God, I love the ’80s. We had some of the greatest music of all time, music that I never grow tired of listening to.
Not you, Chris de Burgh. Lady in Red can stay off every playlist of mine. And probably the less said about Joe Dolce and Black Lace the better.
But generally, it was a fantastic decade for music. But not necessarily fashion.
The jolt of realisation
I had some dodgy hair choices in the 80s. The perm being the worse. Catching sight of it in some proper old school photos in a box I was sorting through at the weekend reminded me just how bad.
Somehow we don’t see it at the time. Maybe it’s all about the context. It was one perm in a world of dodgy perms.
But then you realise one day that the world is moving on, that you actually do look a bit rubbish, and that really you want to look more like Corinne from Swing Out Sister than a poodle. And you never go back to that particular rubbish hairdo.
Copywriter and hairdresser?
No, this is not some hidden skill that I’ve not revealed before. I have the photos of my teenager as a toddler when I cut their hair to prove why copywriter was my career choice.
It’s just many brands, whether business or personal, don’t often take the time to look at what’s in need of a refresh. Or if we do, then it’s often about graphics, photography, maybe even flavours or fragrances if you’re that kind of business.
It’s rarely about the words.
This is not just about slang (although that dates really quickly, as anyone with any interaction with teenagers will tell you). Nor is it just about political correctness as some might see it. But both those things are important and are factors in whether a word still sounds right.
Sometimes it’s about how you told your story back at the beginning, compared to where you and the business are today. Things change.
What if it’s not broken?
I’ve been working with a very successful small business, that’s been successful in spite of the fact that they’ve been operating from a website created almost at the start of their time in business.
Put in this way, the children featured on there are now at university, not small toddlers.
But it works, they sell hundreds of their products every single week. People love them and come back to them time and time again. To be fair, they are fantastic on the social channels they choose to be on, brilliant at live events, and incredible at networking. I think they would say the business has been successful in spite of the website.
So why update it if it’s working?
How do you want the world to see you?
For many of us, the words on our website are something that gets put together at speed to get us up and running. I know in my original version of this website I wrote all the words pretty much on the fly as the developer was building it. I think I had 5 hours with them and a lot of the words needed to go in as it was being built.
And then I got back to my actual business and just cracked on, leaving those words.
For two years.
They weren’t bad words, they just weren’t my best words. I don’t think they would have put anyone off, but they didn’t tell my full story of what I can do for businesses. The words need to work as hard as every other part of our businesses.
Businesses change and evolve
There are few businesses that are completely static and unchanging. Most of them that are tend to have a sell-by date and come to a sticky end. Or the pace of change is too slow for the world around them (hello Debenhams and House of Fraser).
Businesses grow up in the same way we do (after all, it’s (still) people who run businesses). Our focus changes, our priorities become clearer. We have to remember to keep updating the story, even if you have to tell people that you’re changing the story.
It’s always about your people, not all people
Distinctive words won’t appeal to everyone (as my post on swearing possibly proved). But for most smaller businesses they’re not interested in everyone. They’re interested in the right ones.
For the people who’ve been with you for a long time, they’ll recognise your business even if you refresh the words you use. They’re keepers, they love what you do.
When you tell your story in a more distinctive way then you may also attract more of the people you’ve found out that you want for your business. With any luck, you’ll also turn off those you don’t. I’ve talked before about being more pistachio, less vanilla, and if you’re going to take the plunge and do a refresh, now is the time to make that move.
Not everything has to change at once
Or everything could, depending on how you like to work. It depends on how big a change you think you need.
Most of us notice the first few buds of Spring on a tree, but rarely each one after that. Then you look up and see the trees are fully covered again. As long as nothing jars or contradicts (like the tree doesn’t suddenly throw out one neon pink leaf, or grows spotted leaves where they were always just green) then bit by bit can be okay.
It’s better to do it bit by bit than to put it off because it’s such a big job. Those kinds of jobs rarely get smaller.
What comes after a refresh could be even better
Change scares most of us.
When I worked in cosmetics, I had a customer tell me that they had worn the same black lipstick mixed with Vaseline every day since they were 14. They were now 38.
Changing their lipstick colour literally gave them a new outlook on life. The story was really quite incredible. They hadn’t minded the black lipstick, they almost didn’t see it anymore. But having decided to take the plunge, life became quite different.
Maybe words are not as life-transforming as a good lipstick. But I have to believe that they are.
A bit of a refresh here
This post was inspired by the refresh of my photos for the website and beyond. I decided that after nearly four years of freelancing it was really time to stop using the bathroom selfie as my headshot. Not to mention I kept seeing the same shot as I used on my homepage everywhere.
I had a fantastic day working with Sophie Carefull and have an incredible range of shots now to use that better reflect me and my work. Sophie made even a camera-phobe like me possibly even admit to quite enjoying the day. Getting the right photographer is key. I’d also highly recommend The Posing Masterclass with Cecelina Tornberg from the Brand Stylist. It was 75 minutes that gave me some good pointers and made me feel more relaxed about the whole prospect of the shoot.
Check out Sophie’s portfolio here. I’d have no hesitation in working with her again.