The Self Isolation Survival Guide By Patience Bradley

With self isolating and working from home being a brand new situation for many people, it can be hard to know how to use your time effectively or organise your day. Here’s some top tips on how to survive self isolation:

If You Have To Go Out


Have a separate pair of shoes for leaving the house, the germs can get stuck to the soles of your feet and you don’t want to be walking them through your house. So keep one pair of shoes on your porch and do not bring them inside your house. Similarly have one outfit for wearing outside. Leave a black bin liner on your porch and don’t wear this outfit into your house. This way you are minimising the amount of germs you could be bringing into your home. 


Don’t stockpile, just buy what you need. Once you arrive home with your shopping, use a pair of gloves to remove each item from the bag and sanitise it using antibacterial wipes. Then throw the gloves, bag and wipes in an external bin outside your home. This way if these items have been infected at the supermarket, they will be clean for coming into your house. Make this a routine for getting essential supplies. 


Whilst you are out keep your distance from other people even if you are simply passing them. Try to go to the supermarket at what might be a less busy time so as to come into contact with as little people as possible. Don’t hug, shake hands with or touch other people as this is what spreads germs. If you and your family are self isolating do not invite other people into your home while doing so, as they could be bringing in germs leading to infection. Being at home is the best place you could be and you want to avoid contaminating this space. 

Working From Home

Get Dressed 

There can be an urge when working from home to sit in your pyjamas all day and even stay in bed to do your work. But this can be de-motivating and makes it hard to tell the difference between working and relaxing. You should get up and get dressed everyday, even put some makeup on if it makes you feel normal. Choose one area in your home to sit and work and make that your workspace.

Create Routine

It can be easy to get into a rut being in the house for so long, but try and create a routine in your day. Make an agenda or plan of what you want to do and stick to it. Set an amount of hours you want to work for and what hours those will be. Don’t work outside these hours, use the rest of the time for relaxing or spending with family. 

In Isolation

Take up a New Hobby 

Don’t see this time inside as a negative experience, use it to take up a new hobby or do something you’ve always put off. That could be knitting, reading, learning a language. Often in our daily lives we don’t have time for the simple things, so take this time to relax and focus on something new. 

Spend Time With Your Family 

With your children being off school, take the time to enjoy their company, as often with work and school you might not get enough time to spend as a family. Organise activities such as games, baking or cooking together or crafts to keep them entertained. Set up competitions or star charts with prizes to motivate your children to do some learning each day. 

Former Vogue model and TV dancer Patience Bradley releases her memoirs book Where Do You Go to My Lovely Pictured: Patience with husband Ivor Bradley Picture by Debbie Deboo Photography. Publicist & Publisher: Tina Calder, Excalibur Press, 07982628911 /

Adopt a Positive Mindset

It can be very easy to fall into a negative outlook on life during this situation, but there is a lot to be grateful for. Turn off the news and instead write a list of things in your life that you are grateful for. This will give you perspective on the situation. Whilst it might not be ideal to be stuck in the house, be grateful for your health and family. 

Free Webinar To Reveal Secret Of Using Blogging To Successfully Promote Your Business

With many businesses using the Covid-19 lockdown downtime to work on their communications and marketing assets this is the perfect time to find out how blogging can help you increase brand awareness.

Northern Ireland communication specialists Excalibur Press have announced a free webinar this Thursday April 30 at 3pm to help businesses understand how creating effective blogs can help them create new leads and generate more sales opportunities.

Delivered by Content Queen, Tina Calder, of Excalibur Press, the 90-minute webinar will reveal the benefits of blogging for business, together with a series of tips and tricks to make your blog a success.

In this unique online training and support session Tina will show how to make your blog work for you all the time.

“As a result of the Covid-19 crisis more and more of our clients at Excalibur Press are asking us to help them with their digital transformation” explained Tina.

“That was when we decided to release a range of free webinars in area such as LinkedIn, social media, thought leadership, blogging, creating online courses and webinars, publishing and communication skills.

“The idea was to help businesses use this downtime to fast forward or accelerate their desires to move their services and products online as well as prepare their communication and publicity strategies for when lockdown has been lifted and we can begin to go back to normal.”

Beginning at 3pm on Thursday places are still available to book now for this slide/video-based session.

“Many still see blogs as something for hobbyists, but they are a key part of explaining your business and relating to your clients,” said Tina. 

“But to make it work for your business you need the focus and direction to make the content do the right thing for you every time.”

The webinar will see publicist, journalist and commentator, Tina cover why blog for business, what types of blog to use, how to create quick and easy blog posts, the key ingredients for a successful blog, the tools, tips and tricks for content, and how to create quick and easy content from blog posts.

“There are a lot of small tips and tricks and tactics that people can use to ensure they create a long-lasting business rather than just something that will subside when the crisis subsides.

“We’ve set aside an hour and a half for this webinar which will help you start thinking about what you need in order to supercharge your digital content. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions throughout.”

Throughout the session Tina aims to simplify the blog creation process and give attendees real and practical tips and advice on how you can begin working on their digital content today.

Registration is available on or by going

About Tina

Northern Ireland’s Content Queen, Tina Calder is a journalist and commentator of 20 years, a publicist of 12 and a multi-platform media professional. The Belfast entrepreneur owns publicity management agency Excalibur Press based in the city’s Cathedral Quarter.

From travelling across the UK and Ireland as a showbiz reporter, publicist and tour manager to becoming an award winning business journalist, Tina uses her varied and colourful career experiences to deliver bespoke publicity and communications strategies.

To put it bluntly she’ll show you how to get stuff done!

6 Top Tips For Shooting Great Video & Photos On Your Phone

When it comes to creating content for your business it’s easy to resort to a “do it yourself” attitude.

Sometimes it’s just simply quicker than trying to grapple with third party contractors who just don’t get your business.  Or, maybe you just don’t have the budget for the luxury of getting help.

Whatever reason you’re doing it yourself, thanks to a fantastic Lunchtime Learning session facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District) by marketer Darren Diven, Founder of NI Explorer here are some quick and easy tips to help you supercharge your video and photo content.

Darren began documenting his passion for all things Northern Ireland and adventure as a hobby, using his mobile phone to capture amazing images and video. His hobby soon turned into a business, and he now works freelance with like-minded individuals, local businesses, and brands.

Photos and videos are crucial to success with digital marketing, In Darren’s Lunchtime Learning Workshop he shared his top tips and tools for shooting brilliant content for your business with your smartphone:

  1. Start with the end in mind

Darren said: “When taking photos for your business, tie the imagery to your objectives and consider the purpose of the image – is it for a blog post, your website, or social media? What’s the message that you want this image to covey?”

  1. The rule of 3rds

The full video explains this concept really well, but the key take-away is when taking a photo think of what you want the viewer’s eyes to focus on first, and where you want their attention to go next.

“Image composition is really important – consider the environment and the perspective. Put the viewer in the photo and make them feel like they’re there” explained Darren.

  1. Get creative

Play around with props, light, and colour in your photos to really bring them to life, and keep them on-brand for your business.

“The best way to take great photos for your business is to practice a lot – be proactive and start taking more photos of your hobbies, friends, and family” said Darren.

  1. Play with settings

Today’s smartphones can do so much more than we tend to use them for. According to Darren the camera app on your mobile alone has more settings than you can probably imagine: “The HDR setting takes an over and under exposed image and blends the two together, tapping the screen when taking a photo adjusts the focus and light settings automatically, and you can easily change the size settings to take images at a higher resolution. Don’t be afraid to play with the settings on your phone’s camera to take the best possible pictures.”

  1. Get some gadgets

When you’re just starting out, you’re not likely to need many extra add-ons, but as you get more comfortable with using your smartphone, and if you want it to do more, Darren recommends some extra bits of kit to take your photo skills to the next level:

Darren said: “A tripod or stabiliser can make a massive difference to the overall quality of your images and video, and you can even get a different lens for the camera on your smartphone to take shots with a wider angle. Ring lights are really popular with makeup artists, but they can also be used for product shots, and you can pick up a white box for a really reasonable cost online.”

  1. The practical basics

Darren shares his top lessons learned from getting out there and taking his own photos and videos:

“Always keep your camera lens clean – it makes such a difference” said Darren, adding: “Spare chargers are a must as taking lots of photos and videos can really drain your battery. You can get microphones that attach to your phone for shooting video with sound you want to capture. And I always recommend bringing an umbrella with you if you’re taking photos or video outdoors – it keeps the water off the lens and you can brighten up any shots you take by editing it afterwards.”

For loads more photo and video tips, as well as Darren’s recommended editing apps, check out the full recording of the workshop on the Cathedral Quarter website >>

To find out what Lunchtime Learning sessions are coming up go to

Blogging For Business: What Makes A Successful Blog Post?

There are many schools of thought when it comes to determining what truly makes a blog post successful. And, if I’m honest, I probably don’t have the answer you want.

However, as controversial as my opinion might be, despite all the research I’ve done I can’t come up with a more plausible answer to the question “what is a successful blog post?”

As far as I’m concerned – a successful blog post is one that’s published. At the end of the day, when so much work has gone into thinking, researching, developing, writing and publishing a blog it would be insane not to acknowledge that as an achievement.

Not all about the stats

In my experience, it’s not the volume of people that read a blog that’s important, it’s the quality, influence and position of purchasing power of the reader that’s important.

If, for example, you’re writing a blog about your own personal development it only takes one person to be positively impacted by that blog for you to have made a difference.

The “social media gurus” and modern wave of “digital marketing experts” might dazzle us with reach, views, and even linger time metrics but we have to be careful not to be sucked into the black hole of vanity metrics.

Whilst there’s a place for them in any communications, publicity, PR and marketing strategy they certainly should be hailed as the champion if KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).

What do you want?

One of the easiest ways to determine the “success” of a blog post is knowing what you wanted it to do in the first place. Having a clear purpose and goal and concise call to action meant it will be much easier to consider the “success” because you’ve set out the expectations in the first place.

Of course, knowing what you want from a blog post can, at times, be the most difficult part of the process, especially if it’s for business purposes.

Time and resources

Another consideration is the time and resources writing a blog post is taking. If you find you’re spending hours on something that isn’t converting in the manner you want it to, it might be time to re-think your strategy.

Although blogging is an incredibly powerful content marketing tool for businesses and influencers it’s vital that this single marketing activity doesn’t take your focus away from other key elements of your strategy and plan.

To be clear, I’m a massive fan of blogging as a very powerful content marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tool. But, it is worth asking yourself whether you actually need to be the person writing them.

For more top tips, tricks and techniques of how you can successfully use blogging to promote your business check out the FREE webinar Blogging For Business with Tina Calder from Excalibur Press & The Content Club this Thursday April 30th, 2020 at 3pm >>  

By Tina Calder, Excalibur Press & The Content Club

20 Books Worth Reading If You Have A Child On The Autistic Spectrum

When it comes to communicating with your child on the autistic spectrum it can often be a difficult and frustrating task for both of you.

But one parent found books were the perfect communication tool for her daughter.

Meta Auden, owner of Spectra Sensory Clothing, was so convinced by the power of books she added them to her online shop for other parents.

“My daughter is 19, and never spoke much, never tried to tell me how she was feeling and didn’t have facial expressions to show me” explained Meta.

“When she was being told off she would smirk and it took me a while to realise that she wasn’t being disrespectful.

“Like many other children Kirsty would have had meltdowns and she would have gone up to her room and start banging her head off the wall, which of course meant we rushed upstairs to try to calm her.  

“It was following a conversation with Kirsty recently where she revealed she would do it out of frustration because people didn’t understand how she felt, including us – her parents.

“But she doesn’t do it anymore. She says it’s because we now understand better what’s going on with her and I 100% credit the books with that.”

Meta started stocking books at Spectra Sensory due to her own love of reading and the realisation that if they could help her understand her daughter better then they could help other parents who would regularly use the website.

“Throughout her teens Kirsty would use books and newspaper articles to help me understand how she felt” said Meta.

“I’ve now brought in many titles covering all areas from toilet training to autism in adults. My favourites are mostly the children’s books. 

“I brought in one called ‘All cats have Asperger’s’ because Kirsty loves cats. When it arrived, I thought it was too young for her, but I gave it to her and she thought it would be great for younger children, probably aged seven upwards because it explains how children feel.

“One of my customers told me that her father had bought it for his grandson, who had taken it into the school to read to the rest of his class, to help them understand. 

“Another book I really like is ‘I will tell you why I won’t wear those clothes’. Oh, how I wish I had that book when Kirsty was growing up, especially before her diagnosis as clothing was a bit of a battleground for us before her diagnosis and ultimately the reason I set up the business.

“My final personal recommendation is ‘Teaching social skills through Minecraft’. If they did degrees in Minecraft, my daughter would have got a first.”

Meta Auden Spectra Sensory Clothing

Here are 20 Books Meta stocks that could help you and your child:

1. Older Adults and Autism Spectrum Conditions

By Wenn Lawson

Packed with practical advice, this is the first book to address the challenges facing older people with autism. With first-hand stories and drawing on the latest research, it will help to support older adults with autism through lifestyle changes as well as physical and sensory challenges post-retirement. 

Buy this book >>

2. I’ll Tell You Why I Can’t Wear Those Clothes! 

By Noreen O’Sullivan

This full-colour, photographic workbook is designed for adults and children to read together and explains the physical reasons a child may become emotionally overwhelmed by some daily routines involving touch. The workbook format allows them to explore their own feelings about their touch-related sensitivities, helping them to feel supported. 

Buy this book >>  

3. My Social Stories Book 

By Carol Gray and Abbie Leigh White

Taking the form of short narratives, the book takes children step by step through basic activities such as brushing their teeth, taking a bath and getting used to new clothes. 

It also helps children to understand different experiences such as going to school, shopping and visiting the doctor. 

These stories are written for preschoolers aged from two to six, and the book is a useful primer for all young children – but most especially those on the autism spectrum. My Social Stories Book contains over 150 Stories, and is illustrated throughout with line drawings by Sean McAndrew, which form a visual counterpart to the text. A helpful introduction explains to parents and carers how to get the most out of the book.

Buy this book >>

4. I’m Not Naughty- I’m Autistic- Jodi’s Journey 

By Jean Shaw

At eighteen months old, Jodi Shaw suddenly changed from being a happy, lively, loving baby into the toddler from hell – withdrawn, refusing to talk, play or be touched, unable to concentrate or be still. Written by his mother but told from Jodi’s perspective, this is a fascinating, funny, and insightful account of growing up with autism. 

Jean Shaw, the mother of two children, is a housewife and full time carer. She hopes that the story of her autistic son will reassure and help many other ordinary families and also educate the general public about the problems associated with autism.

Buy this book >>

5. Managing Meltdowns and Tantrums on the Autism Spectrum – A Parent and Caregiver’s Guide 

By Jenna Ward Hawkes And Melissa Rodi 

Provides helpful and practical tips to understand, manage and even avert tantrums and meltdowns. For parents of children with ASD (and other conditions) aged 2-9, who need advice on managing meltdowns. 

This book offers an empathetic approach and provides explanations of what goes on in the brain and body of someone experiencing a meltdown, describing sensory reactions and brain processes. The authors help the reader to distinguish between tantrums and meltdowns, and how to react to these different emotional states. 

Buy this book >>

6. All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

By Kathy Hoopmann 

This book takes a playful look at Asperger Syndrome, drawing inspiration from the feline world. Touching, humorous and insightful. This book evokes the difficulties and joys of raising a child who is different and leaves the reader with a sense of the dignity, individuality, and potential of people with AS.

Buy this book >>

7. Can’t Eat, Won’t Eat – Dietary Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorders 

By Brenda Legge 

Reassures other parents that there are lots of people out there in the same boat, and to suggest practical methods of dealing with the problem. As well as drawing on her own experience, the author has spoken to parents, children, and professionals with first-hand knowledge of dietary difficulties, and their advice and comments form a key part of the book.

Buy this book >>

8. Special Kid to Super Kid- Overcoming Learning Disability, Language Delay, And Autism 

By Ruthangela Bernadette

This book promises to help you unleash your child’s super powers. Discover how the author triumphed over autism, learning  disability, and language delay without breaking the bank. The book promises that your child will Improve social interaction, make friends and gain confidence.Transform school from being a battleground of obstacles into a playground of opportunities.

Buy this book >>

9. The Little Book of Autism FAQS – How to Talk with Your Child about their diagnosis & Other Conversations 

By Davida Hartman

Concise and easy to read, ‘The Little Book of Autism FAQs’ answers parents’ questions with accessible language, preparing them to approach this difficult conversation in a constructive manner. It equips parents with a language of positivity and prepares them to support their children’s relationships with peers and family members.

Buy this book >>

10. A Book About What Autism Can BE Like

By Sue Adams

Chris and Andrew are here to help people understand the experiences of a child with autism, and how others can help by understanding how they are different, and recognising their unique talents. 

This fully-illustrated book is targeted at boys and girls aged 5+, and also serves as an excellent starting point for family and classroom discussions.

Buy this book >>

11. A Friend Like Ben

By Julia Romp

This really is a heart warming book, one which many parents will relate to. I was told to read it by my daughter, it is not often, in fact probably never, that she has given me a book to read, yes, youtube videos or quotes. So I asked her to give me a review of the book, at first she said no, then she gave me a few words, which I am writing as they were given to me, so excuse spellings and grammar.

 “This book is told by the boy’s mother, but it shows how one animal helped her understand her son. In a way she could not be able to. It opened her eyes to what she needed to see instead of what she wanted to see.”

Buy this book >>

12. Autism All-Stars

By Josie Santomauro

Contributors from across the world share their experiences of creating a successful life on the autism spectrum. The positive and inspiring voices in this book explain how it is possible to draw on autistic strengths not just to make your way in the world, overcoming challenges and obstacles, but also to make your life a real success.

Buy this book >>

13. Autism Mother Speaks Out

By Maggi Golding & Jill Stacey

From America to Australia, and stopping off in every continent in between, these stories from mothers of autistic children highlight changing attitudes to autism. Debunking the myth that autism is a result of bad parenting, this book radiates with the warmth of parent-child relationships and unites autism families across the globe.

Buy this book >>

14. Can I Tell You About Autism

By Jude Welton

Tom invites readers to learn about autism from his perspective in this beautifully-illustrated book, suitable for readers aged 7 and upwards. He explains the challenges he faces with issues such as social communication, sensory overload and changes in his routine and describes all the ways he can be helped and supported by those around him.

Buy this book >>

15. Different Like Me, My Book of Autism Heroes

By Jennifer Elder 

Eight-year-old Quinn, a young boy with AS, tells young readers about the achievements and characteristics of his autism heroes, from Albert Einstein, to Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Banneker and Julia Bowman Robinson, among others. All excel in different fields, but are united by the fact that they often found it difficult to fit in-just like Quinn. 

Buy this book >>

16. Stand Up For Autism

By Georgina J.Derbyshire 

Parenting a child on the autistic spectrum can be tough, but few books take the time to celebrate the love and laughter an autistic child can elicit in their parents and those around them. In this warm, honest and laugh-out-loud tale of bringing up Bobby, now ten, Georgina Derbyshire shares and rejoices in his ‘slightly different’ childhood.

Buy this book >>

17. Teaching Social Skills to Children With Autism Using Minecraft

By Raelene Dundon

An accessible guide to setting up Minecraft groups to promote social skills in children with autism. It has over 150 pages of session plans, visuals and handouts, as well as setting out a curriculum for educators and professionals to use in the classroom.

Buy this book >>

18. Toilet Training and The Autism Spectrum

By Eve Fleming and Lorraine MacAlister

This book looks at toilet training difficulties for children with autism spectrum conditions, and presents practical interventions to help children overcome these problems. Packed with essential information on bowel and bladder function, this book also gives helpful advice for developing and implementing a toilet plan in different settings.

Buy this book >>

19. People With Autism Behaving Very Badly

By John Clements

This book offers effective, long-term strategies to resolve common problem behaviours such as physical aggression, self-injury, verbal abuse, and property damage. It is organized around common messages conveyed by behaviours and the underlying issues driving these messages. Practical ideas for intervention are provided alongside case examples.

Buy this book>>

20. The Autism Discussion Page On The Core Challenges of Autism

By Bill Nason

This book compiles posts from the popular online Autism Discussion Page to provide simple and effective strategies for helping children with autism spectrum disorders to feel safe, accepted and competent. This volume focuses on the core challenges faced by those with autism: cognitive, sensory, social and emotional.

Buy this book>>

Want To Set Up Your Own Webinar? Learn How With A Free Online Session

In these difficult times, with more and more people working from home, many people want to learn how to deliver training, staff support and business information through online webinars.

For those nervous about delivering their first webinar for their online business publicist, journalist and commentator Tina Calder has designed a unique series of webinars, with the next one Setting Up Your Own Webinar – Here’s How I Did It being delivered on Thursday, April 23.

In this unique online training and support session Tina will take delegates through the basics of how to create a webinar, the structure and content and look at areas such as promotional tactics and the technology used to create them.

“As a result of the Covid-19 crisis more and more of our clients at Excalibur Press are asking us to help them with their digital transformation” said Tina. 

“From creating online courses and mapping out marketing and sales funnels what the Corona Virus has done is force many entrepreneurs and businesses to fast forward or accelerate their desires to move their services and products online.”

Beginning at 3pm on Thursday places are still available to book now for this slide/video-based session.

“Regardless of the reasons why you want to take one of your face to face sessions online, the work you have to put in to prepare it is the same,” Tina explained.

As founder of Excalibur Press publicity management, content creation and copywriting agency Tina has been in the business working in Northern Ireland for the last 20 years and has worked with a number of thought leaders over the years.

She said: “Over the last two years I’ve been intensely studying the world of thought leadership and during that time I’ve been on some pretty decent webinars…and I’ve also caught a turkey or two! 

“I wanted to create this series of webinars to help people avoid some of the mistakes I’ve seen so many times.”

The session will help delegates to develop the perfect webinar title, what audiences want from a webinar, how to shape content, creating the perfect sales and marketing funnel, creating a content plan and tactics, tips and tricks to promote your webinar.

In addition there will be advice on what assets you need, what technology you will need and much more.

“There are a lot of small tips and tricks and tactics that people can use to ensure they create a long-lasting business rather than just something that will disappear when the crisis subsides.

“Moving content online for your business simply isn’t a case of chucking up an existing slide deck and hoping for the same results. It’s just simply not going to be the case.

“We’ve set aside an hour and a half for this overview webinar which will help you start thinking about what you need in order to get your own webinars up and running. There will be an opportunity to ask questions throughout.”

Registration is available on or by going to 

To see details of all forthcoming free webinars go to

For further information please contact Excalibur Press 07305354209, 

About Tina

Northern Ireland’s Content Queen, Tina Calder is a journalist and commentator of 20 years, a publicist of 12 and a multi-platform media professional. The Belfast entrepreneur owns publicity management agency Excalibur Press based in the city’s Cathedral Quarter.

From travelling across the UK and Ireland as a showbiz reporter, publicist and tour manager to becoming an award winning business journalist, Tina uses her varied and colourful career experiences to deliver bespoke publicity and communications strategies.

(Almost) Everything You Need To Know About Instagram Ads

It would be easy to discount Instagram as a hipster, millennial platform that is of no use to your business, after all, that’s the reputation it has.

However, with the platform growing extensively in recent years and gaining popularity across Northern Ireland it’s important to assess whether it could work for your business.

Gil David, the Founder of Run DMG, has spent over 13 years in sales, marketing, and business management, as well as over five years running social media adverts for a wide range of clients, including beauty chains and ecommerce stores, online coaches, and nationwide fitness franchises.

Having worked with social media advertising budgets from a few hundred pounds to 150k+, Gil was the perfect guest speaker to deliver a Lunchtime Learning session facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District), sharing his top tips for Instagram adverts.

Gil’s stats during the presentation spoke volumes, he said: “There are currently over 1 billion active accounts on Instagram, with around 50% of those accounts active daily. 60% of Instagram users first hear about a product via the platform, and 30% have made a purchase from Instagram directly.

“Those are very impressive figures. It’s important to note that the most active age range on the platform is 18-35, so if your target market are 40 years of age or younger, you should be using it as a marketing tool.”

While there are a range of tips, ideas, and methods for running successful Instagram adverts, one of the most important things to get right is the creative. Instagram is a visual platform, so the imagery is the element with the most impact. Gil shared his top tips, which included:

  • Portrait images and video work much better than landscape (ideally 1080×1080 for square imagery or 1080×1350 for vertical imagery).
  • Images should be eye-catching and “scroll-stopping”.
  • The key message should be clear and enticing.
  • Random figure discounts and percentage discounts get more attention than even numbers, for example £234 off instead of £200 off.
  • Check your copy, then check it again – spelling mistakes are completely avoidable. Also, if you create an ad for Facebook you may say ‘click the button below’, but on Instagram the button is above the text. Look out for these simple errors.

Gil explained: “To increase engagement, you should always reply to individuals who comment on your posts and adverts. Even the negative comments.

“If you respond well to a negative comment – by acknowledging the issue, clarifying if a problem does exist, and fixing the problem if there is one – others who look at the comments will see that you are a reputable company who look after their customers.”

A trend that shows no sign of slowing down are brands using stories more than their feed to engage with customers. Users are looking at stories more and more, so there is also an increasing trend for companies to post a story that directs their audiences’ attention to a new post on their feed.

As a result, more companies are also advertising through stories, which works best when the content is organic and more natural. This type of content tends to outperform more professional or manufactured looking videos. Add text or graphics within the native app (Instagram) to increase clicks and engagement.

Finally, you should always test your adverts to see what works and what doesn’t. There is no one-size-fits-all rulebook for social media advertising. What works well changes based on industry, and even between companies in the same industry based on the needs and wants of their individual target audiences.

Gil also has a final word of warning:“Remember that social media is first and foremost just that – social. Your social media accounts should not be running adverts all the time, or people will get sick of looking at it. You should include adverts within a mix of other types of posts and content for them to have maximum impact.”

The key takeaway points from the session? Get People to A.C.T.

  • Attention – stop them scrolling.
  • Clarity – image and message should work well together.
  • Tap – correct combination of image and enticing copy will get people to act. Include a clear call to action.

Want to hear more top tips for running Instagram advertising campaigns for your small business? Check out the full recording of Gil’s workshop on the Cathedral Quarter website ––learning–everything-you-need-to-know-about-instagram-ads

To see more Lunchtime Learning session go to

Furloughing Staff: What You Need To Know

*Including updates correct as of 15th April 2020.

Michelle Tyson of Tyson Wilson Ltd

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was introduced by government at the end of March.

Michelle Tyson, Director of recruitment agency, Tyson Wilson Ltd, gives a breakdown and overview of some of the key points from the government guidance.

Michelle said: “The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and is having significant impacts on businesses across all sectors in the UK. The government have introduced a range of measures to help businesses and employees, but it can be tricky to interpret the guidance based on individual circumstances. In this article, we cover the key points from the guidance that are applicable to most, to try and ensure that you are aware of the scheme’s criteria.”

If your business has been severely impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19), you can ‘furlough’ employees and apply to HMRC for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage, up to a maximum of £2,500 (gross) per month. In addition, you can also claim for associated Employer National Insurance contributions and employer pension contributions (the minimum amount required under the automatic enrollment scheme of 3%). While on furlough, the employee’s wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

Michelle explained: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is a temporary scheme that is in place from March 1st 2020 to June 30th 2020. It may be extended, if necessary. Claims are made by employers online via a new portal, which is expected to go live around April 20th 2020. It is important to note that each period of furlough must last for at least 3 consecutive weeks to be eligible to claim. It is envisioned that employers will be able to make a claim once every 3 weeks from when the portal goes live. Employees can be put on and off furlough. However, each period on furlough must last for at least 3 weeks to be eligible to claim.”

When the scheme was first announced, you could only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before February 28th 2020. However, this has now been updated. *You can now claim for employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before March 19th 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before March 19th 2020.*

Which employees are eligible for the scheme?

Michelle clarified: “Employees can be on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible, zero-hour, or fixed term contracts. Fixed term contracts can be renewed or extended during the furlough period. Where a fixed term employee’s contract ends because it is not extended or renewed, you will no longer be able to claim for them.”

In addition, it has been clarified that foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. To be eligible, when on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for, or on behalf, of the organisation or any linked or associated organisation. This includes providing services to the organisation or generating revenue for the organisation.

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train whist furloughed. However, it is important to note that Apprentices must be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage, or National Minimum Wage (as applicable to your organisation) for time they spend training.

“This means Apprentices should receive their full, normal wage for any days spent training as opposed to receiving 80% of their normal wage for those days” said Michelle.

“You can still claim for any days spent training, which means in theory you are ‘topping up’ their wage for those days.”

If an employee is working on reduced hours or for reduced pay, they are not eligible for the scheme. If an employee started unpaid leave after February 29th you can put them on furlough instead. If an employee went on unpaid leave on or before February 28th, you cannot furlough them until the date on which it was agreed they would return from unpaid leave.

CJRS and Directors

The official guidance goes into more detail on others who are eligible for the CJRS, including office holders, company directors, salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships, etc. However, the eligibility of company directors seems to be a common question.

Michelle said: “The eligibility of company directors for the CJRS is one of the most common queries we deal with. HMRC were not very clear on this to begin with, but the guidance has been updated and now states clearly that company directors can furlough any salary they receive through PAYE. However, the conditions of furlough still apply in that they cannot carry out any services for the business or generate revenue for the business. They can continue to carry out their duties under the Companies Act. Furlough payments do not take into consideration dividends.”


If an employee is on sick leave or is self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus, they will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), subject to meeting the other eligibility criteria. CJRS is not intended for short-term absence from work due to sickness or self-isolation. However, if the organisation wishes to furlough an employee for business reasons, who is on sick leave or self-isolating, they can. The employee will no longer receive SSP and will instead be classified as a furloughed employee. You can claim back from both the CJRS and the SSP rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same time period.

‘Shielding’ Employees and Caring Responsibilities

In addition, employers are entitled to furlough employees who are ‘shielding’ in line with public health guidance, or who are off work to stay home with someone who is shielding, or who are off work on long-term sick leave. Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus can also be furloughed. For example, employees who cannot go to work because they need to look after their children.

Employees With More Than One Employer

If an employee has more than one employer, they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate and the cap of £2,500 (gross) per month applies to each employer. Where an employee has more than one employer, they can be furloughed in one job and receive a furloughed payment but continue working for their other employer/s and receive their normal wages.

Michelle added: “If an employee has one employer, and is furloughed by that employer, they can receive a furloughed payment and seek additional temporary employment with another employer provided their Contract of Employment permits it and/or their employer agrees.”

Employees Volunteering and Training

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work, provided it is not for your organisation or a linked or associated organisation. Furloughed employees can also participate in training, so long as while completing the training the employee does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, their organisation, or a linked or associated organisation.

Michelle said: “Where an employee completes training at the request of their employer, the guidance is clear that there are minimum wage requirements that need to be met for any time spent training while on furlough. This will only impact employees who are normally on minimum wage or close to it, as the 80% furlough payment will bring their wage to below minimum wage for the duration of their furlough. In this instance, employers will need to top-up wages to at least minimum wage for any time the employee spends training at the request of the employer.”

Agreeing To Furlough Employees

Michelle warned: “In general, it is advised that employers discuss furlough with their employees and make any temporary changes to the Contract of Employment by agreement. When employers are making decisions in relation to the furlough process, such as deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws still apply. To be eligible for the grant, employers must confirm – in writing – to their employee that they have been furloughed. A record of this communication must be kept for five years.”

Grant Amounts and Furloughed Wage Calculation

Employers can choose to ‘top up’ employee salaries but are under no obligation to. Employees must not work or provide any services for the organisation while furloughed, even if they receive a topped-up salary. When completing the claim, the claim start date will be the date that the employee stopped working for the organisation and started furlough – not the date the decision was made, or when the employee received written confirmation of their furloughed status. Grants will be pro-rata for employees who are furloughed for part of a pay period.

For employees on a salary, employers will claim for 80% of their last pay period prior to March 19th 2020 up to a maximum of £2,500 (gross).

For employees whose pay varies, for example those who work irregular shift patterns or regular overtime – if they employee has been employed for 12 months or more, you can claim the highest of either the same month’s earning from the previous year or their average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year, up to a maximum of £2,500 (gross).

If the employee has been employed for less than 12 months, claim for 80% of their average monthly earnings since they started work until the date they are furloughed, up to a maximum of £2,500 (gross).

For employees who have been employed for less than one month, work out a pro rata for their earnings so far, and claim for 80% up to a maximum of £2,500 (gross).

You can claim for any regular payments you are obliged to pay employees, such as wages, past overtime, fees, and compulsory commission payments. However, discretionary bonuses, tips, commission payments, and non-cash payments should be excluded.

Claims Process

To make a claim, you will need the following information:• Your employer PAYE reference number.• The number of employees being furloughed.• National Insurance Numbers for the furloughed employees.• Names of the furloughed employees.• Payroll/employee number for the furloughed employees (optional).• Your Unique Taxpayer Reference or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number.• The claim period (start and end date).• The amount being claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 consecutive weeks).• The bank account number and sort code receiving the grant payment.• A contact name.• A contact phone number• The total amount you are claiming for.

Note – HMRC retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.

If you have less than 100 furloughed staff, you will be asked to enter the details of each employee you are claiming for directly into the system. If you have 100 or more furloughed staff, you will be asked to upload a file with the information rather than input it directly into the system. You should retain all records and calculations in respect of your claims.

Tax Treatment of the Coronavirus Job Retention Grant

Payments received by a business under the scheme are made to offset deductible revenue costs. They must therefore be included as income in the business’ calculation of its taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes, in accordance with normal principles. Businesses can deduct employment costs as normal when calculating taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes.

Michelle concluded: “This is a confusing and difficult time for everyone, business owners, directors, and employees included. You should aim to have regular and clear communication with employees, as much as is practicable, and do your best to answer their questions or refer them to government guidance.”

Thinking About Blogging For Business? Here’s Everything You Need To Know!

Tina Calder Owner and founder of Excalibur Press

As part of most business digital marketing strategies blogging has been put high on the list of priorities.

But, more often than not, it’s something that’s either put off, set to the side or procrastinated about.

As a result businesses are missing out on the chance to truly maximise this fantastic digital marketing resource.

Tina Calder, the Founder of Excalibur Press, has over 20 years’ experience as a journalist and over 12 years’ experience as a multi-platform media professional. As an award-winning business journalist and publicist, Tina knows a thing or two when it comes to writing, creating content, and blogging.

Tina delivered a Lunchtime Learning session facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District), sharing her top tips to demystify the art of creating good quality digital content.

Why Blog?

Although there are plenty of reasons to start a blog or bring your focus back to your business blog, Tina identified three main reasons:

  1. Blogging enables you to give your potential customers much more information on your products and services, and lets you showcase your experience and expertise.
  2. Blogging about relevant topics helps your website achieve a higher Google ranking.
  3. Content can be used in many ways and can be written to specifically target potential customers, investors, or even employees.

“Blogging is a conscious effort to add valuable content to your website. Maximise the time and effort they take to create by always including a call to action at the end, and re-purposing them on social media channels” said Tina.

“Ideally, you want your blog to break through the noise. Making sure each blog post has a purpose can help this. Blogs should be written to: entertain, educate, inspire, excite, inform, or create an emotional connection, with the ultimate goal being to move the reader to take some form of action.”

Types of Content

And when it comes to what the blog should look at, Tina pointed out there was more than one type of blog post. Some, easier than others to create.

  1. Curated content – gathering information from elsewhere or multiple sources into one themed post.
  2. Evergreen – topics that are always relevant and can be updated periodically.
  3. Re-purposed – older content, or offline content, that can be adapted and updated to be relevant.
  4. Listicles – based on regularly asked or searched for information, a simple blog post with an introductory paragraph and a list.
  5. Opinion and commentary – great if your business is innovative, engaged in current affairs, or if you have an in-house specialist or thought leader.
  6. Collaboration – guest posts or collaborative posts, consider your value chain, suppliers, and complementary businesses who could both provide resources.

“There are loads of resources available on-line that can help you with your blogging journey. Our blog The Content Club by Excalibur Press is just one of these resources – if you need help with any aspect of digital marketing, traditional marketing, or business communications, we’ll more than likely have a blog on the subject.

“Other great resources include Hootsuite for social media posting, Canva for creating imagery, Google trends for seeing what the hot topics are and ‘newsjacking’, as well as ensuring you have a plan for your digital marketing efforts such as a planned content calendar.”

Want to hear more of Tina’s top tips for blogging and maximising your blogging efforts? Check out the full recording of Tina’s workshop on the Cathedral Quarter website or below –

You can also check out Tina’s own business blog at

Titanic Belfast Chases The Rainbow

Over the Easter period (Friday 10th – Monday 13th April), the iconic Titanic Belfast will be supporting the #chasetherainbow campaign and will be sporting a colourful rainbow illumination at night as a display of positivity. Other landmarks in Titanic Quarter including The Great Light are also joining this initiative.

Judith Owens, Titanic Belfast’s Chief Executive “In 2012, we opened our doors with the aim of showing that the spirit that built RMS Titanic was still present today. Since then, the building has become symbol of Northern Ireland and its spirit. Therefore, it feels only right that we throw our weight behind the #chasetherainbow campaign. Now, more than ever, we need to support each other and this small daily gesture aims to raise peoples spirits over the coming weeks and months and remind everyone that there will be better days ahead.”

The iconic building will continue to light up blue on Thursdays, as part of the #clapforcarers campaign, to show its appreciation to the NHS and the vital work it is undertaking.  For more details follow #ChaseTheRainbow.