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helvetica film

My name is Jeanne Weiss and I’m a font nerd.

I came to grips with this while watching Helvetica, a documentary film dedicated to the proliferation and appreciation of the Helvetica font.

Judge me if you like, but I. Was. Glued.

The film takes the viewer through the 60-plus-year history of Helvetica while gathering the opinions and thoughts of designers and typographers around the world.

Until I watched the film, I was oblivious to just how much Helvetica had shaped my world. Now, I see it everywhere!

Helvetica is ubiquitous
Most likely, you’re not even aware of the extent to which Helvetica demands your attention every day. It directs you on street signage. It’s used on official Federal documents like your tax forms. It’s a favorite of corporate logos — Greyhound, Crate & Barrel, Urban Outfitters, the U.S. Post Office, American Apparel, Nike, Kodak, Target, Samsung, American Airlines, TNT and more!

The next time you watch The Office, pay attention to that opening sequence. That’s Helvetica.

We even use it in our branding at AMPED! 

Helvetica is neutral
Even with thousands of possible font choices at their disposal, designers continue to favor Helvetica because it’s clean, simple and perfect.

Said one of the designers in the film, “It’s very hard for a designer to look at Helvetica characters and say, ‘How would I improve them? How would I make them look any different?’ They just seem to be exactly right. Helvetica is a beautiful, timeless thing and certain things shouldn’t be messed with.”

Said another, “Some fonts only say one thing: Christmas! Wedding! Helvetica says everything, and that’s part of its appeal.”

Helvetica is powerful
There were so many wonderful quotes from the film about design and typography that I wanted to share them with those of you who geek out on such things. Here are a few:

“A typeface should express a mood, give atmosphere or color.”

“Graphic designers have an enormous responsibility. They are the people putting their wires in our heads. Graphic design is the communications framework through which these messages are sent.”

“Don’t confuse legibility with communication. Just because something is legible doesn’t mean it communicates.”

“If something has an important message and it’s set in a boring, nondescript way, it might be lost.”

“If you take the same message and apply a different design and typeface to it, the emotional response will be different. The choice of typeface is the prime weapon in that communication.”

“Type casts a secret spell. It makes you say, ‘I like that. That’s my kind of product.’”

“There’s a thin line between simple and clean and powerful, and simple and clean and boring.”
Standing joke: “A typographer can’t see a historical film because the fonts are always wrong.” Which reminded me of this recent story.

“The reader shouldn’t be aware of the font at all. The font should just hold, display and organize the information, not draw the reader from it.”

“Think about when an actor is miscast in a role. The viewer will still follow the plot, but be less convinced or affected. Typography is similar. A designer choosing typefaces is essentially the casting director.”

Whattaya know, I’m a font nerd AND a casting director!

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content creation tip


In my role as editor of the quarterly magazine publication for one of our clients, I am responsible for sourcing and curating content. One of the enduring challenges for marketing and communications professionals is struggling to come up with enough quality content to fill their needs. Here are some of the strategies I use.

Where does the content come from?

My top five tips for filling pages with really strong, relevant and timely content:

  1. Monitor what questions and pain points are posted in industry discussion boards or communities. This can be a great source for content ideas that address what members are grappling with right now.
  2. Work with an editorial council or board. Members of an editorial council can help recommend or provide feedback on topic ideas. They also help provide a wider network from which to draw, reaching out to contacts and connections as potential authors.
  3. Pose a question or topic in your own association discussion board. Every one of your members is a potential source for both inspirational successes, as well as lessons learned the hard way. Your members are experts in their industry, so look to them for answers. They love to share what they’ve learned with their peers, either by providing ideas and suggestions that can be compiled into an article, or by submitting their own full-length article on a given topic.
  4. Ask speakers for an upcoming event to provide an article that is structured around their planned presentation. This can help to build anticipation and drive registration for your event. Alternatively, ask speakers from a recent past event if they would author an article. This helps to extend the momentum for attendees, as well as facilitates sharing useful information with members who were unable to attend.
  5. Not all your content needs to be original. It’s OK to source articles reprinted from industry experts. Our members appreciate when we can bring great content forth, helping them sort through all the mediocre information they come across each day. Just be sure to secure appropriate permission first.

And, what do we do with it now?

Really strong, relevant and timely content is awesome! But once a magazine is published, please don’t leave all that valuable content hidden away between the covers. Repurposing content from publication articles helps build social media presence and drive traffic to your website.

My top five tips for repurposing article content:

  1. Post each article, individually, to your website or blog. This is different from posting the entire publication as a .pdf file or as an online version of your magazine. Posting as text helps your SEO! At the end of your article, include links to other related content or articles for those looking for additional information on that topic.
  2. Use the information in the article to create a short video or podcast to reach additional audiences.
  3. Tease paragraphs in your e-newsletter, linking to the full article on your website.
  4. Select two or three snippets from the article and strategically post about them to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn at set intervals, again including a link to the full article.
  5. Tag and compliment the author wherever possible. The author will receive notice, and will often like, comment on or share your post. Their connections are likely to take notice, as well, driving post engagement up.

Bonus tip: Bring your process full circle by tracking analytics to determine what content readers really respond to, and building on that for your next issue.

Please let me know if you have any other content tips of your own!

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When it comes to Photoshop skills, I like to describe myself as a “seasoned beginner.” With so many ways to accomplish the same effect, I’ve always viewed the software as a conundrum. It’s an easy excuse to say that I never have enough time to learn more. But when it’s crunch time and I need a last-minute graphic, I’m at a loss, with no easy way forward.

Canva is the easy solution. This free, online software describes itself as making “design simple for everyone.” It provides ready-to-use templates for everything from blog banners to business cards. I value their social media templates most; the exact dimensions and layouts for each platform makes it easy to transform marketing campaign graphics from one social media account to another.


canva 1


Canva offers preset layouts, as well. If you’d rather create your graphic from scratch, there’s a simple toolbar on the side that contains a variety of font options, images and illustrations. The drag-and-drop editor enables anyone and everyone to use it — even those who aren’t seasoned Photoshop beginners.


Canva 2

Canva prides itself in making design simple, but is it too simple? By simplifying the functions, it limits design possibilities. I’ll admit that there have been times when I was unable to create an effect in Canva that I know is possible in Photoshop. When it comes down to it, online tools like Canva are great for discovering new ideas for graphics and creating quick and simple designs, but if you have a specific design in mind, programs like Photoshop and InDesign will always deliver.

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It’s hard enough keeping up with association best practices that apply to your day-to-day operations. Now you have to worry about the ever-changing best practices for your website as well. I’ve had a few association professionals ask me, “What should I be doing with my website that I’m not already doing?” Here are the three things I tell them they must be doing in 2017 to keep up to date and get the results they want out of their digital presence.

Social Proofing
Believe it or not, each and every one of us has experienced social proofing at some point in our life. Defined as "the psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation," social proofing is the art of using testimonials and opinions of others to drive consumer behavior.

An example of social proofing would be when you’re looking for somewhere to eat and you hop online to look up reviews. You see two restaurants you’re interested in but one has reviews and the other doesn't. You decide to go to the place with reviews because the restaurant without reviews can’t be any good if it hasn’t been reviewed, right? You’ve taken other peoples' word for it (mind you, complete strangers) and made your purchasing decision. You’ve been social proofed!

Talk with the influential people who are part of your association to participate in testimonials, blogs or even a photo shoot. You can then use this material on your website to show that well-known industry members find your association valuable enough to be members. Add individual or organizational member photos (with their permission of course) to your site to show other potential members which big names are already part of your association.

Responsive Design
We all know that people live and breathe on their mobile devices today. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to make sure the experience you provide to your website visitors is just as good on a phone or tablet, as it is on a desktop. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you look something up on the internet and you can’t find what you need because the website doesn’t work well with your phone. We’ve all experienced those websites on our phones where you’re constantly trying to zoom in and out on your phone to click those tiny, little links. It’s extremely frustrating!

Many web developers are now using what is called “mobile-first” design practices. This means the website is designed with the smallest screen sizes in mind, working the way up to large screens. This practice ensures that anyone trying to access your website on the go is provided with the best possible experience and, in turn, can see the value your association brings immediately.

Do yourself a favor and put your non-member cap on. Pick up your phone and go to your association’s website. Is it abundantly clear what the benefit of joining your association is? Can you search for resources easily? Are links big enough to click, or do you have to zoom in? Make sure they walk away talking about the content and value your association offers, and not how terrible the mobile version of your site is.

SSL
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is an important way to show visitors that your website is secure. SSL is technology that establishes an encrypted link between a web server (where your website lives) and a browser (the vehicle that gets people there). The encrypted link makes sure that any data passed from the visitor to your site is and will remain private.
SSL creates a pathway for your visitors to search your site, purchase things like memberships or publications and share information safely. You should especially consider it if your website requires login to a members-only portal. The internet is swamped with bots scouring websites for unprotected password pages so they can add unwanted content, or delete it all together.

Getting an SSL is a standard and straight-forward procedure for any IT team. Your association should work with your web developer or the IT person directly to get this set up as soon as possible. This is a great way to build trust with visitors and show them that you’re aware of the potential dangers of sharing data. It’s just one more way to show them you care about them and their valuable financial and personal data.

 

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I like to watch Tara Hunt’s Truly Social series on YouTube. She did an episode on 5 Types of YouTube Videos Brands Should Make. It gave me pause.

One of my ongoing responsibilities here at AMPED Association Management is to produce regular publications for some of our clients. When a new issue is dropped, we announce it, with content highlights, across our various social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and the client’s online community.

These promotional announcements used to be text-only, and perhaps a little text-heavy. We’ve begun including an image, often of a staff member reading or presenting the new issue. We try to make sure the image is fun and engaging, and helps to put a personal face on the client association. Sometimes, we do video announcements that similarly feature a staff member presenting the publication and running through content highlights. Organic and engaging? Yes! But, the ideas in Tara’s video up the entertainment value and do so while keeping the process easy and the tone light. After watching the video, I have been thinking about different ways to apply many of these formats to benefit our clients.

One of Tara’s suggested format types, “Hauls,” reminded me of the “What’s in your bag” feature I sometimes see in magazines, where they lay out what a certain socialite is supposedly carrying around in her tote bag. I thought this might make a fun publication announcement:

The bottom line is that we want to provide content that members will find valuable, and that will cement our client’s position as an important source of information for their members. And, we want members to find our social presence entertaining. If your content is entertaining, your audience will like it, comment on it and share it. Their connections will then see it. And, they’ll all find themselves compelled to return later to see what’s new, building their personal connection to your association.

I look forward to the day when a member lets us know that they look forward to an upcoming magazine issue with anticipation, excited to see how we announce its release.

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