PBN new committee unveils exciting programme of speakers

A dynamic new committee in charge of Perthshire Businesswomen’s Network (PBN) has announced an exciting programme of speakers and events planned for the rest of the year.

Jane Rennie of The Extraordinary Training Company has stayed on as President, with Tricia Fox, CEO of Perth based marketing agency Volpa stepping into the role of Vice President.

The full committee is made up from fellow local businesswomen and PBN members Georgina Coleman, director of Established Events, Claire McFarlane, owner of The Grampian Hotel, Caroline Mackintosh, senior solicitor at Macnabs, Donna Bednarek, fundraising manager at Clic Sargent, Rebecca Ellwood, solicitor at Macnabs and Olivia Robertson, director of The Home Straight.

Jane Rennie, President of Perthshire Businesswomen’s Network commented:

“The committee has worked tirelessly over the last few years to reshape the network for modern businesswomen. We have a range of events on offer at different times of the day and different days of the week, and we’re balancing that with online networking activities too.

“We have an incredibly inspiring line of businesswomen to speak at our events this year which includes Kirsty Lunn, co-founder of multicoloured bra manufacturer, Karen Reid, CEO of Perth & Kinross Council and Catriona MacInnes, Editor of The Courier and Scotland’s only female newspaper editor.”

She added: “It’s a great opportunity for members and guests to meet some of the women running exciting businesses on our own doorstep and to network with fellow businesswomen locally.”

Information for the series of events is available on PBN’ s website www.perthshirebusinesswomen.co.uk.E

Crieff Hydro Hotel, one of Scotland’s most popular leisure resorts, has won a clutch of four awards and two highly commended awards at this year’s Scottish Hotel Awards which recognises the very best of the hospitality industry in Scotland.

Taking place at a glittering gala dinner in Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza, Crieff Hydro led the charge with eight nominations at the prestigious awards. Over the course of the evening they scooped the prestigious Gold Laurel Award, one of only three awarded this year, in celebration of Crieff Hydro’s 150th anniversary which it celebrated in 2018. It also celebrates being crowned Scottish Family Hotel of the Year while its general manager, Kristian Campbell, took home the trophy for General Manager of the Year (Large Hotel). Singling out another person of excellence, Margaret Holleran, a beauty therapist at Crieff Hydro’s Victorian spa, was named Spa Individual of the Year.

Highly commended awards were bestowed on Hannah Hendry, from Crieff Hydro’s Banqueting Team and for the luxury self-catering lodges on the resort. 

Stephen Leckie, CEO of Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels, commented:

“This was a splendid evening and our team has really shone through. I’m truly delighted to see so many of our fantastic people being highlighted for the great work that they do and, of course, for the whole resort to be recognised as both Family Hotel of the Year and with a Gold Laurel. It’s a testimony to their commitment to excellence, and the excellent care and attention they show to our guests every day, that puts them right at the beating heart of Crieff Hydro.”

The Scottish Hotel Awards were developed to help those looking to book accommodation in Scotland by highlighting excellence and outstanding character in hotels, guest houses and other establishments. For over a decade the national scheme has annually researched the hospitality industry throughout the country, encouraging and recognising hospitality excellence, highlighting the very best to help consumers plan their next stay in an informed way.

For more information, please visit www.crieffhydro.com

The Enchanted Forest Community Trust, organisers of the multi-award-winning sound and light show in Pitlochry, has awarded a record £35,672 to over 30 worthy community projects in Highland Perthshire, an increase in awards of almost 100% on the previous year.

This is the sixth consecutive year that such a fund has been available, and the 33 good causes range from supporting Pitlochry in Bloom to support the restoration of the wildlife garden, to replacing the chanters and pipe bags of Edradour Pitlochry and Blair Atholl Pipe Band. Other notable donations include a new sound system and stage curtains for Pitlochry High School, assistance for Dunkeld’s Santa Day to pay for additional entertainers and a contribution towards transport costs for Rannoch Adult Education Association.

The Enchanted Forest Community Trust is able to offer smaller local community groups access to vital funding that they would otherwise find difficult to obtain from other funders many of whom have much higher minimum thresholds for application. With an average award value of £1080 across the 33 projects funded, Pitlochry in Bloom tops the table at £5000 this year with their wildlife garden restoration project.

Alison Walker, Trustee of The Enchanted Forest, said:

“2018’s record-breaking show saw more people visiting The Enchanted Forest than ever before. This incredible support means we are able to fund an amazing 33 exciting community events, projects and organisations. We’re delighted that our show helps makes this support possible, and visitors should feel proud that, just by visiting the Enchanted Forest, they have done their bit to give back to the community and benefit the local area.”

Over 80,000 visitors attended last year’s sold-out show Of the Wild with proceeds from the event being distributed through The Enchanted Forest Community Trust to worthy causes in the local area.

The Enchanted Forest’s impact on the local tourism economy is around £7.6 million per annum with around 52% of visitors to the 2018 event choosing to stay overnight in the area on their visit and over 93% citing the event as their main reason for visiting the area.

This year’s Enchanted Forest will run from October 3 to November 3 and tickets will go on sale to the public in June.

More information on The Enchanted Forest is available on www.enchantedforest.org.uk

One of Perthshire’s most established and best-known hotels is improving its guest experience by investing £400,000 into its dining and entertainment offering.

The Angus Hotel in Blairgowrie will upgrade its Strathmore Suite, currently the venue for their hugely popular tribute show nights, into a beautifully modern breakfast and carvery dining area which will also provide an equally stunning entertainment environment at the weekend.

The owners of the 90-bedroom hotel and leisure club have appointed award-winning Dundee architects and interior designers, Nicoll Russell Studios, to design the refurbished area, taking inspiration for the contemporary and high end feel from leading restaurant operators such as Tom’s Kitchen and Drake & Morgan.  The contract for the building work and interior fit-out has been awarded to Caledonia Contracts who are due to start work onsite in early June, with guests to the Blairgowrie institution having full use of the new area in late September when the works are scheduled to complete.

The new and improved suite, which includes an open kitchen and servery area; new bar and state of the art lighting and sound systems will also host the hotel’s much-loved tribute nights, with 2019 Christmas party guests being some of the first to experience the new facilities.

Murray Scott, owner of The Angus Hotel, commented on the investment: “I am delighted to announce this significant investment in the hotel, it’s proof that we are committed to upgrading our customer experience for everyone. The spectacular design not only offers a better dining experience for our guests, in terms of choice and environment but, additionally, means our weekend tribute entertainment and function space will also be greatly improved.’ “Each year we welcome tens of thousands of guests from all over the world who use Blairgowrie and the hotel as a base to explore Scotland’s magnificent attractions and countryside. Our new and improved facilities will offer yet another reason for visitors to choose to stay at the Angus Hotel for their stay.”

As Etape Caledonia – the UK’s original closed-roads sportive – approaches, last year’s event winner Jeremy Honour shares his experiences of the 85-mile route around Highland Perthshire and offers advice on how to approach one of the most spectacular and challenging events in cycling.

Jeremy (‘Jez’), from Buckinghamshire, has participated in Etape Caledonia every year apart from the event’s debut in 2007, so this year’s edition (on Sunday 19th May) will be his 12th outing at the popular sportive. Getting on his bike as a novice in 2008, 49-year-old Jez began with the aim of just completing the circuit. Over the years, as his fitness has improved, he’s gone from just wanting to finish to being the first over the line.

An adrenaline rush at the start

“It’s very easy to overdo it at the beginning. I’ve done it before, and many will make this mistake. Everyone tends to go off quickly in the heart of Pitlochry, filled with adrenaline and enthusiasm. However, when approaching the Queen’s View with beautiful views over Loch Tummel, the realisation hits that there’s another tough climb towards Loch Rannoch coming up. Pacing yourself and not overdoing it in the early stages is vital.”

Exhilarating on the flat

“After another tough climb towards Tummel Bridge, you arrive onto the shores of Loch Rannoch. It’s really special here. The shore line is spectacular and the route is flatter and fast-flowing. The road is quite narrow with no traffic so you can get your speed up – it’s an exhilarating experience after tackling some tough climbs. You also pass through Kinloch Rannoch where there’s a lot of local people out showing their support every year which is always lovely.”

Climbing a mountain

“The 382m ascent up Mt Schiehallion is the biggest and most demanding climb of the route. It’s quite steep at the beginning so be prepared to feel the burn there. It turns into a category 5 climb, which is greater than 500m at 3%. It’s gruelling, but once you reach the peak you come out the other side to breath-taking countryside and a longed-for descent. Other challenges can be presented at this stage depending on the weather. Over the years, I’ve seen beautiful sunshine and stormy winds which can make it tough, so it’s good to be ready for any weather condition.”

A speedy descent

“At the other side of Mt Schiehallion, the road is very fast and, as scenic as the surroundings are, requires a lot of concentration cycling at such high speeds. By this stage in the circuit, people are getting tired and less focused. Just add some difficult weather conditions into the mix and this can become very challenging. It’s important to remember that there can be varying ability levels out on the roads, so everyone needs to take even more care here.”

Stay sharp and enjoy the finish

“After heading onto the main A-road through Aberfeldy, you make a turn and start heading towards Pitlochry around the 70-mile mark. It’s quite a grippy bit of terrain at this point from a riding resistance perspective so be aware of that. There’s a sharp turn around 80-miles in, which takes you along a narrow lane into Pitlochry. It’s a nice feeling when you get here because you know you’re almost at the finish line and the adrenaline kicks in for the last push home. A well-earned beer usually follows at the event village festival!”

There are still spaces available on the 85-mile route for riders to get pedalling with Jez and take on Etape Caledonia. Charity places are also still available with Marie Curie who have been the event’s official partner for 11 years. A Team Marie Curie charity place is £59.99 registration fee (£350 minimum sponsorship). A standard 85-mile place is £79.99. Please note that the shorter 40-mile route is sold out.

Participants wishing to register for Etape Caledonia and raise money for Marie Curie should visit www.etapecaledonia.co.uk

A campaign to return a ‘Tartan Barbie’ doll to its ghostly owner at a popular Scottish visitor attraction has gone viral, attracting attention from social media fans across the globe. 

The doll and its story have been a popular feature of The Real Mary King’s Close award-winning history tour since it was left there by the Japanese psychic, Aiko Gibo in 1992. Gibo reported that she felt the spirit of a young girl while visiting one of the 17th century households within the Mary King’s Close site.

According to Aiko Gibo, the young girl, called Annie, was left to die in this building after her parents abandoned her during the plague, a common tale on the 17th century Close.  The spirit was lifted from the room when the psychic returned with a gift of the ‘Tartan Barbie’ that she bought on the Royal Mile.

Now the hunt for the doll has gone international, capturing the hearts and minds of visitors from all over the world. The post has been seen now by over 134,028 people and shared over 700 times with hundreds of people expressing their sympathy with the venue staff.

Paul Nixon, General Manager of The Real Mary King’s Close said:

“It’s not a surprise to me that we have thousands of people from all over the world getting in on the search for ‘Tartan Barbie’. Over the years many visitors have left all sorts of mementos – including several badges from Police Officers has a mark of respect – in what has become a shrine to Annie’s spirit.

As a team we are shocked at the theft of the doll and it’s especially hard for our guides who tell our stories with the utmost integrity — the story of Annie, Aiko Gibo and ‘Tartan Barbie’ have been a significant part of our history for 26 years.

It’s disappointing and incredibly frustrating that someone would take it without any thought for the meaning it has for so many. All we can do is hope that someone can help track her down and the Barbie is returned to the Close.”

Paul and the team at The Real Mary King’s Close have launched an appeal to find Tartan Barbie on social media, with a “no questions asked” policy if she makes her way home.

To find out more visit www.realmarykingsclose.com .

Glencoe’s historic Kingshouse Hotel, famous for being a welcome place for weary travellers to rest and refuel, has firmly placed its support behind a campaign from Scottish Water to help protect the environment.

The Highland hotel is supporting Scottish Water’s #TopUpFromTheTap initiative which aims to reduce the use of plastic by encouraging people to use refillable bottles. By supporting the campaign, Kingshouse, which is a popular stop-off on the West Highland Way, will offer free tap water to walkers with refillable bottles at the Way Inn so they can hydrate and be kind to the environment at the same time.

The hotel is also featuring in a special video produced by Scottish Water promoting the various locations along the West Highland Way that are supporting #TopUpFromTheTap.

Having welcomed walkers for over two centuries, the team at the Kingshouse Hotel are happy to support a campaign which is kind to the environment and encourages travellers to drink plenty of water. Craig Haddow, General Manager at Kingshouse Hotel, said:

“Kingshouse Hotel is delighted to support Scottish Water’s #TopUpFromTheTap campaign. Being environmentally friendly is very important to us and this campaign reflects our commitment to recycling and being a ‘green’ hotel. We look forward to encouraging walkers to come into the Way Inn bar to refill their bottles from our taps in in support of the initiative.”

With warm fires and an even warmer welcome, the Kingshouse Hotel has been providing comfort to travellers since the 1750s. The hotel, which is managed by Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels, recently went through a major refurbishment programme, re-opening in February 2019 with a new hotel wing. The traditional walkers’ bar, the Way Inn, is now located in the original Kingshouse Hotel building and continues to be an ideal place for walkers from the West Highland Way to recharge.

Gavin Steel from Scottish Water, said:

“We’re delighted that the Kingshouse Hotel and other businesses across Scotland are supporting our campaign and helping people to top up from the tap.”

“As users of the West Highland Way travel through some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes, it’s easier than ever for them to help take care of the environment they are enjoying by using refillable water bottles.  By keeping hydrated on their journey, they can stay safe, healthy and really get the best from our amazing outdoors.”

For more information visit www.kingshousehotel.co.uk

For further details of Scottish Water’s campaign visit www.yourwateryourlife.co.uk

Scone Palace is celebrating Easter weekend with some jolly pirates, who are descending on the crowning place of Scottish Kings for a day of capers and fun on Easter Sunday, April 21st.

The action-packed Pirate Fun Day will see the Palace turned into a Pirate’s paradise for all the family. 
Novice pirates should come dressed in their finest pirate attire for a chance to win the coveted ‘Best Dressed Shipmate’, with a cracking prize to boot. There will also be a bouncy adventure ship, a ball pool for smaller children, swashbuckling face painting and lots of pirate adventures for kids (and adults) to get involved in including an Easter Workshop. Scone Palace are also inviting visitors to bring their own painted Easter egg to roll down the famous Moot Hill.

Having opened its gates for the tourist season on April 1st, the Palace is looking forward to welcoming visitors both locally and from all over the world to the historic visitor attraction over the summer. 
Stephen Brannigan, Head of Palace and Events at Scone Palace, said:
 “We’re looking forward to welcoming our novice pirates to the Palace for a fun-filled day of mischief with our Pirate friends. There will be several Pirate themed events throughout the day for swashbuckling families to enjoy and the opportunity to upgrade their ticket to hunt for Easter Bunnies and chicks in the stately interior of the Palace.”
“At Scone Palace, we pride ourselves on offering visitors an unforgettable experience and I can’t think of a more fun and memorable way for families to spend Easter Sunday.”

Scone Palace has an exciting and diverse range of events lined up throughout the summer months for visitors of all ages to enjoy, as well as the historic Palace itself and the spectacular surrounding grounds and gardens. 
Battle is set to commence again at Scone Palace after the success of last year’s International Medieval Combat Federation (IMCF) World Championships as the Palace gets ready to host the Braveheart Scottish Axe Throwing Open on Sunday 5th May. At least 2,000 visitors are expected to descend on the Palace for the event, which will see axe-wielding competitors from the UK, Ireland and across Europe competing.
The team at Scone Palace are also getting ready for a truly paw-some event at the end of June. Paws at the Palace, organised in partnership with Dog Friendly Perthshire, will feature doggy fun and games, parades of different breeds, agility classes and some four-legged demonstrations for dogs and their owners to enjoy. The all-day event on Sunday 30th June will also include food stalls (for humans and dogs), cool-down areas, and a host of stall holders selling doggy gear and gifts.
Scone Palace’s summer season runs from Monday 1st April to Thursday 31st October 2019. During April and October, the Palace and grounds open at 10.00am, last admission at 4.00pm with the grounds closing at 5.45pm. From May to September, the Palace and grounds open at 9.30am. 
For a grounds-only admission ticket to the Pirate Fun Day, admission is: Adult £7.50, Child £6.50, Concession £5.50, Family ticket £25.00   For more information about Scone Palace visit www.scone-palace.co.uk

A campaign to find the Tartan Barbie of The Real Mary King’s Close, one of Edinburgh’s foremost visitor attractions, has been launched after its mysterious disappearance.

The doll and its story have been a popular feature of the five-star history tour since it was left there by the Japanese psychic, Aiko Gibo in 1992 after she felt the spirit of a young girl while visiting one of the remaining 17th century households within the Mary King’s Close site.

According to Aiko Gibo, the young girl, called Annie, was left to die in this building after her parents abandoned her during the plague, a common tale on the 17th century Close.  The spirit was lifted from the room when the psychic returned with a gift of the Tartan Barbie that she bought on the Royal Mile.

The story has captured the hearts and minds of visitors from all over the world who have since left all sorts of mementos – including several badges from Police Officers has a mark of respect – in what has become a shrine to Annie’s spirit.

Paul Nixon, General Manager of The Real Mary King’s Close said: “We are shocked at the theft of the doll. It’s especially hard for the guides who tell our stories with the utmost integrity — the story of Annie, Aiko Gibo and Tartan Barbie have been a significant part of our history for 26 years. It’s disappointing and incredibly frustrating that someone would take it without any thought for the meaning it has for so many. All we can do is hope that someone can help track her down and the Barbie is returned to the Close.”

Paul and the team at The Real Mary King’s Close have launched an appeal to find Tartan Barbie on social media, with a “no questions asked” policy if she makes her way home.

To find out more visit www.realmarykingsclose.com .

Ahead of 28th April, the anniversary of the death of Scottish explorer David Livingstone (1813-1873), a rare and unique African manuscript with the only handwritten eyewitness account of Livingstone’s death has been published online this week by Livingstone Online, a digital resource dedicated to the famous explorer.

Livingstone was one of the most famous explorers of Africa in his day. In 1855, he became the first European to see Victoria Falls and gave the Falls their European name. In 1871 Henry Morton Stanley, another nineteenth-century explorer, famously greeted him with the phrase, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” – a phrase that continues to be used in popular culture almost 150 years after Livingstone’s death. Livingstone died in 1873, at the age of 60 in in the village of Chitambo (present-day Chipundu, Zambia). His death brought to a close a final period of illness from fever, anal bleeding, and excruciating back pain that prevented him from walking.

The handwritten manuscript – a set of diary pages – is from Jacob Wainwright (c.1849-1892), one of the African attendants who accompanied Livingstone on his final journey in Africa and served as one of the pall-bearers during Livingstone’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. The excerpts from the manuscript, released this week as a set of images plus detailed transcriptions, consist of two diary entries that total 11 handwritten pages of text and were written in 1873 and 1874.

The discovery of the pages is the first time that any part of the diary in English and in Wainwright’s own hand has come to light in the last 150 years. Wainwright’s full diary has been known of since 1874, but only in the form of the German translation; any version of the original had been thought lost.

The publication of the diary pages has been made possible by Livingstone Online‘s new One More Voice initiative led by Professor Adrian S. Wisnicki, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who specializes in applying digital methodologies to the study of historical manuscripts. Anne Martin, an archivist and Associate Director of Livingstone Online, unearthed the previously unknown manuscript.

Professional Wisnicki commented:

“The One More Voice initiative focuses on recovering and publishing original nineteenth-century documents like Wainwright’s diary. Although original diaries by British explorers survive in relatively large numbers, those by the individuals from the non-European cultures who accompanied British explorers are exceedingly rare. Such manuscripts are even more rare when they are written in the hands of those individuals themselves, as this manuscript partly is. The diary excerpts are of exceptional importance as they offer Wainwright’s account of Livingstone’s death in 1873, the only handwritten eyewitness account of the incident.”

Jacob Wainwright was a member of the Yao ethnic group from East Africa. In the first part of his life he was captured by Arab slave traders, but won his freedom thanks to a British anti-slave ship. He was given a new name and educated at a Church Missionary Society school near Bombay (now Mumbai), India. Later, he became part of the expedition that Stanley organized to find Livingstone. Eventually, Wainwright joined Livingstone’s party as an attendant.

Wainwright composed the diary while these events were happening, thereby making this the only handwritten eyewitness account of Livingstone’s death. These events and the final manuscripts helped establish the legend of David Livingstone.

The diary manuscript comes from the David Livingstone Birthplace Museum in Blantyre, Scotland, which centers on Livingstone’s childhood home. The diary is being released while the Museum is undergoing the £6.1 million Birthplace Project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, and the Scottish Government. The diary pages will be put on prominent display as a star attraction when the renovated Museum reopens to the public in 2020.

For further information on David Livingstone and the Birthplace Project visit www.david-livingstone-trust.org

Another week goes by, and another big company ditches their entire social media strategy. Yip, I’m talking about Lush. And screed and screeds of commentary has been written about whether they are right or wrong to do this, and what the consequences might be. The digital marketing world is alarmed! How can Lush possibly communicate with their customers after doing this? What could they possibly have been thinking?

I’ll tell you what, they’re thinking about return on investment, that’s what.

Social community management is not cheap. It doesn’t just take five minutes to “put up a post”. Well, it does if you don’t really care much about your brand. But for the most part, companies treat social media channels, quite rightly, like an advertising medium for their brand. The photographs are often professionally taken (a great deal of the time), the copy in the posts carefully crafted and the timing of execution carefully planned. This takes both time and skill, and that costs money.

Increasingly, however, marketers are scrutinising the costs of managing these communities and the beauty of digital media is that you can pretty much track the impact of the channel right back to source. Or not, as the case may be.

So when I recently conducted a review of a client’s social media activity from an ROI perspective, it took me less than a ten minute conversation to convince them to close down their Twitter account once and for all, free up the investment we’d been putting into it and redirect it elsewhere to something that would actually generate them a return. It was quite a momentous occasion deleting the account. But, with the use of solid analytics, and seven years of experience of working that channel, no-one can say we didn’t give it a proper chance. It just wasn’t the channel for them. Their customers weren’t there. So, while it might be compelling to do what all their competitors were doing and “have a presence”, we took the view that It was wasting time and money trying to make it be something it couldn’t be.

And I suspect this is where Lush arrived at in their reasoning to back out of social all together. So while Oliver Tunmore in his piece in Influence magazine this week wondered, quizzically “When asked how the world will receive product information or access customer service, the replies simply state “through our website and newsletter, along with the #LushCommunity hashtag” seeming somewhat blasé in its response.”

Blasé, perhaps. But realistically, why not? Why not simplify the channel experience for customers and for the business? Cut off the fat. But, sure, let people talk about you. Which is entirely what Lush intends to do. Word of mouth is such a valuable marketing tool. All Lush is saying is that it will no longer be starting those conversations, their customers will. They are going to let #LushCommunity do all the talking instead. Much cheaper. Much better ROI.

So back to the question in hand, is it OK to ditch social media as a market engagement tool? You bet your boots it is. All marketing should deliver a return on investment, if it doesn’t it should be re-prioritised accordingly.

Which then leads me to my next bug-bear: the new generation of marketers seems to think that digital is it. They seem to have completely forgotten about the effectiveness of so-called “traditional’ channels – and there are a great many of them too. Digital isn’t the be-all and end-all. Look around, there’s media everywhere. We consume it hundreds of times a day, every day. And some of it is damned effective. Radio, television, print (don’t knock it, it still works), outdoor. Tried and tested methods of moving people along the spectrum of decision making towards purchase.

Taking your brand off social is, therefore, not the end of the world, it’s just a shift in marketing strategy. And a logical one at that if the channel is not driving any sales.

A lot can happen in a year, especially when you’re one of Scotland’s outstanding small agencies!

2018 zoomed by at great speed, and with 2019 off to an equally busy start we’ve only just caught our breath and looked back at some of our highlights of the last year. It was certainly one to remember…

We worked with 75 clients – 37 of those for the first time in 2018

2018 was our year for growth. We’re proud to work with a huge variety of clients at Volpa, from brand new start-ups to established international companies. Every client has a dedicated account manager and access to our talented in-house team of designers, content creators and digital marketing experts. While we have a core group of happy clients who have worked with us for many years and regularly recommend us to others, our reputation for award-winning integrated marketing also helped us attract a surge of new clients this year.

We sent out over 450 press releases –an average of 2 per day!

Our hard-working PR team get the coverage our clients deserve. Using their extensive network of contacts, mined from years of experience in journalism and trade magazines, they are experts in getting the most value out of a story and making sure it’s seen by the right audience. In 2018, we generated 2,591 pieces of coverage for clients in print and online and secured TV features on BBC News, BBC Breakfast and STV.

We were shortlisted for 18 awards – and took home 6 trophies including Best Small Business and Outstanding Small PR Agency

Volpa was shortlisted for a record amount of industry and business awards this year. The team love the buzz of a black-tie event! We’re proud to have added more gold and silver accolades to our shelves in the office, but we’re not just there for the sequins and sparkle. There’s a cunningly good strategy behind our entries and a lot of work that goes in to every submission. You can read about why we continually put Volpa, and our clients, forward to win awards here.

We built 10 new websites for clients – as well as managing content, SEO and reporting for existing client sites

Building and maintaining websites is just one of the responsibilities that our digital team undertake. Working in-house with our designers and copywriters means that the process is seamless for our clients and we can quickly update and promote campaign content across all digital channels. Our team are constantly looking for ways to best support all our clients. When we realised the cost of web improvements was a barrier to many of our start-ups, we launched Cunningly Good Websites – our Pay Monthly option from just £59.

We became 1 of only 4 CMS accredited agencies in Scotland –The Communications Management Standard (CMS) is the hallmark of PR excellence

We secured our position as one of Scotland’s leading independent communications agencies by achieving the Communications Management Standard (CMS), awarded by the industry’s professional body the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) for companies which demonstrate operational excellence. The industry standard benchmark, which has been achieved by only three other agencies in Scotland, is a great acknowledgement of the fact we have a well-run business and shows our absolute commitment to delivering PR excellence for our clients.

We expanded into a new city – Hello Dundee!

In line with our ambitious expansion plans, Volpa opened a new office in The Flour Mill, an exciting and dynamic new co-work and serviced office space in the heart of Dundee’s creative quarter.

With a significant amount of our clients based in Dundee and North Fife, Dundee was the natural choice for a second office. It is a fantastic time to be in Dundee, particularly with the opening of the new V&A Museum and we’re delighted to be part of the area’s business growth.

We hired 3 new team members –and gave 8 young people an opportunity to learn skills in our office

Volpa had a 30 per cent increase in staff in 2018. Eleanor Mackay joined us as social media manager, PR consultant Anna Gunn boosted our PR department and Anne Brown arrived as company accountant. All of them have brought valuable experience, different talents and expertise to the company, enabling us to provide a much-strengthened offering to our clients.

Through work experience, scholarships and graduate intern placements, we were able to offer 8 young people the opportunity to work in the office. We even helped one young man to realise his ambition to become a film-maker.

We walked 26 miles for Macmillan Cancer Support – and raised £2,258.26

Volpa has a strong ethos of giving back to the local community and each staff member is encouraged to get involved in not for profit projects. This year our team braved blisters and midgies to take part in MacMillan’s Rob Roy Mighty Hike and raise funds for cancer support. Every year Volpa also donates 300 hours, worth £20,000, of staff time and expertise on a number of voluntary projects.

We celebrated: 16 years in business, 1 wedding, 1 graduation and 1 new baby!

Since Volpa’s humble beginnings in a spare bedroom16 years ago, the company has grown into one of the largest independent agencies in Tayside. As part of the Volpa family, the team regularly celebrate personal milestones as well as business wins. This year Tricia graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses scale up course aimed at supporting and developing high growth businesses in the UK.

Phew! Well done, Team Volpa. Here’s to the next 12 months!

Interest from traders at this year’s Scottish Game Fair has been “staggering”, say the event’s organisers.

The Scottish Game Fair, which is in association with NFU Mutual, takes place at Scone Palace Parklands on July 5-7, has attracted such big names as Swarovski and The Edinburgh Watch Company. They will be part of an impressive line-up of more than 500 traders over the three-day event, which celebrates all things conservation and countryside. Whether it’s hunting, shooting, fishing or food you’re after, the Scottish Game Fair has something for everyone.

Always a big draw for visitors is the Fair’s food hall, which this year welcomes a raft of new and impressive traders, while the cookery theatre will host a number of new chefs who will be showcasing their skills in demonstrations all weekend long.

Together with exhibitors, competitions, country sports activities, a revamped main ring programme as well as a food hall and Cookery Theatre, the 31st Scottish Game Fair is shaping up to be the best yet, say its organisers.

Hugo Straker, Chairman of the Scottish Game Fair, said:

“We are delighted with the staggering response we’re getting from traders this year, all of whom share our excitement about this year’s Scottish Game Fair. I’m proud that this event improves its offering year on year, creating something that tens of thousands of visitors can enjoy.”

Proceeds from the Scottish Game Fair go to fund the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Scotland’s charitable work in Scotland to raise vital funds for wildlife conservation science.

Tickets are on sale via the website www.scottishfair.com

Nine Scottish venues are celebrating after being crowned as the country’s most responsible licensed premises in the prestigious Best Bar None National Awards.

The annual awards celebrate the nation’s bars, nightclubs and licensed premises who go the extra mile to promote responsible drinking and customer safety.

The winners are:

National Champion – Black Rose Tavern, Edinburgh

Best Pub – Molly Malones, Stirling

Best Independent Pub – Black Rose Tavern, Edinburgh

Best Bar – Carrigan’s, Hamilton

Best Independent Bar  – Rock Diner, Kilmarnock

Best Hotel Bar – The Blythswood Hotel, Glasgow

Best Nightclub – The Garage, Glasgow

Best Specialist Entertainment Venue – WG13, Kilmarnock

Heart of the Community – The Glenmavis Tavern, West Lothian

Best Newcomer – Aces Nightclub, Kilmarnock

Innovation in Social Responsibility – Black Rose Tavern, Edinburgh

Best Bar None, which runs the popular national accreditation scheme of the same name, said it had received the highest calibre of entries yet for the awards. Winners were announced at a glittering ceremony at Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro last night (March 28th).

Robert Hogg, Best Bar None National Coordinator, now operating in 58 towns and cities across Scotland, said:

“Scotland’s licensed premises have excelled at the 2019 Best Bar None Awards, which is credit to their commitment to putting customer safety first. The extremely high calibre of entries for this year’s awards proves that Scotland’s licensed trade is playing a leading role in promoting safe and responsible drinking. Well done to all our winners and finalists.”

Robin Tombs, CEO and Co-Founder of Yoti, said:

“As a sponsor of this year’s event, it’s fantastic to see so many businesses going above and beyond to promote responsible drinking and give customers a safe night out. Personal safety is something we’re committed to – Yoti gives individuals a secure way to prove their age on nights out, without having to carry around valuable ID documents, which can be easily lost or stolen. Congratulations to all of the winners who are going the extra mile to encourage customer safety.”

Brett Crabtree, Head of Business Development at alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said: 

“We congratulate all the finalists, who have shown great commitment to making their venues safe and welcoming places that encourage responsible drinking, and where vulnerable customers are supported.”

For more information on Best Bar None and information on how to become part of the scheme visit www.bbnscotland.co.uk.

Two friends from Perthshire have signed up for this year’s Etape Caledonia after falling in love with cycling and its physical and mental health benefits.

Scone residents, Lesley Sharkey, 41, and Tia Dixon, 47, who both work for the NHS, pledged to take up cycling together a few years ago in a bid to get fit after discussing their lack of exercise when picking up their children at the school gates. Now, three years later, the ladies are taking on one of the UK’s most competitive closed-roads sportives. 

Lesley, a Family Nurse Partnership Supervisor at PRI and Ninewells, was looking for a sport to help improve her fitness after enduring major back surgery to alleviate a spinal fusion. “The actual operation was nine years ago and, since then, I felt my fitness levels had dropped,” she explained. “I wanted to find something that was fairly low impact but also got me outdoors seeing the countryside. Running wasn’t really an option after my operation, so I needed something that offered enough of a cardio workout without grinding my back too much.”

Since taking up cycling Lesley has found her back to be in much better shape. She said: “It’s common for people who have had fused bones in the spine to suffer from pain post-op, but I have not had any pain. I think that is a lot to do with my improved fitness levels through cycling.”

When Tia, a Clinical & Professional Team Manager at Murray Royal Hospital, suggested cycling, they both decided to get out on the roads together. “The idea is that we keep each other motivated,” said Tia. “The first few rides were fairly short distances. I remember we cycled to Perth airport and back and were completely exhausted – and that wasn’t very far at all.”

Like Lesley, Tia wasn’t feeling particularly fit or healthy and wanted to find a form of exercise that was fun and suited her. “I think you get into your forties and to a point where you have to decide if middle age is arriving or has already arrived,” Tia added. “I’m not naturally sporty and running was becoming more difficult. Cycling is a bit kinder to your body and felt quickly like the right fit.”

Soon the friends caught the biking bug and were out cycling frequently and building up their pedal power. “It would have been easy for us to find excuses not to do it in the early days”, Tia said. “Our rides were – and still can be – very weather dependent. Gradually we started to notice our strength building and soon we were out on our bikes three or four times a week.”  

As well as the obvious physical benefits, Lesley in particular has seen how cycling can improve mental wellbeing as well. “As a wife and mum of two running a house, as well as a full-time job, it can be difficult to find time for me. It’s great being outdoors for the prolonged periods that cycling requires as it gives me time to reflect and just time for myself. Cycling has definitely given me that opportunity to have some headspace.”

Now, with just under three months until Etape Caledonia, the training has begun in earnest for the determined duo. “In the winter months, we went to spinning classes and swimming to try and keep our fitness levels up”, Tia explained. “I find spinning quite boring so I’m pleased the weather’s getting better and we can get out on the roads again and build up to the event gradually over the next few months.”

Having participated in a few cycling sportives already, including Macmillan Cycletta and the Tayside Challenge in recent years, Tia and Lesley are excited about taking their cycling to a new level. “It’s a different type of push for an event like Etape Caledonia”, Lesley added. “We’ll make sure we’re ready, but we’re looking forward to taking on the challenge and soaking up the atmosphere. There’s always a great sense of community spirit and camaraderie amongst cyclists and we’re looking forward to experiencing that at Etape Caledonia.”

The Etape Caledonia was the UK’s first and original closed-roads event when it was launched in 2007. Limelight is encouraging past participants to get back in the saddle on May 19 to pedal Perthshire on an 85-mile closed road circuit that takes in some of Scotland’s most stunning landscapes. A shorter 40-mile route option is also available.

Team Marie Curie charity places start at £24.99 for a 40 mile place (£150 minimum sponsorship); 85 mile pledge place – £59.99 registration fee, £350 minimum sponsorship; 85 mile Gold Bond option, includes premium benefits – £59.99 registration fee and £650 minimum. Participants wishing to register for Etape Caledonia and raise money for Marie Curie should visit www.etapecaledonia.co.uk

Best Bar None (BBN) Scotland, a programme promoting responsible attitudes to alcohol across the licenced trade, has appointed Perth-based marketing agency Volpa as a media partner for its annual national awards.

Best Bar None is a unique national accreditation and award scheme aimed at raising standards and rewarding licensed premises who undertake positive management practices in support of a great and safe night out. Since its launch in Scotland in 2005, the Best Bar None accreditation scheme has been established in 58 towns, cities and villages across Scotland.

Volpa has provided PR and digital communications support for Best Bar None since July 2018, promoting the scheme’s message of a safe night out and encouraging more licenced premises to take part.

This year’s glittering award ceremony takes place on March 28th at Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro. Winners in ten categories and an overall winner for Scotland will be announced.

Robert Hogg, Best Bar None National Coordinator, commented:

“We’re delighted that Volpa is providing communications support for our 2019 awards. Their marketing campaign has helped raise the profile of the great work that licensees and venues do to help make the Best Bar None scheme a success, and that’s exactly what these awards are celebrating.”  

Tricia Fox, CEO of Volpa, said:

“We’re excited to be continuing our relationship with Best Bar None by supporting this year’s awards. Our campaign work has been shining a light on what Best Bar None means to venues and their customers, by sharing some of scheme’s amazing good news stories in the press and social media. We’re looking forward to promoting the achievements of all the finalists.”

The Best Bar None Awards are sponsored by Yoti, Drinkaware, The Benevolent, Chivas and the Scottish Community Safety Network.

Crieff Hydro, the Perthshire resort celebrating its 150th year in business, has won its latest family-friendly accolade – the top rating of “three ticks” in the hit travel guide Scotland the Best.

In the new edition of the bestselling book, published next week, the award-winning Crieff Hydro is lauded as “a national institution, still a family business and a truly great family hotel that moves with the times.” In an exclusive extract from the book running in today’s Times, author Peter Irvine says: “They strike the perfect balance between relaxation and activity (of which there is a staggering range of choice). In every way they do Scotland proud.”

Crieff Hydro, now in its 150th year of business and operated by the same family which founded it, is consistently lauded as one of the U.K.’s most family-friendly resorts. These include: LateRooms.com’s Simply the Guest award for family friendly hotel; Scottish Hotel Awards’ Family Hotel of the Year; Winner, Family Hotel in The Sunday Times’ Ultimate 100 British hotels listing; and Outstanding Contribution, Herald Scottish Family Business Awards. At the end of last year, Chief Executive Officer and owner Stephen Leckie was named Thorntons Business Leader of the Year for his contributions to the tourism sector by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce.

With 215 hotel rooms and 55 self-catering units, Crieff Hydro offers 900 acres of adventures from off-road driving in an undulating quarry to its legendary free childcare.

Part of the Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels, Crieff Hydro is familiar to generations of Scots, who holidayed at the resort in their childhood and now return with their children and children’s children. Stephen Leckie said. “Scotland the Best is as much an institution now as Crieff Hydro is, so we’re truly honoured that Peter Irvine has featured us. We’re proud of the fact that for us, it all starts with family:  a family-run, family of 7 hotels in some of the best locations in Scotland. Recognition such as this helps us with our continuous investment and hopefully keeps Crieff Hydro at the top of its game for generations to come.”

Scotland the Best is published on March 21 by HarperCollins.

For more information visit www.crieffhydrofamily.com

The Enchanted Forest, Perthshire’s multi award-winning sound and light show, has confirmed today that an independent report demonstrates that the event delivers a £7.66million shot in the arm to Perthshire’s economy.

An independent report conducted by Tourism Resources Company in Glasgow, specialist economic impact consultants, was commissioned in 2018 by The Enchanted Forest Community Trust which operates the event.

The report looks at visitor behaviour and spend activity, as well as the event’s own purchasing power. It concluded that with over 80,000 visitors attending the Autumn spectacle, 52% of whom stay overnight, and a policy to use local suppliers where possible, The Enchanted Forest boosts the local economy by an incredible £7.66 million every year.  

The news has been welcomed by the organisers. Ian Sim, Trustee of The Enchanted Forest commented:

“This has surpassed even our wildest expectations of what the event brings to Highland Perthshire. We had older economic impact studies which were carried out when the event was much smaller as a baseline and, of course, we have always had anecdotal evidence that hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and cafes are busy – but we are simply amazed to learn just how much value the event brings to the local area.”

“This is really pleasing. The Enchanted Forest was originally set up to help build value for tourism businesses, providing visitor footfall during what was known as the “shoulder season” in Highland Perthshire. It used to be very quiet in Pitlochry in October – now we hear from local hotel operators that it’s their busiest month of the year.”

Just over 80,000 visitors attended the 2018 sold-out show, a 9% increase on the previous record-breaking year. International visitor numbers have jumped from around 0.97% of audience share in 2014 to 2.97% of audience share in 2018, and with more than 85% citing the event as a reason for travelling to Scotland, from a selection of 28 different countries.

The report suggests that the most popular hotels for visitors are the Fisher’s Hotel, Scotland’s Hotel and the Atholl Palace, while those eating locally are favouring Mackay’s Pub, Victoria’s and The Old Mill Inn. Not surprisingly for a family event, the most popular retailers were sweetie shops!

The growth in the profile of the event has netted it a finalist’s place in the national final of the Visit Scotland Thistle Awards for Best Cultural Event or Festival. The winners will be announced this Thursday night at a glittering black-tie ceremony in Edinburgh’s International Conference Centre.

The Enchanted Forest returns in October 2019 and tickets will go on sale to the public in June. For more information on the event, visit www.enchantedforest.org.uk

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day today, The Real Mary King’s Close, one of Scotland’s foremost visitor attractions, has released exclusive new research delving further than ever before into the fascinating lives of women in Scotland’s capital hundreds of years ago.

The research, carried out in collaboration with a teaching fellow at the University of Edinburgh, cements the Close’s relevance in Scottish history, and sets the scene for Mary King as an inspirational and pioneering woman, who broke socially constructed norms ahead of her time.

In the 17th century, at a time when women had very little status in society, and when most known females were either royalty or aristocracy, Mary King utterly disrupted this rule of convention. This shows how important Mary King’s Close is for our understanding of early modern women.

Mary King’s Close had a high number of female property owners for the time, says University of Edinburgh academic Dr Aaron Allen, who compiled the research for the award-winning visitor attraction.

The few studies that have been carried out suggest that about one in five of a town’s householders might have been women. Aaron says: “Of course there were many women in the closes and streets of Scotland’s towns, but most were under the headship of husbands, fathers or brothers. The 20 percent who headed their own independent households often faced suspicion in a society where everyone was expected to be under someone else’s authority.”

Mary King was one of them, and her Close bucked the trend. Of the four closes which make up the visitor attraction, two women owned three-quarters of the properties, while Mary King’s Close was “a haven for independent women” with 45 percent of the properties having a female head of household.

Aaron explains: “Of Mary King’s Close’s thirty-three properties, twenty-nine householders are named in the 1635 tax record. Of these twenty-nine, thirteen householders were women, or 45 percent of the Close. Mary King’s Close is one of only a few streets to reference a seventeenth-century woman. It also appears to have been somewhat of a haven for independent women. That’s more than double the expected level of female householders.”

Historians have suggested that in Mary King’s time, women generally had very little status in society and there were many restrictions on them, from selling property to making wills, and being able to take people to court. Mary King and her neighbours defied convention.

The team at The Real Mary King’s Close, would like to think that Mary would embrace International Women’s Day with passion, and have plenty to say about equality. A legacy that continues to this day with the female Chief Executive of Continuum Attractions. Leading a portfolio of nine attractions, of which The Real Mary King’s Close is one, Juliana Delaney has been recognised as both a merchant Adventurer of York and one of the top 100 women in tourism.

Commenting on this new research, Juliana said:

“Discovering the high percentage of female-led households on our Closes, gives us a platform to delve into the women who helped to create the foundations of the city we know today. Highlighting the real stories that are so often left out by history is at the core of what we do at The Real Mary King’s Close. It remains a privilege to reveal these amazing stories in such a memorable place and provide a platform for them to live on.”

To find out more visit www.realmarykingsclose.com .