Thursday, 27 August 2015

Your content is boring - here's what to do about it


I don't talk much about my job here, and it's not because I don't love what I do (I LOVE what I do), it's more that I don't really think it would be interesting to most of you.
If you don't know what I do, I'm a marketing assistant for a content marketing agency. I know, right, it's marketing-ception. But what this basically means is that I work on the marketing team of a marketing agency. I market the marketing.
I've just celebrated a year at Axonn and I've never felt so comfortable in a job. It's hard work and we're a small team but we do a LOT, from social media to email marketing to blog content to ebooks, drip campaigns, webinars, whitepapers and everything to do with the website. We're rarely bored, put it this way.
But I realised today it doesn't really make sense to not talk much about my job on my blog for two reasons:
1) There are probably a lot of bloggers, and blog readers, who work in marketing. Marketing, especially content or social media, is quite a natural progression for bloggers as it's basically using the skills you've already developed through your blog. And,
2) Blogging and content marketing are basically the same thing.

The big focus on my blog is content writing and content editing. I'm in charge of all the content that goes on the Axonn blog (and for the most part, everything that goes on the website) so my job really is writing, curating, begging-people-to-write, editing and promoting content. And isn't that basically what blogging is?

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I was going to be presenting a webinar in authenticity and content marketing, and today was the day! It was part of a 4 hour bumper webinar that myself and several of my colleagues were involved in so I spent today live-tweeting like a boss and gearing myself up for my own talk!

My talk was actually highly influenced by my blog and by blogging and focused on the need for stories, authentic content, vulnerability and sometimes, a bit of controversy in content. While I work in a B2B marketing environment, I actually think a great deal of my tips would be relevant to bloggers too!


I pop up around the 2 hour 9 mark and my talk is about 20 minutes. Apologies for the stumbling at times - I was very nervous! I hope you find this interesting if you work in marketing, or would like to work in marketing! Feel free to give me a shout if you have any questions - my person Twitter is @gnd_fashion but as you can see from my presentation, I also have a work-related Twitter, @cecrowley30.

Why your content is boring - and what you should do about it


I don't talk much about my job here, and it's not because I don't love what I do (I LOVE what I do), it's more that I don't really think it would be interesting to most of you.
If you don't know what I do, I'm a marketing assistant for a content marketing agency. I know, right, it's marketing-ception. But what this basically means is that I work on the marketing team of a marketing agency. I market the marketing.
I've just celebrated a year at Axonn and I've never felt so comfortable in a job. It's hard work and we're a small team but we do a LOT, from social media to email marketing to blog content to ebooks, drip campaigns, webinars, whitepapers and everything to do with the website. We're rarely bored, put it this way.
But I realised today it doesn't really make sense to not talk much about my job on my blog for two reasons:
1) There are probably a lot of bloggers, and blog readers, who work in marketing. Marketing, especially content or social media, is quite a natural progression for bloggers as it's basically using the skills you've already developed through your blog. And,
2) Blogging and content marketing are basically the same thing.

The big focus on my blog is content writing and content editing. I'm in charge of all the content that goes on the Axonn blog (and for the most part, everything that goes on the website) so my job really is writing, curating, begging-people-to-write, editing and promoting content. And isn't that basically what blogging is?

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I was going to be presenting a webinar in authenticity and content marketing, and today was the day! It was part of a 4 hour bumper webinar that myself and several of my colleagues were involved in so I spent today live-tweeting like a boss and gearing myself up for my own talk!

My talk was actually highly influenced by my blog and by blogging and focused on the need for stories, authentic content, vulnerability and sometimes, a bit of controversy in content. While I work in a B2B marketing environment, I actually think a great deal of my tips would be relevant to bloggers too!


I pop up around the 2 hour 9 mark and my talk is about 20 minutes. Apologies for the stumbling at times - I was very nervous! I hope you find this interesting if you work in marketing, or would like to work in marketing! Feel free to give me a shout if you have any questions - my person Twitter is @gnd_fashion but as you can see from my presentation, I also have a work-related Twitter, @cecrowley30.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Inevitable Burn out


Today I burnt out.
Two miles into my 9 mile long run I knew I had to turn back.
My heart was pounding in my chest like something had just made me jump. My heart rate was rapid.
I headed home, walking the last half a mile.

I don't know why I was surprised.
As someone who rarely goes out-out and almost never sees 11pm, I've had two nights out over the course of the week.
Both of which I loved, for the record.
But both times, the following day, I forced myself to do a run or a workout. Both times I woke up far too early but pushed myself to start my day.
I think I've been overtired all week.
Getting up at 5.30am is rough enough, but this week I really felt it.
I've been feeling exhausted by 9pm but I've not wanted to go to bed because I didn't want to "waste" my evening.
I've had a couple of long, difficult and emotionally-draining weeks at work.
Monday was so bad that instead of going to choir I came home and cried.

I exist under a constantly cloud of self-inflicted pressure and guilt and anxiety. Constantly comparing myself to other people. Constantly pushing myself to do more and to do better.

I feel like I can never get the balance right between what I should be doing and what I want to do. I can never get the balance right between all the things I love.

And I can never, ever give myself a break.

Advice to give myself a rest from running is great, but not so great when I know giving myself a rest will give me even more anxiety about my upcoming race. Telling me not to worry about all the food prep I do will just make me more stressed in the mornings before work. Telling me to relax will just make me even more panicky about the constant to-do list I have.

I just feel like I can't get it right.

I want to fit in my training, but I also want to enjoy time with my friends and family. I want to enjoy our trip to Whitby next weekend but I know I'll be worrying about the runs I've missed. I want to run but I don't want to have to turn around after two miles because I feel so exhausted.

I want to try to relax today but I know I find it so hard to give myself permission to relax and to do nothing. Yesterday I sat down with a book for 5 minutes before jumping up and deciding to make banana bread. Oh and then it was time to make dinner. And before I knew it it was bedtime and I had to go to bed because I had an early start for my run.

I get the mick taken out of me at work for always doing things, never relaxing, always pushing, always doing more, always coming into work after a 5 mile run. And the truth is I like that. I like the idea that people think I'm a superwoman who can do anything.

But I'm not and I can't. And I never think I'm doing enough.

And this is why I'm burned out. Even an hour after coming home exhausted from my run I launched into doing the washing and making an unnecessarily elaborate breakfast (which was great, but I probably could have just had avocado on toast). I'm getting up earlier and earlier to get everything "out of the way" but then I end up simultaneously tired and restless and have to find things to do so I don't get bored. I add unnecessary things to do to-do list and then get stressed when I don't want to do them.

The irony is, I often find myself feeling lazy and disorganised. Even more so when I skip something on my to-do list or allow myself some extra sleep instead of a workout when I'm feeling overworked.

I feel pathetic because I'm not the first person ever to run a home and have a job and a blog and be marathon training and also trying to have a social life. Why can everyone else do it?

I got home from my run 2 hours ago. I can see feel that racing heartbeat.





Thursday, 20 August 2015

Manchester's Hidden Gems

In case it wasn't clear from my last post, I bloody love Manchester. Even though I grew up a five minute train journey away, it's only been the last couple of years I've really appreciated the city - and even more now I live in the dead-centre of the city!
I was asked a few weeks ago to contribute one of my favourite hidden gems to this awesome infographic by Millennium Hotels and it's finally here! I've been really exited about this because if there's one thing I love it's discovering new places to eat in Manchester.
I chose Superstore where Phil and I visited a few weeks ago for a date night that was a bit more fancy than our usual cinema-and-Wetherspoons. The food was amazing but it still had that laid-back cool of Manchester's Northern Quarter and I can't wait to go back.
I love the places that other bloggers have chosen (except, erm... Nandos?). I love Changos burritos and I love that the wonderful Solita was mentioned twice!
Check out the rest of the infographic below!

*I was compensated to share this infographic, however I am genuinely really excited about this campaign!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

This weekend

This weekend was about love of two of the most important things in my life. 
My uni friends and my beloved city of Manchester.

My uni friends are my girls. My besties. My soul mates. My I-know-you'll-always-be-in-my-life friends.
We were brought together by random instances of coincidence and serendipity. In fact, the stories about how we all met in different ways are part of the hilarity and beauty of our relationship. Like the pure fate that Ellen got her third choice elective module and ended up in American History where we found ourselves sat together. Or the fact that Emily to this day can't remember coming up to me in Freshers' Week and saying "did you used to be on a My Chemical Romance forum?" Or that Sarah and Becca lived together all three years of uni, and so did Steph and Emily. Or that Steph was friends with Ellen and I was friends with Ellen, but Steph hadn't realised which Ellen I had been talking about for months.
These are my girls for life. The girls who I sometimes go months, almost 12 sometimes, without seeing, but when we catch up absolutely nothing has changed. The ones who still have stories from when I was on my year abroad, but I never feel left out of. The ones who made me a belated 21st cake when I came home from America, three months after my birthday. The ones who came up to visit me this weekend, even though it was a three hour journey for some.

I got three-fifths of my girls this weekend, and two who were 100% there in spirit. I went for a too-early run which meant after getting back I was anxious and excited the whole morning, desperate for 12.15pm when I could leave my flat to meet them. 

I got to show them my little flat and my big city.
I took them to Teacup where as we usually do, we almost all ordered the same thing, before settling on two falafel sandwiches and two fish finger sandwiches. (Although I kind of regret not going for the fish finger). And managed to sip tea and smoothies in there for almost an hour and a half.
I took them round the shops where we went back on ourselves at least three times because we got lost in our conversations.
We took a taxi 5 minutes around the corner just so we could get dressed up in our nicest dresses and least-uncomfortable heels.
We took a selfie stick in a too-small handbag and didn't even use it.
I took them to my favourite Spanish restaurant where we ordered far too many tapas after filling ourselves on cocktails and free bread.
We went to too-noisy bars and shouted over the music.
I took them to a 1920s themed cocktail bar down a quiet back alley just because it's Manchester and I could.
We drank glasses of prosecco and limoncello shots.
I took them to a secret bar which looked like a laundrette, where I had to reserve a "machine" and tell them how many "items of clothing I wanted to wash."
Where I couldn't get a reservation til half past midnight.
We posed for photos with laundry and boxes of Daz.
We walked through a giant washing machine into a cocktail bar where the drinks came garnished with handcuffs and popping candy.
We got home at almost 3am with sore feet and sore throats.

We woke up far too early to watch Don't Tell the Bride and eat vegetarian sausages.
I heard the words "you've really made me want to move to Manchester."
We didn't stop talking for over 24 hours.
And nothing, nothing, nothing had changed.

Not in the four years since they graduated. Not in the four years when we've only seen each other a handful of times a year. Not after three years of being together almost every single day. Not after splitting off across the country when everyone moved back home after graduation.

We chose each other. We didn't just end up friends because of coincidence or circumstance. We grew up together in those years of university. We still have the same things in common and those same memories, but now we have new memories, new stories, new relationships, new hobbies and different paths. 

But nothing has changed. These are my friends for life. No matter the time, no matter the distance, no matter all the other things that get in the way. These girls are the ones.

3/5ths of my favourite girls

Friday, 14 August 2015

Boohoo Blogger Bakeoff

I am in charge of the baking rota at work.
You would think this would mean two things:
1) That I'm good at baking
2) That I enjoy baking
While I run the baking rota with an iron fist, the truth is I actually don't enjoy baking that much. I bake when it's my turn and I always try to make something delicious (past bakes have included Cheddar Bay Biscuits, Key Lime Pie bars and black bean brownie cookies) but I find baking quite stressful.
(If you're wondering why I run the baking rota when I don't love baking, you have my former colleague Dipika to blame who I inherited the rota from when she left.)

Nevertheless, I do bake. And while I don't think I'll be on Bake Off any time soon (though I'm completely gripped, like the rest of the nation) I do make the occasional thing that I'm proud of.

A few weeks ago my next bake was looming and I was stuck for inspiration. I wanted something that was easy, but looked impressive and tasted good (in fact, this is my criteria for all my baking). So in a moment of madness I decided to make millonaire's shortbread.

And that was how I found myself making caramel on a Thursday evening.

To cut a long story short, the shortbread was amazing. Absolutely incredible. And I'm going against my incredible insecure nature by boasting a little bit. One of the guys at work said they were "one of the best things that had ever been baked at work" and my friend Brian had three, and assured me "the third one tasted just as good as the first."

And I'd MADE CARAMEL. The substance that brings fear into the hearts of bakers everywhere. I'd done it!

I was desperate for an opportunity to make millionaire's shortbread again.

The chance came just a few weeks later when an email popped into my inbox inviting me to be a part of Boohoo's Blogger Bakeoff.

It started with a box of baking treats:
The box contained lots of Tala goodies - a whisk, tiny rolling pin, dry measure funnel, cake tester, cupcake cases, heart-shaped cutter and, the thing I was most excited about, a silicone piping bag. It also contained some wafer daisies and sprinkles.

I also got to choose a pretty dress, perfect for afternoon tea. I went for something a little bit different from what I normally wear (and in retrospect, probably the worst thing to wear for afternoon tea):


dress - c/o Boohoo
shoes - Marks and Spencer
necklace - River Island

Now as anybody who has ever read my blog will know, this dress isn't my usual style at all. I never, ever wear anything bodycon. I just don't feel comfortable in something so fitted! But I really loved this dress and wanted to try it. And hopefully one day I'll feel confident enough to wear it outside the house...

Anyway, on the baking!
The challenge was to bake anything you wanted but it had to include Boohoo written on it somehow (hence my excitement over the piping bag!). I decided to make my millionaire's shortbread and pipe Boohoo on the top in white chocolate.
Turns out, I am not very good at piping!
Thankfully my Mum gave me the heads up to pipe my letters onto greaseproof paper so I could practice and not pipe straight onto the shortbread. I'm so glad she gave me that tip!
I ended up piping lots of Bs, Os and Hs but loads of them broke when I tried to peel them off the paper, and I had lost my patience to pipe more letters (number one reason why I don't like baking, I'm super impatient!). But both Phil and my Mum reassured me that my final product looked good (I think Phil just wanted me to finish taking photos so he could finally eat some).



My millionaire's shortbread recipe is here!

Happy baking!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Blossoming Gifts

If there's one thing I love, it's surprises. And not even big surprises. When someone says "I've got a present for you", even if it's just a chocolate bar, I love it.

And pretty much the only thing I love more than receiving surprises is giving them. 

I have a reputation in my family as being a great present buyer. I love getting excited about what to buy somebody (I have a secret Pinterest board year-round of ideas, plus an Amazon wishlist of gifts for other people that I add to throughout the year, even months in advance) and I often get so excited about giving them their present that I almost ruin it for them by giving them hints.

Sometimes I just do mini surprises. I'll pick Phil something up from the shop I know he'll like, or buy my Mum a coffee instead of letting her pay. I like being able to spread unexpected happiness.

Which was what I did on Saturday.

I knew quarter of a mile into parkrun that they had arrived. My phone started ringing loudly in my ears through my headphones while I was trying to concentrate on getting a good time for my first mile. I knew exactly who was calling.

I knew when I caught my breath at the end and checked my phone I would have a text and a picture. Which of course, I did.

I knew my Mum would probably cry. Which she also did.

The thing is, as I mentioned last week, I get a lot of great opportunities through my blog, so as much as possible I like to share those opportunities. On Thursday, Blossoming Gifts emailed me asked if I wanted to review their flowers by post. Now since I got my own place I have absolutely loved fresh flowers, something which I'm honest I didn't see the "point" of when I was younger. Now I try to buy fresh flowers every few weeks, and I was especially enticed when I saw their gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers, my absolute favourite flowers.

But then I realised that I knew someone who loved fresh flowers even more than I do. Someone who would love to receive a surprise flower delivery. So I asked, could I have these sent to my Mum instead?

(I also realised I get everything delivered to my work, so I'd have to explain why the beautiful bouquet that arrived at my office was actually to me, from me.)

Blossoming Gifts were awesome. I chose my bouquet (I went for the Summer Garden bouquet, knowing they would match my Mum's kitchen) and was really chuffed to find that if you order before 4pm they do free next day delivery. I sneakily text my Mum asking what her weekend plans were to check she'd be home. 

But enough from me, here's what she said:
"The flowers were delivered by a very careful postman- wondered what he was doing so long in the porch.They were very well packaged and labelled clearly as to the contents.Very securely fastened within the parcel so they didn't move at all with a soaked bag to keep them happy on the journey! A tied bunch beautifully arranged in complementing colours which included a delightful mix of roses, lilles, chrysanthemum and gerberas. Very clear instructions as to how to get the best from the flowers along with plant food and a gorgeous little box of Belgian chocolates, lovely message card with a handy QR code for sharing on Facebook and a £5 discount code for future purchases. Altogether a truly wonderfully presented surprise bouquet which has obviously been put together with great care and attention to detail. Thanks again darling daughter !!"
She also text me later on saying she had already used the £5 discount to send some flowers to her friend in Scotland!

I would highly recommend Blossoming Gifts. I'm so impressed they do free next day delivery, and some days you can order as late as 9pm for next day. And they deliver on Sundays! They also sell hampers, wines and other personalised gifts so they're perfect for that hard-to-buy-for person. I'm also really impressed with their cheap flowers range, where most of the flowers are under £25.

I'm really happy to announce that they've given me a code for all girlnextdoorfashion readers to save 33% on everything except flowers by post range. Just use the code BGIFTS33.

(And here's my Mum with her flowers!)