Is a “100 Best Companies” Rank Really Proof Enough?

Woman looking at computer screens

No. Is my short answer, and let me tell you why.

Years ago, I was temping at a pharmaceutical company that proudly displayed their “100 Best Workplaces for Women” designations in the lobby. As a woman, seeing this on my first day made me feel good about the company I was working for, if even just on a temporary basis.

Flash forward to a few weeks later, I was in a meeting in which a woman who was well respected by her colleagues had to call in from home as she was recovering from a mastectomy due to breast cancer. She had to hang up when a visiting nurse came in early to drain the tubes that she still had in her chest. After she hung up, the executive ranted and bad mouthed her for a solid five minutes, angry that she had to cut the call short and angry that she’s been taking so much time off for treatments. That “time off” comment surprised me because in the few weeks I was there, that woman was also in the office most of the time and was a very dedicated worker in a middle management position.

After the meeting, I talked with some coworkers who said that executive had been harassing the woman with cancer, and the reason she was in the office so much was that she was afraid he’d fire her. The more I paid attention to what was happening around me, the more I realized this company was not at all a good company for women to work for, let alone a “best” company. So, I put little stock in those lists.

Turning Good PR into a Story that Resonates

Today, a friend sent me a video Johnson & Johnson (J&J) created after repeatedly being named to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list. This is one way to show people–customers and potential recruits–that you really do deserve that recognition. Watch the video below:

What better way to tell your story than to have your employees tell it for you?

J&J has been on this list for 30-plus years now and you can tell they’re not satisfied just to sit on their laurels. They asked 10 employees who are mothers to share how their career with the company has enhanced their personal and professional lives, and posted the video along with a brief message about the Working Mothers designation.

In addition, they regularly post stories on their site that reflect their company as well as their brand. For 2016, they even created an infographic that shows how J&J supports working mothers. Here’s just a little snippet:

History of Supporting Women at J&J

These days, most everyone knows that many “best of” lists are pay to play and there often may be some sort of politics that determine who wins. If you want to show that you really deserve the designation, start using real-life examples and storytelling, like J&J is doing.

Sure, posting icons issued by each rewarding organization is an easy way to let people know you were recognized, but it’s not enough. Show people why you deserve that designation–through employee and customer storytelling that demonstrates why you received the award.

Even better, keep building that trait into your company’s DNA and let it reveal itself in the benefits you offer, the way you organize and decorate your offices, the language you use internally and externally, and more. That way it’s more than just an award or designation–it’s part of your brand.

If you run a small business that needs help building its brand, contact me and we can review your needs.

Book Review: “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”

If you read one book on marketing this year, make it Jonah Berger’s “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.” Published in 2013, this best-selling book is full of data-backed marketing advice that will be relevant for years.

Contagious Jonah Berger for blog

Author Jonah Berger is an associate professor of marketing at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, whose articles have been featured in many top-tier publications. His insatiable curiosity behind what makes advertising and marketing work is evident in this book and will keep you enthralled as well.

What Makes Online Content, Products and More Go Viral?

Why do some things catch on but others fail to gain any momentum or public response? Berger sought to find the answers to this question and then mapped out the reasons why in six principles or “STEPPS”:

  1. Social Currency
  2. Triggers
  3. Emotion
  4. Public
  5. Practical Value
  6. Stories

Chart of STEPPS

Each chapter of his book includes research and examples of how companies, organizations and individuals have applied the principles to help their products or ideas catch on.

Social Currency

This first principle is about making people feel good, making them feel valued–making them feel like an insider. The best blogs, the best products, the best stores and restaurants make their customers feel like they’re getting something special. Berger says, “Give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting your products and ideas along the way.” For example, people who drink Snapple love to share the little fun facts that are under each bottle cap. It can be as simple as that or more complex.


If your message is falling flat, maybe it’s not the message itself but a lack of a trigger. Rather than just focusing on whether your message is “catchy” enough, consider whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environment of your target audience. One story Berger shared was about the candy bar Kit Kat looking for a new way to boost sales and visibility. Pretty much everyone knows their catchy tune, “Give me a break, give me a break. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.” But sales had flattened out.  The Kit Kat team created a campaign that paired Kit Kat bars and coffee, describing the chocolate wafer bars as “a break’s best friend.”

By the end of the year, Berger cites, the brand had an eight percent lift in sales. Why did it work? Because so many people drink coffee regularly throughout the day that the coffee break was a frequent trigger which people could now associate with Kit Kat.

Go to the Book for More STEPPS

So now you have an idea of what’s included in the book. I don’t want to describe all six principles and give you a brief, more dry version of each. The stories Berger includes make this book well worth reading–more than once even.

A Compelling Read

Every business, every organization relies on word-of-mouth marketing in some way. Berger has done all the research for you and packaged the data in what is essentially a fun read as well as an informative one. He not only tells you why things work, but also why others don’t.

The stories he shares as examples within each one of the STEPPS are mostly built around products and services you’ve heard of, and even in the ones you haven’t heard of before, you’ll find yourself soaking them in and discovering ideas for your own products and services while you read.

Storytelling is such an overused word today, but Berger does a wonderful job of weaving the stories among the data so that you close this book wanting to go back and read it again.




4 Sure-Fire Ways to Screw Up in Social Media

Many people will tell you how to be wonderful and amazing on social media, but if you’re new to the game (or you’ve been in it a while but need a reminder) you need to first know what NOT to do.

4 Easy Ways to Kill Your Social Media Game

Twitter account following 1200+ with only 300 some followers

1. Follow Too Many People

This is a common problem among newbies to Twitter and other social channels. Your intentions might be great–“hey, I want to connect with as many people as possible”–but the smart path is to be cool and ease your way in. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as spammy, especially if you’re a brand.

What to do: Follow a good mix of about 25 to 50 accounts. Learn from them. Choose people or companies you’ll want to interact with and do so after listening for a little while. Post content that your target audience will want to read. You’ll start gaining followers, and as you do you can follow more accounts as well.

2. Self-Promote as a Rule

That’s a bad rule. Many marketing “experts” claim you should follow an 80/20 rule–80 percent of your posts should be other-centered, while 20 can be more self-promotional. If someone follows me and I go to their profile and see that their last 10 tweets were all about them, I do not follow (and I may even block them). You don’t want that to happen.

What to do: Approach interaction and postings with the understanding that this is a sharing world, and you’re dealing with human beings. In your in-person conversations, do you talk about yourself all the time? (God, I hope not!) What are topics of interest that your audience might like? Share news in your industry. Share other people’s tweets and posts. Share news about events in your community, especially if you’re a small business owner and rely on local residents for business.

3. Be Reactionary to Be Cool

Think before you post. Current events that have a popular hashtag may draw a lot of eyes to the conversation, and it’s great to have an opinion, but always remember that once you post, your words are online forever.

Brands have gotten into trouble thoughtlessly tweeting using hashtags related to hurricanes, government overthrows and more. Late last year, DiGiorno didn’t bother to find out that #WhyIStay was being used worldwide to talk about domestic violence and insensitively tweeted “#WhyIStay You had pizza.” Four minutes later, after being slammed by fellow tweeters, DiGiorno issued an honest apology: “A million apologies. Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting,” and continued to apologized to individual tweeters through the night.

DiGiorno's #WhyIStay tweet

DiGiorno Apology tweet-a million apologies

What to do: Read and understand what the hashtag is about before you use it. Always think of how people will perceive your words before you make them public. Never respond in anger or with emotion–let the emotion settle first and then issue a thoughtful response. This is why I love a scheduling tool. If you schedule every post, even just 5 or 10 minutes ahead, you give yourself time to take a breath and reconsider what you said.

4. Feed the Trolls and Haters

Yes, you will get negative posts directed your way. It’s inevitable, even if everything you do is kind and right. See #3 above for a reminder as to why you should take time to be thoughtful in your response…if you decide to respond at all.

What to do: The best defense is to understand where the comments come from. I manage social media pages for clients, and when I see negative comments or replies to our posts, I first check out the profile of the person who commented. Does this person seem legit or are most or all of their posts attacking people and complaining (this is a troll/hater)? Do not respond to someone who indicates that they will not be reasonable and/or they do this for fun. Often, your fans will take care of these types of people. Do respond to someone with a legitimate complaint or concern, and take your time formulating a response. Sometimes a simple apology is all that’s needed. Other times, you can direct the person offline to have a real conversation and solve the problem. See these types of genuine negative comments as an opportunity to win over your customers. Focus on the desired outcome of the situation–do you want to be seen as right or do you want to make it obvious that you care about your customers?

There are many ways you can screw up on social media, but the best prevention is to act like a considerate human being. The more thoughtful you are online, the more ways you can succeed in social media and digital marketing in general.

Good luck! And if you need advice, you know where to come.

Writing Your Mission Statement Should Be Easy

Mission statement word cloudCompanies struggle with their mission statements all the time and have for decades. Take a look at this gem from McDonald’s (ranked number two in Inc’s 9 Worst Mission Statements of All Time):

McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.

What’s wrong with it? In short, it’s too long, too jargony and talks about strategy and goals. Your “Plan to Win” should not be in your mission statement. Your goals are not your mission. Goals are what help you accomplish your mission.

How Do You Write a Great Mission Statement?

Let’s look at a mission statement that works — Google’s:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Why does it work? Because it’s honest, easy to understand and sums up what Google originally set out to do (their actual mission). So, how do you write one that works for your company? Let me make it easy for you with three simple steps.

3 Tips for a Good Mission Statement

1. Be honest.

Before you even start to write, commit to be honest about what your company’s mission really is. You may have to convince internal stakeholders that your mission statement is NOT a place for corporate jargon or whitewashing. If you’re not sure what your company’s mission truly is, take time to think it out, write it out and refine it. The first person who has to believe the mission is you.

2. Express what your company’s reason for being is.

What is your company’s purpose? Why does it exist? You want to be useful as a company. After all, if you’re not useful you won’t be in business for long. So, what makes your company useful? Your mission statement sits within these answers.

The interesting thing is that your mission statement may eventually change and that’s okay. That’s called evolution. In fact, Google, having grown exponentially since they first began, recently admitted they have outgrown their mission statement. What’s more impressive is that Google’s CEO Larry Page doesn’t want to change it yet because they haven’t quite figured out yet how to redefine their mission. Honesty. How refreshing!

3. Be concise.

Think of your mission statement almost as a tweet. Keep it short and in plain language so it’s easy for your audience to understand.

Compare McDonald’s and Google’s mission statements. Which is easier to understand? Which is easier to relate to and get behind? Yours doesn’t have to be as short as Google’s but it should be close. Give yourself a limit. Start with 75 words if you have to, then edit down to 50, then 25. You’ll end up revealing the heart of your message this way.

One more thing

Remember, your mission statement isn’t just for your customers. It’s the foundation for your strategies, goals and actions. Any time you or any employee questions whether you or your company should act in a certain way, go back to your mission statement and see if that action aligns with your mission. It should. If your actions don’t align with your mission, you are on the wrong path (or maybe you should rethink and redefine your mission).

Need to see some more examples of great mission statements to inspire you? Read What Great Brands Do with Mission Statements.

If you need help crafting a mission statement, I can help. Feel free to contact me here.


Don’t Hate Your Newsletter, Fix Your Strategy

5 Tips for Better Open Rates and Click-Throughs

How does a 40 to 50 percent open rate sound to you?

Pretty good, I’m guessing. With the right strategy, you only have to invest about two to four hours a month for this type of satisfying return.

Liam Dempsey of LBDesign
Liam Dempsey of LBDesign

Liam Dempsey, owner of LBDesign (and a friend of mine), recently revealed his secrets to success in a Google+ Hangout and at a marketing meetup in Chester County. Let me share with you some of his results:

  • Open rate of 40 to 50% (average is 20.3% per MailChimp)
  • Click-through rate (CTR) of 3.5 to 11.5% (average is 2.9% per MailChimp)
  • Increased client interaction—compliments, referrals, etc.
  • Enabled connections between clients who otherwise wouldn’t have been introduced
  • Discovered and entered into a relationship with a valuable new business partner
  • Attained new clients and new business with current clients
  • Grew distribution list by 22% in 9 months
  • Received only three unsubscribe requests

See Liam explain his own methods and strategy behind his successful e-newsletter in this Google+ Hangout, and I will summarize some tips for you below:

Tips for an e-Newsletter Readers Can’t Resist

Know that not everyone will be able to take the same exact steps as Liam to replicate his success, but you should be able to walk away with ideas that will vastly improve your e-newsletters and other email campaigns.

Tip #1 – Craft a Strategy that is Reader Focused.

A snapshot of the August newsletter
A snapshot of the August newsletter

In this era of online sharing, Liam came up with a newsletter that is all about sharing and is interesting at the same time. Each month, his newsletter includes:

  • 2 client-focused articles that explain recent work accomplished and give background on each client
  • 1 “Introducing Our Friends” article
  • 3 links to articles of interest found online, with brief summaries for each.

Tip #2 – Be Thoughtful about Your List.

LBDesign is a small business, so Liam had a very manageable list of less than 1,000 contacts to begin with. He then culled that to a little more than 100 people who he thought would want to receive his newsletter.

So, at this point, you might be saying, “Well, I can’t do that, I have 5,000 (or more) people on my list.” Well, maybe you shouldn’t have that many people on one list.

The key to Liam’s success in business and in his newsletter is the relationships he builds. Are you building relationships with your customers or are you just looking for subscriber numbers? If the latter is true, that’s much like focusing only on getting “likes” for your Facebook page. Sure, you get short-term satisfaction and may look good on the surface, but is anyone really engaging? Are you—or your audience—getting any value from your effort?

Everyone can put more thought into their email lists and if you have thousands of contacts, that’s what segmentation is for.

Tip #3 – Be Brief.

Don’t use 500 words if 50 will do. Liam keeps his newsletter to three articles and none of them have more than 100 words. Most use between 50 and 75. Not only is this reader-focused but it saves you time as well.

Tip #4 – Keep It Predictable.

Not the stories, but the timing and the newsletter overall. Set yourself up for success from the beginning—do not overcommit. If you’re starting a newsletter, send it out once a month on the same day at the same time. This repeatable pattern gives you a deadline and gives your reader time to look forward to your next email.

Tip #5 – Use a Service that Does Much of the Work for You.

Google “email marketing services” and a bunch of companies come up—your web host may provide this service as well. LBDesign uses MailChimp, which is free if you have less than 2,000 contacts and send less than 12,000 emails per month. I recommend you start there and then compare others to their services, especially if you can use the free version.

For more tips and information, check out Liam’s SlideShare presentation from his night at the Chester County Marketing Group event.

CT MarCom on “Aaker on Branding”

Aaker on Branding BookAs a marketing consultant, I’ve been asked quite a few times, “Well, what is a brand? What is branding?”

If you’re not sure what it is or you need to spiff up your branding efforts, have I got a book for you! Read Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles that Drive Success, by David Aaker, vice chairman of Prophet, author of six books on branding and a man who some call the “Father of Modern Branding.”

His 20 principles are very easy to digest and after reading through them, you’ll understand why branding is so important and how to improve your own branding efforts. Aaker splits the 20 principles into five sections:

  1. Recognize that brands are assets.
  2. Have a compelling brand vision.
  3. Bring the brand to life.
  4. Maintain relevance.
  5. Manage your brand portfolio.

You could easily skim through and find what you need, but if you’re a novice at branding, read it straight through.

Having experience building brands for companies (not that I have Aaker’s depth and breadth of experience), I can attest that pretty much all of what he’s saying rings true. Some of the examples were a bit lackluster and I did disagree on a few minor points. But the book is definitely worth the read, whether you’re experienced or not.

As a writer and editor, I was put off by the number of mistakes in the book — proofreading errors and on page 180, Aaker contrasts the yellow of DeWalt tools with the “green” of Black & Decker — a brand known for its orange and black. But for the most part, his examples do a good job of demonstrating the principles and the points he’s trying to make.

Aaker on Branding is a great book of the basics and offers terrific reminders to brand strategists and marketers to apply to their daily work.

If you have a book on branding or marketing you’d like to recommend, please add it to the comments below. Thanks!

5 “Quick Wipes” for a Social Media Refresh

I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last blog post. I’ve been very busy, and if you’re running your own business, you’ve probably been busy too.

When we’re super-busy with customers, our attention to other things can tend to drop off. Think about what a revolution Clorox wipes were to cleaning a bathroom or your kitchen. Don’t have time for the full scrub? A quick wipe-down will do. What you need is a way to clean up your social media channels just as quickly.

Cleanup of a Twitter page

5 Steps to a Quick Social Media Refresh

1. Create a new bio blurb.

Every social media channel has a bio or “about” section. If you’re still using the same one as when you first signed on, it’s way past time for a change. Create one new bio and expand, shorten or tweak to fit each channel. Make sure you link to your website or appropriate landing page and not some outdated promotional page.

2. Update photos.

Whether it’s your own profile or your company’s page, you need to keep photos fresh. For your brand, choose something seasonal. Don’t use stock photography for your cover photos, and make sure that any photos of employees or yourself are up to date. Also, make sure that your photos are the optimal size for the channel you’re placing it on. SproutSocial has an Always Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes to make this easier for you.

3. Clean up “Followers” and “Following.”

Trying to manage social media all on your own? It’s easy to forget to keep up with who’s following you and who you’re following. Unfortunately, fake and inactive users might make up many of your users. For Twitter, you can use tools like Tweepi, Friend or Follow, TwitBlock and more. For Google+, if you have Chrome, you can use their Uncircle+ extension, but if not, you’ll have to clean up your circles manually.

4. Start a conversation.

If you’ve been dormant for a while, look at what people have been talking about lately. Add to the conversation in a meaningful way. A quick look at my Twitter stream this morning turned up many mentions of customer service and customer-focused content. An easy conversation starter–what’s the best customer service you’ve ever received? If you ask for the worst, be prepared for someone to mention an unhappy encounter with your business.

You can also take what people are saying and create your own blog post or post a relevant photo or graphic and try and actively encourage people to engage. Offer incentive to do so, maybe a quick giveaway to get customers interested again.

5. Go back to your editorial calendar.

An editorial calendar–when used–is a wonderful tool that can help you in those time-crunched moments. Don’t have time to create an original blog post from scratch? Take one of your old ones and update it. Turn a relatively recent (or at least still relevant) SlideShare or other presentation into a blog post. Reshare old content that doesn’t sound old–you can always ask people, “What would you add to this list?”

The key to managing your social media accounts is to use editorial calendars and other tools that will help you manage your time. Mark time in your calendar for regular social media cleanup–one cleanup task a day or every other day will help you avoid having to do a major cleanup later when you just don’t have the time.

If you’re really having trouble keeping up and quality of your postings and interaction is suffering, it’s time to re-evaluate what channels you should be on. Hmm…maybe that will be my next topic here. Stay tuned!








You Have Content But Do You Have Style?

AMA Manual, Chicago Manual of Style & AP StylebookRecently, I talked here about editorial calendars and also posted a presentation on SlideShare on why content marketers need an editorial calendar. Now, I’m going to explain why you need a style guide and what you should put in it.

Every business that has a website and creates content — web pages, marketing materials, blog posts, white papers, etc. — needs a style guide. The larger your business and the more people that you have creating content, the greater the need for a style guide.

Why? Because you’re building a brand. Every piece of content you publish represents your brand. Without guidelines, you’ll have a sort of content chaos. Your pieces may all be designed similarly and share the same colors and logo, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that your branding is complete.

Brands are made up of every action a company takes. Imagine your audience’s response if they get emails from your company in a tone that’s friendly and informal and then click through to a website that’s jargon filled and formal. Do you know what that disconnect represents? It represents doubt. When you put out marketing communications, blog posts, press releases, ads and other collateral that aren’t consistent in voice, tone and style, you are planting seeds of doubt in your customers’ minds. They can’t tell who you really are — and that’s a big problem.

It’s a problem that can be solved with a style guide.

Your style guide can be as long or as short as you want, as long as it has enough direction in it to be effective.

3 Style Guide Needs

1. Voice

Voice of a company should never vary. To determine your company’s desired voice, you need to consider two things: (1) Who is your target audience? and (2) How do you want them to see you?

Your audience could be teachers, doctors, lawyers, women ages 30-55, men ages 20-35, etc. There are too many options to list here, but you get the point, right? Now, how do you want to come across to them? Authoritative and formal? Authoritative yet friendly? Relaxed and consumer focused? Serious and trustworthy? The answer to that second question above is a result of how well you know your audience and how you want to be seen as a company.

For example, if your audience is doctors, you don’t want your voice to be so casual that you seem unknowledgeable about healthcare and the doctors’ needs or too self-focused and uncaring. So, if you’re selling software that will help their offices, you may choose knowledgeable (some might choose innovative) and understanding.

2. Tone

People often confuse tone and voice, but as long as you carry the same voice throughout all company communications, you can alter the tone to reflect the subject matter. Using the example above, let’s say you have two communications to go out. One is telling the doctors about a new add-on to the software they have that will help them process claims faster. The second is an email telling them about a software glitch that needs to be fixed. Are you going to use the same tone in both? No! But you will use the same underlying voice.

When telling the doctors about your new product, the tone of the piece will be engaging, excited and a bit sales-y. You’ll approach the sell and surrounding language with the understanding of why this product meets the doctors’ needs. You’ll be knowledgeable both about your product and about how it will impact the doctors’ day-to-day lives.

The email bringing bad news won’t bring the same excited and engaging tone. Instead the tone will be more serious, straightforward and sympathetic. You’ll tell them briefly what’s happened and when and how it will be fixed. Your voice will remain steady and not throw any doubt on your expertise, but will instead leave the doctors with the feeling that you will inconvenience them as little as possible because you understand their needs.

The point is both communications will sound like they come from the same company.

3. Style

Style includes grammatical style and word choice. If you want to use plain language and ban jargon from your communications, put that in your company’s style guide. Which rulebook are you going to follow? You can pick an already established one as a guide — AP Stylebook (which you’re probably already using for press releases), Chicago Manual of Style or the American Medical Association (AMA) Manual of Style. These guides layout rules on:

  • Grammar and punctuation
  • Capitalization
  • Abbreviations
  • Numbers, and much more

You might be wondering who will care about those things, especially if you already take care to proofread and make sure your content is error free. The one-time customer probably won’t care, but you want long-term customers, right?

Consistency is key to your brand. If you’re sending out messages that all look different, how will your customer know who you really are?

A style guide not only helps your customers, but it helps your employees as well. And in business, we call that a win-win!

On Writing Well, The Grammar Devotional & Woe Is I
Try these other guides to good writing and share with your coworkers.




Haiku Deck & Canva: Two Tools for a Quick Design Assist

One terrific result of the uptick in content marketing is the online tools available to help. Haiku Deck and Canva are two I’ve begun using recently, so I thought I’d share my experience for other small business owners and do-it-yourself marketers.

Haiku Deck Gives Your Presentations Visual Oomph

Haiku Deck Gallery of PresentationsI found Haiku Deck simply by Googling “presentation software,” after I found out that SlideRocket wasn’t accepting new users while they integrated with ClearSlide. Who has time to wait, right?

Haiku Deck’s philosophy is “Simple, beautiful and fun.” They wanted to make it easy for people to create visually stunning presentations that have impact. Use it to create presentations that have few words per slide and visual impact. Here’s a presentation I recently created, on editorial calendars:

Editorial Calendar – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Easy to use – even for non-PowerPoint users – Haiku Deck really is a tool anyone can adapt to quickly and start creating beautiful presentations. Sharing is built right in, and you’ll see all the options once you complete your deck.

My only complaint is that the system can be a little buggy, but that might be due to compatibility issues or internal bugs they’re working on. Search for photos with certain keywords and the results don’t always make sense. However, this is a minor complaint because you can still find photos you want pretty quickly, or upload your own. Oh, and I would like a little more control over font sizes, but, hey, it’s free.

Canva Brings Out the Designer in You

“Canva makes design simple for everyone.” Those are their words, but they are true. Whether you’re a blogger looking for photos and graphics for your blog, a content marketer interested in making your own infographics, or a small business owner trying to manage content marketing and design on your own, Canva can help.

The best part? Canva is free to use and then certain images and designs cost a teeny one dollar a piece. I’ve used it a few times now (note the header image on my website as one Canva piece), so I can tell you that you can do a lot on the site for free.

Coreen Tossona, CTMarCom, CopywriterGuy Kawasaki, who signed on as the Chief Evangelist, says, “Macintosh democratized computers; Google democratized information; and eBay democratized commerce. In the same way, Canva democratizes design.” Read more about the reasons Guy joined, how he uses the content marketing tool, and how the startup has rapidly grown to reach millions of users, in Canva’s blog.

So far, my only complaint is that I can’t always find the layouts I want. I think that problem will be solved as I use it more and as Canva grows.

If you’ve used either design tool or have suggestions for others, feel free to comment here.


5 Rules of Good Content for Copywriters & Content Marketers

5 rules of good content for copywriters and content marketers

Content marketing has grown exponentially over the past two to three years. Understandably, marketers and small business owners have felt pressure to race to get content out there in front of their target audience. The key is to focus more on the quality of content than the race everyone’s participating in to get their content seen and heard above all.

Be relevant to your audience slide, audience is listening

1.  Be Relevant to Your Audience

This one is self-explanatory. If you want people to pay attention to your company and your marketing communications, you have to give them something they’d be interested in and present it in a unique and engaging way.

Photo shows military man "Serve a Purpose"2. Content Should Serve a Purpose

What is your content’s mission? Each piece should have a purpose — to sell, to educate, to inform or to entertain. You must have a reason for creating and sharing all your content — from blog posts to web pages to infographics, videos and more. Don’t just create something because you (or your chief marketing officer) wants to produce something “cool and edgy.”

Without a concrete mission that relates to what your audience wants or needs, most content ends up rambling and unfocused, and as a result customers drift away.

An eye and text: Make content easy to understand

3. Make Content Easy to Understand

Making your content easy to understand is about two things:

  1. Using plain language and describing concepts in language your audience will understand.
  2. Making copy less dense so it’s easier for your time-crunched consumers to pop in and find what they want immediately.

There’s a myth that using simpler words and descriptions is “dumbing down” to your audience. It’s not. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and others all want to be able to consume your main points quickly. The easier you make that for them, the more likely they are to stick around. Your audience will appreciate you respecting their time and making things convenient for them.

Beach scene-make content visually appealing

4.  Make Your Content Visually Appealing

One of the nice things about being in the content marketing age is that many websites and apps have popped up that help you create graphics and manipulate or gain photography more easily. You don’t have to be an artist or designer to make your content appealing (though it does help!). Here are some quick tips to follow:

  • Segment your articles with headers; use clean, short lists; and include photos, charts or videos.
  • Ask yourself: Does your website look easy to navigate or do people have to study the page to find their way through? Leave enough white space to make your website and anything you create clean-looking at first glance.
  • Capture the viewer’s attention within moments in your videos and keep the length as short as possible to get your message across yet still be compelling.
  • Use graphics that complement the rest of the page and help people understand your message.

Rule 5-consistent brand voice represented thru choir

5.  Keep a Consistent Brand Voice

Content marketing is used to build your brand, so it’s vital that all pieces of content you create seem like they come from the same place, with the same overall strategy behind it. If you have several people creating your content, give them guidelines to follow so that the content looks like it comes from your company, not from individuals with different personalities.

If you follow these five rules to good content, you can talk about all sorts of topics (relevant to your expertise and your audience, of course) and never run out of ways to serve the people you value most — your customers!

I adapted this blog post from a presentation I gave for Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup. You can see the original on SlideShare.