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Should Your Association be Blogging?

This is always one of the first topics of conversation when we meet with a potential client. It starts with “should I have a blog?” and then leads to “my main competitor has one so I feel like I need to.”

Now, usually, we smile because we are very excited about the opportunity to blog. After all, our firm specifically believes in the power of content. However, blogging can be tricky. Our response to the question typically goes something like this “what do you want to blog about?” Some leaders have thought about the “why” but others have not. Usually, we receive a response similar to “I don’t know yet but I feel like I need to have one. Everyone else has one.”

guestpost_am_111616This is where we sit up a little higher in our chairs. Blogging has become a very popular marketing tool and one, that if used properly, can bode well for a brand. On the flip side, it can actually damage your brand if you aren’t utilizing the tool in the way it’s intended to be used. Here’s what we mean:

With most marketing tools, a strategy must come first. Many of our initial conversations with curious bloggers-to-be begin with an interrogation from us on their goals. A blog is a communication tool that requires a great deal of dedication and focus. Writing takes time. Not to mention, writing is much harder than what it was five years ago. People do not want to spend more than five minutes on one article or blog post. Often times, articles even have a timestamp by the title to tell you how long it’ll take a viewer to read it. And while the demand for information is at an all-time-high, bloggers need to be aware that what you say and how you say it are quickly important to capturing an audience.

So, when we discuss whether or not a brand should have a blog, here are the things we like to ask first to validate whether it’s a good use of time and resources:

  1. What is your goal in having a blog?
  2. Name 3-5 content pillars (content topics) your blog could be focused around. Do you have enough content to keep your blog regular and consistent or should this content be reflected in, perhaps, an email newsletter?
  3. Review your 3-5 content pillars. Is your content unique and differentiated enough to your audience (members, prospective members, sponsors, partners, etc.)?
  4. Who would write your blog posts?
  5. What tone of voice would you write your blog posts in? Is that tone of voice compelling enough to sustain a lengthy period of time?
  6. How frequently will you publish blog posts? (This answer may heavily depend on your answer to Question 1).

By answering these questions, you have either set up a great skeleton-strategy to begin implementing a blog OR you have decided that blogging may not be right for your association at this time. (And that’s ok). Content is king in today’s wealthy world of internet info-gathering, however, blogging isn’t the singular solution for everyone.

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How to Wow with PowerPoint

In this day-and-age, there is no excuse to present a bad PowerPoint. No more bad colors, excessive text, star wipe transitions, Comic Sans font, etc. Here are a few steps on how to wow with PowerPoint – or whatever presentation tool you choose.

To start, you must have good content. I teach people what I call the ABCs of a good presentation:

  • Animations and design that support the message – there are hundreds of animations, photos, clip-art, etc. available. Don’t go overboard. Stick to limited animations and graphical elements that support your message. Don’t use clipart – ever – there are plenty of sites to order licensed images for free or a few dollars and Google offers a search for open-source licensed images you can use.
  • Big graphics, less bullets – this is the latest design trend. Most of the resources below will default to this type of design. It will tell your audience you are relevant and set you apart from the blue background, Arial type presentations they expect.
  • Clear, concise language – Your presentation supports what you are saying, it isn’t your speaker notes or a transcript of your talk. Make it clear and focused on the key takeaway. If people are reading and trying to understand your slide, they are not listening to you.

Stick to these ABCs and you will be a long way towards an excellent presentation. For additional readying, there are numerous resources and books to help with content and some basic design principles. Here are a few:

This article isn’t designed to get into detail on writing and designing presentations. Rather, I want to show you some of the numerous free and low-cost tools to help you step up your game. Check out some of these recommendations:

Creative Market and Envato are online marketplaces for creative professionals to sell templates, graphics, illustrations, etc. for others to use in their projects. You can download substantive slide deck templates in PowerPoint and Keynote to customize for your own uses. It might take some time to decide which slides to use and adjust them to fit your talk, but you will be starting with a well-designed, professional presentation. Creative Market sends 6 free things per week if you sign-up and sometimes they are presentation decks, so you might not even have to pay for them.

Canva is an online tool to help non-graphic designers create things, such as posters, invites, social media graphics, and, yes, presentations. They have templates that are bold and trendy. Some are free, some cost a few dollars. You can also get licensed images within the tool. It is free to use, but they charge for some templates and images.

Prezi has been around for a few years and is an alternative way to present presentations. Essentially everything in your presentation is on one large canvas and the software pans around in a dramatic fashion as you progress. You will still need to follow content and design principles.

Infographics – Infographics are certainly all of the rage, and, if done well, can convey your message very effectively. They are also an impactful alternative to the basic Excel charts. Easel.ly and Infogr.am are two sites that guide you to create your own infographics. They offer free and paid levels. Try them out – just don’t get too carried away. Busy infographics are too difficult to understand and defeat the purpose of the infographic.

Finally, if you regularly create PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, I encourage you to invest a few hours into an online course on Lynda.com or similar online training site. It will teach you some of the more advanced skills that will save you time and will also allow you to more easily adjust any purchased templates.

One last tip – practice your presentation. If you need the slides for speaker notes, you aren’t ready.

I hope this helps you and your association deliver more impactful presentations.

In the meantime, if you have any additional tips, tricks, or tools, please comment below.

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Upgrade Your Insta-game

am_guest_101316Let’s be honest, half the fun of Instagram is editing your photos. With stunning filters and special apps, the most mundane moments can become a work of art.

As a Marketing Coordinator for davies + dixon, I’m on Instagram quite frequently. After testing out a number of different photo editing apps, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not one app that’s better than all the rest. However, there is a method to this beautiful madness and it requires just a few tips and tools.

For starters, I highly recommend planning your Instagrams in advance so that you can envision how they’ll look next to one another (use the Later app to help you with that). Sticking to a specific color scheme will also help elevate your gram game. For example, the Insta-pros behind A Beautiful Mess, Elsie and Emma, do a great job of color cohesion. So whether you’re trying to be like Elsie and Emma, or you’re on Insta just for fun, here are a few photo editing apps that are worth trying out!

VSCO

This is a must-have app for any serious Instagrammer. VSCO fosters a talented community of iphone photographers but you can still edit your photos without making an account. Within this app, there are several elegant filters to choose from, as well as a great selection of image adjustment tools. When experimenting with the filters, I recommend turning down the strength to a 6 or 7 – you don’t want your photo looking too saturated. For those of you that would like your entire feed to have a consistent look and feel, then this is the app for you. After editing your photo, you’ll see it appear in the front page of the app titled “My images.” Simply select the photo you just edited (a yellow box will appear around it) and tap the three dots in the bottom right corner to “Copy Edits.” Upload your second image, repeat the steps in bold and you’ll now see the option to “Paste Edits.” That is how you can ensure your photos look cohesive!

Afterlight

In my opinion, Afterlight is less intense than VSCO and more user-friendly. If VSCO is the black diamond of photo editing apps, then Afterlight is the blues on the mountain. The UX design is simple and the filter presets are fun and diverse. Once you have selected your image within the app, you’ll see a rainbow circle in the toolbar on bottom. This circle expands to show you their filter packs. I mainly use the options within “Original” and “Seasons.” Like I mentioned, you may gravitate towards different filters based on the photo subject, as well as the color scheme of your overall Insta feed. Something that differentiates Afterlight from other photo apps is the ability to add film-like borders to your photos. The film icon is next to the rainbow circle. These effects make for some very #artsy photos!

A Color Story

If you love bright whites and colors that pop than this app should be your go-to. It’s great for product shots and flat lays. A unique feature about this app is the S-curve editing tool – the other apps I’ve mentioned have all the fundamental adjustment tools (i.e. Clarity, Contrast and Exposure) but not Curves. If you’re familiar with Photoshop than you know how crucial the Curves tool is. This is the best tool when it comes to adjusting the lighting of your photo. Another awesome feature about A Color Story is the ability to create and save custom filters. If you’re the creative type, you’ll enjoy building your own original presets!

While Instagram has definitely improved their editing capabilities, why settle? Downloading just one of these apps will quickly take your feed to the next level. I encourage you to play around with each of them until you find the one that works best for you. And have fun with it! There are no rules to the Insta-game – only recommendations. What has worked for you? Share in the comments below!

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Get Off Your @$$ and Get Social: How to Get Your Association Involved

How social is your association? Your association thrives on the involvement of both its members and the goodwill of others in your trade area and local community. What does that mean for your association? It means it’s time for your association to get social and build good relationships both online and offline. Here are ten ideas to get you started.
  1. Get involved in community events. From the local fête to a beach clean-up, look for chances to get your association involved with events happening in your local community. As well as getting your name known, you’ll get to know people in your locality, and establish your association as caring about its community.
  2. Host an icebreaker or fun day. Of course your AGM is important (see next point), but “come along to our AGM” won’t draw in non-members. Hosting a more laid back event is a proactive way to reach out to your local community. As well as potential members, you’ll be making connections with those who might not be interested in joining your organization, but who could be allies.
  3. Make your AGM or conference more social. An AGM or conference is a good way to get your members together for networking and discussion – but you have to make it appealing. From the way you market it to the general tone of the day, make sure your event is positive and worth the time and money to attend. Don’t forget the importance of social media and a mobile-friendly approach to your event.
  4. Involve your staff. If you want a more social association, start with your staff. Whether paid or voluntary, make sure your staff gets a chance to have their voices heard, and are offered plenty of motivation to get involved in your activities.
  5. Run a contest or giveaway. From a Facebook giveaway to a local prize draw, a contest can be an engaging way to get people involved with what you are doing. Rather than just asking for a name or a Facebook like, encourage involvement with a contest that needs some input from entrants.
  6. Sponsor something. Could your association sponsor something in your local community? From a local sporting event to your community theatre, sponsorship not only gets your name seen and known, it also establishes your association as community-minded and generous.
  7. Get talking. Being a good conversationalist should be part of your association’s social action plan. Talk to your members and others in your local community or trade area regularly. You can reach out with questionnaires, join or start a conversation on social media, or simply ask someone at a community event what matters to them.
  8. Encourage involvement. If you want to inspire your members to get more social, provide them with opportunities and make sure they know about them. Write up some interesting copy with eye-catching graphics to let them know what is going on, and how and why they should get involved. Keeping in touch is the key to encouraging your members to be more social, with you, with each other, with others in their sector, and with their local community.
  9. Make the most of social media. Social media is your opportunity to start and join in with conversations worldwide. Make the most of social media with regularly updated profiles that offer something interesting to your followers. Reach out to your members, prospects, and others in your industry with questions, information, and a friendly, approachable attitude.
  10. Get your voice heard. From local consultations to national topics of importance to your area of expertise, reach out beyond your own borders. Get your association involved with topics that are relevant to your association, and to the local community you operate in.

Keeping your association social is key to keeping its membership active and interested in being part of what you do, so don’t wait – get out there, and get social!

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5 Content Marketing Mistakes Your Association Needs to Avoid

Is your content marketing in good shape? From Facebook updates to eBooks, content marketing is the go-to way to communicate with your members these days. Your content needs to interest your readers and give them a reason to come back for more, so make sure you steer clear of these five common content marketing mistakes.

1. No Plan

No plan spells disaster for your content marketing. Without a plan, you run the risk of creating haphazard and unfocused content with not enough updates, or too many updates. Before you start creating, have an aim in mind. Do you want to raise awareness of your association? Increase your subscription rates? Once you’ve got your aim, map out how much content you are going to create, and when. Schedule it in so you know it will get created and sent at the right time.

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2. No Value

The Internet is a noisy place, and your members are busy people. The content you create needs to bring something to their lives – something that will make it worth taking the time to read. That means now is not the time to sell. Now is the time to answer a question, solve a problem, provide some valuable information, or even just make your members laugh or smile.

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