Category Archives: Our Lessons

5 Tips for Kindling Your Creativity

work desk

Whatever your industry there’s usually a need to be creative – whether positioning yourself to attract new business, identifying a new client solution or solving a management problem. Add in the everyday challenges of running a business, and creativity can be hard to find. Next time you’re feeling stuck, try these five ways to get the ideas flowing again.

  1. Get back to the consumer point of view. If you were the customer what would you want to see? What would get you excited and build confidence? Empathy for your target audience can tap back into new ideas.
  1. Change your soundtrack. Try listening to something new and see what happens. If you usually work in silence, background music can engage part of your brain allowing the rest of it free reign. Lyrics, instrumentals, or the sounds of nature may shake things up. Or try noise canceling headphones with no music at all and see what’s hiding in the silence.
  1. Change your scenery. It can be as simple as sitting on the other side of your desk or out on the sofa in reception. Or maybe going to a coffeehouse or park. Take a walk or go to the gym. Sometimes not actively working allows the work to happen.
  1. Ask for advice. Talking things over with someone different can change your whole perspective. Everyone has an opinion and most are more than willing to share it. Ask your kids what they think – you’re likely to get honest (and sometimes harsh) insight.
  1. Keep it simple. It’s easy to get stuck if you’re looking for a lofty solution. The direct route is often the best way to let creativity happen. Just say what you want to say and leave space for the ideas to stand out.

Bottom line – when creativity seems out of reach, go back to the basics, try something different, and then be patient. The answer is out there. It may not look like what you expect, but it’s there nonetheless.

person walking in the woods

It’s Intern Season: 7 Tips for Students

office work space

Internships are an important opportunity to gain valuable experience and learn skills not taught in the classroom. Even high school students can benefit from shadowing professionals. Here are 7 tips for making the most of your internship experience.

  1. Start early. Exploring possibilities within your field of interest is much easier and more affordable when you are in school. Real world experience from internships sets you apart when applying for a job.
  1. Stand out. Your letter or email should be personally written and honest. Clearly state what you are looking to get from an internship. Mention anything specific or relevant from the firm’s website, body of work, employees that you know, or any other positive connection.
  1. Choose an internship with a variety of opportunities. In advertising, some agencies place interns in just one department. At Triad, our interns work with every department in each of our companies.
  1. Look for flexibility. Whether during the school year or in the summer, flexible hours will allow you to continue your education or even work another job.
  1. Step outside your comfort zone. Our interns have come from a variety of majors including sociology and psychology.
  1. Take advantage of networking opportunities. Get to know people in the office. Ask questions and learn as much as you can. Take initiative and demonstrate what you bring to the team. Your internship can yield important connections that help you get a job and move your career forward.
  1. Be professional, but have fun. References matter, so dress the part and behave appropriately. But also take time to enjoy yourself. This is a rare opportunity to explore your interests, learn real world skills and discover what truly interests you.

Got Content? Milk It!

Want to hear a secret? SEO is dead. Ditto social media, infographics, contests and surveys.

I hear you cheering. Hurrah! Best news since the arrival of the new iPhone. No more crafting the perfect title tag, blog post, meta description or Facebook post. No need to respond tactfully to cranky customers calling you out on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or Foursquare. No more keywords, no more hooks, no more trolls’ dirty looks. Just time for real company stuff. Finally.

Not so fast. The truth is that these things are more important than ever. As part of an integrated, coordinated content strategy. The days of piecemeal content creation and siloed SEO are over. That is the lesson of SearchLove, a two day conference put together by Distilled and SEOMoz which we were fortunate enough to attend.

Not too long ago, Google rolled out two algorithmic updates: Panda and Penguin. Both updates served to penalize thin content, lousy linking strategies and generally shady practices that had grown in popularity. “Grey hat” practices that worked in the past, like buying links, using exact domain matches without relevant content, and faking social media personalities, suddenly got sites reduced in search engine rankings, and sometimes delisted altogether.

Hand wringing and cursing ensued across the web. What to do?

Well, how about what you should have done in the first place? Create great content. Share it with communities for whom it’s relevant. Be deliberate and strategic in your online efforts. Connect marketing efforts online and off. And did I mention, create great content?

Great content is more than a random blog post about you every so often. It’s more than plugging a bunch of keywords into a page title. And it’s way more than trading links and submitting to search directories. It’s a new way of thinking about the intersection of your content, your company and your business goals.

So, how do you get started on this new content journey? Here are a few quick tips:

  • Don’t forget the basics. Yes – you still need to do all the nitpicky, little things for SEO, such as create descriptive title tags, meta descriptions and use keywords in your content. These elements tell search engines what your site is about.  Traditional, stand-alone SEO might not be as effective as it used to be, but you ignore it at your peril.
  • Think about who you are targeting. You might not need to be number one on search engine ranking pages for the entire world unless you are a global brand. Think and focus on local.
  • Don’t jump on every new platform that comes along! Where are your current and potential customers? Facebook? Twitter? Yelp? What about industry specific platforms or LinkedIn? Make sure digital marketing efforts are aimed at those places.
  • Make sure your content answers these questions: What problem do my customers have? How am I uniquely suited to help fix it? The more you demonstrate empathy with your customers, the more likely they are to look to you to solve their issues.
  • Keeping existing customers is as important – if not more important – than refilling the funnel. Use digital and social to keep your existing customers happy and coming back for more.

Yup, online marketing is more important than ever. Getting results requires more care. No more phoning it in. No more pretend engagement. No more slacking. Sorry.

Should Social Ring the Register?

It’s Friday morning. Maybe you are sinking hoops using the Nerf backboard you put up years ago. Maybe you are kicking around your office, thinking about weekend plans, football training camp and… Facebook. Yes, you still aren’t sure about social. On one shoulder is the guy in blue, insisting that you have to do it. On the other is the guy in red yelling that you are busy enough as it is. It’s Friday afternoon, after all. Perfect time for a rousing debate with… yourself.

You aren’t alone. We know first hand that it goes something like this:

Red: I don’t see how Facebook can really help most businesses. For many, it doesn’t lead to sales. Any marketing tool that doesn’t lead to sales shouldn’t be used. It’s a waste of resources.

Blue: Facebook isn’t a marketing tool. It’s an engagement tool.

Red: What does that mean? Facebook takes a lot of time and energy. It diverts staff from real money making ventures to fluff. If it isn’t leading to sales, then why should companies bother?

Blue: It’s important to chat with your customers where they are. Facebook – in spite of press to the contrary – is still growing by leaps and bounds. People are probably already talking about you in social – so you might as well take part in the conversation.

Red: Why? Having that conversation on social is so public. It can go so wrong. Look at what’s happening with Chick-Fil-A.

Blue: True, but it can also go really right. When you use social and Facebook as an extension of your customer service, you can move your customers from paying you to loving you. Building that brand loyalty is super important, particularly in today’s economy. Chick-Fil-A – might be getting hammered on Facebook, but their fans are equally vocal in supporting them.

Red: I’m still not comfortable with recommending action that doesn’t have an easily measurable return on investment. People are so busy and it takes a lot of time and effort to make great content.

Blue: What’s the cost of not doing it? A lot of folks do their research before they commit to a purchase. They want to know a brand. What a brand thinks is important. What their friends think about it. If you don’t have that information out there, you could lose sales.

Red: Maybe. But a lot of people are putting a lot of garbage out on social. They aren’t focusing on what makes them different. They aren’t focusing on what makes their product special.

Blue: True. If you don’t take the time to create great content, you certainly won’t get the engagement and loyalty – and word of mouth promotion – you are looking for.

Red: And why is everyone so focused on Facebook? I see so many brands saying “I have to be on Facebook” without knowing why or what their goals are.

Blue: Absolutely. Not everyone needs to be on all platforms. Does a B-2-B need to be on Facebook? Maybe not. Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest… they might all be better alternatives depending on the industry, the client base, etc.

Red: So… what were we arguing about? Seems like social is like all other efforts to promote your business. You get out what you put in.

Blue: Yeah. Pass the basketball.

Rolling With The Changes

Ever heard of a typesetter? How about a stat machine or burning plates? My first job out of college was at a print shop, and I used those now outdated tools every day.

I physically measured column widths, chose fonts, determined font size and leading, and ran out sheets of copy. I also physically pasted up copy and any other artwork on illustration boards using a waxer to create mechanicals. Each color was represented by a different layer of transparencies.

After all the paste up prep work, we took the job into a darkroom where a picture of each layer was taken. Finally, a plate was burnt to go to print.

My second job at an ad agency in Boston saw me using the same equipment. But, things, as we all know, changed – and changed quickly. Computers began to take over. I took computer courses at RISD and became familiar with Pagemaker. But it too became obsolete. I soon found myself sitting behind an artist for a week watching him use Quark Express.

Things were moving along nicely. I became proficient in Quark, Illustrator and Photoshop. Now as agencies make the change from Quark to InDesign, I find myself still trying to keep up with the latest changes in technology.

We have come a long way from the days of stat machines and typesetters. But change is the name of the game. In fewer than 20 years, computers have changed the nature of graphic composition for artists, designers, agencies, and clients alike. Who knows what will come next?

Call me old fashioned. I still prefer Quark to InDesign.