Switch on to Swindon Communication Strategy

Switch on to Swindon Communication Strategy

Media experts help form Switch on to Swindon communication strategy

Local media representatives, journalists and online bloggers (like Born again Swindonian) helped shape the aims and objectives of a special network, striving to improve perceptions of Swindon. In January 2020 came together to help form a Switch on to Swindon Communication strategy.

The Switch on To Swindon (SOTS) business ambassador network is now in its third year. At this stage it’s refreshing its strategy and using the expertise of the town’s local media and PR professionals to develop its forthcoming communications plan. They kicked off the process of at a recent workshop in Swindon’s Carriage Works – housing Workshed.

The SOTS network, which has grown to over 850 ambassadors, came into being to harness the positive attitude of the local community. The Switch on to Swindon brand is now synonymous with local civic pride. Swindon has a strong and varied business cluster and the ambassadors work together to talk up the town.

Images from Fiona Scott.

A Refreshed SOTS Vision

Business Ambassadors working together to promote Swindon as a thriving community in which to live, work and invest. The core values behind messaging and activity are: 

  • Ambition
  • Community
  • Honesty
  • Innovation
  •  Positivity.

Three Key Aims

The Switch On board also agreed three key aims:

1. Live:    To promote the positive perception of Swindon as an ambitious growing town of the future to internal and external audiences.

2. Work:  To inspire and support the development of talented people to enable growth and innovation.

3.  Invest: To work with partners to attract inward investment to grow the economy.

Over the coming months, several themes will support these three aims featuring business and ambassador case studies; press releases and editorials; social media and online content.

Switch on To Swindon Chair, Jenny Groves, said: Following the TechSwindon campaign at the successful Switch on To Swindon event at Nationwide Building Society in June 2019, the Board has worked on refreshing and defining its core values and themes for the year ahead.

Ambassador numbers are now over 850, yet there’s an even greater need for the business community to pull together and promote Swindon’s strengths to the outside world. So this was the right time to reflect on what has worked well and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The media and online bloggers workshop proved insightful. It strengthened our resolve to challenge perceptions and promote some of the fantastic qualities of Swindon. Qualities that have attracted companies and people from all over the world.

The Borough, like anywhere else, has its challenges, yet Swindon’s resilience and community spirit is one of its greatest assets and we look forward to working together for another year. 

The next piece of work is to refresh the marketing collateral and develop content under the themes, so we will be reaching out to ambassadors again to help us.”

Eight Interactive Video blogging Workshop

Eight Interactive Video blogging Workshop

New course will put video blogging in the picture for business owners

Video is fast becoming an essential marketing tool. If the thought of it terrifies you then you’re in luck. Because Swindon digital content specialist, Eight Interactive has created a video blogging workshop to help business owners like you get your video blogging in the can.

Pam Jones, who runs Eight Interactive, which creates video and digital content for businesses, has devised the VIP – Video Implementation Programme. Pam created The VIP in response to seeing many video blogs (or vlogs) that she believes would be better left on the cutting room floor.

‘I’ve been video blogging for the past two years and there is a process which ensures the videos are effective and targeted,’ said Pam – a maker of digital and video content of 18 years standing. ‘There’s nothing wrong with quick, off-the-cuff video posts on social media. But, when it comes to vlogging, these should be more professional and purposeful.’


Statistics show videos attract 300 per cent more traffic than the written word. A website is fifty-three times more likely to reach the front page of Google if it includes video. And seventy-two per cent of customers say they would rather learn about a product or service by way of video. 

‘It’s clear that video is a growing essential marketing tool for businesses. Yet unless you do your vlogs well they could actually do more harm than good,’ said Pam. ‘I’ve seen all sorts of video blogs which don’t present the business owner in a professional light. Even worse they won’t be effective apropos search engine optimisation.’

About the Eight Interactive Video blogging workshop

The VIP is a two-day course. Pam is holding it on March 3 and 4 at the Doubletree Hilton, Swindon. It is open to a small group of business owners and Pam will cover the entire process involved in video blogging. 

Delegates will learn how to plan and film their videos, and what equipment they need (such as a tripod to hold a smart phone). Pam will give 1-2-1 guidance through the filming process. And she will also cover basic video editing and advise on which software to use.

At the end of the course, attendees will have at least one video ready for posting with a firm plan for a dozen films and the know-how to create them. Unlike quickly snatched videos for social media, these vlogs will be evergreen, and created with search engine optimisation in mind.

The VIP is a follow on from Pam’s popular workshop on using video to promote a business. ‘In feedback, delegates were asking for more about vlogging, so we created the VIP. We are running the programme over two consecutive days. That’s to maintain the momentum and enable attendees to come away with firm knowledge of how to create their video blogs.’

What the Eight Interactive Video blogging workshop costs

The course costs £397 + VAT. There is currently an early bird booking fee of £327 + VAT. Pam plans to run further courses in June and October.

To book, visit https://www.eight-interactive.com/video-blogging-training/ 

Here’s a link to a vlog that I made together with Pam, about Secret Swindon: https://youtu.be/Mgwqu2MEV9k

And a 2018 Year Highlights animated video that Pam made for me: https://youtu.be/MUY1geQ2AU8

Linda Clarke: From South Africa to Swindon

Linda Clarke: From South Africa to Swindon

In this Swindon in Business post, I’m delighted to introduce you to Linda Clarke. Linda has many talents and skills – not least amongst which is being a Master Hypnotist and working with businesses to provide a workplace mental health tool kit for employees.

And quite the best place to learn more about all that is here on her website. 

Below is a link to a fab podcast of Sarah Archer interviewing Linda about her work. Linda did some work with Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter when in South Africa. A fact that introduces a link to Swindon. One of Mandela’s legal team – the late Lord Joel Joffe – had a big connection with Swindon. For here it was that he began his Hambro Life insurance company – later Allied Dunbar – of the Allied Dunbar Tri-Centre fame. Six degrees of separation and all that. 

See Swindon in 50 Buildings for more on the Tri-Centre.

The podcast that Linda did with Sarah Archer: Https://www.saraharcher.co.uk/thespeakingclub/086

Linda’s Story

As interesting as what Linda Clarke does is her personal story. In the first instance, it’s an interesting one that forces some thought to the things that matter most in life. Like life itself for starters! But Linda’s story also underpins and explains what she does and why she does it.

Because life will throw curve balls. Shit will happen. As it happened to Linda and her husband. But it’s in our response to unfortunate events that we either survive and thrive – or fall. And that’s where Linda Clarke can help.

Linda Clarke

And now, with no further ado, here’s Linda’s story in her own words.

Returning to the UK

Two years ago, my husband and I returned to the UK after living in South Africa for thirty-four years.  We emigrated there in 1983 with our two small children following my husband’s redundancy from his work.  At that time there were few opportunities here due to high unemployment.  We thought that South Africa offered greater opportunities in which to live and work and raise our young family. So off to live under sunny South African skies we went.

We worked hard and both had successful businesses there. We had a beautiful home with a swimming pool, a holiday home, help to tend the garden and clean our home. We could afford private education for our children and we enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle in a lovely sunny climate.  What was not to love?

Indeed, for many years we lived the dream in the land of milk and honey. (As the images below show. The wrench must have been devastating.)

But over time things began to change.  The decline in the economy resulted in an escalation of crime, violent crime in particular.  

Visiting Wiltshireand a crunch point

In 2014, when in Wiltshire for a holiday, it occurred to us that we weren’t unconsciously looking over our shoulder expecting to be a victim of crime.  We hadn’t realized until then, that that was what we were doing in South Africa.  The feeling of walking freely and free from fear was wonderful and liberating. Then and there we decided we would move back to the UK – although we didn’t know when.

So we enjoyed our holiday and returned to South Africa and got on with our lives, putting all ideas of emigration on the back-burner.  We weren’t quite ready to give up our lifestyle.  But eighteen months later something happened which made our leaving more urgent. The crunch came when five gunmen hijacked our daughter-in-law, with her two young children in the car. This in an up-market suburb in the middle of the day. We decided then that we could no longer put off leaving. 

On the market

We put our home on the market and planned to transport our possessions plus our two beloved dogs here to the UK.  We were so excited to be returning to the land of our birth and couldn’t wait to show “our girls” (that’s the dogs!) the beautiful countryside.

Only when we arrived did it dawn on us how much we had given up.  We had no home, no friends, no job. And at 68 and 65 respectively we had to build our businesses again from scratch.  Because of our ages getting any kind of job was impossible. 

 We were also worried about money – at that stage we hadn’t sold our home despite it being on the market for three months. Indeed, we wondered whether we would be able to sell it (the property market was in dire straits) and get any money out at all. Due to South Africa’s declining economy we lost eighty per cent of our wealth overnight.  When we emigrated there in 1983 there were 1.6 Rands to the pound.  By 2017 it was 20 Rands to the pound! R1.5m = £75,000. 

Things were quite grim, but it got far worse!  We had only been here two weeks when our beloved old dog Lucy died.  Losing a beloved pet is heart-breaking for anyone. But for us it was especially so. We were neither of us in a good place mentally and emotionally due to our new circumstances. 


Although devastated, we understood that this was simply another thing that we needed to withstand as part of the process of building our new lives here. 

 That sudden loss of Lucy could have been the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. But it wasn’t. Why not? Because I was resilient and knew what I had to do motivate myself, to stay focused and strong and to keep going.  I shed a lot of tears. I could have slid into depression, but didn’t. Why? Because the experience I have and the work that I do gave me the mental stability I needed.

Overcoming mental health challenges

For many years, in my private practice as a therapist, I’ve helped people to overcome such mental health challenges as stress, anxiety and depression. So I knew that if I took steps to promote good mental health then I’d have the resilience to cope with life’s challenges as they arose.

I knew that, although life’s major events (divorce, moving to a new house, financial loss, chronic sickness and losing a job) could trigger mental breakdown, it’s not the events themselves but rather a person’s response to them that cause mental illness. 

I had to learn to be at peace with uncertainty. Because catastrophising wouldn’t change anything.  I spent many years in private practice equipping my clients with tools to reduce worrying and to promote flexible solution focused thinking.  

Thus, in the middle of stress and uncertainty, I took deliberate practical steps to manage it. These steps involved, among other things, some physical activity. Poor Lily, our remaining dog, was depressed, confused and grieving.  Were it not for Lily I might have resorted to staying in my pyjamas all day. But she gave me a reason to get dressed and get out.  We both needed fresh air and exercise and a break from worry and sadness.

Over the past two years not a lot has changed in my circumstances. We still do not own our home and the prospects of doing so are nil.  I’m working hard to build my business and it’s slow and tedious.  It will be necessary for us both to work for the rest of our lives but we’re fortunate in that we both love what we do.  

I am living my life for today, grateful for what I have and I’m enjoying sharing the beauty of nature with my beloved Lily.

Swindon Festival of Science

Swindon Festival of Science

All eyes on ‘Tomorrow’, Swindon’s first festival of science, technology and engineering – 21-22 February 2020.

Swindon Festival of Science

Families from Swindon and beyond can explore the latest in science, engineering and technology at the Tomorrow Festival at STEAM museum, next month – 21-22nd February 2020.

A host of top universities and high-tech companies will join the Science Museum, the UK Space Agency and UK Research and Innovation. Together they are presenting Swindon’s first festival of science and technology.

Events Listings and Ticket Booking

See listing of events here: https://www.steam-museum.org.uk/events/event/36/tomorrow_-_swindons_science_festival and to book tickets follow the link here.

The Tomorrow Festival

The ‘Tomorrow’ festival is the brainchild of Science Swindon. This collaboration between local company, New Elements, and STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway, brings together the latest scientific discoveries and cutting-edge technologies in this two-day event.  

The festival features a range of ticketed science shows, talks and panel debates with government and industry. There’ll also be a free-to-enter interactive zone. In the interactive zone visitors can meet real scientists and engineers working at the cutting edge of research and try out some of the latest technologies for themselves.

Set against the backdrop of Brunel’s railway engineering legacy, the event will explore:

  • The future of health & medicine
  • Energy & environment
  • Gaming & VR
  • Space & astronomy and the future of travel.  

Space shows and workshops from the Science Museum

Recognising Swindon as home of the UK Space Agency, London’s Science Museum is sending their popular space shows and workshops to run on both days of the festival.

The action-packed show, called Out of this World, will take visitors to the festival, at STEAM museum in February, on a journey into space.  Led by the nationally recognised Science Museum outreach team, they’ll discover what it takes to become an astronaut, launch a rocket, explore the Solar System and look for alien life. The show promises explosions, super-cool liquid nitrogen, eye-popping vacuums and even wee drinking!

This festival is shaping up to be a fantastic celebration of the innovation in Swindon and the region,” said Ian Larrard, Director of the Business West Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative.  ‘Swindon is at the forefront of tackling our greatest challenges and opportunities, from climate change and vehicles of the future. Encouraging young people in Swindon to enjoy STEM subjects is critical to Swindon’s future.’

Swindon Festival of Science - science swindon logo

We’ve had a great response to the festival idea. We’re delighted that Business West have decided to support the event,” said Rod Hebden, from Science Swindon.

Science Swindon is a collaboration between New Elements and STEAM museum, in Swindon, who are running the festival.

‘We’ve got an incredible line-up of events and activities. I urge people to follow Science Swindon on social media, book tickets to the talks as soon as possible, and come along to the festival next month.’

For more information, contact Rod Hebden on 07410113966 or rod@scienceswindon.com, or visit www.scienceswindon.com

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/science_swindon
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scienceswindon/

From aviation to digital: Wiltshire woman in line for business award

From aviation to digital: Wiltshire woman in line for business award

A Wiltshire businesswoman, who enjoyed one high flying career in aviation before embarking on a second in technology, is in the running for an award.

Lara Barnes, Business Development Manager with leading website and software development company Digital Trading, has received a nomination for a Women’s STEM award at the Women’s Business Conference 2019. 

Run by Women’s Business Club, the conference and the STEM award recognises the outstanding contributions of women in STEM. The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There’ll be an announcement of the winner at the Cheltenham conference on December 4th.

Lara barnes business award nomination - laura barnes at a computer

Lara, 34, from Highworth, exclaimed her delight at her nomination. She said too how proud she is that her two careers show what women can achieve industries that tend to be male-dominated.

“I felt surprised yet honoured to get this nomination,” said lone-parent Lara. She juggles her career with looking after her two boys, Thomas, aged six, and Joseph, three. “It’s my belief, as a single Mum, that it’s so important to show what one can achieve and to have a career that I and my children can be proud of.”

Lara embarked on her first career at 17 when she fulfilled her long-held ambition to join the RAF. After her basic training, she moved into flight operations and became an air traffic controller at Brize Norton.

In 2007, Lara left the RAF and her upward career trajectory continued. She moved into operations in private aviation at Oxford Airport, becoming responsible for a fleet of aircraft and a large workforce.

It was only when Joseph was born that she took a mini career break, but even then threw herself into a new enterprise. Before joining Highworth-based Digital Trading in 2018, Lara ran a successful crafting-based enterprise.

Now Lara is loving getting to grips with a second career in technology and immersing herself in the digital world. At Digital Trading, the team focus on software solutions that can save time and effort within a company, as well as lead to increased business growth and sales – something that greatly appeals to Lara’s entrepreneurial spirit and business brain.

“I joined as office manager in the first instance, but I could see what great work the team here at Digital Trading do. And I knew I could help develop their client base,” she said. “I enjoy learning all about the technology world alongside understanding how an App can change the way you work. Before I joined, I had little idea of what coding meant! It shows what doors can you can open if you knock on them.”

Women’s Business Club is a national network of businesswomen. Its members are either business owners or working at a senior level within an organisation. WBC’s mission is to help women succeed in their professional lives. It does this through empowerment, support and the collective experience of the membership. 

Anyone wanting to vote for Lara can do so at https://www.womensbusiness.club/stem-award/

For more information about Lara’s career at Digital Trading – based in Highworth – visit https://digitaltrading.co.uk/.

Also on the topic of STEM see this post about Scoosh.

STEM with Scoosh

STEM with Scoosh

Worried about Swindon’s Future?

As a parent is that how you feel? I certainly did when, fifteen years ago, and a prospective parent, I moved to Swindon. Back then the view of Swindon around the UK wasn’t what you’d call favourable. Indeed – some might argue it still isn’t. And that, at length, is how STEM with Scoosh came into being.

STEM with scoosh - Jan Watson who is Scoosh


Doing my bit to improve Swindon, its future and life for its residents is the motivation behind my business, Scoosh. Helping our children to love STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) opens up opportunities for them. And that in turn benefits Swindon. 

Of course, STEM is not a new thing – though it went by other names. It’s not new to Swindon for sure. Indeed, one might argue, that Swindon, home of the great GWR Works, where Spitfires were built in the war. Then later came Garrard Record decks and the car industry is the home of STEM. Yet there remains a huge STEM skills gap. And within the take-up of STEM-based careers, fewer girls than boys. As this article from the Swindon Advertiser points out: of the science and engineering apprenticeships available to Swindon’s young people, only seven per cent of girls took up STEM-based apprenticeships in 2017/2018. This is a lamentable figure to me – both as a parent and as a one-time software engineer.

The article goes on to state that, across England, the apprenticeship split as a whole, is an even one between men and women. But female representation in STEM subjects remains low. In Swindon, 1,240 STEM apprenticeships were started over the last five years – but a mere ninety were taken up by women. That’s according to data from the Department of Education.

You’re a parent – What does this mean to you?

We can work together to close that gap.

It’s my firm belief that the earlier we get started the better. Sharing books and stories with even the youngest children stimulates their imagination. What’s more it improves speech and literacy – this is scientifically proven. Other things you can do – and Scoosh are here to help:

  • Throughout childhood, expose them to exciting demonstrations and hands-on projects. Both at home and school. 
  • Play engaging maths games such as Monopoly and T T Rockstars.
  • Watch awesome scientists like Professor Brian Cox and Tim Peake.
  • Make YouTube playlists combining music with science. Check out the ASAP Science channel.
  • Celebrate going to the moon with space toys and a telescope.
  • Encourage, mentor, sponsor less well-off children.

Scoosh STEM Clubs

The clubs run by Scoosh involve the kids getting hands-on with STEM. Such as: 

  • Using their imagination to build a bridge purely out of paper and masking tape!
  • Cementing their science knowledge in a practical way by making slime. 
  • Enjoying using maths to solve puzzles.

During the 65+ club sessions run so far, kids have really engaged with the practical and free-form nature of completing projects using their imagination. I give them an end goal and set them to the task. This gives them the opportunity to brainstorm with their friends and I am there to assist if they find it tricky.

This balloon car project which you can see in the YouTube clip below is a sample of Scoosh activities:

Scoosh is here to help you get your kids engaged with STEM. We’re all about sharing fun and STEM projects with children. We do workshops, after-school clubs and 1:1 tutoring. There’s  more information here on our website about all of that. 

We work too with educators to provide stimulating environments for STEM learning. 

STEM with scoosh testimonial

Where to find Scoosh

On Facebook here. You can contact them via their webform here.

Or telephone: 07462 598448

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