Exert Influence While You’re Stuck in the Middle

Are you stuck in the middle when it comes to your job?

Perhaps you supervise many, but you still answer to a few. Or maybe you frequently advise a superior who seems less competent than you. Leading from the middle is tough. But managers who influence from the middle are often in a perfect position to collaborate with others, solve problems, and have significant organizational impact.

Want to make the most of your time in the middle? Here are three ways to hone upward influence in this transitional season:

Honor Decisions You Disagree With

People who lead from the middle are sometimes forced to settle for less than the ideal.

In your position, often you’ll receive instructions you don’t like or decisions you disagree with. In frustrating moments, you may be tempted to badmouth the decision or the organization. In a meeting you may say something like, “I would have done it differently, but . . .” Or during office chit-chat, you may casually question your leader’s judgment.

Real leaders make the best of a situation and honor decisions in healthy, unifying ways. If you want to be respected by those around you, speak with integrity and uphold the reputation of others. This builds trust, which gives you more influence when it’s time to speak up or offer solutions.

Be Intentional

One challenge for mid-level employees is knowing when or how to speak.

When you are strategic and consistent in sharing, your perspective can make a more significant impact. What is the best way for you to communicate? Consider a short, weekly e-mail update to your boss. Highlight 2-minute success stories in meetings to put a face on your “win.” Or use printed presentation notes when sharing needs or asking for additional resources. This demonstrates thoughtful preparation and makes your request more memorable.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, take a serious interest in the organization as a whole.

Don’t just focus on your department. Instead, look for ways to lend a hand to those above, below, and around you. When your supervisor sees that you care about the whole company, you may be surprised how quickly your influence grows.

This may bring friction. Working from the middle gives you a great vantage point to see the big picture, to recognize patterns or uncertainties, and highlight tension within the organization. When you bump into turbulence, remember that trying to please everyone is impossible.

Global Portfolio Management Director Michelle Maloy, says it’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re always trying to please:

“[This balancing act] requires self-control and clarity. You need to have understanding and empathy for others, but you can’t let everybody’s ‘stuff’ allow you to lose focus.”

It’s All About Perspective

While there are times that leading from the middle is difficult, you are often ideally positioned to collaborate with others to generate new ideas and solve problems.

This allows you to gain experience, be involved in meaningful work, and affect large scale change. It is possible to successfully lead from your position while developing skills that serve you throughout your career.

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Three Fantastic Print Ads (and how to make yours more memorable)

Does your brain ever feel tired? Some days, that’s probably due to information overload.

According to ad agency Red Crow Marketing, the average person living in the city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages a day. Today, experts estimate we are exposed to over 5,000 brands per day (though research suggests only three percent of ads make a lasting impression).

Want to increase exposure and impact for your marketing messages?

To stick with viewers, your print ads need to be creative and clear! Here are three compelling print ad examples, with a few insights into what makes them so great.

A Better Job is Waiting

Created by Joe Public United, this print campaign for a job portal aims to motivate people to stop slogging it out in a job they don’t like. Smartly retouched photos show bored workers at their desks, workers who sat still for so long that mold started growing on their bodies.

Need the motivation to break out of your slump? There’s nothing like spiders building webs in your hair (while you play computer solitaire) to kick your complacent butt into gear.

The Secret to Success: This ad is powerful because it resonates with the job portal’s target customers in a way that elicits extreme emotion (i.e., dismay or disgust). Move your prospects forward with messages that ring true and deliver a message that is personally meaningful to your viewers.

You Eat What You Touch

Love dogs? You might feel a little less inclined after viewing this ad.

This unconventional ad shaped a pet Pug into a perfect replica of a loaf of bread on a cutting board to stress the importance of using soap. Something about fuzzy bread just makes a viewer shudder (while immediately taking action with good hygiene).

The Secret to Success: This ad is impossible to ignore because the visual is surprising and memorable. Viewers have to look twice to find the Pug on the cutting board, and once the image hits home, the message does too. Humor is linked to higher recall and increased sharing, and funny brands are seen as more relatable, human, and trustworthy. Have fun and make people laugh with your surprising, memorable print ads!

Neighbors

In 2010, FedEx wanted to display the accessibility of its global shipping options.

A rustic map of North and South America showed a man reaching out of a window near Florida to hand a Fed Ex box across the ocean to a woman reaching out her window in Brazil. DDB Brazil used a simple visual to convince viewers that sending a package to another country takes as little time as it would to place it in the hands of a neighbor.

The Secret to Success: By using a map of Brazil as well as an easy-to-understand visual concept, DDB was able to tap into the needs and desires of its local market. When crafting your ad, look to clearly communicate how your product or service fits into consumers’ lives or work, and how it can make them better, happier, and more fulfilled.

Tactile, Memorable Print

Print is tactile. Use this to your advantage by creating ads that are relatable, memorable, and clear. Increasing print engagement will help your advertising break through the clutter of not only the hundreds of ads people see each day but the thousands of brands that are competing for your customer’s attention.

5 Tips to Keep Your Design Project On Time and Under Budget

Ready to launch out with a new ad campaign but nervous about keeping the project below budget?

Not all projects are smooth sailing. Sometimes things go wrong, and your expenses can spiral out of control quickly.

Here are five tips to keep your next project on track and on budget:

1. Ask Questions Upfront

When partnering with a design professional, be sure to clarify the contract up front.

Will you be paying a project fee or an hourly rate? What services are included in this fee? Clarify how long the project will take, how often you’ll get to review the work, and how many revisions are allowed in this agreement.

2. Plot Your Course Early

Involve your design professional in your brainstorming as early as possible.

Designing one piece can have a quick turnaround, but re-branding or crafting large-scale exhibit pieces can take months, especially if there is confusion about the parameters or design presets for a particular project.

One costly mistake is to change directions midstream, so start conversations early to help your design professional take a big-picture run at your project to manage it in the most efficient, cost-effective way.

3. Assemble All the Elements

Attend to the precise details of copy, timeline, and photography at the get-go, and be sure these elements have been given a green light by those in authority before the project commences.

Your project will involve many pieces, and when they are aligned from the start it will allow your design dollars to be maximized with fewer delays. While you may not have precise details ironed out, clarifying project parameters is key in finishing on time and on budget!

4. Schedule Regular Updates

It’s imperative that both the client and the design professionals are tracking with the same timeline as a project progresses.

Who will handle this communication and how often will it take place? Will you use e-mail, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings? Ongoing communication is essential for success.

5. Allow For Margin

To keep a project on budget, it’s essential to create margin so deadlines don’t get tight.

Every project has hiccups, so it’s best to allow a little padding as you build a realistic timeline. For example, if the printer needs eight days to deliver a piece, schedule at least 11 days so you’re guaranteed a smooth outcome.

How Much Should I Budget?

Ready to get started on your next design? Here are five basic steps for planning your budget:

  1. Estimate your monthly income
  2. List your fixed design expenses
  3. List your variable design expenses
  4. Anticipate your one-time design expenses 
  5. Create the budget

Online budget planners can also be helpful for estimating your costs.

Better Together

Want to save on time, labor, or unnecessary stress?

Whether its exceptional-value graphic design or full-service printing, our capable team is dedicated to providing you with prompt, knowledgeable, one-on-one service, and carefully printed materials you can be proud of. We’re here to make things flow as smoothly as possible!

A Beginner’s Guide to Correct Printing Resolution

Design resolution refers to the sharpness and detail of images, and print resolution is measured in DPI, or dots per inch. Quite simply, the more dots of ink that are printed per inch, the higher the resolution, sharpness, and quality you will find in an image. High-quality images are stunning, seeming to leap off the page, while low-quality images look fuzzy, indistinct, and very unprofessional. 

Looking for a beginner’s guide to get the best possible outcome in your design and print? Here are a few basics on proper print resolution:

Go Big (But Not Too Big)

When you’re creating your source image (the image you want to be printed), make sure it has a suitable resolution.

The higher the DPI, the better the image quality. But don’t go too big – higher resolution images can create larger file sizes. For printed pieces, the ideal resolution is 300 DPI for images at the final printed size.

If you’re taking pictures from a digital camera for your project, its best to set your camera to the highest resolution setting. You can always “scale down” the resolution on an image later (but you can never scale a poor resolution up). Also, remember that a large file size does not necessarily mean the file itself has a high resolution. The best way to be sure your file is at least 300 DPI is to go into the image information and double check.

Avoid Website Images

Web images are created digitally from electronic pixels.

Pixels are box-shaped units of colors that join to create visually recognizable images. The resolution of web images is usually around 72 PPI (pixels per inch), which works well digitally since these images take less storage space and load quickly on screens. However, this lack of detail causes images to look jagged or blurry when printed on commercial presses.

To get the best quality design for print, make sure source photos are coming in at 300 DPI, and use design programs like Adobe InDesign or Illustrator to handle text and create vector logos and other design elements.

Zoom in or Adjust Proportions

When working with your design, remember your screen resolution may not accurately reflect your image resolution because monitor displays usually have about 72 to 116 pixels per inch.

To accurately view the print resolution of your image, zoom in to 300-400%, and observe the quality of your project.

Also, image resolution is directly and inversely proportional to an image’s physical size. When you increase the resolution of an image, it reduces in physical size. When you physically enlarge an image, it lowers in resolution. This means you cannot make a 72 DPI image 300 DPI by dragging it up in size.

Resolve to Finish Well

By understanding the basics of print resolution, you can avoid unnecessary headaches and ensure your job is done on time and looks great.

Have any questions? Call today; we’re always happy to help!

Increase Sales Through Authentic Marketing

Authenticity is a hot word in business.

Today’s consumers don’t want to be told how to think or what to do. Instead, they want businesses that inspire them, and customers are demanding greater purity and consistency in the products, messages, and values a company represents.

What is Authenticity?

Some define authenticity as being consistent in word and deed or having a fundamental character that doesn’t change based on circumstance.

Inauthentic companies may come across as artificial, timid, fake, or gimmicky, while words associated with professional authenticity might include transparent, original, boldly unapologetic, legitimate, or truthful.

Authentic brands are those that stay true to who they are, what they do, and who they serve. This means that, in an age of unprecedented consumer empowerment, understanding your customers and what they expect from you is critical.

But in crafting authenticity in marketing, entrepreneurs should understand that the meaning of the word authenticity can vary based on customer expectations.

Authenticity Translated: Two Interpretations

Consider the restaurant industry in New York.

Two fan favorites in this scene include DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn and Blue Hill in Greenwich Village. Both are lauded as “authentic.” DiFara’s reviewers rave that this pizzeria is as “authentic as they come,” while Blue Hill at Stone Barn is hailed as “an authentic Hudson Valley culinary experience.”

What does this actually mean?

Translation 1: In this genre of authentic companies, a product or brand perfectly conforms to the original.

DiFara’s matches the expectations a customer might have for a “classic” Italian pizzeria experience. The pizzaiolo at DiFara’s, Domenic DeMarco, immigrated to the U.S. from a small town near Naples and has been making traditional thin-crust pizzas in Brooklyn since 1964.

Translation 2: Blue Hill offers farm-to-table ingredients with a focus on creating sustainable food systems.

Here authenticity is assigned to a company that offers products or experiences that adhere to the core beliefs or values of the customer served, whether the value is for transparent leadership, unpolluted products, or a desire for excellence. (Think the Honest Company, Apple, or Yeti, for example.)

Which Strategy Should You Pursue?

According to four studies reported by the Harvard Business Review, authentically conforming to a category (see Translation 1) might lead to higher social evaluations (like 5-star ratings) but might not increase a consumer’s willingness to pay more.

This can bring tangible benefits: research shows that even a 1-star increase in Yelp reviews may bring a 5-9% increase in revenues.

On the other hand, authenticity adhering to customer core beliefs (see Translation 2) might persuade consumers to pay more for those products.

How does this affect your business? Researchers said this:

“Managers should consider these patterns as they attempt to appeal to customers. Rather than assuming that any mention of authenticity leads to a better reputation or more revenue (or both), managers might do well to think carefully about what kind of authenticity their organization expresses. For organizations that convey authenticity because they exemplify a specific category or genre, they might focus on generating value by winning higher star ratings – which can increase sales traffic – rather than attempting to charge more for products or services . . . Organizations that evoke authenticity by adhering to their core beliefs might benefit more from charging a premium for products and services to a more selective set of customers.”

Want to win at authenticity? You will be wise to choose the best way to meet customer expectations, ensuring each message you send is genuine and in line with your brand principles.

Don’t just claim to be authentic, choose a strategy to pursue it. Then live up to this vision by giving your very best!

Get Ahead at Work by Busting These Bad Habits

Work and sleep are two of the most time-consuming things we do.

The average American will spend nearly 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so the way you approach your job can have a huge impact on your quality of being. As Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Do you want your experience at work to be as happy and anxiety free as possible? If so, perhaps it’s time to put the scalpel to some of your less-than-desirable work habits.

Here are just a few ways bad choices might make your life more difficult at work.

Habits that Hurt You Personally

Skipping Breaks

Sometimes we think we’re too busy to take breaks or grab some fresh air.

But this simply isn’t true. Research shows productivity is highest when people work in “sprints” with frequent breaks (around 90 minutes with 15-minute rests).

Winging it on Mondays

Do you struggle to get down to business at the start of each week?

Devote part of Fridays to making a “start here” list for the following week so you can hit the ground running on Mondays.

Negative Attitudes

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 62% of employers say they are less likely to promote employees with a pessimistic attitude.

Avoid complaining (which comes across as unprofessional) or responding to suggestions with negative comments like “that won’t work,” or “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Even when things go wrong, focus your energy on what you’ve learned rather than despising your situation.

Habits that Annoy Others

Eating Smelly or Loud Foods

While a small snack may be fine, avoid eating foods that are messy, noisy, or smelly to protect your reputation with co-workers. Top stink generators include reheated fish, raw onions, tuna, smelly cheese, and hard-boiled eggs.

Grooming at Your Desk

When you are distracted, do you tend to chew your nails, play with your hair, pick at your face, or pull food out of your teeth? What if the co-worker next to you did this? Yuck. Enough said!

Interrupting or Asking Too Many Questions

While a willingness to contribute can be great, often you may be repeatedly cutting off others without realizing it.

Interrupting is rude and shows a lack of self-control. Similarly, asking an abundance of abrupt questions can be draining or annoying to others. When you need further information, gather a list of questions and pose them in an organized, positive way so you are respectful of others’ time.

Habits that Harm Your Reputation

Using Work Time Improperly

Be honest: while at work, how often are you handling texts, personal e-mails, or private phone calls?

If you think others don’t notice, you’re wrong. While co-workers may tolerate this behavior, it will certainly hinder the respect or opportunities you receive in the future. Keep your personal life out of sight (perhaps tucking the phone away or on silent) and you will be more efficient and more valued.

Distraction or Delays

Why is texting while driving illegal?

Because it’s impossible to concentrate fully on two things at once. If you are jotting personal notes, sending e-mails, or galloping through the fields of your imagination during meetings, it sends an inconsiderate message and communicates a lack of integrity. Come to appointments on time and ready to focus.

Being Nosy or Political

While small talk goes a long way to build rapport with others, avoid uninvited personal inquiries or incessant curiosity that won’t let things go.

And remember, if certain topics are divisive in politics, they’ll be divisive at work. Keep conversations focused on work-related issues to avoid insulting others, hurting your professional image, or causing rifts in your company.

Easy Ideas to Boost Your Social Media Standing

Social media is an increasingly popular way for brands to connect with consumers. Almost 60% of Americans engage with brands on social media between 1 and 3 times daily.

But pinpointing the right strategy for your business can be a challenge. Need inspiration?

Here are three practical examples of entrepreneurs who are jumping off the screen to convert and keep customers through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Edge Body Boot Camp

Edge Body Boot Camp (EBBC) uses both Instagram and Facebook to create a vibrant, friendly social media presence.

EBBC uses social media to create a sense of community by incorporating members into their content. Using photos of individuals holding “I survived” chalkboards, personalized posts congratulate people for things like finishing their first workout, completing a 30-day fitness challenge, or achieving a specific goal over time (pounds lost, miles run, etc).

Takeaways: EBBC uses social media to create brand loyalty and inspire repeat customers. Since pictures on Facebook receive 53% more likes than an average post, this is especially effective for boosting engagement. Add hashtags to your photos and they can be used as clickable links on Facebook or you can link all public posts that have the same hashtag (like EBBC’s #isurvived).

Eileen Lanza Realty

Eileen Lanza is a top real estate investor and realtor in the Los Angeles area.

Lanza understands the importance of real-time updates via social media, and leans heavily on Twitter to keep a steady stream of information available to clients. 92% of all user interactions on Twitter are in the form of click links, which can be formatted as a hashtag or as a link to an external website. Lanza often includes both in her tweets: a hashtag at the beginning (i.e. “Just leased in #Larchmont – Spanish style Bungalow . . .” and a second link (which readers can follow for full listings or articles) with an image like this.

Takeaways: Location or event-based hashtags help attract relevant audiences and snag new leads. Images with external web links can grab the eyes and catalyze curiosity in readers.

See Jane Work

“See Jane Work” is a company that sells stylish office and supply solutions for women who want to be successful in organizing their homes, careers, and futures.

As platforms have grown more involved in sales and marketing, revenues for social media sales have expanded quickly as well. See Jane Work uses shoppable Instagram posts (denoted with a small white shopping icon in the corner) to tag products, lead viewers to their website, and to make purchases incredibly easy for users who see something they are dying to have!

Takeaways: Use shoppable posts to showcase products in a natural way through story themes that connect to your brand. “Jane” is a fictional character that embodies everything working women are today, and often shoppable posts show versions of Jane with her own trendy styles and products that are helping her kill it each day.

Keep Your Name Current

Social media can be liberating to individual users but overwhelming to entrepreneurs.

Use these tangible examples for inspiration or plan quarterly content curating sessions with your team to generate ideas and be proactive in your posting. Need help keep your name current and your message fresh? We can help!