Look for the helpers

Everything’s a little bit quiet today.  The sun, which started brightly, has even muted itself behind the gathering clouds and the usually cheerful birds are tweeting in whispers.  Driving home from this morning’s subdued networking meeting I was struck by the regular silences on the radio.  Presenters, infamous for their humour and constant banter, today stuck for words. Listeners, phoning in to say their piece, struggled to speak round the pain in their hearts.

Today is a sad day for Manchester.

For us all.

Manchester is my adopted city, and I love it.  More importantly, I love its people, for they are the most amazing I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  So many of those I have come to know and love since moving here were caught up in the events of last night.

Scrolling through my news feed this morning there are numerous posts of people announcing they are safe – not from an attention seeking “it could have been me” perspective (as many are suggesting) but from a genuine it could have been them, because they were there. It could actually have been them, or their children, or their loved ones.

This shit is real.  It always has been, but right now it’s on our doorstep.

While my heart goes out to everyone today, my mind turns to my babies, especially my little girls.  They sit and watch the news with us.  They invariably hover around my shoulder as I scroll through Facebook.  They see things, they sense things; they cannot be protected from this.

And nor should they.  They need to know that the world is not always a beautiful and safe place, but equally, they need to know that there are beautiful people in it.

How then do you balance all that?  How do you inform any child of the realities of terrorism, without inadvertently letting the terrorists “win”?

I am proud of the fact that in the 8 years I’ve been doing this parenting gig, I’ve never told another parent how to do their job.  I’m not about to start now; I merely express the opinion that trying to hide this from your child, especially if you are raising a proud Mancunian, is not a good idea.

You cannot hide this, it’s everywhere.  If you don’t explain this to them, if you don’t tackle it head on, they will fill in the blanks, and God only knows what they will come up with.  The reality is terrifying, it’s heart breaking, it’s shocking but their imaginations are vivid and for them, the blanks may be so much more frightening.

For us, we have sat and talked. We have reminded our girls that they can ask questions, at any time, about anything.  If they tell us they’re scared, we won’t tell them not to be. Hell, I’m scared, I refuse to lie to them and make them think it’s all OK.  It isn’t.  Not whilst maniacs are running around in the world willing to kill themselves, and innocents, for the sole purpose of creating fear.

I cannot dismiss their fear, because they need to know it’s OK, that it’s a valid response.  They need to know when they’re scared, they can talk to us and not feel that they are being dismissed. Equally, they need to know that the world does not fall neatly in to goodies and baddies.  That baddies aren’t lurking on every corner, so that everything becomes a potentially terrible ordeal.

Yes, like Mrs Rogers, I am going to look for the helpers.  I shall point them out and I shall sing their praises.  I will tell my children about the people who drove others home, who opened their doors to strangers, who donated blood.  But I shall not pretend that evil doesn’t exist or it can’t touch our perfect little lives.

Because last night evil arrived on our doorstep, in our community. It struck in the heart of the venue I was at only the other week, where I have laughed with my precious babies. It is here, in the middle of everything we hold dear, there are armed police in our shopping centre this morning, there is fear everywhere; but no, it won’t win.

We will not stop. We will keep moving forward and we will continue to support those who need our love and compassion. And our children need to see that pain so they can really understand the goodness that comes out of it, from the people who really deserve our attention.

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Are you surviving or thriving?

As you may be aware this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May 2017).  Like many I have had my own problems with mental health; however, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.  I suffered from the “baby blues” after the birth of our first child.  It was *only* for 8 weeks (though it felt significantly longer, I can assure you), so as such was not classed as being Post Natal Depression.

Regardless of what “it” was, it was Hell. I class myself as lucky because one morning I woke up and for whatever reason, felt better.  “It” stopped.  I was back, and ready to begin this amazing journey as a mother.  Thankfully it’s something I have never experienced again.

But it terrified me.  At the time, it was just scary – I wasn’t in control, I felt like a stranger in my own life.  However, that was the least of the problems. The biggest issue was I felt I had no one to talk to. My Midwife was great, but she was busy.  I was a new Mum and anyone I hinted to that I felt a bit wobbly, put everything down to my inexperience and lack of confidence.

I say all this, but the reality is this post isn’t about me.  It’s about you.  I only tell you my own experience in Cliffs Notes form to remind you that the vast majority of us have something lurking in the background, and if we don’t, we sure as heck have the potential to.

You see, we all have mental health.  Many might say they have “good” mental health, but let’s get one thing straight here, good mental health does not simply meant the absence of a mental health problem.

Good mental health is really all about having the ability to think, feel and act in ways that allow us to live a full and enjoyable life.  It’s the ability to cope when challenges are thrown our way, to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong, and keep on moving on with a genuine smile on our face (even if occasionally it is replaced with tears and screams of rage).

Here are some interesting statistics for you taken from the Mental Health Foundation:

  • Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
  • 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.
  • Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are distributed according to a gradient of economic disadvantage across society. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.
  • Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain.
  • One adult in six had a common mental disorder.

I know we’re all busy, and could argue we have “better things to do”, but why not take a moment to find out a bit more about your own mental health?  There’s a short survey available here that will help you understand where you’re at.  There’s also signposting if you need any support with anything.

Trust me, you don’t have anything better to do right now.  Go on, look after yourself.

What is content marketing?

One of the services we offer here at Time Saving Heroes is content marketing, and it’s something we bang on about quite a lot.  Lu loves writing, so if there’s a blog to be created, or a Press Release to be, well, released, she’s on it.

However, “content marketing” is one of those terms us guys use all the time, despite the fact you guys possibly have no idea what we’re talking about. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is and isn’t jargon.

For the benefit of those that aren’t too sure what content marketing covers, here’s a handy little reference.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is:

…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Strategic

The first thing we can pick out of this then is that content marketing is a strategic marketing approach. What that means is you’re not going to just haphazardly post random things to social media as and when you feel like it. Or, more likely, when you remember to.

A strategy gives you a clear idea of what it is you want to accomplish, and every piece of content you use is designed to help you accomplish it.

Audience

Your content needs to be valuable, relevant and consistent to attract the right audience, which means you need to know who your audience is.

Who do you want to read your posts?  What do they want or need?  What interests them, or concerns them?  Do they have questions they’re looking to you to answer? How does your product or service fit in to their lives? How can you help them find out what they need to know?

These are all things you need to think about for every piece of content you put out there – what purpose does it serve?  How will it help you build a relationship with your audience, or encourage new followers and prospects?

Customer action

The final point in the definition is that content needs to drive profitable customer action. Whilst it can of course relate to someone clicking on a link, ending up on your website, and converting to a sale, it’s important not to just see content marketing in these terms.

It is not about selling (though it can be a wonderful side effect, if done correctly).

A customer wants to know that you, the brand, understand them. That you get why they might want or need your product/service in their life.  Equally, they want to see that people just like them have used your brand before, and have had a positive experience.

They are looking for credibility, and good content marketing can do this for you.

When someone reads your content and shares it, they are giving it credibility. They are saying “this is good, this is worth paying attention to”. Every time that happens you are given another opportunity to demonstrate how you, as a business, can make a positive difference in the lives of your prospects.