Notes from Austin: This year’s SXSW Interactive

This year, the conference was all about improving customer experiences.

South by Southwest Interactive is the Super Bowl, or maybe the Olympics, of the web-based tech world. Each year, thousands descend on Austin for a chance to hang out, learn from industry thought leaders and discover the next big thing in tech. Or at least that's the promise of SXSW. But like all things, the conference is evolving, and over the last decade we've seen a gradual, but steady, move away from the bleeding-edge early adopter and toward the general tech enthusiast, social media marketer and corporate advertiser.

As someone who's seen the conference evolve over the last several years, it's clear to me that it's no longer simply a technology conference aimed at generating buzz for new tools. It's now a people-centered event, where the value of these new tools isn't measured solely on technical merit, but also by the extent to which they make our human connections and web experiences more meaningful. Is it still the greatest event for showcasing the best and brightest new technical innovations? No. But there's still plenty to appreciate.

These three themes from the conference show how the industry is becoming more customer-focused, improving our experiences on the web and beyond.

The tools themselves

New applications and web-based services are still the technical foundation of SXSW, but this year the currency is less about technical innovation and more about providing clear value to a community — from hyper-local to global.

  • Group texting – The pre-conference buzz was all about which of these services would emerge as the leader of the pack. And while there's no clear-cut winner, the underlying theme is clear — in a noisy, busy world, we need tools that help us connect and communicate easily with close-knit social groups.
  • Localmind – Last year, location-based services got our attention by introducing a game layer on top of real-world locations. This year, Localmind took it a step further by allowing people to ask questions about specific places and get answers by people who are actually there. As we see services like Gowalla and Foursquare struggle to gain mainstream traction, a service that offers a value in the form of real-time recommendations may be the tipping point that brings location services to the masses.

Giving back as a business unit

Giving back is quickly moving from something that businesses and individuals do as a side project, afterthought or only during holidays to a dedicated and sustained effort in making the world a better place. This year's SXSW saw everything from individuals pledging relief money to Japan via Twitter, to a keynote address that told the story of how an entire business was built by their giving initiative.

  • HelpAttack – This service allows you to pledge a dollar amount for each of your status updates. They facilitate the transaction at the end of the month and work with you to determine a per-update rate that fits the amount you want to give in a month.
  • Thank-you economy – Gary Vaynerchuk gave a rousing speech dedicated to the idea that saying "thank you" to your clients, in whatever way you can, is the key to building meaningful relationships in business. In a world with ever-growing marketing noise, it will take a vocal community of evangelical fans to make your brand stand out.
  • TOMS Shoes – At the extreme is TOMS. Blake Mycoskie has built his entire business around the story of "one-for-one." You buy a pair of Tom's shoes, and they donate a pair to a needy child. Blake explains that without the story, TOMS would never have grown to become the organization it is today. His word-of-mouth marketing by people who bought his product has been his most valuable business asset. And even though he didn't set out do to do something philanthropically great as a marketing strategy, the results speak for themselves in the continued success of the business.

The customer voice is stronger than ever

Even the way we build applications is changing. How? By inserting the voice of the customer in the build-and-release process. From methodologies to best practices to applications, the voice of the customer has a larger role than ever before in shaping the tools that help businesses grow.

  • The Lean Startup – The Lean Startup movement has taken the startup world by storm and even had a day-long track at SXSW this year. The key principals are building products and services as efficiently as possible by involving the customer at the earliest possible stage, and then building to the market using your audience as the rudder for features, value and price. These ideas mirror the conference direction as a whole by emphasizing concepts like feedback and value over simply building the newest shiny object.
  • User-centered design – From websites to applications to registration processes, user-centered design is the future of the way we conceive, prototype and build new features and applications. The very definition of design is evolving from something that needs to look great, then perform, to something that has to meet the needs of users intuitively, then be styled to make that experience fun and visually engaging.
  • Get Satisfaction – This year's winner at the conference for best business app, Get Satisfaction facilitates user feedback by embedding a friendly link and interface into websites, allowing users to post comments and suggestions on-the-fly as they use a product.

What made SXSW especially fun this year is that the trends we saw there are very similar to how we work here at Emma. We preach engagement and relevance, segmentation and availability. Also, giving back is important to us, and we make it a part of our day-to-day operations.

I know lots of you are thinking about the same things. So how are you making your product or service more meaningful? What ways are you finding to engage people in a personal way? Please let us know in the comments. After all, we don't have to wait for another SXSW to roll along – there's plenty to talk about all year long.

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Customer service: Why don’t we just ask them what they think?

If you've called our support line lately, you may have answered a couple of questions for us.

One of our main goals here at Emma is to take care of our customers — we want to make them happy with everything we do. From the features we build to our online help resources to the way we answer the phone, we want working with Emma to be a great experience. In fact, we go so far as to say we want to have the happiest, most loyal customer community on the planet. Pretty big idea, huh?

So we asked ourselves how we thought things were going on a recent chilly Nashville afternoon. It probably went something like this, actually, "Hey, how are we doing on that happy, loyal customer thing?"

Our Community support team, answering (and asking) questions.

And then we thought, what better way to find out than ask our customers. So that's just what we did. Our Community team began to ask every customer on the phone, "What's a great Emma experience you've had? And what's one that's not so great, so we can improve?" We had some fantastic conversations and got some interesting answers.

A bit of what we've learned so far:

  • We heard that we need to get better at offering resources for our more savvy users. And that the billing process could be easier. We said, "Can do."
  • We heard that sometimes it's harder to get us on the phone than it should be. We said, "Good to know. We're on it." Then we updated our phone system.
  • We heard that you can dream up things aesthetically that you just can't do with our campaign editor. We responded, "We agree, and that's huge. We're putting our best heads and everything we've got at that one."

One of the best answers to the question of what we can improve, though, was "none." Ahh, what a beautiful four-letter word. In fact, 21% of customers said "none."

As for the great experience part, folks had a lot to say about the friendly way we take care of their problems, the overall ease-of-use of the application and the fantastic custom designs we've done for them. That was nice to hear because these are all things that we work hard on every single day.

What about you? Do you have a positive Emma experience to share? Or a negative one we could chat about and hopefully fix? Let us know in the comments or give me a call personally at 615.296.0818.

SXSW Interactive comes to Emma

SXSW Interactive
Emma streamed talks by Felicia Day and Blake Mycoskie.

2011 marked the first time SXSW Interactive keynotes and speakers were streamed live from the festival in Austin. This allowed us the pleasure of bringing some of the most interesting presenters at SXSW into the Emma house. We settled in with chips, salsa and Shiner Bock to get down Austin-style.

On Monday, we were wowed by Felicia Day's talk about creating a buzz-worthy social media strategy and following through with a passionate, authentic and personal approach. Felicia is the creator, writer and star of the web series, The Guild, which has more than 100 million views web-wide. Felicia utilized social media and her online presence to acquire 1.7 million followers on Twitter. Seriously, 1.7 million. She discussed how she's turned down paid offers for product placement in the Twittersphere and merged her personal opinion of delicious breakfast hot spots and cupcake love with business-related content to create a dynamic presence and personality online. We came away from this impressed and totally smitten. That Felicia Day is good. We're tossing our cowboy hats off to her.

Tuesday offered up the entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit of Blake Mycoskie, creator of the wildly popular TOMS shoes. Blake's found profound success utilizing what he's dubbed the "one for one" model. For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, he donates a pair to a child in need. (We've spotted more than a few TOMS shoes around the Emma office, by the way.) He attributes his success to the giving back model and plans to expand outside the shoe world this summer. Blake has us all eagerly awaiting June 7th when he'll reveal the next TOMS product.

We're so pleased that we got to experience a piece of SXSW from the comfort of our Nashville offices. And, coming next week, we'll have an update from my colleagues who were in Austin for the conference.

Design showcase: Music in Our Schools Month

Here at Emma HQ, we're lucky enough to be nestled in the heart of Music City, just a few minutes from the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium and RCA Studio B (where, incidentally, Elvis recorded "It's Now or Never" — quite possibly our *most* favorite operatic pop hit from 1960).

Folks in Nashville quite simply have music in their DNA, so it seems only natural to share the love and spread the word about Music in Our Schools Month, a nationwide initiative to save music programs in public schools. And so, this month's stationery showcase is dedicated to some of our favorite music-themed designs; songs tell a story, after all, and we like to think our stationery can do much the same. Join me as we check out a few beautiful designs created for some talented singers and storytellers.

Client: Jayme Stone

Jayme Stone stationery
Emma Designer: Elizabeth Williams
Design Level: Concierge Design

What a delight to come across an amazing banjo player so far away from the Bluegrass State! When he isn't teaching music classes, Jayme Stone composes and plays music inspired by folk dances from around the world. With the arrival of a new record, Room of Wonders, Jayme wisely chose to update his stationery to reflect the whimsical new site design, replete with illustration and hand lettering.

Armed with good direction and a strong sense of the Jayme's branding, Elizabeth's challenge was to bring that story into the world of email with a design that would shine in the inbox environment. She seized opportunities to tie in key details, such as the illustrated dancers and customized social sharing buttons. He also requested a customized "send to a friend" button that tied in nicely with the overall design. The result is a stationery that is a unique piece of his marketing narrative, but one that still fits into the story.

Client: Bonepony

Bonepony
Emma Designer: Jennifer Kasdorf
Design Level: Concierge Design

As long-time members of the Nashville roots rock community, Bonepony knew they needed to stay true to the rustic look of their branding without losing a professional, semi-polished look. They requested a stationery *inspired* by their website but not an exact duplication, so Jennifer got creative with existing pieces from the bounty of great materials Kenny provided.

Jennifer was able to maintain the rougher texture present in the website by applying it to the entire background of the stationery header, but she combined it with a new, sleek color palette of black, white and sliver. The result is a perfect, brand-consistent balance of edge and sophistication.

Client: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Drew Holcomb
Emma Designer: Taylor Schena
Design Level: Concierge Design

Our friends Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors are Nashville-based independents that have been with Emma for three years now. Drew and Ellie have enjoyed an exciting year of music, including the release of a new album produced, in part, by the group's own fans.

Thanks to a company called Kickstarter, fans were able to donate funds to see the album come to fruition. Staying in close touch with fans became even more imperative with such an endeavor. The new stationery needed to reflect their updated look, but Taylor knew she would need to retain a good level of recognizability for their long-time fans. She gave prominent placement to the photo and tied in a subtle swirl texture in the background for a little extra visual interest. The final aesthetic is contemporary, understated and relaxed. Best wishes on the road, Drew and Ellie…

Client: W.O. Smith Music School

W. O. Smith
Emma Designer: Elizabeth Williams
Design Level: Concierge Design

The W.O. Smith Music School has transformed the lives of an entire community of children in greater Nashville, and we could not be prouder to be affiliated with this fabulous non-profit. W.O. Smith is a music school whose volunteer staff is made up of musicians who donate their time and efforts so that underprivileged children can get world-class musical instruction for just 50¢ per lesson.

They requested a clean and simple design, so Elizabeth took their carefully branded logo and drew the prominent red and black colors from the website. The minimalism of the design strikes a good balance with the boldness of their brand colors and also allows the content area to shine on its own. Here's to many more years of shaping lives through the power of music education!

If you would like to request your own Concierge Design stationery, head over to our online form. Not yet an Emma customer? Come say hi!

Until next time … love, hugs and treble clefs from your Emma design team.

Mark your calendars for Something on a Stick Day

Or, how to create better emails for mobile devices.

Poster design by Matthew Labutte.

Where I'm from (the Ozarks), food just ain't food unless you can stick it on a stick. A remarkable amount of human ingenuity has been applied to the challenge of taking food that typically requires these pesky things called utensils and transforming it, via stick, into something portable.

Meatballs? On a stick.

Fried pickle? On a stick.

Hot bologna? Not nearly as bad as it sounds, and also, on a stick.

So why not make plans now to honor this completely non-made-up holiday called Something on a Stick Day, coming up on March 28? It's a chance to celebrate food's portability. So sure, it's a fine excuse to have six fudge pops for dinner. It's a good occasion to make sure your emails are portable, too, and to take a look at email marketing on mobile devices.

Email on the go is popular, folks. Checking email is the number one thing people do on their mobile phones, according to the comScore Mobile Year in Review for 2010. Research from Knotice tells us that for every 100 people who open your email, 13 of them will see it on their smartphone. And of those 13, five of them will be eating a delicious chicken satay. It's true.

With that in mind, here's some advice for creating a better email experience for your mobile readers, no matter how much or how little you know about it.

Level Corn Dog: basic mobile advice anyone can use

+ Mobile readers are busy readers, so keep your emails focused. Consider sending shorter, more frequent email campaigns with a single story or call to action.

+ Obsess over your subject line. Mobile users may check your email on the go but also save it for more thorough perusing on their laptop a little later. A thoughtfully written subject line will do wonders to grab their attention. (Molly's holiday subject line tips are good year-round.)

Level Pork Medley Kabob: slightly meatier tips for the mobile-minded

+ Pretty up your plaintext. While more and more smartphones display HTML, some mobile devices show the back-up version of your email that's in plaintext. Use special characters, capital letters and tasteful line spacing to highlight your headlines and set off your links.

+ Ask a smartphone user in your office to join your email's test group. Just seeing how your last campaign looks on an iPhone will make you more mindful of mobile when you plan your next one.

Level Deep-Fried Twinkie on a Stick with Chocolate Glaze: more involved ideas for decadently mobile-friendly emails

+ Smartphones typically show the first few lines of an email that readers scan before opening (or, alas, deleting). Create a line at the top of each campaign that succinctly conveys the point of your message — what the special offer is, what's in this issue, when the party's happening, what food-on-a-stick will be served at said party, etc.

+ Consider creating two versions of your email — standard and mobile. Ask your subscribers which version they'd prefer to receive, then segment and send accordingly.

+ If you're serious about mobile email rendering, invest in a service like Litmus or Email on Acid to preview your email on a variety of smartphones (and other email clients, too).

:::

What about you? What emails grab your attention on the go? Have any of these ideas worked or not worked for your email marketing? Do you have any special plans for celebrating Something on a Stick day? Can I come?

(Oh, and for more skewered food entertainment, see what portable food the always-fun folks at Neatorama found last year.)

Photo credit and poster design: Matthew Labutte

Things we love: Great subject lines

Before joining the Emma team, I spent ten years working in the music business in Nashville, and you'd be surprised of the many similarities between country songs and email. Strangely enough, a few writing rules hold true for either one. For instance:

  1. Be concise.
  2. Make sure you feature the most important information.
  3. Don't make it too long.
  4. Always leave room for a fiddle solo.

OK, maybe that last one only applies to country songs, but at least one more rule works for both: Always have a catchy title.

This is especially important with your email campaigns because your subject line is the only part of your email that your recipients are guaranteed to see when the email reaches their inboxes. A boring subject line is a sure path to a low open rate, while a great subject line can be the difference between a successful effort and a mediocre one. We love to see great subject lines, and, in my opinion, no one does it better than Tyler Tervooren at Advanced Riskology.

Advanced Riskology

Tyler's site is all about the benefit of taking risks, and he's chronicling all of the risks he takes in his own life, while inspiring others to do the same. You can read his mission statement here. I enjoy most all of his posts, but I really love his catchy subject lines. Check out these recent ones:

All of these subject lines are vastly different, but they have a couple of things in common. First, they immediately identify the sender by using the "{AR}" designation. That's a creative way for Tyler to ensure that his readers can easily identify his emails by the subject without having to type "Advanced Riskology" in there, which takes up valuable real estate in a subject line. Second, regardless of how different all of these subject lines are, they all make it virtually impossible to NOT open these emails. Personally, I would never claim to be a person that's interested in five miserable ways to die, but when that subject line appeared in my inbox, I had to read the email.

And that is really the point here. Just like anything else, I find Tyler's articles to be of varying interest to me, but I always open his emails to see what's there. That's the important lesson of subject lines. Not every email you send to your readers will appeal to all of them, but by crafting a great subject line, you give your content a chance to be seen. Whether you're writing country songs or email campaigns, that's always the first step toward reaching your audience.

Emma hosts Lunch 2.0 in Portland

If you follow either one of our blogs, you know we have a penchant for all things geeky. This Wednesday, we opened up our office to host Lunch 2.0, a monthly meeting and networking event for the tech community. A phenomenon born in Silicon Valley in 2006, Portland imported the concept in 2007, and it was an immediate hit.

The concept is simple. A host company — that would be us for the sake of this story — offers a meeting space and brings in lunch for the attendees. Like-minded people network and mingle over noshes, hashing through shared issues and solutions: how to prioritize features, finding the right hire, nurturing a happy and productive work environment, dealing with growth and so on. It's a fun and productive event, with free lunch to boot.

We always enjoy having people in our space, so we were very excited to host Lunch 2.0. Currently, Emma occupies the 5th floor of the beautiful bside6 building on E Burnside and recently decided to expand our operation to the 6th floor. To celebrate the good news, we decided to have lunch on the unfinished sixth floor and take advantage of the collective brainpower in the room. We lined a wall with butcher's paper and asked attendees what they thought we should do with the space. The suggestions we received were impressive. Acoustic ceiling tiles? Yes, please. Practice mad science? We're all for it. Goomba hackerspace? Bring on that open sourcery. Indoor track/roller rink? Now we're talking!

An admirable list of ideas.

Speaking of the 6th floor, you may be wondering what our plans for it might entail. Emma's growing, in case you haven't heard. In Portland, the plan is to grow quite a bit. We're currently in the position to hire multiple software developers, so if you've got super-fly skills and talk of things like Python and PostgreSQL makes you happy, check out our job page here.

Thanks to everyone (nearly 100 all said and done) who came out for Lunch 2.0 this week. We enjoyed having you in our space and look forward to ongoing sponsorships within the tech community. Also, a big shout out goes to Lovejoy Food for creating a Mediterranean feast that everyone enjoyed. We're still enjoying those vegan-friendly orange cardamom cookies. This morning, we discovered, paired with coffee, they really do make a breakfast of champions

If you're in Portland, be sure to drop by Small Society, a rocking iOS development shop, on April 6th for the next installment of Lunch 2.0. Not in a Lunch 2.0 town? Consider initiating the movement where you live. It's a great way to get involved and support the geekery in your community. Plus, it's a legitimate reason for a mid-day party. Need we say more?

Emma in Denver: What’s up with our mile-high outpost

Annie and Gina
Annie and Gina, enjoying the Denver sun

In January 2008, Emma sent a member of our sales team out to Denver to start our first satellite office. Gina dug her roots in the Rocky Mountain soil and began to spread the good word about Emma across the West. Two years later, she was joined by yours truly, and today, the two of us make up our small-but-mighty Denver branch. (For some context, Emma also put a stake in Portland in March of '08, in Austin in July of '09 and in New York City this past fall.)

Over the last few years, the Denver office has existed in various spaces, from a single cubicle in a basement to a corner of an interior design firm to a modern loft north of downtown. But arising from a desire to be more involved in the community, beginning on March 1, we took the Denver office completely mobile.

In this day and age, working remotely is becoming more and more popular, especially for those working in the field of technology. In addition to lots of coffee shops that offer Wi-Fi signals, coworking spaces are cropping up. Gina and I will be taking advantage of both options, and on any given day, you might find us working away at St. Mark's Coffeehouse, joining a conference call from Stella's or interacting with the folks at Boulder Digital Arts, where we rent a desk.

It's an exciting time for us Denverados, and an intriguing experiment for Emma as a whole. If you're in the Front Range area and interested in meeting up, let us know — we're out and about, and we love meeting our neighbors.

How about getting to know some of our Denver clients? Gina shares a list of some favorites:

  • Our friends at YouthBiz: This fantastic nonprofit and Emma client of nearly three years has helped more than 2,500 youth become successful scholars, businesspeople, community leaders and entrepreneurs through after-school programs.
  • The good people of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science keep us entertained and up-to-date on museum exhibits through their emails. And the DMNS is one of our favorite ways to spend a Saturday in Denver.
  • One of Emma's newest clients, the Downtown Denver Partnership informs residents about what's going on in the community. We love seeing the Daily News Highlights in our inboxes each morning.
  • The most valuable workshop I've ever attended was with Emma client and program extraordinaire, Boulder Digital Works at CU. If you want to be enlightened and challenged by the creative geniuses of CP+B, their workshops are a must-do.
  • We love catching up with our friends at Emma agency partner, Cahoots Communications. Helping local and national nonprofits with their brand and marketing strategy, they bring good causes to life. And they are great for a visit over a morning cup of joe.

(Additional writing by Gina Nykerk.)

Heading to SXSW? Try our insider tips for Austin’s best

Emma's Austin outpost is here to help you keep it weird while you're in town. The answer? Head to South Lamar.

Maria

The blogosphere is chock full of great tips for enjoying Austin during SXSW. Most of them cover the quintessential items such as where to find the best BBQ, breakfast taco and Mexican martini around town. But sadly, one of the coolest drags in Austin is often left out of the mix. Just a few blocks west of South Congress Avenue and south of downtown, South Lamar is home to a mix of historic spots (like Broken Spoke, Kerbey Lane and Saxon Pub), mingled in with an infusion of newer shops, restaurants and bars (like the best sushi spot in town, Uchi, and a Bon Appetit 2009 Top 10 New Restaurant of the Year winner, Olivia).

Since Emma's Austin satellite office is squarely planted in the heart of South Lamar Boulevard, we decided to make our own list of suggestions built around one of the quirkiest boulevards keepin' it weird in town.

In a city known for its food trucks, you can find one of the better cups of joe not from a trailer but a full-sized, repurposed, 20-foot shipping container called La Boite. Pair your coffee with a freshly made almond croissant or macaroon, and your visit to South Austin just got off to a five-star start. Breakfast time brings breakfast tacos all over Austin. Hit one of S. Lamar's local shops Casita Taco. Or for a true South Austin experience, drop by Maria's Taco Express — as much for the South Austin vibe as the guisada, el pastor or breakfast tacos served all day.

Gourdoughs, of course.

South Lamar covers a wide variety of boutique shopping options, too, so if you're ready to grab a break from SXSW sessions and blogging, enjoy a stop into So La, right next door to Emma Austin. Or try one of the street's more unique stores like Marigold – Gateway to India. If you enjoy two-wheeled transportation, Jack and Adam's and Bicycle Sport Shop both boast friendly, knowledgeable staffs and some cool gear. If you've got bicycle in tow, they'd also be happy to recommend a ride or two in town. (Meet you on Loop 360, early Saturday morning?)

If you've had your fill of brisket and tacos by evening, you can hide out on the patio at Red's Porch, which boasts a great view of the greenbelt, a solid lineup of local brews on tap and bacon gravy. (Let me say that again: Bacon. Gravy.)

Of course, what would a lineup of must-visit spots in Austin be without mentioning at least one or two food trailers? Odd Duck Farm to Trailer features a farm-to-trailer menu that changes frequently. Take note, this popular spot is only open for dinner. And a trip to South Lamar without at least sniffing Gourdough's would be a crime. To call this place a donut trailer is an understatement, as many a fan will testify. Just know that after a Flying Pig, you may skip a meal or two the next day.

Cap off your trip with a cold beverage and a round of karaoke, a coaster step or 10 frames at The Highball (opened by the owner's of Alamo Drafthouse in 2010) — or one of Austin's best outdoor patios at Paggi House, which is just a block off South Lamar at Lee Barton Drive.

The Emma Austin office will be dark during SXSWi but if you're in the area, give us a shout on Twitter at @J_Gesinger, @gpgarner and @studio865. We'll go halves with you at Gourdoughs.

A Portland non-profit lobbies for the arts

CAN December
CAN helps keep creativity flowing in Portland.

How one savvy non-profit uses Emma to make the arts sustainable.

In Portland, creativity runs deep. It flows in the rivers and crosses all the bridges. One of our clients, the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN), works tirelessly to keep those creative opportunities flowing for the entire city. They're currently chipping away at a gutsy initiative to establish a sustainable public fund to ensure a thriving arts ecology for all Portland residents.

An Emma client since 2009, they were also a recipient of a free lifetime account courtesy of Emma 25 in 2010. Recently, we sat down with CAN's assistant director, Emily Brod, to chat about how Emma helps drive their marketing strategy and where she finds inspiration in the Portland community.

To kick things off, will you tell us about some cool initiatives at CAN and how you're using email marketing to support them?
CAN is leading the charge for a new dedicated stream of public funding for the arts. Our mission is simple — increase our region's investment every year to bring arts and cultural experiences to life. We are here because we know that the arts inspire and educate our kids, revitalize our neighborhoods and fuel our economy. We also know that without public funding, many of our residents would no longer have access to the innumerable benefits of arts and culture.

CAN relies heavily on email as our main vehicle for communicating our goals, recruiting supporters and donors and celebrating our successes. When the City of Portland and the Regional Arts & Culture Council renewed their support for CAN in July 2010 with an investment of $100,000, they challenged us to build the movement. And build it, we did. We raised $50,000 in private donations. We also recruited 1,000 new supporters in just four months, signed on over 200 messengers to spread the word and exceeded our goal for memberships with new arts organizations.

What Emma feature do you love the most and why does it rock your world?
I really love the response module. Being able to see how and when people open our emails and what they click on is so helpful for us. With that data, we're able to better focus our email campaigns to reach and engage the greatest number of people possible in the most effective way. Our smarter campaigns are really working. Over the past few months, we've seen an upward trend in both opens and clicks, which means more people are getting involved in all the great work we do.

Okay, now that we've talked shop for a bit, let's switch gears. We're both lucky enough to live and work in Portland. Describe your perfect Portland day.
I could happily spend the whole day at the Saturday Farmer's Market. I love trying all the delicious samples, people-watching, listening to the music, finding fantastic food to cook for dinner, picking out a big bouquet of flowers, running into friends and strolling around on a warm, summer day with my family.

And, to get my art fix on, I use the brand new Public Art PDX iPhone app to take a walking tour of all of Portland's amazing public art.

Portland's got one of the most vibrant food scenes in the country and among the hotly debated titles in town is which place is serving the best burger. Whose got your vote?
I love the burgers at Little Big Burger. I love everything about them – the size, the juiciness, the flavor. Topped with chevre and paired with a side order of their awesome truffle fries, I've got one word for you: Mmmm.

What are three Portland non-profits that inspire you?
I'm on the board of directors for the Newspace Center for Photography, a fantastic non-profit that serves as a multidimensional photography resource center and community hub. Newspace has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, adding more programming, while growing their audience size and physical footprint. They've also stayed true to their mission of providing a space and a community for photo enthusiasts regards of skill level or income.

Another great non-profit is Girls, Inc. Their mission is to inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold. After volunteering with them at a local elementary school, I think I was inspired just as much as the girls!

And Friends of Trees is always one of my favorites. This winter, they planted their 400,000th tree in Portland and have almost single-handedly changed the landscape of the city. Seriously. When my family planted a tree in front of our home this January, we learned that a PSU professor attributed Portland's expanding tree canopy (one of few in the country) to the "Friends of Trees effect." I love that I can raise my daughter in a city where a non-profit organization has such a huge impact on the environment, our health and the beauty of our community!

+++++

CAN van
A paper CAN Van … also inspiring.

In Portland and want to get more involved in CAN's efforts to champion the arts for every man, woman and child?

Head over to their site and check out all the ways you can help, and don't forget to sign up for their emails while you're there.

Free free to join CAN at the Regional Arts & Culture Council's annual State of the Arts report at Portland City Hall on March 9 at 9:30 am to show your support.

Also, drop by Disjecta gallery (one of our favorite clients as well) and check out the legendary CAN Van immortalized in the Portland Paper Project. It promises to be the most amazing paper replica of Portland that you've ever seen.