March: This month we meet…

This month we focus on Acumen Accountants & Advisors, headed up by Director, Ross Murray. For over 30 years, Acumen has been providing accountancy support to SMEs across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Now one of the region’s leading financial firms, their 36–strong team serves over 1,200 customers across Scotland and the UK from their office in Aberdeen. 

  • Tell us about your PR and marketing strategy? 

Through a combination of email marketing campaigns, social media and web content, we balance an emphasis on our existing client base with our efforts to reach new clients across Aberdeen and throughout Scotland. Refreshing our website has meant re-thinking our brand’s tone of voice, and the resulting copy is sharper, more concise and hopefully more accessible to our target audiences. 

  • Why do you invest in PR and marketing? 

To maintain a fresh social media presence, keep our website up-to-date, and stay in touch with our existing clients – keeping clients updated on tax compliance and finance regulations is a key part of what we do. Having a PR team on hand is also crucial for being able to quickly share our news – Instinct can turn around a high quality press release within tight timescales and share it in all the right places. Together we can discuss different types of content, topics and story ideas, and prepare blogs and social media posts in advance. 

  • What are the key benefits? What has worked well? 

Round-Up, our quarterly newsletter to clients, has been well received, and is a great way of providing reminders of key dates and helpful finance tips, as well as our latest news and a focus on one of our team each quarter – a suggestion by Instinct to help show the human side of our company. We pride ourselves on being a friendly and approachable team – accountancy can be perceived as a pretty dry subject, so we’re always keen to maximise opportunities to highlight our staff as interesting people as well as expert accountants! Our social media posts have been a key part of this – we held a desk-decorating competition in the run-up to Christmas and shared the fun and creativity across our channels.  

  • Where are your marketing efforts currently focused? 

We are focusing on updating our website and forging a strong presence on social media, by sharing regular updates, articles, staff successes and industry insights. Our blog posts are a priority area, and key to establishing Acumen as a thought leader in our field. 

  • Where will you be focusing your marketing efforts in the next few months? 

Alongside our social media and website, we’ll continue to use email marketing as a way of staying front-of-mind and upselling to existing clients, and potentially reaching new ones as well. Working with Instinct, we’re also hoping to leverage advances in AI technology to generate content such as quiz questions, to help people find out if they’re eligible for lower tax contributions. Updating our website for SEO with regular news posts and the right keywords is another priority, to make it as easy as possible for new clients to find us. And we’ll be getting out and networking in person – face to face interactions are hard to beat when it comes to forging new business partnerships. 

Why your website isn’t working for you

We’ve all been there. Whether starting from scratch or refreshing a tired brand, once our website is ready and live, we sit back, satisfied, pleased with a job well done. That’ll transform the business, we tell ourselves. It’ll be top of the search engine rankings in next to no time. Sales will go through the roof. 

In reality of course, it doesn’t work that way. Aside from all the work you have to do in making sure your potential customers even find your site in the first place, let’s look at a few reasons why the site itself may be letting you down.  

We judge websites using several criteria including copy, design, quality and how easy it is to use. If something is off, we not only won’t take the desired action, we probably won’t return to the site – a whopping 61% of us according to Google. Read on for a few common pitfalls: 

No calls to action 

So someone has found your landing page and read a few lines of the copy. But they won’t stick around without a reason – giving visitors a clear idea of what you want them to do, a Call To Action (CTA), is essential to keep them on your site. So be direct. Tell them to ‘Subscribe Now’ if you want more email newsletter subscribers or ‘Add to Basket’ if you want them to buy something. Place the call at or near the top of the page. Spread CTAs throughout your site – and make it easy for them to contact you, whether that’s a call, email, message or form. 

Confusing navigation 

Don’t let a wacky design ruin your customer’s experience on your website! Visitors expect to be able to find their way around easily so keep your site layout and design simple, and offer a solution to their problems.  

Too much or too little content 

Our online attention spans are short. You only have a few seconds to make a good first impression and convert a visitor into a customer. If the copy doesn’t resonate with them, either in tone or content, they won’t feel like it was aimed at them. Vague details, typos and bad grammar make an even worse impression, so consider investing in a copywriter to keep your visitor focused and engaged, rather than distracted or put off by spelling mistakes and a lack of clarity. 

Describe your product or service as the answer to a common problem faced by your prospects. Reflect your target market’s tone, style, interests, behaviors and be as technical or as laidback in your language as they are. Proofread and edit your work before publishing, or hire someone to do it for you. When content resonates with people, they feel more engaged with the brand and are more likely to want to learn more. 

Not optimised for mobile 

Mobile and tablet browsing account for 54% of the market share of internet traffic in the UK, so a responsive mobile site is critical. If your customers end up accessing a desktop site from a mobile device it’s game over. Make sure your website is optimised for all devices so you don’t lose customers to competitors with more user-friendly sites. 

 Take a long hard look at your website. It needs to stand out from the 200 million active sites online these days. Does it represent your brand in the best possible way? If not, it might benefit from some of our recommended quick fixes. Or it might be time for a website re-design. Either way it’ll need ongoing TLC to keep it current. At Instinct Marketing + PR we have years of experience crafting compelling copy for client websites—and we’ll do the same for you! Contact us today to find out how we can help. 

Debbie Rennie and Diana Muzzall

Instinct launches free marketing workshops

We’re sharing the marketing love this spring with a series of free monthly workshops designed to give small businesses some of the tools to raise their profile and reach new audiences.

“As the number of small businesses and start-ups continues to grow in Scotland, so too does the demand for support with business marketing,” says Instinct’s Managing Director, Debbie Rennie. “But marketing is often poorly understood, seen as excessively time-consuming or even an unnecessary expense – and de-prioritised as a result. With our monthly, lunchtime workshops we aim to de-bunk these ideas, and give business owners some of the skills to increase their visibility, while highlighting the results that can be achieved with a little investment.

“Topics will range from video marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to copywriting and marketing planning, and will be delivered in association with guest speakers from the industry. We’re delighted to be kicking off the workshops with a session on video marketing, hosted by Diana Muzzall, owner of Video Marketing Confidence.”

Diana has been helping small businesses capture attention with engaging video content for over two decades, with a focus on helping clients become more confident on camera. “I’m biased of course, but video marketing really is your best marketing tool – when it’s done well,” she explains. “In this workshop I’ll help people who don’t think they have the time, budget or know-how to recognise and ultimately harness the power of video marketing for the benefit of their business.”

Open to all, the monthly lunchtime workshops will be held in the Banchory Business Centre’s main meeting room at 12pm on Thursday 16th March, Wednesday 19th April and Wednesday 17th May.

A light lunch will be included and sessions are available on a first come first served basis only, so early booking is advised: Register here or contact our team for more information.

“Whether you’re a brand new start-up or have been running your own business for years, there will be something for everyone in these sessions,” continues Debbie. “You’ll pick up new knowledge and skills – and of course the opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs.”

What will AI mean for marketing? The future is…better!

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making headlines in the world of marketing recently, and it’s easy to see why. With the ability to analyse and understand large amounts of data quickly and accurately, AI could revolutionise the way businesses reach and engage with their customers.

One of the key ways it’s being used in marketing is through the creation of chatbots. These are automated programmes that can communicate with customers in real-time, providing assistance and answering questions. They’re particularly useful for handling customer inquiries and support requests, as they can work 24/7 and handle multiple conversations at once. Chatbots can be programmed to understand and respond to natural language, making them even more user-friendly.

AI is also being used to optimise digital marketing campaigns. By analysing data on customer demographics, behaviour and preferences, AI can help to target ads to the right audience and improve their effectiveness. This leads to a better return on investment (ROI) for businesses, as they’re better placed to reach the right people with the right message. With still more data, AI can provide personalised recommendations that are likely to be interesting to individual customers. This is particularly useful for e-commerce businesses, where it can drive up sales and boost customer loyalty.

AI is used in a variety of other marketing applications, such as email marketing, social media marketing and content creation. It can analyse customer data to create targeted mass email campaigns or generate social media posts that are more likely to be popular with specific audiences.

AI has the potential to greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our marketing efforts. By quickly and accurately analysing and interpreting data and automating certain tasks, businesses can save time and resources, and better engage with their customers. There are doubtless some challenges to overcome, such as concerns around privacy and the potential for job loss – but according to a report published by Dell Technologies and authored by the Institute For The Future (IFTF) and 20 technology, academic and business experts from across the globe, 85% of the jobs that exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet! Either way, the use of AI in marketing is here to stay – and we should welcome it for its potential to improve customer relations, speed up and automate decisions, and provide a clearer picture of ROIs.

Is AI a positive marketing tool or a potential problem – what do you think? Share your thoughts with us below!

Financial crash paved way for north-east marketing and PR firm

Managing Director, Debbie Rennie, in support of The Federation of Small Businesses, responds to small business key questions with a focus on the company’s journey and the costs impacting supply chain and customers.

How and why did you start in business?

Following the financial crash of 2008 I was made redundant from my marketing role at a recruitment agency.

I was newly married, had no children and so thought “what the heck, let’s try going this alone”.

In July 2009 I became a freelance marketing and communications specialist. By 2015 it made sense to merge my business with my dad’s, so I became part of Innes Associates, which we then rebranded as Instinct Marketing + PR in 2021.

How did you get to where you are today?

Through a lot of hard work, determination, grit, belief and courage. I read Atomic Habits by James Clear, who shares his revolutionary system to get 1% better every day.

He highlights how tiny changes create “remarkable results” and this has definitely helped me.

Family, particularly my husband, and friends have been hugely supportive.

I’ve also received incredible support from clients, suppliers, employees and business connections.

In addition, I’ve worked with some fabulous mentors and coaches, without whom the rocky times would have been a lot rockier.

And I’ve had huge support from the Federation of Small Businesses and other organisations over the years. I appreciate the opportunities they offer to meet and connect with fellow business people.What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Two things that stand out are “your kids don’t stay young for long so cherish the time you have with them” and “you can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you respond and that’s what makes a difference”.

What is your biggest mistake?

I think I’ve made many mistakes, don’t we all?  But, ultimately, that’s a good thing because mistakes help us to become better versions of ourselves. I believe we learn more from them than from our successes.

Personally, I wish I hadn’t let my lack of confidence and self-belief hold me back for so long.

What is your greatest achievement?

Beyond having my kids, I think remaining resilient in business, facing challenges with a positive mindset and helping run the business my dad started into its 20th year of trading this year.

How are you managing rapidly rising costs and how could the government help?

We’re keeping close control of costs within the business, but we’re lucky because rising energy costs aren’t impacting us directly.

But other increasing costs are having an impact on our supply chain and customer base.

Support for micro-businesses with the potential to grow would be welcomed in terms of access to funding.

And also support with recruitment and resourcing to drive productivity and growth.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I’m passionate about running a business that not only cares about the success of our clients and our people, but also the wellbeing of the communities we live and work in, and the health of our planet.

We’re determined to make a positive impact on the world. I hope we can do that to the best of our abilities, while also becoming a certified B Corp.

What do you do to relax?

Out of work, you’ll mostly find me spending time with my family, preferably outdoors.

I go strength training at the gym with my sister, and enjoy walking or running – depending on my mood.

I like to spend time on my own when I need to reset and recharge, sometimes just curling up in a quiet, cosy corner and reading a book is the ideal retreat.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I enjoy reading business, performance and autobiography books. Most recently, I finished reading Pig Wrestling by Pete Lindsay and Mark Bawden, and before that The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, both of which I loved.

Podcasts such as Diary of a CEO are my go-to when commuting or walking, but when I’m running there’s nothing better than turning up the music and just letting go.

What do you waste your money on?

My husband would probably say clothes. I’ve become a bit of a Vinted fanatic – both for the reuse and recycling benefits, as well as the bargains (Vinted is an online marketplace for buying, selling and exchanging new or secondhand items, mainly clothing and accessories).

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Usually, I hug my five-year-old and once up the priority is to give him breakfast, as he’s always starving and not very patient.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I drive a Nissan Qashqai, which I’ve owned for about a year.  Before having kids I owned a Mini, which I loved so might get another one.

I’d also love to have a campervan/motorhome so we could enjoy travelling more.


February: This month we meet…

This month we focus on Bon Accord Training Limited, headed up by Director, Carol Gray. Established in 1986, this multi-accredited firm delivers skills and safety training in mechanical handling equipment  to thousands of customers from a wide variety of sectors throughout Scotland.  

  • Tell us about your PR and marketing strategy? 

Through a combination of press releases, social media posts and our new website, our PR and marketing efforts help to position Bon Accord Training Limited as the go-to provider for mechanical handling equipment skills and safety training across Aberdeenshire, and further afield in Scotland. 

  • Why do you invest in PR and marketing? 

We’re fortunate to secure a lot of repeat business and work via recommendations from happy customers, but in a competitive market, it’s critical we maintain our market share through a consistent presence on social media and by being regularly visible in local and regional media. The team at Instinct Marketing and PR helps us do both these things. 

  • What are the key benefits? What has worked well? 

With Instinct’s help we recently refreshed our web copy, with a focus on clarifying our tone of voice and sharpening up our messaging and language. The resulting site is much more accessible without losing any of the key information – it would have been a struggle without them. 

  • Where are your marketing efforts currently focused? 

Instinct has just submitted our Award entry for the Federation of Small Businesses Awards, so we’ll look forward to hearing how we get on there. In the meantime we have a few key business news items to share so we’ll be focusing on the press release and social media work involved in that. 

  • Where will you be focusing your marketing efforts in the next few months? 

We’ll be continuing to undertake some prospecting in the coming months, with the help of a new brochure that the Instinct team has put together for us, as well as a Bon Accord Training branded free gift. This time of year is often a review period for many businesses, and we’re keen to be front of mind for both existing and potential clients. 

What’s in store for 2023: a low-down on the latest marketing trends

Is there a better month than January to plan your marketing? We don’t think so! Here at Instinct HQ, we’ve been busy looking ahead and have found a few key trends that look set to dominate the marketing landscape in the coming year. 

  • It is personal 

Personalisation is on the rise, and as consumers become more tech-savvy and demand more tailored experiences, we marketers will need to find ways to deliver personalised content, recommendations and offers at scale. This could involve using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyse customer data and deliver personalised messages, or using chatbots and other interactive tools to engage with customers in real-time. 

  • Video content 

From live streams to explainer videos and vlogs, video has long been recognised as an effective way to engage and connect with audiences. As a growing number of people consume content on their phones and other mobile devices, it’s vital that any video content is optimised for these platforms. The use of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) in marketing is also expected to grow, as the technology becomes more accessible and affordable. 

  • Social is here to stay 

Social media will remain a key component of the marketing mix in 2023. While platforms like Facebook and Instagram still dominate, newer platforms like TikTok are growing in popularity and offer new opportunities to reach and engage with audiences. In addition, the use of micro-influencers (influencers with smaller, more niche followings) is expected to grow, as they tend to provide more targeted and authentic engagement than traditional influencers. 

  • Content is still king 

As more brands compete for attention, high-quality, valuable content that stands out will be more important than ever. Using data and research to inform content strategy, and experimenting with new formats like podcasts or interactive content will become the norm. 

  • The value in values 

Consumers are looking for brands that align with their core beliefs and are increasingly making a stand on social and environmental issues, so sustainability and value-driven marketing will continue to take centre stage. Brands that can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility will have a competitive advantage. 

2023 will be an exciting year for marketing – and as the pace of change in the industry grows, so too will the need for savvy marketing and PR strategies that incorporate all the latest trends. 

Keen to cut through the noise and share your product or service with the world? Promotion is in our nature! Get in touch to find out how we can help. 

January: This month we meet…

Happy New Year folks and a warm welcome to our new blog series for 2023, ‘This Month We Meet…’ where each month we quiz one of our clients on their PR & Marketing strategies. First up this year we focus on Grace May People, headed up by Director, Sasha Jaypalan

Sasha Jaypalan, Director of specialist IT recruitment firm, Grace May People, talks candidates through the interview process


Established in 2015, this award-winning IT recruitment firm puts the human factor first to provide an alternative approach to mainstream recruitment.

· Tell us about your PR and marketing strategy?

With a consistent focus on our website and social media, but with some additional scope for awards entries and press releases, our marketing is aimed at raising our profile and boosting our exposure in and around Aberdeen, and across Scotland.

· Why do you invest in PR and marketing?

We couldn’t maintain a high profile within our key audiences without it! We’re in the business of people and our values are at the core of what we do. Being recognised as personable and communicative is key to that, and our marketing is a means of highlighting – across a wide range of channels – not just what we do, but who we are and how we do it.

· What are the key benefits? What has worked well?

With Instinct’s help this year we’ve grown our followers on social media. Winning the ‘Best UK-wide IT and digital recruitment services’ in the Scottish Enterprise Awards last year was a real milestone – Instinct partnered with us and walked us through the whole process from start to finish. Their team has been great in this area.

· Where are your marketing efforts currently focused?

We continue to grow our client base and social media remains a key driver for that – our goal is to be the preferred IT and Executive Search company for our select niche clients and candidates in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. We’ve grown the business organically through recommendations, which has been wonderful. Instinct Marketing has helped us to tell and share the story of how we work. As a business we all love what we do, and it’s such a privilege to help the companies and candidates we work with.

· Where will you be focusing your marketing efforts in the next few months?

We’re keen to continue what we’re currently doing. We’ll be publishing plenty of engaging articles for our blog alongside creative social media posts and grabbing any opportunity to get back out there and network in person again, and really drive the business forward. Our role is to problem-solve for our clients and candidates. Recently more than ever, the workforce has experienced so much change, and we can provide guidance on how to navigate this ever-changing landscape.

Do people still read blogs?

Clients often ask us if having a blog is worthwhile. The short answer is, yes. Absolutely. 72% of online marketers described content creation as the most effective SEO tactic, in other words, the number of visitors to their website increased. Blogs were recorded as the 5th most reliable source for gathering online information. Still questioning the benefits of blogs?  


The Internet has radically transformed how your customers receive the latest information. It’s become non-negotiable for businesses to be present and consistent via social media. How often have you searched up a brand on Instagram or Facebook to find out more before committing to a purchase? It can be tough for brands to keep on top of current trends in marketing, but simplicity is usually key.  

Before creating an effective marketing strategy find out how your website is performing. Where does your traffic come from? Which keywords are ranked the highest? What web pages performed the best? Is your site mobile-friendly? According to HubSpot, the number of unique mobile internet users stood at 4.66 billion in 2021.   

Key words or phrases are what users type into a search engine such as Google to find the sites that best match their search. Those keywords tell us how many users are searching for a specific term, and how much competition there is for a given keyword. 

How often do you update your website’s content? Not that often, right? Blogging is more than a means of attracting new traffic, it can build a community of readers who visit your site regularly. So, each new post is an opportunity to rank higher in organic search, generate new leads, and drive long-term results. 

But what type of content to post?  

One of the first steps is to find out what type of content aligns with search intent. Tools like ‘Google Keyword Planner’ and SEMrush offer powerful and versatile ways to identify which keywords reach the right audience, fit the type of content, and drive the most traffic. Do a quick search on Google for your target keyword, and analyse what pages rank the highest, as well as the kind of content that’s produced. 

What are the long-term benefits of blogging?  

Blogging can be time-consuming, but don’t underestimate it as a worthwhile component of your marketing strategy. While you may not see immediate results, over time, you’ll have built up a loyal audience base of leads and traffic for your business with limited additional investment. Blogs are also a way to share company news, updates, or events, that can be easily highlighted on social media. And remember, people buy from people: so, use blogging to share your personality with your existing and potential customers. 

Using carefully considered marketing and communications strategies, Instinct will help you communicate with your existing and potential customers to grow your business. From brand awareness, media relations and email marketing to copywriting and social content creation, our experienced team can provide the support you need. Get in touch to find out how we can help. 

Marketing in an economic turndown: stay the course

 As the cost of living crisis dampens consumer spend, marketing budgets across the country are likely to feel the squeeze. With a forecast for economic headwinds, companies will, rightly so, be looking at where they can reduce costs.  Marketing is often the first casualty. But studies have shown that such a knee-jerk reaction tends not to be the best approach for the long term success of a business and can do more harm than good.  Rather a considered reflection on where budgets can be better spent and to focus on how you can get more with less, marketing more efficiently.  
Digging a little deeper we can see why. 

  • Play the long game

Marketing budgets are often first for the chop when times are tight because their benefits are generally realised in the long rather than short term. So while a decrease on marketing spend may seem like a good plan, it doesn’t bode well for the longevity of your brand or your communication with customers, without which, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant to them. Your brand awareness will drop, and with it, your search engine ranking and brand loyalty. Instead, use the opportunity to review and revise your marketing spend – it’s a time to tune into customers and the impact the downturn is having on their buying behaviour, and adapt your communication accordingly. View marketing as an investment, not a cost. 

  • Exploit the quiet

If you’re considering scaling back your marketing efforts, you can bet your competitors are having similar thoughts – and many of them will have already made cutbacks, leaving plenty of room for you to fill the void and take the lead on attracting any customers they’ve left behind. People still spend money during a recession, and fewer competitors to choose from spells good news for your business. 

  • Focus on the clear winners

While marketing your well-loved, tried and tested products and services should certainly continue in a precarious economy, a time of reduced competition is ideal for bringing your brightest and best ideas into the spotlight too. Economic challenges can drive innovation, as entrepreneurs focus on how to do more with less, and a well-structured marketing budget should accommodate new as well as existing offerings. 

  • Seize the attention of a captive online audience 

With lower disposable income, people go out less, so the number of people accessing online content increases – good news for digital advertisers. Although a significant portion of your audience may not be buying now, it’s a chance to connect with key audiences, and build a relationship that will last a lot longer than the downturn. 

  • Adapt and thrive

Marketing during a financial crisis will always be challenging – not least because it goes against our instincts. Consumer spending changes drastically in difficult economic circumstances – and the most successful marketing changes in response, shifting messages and channels, re-packaging and reinventing value propositions.  Past recessions have shown us that companies who bolster their marketing efforts, rather than reduce them, are better placed to survive the slump, and come out stronger on the other side.  

This is a time not to stop spending money on marketing, but to change how you spend it, with a view to boosting efficiencies and maximising ROI. From researching customers and re-working a past success to creating compelling offers and price-sensitive portfolios, use this time as an opportunity to be there for new customers and maintain the loyalty of existing ones.