Chris Owen

Written by Chris Owen

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Take a Tea Break with Our Head of Marketing

Peel back the layers of every award-winning business and you’ll discover a team working as efficiently a well-oiled machine. These companies know the value that individuals bring to the business, with each team member offering a different set of skills. One key team member of web design agency TKStarley is Head of Marketing, Ria Blagburn. Ria has been an integral part of the TKStarley team for more than two years, and was kind enough to undertake a short interview.

If you’d care to find out a little more about Ria, content writing and just who makes the most cups of tea at TKStarley, grab a brew, relax and read on.

When did you discover you had a flair for writing content?

I’ve always really enjoyed writing. I think I get it from my mum; she’s a strong writer and has a fantastic grasp of grammar and syntax. It’s something that has always come very easily to me; I excelled in essay-based subjects at school because I was good at spewing out hundreds of words without breaking a (metaphorical) sweat.

When and how did you start working for TKStarley?

I’ve been with TKStarley for nearly two and a half years now. I met Tom socially a few years ago, then moved to London. When I came back to the Midlands, I was working for another company doing SEO, and Tom got in touch to ask if I’d like to join his team. It was an exciting opportunity as I knew I’d be able to really make my mark on the content and marketing side of the business.

What has been your all time fav writing project?

I think creating the content for emble, the social events planning app that we’ve built in house, has been the most exciting project for me. As it’s something we’ve been working on for quite a while now, we’re all really committed to it – it’s like our baby! Because of that, I can really write from the heart when I’m crafting blog posts and the like. We’re currently working on a new version of emble in response to the beta testing we’ve done, so there’s exciting times ahead!

What are the TKStarley offices like to work in?

We’ve recently started working in an office again following a year of working from home, and it’s great to be back with the team. Company culture is hugely important to us; it’s important that the team get along well socially as well as professionally, so it’s a really nice atmosphere. We’re based in Innovation Birmingham, which enables us to mix with a bunch of other exciting companies – being part of the Birmingham tech community has definitely helped us develop and grow.

What’s your commute like and have you always worked in Birmingham?

I’ve just started cycling to work as we’re participating in the cycle2work scheme. It’s a 15 mile round trip, but I avoid the traffic by taking the canal. It’s a nice way to start the day (though I may not be saying that come December). This is actually my first job in Birmingham, even though I went to school in Kings Heath – I’ve also worked in Solihull, Warwickshire, London, Essex and Sheffield!

How do you take SEO into account when writing content?

SEO in 2015 looks completely different to how it did five or ten years ago, with high quality content now being the driving factor behind many companies’ optimisation strategies. This shift from the traditional keyword-focused approach has been led by Google’s quest to provide users with the best search engine results to resolve their query, and I think this can only be a good thing. When discussing SEO with new clients, it’s often an educational process, as many still think filling a page with as many keywords as possible is the best plan. I have to teach them that a huge part of SEO is creating fantastic content – if you do this, you’re ticking many of the boxes anyway. Google’s algorithms are much better at recognising quality content now, and ranking based on this – that’s not something that I see changing.

How do you manage deadlines and priorities?

I don’t think we’d get anything done without Asana; it’s the task management application we use, and it’s great for an agency like us. We’ve got so many projects going on simultaneously, all at different stages, that we’d really struggle to manage our schedules without it!

Do you listen to music or do you prefer silence?

I love listening to music, and definitely prefer to work with it in the background. As a team, we’ve all got quite different tastes, which is both a blessing and a curse! We build collaborative Spotify playlists to listen to during the day, and it’s a good opportunity to discover bands you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

Do you write in your spare time and, if so, what?
I do write in my spare time, though not as much as I’d like to (largely because I don’t have that much time to spare)! I used to have a fashion blog, and I’d love to start it up again. I’m currently also teaching myself how to code, so I’d like to use my new skills to rebuild my blog from the ground up!

What’s your most important online tool, app or social media platform?
Definitely Twitter. It’s how I consume news, and I follow a lot of interesting people, many of whom are involved in startups. I don’t use Facebook at all – I don’t even have an account on there any more!

*Do you have a favourite blogger or online content writer that you admire? *

There’s no one writer whose work I read more than others; I tend to consume content online in a bunch of different ways instead. I use Medium quite a lot and follow a number of people involved in tech/startups, and I also read a lot of stuff on Quora. In terms of company blogs, I particularly like how Buffer do things.

What’s your favourite website and why?
I visit Product Hunt most days, and I’m an active poster there. It’s a community of people who submit and upvote new and exciting or innovative products, be they apps, software, or something more physical. It’s a relatively young site, but it’s got a great deal of influence, and is now a must-have element of many startups’ launch plans.

When writing, how do you incorporate your target audience?
I think it’s really important to make sure you understand who you are writing for – both in terms of the client and the reader. We work with a really wide variety of companies, so I always aim to really get to grips with what they do. This enables me to define the ‘voice’ I’m going to use when creating content for that client, be it blog posts, website content, or social media.

Who makes the most cups of tea at TKStarley?
I’d like to say it was me, but it’s definitely Lucy. I’m probably second. We do drink a lot of tea though, so I still make a good few cups a day!

What advice would you give to newbie content writers?
If you’re into writing, web content is a great career. It’s super varied, so you’ll never be doing the same thing every day, but at the same time, you’ll be working on a bunch of different projects that may not appeal to your particular interests. Being able to get into the mindset of the company you’re creating content for is incredibly important; you need to be flexible enough to switch ‘voice’ several times a week, if not, a day.

It’s also about more than just the words – making a paragraph fit into an exact space, then creating two others to fit in identical spaces next to it is an art form Practise makes perfect though, so if you’re just starting out, use your own blog to show what you can do, and look into getting some work experience or an internship with a digital agency like TKStarley. Also: never underestimate the value of a well-placed semicolon.

Where do you see website content going in the future?
I may be biased, but I believe content is as important as design when it comes to websites, especially considering how influential it is with regards to search engine rankings. I think the best websites combine great UI, UX and content, and I believe this is becoming the industry norm. Many companies are now on their 3rd, 4th, or 5th website iteration, and as a digital agency we’re definitely seeing a move away from keyword-stuffed sites to ones that inventively incorporate high quality content.

Thanks for your time Ria – here’s to many more cups of tea at TKStarley.

More about the author: Chris Owen is a freelance copywriter specialising in digital marketing and creative content.