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Meet UroMed, Inc.

Lisa Wells answers 5 questions and talks about increasing awareness

Lisa is a veteran of online marketing and e-commerce.

As the director of marketing for UroMed, Inc., Lisa Wells is armed with leadership experience in public relations, marketing communications and web-based product management at medical device and healthcare/human resources tech companies. She shares some of their most inspiring successes, including how the company helps thousands of people with disabilities.

What does UroMed do, and how do you use Emma to communicate with your audience?
Most of our customers have chronic conditions like Spinal Cord Injury, Spina Bifida, Multiple Sclerosis and Transverse Myelitis, or have recently undergone surgery for serious conditions like Prostate Cancer and are currently using catheters. UroMed is one of the nation's leading providers of urological and disposable medical supplies.

We began using Emma in January 2011 as a way to communicate more effectively with thousands of customers, as well as medical professionals and nonprofit organizations that help people with urological conditions. Our monthly newsletters employ a vibrant design and relevant, fresh content that caters to our readers.

UroMed's founder, Bert Burns
You sponsor a nonprofit program called Life After Spinal Cord Injury — tell us about a recent success using email and social media to share news about LASCI.
Our founder, Bert Burns, became quadriplegic as a result of an automobile accident during his youth. His desire to make a positive difference in the lives of people with disabilities led him to create a free motivational program for peer support and rehabilitation groups called Life After Spinal Cord Injury. Through email campaigns, we share a variety of helpful materials for our community, including information on LASCI events and resources.

As our visibility and outreach have increased through these campaigns, a variety of partners have aligned with us to further assist the wheelchair community. This summer, LASCI partnered with SPORTS 'N SPOKES magazine, published by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, to provide our peer support group on Facebook with a list of accessible programs, places and events, spotlighting one state per day across the country between July 15-August 15, 2011. Viewers can also post photos of related family vacations and weekend outings on the Facebook pages or in a photo gallery on the S'NS website for a chance to win a range of prizes.

We use Emma everyday to connect our customers and medical professionals with the online resources available at UroMed.com and LASCI's peer support community on Facebook. Regular visitors to the LASCI Facebook page come from as far away as England, New Zealand, South Africa and the Phillipines. For example, one lady in New Zealand uses content she finds on the LASCI group page to help inspire a peer support group that she leads for paraplegics and quadriplegics in her country.

What's your best advice to writing accessible, memorable emails?

  • Write for your audience's benefit – not yours or your company's.
  • Illustrate points with pictures the audience will relate to and click on for details.
  • Use a personal tone – no one wants to read an email that sounds like you have a banana stuck in your tailpipe. Treat your customers like they're your friends, but not in terms of slang or being overly familiar. Do use layman's terms, and answer questions or problems they may have.
  • Link, link, link and link some more. The more direct access you provide to customer relational touchpoints, the better.

What do you enjoy most about working with your team?
Many of UroMed's employees have a personal connection to understanding our customers' health needs, as 20% of our customer care associates either have a disability or have a family member with a disabling condition. Our company was started by four people more than 15 years ago, and three of them use wheelchairs. It's pretty hard to complain about your day when you know, firsthand, that your work helps serve your customers, your co-workers and your friends at the same time.

What events or milestones are your colleagues looking forward to this year?
In 2010, Life After Spinal Cord Injury helped more than 600 medical professionals, patients, former patients and family members with information, advice and encouragement. Thanks to the outreach tools provided by Emma and social media, LASCI has already quadrupled that number by July 2011, and our online peer support community has gone global! We are so excited about the impact this motivational program is having on the lives of people who use wheelchairs. The global awareness and accessibility of our resources is increasing tenfold because of the technology resources we've employed.

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Want to find out more about UroMed?

+ Thanks to an Emma-powered press release, 11 Alive NBC News in Atlanta heard about their efforts. Check out their take on UroMed's community impact.
+ Join UroMed's support community on Facebook.
+ Visit their website to learn more about Bert's story.

Lisa will be presenting on the topic of social media at the 2011 HME News Business Summit on September 11 in Charlotte, NC.

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Helping nonprofit organizations communicate in style

Catching up with a few of last year's Emma 25 honorees

Each year, as part of our Emma 25 program, we award 25 nonprofits (sometimes more!) with an Emma account. The honorees receive a custom stationery design at no cost and free email service and surveys for life – or as long as they'd like. It's a great way to recognize their hard work, and to provide them with the opportunity to easily communicate with their members and donors. Last winter marked the seventh year of Emma 25, and this month I'm checking in with three of the honorees to see how they're using Emma to help others.

Literacy for All

Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle

The Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle in Virginia work to provide one-on-one, confidential tutoring in basic literacy and English as a second language to adults living or working in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Since being selected as an Emma 25 honoree in December, Jackie Bright says, "In just five months our distribution list has increased by 8% — nearly 100 new recipients (we have a small list, so this is huge)." Their emails campaigns are super successful, not to mention gorgeous — check out a recent one here — and their average open and click-through rates are around 26% and 9% respectively. Jackie adds that Emma has helped them provide better customer service and generate greater reach. She says, "We've been able to link all of our social marketing to this email, helping us cross-market and expose new people to our Facebook page and website."

+ Visit their website
+ Check out their Facebook page

Rape Crisis Center

The Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties

The Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties in northeastern Ohio serves sexual assault victims and co-survivors. Education and awareness are two driving themes behind their mission to help others, and it's important for them to get the word out quickly. Dana Zedak, who helps to plan and execute their email campaigns, says that Emma streamlines the sending process. Dana adds, "Any moment people hit reply and tell us that we 'do good work' or ask questions about our agency is a fantastic Emma moment. The more people associate our logo and our message with the work we do, the more clients will get to us and the more donors will give to us." And their response numbers indicate that subscribers are receiving the message with open ears — or eyes, if you will. A recent email campaign had more than a 20% open rate.

+ Visit their website
+ Check out their Facebook page

Heart Gallery

The Heart Gallery

Beginning as a community project, The Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco is continuing to grow into a successful, independent organization. As an affiliate of The Heart Gallery of America, they display portrait galleries of local foster children who are awaiting adoption.

Their monthly newsletters and event updates reach more than 1,700 audience members and generate stellar 28% open and 21% click-through rates. Carol Hughes, Community Outreach Manager of The Heart Gallery, points out the value they place on stylishly adding images to their campaigns:

Our beautiful photos of children are used to promote an awareness of the need for adoption. The email layouts provided by Emma allow us to easily upload pictures for use in our newsletters, bulletins, announcements, etc. We are able to use various sizes of the images to accompany our publications, and we continue to receive comments about the quality of the photos in each campaign.

+ See a recent campaign
+ Visit their website
+ Check out their Facebook page

Want to learn more about Emma 25? Visit our list of the 2010 Emma 25 honorees, and stay tuned for details about this year's program. We can't wait for the submission process to begin this fall.

Things we love: Smartly using Facebook to gain exposure and grow an email list

How the Thunderbird Inn and Travel Retro cross-promote their brands and gain new fans

I'm a big fan of modern-day time traveling (I may or may not be currently seeking a DeLorean). But until I'm able to dial myself back to 1961, I take comfort in knowing that the Thunderbird Inn is ready for me whenever I'd like to make a reservation for "fifty years ago." The Thunderbird Inn is a retro roadside motel billed as "the hippest hotel in Savannah." It's no stretch to imagine that simply checking in would transplant me into a universe of Beach Boys music, poodle skirts and dry martinis.

I'm not alone — in fact, we road-tripping time travelers are our own niche. And organizations are springing up to serve us. Take Travel Retro, for example, a newer travel site for folks in search of that nostalgic feeling. They're the "Expedia" of vintage travel accommodations.

Travel Retro and the Thunderbird Inn: a match made in heaven, right? If I like one, I'm sure to be interested in the other. But how can they take advantage of their natural kinship?

The Thunderbird Inn raved about Travel Retro.

Brands can be great friends

Travel Retro and the Thunderbird recognized that they could gain fans by working together. They may have already been using some tried-and-true methods to grow their audience lists, like website signup forms, the old fishbowl by the register, and the like, but how could they gain subscribers that knew about one company but not the other? They turned to the most social of online spaces: Facebook.

In turn, Travel Retro shared the T-Bird's email campaign.

The Thunderbird Inn encouraged their fans to "like" Travel Retro, and, in turn, Travel Retro shared the Thunderbird Inn's email newsletter with their fans. Simple, but effective.

I love this strategy. As a fan of the Thunderbird Inn, I'm happy to find out that a similar company "gets" me and my travel preferences. But if weren't a fan of the Thunderbird, I may never have discovered Travel Retro.

How can you incorporate these tactics in your social strategy? Is there a company in your industry that'd make a natural partner? You may be surprised at how willing other companies are to align with you and cross-promote. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while you seek the right partners…

How can you find a partner brand to help grow your email list or Facebook fan base?

  • Consider brands you're already working with that fuel your business. Maybe it's your coffee supplier or even the bike delivery service in town. It's likely there's already an overlap of some fans — by nature of your location or business practices — and the potential for more.
  • Check with your sister stores and affiliate groups. Does it make sense to partner during certain times of year, such as leading up to your annual fundraiser? Do you have expert knowledge that would appeal to one of the groups?
  • Ask your loyal customers where else they frequent. Odds are the things they love about your business are some of the same reasons they go to other businesses.

How can you make the most out of cross-promotions?

  • Create a special signup form and audience group for these new subscribers.
  • Offer an incentive to join your list, like a coupon or a special downloadable resource.
  • Create a custom triggered welcome email to engage them right off the bat.
  • Be transparent about the partnership. Some partnerships are built on goodwill; others may involve an exchange of services. In either case, be honest with your fans. Let them know why you're cross-promoting the other brand and what makes them so fabulous.

Of course, Facebook isn't the only way you can work with partner brands to help one another grow. Try exchanging fishbowls in-store, making a call out to the Twitterverse, swapping ad spaces in your newsletters and more. If you could go back in time even just a year and lay the groundwork for these partnerships, think of how much more exposure you might have seen by now. On the other hand, one day you may find yourself wishing you could go back in time to today, so why not get started?

If you've had great success growing your fan base by partnering with other brands, let us know in the comments section.

An update on Emma’s API

We've launched the beta period for our API

Last week, I wrote a post for Emma Tech about our new API. It's officially entered private beta (Yay-PI, I say!), and we're excited to have thrown the door open to early adopters. For those who don't spend their days staring at computer screens, juggling ones and zeroes, API stands for application programming interface, and it gives software developers the ability to access their Emma accounts outside of the browser, allowing them to integrate their own applications with Emma. If you've got a developer on your end who'd like to try it out, now's a great time to sign up for the beta group.

However, if you've never thought about accessing Emma outside of its web interface and if you'll never use the API, you might be wondering why it matters. As part of my team's efforts, we've been converting the Emma app to the new API. Redesigning the architecture has taught us a lot about the challenges of the existing system, and we're making enhancements that will create an improved experience for all of our customers, including faster email delivery, more robust audience searches and international character support. We'll be sure to share more details over the coming weeks.

Check out my post for more information. And, if you're feeling adventurous, please consider signing up for our beta tester program.

Insights about “what’s next”

Emma's market strategist weighs in on what's missing from Talking with Tom's digital predictions

Hopefully you are following along with Tom Martin's Talking with Tom series. It's an interesting experiment for many reasons, not the least of which is the amazing content Tom is collecting from some of today's top thought leaders in marketing and technology. The premise is simple: Ask really smart people what they think is the next big thing. I've been a close follower of the series so I want to share a few thoughts on the trends that I've seen emerge and also talk about a few things that are missing from the conversation.

The trends

Tom is a social guy — professionally, yes, but also just an all-around good guy to hang out with — so he's been able to collect a great mix of interviews from people with a wide variety of web-based businesses. And while there's a nice variety of people, there are a few notable trends emerging:

  • Mobile: Lots and lots of people say mobile is the next big thing. I can see why. Advances in technology make it easier than ever to market via mobile, either with location-based technology, with advertising served inside apps or by redeeming a coupon using your phone and QR or bar codes.
  • Social analytics: We've moved beyond the question about whether social is a viable medium for brands. Now we want to know how we'll measure our investments of time and energy there. We're abuzz with talk about social ROI, engagement metrics, deeper data slices and influencer identification.
  • More noise: Granted, this is my own takeaway, but I don't hear anyone talking about less of anything. It's more content, more ads, more traffic, more measurement, more channels, more devices.

What's missing

The truth about what's next is probably a complex combination of everything based on Tom's interviews, plus even more. And while there's already a lot to think about, I'd like to offer one more dimension to the conversation: how to match the DNA of our content to the the DNA of the channel we choose to use.

When we talk about each communication channel, there is a fundamental reason why it was created. There's a DNA to the platform that was baked into its very concept, and, ultimately, that DNA is why the platforms is successful today. To illustrate this, let's look at the DNA of a couple of platforms and think about how we can shape our content and engagement strategy to embrace their natural sweet spots.

  • Facebook: The "make me feel something" platform. The DNA of Facebook is about real connection and the opportunity to maintain and grow personal relationships. It's about sharing meaningful bits of our lives and engaging with others when what they share resonates. As marketers, if we take a step back and look at Facebook for what it was built to do, it helps clarify a content strategy that falls into the natural flow. One example: We see countless brands using Facebook to collect "likes." The promise of a coupon, discount, VIP status or other incentive tactic can, indeed, bring you "likes," but is that why Facebook users really use Facebook? Does a "like" translate into a memorable brand experience? To a connection? Is it similar to that person's other interactions on Facebook, where they are sharing their stories, pictures and comments? I'd bet the answer is no. Since Facebook is all about stories and meaningful experiences, marketers need to share real stories, ask question that matter and start meaningful dialogue on Facebook.
  • Twitter: The "keep me informed or make me smarter, and do it quick-like" platform. Twitter's DNA is about short and timely updates on news, great content and significant events happening "right now." It's a fast-paced ticker tape of our personal interests, shared in near real-time. A great Twitter citizen understands that there is as much to gain by sharing other peoples' content as your own, and when you embrace that part of Twitter's DNA, you can expect all of those good things like trust, influence and engagement to grow. Develop a content strategy in which you are a regular contributor, sharing ongoing and multi-faceted content inside the Twitterverse. If you're only tweeting about yourself and your brand, you're limiting the potential for growth and influence which probably brought you (and others) to Twitter in the first place
  • Email: The one-to-one, personal communication platform. Email is by far the most personal channel and its DNA is built on a totally different paradigm. It wasn't built to be social; its promise is that it's a secure and personal space. That's why we value our email address more than our Facebook page's URL or our Twitter handle. In its most simple form, email is: from me to you. As marketers, how can we embrace that simple notion and create content truly feels personal and one-to-one? Relevant, targeted messaging and list segmentation become even more vital when you think about how they'll help you embrace the natural grain of the email channel.

So, what's next again?

Lots, clearly. With all the new tools, channels, devices and analytics to choose from, I hope you'll take the time think strategically, and remember that every channel has its own special DNA. Crafting a content strategy that acknowledges and embraces that flow will help you create new levels of resonance and engagement with your audience, no matter where they may find your brand.

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Get involved in Tom's social media experiment. Help decide who will get the last word. Vote here!

Emma City Guide: Portland, OR

Tour Portland and meet some Emma customers along the way

This longtime Southerner loves the summer heat, but sometimes a gal just needs a hiatus from temps in the high 90s. I spent a week in Emma's Portland office last month, and it proved to be the perfect opportunity to escape the stifling Nashville weather and complete the next installment in our city guide series.

Behold, Portland. The land of locally-owned shops, quiet wooded retreats and glorious food — the food cart options and list of "must visit" restaurants teeter on the edge of overwhelming for a visitor like myself.

Sure, you probably already have a list of Portland must-dos: sip coffee at Stumptown, bite into a sugary confection from Voodoo Doughnut, peruse the miles of titles at Powell's Books. But consider venturing off the beaten path and visiting some Rose City gems that also happen to be Emma customers.

Hoyt Arboretum uses Emma to connect with visitors about events and guided tours.

Hoyt Arboretum

4000 SW Fairview Blvd

Start your day with a walk in the woods. The mix of cityscape and nature is one of the best things about Portland (and there are a lot of best things). In fact, you can take mass transit to Hoyt Arboretum and be transported to 187 acres of ridge-top trees and 12 miles of trails. No matter how much time you have for a quiet walk in the woods, Hoyt Arboretum has a downloadable trail map to guide you.

+ See a recent email campaign
+ Visit their website

Bolt connects with customers and gives the skinny on fabric sales.

Bolt

2136 NE Alberta St

After communing with nature for a spell, scoot over to the northeast side of town and visit the shops on Alberta. Indulge your DIY side and check out the offerings at Bolt, where colorful prints can't help but inspire you to take to your sewing machine.

+ See a recent email campaign
+ Visit their website

Modern Domestic encourages communal crafting with their email newsletters.

Modern Domestic

1408 NE Alberta St

Oh, you didn't bring a sewing machine on your trip to Portland? Never fear, Modern Domestic is just a few blocks away. Part sewing machine retail shop, part sewing studio, Modern Domestic rents studio time by the hour and hosts Friday night sew-cials for sewing enthusiasts to gather and get crafty.

+ See a recent email campaign
+ Visit their website

Pacific Pie announces the opening of their new location with an email promotion.

Pacific Pie Company

1520 SE 7th Ave

For lunch, I recommend a favorite among Emma staffers: Pacific Pie Company. The menu boasts Australian savory pies, pasties and sausage rolls. Chris Powell and Sarah Curtis-Fawley are the "people behind the pies," and this husband and wife team are dedicated to local ingredients and making customers feel right at home in their new southeast Portland location.

+ See a recent email campaign
+ Visit their website

Solestruck uses email to highlight new arrivals to shoe devotees.

Solestruck

718 NW 11th Ave

Pop down to the district known as the Pearl for some window shopping, and well, maybe some real shopping too. I recommend a stop at Solestruck, where you'll find a perfectly curated collection of shoes for men and women, including kicks by Jeffrey Campbell and Dolce Vita. You can even continue the Solestruck experience long after your trip to Portland by visiting their online store. Free shipping worldwide? Don't mind if I do.

+ See a recent email campaign
+ Visit their website

Equinox uses Emma to announce seasonal menus.

Equinox Restaurant and Bar

830 N. Shaver St

Portland is a city that knows how to do happy hour, and Equinox Restaurant and Bar is no exception. The chickpea crepe and beets & bleu are a perfect accompaniment to a house cocktail like the Garden of Eden (think summer: basil, cucumber, lime and of course, vodka). Fair warning though — the laid back vibe and comfortable courtyard are enough to make you want to stay for dinner.

+ See a recent email campaign
+ Visit their website

Ruby Jewel newsletter, The Scoop, shares new menu items and community happenings.

Ruby Jewel

3713 N. Mississippi Ave

A jam-packed day of Portland fun is best capped with a treat from Ruby Jewel, just a short walk from Equinox. Ruby Jewel offers artisan ice cream made from locally-sourced ingredients, scooped into handmade cones and topped with sugary treats or pressed between two cookies to make a sandwich. I recommend the fresh mint flake ice-cream sandwich with the double chocolate cookies, followed by a good night's sleep and sweet dreams, of course.

+ See a recent email campaign
+ Visit their website

Here's hoping your summer travels are filled with delicious food, inspiring shopping and of course, trees. We have more city guides up our sleeves, and if you missed our Austin guide, catch up on it here.

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Ready for better design, better customer service and better results? Join Emma.

Designing email stationery and more for Emma clients

Taylor Schena shares how reading and nonstop scribbling help her stay inspired and on task

Sometimes I wonder if I was born wielding a pencil. I've always been a chronic doodler, and I don't think I could go an entire day without some sort of mindless drawing or scribbling. And while it's definitely a habit that comes in handy when I need to flesh out my ideas, it is, of course, only part of the process for creating a new design.

The ideal evening: drawing robots and drinking beer at the neighborhood tavern.

First things first: I simply can't start designing in the morning without a cup (or three) of coffee and running through my RSS feed reader. Starting my day with 20 minutes of hot caffeine and some inspiring design blogs helps give me a fresh look at what I have on my plate.

My schedule includes a wide variety of projects — so my process is flexible. The common thread, though, is the basic need to find a delicate balance between putting my nose to the grindstone and freeing my mind for more creative thinking. When it comes down to it, my design process always comes back to these four steps …

Research

Before jumping into the actual concept and creation of the design, I like to research what my client does and find out what makes this particular brand special. Email design is of course a bit less in-depth than larger scale projects such as, for example, logo creation — but it's still important to understand the identity of the brand your work will represent.

I typically start by clicking through the website and reading its content. I'll check out their product, service and employee pages and maybe even take a look at competitors' sites and offerings. This step doesn't eat up much time, and the time spent is well worth it. Getting an accurate feel for who a client is and what they're about can make or break a design.

Inspiration

This part of the process is my favorite. On one hand, it's ongoing. Regardless of which project is in front of me, I'm always looking for inspiration: whether it's a gem buried in my RSS feed, a trip to the flea market, a conversation with a friend or a weekend hike in the woods. As a designer, I think it's crucial to be immersed in your environment and culture. You never know when a random experience will lend itself to an idea.

Preliminary sketches of designs from my notebook.

Of course, each design assignment has its own immediate, project-specific needs. If I'm stuck on an email design concept, my go-to hot-spots for a creative kick in the pants are Beautiful Email Newsletters and Smashing Magazine. I'll also visit my favorite design sites (Design Work Life, The Best Designs, Felt and Wire, Mint Design Blog, and Swiss-Miss are some of my favorites), plus sites relevant to the client's industry. This gives me a sense of what's been done and where there is room for something new.

Sketching

Some designers prefer jumping right from the design request to the screen, but I find that I need that hand-to-paper part of the process — even though I don't always have as much time for it as I'd like. Even if all I'm doing is sketching out how I plan to code an email, that visualization can sometimes save me from revisions or coding mistakes down the line. Sometimes, I let myself get into detailed drawings and ideas, but even when time is short, a quick sketch works in a pinch.

Creation

Once I have my concept in place, it's time to jump in and get my hands dirty. I take all the various materials I've accumulated, the conversations with the client, inspirations and sketches, and I start putting the pieces together. All the previous leg work typically makes this part a fairly seamless one. When the design is ready to go, I code it, place it in the client's account and answer any questions they might have.

If the client is unhappy with the design, or if I find myself stuck and just not certain with how things are turning out, I know my best bet is to don a thick skin and ask my colleagues and design friends for a quick critique. As a designer, it's important not to take things too personally. Sometimes a client isn't satisfied, and you have to be open to that criticism.

In those situations, listening is most important. Why isn't the design satisfactory? Why doesn't it achieve what the client was hoping? Is it a question of aesthetics or simply a miscommunication? Take the assessment and suggestions, ask your colleagues for their opinions and thoughts and head back to the drawing board.

Remember that creating a design for someone else's brand is a chance to connect with another person, learn something new and make a little magic. And the best part of my job is that I get to do this every day with several clients. Every project is a new adventure.

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Is your email stationery in need of a new look? Request a Concierge Design or Studio Design from the Emma design team.

Design team gives back: The Contributor

A look at our design partnership with Nashville's street newspaper

Being a member of Emma's design team is a pretty great gig. It's even better when we're able to use our design chops to contribute something meaningful to our community. When the right opportunity comes along, we help nonprofits effectively communicate their mission to their target audience — and it feels great to be a part of something so valuable.

Last year at a local design conference, keynote speaker Tasha French wowed us with her passion and devotion to Nashville's street newspaper, The Contributor, which she founded in 2007. Since then, Tasha has worked with a fantastic team, dedicated vendors and the Nashville community to turn The Contributor into the biggest street paper in North America.

Homeless and formerly homeless vendors sell and distribute the paper, which covers various aspects of homelessness and poverty in its monthly issues (although Tasha's hope is to increase publishing frequency soon). Many of the Contributor vendors sustain themselves through this work, and more than 35% have gone from homeless to housed since they became vendors.

After meeting with Tasha to determine the best ways for us to help, the design team began working on a fundraising and awareness campaign to target Nashvillians and tourists alike. Together, we established a consistent aesthetic for the project, and each piece went to a different designer. Here, each one shares details about the work they did.

Project: Postcard
by Kelly McClain

The main push behind this entire campaign is to encourage supporters to not only buy the paper but to also read and enjoy it, since a lot of great work is put into publishing each issue – and ultimately, its long term success depends on readership.

To that end, we used actual vendors' and readers' comments about their favorites parts of the paper (in their own words – and even in their own handwriting). We also featured beautiful photographs, taken by Tasha, of the people we quoted. This gave the campaign a very personal feel, which we particularly loved for a newspaper that is sold face-to-face, person-to-person.

For the postcard, I made a stamp-like graphic with the simple phrase I read it, and gave it a weathered texture in a stand-out color. We wanted to create a look that was the right balance between clean and professional, but with a print feel (without getting too carried away with the street paper aspect).

Project: Email stationery
by Seth Wood

Collaborating with The Contributor over the past few months has allowed us to peek into the inner workings of the paper and see how it really affects change in the lives of its distributors. It's affirmed the good that The Contributor is doing for our community, and I hope my piece of the project serves as a meaningful contribution to their campaign.

I was tasked with creating their new email stationery, which is fairly neutral in tone — its colors and textures are highly reminiscent of what one might see in an actual print publication (e.g. roughed edges and a slightly distressed texture). To keep continuity with the different designs, I repurposed some elements from other pieces of the campaign, such as a stylized version of The Contributor's logo, parts of the footer and the image of a vendor.

Project: Poster
by Lauren Johnston

I am thrilled that we had the opportunity to work with The Contributor. As a team, we decided on a lot of the design concepts before we got started individually. For example, we agreed on font styles and a color scheme and then delegated the specific projects. I love that all the pieces are cohesive, but each one is unique to its designer's style.

I created the poster, which was the perfect assignment for me. I crafted a vintage, collage sort of feel, and paired it with solid type treatments and plenty of white space to keep things easy on the eye.

The poster has a subtle newspaper background texture, and an actual vendor is highlighted on the front. In the top right portion, printed in the vendor's own handwriting, it reads, "I read the Contributor about the issues that happen around us." I cannot wait to see the whole campaign up around Nashville.

Project: Billboard
by Elizabeth Williams

I had the pleasure of working on the billboard design for The Contributor's "I Read It" campaign. It was quite exciting for me as I'd never had the chance to design anything over five feet. It was a challenge, too, because its message had to be slightly different from the other pieces in the campaign.

According to conventional wisdom, a successful billboard consists of seven words or less, as people only have about 10 seconds to absorb your message — not an easy task. Because of that, we decided to change the message to a question: Do you read it? We really want viewers to ask themselves that question. Hopefully, they'll think about about why they buy The Contributor and what value they place on it, and it may intrigue non-readers enough to pick up a copy next time they see a vendor.

Once we settled on the message, it was a matter of perfecting the typography — making sure it was legible, well-designed and consistent with the other campaign pieces. Along with the typography, I used one of Tasha's photographs of Dunn, a Nashville vendor, who just happens to look as if he's waving to the people passing by the billboard. Plus, he has such a genuine smile that his photo was really the ideal choice for the billboard design.

It was such a meaningful experience to work on a project that is making a difference in the lives of so many. When you care about a cause and your professional skills can help lift it up, it becomes your responsibility to do your part. We were fortunate to be able to take on this partnership with the folks at The Contributor, who so graciously trusted us with delivering their message.

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We enjoyed working together to create a campaign that The Contributor will use to spread awareness throughout Nashville and surrounding areas. And we hope you've learned a bit about our design team's process and enthusiasm for this project. We'd love to hear about other nonprofits that are making a difference in your community.

Do you love The Contributor as much as we do? Support it here.

5 questions with Frank Eliason

A bonus round with a social media expert and this week's Talking with Tom participant

Frank is SVP of Social Media for Citibank. He lives in the Philadelphia area.

Frank Eliason is SVP of Social Media for Citibank in New York and former Director of Digital Care at Comcast. A self-professed gadget geek, he's participating in Tom Martin's social experiment, Talking with Tom. Take a look at his interview with Tom, and read below for more from Frank, including his thoughts on customer service and how to do social media well.

What's the most interesting thing happening in your industry right now?
Within social media it is conversation regarding Google+, and specifically Hangouts that I find interesting. I have always seen video as a disruptive option and hangouts make it easy. I am also fascinated with the notion of social fatigue, although I do not believe it is being discussed heavily right now. I watch my newsfeed on Facebook, as well as other spaces, every day and I am noticing less and less posts by those not associated with social media. I believe this is more fatigue, as individuals decide what they want to share, with whom and how often. In the service industry, I enjoy watching businesses start to realize the impact this social world has on the overall customer experience and how they need to improve that via all customer touch points. Service is the most important aspect to business and now the customer is making that point. Just appeasing those in social is not enough, and not the right approach anyway. If you want customers speaking positively about your brand, you have to provide the experience that would encourage that. It is no longer lip service.

What inspires you?
Passion! I love watching passionate people change the world. I see it through people like Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, Brian Solis and others. This is what drives success. For me, I am passionate about the consumer, and I will live that in everything I do.

Which companies are leading the way in social media and customer service?
I still think Comcast is doing a great job. I also like watching Samsung, Dell Time Warner, AT&T and many others. At Citi we strive to lead by finding alternative solutions to better engage customers. As an example, the trouble with banking and social service is customer privacy concerns. Our solution is implementing secured click to chat. If you are talking to a Citi service representative and the conversation drifts to something that requires private dialogue, we can share a link and you will be able to continue the same conversation with the same person in a secured manner. If you are on a mobile device, we can send a similar link that will connect you to a call with the same person.

What brand do you love right now?
I have been an Apple fan for many years. I have also found myself purchasing many Samsung products for around my new home.

You can invite any four people to happy hour. Who'd be there?
Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King. Every one of these individuals were disruptive in their own way yet were able to achieve so much. In responding to this question I was able to think of so many others that would be fascinating, including artists, religious, world leaders (good and bad) and business leaders who truly generated change. I think many of us are doing that today through our thoughts on social media, yet others paved the way for this disruption to take place, and it would be fascinating to learn from them.

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