In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the importance of face-to-face communication. It's increasingly commonplace to get so wrapped up in pushing out messages that resonate across popular channels that we forget about the benefits of having a conversation. Isn’t rhetoric, defined as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing,” the best way to exchange ideas and foster a mutually beneficial relationship? We believe in fostering open communication, and we endorse the gathering of ideas to arrive at a brilliant solve for the challenges that bring clients in our door.
At Designsensory, collaboration is how we do business. We look for and seize opportunities to collaborate with our clients and each other. When we’re tasked with creating your website or brand identity, we want to make sure it fits into your overall business plan, helps you achieve your organizational goals, and functions at the highest level. We also look to solve problems that may not have yet appeared on your radar. As a result, we do a lot of research to get to know you, so we may come in with lots of questions. Our work doesn’t function in a vacuum, so we need to see where it fits into the bigger picture. Throughout the process, we find one of the best ways to be the most effective is face-to-face communication.
Internally, we live by calendars that keep our projects moving forward, including time to check in with teammates and solicit feedback along the way. Our open office environment translates to pop-up, impromptu collaboration as the norm. While we have different teams (tech, content, design, strategy, business development), each of us will be collectively working with a dozen different colleagues on a variety of projects at any given time. We think this keeps our work fresh, relevant and well-rounded, covering a compendium of communication needs and best ways to achieve your goals.
Torri Leeds from DeVries Global recently wrote about her experience disconnecting from technology and bringing the DeVries Global culture to her clients’ backyards: “The environment that we created was inspired by retail pop-up experiences, collective workspaces and ‘salon’ gatherings of thought-leaders—creative, intimate, collegial and imaginative. With minimal distraction from the myriad of tech tools at our disposal for business, something interesting happened: the creative juices started to flow.”
The power packed into a collaboration of Designsensory thought leaders—different voices with different viewpoints—has a profound effect on our creative process. We think of it as an essential best practice, and it's how we like to work for you.
An after-school STEM education program, piloted in East Tennessee by the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America, will soon be offered in other parts of the country. STEM Scouts, which encourages interest in science, technology, engineering and math through fun, hands-on learning and interaction with STEM professionals, will be expanding to 12 other Boy Scouts of America councils beginning this fall.
Designsensory has been working with STEM Scouts for over a year, developing branding and print and digital materials, and creating the website. Locally, we facilitated the advertising and public relations campaigns for the pilot program in East Tennessee. STEM Scouts began in the region in spring 2014 and currently serves nearly 400 local youth in 19 schools and after-school programs.
Along with the recent announcement of the program's expansion came national exposure, such as the following:
- Wayne Brock talks STEM to USA Today
- Fast Company introduces STEM Scouts
- STEM Scouts races down NASCAR truck with Scott Lagasse Jr.
To help the other councils chosen to participate in the program, Joseph, Paula, Kelly and Casey traveled to the Boy Scouts of America national annual meeting in Atlanta last week. They walked the councils' staffs through the website, presented the toolkit of marketing and recruitment materials, and provided direction and best practices for spreading the word in their local areas. We are thrilled to continue our work with Boy Scouts of America and STEM Scouts!
Designsensory has worked with the Tennessee Fund for the past three years to develop and update its membership guide brochure.
The 44-page printed piece showcases how the Tennessee Fund, with the generosity of donors, makes a difference and provides resources needed for student-athletes at the University of Tennessee to achieve excellence in both the classroom and competition.
The brochure captures the combined energy of the entire University of Tennessee sports community by highlighting individual student-athletes, as well as providing additional information on annual giving, membership tickets, premium seating and parking.
Overall, the brochure blends the message of rich history and heritage of the University of Tennessee’s athletics with today’s teams to showcase how Tennessee Fund members play a key role in the athletic department’s pursuit of comprehensive excellence.
For the 2015 guide, we worked with the Tennessee Fund development assistant to update the content and design of the fundraising brochure, giving it a new cover with a fresh feel but also keeping it consistent with the Tennessee Fund brand, such as overall colors, content and identity.
We look forward to continuing our work with the Tennessee Fund.
For more information on the Tennessee Fund, visit www.tennesseefund.org.
No matter how many people are involved in a project, client happiness often rests in the hands of the project manager (PM). A great PM juggles client needs, time constraints, staff schedules and unforeseen obstacles, and keeps a calm demeanor through it all.
While we think we have some great project managers at Designsensory, we always look for ways to improve the client experience through better processes and skills.
With that in mind, two of the DS team enrolled in a four-day project management course. Principal and technical director Brandon Rochelle and project manager Kelly Raines took the class at Roane State Community College.
They studied management of all phases of a project, from establishing the scope of work and developing a comprehensive plan to the final handoff of the work.
The course emphasizes the importance of thinking beyond the initial plan. The planning process identifies the risks—the places things are most likely to go awry—so PMs can create an advance plan for handling problems when they happen.
“Over our company history, I've found the key to a project's success is how well changes in project scope are managed," says Brandon. “The PMP course helped me better define a foundation for adaptive project management to plan for ongoing change effectively.”
Kelly echoes that sentiment. “Every plan, no matter how good it is, will change.”
While the course confirmed the validity of many of our existing processes, Kelly says it opened her eyes to all the things that happen before the project even comes into the building. Knowledge of the planning that takes place during the initiation phase helps PMs better prepare for project kickoffs.
The course also included ideas for more efficient internal processes, such as a work breakdown structure to divide big jobs into smaller segments and a work matrix to clarify team members’ responsibilities on a large project.
Ultimately, the new knowledge helps our clients by adding a layer of efficiency and creating a smoother process. It’s the goal of our PMs to put clients’ minds at ease, knowing that processes are in place to ensure all details of the project are covered.
This month, we said a bittersweet farewell to one of our most loved DSers, Senior Designer Alison Ashe. After nine years as an integral part of the Designsensory team, Alison (one "l" only) has opted to leave our happy band and focus on her son, Fiver, and a new baby daughter, whose name is still in creative process.
The daughter, expected in late May, will keep Alison and her husband, Dee, busy for the foreseeable future. Still, we hope that Alison will stop by from time to time, maybe even from missing what she called an “all-day job . . . or full-time job, as grownups call it.”
In spite of what those beer commercials tell you, Alison is always the most interesting person in the room. We will miss her exquisite taste, her mad bowling skills, her brown butter bacon ice cream, her great shoes and her search for interesting rhymes (what rhymes with bagel?). We’ll miss having someone around who actually thinks before speaking, someone who knows that the best gift for an editor is a red pen in the shape of a pirate sword.
And, we’ll miss knowing that at least one of us is looking for an opportunity to invest in bionic arm technology with an eye toward future flight.
And Now a Word From Our Coworkers
“I'll miss Alison's smart and thoughtful approach,” says Business Development Director Paula Solomon, “the beautiful things she creates, and her gentle nature. Alison is a special soul who is not only supremely talented but also supremely beautiful in every way. DS will be a little less bright without her.”
“I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone else like Alison,” says Lindsay Miller, DS art director. “Way back when, I stalked her to persuade her to interview at DS; I knew she’d be an amazing designer to work with. Her UTK thesis set the bar (it actually was the bar). Since then, her incredible attention to detail and craft have never wavered.
“Alison’s qualities are a rare mix. She’s wicked smart and can still tolerate the rest of us. Her humor and diligence always combined to pull us through challenging projects, impossible deadlines and finicky clients. She entered the hodgepodge land of unicorns (our process) and always came out with something unique, deliberate, elegant and purposeful. She can swoop in and really ‘plus’ a project at any stage. I know our clients recognized her talent and appreciated her thoughtfulness.
“In keeping with those same characteristics, she’s a great mom and will continue to be! Couldn’t have asked for a better person to work with over the past few years.”
We wish Alison and her family all the best, and we’ll close with a few quotes from the one and only Alison Ashe.
The World According to Alison
Put the soul back in consulting.
It’s barely worth a damn. Maybe a dingly damn.
I guess minimum clear space doesn’t apply in NASCAR.
I bet it’s hard to resize images with a martini in one hand.
I made him a hot badge.
I care not. Oops! Did I say that out loud? I have put on my happy face.
I've been going over it with my laser eyes turned on today.
Josh: Her emails are like compound interest.
Alison: Compound disinterest.
Lindsay: I think we may be in the Nincompoop Forest.
Alison: On our way to Asshat Canyon.
Joseph: They didn’t have license plates back then!
Alison: Put it on a horse’s ass.
There is a lot to consider when creating an e-commerce site. Do you know what platform best meets your needs? More importantly, do you know if you’re meeting the needs of your consumer in a world with multiple touchpoints?
Increasingly, we’re finding that more and more customers are doing their shopping online. Forrester expects e-commerce to reach $780 billion and represent 9.3% of total B2B in the U.S. this year. Our love affair with browsing endless pages of options and having products delivered to our doorstep is forcing businesses to rethink everything from marketing strategies to inventory control.
As we see more requests for e-commerce sites come through, we’ve had to adjust some of our thinking, as well. While user experience is first and foremost the most important aspect of any website, adding in options for making purchases requires a different strategy. We recognize and track trends to make sure our e-commerce sites are satisfying the needs of our client while providing a unique experience for their consumer.
According to Tech.co, look to these five 2015 trends for e-commerce focus this year:
- - User experience and customer service
- - Mobile is no longer just an option
- - Social media is becoming more influential
- - Same day delivery or faster
- - Thinning distinction between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar virtually disappearing
Understanding the experience of the user is critical
Marcin Malinowski, director of international services at Outbox, notes: “Customers have long been present online and are used to taking custom journeys through retail channels. Modern businesses are expected to provide them with a uniform and consistent experience, service, product descriptions and prices. They are also expected to keep up with latest developments in their markets, as disruptive technologies like Apple Pay shift the way customers like to make purchases. Understanding customer experience is essential, and will continue to be in 2015.”
Diversifying with Omni Channel
Omni Channel is reaching consumers wherever they are, on whatever device they may be using. As consumers use various platforms to shop—in-store or online—being accessible and creating an experience in all aspects is key.
Mobile shopping, or "m-commerce" as some call it, is growing, and growing fast! According to Google data, for much of the 2014 holiday season, mobile shopping clicks exceeded those on the desktop as shoppers made their purchase decisions on the go. And, people are no longer discriminating between mobile and desktop when it comes to shopping.
According to a Nielsen study, 84% of consumers are directly influenced by what their social network says about a product. Experts expect social commerce to ramp up in the coming months. Sales via social media are expected to represent 5% of online retail revenue, or $14 billion. Again, consumers are using all channels when shopping.
Delivery and crossing lines between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar
Designsensory Web Developer Stephan Zerambo touches on the importance of the user experience and delivery, “Obviously, since the goal is to get the site users to purchase the items, a bit of strategy to funnel them to the checkout is set in place. What's great about the recent Better Bushel site created by Designsensory is that there are some great assets and information, yet the products are peppered throughout those types of pages. One thing that sets this site apart from other e-commerce sites is that you choose a location to pick your items up.”
This approach allows the user to decide what products they want and where they would like to pick up their products, making for a more personalized experience. For other clients, we are continuing to bring the offline and online experiences together by coding to generate gift certificates that will be usable in the brick-and-mortar stores and, vice versa, the physically produced gift cards will be usable online.
E-commerce will only continue to grow, and the trends will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the consumer. Curious if you’re meeting the needs of your consumers? Designsensory can help with your e-commerce needs.
Updated May 15:
The 40th annual PRSA V Awards competition was held May 14 at the Southern Depot. The Volunteer Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America recognizes the best public relations programs and products as judged by a peer chapter through PRSA.
We are thrilled to share that DS took home the following awards:
- Award of Merit – Bark For Your Park
- Award of Merit – TNECD website
- Award of Merit – Medal of Honor book
- Award of Quality – Rachel's Lament Newsletter
Breaking news! For the first time in Designsensory history, our work is going to be honored at the Volunteer Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s V Awards! This is also the first time we’ve entered, so it's very exciting for us.
Each spring, public relations practitioners in East Tennessee submit their work to be judged by their peers and celebrated at a fun evening event called the V Awards. Our local PRSA chapter is celebrating four decades of V Awards this year, and we’re happy to be a part of it.
We had so much work to be proud of in 2014 that it was difficult to narrow down our submissions. However, we decided to submit the following:
The V Awards will be held in downtown Knoxville at The Southern Depot at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 14. The event is open to the public, and tickets may be purchased by contacting the V Awards Chair Morgan Neal at email@example.com.
We'll let you know how it goes. Wish us luck!
We are a visual society with a shrinking attention span. We love small doses of video that tug at our emotions. They make us laugh and cry, we relate and reminisce. These video snippets that are on websites and in our daily feeds are telling brand stories in snackable, shareable moment.
Do you have video in your latest marketing plan? Perhaps you should. The thing is, creating a video isn’t the hard part. It’s creating a video that tells your story in a way that is both engaging and shareable, that can be the challenge.
With strategic planning and determining how to evoke the right emotion in your target audience, video content can take your brand to a new level.
Does your budget have room for video?
Maybe the better question is, can you afford to not have it? According to a recent Aberdeen research, organizations using video require 37% fewer unique site visits to generate a marketing response.
Telling your brand story through video doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, it’s more cost effective now than ever. Decades ago, traditional commercial and videos were much longer, but with the ever-shrinking attention span of today’s audience, the same message can be shared in a quicker, more cost-effective way. Setting goals on the front end—to determine your needs and how to maximize the video, b-roll and vignettes in a way that allows you to tell your brand story through multiple facets—will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Trending on social
Along with an uptick of shareable video content has come a shift in the way videos are performing on social media. According to new data from social media analytics company Socialbakers, photo posts are half as likely to be seen as are videos.
Looking at more than 670,000 posts by 4,445 brand pages (not including celebrity, entertainment or media pages) between October 2014 and February 2015, Socialbakers found that video posts had an organic reach of 8.71%, meaning that an average of nearly nine fans out of 100 see such posts. The reach was only 3.73% for photo posts, well below the results for text-only statuses (5.77%) and link posts (5.29%).
Taking it a step further with Advertainment
This is where advertising and entertainment collide. It’s utilizing various forms of entertainment to promote a product or brand. It’s going beyond the traditional 30- or 60-second commercial and using other creative ways to promote a brand. Today, we see brands everywhere. It’s not always obvious, but they are there. We see products through content sponsorship, product placement, branded short-form, performance and participatory art, episodic narrative and even cinematic long-form.
At Designsensory, we believe in telling our client’s brand story in a way that intrigues, entertains and delights. How will you tell your brand story?
When Designsensory began working with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency on the concept for a new television show, we wanted to a look at current trends as well as the needs of viewers. With the rise of “reality” entertainment, the digital and mobile explosion, and rise of social and content-sharing networks, it was evident that viewers' needs have evolved.
Tennessee Wildside, TWRA’s previous show, was a variety show in the traditional sense. Behavioral trends showed a rise in outdoor leisure activities versus traditional hook and bullet activities. It was evident that Tennessee Uncharted needed to extend the brand by showcasing what the Tennessee outdoors had to offer through hunting, fishing, and the gamut of recreation, but with the emphasis on outdoors adventure.
We also know there is more competition today when it comes to brand exposure, and engaging video is more important than ever. The new show would engage viewers by making them feel as though they are experiencing the action, with viewers becoming part of the show. What set Tennessee Uncharted apart from Wildside was that the show wasn’t about simply showing . . . but doing. Tennessee Uncharted tells the story through actual hands-on experiences.
In Season 1, the crew edited 16 episodes, running 26:47 in length, filmed in high definition, and they shot endless hours of beautiful video content and interviews. When edited, the additional footage provided snackable videos to be shared through social channels and websites, creating awareness for the show, TWRA, Tennessee tourism, and all involved.
PBS digital channels across Tennessee aired Season 1. In addition to the traditional television broadcast of Tennessee Uncharted, it could also be seen online via www.tnuncharted.com, Tennessee Uncharted YouTube channel, East Tennessee PBS app on smartphones, Apple TV, Roku box, Amazon Fire and Xbox.
As an extension of each episode, the Designsensory public relations team was able to share behind-the-scenes images, vignettes and teasers on Tennessee Uncharted social channels. Providing shareable video and imagery maximized exposure and shares each week. This contributed to the increase in views, ultimately leading to the show’s popularity and success.
In just over four months, the Tennessee Uncharted crew has a strong social media presence and following. To date, Tennessee Uncharted has 242 subscribers and more than 24,600 views on YouTube, 1,884 Facebook fans, 247 Instagram followers and 128 followers on Twitter.
The Tennessee Uncharted crew is well underway with Season 2. Their work brings more ways to promote Tennessee’s uncharted territories and more creative ways to enjoy those recreational opportunities.
Want to know more about how video content can extend your brand? Check out this month's Utilize.