So I had my first official accident with a computer of mine. I split an entire cup of hot cocoa on my laptop. Back in the day, I would have been devastated.
Granted I wasn’t happy (love my Mac air) but it wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, I just grabbed another laptop and I was up and running (and working) like not much had happened.
Back in the day, I would have lost a ton of work and been down for several days trying to rebuild everything I had lost. But today, with working in the cloud and keeping a backup at home, it was a blip in an otherwise bumpy week.
Recently I’ve been asked about writing on the web. Who are the experts? What are they doing? Have things changed?
From what I have read and know, writing for the web has changed. Not in the fact that if you write simple and clear, use space and short sentences for scanning, create original work, etc… but more around the search engines algorithms. Google (recent Panda and Penguin updates) and Bing are going after spam and they are watching out for things that don’t look natural. You know, the Black Hat SEO tricks that may cause you to write in weird ways like keyword stuffing.
As Matt Cutts says in a interview with Karon of Marketing Words, “As I’ve always said, ‘Never sacrifice the quality of your copy for the sake of the search engines.‘ It’s just not necessary. The next time you write a new page of copy, test this approach to writing for the engines and see if you get as good (or better) results than before. I’m betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
First, let’s handle the “no” portion of the answer.
Should you treat your content different for web and print? NO.
The content for any communications piece should be treated as the most important first step. Let me give you an example.
Our print team (who is incredibly talented and awesomely inexpensive) rarely gets a project where the content hasn’t been flushed out a bit. People normally have the copy prepared in a rough draft for the poster, brochure, flyer or even an annual report. If not, they know they need to have the content before the design can begin because the design of the document really depends on the content. Right, that’s pretty straight forward.
But this seems to get forgotten on the web side. A lot of people will come in wanting a website but have absolutely no content prepared. They just know they need a website. Or they will have a couple of different copy pieces ready but the majority of the website isn’t ready – isn’t even close. In fact, they may have a site map all prepared. Like they know we need an “About” page, a “Program” page, a “Courses” page, a “Contact Us” page but don’t know what is really going to go on those pages. I don’t understand this. The web design shouldn’t move forward without the content just like the print side. But many times, the web team (who are also amazing talented and inexpensive) will build a site and a sub page that the client can fill in after the site is in production.
But then what happens? The content doesn’t fit the way it should. Or maybe they wrote everything in Word and stylized it there and now it can’t work that way on their website and they have to come back to the web team to get a special template for displaying the content. Frustrating themselves and web team because if the content had been done and viewed ahead of time, it could have been planned for and designed before being put on the page.
Should you treat content different for web and print? YES!
Do you read the same way as you do with a brochure as you do on a desktop screen? Nope. Do you read a poster the same way as you do on a mobile screen? Nope. What about hyperlinks, bold, H2, navigation, endless distractions from other open screens like Facebook, Twitter, email, etc…
Web writing is very different than print writing. You have to take into account the interactivity of web, our mindset when we are viewing communication on the web vs. print, how the search engines read vs. how a person reads because if you aren’t keeping the search engines in mind no one is going to find your content anyway (that’s search engine optimization or SEO).
What I’m saying can be summed up pretty easy – CONTENT is EVERYTHING. And it needs to be thought through first before building anything whether it be print or web.
Don’t take your content for granted. It is the foundation of everything you communicate. And if you hadn’t read Bill Gates essay on Content on the Internet, you should. It seems as if he wasn’t far off on how things have worked out for the internet.
Brenda Garrand - Doesn't Pull Punches on Creative Breakthrough
So I attended the Second Wind Creative Juice conference today and it was great. And it reminded why I got into this business (communication and marketing) in the first place. I didn’t get into it to manage people or the numbers to make sure we can afford to keep all our people working here at Notre Dame.
No, I got into this business because I love telling stories. I tell stories about everything and I used to get paid to tell stories. But that changed when I got to ND. It was more about figuring out the numbers and the people and structure and less about the creative. Even though my boss would constantly remind me that it was about creative. I was just too caught up in trying to fix our budget and business model. Hopefully, this new year (July 1) the business model will be corrected once and for all.
But this conference has really brought me back to that focus. And, hopefully, it will continue. But enough about my thoughts on this. What I’m excited about was one of the talks (all the talks were great but this one is more directed at my clients and not so much at me and the agency).
Her presentation was Breakthrough is All that Matters: Learn how techniques like PR, product placement, social media, gaming and brand-focused content can help brands, both old and new, break through and gain a foothold in a complex world where consumers call the shots.
She had a number of stats (I’m so sick of stats on internet use – I think they are all overused and overblown) to explain how complicated the world had gotten since the days of yore (three channels, Life Magazine and the golden age of radio).
Example of stats:
86% of people skip TV commercials. Put the logo in the middle screen. It is so recognizable.
44% of direct mail is never opened.
93% of US adult internet users are on Facebook. 164 million in the US – women 50+ fastest growing.
57% of internet users search daily.
70% of links searched are organic. 60% click on the top three links. SEO is very important.
But then she told how the world of communication and marketing had gone back to its roots and that a CREATIVE BREAKTHROUGH will still get people to pay attention. She gave examples of Mini Cooper, Apple, Burma Shave, VW bug, etc…
What makes a CREATIVE BREAKTHROUGH? The right eyeballs and a reason to give a crap. Well, not her exact words, but damn close.
She gave an example of their work at Neocon with Versteel. They hired a team of men to dance with their client’s chairs (mimicking a flash mob – see above). While not a lot of view on YouTube, Versteel was the talk of the show and had people waiting every 20 minutes to watch the dance.
Now when you find that idea that will work on the right eyeballs, how do you make sure they will find the right eyeballs?
Here’s how her agency does it.
Mass Media (it still works but you don’t have to burn all your budget – do your best to find where your specific audience spends time)
Earned Media/Events (this is the biggest growth part of her agency – and it has the most ROI – she was very excited about this part and gave lots of examples on how good PR and Event Planning can bring crazy high results)
Branded Content (getting your brand on more than just your product)
Social Media (nuff said there)
Shared Branding (Starbucks/Lady Gaga release of her new album)
Packaging and point of sale (environmentals – getting the experience right when people are ready to purchase – think Apple)
So how does this relate the world of higher edu communications? Well, here’s how I see it.
We need to spend a bit more time on creative and on where we are going to place your creative. The cookiecutter approach is used because it’s cheap and there’s too much to do. But you know what? There’s always too much to do and without a good creative and placement, we just wasted the little time and money we had anyway.
I hope this rant stays with me when I get back to the office.
What do you guys think? Am I just crazy about wanting to concentrate on the creative? Just like the good old days.