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posted by Julie Turner Aug 19,2015 @ 09:00AM

Be a Better Blogger Now

I’ll admit it. Sometimes even writers struggle with writing blog posts. Some days I stare at the monitor as my cursor and brain scream in unison: POST! DUE! TOMORROW!

Nothing 

A carbon copy of my current struggle unfolds at desks all over the globe, all day long, every day of the week. We fashion hard-working blog content strategies that will drive readership. Then, when the rubber meets the road, we jump ship just a few posts in.

Why do we even bother?

Hubspot says blogging boosts ROI, nurtures leads and gets your web pages seen. It’s true and you know it. That’s why you began blogging in the first place. So how can you get your posting schedule — or tomorrow’s post — on track right now?

So Easy a ___________ Can Do it

When it comes to blogging, the Internet giveth, giveth, giveth. Whether you crave inspiration, fill-in-the-blank simplicity, or a down-and-dirty shortcut, they’re everywhere online. Infographics, step-by-step guides, you name it. It’s there and here.

Since your post is due tomorrow, I’ve put a few of my favorite content kickstarts right here:

Put the title before the post.

Talk like a business or don't.

Make it perfect.

Start with a prompt or 500.

Visit Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator.

Plan ahead so the next post is halfway done before you start.

 

Good luck and godspeed, fellow blogger. Looks like my post is done, too!

posted by Kevin Archie Aug 05,2015 @ 12:37PM

On starting.

TreeBrain

As I sit here staring at a blank page—typing, deleting, typing again, deleting again, (updating my Instagram), typing, deleting, staring—I consider the seemingly monumental task at hand: writing one single blog post.

The forest of trees on my desktop background mirrors the muddled state of my mind: vast and lush, yet directionless. Branches intertwine, the longest of them extending and disappearing into the backlit white space of the sun, fading to nothing.

Ideas form and mingle in my mind, but the great white page stands unadorned until one of them can take root and grow. A multitude of voices nag and prod my brain, stunting any progress.

Where ever will you begin? Which idea is strongest? What about that other one? What’s the big picture? Who really cares?

If I'm honest with myself, this is what nearly every creative project feels like.

Whether small and simple like writing a blog post, or large and daunting like rebranding a statewide initiative, the act of creation often begins in agony.

But if we can narrow our focus from that vast forest of possibilities to a single seed of an idea, things can truly begin to flourish and grow.

posted by Alexandra Frazier Jul 29,2015 @ 04:09PM

notes from a wordmonger

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Note: these are not my hands.

Yesterday, I took a dip into the ether of my web browser history. It's a curious thing, to be curious about what you've been curious about. It's a more curious thing when you can evaluate the shape of your workday interests through the lens of Google search.

In addition to a daily perusal of news articles (I take my morning coffee with a side of current events) and a hundred client-related research queries, there's no shortage of fodder up for interpretation.

Highlights from the past week include atmospheric refraction, fiduciary responsibility, love and ketchup, Mr. Wonderful and the definition of nyctitropism. Predicate adjectives and the merits of "more proud" versus "prouder" make the list, as do balding medieval babies and an exploration into how hot chicken really happened.

Scroll a little farther down the page, and there, sandwiched between the oddities, you'll find no small number of visits to this idiom dictionary. Of all the revealing 500+ word procrastinations in my web history, the dictionary stands out and apart.

As we move into a more human era of branding, it feels only natural to seek out and take inspiration from everyday language's most suggestive turns of phrase. Just witness the longevity of Allstate's "You're in good hands," and you can begin to fathom why idiomatic expression might help bridge the messaging gap between what a brand wants to say and what an audience is willing to hear. And yet, leave it to Virginia Woolf—a woman who surely existed in that easier place before brands—to articulate the potential dangers of this approach.

In Woolf's superb 1937 essay, "Craftsmanship," she espouses that the moment we cherry-pick words from their natural habitats is the moment they lose their human realness and nuance. Worse, she writes, is that when the words become unreal, "we, too, become unreal — specialists, word mongers, phrase finders, not readers."

Phrase finders, not readers. Ouch. But what a perfect reminder that, long after we've tested the weight of a pen in our hands, someone else will have the choice to read or refuse what we've put to paper. All it takes is a trip through our own data-clouded wires to see Woolf's maxim reflected in our histories.

We are readers first.

posted by Julie Turner Jul 23,2015 @ 11:18AM

A Conversation About Market Research

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to question a handful of a client’s customers at length for a buyer persona research project. While every call was different, each one was a reminder of how many unique layers customers have.

I spoke to a handful of Happy Customers who were very satisfied with their experience and situation. They showered our client with well-earned appreciation and several offered suggestions for changes they’d like to see made by our client. I also reached out to Potential Customers, many of whom I found out viewed our client favorably but the timing for further interactions was not yet right.

I keep coming back to one market research call with a Potential Customer — one who may or may not become a customer in the long run. It turns out she’d had a handful of successful interactions over years with our client but just couldn’t seem to get across the threshold. As the interview went on I learned how she found out about our client, her impression of them and their service, and how she believed they could satisfy her future living needs. It was puzzling that after years this union had not come to fruition.

Then she explained why her interactions with our client had stalled. Her oldest child had been diagnosed with cancer and had battled the aggressive disease for the past two years. I could hear the pain in her voice as she told me the words no mother ever wants to say — that her child’s life had ended earlier in the spring.

Her words were a stark reminder to me about customers. With highly targeted CRM operations and our own well-defined advertising objectives and measures, it can be very easy to focus on the layer of a person’s life that directly involves us — or our message — so much so that we forget how much the other layers color the space we’re working in.

Taking the time to speak to not just customers, but people who have interacted maybe only once (or seemingly not at all) with your company can tell you so much about the market in which you’re working. It can also remind you of the many factors beyond competition that can come between you and potential customers.

posted by Michael Powelson Jun 17,2015 @ 02:27PM

More Things That Happen Less

American Pharoah vs. The United States of On Demand

Pharoah

 Victor Espinoza said he knew coming out of the first turn.

 Knew that the hiccup at the gate wouldn’t matter. That the previous 37 years didn’t either. And that American Pharoah would dictate the terms of the next mile-and-a-quarter, fending off all comers with strides that seemed to stretch the lengths of Cadillacs.

 It would take a bit longer for the rest of us to know. But soon we too understood just how transcendent two-and-a-half minutes of flapping silk can be.  Still, as the afterglow smoldered into something more contemplative, many of us came to a different conclusion. Consciously or not, we began to register that the previous 37 years did matter, and that they mattered a great deal.

 On the Monday following the first triple crown since 1978, sports writers and cultural columnists noted just how rare it was to see a unanimous, uncomplicated joy spread from the grandstand, over the airwaves, and into the digital zeitgeist. Blogs dissected the event. Newsfeeds echoed the homestretch replay. And friends-of-friends who wouldn’t know groom from gelding high-fived in the comments sections. A collective fascination had taken hold. One that certainly had something to do with a remarkable animal accomplishing one of the most difficult feats in sports. But one that had everything to do with the 37 years since it happened last.

 In his reliably brilliant way, Charles Pierce used a Grantland column to point out that it wasn’t as much the collection, but the content of those years that struck us so.

 This was something that hadn’t happened since before the Internet, before the Macintosh and the iPod, before companies merged and banks swelled, and before instant communications and the marketing thereof. The thrill was vestigial, at least by the standards of our age of perpetual motion. That’s what kept it pure. That was what kept it free. It was people and it was a horse, both genuine creatures from different parts of creation, beyond naming rights and copyrights, an easier place before brands.

“…an easier place before brands.” As a creative director, I’ll be chewing on that one for a while. Maybe because it’s hard to swallow. But maybe because I like the way it tastes.

 Like everything along the continuum of arts and sciences, I believe marketing can illuminate the human condition. Unlike those other disciplines, however, it has a pitiful track record of doing so. Far too often we are bludgeoned with advertising that stokes our lesser impulses of greed, insecurity, and intellectual laziness. Far too seldom are we enlightened by messages that invoke the better angels — charm, vulnerability, empathy, wit.

 This is why I‘m still savoring the marrow in the bone Pierce picked. We could be doing so much better in this industry. A lighter touch. A kinder eye. A broader focus on what makes us human instead of only what makes us act. The gap between what branding is and what branding could be is immense. Which makes the challenge of narrowing it irresistible.

 And it’s certainly not just branding. It’s technology and culture and the unprecedented acceleration of their love affair. Since 1978, we’ve learned to engineer gratification in ways no one who watched Affirmed win the last triple crown could have imagined. We are now the United States of On Demand.

 Money ball. Free two-day shipping. The complete new season of your favorite show in a single evening.

 These are hardly signs of the apocalypse. And anyone who pretends to not live in an age of unparalleled potential is kidding themselves. But it’s equally delusional to deny that the more you engineer gratification, the less gratifying it becomes.

 I suspect that this is what you really heard when Pharoah rounded the final turn, and the grandstand erupted, and 22 million of the rest of us hollered at our screens like lunatics sprung fresh from the booby hatch. This is what echoed on the blogs and in the replays:  A collective exultation for something that couldn’t be dictated.  Something that wasn’t engineered or even earned, but simply, and most importantly, waited for.

 In a world where I’ve become conditioned to binge watch and put all my chips on the black of big data, I’m increasingly grateful for those truly special, rarest of happenings. The ones that none of us, nor all of us, could ever will into being.

 So along with all the consumer-empowering innovations sure to keep coming down the pike, I’m now hoping for more things that happen less.

 I'm not quite sure what that hope means for brands and the media they use to communicate. But I promise to keep chewing on it.

 

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