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.  

Monday, 7 November 2016

What makes a good Chimera client? 10 reasons why it could be you

One of the questions we asked ourselves on a recent team awayday was ‘What does a good client look like for us?’ and we thought we’d share the outcome of our ideal PR, marketing or social media client.

  1. You want to grow your business, and you understand that’s what we want too
  2. You value PR, marketing and/or social media
  3. You understand these take a while to bed in and evolve, so you are happy to apply patience when you don’t see immediate results
  4. You’re able to regularly tell us what you and your business are doing, so you don’t expect us to read your mind
  5. You respond as soon as you can to our questions, respecting that there are good reasons why we want to know, and if you don’t know the answers, you do your best to find out
  6.  You value our years of experience, skills, abilities, qualifications and professionalism, and don’t necessarily think you know better (although of course you certainly do when it comes to your own business)
  7. You’re prepared to invest in our service and understand you need to pay us the going rate as we’re unable to work for free; well, would you? And you treat us as you want to be treated: you settle our invoices on time, every time
  8. You don’t expect us to be available for every call or email, and you trust that we’ll get back to you just as soon as we can
  9. You listen to our professional suggestions and work in collaboration to pick the most appropriate to put into practice for your business
  10. You trust us to be part of your team and work with us every step of the way

We’re very fortunate with our clients and know that how we work best works best when you work well with us. 

Are you the ideal Chimera client? We’d like to have you on board so we can help your business grow. Call us now on 01903 812275 and say ‘ideal client’ for a special 10% off end of year offer.

Monday, 31 October 2016

EastEnder turned West Ender : an interview with Michael Greco

Chimera Communication's Managing Director, Jill Woolf, caught up with ex-EastEnder star Michael Greco at this year's Brighton Summit

During this year’s Desire Hour at Brighton Summit, the annual business conference run by Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce, actor Michael Greco, a tutor at Brighton’s Bird Studios, held a West End workshop which included exploring acting methods and vocal techniques for business use, and learning a song from Chicago.

Michael's background

Michael Greco trained at Guildford School of Acting in London. He played Beppe di Marco in EastEnders from 1998 to 2002. He also played Billy Flynn in the West End’s Chicago. In 1999 and 2000 Greco won the British Soap Award for the Sexiest Male for his role in EastEnders. Greco has recently moved back from Los Angeles where he appeared alongside Kevin Costner in the three-part film Hatfields & McCoys.

Acting for business people

Jill chatted to Michael about how he had found working with business people in his workshop instead of his usual stage school students.

Jill: Thanks so much for spending just a few moments with me after your Brighton Summit session. I imagine it was very different having business people of all types, ages and experience in the room. Did you enjoy it and just how different was it?

Michael: I did really enjoy it because it’s great working with people who aren’t actually actors or teaching kids who want to become actors. That’s a long process which takes years and years, and they gradually get better at it but today, with people who have ‘normal’ jobs, their enthusiasm was in abundance.

Jill: Tell me more.

Michael: The ideas delegates had to put into practice, for example just walking across the room, were challenging! It wasn’t easy and I could see that. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage” and everyone has a little bit of showmanship in them, so they really enjoyed the session. Actually, we could have gone on for hours. They also lost their inhibitions quickly; they really just got stuck in. I spoke to them about, for example, being happy or being angry and they just went for it.

Jill Woolf with Michael Greco
Jill: Did you pitch your workshop differently because it was for business people?

Michael: Yes. With actors, it’s part of a process but with business people who don’t want to become actors, I just took the first two or three principles of acting. There are around 200 and we only had an hour.

Jill: What were the three principles you covered?

Michael: The voice (which is the most important thing), breathing which of course incorporates the voice, and physicality as an actor – not just fitness but how you stand, walk and use your body to create a character.

Jill: So that means your presence, which is equally important to business people.

Michael: Absolutely.

Jill: How did you find the input and questions from the delegates compared to your normal students?

Michael: Actually there were very few. They were very attentive and I took the stage along with Mia [Mia Bird, founder of Bird Studios] and we covered so much that the hour went really quickly. As adults, it was almost as if they didn’t want to miss out on anything and they really appreciated this opportunity, which was great.

Jill: I guess people were there as they’d chosen your workshop so they keen to soak up the information eagerly?

Michael: Yes, that’s right! So different from some children.

Jill: Were there any takeaways for you today from being with them that have surprised you?

Michael: Yes, actually. It was interesting to be with adults instead of young people, those who have day-to-day jobs and lives, families and other jobs, and it was something new to them to discover how to breathe properly, how to walk, how to create a character. So what I learned from them through just the feedback I got, seeing their smiling faces, is just how much they were enjoying it! It was like being back at school for them and something different from their normal mundane jobs, so I learned that they appreciated it a lot more than kids do. Kids probably take it a lot more for granted and the adults knew that this was something different, especially hearing it from someone different – I’ve done TV, West End, lots of work over 25 years. They were a good audience.

Jill: What do you think they’re going to take back to their businesses from this session?

Michael: I think they’re going to take back probably being able to stand up in front of people with more vigour, with more positivity hopefully; being able to use their diaphragm, which is very important in breathing. If you get in a particular situation where you’re shallow breathing, you need to be able to relax into your breathing so you can do whatever you need to next because as I said, breathing is everything and you’ve got to be able to take good, deep breaths in order to relax yourself.

Jill: That’s particularly important for those who present in their business life. It’s something which is covered in the training I and my team do for presentation and media training, but I’m sure it really meant a lot more having this experience with a professional actor.

Michael: Yes, it’s so important to get an audience relaxed in the first few minutes of a presentation and have them eating out of your hand. That’s when you get a better chance to get your business ideas across. 

Jill: It’s been a delight to talk to you today. Thanks so much again.

Michael: Absolutely my pleasure.

A version of this interview was first published on Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce's Brighton Summit website where you can see how a full day of learning, networking and exploring potential benefits people from all types of businesses in the area.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Brighton and Barclays mean business for high growth entrepreneurs

Chimera's MD Jill Woolf recently interviewed Barclays' Corporate Relationship Director, Paul Williams, on the bank's sponsorship of a session at Brighton Summit. The Summit is organised by Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce and is a popular business conference, now in its fourth year, attracting around 300 delegates comprising start-ups, SMEs and bigger corporates, business owners and managers, not-for-profits and entrepreneurs, working in and around the city.

Jill is Lead Ambassador for the Chamber and a member of its Board.

High growth business entrepreneurship and its challenges are the subject of the Barclays-sponsored session and the speaker is Marc Koska, the inventor of the K1 auto-disabling syringe and founder of the SafePoint Trust, a charity which campaigns for safer syringe use.

Jill: We’re delighted Barclays is on board for this year’s Brighton Summit, Paul. I’m sure members and delegates would like to know more about your unit’s role within the bank, and the synergy between what you do and the session you’re sponsoring. As head of the high growth entrepreneur team, what are you looking for in an ideal high growth business?

Paul: In black and white, a high growth company should be consistently growing at 20% each year in terms of revenue and number of employees over the last three years, or has received external investment through post seed funding. That said, not all high growth businesses fit into the black and white definition so we also look at the companies’ USPs, growth potential, management team and strategic plans to move the business forward.

Jill: What does your new service offer, why did Barclays feel it was necessary now, and how will high growth businesses in the city benefit?

Paul: Barclays is continuing to build out its proposition, which supports high growth companies and entrepreneurs right across the UK. Through its ‘High Growth & Entrepreneurs’ offering, the bank is at the forefront in helping founders and entrepreneurs build and scale their businesses at speed.

Building and maintaining forward momentum in a high growth business requires continuous investment, so we’ve developed a suite of funding options to meet the changing needs of a high growth business. Barclays can support entrepreneurs from idea to IPO utilising our £200m fund for venture debt lending.

The specialist Brighton team has individuals from many parts of the business including a dedicated high growth and entrepreneur manager so we’re able to guide and support a company from start-up all the way through to flotation or sale.

Jill: What particular challenges do high growth entrepreneurs have that others don’t?

Paul: Good question! In our recent white paper ‘The Scale Up’ report, which Barclays commissioned with the support of Cambridge and Oxford University, a number of challenges were identified. The report is available free of charge to download from the Barclays High Growth & Entrepreneur website and well worth a read -  

In a snapshot, funding presents a huge challenge to scale up business, however it’s not all about money, and the skills gap and ability to scale at speed, production and personnel also present unique challenges for scale up businesses. 

Jill: How does the Eagle Lab fit in?

Paul: Barclays Eagle Lab provides the facility for UK start-up businesses to co-locate, collaborate and grow.

The Eagle Lab provides access to resources including expert mentoring, 3D printers and laser cutters - giving Brighton’s start-up community a crucial boost. For more information, visit or pop in to the Eagle Lab, which is located at Preston Circus.

Jill: Tell me about your background and journey to get to your current post. Do you have an entrepreneurial background?

Paul: I’ve been a business manager with Barclays in Brighton for 20 years and I’ve supported start-up businesses all the way to corporate companies. It’s great to see some of the entrepreneurs I helped to start up now turning over six figure sums. I’ve always lived and worked in the area and I feel I have developed a strong understanding of the unique Brighton market.

Jill: Thanks so much for talking with me, Paul, and I hope you enjoy this year’s Summit.

Paul: It’s been a pleasure. I’ll be there along with members of my unit so not only will be joining in with the day, we’re there to answer any questions from delegates and offer advice. I’m really looking forward to it, and of course our sponsored session on high growth business.

Brighton Summit takes place on 14th October 2016 ( 

 This blog post was originally published on the Brighton Summit website.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Work-Life Balance Olympian Style...

7 Work-Life Balance Secrets of Elite Champions... and You

Guest blog by Nick Le Clere, strategic change consultant and facilitator, executive leadership coach, trainer, innovator and speaker, running online webinars and learning events for conscious business leaders of the future

Hooray for our Team GB Olympians! What truly outstanding performances from so many, to win 67 medals in all. 27 Gold, 23 Silver and 17 Bronze - wow, truly amazing.

Wonderful timing for putting the heart and self-respect back into Great Britain, after Brexit as well.

How did that happen?

What did it take to create that level of success, both individually and as a team? What did it take, to peak at the precise time, for the maximum Olympic effect?

Well for sure, the athletes didn't just roll up to Rio and get lucky. They did not drive themselves to the edge of insanity, just before the Games and hope to pull off a coup. They did not pray for miracles. They knew they could do it, deep down inside themselves. They were ready.

Many of the athletes talk about planning for this event for many years beforehand. Some deliberately missed other competitions like the Commonwealth Games to be able to retain absolute focus on Olympic Gold in Rio 2016.

All the while, training relentlessly and building their mental commitment, emotional resilience and self-belief levels to astounding levels of positivity and self-assuredness.

Also receiving the help and support of coaches, mentors, physios, trainers, families, friends and of course Lottery Funding.

The support these athletes have received has been planned and organised since the Lottery Fund was first started in the 1990s. That’s the kind of long-term planning, organising and consistent investment in the environment and infrastructure that has been going on behind the scenes for years. Not to mention the ongoing benefits of the London Olympic infrastructure created previously.

What can you do for you, to nurture your high performance?

What can we take and apply from this amazing Olympic lesson in discipline, commitment and resolve, to be the best you can be, on your particular stage?

 1. Pick your battles and commitments

Beware of over-commitment. Be fully aware of what you say yes to. Don’t try to do everything and wear yourself out.

Make time for urgent and important activities and delegate as much stuff that you don't like doing as possible. Keep your edge sharp, not blunted on trivia.

2. Manage your down-time as well as up-time

Sporting legends look after themselves and know how to relax and switch off. Plan and organise your time with your own rest and recovery cycles in mind.

Burn out = no medals at all. Give yourself priority among the ever-increasing workload.

3. Build high quality support systems

None of the Olympic athletes could have achieved what they did without full-on help and support over an extended period.

Ask for help. It’s a sign of strength not weakness, if you want to win the big stuff.

Balance your work, rest and play time, and actively schedule these things in your calendar, if necessary. Look at your eating and drinking habits and make more healthy choices.

4. Get a coach and/or mentor

Get yourself a coach and/or mentor with whom you really connect and bounce new ideas around to raise your game.

Most athletes have more than one coach - areas covered include winning mindsets, self-belief, various capability sets, energetics, optimising emotional content, and work-life balance.

Coaches help you see what you can’t yet see or what’s staring you in the face while you look around everywhere for answers. They help you create new pathways for high performance and wellbeing.

5. Stay grounded and centred

It’s far too easy to lose your centre and sense of self under intense pressure. Sustained exposure to pressure and stress creates fatigue and leads to deteriorating performance.

With both stress overload and fatigue, simple things start to become difficult to achieve consistently and self-mastery goes out of the window.

Finding ways to relax and come back to your centre, say through visualisation, meditation or taking regular time in nature to soften your focus and create harmony within, is time well spent in the pursuit of high performance.

6. Stay positive and focused

While easier said than done, when under pressure, if you feel overwhelm approaching, the best thing you can do is stop and breathe and take a time out.

Stepping back helps to refocus your attention on the bigger picture and create an opportunity for positivity to be reclaimed.

This can be hard when in the thick of challenging situations, but at the first chance you can, create, pull back and evaluate as an observer and notice new ways of doing things entering your perceptions...

You can do this and still keep your eyes on the prize!

7. Manage expectations

Rome was not built in a day. Olympic medals are not won through short-term effort cycles.

Be honest with yourself, and others around you, about just what is possible. Get used to saying no, if things feel wrong.

By saying this, you may be able to create new ways of approaching things that you feel more able to say yes to. Practice discernment and be aware of how much pressure you put on yourself and its effect - positive or limiting.

Too much pressure over extended periods is madness and no medals come from that choice or habit whatsoever. Unless cultural insanity is the prize.

And finally…

Be kind to yourself, especially if no-one else is being kind to you.

If this is your normal working environment, and work-life balance is not possible in your team or business - then it’s time for a change.

If you don't put your work-life balance first, no one else will.

So it’s up to you - how badly do you want the end prize?

What is your Gold medal event, at your own lifetime Olympic Games?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Case of Noddy and the Mysterious Media Interview

Well, at least that got your attention!

Can you remember the worst interview you’ve ever seen on TV? I bet you can. Was it a politician, reality ‘star’, footballer or unsuspecting member of the public?

For me, it was the director of a certain holiday park company who was being grilled by a prime time TV reporter about some pretty torrid holiday experiences from customers at one of their venues. This was a perfect example of media training - or in this case, lack of media training.

The company representative continually denied everything, was incredibly defensive to the point of being downright aggressive in tone as well as body language, was utterly disinterested in the customers’ complaints, and frankly made viewers feel they’d never want to use that holiday firm in the future.

How different it could have been. The right spokesperson, preparation, tone, language and message delivery could have been the difference between:

(a) alienating the reporter as well as the viewer;
(b) getting the company perceived as caring, considerate and responsive; and
(c) winning and losing customers.

Have you worn the right outfit for the interview?

There are so many things to consider when agreeing to appear on TV or on the radio, or on-line, and that’s where we come in.

Our media trainers are experienced broadcasters, journalists and communications experts, not wannabes or copycats.

We will create a bespoke training course for your business and its issues, and deliver it at your own offices or venue of choice. It can last as long as you want it to ie half a day, a whole day or two. It depends how many people are to be trained and how much content we agree with you will benefit your executives. We also incorporate personal branding and image.

We work with a professional filming crew, so everyone will be filmed and critiqued (in only the most positive way), then we go about giving you expert tips and techniques to hone your skills and make you feel confident and controlled for future broadcasts. The experience takes away the mystique and fear, and having been through it once, you’ll feel much better about doing it for real when the need arises.

“This was one of the best courses I’ve ever been on, and I remember your tips to this very day,” said one of my delegates, a director from a housing group, “even down to the choice of tie I should wear!”

And Noddy? 

It’s the name for those little head shots you see in interviews consisting of nods or signs of listening by the interviewer. Usually it’s because there’s only one camera available, and noddies are recorded after the interview has taken place then edited in. It seems real to the viewer, as if the interview is being filmed from several different angles with a bigger film crew.

Get in touch now to talk about the creation of a bespoke package for your company executives. Simply click here or give us a call.

Your company reputation is worth it.

Monday, 20 June 2016

“Don't let's ask for the moon! We have the stars!” ― Olive Higgins Prouty, Now, Voyager

Last week, our training team had some fresh professional photos taken by our lovely friends at VERVATE in Brighton.

The original plan was to use the seafront as our stage and create some rather wacky shots but as the heavens opened, Plan B came into operation: we used the theatre and stage setting at 88 London Road, an independent CIC (community interest company) where the current performance is Peter Pan, a musical adventure. We're strategic PR partners with the 88 team, so we have very special access.

Having professional images means projecting a professional image and with our quirky company, only quirky images would do. Effective branding means always being consistent and cohesive, and that includes business photography. We're vibrant personalities, our offering is strategic and business-like, so having us stand dumbly in a straight line just wouldn't be appropriate.

So here are some of the images we created, thanks to the wonderful Susi Doherty and Simon Dack of VERVATE. "Do something funky" I said and that's just what we got. Where else would I get the chance to lift up the moon?!
We can't get you to the moon but we can help your business fly!

So here we have from left to right, back row: Pete Jenkins (Gamification+), Jill Woolf, Chris Cummings (OGC Solutions); front row: Eleanor Dobing, Susi Doherty (VERVATE), Sheryl Tipton and Samantha Wilding. Missing from the trainers' line-up is Barney Durrant (Bluebell Digital). 

This unique team of industry experts is collaborating to bring small business owners and their teams a range of PR, sales and marketing-related training workshops designed to create better performance, enhance skills and improve profits.

It's no good waiting in the wings, dreaming you'll get to Neverland, wishing you could fly and hoping the business spotlight will fall on you, centre stage. Enough with the Peter Pan theatre puns! You need to invest in your people so your business can experience return on investment.

We can't get our clients to the moon but our selection of perfectly crafted topics, from content marketing through gamification, social media, photography, getting your business story in the media, plus tons of other sessions, can certainly make you superstars in your own right.

All of our trainers have real experience in the topics about which they're coaching, and have worked with every type of organisation from start-ups, social enterprises, SMEs, multinational conglomerates and everything in between. Between us, we have around 200 years' experience. This unique mix isn't replicated anywhere else.

Go on, book an Early Bird ticket now and say 'Curtains up' for business growth.

Each and every one of them a training superstar!
 To book, go to Chimera Courses - practical skills for practical businesses.