Saturday, August 6, 2016

Website redesign tip #1: Start with the story

Most of my work right now is founded in a website redesign. Smart companies know that their 1990s website just isn't doing it anymore, but how do they update? There are two paths: begin with the design or begin with the words.

Always start with the story. Why?

  • Your story drives your company. Who you are, your mission statement, your values, your history--all of these together drive how you do business everyday. This is your story, and it's one you want your customers to know.  
  • Your story drives the look and feel of your website. Making things pretty is one thing, but making them fit your brand is, as we say in Texas, "a whole nother". Think of it like fashion. Anyone can dress well, but it takes something special to put together a look as personal as Donna on "Suits" or Cate Blanchett. Their fashion choices are driven by who they are. If you know your story, you then know which icons, which colors, which templates, which fonts fit and which do not. 
  • Your story drives the flow of your website. The best websites are no longer behemoths of hundreds of pages--they are designed to be browsed on mobile devices with few pages that flow well and stay on topic (i.e., the long scroll.) But, how do you know which 6-10 pages should form the core of your website? Your story, not your design, should inform this choice. 

So, how do you actually do this?

You are telling your story everyday, in every business meeting, in every sale, in every professional interaction, whether you realize it or not. Find a content marketer, a content marketing strategist, a writer, to help you clarify your story. Then, he or she can help you create wireframes and lay out the user's experience of the story in a way that maximizes the impact of the story and leads them to an interaction with you. 

Once that's done, it's time to start the website design. And, your content strategist can help you give your web designer clear direction to complete the site quickly and effectively, saving you both time and money and creating a better website in the end. 

Websites that are all about the story

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Are we fated to shorter attention spans than a goldfish?

Is this a definitive truth, limiting all of us to thoughts with the same depth and meaning as a Twitter post, or are we creating a machine that teaches us little of value extends beyond 8 seconds?
This was part of a #socialnomics video I watched during a social media class at Northwestern. I don't think we're yet doomed to a world that can't comprehend Shakespeare or Frederick Douglass yet, but it will require a conscious choice to avoid such a fate. 
I have four school-age children as well as two brands I manage on social media. I see school reaching out to the lowest common denominator, touting that as the new norm, rather than driving aspirational thinking. However, when parents demand more and create a culture of intentionality, children can leverage longer attention spans and learn, truly learn, anything. Same thing with social media--we can dedicate our entire marketing effort to the lowest common denominator, or we can speak to those who are looking for depth as well. let's be honest--some concepts cannot be adequately expressed in SnapChat, especially B2B services.
You can't believe that everyone is looking for a James Joyce novel, but you also don't want to speak so simply that the nuance of your message and brand is lost.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Where's your writing hang up?

An interesting question was posed to me by the writers at Oz (@ideasbyoz)--where do you feel the bottleneck is in your work. After working with writers for a while, it seems that there are common sticking points.

Now, I know every writer is unique--one only need look at the gamut of professional writers to know that (Gonzo Journalist Hunter Thompson fueled by drugs and rum, Balzac who drank 50 cups of coffee a day, Maya Angelou who had a hotel room in her hometown). However, the problems are similar, as are the solutions.

Personally, I was tormented by procrastination--I believed it was a part of my personality, the essential make-up of who I was. This belief continued through college and was only fueled by a career as a newspaper and television journalist. However, graduate school, first in creative writing then in English medieval literature, was sufficiently terrifying to kick procrastination to the curb. Out of necessity, I began scheduling draft dates and meetings with friends who would hold me accountable. It worked, and now I am a bit on the OCD side about scheduling.

So, where's your bottleneck? In the next few posts I'll be offering tips to writers on how to overcome their bottleneck(s), wherever they come in the writing process.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Not ready to write? Curate first.

I have met so many experts in diverse fields--people who are professionals in their field and passionate about their business. However, some of the most intriguing people I've met (some of whom are most excited about what they do) are not where they could be in business because they don't evangelize.

It's all about the content. Inc. published a great article today (This is How You Get Yourself Out There to Market Your Expertise) that reiterates that it truly is all about the words and how you publish them.

The key, however, is to be an expert before you write. While there is quite a bit on content marketing out there, if you have nothing to say, or you don't have any knowledge above and beyond the mean, don't bother. But, those business savvy people I know have lots to say, they just don't know how to say it or why.

You can have a conversation with one person and change their perspective--you can blog or comment on social media and reach hundreds, or not thousands.

Social media storytelling is one of the key marketing trends in 2016 and with good reason--consumers want more than a pitch. (For 6 major trends, read more here.) They are looking for the truth behind who you are, who your brand is, and what makes you tick. Now. let's tell those stories!

So, how do you get started? First, share what you read. It's called curating, and it's basically sharing the most valuable pieces of content and the things that touch you. You're an expert in your profession, and you likely read several pieces a day on your industry, on the business world, on what interests you. People who are in the industry want to know what you are reading, what you value. LinkedIn, facebook, Twitter are all ways to share written content. If you have visual content, don't forget Tumblr and Instagram.

If you're not ready to write yet, share. And, eventually, you'll be ready to write. Because, if you're an expert, you have something to say. It's just getting down to saying it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

We are all storytellers

Companies with boring stories do not succeed.

But, then again, I have never encountered a company with a boring story. I have, however, encountered many businesses who haven't figured out how to tell their story. CEOs, salespeople and marketers need to remember that we are all storytellers.

Last night, I had the pleasure of reading a business' story that was so compelling from Inc. that I almost bought GT's Kombucha this morning. And, this business' growth, IMHO, was due not only to the passion of the son but also to the storytelling skill of his mother who nurtured the business in its infancy.

Executives have a story about their business--why it exists and why they have worked endless hours to nurture it and watch it grow. No one will dump endless hours into something they don't believe in--that kind of dedication requires passion. I've seen passion in HR, in software development, in legal services and in colleges.

But, what happens to that passion? Where does it go?

At some point, we begin to believe that the product is so compelling it will sell itself. We forget the importance of the story. Narrative links us together as humans--it's a gift we began cultivating as children in song (remember "I'm bringin' home a baby bumblebee"?), in monologue and later as part of a dialogue. A good storyteller can make even the most mundane seem extraordinary, but a novice storyteller can do the same when passionate.

I have the privilege of telling stories all day, and listening for that passion in the executives that I work with that makes their story a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat tale. What's your story?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Are you reading Guy? Three business books to read now.

Are you reading Guy Kawasaki right now? If you're not, you're missing out. I read a lot, and it's not often that I find a book that I have to stop every page or two and take action, but this is one of those. If you get it on Kindle, it's even better because then you can follow all the links provided (and when I say all the links, there are up to 10 on some pages). For me, this hasn't been a quick read, but I swear there's a takeaway every page or so worth noting.

Some of the top tips I've found so far are in the directories and the need for personalization of your blog and Twitter feed. The feeds are helpful keeping a pulse on the news, and the Google tips are great if you're more of a Google person. That's just in the first chapter!

As I said, I read a lot, but there were two other books that had an impact recently. They were both personal/professional, but highly beneficial on all fronts.

The first is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I sent a copy to several people I know, made my husband read it, and even orchestrated the purchase for some of our customers. What I love about this book is that he combines so much of the wisdom against a 24/7 worklife and the idea that we have to be all things to all people. Really, you can only do one thing well, so do that better than anyone else. This book is all about focus, and it is reminiscent of Stephen Covey, who is one of my favorite authors of all time. (Best book? Seven Habits of Highly Successful Families. His wife is amazing as well.)

The second is The Alliance by Reid Hoffman. We were just speaking today on how to manage employees, and the old models are truly not working anymore, especially on Millennials and remote workforces. This book allows employers to recapture the energy they themselves had when starting out and harness it in their people. Even if you're not in HR, it's a great read because it makes you think of where you are in your employee lifecycle and if it's where you want to be.

Happy reading! I'd love to know what your favorite book was in the past 18 months.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Normally I'd be blogging, but my infobesity got in the way

For the past two hours, I've been completely drawn into the black hole of analytics for marketing, and it's been amazing! I have to admit, my fascination with analytics is probably best described by a word I first heard from +William Tincup today: infobesity.

So, where have I been on my black hole journey? I've visited...

So, I'm going to indulge my infobesity for a bit more. As G.I. Joe used to say, "Knowing is half the battle". And, now that I have better insight for my clients, I can leverage that for better results.