Finding Your Creative Confidence
Have you ever been told you that you weren’t creative?
Maybe it was an art teacher you had in 6th grade who shook her head in pity when she reviewed your work, or a classmate who made fun, or possibly even an old boss who told you, “stick to your day job.” Whatever it was, being told we aren’t creative can scar us for life. It instills the kind of fear that makes us hesitant to do anything outside the box or raise our hand when we have an idea (even a great one!).
A lot of us have stories like that, which is why companies and individuals often assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of those “creative types.” But in their book Creative Confidence, authors David Kelley, IDEO founder and Stanford d.School creator, and his brother Tom Kelley, IDEO partner and author of The Art of Innovation, show that each and every one of us is creative.
Myth: Being creative is a fixed trait you are born with, like having brown or blue eyes. It is a rare gift to be enjoyed by the lucky few.
Fact: We are all creative. Creative Confidence is like a muscle—it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience. Creativity comes into play whenever you have the opportunity to generate new ideas, solutions or approaches, and it is one of our most precious resources.
In the world of public relations, we must be creative every day. How do we create news for a client when they have no news? How do we transform something mundane into something interesting? How can we get our clients into the conversations they want to be in and into the headlines of the publications their buyers read?
Here at Zer0 to 5ive, we may not all be painters, musicians, or culinary mavens (although some of us are pretty darned good in the kitchen), but experienced public relations professionals know that what we do is not an exact science—PR is an art form. What works in one situation may not work in another, and what worked last year (frustratingly) may not work this year. It takes practice, trial and error, which is why people outside our field often struggle to understand what we do. Many chalk it up to magic, spin, or just being naturally persuasive. Although a little salesmanship may come into play, being creative in PR is a skill that we all have developed through hard work, many rejections and lots and lots of practice.
The next time you need to “find” your creative confidence, look to these tips offered by Tom and David Kelley in their book:
- Choose creativity: The first step is to decide you want to be creative.
- Think like a traveler: Like a visitor to a foreign land, try turning fresh eyes on your surroundings, no matter how mundane or familiar. Expose yourself to new ideas, experiences and approaches.
- Engage relaxed attention: Flashes of insight often come when your mind is relaxed and not focused on completing a specific task, allowing the mind to make new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.
- Empathize with your end user: You come up with more innovative ideas when you better understand the needs and context of the people you are creating solutions for.
- Do observations in the field: If you observe others the same way an anthropologist would, you might discover new opportunities hidden in plain sight.
- Ask questions, starting with why: A series of “why” questions can brush past surface details and get to the heart of the matter. For example, if you ask someone why they are still using a fading technology (think flip phones), the answers might have more to do with psychology than practicality.
- Reframe challenges: Sometimes, the first step toward a great solution is to reframe the question. Starting from a different point of view can help you get to the essence of the problem.
- Build a creative support network: Creativity can flow more easily and be more fun when you have others to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of.
A little creative confidence can go a long way. You just need to remember that everyone has the innate potential to be creative. If you keep flexing the muscles of your imagination, you can be as creative as Picasso, no matter what your 6th grade teacher said!
What does it mean to be creative? Do you always need to think outside the box, or can you be creative within a set of rules you need to abide by? Are you born creative, or is it a learned skill?
In PR, you have to be creative much of the time, which can be scary to some. Ed Catmull explains in his book, Creativity, Inc., that it’s okay to be scared if you learn to overcome it. Being creative and innovative, as he describes it, is an earned right. You need to fail early, fail fast, and fail fearlessly. Every early failure is a door that closes on future wasted time, allowing you to focus on the opportunities that have real potential.
Catmull, who was one of the co-founders of Pixar Animation Studios, clearly knows how to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of successful innovation. These “dark forces,” as he calls them, flourish in fear—fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of change, fear of others. Fear kills innovation. Being able to stand up to fear is what makes a company and an individual more creative and more innovative.
With Catmull’s concept of “fearless innovation” in mind, here are five different ways to apply his guiding principles to public relations:
- Get Out of Your Comfort Zone: You can’t be truly innovative if you keep doing the same thing over and over again. Being creative requires you to try new things, even if you fail. Failure will make your future ideas and approaches better. When you’re writing a pitch, think outside the box. This will lead to more creative pitches, which in turn can lead to better outcomes.
- Great Minds: Surround yourself with a great team, a team that might have different viewpoints than your own. If you can respect these differences in opinions, your collective creativity will be stronger for it. In PR, you shouldn’t go at it alone, because you’ll be at risk of becoming dry. Being on a team that challenges you to be better, or come up with the best pitch for a certain topic or press release, will help you grow as a person and as a PR professional.
- Be Honest: You should encourage others around you to be honest about your work. If you’re not completely candid about your team’s work, then your final product won’t be the best it can be. In PR, you and your team should provide constructive criticism, so that the ultimate pitch or great byline topic can go out the door
- Team Leads: If you lead a team, you should listen to others while keeping control. You should also fail with your team, grow as a group, and succeed as one powerful unit. This is especially true in public relations for account leads. Retaining control while allowing your team to grow as PR professionals is essential to your team’s success. When not pitching “mission critical” news, let your team experiment and see where it takes you.
- Opportunity: PR can be random – a winning pitch that doesn’t deliver, or a weird, but interesting pitch that captures the imagination in a top-tier editor. You should embrace this unreliability, as some of the best innovations happen because of a curveball. If you receive a negative comment from a customer on an article, don’t see it as a PR nightmare. View it as an opportunity! Your reply has the opportunity to engage, shed light on the topic, get people to think in news ways, or just let readers know that you are listening to their feedback.
There is no set definition on how to be creative, and every profession presents different opportunities to show your creativity. In PR, it might mean a great pitch or an awesome byline. In teaching, it might mean finding creative ways to engage your students. However, one thing is true for all forms of creativity: Don’t be afraid to fail, try out new ideas or ask for feedback – success is just around the corner!
By Jim Dougherty
Video as a Rising Social Medium
According to Cisco, video will account for 69% of all consumer traffic by 2017. Both current statistics and trend predictions like this one indicate video’s rapid rise as a social medium. It’s clear that marketers need to include it in their content strategy in order to provide maximum exposure for their businesses.
What Does Video Bring to a Content Marketing Strategy?
- Maximized engagement
- Cross-device targeting
- Brand authenticity and communication on a human level
- Cross-promotion with digital marketing initiatives
Even Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Leverage Video Marketing
One of the factors fueling video’s growing popularity is the decrease in production costs. With the advent of video cameras on mobile phones and desktops, wearable cameras like GoPros, and single-camera, documentary-style footage, great videos can be made at a fraction of budgets deemed necessary just 5 years ago.
With a lowered barrier to entry, video isn’t just for enterprise businesses with enterprise budgets. In fact, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated that over 1.5 million small businesses posted video on Facebook in the month of September alone in 2015.
When the opportunity for relevant video content presents itself, companies of all sizes should seize it. Here’s an example of how Zer0 to 5ive recently helped a client take advantage of such an opportunity to create a compelling video series.
Carnegie Mellon University: The Spotlight Series
Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science (CMU SCS) wished to showcase their innovative programs and visionary research to attract the world’s top undergraduates, graduates and faculty. CMU SCS faculty is teaching the next generation of computer scientists, working with industry leaders, developing new forms of AI, and building care-giving robots to best learn how to help people in need. In highlighting these impressive endeavors, the Spotlight Series was born.
Tips on How to Promote and Cross-Promote Video Content
After post-production, how can a marketer best promote and cross-promote video content online? Author Andrew Macarthy provides the following tips in his bestseller, 500 Social Media Marketing Tips.
Tips for Facebook
- Because videos auto-play on silent, hook viewers with a striking visual within the first 3 seconds
- Upload SRT caption files with your video to broadcast your message even while muted
- Keep your video to approximately 30 seconds for optimum viewer engagement
- Upload video to Facebook natively, as opposed to sharing it from YouTube, in order to increase reach
- Via the Video tab, organize your videos into playlists, tag people, and add descriptive labels
Tips for YouTube
- Keep your video to approximately 3 minutes for optimum viewer engagement
- Include keywords at the front of your video title and branding at the end
- Tag your video with keywords and keyword phrases in quotations
- Take advantage of YouTube’s interactive cards, the evolution of annotations
- If you have a series of videos, add all of them to a dedicated playlist so they run continuously and indicate the series name in the title of each video
Tips for Cross-Promotion
- Embed video in blog posts
- Embed a YouTube Subscribe channel widget on your website, which is also a way to advertise your video content and YouTube activity
- Tweet about your video with relevant hashtags, making sure to include “Video:” before the title
- Comment on other videos your audience is watching to increase your brand awareness
Now may be a great time for you to start considering video if you haven’t already. The benefits will continue to grow as demand rapidly increases, so why not take the leap now? You can start small and build up to a more robust content plan as your skills improve and as you get feedback from your prospects and customers.
The web is an ever-evolving platform. For a business to appear credible as well as functional for their users, staying on-trend is imperative. Great web design also plays a major factor in engaging viewers enough to read more about the company’s product or service and enticing them to take further action, whether that means getting in touch or downloading a piece of useful information.
2016 web design trends stem from various things, but the main idea being that many users are visiting a website on their mobile device prior to viewing the site on their desktop or laptop. In response to this, the design world has taken a mobile-first approach and many of the trends for this year are a direct response to the aforementioned idea.
Trend 1. Flat Design paired with Minimalism
Flat design has been a major trend for the past couple of years, but pairing it with minimalistic design is the update for 2016. Since users are viewing sites more and more on the go, paring down elements and simplifying content to the most important pieces is what will make a website most usable and most successful in generating interest and leads.
Examples of websites with great flat design and a minimalistic approach include:
Trend 2. Microinteractions / Animations
Interactivity on the web has long been a driver of user retention but until recently has it been done well. Thanks to technologies like HTML5 Canvas and CSS3 transitions and animations, businesses can showcase their unique offering through small interactions triggered by scrolls and clicks that not only engage the user but make the story of their offering much more visually appealing.
Examples of websites with some good use of microinteractions:
Zer0 to 5ive sites:
From around the web:
Trend 3. HD Visual Assets (Photography and Video)
Thanks to increased bandwidth and more browser support for HTML5 video, available to just about anyone with an internet or wi-fi connection, the use of large, full-screen, HD photos and video has become a major design trend for 2016. Pairing with the above two trends, HD photography makes for a fantastic user experience, which translates well to phones and tablets. Likewise, use of video for not only main banners but supporting content has become extremely common and doesn’t just support the mobile-first movement, but is also great for making search engines happy. Ties with social media websites along with proprietary footage make video a trend that is sure to stick around for a while.
Examples of websites with use of video and HD photography
Zer0 to 5ive Sites:
From around the web:
Other trends from 2015 that will continue to grow in 2016 include the use of bold, statement typography and use of illustration and iconography, which go along with the flat design and minimalistic trend.
These web design trends are not self-contained, sealed compartments. Dramatic typography works great on top of HD photos and videos. Immersive storytelling goes beautifully well together with custom typographic elements and colorful illustrations.
As the latest web standards keep gaining browser support, variety and uniqueness in design will be more noticeable on the web and only creativity and imagination is the limit to what you can do in the browser.
Below is a quick guide to some of the fundamentals that are key for every designer to know.
1. Consider the brand and target audience.
Whether you are creating a piece to compliment an existing company, rebranding, or building a business from scratch, it is always important to consider the brand. Think about what the company does and what message they want to evoke. Is the company a fun fashion brand or a serious law firm? Typefaces can either help or hinder this process.
A wealth management company, for example, wants to elicit the feeling of trust and give the client a sense of confidence. It may be hard to believe that a font has enough power to accomplish such feelings, but here is an example:
The first faux logo was created using the font face Calisto MT, designed in 1986 by Ron Carpenter. Arguably, there are plenty of other fonts that could have done the job, but Calisto MT does a sufficient job of creating a semblance of trust and reliability just through the appearance of the logo.
Here is the same company name, this time using the font Chalkduster, created by Apple in 2008. The Chalkduster font conjures more feelings of childlike silliness than it does confidence and dependability. This font would be better served as a font for a children’s book.
Much like heeding the brand, knowing the target audience plays a large role in font selection. A company may target different audiences at different times. There is an appropriate font to choose for every occasion that compliments the brand.
2. Choose a headline font with character.
Headline fonts can get away with a lot more “personality” than body copy fonts. Headlines are meant to stand out and garner attention. Below is an example:
Both example headlines (in ChunkFive Roman and Amble) work as headlines. However, the thickness and slab serif of the first font (ChunkFive Roman) helps to make it jump off the page and assigns a personality to the piece.
3. Select complimentary headline & body copy fonts.
It is just as important to find a font to pair with the headline or logo as it is to find the main brand font. Designers often select a workhorse font as the body copy font. A workhorse font works well with just about everything and succeeds at many different sizes. When mulling over a body copy font selection, it is consequential to consider the font styles used in the logo and headlines. A slab serif font like ChunkFive, designed by The League of Moveable Type, used in example 2, works well with a san serif font like Gotham, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in 2000, used as the greeked body copy also shown in example 2. To further demonstrate this point, below is another example:
In the first example Gotham is used as the headline font and Kepler Std is used as the body copy. Gotham works as the headline because the san serif workhorse style font pairs nicely with the serif body copy.
In the second example, with Gotham as the headline font, the chunkfive body copy font draws too much attention away from the main headline. The two fonts compete with each other for attention.
4. Use size to create hierarchy.
Almost any font can be used as a headline if sized proportionately (whether or not any font SHOULD be used as a headline is another matter). The largest typeface on any given page or piece should be the information or title that is most important. Generally, the size should decrease as importance diminishes. If there are too many headlines or snippets of information that are the same size, they compete with one another, and the viewer does not know where to pay their attention.
5. Differentiate between web & print fonts.
Not all fonts are created equal! A font that is suitable for a webpage does not always translate well to paper or vice versa. A web font needs to be legible at many different sizes and translate well to a variety of devices. Many have also argued that serif style fonts are easier to read as printed materials and that san serif fonts are more legible on screen. A designer may choose a font that the brand should use for web purposes and a different font that should be used for printed materials.
Web fonts are made up of tiny squares rather than printed fonts, which are made up of tiny dots. A web font must either be a system font (basic font installed on all/most devices) or it must be hosted on a server. Even then, there are no guarantees that every viewer sees the same font in every browser. As a general rule, the more complicated a font is, the more likely there will be issues viewing it on screen unless it is part of an image.
By Lindsey Tabor, Graphic Designer
Zer0 to 5ive was awarded two silver 2014 Davey Awards for developing the South Sixteen website, http://www.southsixteen.com, and print brochure. With nearly 4,000 entries from across the US and around the world, the Davey Awards honors the finest creative work from the best small firms, agencies and companies worldwide.
From my experience, the number one way to make a web design and development project go smoothly is by having a good process in place. In an environment such as a client-focused agency, having a proven, thought-out process not only makes things run seamlessly for those working on the project, but it also reassures the client that their project is organized and the nuances of their unique project will be well-considered.
Here at Zer0 to 5ive, we have a very well defined, five-step process for web design and development. Each part of the process is not only individually important, but also creates a finished product that is a polished sum of its parts. The process is linear and cumulative. Once step 1 is complete, we move to step 2, and so forth. Probably the most notable step is the one that includes discovery and planning. These foundational items set the tone for the project and everything going forward is built from there.
Foundational elements like developing a site map and wireframe logically come prior to design. These baseline pieces support creative decisions moving forward, much as a blueprint does when building a home. Once a site design is fleshed out, attention may be paid to confirming and implementing specific flows and functionality on various pages, and then developing content around that flow using SEO-friendly text.
Not until the design is approved should development begin. Development relies heavily on pre-designed templates and carefully chosen placement of things like navigation, sidebars, imagery and certain functionalities. It’s important to stick to development during development stages—design edits at this point in the project may set back the timeline and launch, and can potentially detract from the cohesiveness of the site.
A solid web design process puts clients at ease. Knowing what comes next, and that the methods you’ve chosen have worked in the past, allows them to trust that you’ll get the job done right and on time. While all web design projects vary, the basis of the process remains the same.
Many times, the client is unaware of many parts of the web design and development process, so having one can help them understand what is needed from them, what will be delivered to them and the timeline that the project will follow. It also sets milestones and smaller goals that help create a sense of accomplishment, a positive feeling when working on any project.
Most importantly, a good web design process helps turn the focus to the results of the project itself. With all the parts and pieces flowing nicely in the background, more time can be spent on content, creative design and usability best practices – and ultimately meeting the goal of the site itself. A good process goes unnoticed so that the creativity of the design and content can shine, which keeps clients coming back for more!
Post by Lauren Innella
Zer0 to 5ive Principal and Creative Director
We are proud to announce that Zer0 to 5ive has been awarded a 2012 Davey Award for developing the Active Risk website: www.ActiveRisk.com.
The Davey Awards are international creative awards focused exclusively on honoring outstanding creative work from the best small firms worldwide. The 2012 Davey Awards received nearly 4,000 entries from ad agencies, interactive agencies, production firms, in-house creative professionals, graphic designers, design firms and public relations firms.
The Davey is judged by the International Academy of the Visual Arts, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals, including executives from organizations such as Condè Nast, Michael Kors Inc., Disney, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Microsoft, HBO, MTV, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Victoria’s Secret, Howcast and many more.
As sweet as the international recognition of our work is, it is even more satisfying to know that we helped our client to reach their goal. During one of our first website meetings with the team at Active Risk, they told us, “We want an award-winning website.” Zer0 to 5ive is very proud to say, “We delivered!”
HTML email marketing campaigns are a great way to engage existing customers, partners or new prospects with your brand. They are also one of the most cost-effective channels to promote an event, share content, or highlight just about anything your audience will find intriguing.
However, there is much more that goes into a great email marketing campaign than just blasting out some copy and photos to a list – it takes strategic thinking, timeliness and creativity.
Here are 10 tips to help you create a successful email campaign:
- Determine the objective of the email – it is important that before any creative is laid out or content is drafted that everyone truly understand the overall objective of the email campaign. For example: Who is the audience? What do we want them to do? How do we want to position the company? What is the purpose of the email? What results do we expect to get from this?
- Create a targeted list – once the audience for the campaign is finalized, you must develop a targeted list of recipients to maximize the success of your campaign. An email to people who do not have any interest in the topic of your campaign will immediately hit the trash bin and diminish your brand. Also, never add recipients to your email list who have not “opted in” to receive emails from your company, as this is a violation of anti-spam laws. (more…)
With myriad options available to reach your prospects, how do you give your message the best chance to succeed? Email has been the method of choice for many businesses, but its popularity has created a deluge of messages in your prospects’ inbox. Every Constant Contact commercial reminds your prospect of how easy and affordable it is to send emails…does that send the right message when you’re looking to stand out? They might feel that they are one of 10,000 recipients instead one that you really care about.
As a result, the pendulum is swinging back to the dimensional direct mail piece because of its ability to stand out and convey your message with maximum impact. By putting in the extra effort and budget to reach out to your top prospects, your business can put itself in the middle of their decision-making process, set the stage for additional telephone, email and direct mail outreach, and build a stronger brand.
There are several best practices that we like to blend into the execution of a dimensional direct mail to help maximize its effectiveness in creating conversions and building pipeline. (more…)