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Less is More (More or Less)

When it comes to video productions for digital media, many companies struggle with how long their message should be. I always say that, when deciding this, it’s best to put yourself in the viewers seat. How much information, based on the subject matter, do they really need to know? Will they be bored halfway through? You might find the subject of your business or your product interesting, but you are not making the video for you, you are making it for other people — and that’s a tough thing for a lot of people to separate. You may WANT others to be as excited about the content as you are, but the best solution is to always get to the point of the message you want to deliver. If you can’t capture someone’s attention within the first 15 seconds of your video, then you will lose most of your viewers. Don’t drag it out and don’t give too much information away so that there is no need for them to “Learn More” or whatever your call to action (CTA) may be.

If your message is about an event, then get them excited about the event! Show shots of what previous or similar events look like, give the highlights of what they can expect, and then end with a CTA like “Register today” or “Don’t miss out!”.

If your message is about a product, show the product and talk about the things that make it great or different. Again, get your viewers excited for what the product can do for them, but don’t start droning on about the product — I’m sure more information is sitting somewhere on a website where they can read about it at their leisure.

If your video is about your company, the same rules apply. Don’t pack in as much information as you can. You want them to call to learn more or visit your website or attend and upcoming event where they can meet you and ask questions. Leave them wanting more and then give them a way to get that information.

So how long should your video be? Well, that all depends. Facebook says that your best bet is to have an informational video that’s at least 3 minutes long, which is a little odd because, most people won’t sit for 3 minutes to watch a whole video. Actually, most people bail out after 15-30 seconds, which is why 15-30 second Social Media ads are sometimes the most effective way to get the information out.

If your content is really interesting and to the point, they may watch a longer video, but unless it’s some sort of Podcast or something that is news breaking, 3-5 minutes is really pushing it. If it’s something you are selling or information you need to push out, try to keep your video between 1.5-2 minutes long. Of course, this will take some restraint on your part, because you really want to tell the world everything about your [fill in the blank]. But statistics don’t lie. Longer is not necessarily better [that’s what he said]. Know your audience, put yourself in their seat so you can find the sweet spot of the perfect length of your video.

 

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Refreshing Your Personal Brand

8 months pregnant and painting

Painting at 8 months pregnant

Well folks, it’s been just over a year since what we thought would be a few weeks to “stop the spread” turned into a complete and utter disruption of our everyday lives. Many of us left our offices and set up temporary workstations in our homes, expecting to return to work in a short time. If you’re like me, spending all your waking hours within one place slowly started driving me crazy. After two months spent cooking elaborate meals and decadent pastries, I turned to the more productive task of home renovations.

New bedroom

My husband already owned our house when we met and hadn’t ever done much to improve its appearance. I hate bare walls and unpainted rooms so had slowly been redoing the rooms of our house and decorating the downstairs rooms but hadn’t ever changed the upstairs. We decided we needed to rip out all the carpeting on the stairs, the hallway and the bedrooms and wanted to install new flooring. The hallway walls were a terrible wood paneling and we agreed it just needed ripped out and drywall installed in its place. I was 7 months pregnant when we began this project so ripping out walls and old carpeting were a little beyond my capabilities. We hired one of our friends who is a contractor and wasn’t working due to the shutdown to help my husband do all the demo and drywall work. Originally, we planned to just paint the new hallway and one of the bedrooms for the nursery, but I got overly ambitious and talked my husband into letting me repaint all three bedrooms. I had never liked the upstairs of our house because of the old carpeting, wood paneling, and questionable paint jobs done by former roommates. Once we got the new drywall, flooring, and rooms painted it was such a transformation! I felt like I was living in an entirely new house that I loved. Tackling huge renovation projects while being 7-8 months pregnant isn’t something I’d recommend but changing a space you aren’t happy with is so worthwhile.

Since our major projects wrapped up, I have been focusing on smaller projects that are more manageable now that we have a baby, and both still work full-time. My home office has moved to our dining room now and since I spend so much time in there, I have been finding little ways to refresh the space. I recently found a “new to us” dining room set that I loved but hated the

Old and new upholstery

upholstery on the chairs, so I found new fabric to reupholster them for a quick and easy refresh. We replaced our ceiling fan light fixture that only half worked with a new fully functioning one.

 

Coffee/Wine Bar

Next, I put together a little coffee/wine bar on our sideboard because I am obsessed with coffee and love red wine. I am currently working on repainting our built-in liquor cabinet and bought new hardware to install on it. We are also working on hanging pictures and fun art in our hallway. I want to make a hanging wreath for our front door out of an old bicycle wheel. Fingers crossed I can also talk my husband into letting us renovate our kitchen and bathroom soon too!

 

Here are a few of my takeaways from my experiences that I hope inspire you to make the changes you’ve been daydreaming about.

 

 

• Never underestimate the impact small changes can make
• Loving your surroundings can help boost your mood and productivity
• When your skill set isn’t up to the challenge of creating your vision, ask for help from the experts
• Incorporate things you enjoy into your space
• Taking large projects can be daunting (especially at 8 months pregnant) but the results are so worth the effort

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The TikTok Takeover

With over 10 MILLION followers, Charli D’Amelio reigns as the Queen of TikTok

Just your resident Gen Z Apple Box employee here to discuss what the kids are up to these days: …it’s TikTok. The kids are obsessed with TikTok. And I, admittedly, am one of those kids.

This app, created as a platform for creating and sharing short videos, has literally taken the Gen Z/Millennial world by storm. The videos are driven by short ‘sounds’, which can be a part of a song or a VO taken out of context. Users then act, dance, or create a story based on elements of the ‘sound’. Once other creators put their own spin on the video to add to the trend, the sound associated goes viral at lightning speed.  If you aren’t interested in creating videos— do not fret. TikTok’s algorithm caters to visual consumption, serving videos and content that are similar to other videos that you have interacted with on the app.

I love decor and this account is one of my faves! The vibes are immaculate.

So sure, it’s mesmerizing. So mesmerizing, in fact, that millions of people (myself included) admit to watching two hours + of TikTok a night before going to bed. Why? Because TikTok is exactly what younger audiences are looking for in an app. It is no secret that Gen Z is addicted to technology; they are constantly scrolling, liking and sharing. TikTok is an overload of content that never stops. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, you will not see the same story or post twice. The videos are always new and the feed is endless, meaning you can stay on the app for hours without getting bored.

Like I mentioned above, I love decor. But I love fashion more. The fashion inspiration on TikTok is never ending.

An endless supply of content can create a lot of space for advertising, especially considering TikTok’s monthly audience is about 1 billion users. Brands are creating ads that are equivalent to native video ads, which appear in your feed and look like a regular TikTok but are actually sponsored ads. Current ads on the app range from clothing to food to software. Another way brands are advertising is with influencers. In typical Gen Z fashion, influencers are heavily integrated into the app, promoting products as you scroll through your “For You Page” (your personalized feed). There’s also some talk of implementing affiliate links on the app. Affiliate links are a win-win: the links would allow brands to harness the clout of influencers while also giving those influencers a cut of the sale. With its crazy following, advertisers have the opportunity to reach a huge audience (did I mention 1 billion users a month?). That sheer volume of users is enough to make someone consider advertising on TikTok.

 

[Image 1 Link: https://www.tiktok.com/@charlidamelio?lang=en]

[Image 2 Link: https://www.tiktok.com/@stayinginstudio/video/6925766358718319877?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6930310176985843206]

[Image 3 Link: https://www.tiktok.com/@cocobeau.tea/video/6925091258734054662?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6930310176985843206]

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Navigating Quarantine Through Cooking

It’s no secret that quarantine has put a damper on the world’s creativity. Personally, being limited to my home desk all day has proven to be trying. I’m often left uninspired and undermotivated to do even the smallest tasks. As a full-time graphic designer, this doesn’t cut it. I have found that my head needs to be in the right space to start and continue working throughout the day.

Something I have always found stimulating is taking a step away from work to be creative in other ways. Whether that’s painting, baking a tasty treat, or reading a book, it always seems to turn my rut into something productive. The end result doesn’t necessarily need to be “pretty” or useful; the act of being imaginative in a way that’s carefree allows complete creativity without the consequence of judgement.

Over the past year, I’ve given myself a quarantine project. I have combined two of my favorite hobbies, cooking and photography, to create blog-like food images. I love the process of finding a recipe, gathering all of my ingredients, then getting in the kitchen to create something delicious! And while I can’t share my yummy creations with the masses right now, what better way to share them than taking mouthwatering photographs?

I’m not biased to taking photos of any particular meal of the day. I love breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert equally. Although, my favorite time to take the photos is on a bright day around lunch time (mostly because my current lighting crew is the sun).

While I have learned a lot throughout my quarantine project, my #1 food photography tip would be not to try dressing and taking the photos while you’re hungry! I hope to share more of these photos with the world long after COVID has made its exit.

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The Year of the Video

2020 has been a year like none other. It’s crushed certain businesses and industries in unimaginable ways. One question I am constantly met with is – is video production dead since

the pandemic hit? From an outside view, the easy assumption is yes. However, our business has seen a huge spike in video marketing. And I’m here to outline some of those reasons.

Regardless of the state of the world, I probably don’t have to explain the vital role video plays in the marketing stratosphere. Audiences of all shapes and sizes love video. If I had the time, I’d make an infographics video for you to prove it, but unfortunately a bulleted list of credible statistics will have to do the trick. Close your eyes, picture some funky beat building, a flash of exciting animations and colors and — boom! OK, open your eyes again so you can read on.

• 85% of all internet users in the United States watched online video content monthly (Statista, 2018).
• 54% of consumers want to see more video content from a business they support (HubSpot, 2018).
• 87% of marketing professionals use video as a marketing tool (Wyzowl, 2019).
• 73% of consumers claim that they have been influenced by a brand’s social media video presence when making a purchasing decision (Animoto, 2018).
• 88% of video marketers are satisfied with the ROI of their video marketing efforts on social media (Animoto, 2018).
• Video marketers get 66% more qualified leads per year (Optinmonster, 2019).

If these statistics don’t influence your thinking, remember that nearly everyone is using video platforms as a means of communication right now. We are programmed and optimized for video consumption. And by “we”, I mean the “royal we” – aka, your audience.

Now, you might be thinking, “great, but how do I know what I need?” Well, the answer is: it depends.

Hopefully that’s where we can come in to help you. Right now, we’ve seen a surge in animated infographic videos, direct-to-camera zoom recordings, video-centric online events, motion-graphics/stock video mix, and, in some cases, repurposing older videos, if we can get our hands on the right material. If you’ve been thinking about adding video marketing to your arsenal or want to freshen up your current video offering, now may be a good time. There are ways to get creative, not crush your marketing budget, and serve up the digestible, interesting content your audience is looking to see.

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WFH: Writing from Home- How to Make the Most of your Writing During Lockdown

If you’re reading this, it means that you’ve almost made it through 2020—congrats! As relieving as that is however, it seems that COVID as well will be making the journey into 2021 with us, and As long as the virus keeps spreading, the creative and business world is going to be wearing out every virtual and social distancing method of doing work known to man. Now, I’m not necessarily complaining – there are few things I love more than writing an essay while still in my pajamas at 2pm. But an interesting thing is happening in the world of communications: despite this drastically-modernizing, virtual  way of conducting affairs, there is an element to this virtual thing that is quite old-fashioned. While a zoom meeting or a conference call is crucial here and there, most communications are really being done through: you guessed it, writing. Now, of course, we’re not exactly sitting up with our typewriters or our quills and ink, but the significance of eloquently written word truly does prove over and over again to be unmatched by technology- timeless, if you will. Whether it be emails, online marketing, or reworked-for-the-internet ad campaigns, copy is helping creatives to keep up with the great virtual shift. How else can you send a sensitive message, persuade a customer, or pitch an idea without ever actually looking your client in the eye? You paint a visual with your words.

Copy can be something very personal and special to your brand, and the actual essence of a piece is ultimately up to your discretion. However, even the best-intended words can become jumbled in the brain fog of screen fatigue and working from home. As someone who has relied on a computer for composition long before the pandemic, here are some tried and true tips to help you get the most out of your writing.

Stay inspired

Read a book, listen to a podcast, even watch TV. Just make sure you are doing some sort of activity involving words every day. It doesn’t matter if you can recite the dictionary front to back—a good writer is always taking in opportunities to observe the different ways that language can be manipulated to create a message. This is how you pick up on what voice, style, and tone you want to emulate in your work.

 

Get to sleep

Not only will a sleep-deprived brain leave your ideas disjointed and your words fuzzy, you may actually end up doing your best work when you’re asleep. Our brains are hard- wired to do all of the “cleanup” while we sleep, meaning that all of the thoughts, memories and ideas that we produce throughout the day get processed and “filed” at night. Often, in this process, we subconsciously draw the missing connection or the big idea that we were missing while we were awake. Keep a pen and paper by your bedside table – and, of course, making sure you’re getting a full 8 hours can’t hurt!

Know your ideal work environment

Pay attention to what your space feels like when you’re most productive – is it warm, cold, dimly lit or filled with natural light? If you know you work better in the morning, set your alarm, and keep the late nights to a minimum. If you can’t write listening to someone else talk in the background or you can’t possibly focus in a super quiet room, take this into account and turn off the TV or put on some white noise. Knowing yourself and what environments you thrive in are key to getting your thoughts out of your head and onto your paper (or your computer screen).

Snacks are key

A malnourished brain is just as useless as a sleep deprived one. Carbs, healthy fats, and veggies keep you thinking straight and clearly — a hungry brain will leave you jumbled, annoyed, and facing writers-block.

Start Simple

Let’s say that you have an idea or a general feeling you want to express, but just can’t get the words down correctly. Sometimes, getting back to basics can be the best way to get your thoughts back together. Write out a basic template of and intro, body, and conclusion, and then bullet out your two or three main points. As you go, keep notes of any language that might pop into your head, and fill this language in around your main points when the time is right. Not only will this help you get your ideas straight, but your readers will follow your thought process and be able to pick up on your main points with ease as well.

Write and rewrite… and rewrite

Always leave time to muddle over your work for a few days. Chances are, you’ll catch mistakes, rework awkward language, and sometimes, make the decision to reformat altogether. By embracing this part of the creative process, you will be able to present a piece that is truly professional-caliber and personal to the world, without fear of a typo or a missed punctuation.

Less is ALWAYS more

Put yourself in your readers shoes – if it wouldn’t grab your eye, doesn’t hold your attention, or puts you to sleep before you reach your call to action, imagine how your audience will feel. Cut the details and the frills and get straight to business—your readers will see you—and your product/business—as more genuine and straightforward this way, and their eyes will thank you as well.

Keep an eye out for slang or Jargon – who is your audience – role play

Take a tip from English Comp 101: Determine who your target audience is. If you are writing towards professional business people, you might not want to throw a ton of slang into your copy. If your marketing toward a general audience with many different types of people, avoid specialized jargon. Strive to really put yourself in your target’s shoes and think about how they would respond to your work – if it isn’t completely compatible, go back to the drawing board.

 

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FIVE WAYS TO BREAK CREATIVE BLOCK DURING A PANDEMIC

We’ve all been there. Staring at blank sketch pads or empty Word Docs, trying to fight through the inability to deliver something unique and inspiring; only to come up short, questioning our own abilities and purpose in life. Of course, I’m talking about creative block. Something that every creative goes through. And I mean EVERY creative. Most of the time, creative blocks can be solved by getting away from your desk and walking a few feet to another creative’s area to see what amazing things they are doing to get you motivated and inspired. But in a pandemic, when we are all working from home and your creative space is limited to your couch or small desk you have crammed in a corner of your house, the luxury of talking to another creative human isn’t at your fingertips like it once was. So, here are my five tips to breaking creative block during a pandemic:

  1. Go for a walk.

Ok, so this is an easy one. It’s usually number one on most lists and for good reason. Getting away from your workspace, taking in some fresh air and getting that heart rate up can do wonders for your mental health and head space. And since we are all confined to our own personal living spaces from the time we wake up until the time we fall asleep, it makes even more sense to get out of the house or apartment. Just be sure to mask-up when you do so.

Pro tip: If going for a walk is already a part of your daily routine, then try taking a different route. Maybe give yourself a small scavenger hunt to do on your walk-try counting the number of Pittsburgh themed bumper stickers you see on people’s cars as they pass by. If you’re going to physically get away from your workspace, then it only makes sense to mentally get away as well.

  1. Take a nap.

Every once and awhile the mind just gets overworked and needs to recharge, or sometimes you really took advantage of tip #1 and need to stare at the back of your eyelids for 20 minutes. What better place to take a nap then in your own environment, where you’re used to sawing logs anyway? Trust me, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to tackle all the creative challenges that are thrown your way.

  1. Think like a child.

Watching a child solve a problem or discover something new for the first time is quite sight to see. You can see that lightbulb go off and the astonishment in their eye. That’s because they are learning something new for the first time — with no previous life experience guiding their expectations. Seasoned creatives can learn a lot of from this.  Over the course of our careers, we’ve inherently built in short-cuts and habits that make our process faster and more efficient. And while that may work most of the time, it robs creatives and clients of exploring a truly creative idea and approach to solving a problem. Now, I know most of the people who are reading this are already pulling their hair out trying to manage kids and school at home; but try and be patient and put your observation cap on. So next time you’re up against that creative block, ask yourself: “Am I just going through motions like I always do, or am I looking at this problem like it’s something I’ve never seen before in my life?”

  1. Write a blog post.

This one requires a little bit of explanation. As a graphic designer and photographer, I come from the art side of the advertising business. I’m not a writer and have never claimed to be good with words. Writing a blog post is something I absolutely dread. That said, performing a task that’s not in your repertoire is a great way to exercise a different part of your brain. This goes for all creatives. On the flipside, if you’re a writer and have that creative block, try and design a logo. See, not that easy, is it??

  1. Delegate

If you’re a seasoned veteran, you’ll love this one. If all hope is lost and you’ve explored tips 1-4 and are still coming up empty, just delegate and pass off the project to a younger creative in the agency.  Don’t bother to tell them your struggles or avenues you’ve explored and failed. Let them figure it out and save the day. Just be sure to park your ego and the next time the whole team is on a Zoom call, be sure to call them out and give them the full credit they deserve.

 

 

 

 

 

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Utilize marketing software for LinkedIn to broaden outreach and improve quality of interaction

As the leading American business and employment-oriented online service, there is no better place to reach out for new business than on LinkedIn.

There are many ways to approach a marketing campaign or an outreach initiative on LinkedIn. Some methods are better than others and this depends on you or your company’s situation and objective.

Regardless of your circumstance, marketing software specifically designed for LinkedIn can assist your efforts through automation tools.

There are many software extensions that can be downloaded to streamline your outreach and improve the quality of contact.

Software capabilities include but are not limited to the ability to mass connect request with an attached message and mass message to your connections. Yes, you can mass message already on LinkedIn but only to current connections. Additionally, you can pay for Message Ads but that will cost you $00.80 per message. Another limitation of manual messaging is that you cannot personalize a mass message. With automation software, essential information such as name, position, company, etc. can be formulated into a message, so there is no need to manually change this yourself.

Mass messaging manually can lead to your account getting suspended for spam. If LinkedIn detects mass outreach your account will most likely be suspended without prior notice. With automated tools, you can delete pending connection requests and messages or put them on hold until a later date to avoid any type of suspension.

Other more notable capabilities include automated contact profile visits and automated endorsements of your connections’ skills.

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Looking Beyond COVID-19

Let’s face it, we’re all inundated with newsadvice and opinions about the COVID19 crisis, sharing and circulating the same conversations of uncertainty over and over again. While we continue to do our part in getting through this pandemic, we think it’s time to look past this shut-down and start to plan for the permanent changes that it will leave in its wake. For those of us in the marketing communications industry, here are just a few considerations to think about: 

  • Productivity will drop 
    • An increase in the remote workforce will have a negative effect on productivity. While technology has worked wonders, it comes with limitations and frustrations 
    • Workforce healthcare will become a greater priority. Improvements and new policies will be implemented at the expense of productivity. 
  • IT will expand 
    • Information technology, connectivitycybersecurity and cloud services will play an even greater role as more business is conducted remotely.    
  • Advertising budgets will grow 
    • As business conferences, off-sites and tradeshows shrink in both number and size, their budgets will get reallocated to proven marketing and advertising efforts.  
    • Travel will also be curtained, again freeing up funds for alternate ways to reach customers.                                      
    • Digital advertising will see an even greater rise in utility. 
    •  Video marketing will get a boost. If sales teams can’t reach out and touch customers in person, video might be the next best thing.
  • Business calendars will be reworked 
    • When tradeshows and other large conferences are rescheduled, they will be planned for the summer and fall, away from flu season and potential future epidemics. 
  • Video communications will evolve 
    • Training a remote workforce will require more video content, both as a real-time messaging vehicle and as pre-produced presentations. 
    • Television and digital video advertising will be driven by more direct messaging and creative motion graphics and less by high production value, crewing and travel 
    • Less video shooting will necessitate content provided by knowledge leaders and subject matter experts.   
    • Media Training for executive leadership and middle managers will become commonplace. 
  • Change equals opportunity 
    • This too shall pass. When the dust settles, the economy will spring back—we hope sooner rather than later. Organizations will be in much better shape if they adapt and innovate.   
  • simple handshake will take on a whole new meaning 
    • Shaking hands will truly be a sign of trust and confidence. 

 

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7 Things I’ve Learned Since June 18th

Here’s a list of some things I’ve learned during my 112 days as an Apple Box Studios employee:

    1. Community is Key
      • Apple Box Studios is a collaborative, creative environment that boosts my productivity. We also keep beers in the conference room fridge–super cool.
    2. Boutique is Better
      • The opportunities and responsibilities I have gained thus far are attributed to ABS’s hands-on work approach. Because of this, I was part of an on-site client meeting my second day of work.
    3. I Needed an “Office Sweater”
      • You know… that sweater hanging on your chair just in case the office gets too cold.
    4. Never Leave Your Desk Without Paper and a Pen
      • Taking notes continues after college!
    5. Adapt to the Situation
      • I learned within the first few weeks that projects are always changing, and helping to coordinate those projects requires flexibility. This is still an area of improvement for me, but every day it gets easier.
    6. You’re Never Too Young to Save for Retirement
      • If I’m being honest, my dad probably told me this at age 14 but now I am actually saving for retirement. Only 40 more years to save!
    7. The Most Important Lesson
      • I still don’t know the answers to everything and I’m constantly learning. I have learned something from every member of Apple Box Studios and their willingness to teach is what makes this job so awesome.

 

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