Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mel Rees

Top Tips…How To Brief a Designer To Achieve Great Results

By Mel Rees

We asked creative director, Mel Rees, to have a think about what clients can do to help their designers meet their creative objectives and make the whole process as smooth as possible. We think they’re pretty straight-forward, but not thinking them through at the outset can make the whole experience slightly more stressful – for both parties! Graphic design

1. Make sure you know what you want: It may sound obvious, but many people without marketing experience (and some people with it!) begin the design briefing process without having a clear idea of what they want to achieve. Write down your objectives for any campaign so you are able to explain them clearly and succinctly to yourself before trying them out on anyone else.

2. Make yourself easy to understand: Your business and brand is obviously clear in your mind, but it may not be clear to anyone else. Don’t expect your designer to be a mind-reader. Tell them all about your business – even if you think it’s irrelevant. Many descriptive words and expressions are subjective. What is ‘funky’ to one person may be ‘traditional’ to another. If you have specific design preferences, be clear or better still, use visual examples.

3. Let your designer be the designer: Don’t commission a designer and then immediately start designing the project yourself. When writing your brief, concentrate on your marketing objectives and allow your designer to interpret them. By all means be a part of the creative process and never let your designer bully you – but make sure your roles are properly defined.

4. Write it down: Have you ever phoned your designer, given them a 10-20 minute spiel and then expected them to deliver an award-winning campaign? And have you ever received totally unexpected results following this conversation? It simply doesn’t work. A written brief gives you both a point of reference when evaluating creative work. And it encourages you to explain your requirements in depth.

5. Plan ahead and understand your budget: To achieve value for money and the right results you need to understand how much bang you’ll get for your buck. Agree exact costs for each design element up front. Give your designer a really accurate project plan and check each element off, making sure you both understand where you are in the project at every stage.

Check out our creative briefing template here.

Mel Rees – Creative Director, VG&A

Tim Haigh

Top Tips…Writing a Killer Press Release

By Tim Haigh

Knowing the best way to approach writing press releases can be a minefield.
Tim Haigh, former Head of Corporate Communications at Reed Elsevier, offers some tips: The many facets of public relations

1.    Is what you have to say interesting?
What you are writing about has to be of interest to journalists or they won’t cover your story.  Obvious sales pitches will be ignored.

2.    Relevance
Your story also has to have some relevance for the people who are going to be reading or hearing about it. For local media, for example, this means finding a local angle. Also, it often helps to include relevant photographs!

3.    Is it newsworthy?
News has to be new. There is no point publicising an event or activity that happened weeks ago. You need to talk about what’s happening now or what’s about to happen.

4.    Build relationships
Know your target media. Introduce yourself to the journalist most likely to cover your story, but try not to ring him close to deadline as he won’t have time to chat.

5.    Be precise
Keep your press release short and to the point and written in the same style as your target media. Summarise the whole story in the first paragraph, ensuring the headline is factual and includes an active verb.

6.    Contact details
Include your contact details at the end followed by a short paragraph describing your company – do not include this information in the body of the release.

7.    Email etiquette
When emailing the release, send it in the body of the email – don’t send it as an attachment and don’t include logos. Emails with attachments often get bounced back.

8.    Follow up
Follow up your release – ring the journalist to check he has it and if he has all the information he needs.

9.    Find out what works
If the journalist isn’t interested in your story, ask why – it will be useful learning for next time.

Importantly, you don’t have to rely on third parties to push your news to a wider audience. Why not use channels such as email, social media and professional networking sites to communicate important news and updates to your target audience. If planned and managed well they can be just as, if not more, effective as a press release – PLUS you have greater control in terms of what is published and when. 

Piers Aitman

Top Tips…Creating An Effective Website

By Piers Aitman

Web developers - not all of them are alike

Not sure what to do about developing your website? Here are some top tips from VG&A’s web associate, Piers Aitman: 

1. What will the website do for you?
Think carefully about your website’s functionality and whether they would be right for your audience. For example, will you need e-commerce or log-in functionality?
Importantly, make sure you have clear calls to action (CTAs) – you want your visitors to get in touch, so make it easy for them. Options to consider include your office telephone number, mobile number, email address, Skype address and business address.

2. Communicate
Visitors to your website will need to understand what you can do for them in a matter of seconds, so this needs to be thought through carefully. Think, too, about the language and the tone which will be appropriate for your audience.
Clearly spell out your offer and what makes you different. Organise your pages and content accordingly and clearly show the user ways to contact you. This helps users navigate their way around your site and is also the basis of search engine optimisation.

3. Get on the right platform
There are many ways of building and maintaining your website within a variety of price points. Some agencies may be keen to channel you into a system that suits them, may be inappropriate in scale, usability or cost and may tie you into working with them for the long term. If you’re not sure, get them to highlight the pros and cons of what they’re suggesting and what it is likely to cost to build, as well as any additional costs, such as hosting.

4. Who are you talking to?
Build your website appropriately for your audience. The design and technical specification may be different for sites viewed predominantly on office or home PCs, for younger or older audiences, people in different countries and so on. It’s vitally important that your site displays well on smartphones and mobile devices, given how their usage has grown.

5. Who will look after the site?
Build in simple and realistic targets for management of updateable content. It’s no use committing to social media content across Facebook and Twitter and not having the resources to update them. Likewise, there’s no point building in bespoke, expensive functionality into your website at the outset which you won’t use.

6. Keep it simple
Usability and responsiveness have long been web design buzzwords. Users love sites that present information simply, are quick to load and easy to navigate. Beautifully designed and unusually structured websites can be great as long as they still provide the user with a quick and intuitive journey to where they want to go.

For a web design template, take a look at our downloads at Don’t Look!

Piers Aitman – Web Associate, VG&A