Anna Ireland, The Writer in the Nest
Do you struggle creating content for your social media?
Have you just launched a new Facebook business page or Insta account, but have no idea what to actually add to it?
Do you even know what your customers want to hear and see from you on social media?
Anna Ireland has extensive experience in marketing and content writing and has recently started her own copywriting and marketing support business, The Writer in the Nest.
Rich Gunton chats to Anna about how to communicate your passion, being ready to change things when they don’t work and why you shouldn’t be on TikTok just for the sake of it.
Listen online using the player below or search ‘Outset Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app.
Find out more about Anna and The Writer in the Nest at https://www.thewriterinthenest.com
We hope you enjoy this episode. Get in touch for more information on how we can support your business start-up journey.
- Read the full transcript here
Welcome to the Outset Podcast, the business startup podcast from Outset Cornwall for support and inspiration to start, run and grow your business. Here’s your host, Rich Gunton.
Rich Gunton (00:15):
Hello. Thanks for tuning in. This is the Outset Podcast and we’re talking all things content today. Content for social media, content for your website, content for your brand. Anna Ireland of The Writer in the nest.com joins me. Welcome Anna.
Anna Ireland (00:29):
Hi, how are you doing?
Rich Gunton (00:31):
Very well. Have I said that rightly the, the writer in the nest, is that right?
Anna Ireland (00:34):
That’s actually right. Yeah. So it’s, um, it’s, it’s named after my house, which is called the nest, but in Maori, my mum’s a New Zealander. So we named our house, the nest, which is called Taka Hanga. And, um, I, I’m literally in my nest, um, with my three small children and, uh, writing from here. So that was the idea behind the name.
Rich Gunton (00:54):
Fantastic. And so, how long have you been in operation then?
Anna Ireland (00:57):
Not very long. My story is that I was marketing manager for Wild Teepee, who, um, I believe came through Outset as well, actually. And, um, they were wedding suppliers predominantly, uh, supplying giant hat teepees for weddings and events. And obviously when COVID hit, the wedding industry has been hit particularly badly and, um, they no longer needed a marketing manager. Uh, they are fully booked, I believe for the next three years. So they really don’t need anybody to market their brand at all because they’ve had to postpone all of the weddings from last year, probably all the weddings from this year. So unfortunately I had to sort of take my redundancy from them, but it was really the push that I needed. I’ve always wanted to focus more on my content writing. And, um, so when lockdown happened and the redundancy came, it gave me the opportunity really to, um, hone my skills and, and push myself to set up my own business. So I’ve been running The Writer in the Nest since the end of October last year. And so I think we’re through sort of three months in now, so it’s still early days, but it’s going really well, which is great.
Rich Gunton (01:56):
No, that’s fantastic. And I think it’s, I’ve had a couple of chats on different podcasts recently about, you know, people in the pandemic and then when sometimes things are forced upon us and we perhaps didn’t even see it coming. And there’s a, certainly that experience of redundancy where it’s almost like, well, I’m going to give it a go now. It’s sort of now or never, and how many things have come out, if we look back in the past at recessions and, and businesses and enterprises that have grown and developed out of those, it’s quite interesting times, isn’t it, to start off something new?
Anna Ireland (02:27):
It is. It’s really interesting. And I think the other thing is, you know, that research is showing that brands who invest during times of recession to invest in, in terms of price have actually come out well. Um, if they have increased spend in advertising, which kind of goes against what you feel, you know, my business isn’t operating, I’m not able to function at full capacity, but actually by investing in your brand during these times of crisis, during these times of recession or as it is a pandemic, um, we can actually, you know, it’s a really great time to grow brands because you’ve got a receptive audience and if you can be responsive to their needs, it’s a fantastic time to grow your business. So, yeah. Fingers crossed it will work!
Rich Gunton (03:01):
Absolutely! And it’s, it’s interesting. Like if we, if we talk, I mean, marketing is such a broad word, isn’t it. But if we talk about marketing in today’s world, and we’ve got smartphones in our pockets, we’ve got however number of screens around the home and that’s quite different from even a decade ago. Or a couple of decades ago where we would be thinking about print media and billboards and back of buses and all those sorts of things. And obviously we’ve had radio and TV coming into our homes for some time, but in terms of, of content and of media and marketing, especially in times of a lockdown, I think you’re right, people are more receptive, people are looking at their phones more and the likes of Facebook and YouTube and those sorts of things to have that captured audience that are well just ready to absorb anything, because they’re not kind of living their normal life at the moment.
Anna Ireland (03:52):
I think this is where content as well. If a brand can provide content that’s relevant to people, the levels of engagement are just soaring at the moment. One of my clients I work for is an occupational therapist and they’re broadening their reach massively because they’re providing content for parents on, you know, parenting skills and ways that we can deal with afterschool meltdowns, even with homeschool, things like this. Content that’s relevant to parents, whether their children have learning difficulties or additional needs or not, it’s going out to a wider raft of parents. So they’re really growing their community by providing content that’s relevant to the pandemic. And, you know, it’s, it’s low cost, low, low sort of time pressure for them to do because it’s stuff they do all the time, but it’s so relevant to their audiences. So I think, you know, finding that content and getting that out to businesses that are, sorry out to our audiences is, is, is hugely valuable at the moment.
Rich Gunton (04:43):
Absolutely. And in terms of marketing then, and obviously content, social media, et cetera, is all part of that. But you know, you’ve been in the industry for a couple of decades. How would you explain it to someone listening to this and perhaps they’re on the Outset program or they’re thinking of setting up a business or taking a, like a part-time hobby into a part-time enterprise and becoming self-employed and they think, oh, okay. Yeah, marketing, I need a marketing plan or I need to design a logo. You know, there’s quite a bit more to it than that. How would you describe it in, in a, in a simple form, what marketing is?
Anna Ireland (05:15):
I think marketing is, is creating a brand. When you think about a brand it’s about the essence of what your brand stands for and then telling people about it. For me, that’s what marketing is. In the previous terms marketing was separate from PR. It was separate from communications. It was, you know, it’s very, very different sort of sphere and now it encompasses everything. And I think now it’s about finding what your brand is, what the essence of your brand is and what sets you apart from the competition and then telling people about them. It could be your product or your service, but your brand is most likely to be you in many cases. And how do you reflect your passion and your personality and your ethos in your brand and in your messaging, and then share that with your wider consumer base.
Rich Gunton (05:56):
And so when it comes to sharing then, I mean, um, I’m just in front of your website here, The Writer in the Nest.com, um, what came first for you then? So you started up in October last year. Did you, did you start off with, uh, a website or social media presence?
Anna Ireland (06:11):
For me, I needed to get, um, a team behind me and figure out what my journey was going to be. And, for me, it was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. And I think that brands really need to, um, I mean the Outset program is brilliant because the first thing that you do within Outset is, is would you buy from yourself and do you have a clear product or service in mind? And would you buy from yourself; if not, why not? And so, you know, once you’ve kind of got this idea of your elevator pitch of, you know, this is what my clear sales message is, then you can start taking that and reflect on it, going back to this essence of your brand again. Um, and for me, once I kind of got those ideas set down a bit more on paper as to what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be.
Anna Ireland (06:51):
I thought about my consumer, who I wanted to write for. I love writing for, for women. I love writing for mothers, for families. Um, I love writing for wild brands. Um, you know, that’s where my passion sits. I live in Cornwall. I live in sort of quite a rural setting and I’m inspired by nature. I’m inspired by my family. I’m inspired by Cornwall. So I want to write for people who, you know, that appeals to, and they will then appeal to me. And, you know, if you’re writing for something that you don’t enjoy, I think it comes across. So once I kind of knew who I wanted to be and who I wanted to write for it kind of started to come together really. And I got a very, very good photographer and a graphic designer. And so once I kind of started thinking about my brand in terms of nature and motherhood and nurture and wilds of Cornwall, I briefed in my photographer and I briefed in my graphic designer.
Anna Ireland (07:41):
And together, we came up with something that started to look like a brand. So it, it starts to build on itself really, as I said, it’s like this jigsaw puzzle that all fits together. So once I kind of had the logo and the photographs, I then ended up getting a color scheme, which worked. And so I was then able to build my website. I think I’ve rewritten my content for the website about a million times. I’m a note writer, I’ve got millions of notebooks. And I just wrote down loads of notes as I was doing the Outset course, as I was sort of lying awake at night, thinking about what I wanted to do. And then once you’ve got this logo in place, how does that reflect you? And it all sort of fits together. And it is really, it’s kind of building this, um, this picture, uh, or, or a puzzle really about what you want your brand to reflect. And I think we all, you know, we’ve, we’ve all got brands that we are connected to, and we’ve all got brands that we are not connected to. And so there are reasons behind that, that go on. You know, I don’t like their packaging. I don’t like their communications. I don’t like the coloring. I, you know, I don’t think it’s for me because, because, because, or I think it is for me. You know, hopefully your brand will attract the right people, if you’re honest and you put yourself into it. I think that’s really, really important.
Rich Gunton (08:48):
I think it’s almost like a, like a, you know, a frustrated builder if you like, and they never actually quite finish their own home while they’re off out building everyone else’s because they can’t quite get it right. And it’s interesting as you say, you know, rewriting your copy and your content on your website so that you get it right. Because obviously that’s setting out your, your stall, I suppose.
Anna Ireland (09:07):
So it is hard, you know, it is that unfinished, yeah, exactly. As you said, this unfinished builder. Um, but you know, I think if you just keep; nothing’s fixed, I think that’s a really nice thing about building a brand, your name isn’t fixed forever. If you know your color scheme isn’t fixed forever, your logo isn’t fixed forever. If you want to have a brand relaunch, do it, uh, if you want to change your name, do it. That’s all about communication and marketing in the right way. So if you do get something wrong and it doesn’t feel like it’s working change it. And I think that’s, that’s the most important thing is it’s a, it’s a journey. It’s not, uh, there’s no fix; you never get to the end. You know, as a business you’re constantly evolving and that’s really important to remember as well.
Rich Gunton (09:43):
I think it is. And in another podcast we spoke with Tony Sampson, another, um, previous Outset client who started one 11 years ago, naked solar, and he’s on oh, nearly 30, members of staff we were talking about, you know, sort of goal setting. And when you sort of think, yes, I’ve achieved what I first set out to achieve and oh yes, I am in business. And you know, and I can reflect on that personally myself as well, and you know, 20 years later. And I don’t know whether you actually ever get to that stage of thinking, yes, I have arrived. You know, there’s always another mountain, you know, which is steeper, to start climbing isn’t there I think?
Anna Ireland (10:20):
And I think, you know, the businesses that do survive are the ones who evolve and that that’s really important, but never more so than now. You know, we have to evolve, we have to change. We have to be adaptive. And, and, and I think people are receptive to change as well. You know, if Norwich Union can rebrand to be Aviva completely successfully, then you know, you can do it as well with your brand. It’s, it’s not, nothing’s fixed, nothing’s rigid. I think people are responsive to change and can understand if things do change. So yes, it’s good to be adaptive.
Rich Gunton (10:51):
So, I’m shaped and reshaped by what is around me by the wilds of Cornwall, the peace of nature by the chaos and fierce joys of motherhood and family. So you’re doing that all in the middle of a, of, of having, uh, having a family, uh, any advice?
Anna Ireland (11:06):
I feel very blessed because I am able to work around my children and, you know, it’s, it’s frustrating sometimes. I’ve got two five-year-olds and a six year old, so it’s very full on; there’s no sort of leaving them to do their work independently or anything like that. I had a small triumphant cry today when I sort of got the news that schools are going to be reopening on the eighth and this, you know, the sense of relief. But I have been able to work around the children and, you know, I can work flexibly in evenings and weekends and things like that. Everybody’s doing the best they can. And I think, you know, we’ve just got to be kind to ourselves at the moment. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s no secret weapon to get through this. It’s bizarre the world we’re living in at the moment.
Anna Ireland (11:50):
Um, you know, family for me is at the centre of everything I do. The reason I do what I do is because of my family. And, you know, I think that’s, that comes back to what I was talking about before about the passion and the personality of your brand. You know, if family is, is something that’s important to you share that, you know, people buy people. I’m sure there’s, there’s a lot of frustrated parents out there who can relate to what I’m going through. And, you know, I actually, I, I did an interview last week for a company who is run by lots of very young trendy people living in London and they sell a product for children and they’re now going, oh, actually we don’t really know anything about what it’s like to have children or to have a family. And could you do some writing for us because you’re a mum and you know, that, that’s great to be able to say, yeah, I can, because I totally know about like, you know, the traumas of motherhood and, and bits like that, and, you know, just play to your strengths, don’t be afraid to sort of put that into your brand if, if you’re a mum or a stressed parent, you know, people relate to that. And, um, yeah, no, definitely no secret weapons at all. Or, uh, or top, top, top tips, I think just breathe and get through each day as a victory and pat yourself on the back and have a large glass of wine. There’s my top tip.
Rich Gunton (12:59):
No, absolutely. Absolutely. And so when you first started out, then you, as you said, you got a good photographer, you got someone to design you a logo and it sort of grew into, you know, obviously your website and, and, and items that you can obviously use for content across different media platforms. And, and that, has grown and developed since October last year and no doubt will continue to do so. For those that are listening to this then and thinking, okay, great. Well, I’ve got, I’ve got an idea of, of who I am and what I want to do and how I’m going to start to relate to my potential customers. Where, where do we start then? I mean, do we, do we come up with going right? Okay. We’re going to have a website. We’re going to have a Facebook and we’re going to have something on TikTok, for instance, or Instagram, where would you start in, in sitting down with someone and helping them come up with a sort of a content plan I suppose?
Anna Ireland (13:55):
First thing I would say is, you know, you’ve got to really understand the essence of your brand. And that’s really kind of what your personality, what your passion is, what your product or service does that is different. And then once you’ve got that, then you think about your audience and building a customer avatar, you know, drill down on them, drill down on that person as much as you possibly can and think about their pain points, why they would follow your brand. You know, social media is, is a hugely important touch point. I think, um, 57% percent of people follow brands on social media. So it’s, it’s a huge amount of people, but you don’t just want to be on Facebook for the sake of being on Facebook. You don’t just want to be on TikTok if it’s not relevant to your audience. So you need to really understand who your customer is. It might be, you’re talking about Dave, who’s 42, who’s really into cycling, hugely different from Louise who’s single lives in London, you know, used to go out partying every weekend, who’s now bored and stuck at home. You know, you’ve got these very, very different people. And, and that’s really important that you drill down on who your, your audience is. You know, once you understand who they are, you can then start developing your voice, your message, and the goals that you want to sort of to get to and think about your strategy. And again, we talked about being adaptive earlier on, you know, test out things and see what works for your audience. If you’re getting good response, keep doing it. If you’re not getting good response and then change it, perhaps TikTok isn’t the right platform, perhaps Instagram is going to be the right platform.
Anna Ireland (15:22):
And I think, you know, in terms of getting your brand going, I would say, you know, getting a good team behind you is really important. You know, no business is made with one person. You know, I think the more you can ask for help the better, and that’s quite a hard thing to do because obviously help costs money. You know, it’s your baby a lot of the time, you don’t necessarily want anybody else’s input, but if you can get a team behind you, you know, just, it just really helps with refining that brand and getting it right. And, and the other thing that I would say that if you find something hard, outsource it. You know, the thing that I really struggled with is, is the financial side of things. And one of the first jobs I did was to get an accountant because it melts my mind, the numbers and you know, that doesn’t interest me and it stresses me out.
Anna Ireland (16:12):
So I got an accountant. So, you know, find out what it is that you’re not good at and get somebody else to help you with it. So I think, you know, once you’ve kind of got those things, you’re starting to look in a direction and then when you’re planning your communications, you know, don’t try and do it all at once; get your website as your, as your touchpoint. I think 91% of people will visit a website if they’ve followed you on social media. So it’s, it’s really important that you do have a good website, you know, and, uh, as a touch point for your brand, and then start planning your communications, but do it in small chunks. You know, you don’t have to think about your year’s calendar, but just kind of have some loose ideas as to what you want to achieve really. I think, you know, if you aim to do two blogs a month and two newsletters a month, and maybe one of them will be a sales push, maybe one of them will be content. Um, and then, you know, maybe have a weekly theme, you know, throwback Thursday, or, um, Makeover Monday or whatever it is. I mean, I don’t like it when brands have Makeover Monday, Throwback Tuesday, whatever Wednesday, something Thursday, it’s just so tedious, but you need to have one of them. And then you’ve got your week starting to take shape. You don’t feel panicked. You don’t feel overwhelmed by providing social media content. And then just, you know, be responsive to what your audience needs, be responsive to what they like, test what you’re doing and, um, and check your, your, your analytics. There’s free analytic tools on Facebook and Instagram and Google; use them, see what works, see what doesn’t work. And, and as, as we’ve talked about before, be adaptive and be ready to change things that don’t work.
Rich Gunton (17:45):
I think that’s it. And, and, and being able to change and adapt. And as you said, you know, incredibly importantly, know that you can’t be all things to all people and wear all of those hats at one time. Asking for help is such a brilliant, just that one tiny piece of advice, you know, I think that can, that can really, really change things. Um, and understanding, as you said about, you know, what’s different, what’s your sort of unique selling point who your audience is. Um, I’ve written down here, who’s your Dave?
Anna Ireland (18:15):
Yeah, Dave and Louise, who are they? It’s quite good, fun. You know, finding this consumer and, and knowing who they are, you know, it might be Sandra, it might be Dave, it might be Louise. And I think, you know, it’s really good because you can get inside the head of your target consumer and, and the more you, you feel, you know about them, the better your messages are going to be. And I think, you know, it’s really important to, to create that customer avatar; it’s well worth doing those branding exercises and really drilling down who your customer is, what your unique selling point is, what your elevator pitch is, what makes you different from everybody else? What do your customers need, and how are you going to answer that; it’s really basic stuff, but it’s absolutely vital for your business to succeed.
Rich Gunton (18:52):
When you said there about testing and measuring your content, um, and knowing when to, you know, sort of push out content if you like versus asking for that sale. Because I think that’s, sometimes you can see that happen quite a lot, where, you know, whether it’s on Twitter or even on Facebook, where basically someone is just so obviously wanting to, to, to sell something. Whereas we almost feel like we need to, you know, be wined and dined first and understand their message, understand their backstory before there’s that, that push for sales. And it’s an, it’s a, it’s almost taking, you know, the society and etiquette onto these different social media platforms where really, you know, we, we are still English and we still want to have some level of, uh, you know, not selling on the doorstep as it were.
Anna Ireland (19:41):
Yeah, I think you’re right. You know, there used to be a rule. It was, you know, the 80, 20 sort of content versus sales messaging. And, you know, as you were talking about before we live in a day and age where, you know, purchase opportunities are so instant now, you know, that might not be right for your brand. If you look at certain brands, you want one that pops up on my, my, um, on my feeds all the time that, you know, these sorts of makeup brands or, um, fake tan brands, none of which I’ve ever bought, but they constantly bombard me, clearly, they’re trying to tell me something. And they’re all sales messages. And that obviously works for these brands, you know to push with discounts, push, special offers, push freebies. Um, it obviously works for them because that is all they do. Um, they, aren’t giving you tutorials about how to use their products. They’re just pushing sales messages. So they’ve obviously tested these things and, and the sales messages work, the discount messages work. It might not work for your brand. It might be that, you know, by putting sales messages out, it turns people off. And therefore you do need to push more towards the 80% of your content. But as we talked about right at the beginning, you know, at the moment we’ve got receptive audiences who are, a lot of us are bored. We have moments where we’re frustrated, we’re tearing our hair out. You know, our pain points are very relevant. They’re very poignant. Um, you know, our free time in a lot of people’s cases, you know, we’ve never been, we’ve never been in more need of stimulation and education and information and entertainment. And if your brand can, can facilitate any of those, you’re onto a winner.
Anna Ireland (21:14):
And, you know, it might be that that doesn’t translate into a sale directly for a few months. You know, if you’re a closed business or you’re unable to, to, um, trade at the moment, but when we go back and open, you know actually those guys were absolutely amazing during lockdown. God, that guy was really funny. I’m going to, I’m going to go to them, you know, whatever it is. And to have these, these touch points and these sort of multifaceted approach and content being provided, those are going to be the brands that have built trust and built that rapport. And those are the brands that are going to get the sales in the longer term.
Rich Gunton (21:46):
Absolutely. I couldn’t say it better myself. And on a closing note, then Anna, if people are listening to this and they want to reach out to you, how can they get in touch?
Anna Ireland (21:57):
So, I mean, what I would say is that, you know, I talked about me getting an accountant, um, because numbers are the thing that I don’t like. And I found that as I’m going on my journey, a lot of people find the writing bit hard. Um, they’ve worked really, really hard on the essence of their brand and what sets them apart from the competition. And then when it comes to putting it down on paper or on, on the website, they don’t know how to do it. Um, so if you do find that bit hard or you don’t have the time to get your blogs done, or your newsletters done, then I can help with that. Um, you know, I’ve been doing website redesigns, um, I’ve been doing leaflets, I’ve been doing regular blogs, uh, one off pieces. So it it’s, you know, if, if writing is a bit that you struggle with time or whatever reasons, then, then do get in touch. So you can go to my website, which is the writer in the nest.com or you can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram at the writer in the nest.
Thanks for listening to the Outset Podcast, brought to you by the Outset Cornwall program, which is funded by the European Regional Development fund HM Government and the Outset Foundation, supporting people to become self-employed and start their own business. For more information, visit outset.org/Cornwall.