Things to Consider When Hiring A Media Agency

Deciding that you want to hire the services of media agency may well be one of the best decisions you could make for your business.  However, choosing a particular agency should not be a decision that you make lightly.  There are some important things that you should consider that will help you choose the best media agency that will work best for and with you.

Participation In Social Media

Given that social media is one of the most powerful forms of marketing and that most media agencies will undoubtedly have a social media strategy, it is important that the agency you choose to work with actually is active in social media themselves.  This can easily be found out either by browsing the agency’s website or running a quick check for their name through Twitter and Facebook.  You’d be surprised at the number of companies that claim to be media and social media experts that do not have active accounts on these types of sites.

Portfolio/References

Although most media agencies won’t be able to tell you everything about whom and what they have worked on, they should be able to show you some examples.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a client who has given them permission or a former client, ask to see some work that they have done in the past and ask about how successful those particular projects were, as this will give you an indication of the standard of work that they produce.

Education

Because things like social media are changing, it is important that media agencies stay on top of their game and keep learning about new trends.  Although there is no official and formal school or course that agencies can learn about what is current and what is not, they should be staying up to date with trends and doing lots of reading, watching and learning to fine tune their services.

Do They Understand Quality Over Quantity

The point of this is a competent media agency should know that having 15,000 likes on Facebook and 20,000 Twitter followers is not much use to a business, unless there is actual interaction between a company and its followers.  You should be wary of agencies that offer large numbers in a short length of time.  It takes time and effort to build up a fan base of followers.

Content

It is a well-known fact that good content is king when it comes to things like social media.  It is important that you hire an agency that has individuals who are good at creating interesting content that will draw your followers in and want to interact with your company.  With regards to content, you should also ask to see some examples of content they have generated for previous clients, which they should be able to do without giving away who or what it was for.  It is also essential that they know the rules of content creation on the various websites and social media platforms, as they are all different from each other.

On trend: the fleece

fleece

Believe it or not, the humble fleece has shot to the top of the list of must-have fashion items. Rather than being the go-to piece for those in search of practical work-wear, its popularity seems to have risen in line with the explosion in Scandinavian-inspired clothing.

Simple, functional and from the same family as the jumper, the fleece is making its comeback as a must-have staple for any wardrobe. The real trick to pulling off this look is knowing how and when to wear it and in this article, we look at the role of the fleece in a modern and fresh wardrobe.

The benefits of wearing a fleece

Perfect for getting you through the temperamental British weather, the fleece is an excellent transitional piece. Seeing as UK winters now take up most of the year, its useful to have an item that you can dress up or dress down whatever the weather.

Although you wouldn’t want to wear it out in a downpour, the fleece is nonetheless a surprisingly versatile choice which can be teamed with dark jeans and plimsolls in the daytime and smart trousers and brogues during the evening.

The range of choice

As the fleece is now a key trend piece, there are a huge variety of different styles to choose from to suit all price brackets. Many designers have put their own spin on the piece so there’s something suitable for all needs.

Check out this Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s men’s fleece collection for high street style at a snip.

Putting together an outfit

Since modern fleece styles boast modern and clean silhouettes, they avoid the reputation for being over casual or even scruffy. With these newer designs, the fleece is an intermediary piece that is perfect to take you from running errands to enjoying dinner. No longer heavy and bulky, the fleece strikes a sophisticated note that once seemed impossible.

The fleece can be worn similarly to the much beloved chunky knit jumper. Whether you want a jumper style fleece or one with a zipper along the front, the general rule is always to pick a style that complements your body type.

The ideal partner for jeans, trousers or any kind of bottoms, the fleece is an essential piece when creating a smart-casual look. As fleeces no longer rely solely on texture but also on pattern, you can also experiment with colour combinations and statement dressing for an up-to-the-minute look.

Queen Of Comedy Miranda Hart Heads Out On The Road

Miranda Hart Heading To A Town Near You

Miranda Katherine Hart Dyke or Miranda Hart as she is better known has become something of a household name as an actress, comedienne and writer.  Her big break came when she starred as the accident prone cleaner Barbara in Lee Mack’s sitcom Not Going Out, which eventually led to her own semi-biographical radio show and the TV version that followed.

Initially she played a small part in Not Going Out as an acupuncturist, but the story goes that she impressed the producers with her performance that they wrote her into the show as a regular.  Thus Barbara the cleaner was born.  She stayed with the show until 2009 when after the success of her radio show called Miranda’s Joke Shop; she was commissioned by the BBC to make a TV version.  Before Miranda though, she also appeared alongside Kevin Eldon and Nick Frost in the offbeat sci-fi situation comedy Hyperdrive as Teal. During her time on that show she received a British Comedy Award nomination for the part.

As well as her bigger roles in Not Going Out, Miranda and Hyperdrive she also appeared in a plethora of British comedy shows in smaller parts such as My Family And Other Animals, French & Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous, Lead Balloon, William And Mary, The Vicar Of Dibley and Smack The Pony.

Miranda though is probably the role that most people know her for, a series that bears her name, is written by her and is loosely based on her life.  The comedy also stars Sarah Hadland, Sally Phillips, James Holmes, Patricia Hodge and Tom Ellis and has been described as being “old fashioned” as it is a lot “cleaner” than modern comedy shows and relies heavily on Miranda’s own penchant for physical, slapstick humour.  There has so far been three series of Miranda and there have been talks about making a film to follow on from the cliff-hanger ending of the last episode.

She has also had success starring in the prime time BBC drama Call The Midwife, in which she plays Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley Browne, also known by the nickname “Chummy” Most recently she played the role of the mother in the David Walliams novel adaption for the BBC, Gangsta Granny which aired during the Christmas season.

Ms Hart has also branched out and released her first semi-autobiographical book entitled Is It Just Me? In October 2012 and now she is set to tour the UK on her first stand-up tour.  Although she has appeared on stage as part of sketch comedy tropes and other forms of performance this will be the first time she has toured a stand-up comedy tour.  The tour is called the “The What I Call” Tour and if you live in London you can get Miranda Hart tickets at the o2 online or at the box office.  The tour will be calling at a number of different cities and towns up and down the country, but London will see the most nights and is likely to be one of the highlights of the tour.

Although there is not a lot of information about what the tour will include, you can apparently expect “galloping, attempts at song and dance, and simply – such fun!”

 

A Solution For Low Water Pressure

water

If you are experiencing problems with low water pressure in your home, this could be caused by a number of different things.  In the following article we will not only identify some of the common issues involved in low water pressure, but also discuss ways that you can correct this problem and improve the level of water pressure in your house.

Analyse What Could Be Causing Low Water Pressure

Although most low water pressure problems are caused by and related to pipes that are clogged.  However, if you have recently had clogged pipes replaced then you will need to dig a little deeper to find the root of the problem.  Start with the most obvious things first and ensure that the shutoff valves that are nearest to your water meter are fully opened.  This may sound very simple and basic, but plumbers will also charge you cost of a callout, even if the solution is just turning a valve.  Once you have checked the shutoff valves, now check the water pressure.  It is a good idea if your home is connected to the main water supply for your city that you phone the water department and ask them for a water pressure reading.  The ideal water pressure should be something in region of 45 to 55 psi.

If you would prefer not to call the water department, you could use a pressure gauge to test the levels.  These can be picked up relatively easily from most good DIY and homeware stores.  Simply, connect the gauge to a water spigot inside your home and then turn the water on.  You will get an instant reading on the gauge.  If the pressure level is low, it may be that your city is delivering water at a low pressure level.  If you feel that your city’s water department are not going to increase the water pressure level, you may have to increase the pressure with a booster pump.

A booster pump can be used to increase your home’s water pressure levels.  They are relatively simple to use and are normally very easy to adjust as they have a dial on the top of them that allows you to set the pressure level.  Ideally, remember, you will want your home’s water pressure to be in the region of 45 to 55 psi.

However, if your home’s water pressure reading was fine, the problem could be that there are pipes that are much smaller than they should be or there is something obstructing the water flow in the pipes.  It is recommended that unless you are a qualified plumber, you should hire an expert to help evaluate and analyse your system to see what the next course of action should be.  Obviously,  when hiring a plumber you should shop around and as well as getting quotes before deciding to hire a particular tradesman, you should also look for reviews and testimonials of previous customers who have had experiences of their services.

5 Steps to a Secure Home

Safety at home is a priority for almost every family. Parents have to be vigilant against threats both outside and inside the house. Neighborhood predators and street violence in the community couple with online bullies and hackers to put family security at risk.

But with the proper precautions both inside and outside, you can help keep your family safe. Here are five safeguards for your home.

1. Bright Lighting

Keeping both interiors and exteriors well lit can help to deter criminals from making your house a target. Of course energy conservation is a priority, so invest in solar lights to keep walkways and steps around your home visible at night. Other areas to focus on both inside and outside include:

•Stairs

•Foyers

•Doorways

•Porches

2. Lock Down the Fort

Conducting a routine check of your door bolts and window locks is always a good idea. Ensure that things are working well and are tamper proof. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, “Locks are a significant part of a comprehensive strategy for protecting your home, your loved ones, and your possessions.” They also point out that “not all locks are created equally.” The highest security locks are strong enough to sustain drilling, prying, pulling, wrenching or kicking, and they have keys which are protected against unauthorized duplication by utility patents.

3. Home Security

In this day and age, many homeowners invest in a home security and surveillance system. House security systems will protect against burglary with an alarm system. And today, many are connected to your wireless device so that you can check in on everything at home even when you are out. You can find out more about the top security systems here.

4. Inside Safety

Aside from potential burglars and predators outside the home, there are many disasters which can happen inside as well. Make sure to check your smoke detectors and replace batteries regularly. Also keep an eye on your stove to protect against lethal gas leaks.

When young children live at home, be sure to plug all your electrical outlets with safe plastic caps. Fire danger is also a hazard with lots cords and power strips. Don’t leave chargers plugged in when not in use, keep charging laptops away from sheets and blankets that might ignite if the computer became to hot.

5. You vs. the Worldwide Web

Perhaps the biggest threat to you and your family is online with a global network of hackers and predators vying for your personal information. Software solutions like Safe Eyes or NetNanny can protect families from explicit content which they might run into on the internet. Other practical tips include keeping the children’s computer in the living room where parents can supervise the screen easily and using non-administrative accounts for kids which will limit what they are able to do. Finally, make sure to educate your family members about why it is important to be cautious online and how to be safe.

With these five steps, your family will be able to sleep soundly at night and be safe at home.

Image from www.homesecuritysystemsales.com

4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Problems With Damp In Your Home

Although you may be tempted to put off fixing that little leak you just noticed in your home, the dampness caused by it could not only cause damage to your house but it could cause problems with your health.  If you are not sure of the full implications that living in damp home can have on your health, read the following article to find out 4 reasons why you should invest in damp proofing products before it gets worse.

Bacteria

There is nothing bacteria love more than moisture.  After all, it is bacteria’s preferred breeding ground.  It doesn’t matter how many different anti-bacterial cleaning products you buy, if you have a damp house you will already have bacteria.  Colonies of bacteria thrive on damp organic matter like floorboards and wall boards.

Pests

The Director of the Industrial Hygiene Program at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University, Dr Breysse stated that when there is a high level of water damage, there is a higher level of cockroach, mouse and other allergens.  These should be of particular concern to you if you have children who suffer from asthma.  Mouse and cockroach waste is known to be a trigger for asthma and these kinds of pests love damp areas.

Dust Mites

If you are aware that you have an allergy to dust mites you will already be familiar with many of the symptoms of this allergy including itchy eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, other respiratory problems and even some asthmatic symptoms.  It is estimated that dust mites prosper in places where the temperature is around the 80 degrees F mark, and where the humidity measures above 60%.  In order to stop dust mite growth you need to keep your house below 50% humidity.  Air conditioning is the most successful way of creating a healthier environment for people who suffer from dust mite allergies, as it dehumidifies and cools the air.

Mould

It really is no secret that people get sick from working and living in damp areas.  Regardless of what it is that makes them sick, it relates back to mould.  With mould, the visible signs and smell is the main indicator.  It is thought that mould could be responsible for allergic reactions as well as many respiratory illnesses.  However, it is still unclear whether illness is caused by mould or whether mould is just simply an indicator that you have problems with dampness.

Most people try to find quick fix solutions to dampness; however there is no way to remove it overnight.  Whenever you see mould growing, you need to both eliminate the source of the excess moisture and remove the wet material.  The best way is to prevent dampness by avoiding condensation.   You should, if possible, invest in a venting system for your kitchen, tumble dryer and bathroom.  If this is not possible, you should open windows until steam disappears and if you notice a water intrusion or leak, fix the problem as soon as possible and remove all wet materials.  There are other damp proofing products that you can find online that will help you in the fight against unwanted moisture.

How to Find the Right Doctor for Your Family

For parents everywhere, finding a good, trustworthy physician who is family-friendly is not a simple task. But it is important to have a good family doctor to provide the right care and assistance and be familiar with your family’s medical history. And in emergency situations, having a trustworthy doctor to call brings peace of mind. Here is a list of tips to follow when trying to find the right doctor to fit your family.

Network First

A great place to begin the search is with your network of connections. Ask family, friends, social media acquaintances, and other contacts if they can recommend, or advise against, a particular family physician. Local friends may have insight into finding the best doctors in the area who can provide both care and professionalism.

Credentials Count

When first visiting a medical office, don’t be afraid to ask about the doctor’s credentials because these are probably a fair barometer of the physician’s training and performance.  While going to a prestigious medical school is well and good, what matters most is where the doctor did their residency.

A residency is where physicians practice before setting up their own office or practice. In the residency program, new doctors are being trained under credentialed doctors who will affect their clinical style far more than their schooling will. When searching for the right doctor, look for one who is affiliated with a respectable hospital and who has passed their board certifications. This information should be accessible on any insurance provider’s website.

Scrutinize the Office

After you have asked for a referral and done some homework on the doctor, it is time to meet in person. When first visiting the office, consider the way patients are being treated, how the receptionist treats everyone, and if the staff seems helpful and respectful. If everyone is being treated kindly, chances are they are running a reputable office.

Research has shown that patients who are uncomfortable with their doctors have poorer health than those who see empathetic, supportive and involved physicians. So feeling comfortable with the office and its staff is a big part of determining whether or not to come back for a return visit.

Good Questions

The first visit is a perfect time to come prepared with great questions for the doctor, nurses and other staff members you might meet. Apart from surveying how they treat patients, ask them plenty of questions and leave no stone unturned. When making the appointment, provide a few details about the reason behind the visit, namely, to find a good doctor for your family. This way the proper amount of time can be allotted for the appointment.

Being the first visit, the doctor will also have many questions mostly about family health history. Be ready to provide your information. You might even be able to fill out paperwork and a questionnaire ahead of time. Once at the office, do not be shy. Share health concerns, symptoms, and relevant health history so that the doctor is fully aware of what is going on.

After sharing about your history, here are some questions to ask the doctor:

•If their credentials were not readily available online, ask about where they went to school, who they studied under, and why they chose medicine and family practice as a career.

•Ask how to reach the doctor if there is an emergency or a question, and ask how long it normally takes them to respond. Also, ask if the doctor personally answers questions or concerns, or if they have a nurse or other staff member do it.

When looking for a family-friendly physician, be prepared to ask questions. A doctor should be there to support your family’s health, so it is important that you feel confident about who is treating them.

Image from www.sheknows.com

Top Tips for Booking Your Family Holiday on a Budget

If you’re penny pinching like the rest of us in 2014 then it may be difficult to imagine a holiday this year. However, if the kids can’t stop going on about the summer holidays already, and you’re dreaming of some time to relax, then perhaps a holiday wouldn’t be a bad idea. Let’s have a look at some top money saving tips for family holidays and decide then whether going away may be more affordable than you thought.

Image by Philip Taylor

Savings

First up, let’s see how much we have in savings. Don’t worry if it’s nothing, as we have exactly the same in our own savings accounts! What you need to do is start up a money box, or a vacation fund jar. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; an old pasta sauce jar will do nicely. Simply slice a hole in the top big enough to drop coins in. Now let the whole family know that any change they have from shopping, or found down the side of the sofa cushions, has to go in there. Of course, a jar full of coppers isn’t going to get you far, but it will put you into a holiday savings mood. Sacrifice a few little luxuries a month and put your own money in the jar, in the form of notes. Just a little bit here and there will soon add up to an impressive holiday fund.

Destinations

Whilst your vacation fund is filling up nicely, it’s time to look at your destination options. Where is cheap, easy to get to and going to be fun for the whole family? There will be some obvious ones to cross off the list (sorry kids, not Florida this year) which should leave you with a few options to pick from. Have a look at prices for flights and accommodation, to see which looks the most cost effective. If they’re all around the same price then put the destinations into a hat and ask the children to pick one out. That way they get to make the choice themselves!

Travel

The next thing you need to do is book your travel, which is best done as far in advance as possible. Depending on where you live, and where you’re going, the cheapest option will probably be by plane. Try to book a flight at least 3-4 months in advance to get the best deal on flights. The same applies to most forms of transport, including coaches, buses and trains. The earlier you book them, the cheaper they will be.

Accommodation

So, you know where you’re going, when you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Next up, where are you going to stay? Hotels can vary a lot in price, so it’s best to have a good look around. For example hotels in Dublin with Venere may be a lot cheaper than the same hotel booked directly. Find out who offers the best deals and whether there are any coupons available, to help bring the cost down even more. Not everywhere will have deals on, but it’s always worth ringing up a specific hotel and asking, if you can’t find anything online.

By the time you’ve booked your flights and accommodation, your holiday fund should have added up nicely. Most places will let you book now and pay later, giving you a little bit of extra time to add those extra dollars to the pot.

Unexpected college expenses

college

When your teenager receives their letter of acceptance into a university, you’re undoubtedly filled with pride and excitement as you join your child in rejoicing. However, as the thrill of it all begins to fade, the financial fear may begin to creep into your mind. In order to best prepare yourself and your child for the costly road ahead, it’s best to set aside a budget. Tuition, textbooks and room and board are the obvious expenses at the start of a semester, but the true cost of college is than just the educational materials. Here are some of the other expenses that many parents tend to forget about when looking ahead.

Even before your child is enrolled, there are significant costs. Parents wanting their children to have the best chance of getting into top schools typically enroll them in SAT prep courses.These instructor-led courses, which are above and beyond any test prep offered by the child’s high school, can vary widely in cost from $75 on the low end, to upwards of $1,000+. For example, a popular course offered by Princeton Review, “SAT Classroom”, is an 18-hour course and costs about $600. Beyond test payments there are also the college application fees, typically $25-50, as well as various costs associated with campus visits.  These costs are largely dependent on the distance that must be traveled, and the amount of time needed.  Some research has found that the average family spends approximately $3,500 in these pre-college costs alone.

Once an acceptance letter has been extended and the decision has been made, the additional costs continue to pile one. Just to get your child on the campus can cost $20 in gas or up to $1,000 for a plane ticket.When your child arrives at their college, they will want to furnish their on-campus home with all the basics, which can be a fairly expensive process. Since dorm beds typically run bigger than normal twin beds, your child will need specialized linens, sheets and comforters. Instead of relying on big box stores or the university bookstore, consider buying from companies that specialize in dorm bedding (such as OCM) so you can be sure your kid is sleeping on the appropriate sheets and you won’t pay more than you need to. Other basic dorm room accoutrements such as a mini-refrigerator, microwave, television, DVD player and stereo can cost between $300 and $600.Assuming your newly minted college student will be rooming with a stranger, suggest that the two of them email one another to determine who will bring what; after all, there’s no need for two cleaners. Toiletries may cost an additional $50, and a safe assumption for laundry costs is about $10 per week. Most students will also want to keep an ample supply of snacks in their room, as they may not be able to depend on the dining hall being open during off hours or late at night when they are studying for exams.

Outside of the dorm room, your child is going to need more than basic college supplies. Gone are the days of needing just a few pencils, a notebook, and a planner, asmodern university studentsshould have a laptop and printer to work on papers and projects. Depending on their major, many courses require additional items. For example if your child is studying art courses, they will need additional supplies that won’t be given by the university. As a business major, financial calculators are commonly mandatory in economics and accounting courses. Specified programs or course websites are consistently becoming more popular among professors. These additional costs are often mandatory and can cost up to $100 per class.

Of course, it is likely that your child is going to want to do more than go to class. Socializing at parties, events, and trips are all part of the college experience. Not only is this a way to meet new people and make friends, blowing off steam does wonders for a student’s mental health. However, little by little, these excursions will add up quick. One way some parents plan for these additional costs is by giving their child a set monthly budget for additional or fun items. This not only gives the parents a consistent dollar amount they can budget for, it also instills a sense of responsibility in their child. Another way to encourage accountability is to encourage him or her to get a part-time job, and offer to match every dollar earned.

Education can get expensive, and as seen by the additional costs above,includes much more than room and board.  It is important to set a budget and do your best to stick to it.  Extra costs will always sneak up, but try to roll with the punches and share in this exciting time for your young scholar!

Top five computer games to look out for in 2014

donkey kong

If you love nothing more than point-and-click adventure games, post-apocalyptic thrillers or first-person puzzlers, you’re in luck. With avid gamers and information sites like Wow247 talking about the most anticipated releases of 2014, it’s clear there’s much to look forward to over the coming months – but which games are exciting people the most?

Here are five titles that are causing quite a stir:

Watch Dogs

Its release date has been pushed back once before, but the brand new action-adventure game from Ubisoft should finally land on the shelves in spring. That’s right, having been polished up and fine-tuned, gamers can expect a bold, innovative and highly-original concept which centres around Aiden Pearce, a-talented hacker-spy who can manipulate Chicago’s communication systems to his advantage and not only tap residents’ phones but short-cut machinery and cause traffic collisions too. A single-player game with a multi-player twist, you’ll also be able to hack into the games of others and steal their data for special Watch Dog bonuses. Genius!

Titanfall

Having won over 60 awards at its E3 2013 reveal, Titanfall is easily one of the most anticipated games of 2014. A Microsoft exclusive, first-player shooter game with incredible graphics, futuristic weapons and gigantic mechanised Titan walkers that you can hijack, this game looks certain to offer hours of adrenalin-fuelled fun for even the most experienced gamer. Set on a derelict and war-torn planet, Respawn Entertainment’s debut game is an online multi-player only adventure which allows up to 12 human players (six against six) to go head-to-head on a battlefield and uses Microsoft’s cloud services to make the graphical experience quite spectacular.

Game of Thrones

If you couldn’t get enough of the hugely popular, Emmy Award-winning American fantasy series, Game of Thrones, prepare yourself for a video game adaptation of the hit show later this year. Yes, Telltale Games has officially teamed up with HBO Global Licensing to create an interactive, episodic game series designed for home consoles, PC/Macs and mobile devices. The creators have kept their lips fairly sealed, but Game of Thrones is thought to be a character-driven series reliant on juicy story lines and intriguing plots – so watch this space!

Metal Gear Solid V

It might be one of the most famous franchises of all time, but Metal Gear Solid is about to get a brand new lease of life thanks to the upcoming action-adventure stealth video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Produced by Hideo Kojima, the new release will follow on from events that occurred in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker but will feature a new day and night cycle that runs in real-time – cool huh? Players will not only be able to go on a host of night excursions but can also develop their weapons from their home base, which can be easily accessed via a smartphone!

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Online only multi-player games might be popular these days, but Nintendo have reminded us what it’s like to play against someone else in the same room with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Thanks to this brand new side-scrolling release, you can go head-to-head with friends and relatives as you battle your way back to an ice-covered home land – frozen by rather evil-looking Vikings. There’s plenty of adventure to be had both on dry land and underwater, so find a play pal and have fun with some of Nintendo’s much-loved characters including Donkey, Diddy, Dixie and Cranky.
2014 is sure to be an exciting year for gaming fanatics so keep a look out for these five thrilling releases and many more!

This article was written by freelance writer and mother of three, Kathryn Thompson.  Follow her on Twitter: @katht35