• Greens restaurant

    It's both exciting and rewarding when you get to work for clients that you already know and love. And I've been a big fan of Greens Restaurant in West Didsbury, Manchester, for more years than I care to remember.

    During that time, co-owner and head chef Simon Rimmer has become a household name, thanks to his various recipe books, foodie columns and presenting on TV shows such as Sunday Brunch.

    My first visit to his restaurant was somewhat under duress, attending the birthday bash of a friend who 'fancied a change' and booked our party into this vegetarian venue. All sniffy about 'hippy veggie' dining out, I prepared for an unsatisfying salad-fest - and was very pleasantly surprised to instead find a range of substantial, delicious dishes that just happened to be meat-free. I was an instant convert.

    And I wasn't the only one. Simon Connolly (the less famous, equally talented co-owner) explained that my story of accidental conversion to their restaurant was a common one amongst their regular clientele - and that the message of being a restaurant that everyone liked, not just vegetarians, needed to be central to the copy for their new website.

    This message came quickly...

    Vegetarians love us. You will, too.

    And the rest of the copy for Greens website flowed from there.

  • Book review: Pathways to Bliss, by Joseph Campbell

    Never heard of Joseph Campbell? You may be more familiar with his work than you realise.

    This American mythologist and lecturer (1904-1987) has influenced many products of popular culture. Perhaps most famously, George Lucas credited Campbell's book The Hero With a Thousand Faces with shaping the storyline of his original Star Wars trilogy. Hollywood screenwriter Christopher Vogler also acknowledges the influence of Campbell's 'hero's journey', a basic narrative pattern that Campbell reveals can be found in stories from many different cultures, countries and centuries. Author Richard Adams used extracts from The Hero in his book Watership Down.

    Perhaps less influential on popular culture, but more revelatory about Campbell's belief on how stories - myth in particular - can be used to inform and enlighten our own life journeys, is Pathways to Bliss, a collection of his thoughts, narratives and lectures drawn from two decades of his work.

    It's an interesting read, rich in depth of topics and psychological concepts, with plenty of historical facts and anecdotes to back up his arguments. It also includes one of his most controversial theories: namely, that myth can be defined as "other people's religion".

    If you'd like to know more, have a read of my review of Pathways to Bliss, written for Urban Deva.

  • Amity Mediation

    I do enjoy working with one-man(or woman)-bands. More often than not, people who run their own businesses do so because they have real aptitude for and belief in what they're doing - which makes it easy to pinpoint their strengths, and subsequent benefits for their customers.

    Amity Mediation, run by Joanne Deveney, is a perfect example. Joanne used to run her own litigation business, and very successfully, too - but she became drawn to mediation as an alternative to legal action after seeing clients benefit from it again and again.

    These benefits went way beyond financial; those who tried mediation tended to feel a lot more satisfied with the outcome, having been able to stay in control of the negotiation process throughout, air their grievances and have them dealt with in a sympathetic and unbiased environment - and without having to waste much more time, effort and money on a stressful, sometimes incomprehensible and impersonal legal process.

    Struck by the humanity of the process, Joanne decided to close her successful business in order to start from scratch as Amity Mediation - a bold move that came from a genuine desire to help people to the best of her ability.

    I'm a sucker for those kinds of business stories, so was happy to help Joanne draft some copy for a profile promoting her work, as well as for her company website.

    It seems she was happy, too.

    Rowena was excellent to work with, taking the brief which I gave her and crafting from it an effective message. She worked wholly within my time frame and was friendly, approachable and completely professional throughout. I will certainly be engaging her again and have no hesitation in recommending her services to others.

    Wishing you luck in your new venture, Joanne.

  • The Innovation Commons

    When it comes to looking at ways to boost the flagging UK economy, I can't help but think that university research is is one of our most impressive assets, with so much potential for driving real long-term innovation in British business and development.

    However, it has to be said that other countries - the US being a prime example, but also Asian economies such as China and South Korea - are much better at forging successful relationships between university research and the corporate world, where theory is effectively and profitably translated into practical reality.

    Just look at graphene, which first took physical form in the UK, at The University of Manchester, thanks to the efforts of two Nobel Prize-winning physicists who are now leading the world in research into this area of innovation - and yet our country is lagging when it comes to placing patents on possible products that could be created by this 'wonder material', as the FT reveals.

    That's why I was so pleased at being asked to help establish The Innovation Commons, a new virtual community that aims to bring together UK universities and other creators of intellectual property (IP) with business consultants who can offer expert advice on which IP ideas are likely to find marketable success - and can also offer their commercial services in helping to make this happen. Ideal for universities who are often short of the required resource and specialist expertise, and perfect for consultants on the look-out for opportunities to get involved with the 'next big thing'.

    The Innovation Commons also welcomes business angels and other potential funders looking for interesting investment opportunities, bringing that all-important third side of the research-finance-commerce triangle into place.

    The challenge for me was to create copy for the new promotional website and for marketing e-shots that clearly explained what The Innovation Commons is, who it is for and what the potential benefits could be for all concerned. It may seem as though this is no different from the challenge for all copywriting projects; however, anyone who has ever been involved with higher education institutions will be all too aware of the jargon that prevails at many levels of communication - jargon that may prove impenetrable and therefore offputting for lay people and indeed commercial organisations.

    Copy for The Innovation Commons had to be clear, concise and clearly tailored to its audiences. Working closely with those wonderful web developers and designers at We Are Life, I think we managed to pull it off.

    But don't take my word for it...

    The Innovation Commons is a virtual 'space in common' that unites varied audiences with different needs and agendas - with lots of domain-specific jargon! We therefore needed copy for our website and marketing e-shots that would quickly and clearly communicate our concept and benefits in a way that these multiple audiences would understand and appreciate.

    Working with Rowena was easy. She was astute. She quickly understood what we were doing and what we needed. So the copy that she produced was directly relevant to our core propositions - creative and pithy. Response to the website since our launch has been very encouraging and related e-shot has generated new interest and leads. Above all, she was a pleasure to deal with.

    We'll certainly use Rowena again and wholeheartedly recommend her.

    Brian McCaul, The Innovation Commons

    See The Innovation Commons.

  • Book review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

    I fell in love with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit as a teenager, when I was hormonally thirsty for more understanding about love and sex, and intellectually eager for discovering fresh ways to express emotions, search for identity and tell stories.

    Two decades later (eek! I'm getting old), reading Jeanette Winterson's autobiography - the "silent twin" of Oranges - threw me right back into those themes, and introduced a few new ones: memory, insanity, therapy and the miraculous ability of language and literature to frame, explore, illuminate and relate our own life to the great history and experience of humanity in general.

    Have a read of my full review of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, for UrbanDeva.

  • Meet the PCN

    I'm pleased to have become a member of the spanking new Professional Copywriters' Network, a venture set up by some excellent fellow copywriters as a source of support for their colleagues, and champion of professional standards within the industry.

    I'm even more pleased at the correct use of the apostrophe in the network's name. Still, what else would you expect from a network of grammar pedants professional copywriters?

    Go look.


  • Book review: Quiet, by Susan Cain

    If you're interested in people, in how they interact; in what makes them tick both physically and psychologically; in how they work together, or apart, in business; in how to read them, how to manage them, how to bring the best out of them; in how to understand and appreciate them even when they seem to be the very antithesis of you...

    ...perhaps it's time to get Quiet.

  • Writing and food

    Two of my favourite things in life. So writing a marketing brochure for a new restaurant brand was always going to be fun.

    My favourite part of this project was researching and writing facts about cities based along the USA's Route 50, a road which inspires the cuisine in this particular chain of restaurants. It's these little details that make a brand stand out - and copywriting fun.

    Do you know which city this is?

    Be blown away by America’s Windy City,
    where gangsters were 'made' and electric blues played,
    where hot dogs are cheap and pizzas are deep.

    See if you were right:


  • Review: The Angel of the Stories

    And here's another book review.

    I'm quite a fan of this man's work, aided in no small part by my participation in two of his Dark Angels courses - one of which I touched upon in a blog post here: The darling angel-wing-buds of May.

    This is copywriter John Simmons' first published foray in fiction. I look forward to the next.

    Read the review of The Angel of the Stories.

  • New University of Manchester UG prospectus

    This project seems to come around quicker and quicker every year.

    For the 2013 undergraduate prospectus (yes, we do work that far in advance), I got to do a fair amount of re-writing, which is always refreshing. The University wants to be a little clearer about who they are, what they offer and the kinds of students who will thrive there, so we decided a re-vamp of the introductory pages was in order.

    I also volunteered to interview some students and staff for profiles that we could feature in short form within the prospectus and in more detail on the University website. Have to say, they were an inspiring bunch.

    It's now online: The University of Manchester 2013 undergraduate prospectus.


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