About me…

Josef Church-Woods
That’s me!

I live in Edinburgh and work in marketing and communications, with a special interest in creative writing, copy writing, content marketing, social media and online tools and platforms.

Born and bred in Sweden with a father from New Zealand, I spent time in both countries as a child, before we settled permanently in Sweden when I was six.

I moved to London in 1995, at the age of 18, and with the exception of a one-semester university course in Gothenburg and a few summers in my Swedish hometown, I have been in the UK ever since. Having finished my BA Hons in sociology and psychology at Westminster University, I moved to Edinburgh in 2000 to do a PgDip in journalism. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Scotland’s beautiful capital city, and I promptly decided to stay.

I share a flat in the Edinburgh city centre with my partner Barry, who works in arts management and started the awesome LGBTicons blog in 2012, which I write for regularly.

Since starting my journalism diploma, I have written a vast range of articles, features, columns, opinion pieces, news reports, news releases, promotional copy, web copy and social media content – through my work, through freelance commissions, and in my spare time.

I have written for and placed copy in a number of publications over the years, including The Scotsman, The Observed Food Magazine, The Sunday Herald, Third Force News, Scots Gay, Base Magazine, Firm Magazine, Pink News, The Skinny, Positive Nation and the Edinburgh Evening News.

I use my personal blog to post articles and columns I have written, share content I enjoy, and write about experiences I find funny or important, as well as my musings on anything and everything that grabs my attention. The entries on here reflect my personal views, thoughts and humour – not that of my employer, or anyone else. Although I can be blunt and politically incorrect at times, it is not my intention to offend anyone.

I am often self-deprecating and sometimes dark in my humour – inappropriate even – but it’s all penned with tongue firmly in cheek.

Some of the columns on this blog were originally written for, and published in, a gay lifestyle magazine aimed at adults. As such, some of them are quite explicit, discussing topics like losing your virginity, safer sex and the importance placed on size, where male private parts are concerned. Consider yourself warned.

Feel free to follow me and say hi on Twitter as well, if you want: @JosefCW

Thanks for reading!


Happily ever after…or a thousand happy endings?

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Josef Church-Woods:

My most recent guest blog for LGBTicons.com – about monogamy, or the lack thereof, in gay, male relationships. Hope you enjoy it! :)

Originally posted on lgbticons:

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a pub on a Saturday afternoon with my husband Barry and some friends – including one happily coupled gay guy, who was in town for an event. Having left his life-partner at home for the weekend, this dude made no secret of the fact that he fancied me.

Josef Church-Woods

I’m not blowing my own trumpet here (although sometimes I wish I could – wink, wink); the guy actually tried to snog me right there at the table, and when we were leaving he asked Barry if he could come with us. (Pun intended.)

As a short, overweight, ginger-ish person, it’s safe to say I don’t fit the criteria for conventional stud, and the above is by no means an everyday experience for me. That said, I’m no prude and I’ve been around for long enough to take the occasional advance by…

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Content is king…if you do it right, that is.

Content marketingContent marketing is fast becoming a crucial and central technique for many companies, with 38.5% of marketers making content their main focus in 2013 (more than twice as many as in 2012).

What is content marketing?

Content marketing, or ‘inbound marketing’, is a strategic approach where the focus is on creating interesting, useful and fun content that your customers will enjoy and engage with, rather than just pushing out conventional sales messages and promotions.

The idea is that by placing your target audiences’ needs and wants (instead of your own products and services) at the centre of your marketing efforts, providing them with content they will enjoy and find interesting, you will foster greater brand loyalty and attract more ‘hot leads’, which in turn will generate better return on investment for you.

As the Content Marketing Institute puts it: ‘Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.’

Make your content work for you, not against you.

As much as good content can reward your business with loyal customers and increased sales, creating bad or irrelevant content for the sake of ticking the ‘content marketing box’ will most likely prove a waste of time…or worse; put your customers off and possibly drive them into the open arms of your competition!

I stumbled upon a great article on The Wall’s blog by Julia Hutchison, head of content marketing at Group FMG, called ‘Where content marketers go wrong – 5 rules for brands‘ (although there are actually six ‘rules’ in the article).

I have listed a brief summary of Julia’s rules below – or you can read the whole article here.

1. Hit the right note with your customers

Make sure your content is relevant to your target audience. In order to ensure you place your customers at the heart of your content, you need to understand who they are and what they are interested in. You also need to understand which digital platforms that they like to use. Researching your customers and getting to know their preferences and online behaviours is essential. In addition, you need to understand which marketing channels are suitable for different types of content.

2. It’s no longer all about you

This links to the above ‘rule’, in that you should focus on your customers’ needs and interests – not your brand, products and services – when you communicate with them. More traditional marketing tactics tend to place the brand at the centre of all marketing communications, pushing out sales messages to consumers. Content marketing, on the other hand, aims to attract customers by giving them what they want and positioning yourself as an expert in your field.

In Julia’s words: ‘Creating content for your various online channels is about sparking people’s interest, and giving them something that not only helps them, or gives them some direct benefits, but also gives you a chance to demonstrate your knowledge and experience. For example, for a B2B audience, “how to” style articles work well and for a B2C audience it is more about creating magazine/lifestyle type content.’

3. Content rules, but only if it’s good

Make sure that  your content is of a good quality: ‘Anyone can produce “stuff”, but there is a world of difference between well thought-out, strategically developed content that absolutely tells stories about brands, as opposed to material – written, video or audio – that is produced without a thought for quality, understanding or strategy. To achieve this, marketers need to place much greater value on the role of content to give their brands personality and substance.’

If you do not have the in-house resources and skills to create good quality, relevant content, you should consider partnering with a good content marketing specialist.

4. Lack of planning and strategic thought

Following on from the above, make sure that you plan ahead, putting some thought into what you want to achieve with your content and how you can best make this happen: ‘Having a strategic plan for how often and when you send your content out, and ensuring you have the resources to do this effectively is crucial. You also need to ensure that your content strategy is closely aligned to your business objectives, to ensure that you are sending our consistent messaging.’

5. Set objectives and measure what you are going

Basically, this means that you should set some specific, measurable targets for your content strategy – such as a defined increase in web traffic – so that you can tell if your content is working for you. Don’t just stick to the basic, sales-focused web metrics (such as click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors). Also look at the type of media customers are engaging with, as well as where and how content is shared. Make sure you measure if and how your content actually converts to sales, as ultimately, if it’s not translating to paying customers, you are wasting your time. Google Analytics and social media statistics can help with all the above, and there are lots of other online tools available that can be used to measure digital activity and engagement.

6. Multi-channel needs a strategy first approach

With rapidly growing customer expectations, and a huge range of digital devices, tools and platforms available, managing online content effectively can be tricky. A lot of planning and a solid, strategic base is required to ensure consistency in messaging and tone across all your marketing channels: ‘The most important thing to remember here is that only once an overall content strategy has been created – which will be very much determined by your business objectives – can you focus on individual platforms and look at distributing your content across all channels.’

Read the full article on The Wall blog: ‘Where content marketers go wrong – 5 rules for brands

Thatcher: divisive to the end

Thatcher infographic

Thatcher: divisive to the end – by LittleMaim

Over the last few days I have read numerous brilliant and articulate opinion pieces about Margaret Thatcher, her legacy and her death.

To be perfectly honest, I’m feeling kind of ‘Maggied out’ at this stage. The idea of adding yet another pithy heading to the vast pit of post-mortem analysis we’re already wading through makes me feel a bit tired, which is why I am not writing a blog of my own on the subject.

Instead, I am re-blogging the above post by LittleMaim, which struck a chord with me and pretty much sums up how I feel about the whole thing. For anyone who wants something a bit more in-depth, I have also added in links below to a few articles in the Guardian and The Independent that I thought were particularly well written and poignant.

Margaret Thatcher’s death does not make me happy. I don’t really understand what the point of celebrating would be, as the ripples on the water that she caused continue to spread. But while I have no inclination to take to the streets or dance on her grave (literally or metaphorically), I do think that it’s perfectly reasonable – necessary even – to be just as critical of her in death, as when she was alive.

If you agree, I can highly recommend reading the following excellent articles examining the ‘Iron Lady’ herself, the legacy she left behind, as well as the aftermath of her passing:

Margaret Thatcher and misapplied death etiquette – by Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian, Monday 8th April 2013

Not all socialists want to dance of Margaret Thatcher’s grave. I want her to go on and on – by Owen Jones, The Independent, Sunday 16 September 2012 (re-posted on social media Monday 8th April 2013)

Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher: ‘I always felt sorry for her children’ – Russel Brand, the Guardian, Tuesday 9th April 2013


To app or not to app? That’s the question.

Mobile devices play an increasingly important role in marketing
Mobile devices play an increasingly important role in marketing

The week before last, I posted a blog called Can I Pin it? Yes you can!, about Pinterest, which included a link to an interesting article (well, I found it interesting anyway), comparing and contrasting Pinterest with Flickr as marketing tools.

The Pinterest article reminded me of similar piece I read recently about mobile apps vs the optimisation of websites to enhance visitors’ experiences when browsing on mobile devices, such as an smartphone or tablet.

It’s becoming increasingly important for commercial companies to accommodate customers using mobile phones and tablets, as research shows that more and more people use such gadgets to access the web.

According to a study by media regulator Ofcom, from December 2012, 40% of UK adults now use mobile devices to browse the internet and peruse websites. Furthermore, UK consumers download an average of 424 megabytes of data each every month on their smartphones and tablets – an increase of nearly 60% on the previous year.

So what should the mobile-savvy digital marketer prioritise? Creating a useful app with added functionality, or making sure that the company website is designed to work well and display conveniently on a smartphone?

Well, clearly the answer is not always going to straightforward. The right solution may well differ from one company to the next, depending on a number of variables, including the type of products you are trying to sell, what budget you have available, and whether or not an app will add any new functionality or benefits to your customers.

In an ideal world, both an app and a mobile-optimised website is probably worth some serious consideration for many companies. However, if you are limited by budget restrictions, there are some compelling arguments for both approaches.

In the following article in The Marketer, head of research and strategy at Connect Advertising and Marketing, Hin-Yan Wong, goes head-to-head with Group FMG UK managing director, Mark Inskip, on the matter:

The great mobile marketing debate, The Marketer (4th March 2013)

What do you think?

Can I Pin it? Yes you can!

pinterest1It seems like only yesterday that Pinterest launched.

In fairness, just a few short years have passed since the social media platform, which was designed for the sharing of images, became widely available – but in the world of digital, that can easily constitute a lifetime.

I recall many friends and colleagues expressing a fair bit of skepticism in those early days. Many seemed uncertain as to its value as a marketing tool, questioning what exactly Pinterest had that other social media tools, already staples in the web-savvy marketer‘s arsenal, couldn’t offer.

Users, however, took to Pinterest with gusto and with almost 50 million registered ‘Pinners’ today, most marketing professionals would probably be cautious to dismiss this social network, whether they like it or not.

I came across this interesting article about Pinterest vs. Flickr as marketing platforms on The Wall, which makes a good case for exploring Pinterest for business purposes if you work with consumer brands and haven’t already.

And if you’re still not convinced after that, you might want to have a look at the following article by Marketing Pilgrim: 12 Statistics that Make the Business Case for Pinterest

Done? Nothing left to do but to start pinning, then!

Pinterest user interaction infographic, by Wishpond
Pinterest user interaction infographic, by Wishpond

Cardinal sin: good bye and good riddance Keith O’Brien

English: A photo of the Cardinal Keith Michael...
The former Cardinal, Keith O’Brien. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Sunday last week, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the former head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, admitted to inappropriate “sexual conduct” in relation to recent accusations made by several priests, and one former priest.

According to the men in question, O’Brien abused his position of power on many occasions over the last 30 years, orchestrating situations where his unwanted sexual advances were deemed impossible for them to refuse. O’Brien’s statement on Sunday, though somewhat vague, would appear to validate the allegations and speaks volumes about his character and integrity.

As a prominent Catholic leader, O’Brien has been an outspoken anti-gay campaigner, taking a firm stance against LGBT equality at any given opportunity. He has passed judgment frequently on the gay community during his time as Cardinal, calling same-sex relationships “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and comparing equal marriage to slavery and child abuse in the last year alone.

In 2006, during the debate in Scotland on the adoption bill (which was subsequently passed into law, giving same-sex couples the opportunity to adopt children jointly for the first time), he argued that the proposed legislative change was a mere step away from legalising paedophilia and bestiality.

As an institution, the Catholic Church seems increasingly out of touch – not just with modern life in general, but with its subjects too. That’s not to say that all Catholics are narrow-minded or old fashioned – obviously, there are plenty of great catholic people out there, like the nurse who wrote this brilliant open letter to the Archbishop Vincent Nicholas, questioning her church’s priorities and practices.

Whether you agree with her or not, she makes some very good points. Frankly, I find it quite absurd that any able-minded person is prepared to take seriously a league of old, privileged and (supposedly) celibate men with luxurious robes and gold staffs, preaching to poor, vulnerable people about the evils of condoms, birth control and natural diversity.

To many, the Catholic Church’s wealthy, fanciful image is virtually synonymous with hypocrisy, and the various sex and corruption scandals coinciding with Pope Benedict’s sudden resignation last week are probably doing little to boost sympathy for the organisation.

Of course, this is not the first time the loudest, most fervent of homophobes has been caught with their hand down another man’s pants, and I know many of us received the news of O’Brien’s confession with one eyebrow arched and the words “surprise, surprise” on our lips.

Though as much as it’s tempting to punch the air, shout “I KNEW it!” and do the ‘I told you so dance’, I actually mostly feel sad about the whole miserable affair. It’s downright depressing that there are still so many powerful people in the world who would rather persecute and condemn, than promote compassion and inclusivity. It’s even more depressing to think that some of these people will use god and religion to fill their followers with fear, hate and hopelessness, whilst making all sorts of sordid allowances for themselves.

Pun intended...
Pun intended…

Given the circumstances of Keith O’Brien’s fall from grace, it would have been nice if he’d had the guts to address the issue of his remarkable hypocrisy.

I would have liked for him to acknowledge the central role he has played in encouraging the alienation, bullying and abuse of young, scared teenagers, as well as all LGBT people, in Scotland and beyond. Sexual harassment is bad enough in and of itself, but I really hope that on some level at least, he understands that the damage he has caused is far from limited to the men he took advantage of, even if he won’t admit to that publicly.

Sadly, I suspect even now he probably doesn’t see it that way. He may have been forced to accept his own, personal failure, but I imagine he still believes that homosexuality is an abhorrent, perverse weakness – a terrible ailment he was somehow struck down with. After all, if his past behaviour is anything to go by, his poor psyche will be a cesspit of contradictions, disturbed emotions and deep-rooted denial.

At least he’s no longer in a position to spread his repressed misery across the nation with any authority. I really do hope he gets the help he so obviously needs, but in terms of his demise as a ‘spiritual leader’ in Scotland – or anywhere for that matter – all I have left to say is “good riddance!”

Josef Church-Woods:

Gotta love a bit of Gaga…my paws are most definitely up!

Originally posted on lgbticons:


We’re developing a profile piece on Lady Gaga and are looking for superfans to interview.  We’ll be focussing on her role as an ambassador for the LGBT community and looking at her body of work.

If you have something to say about Mother Monster and how she has affected your life, let us know and we’ll be in touch in the next couple of days.

You can leave a message below, get us on Twitter @lgbticons or email LGBTicons@gmail.com


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