Get to know Graphic Designer, Nichole Peterson!

TJA prides itself on creating a winning culture through the rad people who work here. Now’s your chance to get a peek behind the curtain on process, origin stories, and even some secrets from one of our very own. Content Strategist, Teresa Velasco, interviewed Graphic Designer, Nichole Peterson, via Slack.

TV: Okay girl, when did you know being a designer was something you wanted to do?

NP: I was always into anything that involved art growing up, but I knew I wanted to be a designer when I took a high school graphic design class and fell in love.

TV: Is being a designer all it’s cracked up to be?

NP: I think it’s excellent! I get to make pretty things for work and always have the opportunity to be creative. There are days when my brain just isn’t creative. Working in an agency, I have to push through that mental block to get my work done. It’s a struggle to find inspiration some days. When I’m in one of those ruts, I usually need to seek out work from other people for inspiration. I have some design websites I frequently reference:

TV: When there’s a more challenging project, what’s your plan of attack?

NP: I collaborate with my teammates and start planning the best course of action before I even open a program so I can begin with a strategy. This is something that’s become a bigger part of my process as I grow as a designer; I spend more time in the planning phase before diving in.

For example, if I’m designing a poster, I’ll talk with our Production Director  to get a grasp on specs and size. Then I’ll consider what the poster is meant to do—whether it’s to drive traffic, build brand awareness, act as an informational piece—and combine that with all the info provided by the client services team. That’s when I start thinking about the layout. Once I have some solid ideas, working with other Creative team members to get feedback is extremely helpful in creating a piece that is aesthetically appealing as well as functional.

TV: What are some hot design tips you can share?

NP: I found that learning the actual theories and history behind design helps set you up for success. Without a solid foundation, people tend to just throw design work together with no real purpose. It is always important to have intention behind your design, and knowing the history of it helps you understand that better.

TV: Do you remember what your first project was at TJA?

NP: It was a stairwell mural of the greater Phoenix area for Hotel Valley Ho . My first impression of the work I was doing was that we had really rad clients that allowed us to be creative with their projects, which meant they trusted us to design our best work for them. That was a really good feeling. 

TV: What about your first impression of TJA?

NP: We have so much fun here. We have crazy ice breakers, pops of fun, team builds and more. It’s all meant to create an enjoyable environment for us. That was something I wasn’t used to coming from my old job. The people here are also extremely dedicated, honest and unique. It makes for really good work and even better culture.

TV: Alright, last question: what’s your deepest, darkest secret?

NP: Oh geez, really? That’s a tough one. Well, a work-appropriate one is that I feel like I don’t live up to my title as a creative because of how I named my stuffed animals as a kid. I had a polar bear named Pola, an ostrich named Ostrey, and a worm named Wormy.

Don’t let her stuffed animal names deceive you: Nichole has cranked out stunning work during her time at TJA. Check out some of our case studies to get a taste of the kind of creative work Nichole and the rest of the team can create for your organization.

Adapt or die

It’s the most basic tenet of evolution, but a hard pill to swallow. There can be a lot of attachment surrounding a tried and trusted brand strategy. However, a hard conversation needs to be had when the needle isn’t moving forward anymore.

Maybe the current brand makes the company look dated. It may not reflect the flow of the industry. It might not match the ethics of the organization. And that’s when the “R” word gets dropped into the discussion.

Rebrand.

Rebranding conjures up violent images of throwing a baby out with the bathwater. That’s not the intention—nor the basis—of a successful refresh. The main reason for a rebrand is to realign with the original values and ideals of your company and see if it has kept pace with the times, both in terms of aesthetics and operation.

Redesign the wheel. Don’t reinvent it.

What worked? There’s something resonating with your audience, otherwise, your organization wouldn’t exist. Dig deep, find the core of what your brand is doing well. Ask your team questions about the identity of your company so everyone is on the same page moving forward. Some of the answers might be challenging and hard to hear. That’s okay: rebranding is not always a comfortable process. What’s important is that it works in favor of your company’s long term goals. Here are a few thought-provoking questions to get you started:

  • What do we think people say about our brand when we’re not in the room?
  • Are we solving the same problem for our customers that we were when we started this company?
  • What organization is doing what we do better than we do it? What do we have that they don’t?

All hands on deck.

There’s more to rebranding than sketching up a new logo and calling it a day. It’s a multifaceted process requiring many different approaches. To show what it takes to successfully pull one off, The TJA team discusses how each department contributes to making a rebrand that flies instead of flops.

Creative: Important considerations include what the ultimate goal of the rebrand is. Are you trying to put life into a tired brand, or is the company shifting its focus, or expanding or narrowing their services? Always pay attention to the equity of the existing brand and the perception that it holds—Do you want to keep that, leverage it or erase that from the conversation?—Darren Simoes, Art Director 

Organic + Paid Social: Organic social can provide the perfect way to roll out the rebrand by updating your profile images, cover photos and posts on feeds and in stories that tease, boast and boost the new brand. Paid social, with other paid media, offers an even larger reach with the ability to customize your target audience to those who have remained loyal to your brand through specific website behaviors, engagement on your page and past interactions with your brand, as well as reaching new audiences you’re wanting to bring into the loop. —Jamie Schelling , Social Media Manager

Public Relations: Our job in public relations is to give your rebrand the announcement it deserves. How that announcement looks varies client-to-client, and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach. From newsletter teasers to grand reveal parties, your company’s rebrand will depend on the ones who matter most: your customers. As marketing professionals, we understand your customers, and as communications professionals, we understand how to deliver your message to them. Bottom line: PR is the cherry on top of a rebrand sundae. —Keller Perry, Public Relations Account Manager

Promises made, promises kept.

Rebranding, at its core, is about keeping promises. Your business is offering consumers something that makes them feel like they’re a part of something bigger, better, prettier. With an outdated approach, it’s harder to deliver on your commitment to move your customer closer to their best self.

A successful rebrand needs to resonate with organizational goals, have a positive impact on public response and enhance the product or service. It needs to be in alignment with the goals consumers have when they reach for your product or service. It also can’t fly under the radar. A huge part of a successful rebrand is awareness. PR and media involvement play a massive role in allowing your business to strike while the iron’s hot, and garner a positive public perception of your company’s transition.

If the alchemy of all those elements is there, you’re well-positioned for a successful refresh. 

TJA has had the privilege of directing the rebrands in multiple industries, including real estate, food + beverage, travel + tourism and more. If you’re looking for some inspiration for where to start with yours, check out some of our work.

Success stories

Writing for SEO strategy: When an algorithm is your audience

The way you write is more important than you think

What are you trying to accomplish when you set out to write a blog post, a homepage or any other piece of content for your website? Attract more visitors, get more customers, provide insight on your subject matter, sure. But your writing is also engaging in some behind-the-scenes negotiations with the ranking function of search engines—the bytes of code that determine whether your website ends up on the first page of results, or in the graveyard of the tenth.

A single piece of content is doing a lot of work for you. In addition to conveying useful information to readers, it’s telling search engine optimization (SEO) algorithms that the website as a whole is reputable and worthy of a good rank on a SERP (search engine results page). There are certain traits these algorithms have been programmed to recognize in high-quality websites. Modeling your content in a way that encourages these bots to check off their list and give your site a gold star can make the difference between getting 67% of all clicks or none.

How bots help you write better content

Search engine algorithms are mainly looking for content that was created with common sense. You can use their guidelines as an outline for your content. Here’s a checklist of what makes a high-quality webpage, according to Google:

  • E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness
    • Formal expertise is very important to Google, especially when your webpage deals with topics concerning your money or your life (medical, financial, legal advice, etc.). Expertise can be less formal for lower-stakes content, like recipes or humor, but still involve a high level of authoritativeness if the source is reliable, well-known and well-liked. Consider what expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness mean for your website. Who are your experts? What is making you a trustworthy source?
  • Prioritizing the right information
    • Think of your titles, headlines, anchored text and image names and descriptions as snapshots. They tell the algorithm about your webpage’s purpose and what the main content is trying to accomplish. These are the places to include keywords you’re trying to rank for, but be cognizant about the user experience. Are the keywords you’re choosing the ones people actually use to find you?
  • The inverted pyramid
    • Understand how readers scan text. Headlines and subheads are really important, as is the first paragraph. Include the main message and your feature keyword in your first paragraph. People recognize the word they were looking for and feel they’re in the right spot. Make your content “top heavy” by including the most important information first—no hedging or burying the juicy bits.

Ever-changing algorithms

SEO algorithms are really unglamorous critics. They have no faces, they shape shift all the time (in fact, it’s estimated that Google makes algorithm updates 500–600 times a year) and to top it all off, you can’t really fault them. Their whole purpose is to make it easier for the average Googler (or Binger, rare breed that they are) to find the most useful and user-friendly information. While most of these hundreds of updates are minor tweaks, there are major changes once or twice a year; you’ve just got the hang of Penguin when Pigeon flies in your face asking you to play by new rules.
We understand, it’s frustrating. You’ve gotta be a people pleaser, as well as a code coddler. What’s a writer to do? It’s not really as bad as all that.

Writing for SEO algorithms (without writing for SEO algorithms)

Scale it back. While, theoretically, most of the world could have access to your content, it’s highly unlikely that an audience that size is searching for what you’re serving up.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

Except not, because it makes your life much easier. You’re always going to be writing for a niche—a metaphorical audience of 10,000 and some bots. But remember, those bots are sifting through the internet finding the content that serves those 10,000 people best. They’re servants of the people, and that means…

Bots don’t want to be written to.

In fact, they penalize pages that attempt to game their system with keyword stuffing (repeating the same words or phrases you’re trying to rank for so often it sounds unnatural), shallow content (quickly created content of subpar quality and a low amount of useful information), anchor text overuse (linking to other webpages using words that you’re trying to rank for, even when it’s unrelated to the link) among other shady practices.

The long and the short of it is you can’t let the bots know you want them too badly. You’ll turn them off with needy, low-quality content. Instead, write organic and interesting content that drops hints with high-power keywords and well-written headlines that makes them want you. Play hard to get.

Do what feels natural

Write naturally. Write for people. Write for people who are specifically searching for the information you have, and don’t worry about casting your net beyond that audience. Most (if not all) web content is answering a question in some shape or form. Get to the core question of what your readers are going to be asking themselves while they sift through the web. Then, when they stumble across your website, make them feel like their search is over.

That’s the true secret to satisfying SEO algorithms.

Hospitality Trends for the 2020s (and how to stay relevant)

If you took a hotelier from a decade ago (circa 2nd generation iPhone) and dropped them into the industry today, would they recognize it?

The booking journey is gravitating toward mobile-only. There are voice-control devices that guests can use to select a room or order room service. Blockchain has infiltrated hotel operations. Chatbots are as face-to-face as some of your guests get.

Where does that leave “hospitality” in the hospitality industry?

If you’ve jotted down the lessons the 2010s taught us about the hospitality industry (personalization is king, the Internet of Things is up and running and connection is a hot commodity), now it’s time to turn and face the 2020s.

We’ve compiled a series of trend lines worth following, because they don’t show signs of faltering.

Get smart(er)

Integrate guest’s devices with the tech in-room and around the hotel to provide a seamless stay they can control. Allow guests to connect to bluetooth speakers, control the temperature and order room service from their phone to drop extra steps that stand between them and what they want to get out of their experience (and revenue for you).

Hotels now offer opt-in text notifications for the weather, apps with user-friendly guides and chatbots that can make dinner reservations. Find which digital tools and accessories make it easier for your guests to enjoy your property. Maybe it’s putting a Google Home pod in rooms, developing an app to give visitors one place for everything they’d need during their stay or putting QR codes in the rooms for guests to scan and see what’s happening around town. These options take care of the minutiae so guests can focus on making the most of their stay.

Less personnel, more personal.

Chatbots are playing the role of concierge and customer service. Some fast-moving hotel chains have started using robot butlers to provide foodservice. Using AI and robots for mundane, repetitive tasks frees up your staff to cater to the needs of digital nomads and the evolving breed of leisure and business travelers who value interaction and integration.

Guests aren’t holing up in their rooms; they’re out and about, around the grounds and on the town. Hotels that can get creative with the ways they make experiences more personal, interactive and connected will align with the values of the modern traveler. Having staff run engaging activities is a good practice, as is being mindful of the quality of shared spaces. These contribute to how guests perceive the hotel and remember, above all, everything must be Instagram-worthy.

Video-visual

Get as immersive as humanly possible. Invest in activities, decor and amenities that pique the fascination of prospective guests. Then be thorough in proving why the benefits of your hospitality concept are worth the visit.

The variety in video options—for both organic social media and paid advertising—means that your hotel has no excuse; put great content out there because you’ve already got the subject material. If you have a smart phone, you can get started. IGTV is an excellent new avenue for hotels to connect with Instagram users. Walk the viewer through your hotel, or have chefs talk through what’s on the menu. Drone shots are dramatic and cheaper than ever. Repost user-generated content (with permission, obviously) to show off how much people enjoy your place. Use 360º video in common spaces to give interested visitors a feel for the place, or show them the room they’ll stay in. The possibilities are literally endless.

Step in the right direction

Millennials taking control of the national wallet is good news for the hospitality industry, because they view travel as a crucial part of their lives. It’s seen less as a luxury and more of a necessity. Take advantage of all the opportunities that accessible technology brings to hook these experience-seekers. Doing so will draw people to your hotel and keep them coming back, well into the next decade.

How to use these 5 tips to write kickass social media ads

Your company has a social media strategy in place and the responsibility to write the ads that convert passive viewers into active consumers falls on you. You’ve seen hundreds—thousands—of social ads come across your personal feeds. That’s gotta be enough exposure to make you a quasi-expert. You’ll knock these out of the park, you think. You’ve got this, no problem, you think.

Welllllllllll… maybe you need a little help getting started. You do have a brand (or several) who depend on your messaging to make them money.

Allow us to share what we’ve learned.

Here are the steps we use to write kickass ads for our clients’ social media ads.

Step 1: Research.

Target Marketing

Relevancy is the make or break factor of your social ad campaign (relevant ads also save you money). If the audience you think is buying your product is different from the audience who will actually buy your product, then… yikes.

Research is key—and not just demographic research.

Age, gender and income are still important factors to consider, as they’re the way to filter who sees your ads. But they’re no longer the queen of your copywriting chess game. That position has been filled by psychographic data. Having a reliable understanding of your target audience’s attitudes, opinions, behaviors, values, activities, etc. turns you into an intuitive consumer-whisperer. One of the best ways to fill in your target audience’s psychographic profile is by listening. More on how and who to listen to in step 4.

Step 2: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Shakespear Brevity

Ads on Instagram and Facebook allow for up to 125 characters of body text to make ad magic. To paraphrase, however, just because you have the space, doesn’t mean you should use all of it.

Adspresso analyzed 37,000+ Facebook ads and came to the conclusion that the ideal word count for body text is 14 words (80~ characters) and five words for headlines. Ads with these counts saw the highest rate of engagement.

Say what you want, say it well, say it briefly.

(Fun Fact: Hamlet’s Polonius, one of Shakespeare’s most notoriously long-winded characters, is where this quote came from.)

Step 3: Death of a Salesman
No Soliciting

One of the reasons there’s a high ROI on social media campaigns is because people don’t go out of their way to avoid ads like they do TV commercials. Social ads are less obtrusive, so people have a higher tolerance.

That principle is challenged, however, when ads are perceived as too “salesman-y.” Small business owners are finding that sales pitches on social media actually drive away users. Instead of going “buy our product now, pretty, pretty please,” go for a more conversational tone that engages the viewer through values, lifestyle aspirations or helpful and relevant information, which can include how your product solves a problem.

Step 4: Blend in with your surroundings.

Hello Fellow Kids

No, not like that.

Y’all already know how much content is out there in Social Media Land. The feeds of your target audience are curated sources of information they choose to listen to (or at least be exposed to).

It’s hard to win by being a disruptive presence on a person’s feed. A better strategy is to personalize.

And how, you ask, does one make an ad sound personalized when you’re writing for a broad swathe of people? Well A, by choosing the correct audience (see step 1) but mainly B: by sounding familiar.

This is where we circle back to that whole listening thing.

It’s easier to ingratiate yourself to your audience when you sound similar to the content they’ve chosen for themselves, and you can learn how to sound similar by listening.

Listen to posts from people in your target market; listen to the celebrities your target market listens to; listen to ads that are also targeting your audience. That’s a lot of listening, you say. It is, but it helps you match your tone to the language that fills their feed, making you sound organic rather than hokey.

However.

Step 5: Don’t be afraid of the “out there” options.

Girl In Stall

I know we just said that being a disruptive voice in your audience’s feed isn’t always a sound strategy.

But sometimes it is.

If you went on YouTube in 2013, you might remember the video that started with a posh lady in a bright blue dress opening the door to a toilet stall and saying, “I used to hate pooping in public.”

I bet that was one of the few long-form ads you watched all the way through, too. You weren’t alone, it was the fifth most viewed ad in the world in 2013.

Shock value works in small doses. It needs to be well-executed, sound honest even as it sounds ridiculous and not be antagonizing for antagonizing’s sake. These ads walk a tightrope of being too provocative and being just provocative enough. We encourage you to tread in these waters, because these high-risk ads can have high rewards. But you have to have a very sensitive cultural ear (see step 4) to execute an ad that plays on people’s love for irreverence without going overboard and inciting the mob.

In conclusion.
You’ve got the knowledge, you’ve got the cause, now go write ads that bring home the bacon. But like a magician who never reveals their secrets, we’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve. Take a look here to see our success stories. Reach out here if you want to be one.

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