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Nail Your Title, Wow Your Audience
Whether you’re writing to inspire, to educate, or to entertain, the title you select for your paper, blog, or article needs to be considered Job #1. Think of it as a door you want your target audience to open so that your intended message can be received. No matter how interesting your document, readers will move away in droves if your title is flat rather than fresh and engaging. So spend the time to make that “door” as inviting as you can. If your piece is meant to be thought provoking, this is the place to start. If it is meant to make your readers laugh, the same is true. Your endgame is to grab your audience’s attention and hold it until your message has been heard. 5 simple tests for judging a title’s effectiveness Is it simply stated and easily understood? Does it have wide appeal? Does it peak the reader’s interest? Does it set context and tone? Does it motivate potential readers to “read on”? With titles, word choices are of paramount importance. How do you assemble a mere handful of words to craft the perfect title? The answer is either inspiration (a light bulb moment) or perspiration in the form of experimentation and trial and error. A few examples of recent titles that went through this process [Before] How to Create Engaging Content [After] Creating Content That Ignites Your Business [Before] Using Social Media in the Customer Experience [After] Creating Social Media Evangelists for Your Brand [Before] Conducting Effective Webinars [After] Conduct Webinars that WOW to Engage Your Prospects Give these tips a try the next time you sit down to write something. And never again make the mistake of considering your titles just an afterthought. You’ll be surprised how effective a title can be as you compete in today’s chaotic and over-crowded world of written communications.
10 Tips For Eco-Friendly Trade Shows and Events
Trade shows, events, and conferences can be very hard on the environment with all the paper, printing processes, giveaways, shipping materials, fuel usage and booth construction materials. Fortunately, there are many eco-friendly options that will help you reduce your carbon footprint. 1. Partner with vendors who are committed to conducting a green certified business. Green Certified businesses use materials and practices to protect, preserve and sustain our environment. 2. Reduce paper waste by limiting the total volume of paper. Instead of handing out printed brochures, white papers, etc., hand out a business card-size document with just the URL’s where the participant can find your collateral online. Direct attendee to event related information on their Smartphone’s using a QR Code. 3. When possible, have your attendees fill out surveys online, instead of distributing paper versions. Nowadays many companies create a “survey station”with several tablets for attendees to use for short surveys before they leave. 4. Work with a print broker to locate green printing options for your banners, collateral, and signage. They can point you towards environmentally friendly paper options, soy inks instead of petroleum-based inks and printing processes that substantially reduce waste and use renewable energy resources. 5. Think about your giveaway and if it really has value outside of your branding. Is it just a novelty that will find its way into the garbage, or will it have a functional or decorative use that will outlast the event? Consider the size and location of your logo on objects—that can mean the difference between an item that is used over time or tossed after the show. A tidy little logo on the upper left quadrant of a shirt is usually more wearable than a huge graphic over the entire front. 6. There are many great green giveaways that are made with organic, recycled, biodegradable, sustainable and environmentally safe processes and materials. Have a giveaway distributor on your side to help you find these. 7. Use and reuse environmentally safe packaging and shipping materials. There are now many biodegradable and recycled content options that allow you to safely pack your materials and then use them again for the next event. 8. Consider having your printing projects produced at a print shop close to the event and delivered by courier. For materials that can’t be produced near the event, plan ahead and use ground shipping instead of air shipping. Air shipping pours 8 times more carbon emissions into the environment than ground shipping. 9. Use Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC) lumber, plywood and sheet goods in your booth construction. The FSC is committed to responsible management of the world’s forests, and promotes the use of sustainable wood products. 10. Promote your green practices: More and more people are interested in having greener options and working with environmentally sensitive companies. It only takes an extra line of eco-friendly ink to explain how a collateral piece was printed, or to indicate the green materials and processes in your giveaways. Further Reading: 10 Tips for Planning Your Next Promotional Giveaway Campaign
The Power of Touch: The Haptic Effect
True confession I’ve never owned a Kindle or other ebook reader. I still prefer reading paperback books, doggy-eared and sandy from an afternoon spent on the beach. True confession, I’m not a fan of e-cards. I much prefer to find a handwritten letter from a friend in my mailbox. In my professional life, however, it’s a different story. As a creative director it’s imperative I stay on top of the latest trends and best practices in web and mobile design. I find it challenging and thought provoking to design those user experiences. I’ve been reading a lot about haptic stimuli and I’m beginning to feel validated in some of my nostalgic tendencies. If you’re not familiar with the term, haptic, it relates to our sense of touch. Only recently have scientists discovered just how important touch is in shaping our relationships and perceptions. The simple act of touching an object, like a catalog, brochure, or direct mail piece, stimulates psychological effects. Given two brochures to touch, people will perceive the company using the heavy, high-quality stock as a better company. “Digital content can be seen and heard, but print can be touched, smelt, and even tasted. If it’s intimacy that sets touch apart from our other senses, then it’s the physicality of print, it's substantial tactile nature, that makes it such a meaningful way to communicate.”1 Our hands hold the greatest number of tactile receptors in our body It’s astonishing when you consider what our fingers are able to distinguish the difference between hot and cold, soft and hard, slick and dry, a pain and an itch. It’s their immense capacity for touch that makes them such powerful non-verbal communication tools. Yet as the Information Age has progressed, digital devices have taken over many of the jobs we used to do with our hands. We rely more and more on technology that requires swiping and sliding. What can’t be replicated online (at least not yet) is that intimate experience of running your fingers along a swatch of fine silk fabric or across a thick sheet of textured paper.
While technology continues to improve the user experience by creating new touch sensations on digital and handheld devices by adding subtle vibrations and motions to capture the haptic effect, it has a long way to go to satisfy people's natural craving for texture, temperature and muscle engagement. Many in our industry thought that print would become defunct Nevertheless, studies have revealed some intriguing facts. “People understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read online.”2 In another study, university students found print to be more aesthetically enjoyable. “What’s more, print gave them a sense of where they were in the book – they could see and feel where they were in the text.”3 While the print industry has certainly seen a decline, print catalogs have started to trend up for the first time in years. “Retailers shifting to online catalogs found sales plummeting, as people missed the haptic qualities of the catalogs they were used to.” 4 Those making purchases online were doing so after first browsing the print catalog. While the mailing of catalogs is experiencing a rebound, it’s important to note, the form has changed dramatically. What used to be page after page of products is now filled with large photo spreads and inspirational personal stories appealing to a particular lifestyle. If you’ve ever flipped through a Williams Sonoma catalog, the popular high-end kitchenware store, you’ll find seasonal recipes are now interspersed with cookware. In the example of print catalogs, what’s really noteworthy is the old media (print) has not been replaced by the new (digital). Instead, we’re seeing a convergence and refining of the two. The best qualities of each media are being leveraged to produce a beneficial outcome for the marketer. Footnotes: Haptic Communication and Digital Print (first copy) Why the Brain Prefers Paper, (Scientific American) Why Digital Reading is No Substitute for Print (The New Republic 2016) After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times. (New York Times 2015) Further Reading: A Communicators Guide to the Neuro Science of Touch
10 Tips for Planning Your Next Promotional Giveaway Campaign
Giving a well thought-out promotional giveaway to your potential clients or event attendees is one of the best ways to continue reminding folks about your company. Here are a few tips to help you plan your next campaign: Start with your budget and the quantity of items you plan to give away. Quantity is critical as it sets the initial scope of your search. Looking for 10 of something is much different than looking for 5,000 of something. Items vary greatly in price (e.g. a pen might be $2 or it could be over $50). A budget will help you establish your search parameters. If you’ll be handing out giveaways at an event, it can be tricky to determine how many items you should order. The general rule of thumb is to order 10% more than your total expected attendance at the event. If your giveaway has a higher perceived value with your audience (e.g. t-shirts or coffee mugs), we recommend ordering 20% more than your total expected attendance. Check to make sure your desired item is in stock. Ask specifically how many are available in your desired color(s) and sizes. If the manufacturer is out of stock in your item, ask if and when they’ll be able to restock. It never hurts to ask, but it can be problematic if you don’t. Order your item as early as possible. This tip especially pertains to items that you have your heart set on or if you’re ordering a large number of items. Typically, about 20% of all giveaways are out-of-stock at any given time or only available in limited quantities. When determining what item to give away, choose something that communicates your brand and that will be perceived as having value. Chose products that are useful and be mindful of their impact on the environment. It's better to not offer a promotional item, than to offer an item that your customers think is wasteful and irresponsible. Design your giveaway in a manner that ensures an optimum return on logo size vs. item size. If you want to put your logo on a pen or a tote bag, make sure that the writing and/or graphics don’t overwhelm the item. Similar to writing with ALL CAPS, branding that is too large for the item can be perceived as yelling. Order a sample and take it for a test drive before placing your order. Whether it’s a pen, a T-shirt or a mug: reviewing and playing with a sample will be the best way to determine if your selected item really will make the right impression on your customers or event attendees. When in doubt, check it out. Request and review a virtual proof. This is the only way to ensure the manufacturer will be reproducing your logo or slogan on your desired item in the right size, in the right location and in the right colors. Be aware that federal law requires all manufactured goods include labeling indicating where they were made. This means the small but noticeable phrase, “Made in the USA,” or “Made in China” may not appear on a mock-up of your item, but it will be on the actual physical giveaway item — another good reason why you should request a sample first before ordering. Hire a Giveaways Distributor. Giveaways Distributors know how to obtain the best possible products while simultaneously saving you time, money, and hassle.
Understanding Color Modes Used in Design: RGB, CMYK and PMS
“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment…,” said the visual designer. Actually, it was Claude Monet, the famous French impressionist, who coined this popular quote; but any designer worth their salt can relate. In marketing, the colors we choose become an integral part of a company’s brand and as such play a crucial role in the first impressions customers will form. Color is an unspoken, visual language and designers will spend hours toiling over their color books to choose just the right shade of a hue to use in a logo design. Once our color selections are woven into a corporate identity, they are broadcast out to world across a multitude of channels. Digital and print assets are just the tip of the iceberg—there’s signage, exhibit graphics, presentations, promotional giveaways, clothing…you get the point. As marketers we have the formidable task of ensuring that the corporate palette remains consistent across these mediums and stays true to the integrity of the brand. Consider McDonald’s golden arches and a specific shade of yellow will come to mind. Or what about the jewelry company, Tiffany’s—their robin egg blue packaging is recognizable to any fashionista. It’s these specific hues that customers identify with the company over time. In graphic arts there are numerous color systems used to accurately measure and describe color, but the 3 most essential are RGB, CMYK and Pantone. Let’s start with the RGB color model. It’s used in electronic devices such as computer monitors, smart phones, TVs and digital photography. It’s an additive color model in which red, green and blue light are added together to create a broad array of colors. Each color (red, green, and blue) is assigned an integer between 0 and 255 that defines its intensity. For example, RGB(0, 0, 255), red and green have been assigned a value of 0 and blue the highest value of 255. This color would render on screen as a vivid blue. On the other hand, CMYK is a color model we use for commercial printing. Cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) ink dyes are mixed together on press to create an array of colors. CMYK is also referred to as four-color process printing. For example 0% Cyan, 100% Magenta, 100% Yellow, and 0% Black; Magenta and Yellow inks are mixed together in equal amounts without any cyan or black. This would appear as a red when printed on paper. (It’s important to mention certain RGB colors that can be seen on a screen—in particular, bright vibrant colors—simply cannot be replicated with standard CMYK inks.) The CMYK color model is only one way we can express color for commercial printing. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a proprietary numbering system for colors. It is solid ink color printed on paper—not mixed on the press, as is CMYK. Solid color (also know as spot color) is the truest representation of color intent and results in a very pure hue. When color matching in print is absolutely critical use PMS color if your budget allows. Below is an example of one color—a magenta hue—and how it would be documented using the 3 color models described: Through the course of a brand’s life many hands will touch it—developers, vendors, UX and web designers, and printers—to name just a few. Therefore, it’s critical to include color specifications in your Brand’s Guidelines. So, while color may be a designer’s day-long obsession… for everyone else thereafter it can be much easier. That is, as long as you have your designer measure and record their color selections in these three color systems. Further Reading: Create A Winning Palette for Your Brand
Create A Winning Palette for Your Brand
A winning palette elicits a desired mood or communicates an idea — and it starts by being familiar with a few fundamental laws of color and its properties. Have you ever struggled to communicate clearly about color with your designer? Perhaps a color doesn’t seem to resonate or appear to fit the company persona yet you’re unable to articulate what it is about that particular blue. Basic Terminology Understanding some basic terminology—physical properties that allow us to distinguish and define colors—will provide you with a framework for your next conversation around color. As a creative professional, I’m often asked to explain, or in some cases, defend my design choices. One of the most subjective choices I make each day is color. Why? Because color is evocative – it can dramatically affect moods, feelings, and emotions. Color is not simply a decorative afterthought; it’s a powerful tool for all designers. By leveraging color to the fullest extent, it can influence a viewer’s perception of your product or services. Color is a uniquely emotional language. Much of this language is cultural—in the United States, the color red can represent anger or energy while blue represents calm and relaxation. Try this simple test. Close your eyes and visualize a bright red. Did you feel a jolt of energy? Now try a soft blue. Do your shoulders start to relax? “In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually.” – Joseph Albers According to Gunter Wyszecki in his book, Color, the human eye can perceive over 10,000,000 colors. Color is also constantly changing. It is seen and influenced in relation to the colors around it. Take the example below. The green in both diagrams is the same. However, it appears as two very different shades of green because it’s interacting with the color in the background. Do the green stripes over the gray field seem more vibrant to you? With such a vast number of colors in the visible spectrum and its fluid nature, how can we make successful color choices? We can start by applying color theory—a set of guiding principles for developing aesthetically pleasing color relationships. These ideas are represented in a variety of diagrams. One of the most widely used of these diagrams is the color wheel developed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1706. This is a 12-step color wheel consisting of 12 pure colors that are equidistant. It starts with the pure primary colors of yellow, blue and red. Combined equally with one another, they create the secondary colors (located mid-way between primaries) of green, violet and orange. Primary and secondary colors are combined equally to create the tertiary colors of yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange and yellow-orange. We can use the color wheel as a tool to help us select and combine color, and create harmonious palettes. Let’s look at five basic color relationships we can establish from it: Complementary: Color pairs that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Analogous: A group of two or more colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Triadic: Three colors equally spaced around color wheel. Double Complementary: A combination of two pairs of complementary colors. Split Complementary: A variation of the complementary color scheme. Starting with a base color, it uses the two colors adjacent to its complement. Any of the above relationships can be used as a starting point for creating a color harmony— a color relationship that is visually appealing and balanced. Seven color properties and their meaning: Hue is the most common name of a color such as red, blue, green, etc.
When we need to be even more descriptive, we can do so by using two hue names in combination. For instance the green shown below is more accurately described as “yellow-green”. The blue is better described as a blue-purple. Chroma is the purity of a color.
Colors with a high chroma have not been diluted with black, white or gray. These colors (shown below) appear very vivid and well…pure. Colors with a high chroma are exhilarating and attract attention, by and large making them good choices for advertising to teens or young adults. Frequently, chroma is confused with saturation; however, they refer to two distinct situations, as we will explain. Saturation refers to the strength or weakness of a color.
Saturation can also be referred to as the intensity of a color. In the row below the colors are different hues of the same saturation or intensity. Pastel colors such as these have low or weak saturation and tend to produce a calming environment. The second example below shows color of the same hue (blue,) but different levels of saturation or fullness. The pale blue on the far left has a weaker saturation than the navy blue on the far right with a strong, full saturation. Value refers to how light or dark a color is.
Lighter colors have higher values. For example yellow has a higher value than navy blue. Black has the lowest value of any color, and white the lightest. Generally speaking, when applying color values to your design, using high contrast values typically result in more aesthetically pleasing designs. You might also hear your designer refer to tints, tones and shades.
Quite simply, a tint is created by adding white to a color; making it lighter than the original. Tones are created by adding gray to a color’ making it duller than the original; and shades are created by adding black to a color, making it darker than the original. To sum it up, as a marketer, the more you know about color, the better you can use it to meet the goals of your next project. By mastering these basic concepts you will develop a richer color vocabulary, better articulate your color preferences, and ensure you and your designer our speaking the same language… of color. Further Reading: Understanding Color Modes Used in Design: RGB, CMYK and PMS Resources: Adams Morioka and Terry Stone, Color Design Workbook: A Real World Guide to Using Color in Graphic Design (Rockport Publisher, 2006), 6. Gunter Wyszecki, Color. (Chicago: World Book Inc., 2006)
Josef Albers, The Interaction of Color. (Yale University Press, 1963).
David Sommers, “History of the Color Wheel,” www.colourlovers.com, May 8, 2008.
Storytelling: The Secret to Great Copywriting
“Copywriting is the art and science of writing copy (the words we use on web pages, ads, promotional materials, etc.) that sells your product or service and convinces prospective customers to take action. In many ways, it’s like hiring one great salesman to reach all your customers." As a copywriter, your goal is to inform, to convince, to educate, to inspire, to entertain, or any combination of these. The art and science of good copywriting often lies in your ability to bring your content to life in ways that break through the noise, engage your audience, and then motivate readers to take a desired action. How do you do that? Simply put, you use every tool in your writer’s toolbox, and storytelling should be right at the top of the list! 10 tips for weaving a story into your copy: Stories need to be real, relatable, and relevant (the 3 Rs). Great storytelling often starts with an intriguing, open-ended question: “Would you rather be part of the solution or part of the problem?” Great storytelling can also start with a thought-provoking statement: “As mobile technology advances, the world as we know it faces profound change.” It’s important to select a story that is applicable to your core message. You want to create rich images with words that will percolate and hopefully leave an indelible impression on your audience (ho hum thinking need not apply). Use metaphors that will elevate your writing to a higher level. Incorporate infographics when that helps you tell a complex story simply. Consider using videos to personalize your message and help it spring to life. Weave your story seamlessly into your copy to give it the greatest impact. Remember – the better the story, the greater the effect. A good story can stick in your reader’s mind long after they’ve turned the page In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes based on an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, turns this simple metaphor into something transformative as he lays out the key points of his core message – what it takes for a company to go “from good to great.” Would you rather be a hedgehog or a fox? At first, the answer seems obvious. The fox is fast, sleek, and crafty, while the hedgehog is a far dowdier creature. But there’s a catch. The obvious answer isn’t always the right one, and in this case the fox walks away with a nose full of spines every time it tries to defeat the lowly hedgehog. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows one big thing really well: how to defend itself. In the end, you want to use storytelling as a path to great copywriting, and you want to use great copywriting as a way to communicate your message as effectively as possible. The endgame is to write in a way that leaves an indelible impression on your audience. Footnotes:  The Definitive Guide to Copywriting
Six More Common Phrases We Get Wrong
A while back, we published a blog that left many readers rethinking a bunch of expressions they could have sworn they had down pat. “Six Phrases We Get Wrong” challenged many not-quite-accurate uses of common sayings and definitively settled some arguments over how to say them right. We thought it would be a great opportunity to help everybody brush up on their idiomatic intelligence with the next installment of our series. Note: we’ve included a word in here as well as phrases because, if you’ve been saying it wrong the whole time, we think you’d want to know. A whole nuther Correct Term: A whole other So there’s no such thing as a “nuther.” But you probably know that. Usually the problem with this one isn’t that people think “nuthers” exist, but that they don’t even realize they’re saying the word when they are. (Guilty!) Since this is generally more a problem with speech and not with writing, the fix is easy: Just slow down a bit and try to fight the tendency to throw the “n” sound in there, which probably sneaks in when your brain synapses misfire and confuse “other” with “another.” For all intensive purposes Correct Phrase: For all intents and purposes The first thing to know here is that purposes might be steadfast, but they generally aren’t “intensive,” which relates to intensity. Best to save “intensive” for things like hospital care, workshops and physical properties (in Chemistry). The correct term is “all intents and purposes,” which comes from a 16th century English law that said, ““to all intents, constructions, and purposes.” Eventually it was shortened to “all intents and purposes,” which means “in every practical sense” or “in effect.” What’s odd about the correct way of saying this one, though, it seems a bit redundant. Intent and purpose show up on lots of synonym lists. But in fact, while the meaning of “intents” is close to “purposes,” they’re not really interchangeable. Intents is a whole nuther—oops!—a whole other word. Irregardless Correct Word: Regardless Irregardless is a favorite of speeches, reports, essays, news commentaries and other places where some people like to use big words. The problem is that it’s too big, and it’s a double negative to boot. No need to put “ir” on a word that already has “less,” regardless if you think it sounds better. It’s a doggy dog world Correct Phrase: It’s a dog eat dog world As you can see, this phrase isn’t as warm and fuzzy as you may thought. In fact, it actually conveys kind of a brutal image to describe a highly competitive, even cutthroat, environment. It derives from a Latin phrase canis caninam non est, which means the opposite, “a dog does not eat the flesh of a dog.” Later, in the 1700s, British scholar Thomas Fuller wrote, “Dogs are hard drove when they eat dogs.” So if a dog is driven to cannibalism, things must be pretty rough out there. One in the Same Correct Phrase: One and the same If “one in the same” was the correct expression, you might think of something like Russian nesting dolls, a bigger doll containing successively smaller versions of itself. But alas, it’s wrong. The correct phrase is “one and the same,” which is used when most people think of one person or thing as two people or things. Example: Clark Kent and Superman are one in the same. Scott Free Correct Phrase: Scot free In case you thought otherwise, this term has nothing to do with some guy named Scott. The word is actually “scot,” with one “t,” and it derives from the Scandinavian word skat, meaning tax or payment. A scot was a medieval tax, and if you didn’t get in trouble for not paying it, you were scot free. So, in modern parlance, you might have done something wrong or got caught up in a bad situation and walked away scot free. The good news here is that, in conversation vs. writing, no one will know you’ve messed this one up if you do. You’ll have gotten away with it—scot free. If you have been getting all these wrong all this time, don’t fret. Lots of people make the mistakes above. But knowing how to say them right—like social distancing—will separate you from the rest.
Why Hiring a Ghostwriter is a Smart Move
As content remains king of the online world, companies are scrambling to come up with insightful content that establishes their executives as global thought leaders. This can be a seemingly impossible task for many companies. One solution is to hire freelance ghostwriters as a resource for developing strategic and informative content. In most organizations, there is a big push for blogs, whether they’re posted on your company’s website or on more widely read and prestigious sites like Forbes or Inc. Most PR managers would welcome the chance to pitch an article by a C-level executive to industry publications that discusses an inside track on the latest trends. When it comes time to create the content, the best of plans often come to a screeching halt. Let’s face it – executives either don’t have the time to sit down and write, or they are not able to effectively create this kind of content on their own. How a ghostwriter can help If you’ve never considered bringing in an outside resource like a ghostwriter before, here are several good strategic reasons why you should consider it. Ghostwriters make it easy and efficient for all. Ghostwriters can manage the process of blog or article writing from beginning to end. They will interview your executives on a quick 20-30 minute call and capture the content needed to establish a solid point of view (POV). Ghostwriters can also follow up directly with your content experts, gaining their approvals and making any necessary changes before delivering a final version. Ghostwriters are experts at capturing content owners’ voice. This is one of the most important reasons to bring a ghostwriter on board – although it might have been a show-stopper for you before now. The truth is that experienced ghostwriters have written hundreds of blogs and articles for high-level executives, so they know exactly how to capture the voice of content owners. During the input calls, a ghostwriter can pick up on the nuances that express an executive’s unique POV – and even more specifically, his or her passion. With these added touches, the content will sound like it came directly from the person’s whose byline is on the article – and not from some anonymous writer. Ghostwriters do the legwork. Most ghostwriters are also expert researchers, so they can fact-check or dig up supporting statistics and meaningful industry information that will enrich the content owner’s POV. They can add links to sources for extra search engine boosts, too. Ghostwriters pitch stories. Beyond finding data to support the ideas of content owners, ghostwriters also can do in-depth research on the latest market news, trends, and hot topics. They can then pitch stories to you and help you will fill gaps in your media calendar. Ghostwriters keep your media calendar full. Getting your executives and high-level managers out in front of the public should not be a one-time thing. Between your ideas and a ghostwriter’s research, you can develop a full year of frequently published content. Timely and continuous publishing of content can help increase your company’s brand as your content owners get more and more recognition in the industry. Ghostwriters add bandwidth to your resources. You may have a handful of writers on staff, but if they focus primarily on marketing collateral, then they may not have the right skills to do ghostwriting. After all, not all writers have great people skills and they simply may not be adept at interviewing – however, both of these are a critical part of ghostwriting. And even if they are comfortable in this arena, chances are that they’re too busy to take on the task of writing blogs or articles. Ghostwriters save you money. If your need for content is large enough, you could add an additional resource to your staff. But most marketing and PR managers find it’s more economical and just plain easier to have an outside resource fill this need, as you only need to call upon a ghostwriter when extra bandwidth is required. Ghostwriters save you time. Here is another efficiency savings: ghostwriters can typically expedite the content creation process because that’s what they do all day long. They have one focus and that is writing. Ghostwriters are well-respected resources. Typically, executives are thrilled to have a resource on hand that can help get their voice out there. And good ghostwriters can help you achieve all the benefits listed above. You can rest assured that a skilled ghostwriter will be an addition to your team that you can trust and rely on! Are you convinced yet? If not, test the waters with one project and one ghostwriter and see how it goes. Ask for a confidential sampling of previous ghostwriting blogs or articles to see if they’re a good fit. Once you engage a ghostwriter, our guess is you’ll find that you get the content you want faster and more effectively than any of your other options.
Six Steps to a Compelling Case Study
Case studies are great sales tools because they are written through the eyes and in the voice of the customer. This adds significant credibility in a sales cycle when sales people need a strong differentiator to sway a prospect in their favor. I personally love to write case studies because I enjoy interviewing people and capturing the essence of their story. I have a knack for getting substantial details on the personal and professional success that the people I interview achieve with my clients’ solutions. It’s these details that add flavor to my case studies and make them an exceptionally good read. Here are the six steps I follow when I create my case studies – hopefully they will be useful to you too. Learn all you can about the customer you are interviewing. Whenever possible, the first thing I do when assigned a case study is to quiz the people that were or are actively responsible for the customer relationship. Whether sales people or the folks that installed a product, these are the people that can provide me with a comprehensive background on the customer and the overall engagement. They can guide me towards the topics I should delve into and explore – or clue me in on any hot spots to avoid. This helps set the stage for an intelligent conversation with the customer and makes the best use of the 20-30 minute conversation we’ll be having. Prepare a comprehensive list of questions. I have a standard set of interview questions, which I customize for each call. The questions range from finding out how the customer first got interested in my client’s company to asking them to describe the implementation, and of course, the benefits of the implementation. While I may not get to all my questions, they are there to keep the conversation (and me) on track. And here’s a little tip for dealing with hard-to-interview folks — the ones that are naturally guarded or quiet. When they answer with a simple yes or no, I typically respond with questions such as “Tell me more about that” or “Can you explain that?” It’s surprising how much these types of questions can get people to open up and share more of the story. Get the facts. During the interview, the key thing is to get the facts, of course. This builds the foundation of a successful story – and the more hard-core facts, the better. The most effective details are quantifiable results, such as costs savings, productivity increases, revenue generated and the like – in actual numbers or percentages. When one customer says that he saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, another customer is going to listen! A lot of people are hesitant to share exact numbers, but I usually can get them to comment to some sort of percentage or best-guess estimate of savings, even if it’s man hours or a softer measurement than dollars. Add humanness. Here’s one of the things that really adds value to my case studies. To elicit some great quotes, I end our discussion with a series of opinion-related questions, such as “What did you think of the implementation?” People often share with me the good – and then the bad and the ugly (especially if my client is not on the phone). Besides the good info that is quotable, the not-so-good information is often helpful because there may be some angst on the part of the customer that my client doesn’t know about. I also ask the customers a few final questions – such as “How would you describe this solution to your peers?” and “Would you recommend this solution to them?” These questions cause the customers to pause and then share what they really think about the whole engagement – and these comments are typically golden nugget quotes. Don’t be afraid to clarify. This is true especially for freelancers like me. I learned a long time ago that it’s much easier to feel humble and admit that I don’t understand something, than to use incorrect facts and get the story wrong. Every customer I’ve interviewed has been very kind and gracious – they understand that their expertise is not mine. They are always willing to explain things and clarify what we’re discussing, even when the situation is very technical. Finish up with “What’s next?” This is an excellent way to end the story – and it is also helpful for my clients because they get a glimpse into what else the customer might be interested. When added into a case study, it’s another indication that the customer is happy with my client’s product and there is a growth path in the future. Case studies can be fun and engaging – and excellent sales tools. I hope these tips help your company produce some great ones!
Six Common Phrases We Get Wrong
So, you’re at an office party telling this great story to a group of your colleagues, when suddenly, you notice that the editorial-type in the group is looking at you intently and seems to have developed a strange eye twitch. Did you say something wrong? Did you double your negative or dangle your participle? Or worse, could you have used a common phrase, or idiom, incorrectly? Chances are, that’s the thing that would drive the editor bonkers, while most of the other people in the group could care less, er… rather, couldn’t care less. It’s unlikely even those who do care would correct you on these minor conversational slip-ups, unless they’re close friends or family members, and editorial types know that even that’s asking for trouble. So just to keep you all on good terms (so to speak) and confident about what you’re saying and writing, here are six commonly misused idiomatic phrases, along with the correct way to say them. A complete 360 Correct phrase: A complete 180 If you’ve been using “a complete 360” to indicate a change in perspective, try this little exercise: From a standing position, turn all the way around until you’re back at your starting point — a 360-degree turn. What do you see? Probably the same thing you saw when you started. Now turn just halfway around so you’re facing the opposite direction — a 180-degree turn. What do you see now? Something completely different. When you change your mind and end up with an entirely different perspective, that’s a complete 180. Chomping at the bit Correct phrase: Champing at the bit This phrase, used when people can’t wait to get started, comes from horse racing. The “bit” in this case is a horse bit, the metal piece of a bridal that goes into the horse’s mouth. Equestrians will tell you that when horses are eager to get moving, they tend to roll their bits around in the back of their mouths and gnaw on them a little —or “champ at the bit”. They’re really not chomping on it, as you would chomp on an apple. While some grammarians have started to accept the more commonly used “chomping at the bit” as interchangeable with the original phrase, true editorial purists and horse lovers are not going to let that one fly. Hone in on Correct phrase: Home in on Hone means to sharpen something, as with a knife. While it’s perfectly OK to “hone” — meaning refine or perfect — your marketing message, it’s not OK to “hone in on” it. When you’re trying to zero in on a particular idea or strategy, or the perfect wording, your actions are similar to those of a homing pigeon trying to fly home or to another targeted location, which is why the phrase is “home in on.” I could care less Correct phrase: I couldn’t care less All you really need to do to understand this one is to just say “I could care less,” then stop and really think about what you just said. Generally, you would utter this phrase to indicate that you don’t care, but if you could care less, you do care, even if just a little. If you “couldn’t care less,” you don’t care at all. Nip it in the butt Correct Phrase: Nip it in the bud This phrase essentially means putting an end to an undesirable situation before it gets out of hand. So if you’re thinking about stopping a burglar by siccing your dog on him, “nip it in the butt” might make a tiny bit of sense, but it’s still wrong. The correct phrase, “nip it in the bud,” refers to cutting off the bud of a flower so it doesn’t have a chance to grow. Metaphorically, it means preventing a little problem from growing into a bigger one. You have another thing coming Correct Phrase: You have another think coming Using this phrase with “thing” implies that, if you have a particular view or take a certain action, something you didn’t expect will happen. In actuality, the original phrase, “You have another think coming,” is simply meant to say, “If you know what’s good for you, pal, you’d better think again.” Once you have these correct phrases down, keep in mind that there is debate among grammarians on whether some of the misused phrases are actually right or wrong. Some believe that, because a phrase is more commonly said a certain way (e.g. “chomping at the bit”; “you have another thing coming”), the more widely used version has become correct. Other editorial types find that line of thinking fraught with peril, as it changes the meaning (e.g. “I could care less”). Your best bet is to stick with the original and true version of the phrase when your grammar matters, such as when you’re trying to impress a well-read job interviewer or write the perfect report or simply prevent your eye-twitching colleague from going into convulsions. A simple, correctly-uttered idiomatic phrase is enough to turn that twitch into a well-earned smile of editorial respect.
Three Ways to Improve Your PowerPoint
Sometimes, presenters overload slides with too much text. They forget about the built-in visual features that PowerPoint offers to improve design and flow. While both content and design need to capture and keep your audience’s attention, we’d like to highlight a few of PowerPoint’s great visual design features. Used the right way, these visuals can support your message by creating associations between what your audience hears and what they see. Builds, animations, and morph transitions are our top picks for both effectiveness and entertainment value. And remember, they can make your message even more memorable! Builds A build slide appears to build upon itself. Instead of showing the slide’s information all at once, build slides show information progressively, often bullet by bullet, as the presentation proceeds. Using a build instead of one slide with all the information lets you control the pace of the presentation. Builds allow your audience members to focus on the current point by preventing them from reading ahead. Using animations and effects to design the build gives you timing options and choices about how to introduce information. Bullet points can fly or fade in from the right, left, top, or bottom. You can trigger each new point with a mouse click. You can also choose to dim previous points on the slide as new points appear—just another way to keep your audience focused. Animations Animations are a fun and effective way to make presentations more dynamic by engaging your audience and building momentum towards specific points. The most common animation effects are entrance and exit transitions. You can also add sound to increase the intensity of animation effects. Any type of content can be animated with a number of effects like “appear,” “fade,” “fly in,” “spin,” or “swivel.” Combining animations adds more complexity but also more emphasis on the points or topic you’re presenting. And it doesn’t stop there either. There are options that extend how the animation works. For example, you can coordinate your rate of speech with the appearance of the content on the slide by using Trigger, Duration, or Delay—or by using a recorded voice-over. The Morph Transition The morph makes objects, such as text, shapes, pictures, SmartArt, WordArt, and charts appear animated as they fade in and out of the frame. Slides must have one or more objects in common for this to work, but it provides a new complex look as you transition your slides. To set up a morph transition, all the objects are created on the first slide. Then, duplicate the slide as many times as you want the slides to change. On each subsequent slide, you can delete, rearrange, or move the objects around, so that they appear to dance around the screen from one slide to the next. Note to the over-ambitious: As with “text heavy” slides which bog down and bore audiences, the same overuse principal applies to visual elements. Don’t include so many moving parts that your audience members feel as though they’re watching a 3D action movie because they can miss your message. Your audience is taking in both what they hear and what they see, so make it easy for them to remember your presentation.