A Content Strategy Rallying Cry

The internet makes it simultaneously easier and more difficult to have your words heard.

The trash heap of shitty content increases by the millisecond. We all have the ability to write (technically speaking) and access to the marketplace (social media, blogs, ads, etc.). Because of this radical democratization of communication it’s more crucial than ever to start with why when considering whether to produce content.

The distinction between ads or “sponsored content” and editorial content is becoming so blurry it’s like we’re all swimming underwater, and we all need to clean our goggles with that goggle-cleaner fluid but no one wants to miss out by taking the time to emerge on the surface, clean his or her goggles, and see more clearly. Brands instead choose to churn water, pushing forward with mediocre, unnecessary, uninspiring and even self-defeating content that actually does more damage than good (and is an incredible waste of resources).

Brand managers and content strategists are generals in the battle for authenticity in modern advertising. Social media is where the bloodiest squirmishes are lost, in the form of dull content that falls on deaf ears; no one sees it. At least no one valuable to your bottom line sees it. If they do, they aren’t persuaded to do or think in any meaningfully different way.

If a shitty Facebook post gets no reach, does it make a sound?

The answer is yes – in the form of a digital footprint. It’s easy for competitors or prospective business partners to check out a brand’s Facebook page only to find tumbleweeds. You don’t delete posts that fall flat; they remain there for all to see.

Savvy and strategic thinkers already know this; the problem is getting through to the masses. Fortunately, this means there will always be work for content strategists. Unfortunately, everyone with opposable thumbs and an internet connection fancies him/herself a content strategist.

All we can do is stay calm and carry on.

Check out the (7!) books closely/loosely relevant to this topic I bought yesterday. Reviews to follow!

books on branding

 

 

Design Strategy: Embracing A Dual Nature

This is one of the more personal posts I’ve written here, but I’m going with it because it turns out there are others like me who feel torn between two seemingly opposed aspects of themselves: career-oriented and “businesslike” while also creative, artistic and passionate. It’s been hard for me to reconcile between these two aspects. This is an attempt to do so.

sisyphus

Like most people in their 29th year, I’m going through my Saturn Return. It’s an astrologically-based (so in my opinion totally inevitable and justified) period of evaluation of one’s life, ignited by Saturn returning to the same point in the universe for the first time since you were born. Interesting, right?

I’ve been on what feels like a Sisyphus-like quest for the past 10 years: find the kind of work that energizes me, doesn’t feel like “work” and makes use of my unique combination of skills, experience, knowledge and intuition. This has entailed (1) quitting a post-college job as a paralegal at a fancypants Manhattan law firm to pursue a research internship in Israel; (2) working at a fun, well-funded Tel Aviv startup as an SEO and content strategist; (3) realizing I was extremely interested in what the designers and brand managers were doing; (4) deciding to return to New York to pursue this new career path; (5) working at a digital web agency on social media strategy, until (6) I decided I wanted to be my own boss. This decision came as a result of me recognizing I possess two aspects of my personality, and in order to be truly happy at work I need to constantly draw on them both: a) experience in the corporate world, an interest in business strategy and an ability to analyze information, and (b) creative energy, a deeply rooted appreciation for aesthetic and a strong passion for human connectivity and communication.

Now I’m an independent marketing consultant for small-to-mid-sized businesses. I come up with strategies for companies to boost their online visibility. There’s a ton of methods and tactics I could employ, ranging from quantitative, data-driven insights to creative work that requires imagination and intuition.

This duality of business-&-creativity has firmly deposited me in the lap of branding. I thrive when activating both sides of my brain. (My career coach calls it having an “And/Or” aspect to my personality; she compares it to a mosaic.) I was elated to find an interview with Facebook’s Director of Product Design, Maria Giudice by Debbie Millman, a renowned branding consultant. A former CEO of her own design studio, Giudice discovered she had a natural tendency — and ability — to view problems as “design” problems, whether or not the actual subject was design-related. Possessing a designer’s mindset, which is oftentimes non-linear and highly associative, is an extraordinary problem-solving mechanism. She states the following in her book, Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design:

“The future leaders of the world need to combine the skills of creativity and analytics.”

These words spoke loudly to me today, demonstrating that the path I’m pursuing has begun to be cleared by multi-faceted thinkers like Giudice and Millman.

I’m inspired and motivated to continue pushing that boulder up the mountain.

Further Reading/Programs/Quotes/Concepts:

  • Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design (2013), Maria Giudice
  • California College of the Arts – MBA in Design Strategy
  • GSD = Getting Shit Done (something design leaders do)
  • “The best design is 50% thinking and 50% doing.”
  • SFD = Shitty First Draft (just hand in something; Done is better than perfect.)

6 DIY Wedding Chalkboard Tips for “Bridesmaids with Neat Handwriting”

bart the shining

My college roommate asked me to design the chalkboard for her wedding this weekend. These are pretty standard at outdoor weddings and they’re all over Pinterest, so it seemed pretty straightforward. If all those Pinterest people can do it, how hard can it be? I have neat handwriting and am creatively inclined, so we figured we’d be done in an hour or so.

Dead wrong. Thinking all you need is neat handwriting to design a chalkboard for one of your best friend’s weddings is the same as thinking all you need to perform a route canal is opposable thumbs. First comes dental school, novocaine and insurance.

The following are 6 nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from what was the most stressful 6+ hours in recent history. If this list gets discovered by just one bride-to-be and/or her creatively-inclined bridesmaids with neat handwriting, this post was worth writing.

1. Chalkboard paint sucks. Use a real chalkboard. At least, don’t use chalkboard paint on scratchy, rough plywood. It sticks to the chalk so if you make a mistake and want to erase, you’re left with a cloud. You’ll try to erase the cloud with some water on a paintbrush, and it will seem like it’s working…until the water dries and there’s that damn cloud. We actually started whispering in a creepy voice to whoever thought she had succeeded in erasing something, “Wait till it dries….” and resorted to covering up the clouds with more chalkboard paint, using tiny paintbrushes to outline the final layer of chalk, as a ridiculously painstaking hack. Repeat: chalkboard paint sucks.

2. Regular chalk works well. Chalk paint is also pretty cool. You can get markers which are basically white paint in the form of a marker, which creates a smoother look than regular chalk, and is easier to control. Personally I found good, old-fashioned chalk to be easier to erase, and I like the look but it’s really whichever you feel looks better. If you opt for the markers make sure to buy enough because they can run out and then everyone loses their shit.

3. Plan the text and layout ahead of time. Make the bride send you precisely what is to be written on the board. Check to make sure all the names are spelled correctly. Check to make sure all married women have the correct last names. Even if the bride prepared this document, have her parents or the groom’s parents approve it. Even if she’s a really great elementary school teacher who has her shit together. Sketch the entire thing on paper first so you can all agree on the layout.

4. Sketch a grid. Bring rulers and draw horizontal lines to guide your writing. For the gridlines you can either use pencil or a very light-handed chalk that you can later erase. Also bring paper towels and water bottles for erasing. Small paintbrushes can be good for erasing as well.

5. Have the same person write everything on the same board. At least, the same person should write all the headers/titles, and the same person should write all the information. Otherwise the handwriting changes and it looks like someone suffered from a stroke and transitioned from flowery script to cartoony-bubble letters.

6. Remember that this doesn’t really matter and no one’s going to actually read the board besides the people whose names are written on it, and they’re already supposedly such good friends of yours anyway so they really shouldn’t be spending too much time at your wedding critiquing this damn board.

In the end our board came out great and it was a fun bonding experience . . . but for a solid chunk of time it felt like we were ruining the wedding before it even started. Don’t let that feeling happen to you. USE A REAL CHALKBOARD!

Congratulations, Laura & Jon!

diy wedding chalkboard