Website planning - don't lose or confuse
Publish date: November 2018
Website planning can present a major challenge, and no matter how strong your content, if it isn't easy and logical to reach, your efforts will have been in vain.
There is some very in-depth and comprehensive guidance out there on how to form a coherent plan, but this short and simple collection of suggestions on Hubspot I feel makes perfect sense and may just help you see the wood for the trees.
It's called 'What is Website Architecture? A 3-Minute Rundown' and this is where you will find it...
Such a beautiful noise
Publish date: October 2018
Having just finished watching Press - the engaging and very well developed BBC drama series about two competing national newspapers - I found myself getting nostalgic for my time working in newspapers….many, many years ago.
It wasn’t so much the cut and thrust of the news gathering that I began to yearn for, but the physical parts of newspaper production that I realised I miss - the bits my digital daily life no longer has space for.
The first news room I was thrown into rattled to the tune of typewriters trying to fend off deadlines, it wheezed beneath the smog of the team’s Benson and Hedges output, and it rustled to the sound of paper - being written on, typed on, screwed up and launched into bins.
And that was just the newsroom. Venture downstairs to check on the progress of the paper was being stuck together and you were assaulted by a whole industrial symphony of sound.
Life in newspapers today must be much quieter, less tactile, and doubtless much healthier, and I’m not sure I would like that.
New blog for Marabu UK
Publish date: May 2017
We've recently expanded the online armoury of clients Marabu UK by launching a blog.
Although the Milton Keynes-based operation already has an impressive website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages, along with a YouTube channel, it was felt a blog would provide more scope to broadcast the company's news and that of its partner businesses.
The new channel also gives marabu UK a platform to share useful screenprinting information and also vital information about Chemical Labelling and Packaging (CLP).
Marabu UK is a subsidiary of the German ink manufacturer Marabu GmbH & Co. KG.
Up for a bit of temptation marketing?
Publish date: March 2017
Ok, if you're so righteous and focussed, what's your secret for resisting the lure of the ominpresent 'click-bate'?
There's certainly no escaping a sight of the bait and the proliferation of seemingly tasty morcels leave me to believe that it works too. It's everywhere and shouts to be clicked. If I got suckered in everytime I was tempted to see how a 70s film star had aged I would be needing a jaw re-alignment it would have dropped that many times.
The interesting thing is, you know that behind the shiny button is nothing but dodgy content laced with click-through tripwires. But you still feel the need to -
- find 20 ways to cut your energy bill
- view the 20 greatest pictures you've never seen
- discover how he registered and next day had £94,000 in his account
Buy hey, if click-bait really is successful as I think it is, maybe instead of knocking its cheap deception we should be embracing its 'temptation marketing' philosophy. It's a new direction but I'm ready to try. How about - 'You won't believe the 20 girls who wanted to see this guy's new Gardenex Leaf Blower (Number 6 is our favoutie).
A whole new marketing dimension
Publish date: December 2016
As a marketing challenge it's without doubt a tough one, but at the same time it's one of the most exciting, and potentially rewarding I have so far encountered in my rather lengthy stint at the controls of the good ship SHOUT!
I'm talking about 3D printing - one of most mind-boggling technological advances of recent times. The concept is so mind-boggling it's left a few of us struggling to envisage where this wonderful advance will finally find its niche. But maybe that's just it - it's not a niche it's destined for its a much wider role in our lives.
Of course 3D printing has already become a highly valued part of many design and production processes in many varied industries, but you can't help feeling we're still only scratching the surface of its potential. We are already printing down-force devices for racing cars, widgets to fix your washing machine and valves to help your heart pump, but theres still surely much more to come.
The brain-teaser we are constantly faced with when it comes to promoting 3D printing is - where's the next target market and do they even know they're a target market?
It's a bit of a cliche with so many techno wonder products - 'the only limitation is your imagination' but that applies to 3D printing like no other.
Check out Print-Rite Europe and get inspired!
Build your site on a solid foundation
Publish date: November 2016
If you have a modest marketing resource for your fledgling business it's very tempting to set off down the cheap and cheerful route of an off-the-shelf content management system (CMS) website for your all-important online presence.
Select your business category, pick a template style, adjust the colours, plonk in your logo, give the good people some money and you're away.
It may not be exactly the design you initially had in mind, it may not be able to do all the things you hoped for, and it may be a complete swine to add your images, but it's cheap!
Having been down this road with many people over many years, I would ask - is this the right place to compromise on your brand vision and sales information? After all we are talking about the very hub of your online marketing. Whether you like it or not your website is how you will be judged.
As with many 'great bargains' the real drawbacks only become apparent a little way into the deal. If you have second thoughts on site structure or functionality you may well find that the original sales messages of 'simple, easy, quick' no longer apply. Try 'total nightmare' - that may be more accurate.
The other major consideration is to do with time. Of course you are fully committed to updating the site on a regular basis, but will you actually do it? If not, your site will gather dust and deliver exactly the impression you don't want it to give - stale and neglected, and a far cry from the dynamic, vibrant web presence that was a key part of The Plan.
So, why don't you (and yes I know I'm a little biased here) work with someone who will ensure the updates happen, guarantee that interesting and news-worthy information is extracted from you and shaped into powerful web content? Yes it will mean a slightly bigger than you first envisaged, but what price a website that genuinely drives business?
We have recently completed this website for clients Consort in Dublin. It's a bespoke site - exactly as they wanted. Consort can change whatever they want, whenever they want and take the code with them if ever they decide on a different website management arrangement.
So, make sure you weigh up all the options when deciding how to build and manage your website and remember, 'buy cheap, buy twice!'
Giving in to brand-lust
Publish date: September 2016
An interesting question has arisen this week - when does it become too expensive to succumb to brand-lust?
I'm talking about the new iPhone 7 and the rather large hike in monthly contract fees awaiting those who simply cannot resist.
I would be coughing up around another 15 quid per month over the next two years for the upgrade, and, hard as I'm trying, that's going to be a little difficult to justify when I have a perfectly serviceable iPhone 6 that does all the things I need it to, and still looks pretty much like new.
The main factor getting in the way of my financial reasoning and practical logic is my deep-seated addiction to shiny new Apple stuff. It's an intoxication that's been fed for over 25 years and has involved just about every computer, laptop, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iPhone those dastardly pushers from California have ever come up with.
It seeps into your tech-craving gland and plants itself in your brand-lust arteries - the sensual touch of the drop-dead gorgeous design, the seductive packaging, the way it 'just works' and, and…oh no, it's happening again - - -
But before I do surrender to my sordid cravings, I do have to acknowledge the part the Apple marketing machine also plays in gnawing at my flimsy resolve. It's an object lesson in not over-selling. They don't scream at you, they don't insist you 'buy now' they don't hit you about the head with panic-attack videos, they just describe what they have, suggest how you may use it and then present you with a portrait of perfection - consistently gorgeous photography!
So, I may hold out a little longer, but I honestly can't see this stretching beyond 4.00pm.
Turn scanners into readers
Publish date: September 2016
I was about to set out on a mission to collate a selection of handy hints on writing for an online audience. Imagine my delight when I discovered it had already been done!
This post by Pamela Wilson on Copyblogger is a little gem, a succinct and very practical collection of pointers towards getting more people to actually engage with your online content.
It's this way -
On-line apes combine for invite solution
Publish date: July 2016
Occasionally there is no one on-line resource that provides the answer to your communication objectives - a combination of two different tools can sometimes provide the answer.
We had just been charged with the task of producing and delivering an on-line invitation to around 70 of client Natgraph's distributors across the globe - requesting their company at a training and planning event later this year.
We were initially steered towards Survey Monkey to do the job. It's a great way of gathering views. options and feedback, but it's also a very handy tool by which to gather invite responses. On our form we provided a brief reminder about the event's aims and objectives, asked for current contact details and enquired, through multiple-choice questions, about travel arrangements and dietary preferences.
As £25 per month 'Gold' users of Survey Monkey we were also able to include event branding on the invitation.
However, we were not entirely happy with the options for formatting the email to be sent to our contacts, asking them to join us at 'Natgraph Now'. We required a bit of impact and Survey Monkey just couldn't deliver.
So, instead we decided to issue the invitation via another favourite - MailChimp (bit of an online ape thing going on here) where we could include the branding. We were also able to personalise emails and feature a big old button linking to the SurveyMonkey invitation.
The approach appears to have worked well, with responses now arriving from all around the world.
25 years on - same rules apply
Publish date: May 2016
I'm not one for metallic-look twirls and swirls draped over logos to signify milestones of longevity. To be honest there's a part of me that is trying to keep quiet about the fact that it's fully 25 years since I lost half a garage and gained a business.
I mean, I don't want to appear old or anything! Old isn't a good look in today's turbo-charged beauty parade of marketing and communications agencies sashaying down the catwalk of new contracts. So, if I keep quiet about SHOUT's silver anniversary there's a good chance I will remain in the Eternal Youth Department, at least for a few more years.
Who am I kidding? I may have retained the devilish good looks I departed my journalistic career with back in 1991 but in 'marketing years' SHOUT is a serious old codger.
However, as I keep on telling those of my friends who still have their hearing, there remains a place for old codgers. You know, the ones who want to identify the audience, work out what we want to say to them and then pick the best tools for the job - well before we start clicking and sharing and going all viral.
A quarter of a century on from those 'garage days' the task is essentially the same, it's just that I've got a few more funky gadgets and glitzy gizmos at my disposal but also a lot less hair and significantly more wrinkles (OK, I lied about the youthful good looks).
A good year for the voters
Publish date: May 2016
Casting a vote for democracy
One of the many enjoyable parts of my job is playing a small role in the democratic process whenever election time comes around. I've been doing this for the best part of 23 years, but I still get a kick out of observing the machinery behind the election of our representatives.
Over the years I've been involved in helping the media report on some exciting photo-finishes in parliamentary elections. One year we had to abandon our operation at around 3.00am after a series of re-counts and return after a couple of hours' sleep to resume. When we returned, coffee-fuelled and bleary-eyed, it seemed like every TV and radio network and national newspaper had descended on our little leisure centre to record the dramatic conclusion.
But, in a way, the much smaller local elections, where a seat can be won with 300 votes, are almost as interesting. Being a keen advocate of the democratic process I have been known to do a private little fist-pump when a turnout figure nears the 50% mark.
For election afficiandos like me this is a particularly good year. In my patch we have already had elections for the Police and Crime Commissioner, one third of the Council's seats and now looming on the horizon we have THE referendum.
Of course no one knows how that one will turn out but one thing I do know is that on 23 June our highly professional and studiously operated electoral system will once again deliver the right result - democracy!
I've been thinking...but not as much as before
Publish date: April 2016
The thinking man's cuppa
I'm not sure how I found time to do this, but I've just worked out that we must have less thinking time now than we used to!
Take my business as an example - the public relations day used to contain a variety of convenient little thinking segments, away from the computer, away from the 'phone, away from people. We would stuff paper press releases into envelopes and then walk to the post box while forming an opinion. We would stand pontificating as the fax machine juddered its un-rushable way to transmitting a document, and we would sit contemplating while staring at a blank screen as our computers fired up - that could take the best part of 5 minutes on a good day.
As far as I can see the one remaining window of thinking opportunity is that precious time waiting for the kettle to boil.
The point I'm making is we must be spending more time during our working day doing things and less time thinking about them. Have we become more productive but less creative?
My solution? It's simple - more cuppas.
Screen printing IS sexy!
Publish date: April 2016
A process re-inventing itself
I've embraced the convenience of the digital age as keenly as anyone, but deep down I was raised on analogue and you never lose that.
I love my wireless music system - different music in different rooms at the touch of a screen - but I also love the way a lovely slice of black vinyl feels when you rest it on the turntable and then the sound of the amplified hiss and crackle as the stylus slides towards the music grooves.
So, it also figures that while I still wonder at the speed, quality and cost of digital print, I am drawn to the physical touch and feel, not to mention the incredible possibilities, of screen printing. There's certainly more skill involved and definitely more chance to get inky fingers that make it look like you're doing a real job rather than just pressing buttons.
It's great for me therefore that I am now deeply emerged in that world of inky fingers, craftsmanship and vision. A number of my clients are prominent players in the world of screen printing, from ink manufacture to machine design and build, to hi-tech drying and even the organisation that champions the sector in this country FESPA UK Association.
While I have learnt much about the history of the screen printing process down the years and how and why it developed, what is more exciting for me is the way it has re-shaped itself to embrace the future. Once again screen printing is developing a very important niche for itself.
The march of digital has without doubt created screen printing casualties in areas including sign-making and point-of-sale, but it's in the developing areas of technology where the process has a very bright present and future, such as -
Membrane switches and keypads like those we encounter everywhere every day - intruder alarm controls, keyboards, calculators, medical equipment, domestic appliance controls - the list is extensive and screen printing plays a critical part in the production process.
Touchscreens - not a bad market to be involved in! Smart phones and tablets invariably have a screen printed element, and we're not likely to see a fall-off in this particular sector any time soon.
Electrical circuits and solar cells for photovoltaic (PV) - the number one method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity. These are very often screen printed!
And, last but certainly not least, Wearables - the term adopted for clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advances electronic technologies. The development of new conductive inks mean that electronics can be screen printed directly on to stretchable fabrics, opening up all sorts of possibilities many of which haven't even been dreamt up yet.
So analogue and screen printing is alive and well and playing a key role in the production of some highly sought-after contemporary products and technologies, and I'm excited to be involved.
People You May Know
Publish date: March 2016
Would you link-in with these people?
Here I go - flying in the face of acknowledged business wisdom and running the risk of alienating potentially useful contacts, but I can restrain myself no longer!
I'm talking about LinkedIn profile pictures.
I'll try to be gentle (not) but every time I scroll through that 'People You May Know' cascade of little images I find myself groaning and scowling like the grumpy old man LinkedIn is making me.
I need to ask . . .
- Man sharing his pic with shiny Porsche - where do you think you are? AutoTrader or 'Show-offs Monthly'?
- People on the group photo - which one are you?
- Lady in the wedding photo - yes you did look nice on your big day, but don't you feel that veil's a little too 'mysterious'
- Proud parent / pet owner - I won't be inviting you to a business meeting as I may have to provide rusks and Pedigree Chum.
- Man in the football shirt - this massively reduces the chance of a connection with me, unless of course your shirt is red and features a small tree emblem.
- People on the beach in trunks / bikini - this is inappropriate workwear - accidents can happen - especially if you operate heavy machinery.
- White silhouette person - you're looking very peaky, somewhat bland and a little bit lazy.
- Smiling chap with his arm around a 'celebrity - I've really no idea who that is, and therefore which one's you.
Right I'm off to get a head start on the pet-hugging, football shirt-wearing, car salesmen before they give chase Benny Hill style, zig-zagging our way through the colourful maze that is 'People You May Know'.
Waging war in Nottingham
Publish date: March 2016
Battle Stations for Lean Operating
Even when you are Europe's leading manufacturer of conveyorised dryers, there's still room for improvement. That's why long-standing clients Natgraph have just embarked on a major new initiative based on 'lean-operating.'
As a manufacturer of premium products and a global supplier with clear technical and product-performance advantages over the competition, Natgraph has made decisive, and exciting moves to protect and grow those assets.
Natgraph's War on Waste, lean-operating, initiative will significantly reduce all-important lead times, to ensure that a customer-pleasing delivery date is part of all new orders.
SHOUT! has been involved in shaping the campaign - developing a striking visual identity, producing high-visibility promotional material, and making sure that everybody who needs to know about the 'battle', does so.
As part of this project I have been exploring the world of 'Lean' and found that there are some very valuable lessons to be learned by all types of business. If you would like to know a little more, this is a good place to start with a free downloadable book.