National Photograph Month – How will you celebrate?

smart phone taking a photo

If you’re part of my online community, you probably already know that I like to use holidays in my content marketing.

Some of my favorite sources for this information include HolidayInsights.com and BrownieLocks.com.  I even publish a free, holiday marketing calendar each month.  (Click here to get yours)

The month of May offers us a fantastic holiday to celebrate as visual content marketers:  National Photograph Month!

Most of us carry a camera around with us all the time in the form of our mobile phones.  Do you look for opportunities to take photos that you can use in your visual content marketing?

I want to talk about 3 ideas that will help you with this:

  1.  Keep this idea top of mind so that you are always on the look-out for potential photographs that could represent subject matter related to your business message or pictures that could be used as visual metaphors or even just for inspirational or fun ways to engage with your clients and fans on social media.  It doesn’t have to ALL be about business!
  2. Find a couple of apps that you’re comfortable using on your phone so that you can quickly and easily add text over your photos and then post them directly to multiple social media platforms.  Most apps will also let you email those photos (with the overlaid typography) to yourself so that you can save these modified images to your computer for future use — in PowerPoint presentations, videos, e-books, and other future forms of content marketing.
  3. Figure out an easy way to transfer potential business photos off your phone and onto your computer or onto a “cloud-based” drive, such as Dropbox, iDrive, Windows One Drive, or something similar that is easy to access from your phone.  Developing an easy routine for this will make it much more likely for you to save your photos on a regular basis.  You may even want to schedule a monthly or weekly task on your calendar to make sure it gets done!

That last step is important for a couple of reasons:  First, you want to be able to organize those photos on your computer for easy access to create future content marketing materials.  Secondly, you don’t want to end up with hundreds of photos you need to transfer before you can upgrade the software on your phone!  (I learned this the hard way!)

image of seedling - Growing creative ideas

Software Tools for Using Photos

I have quite a few apps on my iPhone, but really I only use a couple of them with any consistency.  Part of my difficulty is that the on-screen buttons and text labels on most apps are so difficult to read on the small phone screen.  Yet I’m not interested in buying a larger phone that will be harder to tuck into my purse or my pocket.  Instead I still prefer to do most of my visual content creation on my desktop computer.  If that makes me old-fashioned — so be it!

Typorama is one of the apps I enjoy using on my phone.  I find it pretty intuitive and easy to use.  Plus I like the fact that I can use it with my own photos or search for free, public domain photos on one of my favorite sites – Pixabay.com.  The image above on the right is one I created recently with Typorama.

photo collage created with Pexels Add-In for PowerPointOn my computer, I often create my quote graphics and other photo-based sharing content using PowerPoint.  I have a square template I created and saved (7.5″ square) that is a good size for posting to the Facebook newsfeed.  I simply add a photo and overlay with text for a quote or tip.  It’s fast and easy!

I recently discovered an “add-in” for PowerPoint that makes this process even easier and it comes from another of my favorite photo sharing sites:  Pexels.com  

Pexels is another public domain image site.  Their license for photo usage clearly states that all images on their site have a Creative Commons CC0 license, which means that they can be used free of charge, without attribution, and can be modified and used for pretty much any purpose.  The only restriction is, if there are identifiable people in the image, it cannot be used in a way that shows those people in a bad light — unless you get their written permission.

The Pexels website hosts some beautiful photos and I encourage you to check them out!  The Pexels Add-In for PowerPoint is one of the “apps” I will be demonstrating in my next episode of Creative Marketing TV on May 21, 2016.  I will also demonstrate using the Typorama iPhone app.

National Photograph Month Hangout Announcement

 

You can register for this free hangout at the Google+ Event page at http://bit.ly/CMTV_May21.  Look for the question “Are you going?” and just answer Yes or Maybe.  Then Google+ will send you a reminder.  Or you can watch the recording whenever you want.

Please go ahead and leave a comment for me on the G+ Event page or below this blog post.  Let me know what questions you have about using photo apps or share which apps you like to use and what you do with them.  I’ll do my best to incorporate your questions or comments into the show.

 

 

 

 


Redefining PowerPoint and Presentations – Are they the same or different?

PowerPoint slide with bullet pointsPresentation has become so commonly associated with the PowerPoint software that many people use to create presentation slides that “powerpoint” has taken on an almost generic meaning – like Kleenex or Xerox.

But, in this blog post, I’ll talk about why powerpoint and presentation have a little bit of overlap, but a whole lot of differences in their meaning and their capabilities!

Just because you were taught to create PowerPoint slides like a bullet-pointed outline doesn’t mean that’s the best way to use the PowerPoint software.

And just because lots of people use PowerPoint to create presentations doesn’t mean that’s the best format to present your message to your ideal audience.

Let’s redefine those 2 terms!

Microsoft Office software suitePowerPoint is …

a software tool for content creation and graphic design.  PowerPoint also has an ability to project the content, on a computer monitor or on a large projection screen, in an electronic, digital display which may look slightly different than the original content.

The most common type of content created with PowerPoint is a presentation or slideshow.  The most common way to organize the content (message) of a presentation or slideshow created in PowerPoint is by outlining the verbal message in bullet points (as shown in the image above) and then adding small images around the text.

However there are other types of content that can be created with the PowerPoint software tools.  Presentations and slideshows are only a small fraction of what PowerPoint can do.

digital projectorA presentation is …

a means of delivering a message for the purpose of education, information, persuasion, or entertainment.

The most commonly used tool for creating and delivering a presentation is PowerPoint, but there are so many other tools that could be used and, in fact, many other formats in which a presentation can be delivered.

Too often people use the term “PowerPoint” to refer to their presentation.  Unfortunately, this confusion leads many people to plan, write, and create their whole presentation inside of the PowerPoint software — which is really a design tool, not a planning tool.

From a business perspective, any opportunity you have to get your message in front of your ideal audience — your target clients or prospects – that’s a presentation!

Let’s take a look at the commonalities, as well as the differences, between PowerPoint and presentations.

PowerPoint Characteristics:

Here are some of the many things you can do with PowerPoint which most people don’t know you can do with PowerPoint!

  • You can change the “canvas” to almost any size and shape!
  • You can save the output in many different file types, including image files, video, PDF, and more.
  • You can format text blocks in an almost unlimited range of font sizes (not limited to the built-in choices).
  • You can change the output resolution to higher quality (easy on Mac; on Windows involves editing the Registry)
  • Graphics in PowerPoint are much easier to edit and format then in Word.output file types
  • There is a wide variety of available templates/themes/designs for designing PowerPoint documents.
  • You can modify those templates/themes/designs or create your own from scratch.
  • Graphic/image effects and text effects in PowerPoint are more extensive than in some other image editing software.
  • You can format text blocks without bullet points – which is a good idea since many people loathe bullet point slides and find them quite boring!
  • Animations and transitions are easier to use in PowerPoint than in more complex video editing software.
  • You control navigation within a PowerPoint document using hyperlinks.  (For instance, click a button on a slide and have it jump to a different part of the file.)

Presentation Characteristics:

Any time you get your message in front of an audience, that’s a presentation!  Even if that’s one person reading your blog post or viewing your infographic.  Even if that’s thousands of people watching your video that you created with a web-based animation program and then posted on YouTube.

Presentations can be:

one-on-one presentation

  • In person, face-to-face discussion (with or without slides shared on a tablet device)
  • By phone one-on-one or to a group
  • Audio presentation via radio show or podcast (live or prerecorded)
  • Written material (hopefully with visuals) – e-book or white paper
  • “Live” Webinar with audio and slides
  • Prerecorded (evergreen) webinar with audio and slides
  • Web-based Slideshow without audio
  • Live presentation (with or without slides) to small group (conference room)
  • Live presentation (with or without slides) to large group (auditorium)
  • Video presentation (with or without narration; with or without music)
  • Created with a wide range of software tool choices!

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.  THINK OUTSIDE THE BULLET-POINT TEXT BOX.  THINK OUTSIDE THE SLIDE!

You may have learned to use PowerPoint by typing text into a bullet point outline.  But PowerPoint software is capable of doing so much more.

Above all else, PowerPoint is a graphic design tool.  Even though many people don’t make very good use of its graphics functionality, PowerPoint offers some serious design functions compared to other software of similar price.

And since many people already have some familiarity with the PowerPoint software, it is much easier to learn how to create visual content in PowerPoint than to learn a completely new and different software tool, many of which are more complicated to use.

high quality presentationIn my Creative Marketing TV hangout series, I’ll be presenting some little known techniques for designing high-resolution graphic output from PowerPoint in Windows.  These are secret tips that many graphic designers don’t know about because they are working in PowerPoint on a Mac, which offers other built-in options.

While Windows does not make it as easy as Mac, you can save your PowerPoint files at 300 dpi when needed for print quality.  But you need to know about the techniques I’ll be teaching!

To explore ways of creating visual content with PowerPoint, register here for your free PDF guide for the May 7th hangout.

I will send you the hangout details, as well as the PDF with the tips and techniques that I’ll teach in the hangout.


Spring Cleaning Your Social Media Graphics

Spring Cleaning!  Does it bring up pleasant thoughts of airing out the house and getting everything shining clean and fresh?  Or is it a task you dread each year?

A number of ideas have been proposed for how the practice of spring cleaning developed.  Some say it is rooted in the ancient Jewish tradition of cleansing the home before the celebration of Passover in the spring.

Catholic churches traditionally clean the church and the alter right before Good Friday, while people in Greece and other Eastern Orthodox countries clean their homes at the beginning of the Lenten season that leads up to Good Friday and Easter.

Some propose that spring cleaning dates back to the Persian (ancient Iranian) culture where the new year began on the first day of spring.  Everything in the house was thoroughly cleaned to prepare for the new year.

Carpet Washing

In North America and northern Europe, before electric vacuum cleaners, spring was the best time to dust, sweep, and shake rugs because it was warm enough to open windows and doors to let the spring winds carry the dust out of the house.  But it was not yet warm enough for bugs to be a problem.

Of course, in most Western countries, we have all the convenience of modern appliances to help with our cleaning, so we no longer need to carry rugs down to the river to wash them by hand. And we no longer need to wash the coal soot off the walls when the furnaces are turned off in the spring.

National Spring Cleaning Week in the United Kingdom has a website to inspire you about why and how to spring clean your home and your life!  http://www.springcleaningweek.com/

Cleaning Up Your Graphics

Since spring is a great time for starting afresh, I think it’s the perfect time to take a look at your social media graphics and see what needs attention.  I recommend checking on these 3 areas:

1.  Make sure your profile photos are up-to-date and high quality

Susan Joy Schleef

Your social media profile photos are one of the primary ways you have to show clients, customers, and prospects that you are a serious, professional business owner.  It’s so important to have professional, good quality photos of yourself posted on all your social media profiles.  They don’t necessarily have to all be formal photos, but they should still present a professional image.

Also make sure that you use a photo that shows your face clearly, not a shot taken from so far away that you’re barely visible and definitely not a picture with you and other people.

It’s also a good idea to use a fairly recent photo.  You don’t want to have other people thinking you look like your photo from 10 or 12 years ago!  When they meet you at a networking event or you talk with them on a Skype call, they will be startled to realize that you’ve been less than honest about your age and your current appearance.

2.  Review your cover images to ensure you’re sharing a consistent branding image

The 2 biggest mistakes to avoid for your social media cover images are:  a) not having a cover image at all, and b) stretching out a low-resolution photo to fill the cover image space so the picture looks blurry, grainy or pixelated.

Social media cover images are such a fantastic piece of internet real estate, yet I see so many people who have never bothered to post a cover image on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

You can find pre-made designs for a fairly low cost, but the best approach is to have something designed just for your business.  You want your cover design to be eye-catching but also to express something about you and your business.

Of course, it depends on whether we are talking about your personal profile or your business profile, since many people have both types of accounts on some social media platforms.  But you really should have good cover images for both your personal and your business accounts.  Personal branding is important too, especially for solo-preneurs and professionals.

3.  Do an audit of the visual posts you share on social media

Go through your posting history, if possible, and delete any posts you feel no longer represent you in a good light.  Maybe it’s time to take down those pictures from the office party where you had a little too much to drink or photos from your college frat parties.

While you’re reviewing, notice what you typically post and see if you want to make changes going forward.  A good guideline is to share only about 20% promotional posts related to your business and the remainder should be general interest, networking, and relationship building.

Also most social media sites now allow video and visual content where they did not before.  Make sure you’re sharing lots of visual posts — including some original content, not just sharing what others post.

If possible, add a consistent branding element to your original posting content as well.  It’s just one more way to build your brand and your reputation on social media.

Your Best Practices

What are you doing with your social media graphics?  Do you have some personal best practices you can share?  Please leave a comment – I love to hear from my readers!

Join me Saturday, April 9th, 2016, on Creative Marketing TV at 11am Eastern for a free training hangout.  I’ll be sharing more tips about:

  • keeping your social media graphics up-to-date
  • easy, low-cost tools for creating your own Facebook cover images
  • design guidelines for professional-looking covers

Go to the Google+ Event page at Google+ Event and click “Yes” or “Maybe” to let me know you’re planning to attend.  That way you’ll receive an event reminder and a link to join the hangout on Saturday morning.  

Plus I’ll have a special written tips and tools checklist for anyone who registers in advance — whether or not you can join us live.  Just click the bit.ly link below:

Google+ Event

Branding for Small Business: More Than a Logo

old brand signsBranding is a big factor in contributing to someone’s decision to do business with you.  But what exactly is branding?

And is it only for big businesses that can afford expensive advertising to spread their name and logo all over just for the sake of brand recognition?

Like most abstract concepts, there is no single, precise definition of branding.  Many people have expressed different ideas about what branding is and what it means.  Here are a few of those ideas:

  • A brand exists in the mind of the customers or clients.
  • Branding is much more than just a logo.
  • A brand is a promise to the customers.
  • Branding is a perception that triggers an emotional response.
  • Your brand is what people think or say about you when you’re not in the room.
  • Branding often has nothing to do with the product.

And one of my favorites:

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”  ~ Seth Godin

When we choose to pay a premium for one product compared to another, we make that decision based on branding and usually we are unaware of the subconscious emotions that influence our decision.

gift-147780_1280
Here’s an example I once heard from business magnate and motivational speaker, Nido Qubein.

Why would people pay so much more for a box of chocolates in a gold box with a dark red bow than they pay for a bag of Hershey’s kisses?  The difference is you buy Hershey’s kisses to eat, but you buy Godiva chocolates to give.

If you’re going to give someone a gift of chocolate, that gold box and red bow send a different message than if you were to wrap up a cellophane bag of chocolate kisses.  But it’s not the gold box and red bow that make Godiva more expensive; it’s the meaning the Godiva brand has in the mind of the purchaser and in the mind of the gift recipient.

Is Branding Relevant Only for Big Business?

It’s easy to think that only big companies can afford to worry about branding – especially when we see the television commercials, magazine ads, billboards, and store signage all focused on building brand awareness in the minds of consumers.

As small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals, most of us can’t afford to spend millions of dollars on a nationwide campaign of televisions commercials.  We need to focus on getting new clients and making sales.

We are also unlikely to have our products distributed in stores across the country and we don’t have a team of sales people.  We need to rely on methods that are known as direct marketing or direct selling.

cattle branding

But branding is still critically important for entrepreneurs, professionals, and small business owners.  It just looks different for us than it does for the big brands.

One of the most important roles of branding for small business reflects the original meaning of the term, going back to the days of cattle ranching on the open plains of the western United States.  Branding serves to differentiate things which are otherwise identical.

When you tell someone “I’m a dentist” or “I’m a business coach” or “I’m a real estate agent,” you make yourself indistinguishable from your competitors and you give prospects no reason to choose you over anyone else.  It that situation, buyers will most often resort to choosing based on price!

What Makes Prospects Choose to Do Business with You?

There are quite a few factors that effect that decision-making process of our prospects and clients — reputation, quality of product or service, word of mouth, and more.

Here are some important elements to consider when developing a brand for your business:

Quality:  What is the level of quality that you establish for your products or services?  Do you consistently deliver that level of quality?  Would your customers or clients agree with you about your quality?  Remember, your brand exists in the mind of the consumer.  It’s their perception that counts!

quality-500954_1280Familiarity:  For a small business, think in terms of your tribe of fans and followers.  As your brand grows, they feel familiar with your brand and what you stand for, which makes them more likely to buy additional products or services from you because they already trust you.

Memorability:  In order to generate more business from your clients and prospects, your brand needs to stick in their memory.  You want them to think of you when they have a need for your product or services at some point in the future.

Consistency:  This is closely related to familiarity.  Be careful  your consistency in products or services, in your content marketing, and especially in your images and other visual content.

Resonance:  Since your brand lives in the mind of your clients and prospects, you want to continually focus on developing a brand that creates the desired feeling in your clients and prospects.  Make sure they’re receiving your intended message and not the wrong message!

Clarity:  Because branding involves so many abstract factors, it can take a lot of testing and feedback to make sure your audience is getting your intended message.  Visual images can also be abstract.  It’s important to choose an image, for your logo or other branding, that clearly indicates a specific meaning to most people.

uniquenessUniqueness:  This is one of the most important elements of branding for small business.  It is also an element that can take a lot of mental effort, brainstorming, and feedback from others.  What makes your product or service unique among your competitors?  That is something that may evolve over time as you understand more about the unmet needs of your clients and prospects.  By the way, uniqueness also means that your products/services don’t need to appeal to everyone!

Emotional Connection:  As I mentioned before, people identify emotionally with brands they like.  It becomes part of their personal identify and defines them just like their political or religious affiliation.  Since we know that “facts tell and emotions sell,” you want to make sure your brand makes an emotional connection.  Visual images are one of the ways to do this because they speak directly to the subconscious.

Credibility or Trustability:  This element relates back to Familiarity and Consistency.  By making sure your brand doesn’t stray from your clients’ expectations, you establish credibility in their minds.  Your business becomes a trustable old friend that is always there, always giving them the same message and the same feeling.

Aspects of Visual Branding

Out of all those factors that influence our clients’ and prospects’ decision-making, we can most easily and quickly change the visual elements of our branding.  Again, as you focus on visual branding, you want to ensure quality, consistency, resonance, and clarity.  Make sure that prospects and clients are actually receiving the message you want them to have about your products or services.

As you work on developing a logo or choosing brand colors to use in all your marketing content, be sure to get feedback from others.  And if your own graphic design skills cannot produce the desired level of quality, make sure you invest in getting the best branding graphics you can afford at whatever stage you’re in with your business success.  Poor quality graphics send the wrong message and can be worse than having no visual brand at all.

You can always upgrade and rebrand as your business grows, but get the best you can afford for now.  So much is at stake for the reputation of your business!  Make sure you give prospects and clients a good emotional connection with your brand and give them the feeling that you are really the only choice they should consider.

single_binder_16374Learn More About Designing Your Visual Brand

If you’d like to learn more about developing (or enhancing) the visual aspects of your branding, you can sign up for my email course, consisting of 5 lessons to guide you through this process.  This course will:

  • Help you feel more comfortable with your branding process
  • Lead you through brand development in easy-to-follow steps
  • Connect you with resources for the visual elements of your brand
  • Build your confidence in developing a brand your clients will trust
  • Help you share a consistent, quality visual message that generates more leads

Click here to learn more about this easy course that will get you started on designing your visual brand.  If you decide it’s right for you, sign up on that page!