Sunday, June 21, 2015

Canva Advanced Design Tips

Finding quick and easy graphics tools for social media specialists and everyday editors is one of the key challenges in today's busy marketing and publishing environment. I've been enjoying Canva as a welcome newcomer to the group of options, and have been using it a lot for my work Facebook Page posts.

I took part in this recent very interesting Canva webinar, and am sharing the resources with you, as outlined below.

I've listed the blog posts referred to during the webinar as well as some handy sites to draw inspiration and ideas for what Canva calls "your creative journey."

I have also included a link to Canva's free eBook that is packed with font combinations, color palettes and techniques to apply custom filters.

The Design School:

Pre-register for Canva for Work:

Blog post on free stock images:

Blog post with Canva Shortcuts:

Google Chrome EyeDropper tool:

A go-to site for creative inspiration:

Branding eBook:

Remix links for three designs:
High Line Hotel:
Summer Jam Series:

Last but not least, a recording of the webinar for your convenience:

I hope you find these resources useful! What about you? Please share any graphics tools for editors you find to be easy to use and effective.

Monday, May 18, 2015

5 Surprising Marketing Lessons from "Mr. Holland's Opus"

Last night, I avoided the Mad Men Finale frenzy (saving last episode on iTunes for tonight!), and was pleased to discover a suitable piece of entertainment, "Mr. Holland's Opus," not entirely a departure from the Mad Men 60's-70's time warp. This 1995 "pre-Glee" film starring Richard Dreyfuss, follows the 30-year career of a music teacher at an Oregon high school, whose life-lessons, from tenacity to morals, while somewhat shmaltzy, resonate, and were refreshing for this viewer.

From Wikipedia: "In 1965, Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) is a professional musician and composer who has been relatively successful in the exhausting life of a musical performer. However, in an attempt to enjoy more free time with his young wife, Iris (Glenne Headly), and to enable him to compose a piece of orchestral music, the 30-year-old Holland accepts a teaching position. Unfortunately for Holland, he is soon forced to realize that his position as a music teacher makes him a marginalized figure in the faculty's hierarchy. He comes face to face with how seriously he is outranked by the high school's football coach, Bill (Jay Thomas), who ultimately becomes his best friend. Administrators, such as vice principal Gene Wolters (William H. Macy), dislike him, while others, including principal Helen Jacobs (Olympia Dukakis), remind him that he should not teach just because of financial reasons. It is Mrs. Jacobs' scolding that helps Holland turn a corner. He starts to use rock and roll as a way to help children understand classical music. Reluctantly, he begins seeing his students as individuals and finds ways to help them excel."

While I found myself becoming drawn into this movie, I was impressed with the number of marketing lessons that surfaced. The film, as good ones do, made me rethink audience, performances, allegiances, and yes...content marketing! So here are 5 important takeaway tips:

1. Be "Edutaining:" When Glenn realizes he is boring his "Music Appreciation" class students, and even himself, he realized that he can still teach effectively while being entertaining. Playing musical examples on the piano and parts of hit songs on records, he provides lively examples to illustrate his points, and his classes come to life, while he himself becomes invigorated.
Communicate in as interesting way as possible to get your message across. This is true content marketing.

2. Be a Great Storyteller: Glenn tells quite a few stories during the course of the movie, including one to his wife when she announces she is pregnant, about how he grew to love Coltrane and jazz despite not being used to it at first. They help us understand more about his character, the way he thinks about things, and ultimately the way he influences others.
Grab your audience's interest by hooking them with a great story.

3. Don't Give Up and Don't Let Others Give Up: Glenn encounters several challenges throughout his career, including trying to teach a frustrated Alicia Witt how to play the clarinet, and how to teach drums to a student with no rhythm, with whom he spends extra time doing everything from stomping his feet, to clapping the student's hands to the right rhythm, to dancing around to all kinds of music including the irresistible Louis Louis, (an entrancing song based on the same 3 chords repeated over and over again, we learn.) Inspiring Witt's character Gertrude not to give up on the clarinet, (she is just about to), he encourages her to close her eyes as she plays, think about "sunsets" (the color of her hair), and "feel" the music, so to speak. And she nails it.
Persistence passionate and tenacious, and it will pay off in business and other aspects of your life. 

4. Be Personal When It Counts: Glenn's relationship with his son Cole is troubled through much of the first half of the film. But in a breakthrough scene where Glenn is determined to communicate with him, he tells the audience about his deaf son Cole, signs John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy," and brings the audience to a standing ovation and Cole to tears.
Don't be afraid to be transparent... a little goes a long way.

5. Take Calculated Risks and Leverage Your Assets: Halfway through the film, Glenn is tasked with revamping the poorly received high school marching band. He enlists the help of his friend and football coach to organize the band members, works on logistics and synchronized marching as something new in his bag of tricks, and then has a glorious moment several weeks later as the marching band takes over the hometown parade in all its glory.
Try something new, versatility rules.

So, what say you? Have any films you've seen recently inspired your marketing? Share your thoughts in the Comments!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Nobody Cares…Or Do They? Live Socially Online and Learn

A few years ago, I was listening to a radio interview of a well-known fiction writer as she was asked about her creative process. She explained that, as one might expect, a book can take years, and that she managed to find the time while juggling work, family, etc. At one point, she said, "the truth is, nobody cares. You have to find the determination within yourself." That thought, coming from an award-winning nationally acclaimed writer, struck me as both reassuring and scary. If no one cares, then certainly there's less pressure to produce, assuming your publisher isn't knocking down your door on deadlines. You can try and fail and retry, with the main frustrations being your own timetable and goals. On the flip side, if no one cares, that means you have to explain to your family and loved ones that you have your project (writing or …..) and that you need a block of time alone to work on it. And you might need to do that again and again, at the risk of upsetting these loved ones or missing a fun activity out. Still, it's all on you to care.

Recently, there are a few projects I thought no one cared about, until a few surprises made me think twice, and renewed my faith in online "shtuff."

*Several blog posts I wrote last month attracted the attention of both Canva, (they appreciated the mention and wanted me to consider writing about their expanded graphics options), and a blog promotion company wanting me to highlight their services. It's true, a lot of organizations out there are looking for more visibility, but to have this happen in one week was an interesting twist. Then I remembered...
Blogs are promotional, and that's a good thing.

*I always post on Facebook for #ThrowbackThursday, but last week I posted a photo from my freshman year of college that attracted more Comments and Likes then usual. I hyperlinked to my college, of course, which led to many of my former classmates recognizing the scene, and my former roommate remembering that she took the photo, etc. Why all the fuss? Then I remembered…
Facebook began as a college photo directory site.

*At work, I highlighted the first anniversary of a program we had launched last year, with an enhanced graphic, thank you to supporters, and revisiting of the associated hashtag and meme I had created last year. Over a surprising dozen Favorites and Retweets later, I realized that the program had resonated with the community more then I'd realized, and that bringing back what was a first an unknown product with an uncertain future, was itself an affirmation of its success, given that large number of downloads.Then I remembered…Twitter loves birthdays, anniversaries, and commemorations of any kind that stand out of the ordinary, particularly if you show your appreciate to your online communities, and innovate a new hashtag, for goodness sake!

*Twitter may be bored with what you ate for breakfast, but Instagram isn't. Recent food photos I've posted there have consistently garnered more Favorites then on any other platform, leading me to the surprisingly pleasant conclusion that Instagram loves food pics, so…
Don't worry about the funny looks you might get while photographing your meal, you know better…

*I had all but given up on Flickr when a few years ago,  I got shmapped, and my favorite jellyfish photo became a little bit famous. Then I remembered,
Everyone needs a good photo for something, especially tourists…

*The Balloon Boy in Colorado was more of a passing thought, until this happened.

Your online life means something, even if you think no one cares. So take your unshared, uncommented on blog post or Facebook status update, and post it on your Wall -- your real Wall --to celebrate it. You still have to care about it, because that's what starting somewhere means.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Shaking It Off, the Art of the Critique, and Crying

photo: Jenny Cortez

Years ago, I was in a writing workshop where everyone pretended to be interested in constructive criticism, but in reality they--we--were so competitive, that the art of the critique was for the most part lost or dying. Everyone got into the habit of writing down the name of the commenter when it came time for their piece to be discussed, so they could attribute any negative impressions to that person's hangups or predispositions, thereby invalidating anything they didn't want to hear. Brian always talks about cliches....Amy always says the story begins at the end...John says the dialogue is stilted....that kind of thing.

One night when it was my work under discussion, I took notes on what everyone said, calmly nodding my head in understanding at the fairly harsh statements being exchanged, when deep down I was cringing. "They're wrong," I thought to myself. "They just don't get it." I came home and actually cried, drowning my sorrows in the cliche tub of chocolate ice cream, only to find out a week or so later that my story had been accepted in a national magazine. I told the teacher, but asked her not to say anything to the class. I wanted to enjoy my moment of literary glory.

At one point in my communications career, I had to write a performance review of my secretary. Her work was good, but she had a strange habit of disappearing every few days. She never called in, but would appear out of nowhere like nothing had happened. During the review, I had to point this out, and she started to cry. It turns out, there was a situation involving a family member. Once she told me, I calmed her down, and we set up a plan where she would communicate more regularly the next time the problem came up. Eventually, it was resolved.

When I was little, I went on a hike at camp in a poor fitting pair of shoes, and ended up with painful sores on my feet that took weeks to heel. I cried, not only out of pain, but for being critiqued afterwards for doing a stupid thing. Of course, I didn't realize at the time the shoes were bad, or I wouldn't have worn them. Actually, looking back on it, I'm rather proud of myself for sticking it out--who knows what would have happened if I'd walked in bare feet for hours?

On the receiving end:
-listen to everything being said, and take it all in before speaking or reacting
-don't feel pressured to agree, but do what's needed to fix the situation if it's dire
-keep everything in perspective--things really do seem better the next day
-it's alright to cry...even if you have to find a place to do it
-take it seriously, but shake it off so you can move on

On the giving end:
-be balanced in your critique
-offer specific examples of what works and what doesn't
-no one is perfect, so keep perfection out of it
-model the behavior or outcome you're wanting others to achieve
-don't major in minor things--focus in the most important issues

There's a great scene in the recent film Wild, where Reese Witherspoon picks up a new pair of hiking boots she'd ordered to replace her ill-fitting old ones, which have left her feet swollen and bleeding. You could say she was flawed for making the mistake in the first place. Or you could say she was a hero for getting right back on track in her new boots, almost like it was nothing at all.

Friday, March 13, 2015

22 Ways to Create Compelling Content Via Copyblogger

I came across this gem from Copyblogger this morning, and thought it was so worthwhile I couldn't resist posting it here. When I Googled the original publication, I saw this it was from 2012, further proof that if you have strong evergreen content on your blog, people will come back to it time and time again. While many may have heard of the "go for a walk" strategy to clear your mind, or the idea of a guest interview, cross promoting with smaller blogs with a variety of audiences and expanding your cultural horizons to get ideas are some inspiring ideas I like. Many of my favorite bloggers get great engagement by telling their personal stories, or coming up with great best-case worse-case studies. And there's always the tried and true list strategy, based on the assumptions that readers love lists, as long as they are relevant and timely. Another tip is that if you're an early adapter to new technology, you can try productivity programs and gadgets out ahead of time, and position yourself to be an influencer. On that note, I loved this morning's blog post by Janet Fouts, praising Evernote for notetaking and other productivity applications. I'm inspired by her post to give Evernote another try!

What are your favorite strategies for finding compelling content for audiences? Share in the Comments.

22 Ways to Create Compelling Content - Infographic
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

20 Reasons Why Blogging Isn't Just Writing

Photo credit: Mike Licht

Bloggers who write and approach their blog posts the way they write anything else, are sure to be disappointed. Why? Because they aren't using their blog the way it's meant to be used-- as a platform for something greater. For thought leadership, great offererings, the delicate art of persuasion, or an exercise in innovative graphics. Gingerly approaching blogging as simply "writing online" may be fine if you just want to get your feet wet, or get a feel for writing and publishing regularly, or learn the toolkit for common blogging platforms like Wordpress. But the real bloggers out there who have a following and online authority--bloggers like Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, James Altucher, and Copyblogger, for example, all have distinct qualities in their blogging that set them apart:

1. They know the value of a strong headline

2. They innovate interesting graphics

3. They tell a good story

4. They break up their copy with formatting and subheads so it's easily scannable online

5. They address a problem

6. They offer transparency about their lives

7. They make persuasive and interesting offers

8. They ask enough of the right questions to get us thinking and commenting

9. They are early responders in their fields

10. They have emotional intelligence

11. They understand and optimize their blog's connection to their business and their social marketing

12. They have additional publishing platforms, such as enewsletters, and realize their blog is one of the main ways to get subscribers to their all important e-list

13. They're not afraid to look forward in time, or back--with purpose

14. They tell their story well, and more than once

15. They embrace multimedia, either to express their own ideas or share those of others

16. They edit and/or rewrite often, without it being about ego

17. They appreciate the value of details and strategy

18. They understand deadlines are rather urgent about things. They aren't going to take 2 weeks to write a post that needs to be done today

19. They understand and care about their audience

20. They acknowledge their peers, colleagues, heroes, and the world around them

As someone who has blogged for years and plans to continue, I have challenged myself to embrace these blogging "truisms" going forward, and not fall into writing, but take full advantage of what this medium has to offer. I challenge you to do the same.

What say you? How do you think blogging differs from writing? Have you optimized your blog all you can for your strategy and purpose?

And One More Thing...Spock Remembered

I write this on a weekend when the world mourns the loss of Mr. Spock--Leonard Nimoy. Among all the thousands of tributes published between Friday and Sunday, The New Yorker "Postscript" by Joshua Rothman speaks to me the most, combining all the nuances of Nimoy's life acutely observed, with a personal touch that made it that much more resonant. Rothman cleverly captures the "silly seriousness" that Spock's character personified, as part of what made him so memorable. Rothman writes:

"Actors are sometimes imagined as shapeshifters, but, with a few exceptions, Nimoy didn’t really shift. He was given one way of seeming—measured, cerebral, serious, dignified, wry, and slightly naughty—and he showed, over a long career, how rewarding that combination could be. He proved the value of accepting, cultivating, and enjoying one’s own nature. May we all do the same with the selves that we have."

So that brings me to one more tip for my list--something I'm going to think about myself quite a bit going forward: blogging is about being yourself, but being larger then that, and taking the risk of "silly seriousness" almost every day.

Thank goodness for LLAP (Live Long and Prosper.) Let's also embrace BLAP-Blog Long and Prosper.