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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Don’t write like an advertising writer

November 13th, 2009

I’m currently reading a book from 1938 entitled, “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I was struck by how applicable her observation of business communication still is 70 years later; she writes:

Don’t write like an advertising writer . . . if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better

Don’t write like an advertising writer…advertising companies hire the very brightest, wittiest young people to write for them. Not one single sentence of it is worth repeating. Why? Because it wasn’t meant. It was all written, not because the writer felt something and then said it (if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better, the more effective), but because he tried to impress and inveigle people, convince them something is very fine about which he himself does not really care… (p 115)

I sense the anxiety many clients have when they put together the content for their Websites . . . they put themselves under some unrealistic expectation that their writing needs to sound “businesslike.” The problem with business sounding content is that it sounds way too much like a billion other Websites, brochures and magazine ads and is tuned out by the reader.

More than any other medium, the modern interactive Webpage is fertile ground for communication that is authentic. Most business owners and executives are typically much better qualified to provide this type of writing than anyone else . . . the most important to effective content writing is authenticity and passion.

How to Have a Successful Web Design Project (Part 2)

September 8th, 2009

What determines the success (or failure) of a Web development project?

While there are many important factors (both on the client and developer side) there are two all-powerful prime lynchpins that will make or break even the most qualified participants: Perspective and expectations. Some time ago I made a blog post on perspective, in this second of two posts I’ll discuss expectations.

Expectations

Without . . . a set of shared exceptions we risk orchestrating an iPod dance party”

Success in almost any transaction or relationship is determined by establishing and meeting a set of shared expectations between parties. A $3 meal at a McDonalds can be just as successful as a $200 meal at a Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse. The same degree of success can be realized at both regardless of the vast difference between a dedicated waiter serving dry-aged prime beef and a mass produced sandwich handed to us in a crumpled paper bag. It’s all about us getting what we expect.

When a client and developer view a project from a shared perspective, setting expectations is the natural progress of collaboration. Without the collaborative systematic development of a set of shared exceptions we risk orchestrating an iPod dance party. Both parties may participate but they’ll each be in their own world and when the music stops they will have completely different perspectives from which to determine success.

Developing a shared perspective is the responsibility of the developer and starts with listening, interrogating really (in a nice way, without the light), to the client and extracting the core business goals of a project, the details of the client’s unique value proposition, the needs and profile of their customers and other such vital information.

Provocative and challenging questions should be presented to the client in this stage to help them gain an outside perspective and the developer needs to be willing to adjust their biases so that in the end there is an unambiguous meeting of the minds about the project goals. In addition to the primary goals, there are many technical parameters that need to be discussed and agreed upon including development environments, creative parameters, branding continuity, etc.

After goals and requirements have been collaboratively determined, the developer is responsible for drafting a formal systematic development process that articulates the specific developer tasks that will be provided to meet those goals, and establishes a work-flow time frame for project completion.

All of this is not that profound or new. It’s really just common sense. But from my observation, the temptation is often great to gloss over a formal development of a shared perspective and expectations. It’s usually in the context where the client and developer develop good initial rapport and feel confident that they’re “on the same page.” Feelings are great but Web development projects are too complex and expensive to rely on luck for success.

Cutting and Pasting from MS Word to your Blog or CMS

August 7th, 2009
TinyMCE Text Editor

TinyMCE Text Editor

Blog and Content Management platforms such as WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, Drupal and CMS Made Simple all offer great WYSIWYG text editors that allow site owners and authorized users the ability to login to their Website and add text and photo content themselves.

These text editors are suburb, but there is one very common frustration that manifests when users  cut and paste content from MS Word. When content is pasted directly from MS Word to your blog a bunch of “bad” code often gets carrying over in the process. This proprietary Word styling code is veyr likely to mess up the HTML/CSS styling of your Webpage .  Some CMS editors offer additional features for “cleaning” word code while pasting which work to varring degrees. Regardless of what other options you might have, following is a fail safe method for cleaing MS Word content on paste for any blog/CMS system:

  1. Don’t paste Word content that includes photos other embedded elements. To include those elements in your blog or CMS you’ll want to upload and position them individually using the upload and layout capabilities of your Website.
  2. For Windows users, open Note Pad (NOT Word Pad) then cut and paste your content from Word to Note Pad, and then from Note Pad to your blog/CMS text editor.For Mac users you’ll need to get a free text editor (I recommend Text Wrangler) and do the same cut and paste routine as mentioned above.
  3. After you cut and paste the cleaned text content, you’ll need to go through and add paragraph or line breaks. Just go to the end of your first paragraph text and hit enter/return, repeat for all remaining paragraphs. If your Word content had other styling (bold text, italic text, lists, etc.) you’ll need to go through and use the CMS text editors styling features.

The best way to avoid the hassle of restyling content after a cut and paste from Word is to get into the habit of creating your content in your blog .  If you need to send that content in a Word document or email cutting and pasting the other direction, from your blog’s text editor directly to Word, usually carries over styling and paragraph breaks with no adjustments necessary.

Graphic Design, Web Development & Writing Services for Boise

July 3rd, 2009

Boise Writing ServicesTell the receptionist not to hold your calls! Now you’ll have more time to devote to whatever it is you do, because RisingLine, your Boise based graphic design and Web development specialist, now offers writing and editing.

That’s right—you can stop struggling through your brochure, flyer, or Web content, and let us take care of it. We’ve teamed up with Gemstone Media, Inc., to create an unstoppable marketing resource.

What do you get?

  • Fantastic digital & print graphic design
  • Expert Web development
  • Crisp writing and editing
  • Savvy marketing ideas
  • Single point of contact
  • Comprehensive services from a local Boise-based team

So stop worrying about your next marketing project, and start working. Or take a longer lunch. You choose.

Gemstone Media’s clients include:

  • AT&T
  • Cisco
  • HP
  • Microsoft Office
  • Office Depot
  • T-Moblie
  • Tully Associates
  • UW Business School
  • Microsoft Windows
  • Seattle’s Visitors Bureau

Contact us for more information and get started on your next project.

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