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Making Connections: A Step by Step Guide to Curating Content for a Killer Blog

Posted on 12/21/2017 at 11:45 AM

Article by Kasey L. Riley

This post is a deep dive into slide 9 of my presentation titled, “Finding Your Voice: How to Write Authentically to Engage and Retain. For those of you attending the upcoming AMA Iowa conference on February 23, 2018, I will be delivering that presentation and this post is the “Extended Version,” of Slide 9, not unlike an extended LP or EP in music.

Slide 9 is titled “Make Connections.” That’s easy to advise and much harder to do so let’s take a look at the actual process for making connections with relevant and tangential topics as well as authors who may not be well known or even consider themselves “authors” and why making connections will make you a better, and more engaging writer.

If you are anything like me, you feel pretty overwhelmed much of the time as you work to keep up with the moving target of content marketing, let alone analytics and marketing in general and sometimes you want to put your head in your hands and cover your ears with headphones blaring Rage Against the Machine. There is no way anyone can keep up with all of the information promulgated so we all have to learn to be selective, to trust our instincts, and find the content that truly captures us. And guess what?

That content does not necessarily have to be marketing content.

Consuming content is hard. We all have jobs to do, groceries to get, houses to clean and emails, oh my stars, the emails. They never end. Plus, we need to relax once in a while and focusing on marketing content 24-7 does not a well-rounded writer make.

CONSUME CONTENT

I subscribe to five different podcasts and I listen to an additional two or three and only one of those podcasts is about marketing (it’s Jay Acunzo’s Unthinkable) but the ones I enjoy the most and the ones that seem to spur the most innovative ideas (possibly giving myself too much credit here) and enable me to think in an interdisciplinary fashion (which is how I believe strong marketers think) are the surprise topics that The New Yorker podcast serves up. One of my faves is an interview that The New Yorker writer, David Remnick conducts with Bruce Springsteen. Remnick sits down with Springsteen for an hour on the stage of The New Yorker Festival and whether you are a fan of Springsteen or not, I would question you at length if you did not find the interview compelling and interesting. Again, not about marketing at all but my takeaways (that apply to marketing) are as follows:

  1. Deciding what to write and when matter (this stems from the question to Springsteen about why he decided to write his memoir). Kinda begs the question of when one begins to reflect on their own life and very much begs the question of timing. When it the right time to address the topic–whether it’s an innovative marketing concept or net neutrality *gulp*, timing is everything. For example, there is no way I am touching the net neutrality issue until the smoke clears a little. I would like to learn from others and their views on the subject before I start spouting about it.
  2. Find the (writing) voice you are comfortable in that normally might feel awkward and keep at it.
  3. Express yourself authentically or don’t bother (in a super charming way, Springsteen cops to the fact that the subtext of every one of his songs is a cry for or about Daddy–how authentic is that?) He actually goes into his relationship with his dad in detail and both heartwrenching and relatable.

And that’s just one podcast from The New Yorker. Some of the other topics that have captured me range from “Slut: The Play,” an Empowering Story for Young Women” (and a great way to hone your empathy) to an interview with author of “My Struggle,” “Karl Ove Knausgaard on Near Death Experiences, Raising Kids, Puberty, Brain Surgery and Turtles.” I mean come on, if you can’t find something compelling and applicable to content marketing from that podcast, you should take a walk in the woods and re-awaken your imagination. And if you can retain your Midwestern, American sense of humor, you will be utterly charmed by the ever-existential Scandinavian. Don’t forget that Scandinavia is the land of Soren Kirkegaard, the father of existentialism and honestly, that perspective is pretty helpful sometimes. Case in point is my favorite Kirkegaard quote, “Once you label me you negate me.” That feels pretty timely, don’t you think?

I consume my content on long walks so my advice to take a long walk in the woods is advice that I adhere to as well. It is incredibly helpful and taking the time to listen to content while walking seems to open up my mind and enable me to make connections in a way I am just not able to do while sitting at my desk.

Podcasts are, of course, just one form of content. If reading is your thing, then read and pick up magazines and articles you might not normally read. I cannot tell you the wealth of ideas (and knowledge) I gain by reading Omni Magazine. Before you contradict me and tell me that Omni Magazine went out of print in the 90s, check again. They just quietly relaunched a quarterly publication that is worth a review, as is Scientific American.

I dig how reading about science engages another part of my brain and I feel I gain a great deal of valuable and applicable knowledge from reading about the mind and how the mind functions from a scientific perspective. Makes senses for us marketers to know a bit about that, don’t you think?

DO A LITTLE DIGGING

So now that you have consumed content that goes beyond the same information about SEO and SEM and Google Adwords and such, you can do a little digging and begin to make connections that are rather innovative.

For example, articles about the mind and brain function lend insight into empathy (which is something I feel every good writer should have) and how empathy can lend itself to strong content marketing. But this time, instead of backlinking to the other content marketing articles on empathy, you can provide new insight into empathy by linking to “off the beaten path content” and aid your readers in thinking in new ways as well.

START WRITING 

Now it’s time to start writing. Sometimes I use a loose, handwritten outline but for the most part, I just start writing and as I write the thread begins to emerge. Sure, I may have to go back and do a little more research on one topic or another but the only way to get words on the page is to start writing and keep writing.

For inspiration and guidance in that area, I look to publications that challenge my own experiences. One of my “go-to’s” is Deep South Magazine. I am not a southerner and I honestly know very little about the southern American experience so reading articles like “The Greatest Bromances in Southern Literature” and “The Real Roots of Southern Cuisine” are fascinating. The magazine is a window into a culture very far from my own, but arguably, one I should understand since we source our products for The Fat Plant Society from North Carolina and Kentucky and some of our customers are from the south so it’s a market I need to know and know well.

Of course, some days the words flow out of me faster and easier than others but the bottom line is that the words won’t appear on the page unless you type them. Get some content on the page and worry about finding the thread and editing it later. Just keep writing and it will come.

Once you start making connections between seemingly disparate concepts, you become more interesting and so does your writing.

As David Remnick tells Bruce Springsteen, every good song, like every good piece of writing has brains, soul, and heart.

Creating a Successful Tradeshow Atmosphere.

Posted on 12/12/2017 at 12:36 PM

Article provided by Dan Clark, Design Director @ Skyline Dynovia.

Professionals attend tradeshows for two main reasons: Information and Relationships. Exhibits and events that successfully connect with attendees and convey the company’s message start with early planning, thoughtful process, and an experienced partner to guide the way. By focusing on a few important elements, exhibitors can capitalize on their exhibit investment and develop lasting relationships with expanded client bases.

Setting the Tone. Planning an exhibit or event starts with understanding its purpose. An exhibit can be used to tell a story, introduce a new product, or provide space for learning about existing products and services. Early in the process, decide on your goals for the exhibit and then match those goals with the right design and development partners.

Pre-Show Engagement. Drawing people to your exhibit or event starts months before the show. Many options exist for attracting people to your exhibit.

  • Promotions, giveaways, and contests draw people to the show, as well as your exhibit.
  • Pre-show mailers can get the word out and entice people to visit the show.
  • Social media offers powerful options. Pre-show, social media can be a powerful tool for drawing people to your event.

Visibility. The visibility of the exhibit should be thought through in multiple stages. The exhibit’s branding should be easily seen from a distance of 50 or more feet away. As an attendee approaches, large-scale graphics, recognizable branding, and dynamic exhibit structure should invite attendees inside for a compelling, memorable experience.

Design. The exhibit’s design elements create your company’s first impression and will affect how people are drawn to the space. The designer’s role is to integrate the client’s information, brand guidelines, and show and venue limitations into a compelling and inviting space in which attendees will be drawn to experience and engage with the company’s message or learn about its products and services. Attendees will stay in an exhibit for longer periods of time and learn more about the company when the exhibit successfully combines architecture, graphics, and media to create a complete experience.

Event Engagement. Keeping attendees interested can be a challenge. This requires that exhibitors keep their messages fresh and use less traditional forms of engagement. For example, companies use tactics like creating a coffee bar in the space to encourage visitors to be comfortable while spending time in the exhibit. Social media is another resource to leverage during the event. Social media-based sharable experiences can be an effective way to encourage potential customers to spread the word and advertise for your company. These shareable experiences also help to create a more captive audience by connecting with more attendees at one time. Additionally, consider incorporating a giveaway to build a buzz on the show floor. If the experience is engaging and entertaining for attendees, a company might find its presentation posted on popular social media channels, which translates to a bigger audience and longer exposure for the company’s event.

Customer Service. Tradeshows are about building relationships. With this in mind, exhibitors should ensure that every visitor to the exhibit is met with genuine hospitality from friendly, knowledgeable staff. Exhibit staff are the face of the company and every attendee should be made to feel like they are the company’s most important customer.

Low-Pressure Sales. A common trend is to treat the exhibit more like a retail space. Successful retail-oriented spaces incorporate user-friendly interfaces that allow for a self-guided tour at the user’s own pace. Exhibitors can deepen the customer experience by combining a relaxed approach with a well-trained staff to help answer questions. Exhibitors should ensure that the exhibit staff is well aware that high pressure sales on the show floor will only result in fewer customers and lower sales.

For attendees, a tradeshow can be an exciting and somewhat overwhelming experience. Because attendees will view dozens or even hundreds of exhibits, exhibitors must differentiate themselves from the rest of the herd. This is when all the planning and hard work are tested. Every single exhibitor is vying for interest, and each exhibit screams for attention using many methods of attracting people. By focusing on each of these items – Tone, Engagement, Design, and Customer Experience – a company can attract, engage, and retain customers, resulting in better marketplace visibility and ROI.

If you’d like to know more about what to expect from a superior design and development partner, feel free to email me at dan@dynovia.com.

AMA Iowa Chapter Receives 2016-17 Bronze Chapter of the Year Award!

Posted on 12/04/2017 at 12:16 PM

Each year, the American Marketing Association recognizes outstanding achievements of its chapters with the Chapter Excellence Awards. AMA Iowa chapter is honored to announce that we have been named Bronze Chapter of the year.

The Chapter Excellence Awards (CEA) program was established in 1974 to recognize and reward AMA professional chapters’ outstanding achievements in leadership, membership, programming, finance, and communications. Each summer, every chapter has the opportunity to submit a CEA entry, which serves as a critical historical record of chapter operations for the prior year that empowers future local leaders to build on past successes.

Iowa also received the Platinum Continuing Excellence award for earning CEA recognition five or more years in a row. Platinum chapters continue to build on a legacy of achievement by delivering exceptional, innovative experiences to their local marketing community year after year.

Award judges praised the chapter's volunteer efforts, programming, and leadership …. One judge summed it up by saying “ This chapter has it going on! Strong board and strong chapter. Looking forward to seeing their continued success.”

The CEA is not about a President or even a board. It’s about consistent, sustainable success. It’s about excellence in chapter management. Thank you to our volunteers, board members, sponsors and the Iowa marketing community for helping our chapter achieve this excellence and fulfill our chapter’s mission.

    

 

5 Graphic Design Terms You Need to Know

Posted on 11/28/2017 at 11:53 AM

By Adam Hoffman, Owner and Designer at Hoffman Creative

If you’ve ever heard designers talking to each other it can seem like they’re speaking a different language. There are mentions of leading, kerning, orphans, widows, bleeds, trim and serifs. What the heck is all this stuff? It’s okay, we don’t expect you to follow along—we really do have a lot of confusing terms in our industry. However, as a marketer or someone else who works with designers, it’s important to at least have a basic, high-level understanding of some of this jargon.

After discussing the goals of your company or client, brainstorming and planning media, it’s finally time to start a project. Before the designer can even begin, we need to know some very important information.

“Specifications”

This is the basic size and shape of the final product. Ideally, the designer would be involved in the planning processes to help define this. But, at the very least, it needs to be defined. Some common specifications include:

  • Dimensions: The width and height of a document; typically measured in inches (for print documents) or pixels (for web/video projects). Be sure to specify if something is horizontal or vertical!
  • Colors: What colors will be used. CMYK and Pantone colors are used for printing while RGB colors are used for web/video.
  • Unique needs: Anything that requires additional planning for the designer. This includes special folds and cuts for print projects.

The more information you can provide for a designer—even if you aren’t quite sure what it means—the more efficient their process will be.

“Identity”

For a designer, “identity” usually means a set of existing guidelines or other materials that define the visualization of a brand. This usually includes colors, typography, logo usage and other visual elements. A brand’s visual identity is used to design consistently across all forms of media.

A well-defined brand identity will answer questions for a designer before they’ve had a chance to ask them. Many corporations have brand identity documents that are several dozen—or even hundreds—of pages long. Creating these documents might be a large up-front cost but they are certainly helpful and ensure consistency even if multiple designers are used.

Other companies simply provide examples of past projects to base designs off of. This is fine—it’s still your brand identity—but it leaves more open to interpretation deciding what’s brand canon or not.

“Hierarchy”

In Graphic Design, hierarchy is the order in which your eye is drawn across a page. This is determined by the layout and structure of the text and graphics. This is what Graphic Design is at its core—drawing your eye to what’s important.

A basic hierarchy for any given design project is as follows:

  1. A large image or graphic catches your eye first.
  2. A headline provides quick support to explain what this is all about.
  3. Subheads and smaller supporting imagery give viewers a basic understanding of content.
  4. Body copy that provides the meat of what’s being said. To be read at the viewer’s leisure.
  5. Disclaimers and footnotes (that need to be legible but hopefully no one reads).

As always, there are often exceptions to this order. There are several tricks designers use to get you to notice a specific part of a page without drawing too much attention to it. This can be something as simple as bolding text or creating callouts to highlight important text.

Without proper hierarchy, viewers get confused, lose interest and move on to something else.

“White space”

A common joke in the Graphic Design community is “Make the logo bigger!” As cliché as it has become, that doesn’t make it any less true.

The authenticity of this statement lies in that fact that business and people are proud of their brand and want to fill up every possible space with their logo and other brand elements. This “efficient use of space” seems logical but the flaw is that potential customers view this type of design as gaudy or even insulting to their senses.

Luckily, there is a solution. “White space” refers to the areas in a design or layout that are purposefully empty. This is done to offer a cleaner presentation, better organization and to direct the eye of the viewer to what they should see next. In the example of “Make the logo bigger!” the counter-argument would be “Surround the logo with appropriate white space to make it stand on its own and appear more important!”

Graphic Designers certainly aren’t trying to impress you or “get all designy” by using white space in their designs. We’re simply trying to create a legible layout with proper hierarchy—all to help your brand or product stand out.

“Final art”

Unless explicitly stated by the designer, you should always assume that the files they send are not ready to print or publish. To ensure that design is printed or published to its highest quality, there are several items that need to be checked off before we send “final art” (typically a high-resolution PDF or whatever is appropriate for the medium). This checklist includes:

  • Are all stock photos (or other assets) purchased and used legally? Don’t be embarrassed by printing a photo with a stock photo watermark on it. Oh yes, it has happened. 
  • Are all photos the proper resolution? Images that look fine on screen can very well look blurry once printed. 
  • Is all art in the proper color space? All items should be CMYK or Pantone for printed pieces and RGB for digital (on-screen) projects. 
  • Has the entire piece been thoroughly proofread and signed off on? You don’t need to hire an editor but we do need your approval before providing final art!

There are also many other criteria to consider depending on the project. The bottom line is double-check with the designer before printing or publishing anything.

What you can do with this knowledge.

A good designer should be aware of this information and walk you through these steps as they are necessary. However, I am always impressed when a client takes the time to learn my language so we can increase our efficiency—just as I learn their business to help them improve their bottom line.

Do you still have questions about the design process or just want to know why designers like coffee so much? Reach out to me at adam@hoffmancreative.net.

Features Your Homepage Should Include

Posted on 11/20/2017 at 12:23 PM

Your homepage is a vital tool for your business and often serves as a first impression to potential customers. While there are many important components of effective web design, the core of a website is its content. Within a matter of seconds, your homepage should introduce your product or service and entice visitors to explore further. Make sure you include these 8 key content features on your homepage to do just that!

 

By Vanessa Van Gorp

Vanessa Van Gorp is a graphic designer at Global Reach Internet Productions. Her work consists of the start-to-finish website design process, including everything from initial client meetings to perfecting all details of the website for launch. She also creates graphics and images to be utilized on the web and occasionally designs print materials. Visit the Global Reach website to learn more about their products and services.

About Global Reach Internet Productions

Global Reach was founded in 1995 and since then, it has become a leader in content management solutions and custom web development. In addition, Global Reach provides a number of interrelated services such as internet marketing, graphic design, hosting and IT support.

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