Keeping your customers at the forefront during a brand refresh

By Claire Bang

Consumers are being constantly bombarded with ads and messaging from all sorts of companies. Giving your brand a refresh can make your company stand out amongst the competition and allows you to truly hone in on what you want your customers to consider about your company. Full rebrands are a lengthy process whereas a brand refresh only requires some market research and competitor analysis.

According to Stephen Peate from Fabrik “a good brand refresh strategy requires less risk than a total overhaul, and it can still get you the results you need.”

Keep in mind that every brand is different and although some may still require an entire brand overhaul, most brands can benefit from some minor changes to help them provide better content. Here are some simple changes your company can make to rejuvenate your brand without losing loyal customers.

  • Test out new marketing channels

Many brands have experienced success in reaching new markets by using one of the latest social media hits, TikTok. Brands like the U.S. Open Tennis Championships have reached new target markets than they’ve previously had before like millennials and Generation Z. Using sounds that are trending on the app has landed their videos on many users “For You” pages numerous times.

Small businesses have seen positive results on the app as well. Both users who were laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic and existing small companies have used the platform to create business for themselves during these tough times. People like The Carpet Repair Guy have created entertaining content drawing in large followings who just watch him repair people’s carpets in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • Stop requiring your customer service team to use copy-and-paste responses

When being responded to by a customer service team, template-based messages are preferred by consumers over copy-and-paste responses. After all, if your customer is talking to a human, it should feel like they’re talking to a human and not a robot. 

The human connection that a consumer makes with a representative of a company can really determine how they view the company, and how they talk about the company to others as well. 

When I used to chat with other customers online for the company I used to work for, they really emphasized the importance of being yourself. They encouraged the use of emojis and exclamation points, when they were appropriate, and I believe many customers seemed more comfortable during conversations because of that.

  • Give your online visuals a refresh

You can easily put your company at the forefront by making small changes to the visuals that customers see, bringing them up-to-date with new trends.

Start by deleting anything that is outdated and a customer would have no reason to look at anymore (psst… it’s taking up valuable space on your page). Content like old Instagram highlights and website content that is irrelevant to where your brand is now is included in this.

Your brand can also change specific design elements and colors in your visuals unless those elements accurately define your company to your consumers. Keep in mind that even well known companies have taken simpler, modern approaches with elements, like their logo, that define their company and have had immense success with it.

  • Refine your messaging 

It’s ultimately a company’s choice to decide where they want to stand on relevant issues occurring nationally and there is one company I immediately think of who has made that loud and clear. Ben and Jerry’s.

Ben and Jerry’s had publicly stated over four years ago their stance in regard to the Black Lives Matter movement. To this very moment, they have continued showing their support on so many topics both on their Instagram and with its own dedicated “values” tab on their website.

Make sure the audience you desire is the audience you are actually targeting with the content you put out through these marketing channels. The messaging, voice and tone all decide who the audience is that you reach and how you reach them.

There are so many resources out there that provide even more insightful information on ways to continue improving your brand and its image. Remember that these changes don’t need to happen all at once and can be slowly integrated into the existing work that your brand does. 

At the end of the day, every decision should begin and end with what the customer thinks and wants. Brands exist for the customer and any work done should be based on customer or research feedback otherwise companies are only changing for themselves.

Making Video Content During the Pandemic

By Jacquelyn Martinusen

As we navigate through this global pandemic, it is important to remember that content can still be made safely, even video content. While traditional video content isn’t safe to do during this time, video content can still be made from a safe distance or at home. Videos are an excellent way to get personal with your audience, and now is not the time to distance yourself from your audience. Virtual content is where everyone is getting their information from companies, and online video content can make your brand more noticeable and more engaged with your audience. 

Here are some tips to help you continue to make video content during this time. 

1. Adapt to the times 

Everyone understands how difficult this time is, and it is important to know that your audience knows that it is a challenge to make content. However, this is not the time to stop making amazing video content for your business, client or your personal use. Video content can be made easily even through social distancing restrictions. 

2. Use what you have 

For the most part, video content can be made, and made well, from your smartphone or tablet. Using those devices gives you a range of options to make videos. The cameras on most smartphones are equivalent to what some DSLR or larger cameras have (while it cannot replace an actual camera, it is an excellent swap in a pinch). I would recommend always shooting horizontally, however, vertical videos have gotten relatively popular lately with TikTok and music videos going in that direction. 

Shooting video content from home doesn’t mean you need to abandon your creative ideas. When it comes to extremely visual content, like a video made with a lot of special effects, big sets, etc., Hannah Welever, founder of the boutique production company Good Trouble Films said “either let the idea go or look for alternate routes to realize it.” It is important to pivot when necessary or figure out a way to do your idea. If there is a will, there is a way to make even the most outlandish ideas work while keeping safe during this pandemic. 

You must focus both on creative ideas and practicality. Video content can still be awesome and impactful, but also be made with things easily found around the house or a local store. Don’t rely on shipping products (as those restrictions can be harsh), or shooting on a location that is full of people, since that is not the safest place to be right now. 

3. Learn new things 

You must learn how to make video content during a pandemic work for you. Welever said “quarantine collaboration is definitely forcing some creative workarounds’” but the content is still being made and it is working out well. It can seem daunting filming and creating video content on your own. However, there are lots of free or easily accessible courses online to help you learn more about video making. I recommend checking a couple of them out, like using LinkedIn Learning or Hootsuite to broaden your video making portfolio. New skills can be learned at any time, and now more than ever it is important to learn how to continue making video content for your audience.

How to Grab Attention with Photos

By Jordyn Moore

When you look at an advertisement, what’s the first thing you look at: the caption or the photo?

You only have seconds for your photo to get noticed. Whether you’re posting an advertisement for your brand or a photo for your own personal social media, that initial impression will decide if a user is interested in you or your product. Regardless, the better the photo quality, the higher chance of engagement. The most important main areas to focus on are lighting and your background setup. 

Lighting can either make or break your photo. There are so many aspects regarding direction, harshness and color temperature that can create an aesthetic to accurately capture your brand. 

For traditional product photography, you are going to want to light the subject in a way that looks appealing. If you are shooting for a clothing brand, soft lighting typically looks best. Soft lighting is when your subject has barely any shadows. This technique is also great when used on people if you’re going for a naturally flawless look. The soft lighting takes out any noticeable imperfections, unlike harsh lighting. To achieve soft lighting, avoid taking your photos in direct light. Stick to shaded areas or shoot with the sun behind you. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If an edgier look suits your brand better, use harsh lighting. Harsh lighting is when you have dramatic and distinct shadow cut-offs. For example, you would use harsh lighting in a gym or fitness related photoshoot because the harsh shadow lines help accentuate the body’s shape. To get the edgy look from harsh lighting, you will need a smaller light source to hit the sides of your subject. Play with your small light setup to see what shadows look best.

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

A well-lit subject is great, but falls short when it lacks an interesting setup. Backgrounds can make a huge difference in a photo because they will help your product stand out on your feed. The worst thing to do is to have a dirty and boring background. Instead, try pops of color, or textured brick walls, or even plants. Don’t be afraid to stage a scene that goes along with the theme of your product. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Visually, a photo can tell you so much about something within seconds. If the subject is a person, how are they dressed? Are they in a fancy outfit, does it look expensive, does it make them look like an important figure? If something looks important, whether it is or not, people will still shift their attention to it. Just by correctly lighting your project and creating a balanced and aesthetically pleasing background, your photos will gain more attention.

Learning to stay authentic with your consumers during a pandemic

By Grace Gilani

As the world and everyone in it begins to adjust to this “new normal,” brands need to remember exactly who their audience is, and how they can stay true to not only themselves as a company,  but to their loyal customers. A brand that they have without a doubt worked tirelessly on to build from the beginning.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, audiences alike have seen brands stray from their key messages, oftentimes to stay up on current issues, and continue to be relevant. An example of this would be a clothing brand posting an article or a blog post about new technological advances concerning the pandemic. Not only does this brand have no business discussing this topic, but their audience also is not there to hear their opinion on technology; they’re there to hear about the latest fashions. 

“When people are presented with a reduced choice of service, previous experience comes into play and we tend to stay loyal to brands that gave us value in the past,” Alun Davies said.

During these unprecedented times, it is understandable that some companies may be struggling with how they can help or get involved. Here are some tips as to how your brand can use the right voice and messaging to keep their audiences engaged and safe through the pandemic.

1.     Create a relationship with your consumers 

I bet we can all relate to coming in contact with a robot when your intention was to talk to a live human being, and this hasn’t changed during COVID 19. Consumers want to feel like they can have a relationship with customer service, a human voice, that they relate to and be friendly with.  

By doing this, this cuts out the anxiety a customer might be feeling regarding the pandemic. More often than not, your consumers will notice that your brand values their business more than another company who simply dealt with them at their convenience.

2. Stay true to yourself and your brand 

It’s no shock that this pandemic has lasted much longer than anyone had originally anticipated, and therefore, brands will need to stick to what they know, because it’s worked so far! 

Obviously moving marketing and everything else online was stressful, however, you shouldn’t have to change what your brand represents or who it is tailored towards just to stay relevant. You want your customers to really feel like they know what your brand is about, and that through thick and thin, you will be the one thing in their life that stays consistent. 

A perfect example of straying from your core message and confusing your audience is the commercial for Progressive Insurance that was released during the beginning of the pandemic. The ad featured all the well-known Progressive characters, but the brand had strayed from their core message. If you were unaware who Flo and Jamie were, you would have no idea that they were trying to sell you car insurance. This is a perfect example because Progressive simply wanted to catch the trend before everyone else. 

My advice is, don’t change who you are just because of this “new normal.” Eventually, this time we have spent cooped up in our homes will have ended, and at the end of the day, do you want to change your marketing strategy AGAIN to fit back into the normal (post-COVID) world? 

3. Learn together with your customers

Finally, and most importantly, come together with your audience to hear what they have to say. You could think a campaign you put together was the best you’ve ever made, when some of your consumers could feel as if you missed the mark. I believe that in this predominantly digital age it is normal to get feedback, and adjust your strategy like that. You can let your audience have a say while still upholding your beliefs and values. 

How to Stay Organized While Everything is Virtual

By Holly Palandoken

This year has been unlike anything we’ve seen before. It has been challenging to keep everything organized while balancing the shift to online work and classes, but it’s important to create an organizational routine. Not sure where to start? Try out these tips for success.

  1. Get a planner that works for you

The aesthetic bullet journals you may see online look nice, but they may not work for you. The important thing is to find a planner that meets all of your needs for school or work.

If you’re a student or an educator, check out planners that follow the academic year instead of the standard calendar. College bookstores often have planners that already have important dates printed in them (such as winter and spring breaks) so check out your college’s online store to see if you can order one.

Do you prefer virtual planners? Check out free online sources, such as Google Calendars, and plan your tasks out.

Once you’ve picked the planner that works for you, make a habit of writing down when your work is due, and any appointments or meetings you have. Writing down your due dates will help you remember to do them on time, and writing down any prior commitments will help you schedule when to do them.

  1. Set reminders on your devices

We’ve all forgotten to do an assignment until the last minute, so why not have Siri remind you before it’s too late? Setting reminders on your phone can be a great way to keep you on track for success.

I personally set weekly alarms on my phone for 15 minutes before my scheduled meetings so I’m always on time. There are many free apps on the App Store and Google Play for more customized reminders, but the pre-installed clock apps on your phone also work just fine.

  1. Learn how to manage your time

Figuring out how to manage your time is the key to being successful. Learn how to plan out your day so that you can get your work done, and still have free time.

“Effective time management is the effective use of your time that allows you to plan your days in such a way that you finish your work with less effort and make the most of the limited time you’ve got,” Marija Kojic said.

Scheduling planned times for getting work done can make a difference in your work for the day. Think about how long it will take you to get a project done, and plan to work on it during a specific time.

Don’t forget to schedule short breaks throughout the day, or you may feel overwhelmed by your work! During these breaks, step away from your computer, and grab a healthy snack or read part of a book.

  1. Avoid procrastination

Virtual school and work is hard, but procrastinating only makes it harder. Plan to do your work ahead of when it’s due instead of putting it off until it’s too late. Your work will be higher quality, and you’ll have more time to yourself after finishing your work earlier.

Try to do your work as soon as possible, but it’s okay to work on it at a later date if you have other commitments. Look over your schedule, and pick a specific day and time to work on it ahead of the due date so you have time to check your work again before submitting it.

Creating A Powerful and Memorable Brand Identity and Voice

Four ways to distinguish your brand or company from your competitors, while gaining the attention of your audience.

By Brooke Martin

When you think of soda the first brand that pops in your head might be Coca-Cola and it’s widely recognizable red logo and white font that you can find at almost any grocery store or restaurant. However, you might be surprised to find out that there are almost 1,000 different varieties of soda

So why is Coca-Cola such a well-known soft drink compared to other sodas? One reason is Coca-Cola has a distinguished brand identity and voice. The soda has been on the market for over 130 years and is thought of in a happy and friendly context. They’ve had a long time to excel in their brand identity and voice. Now it’s your turn!

Branding professional Marty Neumeier defines a brand identity as “The outward expression of a brand, including its trademark, name, communications, and visual appearance.”

So how can your brand or company develop a successful and memorable brand identity and voice? Follow these four steps to get you on the right path:

  1. Research your audience and perform a SWOT analysis
    • No one product or service will attract everyone, but your company will appeal to certain demographics more than others. Hone into these specific audiences. Is your high end makeup company going to mainly attract younger females that are middle and upper class? Will parents of babies and infants be more likely to buy your baby products than the average college student? Be specific on exactly who you want your message to get across to.
    • SWOT analysis
      1. Strengths– what is working well
      2. Weaknesses– what is not working well
      3. Opportunities– things that could help improve your brand’s messaging, brand identity and voice
      4. Threats– things that could cause a potential problem
  1. Complete your brand strategy. Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Identify your competition
    • Look at similar businesses and companies to get inspired for your own personal brand identity and voice. Research their social media platforms and websites to see what you like and what you don’t like. What’s working well and what can be improved?
  1. Utilize social media platforms

Creating an efficient and memorable brand identity and voice won’t happen overnight. Even after you hit the right stride, there will always be new ways to improve and things that can be better. It will take a lot of effort, thought and patience but it will be worth it in the end.

Separating your home from your home office

By Hannah Manoucheri

As more and more work lives transfer online, full-service offices shift to coffee tables and kitchens as we continue to adapt our lives to quarantine. The new normal has changed in the agency landscape and life for students and professionals alike has shown how hard it is to keep home life outside of the home office. 

Some prefer to merge the two, allowing their family and friends to creep into their workspaces and working hours, but the results are often similar across the board. Poor distinctions of what’s work and what’s not will prevent you from setting aside time to live your personal life outside of your work life.

According to Adda Birnir from Skill Crush, “without some serious boundaries, working from home means the office can easily seep into your life and make you feel totally unhinged.”

Whether you’re trying to start a new semester out strong, or you’re trying to make the most of your work-from-home environment, here are a few tips to get your work balance just right while we all continue to perfect our quarantine WFH routines:

Tip 1: Set your working hours

Whether you’re building a class schedule or designating what times you’ll be online and working, reinstating your work schedule is the easiest way to set up a boundary between work and home. It allows you to delegate time for you to be online and available to work on projects so your personal life can remain offline when your hours are up.

Tip 2: Let your loved ones know when you’re working

From roommates to family members, someone will always be there to bug you. Working from home means sometimes you have to let them know when you can and can’t be bothered! Building a system to alert them when they can come and talk to you creates a boundary that the people in your life can be aware of themselves. 

The “Cup System” from Jessica McCabe with How to ADHD on YouTube is great for individuals working in a space where people can easily access you. Utilizing a red light, green light system, you simply:

  • Set up three different plastic cups: red, green and yellow
    • The red cup means “I can’t be interrupted right now”
    • The yellow cup means “You can interrupt me if it’s important”
    • The green cup means “I’m free to talk!”
  • Stack the cups on top of each other with the color indicating your working condition on the top and adjust as your priorities shift.

If you can’t use cups right now, it’s okay to get creative! Handwritten notes, colored post-its, or even hand-drawn signs will all get the message across the same. 

Tip 3: Stay accountable for taking a break

The easiest way to burnout at home is to avoid taking breaks. Setting aside time between your working hours to step away from the computer and stretch, drink some water or grab a snack, and rest your eyes is a great way to keep going strong throughout the end of your workday.

Take your break away from your workspace. This allows you to make the mental separation between what’s a place to work and what’s not. By reinforcing this separation in your break, you’re more likely to consistently respect the boundaries you set for yourself.

If you have trouble taking breaks on your own, find a break buddy! They could be a coworker on one of your teams, or even just your roommates, but their purpose is to make sure you take a break. However, this is a two-way street, you have to keep them accountable too! If you both take your break together, you’re more likely to commit to keeping it in your schedule.

Tip 4: Create a routine for logging on and off

Some have taken to calling this their fake commute but establishing a routine that helps you transition in and out of work mode will help you shift better between the two. This further creates the mental separation between what’s considered work and what’s not. 

Logging on could be making a cup of coffee and drinking it while checking your email, or taking a walk while listening to a daily news briefing. Whatever it is, creating a morning ritual that helps your brain shift into work mode will help you dive into the workday more seamlessly.

Logging off could just be shutting down your computer. It could also be making dinner or spending time with friends. Creating a routine that helps reduce stress and take your mind off work helps shift your brain out of work mode. 

Creating a separation between work and home means making time for yourself to be productive and relax. Quarantine means working from home, but it also means being kind to yourself.

The Future of Storytelling

By: Sydney Olivia

The internet is bursting with an overload of constant facts and information. It can make it hard to cut through all of the white noise and grasp the attention of readers. However, a good story can make a person stop skimming and start reading. 

As Clarissa Schearer, author of Axia Public Relations weekly newsletter says, “Storytelling is the future.”

The importance of feature writing can not be overstated in the field of journalism and public relations. It gives you the ability to become a storyteller and content creator while pushing a message for your client. A good feature can increase the client’s visibility while also creating a new audience. While feature writing can be an intimidating, and often daunting task for any journalist or public relations professional, it is important to keep a few tips in mind. 

Tip 1: The five W’s 

Some feature stories require a ton of research, but it’s easy to cover the essentials in five simple questions. These questions will give you the baseline of your story.

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why? 

Tip 2: Have an angle 

Following the five W’s alone won’t be what draws readers to your article. It’s up to you to determine a strong angle that you want to take on your feature article. An interesting angle can make all of the difference in capturing the audiences’ attention and converting casual skimmers into invested readers. And from invested readers into potential customers for your client.

Tip 3: Find what feature is best for you

People are often surprised that there is no one correct way to write a feature story. There are, in fact, many ways to write a feature story. Here is a look at the top five most common features. 

  • The Profile – an in-depth look at a person or profile 
  • The News Feature – a hard news subject told in feature style 
  • The Trend Story – a light-hearted take on what is trending in popular culture
  • The Spot Feature – a short story that offers a different perspective to a larger story 
  • The Live-In – a detailed story about a place and the people who live or work in the surrounding area 

Tip 4: What to add and what to leave 

While gathering information for your story, it’s hard to fight back the urge to add every detail, including your opinion or bias. Write the facts. Be specific and give detail. Leave your opinion behind. If you are unsure of whether or not to add something to your story, think about how it adds to the story. If it helps the story and the reader understand, then put it in. If it doesn’t benefit the story in any way, leave it out. It’s best to give readers a factual story, not an opinionated story. 

Tip 5: Use stronger verbs 

If you’re writing for a client, you might run into a maximum word count. It is important to pay attention to the adjectives and verbs you’re using. Try to utilize strong verbs rather than a lot of adjectives. “Show, don’t tell.” Verbs show the story and give the reader a better image. 

Anyone can write a feature. As long as you ask the five W’s, you’ll get the baseline of any story. It’s up to you to tell the story well. Stick to these simple tips and you’ll write a phenomenal story! 

Why color is extremely important in media

How does color theory actually affect how we view media?

Photo by Gradienta on Unsplash

By: Jordyn Moore

Red equals danger, blue equals sadness and yellow equals happiness. These basic concepts that everyone has grown up to understand can easily be directed towards multiple types of media. Whether it’s for a physical print or for digital content, color alone shapes how we feel about what we’re seeing and graphic designers, directors, etc., can exploit that natural feeling to suit their project. It may seem funny to think that these simple concepts could actually influence how we perceive a movie scene or ideas on a flyer, but there are some studies that prove this. For example, you may assimilate blue with sadness because of seeing a cold blue-toned rainy day or because of the resemblance of tears.

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How to perfect your online design portfolio

Photo by  Unsplash

By Zoe Salido

In preparation for graduation, I felt that my online design portfolio was adequate in displaying my design aesthetic and range of skills. Through my courses leading to my present status as a graduating senior, I found that I lacked a strong portfolio. As a student, I learn through instruction, but also through my own mistakes. I have been taught that my portfolio itself is a design and must be functional in reflecting who I am as a designer.

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