Thursday, October 23, 2014

Content: Why Project Management is so Important

 
Let’s be honest: A career in digital is not for the faint of heart. While you may not be slaying dragons and capturing unicorns, our jobs often feel like a slogfest through political complications, bureaucratic objections and a complete lack of education.

So what’s a digital strategy wizard to do? How do you fight for your right to party at the end of a successful (on time and on budget) digital project?

 

Make the Beastie Boys Proud


If you’re running a web, app or portal project, you need a project manager. Often the most overlooked role on a team (delegated to creatives who are busy managing creative aspects, or managers who are busy managing others and don’t have the time) project managers can and will make your life simpler. At Aha Media, we have two dedicated project managers who manage writers, deadlines and deliverables.
 
Last week, I was privileged to deliver a breakout session at the Digital PM Summit in Austin, TX. Called “How Not to Let Content Set your Hair on Fire,” I talked about our experiences at Aha Media with creating content and content strategies for clients like Children’s National Medical Center, Time, Inc. and Johns Hopkins University. Working on hundreds of websites, portal projects and apps gives us a really clear understanding of how to project manage a digital project—from the content angle, of course! Check out the slides.
 
Here are 7 strategies that will make you successful at running content projects:

  1. Pick the right type of content strategist or professional. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where I was told the client needed a content strategist, and what they really needed was a writer. Or, the other way around. So make sure the content professionals you have working on a project have the experience and knowledge they need to. There are editorial and brand content strategists and there are technical content strategists. Talk to the content professional you are working with to make sure he or she understands the needs of the project and how content will play a role.

  2. Define clear roles and responsibilities. Make sure the content professionals understand their roles. Content people are pretty used to managing projects on their own, so when you have a PM, make sure they understand how he or she will help define roles and success.

  3. Identify a scheduler. At Aha Media, we sometimes have to coordinate more than 50 stakeholder interviews for hundreds of pages of content. Enter Marlie Brill, our dedicated scheduler. Her job is to make sure that our writers meet with those stakeholders to get the information they need to create juicy content that converts your users to paid customers. She also ensures that edits happen in a timely and efficient manner and that approvals are documented, in case something comes up later.

  4. Weekly meetings about content ONLY. There are so many meetings on a digital project. Having a separate meeting about content may seem like too much, but trust us, it will save you time in the end. For our work with Time, Inc., we had weekly meetings between our PM and client just about content, so they could work out any kinks. If there were any questions for designers, they were forwarded to them immediately after those meetings and sometimes the designers joined the call! It was an important way to write close to a 100 pages of content in just 10 weeks.

  5. Be aggressive about editing and approval timelines. Let people know when you are going to expect things from them, and what will happen if projects fall into a yellow or red light situation.

  6. Define collaboration; not technology. Basecamp is a tool, as is Google Hangout, Trello or any other form of collaboration software. Collaboration is not having those tools; it’s getting people together to solve problems. Make sure the technologies help you do that. They may help shape interactions but they don’t define them.

  7. Get in the same space. We always tell our writers, “There aren’t extra points if you guess.” Pick up the phone, ask the question, get the right answer. With content, there are thousands of details, it’s important to get them all right.


Enjoy the SlideShare and definitely let us know if any of these tips help you as a PM on content projects.
 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

7 Tips for Successfully Engaging Seniors Online


Don’t miss out on opportunities to reach senior audiences online. Given this age group has 47 times the net worth of households headed by those 35 and older, engaging senior audiences could be very beneficial to your brand.
 
The key to success is understanding who is online and how their behaviors differ from other audiences. Seniors are more likely to use a tablet or e-reader than a smartphone. Younger, high-income, well-educated seniors are more likely to be online than seniors over the age of 75 and those with lower income and education levels.
 
What’s most intriguing about seniors are the ways in which they’re engaging online. Seniors tend to be more concerned than the average consumer about security, lifestyle and family relationships, and we’re seeing the same focus online. This plays out on the web in some unexpected ways.
 
Contrary to popular thinking, seniors are actually embracing social media in increasing numbers. They’re using Facebook to reconnect with old friends and keep up with their children and grandchildren’s interests. This is especially important to seniors with limited mobility who see social media as a “life line” to the outside world.

 Here are seven tips to help you successfully engage senior audiences online:

1.     Adopt a senior-centric strategy: Because seniors’ online habits are so different, a one-size-fits all strategy won’t work. Create separate social media accounts and develop targeted content based on their interests.

2.     More than just the facts: When talking about your brand, go beyond features and benefits and talk about what you can do for older customers. What needs can you help meet or problems can you solve?

3.     Tell a story: Talk with current customers about their experience with your brand and share their stories. Storytelling and sharing life experiences can help seniors connect with your brand in a more authentic way.

4.     Meet them where they are: According to AARP, seniors are high adopters when it comes to Facebook, Yahoo and YouTube. Other studies show very low adoption levels for Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

5.     A different kind of user-friendly: Make your website senior friendly by using a simple interface and be sure to include features such as audio playback. Seniors are fearful of losing their place online. Consider making your pages longer when possible so that they don’t have to click around. Also, make it very clear when a link takes them to a different site.

6.     Easy on the eyes: Use a simple font style that is appropriately sized (12 to 15 points) and provide enough color contrast between your background and text. Make sure your content printer friendly; many seniors find it easier to read from a printed page than a screen.

7.     Reputation matters: Help your online reputation along by encouraging user comments. Seniors seek out and take great comfort in reading comments from their virtual peers. Capturing details such as names, ages and locations will lend credibility this content.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

5 Best Interactive Infographics


It’s no wonder that information graphics, or infographics, have become increasingly popular online. 65% of us are visual learners according to the Social Science Research Network. When created right, it allows those of us who are visual learners to digest information quickly and clearly.


An exciting development in infographics is interactive infographics. When a lot of information needs to be condensed into one graphic the interactive infographic gives you the opportunity to engage your users without overwhelming them. Here are a few infographics from different genres that we love:


1.     How Search Works

Leave it to Google to figure out an awesome way to teach us how those tiny little spiders inside our computer works. Love the stat at the bottom that tells you how many searches were performed while you were on the page. 




Learn interesting facts about major market bubbles that occurred over the past few centuries across the world. The Wall Street Journal creatively designed the infographic in bubbles of pictures and information. 




The New York Times allows you to create a data-driven version of your family and see how many households exist similar to yours. You can also see what percentage that makes up of all households, various demographics, household incomes and how history has changed over time.




Nobody wants to read about diseases, especially when there is a 1 in 3 chance that they already have it or are at risk at developing it. AmeriHealth (New Jersey) found a creative way to explain what diabetes is, how to prevent it and ways to manage it. They really get the message across on the “RATE” tab that displays how many diabetes related deaths occur annually.





Every college football fan can have a field day with this infographic. Choosing from the 50 school logos, you can find out as may stats about your favorite recruits to fill a fantasy player’s bible.



How about you? Ever developed an interactive infographic? Or want to? What do you think of these examples?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Are Bigger Pictures Better?


 
When we moved into our house, I had so much fun decorating my 6-year-old’s room. We used Benjamin Moore’s Bunny Nose Pink. We bought her a white bunk bed and my mom sprang for Pottery Barn Kids bedding.

Now she’s 11. And she wants San Clemente teal for the walls, a silver rug and beanbags for her friends. Times change and we need to change with them—and nowhere have we seen that so apparently than with websites and responsive design.

As design changes, are we still making good decisions about what our customers need on our websites? AND: Why is a content person and the email newsletter of a writing firm talking about visual images?

 

Using Visual Images Wisely


Visual images are content. That means we must apply the same rules for content that is text:

1.   What is the priority of messaging?

2.   What do we need the customer to know?

3.   What do we want the customer to do?

There is much debate in the design community about the use of large “hero” images to create emotional punch and impact. Newer websites seem to be moving toward one very large image, or a series of large images in a carousel. Without the rules above applied to visual images, you will end up with content that hurts the customer experience instead of helping it. Jakob Nielsen recently published an article about how to keep image-focused design targeted on your customers’ needs.

If you are redesigning and picking new images, consider:
 

1.   Priority: What matters most to your customers on the page? Will a big image detract or anchor the information in a pleasing and findable format? What matters most to you on the page? If it’s that call to action, then consider how your chosen image may detract or add.

2.   Use the right images: If you’re promoting a maternity ward, then images of moms and dads holding babies make sense.  If you’re promoting heart surgery, then think carefully about what types of images your patients may want to see.

3.   Keep everything balanced: A good designer is key here, as is a great content strategist. Ensure your teams understand the fundamentals of UX so they can weight words and images appropriately. The web is a visual medium, but at its heart it’s an interactive medium. People want to DO things. Make it easy for them! (Tweet this)


What are your visual design challenges? Email Ahava and let her know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

5 Tactics for Incorporating Readmissions Rates into Your Marketing



With the steepest penalties to date, this week marks the latest expansion of CMS’s HospitalReadmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). The good news is that readmission rates are actually decreasing for the first time since 2009. The timing couldn’t be better because consumers are starting to take notice. If you aren’t already talking about readmissions in your digital marketing efforts, now is a good time to start.

Shifts toward increased cost sharing and high deductible plans have piqued consumers’ interests in getting high quality care. In fact, high deductible plans are among the fastest growing form of health care coverage. With average out of pocket costs near $4,000, according to a recent Washington Post story, consumers are more likely than ever to choose a hospital with a lower readmission rate.

 

5 Ways to Work Readmission Rates into Your Digital Strategy


As we approach open enrollment season, it’s the time of year when consumers are making big decisions about their care. Many are making open enrollment elections while others are considering elective procedures to help spend down their HSA balance. 

Shine a spotlight on your hospital’s low readmission rates with these tactics:


1.   Let them know you’re a top performer. Use digital media channels to talk about your admission rates. For example, add messaging about low readmissions when talking about surgical procedures on your website.

2.   Benchmarks are important. It can be difficult for consumers to understand what constitutes a “low” readmissions rate. Help them along by providing useful benchmarks such as state or national rates for hospitals of similar size.

3.   Show off what you do best. Quality of care is measured by more than just your readmissions rate, so be sure to talk about other metrics for which you have stellar performance, such as low complication rates and low MRSA rates. 

4.   Introduce your team. Use videos to introduce potential patients to your discharge planning nurses and support staff. Doing so can add warmth and reassurance to your messaging. 

5.   Don’t forget to cross-market. Use this opportunity to promote programs and services that help keep patients healthy after discharge such as home health, pharmacy and cardiac rehabilitation.

 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

4 Mobile Strategies for Your Business



Of the 58 percent of American adults who own smartphones, nearly half of them are using the devices exclusively as a primary search tool, according to a survey by Mobile Path to Purchase. The study also found that 60 percent of mobile users are completing purchases related to their mobile search.

Wouldn’t it be great if they were building loyalty with your brand? Mobile marketing can help you convert casual visitors to new customers.

It’s no secret that businesses have been slow to embrace mobile. A recent IDC survey of 400 IT decision makers found that 84 percent lacked a clear enterprise-led mobile strategy.

4 Tips to Kickstart Your Mobile Strategy


Security and compliance concerns can often trump fledgling mobile efforts, but with stiff competition for new customers, those willing to take the plunge are likely to be rewarded.

Here are four strategies to help get you started:
 
  1. Optimize the mobile-friendliness of your website. Thanks to responsive design, you don’t need a separate mobile website. However, you should customize your content for different screen users. Mobile users are more likely than desktop users to be looking for phone numbers and directions. Make these features easy to find.
  2. Remain top of mind with SMS marketing (text messages). Unlike email, customers only opt-in to receive SMS updates from companies they want to connect with. Even better, SMS is far more effective than email. A recent study shows that 98 percent percent of texts are read compared to just 22 percent of emails. The click through rate of texts is 19 percent compared to just 4 percent of emails.
  3. Use Quick Response (QR) Codes. QR codes are a great way to bridge print marketing with digital. Use them on direct mail pieces and print advertising to help users quickly access your website. QR codes are simple to make and you can link them to any web page or phone number. 
  4. Reach tablet users with video content. Mobile users are much more likely to click and view videos than desktop users. Use video to share product updates or introduce a subject matter expert. These videos can play an important part in “breaking the ice” with potential customers who don’t know your brand.   
Want to learn more? Check out:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Web Writing and Information Architecture: Why it Matters


 
Recently someone asked us, “If you’re just the copywriters, then why do you need to understand the information architecture?”
Whoops.
That person just revealed that he doesn’t know much about writing for the web.

But you do. So below, I’m going to explain why information architecture (or IA) is so important for providing amazing, convincing content.

 

Why IA Matters


We all know that people don’t move through a website the way they do through a document. A document is a linear experience. The web was designed to be a “choose your own adventure” experience, surfing through pages, jumping through links.  (Tweet this!)

If you want your potential customers to feel gratified while using your website, you must organize your content according to their thought processes. Content needs to lead people through a process that makes sense to them; otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

That is why the expertise we bring to content projects starts with your information architecture. The IA is a representation of the way your pages are organized, what buckets they fit into and the choices readers make as they swing through your site. If the organization of the content makes sense to them, they will register, or call or make an appointment to complete your site’s call to action.

If it doesn’t?

You’ve lost them.

Sometimes we write projects and the IA is locked. That means we have to use pre-determined organization and labels for pages. We know how to do that as well. But we have the most fun when we work with information architects and user experience designers to name overall buckets and pages properly and according to organic SEO practices. We create the best user experience when that happens.

And the best user experience is a win-win all around.

Want your content to be organized and fit together for your users? Hire copywriters—no, I’m sorry—web writers who understand IA.