Fuel Your Creativity

By Marc Diebold

Having a passion for something outside of your day-to-day job responsibilities can fuel your creative side and inform and enhance the important career-related work that you do. Over the years, I’ve found that the things our staff at dgs are passionate about outside of work can be quite varied and interesting, and contribute in positive ways to our corporate culture. For some, it’s family or community related, like coaching their kid’s sports team or doing volunteer work at their church, or physical fitness related, like working out every day or participating in sporting events. For others, it’s simply a serious hobby that brings them joy and self-satisfaction. For me, it’s performing acoustic rock music at clubs and other venues, and recording songs or backing tracks in my home studio.

don_felder-jpgRecently I had the chance to attend a three-day Master Class on audio recording at a nationally-known recording studio along with 20 other recording enthusiasts, most of whom were studio owners or audio engineers. The guest artist we were recording was the legendary musician and songwriter Don Felder, best known as the former lead guitar player for The Eagles, where he wrote the music for several hit songs including Hotel California.

During the class, we re-recorded Don playing all the guitar parts (both his and Joe Walsh’s) for that famous song using guitars, amps and microphones nearly identical to the ones he used when he did the original recording. Our challenge was to make a recording that sounded as close as possible to the original release.

We were also treated to a few fascinating ‘behind the scenes’ stories about the making of that iconic album and Don’s life with The Eagles. Besides the one-on-one conversations I had with Don throughout the day, a big highlight for me was getting to hear Don’s original demo for the song, which he recorded in his then one-year old daughter’s bedroom on a four-track tape machine – some two years before The Eagles recorded it as a band. It was amazing to hear how close that demo sounded to the finished song so many of us have committed to memory almost note-for-note.

That class was a great learning experience for me, and certainly motivated me to get back in my own studio and do some more recording. I’d encourage all of you reading this to find something interesting to be engaged with outside of your job, and let the creativity and pleasure you derive from it carry over into your career.


It’s Time to Be Thankful

By Mimi Brodt

Thankful ForIn November of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful corn harvest with a group of Native American allies. Today, many Americans continue that tradition of gratitude by spending the fourth Thursday of November with family and friends – feasting on traditional foods, watching football, playing board games, and now even getting a jump start on their holiday shopping.

In my family before we eat, each person shares something for which they are thankful. The subjects vary widely and sometimes laughter ensues… other times tears. Whatever the outcome, it always reminds us of how lucky we are. And while the many things we have to be thankful for in our personal lives jump quickly to mind, we often forget to acknowledge the what we’re thankful for in our workplaces. In the spirit of being grateful, here are three things I am personally thankful for at dgs:

1. Passionate People
It’s fun to work with passionate people. Passion drives people to do great work and to go the extra mile when helping colleagues or responding to client needs. dgs is a group of passionate people. Each of our disciplines – account service, social media, content and public relations – is made up of fun, thoughtful, talented people. They are good listeners. They care about the world around them. They accomplish great things on a daily basis. The people who work here bring together a wide variety of experiences that blend well together. I especially love working with some of our younger team members because I really appreciate how they bring a completely different perspective to each challenge. They frequently ask why and are not afraid to try new ways of doing something. I am thankful for and energized by their creativity.

2. Great Clients
At dgs, we don’t just have clients, we have great clients. We’ve worked with most of our clients for many years, and these long-standing relationships have enabled us to really understand their companies, the products and services they sell, and the challenges they face. The result? We are their collaborative partner, which is much more satisfying that simply being one of their vendors. I am very thankful that dgs has clients who respect our talents and have given us a seat at their tables.

3. New Opportunities
About this time, we go through a planning process with each of our clients to prepare for the upcoming year. Each client shares their objectives for the new year, and based on the problems they need to solve, we then put together recommendations on what marketing communications strategies will best meet those objectives. This process is exhilarating – especially for a group of passionate people. The chance to take a fresh look at a challenge and bring forth new ideas that will help our clients chart a successful course for the new year is what makes marketing so interesting. Plus, with each new challenge come new opportunities to learn and grow. And for that, I am thankful.

So what are you thankful for?


6 Ways to Maximize Trade Show ROI

shutterstock_403970920While trade show attendance represents a significant investment on the part of a business, it offers unique value that cannot be gained through other marketing mediums. Trade shows offer exhibitors the opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with many different audiences at the same time. You can meet with prospects, customers, suppliers and press all in the same space.

For example, every two years most of our clients participate in IMTS, which is one of the largest trade shows in North America. This showcase of advanced manufacturing companies features over 2,000 exhibitors, over 114,000 visitors, and over a million square feet of exhibits inside Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Getting a great return on your investment in a trade show depends on careful planning and execution of a strategy that is grounded in your business objectives.

1. Choose a show with the right audience. Invest in attending a show that will have the best mix of people that you want to interact with — whether that’s a big show to maximize your exposure or a smaller, more targeted show that focuses on a specific, targeted market.

2. Ask planning questions to determine what direction to take. Ask yourself: Who are my audiences that I will interact with? What type of experience do I want them to have? How am I going to make that happen? Clearly define goals and choose tactics that support them. Think about ways you can use ever-evolving communication technology to reach them in new and engaging ways.

3. Plan the experience you want attendees to have. Cohesively design everything they will come in contact with from the in-booth experience to special events—like VIP social events and press conferences—to hospitality rooms. Reinforce your overall brand image and messaging with a show theme that is reflected throughout all individual marketing elements such as booth design, signage, presentations and handouts

4. Influence attendees before the show. With a large trade show like IMTS, participant focus is being pulled in thousands of directions at once. Use targeted, show-specific advertising to reach out to key customers or prospects ahead of time and arrange appointments. Schedule time with any industry editors or reporters that will be attending. Prepare marketing and press materials for any new product or technology launch.

5. Take advantage of social media and other community-based channels. Use social media to generate buzz for the event, talk about activities in real time and offer relevant content for your followers that aren’t in attendance. After the event, you can repurpose social content to extend the show’s impact long after it’s over. Without social media, the utility of an event is limited outside of those in attendance and it diminishes further the longer it’s been since the event took place; however, with social media the event is relevant longer and to a wider audience.

6. Assess how well you met your goals. Once the dust has settled, measure and analyze your return on investment. Use that information to improve your strategy for the next show. Without measurement, you miss the opportunity to benefit from mistakes and successes.

Trade shows are an important opportunity for face-to-face contact with your key audiences. To maximize the event, you need to plan well in advance. The trade show environment can be chaotic; without a good game plan in place, it is difficult to extract all the potential benefits.


Telling a Story with Your Marketing: The Art of Balancing Copy and Design

shutterstock_129772415There are millions of stories being told every day. A person is bombarded with words and images throughout their waking hours — status updates and shared articles on Facebook, a flyer or catalog received in the mail, ads that appear on every webpage, billboards seen on the daily commute, commercials during a favorite show. When we tell a story we need to find a way to get what we say to cut through the clutter and be noticed.

There are a lot of ways to tell a story. Sometimes a story is told in words, as in a radio program or novel. Sometimes it happens in pictures, as in a painting or photograph. However, most stories take advantage of both words and pictures.

Finding a good balance between words and design elements (photos, illustrations, graphics, charts, symbols, shapes and colors) is an art. It requires a new level of thinking that strips ideas down to their essence and makes them concrete enough to be easily understood. You don’t want the layout to be bogged down with text or the message to be diluted with images. Finding the middle ground is tough.

A powerful image with 3 tiny words has the potential to tell the entire story, like Nike’s classic “Just do it” campaign. In different circumstances, a longer narrative, maybe even comprising several paragraphs, with a compelling headline and a few supporting images does a better job at capturing the idea and delivering the message.

We have to give thought to the balance between copy and design on every project. The words and the images need to be strong on their own and each work to get the audience to respond to the call to action, and they also need to say the same thing, to strengthen each other, not compete for attention.

Different situations call for a different proportion of images to text. How complex is the product being sold? Will the call to action require an emotional or rational response from the audience? How much space do we have to tell the story we want? What medium are we using to tell this story? Who is our audience? How much do they already know about what we’re telling them? All these considerations go into the decision making process when finding the right form for a project.

There is no exact science to determine the mix of copy and design in making an ad. Because an ad isn’t just an ad — a good ad is a story. Developing that intuitive hunch about how to tell the story is the real art form. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes experience. And it takes confidence to go with your instincts.

One last thing to keep in mind when considering the balance between copy and design: less is more. The tried and true formula helps you distill your message to its core meaning. If that takes less words or less pictures or less of both, then so be it. The important thing is to communicate and make your story memorable.