Why Comic Sans isn’t funny anymore

Example of the Comic Sans font.

You may find a lot of posts online that talk about the overuse of the font Comic Sans. My attention was drawn to Comic Sans this afternoon when a colleague pointed out a web site that used Comic Sans throughout, both as a display (i.e., headline) font and as a body (i.e., text) font.

But what’s really at issue here? (more…)

Media 101: Objectives? Goals? Boring?

Goal Setting

Goal Setting (Photo credit: angietorres)

If you’re making a video, a web site, or any other kind of marketing campaign, you need a way to determine, at the end of the day, whether or not your marketing efforts (and the money you’ve put into them) have done what you wanted.

I’d say most small businesses don’t know how to do that, nor do they know how to set an objective.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, goals and objectives are different beings. Goals comprise a single overarching purpose: to inform, persuade, train, or entertain. Period. (more…)

Does Apple care about social media anymore?

Apple logo

Apple logo

Every now and then I like to run my company’s URL through Marketing Grader, a service of HubSpot. More than just kicking the tires, this free analysis can tell you some of the strong (and weak) points of your web site and social media efforts.

And it’s pretty cool that you can also check the marketing chops of any company you like. A company like Apple. (more…)

"I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

English: Scan of the cover of a Tijuana bible ...

English: Scan of the cover of a Tijuana bible featuring Wimpy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Popeye and J. Wellington Wimpy in E. C. Segar'...

Popeye and J. Wellington Wimpy in E. C. Segar’s Thimble Theatre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

These words by J. Wellington Wimpy (a la Popeye cartoons) epitomize the worst of con artists and those looking to make an easy buck (or burger). I’m pretty sure Wimpy never paid anyone back for those burgers.

But suppose Wimpy had paid his investors back … Then, Wimpy’s words have significance to the honest and hardworking.

I was in a meeting the other day with a nonprofit organization that does good. They help people with serious emotional and physical issues lead more normal lives — get exercise, spend time around others who share their issues, and attend arts and other events. This organization brings in some money each year for operating expenses, yet fundraising is a constant struggle. I’m sure even buying office coffee is an issue at times. (more…)

The 12 commandments of building your own web site

The ten commandmentsA lot of you want to build your own web site using tools available in a variety of places on the Internet. I get that.

I hope when you’re ready for a professional web site, you call someone like me (Susan, Basecamp Productions, 410.404.5559), who can put the right things in place to:

  • make your web site attractive
  • bring customers to your front door
  • help customers easily find what they came to find
  • MAKE YOU MONEY

In the meantime, a few suggestions — I call them the 12 commandments of building your own web site.

  1. Use copy sparingly. You’re not writing the bible of your business — you’re writing just enough to make your phone or your cash register ring.
  2. Use photographs and other images at the proper size. A picture tells a thousand stories, right? So don’t use too many — take advantage of large-format slide shows. And please use photos that people can see. If you must use small photos, make sure there’s a way that your customers can enlarge them.
  3. Put your address and telephone number on every page. Not only will this help your search engine optimization, it will make it easy for your customers to get in touch.
  4. Include a sign-up form. Whether you want your customers to ask questions or subscribe to your newsletter, sign-up forms are the best way to increase your email list. You are using database management, right?
  5. Do NOT include a link to an actual email address, such as “dave@business.com”. I’m always surprised at how even professionals do this. There was a time when we expected all of our customers to have email clients (software, for the uninitiated) on their computers. These days, many people I know, of all ages, don’t have an email client (such as Apple Mail, Entourage, or, God forbid, Internet Explorer). To receive their mail, many people go directly to gmail, verizon.net, cox.net, and other service providers. If you use an email link as opposed to a form, your guests may click and then receive a message box that tells them to configure their email client (which they won’t understand) or they won’t get any message at all. They’ll think something is broken, and they’ll go elsewhere.
  6. Enter different meta information for each page and post on your web site. If you’re using WordPress (and possibly other content management systems), you’ll need to download a plug-in to help you do this. Do NOT enter the same information for each page. If every page of your web site is telling search engines the same exact thing, you’re missing an opportunity to bring your guests to the right page. Plus, search engines such as Google don’t like it A LOT. You might even be penalized by Google et al., meaning that they’ll take you down a few notches for duplicating your meta information.
  7. Do not create duplicate web sites with the same (exact) information. I have a client who has a business web site, yet she also consults with a variety of other businesses offering some of the same services. She did not want to compete with the other businesses in certain areas. So she asked whether she might duplicate her web site under another URL to further her consulting business and remove any pages that competed with those of her clients. ABSOLUTELY NOT. When Google (and possibly other search engines) discover duplicative content, they can penalize one or both of the offending web sites. The idea behind this is a noble one … Google et al. don’t want to let web pirates (folks who make money stealing your content) gain the upper hand. But … how does Google know which site to penalize? They don’t, always. If you offer duplicative content on two sites, you could show up at the bottom of the search heap OR be banned from search engine results pages (SERPS) (in other words, your content won’t show up at all when users enter your key words).
  8. When creating a link, don’t use the words “click here.” Since when have you ever searched on the words “click here”? Google places a high value on the words used in a link (both internal and external to your web site). You’ll do better if you enter key words, such as “download free report about teen bullies.”
  9. Use key words in titles. For instance, instead of writing “Welcome,” write something like “How can I live without back pain?” By doing so, you’re attempting to gain hits from people searching for some or all of these key words.
  10. Write sexy titles (especially if you’ve set up your web site to republish to Facebook and Twitter). Instead of sending a post named “Our newest product,” try something like “How can you learn Portuguese in 10 days?” or “Do you know how to fix a bike tire the right way?” or “What are the 12 commandments of skin care?” Even the most experienced of skin care aficionados will wonder whether they know every single step of the twelve. The question format is a plus. People love to check their knowledge, and that’s an opportunity for you to teach them something new.
  11. Use a copy protector. I call these copy condoms. For many content management systems, you can find an app or a plug-in to help you protect your content. Once in place, these protectors are a deterrent to copy theft. In short, they will not let anyone copy your content to paste elsewhere. I say “deterrent” because, well, there are pirates out there who will “scrape” anything from a web site and you can’t do anything about it. By using a copy condom, you’re making theft more difficult. 97% effective, as always.
  12. Keep your menu items to a minimum. I don’t mean your number of pages. Organize your content! Don’t let your menu items bleed onto two lines. Make sure you think of what your guests (potential customers) need and not your need to tell your potential customers what you want them to know. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes … if you were visiting a dentist’s web site, wouldn’t you want that site to be calming as well as informative? Don’t you want potential customers to call you? What does that take?

Please tell me YOUR thoughts about what you want an ideal web site to contain or not contain. I’d really like to know what you think.

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Video 101: Who is your target audience?

English: Director of Photography Mark Schulze ...

English: Director of Photography Mark Schulze videotapes Revolution 20 at Belmont Park in San Diego. Photograph by Patty Mooney

For any message, you need a specific target audience in mind. Not multiple audiences. One cohesive audience. We writers and producers depend on a one audience to tell our story.

Your might think your audience is “the general public,”  but whose business or interest do you really want to attract? Is it your top funders? Decision makers? Homeowners? Single fathers? Physicians?

Define:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Education level
  • Geography (e.g., North Dakota? A region? The entire United States?)
  • Career e.g., do they all work for your company? Are they welders or engineers?)
  • Current knowledge of your topic (e.g., a little or a lot?)
  • Nationality (e.g., if it bears on your topic or requires language captioning)
  • Special needs (e.g., a video for a low-income veteran may require captioning for the deaf)
  • Socioeconomic status

Some seemingly disparate audiences are actually a single audience. A video about landscaping, if done well, can include clients who are very rich and not so rich.

A video about the importance of breast feeding also might well speak to all women in their child-bearing years, regardless of socio-economics, age, education, nationality, or career status. Or maybe not.

However, a video that tries to address both physicians and patients will fall on its face. Experts and non-experts each require information just for them. One audience, please.

I know you’re thinking, “What about commercials? Commercials have more than one audience! Not everyone buys the same products!” OK, point taken, but (with all due respect) it’s not a really great point.

Consider what commercials are selling: underarm deodorant, laundry detergent, cars and trucks, energy drinks, beer, and so forth. Good commercials try to draw in more customers. Same audience base: people who drive cars or who will drive cars one day.

Definition of a single audience: an audience who wants or needs the same specific information.

If you need a video for more than one audience, consider a “master” video with alternate versions. Alternate versions are a cost-effective way to make your video more flexible.

Yes, with alternate versions you will have to record a separate voiceover and perhaps other material, but that voiceover may not cost any more than the original alone, if you include it in your planning — another reason to hire a seasoned producer to help you manage your budget.

If all versions are produced at the same time, you can reach more audiences for less money than you might think. You’ll require some tweaking in the script and in the editing, if all versions are created at the same time, but that’s it.

BIG SECRET: Corporate producers and directors work very hard to spend LESS of your money. Yes, we want to be compensated fairly for our time. But good producers, writers, and directors have an aversion to spending money unnecessarily. It runs against our grain. We’re a thrifty lot by nature, AND we’d like to curry your favor for future projects. We have no interest in disappointing you or creating change orders. But we’ll do so if we have to.

SECOND BIG SECRET: Out of the three production phases: pre-production, production, and post-production, the most important is pre-production. We can only help you get your message right and save money in the first phase. Planning is everything.

Seventy-five percent of every production’s success is in its planning. Production (shooting) and post-production (editing) make up the remaining 25%.

In short, good producers, directors, and writers are like the proverbial Greek Chorus. We’ll warn you to navigate away from the shoals. But, AFTER pre-production, if a new current heads your boat for a big rock, we’re powerless to prevent the wreck.

We will, however, do everything we can to keep your project on track and within budget.

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