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Can you spare £5?

April 12th, 2011

A personal one, this. My brave/mad/masochistic husband Steve is running the London Marathon this Sunday, for Edward’s Trust.

The moment Steve’s confirmation letter from the race organisers plopped onto our doormat, he was determined to run for a smaller charity; one which doesn’t have the resources to buy up places in big events such as the London Marathon.

Having recently met Peter Dent, the father of a boy named Edward who died aged just seven years, Steve quickly decided on Edward’s Trust. Peter and his wife Hilary founded the Birmingham-based charity in 1989 to help other families deal with the pain of losing a child.

Today they support bereaved families and those affected by serious illness, as well as providing training services for teachers, parents and other adults who are working with bereaved children. You can read more about the charity at www.edwardstrust.org.uk.

The kite logo for Edward’s Trust was taken from one of Edward’s pictures, which he drew on pink copy paper. The charity has been kind enough to send Steve a white vest to run in on Sunday, as well as a T-shirt in ‘Edward’s Trust pink’ which Steve has worn for training every week.

It’s no small undertaking, a marathon, and the past few weeks have seen Steve nursing creaky knees, sore feet, grazed nipples (yep!) and various other chafed bits. He’s also diligently climbed into ice-cold baths after three-hour training sessions and abstained from curries and beers. No easy task, trust me …

Of course all these endeavours will be worthwhile when Steve crosses the finishing line on Sunday, having raised hundreds of pounds to help Peter, Hilary and their team keep up their excellent work in Edward’s memory. 

Thanks to the generosity of our families and friends, Steve’s not far off the £1000 mark. Can you throw in a fiver and help him get there?

You can donate quickly and easily online at https://www.justgiving.com/stevelondonmarathon2011/. If you pay UK tax, you can also apply Gift Aid and boost your donation, at no extra cost to you.

Thank you for your kindness. I will keep you posted on how Steve does!

Update

Sunday was a day we’ll never forget. Less suited to running than to cheering from the sidelines with an icecream, I stood with Steve’s family and mine, marvelling at the supportive, festival atmosphere that pervaded the city. Meanwhile, Steve battled heat, blisters and bruised toes to complete the course in 4h 29m 27s, raising more than £1200 for Edward’s Trust. Well done, that man.

Steve completes the London Marathon

Marie in the Independent on Sunday

April 6th, 2011

If you find yourself flicking through the Independent on Sunday this weekend (10 April 2011), take a peek at my article in the travel section.

It’s about Malta and Gozo’s megalithic temples and is being published to launch the next Bradt / Independent on Sunday travel-writing competition, which I won (to my great disbelief) in 2010.

Although I haven’t travelled as much as usual lately, the competition has given me a kick up the bum to pursue my writing dreams a little harder.

I’ve started a blog (the currently sparse www.mariekreft.co.uk) and finished editing my first book, The Birdwoman of Bangkok and Other Tales. In October I won the Telegraph’s Just Back travel-writing competition.

I’m also very busy with Good As Gold - something I’ll always be grateful for. 

I’ll post a link to the article on Sunday. Good luck to everyone who enters the Bradt competition this summer - it’s a great springboard for your travel writing and the people behind it are supportive and lovely.

Update

It’s here: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/a-prizewinners-tale-about-the-giants-of-malta-2265636.html. It’s changed in places from the article I submitted, which is entirely understandable: sub-editors know far better than I do about how to present a final piece. But so you can see it, I’ve published the original version on my blog: http://mariekreft.co.uk/2011/04/10/under-the-canopies-a-new-view-of-malta/.

 

Good As Gold’s reassuring guide to ASA compliance

March 6th, 2011

You’ve probably heard about the new powers wielded by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) regarding the claims companies can and cannot make on their websites. Here’s Good As Gold’s reassuring guide to compliance …  

Magic potions

The ASA is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. It applies clearly defined Advertising Codes to ensure ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful.

Before Tuesday 1 March 2011, when it came to online content, the ASA was only able to police paid-for ads (such as banner adverts, pop-up boxes and paid search results). That meant companies could stick any old baloney up on their websites and not face any kind of official comeback. Since 2008, the ASA received more than 4,500 complaints about websites, but did not have the power to follow them up.

Now that’s changing. From Tuesday 1 March 2011, ASA’s remit has been extended to all online content. This means companies’ own websites, as well as other public spaces they control (such as their Twitter and Facebook accounts), are subject to ASA regulation.

You can download the latest UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing from http://www.cap.org.uk/The-Codes/CAP-Code.aspx. If you’re put off by the 124 pages, here’s Good As Gold’s guide to some of the information it contains.

Although the ASA does issue sanctions to companies that fail to comply with rulings, its main role is not to punish. It is to help you ensure your marketing is legal, decent, honest and truthful.

In the light of ASA’s extended remit, here are a few questions to ask yourself about your website …

* Have I got documentary evidence to support my testimonials and any claims that I’ve presented as objective?
* Do any of my prices mislead, either by omission, undue emphasis or distortion? (Note that VAT-exclusive prices may be given only if all or most of your consumers pay no VAT or can recover VAT).
* Are my sales promotions fair and honourable, and have I included all the significant terms & conditions?
* Am I confident that something I’ve described as ‘free’ is indeed free?
* Have I protected the privacy of my visitors, customers, and people featured on my website?
* Is everything I’ve aimed at under-16s safe, suitable and ethical?

This is not exhaustive and if you’re worried about anything on your website, please just ask. As a professional copywriter, I take pride in staying updated on  adjudications and additions to the Codes, so I can advise you if I think you’re veering into unsubstantiated claim territory.

On several occasions I’ve liaised with the ASA’s Copy Team on my clients’ behalf to check that the medical or environmental benefits of their products were not being wrongly exaggerated. Often we were able to reword the copy so that the message was just as powerful, but no longer misleading or overblown.

Indeed, I believe that measured, ASA-compliant copy is a better selling tool than hyperbolic spiel, which most consumers will find patronising or untrustworthy.

You can also get a website audit from the Copy Advice team, which costs £800 + VAT and takes about ten working days to complete. Find out more at http://www.copyadvice.org.uk/Ad-Advice/Website-audit.aspx.

As long as you are committed to selling honestly, backing up your claims and being truthful, there is little to worry about. ASA is not a Big Bad Monster out to taint your name and stomp on your creativity. It is there to protect consumers and uphold high standards of advertising. To marketers, ASA’s regulation is a good thing: it means consumers can enjoy the work we produce and trust what they see, hear and read.

Call me on 0121 236 7066 or email marie@goodasgoldws.co.uk.

Introducing … Spotlight

February 14th, 2011

I’m delighted to be collaborating with two brilliant businesses - Adapt Productions and AMCH Photography - to offer promo packages to West Midlands musicians.

Spotlight logo

Nitesh Patel at Adapt Productions is a talented videographer and Andrea is a creative, experienced photographer with a specialism in band portraiture. We’ve combined our skills and lowered our individual rates to create the following deals …

Spotlight 1 

* Four hours’ filming of your music video (one location)
* Studio edit and creation of final digital version
* Two-hour band photoshoot
* Colour correction and full edit of images
* Twenty final images on disc
* Band biography.    
£585 

Spotlight 2                

* Four hours’ filming of your music video (two locations)
* Studio edit and creation of final digital version
* Special FX options
* Four-hour band photoshoot
* Colour correction and full edit of images
* Forty final images on disc
* Portrait shoot for frontman/woman (ten final images)
* Photographic effects (monochrome, filters etc)
* Band biography with photo inserts
* Three cover letter templates: for venues, labels and journalists.
£785

Spotlight 3:

* Eight hours’ filming of your music video (two locations)
* Studio edit and creation of final digital version
* Special FX options
* Backstage footage and band interviews
* Six-hour band photoshoot
* Individual shoot with each band member (five final images each)
* Full photography coverage of a gig of your choice
* Colour correction and full edit of images
* Photographic effects (monochrome, filters etc)
* Band biography with photo inserts
* Three cover letter/email templates for approaching venues, labels and journalists
* Band interview with portrait inserts
* Press release (to be used whenever you’re ready).
£1,250.

Terms and conditions apply. To register your interest before our official launch, email spotlight@adaptproductions.co.uk and say hello to Nitesh or call him on 07970 507384.

AMCH Photography 

Adapt Productions

The Armani of copywriting?

January 18th, 2011

I’ve just been told by a new client that the person who referred them to me (also a client) calls Good As Gold as ‘the Armani of copywriting’.

So for haute-couture nouns and luxe leather adverbs … step this way.  

Seriously, that’s embarrassing! I’m a little bashful about talking up my skills, as I realised almost painfully yesterday when I attended the NUJ course ‘Writing your first book’ in London. It was a hard-headed and useful day which focused not on high-flown dreams of writing beautiful prose, but the nitty-gritty reality of getting a book finished and sold to a publisher. A much-needed kick up the bum for me.

Course tutor Brendan Foley (author of the bestselling Under the Wire) encouraged me and three other fledgling authors to position our books, writing and ideas alongside other successful publications, authors or gripping stories, stating where they cross and how they differ. (I can’t wait to read the book by my coursemate whose novel will be a Murakami-esque magical realism mystery crossed with a Christmassy The Wicker Man.)

This was a difficult exercise for me, as I always wanted to hedge my bets: “Well it aims to have the literary quality of Paul Theroux combined with the humour and accessibility of Bill Bryson, but really it needs better words and more jokes”.

Hmmm!

Anyway, I just wondered where you position your business or, if you’re a writer, your work?

Twelve treats for Christmas

December 19th, 2010

Some golden nuggets especially for you … merry Christmas!

One German nutcracker museum
* http://www.nussknackermuseum-neuhausen.de/

Four nutcrackers

Two funny Christmas customs
* The pooping log of Spain
* Krampus

The pooping log: Caga Tio

Three dreadful songs
* ‘I’m the Christmas Queen’ - Miss Piggy
* ‘Christmas Conga’ - Cyndi Lauper
* ‘Macarena Christmas’ - Los del Rio

Four Christmas creatures
Bunny in Santa hatKitten in a Santa hat
 

Rodent with a baubleRobin

Wind-up penguin toy from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Six disturbing decoration roundups
Fifty-four creepy, bizarre and geeky Xmas tree ornaments
* Nine really weird Christmas ornaments from Bronner’s
* Eleven weird Christmas tree ornaments
* Weird Christmas ornaments on Etsy
* Flickr: The strange Christmas ornaments pool
* Eleven hilariously stupid, strange and ugly Christmas ornaments.

Gherkin decoration

Seven silly presents
* Treasure-seekers’ shoes
* Sovereign ring mug
* Crime scene roll
* Belly button brush
* Toilet mat golf game
* Jim’ll Fix It soap on a rope
* Inflatable fruitcake

Eight vintage Christmas print ads
* Antique Christmas

Vintage ad: couple by Christmas tree

Nine ways of wrapping … 
* Prankpack.com
Wake and Bake Dream Griddle Alarm Clock

Eleven lovely jumpers
* Hideous Christmas sweaters of the day (OK, there are more than 11 here but one can never have too much knitwear).  

Twelve Christmassy clips
* Santa announcement from Elf
* Home Alone trailer
* ‘Stop the Cavalry’ - Jona Lewie
* Christmas lights scene from Father Ted
* Last scenes of The Office Christmas Special
* Box of Delights
opening
* ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ - Slade
* ‘Father Christmas is Indian!’ from Goodness Gracious Me
* ‘Fairytale of New York’ - The Pogues and Kirsty McColl
* ‘Walking in the Air’ from The Snowman
* ‘How to wrap a cat for Christmas’
* ‘O Tannenbaum’ by Vince Guaraldi Trio (from A Charlie Brown Christmas).

Gold bow

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous 2011.

My November 2010 Twitter links

November 30th, 2010

Hello! I’m using Twitter lots at the moment, finding it useful for viewing and sharing valuable links. You can follow me at @goodasgoldws.

Twitter bird blue

Here’s what I enjoyed and shared or re-tweeted in November 2010. Please note that all links open in a new window:

Design
* Thirty funny print ads

Email marketing
* Four tips for successful holiday email campaigns

Search engine optimisation
* Experian Hitwise online media roundup, available for download
* SEO tips for Bing

Social media
* Location, location, location: the new wave of social networking
* Make Facebook angry, and they’ll censor you into oblivion
* Four ways to gather intelligence via Twitter

Technology
* Tokyo vending machine that uses facial-recognition technology to suggest a drink for you
  
Fun / silly
* Porpoises rescue Dick Van Dyke

Thanks to @dhatfield, @Experian_Hitwise, @Kalexico.

Bradt travel-writing competition 2010

July 21st, 2010

After making the long-shortlist (or short-longlist?) last year, and being commended in the past, I’m delighted to be a finalist in this year’s Bradt / Independent on Sunday travel-writing competition for a piece I wrote about visiting my great-grandmother’s grave in Rumia, north Poland. You can read my entry here.

I’m going to a prizegiving evening at Stanfords bookshop in Covent Garden tonight (Wednesday 21 July 2010), where journalist Matthew Parris will announce the winner. Absolutely certain it won’t be me (the other four finalists’ entries are breathtaking), but it feels great to have got this far.

Will tell you all about the evening soon!

UPDATE ON 22/07/10: Gulp … I won! Can’t believe it. Thank you to Debbie from Bradt for the picture below, which shows (from left to right) Catriona Rainsford (the winner of the ‘unpublished’ category); Hilary Bradt; me (Marie Kreft) and Matthew Parris.

Bradt travel-writing competition 2010

I’ve won a five-star holiday to Malta and Gozo, and a commission with the Independent on Sunday. It really hasn’t sunk in yet! The other finalists - Lucy Clark, Elizabeth Gowing, Michelle Wu and Catriona - wrote beautiful pieces, and any one of them would have been a deserving winner.

Internet World videos

July 20th, 2010

I didn’t make it to Internet World this year (too busy with deadlines, as always), but I’m trying to keep ahead of what’s new and exciting in the world of the web, so these videos from the event organisers are the next best thing.

Thought these three in particular might be useful for my lovely clients!

* ‘The changing face of networking: how is social media and online networking changing business, entrepreneurship, hiring and innovation?’
- Kevin Eyres, LinkedIn

* ‘Digital marketing is growing up’
- Jimmy Schougaard, Ogilvy and Peter Visholm, Agilic

* ‘Harnessing social media to extend your brand: how online communities, user generated content, customer engagement and customer loyalty build the brand’
- Angus Struthers, Trip Advisor.

Brit Writers’ Awards Unpublished 2010: the ceremony

July 16th, 2010

I am delighted to have been involved with the very first year of the Brit Writers’ Awards Unpublished, writing articles for the BWA website,  devising  creative-writing resources for schools and - in one of the hairiest, scariest weeks of my career - writing and editing the 68-page Write Now! event magazine in just five days.

(Thank you to the team at The Other Design Agency in Derby, who let me decamp to their office for a week and plague them with my obsessive attention to apostrophes!)

The inaugural awards ceremony took place on Thursday 15 July 2010 at Indig02 (The 02, London) and was hosted by the lovely Charlie Jordan and Tre Azam, who breathed life and sparkle into the script we’d drafted for them. Literary stars of the evening included Sir Terry Pratchett (pictured below, delivering his acceptance speech for the Published Writer of the Year award), while sponsors included The Reading Agency, Arts Council England and Faber Music.

This was all amazing. BWA was set up last year on a shoestring budget with the aim of shaking up the publishing industry (which can feel very inaccessible to outsiders), encouraging and inspiring people who might not normally have considered penning a story, poem or song. While there were many hurdles along the way (not least the 21,000 entries to read), the team did an amazing job in pulling together the glittering evening … and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes when overall winner Catherine Cooper heard that BWA had published her book (The Golden Acorn) in time for UK distribution this week!

I had a great time at the ceremony - and enjoyed the lovely company on my table, which included short story finalist Steven Tromans, Witchfinder author William Hussey and the team from the children’s division of Oxford University Press.

Now I’m happy to have got my BWA 2011 work well underway!

You can read more about the evening here.  

Sir Terry Pratchett, BWA 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image of Sir Terry Pratchett included with permission from Brit Writers.]

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