Dear Squarespace haters,

So when did Squarespace become a derogatory word? I've had this bug up my ass for awhile now, as I hear this sentiment more and more. Now in some respects I get it: It's finally come into its own, complete with a Super Bowl spot and all. "Ubiquitous" is commonly used to reference "the look" amongst the design community. I imagine Squarespace would see this as a win, as users—a large number of users—have found value in their product, so hats off to them. But I guess what bugs me is this diva attitude from designers and devs that has grown in parallel to the usage of their product.

I see this product as a tool, something to be used when needed, to help push a budget further than normally possible. It's certainly not a solve for everything, or even most things, but when budgets need to be stretched to elevate an idea, it's a great product to have in your toolbox.

A majority of our work at Curator is about developing content to give people a reason to care, and in doing so we have to act as seasoned quarterbacks with a budget. We have to anticipate how we are going to herd an earned media idea into success for the bottom-line of our clients. Which means we have to always look upfield, three steps ahead, and stack the line differently for each play. 

Which comes down to trust. Trust from a client that we will be stewards of their little budget baby, the one they hand to us all swaddled in hope, knowing we can help it grow up better than they could on their own. Sometimes the answers lie in made-from-scratch UX or feature sets that need to exist for the first time – so the idea will succeed. But other times, we don't need them to pay for CSS and a custom CMS, because the idea's success lies in what is needed between the divs. And that is where Squarespace shines, freeing up budget to create the right story, knowing that when it's told, it'll work on a user's phone, tablet or desktop. Knowing that the client will easily be able to take the reins if necessary. Knowing that publishing will be fast and efficient if an idea rests on catching the right timing of social waves. 

Our swansonslookbook.com - featured on Squarespace - custom coded to re-imagine a storefront template into a responsive fashion inspired "Lookbook". Content developed over 3 weeks, site developed in less than two days.

Our swansonslookbook.com - featured on Squarespace - custom coded to re-imagine a storefront template into a responsive fashion inspired "Lookbook". Content developed over 3 weeks, site developed in less than two days.

So there's my take. It's how you look at it. I don't see a bunch of templates, especially given the dev sandbox they offer, but a rather valuable tool to use when you need to stack your line somewhere else. Maybe it's a pop-up event, or an extended paid media run, or an extra video to cut. Either way, it's proved valuable in retaining our clients' trust. And that's what matters in this business right? As creators, we shouldn't ever lament being handed a box, but re-imagine what that box can do.

Need to see how a big brand leveraged it?

photo credit : Mike Carter

Your Instagram Guide to FEAST Portland

I’m not going to lie, I’m totally one of those people that will say, “not yet!” to you when the food has arrived. I’m asking you to wait so I can get an Instagram. I could go into a whole blog post defending myself, but I’m going to assume that you don’t have a problem with it. Today I'm traveling down to Portland for FEAST Portland. Officially, FEAST Portland is the flagship food and drink festival of the Pacific Northwest, featuring the best Oregon culinary treats. Unofficially, it’s a food Instagram marathon and I recommend you never go unprepared. 

Snap fast 
During FEAST, you’ll be moving quickly from table to table to try sandwich after small bite after pinot noir. My best tip to upload the best Instagram possible, is to snap first, edit after. No one likes a chronic Instagrammer, so take your time and analyze post-bite which creation is worth sharing. 

Don’t be afraid of asking for the Wi-Fi password
Many FEAST events are hosted at hotels or restaurants that likely have public wi-fi accounts. What are the perks of being on wi-fi? Save your battery and upload faster. Two things every Instagram addict cherishes. Plus, it's good practice for when you need to ask them to charge your iPhone behind the bar when it dies…

Know the hashtag
The official hashtag of FEAST is #feastpdx. Not #feast2014, not #feastportland, but #feastpdx. Include on your Instagrams to expand your audience and browse other people's photos to see what you might be missing during the event. 

Remember the details
A lot goes into that tiny sandwich you’ll be voting on at the Sandwich Invitational tonight, so don’t disgrace it with a lazy caption. It’s not easy to quickly type those ingredients while perfecting your shot and balancing a beer in the other hand. My trick? Take another photo of the ingredients! You can reference it later when editing and write the caption to end all captions. 

Follow the key players
Be a team player and engage with those who came to join you in celebrating Oregon’s ounty. Here’s a short list of my favorite Instagram accounts I suggest you keep an eye on:

 

When an ROI of Zero is a Good Investment

I went to see Neil deGrasse Tyson last night, and he brought up a great point about return on investment.

Someone had asked him what he thought about private companies venturing into space. He said he thought it was long overdue. But he also said that when it comes to exploring new frontiers, that’s best left to countries and governments.

Why?

Hypothetically, let’s say someone wanted to pitch a private company on traveling to Mars. Here’s (paraphrasing what Dr. Tyson said) how the conversation would go:

We want to go to Mars.
OK, how much will it cost?
We don’t exactly know, but a lot.
Is it dangerous?
Absolutely.
Will people die?
Probably. 
What do we get out of this, and how much money can we expect to make?
I don’t know.

The conversation’s over before it starts.

The thing is, America did this when we went to the Moon, and we’ve continued to do it in the decades since.

What’s the ROI of NASA? Their stated mission is “To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.” Their annual budget for the last few years has been around $17 billion.

So the United States is spending $17 billion annually (less than 1 percent of total U.S. spending) to essentially look for stuff.

That may sound a little wishy washy, and it’s definitely why NASA gets kicked around politically whenever the U.S. Congress is faced with a budget deficit and needs to make cuts (which, when you consider that it only makes up 0.5% of total expenditures, is a complete waste of time). But in looking for stuff, we find or invent other stuff. Stuff like:

  • Cordless power tools
  • Scratch-proof lenses
  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Better shoe inserts
  • Temporal thermometers

(Here’s a whole hell of a lot more stuff that NASA has invented.)

And that’s without even starting to talk about the amazing discoveries that have been made about our planet and universe. This is all just ancillary stuff.

The point is, just because you can’t see the ROI of something doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

There’s value in trying to do something new, because even if you fail, you’ll have picked up things along the way that you didn’t have before, and that might come in handy in the future.

What’s the ROI? I don’t know. It could be nothing, or it could be everything you ever need.

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@paulbalcerak

Less Is More

Each year, some brands make the mistake of going too far in their attempts to memorialize the tragedy of 9/11.

While brands often attempt to inject themselves into social chatter, times of tragedy generally shouldn’t be fodder for conversation on branded social channels.

Even the most well intended posts and Tweets can come off as insensitive, and even crass. With this in mind, the general rule is that a moment of silence on social media can say so much more than a Tweet that can be easily misinterpreted.

However, if your brand plans to pay tribute next year, take some time to review this year’s list of #brandfails named by AdWeek and learn how to avoid potential backlash.

1.    Do not use the tragedy as an opportunity to push your product. – There is no room for sales or promotions in connection with this infamous date, period. It’s just poor taste.

2.    Avoid using a cutesy or lighthearted tone. –Such a serious historic event shouldn’t be made light of.

3.    Do not use branded logos in images. – This can come off as opportunistic and takes away from the overall sentiment of the message.

What are your thoughts? Let us know what you’re thinking @CuratorPR.

 

 

Beat Your Summertime Sadness

Cue the Lana Del Rey song; summer is almost over. Lucky for us Seattleites though, we still have at least another month of beautiful weather, daylight and warm(ish) weather. Here are some of the things I plan to squeeze in before autumn officially arrives (on September 23).

Watch a sports game outside. If the forecast holds true, we may get some more sunny days, so take advantage and soak it up while watching your favorite local teams play, or find an outdoor bar to watch a little pigskin. I’ve said it here before, and I’ll say it again: The Dock in Fremont is an awesome locale to do just that. Get there a couple hours ahead of kickoff, especially for a Hawks game, to stake out a spot in the back patio. 

Go for a hike. I know when the weather changes I’ll be kicking myself for not going on more hikes this summer. Get some trail inspiration on Sosh Seattle!

Take a day trip. Another thing I always want to do each summer, and need to cross off my list in the coming weeks. Catch a ferry to spend the say exploring Whidbey Island, or check out a seaplane tour up to Victoria. Seattle Met has a pretty cool list from a few years back that may help you decide on a place to go based on your interests – all should be within 90 minutes from the city.

Staycation. On the flipside of going somewhere for the day or weekend, you can always stay right here and play a visitor in your own city. I did this by accident a few weeks back and loved it. For most of us at Curator, the fall season means holiday craziness is upon us, so unplugging for a day or two and getting out and about in your own neighborhood or city is a great way to de-stress and refresh your mind. Whether you take a long walk around Greenlake or Alki Beach, or tap your tourist roots and visit the Space Needle, or Ride the Duck, it feels good to explore what’s always right under your nose.

Picnic. Pack some snacks, maybe some drinks, and enjoy a nice long afternoon or sunset outside. Golden Gardens never disappoints!

Try something new. There are so many activities to try here in Seattle, and there’s still time! Rent a paddle board or kayak on Lake Union or Lake Washington (Moss Bay is a great spot), find a friend with a boat or rent one and give wakeboarding a try, or head east and try hang-gliding at Poo Poo Point in Isssaquah. I think this is the appropriate time to say YOLO!

Eat Out(side). Before everyone goes back to hibernating when the days get shorter and darker, eat outside as much as possible! There are too many amazing restaurants with gorgeous views, romantic rooftops, or beautifully lit patios to pass up. Get your perfect city Instagram from these locale eateries: Ivar’s or Little Water Cantina on Lake Union, Maximilien in Pike Place Market or Salty’s on Alki Beach.

Share your favorite summer activities with us @CuratorPR

Don't Overcomplicate Social Media

We talk a lot on this blog about how to optimize your social media efforts to maximize whatever goal you’re reaching for. That stuff’s important if you’re going to be successful.

It can also trip you up. People forget what social media is: a conversation. It’s not Excel sheets, and numbers, and trends, and optimizations. It’s you, talking to people, talking to other people.

Don’t overcomplicate it.

You want your social presence to look good, sure. But you don’t want to look like you spend all your time trying to make your social presence look good. (It’s like getting dressed in the morning.)

People should be pulled in by all the great stuff you do; they shouldn’t get turned off by posts that have clearly been vetted 14 times and rewritten to be just right. Stuff that’s created to appeal to everyone will hardly interest anyone.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Be a person (even if you’re a brand).
  2. Be useful.
  3. Be what you’d want to see if you were on the other side of the glass.

Then worry about the numbers.

If you were a BuzzFeed headline

photo
photo

Admittedly, a lot of us are big BuzzFeed readers. It's hard not to peruse the ridiculous lists or pass up a fun quiz to break up the day, and last week was no exception when we stumbled upon What Would The BuzzFeed Post About You Be Called?

We couldn't help ourselves and had everyone in the office take it. Here's what the team got.

Brooke: The Emotional Ode to Brooke Andersen That Will Make You Die Of Cute

Chelsey: The 53 Most Badass Pictures Of Chelsey Allodi That Will Make You Smile

Paul: 86 Magical Pictures That Prove Paul Balcerak Is Douchey

Ann Marie: 43 Extraordinarily Witty Things You Didn't Know About Ann Marie That Will Make You a Worse Person

Scott: 13 Reasons Scott Battishill Won't Eat At A Pot Luck -- And You Won't Believe Number 9

Colin: 8 Cringe-Worthy Things You Didn't Know About Colin Bishop that Will Make You Feel Boring In Comparison

Maggie: 97 Unusually Anxious Photos of Maggie Samson That Will Make You Feel Young At Heart

Jennifer: 92 Amusing Things You Didn't Know About Jennifer Carroll That Will Make You Feel Uncomfortable

Noelle: The 11 Most Adorable Facts About Noelle Ibrahim That Are Better Than A College Education

Shawn (ok, we might have done his for him): 25 Hello Kitty Crafts Pinned by Shawn Herron that Will Make You Feel Uncomfortable

What's your BuzzFeed headline? Tweet us @CuratorPR

One Crazy and Rewarding Summer

Like all good things, they must eventually come to an end. With a bittersweet finale to my internship at Curator, I can effectively say that it has been an exhilarating learning experience. On top of the amazing time I had with Curator, I will be leaving with a new perspective on the public relations industry as a whole, and what it takes to survive in it. The biggest lesson I learned is to find what makes you excited and passionate, and to chase that interest. With some past experience in public relations, content creation and photography, this internship really made me stop to think about what I want to do. I always jumped at any opportunity I could get to work with Shawn, Curator’s Creative Director. But, at the same time I was responsible for a very different kind of work on the PR side of things, which at times made project management all the more important to balance. So, my advice to my peers in a similar phase of your career: give some thought to your passions and how that can translate into an area of work. Of course internships are designed to be a learning experience and aid that process, but it helps to begin with your basic interest or talents that you can build off of and develop.

Looking back on my four months with Curator, I‘m proud to have worked on a variety of projects, including writing press releases, pitching bloggers, shooting and editing a video, and photographing plants in a studio. Feels like I did it all. While every assignment was unique and interesting in its own respect, I found the days spent outside, “in the field” with clients, were some of the most fun I’ve had all summer.

It was an absolute pleasure working with Swanson’s Nursery. I should be so lucky to work with future clients who are interested and open to collaborating, and giving us as much creative freedom as we were able to play with. Not to mention, I am a budding gardener at home (pun intended). While I’m proud of all my client work from this summer, I would most like to share the projects I was involved in for Swanson’s Nursery.

The first project I was pulled in to help with was covering their exciting and thoughtful community art garden project at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. The art garden build was part of Swanson’s “Grow with Us” Project, which is focused on helping communities make the best use of their outdoor spaces. With three days spent in the summer sun, I was able to photograph and film the transformation from start to finish.


The next, and my most favorite, project was working with Shawn on the photography for the Autumn Project Month Lookbook. I was most excited about this particular project because of the creative liberties I had throughout the process. I was able, within stylistic direction from Shawn, to really take the reigns and produce the photos that would capture the essence of a fashion look book, but for plants. Seeing the final product and actual lookbook – skillfully and tastefully crafted by Curator’s design intern, Maggie Samson – is a very cool feeling and a wonderful reminder of the whole experience.

So, after a whirlwind summer, I’d like to say thank you to everyone on the Curator team who I had the privilege of getting to know. Thank you for taking me in and giving my work a shot! More than anything, I appreciate all of the help, guidance, and friendship everyone showed me during my time here.

It is with a heavy heart to say goodbye, so I just won’t say it!

Thank you all for one of the most rewarding summers yet!

The Most Social-Savvy Emmy Awards Ever?

Emmys 2014
Emmys 2014

Last night marked the 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, and whether or not you laughed at Seth Meyers’ jokes, got teary-eyed during Billy Crystal’s tribute to Robin Williams (R.I.P. Robin) or chuckled at Gwen Stefani’s mispronunciation of the Colbert Report (Colberg anyone?), the real highlight of the show was following along on social media.

Big-time award shows like the Oscars and Emmys have become less conservative and more conversational in recent years, and this year’s Emmys was no exception. While the awards show didn’t have a big social media moment like the famous Oscar selfie with Ellen DeGeneres, the Emmys did step up its social media game with activations like the following:

Exclusive content: Leading up to the Emmys, fans were treated to rehearsal footage and backstage sneak peaks of preparation for the show, using the @LateNightSeth social handles.

Vine 360 Station: The Today Show’s Vine 360 cam gave celebs a chance to take a spin and show off their red carpet looks. The clips were posted on the show’s social media accounts. Check it out here.

Facebook Selfie Station: Facebook and NBC partnered to give famous faces the opportunity to stop by the station and capture a quick selfie while making their way down the red carpet. You can check out their selfies on the NBC Facebook page.

Facebook Mentions Box: You may have seen “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush lugging around the Facebook Mentions Box, a device allowing celebrities to answer questions from fans. Stars shook the box like a Magic 8-Ball and answered a random question using the device's camera. Check out this example from Jason Biggs on the “Access Hollywood” Facebook page.

Twitter zipline camera: Twitter used the Emmys to debut a Twitter-branded zipline camera featuring red carpet and pre-show footage, used by “Access Hollywood” and posted on NBC’s official Vine and Twitter pages, giving fans a bird’s-eye view of glammed up stars.

Official Twitter correspondent: Twitter also brought on comedian Retta from “Parks and Recreation” to share snippets from the evening in 140 characters or less. You can check out her hilarious insights here and here.

Twitter GIFbooth: Twitter also created a GIFbooth to capture backstage moments and celeb reactions to the awards.

The increased incorporation of social media into awards shows like the Emmys has allowed fans more access than ever before to one of Hollywood’s biggest nights, from the rush of the red carpet to backstage musings. At any point in the evening, viewers had a chance to actively engage with the show in real-time, which is what social media is all about, right?

By the way, in case you missed the Emmys, here’s a short list of some of my favorite moments from the show:

Were there other buzz-worthy moments at the Emmys or on social media? Tweet us: @CuratorPR!

Facebook’s Click Bait Changes Explained, For Your Page And Website

Bait and switch
Bait and switch

Another week, another Facebook update. This week, Facebook has declared war on click bait by announcing that it will be de-emphasized in the news feed algorithm, which determines what types of content users see.

This latest update came with two major changes, and to make sure your page’s content doesn’t get drowned out, you’re going to want to pay attention to both of them.

Change No. 1: Click-Bait Is Discouraged

The definition of “click-bait” is a little debatable, but generally you’ll know it when you see it, and it refers to anything that hides what you really want to see in favor of a teaser-ish headline. Sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy have used this method of headline writing to drive a lot of traffic in recent years. Their success was so great, it inspired The Onion to launch a site dedicated to mocking them.

_4__Upworthy
_4__Upworthy

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid posting click bait: Don’t post it. If you’re having difficulty figuring out if your content qualifies as click bait, ask whether it’s deliberately withholding information in the headline in the hopes of generating a click. If so, it’s click bait.

The other thing you'll want to focus on—and we say this so often anyway—is publishing quality content. Here's Facebook on how it will determine that (emphasis mine):

"One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. [...]

"Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them."

In other words, make sure spend time reading your content, but also make sure they come back to talk about it on Facebook.

Change No. 2: Greater Emphasis on Links-As-Links

This one’s a little confusing if you’re not familiar with Facebook’s intricacies. No worries, because we’ve got screengrabs below.

Basically, there’s more than one way to post a link on Facebook, and Facebook is now saying that a link posted as a link will be given greater emphasis than links posted as status updates or photos. Here’s an example of each:

Status Update (Don’t Use This)

statusupdatelink
statusupdatelink

Photo (Don’t Use This)

photolinkpost
photolinkpost

Link (This One’s OK!)

linklinkpost
linklinkpost

Lastly: 2 Things To Pay Attention To Because Of Change No. 2

Now that you’re all ready to post links as links, you’ll want to take a look at two things on your website or blog to make sure your links are optimized.

1. Update your title tags. When Facebook pulls in a link, it uses the title tag from your web pages to title the links. Look above. See the part that says “The Curator News Feed: August 22, 2014”? That’s the title of the page we’re linking to. We wouldn’t want that to say, for instance, “Curator: A PR Agency,” or anything.

2. Make sure your images are Facebook-optimized. Link-preview images, like the Mo’ne Davis one above, can come out looking weird if you haven’t sized them right. Make sure you have at least one image on your page that is 1.91 times as wide as it is high (actual pixels don’t matter)—that’s the golden ratio.

Have any questions? Feel free to find us on Facebook or Twitter.

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"Bait and Switch" by Rian Castillo is licensed under CC BY 2.0