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The Local Buzz story

As three local entrepreneurs ourselves, we are often asked to present the story about The Local Buzz and how it started.

Lesley outlines how The Local Buzz turned from an idea into reality.

The Local Buzz Story – how it all began

Friends for several years, the three of us have very different personalities and backgrounds but we all share one thing, a love of SW France.

One day in October 2017, Jeanette approached me with the idea of creating a local magazine that would address the needs of people living in and around Lot et Garonne.   Unbeknown to her, it was something that I had been looking at a few years earlier but circumstances had changed and it wasn’t progressed.  That day, things were very different.  We both felt that living here was not just about the department we lived in, but about the surrounding departments too.  We talked for hours, about who the magazine would be for, where it would appear, what it would contain and, fairly quickly, decided that we wanted a website too.  For that, we needed website expertise and we knew just the person.

The Fit

With a career in management accountancy, Jeanette moved here in 2013, running a very successful gite and B&B business.  From that, she knew that there was nowhere near enough information available to either her family or her constant stream of guests about the region.  She is also a whizz at e-marketing and social media and has significantly improved our awareness as a result.  With a very steep learning curve for the magazine’s distribution, she took up the mantle and we now have more collection points than we ever imagined.

Until 2015 when she moved to France, Pamela had spent most of her life working in advertising and web media for corporations like Target and, having lived in Honolulu and USA, brought a stack of knowledge about moving and living here from outside the UK.  She has a great eye for detail and can spot a buzzing image from a mile away.  This has proved to be essential in the style and eye-catching design that runs through both the magazine and website.

As for me, I had had more than 30 years in marketing, running my own agency specialising in PR, copywriting and advertising.  In fact I brought clients with me to France when I moved here in 2003.  This experience in all types of copywriting has come in handy when interviewing and writing about local entrepreneurs, creating some of the features and/or editing contributed copy, not to mention the proof-reading.  I also have an electronics company which gave me experience in sales and customer record management.

the local buzz story

Time has passed so quickly since we joined Jack in the garden for a planning session

The Process

A business plan was prepared as a result of research about the region, the demographics and the need for such a magazine.  Having decided on the name, the next step was to find a designer and we were very fortunate to come across Sarah Vernon.  We met and briefed Sarah about our thoughts, wants and intentions and we clicked.  She had a strong background in magazine design and agreed with our corporate positioning for something that was high end, glossy, visually creative, informative and fun.  In a very short space of time and by working closely together, we had a style, a front cover, sample pages and the means to move onto the next stage, the website.

Meanwhile, background work was essential to prepare a customer record management system (CRM).  We set a goal of launching with a minimum of 2,500 business entries and set to work.  Organisations were found online, in magazines, in newspapers and in telephone directories and, once checked and verified, were entered onto the database.  A pre-launch email took care of the initial, essential GDPR requirements.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, we did have a false start with a website company over a timing issue.  Setting that aside, we discussed our plans with Theme, a company Jeanette had already used in the UK.  They came to meet us in Bordeaux and we laid down the structure, the information architecture and set the goals.  I can’t tell you how amazing it was to find yet another like-minded, forward thinking organisation and the guys at Theme worked really hard, and well, to help us achieve our objectives.

Of course, the website couldn’t come to life without imagery and text and we were preparing this too.  Working with both the designer and website team, we were determined that the two forms of media had to mirror each other in style but be very different in content.  The magazine is lifestyle focussed, informative and fun, and the website is where people to go to find a local business, listings of what’s on, books, articles, blogs and local information, etc.

Preparing for Launch

The magazine is free and is reliant on advertising revenue so it was essential that we had something to sell.  So, next was the media pack and, with it, a PowerPoint sales presentation which included our first issue front cover, some dummy pages from both the magazine and website, and other relevant information.  We are still so grateful to those first companies who trusted us and came into that first issue.

The website launched In June, 2018, a month before the bi-monthly magazine which, thankfully, gave us time to finalise print and distribution, not to mention the final page layouts.   We can still feel the euphoria of putting that first issue to bed and receiving our first copies.  Unbelievable!

the local buzz story

Rolling off the press

Buzzing now and in the future

Right now, we are looking for someone to head up our sales activities and will soon be recruiting administrative help in line with our business plans for ongoing growth.  Our postal subscribers are growing and we are now printing 20,000 copies, with an excellent volume of visitors and readers of the magazine online.

The time has passed so quickly, it seems only 5-minutes ago that we were at the planning stage and now we are able to tell The Local Buzz story!  We are on the ninth issue and the website has over 3,700 business entries and hundreds of what’s on events.  What’s more, we are delighted that we have had some incredibly positive feedback.  Onwards and upwards – we’re still buzzing!

Jeanette and Pamela left the business at the end of 2020 and The Buzz, as it is known locally, buzzes on towards future growth.

l to r: Pamela, me and Jeanette

First published in the November/December issue of The Local Buzz

Images: Jeff Ross