Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Who doesn't want to be famous?

Staffordshire business blog competitoin
Coffee, biscuits and fame
We all have a favourite publication. Perhaps it’s the trade title you pick up on your lunch break, a well-known broadsheet or maybe you have a love-hate relationship with one of the tabloids. Chances are there’s a certain magazine, paper or journal you love reading – a publication you want to see your company’s name appear in.  

By Ashleigh McLeod

In response to your appetite for media attention, we’ve set up a competition across the Stone Junction social media pages. We would like to invite all companies – large or small - regardless of industry, to tweet, comment and share their favourite publication with us. Don’t forget to also tell us why you’re so fond of it. The winner will be guaranteed coverage in their chosen title, completely free of charge.

So if you’re on Twitter, you can tweet @richiestone @AshleighMcLeod2 @CharliefromSJ or @stonejunctionz using the hashtag #FavouriteTitle to be part of the competition. Facebook and LinkedIn users can find the Stone Junction profiles here and here.

Most of all, we’d just love to hear from you! Whether your vote goes out to Potato Processing International or Cosmopolitan – get in touch.

Image courtesy of Apolonia on

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Hot Air 2014 - Stoke Literary Festival

Last week, as I turned on my television, I was greeted with the lovely city of Stoke on one of the popular regional news shows. To my excitement, I found out that Stoke will, this year, host its first literary festival named Hot Air 2014

By Ashleigh McLeod

According to an article on The Sentinel, the festival will kick-start a mission to improve the city’s reading and writing skills after a sharp fall in GCSE results throughout the country last year.

During the weekend of June 20 to 22, over 15 nationally known and local authors will give festival goers the opportunity to enter the debate and question experts in their own fields. Joanna Trollope, David Starkey, Lauren Child and Emma Bridgewater are just some of the authors who are scheduled to make an appearance.

Am I right in saying that us business folk love an opportunity for a good debate where we can also reap the benefits? I bet I am. And I’m even surer this festival will represent such an opportunity.

Not only will the Hot Air festival give us good scope for culture in the glorious county of Staffordshire, but it will also give like-minded business people the chance to quiz some writing specialists and take away some good tips. The authors may not be particularly business focussed but they sure know how to please their readers and if some of their techniques can be applied to your copywriting skills why not go along?

After all, we all love a good excuse for a festival and surely, now is the time to lead young people by example. Let me know what you think about the festival by tweeting me on @AshleighMcLeod2.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ground control to Major bITjAM

In October last year, a piece of research carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that Stoke-on-Trent residents were among the lowest ranking for life-satisfaction, worthwhile and happiness in the whole of the UK. Rubbish, I say – mostly because Stokies have access to delicious Staffordshire oatcakes. However, if the region requires yet another reason to be happy, here it is: the launch of the bITjAM Innovation Qube.

By Charlie Stroe

In case you haven't come across our friends at bITjAM, let me tell you a few things that make them amazing. Firstly, they have already worked their magic for clients like the NHS, the Arts Council EnglandStaffordshire University and the Birmingham Conservation Trust.  This last project involved bITjAM designing four digital tours that work on seven inch tablets, while also being interactive, fun and informative at the same time.

bITjAM can also help companies of any shape and size, from pretty much any industry, save money by designing innovative solutions that use technology to optimise work flow and communication with clients, staff and stakeholders.

If BITjAM's had a creed, I wager it would be something along the line of “technology will save our souls.” And that's because they know it so well and can manipulate it to suit their purposes, much like, say, Tony Stark.

Thirdly, bITjAM have worked with young people teaching them how to hack into everyday technologies and do impressive things with them.  Just wait a second before you get on your high horse and tell me all about how hacking is bad.

Actually, a hackspace or hacklab is all about collaboration and developing free software, open hardware and alternative media. This is exactly what bITjAM taught Birches Head Academy students when they hacked a Nintendo Wii to emulate an electronic white board. STEM curriculum made fun, baby!

That might seem like enough to make the people of Stoke-on-Trent smile, bITjAM just won't stop. To prepare for the launch of their unique research and development space, the bITjAM Innovation Qube, the company has invited local secondary school pupils, university students and apprentices to submit their creative ideas about original uses for technology.

The big prize for each category is a tech kit worth £200 and a personal research and development session with the bITjAM team of digital design experts and the Qube equipment. This includes 3D printers, an Oculus Rift virtual reality set, leap motion technology and much more. A geek's dream, really.

But wait, there's more! Staffordshire companies that would like to find out how bITjAM can help their business are welcome to come and get personalised advice, while also visiting the unique Innovation Qube on March 7, between 13:00 and 15:00.

All you have to do is register here and get ready to have your mind blown. In addition, feel free to, take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Random Act of Kindness Day: marketing tips for Staffordshire businesses

It brings me great joy (and also a great boost to my ego) to tell you that today is Random Act of Kindness Day 2014.  Why is that? Well, because it’s also my birthday and in my opinion, the national day of awareness couldn’t have found a better date. 

By Ashleigh McLeod

Unfortunately, today is not a bank holiday but rather a day where the nation is challenged to do something kind for no reason at all.

As we all know, Staffordshire is the creative county and, on that basis, we have absolutely every reason to get involved. Here are my top tips on how Staffordshire businesses can use today as an effective marketing tool:

1. Social media
Social media is a great opportunity to get in the spotlight today. If #RandomActofKindnessDay isn’t trending by the time you’ve read this, then make it happen. Hashtagging popular terms on Twitter is a brilliant way to draw positive attention to yourself.

A West Midlands bus company that operates throughout Staffordshire held a very successful social media campaign on Twitter recently. They offered anyone who tweeted them, whether negative or positive, a free £10 LoveToShop voucher in the run up to the day of significance. The transport company, which usually gets a lot of negative attention on social media, let every user know that it was for Random Act of Kindness Day and successfully managed to turn its followers into screaming fans.

If only they’d hashtagged and prepared the campaign for today, it would have been perfect. Maybe they have something else in store – we’ll see.

2. Make the most of your Corporate Social Responsibility budget 
There are lots of charities based in Staffordshire such as Beacon4Blind, birth defect charity Newlife and life-limiting condition charity, the Katherine House Hospice. All of which are very friendly and easy to work with.

Local media love charity work, especially if it were to come from a business on The Sentinel’s top 100 companies in Staffordshire list. CSR can put a personal face to business and we all know how impressive press cuttings can be in sales meetings.

3. Blog, blog, blog!
According to Social Media Today, studies show that businesses that blog regularly are more than two times as likely to generate leads via their website as businesses that don’t. Chances are that both consumers and businesses are going to be looking around at what others are doing today, which makes Google a hot source of content.

Whatever you do, make sure you blog about it or hire a PR agency to do it for you! Be sure to include title tags, labels and search descriptions, which are all great for SEO.

4. Just picking up the phone
Let’s just go back to basics for five minutes today and just pick up the phone. The fact that it’s Random Act of Kindness Day gives you the excuse to call a new business prospect, simply because you want to see how their day is going and offer them any help they might need.

If you target consumers, picking up the phone might be a little more difficult; I suggest a quick email marketing campaign instead. Perhaps, you could send a funny image and include a subtle link to your website. ‘Something to make you smile today’ is a perfect subject line for this.

Don’t forget, you can also get into the spirit of things by simply being kind. Do something for someone who needs help. Life isn’t all about marketing after all.

And, if you’re feeling extra kind today, take a moment to remember that some of us have birthdays today. These people have a particular preference for chocolate and shoes and can be found at @ashleighmcleod2. That’s what I heard anyway…