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.  

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.