Strategic Communications Understand that Timing is Everything

Posted on Feb 29, 2016 | 0 comments

Strategic Communications Understand that Timing is Everything Time. It’s Enemy Number One when it comes developing your thoughtfully integrated communications strategy. Think about it. How long would it take to create a communications plan that: aligns your key messages with activities and trends in the real world; allows you enough time to stagger a series of thoughtfully orchestrated messages across multiple touch points; and doesn’t overwhelm you with its complexity, making you throw your hands up in defeat before you even get started? With so many priorities to communicate to your employees and so many options for distribution, the mere planning of a communications strategy can feel like more work than the actual execution of the plan itself. We’ve helped our clients get out from behind the reactive curve of communications with a few simple practices that hinge primarily on the simple use of a communications calendar. If you’ve been reading along with our series on strategic communications, you’ll know that we help clients assess past performance, prioritize future goals, and set metrics to help them communicate strategically with their employees. All of this thinking and planning is for naught, however, if we aren’t sharing key messages with employees on a consistent basis. If you’re having trouble staying ahead of the communications curve and find yourself missing key opportunities to tie valuable employer programs and benefits to trends in the real world, you’re likely winging it and could benefit strongly from the creation of a simple communications calendar. Here’s how we help clients prepare a full year’s worth of key messages to keep the conversations going with their employees: Pick your top five or six priorities for the year. Messages related to these priorities go into your calendar first. Align your priorities with trends in the real world where possible. There’s no need for you to create all of the momentum and enthusiasm around weight loss programs when the New Year trends in the headlines will do that for you! Work backwards: think about how many impressions you’ll need to make before employees start to register a need to engage with your offer. Will you need to send four emails over a four week period? Start at the end date of your campaign, with action deadlines and other key dates in mind, and work your way backwards towards your start date. Use an actual calendar to keep track of your goals – it’s not enough to say that you want to do something this year, you need to write it down, block out time to make it happen, and protect that time with your life. If communications really is a priority then you have to defend it against all the other demands of your job. Make it a practice. Check in with your calendar weekly at a minimum. Be mindful that you should be working a few weeks or months ahead to make sure you’re sending out finished messages in a timely manner. The beauty of doing such monotonous work – like creating a communications calendar – is that it becomes so much easier to implement. With all of your communications needs scheduled neatly into one central repository, your brain becomes freed up to handle impromptu requests without dropping the ball and missing out on opportunities to connect with employees about timely issues you’ve worked so hard to help them resolve. The deepest value of these sorts of systems is that they help you have timely, authentic, valuable conversations with your employees on a consistent basis. And that is the real secret to empowering an engaged, happy and productive workforce. Like...

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5 Rules for Writing Website Copy that Works

Posted on Jun 16, 2015 | 0 comments

When it comes to writing for the web, the rules you learned in English 101 no longer apply. Web copy eschews flowery language in favor of persuasive language that addresses your readers’ needs, prioritizes key messages, and a promotes one specific goal for each page of your website to build traffic, engage visitors, or convert sales. Writing compelling copy doesn’t come naturally to most people; however, it is a skill that can be learned with practice. To get you started, here are five basic rules for writing for the web: – Ensure your copy speaks directly to your readers. Write your copy as if you are having a conversation with your ideal readers. Acknowledge them by using the word “YOU,” instead of the more abstract “our clients” or “customers.” – Be brief, but clear. Use concise, short paragraphs and clearly labeled sections of information. Remember the three “R’s”– Rambling Repels Readers. – Put the focus on your readers’ needs. Avoid focusing on the product or service you sell. Every reader comes to the page asking, “What’s in it for me?” They are more concerned with solving their problems and easing their pain than they are about the widget you are selling. Remember, first focus on awareness; next focus on engagement; then comes the sell. – Make your pages skimmable. Studies show most readers scan web pages, so make sure your most important words and concepts pop out. Don’t bury your best ideas “below the fold” or deep in your page’s content. Format your copy with bullets, bold text, sub-headlines, and white space to give your readers’ eyes a break from walls of words. – Ensure every page/every section of your site includes a clear, interactive call to action. For example, ask readers to comment; to take a quiz; to click here to set up an appointment; to download a free worksheet, etc. Never leave a reader guessing about the next step to take. Forget everything you learned in school about writing essays and term papers. When you write copy for your website, your goal is to eliminate confusion, build trust, encourage referrals, and transform skimmers into devoted fans. We created the Websites That Work Quiz to help identify which sections of your website need to be rewritten with the rules of the web in mind. After you take the quiz, we will send you the Watch Your Words Worksheet to clean up your website’s copy and ensure your key messages stand out. Take the quiz to get started. Share...

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Is What’s Under The Hood Of Your Website Harming Your Business?

Posted on May 1, 2015 | 0 comments

If you built your website more than five years ago, and have ignored doing web maintenance or periodic website fixes ever since, chances are your website is outdated and looks a little stale. Rather than open the Pandora’s box that is re-doing your website, over the past five years you’ve managed to make it work through sheer will and determination. You’ve been lucky thus far, however, there are risks in sticking with an outdated website platform for too long. In fact, if you aren’t careful, your website might be an update away from crashing and burning. Here are a few of the common challenges that can result from outdated websites: Information overload – Wedging too much information into a site that wasn’t built to support today’s technology is just tempting fate. One more plug-in might be the very thing that wrecks your site. Unclear messaging – If you stopped thinking strategically about your site content ages ago, and continued adding every new service or offer to your site without deleting or auditing your previous offers, the resulting effect is surely a hodge-podge of information that confuses and frustrates your visitors. Lower search engine rankings – If your site was designed before 2013, odds are you didn’t bother making it mobile-friendly. More than 60 percent of all web traffic now happens on mobile devices. If your site wasn’t designed to be mobile responsive, you’ll begin to pay the price with search engines  Negative brand impression – Be honest: Are you more than a little bit embarrassed because your website looks like it was built in 1999? Remember how proud and excited you were when you launched it? When is the last time you felt confident in your website? If your visitors feel repelled rather than interested in your services when they land on your site, it’s time to get serious about website maintenance. But, before you dive in and start making random updates, we recommend you make a simple plan. Write down a wish list of the top three to five changes that would make you proud to share your site with the world again. Then, reach out and partner with a web developer. Make sure your developer works well with writers and designers, or has a strong understanding of how editorial and design principles impact your website. Clients who enlist our help to manage their weekly content updates, back-end system upgrades, and monthly traffic reports have a strong understanding of what is and isn’t working for visitors to their sites. We help them routinely analyze obstacles and make the repairs before problems snowball into an overwhelming (and costly) repair bill. Websites are a bit like your car: If you don’t change the oil regularly, your engine is eventually going to blow. And the fix won’t be cheap when it does. Chances are your site doesn’t suffer from every website affliction known to man. Most websites just need a few simple tweaks to bring them up to speed and position them to grow your business. The secret is finding the right developer with a customer-focused approach and a mind for marketing. A thorough website refresh not only makes a better brand impression and boosts your confidence as a business owner, it will attract more visitors and engage the ones who click through, comment, share, and buy.     Your website is a key element in your branding strategy; it plays a vital role in building community, wealth, and joy in your business. To find out more about how to use branding to make your business stand out in your niche,...

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Value Positioning: Feel Better. Work Less. Sell More!

Posted on Apr 23, 2015 | 0 comments

Can we be real for a minute? Sometimes marketing feels like an exercise in futility, doesn’t it? You hire the best employees, craft the perfect solution or create the best product out there, then you lob it over the fence to your peeps only to watch it die a slow, painful, unnoticed death as people fail to trip over themselves in a frenzy to buy from you. You email them. You send them postcards. You blast it all over social media. You email them again. But the sales just fail to manifest and no one seems to be paying any attention. You start to doubt yourself: “Did I do something wrong? Am I over-pricing? Is this product a big waste of everyone’s time? Should I even be promoting this stuff?” You start to hate your customers: “What is wrong with these people? Why don’t they just get with it already?” It’s enough to make you cash in your chips and call it a day. The frustration you feel is real. But, the good news is that there’s an easy fix. The best way to sidestep marketing burn out is to ensure every conversation positions the value you deliver. People want easy solutions. They want instant results. They want to feel or look one hundred times better. They want a glamorous transformation made easy. They don’t want 6.4 fluid ounces of organic shampoo — what they want is shiny, shimmering hair that’s the envy of everyone. The impetus is on YOU to infuse your marketing with value-based propositions. Make it easy for your readers to see WHY they should open your emails, visit your web site, or stop by your store. Here are some solid tactics to help focus on value first: Avoid concentrating ONLY on the details/logistics of your offer. Instead, engage your readers first by showing them you understand how they feel. Spend less time talking about yourself and more time talking about the RESULTS they will get when they work with you. Share social proof and success stories that illustrate WHY your clients really love your services or offerings. Solid value positioning helps your best-fit clients see your brand as a place that understands their challenges and knows how to fix them. Prospective clients know they can get products and services anywhere. But, the rare find is a company that listens to their needs and delivers the results they are looking for. Value positioning ensures your marketing gets noticed. And more importantly – it becomes the effective means of selling your products and services, and changing the lives of the people you love to serve. Did you enjoy this post? If you’d like to get more valuable content like this delivered straight to your inbox, simply subscribe to our email newsletter. Click here to join our tribe. Share...

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Know Your Logos. Protect Your Brand Integrity.

Posted on Mar 26, 2015 | 0 comments

Speaking a vendor’s language is vital for business owners who want to avoid endless email exchanges and costly mistakes. This is especially true when your graphic designer asks you for different logo file-types for a project. If you are unfamiliar with their jargon, it will be difficult to get your project up and running without a lot of wasted time. Stepping up to become the leader of your own brand means that you take time to master some of the language of branding. One of the most important things we help our clients understand is how different logo file-types can impact the appearance of their logos. We want our clients to be able to share their logos with any vendor to confidently produce high-quality brand impressions. We can’t police every purchase you make, or be there to ensure your print vendors are paying attention to the quality of their work. Not every vendor will take the time to do things right. And when they don’t, you get stuck with blurry logos, costly reprints, and prickly conversations with your vendors. Protecting your brand integrity is a responsibility every business owner should take seriously. That’s why you must arm yourself with knowledge. Understanding niche-specific terminology empowers you to expect and demand consistent, quality results with any vendor you work with. When we work with our branding clients, we give them a little cheat sheet to help them understand the language of logos so they can produce quality brand impressions with confidence and ease. Here’s a quick overview of the five logo file-types every client should understand: Vector EPS – This should be how all logos are first created. You do not want logos created in Photoshop (.psd) or other photo editing applications. Vector EPS files are the indomitable defenders of quality! Without the proper software, you will not be able to open them. DO NOT let that trip you up. We know it feels weird to send a file that you can’t open but good printers and designers will be willing to open your vector files on your behalf and produce any of the following file types so that you can review and confirm that the file you supplied is the file you’d like to use. Vector files (as they are often called) have “clear backgrounds.” You can print a vector file at any size without losing resolution. Whether you’re printing on the side of a bus or a business card, vector artwork will always print crisply. JPG – This is a low-resolution file and should be used on-screen only. 
JPGs work great for web sites, slide presentations, and emails. They are flat files that cannot be easily altered or scaled without sacrificing quality. They typically have “white backgrounds” and appear to be placed within a white box if you place them on any background other than white. GIF – This is another low-resolution file that should be used on-screen only. Unlike its JPG counterpart, it has a “clear background” and is ideal for situations where gradients or other backgrounds need to appear behind the logo. PNG – PNGs further extend the valuable qualities of GIFs by including more image data to help complex files maintain their image quality without maxing out their file size. What that means for you is if you’re posting a logo with complex color gradients or shadow effects to your web site, a PNG will load quickly and still render all the intricate subtleties of your super sexy logo. TIFF – TIFFs are high-resolution, PC-friendly files that are ideal for any in-house printing needs, as their...

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Project Plans Help You Avoid “Brand Overwhelm”

Posted on Mar 19, 2015 | 0 comments

The amount of time and money it takes to launch a brand can be intimidating, especially for small business owners who already have a hand in so many aspects of building their businesses. Your brand’s presence is woven into every facet of your business, making it difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to spending money on getting your brand out there. The endless list of branding to-do’s (logo, business card, web site, social media pages, conference materials, etc.) can seem insurmountable if you don’t have an endless supply of cash. It’s enough to make many businesses pull back and avoid building any real brand presence entirely. I call that getting stuck in “brand overwhelm.” But “brand overwhelm” is completely avoidable. It’s just a symptom of not having a project plan in place to guide you. When we create a project plan to help our clients boost their brand presence, we ask the following four questions: What opportunities/events/goals are on the horizon for your business in the next 3 months, 6 months, or year? What SPECIFIC brand expenses can we plan for in response to those opportunities/events/goals? Can we price out each expense in advance? How can we best align these three areas so we can pick and choose which ones to invest in and when? These questions help our clients develop a deeper understanding of how specific branding expenses begin to make a positive impact on the realization of concrete business goals. Working from a project plan like this helps you avoid costly spending mistakes that stem from reacting to the opportunity in front of you, instead of building your vision systematically in alignment with the RIGHT opportunities for your business. A simple project plan like this will help you eliminate the guesswork of branding, spend with confidence and clarity about your desired results, and leave you with the time and energy you need to focus on all the other aspects of building your business.   In our upcoming webinar The 5 Pillars of Transformational Branding, we will share more insights on creating powerful project plans, as well as other branding secrets. Plan to join us March 27, when will explore storytelling, tribe building, place making, as well as the other essential elements you need to build a brand.   Share...

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