Adding value for your employees and your clients

We’ve all been there. You are assigned a task and know it can be done, but have no idea how to do it.

That is a reality of the workplace. This reality is actually an opportunity waiting to happen. It’s an opportunity for employers to make the workplace valuable, make their employees feel valued and turn around great, valuable products for clients.

Making the workplace valuable can be tricky. Many things go into competing for those “best places to work” competitions. Companies trying to attract young people have Jello fights and chicken petting day. Companies trying to retain people who have been in the workforce offer benefit packages that include health insurance and discount warehouse memberships.

But one key way to make the workplace valuable is by encouraging staff to try and learn new things.

I am given this opportunity every day. On a weekly basis I use at least four graphic design programs from Adobe, an animation software, a video editing software and multiple Microsoft products. I started using all of these in high school or college more than 10 years ago.

Because I’ve worked at places that encourage learning and self-growth, I’ve been able to keep up my skills in all of these programs, and add new programs to my repertoire.

It takes time to learn the programs and practice, but that time equates to having more graphic design, video editing and design skills in general. This space for growth has made me a more valuable employee, but it’s also made my workplace valuable to me.

By investing in training time and skill development, it’s also made the products I produce improve. Now when a client comes to us with a specific need, we have a multitude of options to help find a solution.

Need to explain an infrastructure project? AE2S Communications gave me the opportunity to learn how to create animations last year.  Now I’m able to easily create fun-to-watch cartoons about how or why a clients’ project is needed and how it will be built.

Want to support a successful voter-approved initiative? I’ve been given the freedom to hone my design skills and can make you an entire set of infographics, handouts, GIFs and interactive websites.

By giving me time, space and encouragement to hone and expand my skills, I now add value to my company and for our clients.

So give your employees a chance to learn something new. Ask them if there is a program they are interested in learning and maybe the next time an impossible task comes your way, you will have the skills needed to do the job right.



Disassembling a disaster zone

My computer desktop is a disaster. I’ll admit it. It looks like an explosion of every file type ever created. Screen shots and video files lurk in the corners. Folders where I meant to file things during a fit of organization clutter around the center of the screen, waiting to be used.

I know how it happens, and yet am powerless to stop it. A project comes up that needs completing immediately. Instead of finding the right file to save the design, or video project, it’s easier to keep it on my desktop so I can access it quickly if I’m working remotely.

Then, it never gets moved…until last week.

It’s funny how a change in the weather sparks some deep, internal desktop cleaning mode. When the snow leaves and the sun starts to show up before 9 a.m., suddenly my desktop is a clean background full of well-labeled folders and endless space.

It takes a little time to accomplish this feat, but once completed, it’s well worth the effort.

So here are a few tips that have helped me capitalize on the instinct of spring cleaning and file my documents where I can actually find them again.

1 – Use a consistent date and project label

Finding documents using the “last opened” feature is great, if it works. Sometimes it doesn’t depending on your platform. A more reliable way to organize files is to ensure the title of the file is as descriptive as possible but in a style that’s easy to remember. I start with the year, then the month and date in number format followed by the document description and if it’s a draft or final. (2017-0501-BlogPostCleaning-Final) Try to avoid spaces in your file names as that can cause issues.

2 – Create a file structure that makes sense to you and your team. Otherwise you will not use it.

The worst thing about file structures is not being able to find a document when you need it. To create a structure that works, it takes a little bit of practice and working with others who need to use the same files.

Finding a method to organize files is tricky because everyone approaches in their own way. One method we have agreed on in a joint server space is listing files by type and giving each a letter identifier so the files are grouped logically because of their alphabetic listing.

For example, anything files relating to standard graphics, logos or photos start with A- (ex. A-Logos and A-Photos). This keeps all graphics at the top of our file list. Print documents are filed in folders that start with P instead of just their name. That way when I have informational sheets or brochures that also need printing, they can be filed in P-InformationalSheets and P-Brochures.

This has worked well for us, but would not work well for all teams. That’s fine. Because it works well for us, we use it consistently. That’s the key with any sort of filing system.

3 – Organize things by purpose, not by file type.

One event can include dozens of different file types. Videos, InDesign, Illustrator, Word, Excel, PDF and Access files are just a few of the different file types that could be necessary. Saving things by their use may make more sense for your team if you ever plan to have repeat events. This makes it easy to pull that file and use it in later years.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can stick to. Make spring cleaning easy on yourself and happy filing!

Mapping your way through communications

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved maps. I loved maps of small places, like the plat book for my township. I also loved the globe my grandmother had in her spare bedroom. Maps meant there were new places to explore.

Now, as a communicator, I love maps for a different reason. Maps are a key piece of any project I work on. Typically, one of the first, and most important questions at a project meeting is “Where is this at?”
Maps are one of the best, most logical ways to share information. They clearly show connections that dozens of tables and graphs can’t convey.

It’s no coincidence that many infographics use maps as a base layer. That technique helps the reader start with a point of reference, especially if it’s a map of a place they know. When you know the location being discussed, it helps the rest of the information to be filed in your brain accurately.
As tools, maps are becoming more advanced and that gives everyone more ways to find solutions, even for big problems.

Take biodiversity and conservation efforts as an example. Scientists are now using maps to better understand forest composition. Researchers are using airborne imagery from spectrometers to measure wavelengths of light being reflected by the forest canopy over Peru. This helps them figure out what chemicals are present and in what concentration. The analysis helps them create a map of traits the forest has, thus giving them the ability to identify areas that need protection or a specific type of conservation management.

We are fortunate to have excellent GIS staff at AE2S. They have no problem whipping up maps to help our clients explain projects or our communication team educate about infrastructure. But there is always more we can do. This year I plan on taking some time to think about how to use our new Unmanned Aerial System in conjunction with project maps to help explain projects.

Take some time to think about what projects you are doing that could, or should, be using more maps. And if you are looking for some neat ways to spend a few minutes, try National Geographic’s interactive MapMaker. It’s a great way to see many different and interesting data sets like the world’s Gross Domestic Product, the range of the Cheetah and volcanic eruptions.

So the next time you sit down to work on a big communications effort, don’t forget the lovely and versatile map. A little bit of data can go a long way, especially when it’s given latitude and longitude.

6 Surefire Ways to Engage Millennial Readers

Editors note: AE2S had the pleasure of working with Morgan Hausauer as an intern for a handful of months. Morgan’s perspective on catching and engaging readers her age is helpful for any communicator working with information that needs to span age and location barriers. 

6 Surefire Ways to Engage Millenial Readers

By Morgan Hausauer, AE2S Intern

As a Millennial, I often come across content that grabs my attention and keeps me engaged for the duration of the article. More often than not, however, I find myself losing interest within the first few lines. So how do some authors keep a young reader reeled in, while others can’t make themselves notable? Millennial readers are a challenge to engage, but the roadmap to success can be spelled out in six surefire strategies snag your readers attention.

Keep it Informal.

Millennials are an informal generation. They grew up without much of the formality that older generations were exposed to. “Sir” and “ma’am” aren’t a common occurrence, and they could always speak without first being spoken to. The Millennial generation replaced formality with everyday politeness. They prefer texting to phone calls, casual drinks to fancy dinners, and so on. After years of easygoing interactions, they will be more interested in your content if it feels like a conversation, not a lecture. 

Allow for Interaction.

This young generation has hardly been exposed to the world without the gift of social media. This has made interacting with others over the internet absolutely second nature to this demographic, which can be a major advantage to your writing. Presenting information without allowing for feedback creates a strict, one-sided argument that is likely to disengage a young reader who wants their thoughts to be known.  The addition of a moderated comments section allows for your content to spark a discussion and fuel the traffic behind your post. Media giants that have hit the target with Millennials, such as Buzzfeed or Reddit, center their content around sparking discussion with their young readers and creating the feel of a democracy amongst their readership. 

Make the Content Approachable.

When the vast majority of the content you are writing is based on complex information, it can seem impossible to reach a wide variety of audiences. The key here is to make the content understandable in a way that isn’t patronizing. Ditch the unnecessary jargon and explain anything that is overly-complicated. Making the content clear has the added benefit of making it more engaging. This leads to an equally important follow-up point.

Don’t Dumb It Down.

There is a fine line between making your content approachable and making it condescending to the reader. You must clarity your topic without making it sound plain and elementary, and this is the challenge of targeting this age range or anyone unfamiliar with your topic. The youth of your reader should be treated like the asset it is – they are among some of the most ambitious and sharp people in the world. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the Millennial demographic when writing for them. 

Avoid a Wall of Text.

Nothing screams boring to a young reader like an unending stream of text. This problem is simple to avoid, such as with the addition of subheads to allow for navigation to sections of your writing that will be of particular interest to your reader. Easier yet is the addition of graphics, such as relevant photography and infographics to break up the visual monotony of a piece of writing. 

Content is Vital.

The most surefire way to keep young readers engaged is basic: your content can’t stink. If what you are writing about isn’t interesting or applicable to their life, a band of young readers will not flock to your work. Tie your topic back to their life. The intricacies of a new iOS 10 software program won’t entice them, but a rundown of what the software will do to improve their lives will. The science behind Global Warming might not grab them, but a report of the impact that can be seen in the world around them is much more likely to clutch their attention. 

Engaging a Millennial audience is no simple task, but applying these strategies will give your content a fighting chance at attracting a young readership.