News

3 reasons to paraphrase more - and quote less

Posted in Tips on 29 July 2014
A recent issue of The New York Times magazine offers a compelling interview with Carl Hart, who is the first tenured African-American professor of sciences at Columbia University and a former drug user.
Hart is known for his research into drug abuse and addiction and is author of the 2013 book "High Price," which sounds so interesting that I'm going to read it next week.
 
What could be more sensational than this? First, there's the juxtaposition of drug abuse and a stellar university career. Then there's the racial aspect. Then there's Hart's tendency to speak in firm, declarative, no-BS sentences.
 
For a writer, the really interesting challenge is to look at his interview and figure out which particular direct quotes I'd use if I were preparing a story on him.
 
Here's why I find this so intriguing:
 
Many corporate writers (and some journalists, too, incidentally) quote way too much. I learned this the hard way, as a result of my habit of copying other writers. I discovered that some writers quoted their sources rather more selectively and modestly than I did—and to greater effect. I immediately vowed to emulate their technique.
 
To quote less requires paraphrasing more. Why paraphrase? Three main reasons:
 
1. Many people in the business world don't speak in articulate, interesting sentences or, worse, they lard their language with clichés or jargon. Some can toss off clever and salient comments like, "Nero fiddled, but [Calvin] Coolidge only snored." (That's a quote from H.L. Mencken—a journalist.) For every one of those, there are a dozen who will say, "Coolidge ran a laissez-faire government." B-O-R-I-N-G. So, even while you'll always want to cite sources, do them—and your readers—a favor by paraphrasing. This is particularly important if your sources use clichés or jargon. There's no need to inflict those on your readers.
 
2. Paraphrasing allows you to summarize. Your interview with a subject might run as long as half an hour. Assuming this person speaks at 150 words per minute, you may collect 4,500 words. You can't use them all. By summarizing—and paraphrasing—you'll be able to share the most important and valuable information your readers need.
 
3. Paraphrasing allows you to highlight the best of the best. Do you know why jewelers like to display their goods on black velvet? It's because the darkness of the fabric makes the jewels glitter brightly by comparison. Similarly, if you paraphrase the bulk of what your subjects tell you and quote only the most captivating phrases, you'll be giving them a background of black velvet against which they can shine like diamonds.
 
Putting it into action
 
So, let's return to that Carl Hart interview. I printed it out, took my yellow highlighter and marked the three quotes (four sentences) I'd use:
 
"The problem was that crack wasn't the real problem."
"As a politician, you can use "crack cocaine" as a code word and say you're going after it, but you're actually going after people we don't really like in our society."
"If politicians did care about their constituents, they would work harder to seek out people like me. They don't."
I selected these quotes because they seemed "real" to me and because they were tightly constructed and non-repetitious.
 
So how would I handle the rest of the (interesting) material? Here's an example: The Nancy Reagan quote fascinated me but didn't make the cut, because it was too choppy and I figured it would be better off paraphrased. Here's how I'd handle it:
 
Hart says the "just-say-no" attitude of people like Nancy Reagan illustrates a kind of detached cluelessness that he finds abhorrent. "If politicians did care about their constituents, they would work harder to seek out people like me," he says. "They don't."
 
Paraphrasing isn't much work, especially if you're a corporate writer and you can ask your source to review the story before it's published. In many cases you can even use the quotes precisely—just remove the quotation marks to make it flow better and seem more readable.
 
Would you make the same choice I did in the Hart article? Please describe how you have would have handled it.
 

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5 tips to improve your brand image

Posted in Tips on 29 July 2014
Every major brand has a distinct personality. 
 
Though they serve similar needs, you’d never confuse Walmart for Nordstrom, Microsoft for Apple, In-n-Out Burger for McDonald’s, Holiday Inn for the Ritz Carlton, or Southwest Airlines for Emirates. Brands develop specific attributes, most of which are earned through their actions. Smart brands always look to improve that list of attributes in order to attract the type of customer they want to serve in the future. 
 
Having helped companies develop effective brand communications over the past two decades, I’ve come up with a handful of tips to help you improve the way others see your brand. Take time to really: 
 
1. Know thyself, inside and out. 
 
To enhance your brand image, you have to understand your starting position. Take a mirror and hold it up to your brand in the harsh light of day. (Give your brand a long, hard look, trying to be honest rather than aspirational.) Ask yourself these three questions: Why do customers choose us? Relative to other brands serving the same customers, how does our brand stack up? How would our brand attributes change if we better served our customers? 
 
2. Figure out how to appeal to and attract the customers you want. 
 
It’s not all about you. Your personal preferences, while interesting, aren’t particularly relevant. Your brand image should speak to what your target audience values. Engineering-driven technology companies sometimes create brand images that reflect the technical founder’s view of the world. That’s usually a mistake. Your customers may buy ultra-high performance networking gear from you, but what they really want is improved employee productivity, enhanced employee satisfaction, and the ability to fulfill their customers’ orders during peak seasons. You may think you’re selling boxes when what you’re actually selling is peace of mind. Intelligence is important, but when it comes to your brand, emotion is perhaps more important. 
 
Let’s say you’re selling peace of mind. Think about colors, fonts and imagery that convey peace of mind. People will judge you, at least initially, by your appearance, so think long and hard about how to convey your brand image in everything you do, always putting the customer first. 
 
3. Communicate your brand values throughout your company. 
 
Your website and other outward brand messages aren’t the only things communicating who you are to customers and prospects. Every single person in your company is a brand ambassador. Hire carefully and build your brand promise from the inside out. Set and enforce the right tone, making sure everyone who works at your company knows what you stand for, how you operate, and what kind of a customer experience you intend to deliver. 
 
For Zappos, the brand promise involves delivering superior service and selection to online shoppers. The company has very generous free shipping (both ways), and a 365-day “no questions asked” return policy. More important, perhaps, is that all Zappos employees are aware of the brand promise, and they’re given latitude in their interactions with customers. The result? About 75 percent of Zappos customers are repeat customers. That’s pretty remarkable, but then, Zappos has done the work to build a great brand.
 
4. Recognize that first impressions can be lasting. 
 
It’s true you cannot make “old friends’ overnight and it’s “what’s on the inside” that counts. That said, many people will make snap decisions about your brand based on the first impression. If they like what they see, they’ll investigate further. If not, they’ll go elsewhere. It may not be fair, but that’s life.
 
Carefully review all of your potential customer touch points to ensure that prospective customers get a “brand-appropriate” first impression. What impression will they take away of your brand when they visit your website, stop by your trade show booth, connect with you on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, come to your offices or meet your employees? If it’s positive and consistent with your brand promise, congratulations! If not, you’d be well advised to make the necessary changes as soon as practical. 
 
5. Be consistent. 
 
A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but a “smart consistency” is critical to building your brand and growing your business. Alaska Airlines is a great example of how consistency of interaction increases customer loyalty. The interactions I have with Alaska have a tenor I enjoy. On one occasion, I had an “off brand” experience, and the same day that I let Alaska know about that interaction, I received a sincere apology and a satisfactory resolution, preserving their positive brand image in my eyes. Smart. 
 
Customers like knowing what to expect from the interactions they have with your company. This means you need to deliver brand-consistent experiences across sales, customer support, and accounts receivable calls, in all your direct marketing efforts, on social media channels, throughout your PR and advertising programs, on the Web, and elsewhere. It extends to the tone and personality your people and processes take when interacting with customers and prospective customers anywhere along the line. 
 
Why do you need to ensure that your company delivers the same brand experience across every department? Because when people know what to expect, they come to trust you. And once they trust you, they’re more likely to recommend you to their friends, family and colleagues. The industry term for this is brand continuity, and it’s very important to your long-term business success.
 

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14 2014 SEO Myths and the Truths Behind Them

Posted in Tips on 29 July 2014
Because of the relatively vague nature of SEO – relative to paid channels, that is – the field is more open than others to opinions…which can start off informed but, without checks and balances, can morph into myths over time.
 
But the field evolves like crazy, so yesterday’s myths aren’t the same as today’s myths. Some of these myths have been around before 2014, while others have recently surfaced. The listed myths are ones that are either buzzing around the industry or that brand managers have brought to my attention. Numbers 4, 8, 10, 11, 12 are some of the newer myths that have recently surfaced.
 
Whenever Google releases an algorithm update of any kind, speculation begins in the industry about how to update on-page/off-page factors to play into the new algorithm tweaks. I assume in the near future we’ll hear and see more myths arise regarding mobile, entity relationships, and the ever-changing visual nature of Google SERPs.
 
In today’s post, I’ll examine what I believe to be the prevailing myths in the SEO industry – and I’ll look at the reality behind them.
 
1) SEO is dead
 
This thought is commonly thrown around and while not new to 2014, it still is around; actually, it might even have been heightened over the past several years. Just type in ‘SEO is’ within Google and check out the autocomplete results, which are largely based upon search volume: seo is dead, seo is bullsh*t, seo is dead forbes.
 
The fact of the matter is, public opinion seems to have SEO dying, year-over-year (and subsequently coming back to life each year…?). But SEO isn’t dead. Yes, it has changed, which brings us to our next myth…
 
2) SEO is just about the organic landscape (on-page & off-page opts)
 
This certainly started with a grain of truth. SEO used to be solely about the organic landscape, only working on optimizing direct on-page elements (title tags, h1 tags, meta descriptions, etc.) as well as direct off-page elements (link building). Now, however, there’s the Umbrella of SEO. This SEO Umbrella consists of user experience testing, blogging efforts, public relations efforts, email marketing, and social media promotion.
 
As SEO professionals move away from simply working toward achieving placement within the SERPs, their day-to-day is more about being brand managers and ensuring the client’s digital footprint is as far-reaching and accurate as possible. In short, if you write content regarding your brand/website, you can benefit from SEO engagement.
 
3) There’s some magic bullet that exists for SEO
 
This is an oldie and a persistent goodie…but there is no magic silver bullet that will kill the SEO Werewolf. A lot of people are under the assumption that you can change one attribute on your website/webpage and from this alone achieve beneficial ranking changes.
 
For the most part (large technical fixes being the exception: unblocking a page from robots.txt, for example) this is simply not true. SEO isn’t about finding that one loose screw and turning it, but rather turning a multitude of screws while in tandem pulling levers to get your webpage to function as one holistically optimized page theme for the spiders to understand.
 
4) I need to rank No. 1 organically
 
In 2012, you may have a good point here. In 2014, ranking No. 1 is no longer what it used to be. Just look at the new visual nature of the SERPs, where on some queries the No. 1 ranking spot is actually below the fold on certain screens.
 
New updates are pushing down the organic results: PLAs (which are now above text ads); the Google Carousel that appears on local queries, music tracks, etc.; the Google Answer Cards (that literally scrape content from websites to render at the top of SERPs). Ranking high on the SERPs is going to be more beneficial than not, true, however the benefit has changed and now SEOs can and should affect more than just ranking increases
 
5) Sending any paid media to the engines will give you a boost in organic rankings
 
This myth comes from those who believe that if you are involved in AdWords/Bing Ads, you get an inherent boost in organic rankings. The problem is, the only correlation whatsoever between running organic efforts alongside paid efforts is that cannibalization doesn’t happen, meaning higher click-through rates have been established when you organically rank next to one of your paid ads within the SERPs.
 
6) SEO tools are all you need
 
SEO tools are great for tracking and management. Additionally they can provide you a one-stop shop for seeing side-by-side SEO metrics such as rankings next to analytics. The problem with SEO tools comes when you have a brand manager who thinks that said tool is all they need.
 
Tool suites will likely have what they’ve deemed as best practice recommendations, based on an automated system. As SEO professionals, we understand that while there can be some continuity between verticals for best practices, there are many optimizations that hold true for one vertical over another.
 
Moreover, tools have some pretty universal shortcomings: they don’t alert you to algorithm updates or potential penalties incurred, and they tend not to have deep content insights for competitor websites.
 
7) SEO is “set it and forget it”
 
Many people are under the assumption that SEO is a one-time update, consisting of updating your website to the current best practices and then no longer needing SEO services. SEO is truly best when run as an ongoing engagement. The engines take time to recognize and index website updates. We’ve seen some sites take several months for changes to take effect within the SERPs.
 
With constant algorithm updates and tests, you can’t update your website for today’s best practices and then turn a blind eye towards tomorrow’s . And I’m not even touching the fact that fresh, relevant, frequently updated content is not a one-time endeavor.
 
8) Marking up my content (microdata) will help it rank
 
We haven’t identified any direct causation between Schema markup and higher organic rankings. With that said, website markup should still happen. It does help the spiders to further understand your content and entity relationships; it also has the potential to be visually pulled into the SERPs for enhanced click-through rates.
 
9) UX and SEO are separate efforts
 
This can be viewed as more of an opinion than a myth, but brand managers still hold this view of UX and SEO. The two play together very closely, with UX helping to improve some SEO metrics such as time-on-site and bounce rate, to name two.
 
Consumer psychology studies have been performed for insights such as button shapes and colors to help influence how users interact with the website, which all ties back into the ‘stickiness’ or health/authority of the website and overall SEO benefit.
 
10) Social media signals directly drive SEO
 
Google used to have access to the Twitter fire hose, but that relationship ended back in 2011. The social data Google does have access to is its proprietary social network, Google+.
 
However, no direction causation has been seen from +1’ing a post with higher organic rankings; only correlation has been seen with the notion that content that ranks well is likely popular and beneficial and will also fare well via social networks (Google+, for example).
 
11) Author rank is real
 
As it stands today, there has been no confirmation of Author Rank and how it may tie in with Google’s algorithms. Many people confuse Author Rank with Authorship, and they are very different. Authorship is the visual markup you see within the SERPs that anyone can do, which involves HTML code placement. The idea behind Author Rank is to attribute certain values to authors who then can become authorities for topical areas, thus likely having their opinions/answers given more priority within the SERPs.
 
This has yet to manifest, so it may still live in the myth realm…but it’s likely to manifest soon.
 
12) LINKS ARE DEAD!
 
As soon as Google and Bing came out and said they recognize social signals as ranking factors (initially noted, now most are skeptical) many people flocked to the camp that said links are either dead or are dying. Within days, some case studies arose of content initially ranking very well with only social shares and mentions, and zero links.
 
Another factor nudging this myth along is that Yandex, the main search engine in Russia, has an algorithm that doesn’t place value upon links due to the huge spammy nature of Russian websites. (I’m not sure how wide spread this knowledge is, but this could contribute to the myth/opinion that links are dead or being devalued.)
 
Turns out, links are still very significant in SEO. There’s a focus on link quality that has evolved over the years, and penalties resulting from black hat linking practices, but good links still help to produce good traffic.
 
13) SEO is only reactive
 
This goes to the notion of brands thinking that after their website has been hit with a potential penalty is the appropriate time to engage in SEO services. And this is just fine – as long as you’re willing to either incur a penalty or be non-competitive for traffic in the first place.
SEO should ideally be proactive rather than reactive.
 
14) You should put your trust in SEO gurus for all the insight you need
 
There are simply just too many bloggers or self-proclaimed “SEO Gurus” (seriously, what does that even mean…?) out there publishing opinions on the web to take everything you read literally. Whenever people who are looking into SEO for their site read something on the web, it should be taken with a grain of salt. (Yes, that even means taking this article with a grain of salt.) You should never trust a single source, but rather use the information you find there to see if it also is resounded elsewhere.
 
 

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Yelp Adds Video Function to Review Site

Posted in News on 29 July 2014
Yelp is turning to video to enable users of its site to personalize their reviews.
 
The online review site has updated its iPhone app to give its users the chance to post three- to 12-second video reviews of local eateries, hotspots and other businesses.
 
Visuals are important, Yelp said in a blog post, noting that 23,000 photos are uploaded daily from mobile apps. In fact, Yelp users spend 2.5 times longer on business pages with pictures than on those that have none.
 
Kicking it up a notch with video better enables users to capture details of an establishment that photos alone can’t.
 
The feature is not meant to be an oral video review but, rather, an opportunity to show the décor, ambiance and size of an establishment.
 
“These short videos are great for conveying the atmosphere of a business, which helps others anticipate their experience before stopping by,” Yelp said in the blog post. “For instance, imagine scrolling through pics of delicious dishes at a new bistro but not really being able to tell if the ambiance is more ‘date night’ or ‘family friendly.’ Yelp video is here to help.”
 
Although the feature is currently only available for iPhone users, the tool is coming soon Android.
 

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Samsung's Operating System Delayed Again

Posted in News on 29 July 2014

Tizen-Operated Phones Won't Roll Out This Quarter

Does it really matter anymore?
 
SamsungThat question seems even more relevant with news that Samsung has delayed the launch of Tizen, it’s operating system that would challenge both Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iOS. The system had been scheduled to first roll out in Russia sometime this quarter but that launch date has been pushed back.
 
Initially, as ZDNet reports, Samsung had said the first line of Tizen-operated devices would be available in 2013. That, obviously, didn’t happen and the company has now said more time is needed to develop the system.
 
It seems a stretch to imagine a third, popular operating system on the market, especially one from Samsung. The company has, as reported earlier this year, maintained its spot as the top provider for mobile phones with a nearly 31 percent hold on the market.
 
What system do Samsung phones use now? Android.
 
Tizen is Samsung’s second attempt at creating its own operating system, as noted by USA Today, and has been in development since 2011. Those delays seem to have taken a toll as, in January, Japan’s largest mobile carrier, NTT DoCoMo, put off its plan to sell Tizen handsets.
 
Don’t count Samsung out, though.
 
While Tizen phone’s have yet to see the light of day, other devices relying on the system have been made available. A Smartwatch and a Samsung camera both use the system.
 
But, as Pop Herald reported, the idea of its own operating system is likely linked to cash for Samsung. With its phones depending on Android most users purchase apps for their devices from Google’s Play Store. That’s the Android store which is operated through Google.
 
Samsung isn’t making nearly as much money from those apps as it would if it had its own app store and operating system.

 

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Mozilla Chooses Interim Boss Chris Beard as CEO

Posted in News on 29 July 2014
Mozilla’s acting CEO has been handed the job full-time.
 
The maker of Firefox — which chose former marketing chief Chris Beard to serve as its interim top boss in April after the position was vacated by the embattled Brendan Eich — has made the promotion permanent.
 
“The Mozilla board has reviewed many internal and external candidates – and no one we met was a better fit,” said Mozilla board chairwoman Mitchell Baker in a blog post.
 
“Over the years, Chris has led many of Mozilla’s most innovative projects. We have relied on his judgment and advice for nearly a decade. Chris has a clear vision of how to take Mozilla’s mission and turn it into industry-changing products and ideas.”
 
The decision to hand Beard the top spot brings an end to the drama-filled days of co-founder Eich’s tenure as CEO.
 
Eich was forced to resign after less than two weeks in office over his gay marriage stance. Liberal groups and gay activists demanded Eich step down after it became public knowledge that he supported the passage of California’s Proposition 8, a state-wide initiative to ban gay marriage, with a $1,000 donation in 2008.
 
After just 11 days as CEO, Eich, in a blog post April 3, confirmed he was not only leaving his post as CEO, but leaving the company he helped found altogether.
 
Mozilla then found itself under attack for not supporting Eich, who had always kept his personal opinions separate from his work. Many said Mozilla’s chairwoman’s lack of support for Eich was unfair and he was being victimized for his belief in traditional marriage.
 
But now, four months later, Mozilla seems to have put the past behind it and is now looking to a future with Beard at the helm.
Baker, in her blog post, described Beard as the best person for the job.
 
“Chris has a keen sense of where Mozilla has been – and where we’re headed,” she said. “He has unique experience connecting with every constituency that touches our products, including consumers, partners and community members. There’s simply no better person to lead Mozilla as we extend our impact from Firefox on the desktop to the worlds of mobile devices and services.”
 

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Public Affairs Officer

Posted in Jobs on 28 July 2014
Queensland Health
Public Affairs Unit, The Townsville Hospital
 
Purpose of the role: 

- Providing media liaison for the hospitals and community health services in the Townsville Hospital and Health Service.

- Internal communication including designing and editing the Townsville Hospital and Health Service’s weekly staff e-newsletter using Adobe InDesign CS4.

- Writing media releases, arranging press conferences and media interviews

- Managing the health service’s social media including Facebook and Twitter.

- Managing events including awards ceremonies and other special events.

- Managing the corporate branding including design specifications and use of the corporate logo for the Health Services.

Qualifications/Professional registration/Other requirements

- While not mandatory, qualifications in journalism and/or public relations would be well regarded.

- Knowledge of Adobe InDesign CS4 or other desk-top publishing applications would also be well regarded.

 

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Front End Developer

Posted in Jobs on 28 July 2014
This Award-Winning digital agency with over 15 paper weights to their name in the last 7 years is looking for a passionate Front-End Developer to join the team in Sydney. You will be working with a top team developing one major web build.
We are looking for a Grad too with less of the below…
 
Tick List:
• 3 years+ agency experience
• HTML5 / CSS3 animation, LESS, JavaScript, JQuery, AJAX,
• Knowledge of Angular.js / Backbone.js
• Familiar with HandleBars.js or similar template engines
• Sound knowledge of responsive design and mobile development
• Strong understanding of performance and optimisation
• Experience with Twitter Bootstrap or similar frameworks
• Strong communication skills
• Attention to detail
 
This is a great opportunity to join a fun, young and vibrant agency who foster their people and pay heed to their culture.
 

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Web Designer/ Developer

Posted in Jobs on 28 July 2014
Location: Melbourne
 
DESCRIPTION
 
We are an agency that excels in helping brands get the best possible results out of digital media platforms. We’ve got a great roster of clients and a talented young team, and we're looking for a designer/developer hybrid-kind-of-person to join our team to bring to life all of our cool and crazy ideas! 
 
We really want someone who
- Is a great blend of being a front end visual kind of person with an understand of how to build when building needs to happen.
- Is passionate about user interfaces, 
- Is interested in playing a key role in an exciting creative agency, and 
- Will thrive in a young, talented team environment. 
 
 
About you 
- You may come from a design or coding background, the role demands a combination of both creative and technical skills. 
- You have a passion for interaction design and development comes naturally. 
- You’re highly organised, efficient, effective and self-motivated is your every day attitude. 
- You’re curious, thoughtful and have an innovative approach to problem solving. 
- An interest in being seen as some kind of God/Goddess figure by your colleagues is a distinct advantage. 
 
Essential Skills 
- Must be experienced in responsive design (HTML5,CSS), Javascript, PHP/MySQL.
- Be familiar with CMS solutions such as Wordpress, Business Catalyst, Drupal etc.
- Knowledge of Facebook SDK, Bootstrap and MVC (preferably Code Igniter) is preferable.
- Knowledge in cross-platform and cross-browser development
- Proficiency in Photoshop is also a must in turning design files into HTML.
- Passion for current creative trends and the latest techniques/technologies.
- The ability to multi-task and execute on multiple projects
- Network troubleshooting preferable.
 

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Java Developer

Posted in Jobs on 28 July 2014

Location: Brisbane

Company
This fast growing team within a well known national brand is looking for an experience Java Developer to joining their Agile team. Working with some of the organisations major clients this is a great opportunity for someone looking to start immediately.
 
Position
- The successful candidate will have:
- Experience in Java and related technologies in a commercial environment
- Web technologies and frame knowledge
- Web Services including RESTful APIs
- Experience in developing large, custom-built object-oriented applications
- Experience in an Agile environment
- The ability to work in a large, cross-functional team
 
This position is available for immediate interview and start, so please apply now. This is a contract position with the possibility of extension.
 

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