All Posts By

Laura Prael

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Soar Collective: How to pick the best digital agency

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

“Internal sales and marketing teams have a tough job figuring out when and what to outsource, and to whom. And, with good reason. Outsourced project work can be the difference between your business exceeding its targets and a manager getting the boot from their job. But with so many agencies popping up — seemingly faster than a new Joe & The Juice bar — how can you figure out which agency is right for your business?

The truth is, not all agencies are right for you. I’m not here to tell you that my company, LEP Digital, is your guiding light either — we could be a shoo-in or a complete misfit. It depends entirely on your business and what you’re looking for.”

Do you know how to pick the best digital agency for you and your business?

 

Our Director, Laura, explains a few factors to consider when searching for a digital agency to match your needs.

Thank you to Soar Collective for the feature. Read more…

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A Girl in Progress: 7 Ways To Turn Your Freelance Side Hustle Into An Empire

By | Careers | No Comments

“When I started freelancing three years ago, I viewed it as a way to supplement my full-time income to pay off a mortgage that I couldn’t afford. Welcome to adulthood! Of course, I had distant dreams of freelancing full-time with all the benefits that came with it: Sleep-ins, wearing pajamas all day and being within reaching distance to snacks. But mostly I dreamt about having the freedom to work when, how and where I wanted.

I was naive. I’d never run a business before (besides charging my parents to watch me put on plays, or taking a cut on trips to the canteen for my friends). So, with that, I made plenty of mistakes early on. I did a lot of work for free, I didn’t value my time as much as I should, and I didn’t spend enough time honing my craft or building my business. My enemy was time, mixed with a heaped cup of self-doubt. Eventually, the demands on my time caught up with me: I was anxious, sleepless, and weak. Freelancing sounds like fun right? Don’t worry—things get better from here on out.”

Want to know how to navigate the tricky waters of freelance to arrive on the island of business?

 

Our Director, Laura, gives us seven tips on how to turn a freelance side hustle into an empire.

Thank you to A Girl in Progress for this feature. Read more…

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What makes good copywriting great?

By | Copywriting | 2 Comments

Find a great copywriter. Keep them close.  

We all know great copy when we see it, but most people don’t know exactly why it’s great. Writing quality copy is both an art and a science. As an art, it takes aptitude, knowledge and creativity. As a science, it requires many years of practice, trial and error, improvement and training.

So, how can you find a copywriter that has the right mix of both? To start with, read through their copy and ask yourself if they:

1. Take an unexpected approach

Good copy demands attention. There’s lots of numbers floating around that estimate how many marketing messages hit us each day. While it’s difficult to accurately define, we say the range is between 300-600. The best copywriting breaks through the noise by straying from the script and taking a different approach to an idea. Good copy makes you look (and think) twice about what you’re reading, which makes it memorable.

Often, the most obvious message isn’t the best one. For example, if Acura had stuck to the Product Manager’s PowerPoint slides, this ad may have read: “Our top-of-the-range luxury family car.” Instead, the writer looked a little deeper and asked ‘why and when would a customer purchase this car?’

Acura advertisement

2. Understand the customer

Copy fails when it’s pitched too broadly, or worse, to everyone. You can’t please everyone, so don’t try to. The best copywriters can identify more than just a general target audience or demographic. Successful copy speaks to one person by understanding their specific situation, motivations, needs, desires and challenges. Know your customer, give them a name, and write for and to them.

3. Build an emotional connection

Good writers find a way to empathise with their readers to build trust and rapport. This involves looking more deeply into the problem that your product or service solves and showing empathy. For example, customers that are buying a pillow online are likely to find copy that looks something like, “We make the best organic cotton pillows. Buy our pillow.”

A better approach is to understand your customerlet’s call her Sarah. What’s Sarah’s primary reason for buying a new pillow? Maybe she’s not sleeping well. Maybe Sarah’s so tired that it’s negatively impacting her performance at work, her mood or how she feels. If that’s the case, the fact that your pillow is made from organic cotton is not enough to persuade Sarah to hand over her credit card number. You haven’t connected to her on an emotional level.

Instead, see how Westin pitched their hotel beds in this print ad:

Westin hotels ad

 

4. Nail the headlines

A recent study by Sharethrough showed that 1 in 5 Millennials say that they only read the headlines when browsing social or content feeds. Headlines, including email subject lines, have always been a critical tool for hooking in an audience. David Olgivy famously said that five times as many people read the headline than the body copy. If the headline or email subject is dull, your audience won’t read on. The trick is to spark curiosity without giving away the whole story. Make it emotive, relevant, timely and punchy. Humour, play on words, and unexpected one-liners are great ways to grab attention. Check out these headlines from Urban Daddy, a magazine for new products, experiences, and eateries:

  • It’s an indie film festival, obviously
  • 10 people causing the most panic in the White House this week
  • Six days. That’s how long you have until 65% of your body is turkey.
  • The $185 paper clip. Don’t act so surprised, it’s Prada.

5. Make things simple

Ain’t no one got time for big fat words and long, unwieldy sentences. Good copy gets to the point. It’s hard to be concise, so if you’re eager to test out your copywriter’s brevity – give them a word limit. The trick is to cut out extraneous words. Choose shorter, more efficient ways to get across your meaning.

  • Use active voice instead of passive: Instead of “A confirmation email will be sent to you on completion of your order,” try, “We’ll send you a confirmation email after you order.”
  • Replace space-hogging phrases with one word: Replace “At this time” with “now” and “to be able to” with “to” and so on.

6. Avoid jargon and hyperbole

Synergy. Unprecedented. Cross-functional and multi-disciplinary. Deep-drive. Revolutionary.

Have you left yet? We’re all tired of hearing buzz words–otherwise known as corporate crap. Unfortunately, some copywriters fall back on these words when they’re unsure of how to clearly describe their product or service. The best copy is written for thinking humans. So call a spade, a spade–not a ground penetrating system. This includes you, Braun.

Braun shaving ad

 

7. Pay attention to detail

It sounds basic, but how often have you caught typos, spelling mistakes, broken links, or repeated words in published work? It doesn’t bode well for your brand, but it can happen to even the most experienced writers. Copywriters should use an external proof reader to pick over their work before it goes to the client or gets posted. If you don’t have a proof reader on hand, and the deadline is looming, walk away from the computer for some time, and read again later. Reading your work out aloud can also help to pick up rogue words and clunky sentences.

Attention to detail isn’t just about avoiding errors, it’s also about consistency. So, if you referred to the shortened version of a book title in paragraph one, don’t use the longer version in paragraph four.

Choose wisely

You have only a small window to engage with your audience, so choose your words, and your copywriter, wisely.

I’m curious: what do you consider to be some common signs of great copywriting? Leave me a comment below.

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12 free stock image websites to try

By | Design | One Comment

I often joke that the hardest part about writing a blog or putting a website live is finding the right images. It’s a real conundrum. The images you choose need to support your words by conveying the appropriate meaning and emotion. They can make or break your content efforts really fast. So, do you pay for a photographer, buy images from one of the well-known stock shops, or hunt around finding quality free-to-use images? And when you find the right image, how do you ensure that you’re not breaking any copyright rules?

I’m a big supporter of artists so, where I can, I try to search for talented individuals over larger commercial sites. In my time running my own business, I’ve tried and tested a few websites where you can find free stock images and videos that are available for public use. I’ve found some favourites that I think you might like. If you agree, don’t forget to make a small donation when you download your images to help keep these websites and their artists in business.

1. Free Photos CC

FreePhotos.cc is a free resource where you can find creative commons photos for your website or print projects. Search from 100 popular categories or use the search function to look up images by topic (e.g. “Dogs”, “Flowers”, etc.), browse results and download. How does it work? FreePhotos.cc uses the APIs from a few stock photo providers–including Pexels.com–and gathers images in one place for easy preview and download. We recommend that you attribute the photographer as a token of respect for the work.

2. Pixabay

Pixabay is an excellent resource for free-to-use photos, illustrations, vector graphics and videos. Yep–videos! Why not transform your static web banner to a moving story? All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyright under Creative Commons (CC0). You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. And, you don’t need to attribute the source.

3. Free Refe Mobile Photos

On this Tumblr website, images taken on mobile devices are king. These images scream Pinterest and Instagram because they capture the beauty of every day in a stylised and aesthetically pleasing way. This website is great if you’re looking for objects, landscapes or food shots. We recommend using these images for your digital projects only, as they may be too small for printing.

free stock image of food

 

4. Gratisography

Gratisogrsphy offers high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. While the image library is limited – you may search in categories for animals, nature, objects, people, urban and whimsical – the images are interesting and quirky and the risk of seeing your image on other people’s websites is low.  All pictures are photographed by Ryan McGuire and free of copyright restrictions. Images are free, but you’re encouraged to donate to “Ryan McGuire’s coffee fund.” Cute.

5. Jay Mantri

“Free pics. Do anything (CC0). Make magic.” Jay Mantri is a designer that encourages you to use his videos and photos to make magic. Mantri posts seven new photos to his site each week that are free to use in any way you like, without attribution. That’s very generous of him. The images have an artistic, urban feel and have a wide application thanks to their varied subject matter.

6. MyStock.Photos

MyStock.photos is a curated list of free stock photos made by professionals that can be used for personal and commercial projects. The website is as simple as it gets: one search bar and the latest images in a grid underneath. It’s the perfect go-to for images of landscapes, cities and landmarks that are anything but cliché.

7. I’m Free

I’m Free is a relatively new website devoted to more than just stock images. Use it to find downloadable templates, mockups, icons, vectors, textures and graphics. For the OCD creatives among us, you’ll be pleased to find that the stock images are nicely organised and grouped by categories. If you’re writing for food, sports & fitness, health, technology, or travel–this is the stock website for you.

8. Death to the Stock Photo

Are you sick of cheesy stock images? Death to the stock photo is exactly what it claims to be. It’s disrupting the stock industry with artfully created images and video “story packs” for commercial and private use. Companies including Fast Company, Spotify, TED, and Twitter all use this site for their creative pursuits. This website operates a little differently to the others on this list. Instead of searching for your images, you can either sign up to a free membership where the curators will send you images each month (that’s right–you don’t need to do anything). Or, sign up for a premium membership and take advantage of unlimited downloads, photo filtering and search. When you sign up to a free account, you’ll instantly receive free 10 photos in a zip file, including this one:

Death of the stock photo image

9. The Pattern Library

I’m breaking away from the topic for just a moment, but stay with me. This site does not offer stock photos. But, it does offer an amazing array of patterns. It’s kind of like funky wallpaper for your website and has designers written all over it. Go bold, or go home. Download your hi-resolution patterns in just one click.

10. Pexels

If you’ve been publishing blogs for the last few years, you’ve no doubt used Pexels. It’s my go-to for high quality stock images. What I love most about it, besides the variety, is that you can download the exact size you need. Choose from original, large, medium, small or enter your own custom size. This is great for image optimisation–when size does matter. I also love that you can browse by popular photos and searches, photographer leaderboard, keywords or even colours.

 

11. Public Domain Archive

Despite its clunky name, The Public Domain Archive is not a museum. Instead, it’s a collection of beautiful modern and vintage images. To keep things fresh, they add to their collection weekly.  If you’re so inclined, you can also submit your own images for use. Use the Public Domain Archive if you’re looking for images of nature, skylines or objects from interesting perspectives.

12. Freepik

Freepik is probably the most versatile free stock website of the list because its variety of content and file formats. Freepik offers high quality illustrations and graphics–including icons, vectors and PSD files–that have been carefully selected by its design team. Freepik uses a “freemium” business model which means that the majority of the content can be used for free as long as you credit the author of illustration using Freepik’s code. If you don’t want to include a credit, you may subscribe to the Premium plan for a small fee.

What do you think?

While these are my favourites, you may know of others that tick all the boxes. Please leave me a comment below so that we can share our resources.

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SEO vs SEM: Which one should I invest in?

By | SEO | No Comments
Over my many years in the content marketing space, I’ve received a lot of questions about SEO and SEM. “What’s the difference?” or “which one is worth my money?” seem to be the most common ones.

I’m always glad when clients ask me about this because, while both SEO and SEM are designed to boost your site’s traffic from search engines, the two are entirely differently strategies. They don’t offer the same results, and they certainly don’t require the same amount of investment (either time-wise or financially!)

Let me dive in a little deeper and explain what I mean. Read More