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Say Yes to Creative Balance

How to keep saying yes without overwhelming your to-do list.

Creative people love to say, “Yes.” Saying “yes” can lead to unexpected opportunities and amazing collaborations. Saying “yes” can open doors to new connections and projects.

Working from a place of “yes” means we are inspired by the work, and that enthusiasm empowers us to pursue ideas and implement innovative solutions. When we keep ourselves open, we gain experiences and potentially discover talents and passions we didn’t know we had.

However, the more there is to do, the easier it can be to feel overwhelmed. If you find yourself wanting to agree to an opportunity, but know you may not have the bandwidth, it’s okay to ask for help. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Be open about workload and expectations

“Only do what only you can do. I encourage leaders to make this their personal mantra,” leadership consultant and author, Erika Andersen, shares in Forbes.

It can be exciting to take on a task, or perhaps an old habit, but that doesn’t make it an efficient use of your time. Don’t let the workload suffer by blindly saying, “Yes.” Think about what you can and should do.

Do you want to meet on Wednesday, but it would be easier to meet on Friday? Are you able to take on the additional project, but aren’t sure if it should be prioritized above your existing work? Speak up.

Become stronger through partnership

Writing in the Ask Entrepreneur column, serial entrepreneur, Jen Groover, recommends categorizing and prioritizing tasks, both small and big ones, to figure out the best way to tackle your to-do list.

Once organized, take a step back and think about your natural strengths. When we partner with others, we become stronger together and can work smarter.

“Sharing responsibility and handing over certain tasks can be a scary thing,” Groover writes. “But keep in mind how much farther you’ll be able to grow. I always tell entrepreneurs, 100 percent of $100 is still only $100. But 20 percent of $100,000 is a heck of a lot more. So if you can find someone who has the strengths to your weaknesses and vice versa, you’re going to have more to share.”

Also, remember that so many of us are surrounded by talent. Perhaps you’re intrigued by the project but know of a team member who would be a great fit to lead the effort. Make the connection. Taking a step back so someone else can take a step forward is its own reward.

Help yourself and offer to help otherscome stronger through partnership

“People are more inclined to want to help those who’ve attempted to help themselves first,” writes Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit. “When asking for help, briefly explain what you’ve tried independently. That way the person from whom you’re requesting help knows you’ve tried to figure out your problem for yourself before requesting help.”

This could be as simple as Googling a solution on your own, double-checking a request or going back to your notes. Ask for help smartly, and give your own help freely. “If you’re known as a helpful person around your office,” Boyes adds, “folks will want to help you when the time comes.”

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Seeing is Not Always Believing

We lead increasingly visual lives these days. How can you tell if someone’s #bestlife is really theirs?

If you see an image that looks too good to be true, keep in mind that it might be. It might have taken hours to achieve the perfect post with special lighting to achieve that natural glow and lots of planning behind that seemingly unplanned pic.

Of course, it’s one thing to stage a photo or select a filter, and another to digitally alter an image in an effort to purposely confuse a viewer or gain attention. If you suspect an image is being used improperly or being recycled, one way to stay alert visually is to double check images using Reverse Image Search on Google.

While working in the Chrome browser, right-click on an image and select “Search Google for image.” This is a good way to check if you believe a photo might not be current or was actually originally intended for something else

If regularly searching images (to find where an image came from or to handily track down a high-resolution version), TinEye is the official extension for Chrome. You can also reverse search images from your phone.

To do a little digging on the image itself, check the metadata, which includes everything from the camera make and modle, to camera settings used, and the date and time an image was captured. You can check the metadata using various programs.

When in doubt, trust your gut. You know that not everything is what it seems on the internet. Sometimes it can be as simple as seeing something and knowing it just isn’t right. In his many years studying digital image forensics, Hany Farid, author of Photo Forensics, has amassed a slew of tips. Among them: “Beware of spectacular shark photos.”

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Turn Your Call to Action into the Perfect Invitation

Think back to a time a friend invited you to do something. You might have agreed immediately, or you might have felt a little hesitant. Why?

In online marketing and communications, we’re always inviting our friends and followers and clients – to join us. Sometimes, we’re inviting them to subscribe to a newsletter. Other times, we’re inviting them to a member rewards program. Either way, we have to put thought into the invitation if we hope to get a positive RSVP.

This is where your call to action, that word or phrase that prompts your audience to do something, comes into play. Some marketers may leave out the call to action, thinking clients already know what to do next. That’s not recommended. Others might fear a call to action will come off as gauche or inappropriate. It won’t.

What would you do if a friend mentioned an upcoming party, but then offered no further details? How would you know they wanted you to join them? How would you know where to go or when?

If they don’t invite you clearly, you won’t know what to do next. It’s no surprise a proper invitation comes first on the list of the “Six Ways to Be a Good Host” outlined by the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute:

1) Invite clearly. Include necessary information for your guests in the invitation: the date, the time, the place, the occasion, the host(s) and when and how to respond “yes” or “no.” Add any special information such as what to wear or what to bring, say, for a pot-luck.

Like any good invitation, calls to action work best when they are direct, personal, and generate excitement for something more to come. Establishing a clear next step is a key part of continuing the conversation, and that step can be tweaked depending on the person and subject. Your call to action shouldn’t interrupt your message or alter your tone, but carry it home.

Even though it may be only a few words, a call to action can:

  • Anchor your message
  • Further existing relationships
  • Build key connections
  • Help you identify goals


Ask yourself these questions the next time you are trying to come up with a call to action: What do I want people to do? Why do I want them to do it? How do I want them to do it?

It’s so easy to fall back on what are becoming well-loved calls to action. How can you make your message stand out in a sea of “subscribe” and “donate” and “click here” buttons? This is your chance to have fun with language and truly hone your message. (HubSpot has assembled a great list of 31 examples of various calls to action if you are looking for inspiration.)

Play with using supporting copy, like a question, and offer readers different paths to take. Use A/B testing to see how your viewers respond to buttons versus links in the text. Try one phrase and then come up with another way of saying the same thing. Think about what words will matter to your specific audience.

How would you like to be invited?

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It’s not me; it’s you

Understanding why people unsubscribe and how to keep them engaged.

If marketing is all about building relationships, marketers better be prepared to face rejection—and know what to do to get that second date.

Every email sent, every update tweeted, and every photo posted is an opportunity for engagement. It’s also an opportunity for viewers to unsubscribe and unfollow. How can communicators hit the sweet spot that represents optimal contact?

First, it’s important to understand a few key phrases. Inboxes are increasingly becoming sacred space. Measuring and analyzing your digital marketing campaigns is critical if you hope to continually improve them.

Open Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this number represents everyone who opened the message.

Click-Through Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this represents the people who clicked on a link in your email.

Click-to-Open Rate: Out of all the people who opened your email, this represents the people who clicked on a link in your email. (Since this narrows the field to only those who opened, it better measures the strength of your email content.)

Unsubscribe Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this represents the people who unsubscribed from receiving future communications.

Spam Rate: Out of all the people who received your email, this represents the number of people who marked your message as spam. A spam rate that climbs too high could send a negative message to mailbox providers.

How are you doing? Check your numbers against industry averages through data collected by email service providers like MailChimp and Constant Contact. Then think about what needs to change and how. (For more on email best practices, read our past blog post.)

Remember, marketing is a process. If you are experiencing a high unsubscribe rate, that’s not necessarily all bad. As marketers at Voila Norbert point out, it can help you weed out disinterested folks and find your people. The content and delivery of your message are key factors recipients consider when choosing to opt in or out. It may need to improve or you may need to improve your email list. Do not feel bad when people unsubscribe; it happens to everyone.

Taking a hard look at your numbers is also an opportunity to be creative. Is your message the right length? Is it personalized? Is it any different from the last dozen messages you sent? As we’ve discussed in previous posts, a strong subject line can help your message shoot to the top of someone’s inbox, and personalization can make your message feel tailored and special.

Inboxes are crowded, and many people and businesses are vying for the same eyeballs. Take time to think about the individual at the receiving end of your message and what you’d like them to know.

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Where is everyone?

How to respond to those pesky platform outages.

Down for required maintenance.
Uh-oh, looks like something’s wrong.
We will be back soon.


Experiencing an interruption on the web or through a social platform can be unexpected, frustrating, maybe even embarrassing. (Is it me? Do I have a bad connection?) When technology is built so seamlessly into our daily lives and routines, an outage can seem incomprehensible and interrupt regular business operations. (But I can always get onto Instagram! What do you mean I can’t send the files?)

Inevitably, they happen anyway.

The site Down for Everyone or Just Me is one way to find out if, well, there’s an outage for others or just you. For a bigger picture of the ups and downs of the Internet, Down detector (which cleverly describes itself as “the weatherman for the digital world”) monitors social media and user reports to track outages and services.

Once you’ve confirmed it really isn’t you, what do you do when you find yourself unexpectedly without social media? What do you think your followers do?

The good news for publishers is that without Facebook to scroll through, hunting for information or a distraction, readers often head to mobile news apps and sites, according to data from Chartbeat. This offers positive insight into understanding user habits and interests: “Despite volatility driven by algorithm shifts and intense news cycles, user demand for content (represented by traffic across the web) is quite stable.”

However, in analyzing a YouTube outage, the results were a little different and led to an even bigger boost to traffic elsewhere. Chartbeat considered this might have come down to everything from the platform to users to the time of day.

“So far, we’ve seen there’s no single reaction when a platform goes down. Sometimes people are more apt to search for answers, sometimes they go directly to a news source they trust,” research posted on the Chartbeat blog concluded. “The one thing we do see is that when Facebook or YouTube goes dark, the rest of the internet comes alive.”

Knowing how an outage on one site can lead to an influx on another is a good reminder to stay active across your relevant platforms. However, there’s more to do if you hope to keep your content relevant and seen-after all, an outage means it doesn’t really matter if you scheduled that post or not. So plan ahead and plan for all scenarios.

Use working social media to engage in social listening. You can interact with followers to let them know you are in this outage with them, that your other sites are still up and working, and the status of your services. Keep other channels of communication open and easily accessible, and be ready to jump in to say everything is back up.

Additionally, it’s also an opportunity to consider if you are on the right platform. Sometimes, there’s no better solution than a strong email list.

“Should you join another social channel?” Monina Wagner, Content Marketing Institute’s community manager, encouraged marketers to ask themselves in an interview with Marketing Land. “Could you beef up your email list? Social media is rented land. What would happen if that disruption turned into a complete shutdown? Would you have another platform for your community?”

On the technical side, remember to keep track of your campaigns and files—save, save, save. If you anticipate something isn’t working right, screenshot whatever information you’re worried about losing in the event of an outage. There’s big business in Facebook and Instagram ads, but you can reschedule and have the advantage that Facebook charges advertisers based on results, like impressions and conversions, which can only be gained if the site has users on it.

An outage is annoying, but it can be a chance for discovery and, perhaps, some needed time to unplug and refocus.

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Trying too hard to be perfect?

Why you can find success by keeping it real.

Crisp, clean, curated. There’s no denying the certain pleasure attached to a well-thought-out Instagram feed. After all, brands-and individuals-work to truly develop their own signature look, building trust and followers along the way.

But in a world of highly curated images, imperfections are drawing attention in a good way.

Take, for instance, the work of Lomography, a company that makes vintage-inspired cameras. The collective, which creates equipment that draws on vintage-style lenses as inspiration. While marketing their latest art lens, the Lomography team encouraged photographers to embrace imperfections in their quest to find the perfect shot.

“Most of the lenses on the market now have perfected image quality,” Lomography marketing and PR manager, Birgit Buchart, shared with Kickstarter. “We saw there was an opportunity to bring people back into embracing the aberrations you get in historic lenses.”

Embracing perfections is proven to create a unique visual identity. It has worked for British photographer Richard Learoyd. When The Iris, the behind-the-scenes blog from The Getty museum, asked Learoyd why physical imperfections often appear his work, he replied: “Because people aren’t perfect.”

“I’m not interested in smoothing people out,” Leayroyd continued. “I’ll choose people purposely because of their scars and their imperfections. I like things like that in photographs; it’s human.”

Authenticity is all part of a bigger trend in visual communications-as well as marketing and advertising-that’s taken root in the last few years. In 2017, a post on Forbes’ from digital marketer Lauren Stephens declared, “Imperfect is Perfect: The New Advertising Standard.” She pointed not only to “real” models appearing in advertisements, but also to the push to add platforms like Facebook and Pinterest to advertising strategies, where viewers are already gathering.

“With an increasing number of people shopping online and having a better eye for the disingenuous, trust has become a must-have quality for brands to be successful,” Stephens wrote. “To build trust, brands have to engage with consumers in real, honest and relatable ways – showing an understanding of the individual needs of the customer during the various stages of the shopping journey.”

A dose of “authentic imperfection” can help tell stories and build connections, Ozan Varol, a law professor and author, wrote on his blog. That can already be seen in the work of current artists, YouTubers, and podcasters. Varol, a self-described “recovering perfectionist,” encourages innovation in his writings, and brought in a personal experience to illustrate his point.

“Perfection is for robots. Human beings come with flaws,” Varol wrote. “When we cover up these flaws, we also conceal what makes us human. About a year ago, I gave my weekly newsletter a facelift by adding a fancy headshot, photos, and graphics. My open rates-which track how many of my subscribers open my emails-plummeted. The open rates recovered only after I went back to a simple text format that looks more like a rough email from a friend.”

Even without overhauling your marketing strategy, there are still ways to bring a dose of reality into your feeds. Consider partnering with a micro or nano influencer-someone in your community or company who has a genuine, although smaller, following on social media-to connect with your followers on a personal, local level. Keep storytelling front and center, and remember that more casual or spur-of-the-moment updates delivered through a medium like Instagram Stories can be plenty effective. Share local events and news stories on your Facebook page to encourage community.

Remind your followers there are people behind the content, and remember to stay true to your own mission and style. Simply by being yourself, you can stand out.

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3 Ways to Spring into Creativity and Boost Productivity

Out with the old, and in with the new. As you start to think about clearing out old ideas to make room for new strategies, take time to brainstorm and experiment.

That might be easier said than done. Encourage creativity by looking to others for inspiration, and never underestimate the power of making time for reflection.

  1. Watch a TEDTalk.
    Ever wonder where good ideas comes from? What sort of best practices do successful novelists, tinkerers, and marketing gurus employ? The TEDTalks website has a curated playlist related to creativity. Whether you have a few minutes of a half hour free, press play on one of these motivational videos for inspiration.
  2. Go for a walk.
    If you want your mind to wander, it can’t hurt to do a little wandering yourself. A 2014 study from Stanford researchers found that walking benefited creative brainstorming. Whether walking inside or outside, simply moving around benefits brain function and can lead to powerful reflection. It can also put you on the path to discovery. As Marketing Week points out, taking a different route to work can help you discover local businesses, break patterns, and feel like a tourist in your own area.
  3. Pick a theme.
    Sometimes it can help to think inside the box. You can’t simply decide to be creative and have a brilliant idea appear. It’s not that easy. Think about something you haven’t tried before and ask if it could be part of your marketing strategy. Launch a caption contest for your followers. Play with data visualization. Join in a conversation with weekly hashtag themes. Look for something you haven’t done before, and search for how you can be creative in that area.
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Catch attention with GIFs

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a GIF might be worth two. They can help tell stories in fun, memorable ways, and can keep a conversation going on social media.

via GIPHY

Although they may seem like a new trend, GIFs actually predate the internet. These looped, animated clips were created to share digital images without taking up too much space. They’ve made a comeback in recent years thanks to social media and meme culture.

via GIPHY

It’s possible to incorporate GIFs into your own social media and digital marketing strategies. You can make your own GIFs through software like Adobe Photoshop or Camtasia, and there are also plenty of free or low-cost GIF tools available online. These online tools include Animatron Studio, CloudApp, Gifs.com, GIPHY, and Make a Gif.

Even if you think GIFs are too casual, they are important and can lead to clever communication ideas. That element of movement can catch people off guard and invite people in. Consider adding them to an e-newsletter to break up text, using a GIF as a cover for your Facebook page to stand out from the crowd, or including on social media to help create a unique voice.

GIFs aren’t only for fun, either. Consider adding GIFs to a how-to blog post to better show each step or adding GIFs to show data changes.

via GIPHY

Keep in mind that GIFs, like emojis and other images, can have hidden meanings. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but do a little homework before you post without thinking. Sites like GIPHY will include hashtags associated with existing images, and that can give you some clue as to how that GIF is used.

Oh, and one more thing: GIF was 2012’s Word of the Year, but the debate continues over the correct way to pronounce it. Since GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format” many folks prefer to pronounce it with a hard “g.” However, Steve Wilhite, who is credited as the inventor of GIFs, has said he prefers the other way, which sounds more like “jif.”

via GIPHY

Happy GIF-ing!


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Do You Feel Lucky?

Is it possible to be lucky in marketing?

Just your luck! Everything is going your way.

Sometimes it can feel as if higher forces are behind notable events, like a risk paying off or a new client showing interest, and even plans falling apart. But relying on superstitions can simplify what’s actually happening.

What is luck?

The concept of luck came about as a way to make sense of events and tell a story, says statistician Jeff Rosenthal, a professor at the University of Toronto and author of Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance and the Meaning of Everything.

“It goes back to the old days. If there was a big storm, well, that meant the gods were angry. It didn’t just mean that the water molecules were moving in a certain way,” Rosenthal told The Current radio program in December.

Rosenthal studies the workings of randomness and uncertainty, and in his, book says he is often asked if he believes in luck. He explains there are two ways to define luck. There is “random luck” (where events or people come together just right, like two people meeting at a party) and there is “forceful luck” (where special forces are responsible for bringing those people together).

As a statistician, Rosenthal cautions against believing too strongly in the latter, because patterns are not set. Instead, Rosenthal suggests people keep in mind there are things we can control, and there are things we can’t. That mindset can prepare us for better—not necessarily lucky—outcomes.

“I think there are things in life that are in our control and others that are not,” Rosenthal shared with his University of Toronto colleagues. “For example, somebody might t-bone your car, and that’s just bad luck. Wrong time, wrong place. But there are also things you can do to drive safely: wear a seatbelt, drive within the speed limit, and so on.”

Sure, unfortunate events may impact our work. If we properly prepare, do our research and collect the right data, we’ll be able to weather the storm.

Can we make ourselves more lucky?

As with so many things in life, luck can come down to having the right attitude.

That’s what psychologist and author, Richard Wiseman, has suggested could be the answer to more people being lucky. People who define themselves as lucky likely also define themselves as optimists. They stay positive and look for opportunities.

“My research revealed that lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles,” Wiseman wrote in his article The Luck Factor. “They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies [sic] via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.”

In one experiment, Wiseman had lucky and unlucky people count the ads in a newspaper. The people who considered themselves lucky took less time counting, Wiseman reported. That’s because they were more likely to notice an advertisement that announced, “Stop counting—there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

Even with a set task, we don’t have to do the expect. Nothing is guaranteed, and that’s not bad! By staying creative and open-minded, we can make our own luck.

How should we talk about luck?

Outside of talking about lottery tickets or weather, when we say someone is “lucky,” we are often ignoring their hard work and talent.

In marketing, it can sometimes seem as if everything is falling into place. Sure, there may be a magic, indefinable ingredient, but there’s also data, strategizing, brainstorming and planning.  There is even a science behind making content go viral.

As lifestyle coach Barbara Sher says, “The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act.”

It’s OK to be thankful when events inexplicably line up. But the next time your plan pays off for you or your client, don’t downplay your skills by attributing your success to luck.

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10 Albert Einstein Quotes that will Motivate and Inspire Your Work

To keep experimenting, to stay curious and to connect with others—Einstein reminds us that hard work and information don’t necessarily add up to achieving our goals. Instead of doing what we’ve always done or accepting the status quo, we need to broaden our horizons and make fresh connections.

How can you make your work more relevant? Find direction in these Einstein quotes.

  1. Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
  2. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
  3. The only source of knowledge is experience.
  4. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
  5. If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
  6. Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
  7. The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
  8. If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
  9. Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.
  10. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

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