, much better than from a staff room …).

Jill: What specific skills areas do you bring to the Bootcamp, and how did the business delegates’ responses differ from those the students?

I bring energy. I don’t use jargon. The games we play are in-your-face, sometimes challenging, but I make sure there’s a lot of laughter, too. Business delegates are often more confident and prepared to ask more questions as we go along, which gives me a chance to constantly refine the sessions to ensure it’s achieving the goals business owners want. 

Jill: What were the important take-aways for delegates to put into practice when they returned to their offices?

If you think you’re the only one in the room believing something, you’re probably not. If you’re worried you’ve been too succinct in a report you’ve written, your report is probably spot on. If you think you’d never dare to do something you’ve not done before (like reading off an autocue in front of strangers), you’re probably wrong. If you hate change, you may find it’s not as painful as you think. 

Jill: Having worked with you on the first one, I know we’re hoping this will be the start of a series of Bootcamps. What key messages would you like to get across to those who might be thinking of joining us for the next one?

We can all learn from each other. My 25 years in live broadcasting don't give me a single academic qualification in team dynamics — but that’s probably a good thing, because it means I’m not going to drown you in a PowerPoint riddled with industry jargon. But those 25 years do give me a lot of hugely exciting experiences to share with other people, giving us all new ideas about how to be effective in the workplace. 

Jill: What inspires you, John? What makes you get up in the morning and look forward to the day?

A ‘thank you’ letter I received last month sums it up for me — from a 15-year-old girl who struggled at school. She had actually sat down to write it to thank me for giving her confidence during my Employability Express workshop. Here’s what Georgia wrote: 

"You taught me so much, such as getting out of my comfort zone, how to talk in meetings and how to present yourself and you kept on pushing us to work harder and to challenge ourselves. The part I found the most challenging was getting chosen to read off the auto-cue when I didn’t want to. It freaked me out as I don’t like standing up in front of everyone and reading aloud. Although I found it hard to do that, it really helped me and now I feel more confident in myself.”

Jill: What are the best and worst things about your news presenting job, and have these influenced the way you put together the Bootcamps?

Worst thing? There are very few — I’m lucky enough to love the whole process. What we call a ‘quiet news day’ can be frustrating — we like to go on air with compelling news stories, and let’s face it … not all days are as busy as others! The best thing? Knowing that reporting people’s stories can often help them … and knowing that, even if the day hasn’t gone the way you’d hoped, tomorrow is an entirely new news day … 

John Young in front of the camera

Jill: Do you have three top tips for those who didn’t attend the first Newsroom Business Bootcamp?

Less is more — when you’re writing a report, think about a ‘headline’ for it first … because that may be the only bit anyone remembers. 

Don’t be afraid of changing something at the last minute — it can be easier than you think, and nobody’s going to know what you didn’t do or say anyway. 

You have a right to believe what you believe — and you may be surprised how many other people are thinking what you’re thinking, even if you’re the only one that says it out loud.

Jill: I’m inspired! Thanks so much, John.

John: My pleasure.

This piece was originally published on the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce website. Jill Woolf is Lead Ambassador and a Vice-President of the Chamber 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Your 2017 Survival Guide

This is going to be a tough year. We don’t really know what’s going on. We don’t know what the future holds; in fact, we don’t even know what tomorrow holds.

We have put together your essential guide to shoring up your PR and marketing armoury to deal with some of the scenarios you might face this year.

Problem:           How’s your sense of reality? Are you blinkered and assume it’s all going to be fine?

Solution:           Take a long, deep breath and do an audit of how well you’re doing in terms of communicating your key messages to your target audiences.

Problem:           You don’t know your key messages and your target audiences.

Solution:           Don’t worry, we can help. We’ll come in, learn about your business and guide you through who your customer really is, how best to communicate with them, and what messages you need to tell them.

Problem:           Your sales are stagnating or decreasing.

Solution:           Check your competitors’ activity. Check your pricing. Check your products are what people actually want or need. Are you over-stocking? Are you under-stocking? Know what makes your customers buy from you. We can help you with all of this and work with you to turn the situation round so you sell more and make more profit.

Problem:           You need help communicating to your customers that they need to pay you quicker.

Solution:           A good cash flow is vital. We can help write those difficult emails and put together a bad debt process for you.

Problem:           You need to iron out those seasonal peaks and troughs, more so this year than ever.

Solution:           We can help you by planning your PR and marketing activities through the year so you can beef up in readiness for the lean times.

Problem:           You think sending out one tweet or post a week is enough.

Solution:           We can help by managing your social media accounts for you. We look at your objectives and how to persuade and influence people who matter through effective and regular social media messaging. We’re on top of your accounts in real time so help manage your business’s reputation if someone’s saying something less than positive about you too.

Problem:           You don’t think you can afford a PR and marketing consultancy to work with you.

Solution:           You’d be surprised. Talk to us. Think of the potential cost if you don’t.

Chimera Communications to the rescue!

If you need expert help to survive this year and beyond, get in touch now. We’ll take an independent, honest and straightforward look at your PR, marketing and communications, put on our combats and use our skills, knowledge and expertise to cut through the wood to see the trees!

Email or call 01903 812275.

Monday, 13 February 2017

14 years and counting!

We’re feeling the love this month, especially as it’s Chimera Communications’ 14th birthday.

Not bad for something I didn’t originally intend to do. Now, though, I have to thank all those people who were instrumental in Chimera’s birth.

What have I learnt from running my own PR and marketing consultancy in that time? Here’s a quick run-down, from the obvious to the not so obvious:
  • Always have a plan but be nimble, flexible and adaptable
  • Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything without thinking things through
  • Don’t take business issues personally
  • There will always be those who are jealous, lazy or downright incapable, who copy your ideas and how you do stuff – remember they’re simply incompetent or unable to come up with their own ideas. Mainly they come and go with monotonous regularity
  • Life throws you curve balls. It’s how you bat and bowl that matter
  • Always look for the opportunity, not the down side
  • Trust your gut instinct, it’s nearly always right
  • Work hard but work smarter
  • The old adage “Keep it simple” is spot on
  • Tell things how they are, no matter whether people don’t want to hear it. They’ll usually appreciate it in the end
  • The customer is not always right, in fact quite rarely but they’re paying for your best advice and be true to that
  • Value your skills, experience and qualifications; be confident
  • Be nice, be loyal, be ethical, be above reproach
  • Treat others well and with respect, but stand your ground when justified
  • Always be ready to learn new things and keep your mind open
  • Run with new technology where it makes life easier or better; but don’t get carried away with every new development; be discerning
  • If you're wrong, say so and apologise. We're all human and make mistakes but blaming others is just not on
  • Don’t try to do your own tax returns if you don’t know what you’re doing! In other words, get experts on your support team so you can concentrate on what you do best
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new; it’s rarely as scary as you think
  • Be aware of your cash flow situation and plan ahead
  • Sometimes you do have to look back to go forward; that’s ok
  • Life’s too short to work with people you just don’t get on with; say goodbye and move on
  • Above all, be your own person and put your head on your pillow at night with a clean conscience and a grateful heart

For some people though, running a business just isn’t your thing and you need to find that out sooner rather than later. It's ok to have tried. After all, life's too short not to give it a go. Just don't waste too much time, effort and money. Do something else and don't dwell on it. Not everything will be a success and it's important to realise this.

Thank you to all our clients over the years. You’ve been, on the whole, a wonderful bunch of people and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your businesses. There are some fantastic companies out there, truly worthwhile innovations and projects, charities who do so much for others. 

Finally, I’d like to say thank you to each and every one of the Chimera team over the years. It’s been, and will continue to be, heart-warming to work with such a bunch of talented, funny, loyal and professional consultants. 

This is what makes Chimera Communications different, and I love it.