Category Archives: Trends

Take a Bigger Bite

When snackable content won't satisfy, consider long-format podcasts.

We’ve all heard about snackable content⏤six-second videos, memes, SMS surveys, etc.⏤short, dynamic, often interactive, content packets meant to entertain or entice audiences toward further engagement. All good. 

Snackable is a huge part of social media content marketing. It’s especially effective for mobile, consumer audiences. We create snackable content for our clients to help drive employee engagement and to push specific campaigns, like annual enrollment or wellness initiatives. For internal audiences, the goal of snackable content is not entertainment. It is to promote long-form content designed to forward important organizational goals. 

Think of it more as an appetizer. Because sometimes you need a little more to chew on.  

Slow down, take time, dive deep. 

Only small bits of information are presented in snackable content. However, many topics worth communicating to employee audiences are significant⏤situated in organizational history, strategic thought and planning. Consider the communicative value that is lost when much of the exposition and reason underlying decisions is left blank. We are living in an age when audiences want more information, not less. The same is true for employees. Better information, better engagement.  

Sure, long-form content takes a little longer to consume, but the payoff is worth it. There’s time to dig a little deeper. There’s time for managers and employees to broaden their perspectives on the inner workings, challenges and strengths of your organization. 

There’s time for long-format podcasting.

A long-format podcast engages the listener with conversations that either thoroughly cover a topic or continue as ongoing discussions. There are many ways these conversations can be formatted. They can be 10–15-minute episodes serialized for as many as necessary to cover the topic; regularly scheduled ongoing conversations lasting 20 to 30 minutes; or 60-90 minute panel discussions about very technical subjects. Time is not the issue. Depth is. 

Side-by-Side (a demo)

Below I found two pieces of content that promote long-term savings for and financial independence for younger people. The first is from financial trainers and authors, MyFi, Inc. They created a “snackable” video illustrating a familiar truism of saving and compounding interest to promote their book and services. The second is a podcast episode from the “About to Launch” podcast, a very successful financial podcast created and hosted by Jamila Souffrant. 

Check them both out and consider which one would best drive employee participation in a 401(k) or other ESP. 

Push here to play short video.

Podcasting is now.

When they first started, podcasts were an obscure way to listen to audio files on devices, like Apple iPods. Early content was generally repurposed from public radio, sports radio and other talk radio programs. Universities also made educational resources available in the form of lectures and seminar discussions.  

Two things happened over the past fifteen years to help push podcasts to the upper tier of popular digital content. First, there was the explosion of smart phones. Remember it wasn’t that long ago when most people only had cell phones. Then came the DIY movement popularized on YouTube, whereby everyday folk demonstrate their talents, discuss their interests and chime in on subjects they care about. Podcasting, both video and audio, emerged within these trends. 

Only five years ago, creating a great-sounding corporate podcast meant renting, or creating, a designated recording studio space. This made podcasting expensive, unwieldy and difficult to coordinate.

Today, podcasting is very accessible. Technology has evolved on similar tracks to other cloud-based collaborative tools like Zoom. Smith uses technology that allows our clients to create great-sounding podcasts from the comfort of their office or their home. The recording is done remotely, with Smith production staff and consultants. Prep time is minimal and editing tools allow us to turn around complete episodes quickly. We also host client podcasts on secure, private platforms so client content is only viewed by intended audiences.    

Where podcasts can help.

Areas within your organization that require deep knowledge, cross-departmental understanding or increased transparency are excellent candidates for podcast conversations. 

Setting Direction: Top-level decisions are often disseminated through various indirect channels resulting in incomplete information and decisions that appear devoid of supporting facts and logic. A regular C-suite podcast can put everyone on the same page, understanding not only the direction of the company but how and why a decision was reached.

Educating Employees: Employee education is a never-ending process. Information is only part of the education process. Other important aspects of effective learning involve presentation, accessibility and engagement. Whether the subject is changing processes, organizational transformation or employee benefits, creating a podcast can help support your internal educational goals.   

Increasing Collaboration: Does your left hand know what your right is doing? In large organizations, the answer is very often “no.” New ideas emerge when new inputs and perspectives meet existing knowledge. Opportunities to collaborate toward innovation are often missed because of a lack of cross-departmental communication. Challenges like a silo-mentality that ends in groupthink and even inter-departmental obstruction can be transformed through conversations dedicated to cooperation. 

Five Styles of Podcasts

Interview: The interview is a very familiar style of podcast. A host asks questions of guests, often subject matter experts. (Clients have used these to help explain difficult legal and investment issues surrounding retirement.) The person conducting the interview needs a solid understanding of the subject to get the most from the guest. Loosely scripting these talks can be very useful. 

Panel: This style of podcast is well suited to highly technical issues and for collaboration. Panel discussions should have a moderator/host and subject matter experts with different perspectives. One key benefit of the panel discussion is that knowledge is spread across various panelists. This takes the content load off any single person, and it often leads to surprising new perspectives and shared understandings. 

Solo: While this style has the advantage of being the easiest to schedule, produce and edit, the presenter has a difficult job. The solo presenter must hold the attention of the audience without any help. Unless you have a very talented speaker on staff, this podcast is best suited for CEO or other high-level executives. However, beware of over-exposure for key executives. A frequency of quarterly or monthly podcasts is best.

Ongoing Conversations: Unlike a serialized topical discussion, these podcast don’t have an end. The idea is to have two or three trusted voices that become familiar fixtures within the organization. Ideally, they each bring unique, yet complementary, perspectives. For example, one person may continually take the side of the customer, while the other the side of production or marketing. Together they work through challenging issues from familiar perspectives. 

Any department can host its own podcast; e.g., HR, Compliance, Marketing, Research & Development, etc. Because audiences can be very targeted, there is no need for the entire organization to hear every show. Depending on the amount of information you need to cover and the pace of change, weekly or monthly episodes can be a part of employees’ lives.  

Repurposed material: This style of podcast allows you to assemble company talks, learning sessions, outside presentations, videos and other material that different departments generate. Transforming this existing content can eventually create a singular archive for preserving organizational memory and tracking transformation. 

Getting Started

Smith can help your organization strategize and implement your internal podcasts. Contact us; we’ll listen to your specific needs and give you a more detailed presentation of our ideas and capabilities.

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Building a Green Website

An Earth Day consideration of UX.

Today is Earth Day and a perfect time to publish this last in a series of posts about designing your next website with a focus on User Experience (UX 2022). 

Environmental impact being a critical issue for everyone and every endeavor, it’s good to consider ways to mitigate any negative impact caused by our design choices. 

Digital’s Huge Aggregate Impact

Computers don’t have exhaust pipes. So, sustainability isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when building a website. Yet, the collective impact of communication technology is substantial.

While the aggregate footprint of all computers is huge, an individual organization’s share is likely miniscule. So ignoring the problem may be tempting. Which would be a missed opportunity to be part of the solution and/or raise awareness and engagement on behalf of the environment. 

Tiny and Incremental Steps

It’s true that your individual website generates a tiny negative footprint and any design choices you make will only help on the tiniest of margins. The reverse also is true. The impact of individual web design choices can add up to a substantially positive aggregated impact. 

As a general design principle, eliminating “interaction friction” means fewer steps, smoother transitions and less computation, all leading to using less energy and generating less heat/friction. 

The following are some choices you can make to reduce interaction friction:

Be a Solution Minded Organization

From a cost perspective, building a new, greener website, or replacing the functionality in your current site just to make it more efficient will not save money. Typically, organizations rebuild a site every five years or so.  If cost-saving is the objective, the next scheduled rebuild will be the best time to incorporate more Earth friendly design choices. 

Beyond the material benefits, however, there is goodwill value in a greener website. Your Earth friendly design choices tell customers, employees and other stakeholders that your organization is both aware and part of the solution. 

Just like tiny energy savings add up to a real impact, tiny individual efforts on behalf of the environment can add up to entire communities and societies that value the environment–when everyone does their part.

UX 2022 Series 

In 2022, a good UX has become the standard for good website design. In this series, we’ve looked closely at important UX features, how they work, and how they can improve a website. All articles in this series can be accessed via the links below.

UX 2022 (An introduction.)

Core Web Vitals: Googles three essentials to user experience. 

Thumbs Up! The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

Speed: Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

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Speed

Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

The User Experience must be fast.

As we detailed in a previous article, Google has changed the ranking metrics for websites to optimize UX (user experience.) Google’s Cores Web Vitals influence a website’s Google search rankings and how well it works on the popular Chrome browser. Google’s outsized influence on the web makes their Core Web Vitals the de facto standard for good web design.

Two of these metrics focus on the speed of your website­­—how fast it loads and how fast it responds to inputs. Slow loading and reaction speeds feel excruciating to users, causing them to abandon a site prematurely out of frustration. Optimizing speed is not only good practice, it’s essential. 

The key to speed

Achieving faster website speeds is somewhat technical. Yet the underlying concept is relatively simple––don’t present users with content until they need it.   

Three key to speed is to quickly load a stable framework and then optimally position your content for speedy, on-demand access. This will make your site smaller, less cluttered, and faster.

These three principles can help guide your planning:

  • Use a framework that allows you to manage content flow.
  • Strategically map your pages and your content flow to keep your site uncluttered both visually and on the backend.
  • “Outsource” content to larger, faster, more geographically strategic, networks, so it can load faster without affecting your page. 

Speed checklist

When working with your developer, you’ll want to use technologies and techniques that streamline your pages. This checklist is a great starting point:  

  • Choose VPS* not shared hosting
  • Maximize browser caching 
  • Make images Internet friendly (smaller files)
  • Don’t overuse “plugins” and CMS* features 
  • Host your content on a CDN*, not on your page
  • Only load content for a page that’s currently open
  • Have content load as your scroll

* See below:

VPS—virtual private server. Instead of being on a single dedicated server or a shared plan, content is distributed across the Internet on large server farms. This speeds up website loading based on geography and real-time Internet traffic. 

CMS—content management system. The framework behind most modern websites, CMS keeps them very stable and makes updating content easy. Examples: WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace. 

CDN—is content delivery network. This brings features similar to VPS to your content. Broad distribution allows much faster loading.  Examples: Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud and Cloudflare.

UX 2022 Series 

In 2022, good UX has become the standard for good website design. In this series we look more closely at important UX features, learn how they work and how they can improve a website.

Here are other articles in this series:

UX 2022 (An introduction.)

Core Web Vitals: Googles three essentials to user experience.

Thumbs Up! The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

Building a Green Website

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Passage in Purple

Pantone’s transitional choice for Color of the Year.

Pantone was very sensitive to the global crisis when they chose 2021’s dual Colors of the Year. The combination of a bleak Ultimate Gray and a bright Illuminating yellow both acknowledged the dread of the pandemic and pointed toward a brighter tomorrow.   

Pantone’s choice for 2022’s Color of the Year is also pandemic-inspired. In Very Peri, Pantone subtly presents 2022 as a year of emergence from struggle toward renewal and hope.

“We are living in transformative times. Very Peri is a symbol of the global zeitgeist of the moment and the transition we are going through. As we emerge from an intense period of isolation, our notions and standards are changing, and our physical and digital lives have merged in new ways.”

Pantone Color Institute 

Half-mourning 

It’s not an accident that Pantone turned to the traditional half-mourning color. Elaborate Victorian grieving conventions adopted the use of shades of purple to signal the passage from grief to a resumption of life. Purples were worn after a dark period of pain and isolation­­––not as dire and stark as black, yet not back to full radiance. As the mourning period progresses, purple could shade from deep noir eggplant to light and airy lavender. 

Life goes on.
The ladies of Downton Abby wear shades of purple
while simultaneously mourning Lady Sybil’s death 
embracing the new life of her child.

Transition is key here. As we continue working ourselves out of the deep shock of a global pandemic, it’s fitting to remember all that’s been lost. Survival depends on an element of memory. Yet, survival is wasted if we do not get on with living. 

In a year where not just living, but thriving, will require us to make the transition from remembering to renewing, Pantone’s Very Peri seems very timely.

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