Ideas, musings and inspirations.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

“Everything you quote — every movie, every TV show, every lyric — has been endlessly rewritten… Fall in love with rewriting!”

My uncle, who is a great writer, recently said these words.

And I love them. It’s a process I know well.

Every brand.

Every headline.

Every script.

Every sitemap.

Every webpage.

All of it.

They’ve all been nipped and tucked and scrapped and scratched out and added back in and shifted and shaken not stirred and screamed at and forgiven and rinsed and repeated.

A bucket brigade of project managers, clients, writers, editors and SEO strategists passed the words back and forth.

Commas were nixed and then added again.

A passionate battle in grammar rules that frankly are meant to be broken likely made its way in.

And I’ve fallen in love with this process.

As you’re reading this, I’ve probably already changed this post and these words — probably this word — ten times. Make that eleven.

In an excerpt published in Fast Company last year out of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s memoir, Getting There: The Book of Mentors, Weiner talks about a concept in art called hiding the brushstrokes — or hiding the steps that it took to create the masterpiece.

“If you don’t get to see the notes, the rewrites, and the steps,” Weiner writes, “it’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that.”

I suppose that’s the point.

For writing to be so flawless it seems like it was easy.

But for young buck writers like myself, it’s nice to have role models who don’t hide behind this false idea that to write is to close ones eyes and out pops a vision with the right words to say — a perfectly compiled manuscript floating high above our heads and glowing angelically.

(Sure, this happens to some people. But they’re the worst.)

It’s more like spending weeks in a mosquito-infested cabin in the middle of a swamp with nothing to eat but day-old pizza and emerging covered in algae, body odor and bug bites with a crinkled and grease-stained piece of paper above your head that slightly resembles what the finished product will be in another few weeks or months or so.

As Amy Poehler in Yes, Please puts it, “The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.”

But she also says this:

“Watching great people do what you love is a good way to start learning how to do it yourself.”

And I think that’s what makes a place like Elliance such a special place.

I get to work with great writers, and great professionals who don’t pretend their work isn’t hard.

Because hard work is way more deserving of celebration than something that came in a vision anyway.


Facebook Live, available worldwide for both iOS & Android

Facebook Live, available worldwide for both iOS & Android

Facebook has recently made available a plethora of new video options for both pages and individual users to use for engaging more authentically with their friends and fans. This includes their recently released feature called Facebook Live, which allows you to connect with your fans, friends and followers by sharing real-time video of what you’re doing.

Marketers especially in the higher education industry should definitely jump on this because it creates an intimate, authentic connection with your audience and most importantly it humanizes and personalizes your brand. It is important to appreciate the importance of a live video in terms of the audience engagement and post visibility, Facebook Newsfeed is not in a chronological order rather it is a personalized feed which shows what is most relevant to the user. Since the release of Live, Facebook has tweaked its algorithm to show Live videos more likely higher in the News Feed.

When you use Live with your page, you already have an acquired audience that is ready to watch (your fans). So when you do go live, Facebook sends out a notification to all the fans that you’re live and hence you gets great organic reach.

Facebook recommends several best practices for Facebook Live. In addition, some practices that are relevant in the higher education industry:

  1. Plan ahead what are you going to show and talk about so you don’t have awkward pauses where you’re thinking what to talk about next. Your video should be focused around a topic for e.g a one on one interview with the admissions panel going through their thought process on how they admit a student. Many institutes write a blog post about this but there is nothing more authentic in hearing from the person him/herself and that too live!
  2. Respond to your audience when appropriate, Live allows the viewers to comment while they are watching you. If they are ask relevant question it’s a great idea to acknowledge them and respond to their query. For e.g during a live interview with the admissions panel a viewer may ask “How important is my high school GPA in the process”. Answering the question right then would enrich a potential applicant’s experience with the institute even before he actually starts the admission process.
  3. Tailor broadcasts around a focused audience, Live allows you to stream your video to the participants of a particular event you created on your page or a Facebook Group that you maintain in addition to your page. This changes how you do free webinars, no need to pay for GoToMeeting now as delivering a free webinar is now extremely simple. Create a public/private event and broadcast your live video to all the people who are attending it.
  4. End with a specific purpose, With live videos it might be easier to direct your pool of audience to a specific action that you want them to take. End your video on a call to action. For e.g. if you decide to do a live video tour of the college campus it might be a good idea to ask the audience at the end of the video to visit a specific website to register for a physical tour/webinar etc.

Live video streaming is a new feature and a few have jumped on to it so far, it is an incredible opportunity for higher education marketers to showcase their college in a new and authentic manner. Since Facebook loves videos and Facebook Live seems to get a much higher organic reach than other types of content (my news feed right now is 50% filled with Live video streams), it’s definitely worth getting into Live and thinking creatively on how to engage your fans.

We’re entering this new golden age of video. I wouldn’t be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people see on Facebook and are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video. – Mark Zuckerberg

Posted in: , ,

Not since radio in the 1920s and television in the 1960s has a medium played such a significant role in a presidential election.

In February, copywriter Erin McCarthy discussed how social media, particularly Snapchat, was changing how voters follow election results, but social media has also transformed campaigns themselves in ways that were unimaginable just a few elections ago.

In 2004’s Bush vs. Gore contest, Facebook had just launched nine months prior and Twitter did not come online until 2006. Four years later, social media would go from an election non-factor to a powerful voter engagement and outreach tool.

In 2008, a relatively unknown Barack Obama mobilized millions of voters, primarily through Facebook, and went on to defeat two political veterans, frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the democratic primaries and Senator John McCain in November’s general election.

In 2012, President Obama continued his social media dominance by taking his ideas straight to voters, posting nearly four times the content of Mitt Romney and other opponents, and on almost twice as many channels. That campaign was a study in digital grassroots campaigning.

social media presidential campaignPerhaps it’s not surprising then that team Obama would share this now iconic 2012 victory image on Twitter, a photo that was retweeted over 800,000 times, breaking all prior Twitter records in the process.

While Barack Obama will certainly go down in history as the author of the modern day digital campaign playbook, today’s presidential candidates are completely rewriting it to leverage the growing number of social networks.

In 2016, the question is not which candidates are using social media, but what channels are they using and who is using them most effectively to engage supporters and donors.

  • Hillary Clinton released a 2016 campaign playlist on Spotify
  • Ted Cruz live-streams campaign events on Periscope
  • Bernie Sanders excels at creating shareable content and generating social buzz
  • Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush both announced their presidential bids on Snapchat and notably engaged in an entertaining photo shop battle on Twitter over education policies
  • Jeb Bush used Instagram to broadcast two videos announcing his Right To Rise super pac
  • Lindsey Graham announced the suspension of his campaign via a YouTube video
  • Donald Trump, who has more social followers than any other candidate, has mastered the use of Twitter, from unscripted late night tweets to live tweeting democratic debates

It is estimated that the 2016 presidential candidates, both past and present, will spend $1 billion on digital with over half going to social media. So who is winning the battle for online followers? According to Blue Compass, Democrats have an edge on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, while Republicans enjoy a sizable lead on Facebook and Twitter.

Regardless of who ultimately proves victorious in their quest to become the 45th President of the United States, one thing is clear—social media will continue to be king of the campaign trail for years to come.

Posted in: ,

The Problem:

During development on a recent project I was tasked with creating some Front End animations for a web app. This application would present a user with a list within two tabs (the tabs will display the list by either A-Z or by Category). Within these tabs you can also filter the list, and this is where the animation exists. Items would disappear and reappear. Wanting greater control over the animation, compared to simple JQuery, I started finessing CSS animation.

I quickly ran into a problem. I found that the CSS animation would re-fire/re-paint when the tabbed content came back into view.

Example: Toggle between the tabs and note that the animation fires each time you return to “Tab #1”

Why was this happening? I double checked my keyframe statement. Made sure I was setting animation-fill-mode to “forwards” to prevent repeating the animation. After much research and testing, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the CSS animation, which meant that it had to be within the JQuery.

The only JQuery being used was for the tabs. The tabs were using .hide()/.show() to swap the tabbed content into view. ‘Under the hood’ .hide()/.show() is placing an inline style of “display: block” (.show()) and changing it to “display: none” (.hide()).


The Solution:

After some testing (changing .hide()/.show() to use visibility:hidden/visible) I found a solution that would hold the CSS animations state.

Corrected Example: (Feel free to hit “Rerun” in the lower right to re-trigger initial animation”)

Unbeknownst to me display: block/none will re-paint/re-animate css animations when switched. Using the visibility property will preserve the animation state. Note that you will need some additional styles to remove the space left by visibility:hidden by setting a max-width to zero and overflow to hidden.

facebook social media strategy

In the paid advertising world, it’s easy to determine your ROI if you’re using analytics to track all of your efforts. But when it comes to social marketing, there are so many metrics and variables it can make your head spin. Not to mention that each social channel provides different data and definitions for metrics.

In Facebook, specifically, it’s all about getting fans (or page likes) and building long-term relationships with your fans.

There are numerous strategic ways to find relevant Facebook fans – both from paid advertising and organic reach.

It can be hard to put a value on engagement metrics, but a report states that the average value of a Facebook fan is $174*. So, say you were able to get 25 new page likes this month — that would equate to a value of $4K!

Implementing a strategic social campaign, with both paid and organic tactics, can help build relevant Facebook fans for your page.

Here are a few snapshots from our Client’s Facebook insights to show how a well-oiled, targeted paid + organic social campaign can help increase total page likes month-over-month.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 10.19.40 AM

*In their study, Syncapse “compared Facebook fans and non-fans based on their corresponding product spending, brand loyalty, propensity to recommend, media value, cost of acquisition and brand affinity,” to arrive at $174 as the average value of a fan across the large global brands in the survey.

Posted in: ,

There’s a valuable thing that inexperienced people bring to the table, that more experienced people are often lacking.

It’s the gift of seeing through beginner’s eyes.

This June will mark the 35th year of my career, and the lesson I’m continually learning is this: The more experienced I become, the more important it is to keep my outlook fresh.

I never want to become that grey, old ad man clutching his double Manhattan, longing for the good old days and grousing about how the business has changed.

If you feel the same, here are some suggestions on how to keep that old guy at bay—even if you like double Manhattans as much as I do.

1. Never Sit Still.

Move. Ride a bike, run, go for walks, cut your own grass, play tennis, play softball, join a volleyball league, lift heavy stuff. Whatever it is that makes you tired and happy, just do it. It fuels your joy, and makes you lots more fun to be around.

2. Learn to See Without Knowing.

Goethe said that “Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.” A great way to practice this is to draw the negative space around something like a chair. Try it. It’ll open your mind, and that’s how it should stay.

3. Always Talk to Strangers.

Ask them questions about what they do, and how they do it. Ask why they feel about things the way they do. Become a good interviewer. Meeting new people and making new friends helps you stay curious, and being curious makes being creative a lot easier.

4. Find New Ways Home.

Lately, I’ve been taking different ways home from the office, and it’s led to exploring different neighborhoods on weekends. Not connecting the dots in the same old ways has led to lots of new experiences, new conversations and new ideas. It started with just breaking a simple routine.

Have you created ways of keeping your perspective fresh? If so, I’d love to hear from you. But please let me know soon—I’m not getting any younger.

Posted in:

Too often, a college or university approaches a brand development exercise unprepared for the journey ahead, and unable to fully realize the rewards at journey’s end. We offer a 5 point checklist to ensure a better experience and outcome at every step.

1. Know Your Motivation
A strong, clear and authentic articulation of your brand can accomplish great things. It helps if everyone agrees on the primary motivation before beginning the process. Resist sugar coating. Be as real and as specific as possible. If it’s about a president’s legacy, be candid. If the current enrollment mix and tuition discounting threaten the school’s bottom line, come clean with the data. If alumni have grown distant and disenchanted, invite your most vocal critics into the process. If you want to raise your research profile, know the key departments and labs. Yes, quantitative surveys might confirm and further inform what you know — but rarely do they surprise anyone or change the primary driver.

2. Appraise Content Assets and Talent

Your brand will rise or fall based on your ability to identify, create, curate and sustain great content. Other things matter, but nothing matters like content.

  • Compelling and concise program pages.
  • Story-driven videos both impeccably orchestrated and carefully paced.
  • Headlines aimed at rifling through message clutter.
  • Photos of such rare compositional quality and emotional impact that even the busiest or most distracted user drops into the moment.
  • Honest stories.

Everyone will argue for “getting by” with substandard content. Do you have a voice in the room strong and respected enough to awaken your team from content slumber?  Project budgets will limit your ability to throw vendor money at the content challenge — the sheer volume of content required almost always catches everyone by surprise. At some point, you will have to retrain and/or rebuild a robust and talented in-house content team. Arguing the case for new hires in times of tight budgets may cost you a layer of skin — but more than any other investment a strong content team will determine the long-term impact of a brand.

3. Listen to Faculty

The raw material for every higher education brand emerges from that singular encounter between teacher and student. However impressive your intellectual capital, research prowess, alumni enthusiasm, sports success or overall institutional might, your brand needs the renewable energy that only comes from teaching and learning. By engaging your best teachers — early and often — you will be stress-testing the brand development process. They will ask tough questions and reveal fault lines. They may even test your will to take on such a challenge. Welcome early input — even the most cynical doubter. You will emerge standing on firmer ground.

4. Study your Origins.

Many colleges see a brand development project purely in terms of moving toward a desired future. It’s important though to inform that future with a detailed understanding of your past. Discard the thin layer of “glory” that colleges tend to recycle in their mythology. Dig deeper into the milestones and obstacles, the disagreements, wrong turns and missed opportunities. Understand your college the way a grandparent might grow to understand their still developing young adult grandchild. Gain perspective. Embrace good and bad equally. Interview anyone who might have lived through the transitions. This is not a passive exercise in remembering. It’s about choosing what matters going forward. As George Bernard Shaw remarked, “Life isn’t about finding yourself; Life is about creating yourself.” Some key raw ingredients may have been around since the start.

5. Set a Far Horizon

Once you declare your motivation, assemble the talent, recruit faculty, and discover your origins — there is just one more step. Talk openly about expectation. A much-anticipated brand rebirth may be 10, 25 or even 50 years in the making. The atmosphere is often charged. A college may be at a tipping point. A new brand could be seen as the difference between ascent or decline. Excitement and anticipation, or, conversely, fear and tension may rule the day. Almost always, expectation is out of alignment with reality.

Extraordinary responsibility falls to the internal brand leader. You may have collected 100 books on leadership — but this is the crucible that will define your career. In my experience, the key is to stand tall in the storm that is change and say with steady calm and authority … “relax.” Remind those above and below you in the chain that the opportunity to claim a new destiny need not come wrapped in big pronouncements, rallies, t-shirts, billboards or social media storms. It’s about a quiet, steadfast and ongoing commitment to staff development. It’s about cultivating new and better habits.

Hype is the kryptonite of long-range thinking. A genuine brand will work for a generation. It will not need any hype — the brand itself will do the work of galvanizing interest.  If you want to make a fuss, spend your post-launch money on bringing four great story tellers — writer, poet, filmmaker, painter — to campus as a way of nurturing a newfound appreciation for all forms of compelling content.

Congratulations. If you’ve read this far you’re already way ahead of the curve. You will never forget or regret the pursuit of a nuanced, human-centered and memorable brand.

With greater focus on social media as a marketing channel, many companies are using it to reach their audiences. But what are the real benefits of using social media for your brand? Here’s a few that come to mind:

  1. Amplified brand awareness: The sharing mechanism on most social media channels becomes the vehicle, which transports your content and brand name in front of an expanded audience.
  2. Higher visibility for your content repository: If only one piece of content gets shared, that can bring visibility to older content pieces, which may be valuable but is in need of marketing visibility. As a result, one piece of content can introduce your audience to other great works that you have.
  3. Engaged customer base – Social media is one marketing medium that goes to the roots of marketing: word of mouth. For brands, this can be a way to reach the right audience who, as a result, become brand ambassadors by liking/sharing your content and spreading the word for you.
  4. Better rankings in search engines: With changes in search engine algortihms, social signals also contribute to improved rankings for your content, thus resulting in higher visibility and higher traffic.
  5. Additional traffic to your website: Overall traffic increases result from the higher visibility of content. Generally, a direct increase in social traffic is noticeable but over time, that results in higher traffic from other sources like direct and search engine traffic.
  6. Improved sales and conversions: As a result of all the above, the bottom line is also affected resulting in more conversions and a higher number of sales over time.

To put this in perspective, a recent Marketing Industry Report by Social Media Examiner shows the percentage of marketers who saw some of these benefits. 90% of marketers stated that they increased exposure for their brand, 77% received higher traffic and 65% generated leads as a result of these efforts.

benefits of social media marketing chart

To get these benefits for your brand, learn more about how Elliance can help you with your social media marketing campaigns.

Posted in: ,

social media supermarket
Does anyone feel that the current crop of social media apps and tools resembles the produce section at your local supermarket? There are so many social media channels to choose from and just like fruit and vegetables, you need to choose the right ones for a delicious dish. Core social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the standard bearers and like the lettuce in a good salad. Some social media tools such as Instagram and Pinterest share the same premise but function with a different flavor and heat like all of those colorful peppers in a green grocer’s case.

Have you ever noticed those weird shaped alien looking fruits and vegetables like Buddha’s Hand or Romanesco? They look really cool but you just can’t find a good use for them yet… sort of like the social media tool Chirp. Then there are various types of hybrid fruits like the the pluot (plum and apricot) and tangelo (tangerine and pommelo) which are cross-bread to capture the best parts of both fruits and yes, social media has these too, just take a look at tumblr. There are always new social media tools being added to the digital marketplace daily, so keep an eye out for a ripe one.

social media platforms

Here are some recent user stats for the most popular social media networks:

  • Facebook = 1.5 billion (monthly)
  • Youtube = 1 billion (monthly)
  • Tumblr = 555 million (monthly)
  • Google+ = 540 million (monthly)
  • Instagram = 400 million (monthly)
  • Twitter = 320 million (monthly)
  • Vine = 200 million (monthly)
  • Pinterest = 100 million (monthly)
  • LinkedIn = 100 million (monthly)
  • Snapchat = 100 million (daily)

When it comes to the social media banquet be sure to choose the proper digital menu that can satisfy your hungry followers and get you rave reviews. Bon appetit!

*Stats:, and Fortune.

Posted in: ,

If you have ever seen the tango being performed, you have witnessed the ebb and flow of tension and release, and the perfect balance of power and acquiescence.

Tango au01
(By Anouchka Unel (Own work) [FAL], via
Wikimedia Commons)

As with all so-called “lead and follow” dances, the lead must be willing to push and steer; the follow must yield in service of the dance.

Client engagements are a lot like this type of dance. Typically, a client reaches out to an outside firm to help them to choreograph their efforts when they cannot seem to find the steps. Perhaps they are stepping on each other’s toes internally, or need a new partner to lead them through unfamiliar moves.

Whatever the reason, it is important that when the music starts, the participants in the dance understand whether they are to lead or follow. Without such understanding, steps will be missed, cues will go unnoticed, and the rhythm will be lost.

When a project begins, it is critical to define the steps early, determine the length of the engagement, and set expectations. Only then can both partners move forward trusting that neither will let the other fall.

So, before your next engagement, take time to understand your needs, desires, and abilities. Then extend a hand, embrace your partner, and take care to mind the orchestration. Your projects (and your toes) are depending on you.