Simple messages in a #COVID19 world

Should I have blogging more over the last two months of lockdown? Too right! But the truth of the matter is I’ve been almost busier than ever living a life in the virtual world.

True for the first two weeks of #lockdown, when the world went into shock, it felt as if we’d all become demented Lady Macbeth’s – “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” Of course it was not guilt over murder or any such foul deeds but to save mankind from the wretched Coronavirus 19.

“Wash your hands!” Such a simple message for a threat almost too big for us to take in and yet combined with imposed isolation it has been working. Though we know it’s not over.

High-end fahion: Alexia Genta with a range of her handmade headbands

I’d say that the “keep it simple” rule is a good one to use for your business message.

One brilliant example has been the work I’ve been doing for Alexia Genta launching Geraldine London on May 1 – an online business borne out of Lockdown. It specialises in unique and limited-edition headbands, upcycling beautiful materials from her core business Alexia Alterations, which has been forced to go on hold.

Customers are loving these beautiful hair accessories – a real lifesaver for many women struggling with #lockdownhair. However, what the likes leading UK news agency PA Media has been impressed with is that 20% of the sales is being donated to Women’s Aid to help their work for women victims of domestic abuse which has risen during lockdown.

sustainable high-end fashion
Coverage on Geraldine London by #EmmaJohnson in anumber of Reach regional papers.

If there is one lesson to take away from the changes imposed on us by COVID-19 is all our actions impact on the people and the world around us – and to protect ourselves, business like everything else must play its part. Business just for profit is not acceptable and not sustainable.

March: COVID 19 and the value of good PR in a crisis

Investing in good public relations will do more for your brand than marketing alone and when your business is facing a crisis it is invaluable.

Coronavirus 19 is that crisis and if you haven’t already taken steps to manage your communications here are some steps that you will want to put in place – now!

Step up to crisis communications

  1. Be prepared – Set up a crisis team that can communicate remotely to gather facts and information, ensuring a chain of command and spokesperson
  2. Messaging – This is what your brand is about, provide honest relevant facts and information, empathise and engage with your audience
  3. Communicate – Make sure your staff know the communication plan and facts, share relevant facts and information with stakeholders, share with media as needed
  4. Understanding media flow – Monitor all media & information, double check facts and information before preparing any statements
  5. Deliverables – Prepare a statement and news release, choose channels and content as appropriate
  6. Adapt – Review your plan to ensure you are able to adapt to changes.

A leap into February 2020

2020 brings the blessing of an extra day this month but, really, I could do with an extra 30, which is why I’m writing my February blog in retrospect!

The reason – CREST20 (Corporate Responsibility for the Environment and a Sustainable Tomorrow 2020) Sustainable Business Awards, the exciting proposal I introduced to the @Woking_NewsMail around April last year. It not only captured the newspaper’s imagination and excitement, but has been widely received with enthusiasm. Most importantly, seeing the value of the venture, we have received the wholehearted support and collaboration from the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and #Sustainability, one of the UK’s internationally-acclaimed centre of academic excellence on sustainable development.

Managing Director, Woking News & Mail, Terry Tidbury with Director of the Centre for Environment and Sustainable Studies, Professor Richard Murphy

So, often withNews & Mail MD Terry Tidbury, the focus of the month has been gathering sponsorship and support.

On 4 February it took us to a fascinating symposium on sustainable business, organised by @SurreyHillsAONB with our awards partners @CES_Surrey . As a trademarked member of this group of rural businesses I touched base with a number of familiar faces and gave us the chance to share news on the awards.

In a whistle-stop round of meetings, the month brought sponsors: #SurreyCountyCouncil as Headline Sponsor, #ChambersRecycling as Sustainable Hero Sponsor, #PlanetWoking for Transforming Food and #WilliamLaceyGroup as sponsor for Sustainability Impact Award.

Enjoying Woking FC hospitality with fellow BNI Woking colleagues, Anne Woodward, Clarity Homes Solutions, (centre) and Andy Beckett of ABGM

Despite the impact of two gale storms over two consecutive weekends that saw the UK shattered and flooded, the effects in the #Surrey area were minimal. Carol Miller Media still hosted a table in support of @wokingfc in its match against Stockport. Guests included BNI Woking colleagues (see picture left) Anne Woodward #ClarityHomesSolutions (centre) and Andy Beckett of #ABGM.

Also joined fellow Freemen of the City of #London of Stationers’ Guild for its annual Cakes & Ale service at #StPaulsCathedral followed by a lunch bequested 400 years ago by former Master of the Company John Norton @stationerscomms.

The month rounded off in the foothills of Box Hill for Surrey Hills annual awards presentation. The Gold Award was presented to Ian Jones of @LLLHillHouse for its dedication towards improving environmental sustainability, collaboration with other Surrey Hills businesses and supporting the area by improving the rural economy. Heart-warming to know that I had introduced Ian and his farm to @BBCSurrey back in September on the @NickyPatrick1 show.

Left: Ian Jones receives the Surrey Hills AONB Gold Award 27 February 2020 . (Above) Supporting Ian Jones and his son September 2019 for their BBC Sussex & Surrey radio debut


January – the 2020 rollercoaster

A winter sun takes the chill out of a January day crossing the moat of Great Tangley Manor at Wonersh, Surrey

2020 started like a rollercoaster ride and I have yet to take a break – which in part accounts for this late post.

Work of course has been full-on but it’s been all those extras that given it a wow-factor, culminating on January 25 with Carol Miller Media as Match Sponsor for the Woking Football Club‘s match against Yeovil Town in the Vanarama National League .It gave me the heavy responsibility of choosing Man of the Match: I know – I couldn’t believe it either! But OMG what a match! Woking, playing the Yeovil Town in the Vanarama National League, were in the best form they’d been in for ages. The 1 – 0 victory was thanks to a beaut of a goal from Shaun Donnellan but MotM had to go to Moussa Diarra, who was key in Woking’s superb defensive performance.

A gift from Woking FC ‘The Cards’

Being a member of the Business Development Committee for Woking Chamber of Commerce –  another way of giving back to the community where my business is based in Woking, Surrey, it was great to see our first Woking Women In Business Conference take place on 23 January. Having the idea in motion, and worked on it for the last few months, it was exciting to see the response by local business women hosted by Barlow Robbins and a real keenness to keep the initiative going.

Full house for Woking Women in Business (Photography: Anthony Gurr)
Centre Back Moussa Diarra, a gentle giant, towers above me
Meeting journalist Sue Llewelyn was another of January’s highlights

Another treat this month was meeting journalist Sue Llewellyn who ran an instagram course for business members of Surrey Hills Enterprises. Sue was brilliant, she didn’t waste time on the change-your-life blah-blah. The day at beautiful Great Tangley Manor was packed full of great advice lightened with a few funny anecdotes delivered in the way that only a good hack can!


6 December

By the end of the first week in December I knew that I would be the Christmas Pudding by the time the 25th arrived thanks to the seasonal round of festive dinners and social gatherings. That said, sharing food and drink with people is one of my favourite experiences.

So I was delighted to be invited to @Woking_NewsMail Christmas dinner at #CoteBrasserie in #Woking. Rounding off another year as its PR and Communications Consultant in addition to providing some editorial support. Helping this independent family-owned newspaper to see its sales rise by 20% over the last three years makes it one of my most rewarding clients and with exciting plans for #2020 – the best is yet to come!

13 December

This week started with one of my favourite events of the year – Christmas lunch at @stationerscomms in its beautiful guild hall. As a #Stationer and a #Freeman of the City of London, I relish being a member of an organisation that is over 600 years old and the connection to people across centuries of print, publishing and news. What’s more the food and wine was as always delicious! Great company around me too thanks to @Woking_NewsMail #TerryTidbury, @RobertWorcester, former editor of The Times #CharlieWilson and of course our Clerk #WilliamAlden.

Carol at Stationers' Guild

The following evening brought a totally different gathering for some festive cheer with members of @SurreyHillsAONB. Though I’ve known members of Surrey Hills Enterprises team for some time now, I felt very privileged when this year I was invited to become a member and allowed the honour of carrying the Surrey Hills Trademark. I’m passionate about supporting sustainable farming and the role it has to play in our economy and lives – good PR for its stakeholders seems a no-brainer and fortunately I have found like minded thinkers among members such as #TimMetson of Coverwood Farm which recently launched @filletandbean.


Not just for men!

Back from a long weekend in the New Forest, I was pleased at the turnout for the first Woking Chamber of Commerce Woking Women in Work events that I helped instigate.

Mindi McLean had agreed to be our guest speaker at the breakfast meeting at The Talbot in Ripley and I can only imagine that our guests were truly amazed at what a treat her insights were for them. Formerly a successful broadcast journalist Mindi is the kind of woman who is full of energy and inspiration and it’s no surprise that now that this American has made her home in the pretty village of Ripley in the UK’s Surrey Hills she has become a highly successful entrepreneur in property and hospitality. So many good stories – why would you want to confine the event to just women?! So we didn’t!

Not just women


Trade food fairs can be hard work and they always involve miles of walking as you investigate one after the next food or drink offering at closely placed stands along numerous aisles. That said the Bellavita Expo at the Camden Design Centre is one of the more relaxing events. More intimate, its exhibitors bring a Mediteranean perspective. Somehow it sits very happily at odds with the reserved interest of the English visitors to this event. Sharing the experience with my longstanding client and fellow foodie Terry Tidbury, we were able to indulge in some of our favourite treats and discover new ones.

I have to admit that donkey chocolate was not a great taste experience but we are still wondering who has the courage to milk the donkeys?


Hold on or you’ll fall!

So much clatter about political and economic uncertainty – it’s become almost like white noise. Businesses like mine are just trying to get through it all and a week off in #Morocco at the start of #October was so good, but it’s meant playing catch-up since I got back.

I jumped in at the deep end for @WokingMeansBiz on 16 October. Organised by @WokingChamber, I’m closely involved as a member of its #BusinessDevelopment Committee and in addition my clients @Woking_NewsMail, is one of its media sponsors.

The long day started with a @WokingCouncil breakfast briefing – rammed to capacity with local business community. For this I took up my reporter’s pad again to do a write-up for the paper on the keynote presentation by CEO #RayMorgan. This was followed by a full day on the newspaper’s expo stand. Great to be connecting with old and new businesses in the area but being in the hall the whole day that makes you a little stir crazy. It was so good to get a good dose of fresh air with @ScorpionTrainingBootCamp in the evening – painful though it was at times!

Carol of CMM with Beryl and Terry
Woking News & Mail MD Terry Tidbury and I welcome Cllr Beryl Hunswick the Mayor of Woking

A vibrant rural economy

My passion for the #FieldToFork, or cup and glass continues from my years as Editor of @waitrose internal publication covering farming and all aspects relating to #supermarket stakeholders. So there was lots to chat about on Tuesday 22 October with new colleagues in @SurreyHillsEnt when I had a chance to showcase my business at a members’ evening @denbiesvineyard.

Listen and learn

There’s never a day that I don’t learn more – thank heavens!

So, on October 24th I was not disappointed when I turned up for a lunch briefing hosted by @roxhillmedia at the funky @WeWork location on Poultry St, #London. Thursday’s guest #RoxStar was #HelenDavies @TheSTHome #Editor who was really generous with her insight into the work and structure by #Home and #BricksAndMortar. A truly lovely down-to-earth person.

Helen Davies of @TheSTHome
Helen Davies of @TheSTHome

Fair enough September

1 September 2019

September started with a splash – a muddy one!

Sunday 1 September I was one of 15 from @ScorpionTrainingBootCamp led by trainer @IanHarrison wading through over 100 obstacles of green mud in @nustchallenge in the #SurreyHills countryside. That evening – battered bruised and still a bit muddy despite a shower – I headed over to the studio at @BBCSurrey to join Ian Jones @LLLHillHouse.

I had secured an interview for Ian with journalist/presenter @NickyPatrick1. Together with his teenage son Dylan he gave a great insight on #FieldToFork and the pork specialities he produces at his Dorking farm. It was a great showcase for the #community in @SurreyHillsEnt.

2 September 2019

A day at @SpecialityFair @Olympia_London gave me a chance to meet new food and drink producers and learn about new products reaching UK retailers. #Vegan-#Vegetarian was the big story with options such as plant and nut based alternatives to cream from Belgian #Pretexte, which was also one of the #freefrom solutions on offer. @ShadiaAl_Hili was there with her vibrant family team for @cuzenabrand. A joy to meet and their #Madamous dips, a Moroccan fava bean alternative to houmous, were delicious – loved Fiery Chilli Fava Bean Dip!

Among other taste highlights was @Sisserourum rum and coconut liqueur and amazing handpainted chocolate creations from sisters Yugna and Deepa @thepaintedpeacockcompany, who I’ve come across before and who deserve a lot more recognition. As a #chocoholic I also loved the fabulous ideas for Christmas from @ChocolatChapon and who could resist a stocking filler such as the cannabis flavour dark chocolate from #Mulaté – still I suggest a work in progress on flavour but a great novelty and brilliant artwork.

14 September 2019

I thought I’d potter over to Denbies Wine Estate outside Dorking to see what was on offer at the Surrey Hills Food Festival. It was a far cry from the world offering at Olympia but disappointing in the limited number of local producer stands.

That said a demo by @BeaverbrookH chef #TaijiMaruyama preparing #sushi and #sashimi was amazing with plenty of valuable insights – that said the big take-home were the #edibleants he used as a garnish which it turns out is more expensive than caviar!

16 September 2019

Binary Botanical 0.5%
Binary Botanical 0.5%

It was great to finally sit down for a chat with Danielle Bekker of the #GoodLivingBrewCompany having bumped into her several events, including the monthly market @RipleyFarmersM and just recently at @SpecialityFair.

Really hope she gets lots of support for her 0.5% option during @GoSoberUK as she’s offering to give a 10% contribution to @macmillancancer throughout the month. Both @BinaryBotanical the almost no alcohol and 4% beers are worth trying – they’re described as a #beer for #winelovers or #prosecco beer – and it’s all the above and more!

I can hardly believe that this incredibly talented woman lives in the same village as me in #Woking. A veteran of the brewing industry she has created a light refreshing beer that’s great with food, low in calories, is a good alcohol strength for beer at 4% Vol, which of course is a lot less than wine. Incredibly her 0.5% alternative is also very tasty! Though she only launched 18 months ago she’s already available through @Ocado and @HarveyNichols. Watch out for the feature I’m writing on her for our local paper @Woking_NewsMail.

#beer #Surrey #localbusiness #localnews

August blog – Summer fun

3 August

The first Saturday was a fabulous English summer’s day and perfect for BBQs but it made me appreciate how far I’ve come since setting my own business.

It can be a lonely experience starting up your own brand and even if you are prepared for the likelihood of ups and downs, it’s probably the ‘water cooler’ times with colleagues that you miss the most.

I’ve been fortunate that to have been able to work as a team with many of my clients but it’s my experience as a member of the @BNIWoking chapter that has given me the collegial experience: the downtime chats, the helpful advice and sometimes just the reassurance of shared experience in our weekly networking, 1-2-1s, training and social events.

As the Events and Social Coordinator I was delighted to bring the team together with their families and or partners at my place for a summer BBQ. A chance to have enjoy some silly competitiveness as well as reward winners of the summer games we had been running over the past few months just added to the fun and knowing we’re there for each other. Not so lonely after all!

#localbusiness, #startups, #SMEs, #Woking, #Surrey, #networking

24 August 2019

Having been to my first football match EVER(!) in April this year, I guess you could say that I’m a #latestarter. 

Certainly when @Wokingfc Manager Alan ‘Dowse’ Dowson suggested I go along to a match when we met through my clients @Woking_NewsMail, who sponsor the Woking FC, I thought it unlikely but if I did it would be out of courtesy. I say that because it’s been just over a year since Dowse has been managing #TheCards and he has completely transformed their fortunes. However, it’s probably the way he has given his support to the local community, personally and with his team, that has won respect in the local region.

So I find myself once more at the #LaithwaiteStadium, rooting for Woking. I’ve become totally hooked. I still have no idea what’s happening on the pitch some of the time but I am so into football! Today’s match at home against Solihull Moors was a 2-0 win and it was incredible. I can even see how the quality of the team has improved since my first visit. #COYC!

#Woking, #Community, @Nat_leaguesouth, #localnews, #communitynews

30 August 2019

August is my birthday month which means lots of delicious meals that are made all the more appetising because I’ve shared them with the people I love.

As a #foodie, I’m a firmly believe that the best ingredient in food is good company and this month I indulged!

That said, a visit to @BeaverbrookHotel was a wonderful gift from my lovely daughter @pippa.millerjennings and son-in-law John. We had a perfect #summerlunch at #theGardenHouseRestaurant and the #incrediblecustomerservice was #considerate, #relaxed and #attentative.

July blog

2 July

Carol and Matt at Masters Installation

It was another one of those – this is history in the making today – when I attended the installation of the new Master at Stationers’ Hall. Welcomed the company of my friend and colleague #MikeDaly of #GreatVideo who was responsible for getting me to join the guild.

12 July

The end of the second week in July and I’m still chasing my tail as I dashed across a good part of West Surrey to get to the #SurreyRuralEconomyConference organised by #SurreyHillsEnterprises at #CranleighSchool.

I was late but keen to attend as I believe the rural economy is going to be at the very heart of some of the key day-to-day aspects impacted by a looming no-deal Brexit and it was my first Surrey Hills event since become a member last month.

I’ve found fortune has a way of looking after us, if we’re prepared to meet it half way. Today a fellow late arriver was Professor Richard Murphy, whom I’d recently met with regarding the project I’m working on with the News & Mail. Amazing! We agreed to meet and chat in the break and then as we were given the nod to enter the conference I found myself taking a place in the seats reserved for press.

I fully intended to move in the break but then realised that Secretary for the Environment @MichaelGove MP for #SurreyHeath was saying some interesting things and certainly for the @Woking_NewsMail, especially its Chobham readers so I was back in reporter mode. Fortunately I’d come armed with my digital voice recorder and of course always have my shorthand. Cranleigh School’s a bit of a wifi dead zone it seems, so attempts to message the newsdesk for questions proved useless. Luckily @JackFiehn, whom I recognised from @BBCSurrey, let me know Gove was doing 1-2-1 interviews and I could pull out some of the touchpoints we’d been running in the paper to ask Gove a couple of questions as well – but pretty sure he realised I was pitching in the dark.

Gove talk

Great to touch base with some of the farmers I’ve either worked with or connected with, #TimMetson, who I’d linked into work for a catering client that has led to a field to plate write up in the showcase magazine for the farmers’ union, @NFUCountryside. Also after many emails and phone calls got to meet #BillBiddell who I sourced for reporter @NickyPatrick1, who wanted an interview with someone who could talk around field to plate. Also glad to say hello to #IanJones of @LLLHillHouse  who I’ve also introduced to Nicky and is now looking forward to doing an interview with her in September.

19 July

Never, ever underestimate the skill of TV presenters! Talking to a camera is not an easy job and reading from autocue as if you’re talking off the top of your head is also a skill. #MikeDaly of #GreatVideo spent the morning at my office doing the final takes for my website – I mean it all morning! Imagine how cross I was with myself when I had finally got through a take without a hitch and was so relieved I pulled a victory face at the end – too soon for us to edit it out! Thought I’d include one of the unrehearsed, non-autocue takes we did alongside a photo shoot with @MattPereira.