We live in a visually driven culture. Our brains love the stimulation of images and motion and we rely on visuals to provide us with a road map that helps us process what we see.
Knowing how design engages the brain can help you create a presentation that helps people stay interested and remember what you said.
Here are 10 ways you can amp up your presentation visually:
- More slides are better than fewer. It’s tempting to think that if you have just a few slides, your presentation will be shorter, but in fact, putting more information on fewer slides reduces the effectiveness of each one. Ideally, strive to make one important point on each slide; then unpack the content verbally.
- Use white space. White space is the part of your presentation that has neither text nor images on it (and although we refer to it as white space, it can be any solid color). Because the white space gives the eye a vacation from clutter, it’s happily allowed to focus on a single idea presented in images and text. This calms the brain and allows the content to be absorbed with less effort.
- Create hierarchy through design. Good design draws the reader through ideas in a logical order. Visual dominance demands attention, so the largest, boldest, or brightest elements in your presentation will catch the eye first. By using a cascading dominance in your visuals, you’ll draw the eye from the most important content to the least, making it easy for the viewer to know where to begin and where to end. When too many elements are equal in dominance, the brain has to work too hard to decide where to go first, next, and last—and often, this is when viewers check out.
- Keep a consistent visual theme. Don’t try a different style on every screen, but instead keep common threads that signal “this all belongs together.” This allows the viewers to not have to process as much new information with each screen and helps them focus on the message.
- Use contrast. Medium-toned type on a medium-toned background is hard to read. Instead, use high-contrast colors to aid readability. Think combinations like black on tan, white on red, or grey on light blue—rather than orange on red, green on blue, or red on dark blue.
- Use fonts to provide visual cues. Keep your font choices to two or three throughout, avoiding overly fussy or hard-to-read fonts. It’s a sure sign of an amateur to use too many or unprofessional fonts—and results in a dizzying experience for the viewer.
- Less is more. Do you need to put your logo on every screen? Does that illustration make it easier or harder to understand the key point on the screen? Remove just one item from your slide and see what happens to those that remain.
- Use great images. Today’s viewers have highly sophisticated visual tastes groomed by high-budget Hollywood cinematic productions. Photos that are so-so signal a low-quality product, so spend the time and resources need to use top-quality images. Photos can also tell a story much more quickly than words, so they are an efficient way to communicate.
- Use abbreviated language. On-screen text should only provide emphasis, so there’s no need to have full, complex sentences. Ex: “Delivering a higher quality of health care experience than any other facility in the nation” can be reduced to “The best care anywhere.”
- Don’t try to say too much. It’s tempting to want to show all of the supporting reasons, research, and careful thought behind every idea, to start from the beginning so your viewer will see how you got to your idea. But viewer fatigue is real and will kick in if you ask too much of them. Aim to leave your audience with one great idea—and see what happens.
Even on a budget, you can create presentations that are interesting, professional, and effective if you follow these rules.
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.
It’s official. The 2017 color of the year is green, according to Pantone, the color experts who have been surveying world trends for decades to determine which color best captures the global moods of the day.
Pantone describes this year’s color, officially called Greenery, as a “zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring.”
Green has long served in fluid roles ranging from calming neutral to vibrant virtuoso—and it pairs beautifully with many other colors.
It may reflect a desire for balance in a modern world, appealing to the human yearning to experience the beauty of nature. It also suggests vitality, rejuvenation, and growth—all attributes humans are drawn to quite likely because they suggest hope.
When we choose colors for a creative project, we use color theory to evoke certain brand attributes that fit our client’s visual strategy. Green has often been our choice when we want to evoke healing, calm, peace, growth, vitality, and freshness. As the most restful color for the human eye, its pervasiveness in nature makes it a color with broad acceptance across demographics. And as is always the case, the shades of green evoke different nuances.
Here are two examples of how we used greens to convey freshness in Key Technology’s annual report. As an international manufacturer of innovative food processing equipment, they make it possible for companies to deliver fresher food products.
Expect to see more of this color in fashion, products, and graphic design in the year ahead.
We like their choice this year, but what do you think? Is this a color you’d be happy to see more of?