Words are not just uttered from the lips, but the way we move, write, speak, and interact can either promote peace or create division.
From fake news on social media and gossip in the street to profound speeches, blogs and books which can transform our lives, we hear so many stories nowadays whether they be junk food for our minds or carefully crafted to feed our souls.
We have such a huge array of mediums to now consume, create and communicate in more ways than ever before.
But the leading yet archaic technology in driving deep state-of-the-art human connection is story-telling.
The kaleidoscope impact it offers can be propaganda or transcend to heal the world.
Something that has depleted me when having to hit targets for how many online news stories I can recreate, thrash out and publish per hour as a young journalist on a national newspaper, churning click-bait to drive revenue or an art form which has written me out of the depths of despair which has inspired my grassroots reporting for regionals.
We need space to create, to let our cluttered minds swirl as they transcend into stillness to comprehend our increasingly polluted world of excess, cutting through the noise to deeply connect.
As we move with the harsh Hokey Cokey of the Pandemic, I have been connecting with other creatives to discuss the importance of multi-dimensional stories to unite us all regardless of background.
I know as someone who discovered journalism through a calling to speak out from the perspective of my own seldom-heard community in which I was born and bred, rather than just sweep in, interpreting my subjective view with the pressures of a fast and at times heartless news agenda.
As Hayley Trowbridge, from People’s Voice Media who is organising The Future of Lived Experience Storytelling, the Institute of Community Reporters Conference, says: ”Community Reporting is basically a way of bringing people's stories, experiences and ideas together so that we can collectively find ways to make the world around us a better place to be.
“Taking the time to listen to different perspectives - including ones that may challenge your own - is a way of understanding through empathy how different people experience the world differently. There is power in people's experiences being described in their own words - a chance to really connect, person to person.”
How do we share these stories to have the greatest impact possible? I’m fortunate that my age enables me to straddle the worlds of traditional media with the wider sharing tool of the social media wagon.
This is reflected in my work as a journalist, speaker, content creator and published author enabling me to share and tell multidimensional stories on multiple platforms using digital creativity. A hybrid approach to carefully crafted content, creatively aligning a variety of mediums online and offline, may just be the solution to engage and change the universe for the better.
Hence why, “Uniting Creative businesses across the North and encouraging them to come together, to unite, share their experiences and collaborate will be extremely powerful in helping to shape the future and create change,” explains Sarah Novotny, of GC Business Growth Hub who is hosting the Creative Leaders Festival which aims to connect, inspire, and energise Creative Industry professionals from across the North of England, such events will also “play a key role in the recovery of the UK economy.”
At Creative Leaders Festival, I'll be discussing the evolving media world and the future of the theatre with the likes of Northern Ballet, Sparkle Influencer Community, and politicians. In Summer, I’ll also be sharing more seldom-heard stories and my own lived experience at the Institute of Community Reporters event.
Book for both events for free, go to:
Hundreds of creative industry professionals are being invited to join a two-day virtual event this month - the only one of its kind in the North of England.
The Creative Leaders Festival 2021, organised by GC Business Growth Hub on behalf of The Growth Company, will take place from May 25 to 26.
The virtual expo will provide advice about support available to the sector and its sub-sectors to help businesses plan and grow, with the two-day event featuring a series of high-profile speakers, roundtable discussions and workshop sessions.
More than 70 industry experts from creative, digital and tech industries will be speaking at the event.
Guests include Creative England’s Mehjabeen Patrick; Manchester International Festival’s Paul Clay; Northern Ballet’s Chief Executive Mark Skipper, and co-chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and CEO of Magnetic North Lou Cordwell OBE.
This is the second festival following last year’s inaugural event, which covered the North West and attracted more than 450 delegates to register. This year’s expo promises to be even bigger and has been extended to cover more Northern areas.
It is open to any creative, digital or tech business, based in the North of England, operating in fields such as film, TV, photography, design, gaming, fashion, marketing and PR.
The event is being supported by Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
It will be opened by Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, at 10am.
Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, said: "The creative industries will play a vital role in helping to drive the economy as we build back better from the pandemic.
"It is fantastic to see thriving creative industries across the north where the sector is continuing to make important strides as part of our levelling up agenda. This festival is a great opportunity to celebrate this success and be inspired for the future.”
Delegates can join panel discussions, Q&A sessions, workshops and sector specific roundtable sessions, as well as a virtual exhibition and peer to peer networking.
Workshops delivered by sector specialists from across the North will cover topics such as understanding the funding maze; creating a culture of diversity and inclusion, and protecting your assets.
The Hub is part of The Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Head of Digital, Creative, and Tech at the Hub, Sarah Novotny, said: “This is a unique festival which will give businesses the opportunity to hear from industry specialists, share knowledge and best practice, and discover the wide ranging support that is available.
“The UK’s creative sector is world renowned and very valuable to our economy, so it is vital that the sector strengthens and return to growth. We want to do all we can to support creative businesses which is why we have extended the festival to cover more regions in the North of England.
“We know that the creative sector has been hit hard by the pandemic, but some businesses have also been presented with more favourable trading conditions and opportunities to grow.
“Our aim with the festival is to facilitate connections and help businesses get back to growing as well as helping businesses to take advantage of opportunities for development and growth.
“Diversity and inclusivity will play a key role. With diversity, will come innovation and innovation will help build resilience and stronger businesses in the future. We are looking forward to hundreds joining us over the two days.”
To see the full schedule and to register for the event (at no cost), please visit:
The festival is also backed by Creative Industries Council, Creative England, Creative Industries Federation, Creative Lancashire, Boost Business Lancashire, Liverpool Growth Platform, Northern Ballet, Scale-up Institute, AD:VENTURE, and the Intellectual Property Office.
Businesses looking to access specialist support can visit www.businessgrowthhub.com for more information about the organisation’s extensive range of services.
This and other GC Business Growth Hub projects are part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the GM Business Growth Hub project, designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. The Hub is also supported by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester local authorities.
A new multi-storey fashion design studio has opened up it’s new “pink palace” HQ sprinkling some glitter onto Cleckheaton town centre
Wake Bespoke which has amassed a large online following for it’s lavish tailor-made designs seen on the likes of influencers, the cast of TOWIE and A-listers on the red carpet, has “finally had it’s fairytale ending” after a tumultuous year of Lockdowns delaying its launch.
CEO and chief designer Jordan Wake said: “We’ve used this time to our advantage, to really give our new home a dazzling makeover!
“We know it’s been a challenging time but in our true spirit of empowering transformations and true makeovers to glow from the inside out... we have utilised this time to focus on our core, create new products to suit the active lifestyles of our customers, lead online sewing masterclasses and create our very own pink palace to add some sparkle back into people’s lives.”
Jordan, 28, who has evolved from a studio apartment HQ in Leeds City Centre to three floors dedicated to her dream of dressing women to feel empowered, thrived online in lockdown with a viral campaign of women dressing up in her most flamboyant designs whilst doing menial tasks at home due to events being cancelled.
She also set up the Glow and Grow Ladies Network community for women who want to level up in life.
Jordan, originally from Leeds, started out as a “shy seamstress” on work experience where she would spend her nights at her grandmas house to finish off her own designs.
But thanks to her unique flamboyant style and her passion for creating any design for each woman regardless of background, she quickly rallied up enough support to launch her own business “Just Jordan,” she laughs.
With her humble down-to-earth Yorkshire personality, she quickly built up a repertoire of returning clients from women recovering from a range of surgeries to prom queens and brides as well as catwalk models.
She said: “We’re all about making every woman feel amazing from the inside out, we’re a female empowerment company disguised as dress makers!”
After making a storm online, celebrities and top influencers took note and started arranging exclusive fittings from Jordan who has evolved into the global fashion brand Wake Bespoke. Jordan said: “I am naturally an introvert, so social media gave me the platform and the confidence to build my customer base and most of all serve every woman from the red carpet to brides walking down the aisle, from party goers in Ibiza to school prom dresses. “Whatever age, background, size, style or challenge, we promise to use our skill, warmth of our friendly team and experience to empower every woman from unique costumes to off-the-peg activewear.
“We’re family run and owned and we can’t wait to welcome every woman into our store whether it be to book a consultation in our new HQ or online to shop, book a consultation or just get in touch about our range of feel-good products and sewing masterclasses.”
It’s a “fairytale ending” as Jordan and her team leap forward into a new story offering a range of services, serving guests near and far and bring some cheer back to Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire with their new Wake Bespoke HQ complete with a consultation area, gift shop and instagrammable backdrops.
Jordan said: “I have dropped ‘just’ from my vocabulary too, I am not just Jordan or just a seamstress, I am a CEO of a female empowerment company which is starting it’s new fairytale with a fitting premise!
“I can’t wait to welcome all women into my store or say hi on one of my outline platforms, you can find us @WakeBespoke.”
You can shop now for Wake Bespoke’s latest collections via the boutique section on their website, by going to:
https://www.wakebespoke.co.uk or you can book a consultation for made to measure services either online or in store.
Wake Bespoke’s new premise is located at 51 Northgate, Cleckheaton, BD19 3HS. Bookings are via appointment only.
You can also follow Wake Bespoke on instagram, facebook and twitter @wakebespoke.
There are not many journalists who can say that their most powerful stories to date stemmed from back bending on the floors of Shisha Bars as a professional bellydancer, and it's something I always felt embarrassed about when presenting as a guest lecture in front of the next generation of journalists.
These blurred lines between personal and professional from a paid hobby as a performer to my professional life as a journalist and business owner used to make me comfortable as I struggled to fit in whether it be in the entertainment world where most people were from private acting schools unlike me who shimmied her way through community groups and funded courses for the “under-represented” or in the media world where it is also not always what you know but who you know.
Somehow, I managed to navigate my own way through the side door of the stage.
But I would secretly straddling roles as I tried to hide my multi-faceted life as an aspiring woman in the media who loved (and needed to earn the cash to fund my efforts) performing as a dancer. My multidimensional life became even more complex as a young mum with classed ‘disabilities’ and in one day alone I would drop my daughter off at nursery en route to a social enterprise course to fund a community magazine, before quickly changing into student clothes for a postgraduate journalism lecture, before a business meeting, then changing into a bellydance costume to perform that night before returning home to care for my daughter and then the following morning I would reappear in smart clothes on the news desk of a national newspaper before collecting my daughter and my long commute to home to tend to housework and admin for my journalism, businesses, hobbies and life.
I felt less superhero and more like a Quick Change Artist, my scarcity mindset of “where there’s muck, there’s brass,” meant I was always hustling trying desperately to reach this ‘other world’ of a career as a journalist. Ironically, rather than asking to be paid for my endless ‘work experience’ stints, I would try self-fund my dream and make ends meet elsewhere.
In recent times however we have all been forced to accept and celebrate the spectrum of humanity we come into contact with via video call ‘unveiling our professional masks’ with so many others are working flexibly from home.
It was during a video call with my life coach Emily of Quantum Coaching where I had the realisation that I too was responsible for transforming my mindset rooted in my own past and me subconsciously trudging a ‘rags to riches’ fairytale, when in fact we are one world and the ultimate transformation comes from within, as Emily said: “Most of those money sayings are outdated and only serve to keep us in our past. If how we feel about ourselves is determined by anything external, we give away personal power. If something outside of ourselves has the power to make us feel worthy, valued and happy, then it has the power to take that away too. But when we love ourselves unconditionally and hold our value high, money is welcome as an expression of love, gratitude and appreciation.”
With a rekindled fire in my belly and the new found confidence of speaking up on Zoom for myself and others from the comfort of my own creative home office, I realised that ‘true empowerment’ and inclusivity, means that to truly inspire the next generation and myself that we need to pay for people’s skills and services, because of their background, not just promote a more diverse world, we need to cherish and cheerlead it.
By Sophie Mei Lan
As I clutched my phone talking into the camera, as if it was a silent therapist, I choked up as I attempted to breathe and make sense of a panic attack. It wasn’t meant as anything other than an expressive diary, but I decided to eventually post this raw vlog footage, showcasing a not-so ‘insta-perfect’ snapshot of my life. It was shared widely, reaching two billion online because these days we tend to opt for content that’s a mirror of our own reality which resonates.
But it was a small child-focused theatre show which depicted “butterflies” in your belly which captivated the minds of my young daughters when they needed to explain that they feel nervous about something.
Are these two parallel worlds or can we merge content creation online with the arts and theatre offline?
After pauses away from social media “we were on a break,” I brace myself as I tap on the all- too familiar app icon brightly piercing through the screen, I know I need to reply to messages, post content for work and check the news but it feels like I am stepping out of the house I have been isolated in, into a fast-paced noisy world.
Yes I can step back inside at any moment but social media algorithms are built to keep us ‘connected,’ or hooked inside their platform. I know that by creating content rather than just dull scrolling is much better for your mental wellbeing but I have learned the hard way to unleash the power of digital creativity prior to posting, otherwise the excessive noise of trolls or even echo chambers can stifle your creativity.
Granted, social can inspire ideas, issues that are prevalent to an array of communities and has been my way of communicating and sharing my work as journalist, mental health and wellbeing author and even passion for dance so I can’t berate it or stay inside my isolated home but I have been learning to cut through the noise and do it on my own terms.
In many ways much like reality TV, which was also a platform for me as a young dancer shimmying hard to make it in the media and entertainment world, another culture which also consumes audiences through voyeurism, escapism and another useful tool of expression which comes with its aspirational promises and underworld too. Whilst many who enjoy more snobbishly-called ‘high culture’ oppose this ‘low brow’ stuff, for a lot of us social media and TV has been a lifeline to connect and schedule our lives, especially throughout this last year. But it certainly does not replace the arts, theatres and creative outlets that we’ve become accustomed to in recent years whilst bringing my own daughters up in God’s Own County in which our local creatives, musicians and creative groups have gone above and beyond prior to the Pandemic to make the arts more accessible. From free workshops at Yorkshire Dance to Child friendly ballet shows at Northern Ballet Theatre to Rock n’ Roll Panto at City Varieties and community projects at Leeds Playhouse and en promenade performances at Theatre Royal Wakefield and Sheffield Theatres, we have been mere public transport rides away from this whole other fantastical world.
Whilst I take pauses from the social media scroll hole for more work on my soul, I cannot berate the platform which has connected more people than ever before in recent times, and has meant wider audiences have accessed online learning and cultural experiences from culinary workshops to immersive zoo experiences, free theatre shows and vital community support… plus there are those of us who earn a living online too.
So, as we emerge from this murky period, I am excited for a new hybrid approach where ‘cultures’ no longer collide or compete but join together to engage and attract wider audiences to the core beauty and freedom of the creative arts. My daughters and I have been connected to the arts through Zoom art sessions, live shows streamed online, and we have danced a long to a number of YouTube classes not to mention shimmied to Strictly!
For me, the core of creative communication is individual expression and we need to support our region’s artists, pioneering venues and creative groups of all sizes to continue inspiring, creatively connecting and providing a special sanctuary open to all minds. I chat all things mass media and straddling social media in this week’s Recovery Road Mental Health podcast with ITV Presenter Christine Talbot and blogging daughter Beth who experienced Panic Attacks whilst at University. Download Recovery Road from all podcast stores or read more at: thesparklecoach.com or follow me @thesparklecoach or read: mamamei.co.uk
MY JOURNEY TO THE BBC IN THE DARK AND BACK IN THE DARK OF YORKSHIRE AGAIN
By Sophie Mei Lan
Stepping into the chilling pitch black of the morning, I carefully navigated myself and my four-month-old daughter into the car. I secured her tight into her car seat as she attempted to suckle the cold air searching for my bosom, her mother’s skin and milk.
She had been by my side feeding all night, I was exhausted, and I longed to pass away the rest of the morning in bed. But like most mornings, it was a military operation, we had to be up before sunrise to go on our journey together from Wakefield, West Yorkshire to Salford, Greater Manchester and were always at the mercy of the M62.
We were off to MediaCityUK, 'the Theatre of Dreams’ for northern journalists, as it was the new home of the BBC, some of ITV and where I thought I could ‘get my foot finally in the door.’
So, for now without a clear route to get inside the secure glass BBC buildings, I had opted to study journalism at University of Salford in MediaCityUK, even though it was far from my Yorkshire home where there are some incredible universities, I was determined that after years as a freelance journalist managing mental illness (mostly on ‘work experience’ except for paid work as a local newspaper reporter and investigations for Channel 4 News) and now young mum, that I would become an inspiration to my daughter as well as the "impoverished community" I was brought up in Sheffield.
I had actually discovered I was pregnant whilst undertaking work experience at The Guardian Newspaper in London after a stint at The Sunday Times, all unpaid, whilst continue to hustle hard back home, working as a dancer and starting a range of businesses to supplement my income and fund my passions as I could barely afford the travel down to London let alone eating when I was there or even the expensive pregnancy test! If my work placement over-ran, I would stop on a friend’s floor or when I had an interview for ITV, I caught the overnight bus down and rocked up, hoping my flask of coffee and mental preparation on the journey, would plaster my lack of sleep. It was all worth it, as I could see the glow of my ‘dream,’ changing the media for the power of the good. My life-long purpose is to show that no matter what your background and how you present, that you deserve to be heard and treated equally.
Now, with a newborn baby and managing severe mental health problems, unable to relocate with my support network all in Yorkshire, I could not afford the mental and financial cost of chasing my dream.
I am fiercely proud of where I am from, I thought it could be fate that MediaCityUK had landed up north. This could be my big break. I could show the world that despite my abusive past, despite my disability, despite being a mama, that you can still aspire to make waves and have an impact on your own life but most of all those of others who get shunned.
So off I went to university with my daughter in tow, our long commute, where I would drop her off at 6am as the doors opened to her nursery inside MediaCityUK.
I didn’t want to be separated from her so young, but I thought it was the sacrifice I had to make, and at drop-off I would see all the other parents enter, many beckoning BBC and ITV staff badges. I would sometimes allow my head to get the better of me, and I felt inadequate, not only were their children older as they had had paid m/paternity leave but they also had the rights of employed parents and the comfort of knowing that they were getting paid for what they did.
By this time, I had already won awards for some of my human rights reporting I had carried out, but awards didn’t mean a ‘job,’ nor did it mean that the industry was ready to hire someone like me. I was over-trained for many schemes, under-connected with those at the top and I didn’t have enough money to endure many more years of work experience and still having to earn from an eclectic range of side hustles.
I had Yorkshire grit and passion and was grateful for any opportunities, yet becoming internally depleted by the false hope these bright lights which many media schemes offered.
By this point, I had already studied one degree whilst battling a severe eating disorder, having time off as an in-patient at Seacroft Hospital in Leeds and I somehow managed to do regular work experience for BBC local radio and newspapers. I had even been offered the odd job in the industry but most of the roles required me to relocate down South.
The only way to get close to the new media hub of the north was for me to study next door to it, hoping I could bump into the right people.
But the more time I spent in the fake world of MediaCityUK, the more the novelty wore off and it just felt excruciatingly close yet further than ever to wedge my glass slipper in the door. Not to mention, that without an invite you wouldn’t have a chance to get inside the high-security buildings, unless you were an audience member for a gameshow.
I managed to discover the odd project with the few people that really did have a passion for northern people, but the structured system and community schemes weren't set up to truly include those who can’t conform to the London-centric vibe.
Every opportunity I discovered following university involved reams of application forms, a sharing of my thoroughly researched story ideas which had been acquired following years of living, volunteering and working within the ‘diverse’ communities I am from. Most of the time my investigations were appreciated and utilised as a 'scoop' but not credited or paid for and the very few low paid national ‘jobs’ I could have secured always involved me relocating or travelling far from my home and my vital support network in Yorkshire.
Yet, I was always grateful that the industry was showing an interest in acquiring “diverse talent” like me, they saw my depth of interest, colourful life and the fact that I would normally have been a ‘case study’ in one of their documentaries, meant that I had “insider info.” But the industry still hadn’t changed to include and fully embrace people like me who still live in “adversity” and the older I was becoming, the more confidence I gained that I couldn’t conform. I was never stubborn, I would still complete work experience placements and free projects if I thought they would serve the community. But my health deteriorated and so did my finances as I struggled to bring up, now two children without adequate leave... I answered calls during labour through fear of not proving I was dedicated enough. I went above and beyond to up-skill myself and prove my worth despite my perceived flaws.
As I dropped off the cliff of the ‘18-25’ age bracket, the harder it became to secure any work, I was too old, too qualified now and too experienced and yet not experienced enough to get a ‘proper job and especially not one on my own terms to suit my location, disability and family life.
On the surface however, I had become a beacon of hope for aspiring journalists, inspiring others with my “award-winning scoops,” setting up a popular blog and YouTube channel during my battles with mental illness. Yet I was rarely paid, still hustling, as I struggled to conform to the status quo and just serve as another tick-box exercise on diversity forms. On reflection, my online platforms and side hustles, have been a brilliant tool for me to change the way I work but that's because my deep desire to work as a journalist on my own terms has been dwindled, so I make the most of the free tools available... I have a Yorkshire grit so whatever I put my mind to I can do, if it is just down to me, not a huge corporation.
Freelancing is obviously tougher than ever these days, it requires you to have a lot of unpaid time to build, develop and sustain relationships, not to mention the fact that most commissioning editors are hard to reach in person, the time it takes to research and pitch ideas, keep on top of briefs and the news. Whilst I am definitely not in journalism for the money, I have thick skin for knock-backs and it is my life’s vocation, you get to a point where it is hard to afford to carry it out mentally without a supportive team or the financial ‘backing.’ If it was just a case of it being about my actual work, I can take that, but the issue is institutional, and it is easy to exploit people like me who are optimistic, hard-working and grateful for any glimmer of hope.
I understand Lockdown has meant it is exceptionally more challenging than ever before with paid work sources drying up left, right and centre for everyone and, I have tried to keep a positive mindset and take part in the opportunity which national news outlets have invited me to participate through watching their commissioning briefings and training online. But I have spent weeks in Lockdown on a variety of different briefings and training ‘opportunities’ with national and global news outlets, yet following a pitch and sharing of ideas there is no feedback, no new contacts or relationships formed and at best an email address to send ideas to.
I am realistic. I have failed lots. And I am OK with that. But there is deep fire within me that knows I am being utilised to tick their 'diversity boxes' just so they can prove that as publicly funded broadcasters, they have tapped into ‘local talent.’ Better still for them, I tick most of their boxes, other than not being young enough now to hit their youth quota.
But I am depleted by grand moves up north. My faith has dwindled because I have experienced the stark reality of it all.
Whilst I am a largely optimistic person, there is an air of cynicism now each time there is a ‘ground-breaking’ media move announced such as Channel 4 coming to Leeds and even more so with BBC coming to the north.
Many mean well and offer exciting ambitions, but the reality is they are relocating the same bubble of people, ideas and it’s just another gesture to tick more boxes.
It actually feels closer yet further than ever when it comes to real opportunities for those of us who don’t fit the institutional setting, yet have the talent, knowledge and skills to truly shake up draconian institutions.
I rarely share my views on the issue as I fear of losing any possible work-related opportunities, but now I have the hindsight to know that there are rarely that many real opportunities anyway. I am building the confidence to not try and 'fit in' anymore as I am not simply straddling two worlds or a rag to riches tale - we live in one world; one region and such a huge institution has the responsibility and money to truly invest in us rather than exploit our nature.
I am attempting to live congruently with my values by writing this to truly begin to empower the seldom-heard of us to be properly heard and valued.
And, to truly ‘empower’ us institutions need not just appreciate the beauty of what diversity looks like, they need to adequately pay, nurture, include and harness ‘diverse talent.’ Actually, become part of the communities we are living in through partnerships, adequate funding and deeper change… I have had enough of exciting headlines and initiatives.
This isn’t a blame game for me, I realise that I am part of the picture and I am working on my own ‘poverty mindset,’ building my self-esteem so I can appreciate my unique talent, and most of all charging what I am worth so I can honestly empower others, rather than just recite verbal statements, half-hearted gestures and get energised by campaigns from the powers that still be.
But I am fed up of always side hustling, being dangled carrots and exploited for my background.
To truly empower “us,” we need to be truly valued in the same light, if not sometimes higher esteem for our ‘grassroots’ work as 'local talent,' local media... all of which those at the top could learn from.
To truly get inside our hearts, minds and most of all, create a change in the world. This isn’t about just the institution, it's plea to give us northern folk genuine opportunities because "our BBC" could actually help to transform the future lives for many of us.
Read more from Sophie on her personal blog:
https://www.mamamei.co.uk and her professional work at https://evokemediagroup.co.uk
Business - Media Consultancy @TheSparkleCoach
Journalism - Author/Presenter @SophieMeiLan
Health & Mindset - Personal Blog/Vlog @MamaMeiBlog
HOW-TO DO YOUR OWN PR: Get featured in Newspapers, Magazines and on TV/Radio- PR tips from a publicist and journalist
Beat the scroll hole of social media by creating evergreen content, gain credibility by getting featured in the press and most of all share your story to have the greatest impact.
But how do you get into newspapers, magazines and acquire online articles and features?
I’m Sophie Mei Lan, an award-winning journalist who has worked for local and national TV and newspapers and I continue to work from home as a newspaper columnist, author, documentary maker and PR coach/Media Consultant aka The Sparkle Coach (https://TheSparkleCoach.com).
I am far from anti-social media - I have amassed an online following of 100k plus across platforms and utilise social media as one of the fundamental keys in sharing my own stories and building my businesses. But too often, I see over-stretched business owners, brands and influencers flog their guts and mental health over creating and consuming micro content… and overloading their brains consuming all the information being churned out. Whilst I love social, it is just one pillar of marketing (granted, there is always the exceptional story of someone going viral, but often there is more to it than just a simple tweet or social post, so I would always begin by creating the macro content (e.g. the newsletters/mail-outs, press releases, blog posts, vlogs, podcast episodes etc..) and then break this one piece of macro content down into micro content for social media.
As social media is increasingly competitive, many of us are already creating huge valuable chunks of content which could be slightly refined and used as macro content then broken down into snippets.
Further still, if your content is featured on a website, online blog/newspaper or YouTube channel, for example, this can serve as evergreen content which keeps reaping you rewards rather than getting lost in the overpopulated world of social.
Here are some PR tips to get you started:
Try not to feel defeated by the social media algorithms, up your game, they are also marketing companies with an agenda, so utilise it but swap scrolling for brain naps and get laser focused on speaking your truth and building your brand for life!
For more focused help, email: email@example.com
and read https://SparkleUpNorth.com and EvokeMediaGroup.co.uk’s blog post.
Or follow me @TheSparkleCoach on social media
or go to my new site (coming soon) at: https://TheSparkleCoach.com
Identifying yourself as a leader
By Sophie Mei Lan
Now etched onto my wall, shoved in between my littering of positive affirmation cards, are my certificates. I certainly didn’t get trained in DIY by the way I have wonkily hung my array of qualifications and awards.
I shudder at the thought of someone seeing this collection inside my home office, not because of my ‘creative’ hanging skills but because I wouldn’t want to look boastful.
And then I remember why I hung these frames up. I need to remind myself daily to stop ‘downplaying my potential’ because I do have the knowledge, experience and even awards to ‘put myself out there’ as a professional, as a woman.
“I’m not really a business, I just do bits of work for clients,” “I’m not qualified enough to do that role,” “I’m just juggling home, work, life and family the best I can but not doing anything well.” Those are not just the statements in my head I have been conditioned to hear, but so many women I cheerlead, have this inner thought process which holds them back not just in their confidence and the feeling of ‘imposter syndrome,’ but it prevents them from achieving their dreams, simply because they don’t identify as leaders. Not to mention, the fact that we need more female leaders driving this world forward, shaking up the status quo and to inspire other women to be part of the growing movement to challenge gender bias, pay disparity and celebrate women’s achievements.
This week which marked International Women’s Day calls for these necessary strides forward, notably during a pandemic which has exposed huge inequalities, not to mention a huge variety of females in tech, science, media and on the front line who have steered us through the Covid crisis.
But whilst it’s easy to focus on the end goal, this journey to a more equal and powerful world for all starts from within and acquiring the skill of confidence, which is easier said than done if you’ve grown up in a world of being prejudiced against explicitly and faced unconscious bias, by others and even ourselves.
Here’s how I’ve done it and still do it when I have my lapses.
So firstly, let’s unapologetically recognise our own achievements and remind ourselves of them, even if it comes from sticking up certificates and jotting down our achievements where they are visible. Then begin to connect with women you admire who also respect you and support your core values. As you consume more content or spend time with these women who cheerlead one another, that’s where you can start to discover or even build communities who can campaign together to create this much needed change.
I too have pledged to be part of this change after surrounding myself with ‘cheerleaders,’ albeit virtually in Lockdown, who give each other strength to ‘show up’ through the highs and lows of running businesses and a home. One of those is fellow entrepreneur Amy Downes and we decided to launch our lockdown-made initiative Sparkle Up North Magazine this International Women’s Day to celebrate the stories of female run businesses in the north of England and to foster a community of like-minded women. And written in one of my last cards from a heroine in my life my Aunty Didi who passed away last week, which was sent during a challenging time in Lockdown One: “We all need you. Don’t let all the hard work you have achieved be blown away.” That’s your rallying cry too when you have another hurdle to strut over. Look how far we've come and how far we can go!
To get involved with our new magazine and initiative, go to: sparkleupnorth.com
and follow @sparkleupnorth or you can find me @thesparklecoach https://thesparklecoach.com
It’s been a year of resilience, hurdles and setbacks for many, but two female entrepreneurs are determined to add the sparkle back to the business community by launching a new magazine and online community to showcase the best northern businesses and influencers.
Two Yorkshire-based business women wanted to transform the lives of female-run businesses, brands and influencers by sharing their stories in a new magazine which showcases “the best businesses in the north” with a passion for highlighting northern talent, championing businesses up north and to grow a ‘sparkly community’ together following the challenges of the Pandemic.
Multi-award-winning business owner, Media Consultant and “Blogger of the Year” Sophie Mei Lan and fellow Small Business Owner and Influencer Amy Downes launched Sparkle Up North - a new magazine, online community and learning platform on International Women’s Day as they want to change the perception of the north and women in business as well as sharing the wide range of transformational success stories of businesses, brands and influencers here.
Journalist, Wellbeing Influencer and Media Consultant Sophie Mei Lan started her career as a journalist by setting up a blog “as well as getting a part-time dancer job” to fund her studies, young children and to use her passion for community driven journalism to shake up the media industry online and offline in the mainstream media.
She said: “Even the barrier for women in business… from leaders to personal brands, from online influencers to people managing a job, family and a business… it can be hard for women to even have the confidence to identify themselves as business owners in their own right, let alone shout about their success and find unwavering support, no matter what challenges they face.”
Single Mum-of-two Sophie, 32, who lives in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and originally from Sheffield knows what a juggle it can be managing her work as a journalist, business owner and online influencer alongside family, health and home life.
“Not to mention my need to spend time with my daughters, to eat well, sleep and exercise. It can be hard trying to ‘do it all, especially without a cheerleading community around you!”
Sophie turned to online media, such as blogging and vlogging, as a young mum, to vent her struggles with mental health problems and her passion for cheerleading those who “don’t fit the status quo,” like her, she says.
She won awards for her human rights blogs and mental health vlogs whilst being a student at University of Manchester (BA Philosophy, Social Sciences and Italian) and later University of Salford (PGDip/NCTJ Broadcast Journalism- funded by Journalism Diversity Fund/NCTJ) which secured her work freelancing at Channel 4 News, ITV News and BBC News whilst working from home in Yorkshire and setting up all female media company Evoke Media Group.
Sophie, who continues to work as a newspaper columnist, mind & body fitness influencer and now published author, said: “I have been stubborn about staying up north despite all the amazing opportunities London had to offer, I was determined to create my own opportunities for myself and others up north through setting up my own businesses.
“I originally set up an influencer marketing network alongside creating my own content online and in the press.
“Blog Up North has been a great platform over the years to connect northern influencers with brands and media opportunities as well as setting up what’s on guides for Yorkshire and the north of England.”
But as lockdowns meant that TV documentaries and feature films came to a standstill in her company, she focused on writing newspaper columns “my huge luxury and honour to write about social affairs and mind & body fitness” as well as working online as a media consultant @TheSparkleCoach…
Sophie was determined to emerge from Lockdown even “stronger and sparklier than before” and to help other women like her. After chatting to fellow mental health and flexible working influencer Amy Downes aka the Content Planning Wizard, the pair who have a shared love of feminism, football and media, decided to set up Sparkle Up North - a magazine to share positive business stories up north to showcase and support northern business women.
Mum-of-two Amy Downes, 37, who lives in Leeds originally from Ipswich, said: “The last 12 months has been horrendous for many but after every storm, the sun must come out and I believe amongst the sad stories of businesses closing, there are also tales of incredible business people who have adapted their business through the pandemic so that it not only survives but thrives.
“Lots of these are women who have overcome terrible circumstances and those are the entrepreneurs we want to shout about for Sparkle Up North.”
Amy is a social media coach who helps small business owners wave a magic wand over their social media pages, by making content creation easier and less time-consuming. She offers one-to-one coaching through her Power Hours, as well as group support in her popular Facebook community.
Together the pair have launched Sparkle Up North Magazine and Community as a social business in its own right.
Sophie added: “We’d love to hear powerful stories from business owners and for women across the north to join our online community of entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds, all adding sparkle back into the northern economy and showcasing the incredible skills we have on offer.”
For more information, go to:
https://sparkleupnorth.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
and follow them on social media @SparkleUpNorth @TheSparkleCoach @ContentPlanningWizard
Listen to a variety of podcasts and take notes on elements you like or you think could be improved.
What do you want to create? Why? What’s your passion and area of expertise? How is it going to look? Write a rough structure (this will save on editing time).
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” - make a realistic schedule so you can stick to it and also how you are going to deliver and record it.
4. Create in bulk
Set up your mic or phone or software e.g. zoom for a vodcast. I prefer to create podcasts and vlogs in bulk to save time so once I am in the flow, I do several.
Either pay an editor, collaborate with someone or there’s plenty of free software to edit. But the time is saved in the planning and the recording, so it is easier to edit as you go, or at least take notes.
Find a hosting platform, as this is easier to share on all platforms. I use and like Buzzsprout:
https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=1420630 (affiliate link).
Just go for it. It’s better to publish something than nothing. You will evolve and refine in time.
Share with relevant people and communities/groups. Also look for collaborations and encourage people to leave reviews if they enjoy it.
Tips: Start as cheaply as possible until you know what you want to do so you can focus on serving people and enjoying it because it’s your passion, rather than worry about selling and making money back.
How to start for free (ish):
By Sophie Mei Lan
Co-founder of EvokeMediaGroup.co.uk
Blogs at mamamei.co.uk / yorkshirefamilies.co.uk / blogupnorth.co.uk