Effective Communication
Communication 201
 
Many of us talk, and respond, and reply, and retweet all day long. But, as we all take a moment to digest the sheer magnitude of intake, it’s important to reflect on ways to improve and clarify communication.
 
A common misconception is that there’s a magic silver bullet to effective messaging. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Simply launching a website, training your team, or sending an email about new products isn’t guaranteed to inspire interest or improve sales. In most cases, there are a series of objectives, tactics, and collaborations with varied groups to ensure the collective message is cohesive.
 
With strategy and trend research as the backbone of In Your Head, it will come as no surprise that we believe in taking cues from customers. And all too often, we can learn the most by the non-verbal signals, body movements, and gestures that express feelings and behaviors in ways that words alone never can. If you’re in the digital space without a physical person to observe, use analytics as a guide to understanding sentiment and what’s going on behind the laptop.   
 
To help articulate other ways to improve communication, we asked 10 professionals, from varying industries, to share their thoughts on the subject.
 
"One of the most important things about writing is that the reader places you in a position of trust, and this is a sacred thing. Literary or dramatic devices aside, maintaining absolute candor with your reader is key and this includes signaling to the reader the extent of backup you have for your claims or assertions. A good everyday example of this is that while your headline or tweet should zing, it should be materially accurate as to what the post is about."
 
"Brands and businesses should focus on developing strong content in tandem with SEO. Messaging should always support your brand's vision and philosophy and be tailored for your audience — not exclusively for search engines."
- Julie Ashkenazi, Creative Director
 
"As a coach and as a business leader, I consciously practice Appreciative Inquiry, a philosophy/belief that includes the tenet that positive conversation and interactions stem from positive questions and reflections.  Conversations and interactions become positive the instant we ask a positive question, tell a positive story or share a positive reflection.  The more we attend to the positive in the moment, the more positive will be our intentions for future moments, which creates the groundwork for change and transformation."
 
"One of the biggest communication tips I could give is being strategic about content. Content doesn't live in a bubble and you need to be honest to the platform of where it lives – regardless if it's 140 characters on Twitter or a series of funny gif on Tumblr. Knowing your audience and producing the rich content that will stop them and engage them means preparations, planning and adapting."
- Gitamba Saila-Ngita, Chief Innovation Officer
 
"One of the first things I learned as a reporter more than 20 years ago is to get the facts — then check them twice (or more).  That journalism is a public trust to be practiced with the utmost seriousness and responsibility, and that accuracy is paramount to putting a story out into the public domain. The same standards apply in my work as a chef and cookbook author.  The public is putting their trust in me that my recipes do what they say they're going to do, from servings to cooking time."
- Kim O'Donnel, Food Writer & Author
 
"If writing to a particular editor or producer, try to mimic the language used by his/her media outlet.  It will not only demonstrate that you are a reader or viewer but will also increase the chances that they will respond."
 
"As a professional photographer with over twenty years in the business I have learned the importance of communicating with your client prior to the shoot in regards to usage. I find it best to have a simple written agreement that clearly states what the photos will be used for and for how long. This way there are no surprises down the road when the client wants to use the photos for additional marketing beyond the scope of the original shoot."
- Jim Henkens, Photographer
 
"When sharing an article or video on social, include an excerpted quote to increase engagement. This provides a little flavor, and lets people know why the content is worth their time."
- Virginia Bunker, Copywriter
 
"Segment your email list and serve content that's relevant to each group in order to increase open rate and drive engagement. Monitor your lists' behavioral data, along with the recency and frequency of purchase, to help improve the relevancy of your message."
- Uzi Ashkenazi, Director of New Media
 
"Please remember, especially when attending events and conferences (SXSW anybody?), don't over-promise and under-deliver."
- Michael Tchong, Public Speaker
 
As connectivity, globalization, and the demolition of barriers continue to drive new products and services, it’s more important than ever to transform and modify messaging with a recipe that matches your strategy. Transparency continues to be a key ingredient to thoughtful communication.
 
Twitter Cookbook Contest
So you want to write a cookbook?
 
 
Tweeting can now get you one step closer to a cookbook deal. But unlike traditional proposals, each pitch will need to participate in a March Madness style basketball tournament before final approval.
 
The Lisa Ekus Group is taking an untraditional route by hearing the best culinary non-fiction ideas via 140-character (or less) tweets to Literary Agent Sally Ekus (@SallyEkus) using the hashtag #SignMeSal. Inspired by the NCAA Men's Division basketball tournament, the agency will select 16 finalists who will then be asked to round out their proposals with additional tweets that cover standard proposal elements, such as the book’s point of differentiation.
 
The participants will then be whittled down to two finalists — who will compete against each other during a Twitter chat on March 25, 2013. A single winner will be chosen and then work with Sally Ekus to develop a fleshed out proposal to pitch to editors at publishing houses.
 
“In the face of a constantly shifting publishing environment our agency is increasingly interested in finding new ways to discover fresh voices and concepts," Ekus said. "The Twitter contest is a result of the fast paced landscape we all work in, and a desire to give an unpublished or un-agented author a chance to work one on one with our agency.”
 
At a time when many bloggers — food or otherwise — are enamored with a book deal, it makes good sense to consider the resources needed to launch such an endeavor. Most writers and photojournalists could stand to reflect more closely on building a team to support their vision in tandem with receiving a book advance. We love how this contest allows participants to see the value of a literary agent and an agency through an authentic, realtime social media discussion.   
 
For more details on the contest, including deadlines, click here.
 
Blak Designmart
Blak Designmart
 
Nothing says timely promotion like a holiday pop-up. From NYC to Los Angeles – the retail scene is eager to cash in on selective partnerships, offline activation, and limited-edition wares.
 
Act One: Smart (Social) Commerce in London
E-tail giant eBay launched the Social Shopping pop-up shop in the Covent Garden neighborhood of London earlier this month.

 
According to Retail Week, the company launched November 30th to capitalize on what was expected to be the busiest online shopping weekend. The short-lived event, which closed December 2nd, housed in-store screens that displayed top recommendations from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and encouraged shoppers to download eBay's apps to browse and shop products in the pop-up store.

eBay Head of Buyer Experience Carrie Bienkowski said: “By pairing views of social communities with eBay’s own vast selection of top Christmas gifts and mobile expertise we hope to give shoppers lots of inspiration and put a little bit of fun into Christmas shopping. Mobile technology is a catalyst for retail growth and is changing the way we shop. Consumers now carry a global showroom in their pocket and are increasingly as inclined to seek recommendations online and shop mobile as visit the high street.”

Research from the company shows Augmented Reality and 3D technologies could boost the retail industry by nearly $4bn by 2014.

Act Two: A hotel hosts DailyCandy's brick-and-mortar
The email newsletter turned lifestyle brand opened popup shops selling handpicked gifts by DailyCandy editors at The Standard hotels in New York, Miami and Los Angeles earlier this week.
 
“We know from our insights that when digital brands do an offline activation, it resonates with consumers” said Ashley Parrish, Editor-in-Chief of DailyCandy to WWD.
The assortment, which includes a Ryan McGinness To-Do Calendar and beach towels by Cecily Brown, will be offered in-store and online at standardhotels.myshopify.com through December 31st.

While a Maison Martin Margiela-Ligne 13 Claustrophobic notebook is certainly unique, we’re particularly intrigued at how the brand is banking on cross-pollination from locals and travelers in a hotel setting to push sales.

Act Three: A collective approach to the Darkest Days
30+ emerging designers, creatives, and artisans joined forces this past weekend in Seattle for Brite Collective’s Blak Designmart Pop-up at Caffe Vita’s Bean Room in Seattle.
 
 
The event, which felt more like a old-school warehouse pop-up in 2006 than the manicured and excessively sponsored upmarket versions of today, mixed limited edition black-themed merchandise (representative of the cities darkest days) with freestanding branded stalls featuring products outside the motif.
 
We love shopping local and appreciate the refreshing spin on the weeks leading up to the winter solstice.
 
Act Four: Socially-minded menswear in Williamsburg
Nomad Market, features classic men's clothing and accessories manufactured in collaboration with local craftspeople around the world on the second floor of Hickoree's Floor Two in Brooklyn. The latest in a series of socially-minded pop-ups from Apolis launched mid-November and will run through the end of December.
 
{Photo: Apolis Global}
 
The traveling installation includes photo and video essays from the communities with which Apolis Global co-created to see how futures are impacted by each item. They brand calls the hand-on model “advocacy through industry.”
 
We love how brands are targeting customers and profits using philanthropic causes to better the retailing industry. Isn’t that what the spirit of Christmas is all about? 
 
{source: Nordstrom. All portraits by The Selby.}
 
Photographer Todd "The Selby" Selby, best known for providing an insider’s view of creative individuals in their personal spaces on theselby.com, has teamed up with Nordstrom to create an inspiring holiday gift guide rooted in the unique personalities of ten Seattleites.
 
Wait — we know what your thinking. Another collaboration? I thought you were over curation and had grown skeptical of mainstream's ability to deliver on brand experiences. Is Nordstrom putting you up to this? Yes, yes, yes, and no. Keep reading.
 
Sure, The Selby has launched joint projects with big names like Nike, Louis Vuitton, IKEA, and NYTimes T Magazine before. And obviously, this particular project is ultimately a sales tool for the retailer. But, the results of the the collaboration are stunning and distinct. This is not a curated list of random products laid out in neat columns. It's a surprisingly thoughtful use of film, photos, and illustration.
 
 
We're particularly drawn to Photographer Coco Aramaki, as she explains how she's trying to balance between finding the moment in work and experiencing beauty around her. A truly inspiring philosophy.
 
 
Shifting gears into edible culture, The Selby also selected an Organic Food Activist and a Chef as subjects who define genuine style. Cormac Mahoney, Chef/Co-owner of 
Madison Park Conservatory, expresses sincerity and simplicity with a profound statement: "...something special happens when someone passes you food. I believe in magic."
 
From heartfelt words to styling — the results are genuine. This collaboration is not just about fashionable Seattleites, but a national representation of the people and trends shaping today's culture. View more photos on The Selby's Nordstrom blog, and browse his gift guides at Nordstrom.
 
 
cookbook app
Lark Seattle Kickstarter
 
When In Your Head founder, Shannon Kelly, decided to back the Kickstarter for the Lark Cookbook iPad App, she was not looking for material to write a blog post. Contributing to the success of the project was simply an exercise in "putting your money where your mouth is" — which in this case is clearly dining at Lark on a regular basis.
 
Since April, when the campaign successfully exceeded its funding goal, we've had a chance to see first hand how this project embraces dynamic content and crowdsourcing to determine the most meaningful step-by-step instructions. Throughout the process, funders have had access to behind the scenes videos so they can test recipes at home.
 
 
Lark Cookbook App
 
To celebrate each stage of the process, we attended a number of events including a final supporter party in November to view the application for iPhone. Filled with delicious recipes and beautiful photographs, the application and book showcase the local seasonal cuisine that has made Lark one of our favorite Northwest destinations.
 
We love how this process embraces community and gives consumers options on how best they want to connect with the recipes. Traditionalists will love the limited, 1st edition book (available for pre-order here), while others can visually discover recipes through the high-quality video included within the application for iPhone and Android platforms (coming soon).
 
The future is looking bright for Lark - Cooking Against the Grain by Chef John Sundstrom in 2013.
 
 
We had the opportunity to attend a variety of presentations from speakers and panelists on technology, creativity, and emergent media at the Seattle Interactive Conference last month. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and share ideas and insights on creative solutions for transforming communications across mediums.
 
One session that keeps replaying in our mind is that of filmmaker, Jason Silva, who's “shots of philosophical espresso” help to bring awareness to complex futurist principals and changes in society. Here is one of three shorts that he played during "The Creating and Sharing of Awe."
 

{Source: The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck - by Jason Silva on Vimeo}

Throughout the film, a common theme was Pattern Recognition (something we might know a thing or two about as we convert trends and cultural insights into strategies). This second short, which was also part of the presentation, centers on cultivating the power of ideas with "Radical Openness" and imagination — "allowing us to conceive of delightful future possibilities, pick the most amazing one and pull the present forward to meet it."

{Source: "Radical Openness" - for TEDGlobal 2012 by Jason Silva on Vimeo}

And at that point it was as if a light went on. For as much as we loved the concepts and creativity, Jason Silva was not quoting female thinkers. So, after the session, we took the opportunity to meet him and politely ask why his examples failed to include women. Was there a shortage of ladies in the industry? Thankfully no.
 
So we suggested a new opportunity to pull female philosophers and futurists to a new film based on his research and findings. It's our sincere hope that by connecting the dots, identifying patterns, and suggesting solutions to “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age” we helped to simply cultivate an additional perspective. As it turns out, we're a quick study in 'Radical Openness".
 
It's hard not to love Garance Doré — the street style blogger, photographer, and illustrator.
 
You may have seen her work in French Vogue, her illustrations for Gap, or collaboration with The Sartorialist for J. Crew.
 
There's been talk for some time about translating her life and work into TV so we were delighted to read that she was visiting Hollywood to "meet producers, agents, and execs from very important companies" regarding her web series, Pardon My French earlier this week. Below is one of our favorite installments of the series with J.Crew's Jenna Lyons.
 
 
Regardless of the format, we'll be watching. Her up close and personal transformation has been riveting for those in and out of the fashion industry and we have a feeling that Garance Doré is on the brink of something big.
 
Stay tuned.
 
 
 
A common misconception is that simply by having a website, sales will roll in — and in spades. Regrettably, this is not the case, and some brands, especially those small and new, have learned this the hard way.
 
Launching a website and ignoring online marketing is like opening a business and not telling anyone about it. You wouldn’t launch a new product, retail venture, or even hold a press event without strategic planning. Digital marketing requires the same consideration, and brands are missing incredible opportunities by not implementing strategies for online growth and development. However, many are unsure what they need, what to expect, and whether or not they can afford it.
 
A typical digital marketing campaign involves a combination of email, search, and social marketing, all of which require the collaborative efforts of a team of writers, designers, developers, marketers and analysts. Though positioning, aesthetic, and budgets are diverse — the same rules apply. Marketing initiatives must be cohesive, strategic, and aligned in order to be successful.
 
If you’re a smaller company with a limited marketing budget, social media is an excellent platform to build brand awareness and grow your online community. However, a bona fide social media campaign involves more than merely having a Facebook page or a Twitter account. It takes time and commitment and requires ongoing interaction with your community. It’s essential to provide a dialogue that includes unique, relevant content and not a constant stream of product or sale announcements. This is important not only from an engagement perspective, but also from a branding perspective, because if you continually discount your products in order to drive web sales, you’re at risk of brand erosion.
 
If you’re going to take a DIY approach to social marketing, make sure to avoid these common mistakes:
 
  • Syncing your social media channels.
    While it might be a timesaver, each platform has a different audience and therefore the messaging should be tailored differently.
  • Not interacting with your followers.
    Social media is the new customer service. As your online presence grows, expect to receive feedback, comments and even complaints from your fans — and always respond promptly.
  • Sending Auto Direct Message’s to your Twitter followers.
    In his article, Augie Ray explains that not only do people dislike Auto DMs, they think less of those who send them and are quite likely to unfollow the senders or even report them as spam.
 
Adding a blog to your website is another great and affordable way to expand your online presence and provide customers with a more intimate understanding of your brand. It allows you the opportunity to speak more in depth about products, ingredients, causes, and lifestyle topics that are relevant to your customer and — similar to social media platforms — gives them a chance to interact with your company. Additionally, since blog content is crawled by search engines, it’s likely that your website’s organic search results will improve as you continue to develop your blog.
 
As your brand awareness grows, hopefully your email subscriber list grows along with it. Once you have a fairly robust email list, you might want to consider launching an email marketing campaign to promote new product launches and special offers. However, take the time to familiarize yourself with email regulations before launching a campaign to ensure you are compliant with all regulations, including the CAN-SPAM Act, in order to prevent blacklisting and guarantee deliverability.
 
If budget permits, you might also want to consider launching a paid search campaign, however this tends to be one of the more expensive options and typically requires a fairly significant budget in order to be competitive. However, when used in combination with SEO and targeted landing pages, paid search can be a powerful marketing tool, providing immediate, measurable results.
 
As with any marketing initiative, traditional or digital, it’s important to do your research before embarking on new endeavors — and that includes giving your online marketing plan the consideration it deserves for your business to succeed.
 
 
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Julie Ashkenazi is the co-founder of Medium— a strategic eCommerce and online marketing studio dedicated building unique, compelling and successful brands with cohesive design aesthetics and analytics. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
 
 
It's rare that we'll tweet our whereabouts or use a brand's handle before or during a market exploration or retail safari. We're not fans of preferential treatment and always watch what we say in 140 characters. And because we keep a fairly low profile, we don't have to go to great lengths to conceal our identity.
 
But why does this matter?
Earlier this year, the FTC published new guidelines on endorsements — which carefully outline what writers can blog and micro-blog about. And the FTC can fine both the blogger and the company for not disclosing an arrangement where the company compensates the blogger for a review, positive mention, or sponsored post.
 
And why are we mentioning this?
Because there's a lot of free swag out there and it's important to consider social integrity online before “monetizing" a blog or tweeting up a client as a social media consultant.
 
Brand strategy is more than a logo and positioning statement. It's the act of building external and internal communications that tell a story. In the digital age, user interface is your brand — regardless of the products you sell, services or intelligence you provide.
 
Our tight lips allowed us to enjoy our time in Calistoga, and our brand was able to deliver the unbiased reporting that we hope you have grown to love. For the record, Solage Resort and Spa was worth every penny of the bill. And we got this great photo of a hot air balloon over Solbar to prove it.
 
 
{photo: Julie Ashkenazi via Instagram}
 
They might not be as glamorous as their A-List colleagues, but art directors are the unsung heroes of the awards season. And although I’m not, as they say in LA, “in the industry,” the contributions and efforts of art directors in our industry warrant a little acknowledgement of their own.
 
By its very definition, art direction is somewhat vague, so it's no wonder most people don't understand it. Often confused with designers, art directors are responsible for creating concepts and unifying the overall visual — the look and feel of a brand — including the color palette, type treatment and photography. One of the biggest differences between an art director and a graphic designer is that, in addition to creating compelling designs, an art director must also make the product or brand engaging in order to generate consumer interest.
 
It’s obvious there’s a strong art director behind every successful print campaign, but spend five minutes online and it’s clear that many brands overlook the importance of art direction on the web. Granted, there are design limitations on the web that don’t exist in print, but it’s important to maintain a digital presence that’s visually consistent with your overall brand experience. And it’s equally important to integrate eMarketing best practices into your online presentation to ensure your website is both branded and easy to shop from.
 
Online Art Direction Basics:
  • Whether you are working with commissioned or stock photography, all images should be consistent in terms of lighting, mood, and overall presentation.
  • All photography needs to support the brand positioning and copy.
  • Be consistent with the lighting, angles, and reflections of product photography.
  • Select a color palette that works for all of your online needs and don’t deviate from it.
  • Identify type specs, establish hierarchy rules, and apply them to copy accordingly.
  • Establish a smart balance of text and graphic text in order to create a presentation that’s both branded and SEO-friendly.
  • Don’t overuse your brand identity typeface.
  • Don’t overuse branding and/or graphic elements.
 
Similar to print advertising, it’s important to keep your communication goals and objectives in mind at all times and to use it as the foundation for your visual approach. And most importantly, never forget to put yourself in the position of your audience—after all, they’re the customer.
 
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Julie Ashkenazi is the co-founder of Medium— a strategic eCommerce and online marketing studio dedicated building unique, compelling and successful brands with cohesive design aesthetics and analytics. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.