Ideas, musings and inspirations.

As the standards bearer of advanced cancer care, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) wanted to create a communications platform that positions them as the go-to thought leader in all matters concerning oncology nursing. To realize this goal, Elliance and ONS reinvented their online publication as an always-on, always-fresh news, views and advocacy engine, called ONS Voice.

The ONS Voice includes three key innovations: First, a proprietary tagging system was developed that automatically groups the most popular articles and advocacy issues into trending topics. Second, keywords were “baked” into all articles to elevate their rankings on Google. And finally, smart forms of advertising opportunities were created to make the magazine self-sustaining and drive revenue.

Association Magazine Website Design

This association magazine website design incorporates all the learnings and smarts of the Carnegie Mellon Today university magazine we had launched last year i.e. mobile-first simplicity, stories juiced by SEO keywords, deepening of the brand, and optimal integration of digital and print. However, we went a little further with ONS Voice in several ways:

1. We concurrently designed the print and digital versions of ONS Voice, mutually informing each other at every design step.
Association Magazine Print Design

2. While Carnegie Mellon Today online magazine was developed using open-source Umbraco, we developed ONS Voice with open-source Drupal 8 simply because Drupal is the choice of content management systems for ONS.

3. As a university magazine, Carnegie Mellon Today was advertising-free. As a trade association, trade advertising is the primary means of funding and sustaining the magazine. ONS Voice print and digital versions both support ads in various formats such as traditional banners, full page ads, sponsored content, advertorials, etc.

Over the next few weeks, several Elliance team members who collaboratively launched the project will write a series of blog posts that will reveal the thinking behind the strategy, design, interactive technology, and integrated advertising that now powers the ONS Voice.

To enjoy the online version of ONS Voice, please click here.

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That's Convenient.

As a Millennial, I have been fortunate enough to reap the benefits of the invent of the internet for basically my entire life. While I do know of a world without the internet, smart phones, and Jimmy Johns online ordering system, I recognize the value that these seemingly small conveniences add to my life.

Flashback to the fall of 1997. It’s an ordinary Monday morning and my mom’s getting me ready for my first day of Kindergarten. How will she know exactly what time it’s going to rain today? Will I need my rain boots for recess? Will she know what time to leave to beat the traffic and ensure that I’m not late for my very first day as a kindergartener? After all, Waze won’t be invented for nearly another decade! If we get a flat tire on the way to said school, how will she call for help without the Progressive roadside assistance app, let alone, a cell phone?

The truth is, she managed. And everything was fine…

We often take for granted the incredible conveniences that technology bestows on our lives — the apps that are dedicated to simply making our lives easier. Helping moms prepare their kindergarteners for Mother Nature’s afternoon plans and helping business teams like ours operate more efficiently.

This year, Elliance is embracing the small conveniences that design and project management apps can offer our processes. Introducing Basecamp, SlickPlan, Sketch and inVision has already improved our team’s internal effectiveness.

Like a new puppy, I am embracing each of these apps with open arms. Here are a few of my favorite conveniences:

  • Most of these apps are entirely web based. This means I can access them from anywhere I have an internet connection. Which is pretty much everywhere these days, except maybe Cherry Springs State Park, which has horrible cell service, btw.
  • They’ve thought about your clients too! Apps designed by people like us, for us means that they’ve thought about the same things we think about. How can this app that improves my workflow also benefit my clients? SlickPlan and inVision offer read-only options that are great for sharing with external audiences.
  • Low learning curve. These app are incredibly easy to use. I mastered most of them in a few days of use. Although Sketch, the most complex of the four, is still teaching me things after a couple months of use. It’s so easy, a caveman could do it.

Elliance offers a few products that may be able to provide your business some convenience too. Ask us about how our Ennect suite could improve your processes.

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In December of 2016, started testing a new article site design. One of their designers Jason Santa Maria tweeted their test page, along with a  blog post introducing the new design approach. The new layout was sleek and simple, but I was personally drawn towards the articles hero image and title.

The hero section refers to the top section of the page, usually with a large eye catching image and title. I wanted to talk about section and some of the smart design decisions that were made by Slate when thinking and designing ‘mobile first’. For publications like Slate, mobile traffic makes up a majority of their page views, so focusing on this experience is an obvious choice.

Traditionally, the standard hero image is usually wider than it is tall to match the aspect ratio of the desktop device. This ‘desktop first’ approach when scaled to a mobile screen size through responsive development yields a rather short image that once had a great impact on larger devices. This loss of visual impact is usually undesirable.

What Slate has done is to start with the mobile design,  find what ratio works best for the design on a smaller device, and then designs the desktop with that image ratio in mind.

On desktop, they are moving the articles title to the right of the image, avoiding other common issues such as the title being below the desktops ‘fold’ or text floating over the image in undesirable places (ie. over a subject’s face).

Not only does this design decision benefit the visual aesthetics of the mobile sizes, but because the desktop image does not need to be full width meaning that you can use a smaller image file.

The image of Stevie Wonder Slate is using is a 885 x 900px JPEG, in the traditional hero model that image would have to be roughly 1770 x 900px and potentially doubling the data needed to load the image. For a majority of site, the largest amount of asset downloaded by the visitor is usually the images, minimizing the largest of these images will greatly increase performance, which in turn will reduce bounce rates and increase user satisfaction.

This isn’t the perfect solution, or the only solution. Responsive image, css wizardry, and future compression scripts can all be a better solution for your particular project.  Slate’s layout shows that a slight design decision can not only solve visual constraints in this multi-device world, but can also improve the end user’s experience.

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As I waited in the supermarket checkout lane the other day and took in the tabloid headlines, it occurred to me that fake news isn’t new at all. We’ve been inundated with it for decades.

However, given our recent election, it appears that what’s new is that more and more of us are beginning to believe it.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Many called it the age of skepticism, and given the era we had every right to not accept at face value everything we read, heard and were told. In high school “Skeptic” magazine supplemented my History classes and Social Studies discussions. We were taught how to read between the lines, look for bias, and understand how context and events shape points of view.

Somewhere along the way our skepticism has devolved into a willingness to believe. How in the world did this happen?

Things began to change in the 80s. Waiting nervously in the lobby of Ketchum Advertising for my first job interview in 1981, I happened to look down at the cover of Advertising Age sitting on the end table beside me. Its headline read “Will Advertisers Ever Come to Cable?”

Until then I had grown up with NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS. The news was the news and the shows were the shows. Back then, there was no such thing as a “news show.”

Cable changed the game fast. It was no longer the rural, community message board. CNN was born. HBO was born. MTV was born. Communications concepts that could never have happened on network TV were thriving on cable. People flocked to them and so did advertisers, but with cable programming the whole idea of broadcast narrowed a bit.

What was once mass messaging was becoming targeted to the specific demographics and market segments that cable networks served up to advertisers. Values and life styles mattered. The voice of the consumer mattered. “King Customer” was born. Little did I know then, but the stage had been set.

Fast forward to the internet. Lots and lots and lots more channels. Something for absolutely everybody, but our collective, shared experience of media had changed. It had become fragmented and highly individualized. Those days when almost every American could tell you what somebody like Walter Cronkite had to say were long gone.

Fast forward to Google. My search results differ from yours because they’re based on my personal search history. I am being cocooned, and so are you. The content I find and ask to have delivered to me no longer shapes my beliefs, it merely validates and reinforces them.

Fast forward to Social Media. Everybody has become their own personal network. We constantly broadcast our opinions, which are reinforced by what we find in our media cocoon to support them.

We are getting angrier with those who don’t agree with us. We can’t understand how they could have possibly come to the opinions they have. We cut them off. We unfriend them. We are a nation divided.

Fake news is not just a clever prank. It’s an insidious one. It’s delivered to us through media that isn’t wholly liberal or conservative. Media is marketing and as it’s become democratized over the past 35 years, marketers have gotten more sophisticated. Information science is central to how hearts and minds are moved today. Yet for all the complexity, it all boils down to this:

  • Know the attitudes and behaviors of the people you want to reach.
  • Then tailor your messages to what those people are willing and wanting to believe.

My belief is that given where media and marketing are moving, there is a fundamental question that all marketers and consumers should be asking in times like these.

Is America still The Land of The Free?

Get Your Twitter Tuned Up

So now that 2017 is in full flap, let’s jump right in and get that bird tuned up and singing on key. Here is some Twitter 411 to help with your social media marketing this year. This information is general knowledge and commonplace among social media marketers and Twitter jockeys everywhere and is not part of some secret social media cabal or in this case… flock.  So go ahead and take full advantage of these tips and information to make your manufacturing marketing or higher education social media campaigns fly higher this year.


Number of times users saw the Tweet on Twitter.

Total number of times a user interacted with a Tweet.  For example clicks anywhere on the Tweet which include:
– retweets
– replies
– follows
– likes
– hashtags
– embedded media
– profile and more

Engagement rate:
Number of engagements divided by impressions.

People who have chosen to follow your Twitter account and are most likely interested in your tweets and content.

Equivalent to a like on Facebook.

Times a user retweeted the Tweet.

Times a user replied to the Tweet.

User Profile Clicks:
Clicks on the name, @handle, or profile photo of the account author.

Hashtag #:
A hashtag is used to index keywords or topics on Twitter.  A hashtag starts with a # symbol.

A Twitterstorm is a sudden spike in activity among Twitter Users in relation to a certain topic on Twitter.  And it’s just cool to say.


Using the Twitter symbol “@” initiates targeted replies as they focus on a specific twitter handle. Example @ennect or @elliance.

Use a . before an @ so the Tweet can be seen by others besides the targeted twitter handle.

Twitter has a 140 character limit – photos and links are no longer counted as part of the 140.

Twitter Moments shows important and trending stories that are happening on Twitter.

Twitter History

First Tweet – March 2006:
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent the first tweet ever—”just setting up my twttr.”

First Hashtag – August 2007:
#barcamp, used for the global technology gatherings called Barcamp

First Pope – December 2012:
Pope Benedict Joins Twitter @Pontifex

First to 1 million followers – April 2009:
Ashton Kutcher @aplusk

First Tweet from Space – January 2010:
Astronaut TJ Creamer “Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! ?? More soon, send your ?s” @Astro_TJ

Twitter Royalty – July 2013:
2 million tweets awaited the birth of Prince George #RoyalBaby

Biggest Sporting Event – June 2014:
The 2014 World cup was the biggest sporting event for Twitter – 627 million tweets

Tweets per Minute – February 2016:
Leonardo Dicaprio’s win at the 2014 Oscars ignited 440,000 tweets per minute @LeoDiCaprio

Presidential Tweets – As of January 2017
President Obama @POTUS had 13.4 million Twitter followers and tweeted 341 times
President Trump @realDonaldTrump had 19.6 million Twitter followers and over 34,000 Tweets

To learn more about Twitter, check out these posts from The Emarketing Blog:

  • Fishing Tactics for the Twittersphere
  • Show some Tweet, Tweet Love on Social Media with Twitter’s New Bursting Heart Icon
  • Growing Up Twitter
  • Are Twitter Hashtags Polluting The Social Media Digital Beach?
  • #hashtag your way to increased event traffic and registration


*Image Attribute:

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Anyone who has ever suffered through a migraine knows the symptoms: headache, distorted vision, irritability, dizziness, nausea, etc. Anyone who has ever gone through a website content migration has probably experienced some of these same symptoms.

Whether we all like it or not, in the world of digital media content migration is a necessary evil. Actually, strike that, it is a necessary good. Without the ability to perform a migration, all content would have to be manually copied from the current content management system (CMS) or entered manually into the new system.

As with migraines, the key to a headache-free migration is prevention. The most important preventative steps are to understand:

  • how your content is represented in the source system;
  • how you would like it represented in the destination system; and
  • how you will you need to process or transform the content while moving it.

Once you have defined these three points in detail, you have essentially defined your migration path.

We recently performed a migration for a client and, while considering the above steps, determined some other things you might want to consider:

  • images, documents, and other static assets;
  • comments to any posts or articles you’d like to preserve;
  • users (site users, bloggers, comment authors, etc);

With careful planning and a well-considered migration path, a lot of work (and headaches) can be avoided.

Know the tell-tale signs. If you are changing domains, hosting providers, or replacing your CMS, you may be headed for a migration. If you feel the onset of a migration, don’t panic. Seek professional help. You don’t have to go through it alone.

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I live for stories. Simply being in the presence of a good story being told or lived right there in the moment sends adrenaline pumping through my veins.

In what is one of the most inspiring TED Talks I have heard, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares about the impact stories can have, as well as the dangers that come with sharing a single story — or one side of the whole story.

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.”

She discuses how, especially in our younger years, we are wildly impressionable and vulnerable in the face of a story.

Here at Elliance we are responsible for articulating the story of our clients and expressing the soul of their institution — through images, phrases, video, design, copy and more.

To be able to give a true account of who you are, we must first spend time listening and observing. We call this discovery and it is all about taking in the sights and sounds and stories of a place and its people.

We of course conduct preliminary research, but the goal of discovery is to gain a deeper understanding than the questionnaires or articles can provide. To get the honest perspectives, and hear the stories of the people that bring your brand to life.

In higher education this means stepping foot on campus, taking a tour and getting a feel for the atmosphere, and holding interviews with students, administration, faculty and alumni to gather as many perspectives as we can. It is only in the diversity of stories that we can begin to get a true feel for the spirit of a place.

I couldn’t agree more with Adichie when she says: “I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

We’ve seen that many prospective students form preconceived notions of a university before ever stepping foot on campus — perhaps from the single story they were told by a friend who had gone to school there or toured the campus.

It is our job to tell the whole story, to the best of our ability. The collective view —the bigger picture of that place made fuller and stronger by the greatly varying stories of many. It is these diverse stories that allow prospective students to relate and see a character like them in that place. One specific, narrow story does not give opportunity to account for many. It is not inclusive of the population at large.

“That is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become,” said Adichie.

We owe it to our clients and to prospective students trying to find their place in the world of academia to share the whole story, the bigger picture and all its pieces.

“I would like to end with this thought,” Achichie says in closing. “That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”


A new year is always the perfect time to evaluate personal and professional goals. Which explains why the article, 10 Resolutions Marketers Should Make —And Keep — In 2017 caught my eye. I thought this article included some good advice:

  1. Marketers should resolve to prioritize the mobile customer experience.
  2. Marketers should resolve to stretch and exercise more.
  3. Marketers should resolve to stop combating ad blockers.
  4. Marketers should resolve to create seamless experiences.
  5. Marketers should resolve to partner more closely with the startup community.
  6. Marketers should resolve to spend more time actually interacting with customers.
  7. Marketers should resolve to leverage mobile location data.
  8. Marketers should resolve to invest more in video.
  9. Marketers should resolve to truly get to know their customers.

Three of these resolutions, prioritizing the mobile customer experience, investing more in video and getting to know customers are topics Elliance often discusses with our clients.

Instead of making resolutions at work or in your personal life, consider focusing on one single word. Fast Company wrote about the one word process and says that, “The one-word technique isn’t just for people; companies have adopted the process, too.”

Look at the above list of marketing resolutions, does the last one, ‘resolve to truly get to know their customers’ make you pause? If so, consider how you interact with your clients and/or co-workers and you might realize you need to focus on the word, Listen. Make that word your mantra and it could improve the service you provide your clients and also open your eyes to the contributions of your team members.

Or, perhaps you’ve been stuck in a marketing rut and have been doing things the same way for a million years. If that sounds familiar, you might want to embrace the word Change. By devoting 2017 to exploring new options and being open to change you could bring a fresh approach to your marketing.

Whatever way you choose to meet your Q1 goals, know that Elliance strongly believes in the first resolution – ‘marketers should resolve to strive for greatness.’

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dribbbble training

Founded in 2009, Dribbble has quickly become one of the largest digital platforms for designers to show and tell, promote, discover, and explore design. With over 500,000 users, 300+ of which call Pittsburgh home, Dribbble is changing the way designers share their work, find new clients, make friends and expand their skillset.

Exclusivity has been a key factor in Dribbble’s success. Borrowing terms from basketball, players must be drafted by existing members in order to upload and share their work. This maintains a level of quality among the work shared, setting Dribbble apart from other portfolio websites, like Behance, that are free to anyone with a computer and access to the internet.

But Dribbble is more than an exclusive portfolio sharing resource. It’s user testimonials prove that users can, and have also:

  • Landed dream jobs
  • Scored new clients
  • Found endless inspiration
  • Received constructive feedback
  • Made network connections
  • And now they can acquire career training

Dribbble Training is the most recent addition to Dribbble’s arsenal of exclusive community features. They’ve partnered with design educators from leading institutions like Parsons, Stanford, and practitioners from the Dribbble community, to bring high-quality online design education to their players.

Open enrollment for the first training program begins soon.

This first session, Master Real-World UX and Process with Top Designers will feature 7 coaches from Facebook, Dropbox, Creativedash, Balkan Brothers and more. With 67 videos, 6 one-on-one sessions, and 178 real project files. Lessons include sessions about finding right fit projects, research a discovery phase guidance, wireframing and continued growth and development.

Dribbble Quote

The course is designed for freelancers, small agencies, start-ups and large companies.

But hurry, there are only 300 available spots on the roster. You don’t want to get caught riding the bench.

Neuroscientists would disagree with Juliet’s famous words from William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Smell as sweet? yes. Perceived the same as a rose? Probably not. Brain scientists can prove with imaging techniques that different words evoke vastly different responses in our brains, and possibly in our souls.

Wall Street investors, the neuroscientists of business, certainly prove that the right words liberate corporate prosperity. But well-intentioned words alone don’t change corporate destiny.

From the brand marketer’s perspective, a brand positioning line has a very specific job to do.

What must a brand positioning line do
Let’s take a look at four brand stories.

What motivated Nike to create “Just Do It”?
Nike Just Do It

Once upon a time, Nike was a brand that only served pro-athletes. Then Phil Knight decided to change its brand aspiration to serve not only pro-athletes but also all athletic-minded people. “Just Do It” was created to appeal to this expanded market.

Adding three simple words to Nike’s marketing repertoire expanded Nike’s market share of the North American domestic sport-shoe business from 18% to 43%, (from $877 million to $9.2 billion in worldwide sales) from 1988 to 1998.

How about Apple’s “Think Different”?
Apple Think Different
Introduced after Steve Job’s return in late 90’s, it was launched to mark the return of the prodigal son, the overthrow of establishment-minded John Scully, simplification of Apple’s product lines, and a signal that things will never be the same again at Apple. And they weren’t.

Apple turned the computer into an appliance and then revolutionized the phone, music, publishing, retailing and software industries. All this catapulted Apple into the most valuable company on the planet.

In b2b space, why would GE change their long-established position “We bring good things to life” to the new brand position?

GE Imagination at Work

As GE diversified itself and moved deeper into industrial services powered by the internet, financial services and media, it needed a positioning line makeover. The new GE was going to be more innovative, more enterprising and more creative. The new positioning line would help ultimately propel GE into the future as one of the most profitable and respected companies.

Lastly, what about IBM’s adoption of the new “smarter planet” positioning line?
IBM Smarter Planet
In the mid 2000’s, technology changed the world in ways that has few parallels in history. The convergence of affordable mobile devices, cheap sensors, cheap storage and faster networks unleashed a new world. As a result, everyone appears to be carrying a mobile device, the app economy has become the new normal, cars are computerized and connected, buildings are equipped with sensors, cities are wired at all levels, personalized medicine has become possible, and competency-based online learning is the new normal. Big data is being produced and accumulated at a dizzying pace. IBM’s new positioning line was created to take the world head-on through big data and smarter interconnected everything.

Is IBM the leading company behind smart cities, smart buildings, smart logistics, smart cars, smart medicine and smart learning? Certainly not, but it certainly feels that they are ahead of the curve.

If you are a B2B professional in marketing, sales, communications and management, attend our webinar on Jan 26th, 2017 at 2pm ET. You’ll learn some rules of thumb, techniques and strategies for uncovering the words that will help propel your growth plan. You’ll also hear a case study of how one Fortune 500 company’s business unit experienced an inflection point with a new brand positioning line.

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