Sam Harrelson

Nonprofits, the smartphone, Facebook, and Google

Interesting thoughts here from the NY Times CEO on how they are shifting focus in relationship to Facebook and Google due to the smartphone revolution … much of this applies to how nonprofits and churches can do better marketing as well:

It’s about how you think about the product and what you’re trying to do and what is the value you’re giving to users. The areas of weakness in the publishing industry have been not having an audience strategy or sufficient brain space to think about how you serve your audience. It’s very easy to get tracked into assumptions about who your audience is. In legacy media, journalistic parameters were set by the geographical limitations. [The smartphone] changes everything. You need to reinvent journalism from the ground up with this device in mind, and then try and figure out what you’re going to do on a laptop and the physical newspaper.

via ‘Facebook is not transparent:’ NY Times CEO Mark Thompson says the platform’s role needs to be clearer – Digiday



Your logo and Instagram content

Good advice to consider here, particularly for nonprofits and churches on slimmer marketing budgets looking to make the most impact possible on social media…

What about content that doesn’t show a clear logo? What about companies with unbranded or non-logoed products? We’ve seen that a huge percentage of the content shared and posted on Pinterest is logo-free. It’s important to go beyond the logo to get the whole story of an image—how brand content is shared over time, who has shared that content and who has influence in getting it shared

via Brands Must Look Beyond the Logo to See the Big Picture – Adweek



What Does Your Brand Do?

Longevity and repetition are two of the hardest to use tools in a marketer’s toolbox, but also the most effective.

via Marketing at millennials won’t save your tired brand | The Drum

There are definitely some points in this post that I disagree with (importance of having a “famous” brand and working towards that being a goal for your organization for one), but this sentence did stick out to me as something that I need to emphasize with our clients more often.

We do lots of “strategic consulting” with non-profits and businesses that don’t necessarily have a large budget for branding considerations. It’s something that often gets overlooked in the process of thinking through a marketing plan. That can easily be seen by the poor quality of logos and branding material that most local or regional non-profits have. But these things can be done well on a tight budget.

As the economy has shifted and nonprofits (especially) are facing slimmer traditional sources of donations there, concepts such as “what does your logo tell people about your group, business or non-profit?” become valuable barometers for improvement whether you’re trying to sell a product or solicit a donation.

You don’t need to have a quality Nike swoosh or Apple apple or Coke wordmark to be successful, but thinking through what you’re presenting and what you’re trying to “do” with your logo, fonts, colors, and brand messaging can make a world of difference when done well.



Check Your Logo Against AI

 

Logo Rank is an AI system that understands logo design. It’s trained on a million+ logo images to give you tips and ideas. It can also be used to see if your designer took inspiration from stock icons.

via Logo Rank – Check your logo design with deep learning

Little more “machine learning” than “AI” but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, this is a pretty handy tool I’ll be using to convince a few clients that their logo might need an update.

Don’t get me started on church logos, btw…



The Importance of Getting Your Details Correct

 

My partner Merianna was preaching at a nearby church last month and she needed a time estimate for the drive that Sunday morning. We googled the church and got the address. While on the results page, I noticed their “Hours” stated they were closed. It was a Sunday. That felt… peculiar.

It wasn’t intentional, of course. It’s just a tiny detail that is easy to overlook. But when you only have, on average, about 3-5 seconds to “convert” someone to making a click or engaging with your page in some way, these tiny details add up.

We all like to pretend that we’re expert marketing strategists. We grimace at bad commercials, parse political campaign logos, and pretend to disregard those annoying Facebook video posts from mega-global sugar water makers. We tend to think we don’t need help with our marketing strategies, especially the online ones, because… anyone can create a Facebook Page or Twitter account or even website. It’s easy!

Right?

Well, yes.

But not really. Not if you want to spend your time doing what you’re good at and not making tiny mistakes that add up over time and actually do harm to your “brand” (and yes, we all have a brand whether we like to admit that or not). Seemingly trivial details such as having your Google Business information correct or your Webmaster settings correct for the best Google results or your Facebook Page details can be the deal breaker for someone deciding on whether to call or visit your business, church, nonprofit, etc.

Budget wisely, but keep in mind that doing so doesn’t mean cutting the corners by turning over your very important marketing details to a summer intern or someone who has a mobile phone and a Twitter account. Call us if you need help.



www.🍕💩.ws

linkmoji

Further confirming the notion that your website address really doesn’t matter that much anymore, I present linkmoji.

Enjoy.



Becoming Entreprenuerial In Your Profession

Earlier this year, my good friend Thomas (a PhD candidate and officiant of my marriage) wrote a very timely post about his decision to blog despite some who advised otherwise…

Why I Blog — Thomas J. Whitley: “Though many academics have resisted the move toward ‘branding,’ it has long been a part of academia. One’s credentials, what they’ve written, and where they’ve taught make up their brand and determine, to a large extent, who reads them, who assigns them, and who thinks of them for panel invitations and professional society nominations. Branding has only become more important with the ubiquity of information readily available on the internet.”

Whether you’re a teacher, preacher, business, nonprofit, politician, or insurance salesperson… you should blog.

“Giving away” your knowledge results in so many worthwhile returns.

Trust me.



Should You Use WordPress.com or Host Your Own WordPress Site?

I am often asked by Harrelson Agency clients and potential clients if they should use a WordPress.com site or have us build and host a WordPress site for them. Money is often a main concern, as you can pay $100 – 120 a year for a pretty solid WordPress.com site without much fuss. A hosted WordPress site can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in building costs, and more for hosting and programming. As with anything, discuss the costs upfront with the agency or company building your site if you go the self-hosted route.

There are advantages to the “set it and forget it” style of a WordPress.com website financially, but there are also a few other variables to consider if you’re looking to have a serous presence on the web and translate that into bigger goals for your company. Remember, WordPress started off as a blogging platform. While you can manipulate a WordPress.com site into a more “professional” looking business or church or group site, it’s not always easy depending on your needs and skill level.

If you do self host, you can use custom / commercial themes, plus all other free themes that exist. You can modify, customize, or do anything that you’d like with your site. With WordPress hosting, you’re limited to a set of free themes that exist in the theme repository. Also, you can’t modify the CSS or other codes within the theme. If you’re looking to customize the site with scripts and customizations (as an author / speaker / consultant / business etc) it’s definitely advantageous to be on your own server. This includes everything from being able to do custom embeds of media to accepting payments to contact forms etc.

Simply put, there are (often mission-critical) things you can’t do with WordPress hosted sites that you can do with a self-hosted site.

Plugins are also a big deal, especially as the web matures. You can upload any free, paid, or custom plugin that you want with a hosted site. This allows you to really maximize WordPress’ potential as a content management system and expand that functionality. With a WordPress.com site, you’re not allowed to upload any free, paid, or custom plugins. Everything from search engine optimization (especially needed in 2015) to handling social media sharing to newsletter delivery to some really cool media handling plugins to how your site displays posts etc are covered. Here are a few popular plugins, but I have a standard 10-15 that I typically install on a new site and highly recommend for flexibility and security and making WordPress more than just a blogging platform.

Of course, spending $99 once a year is a nice idea and provides a sense of regular expense if you’re looking into a WordPress.com site with ads turned off and a custom domain (and a little extra storage). There is a higher initial cost for a WordPress hosted site (typically anywhere from $2,000 to $35,000 for most group, church or business sites depending on many variables). However, the cost of a self-hosted WordPress site over the span of a few years evens out and you get a much “nicer” custom experience that is built around your own brand. This also frees you up from being shackled to whatever changes WordPress.com might or might not make as it evolves as a commercial arm of the larger WordPress ecosystem, as we’ve seen just this week … although the changes are all very positive this time. I’ve never had a client want to go back to something like a hosted service after they realize the options available and how the site “pays for itself” over time.

Maintenance is a very big concern for security and speed reasons these days, or at least it should be an absolute top priority. That does require that you keep your site updated, have backups, keep SPAM controlled and keeping your site optimized. That’s something we do for clients, of course. WordPress.com frees you up from that worry or need for maintenance, so that’s a plus for that side of things. However, like everything else, it’s a tradeoff between convenience and the ability to make something truly “your own” in terms of appearance and functionality.

The biggest point I always make when comparing what we can do with what WordPress.com hosting offers is that I believe you really cannot maximize the potential of your site / blog / online presence / long term branding unless you have access to the additional functionality of plugins and the ability to maintain custom modifications (and get down to the nitty gritty code based level allowing for you to make the site look and act like you’d like for it to). Being able to take payments, offer audio / video / text media downloads etc are all big benefits of what we offer with a self-hosted site, but the biggest benefit is that it’s “your” site and belongs to you, whatever may come down the road.



Small Business and Church Unwillingness to Be Personal

‘”We believe the new bars will inspire people to not only quickly identify their own symptoms and satisfy their hunger, but give them a new, fun way to call-out friends and family on who they become when they’re hungry, too,” says Snickers brand director Allison Miazga-Bedrick.”

Source: Snickers Swaps Out Its Brand Name for Hunger Symptoms on Painfully Honest Packaging | Adweek

Brand apathy” is a very real and serious issue for both large and small businesses, nonprofits, and churches looking to make a connection with varieties of demographics, community, consumers, and people.

It has been interesting to see Coca-Cola roll out their “Share a Coke with…” campaign and the various amounts of reception it has generated. I’d love to see those internal metrics on which names, which zip codes, and which demographics perform the best.

Motorola, Nutella, M&M’s, and Kleenex are among the larger companies that have jumped on the idea of using personalized packaging to increase brand engagement. Smaller companies, such as those in the wedding and service industry, have long used personalization as a marekting tool.

However, beyond using a first name and last name scheme on an email newsletter or a “personalized” letter in an offline mailing, many small businesses have yet to use the tools available to do more personalization despite the potential benefits.

I’m always surprised by clients or potential clients who are so strongly insistent on their brand identity (whether it be a logo or a particular style of packaging) that they are simply unwilling to even consider a form of personalization despite the metrics and data.

“Consumers” in 2015 and beyond are accustomed to the idea of personalization, partly because of large brands such as Coca-Cola, but mainly because of the web. If you’ve spent any time at all browsing, surfing, or buying online (and who hasn’t), you’ve certainly noticed personalized ads that follow you from Amazon to Facebook to Google to Huffington Post and back again. While we’re currently debating ad blocking and tracking in the nerdy sectors of the internet, there’s no doubt that the web has become full of trackers because they work. Granted, adtech hasn’t been the best steward of these tools, but there’s real benefit to using them ethically.

So why aren’t small businesses, churches, or nonprofits making more use of personalization online and offline?

I’d say it mostly has to do with the psychology of their leaders and an unwillingness to do better marketing through exploration.

“Talk, don’t listen … decide, don’t engage” sums up that mindset. That’s a mindset that will lead to organizational death. The Cluetrain Manifesto is old in web years, but still very applicable.

 



Logo redesigns that missed the mark

The foundation of any brand is its logo. As such, with every redesign, a brand risks alienating its core following, who then flock to social media to broadcast their disapproval.

But why do logo redesigns upset us so much? It all boils down to identity. People with strong connections to a brand tend to react negatively to redesigns, ultimately affecting their attitudes towards the brand as a whole.

Source: 10 logo redesigns that missed the (brand)mark

I’m a fan of Google’s redesign as well as AirBNB (despite their blatant copying of a previous mark). Nonetheless, logos and identity matter just as much now as in the glory days of print. With the advent and ease of expressing personal opinions, perhaps even more so.

Regardless, if you’re a business owner or decider, it’s important to take into account other design variables and not just your own personal tastes. That’s what people like me do for a living.