Thank you to all those who have served.
What's up with design trends anyway?
Let’s start with novelty. It turns out, we're wired to seek out new experiences. A chemical reaction takes place in the brain when it encounters something new. The brain releases dopamine, which prompts us to seek more new experiences. Thus, novelty is not only pleasurable, but actually pushes us to learn and grow.
On the flip side, we also tend to follow trends for less sincere reasons. For some, the need to keep up with the "Joneses" (or at least appear to be keeping with the times) is paramount. And like it or not, we’re also motivated by the need to fit in and conform to the group.
So what does this mean for design trends? Are they making our brains grow, or just appeasing our pride? Probably both. Advances in technology, the predominance of mobile and a voracious appetite for content have pushed design to change and grow. And there are a couple of possible reactions. Ride the waves of trend, keep it traditional and solid, or innovate. At the end of the day, a designer who understands the needs of her client will get it right.
1. Material Design
Although not a trend itself, Material Design cannot be ignored in a discussion of design trends. Pioneered by Google as a visual language, Material Design uses graphics and motion to cue viewer responses.
The basic idea is that visuals and motion should have predictable behavior that is based on reality. Material Design employs deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography and intentional white space. It also plays heavily with grid, and employs "cards" to serve as entry points to larger groups of information. And where Google leads, everyone follows.
2. Semi Flat
Skeuomorphism: a digital object that demonstrates the attributes of it's real world counterpart. Drop shadows! Gradients! Textures! Everyone loved it.
Then everyone hated it. And designers reacted by introducing flat design. Flat design took the world by storm. No more shading or gradients or textures. It felt more...authentic.
Skip ahead. Flat Design became Flat 2.0, then Semi Flat. Don't get me wrong, it is still flat design, the goal is not to create illustrations that appear to be photographs. But for the sake of dimension and movement, a bit of light has been added back in, as well as subtle shadows. Even gradients are sneaking back in, along with subtle complexity (think pattern and print).
And yes, Google Material Design has the full set of "rules".
3. Bold Colors
Color trends are being affected primarily by two factors. The first is the move to mobile. We're interacting with technology in every environment now, and designs on those screens need to pop. This is leading to a rise in brighter, bolder colors. You probably wore it in the '80s and '90s. So look out for vibrant duotones and color transitions everywhere.
Secondly, we're all facing technology burnout. The more we surround and immerse ourselves in technology, the more we want to pull away. Pantone nailed it when they named the 2017 color of the year: Greenery.
4. Geometric Shapes, Patterns, and Lines
Oh the '80s. Squiggly lines, geometric patterns, and shape confetti. A resurgence of this trend started in 2016 and looks to continue.
5. Dramatic Typography
At this point, it should be no surprise that bold typography is also on the rise. In a realm that is increasingly saturated with graphic input, any small advantage is sought. Daring type treatments can be achieved through size, color, texture and arrangement. With small screens and even smaller attention spans, viewers have come to depend on bold fonts in high-contrast bold colors.
And while the strictly hand-lettered trend has probably peaked, we'll still be seeing traces of organic influence on type.
6. Custom illustration
Brands are no longer just looking to have their own fonts and colors, but their own illustrative style. And the less corporate, the better. We're seeing organic and hand-drawn custom illustration everywhere as companies try to make themselves appear fun and make their products more accessible.
7. Original Narrative Photos
As consumers encounter the constant barrage of new content, our desire for truth increases. And photos that appear candid, unfiltered, spontaneous and gritty feel more original and genuine. Anything viewed as stock has come to represent what is wrong with the corporate world.
The perception is that anyone with an iPhone can take a great shot. Viewers are looking for cues like simplicity, movement, flash to convey reality, raw emotion and the ordinary. So while professional photography will not be going away, we will seeing a more subtle use of post-production tools.
8. Integrated Motion
We'll be seeing motion everywhere: paralax scrolling, animation, looped video headers, cinemagraphs and a predominance of GIFs.
Whether subtle or complex, they not only capture interest, but quickly convey emotion. And they help tell stories.
Ever hear someone say they are "just a mom?" We're pretty sure there's no such thing as "just a mom," and today is our chance to celebrate those who have chosen to devote their life, love and resources to the noble, important work of motherhood.
It's hard to find a line of work—or love—that has more impact on the planet than creating, nourishing, educating and inspiring another human being to reach their full potential. And while others are involved in this noble work, mothers are often the engine behind all of it.
Mother's are paid in love, so don't miss the chance today to thank a mom—yours or someone who was like a mom to you. Let them know how much the countless, selfless acts of love on your behalf mattered.
Digital Communication Channels
Video outperforms all other media in getting viewed and remembered.
People remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, but 70% of what they see and hear. So it's no surprise that video is the most powerful communication tool there is. Video can combine arresting visuals with sound and motion, making it more engaging to the human brain than any other form of communication.
Video is versatile for internal communication too, because it comes in all price points and many formats—from whiteboard explainers and motion graphics to interview-driven or cinematic stories. It ranks fourth among most-used digital channels, with 81% of companies surveyed reportedly using it for internal communication, according to Gatehouse.
This is why video is becoming a central part of internal communication plans.
A microsite is a simple website that is highly focused and makes it easy for the viewer to find exactly what they came for. This is in contrast to a general company website that is designed to deliver many different messages and risks losing the viewer before they find what you want them to read.
We highly recommend microsites for targeted large-scale internal communication initiatives for several reasons: They are quick to produce, effective, highly focused, and provide great analytics.
For example, a microsite would work well to explain a merger or acquisition by featuring the primary content on the landing page—and having links that unpack the message in more detail.
Blogs are a versatile internal communication channel and come from leaders as well as employees and departments. The challenges are to keep it real, to keep it in the voice of the leader (if ghostwritten), and to keep the content coming. Most blogs fizzle when writers begin to see the work involved.
Still, they offer an inexpensive and personal way to communicate with employees—and can target special interests ranging from IT changes to personnel issues. They're also a good way to create more personal connections with a leader.
Bill Marriott's blog Marriott on the Move is a good example of a blog that carries a definite personal imprint of its author. DocInTheD is a physician and the CEO of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. You likely have blogs you follow that can inspire you with possibilities as well.
Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are among the highest-traffic social media channels and can be targeted by interest groups, departments, or topics. These interactive channels can be suited to sharing ideas and issues and for monitoring feedback from employees.
The downside, of course, is that social media cannot be controlled, which means it remains one of the most challenging channels for communicators to monitor and influence.
Enterprise communication apps that are dedicated to employee communication are on the rise, and for good reason. They provide a customizable channel for delivering text, audio, and video content to employees throughout the company—allowing employees to communicate beyond email and phone calls.
Apps vary by vendor but can allow preference settings and be used to deliver:
- Executive updates
- Access to mission-critical sites for employees
While willingness to download an app for internal communication is growing, the issue of using one's personal device for work remains a challenge.
According to Gatehouse's annual State of the Sector report, email is still the most frequently used channel for internal communication (96% use it).
It can be challenging, however, to reach those whose inboxes are full or who don't have desk jobs. Here are some tips on getting your internal communication emails read.
1. Start with the main point in a single sentence.
We’re sometimes tempted to start at the beginning to tell the whole story, thinking that a reader needs to understand what led to the point. In some cases, this requires too much work for the reader to get to the point, so they abandon ship. Start with a summary statement that gives them enough information if they go no further—or a reason to proceed.
2. Invest in writing a good subject line.
This not only helps someone decide if he or she should read it, but helps them find it later. Retrieval of emails later can be time-consuming and downright frustrating if the subject line isn’t clear. Examples:
- New vacation policy starts Friday
- Here's the annual president's address to employees
- Announcing the addition of new partner
3. Make it easy to browse.
- Use subheads to help the reader find the section pertinent to him or her.
- Use bullets instead of paragraphs.
- Underline, highlight, or change font colors on the key point (deadline, cost increase, action needed).
- Make action items and next steps stand out visually (in the subject line, when appropriate).
- If more detailed backstory is imperative, indicate where the reader can find it. Title it clearly and put it at the end, so only those who want it can find it.
4. Give your reader just-in-time information.
Many readers prefer to focus on just the next step, rather than the next 10 steps. Most don’t have time to save it and review it over a period of months as it becomes relevant.
See four more tips here.
Podcasts are being used for internal communication because they fit nicely between text and video—giving employees content to listen to while engaged in other activities that don't require visual focus. Whether doing chores, or exercising, people increasingly crave content to enrich life's more mundane activities.
- Can be authentic and believable
- Can feature voices of employees
- Can personalize leaders
Podcasts are a versatile tool, but companies that use them will need to have an effective delivery channel (think apps and e-letters).
E-letters are more sophisticated versions of emails that aren't used for daily interactions, but for important messages. And according to Gatehouse's internal communication State of the Sector report, 84% of companies surveyed report using it, making it third among most-used digital channels by employees.
Because e-letters are developed using third-party services, they offer vastly better design options, great analytics, and mailing list management. Their ability to preserve the look of an email is higher than regular emails, making them much more engaging once they are opened. But like all email, they must compete with an increasingly full inbox.
Here are the first three of 14 tips we offer for creating e-letter emails that employees will engage with:
- Use a third-party tool. It would be nearly impossible to create the essential features that these tools now offer, from sophisticated designs to insightful analytics, automated features that help you manage and grow your lists, and mobile optimization. We use Campaign Monitor, but there are others to choose from, as well.
- Use great design. A reader makes a split-second decision about whether to engage with your email based on how it looks. Good design will absolutely increase your readership.
- Curate content with care. Make sure that your distribution lists and topics are right for each other.
Want to learn more? You can find the rest of the tips here.
An intranet is a website that is only accessible to authorized viewers—usually your employees. Ninety-three percent of companies report using their intranet as a channel of communication, making it second only to emails, according to Gatehouse.
An intranet can be a solid framework for employee communication—allowing your teams to share content like news, blogs, forms, messages, team workspaces, directories, and training material.
Although an intranet has the ability to reach your entire workforce, because the quality varies widely its effectiveness is highly impacted by the user interface, design, and content.
Yes, your walls can talk! They are free communication channels that can reach employees and customers many times a day. Think of them as ideal places to communicate some of your most timeless messages—your mission, your history, your values.
Walls are versatile and suitable for digital as well as traditional messages. If your main traffic areas aren't delivering your signature messages to your team, it's time to make use of these targeted channels.
Displays and Banners
Portable displays are good for targeting specific messages that need to be shared in different locations. Celebrating a prestigious award? Reinforcing your new mission statement? Announcing a new service for employees? A display can make the rounds to departments and employee events to spread the word.
Screens dominate our workplace—and provide an affordable way to deliver messages, so it only makes sense to use them as an internal communication channel.
Whether it's repurposing videos or infographics on a wall monitor or showcasing your mission or values as screensavers, never underestimate the simple, hard-working nature of using your company's screens to deliver signature messages.
We don't need a study to tell us that in-person communication is the most effective channel.
But did you know that communication from direct managers is the most effective channel for reaching employees, according to a CEB survey of more than 1,000 employees?
Since so much of communication is conveyed in nonverbal cues, in-person message delivery provides more information to take in like eyes, body language and voice tone. And, we know that emotions are contagious—and much easier to deliver in person than in print.
Companies that are serious about internal communication should focus on training and resourcing their managers and leaders in communication.
Live Forums and Meetings
Forums and meetings are effective ways to deliver your ideas because of their ability to combine in-person communication with other effective channels. They offer the increased efficiency of one to many, maximizing the time of busy leaders.
But like other channels, this one is only as good as the content. So here are some tips on making live meetings work better:
- Coordinate messages: If you have multiple speakers, have someone review all of them with an eye toward the entire event—and edit out redundancy.
- Focus: Leaders have a tendency to want to share a great deal of content, so create time limits and help them focus on unpacking their one big idea. Too much content can prevent hearers from remembering the most important ideas.
- Variety: To work, events like this need to be created with a nod to theater and experience, engaging the senses with variety, taking breaks, involving the audience, and creating time for reflection and personal application.
- Include video: This provides a welcome break to talking heads.
- Kick up the presentation graphics: 10 tips on taking your presentation from "meh" to "wow" right here.
Newsletters, magazines, and other print channels aren't dead, but complement your digital channels.
- Help reach non-desk employees
- Are easily shared
- Are good for the pick-up-since-it's-handy impulse
- Can be repurposed digitally
Since they can be more costly than other channels and are harder to measure than many digital options, use them in situations where other channels aren't effective.
There are times when a simple letter from a manager is actually effective—like when the message itself is compelling and doesn't require a lot of visual support. Think things like a positive change in benefits or other things that have a high personal impact on employees. It can be easy to forget this lowly channel, but its affordability and suitability for certain kinds of communications should keep it on your list as an option for occasional use.
To make this effective, however, personalize the letter as much as you can. If it's truly from the president, it won't need much added visual treatment.
Upon occasion, it will make sense to send something to your employees' homes. Whether it's a reminder postcard, a newsletter, an invitation, or a simple letter, employees have more time to read at home than they do at work. And, if it's a high-impact message, it won't hurt to have it available for other members of the family who might be interested.
Creative work by CMBell and our clients has garnered five awards from the 34th Annual Healthcare Advertising Awards competition.
- Three gold awards were given for an internal communication microsite, an OB direct mail, and a video on reducing the cost of homelessness.
- One bronze award was given for an e-letter.
- One silver award was given for a video on innovation in health care.
The award-winning work was produced by clients in Los Angeles, Denver and Roseville.
In this year’s competition, nearly 4,000 entries were judged by a national panel who reviewed creativity, quality, message effectiveness, consumer appeal, graphic design, and overall impact.
Hats off to our creative team and to our clients for earning this recognition!
GOLD: AHSCR—Internal communication website communicating the reasons behind the new strategic direction and outlining a vision for the company's future.
GOLD: Littleton Adventist Hospital—Direct mail piece as part of a larger campaign that significantly increased market share.
GOLD: White Memorial Medical Center—A video about their work to reduce the cost of homelessness in Los Angeles.
SILVER: Adventist Health—A CEO update on innovation within the company.
BRONZE: AHSCR—One of a series of e-letters sent from the CEO to leaders as part of an internal communication campaign that raised understanding of the vision, values and mission of the organization.
What can I as the on-site project manager do to contribute to a good interview?
- Get the talking points or video goals to the interviewer (crew) well before the shoot. This gives the interviewer time to think about how to best draw out the story.
- Give the interviewee time to think about his/her content and the purpose of the interview. Make sure they know going in what to expect and how to prepare.
- Allow adequate time. Depending on the piece, 30–60 minutes may work. (The crew can tell you what’s needed for your particular project.) We usually book an interview with extra time in case the person is late or has to leave early, since rushing an interview almost always results in a quality compromise.
What kind of spot should I reserve for the shoot?
Reserve a space for the interview that gives options on the set-up. Look for things like:
- Natural light (and windows with shades that can be used to control the light)
- Interesting textures as background—brick walls, nice windows, or architectural details
- Interesting furnishing elements, art, or plants
- Does it contribute context?
- Sound control. Good audio is essential to a good video—so make sure the room has a door and isn’t near a noisy location, like an elevator or a highly traveled hallway.
- Enough space. It’s best not to film a person sitting right up against a wall, as having depth is important. Aim for a space that has at least 15’ in depth. That gives the crew room to make the set-up more interesting and keep it from looking like the dreaded driver’s license photo.
What is b-roll?
B-roll is supplemental footage that may or may not have sound. It’s often used to intercut with the interview, to bring a story to life, and to cover edits.
What makes good b-roll?
- Time. It’s easy for a crew to feel rushed when they’re intruding on a work space. But allowing a bit of time to set up the shot and shoot it is essential to getting good footage.
- Focal point. Having one prominent element of interest in the shot guides the viewer’s eye.
- Good lighting. Natural light is great, but isn’t always available. Having the time to light the shot is important if natural light isn’t available.
- Close-ups. Sometimes showing just a piece of the story (hands, an object on a desk that reveals something of the person being interviewed) is powerful. You don’t need to tell the whole story in every image—just evoke a piece of it.
What about teleprompters?
Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid them if you’re going for a natural, comfortable style. In some cases, where language must be precise (such as when there are legal considerations), a teleprompter can be helpful, but there is usually a tradeoff in the overall tone. If you’re looking for an authentic, personal interview, teleprompters generally disappoint. Our crew is very comfortable drawing out a story from people who aren't accustomed to being on camera, so we generally prefer this option.
Who does the interview?
Our crew generally conducts the interview, but you’re welcome to if you have experience doing this and would prefer to.
How much footage will it take to do a video?
This varies widely by project. It’s not uncommon for us to shoot a 20–40 minute interview that gets cut down to two minutes. That doesn’t include another 20–60 minutes of b-roll.
How much time should we allow for an interview?
It depends on the project. Person-on-the-street interviews can happen almost instantly once they are set up.
An update from an executive can take 30–60 minutes. An interview for a story can take 30–60 minutes, depending on the video’s desired length. Allow an additional 30 minutes for set-up (depending on conditions) prior to the interviewee arriving—and another 15 minutes for take-down.
Will we need a script?
Scripts make for efficient delivery of content, and are generally used when you need an audio-only portion of the video. CMBell employs script writers who are experienced in writing for this specific application—as it is different than other kinds of writing.
Generally speaking, people who aren’t trained actors have difficulty delivering a script in a believable way. Unless it is a situation with legal concerns, where the language must be precise, we prefer to conduct an interview using talking points.
Tips for writing talking points
- Create a bulleted list of ideas you want to cover. Things like “Top priority: Increase quality scores by 20%” work as great prompts for both interviewee and interviewer.
- Include hard-to-remember data (if any) so that we can prompt the interviewee if that information isn’t top-of-mind.
- List talking points in order of priority. Talking points are used by the editors (who are often a different team than the videographers and interviewers) to ensure that the client’s points are all made. If the video has a time limit, sometimes this means deleting content. Prioritized lists help the editors know which things must be in, and which are optional.
- Provide any background stories or videos that have been developed on the topic.
- Provide a script or send the talking points in prose form using full sentences and paragraphs. This makes it harder for both the interviewer and the interviewee, who need to maintain eye contact.
- Provide the talking points the day of the shoot. Both the interviewer and interviewee benefit from time to think about the content.
- Change the talking points substantially after submitted.
What should we tell the people being interviewed?
- The purpose of the project.
- How long the interview will be.
- What kinds of things will be explored in the interview (talking points).
- They can prepare by reviewing the questions and purpose in advance. It can be helpful to write something out to help them think about their message before the shoot, but they should not plan to memorize or read what they write.
- Wear what they’d normally wear in their work or life (depending on the story). If they’re in uniform at work generally, they should appear that way in the video (as a bonus, uniforms provide instant credibility).
- Camera lights tend to wash out faces. Participants who normally wear make-up may wish to bring along any make-up to touch up before the shoot. Generally, we do not have make-up artists at the shoot.
- Avoid excess in apparel and accessories. Stay away from large wild patterns and wrinkled or worn clothing (for professionals) if a professional look is desired.
- There will be a professional team there to guide them through the interview. Our job is to make them feel at ease, explain the process, and draw the story out from them. We’re patient and try to give them as much time as needed to deliver their message.
- We will do multiple takes to ensure we get the best one—so there’s no pressure to be “perfect.”
- Be yourself. Authenticity is more important than getting everything precisely right.
Who handles releases and HIPAA-compliance issues?
The client is always responsible for obtaining and archiving release forms. Additionally, the client is responsible for ensuring HIPAA compliance if the shoot is health care related. This means paying attention to content that is being shot and reviewing the edit to ensure that no HIPAA violations have occurred.
- If shooting in a health care setting, patient care is always first. We are accustomed to working around the complexities of health care and are respectful of your first obligations.
- Keep the set quiet. It’s especially important to have 2–3 seconds of silence before and after each interview question is completed, to allow the editors content to work with.
- Save questions and comments for the end. Sometimes it is best to run through the entire interview and keep the momentum of the story going—as it preserves the energy.
- Plan on multiple takes. We generally take safety shots (extra takes) that allow us to have additional options for our editors.
What is my role in producing this video?
- Determining the message and goals of the project.
- Providing talking points, if the video calls for them.
- Doing a pre-interview with our crew to discuss the elements of the story.
- Finding and securing shoot location(s).
- Arranging for interviewees.
- Acting as site navigator—escorting and introducing the crew and setting expectations for participants.
- Getting and storing release forms from anyone in the shoot.
- Ensuring HIPAA compliance.
- Providing additional assets—photos, existing b-roll if you have some—that flesh out the story visually.
- Reviewing the video for accuracy and seeing that anyone who needs to be involved in the review is.
- Being the single point of contact for CMBell and supplying all changes to us directly, rather than delivering them through multiple sources.
Are there things I can do to keep costs down?
Yes. The biggest thing is to review it carefully at each step of the way, since a video is produced in a sequence which each layer building on the previous one. Changes to the audio that come late in the process, for example, can mean substantial edits. Think of it as deciding to move a wall in a new home in the painting phase. It's much more expensive to do so then than it would be to do so when the house plan is being reviewed.
A local shelter came to us looking for ways to support their largest fundraising campaign in history—a new facility for women and children looking to transition from homelessness to lives of self-sufficiency. Their story is powerful, but they needed a way to tell it more broadly, and that’s how this video was born.
Video is an ideal tool for fundraisers because it:
- Inspires action. It uses the power of images, sound, and music to evoke the emotion that prompts a potential donor to care about what you’re doing—and ultimately, to give. Most often, people first make decisions with their heart, and then their mind, and no amount of persuasive text can touch the heart like a well-done video.
- Conveys need. Video brings real struggles to life and establish the need that drives your project.
- Brings a vision to life. It can cast the vision for a real solution better than any other medium, bringing to life a picture of what your cause will help to achieve.
- Is personal. There’s nothing as compelling as the story of someone who has been changed or helped by your work.
- Works in many applications. It can take your story to any place that can play video—the home of a prospective donor, your own website, or a local meeting or event.
- Is more likely to reach your audience. Video is increasingly the medium of choice, so it’s more likely to get viewed and remembered.
But video production can be overwhelming if you haven’t done a lot of it. Here’s what you can do to get the video that will work for you.
- Outline the problem your project will solve. Include statistics and stories.
- Make it about what your donors care about. Make it clear to donors what investing in your cause will do for them.
- Have a well-articulated vision. What will be different when your project is funded? What will the destination of this journey look like? How will it change lives for the better?
- Know your audience. Know what they care about, what motivates them, and what could turn them off.
- Have a call to action. Make it easy for people to take the next step, be it asking for more information or giving.
- Know where video fits in your strategy. How will it link to other communication tools—both in terms of story and look?
- Pick the right people. If it’s interview-driven, the people chosen will make all the difference. Does their story include struggle and hope? Can they share it on-camera? They don’t need to be performers—it’s better if they are not—but they do need to have a story that a good video crew can draw out.
- Provide good logistic support. Getting your crew access to places that help tell your story will improve it visually, and creating a schedule that has everything ready for your crew when they show up will save you money in the long run and help you get better footage.
- Know and communicate your budget. There are many video companies to choose from, but making your budget clear up-front can help you narrow the playing field and eliminate bad surprises.
- Inform yourself about your video vendor. Look at their work to see if it fits your organization. Talk to a client of theirs to see what working with the firm was like. If it’s a larger firm, make sure the people working on your project are the ones who did the projects you especially liked.
- Have a plan for distribution. This is the most overlooked part of video strategy we encounter. Your video is an investment that should work for you in many applications. Use it on all your website and social media channels, deliver it via email to your donor list, post it on your blog, show it at events, show it at personal "asks", and link it to appropriate sites.
- Don’t worry about it going viral. It’s extremely difficult to get videos to go viral—and going viral doesn’t mean more people will give to your cause. Getting your video in front of 50 qualified donors is more important than having it reach 50,000 people who aren’t ever going to support your cause.
- Measure and learn. This probably won’t be your last video. So watch your analytics, but more importantly, watch for results. One of the videos we produced for a client was shown at an event and a donor in the audience wrote a check for $25,000. In the end, likes and shares are interesting, but gives are the best metric.
Great videos change people’s minds and motivate them to take action. Why shouldn’t you be using this tool to solicit support for your cause?
What does the word "video" evoke for you? Do you see a talking head? A staged, corporate piece? A Hollywood production?
Today, video production styles vary widely—opening the door to countless ways of expressing your message in this powerful medium. If you're developing content designed to get viewed and remembered, take a moment to see what's possible beyond the traditional videos you might be used to.
In this blog post, we're focusing specifically on some trends in motion graphics—a fun and versatile type of video production that can range from very affordable to cinematic.
Which of these trends speaks to you?
Keep your visual brand fresh and interesting by paying attention to design trends. Many of these can work within your visual brand standards while still infusing a modern, up-to-date attitude into your brand.
Which ones are your favorites?
When it comes to millennials, one of the most important actions employers can take to improve their engagement is to offer routine feedback. According to a recent Gallup report, only 19% of young workers state that they regularly receive feedback, and just 17% acknowledge that the feedback they get is meaningful.
This type of internal communication could involve technologies like Slack or others that connect managers and their teams with real-time feedback.
You can read more about the Gallup survey and how to engage your workforce here. The bottom line: millennials have grown up in a world of continuous feedback, which has deeply shaped their employment expectations. Employers who understand and respond to this will see higher employee engagement among this demographic.
You already believe in the power of story. You’ve seen how it can sell, persuade, compel, inspire—even better than a well-crafted argument. But are your stories helping you build your business?
If not, here are some possible reasons—and tips on what you can do about it:
You aren't being strategic about what stories you tell
Maybe you have a great patient story, for example, but it’s for a service line that isn’t a current area of strategic focus. Or maybe you have a story for your employees that doesn’t reinforce your key strategies, vision, or values. Prudent use of marketing dollars requires a direct link between the stories you’re telling and your business goals.
- To create stories that grow your business, create a table and list all your core messages and strategies—then beside each list a high-level story idea that directly links back to each. For example, if you want to convey your commitment to quality, look for an area in your organization where your quality is impressive.
- Use this list to scout stories and to identify specific customers, employees, or events that fit your story idea. Maybe it’s the journey of an internal team to improve a process, or a client story about how the quality initiative impacted them.
- Track progress on your table and do a year-end review to see what worked—and where you want to improve.
You don’t have a story scout
Before a story is told, it has to be found. Most companies don’t have a person devoted to this important excavational work—and, very often, people in the midst of a good story don’t even realize it is one. In health care, we see this all the time. This sacred interchange between patient and physician is just what the physician does. She does not see it as noteworthy. Someone with fresh eyes has to awaken this mindset in an organization, teach its teams how to recognize a good story, and provide a way to get it from the front lines to your storytellers.
- Assign the task of “story scout” to one of your in-house marketing or communication professionals, and give them the goal of creating the plan (above) and reporting on its progress each month.
- Make a list of possible story ideas and share them with your front-line people, to help them think like a story scout.
- Make it easy to submit story ideas—and offer some small reward for ones that are published.
You aren’t using the right medium
Video is the most visually rich way to deliver a story. It takes the words from the page and brings them to life with motion, sound, and images—giving the viewer’s brain a rich experience. We know that the addition of motion alerts the human brain, and this is activated in video in ways that text and still images cannot compete with.
- If budget is a concern, set aside some of your communication and marketing budget for video production—even if it means shifting resources from other good projects. Today’s consumer demands it.
- Shop for a video package rather than a single video. You can save thousands of dollars by shooting several videos over a day or two—rather than doing them one at a time. Videographers often require a half-day or even one-day minimum for a shoot, and by batching projects you can save money.
You don’t have an expert storyteller
A story can be inherently good, but tell it poorly, and it will not do the work of conveying the message you want. Storytelling is an art that requires experts who have devoted their careers to it, so finding the right talent to do this is imperative. Not all writers are storytellers. Not all video editors are storytellers. A storyteller can use different tools, but good ones understand the arc of an effective story and know how to deliver it in their medium.
- Identify talent within or outside of your organization. The best way to judge this is to see their work—if the story keeps your interest and produces the desired emotional response, it’s been done by a storyteller you can trust.
- Engage them for one trial assignment, to see if their process and product works for you.
- Have them do a pre-shoot phone interview with the person they’ll be interviewing on-camera, to be sure the story is solid.
- Be clear on your goals, budget, and timeframe—before you start the job.
You aren’t getting the story to the right people
All too often, a video is produced and put up on your website—and it is left to chance whether the right people will see it. To get the most for your investment, look for ways to repurpose it. How many social media outlets can you use it on? Are there other areas of your website—like recruiting—that could use it? Are there events, staff meetings, or retreats for employees, board members, or customers where it could be shown? There are multiple tools and methods to help you with the digital promotion of a video, as well, so if you don’t have the expertise in-house to help with this, hire someone who does. It will pay off in increased traffic.
- When your video story is done, don’t call the project done until you make and execute a plan to get it in front of the right people.
- Make a list of every social media channel you have that you could post your video on.
- Make a list of events where the video could be shown. Consider employee forums, departmental meetings, employee events, orientation, board meetings, and fund-raising events.
- Review your website to see if the video can be used on multiple pages. For example, a video about quality could be on a recruiting page, an "about us" page, a quality page, and a home page.
- Work with an expert—in-house or outside—who can help you create digital strategies to improve traffic to your videos.
AS WE CELEBRATE the 20-year anniversary of our company, I am deeply grateful to our clients and our team who have made this milestone possible. None of this would have happened without the impact of extraordinary people who believe in what we do, who inspire us, and who partner with us in the work of persuasion.
May I share a few of the things we’re celebrating right now—as we head into our next decade?
In the past year we’ve added both expertise and capacity to create signature communications for our clients.
We now have more options than ever for clients who need video content. Whether it’s a signature piece that tells your story, a fundraiser, a whiteboard explainer with a touch of humor, drone footage, interviews, strategic inspiration, or vision casting, we’re producing videos that get watched and remembered.
We're creating better, more targeted internal communication, and working with leaders (doesn't it all start there?) to create internal communication strategies, channels, and content that capture the hearts and minds of their employees.
We can help you improve your SEO and create digital advertising strategies that increase sales and get your message in front of the right people.
We’re seeing tremendous marketing success in driving business to hospitals and clinics using our proprietary mix of digital and traditional tools. So whether it’s filling a medical clinic faster or increasing market share for a service, we’re measuring success by new business—not just impressions—and helping our clients grow their business.
I CAN'T IMAGINE FEELING any more excited about the work we get to do each day—and the people with whom we are doing it. There has never been a more potent time to be in the business of communications.
As a family business in a small community, our story has always been about creating meaningful work for our people and helping grow organizations that are promoting human flourishing. It has never been our goal to be big—only to make a place where we could create top-drawer communications that build success for others.
Here’s to the power of communications to fuel growth and success for your business in 2017!
DeLona Lang Bell, President
To celebrate our 20th year,
we’re offering a 20-minute conversation about your biggest communication challenge—at no cost.
As we’ve been preparing for our 20th year, we’ve spent a great deal of time visioning and provisioning our company for the future. This has been exciting work, and you can see some of the results of this work here.
Communications has never been more important to businesses and organizations, and as we look at trends and needs among our clients, we’re convinced that our new mission statement precisely describes the space we’ll occupy: Creating signature communications that drive purpose and grow business.
As an outgrowth of that, we’ve updated our visual brand, and in this entry, we’ll take you behind the scenes on some of the work that led up to this.
Our final color palette is a nuanced mix of traditional and modern:
- Navy and gold perfectly represent the classic and timeless attributes of our firm.
- Orange adds a modern vibe—migrating from the deep burgundy of our previous logo into a more fiery, passionate version of red.
Our art director selected several fonts that represented the right mix of modern and traditional. In the end, we selected Optima because it has the dignity, sophistication, and clarity we were looking for. The addition of the dots between the C. the M. and the B harken to our first logo and were added back to help those unfamiliar with our name to say it.
We chose Raleway as our body font because of its clean versatility. It also expresses our belief that simplicity must be a central part of any communication.
Our signage and business package pair our tagline “Signature Communications” with the short version of our name, "CMBell"—dropping "Company” for the sake of keeping it as simple as possible.
Behind each of these was a great deal of research, exploration and internal discussion. Our entire team was involved in the process of reviewing, moving us closer to the final product with each of their insights.
This is just one of the things happening as we celebrate year 20 of our journey. If you haven’t read our 20-year story or sauntered through 20 Things We've Learned from 20 Years of Business, we invite you to visit our blog and get some inspiration for your own journey.
When Vineet Nayar joined HCL Technologies as the CEO, he vowed to transform it into a company where employees were first—and customers were second.
Nayar believed that if he could inspire his people to pursue a vision which they owned and which still aligned with the company’s, magic would happen. And his experiment proved him right.
On this premise, he set to work to make it one of the fastest-growing and most profitable global IT services as well as one of the 20 most influential companies in the world.
But it required challenging the conventional wisdom that the customer is always right.
While at some level, this commonly heard business maxim speaks truth, in application it can lead to deadly results for employee engagement if we don't talk about where the line drawn on customer behavior.
As Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5, tells it, Southwest drew a line with a frequent flyer who consistently complained about things that were simply part of their business model—like no assigned seats, no first class, no in-flight meals, and the casual atmosphere.
Wearied by her repeated tirades, Southwest's customer relations people eventually sent her comments on to then-CEO Herb Kelleher, who replied: "Dear Mrs. X, We will miss you. Love, Herb."
“Believing the customer is always right is a subconscious way of favoring the customer over the employee which can lead to resentment among employees. … Put employees first and they will be happy at work," says Kjerulf.
It is not too low of a bar to expect civility of both employees and customers, and yet most of us have witnessed the lack of it too many times in the workplace. As is often the case, the challenge is in the execution. It can feel a lot like refereeing siblings in a "he started it, she started it" squabble. But, as leaders, we're called to adjudicate these situations to determine whether an employee's behavior wrongly incited a frustrated customer, or whether a customer is being unreasonable, rude, or insulting.
To preserve a workplace with high engagement, a business must live its values—not just talk about them. This could mean walking away from some clients if their behavior does not allow the company to live up to its values of treating its own people with respect. Tolerating rude, insulting, or abusive behavior by customers drains the energy of employees and lowers morale. It effectively tells the employee that they do not deserve better treatment from others.
It's important to think about where popular ideas like "the customer is always right" reach their limits. Intuitively, we know that treating people well and providing a work environment that isn't hostile can help them flourish. This kind of environment unleashes loyalty, creativity, and the desire to take better care of the customers. In the end, respecting and retaining top employees not only impacts engagement, but ensures that your customers have the very best people attending to them.
It’s no secret that employees who buy into your company’s mission and vision will make you more successful.
In fact, Gallup says that the most engaged teams will have four times the odds of success compared with teams with low engagement.
- Lower productivity
- Poorer quality
- More safety incidents
- Higher absenteeism and turnover
- Poorer customer satisfaction
- Higher employee health care costs
Today’s Employees Are Overfed—Yet Starved
While several factors impact engagement, communication’s central role can’t be overlooked.
It’s not that employees lack communication—more information than ever is clamoring for their attention. It’s that they are often starved for the right kind of communication at work.
They hear a lot about problems to solve, regulations to meet, targets to reach, and customer concerns. But they hear too little about things that ignite their passion and help them connect their work to their purpose.
Think of communication as nourishment for the soul. Employees need a balanced diet that includes messages that inspire. They need to understand the “Why?” behind what they are asked to do. This includes:
- Vision: What the destination is, and how you’ll get there
- Mission: Why their work matters
- Values: The principles that drive behavior
- Strategy: How their work connects to a broader vision
- Stories: How their work impacts customers and co-workers
- Their role: What’s expected of them
Strategic, intentional communication with your inner circle can change the future of your company. It can help build employee support for your most pressing business goals, revitalize your culture, and spread to your customers in the form of better service and products.
Winning at Business Starts With Your Employees
It’s nearly impossible to win customers if you have not first won the hearts and minds of your own employees.
This is why internal communication is gaining more and more attention and resources. It can:
- Connect employees to their purpose
- Inspire them with a mission that brings meaning to their work
- Give them a better understanding of how their work fits into the company’s strategy
- Help them understand and support decisions that are made
- Help them deal with change
- Build a robust and healthy culture
10 Ways to Up Your Internal Communication Game
So how do leaders get their teams to embrace their vision? To share the same dreams? To move in sync with each other toward a common goal?
- Make a strategic communication plan that identifies your key messages, how often and when they’ll be delivered, and the target audience for each. It doesn’t have to be complicated—just clear and executable.
- Create a compelling picture of the destination before outlining how you’ll get there. Weave a story around the vision that invites others to step into it, inspires the mind, and ignites curiosity. Once employees know the destination, you can show them the plan to get there.
- Make it personal. How will the vision impact employees? What exactly should they do differently? What is their role in success? Why is it important? Use specific examples and stories that draw them in.
- Use language employees understand. Corporate-speak weighs down a message, so if you struggle with this, have an outsider review what you plan to say before you deliver it.
- Use the media they’re using. While email is still the most used channel for internal communication, video is gaining ground as appetites for this medium soar. A mix of media is best, so don’t rule out in-person forums, print pieces, apps, and intranets. And, of course, all of your digital communication needs to be mobile-friendly.
- Engage the senses. Visually rich messages inundate today’s employee—so a slow-moving, text-heavy presentation won’t be the most compelling way to deliver your important messages. Great visuals are now essential to get and keep your listeners’ attention. And, of course, the motion, music, and sound that video offers makes your message even more engaging.
- Understand their world. Cognitive overload is real. Employees get too much information—but not enough inspiration. Connecting your ideas to their sense of purpose is the best way to inspire them.
- Keep it short. Employees like their information in short, snackable, yet content-rich formats that they can ingest quickly.
- Repeat your essential messages. Yes, over and over and over. By the time you’re weary of saying it, it will just be gaining traction.
- Listen. Communication is a two-way street. Give employees more than one way to submit questions and ideas, then use that to drive content.
It’s Time to Resource Internal Communication
While 70% of senior leaders value internal communication, only 49% of companies have a written internal communication plan, according to Gatehouse’s State of the Sector 2016 survey on internal communication and employee engagement, which surveyed more than 300 organizations in 70 countries.
Even fewer—27% of those surveyed—have a dedicated budget. This will likely change with the growing concern leaders have about low employee engagement.
If You’re in Health Care, Know This
The unprecedented rate of change and uncertainty in health care leaves employees looking for clarity about what’s most important. Yet even in times of change, engagement is possible.
“Nearly eight in 10 employees are engaged when workers strongly agree there is open communication, opportunities to provide input, a clear connection between current changes and the company’s future, and management support for changes that affect their work group. When employees disagree, a mere 1% are engaged,” according to Gallup.
Gallup says that clear communication and a well-articulated mission and purpose that’s consistent with the culture are two of the strategies top-performing health care organizations handle better than their peers.
Wondering how to put together an internal communication plan, develop your essential message points, or craft a creative narrative that speaks to employees?
As we celebrate our 20th year in business, we've had a chance to reflect on some of our memorable moments along the way. We share our story for this reason: We hope it will inspire you on your own journey.
1. Ready, Set, Go
I guess you could say that Michael and I opted to live life backwards. Family, friends, and community have always been more important to us than following a prescribed career path. It seemed to make more sense to first decide what kind of life we wanted, and then look for ways to make a living—rather than the other way around. And so we began this journey early on, with a move back to our beloved home town in eastern Washington. With limited options for work in my field here and a growing desire to do work that allowed me more flexibility and time with our then-young sons, I decided to give freelancing a try. When former colleagues started calling me, I began to see a future for this—even though it was still in its infant stages.
2. Let's Call Our Company CMBell
I'd like to say that when we began we had clearly defined business goals. But really, I was entirely pragmatic in those early days. I needed to take whatever work came my way. My North Star was my belief that communication tools and strategies could be used more powerfully to change the course of businesses. But exactly what that would look like, I didn't know.
And that's how CMBell came about. Michael had done consulting and the business name was registered with the state, so that's where our name came from. It left the door open for us to take the business where it needed to go without committing to any one kind of service.
Over the years we've spun a narrative about what it means. CMB can stand for Communications, Marketing, and Branding. It's also the initials of my husband and sons—the people who mean the very most to me in life. But the truth is, it's my husband's moniker—because it started with him.
3. The Power of Believing and a Word of Encouragement
On more than one occasion, good friends and family shored me up with courage, believing in me on those days I wasn't at all sure this idea would work. I specifically remember one day getting a call from my good friend, Beth, now a health care CEO, at a time when I was dispirited. She said to me then: "This could be the best thing that ever happened to you in your career." And she was right. She was one of several who taught me the power of believing in another person and the value of an encouraging word—two ideas that fuel my life today.
4. Take the Step
My husband ponied up the cash to do some promotion in those early days. It seemed so extravagant, but he’s always understood the value of investing in the business. His steady calm through all the ups and downs of business, as well as his I’m-an-engineer-and-I-can-do-anything attitude, has been the bedrock for our business.
5. First Logo
We hired a freelancer to bring to life our idea for a logo. It was a simple black-and-white treatment, but it began our official visual brand journey. Although we weren't even sure what kinds of services would become our primary offerings, we were ready to hit the road and find out.
6. First Hire
Darla took a chance on our little company when it was barely more than an idea. In those days, she toted her work in a portable bin, which she hauled between our home and hers. Her organization, attention to detail, initiative, and commitment to service have been a central force in our growth and success.
7. We Launch a Design Department
We have always believed that good design is essential to communication. Initially this meant hiring freelance talent, but soon our design services had outgrown that model and we hired our first in-house designer. Today, our belief that superior design is essential to any kind of communications is stronger than ever, and our top-drawer design team reflects that commitment.
8. Our First Building
We soon outgrew our home office and embarked on the hunt to find a new location. After purchasing an old building on the main street of our little college town, we went to work remodeling it. It was exciting to have a real office where we could now work together—and have space to grow.
9. The Beginning of Long-Standing Client Relationships
In 1999, we got the contract to help Key Technology, a local manufacturing firm with an international presence, with their annual report. We have just finished designing the 18th annual report for them. What a privilege to work with such a group of hardworking innovators and to see their story unfold over time.
One of the things we most prize today is the long-term relationships we have with so many of our clients like Key Technology. We never take their loyalty for granted.
10. We Move into the Colorado Market
Another important partner to us in those founding years was our good friend John, then-president of a hospital near Boulder. He called on us to help support his marketing and communication work and eventually that led to working with many other clients in Colorado, where we're still helping businesses grow today.
11. Campaign Wins
Our first major campaign was for a hospital's orthopedic program—which had an immediate impact on their bottom line and their physician loyalty. Our most recent successful campaign is an OB campaign that reversed declining market share and contributed more than $600,000 to the bottom line. We now have a highly refined proprietary campaign package of digital and traditional marketing that consistently brings impressive results for clients. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a worthy company grow and knowing that effective communications played a role in it.
12. Second Visual Brand
We were growing into more than a consultancy, and ready to update our visual brand. Our art director paired a classic symbol with our company name to give us a fresh, new look—and launched our blog at the same time.
Business was going strong and then one of our biggest clients hired new leadership, who brought their own agency relationships to the account. We were heavily dependent on a few clients, and had not spent sufficient time cultivating other clients because we were so busy. We tightened our belts and recruited new clients, grateful for our no-debt operational policy, which allowed us to preserve our talent without layoffs during slow times.
14. Video Expansion
Several years ago it became clear that video and mobile would play an essential role in communications in the future. We made the strategic decision to expand our capabilities in this area and within a short time our schedules were full and we were shooting videos throughout the West Coast.
15. Sons Join
We didn’t see this coming, but when both of our sons asked if there might be a place for them in our business, we were both surprised and delighted. In 2015, this came to fruition, and they are now a central part of our vision and creative team—bringing their energy and their own personalities and skills to the company. Christian serves as an account manager, and Miles-Erik is a video editor and writer. Some of our recent successes are directly linked to their ideas.
16. CMBell 2.0
One of the things we love about running a small business is the speed of decision-making. We are always reading the landscape and adapting our business to where the clients' needs are. In 2016, we went through a rebranding process where we refined our mission, vision, and values and charted a course for the years ahead. Our focus today is on helping companies that promote human flourishing. This is expressed more specifically in our new mission statement: Creating signature communications that drive purpose and grow business.
17. 2016 Visual Brand
With greater clarity about our future, we rolled out our new visual brand as its expression. Once again, our art director studied our core ideas and developed a logo that fit our new direction—one that would focus on top-tier business communications and internal communications, with video as a strong core competency. The classic, timeless look fits our love of building things that last.
18. Stepping Up Our Internal Communication Services
While we've worked in internal communication throughout our history, we've increased our capabilities in this area as we see more demand for communication that wins the hearts and minds of employees. Leaders are looking for ways to build culture, to inspire their people, and to help them work together towards common goals.
This is an area in which many companies are just starting to invest, and with real success. We're just completing one of our largest internal communication projects with a health system in which the internal e-letters outperformed the industry average by four times (up to 10x in one case), and 9 out of 10 leaders say that as a result of the communication project, they better understand the why behind their work, the key strategies, and the value of working together.
Someone once asked me what my best business decision was. I answered "marry an engineer." Engineers are wildly versatile, and in my case, my husband has turned out to play an essential role in many things, including the building out of a technology backbone for our firm. In our early days, we could not have afforded someone with his pedigree and expertise, so his contribution was an unexpected bonus.
20. Hire the Best
One of the best things about running your own business is that you get to hand-pick the people you work with every day. We cannot overstate the value we place on this.
In addition to our four family members, the CMBell team now includes Jessica, our art director; Käri, our senior visual artist and animator; Marcus, our client accounts specialist; Darla, our director of client services; Grant, who leads our video production team; Austin, videographer and video editor; and Elliott, videographer and digital communications specialist.
All of these extraordinary people are not only accomplished professionals, but they are like family to us. We couldn't be more excited about building a future with this remarkable team.
This year our company celebrates its 20th year in business. We could never have imagined what was possible when we started this enterprise in our beautiful little hometown in southeastern Washington in 1997.
We've learned many lessons about business in these 20 years and, in the spirit of this milestone, are sharing some insights that we've gathered along the way.
- Communication can absolutely grow your business. We've seen a strong campaign reverse declining market shares, claim market leadership for a service line, and grow a new service in a matter of months.
- To engage employees, communicate what the future will look like once you achieve your goals. Humans consistently outperform expectations when they believe it’s possible and important to do so.
- Communication that connects employees to their purpose and mission is like nourishment for an organization. Leaders who invest in this reap big rewards.
- Spend money on exceptional pictures. We live in a visually sophisticated world where the absence of these can actually hurt your brand.
- If selling is your goal, make sales your metric. Monitoring views, shares, and social media interaction is good, but in the end, it's most important to watch your sales data.
- Mobile and video are exploding. Be there, but don’t abandon other media options that still work.
- Insist on a campaign microsite if you're doing a focused campaign. Your abandonment rate (the rate at which people come to your site from your ad's call to action, then leave quickly) will plummet—and results will soar.
- The leader’s job is to vision and provision. Make it possible for your people to do great work by creating a clear vision—then removing obstacles, resourcing, and encouraging.
- There’s no substitute for people who care about their work.
- Hard work and attention to detail are more important than brilliance.
- Say "no" to "no." There will be times you think it can't be done. There will be people who think you are crazy to try. Do it anyway.
- Don't let the closed door stop you. It's very possible that just beyond is an open door to something better.
- Better project management produces better creative results.
- Strive for truth-telling. Employees who tell you what you should hear—and not what you want to hear—engage in the highest form of loyalty.
- Excellence only happens when you pay attention to the work at every step.
- We curate our lives and shape our brand by the people we choose to live and work with. Being particular pays.
- People make decisions first based on emotion, and then on facts. Never assume a good argument will take you further than a good story.
- To find a good story, you have to be curious and willing to dig deeper than others might.
- Creative work happens where the human soul is tended.
- The best thing leaders can do is work on themselves. Become the better you, and your employees will become the better them.
Getting heard is getting harder. But creating good content continues to be a winning strategy for building strong brands.
Whether you want to build culture, increase employee engagement, or win customers, video outperforms all other media in getting viewed and remembered and should be part of your 2017 brand content strategy.
But don't get caught thinking only of traditional, high-cost video productions. Videos now come in all kinds of styles and price points—some less than you've paid for a traditional print ad. Here are eight popular types to consider:
Pros: This is a fast, affordable way to bring simple messages to life using motion graphics and music. Great tool for adding impact to websites, digital ads, and e-letters. In its simplest form, this can make you look smart even if you don't have the time or the budget to get great photos. And it can be embellished with photos or illustrations.
Pros: Nothing reveals the heart of your organization like a story. These can be built with interviews, narration, b-roll, still images, illustrations, and on-screen text using fresh production techniques and arresting music, but the key is often a good interview. This versatile style is the must-have piece in any company's video portfolio and works well for web, special events, fundraising galas, e-letter marketing, and digital marketing.
Pros: Put your old-school PowerPoint presentation on steroids by reinterpreting it as a video rich with visuals, music, and narration. Good for selling an idea, strategy or vision to employees, customers, and shareholders.
Wondering how video can help your brand get noticed? Let's talk.
Email is still the primary way to communicate with employees internally—but it can be challenging to reach those whose inboxes are full or who don't have desk jobs.
That's why it's important to use every available tool to get your strategic internal emails read. Here are 14 tips for creating an email that gets opened and read:
- Use a third-party tool. It would be nearly impossible to create the essential features that these tools now offer, from sophisticated designs to insightful analytics, automated features that help you manage and grow your lists, and mobile optimization. We use Campaign Monitor, but there are others to choose from, as well.
- Use great design. A reader makes a split-second decision about whether to engage with your email based on how it looks. Good design will absolutely increase your readership.
- Curate content with care. Make sure that your distribution lists and topics are right for each other.
- Avoid corporate-speak and overly sanitized messages that don't feel authentic. Use simple, clear words that your audience is used to.
- Use arresting photos. The human brain can take in the information in a photo instantly—but that same information could take pages of text to convey. Look for a great (not good) stock image that doesn't look like a stock image, or invest in a custom shot by a professional. Generally speaking, use more pictures than text if you want to increase readership.
- Include a video. It can increase your open rates by 19% and your click rate by more than 50%. An estimated 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online after viewing a video.
- Keep your text short. Constant Contact says that 20 lines of text and three or fewer images result in optimal email campaign click rates. In our experience with A/B testing, shorter copy pulled better by 11 percentage points.
- Draw the reader in with a subject line that invites curiosity and makes a promise your reader cares about.
- Create a call to action that's clear and compelling. Visual buttons elicit more clicks than text links.
- Send it from someone meaningful that the recipient knows and would like to hear from.
- Do A/B testing. Change just one variable at a time, so you know which one made the difference. Try sending it with different subject lines, short vs. longer versions of your content, or using different images. You can also try sending it on different days and at different times.
- Review your analytics and incorporate what you learn into your next e-letter. The average open rate for internal communication e-letters is 66%—and the click rate is 10%. In healthcare, it's lower: the average open rate is 39% and the click rate is 6%.
- Don't spam. Cognitive overload is real. Delivering relevant, timely messages in the right dosage shows respect for your audience and can help keep your emails from getting ignored.
- Invite feedback. Include an Ask-Me-Anything link and see what you can learn.
Want to see what the best are doing? Campaign Monitor provides some inspiration with the most effective email campaigns of 2016.