Want to get your message across? Write then.

What’s the worst thing a professional writer wants to see on his laptop?

Answer: a blank screen.

It’s true. If you’re a writer – either a pro, or a business person who needs to communicate with someone else – and you have a  blank screen in front of you, that’s not good.

‘But I can’t think what to write’ you say. Nonsense – just do exactly that: write. Get something down. Don’t be daunted by that white display in front of you on your laptop or computer monitor. You mustn’t let it get to you. Beat it – just write something.

Don’t worry about style. And you can even let a few spelling or grammatical errors go (for now). You’ll correct all that later. The important thing to do at this moment is to get your draft words, your initial thoughts, the bones of your message, down on that screen.

Because you will edit later. That’s when you will improve, correct and hone. That’s when the outline will begin to take shape and start to form into the powerful message, order, instruction, verse or chapter that you were looking to produce.

So first… just write.

You’ll be amazed how things start to drop into place once you have that first draft up (or down) and running. Writing things down helps us to develop and order those thoughts and emotions that our brain finds so easy to hold and bounce around at lightning speed. Layer upon layer of thinking and deliberation can be processed and decided upon at a remarkable rate inside the old noggin, but there’s no order to it.

Putting things in writing help us to find the way to communicate our wishes clearly and concisely. It’s a wonderful tool to have in your armoury, and becoming a good, strong writer puts you in an excellent position in the business world.

People start to understand what you want from them. What you want to achieve, and how you are going to do it – with their help if necessary. And that leads to respect and admiration from friends, colleagues and peers.

But that all comes later. Perhaps when you’ve had some training or coaching in business writing and communicating.

For now, allow yourself some bad writing, some poor spelling and a few inverted sentences if you wish.

The most important thing right now, is to get started. Write on…

See more like this on: www.businesswritingacademy.com

Saving money by driving less? Carry on with that, even when you’re behind the wheel

Driving less than you did? Most people are, mainly because Covid restrictions are keeping them at home more than before. And if you’re one of those, you have probably noticed a change in your monthly motoring expenses, as your fuel bill reduces with every untaken journey.


But prices at the pumps have actually risen recently, which makes it all the more important to think about fuel economy when you do have to hit the road for your key worker commute or to make an essential journey to the supermarket.


Petrol prices have crept back up to their highest levels since they first dropped following last March’s lockdown, according to car insurer Ageas Insurance. Their figures reveal that by the end of January, petrol prices had risen to 118.1p per litre – up nearly 3p compared with the price at the beginning of the month – while diesel rose to 122.7p per litre.


If your car takes £60 to fill (that’s the average), and you do this once a week, you’ll be spending a whopping £3,000 a year. With many road journeys now on ice (and not because of the cold weather), motorists will certainly be seeing the financial benefits of staying indoors and working from home. However, the way you drive when you do venture out, and the condition of your car play a huge role on the amount of fuel you use, and any unnecessary costs can add up over time.


All the more reason to consider your driving habits and see if there’s anything you can do to help your car run more efficiently, to save you fuel and money. Driving carefully and considerately also helps to reduce strain on the car and its components, avoiding possible unnecessary repair bills.


These 10 top tips, compiled with the help of Ageas, could assist you in upping your petrol or diesel economy and going further on each tank of fuel:


  1. Lose some weight

The heavier your car, the harder it has to work to speed up or slow down. So take out any weighty items that you don’t really need.


  1. Don’t be a drag

Your car will have to work harder against unnecessary wind resistance. So remove roof boxes or bike racks if you’re not using them.


  1. Windows up

Driving with windows open also increases aerodynamic drag, so you have to put your foot down further to compensate. No worries, you have air conditioning? Unfortunately this also uses fuel to operate.


  1. Up the maintenance

Take the time to keep your car well maintained. Crucially for fuel-efficient driving, this includes keeping your tyre pressures correct to reduce resistance.


  1. Switch up a gear

Change to a higher gear as soon as it’s possible and safe to do. It’s also a quieter and more relaxing drive like this.


  1. Read the road ahead

Look ahead and anticipate obstacles, slowing vehicles or changes in gradient. That way, you can ease off the throttle gently rather than slamming your foot on the brakes.


  1. Back off

Your fuel costs will increase the faster you drive, so keep speed reasonable, get into a high gear as soon as you can and drive smoothly.


  1. Accelerate gently

There’s no need to race anyone away from the lights, or to blast through the gearbox like you’re on a rally. The harder you accelerate the more fuel you will burn through.


  1. Steady as you go

Keeping a comfortable, steady speed could mean using cruise control. But this feature only aids fuel economy when driving on a constant flat surface. And keep a wary look out ahead – you’re ultimately in control of the vehicle.


  1. Don’t go neutral

For most modern cars putting it in neutral when coasting downhill or up to a red light can actually waste fuel. While coasting, your engine is idling and still putting fuel into the motor. Approach obstacles steadily and use lower gears for engine braking to help save your brake pads as well as your fuel.

See more features like this on: thecarexpert.co.uk

Own a car? Drive and enjoy! But don’t do these 10 things in it

You’ve bought a car. It’s yours to use and enjoy, and where you go is entirely up to you. But think about what you do in it.

Cars are very personal things – more than just a means of getting from A to B. They become part of us, part of the family, and a big part of life.

Get inside, shut the doors and you’re in your own private domain. Warm, dry and ready to go. That’s why cars are, for most people, the second most expensive purchase they’ll ever make after their house, and certainly something they would never want to be without.

That makes it important to look after your car. A car is for driving. So drive it, enjoy it and use it for the purpose that it was designed, and not for a whole host of other reasons.

Here’s a list of 10 top things you should never do in your car, and why. Are you guilty of any of them? Chances are at least one of these is on your list – and now’s the time to put a stop to it:

  1. Eating while driving

While it’s not illegal to eat while in control of a car, if you get distracted as ketchup falls from your quarter pounder onto your lap or you burn your hand on a hot cup of coffee, the police might take a dim view of your carelessness. Popping a sweet or small snack into your mouth while on the move is probably ok, but avoid the three-course meal.

  1. Eating while stationary

It’s a similar story to eating and driving, except for a different reason. Certainly it’s safer but, tuck into a large takeaway while in the driving seat and you will almost certainly drop some of it on the floor. At the very least, you’ll brush your trousers or skirt down when you’ve finished and spread hundreds of crumbs onto the carpets. Research from insurance company Ageas revealed that the bacteria bacillus cereus, one of the most common causes of food poisoning, lives in cars.

  1. Using it as a cupboard

Because the tailgate locks with the rest of the car, many drivers confuse the boot as a spare cupboard. But they really shouldn’t. Every extra item stored inside the car adds weight and with that comes poorer fuel economy and extra wear on the car’s suspension and tyres. If there’s too much stored in a hatchback or estate car’s rear space, it can block visibility and becomes a moving hazard in an accident or emergency stop. Anything on view is also an invitation to thieves.

  1. Playing loud music

We’ve all pulled up at traffic lights to be treated to someone else’s musical tastes whether we want it or not. Not everyone appreciates ear-splitting heavy rock or booming reggae, and some police forces agree – many have considered treating loud music in a car as anti-social behaviour. From a safety point of view, scientists have found that it can be distracting to drive with your speakers on fire, and it could also be dangerous if you can’t hear, for example, an ambulance approaching behind you.

  1. Picking your nose (or anything else)

The research from Ageas showed that cars’ interiors, including their steering wheels, can become home to more than 3,826 units of bacteria per square inch, which is 19 times more than a toilet seat. The most common bacteria lurking in our motors was pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause a skin rash, ear and eye infections, and even respiratory problems.

  1. Smoking

As with eating while driving, it’s not specifically illegal to smoke while behind the wheel. But similarly, if you have an accident, and lighting or smoking the cigarette was found to be the cause of distraction, you could end up with a charge of careless driving. You certainly should not smoke in a car carrying anyone under the age of 18 – that’s against the law. Meanwhile, it’s hardly going to increase your car’s value or enjoyment of travelling in it, if the upholstery and carpets smell like an ashtray.

  1. Shaving or applying make-up

Safety group RoSPA describes a distraction as ‘paying attention to a second activity while driving’. That second activity can mean the driver is less likely to see or anticipate hazards and therefore increases the risk of an accident. Using an electric shaver or putting on makeup while driving would certainly qualify as a distraction and you shouldn’t do either on the move. Both also leave behind human particles which can collect and multiply as bacteria.

  1. Driving with a loose pet

It’s not only a cause of great distraction if you have the pet dog loose in your car, but it would also be highly dangerous if you were in an accident with an unrestrained animal sat behind you. And if the dog was loose on the front seat when the airbag went off, there’s no telling where Rover would end up. Best to buckle up the pooch on the back seat with a genuine pet harness. That way everyone has a safe and comfortable ride.

  1. Using your phone while driving

It’s not only illegal to use a phone (or satnav) while driving, it’s against the law to even hold one. There have been several high profile cases reported where cell phone users have caused road accidents, and the police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because of the phone. Don’t forget that you can’t even use your mobile when you’re stopped at traffic lights, waiting in a traffic queue or supervising a learner driver. Make sure you’re hands-free at all times.

  1. Drinking and driving

There’s not much to add to this one and you shouldn’t be driving if you need reminding: don’t drink and drive. It’s simple – if you are going to drink, don’t drive, and if you are planning to drive, don’t drink.

See more features like this on: thecarexpert.co.uk



Time well spent

So, here’s blog number two then. When I started this new journey down Blog Street a couple of weeks ago, I planned that I would maybe write one a month, time permitting. I thought I should be able squeeze something in between my normal copywriting and event work.

But in the space of less than a fortnight that spare time that I was hoping for has suddenly and unwantedly presented itself big-time. By the bucket-load.

All my events have been cancelled, many of my copywriting jobs are now on hold, and I have been unable to meet with the friends, colleagues and potential clients that I’d got penned into the diary. Oh yes… spare time is a-plenty.

Now I’m not, for one minute, going to start moaning or griping about my situation because I know I’m not alone. There are millions of self-employed people in this country in the same situation as me. And even for people who have a full-time job, the chances are they will have had hours cut, shifts cancelled or places of work put on lockdown. All we can do now – all of us – is hold our nerve, sit tight and wait for this thing to pass.

It’s going to be a tough ride, but it won’t all be doom and gloom. From a personal viewpoint, I still have some, limited copywriting in the diary. I have a road test report to write. The garden is getting a spring make-over and the shed has been painted. My paperwork and filing is up to date. I’m working on improving my website. I have registered for the Royal Voluntary Service to help the NHS through these difficult days, and I’m doing the shopping for an 82-year-old man who is worried about leaving his house.

From a broader standpoint, I’m cheered by what I am seeing and hearing. Walking around a much-quieter Co-op collecting my octogenarian friend’s ready meals, oranges and ice cream, I notice all around me other people doing the same. You can see from their shopping baskets that not everything they have there is for them. They are helping others. People nod and smile as they pass, two metres apart. Raising their eyebrows to the sky they ask: “How are you?” and add: “Strange old time isn’t it?”

They’re pleased to see others walking on a near-deserted High Street. They queue politely, waiting to be let in to the chemist’s, which only allows two in at a time. Walkers wave at cyclists, cyclists wave at motorists. Delivery drivers put a parcel on your doorstep, ring your bell and stand back and wait until you’ve answered to make sure you’ve got it.

Restaurants are cooking up spare food that would otherwise go off, and sending it to hospitals or care homes. Corporations are offering to help people who are worried about bills and mortgages. People are being nice to each other. They’re ringing the lonely and helping the old. They are embracing this temporary new way of life and want to help. We’re all pulling together. It’s so heartening. This must be what it was like during the War, with everyone fighting a crisis together and, in many ways, enjoying doing it.

There’s no such thing as great people – just ordinary people doing great things. And I have seen so many great things recently that I’m looking forward even more to the future. To the time when this is all over and people will remember how nice it was when we were all helping each other.

So I’m not worried about my career at the moment. I’m worried about my friends’ and family’s wellbeing. I’m not concerned about less money. I’m concerned about seeing less of my grandchildren during lockdown.

I don’t care about not finding any loo rolls in the shops. I do care about beating this horrible virus, and doing my part to achieve that.

Suddenly things have taken on a different importance. Things will change, I’m sure of it. It’s not going to be about who’s the best or the most successful any more. It’s going to be about appreciating the good things we already have.

Because people are learning that even though success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.


in Blog | 742 Words

How did it come to this?

Back in 2007 a well-known motoring journalist from a top-selling magazine emailed me to say: “M’dear chap, you do seem to be able to flit between journalism and public relations with quite some aplomb. How do you do it?”

I had just been appointed PR Manager of Fiat UK in time for the launch of the popular 500 city car, having previously headed up the Jeep PR department – with two separate stints in between as a journalist on a big UK car magazine and a national newspaper – so, as well as a kind and generous observation, it was possibly a fair point.

To be fair, I’ve been asking myself the same question for pretty much my entire career. And I guess it all comes down to giving journalists what they want. When you’re a reporter or feature writer, you must give your editor what he or she wants, and on time too. When you’re a PR executive, you’re still giving editors what they want – or at least what their writers want. Get all that right and you’re a long way down the road to a successful career.

This is my first blog on johnstonmedia.com so let me introduce myself if we haven’t met. I’m Tom Johnston, a freelance writer, editor and event manager. I write my own stuff, check and amend other peoples’, offer thoughts and guidance on PR campaigns and help out at shows and exhibitions. It’s an enjoyable occupation – largely brought about by redundancy – and, having built up my experience in this world we call media (meeja darling, meeja…), I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Over the last 30 years or so I’ve been called a journalist, a reporter, sub-editor, desk editor, copywriter, public relations manager… you name it – I’ve been called it (and it hasn’t always been complimentary). I’m even trying to get novelist and playwright tacked on in there somewhere, if I can just get a literary agent to take me and my stories seriously.

I started my career as a young reporter on the Southend Evening Echo and, after five years, made the big move to London to become the first ever reporter of a (then) new car magazine called Auto Express. I became News Editor, Assistant Editor and even Associate Editor, and discovered that having a business card like that from a big, nationwide title made me almost respectable. It certainly gave me access to some of the world’s newest and most exciting cars, allowed me an insight behind the scenes at famous car factories and headquarters, and offered me the opportunity to drive on hundreds of beautiful roads, 4×4 tracks, rally stages and motor racing circuits around the globe.

A job switch to the Chrysler Corporation, the US brand responsible for Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and, following a merger, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Abarth, similarly allowed me to take my passport and fly off into the sunset hosting groups of car, lifestyle and travel journalists on international press events. The corporate life was good. It’s not unlike being a journalist in many respects: there are still deadlines to make, stories to write and interviews to organise (usually for other people though, not yourself), and aside from the growing mass of red tape and form signing you get in a corporation, being the UK’s PR Manager of Jeep, for example, was an interesting and rewarding job.

So when it all came to an end last year and the axe fell (it had been hovering for a while), I decided I would do everything I could to stay as part of the media circus. Not solely as a journalist and not solely as a PR man. But as a freelance mixture of the two.

Was it a good decision? I think so. I’ll never be complacent because you don’t know what’s around the corner, but I am keeping busy, earning a living and enjoying myself. I was certainly hoping that, as a self-employed little person in a big, unforgiving wide world, I could continue to “flit between journalism and public relations” as my writer friend told me I was doing all those years earlier.

Only time will tell, but I plan to be here for the long run so, please, come back and visit me on these web pages from time to time. And if I can help you with some copy, a bit of editing or as a spare pair of hands at an event, you know where to find me. I’ll be flitting about somewhere…

in Blog | 771 Words