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Marcoms Madness! : Three communications basics to get right today with tips and tools to make it easy

I have an open door policy here at GridAKL, which means on any given day I could be passing on a press contact, helping someone decide which social media management platform to use (ps – I really like Buffer), setting up someone’s Instagram with them, or proofing some copy.  There are a group of topics of which I get asked about all the time, and the questions are nearly always the same: ‘You’re a photographer, how do I get a photographer to take images for us that look like ‘us’?’, ‘I have a new startup, it’s really really new and I want a really easy way for people to get in contact with us, but I’m not sure I want a whole website’, or ‘how do I get started on our social media plan? We don’t have a dedicated communications person’…

Many more of the questions are around those topics or feed into them, so I thought instead of sharing my answers with each of you individually, I’d share them on a bigger scale in a monthly feature on the GridAKL blog called Marcoms Madness! This month we are tackling the very basics of imagery, websites and social media. Next month we will be talking press releases. Have questions? Reach out to me, or let us know in the comment section below.

1. Imagery, photography and the need for humans to see who you are
Humans like pictures, which is probably why tweets, facebook posts, blog posts etc. get much more engagement when there is an image. On twitter alone, you can get a 150% increase in engagement by using an image. Curating graphics for social posts, and engaging imagery for blogs and your website should be a focus of anyone with a content generation/communications aim.

Where to start:
‘I have no images and I have no idea where to start’… Sit down with your team and figure out the key communications channels you will be using imagery in, and try and list some possible purposes. Job adverts? These will need images of your team (or at least a group of humans that could be your team) working happily, whilst an ‘about us’ page on your website could contain more personal style images of your team possibly at an away day, or work function. When you have a basic list of photo needs, break them into three lists – ones you can totally take yourself, ones you want to get a photographer in to do, and ones you can source through stock imagery.  Also look for spaces where there could be cross over, a photo for the front page of your website could be used for your twitter and facebook banners also minimising any cost related to stock photography or photographers time. Speaking of photographers, don’t be afraid to reach out to students who will be needing experience and portfolio work and will enable your photography budget to stretch a little further.

Before booking your photographer, research the type of look and feel you want your photography to evoke, put these together in a mood board (or just save a bunch of JPGs) to give clarity to everyone about the united look and feel all your images should have. 

‘I have images, but how do I make them more graphically interesting’ … Startups and small businesses with small teams can not always afford a graphics person (or the associated software). If you are in that category, web services allow you to do basic edits, re-sizing and collages easily. Some also have word features, allowing you to place call to actions over your images for use on Twitter or Facebook. My pick of the bunch is which boasts basic image editing and collage creation for free, with some of its ‘stickers’ and ‘filters’ availiable via paid subscription.

2. Websites : Get one (that does not suck)
Ditch the overcomplicated website designs, if you are in startup maybe ditch the dev altogether. The most important thing is having something that a) describes the who, the what and the why of your business and b) is simple enough that if any of the aforementioned things change you will change your offering online. Whilst you may be drawn to a super sexy website, you should do so knowing that the Mac Pro website is gorgeous and also possibly the most annoying, laggy, terrible website ever (yes, even your heroes get it wrong).

Where to start
‘I have no website, but what I’m taking it from this is that my current FB solution is not a good one?’ In a word – no. When in doubt, adopt a one page website, services like make this easy, giving you a guide on best practice and handling everthing from custom domains to SEO. For a gruntier solution (but also easy/paint by numbers) head for something like Squarespace. Or work with the joy that is WordPress, of which there is a vibrant community of wranglers (I’ve worked with this one before).

‘I’m using a dev, but not sure where to start’: Get your communications basics (who/what/why/offer/pricing/contact) and an idea of the outcome you want (sales/brand visibility/pitching tool) in a document and then have a look around at what your competitors are doing. Do they offer quotes from clients? Do they have a blog? Do they have video on their front page? Create a list of features from your competitors websites that you in an ideal situation would like to include in your website (noting any awesome UX) and then rank these in importance, ditching anything that does not actually fit the bigger picture. Put this together with a list of everything that isn’t working with your current website – all BEFORE you go into your dev/designer. Essentially these are the building blocks for your brief, and are the pieces of information you need to decide on important things like user types and thus, user design.

‘What about SEO and all that stuff’: Search engine optimisation, copy planning and even whether you should (or should not) be using Youtube are all important. We will touch base on all these questions in a later blog post, however in the meantime a little light reading or workshop or two is not a bad idea. Local Auckland agency Creative Agency Secrets are pairing with Blogging Concentrated to pull together workshops across NZ aimed to develop skills to empower you to get better results from your website. For more details on these click here

3. Don’t overextend yourself in social media
Social media is oft held up as a holy grail of ‘free’ advertising, without the acknowledgement that it takes a lot of time to create vibrant and active communities of users/potential users. When you are in #startup mode, with a small team and a lot to do, time is the one thing you can’t afford to waste. This in mind, choose your channels wisely. Weigh up the channel against the demographic of your product/service, the strengths of your team, and the time you have to devote to it. How do you know what channels deserve your time? Read below.

Where to start:
1/ Research the demographics for each channel. There are plentiful posts about this all over the interwebs but you can’t really go past buffer. 2/ Choose 1-2 channels and do them well, rather than spread yourself thin and underperform all over the place – in the wise words of Ron Swanson ‘Don’t half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing’. 3/ Be honest about how much time you have to devote to this, and then make a plan accordingly, assigning roles and noting posting frequency in a content calendar. 4/ Establish a reporting methodology and put it in place from the get-go. Here at GridAKL we measure metrics like engagement with content (replies/RTs) and engagement with links (click throughs/time on page). Having these measurements allows you to see at a glance where your social plans need more tinkering.

Anya is the Brand & Communications Co-ordinator here at GridAKL who is passionate about sharing skills and lessons. If you have a skill you want to share with our GridAKL audience or wish to write about for GridAKL then get in contact with her through our contact page.