Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A [Short] Social Media Story: "Thanks & Giving"

I’ve rediscovered swimming laps after a VERY long hiatus. When we were planning our return to Chicago, I promised myself that I’d join the DePaul University Fitness and Recreation Center, under the alumni rate, because “the Ray” has a six lane indoor pool. 

Well, like the turtle, I’m making progress to strengthen and increase stamina, I swim laps for 20-30 minutes about 3 times per week. Walking or biking back and forth is a damn good workout. (Please note that I have hypothyroid-induced asthma so just swimming one length of the pool might be considered an achievement.)

Enough about me…
Occasionally, I’ll drop a tweet about my swimming activities, a few weeks ago, someone noticed.

The inventor of AquaTally sent me a reply — kinda sales-y, but I checked out his website.
Aqua Tally, invented by Cody Ramthum, is a swimming lap counting which works like an abacus. “Sticks to the side of pool and swim away.” I passed along a tweet because I thought the @AquaTally was a pretty cool device and serious swimmers might find it useful.

Like-minded people, helping each other.
This week, I received a tweet from @AquaTally informing me that I would receive one as a gift. Now, I’m not anywhere near the number of laps (yet) where I think I’ll lose count of my laps.

So I dropped Cody an email expressing my gratitude and asked that it be donated to a local youth swim club/school instead. (Having a device like this when I was on high school swim team sure would have been helpful when the coach said we didn’t do enough laps.)

Here’s the GIVING part of my story:
Cody told me that he’s donated 10 Aqua Tally’s to the Sumner County YMCA (Tennessee). Cody has also been awarded Volunteer of the Year at said “Y” for recognition of his time helping children in his community learn to swim and compete in meets. He invented the Aqua Tally while training for an Iron Man competition to keep track 2+ mile distance.

Did I mention 10% of each sale is donated to the YMCA.

Cody, you are an inspiration. Thank you.

If you’re a swimmer, check out the Aqua Tally (http://www.aquatally.com) for more information.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Design. Digitize. Distribute.

10.18.11 Update: I recently learned PDFs are, and have been since 2001, indexed by Google.

I'm interested in how businesses can distribute and share their documents & publications across various platforms, versus keeping a monthly newsletter trapped in its PDF filing cabinet or parked in an email. We're now able to publish on platforms that are accessible to our audience regardless of device.

Additional products/services will be rolled out over the next few weeks, too.   As a designer who enjoys the convergence of text + imagery, I've been concerned about quality on your monitor, smart phone or tablet; but I think that argument is mostly extinguished as technology improves every day.

Creative Aces' Digital Publishing Services is on online publishing, viewer and analytical platform powered by Issuu. The features offered at PRO level have the potential to increase readership and feedback from your own list plus Issuu's 33 Million monthly readers. As we begin to bridge the desktop-to-tablet technology, additional features of this platform include:
  • Customize the viewer with logo, icons, colors, animations
  • Remove the advertising sidebar on embedded and standalone publications
  • Newsstand/library to display and monetize your publications
  • Organize documents and distribute your content
  • Bulk upload for uploading hundreds of publications
  • Auto-embedding to automatically embed latest edition
  • Detailed statistics and reporting
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and high Google ranking
  • Active links to websites, email links and advertisers
  • Add audio/video to your documents or presentation
We can get the process started with previously published documents and begin building a library of materials outside of the corporate server or a "jump drive."

Here's a just a few ideas: Investment profile or white paper, quarterly earnings presentation, sales presentation, annual report, monthly newsletter, portfolio, "look" book, etc. in which we could build a direct marketing campaign and track the results.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Earnings Season Begins. Still Using The Same Presentation?

Recently, I was brought in to assist a company update the design of their investor presentation to reflect current marketing synergies and investment story.

Turns out that the presentation currently in use is one that I had designed about 3-4 years ago. Has the investment story changed in the past quarter? Previous twelve months?

It's time to update.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Winning Combination for B2B Content Distribution

Looking for a simple, cost-effective solution to distribute your message beyond your list?
Marketing gurus call it 'silo' jumping or simply put expanding your target list. I prefer to think of it as casting a wider net since the landscape for targeting your audience now includes social media.
Social sites are now a viable solution for B2B marketing and IR/PR to reach millions -- for FREE!
Let me explain. I'm referring to LinkedIn. (This is NOT a case study about Twitter or Facebook).
LinkedIn has become the silent giant for business professionals, if you haven't created an account I urge you to do so immediately. And, if you own your own company or work for a company -- get a company profile set up.
  • 81.8 Million Monthly Visitors
  • 7.1 BILLION Page Views (Monthly)
  • 12 Million Professionals Worldwide
  • Executives from ALL FORTUNE 500 Companies
  • 75 of FORTUNE 100 Companies
  • 2 Million Dedicated Company Pages
  • Mobile-friendly
Add SlideShare to create a winning combo!
  • 50 Million Monthly Visitors
  • 90 Million Page Views (Monthly)
  • Free Accounts and Pro Accounts
  • Easy-to-Use, Embed & Share
  • Mobile-friendly
Make sure you add the SlideShare app to your LinkedIn profile so your presentation or other content appears on your page. We should craft our marketing strategies to include content creation and curation.
SlideShare Deepens Ties With LinkedIn (PC World)
Social Media Marketing By The Numbers [INFOGRAPHIC] (Mashable)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Pet Peeves of DIY White Paper & eBook Design

Design matters. Especially when the company name and reputation are involved. A well-designed white paper has the potential to elevate the “importance” of the content. Admittedly, don’t we all place 'value' on the appearance and attention to detail in the items we buy.

By nature of my profession, I view a lot of documents as sources for inspiration, trends, information and fun. However, as the explosion of Information Marketing is taking the web by storm; I’m noticing more DIY or off-the-shelf document formatting.

Design matters, a lot!

Below are just a few peeves that distract from the readability and ultimately, the value of a white paper or e-book. (I have purposely excluded samples from this article because I don't want to embarrass anyone, including myself.)

Peeve: Frumpy, Dumpy CoversCreating a compelling “tell me more” cover is an art and skill. I typically reserve finalizing the cover until the interior is complete. If you’ve ever taken a small child grocery shopping, you’ll understand why he/she picks up certain (high priced brand) boxes off the shelves while ignoring others.

Fix-it Tip: There isn’t a quick fix tip for designing covers. In my opinion, one of the most challenging aspects of the project.

Peeve: Text That Hurts My EyesThis is one of my biggest frustrations. I give a company my email address to receive their ebook and I can’t get past the first few pages because the font and paragraph styling is best suited for a birthday card. As a reader, we tend to scan groups of words when reading and anything that creates a barrier to this process erodes the value of your content.

Fix-it Tip: Use serif typefaces for body copy. The finishing strokes or serifs on typefaces like Times New Roman and Garamond aid the eye as we move from word-to-word.

Fix-it Tip: Add extra line space. The default ‘single’ line spacing is not the best choice since it tends to make the lines of text too tight. The addition of some white space between lines guides the reader left-to-right.

Fix-it Tip: Avoid long lines of text by increasing left and/or right margins or adopting a multi-column format. Could you imaging reading an article in the New York Times that was a single column of nearly 23” wide? Eye strain!

Peeve: Lack of Visual Cadence
Documents of continuous blocks of copy without headlines, sub headlines, call-out boxes, and even bullet points are just plain boring. Let’s be perfectly honest; you’re skimming this entry right now trying to glean the best stuff. The goal is to increase readability & readership.

Fix-it Tip: Use subheads, formatted with a complementary font and color.

Fix-it Tip: Add white space between ideas or sections.

Peeve: Disordered Page Layout
Rag-tag, zip-zagging content is ugly. Ugly to look at and easy to dismiss. A call-out box here. Chart inserted there. Close file. Total waste of my time.

Fix-it Tip: Using a multi-column format can provide the containers for text and other elements to be placed efficiently and neatly.

Peeve: Blatant Disregard for DetailsRunning spell check is easy, but actually printing a hard copy and reading your own white paper is a big payoff in catching small details. Here are a couple more:
Fix-it Tip: Two spaces at the end of a sentence is very old school. Consult today’s style guides.

Fix-it Tip: Fix awkward line breaks on formal names, dates, locations and numbers by keeping on same line.

Fix-it Tip: Stop using the Return key to add unnecessary extra line spacing between paragraphs. Use paragraph styling instead to automatically format paragraphs with approx. 1 ½ lines of text between paragraphs.

Peeve: Using Every Color AvailableI was trying to read an online magazine today, but couldn’t get past the first few pages because the ‘production artist’ was using just about every color of the spectrum more suitable for a birthday card. An experienced publication designer will establish a color theme, rendering editorial content consistent; thus emphasizing images, charts and adverts.

Fix-It Tip: Stop the overuse of color by developing a limited color palette. A less is more mentality is needed.

Peeve: Ignoring StylingFormatting text as you go is inefficient and amateurish. Even MS Word has the ability to create styles for text and paragraphs.

Fix-It Tip: Select typefaces and attributes once and apply consistently throughout the document.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spider In Your Engine, Oh My!

I read the article about a recall from certain car manufacturer because spiders are nesting in their fuel line vent filters.

Truth is stranger than fiction...

My husband, Dominic Sondy, wrote a book with a related theme. It is titled Used Buggy Parts: A Field Guide To Automotive EntomologyUsed Buggy Parts: A Field Guide To Automotive Entomology. His book is a spoof.

The title is play on words based on the idea that early automobiles were once referred to as Buggies. Dominic's parody features insects that have evolved, after intimate contact with automobiles, and now live in cars. Used Buggy Parts features creatures like Radiator Bees, Lifter Ticks, Milage Millipedes and a Manifold Mantis. The book even has illustrations of the bugs. These fictional insects are composites of actual automotive parts. Used Buggy Parts is self-published and is currently available on Lulu.com. As Dominic says, "I wrote and illustrated the book for fun. You might enjoy it too. This story demonstrates how fiction really can become reality."

Individual "Used Buggy Parts" photographic prints are also available.

Friday, February 25, 2011

“I’m Mad As Hell – At Myself!” Or "I Want To Believe, Again"

This will definitely be a rant, so if you’re sensitive then close this page and seek out today’s “warm and fuzzy” quotes.

If you’re still with me… read on.

I’ve been truly inspired by the people of Wisconsin and the support by so many other (hopefully) working men and women.  It tugs at my childhood, growing up in suburban Detroit, when just about everyone on my block and the next block worked for one of The Big Three. Everything was connected to the automotive industry in some manner.

My own grandfather had immigrated to the United States in the 1920s from England and spent the rest of his adult life proudly working at Ford Motor Company.  Passing away on the very day he went to apply for retirement benefits. (Benefits that assisted my grandmother until her death at age of 104 or so.)
(My father standing with my grandmother and grandfather, next to my grandfather's new Ford Galaxie and my little bro sneaking into the picture, suburbia Detroit circa 1966.)

By the time I graduated high school, I was smart enough to realize that staying in an economy entirely dependent upon the automotive industry was not my dream. Thus, I had a plan and found myself living in Chicago when I was twenty-one.  College, career, urban life, marriage, kids, condo… happy.

Now, decades later, I find I’m struggling to motivate and breath new life into my ten year-old business (again) because my values have changed.  Let me explain:
  1.  I’m sick of working on client projects for Chinese-based companies!
  2.  I'm sick of reading that people are losing their jobs to simply satisfy Wall Street greed!
  3. I’m sick of the business philosophy that anything & everything is on the table to satisfy the bottom line! (Except their excessive expense accounts, of course)
  4. I'm sick of corporate & legal wrangling delaying approval!
  5. I’m sick my receivables being stretched by accounting departments!
  6. I’m sick of the BS that feeds the stock market!
  7. I’m sick of ‘rockstars’ who are all show and no substance!
  8. I’m sick of everyone telling me to stick to “old school methods”! (See #3)
  9. I’m sick of people squeezing me for extra money without providing anything in return!
I’m mad as hell -- at myself! I sold myself out so that I could scrape by to pay the bills, thus suppressing my core values as I’ve matured as a woman and solo-preneur in our new economy. Call me stupid. Call me niave. Call me irresponsible. I don't care.  The first 5-7 years of my company was going gang busters!

This article may come full circle to some of my clients or contacts and not be considered very professional. That’s OK with me because I’m a different person, now.  I want to work with like-minded people who are eager to do business with other like-minded people. The Danielle LaPorte interview with David Siteman Garland’s Rise To The Top webcast was raw and gutsy, hitting some salient points for me. Particulary, Danielle’s comment “I’m an entrepreneur because I don’t like people telling me what to do.” 

What’s professional about selling your self out?
  • I’ve supported and negotiated fees with clients just to make a few bucks to pay the electric or cell phone bill.  NOT ANYMORE!
  • Accounts stretching out payment for 45, 60 or 90 days, NOT ANYMORE!
  • Continually demand rush creative service, NOT ANYMORE!
  • Call me at 4p Friday and expect an update back same day, NOT ANYMORE!
  • Refuse to provide a full creative brief or direction for the project and reject my ideas, NOT ANYMORE!
Since the ‘financial crisis’ of 2008, my husband and I lost our shirts with a short-sale on our house in northern Michigan, moved back to Chicago (a blessing), sold our cars (completely pedestrian which is OK), donated nearly 50% of the stuff that filled the 4-bedroom house (shedding the junk is liberating), our health insurance ended and on and on.  Life happens.
  • I’m not a greedy person. 
  • My donations, contributions and pay-it-forward activities have been very generous over the years. 
  • I’m a fair and flexible person.
  • My rates are not excessive.
  • I contribute my talents to non-profits (1-2 per year).
  • I help start-ups.
  • I support those escaping the ‘cubicle nation’.
  • I’m kind and understanding.
  • I'm a good listener.
I want to believe, again. Well, I’m made as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. Stay tuned ‘cuz I’m fired up and want to believe in something bigger and better for me, my family and... you.  
I only hope my grandfather would approve.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Do You Conquer "Creative Frustration"?

I've been working a logo project all morning and making little progress toward anything I'd like to share with the client.

This is the second logo project in less than a week. I'm not complaining. I really like the client, we've worked together before and now he's starting up two businesses right now.  He knows my work, recommends me to other professionals, I know the market, I deliver.

I deliver. (Can't believe I wrote that phrase.)

Back to the question, how do you conquer "creative frustration"? (Or gettin' unstuck?)
Google returns 4.5+ Million results on the topic of 'frustration' -- I'm getting the feeling the this is a common but taboo topic.

The prevention of progress seems to be where I'm at with this particular project. What am I doing about it?
  • Saved my work and closed the AI file. Put my hardcopy sketches away.
  • Surfed my favorite news sources on the internet -- same as before, nothing new.
  • Logged onto my FB stream -- nothing going on there.
  • Ate lunch (which was totally unsatisfying)
  • Went for a walk.
This afternoon in Chicago, a light snow is falling, temperature is ~ 25F, no sun; I took the pooch out for his afternoon stroll.

Walking seems to be one of my best re-energizing activities. I've also been experimenting with 3-5 minute meditations at my desk.

Does music help you? What genre? (I've been addicted to "Martini in the Morning" lately)
A few of my resources:

Dan Goodwin's "A Big Creative Yes"
Jonathan Mead's "Illuminated Mind"
"Anxiety Slayer" by Ananja Sivyer and Shann VanderLeek
I would live to hear your tricks, post them here.