Things that really grind my gears

Many years ago, I was one of a two-member team of graphic designers who co-workers called “Bitch” and “Moan.” We had a 30-minute ride to work together in the same car, so by the time we stepped from the elevator into the advertising department of a well-known retailer in Youngstown, Ohio, we had ourselves worked up into a tizzy. The elevator doors would open and the lingering stench of 100’s of cigarettes that had been smoked the day before would hit us full force. Our howls of disgust were usually the first sign that yes, we had arrived.

Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/geralt-9301/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=83571">Gerd Altmann</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=83571">Pixabay</a>

I’d like to think that along with smoke-free workplaces, I’ve come a long way since then and am no longer either “Bitch” or “Moan”... I never quite figured out which I was supposed to be. Perhaps it changed from day to day? Anyway, today there are still a few things that really grind my gears. 

Like the falicy that brand identity design begins with a website or logo. Business owners often ask me for a logo design for their new website. What they really need is a brand strategy—which is the first step in creating a valuable brand identity.

If you’re starting a new business or wanting to strengthen your brand, click to download “10 Basic Tools For Building A Valuable Brand.” It’s the steps that I believe should be taken before diving into social media, purchasing ads or sending out direct mail. 

I hope that it saves you considerable time, money and frustration.

My social media addiction

I have an embarrassing secret to share with you. I recently kicked a 10 year addiction to social media. It started innocently, I was looking for an easy way to promote my business and, according to “the experts,” social media was the way to do it. This is especially embarressing for me because I’ve managed social media pages for clients and should know better.

The online mantra is that to be a successful business you must be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, YouTube, and that you need a blog, an email campaign, a digital newsletter and a video. Sound familiar?

So back in 2009, I started a Facebook business page, opened a Twitter account and began to blog. I was already on LinkedIn and later I would add Instagram, experiment with Pintrest and even open an Etsy Store.

I bought an iPhone and downloaded all the social media apps onto it. I set alerts to tell me immediately when someone commented on my social media posts. I would get up at 4 a.m. with my husband for his work and while he watched the morning news on TV over his coffee, I checked my social media on the phone. I commented, shared and linked posts, plus, planned exciting and creative ways to promote my business.

I ran Facebook contests giving away $100 VISA gift cards, my Twitter account was impressive and I was even getting calls from social media gurus asking what my secret was.... I was also posting to my blog daily, at least for awhile, and taking amazing photos and posting them too.

A total stranger approached me at an Advertising Awards dinner to tell me that she had seen my post on Twitter saying that I would be there. She said that her reason for attending was that she wanted to meet me... As flattering as this was, I found it very unnerving and spent the rest of the evening looking over my shoulder for stalkers.

Last year I listened to a Ted Talk from an Instagram Superstar, her name I’ve since forgotten. She told of having 100,000 followers on Instagram and how she had not made a dime from any of it.

I began to question how much I was getting from all of this? I certainly wasn’t making much money or growing my business from it, at least not in ROI of my time. I realized that for me, social media had become an all consuming force that needed to be reckoned with.

I closed my Facebook business page, my followers were only interested in $100 gift cards. My blog had already fallen by the wayside because I could only juggle so much. I stopped posting to Twitter and Instagram and guess what? Nobody noticed! I still kept getting new Followers and “likes” and comments from my old Followers, go figure.

Social media is not a one-size-fits-all package. Every business is different. Today my social media is limited to LinkedIn, my personal Facebook page and this blog. I can’t get back my wasted time or energy, but I can turn it into a “don’t let this happen to you” example for my readers.

Next week I’ll begin sharing with you what I have learned from all of this with my list of “10 Basic Tools Needed To Build A Valuable Brand.”

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Generic thank you cards & lame “just checking in” e-mails

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My morning e-mail contained a notice from the United States Postal Service informing me that I would be receiving a personal card by snail mail that day. 

(Informed Delivery is a free e-mail service from the USPS that allows you digitally preview grayscale images of your snail mail that will be arriving soon. In other words, it gives you a chance to get to your Macy’s bill before your spouse does...)

So — someone had cared enough to mail me a card! My name and address had actually been written by hand in script and a 55-cent stamp had been attached. Wahoo.

I waited anxiously for the mail to arrive that afternoon. When it finally did I tore open the envelope to discover that it was a generic thank you card from a local printer. 

I had recently toured their facility and they wanted to say thanks. The sales rep included a personal business card and a short note thanking me for stopping by, saying if I ever needed anything I should give them a call.

How 1990’s, I thought as I discarded it. Not even a mention of the infamous store that sells chocolate located just around the corner from their building. We had discussed it in length and I had even said that I was going directly there after my tour...

Sending a thank you card was a kind gesture, more than what many people do today, and I really did appreciate it. However, the sales rep had missed an opportunity to make a personal connection that could have been used to build on, and then nurtured into a relationship.

Please do this for me the next time you meet with a prospect, I’d like for you to find one unique thing about them that you can relate to, something you will remember and can use to build a relationship on. 

Next, instead of sending generic thank you cards or e-mails that say “just checking in”, mention the “one unique thing” instead, make it the focus of your message. Then, as if an afterthought, you can ask them if they need anything. 

Doing this will make them feel special, gain their trust, and let them know that you think of them as a person, not just as one of many prospects. It could be the first step towards building a real relationship.

One of the most valuable intangible parts of your brand is the way your client is made to feel each time they interact with you, your brand, and your business.

Make them feel special — because they are.

Privacy?

When signing in at the radiology department recently for a routine mammogram, I noticed something different about the sign-in sheet. The directions said to write just my first name and only the first letter of my last name. 

I decided it most be another step in protecting our privacy I had never considered before. I signed “Diana K’ and took my seat with the others who were waiting.

The receptionist soon slid open the glass window that separated her from the patients and called out “Barbara C”. An elderly woman walked up to the window and the receptionist asked for her home address in order to verify the records in her computer.

As “Barbara C” dutifully recited her home address for the receptionist and all to hear,  I thought just how ironic the situation was. I’d much rather people know my last name than where I live...wouldn’t you?

So much for privacy.

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No regrets

 
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My mom is a youthful 82 years old and works as a sales clerk at our local Walmart (a job that she loves).

She works 5 days a week, which usually includes weekends and holidays, so I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like.

Recently, she called to tell me that she had the day off, and asked if I could get away from my work and and meet her for a long lunch. 

I thought for a moment, considered my lengthy “to do” list for the day, and then answered…

“Sure Mom, what time?”

Always make time for those you love.

 

Edits, the downfall of creativity

The Mac slowly began to appear in creative departments in the late 1980s and early 90s. It was introduced by salespeople and executives who had little to no knowledge of the department’s workflow or exactly how it would be affected by this change. They only knew that it was going to save time, money and be simply amazing. And it was.

To say that designers were excited is to put it mildly. 

We loved that we could set our own type. We could experiment with different size headlines and fonts without having to painstakingly draw each letter by hand on tissue paper. We could see a future of limitless possibilities.

Soon typesetters, the skilled craftsmen who set beautiful rows and columns of words and numbers, all perfectly spaced for legibility, were no longer needed. They were let go.

We were cold, the loss of typesetters seemed to be a small price to pay in exchange for the amount of time that the Mac was going to save us. Time that designers could use to be creative.

Unfortunately, this “saved time” was eventually stolen. Stolen by edits and changes that once would have been an unacceptable typesetting expense and waste of manpower. Stolen, not because designers allowed it, but because our protests and pleas were ignored.

Copywriters, merchants, engineers and executives, those who once had their copy and information proofed, corrected, and proofed again before submitting it to the typesetter, just stopped working that way after the Mac arrived.

Content submitted to the graphic designers began to seem more like a draft instead of the carefully written, researched and double-checked content that the typesetters had received. Frustrated, designers grumbled and toiled at their keyboards, making endless edits as directed, adding new photos here and replacing text there.

Designers’ hope for a future filled with unlimited creative possibilities slowly began to circle the drain.


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Diana’s Blog is written in the hopes of inspiring new ideas and generating productive and meaningful discussions.

Why am I telling you this?

Dear Reader,

When I was eighteen, I left my parents rural home in Ohio to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and pursue my dream of becoming a rich and famous fashion illustrator...

After graduation it took moving back home and several months of searching before landing my first job as a fashion illustrator. I was hired to work in the advertising department at the headquarters of a major Cleveland, Ohio retailer and paid $2.70 per hour — a nickel above minimum wage back in 1979. 

So much for the rich and famous part of my youthful dream! 

The early and mid 80s found me employed as a graphic designer or “layout artist” designing newspaper ads in the advertising departments of some well-known Ohio retailers. At that time layouts were still drawn by hand and type was carefully “spec’d” by the designer for the typesetter and production department to follow.

By 1988 I was living in Charlotte, NC and designing direct mail and catalogs for yet another popular retailer. Fortunately for me, Apple had what I was told was an “experimental computer lab” at the local community college. I took classes in my free time, learning Mac Basics, PageMaker and QuarkXpress.

I also began to do some freelance for local ad agencies and bought my first Mac in December 1990. It was a Macintosh LC. I purchased QuarkXpress at the same time, a good decision because PageMaker eventually fell out of favor in the industry.

So why am I telling you this? I’ve been a graphic designer before, during and after the computer, worked full-time in large advertising departments and freelanced for businesses and ad agencies. My firsthand experiences, observations and personal opinions are truly unique and often controversial. 

My blog may provoke you or it could completely change the way you look at things. Either way, I hope that it inspires new ideas and generates many meaningful discussions.

Warm regards,

Diana