Four Ways Wordsmithie is Green

Flexible working is built into the core of our mission here at Wordsmithie. We’ve found that offering our employees the ability to strike a work/life balance leads to creativity and productivity on the job. But an added benefit? We are an exceedingly green, environmentally friendly company.

We’re a distributed team, so we don’t utilize office space. Members of our team live in San Francisco, Singapore and all points in between. That means we don’t have one central office space where everyone converges every day. Not only does this mean we aren’t using energy to light and heat (or cool) a large office space, it keeps costs low so we can be more flexible in pricing our services.
None of our staff spends time commuting every day. We’ve all had jobs that keep us on the train or in the car for hours a day. We’ve cut out the commute time, giving our employees more time to explore their hobbies, spend time with family or burn the midnight oil (after a great home cooked dinner!) in the comfort of their own home. The result is that our team works hard and plays hard, too. Several members of our team have written and published books (see them here, here and here), a few have completed PhD and post-graduate work and yet others volunteer, teach, exercise and more. We’re saving loads of time, money (fuel and tolls) and above all, energy. (granted, some of our staff take occasional flights to summits, conferences and client meetings).
We keep in touch creatively through Slack, Whatsapp and Google Drive. Keeping lines of communication open is priority number one when your team works in numerous cities around the world, in various timezones. We keep in touch through a variety of virtual mediums that allow us to get and receive messages immediately. Bye-bye snail mail, email printouts and fax!
Resources are used at a minimum. Speaking of paper printouts, since every member of our team works from home, they are able to determine what kinds of office supplies they purchase and use. We don’t bulk order anything that will eventually go to waste. We can pass down that savings to our clients, but it also conserves resources such as paper.

At Wordsmithie, our working style also has multiple other benefits, including expanded opportunities for work/life balance and the ability for our ‘smithies to gain experience by working across multiple projects.

Our Chief Creative Officer Michael Gaylord says, “While the open-door policy I kept at my office could create off-the-cuff brainstorming magic as teammates and colleagues dropped by, my ability to live in Madrid — being immersed in another language and culture — helps me bring a whole new set of experiences and perspectives to my creative work at Wordsmithie. And if the way we work helps us be a greener organization, all the better.”

While this exact strategy may not work for every business, there are components of it that may be useful in every workplace (and save time and money).


ABOUT Khaleelah Jones

Khaleelah Jones is a digital marketing consultant who has worked with tech startups, educational institutions and non-profits on acquisition and engagement strategy, implementation and KPI modeling. When she’s not working, she can be found reading, writing, pontificating history, yoga-ing and making up verbs.


Beetles, the Importance of Brand Consistency and Why It All Matters

It all started with a beetle. No, not the beetle of the oft-cited ’50s and ’60s Volkswagen advertising campaign. Think smaller. I’d just discovered that the tiny (and dreaded) Ips beetle had decided to make the beautiful large spruce in our front yard its new home. The one beetle soon became many beetles, the tree became compromised, declined quickly and, regrettably, the only solution was to have the tree removed. Which is how I started my quest to hire a reputable tree service.

brand consistency

I quickly discovered that finding a tree company was easier said than done. Sorting through seemingly contradictory ratings and reviews was frustrating enough, but many of the tree companies used multiple logos, different messaging and varied colors across marketing channels. Simply put, it was difficult to know for sure which company was which, exactly what services they offered and just what their service areas were.

These were, for the most part, local companies, likely without brand stewards of any sort. Their gaffe of ignoring brand consistency across platforms is one that even international brands are guilty of on a shockingly regular basis.

The Importance of Brand Consistency

It used to be that a company’s branding would stay consistent for years. Subtle tweaks aside, brands like IBM and Coca-Cola kept their basic look and messaging the same for decades.  Their branding was familiar, staid and, generally predictable. A time traveler from the Sixties who touched down today would certainly be perplexed by much of what they saw but they’d have no trouble recognizing an ad for IBM or identifying a Coca-Cola product.

brand consistency

Of course, things are a little more complicated now. Most brands are now works in progress, constantly evolving their look and adapting their messaging in an effort to reach as many potential customers as possible in an increasingly fragmented market.

Where branding avenues were once limited—think print, point-of-sale, radio and television—marketing channels nowadays are almost limitless. All of the old platforms still exist, of course, but now they’ve been joined by the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and experiential marketing, among so many others. Newer brands embrace this cross-platform approach from the start and are careful to ensure brand consistency from the start. Of course, now even old stalwarts like IBM and Coca-Cola have followed suit. Doing so is a must in an existential battle where brand inaction equals brand collapse.

Keeping Brand Consistency and Integrity

Too often, though, what gets lost in this shuffle is brand integrity. Competing messages, inconsistent information, different logos and dissimilar color palettes across marketing platforms do nothing but dilute the brand.

Branding, after all, is the public face of a company, one that should by definition differentiate it from its competitors. Branding that isn’t consistent across platforms effectively creates competition within your own brand. Keeping your brand consistent is absolutely critical.

So, then, what are the best practices for brand consistency?

– A solid brand book. A brand book should be more than just logo guidelines. It should communicate your brand’s voice, its personality and its mission. Click here for more on brand books.

-A brand steward. With your brand out there in so many places simultaneously it’s critically important to have an individual or a team who can act as the brand authority. While not everyone may agree on a particular brand decision, there will at least be consistency.

-A system of brand checks and balances. Before any piece of media is placed, printed or goes live, review it to confirm that brand standards are met. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the piece is—it can take only one small slip-up to bring down the brand you’ve worked so hard to build…

…or, one little beetle to bring the whole tree down.


ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than a decade of experience in both creative direction and account management, working with clients as varied as Hershey’s, McGladrey, and WD-40. He has art directed the official product catalogs of the NBA and the NHL and the magazine of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Ryan earned his bachelor of fine arts in visual communications at the Illinois Institute of Art.


Situation: Fact Check

Everything under the sun is searchable and finable on the Internet. That means it’s fairly easy to fall prey to clickbait, fake news and other dubious rabbit holes while conducting research, business or learning online. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we all get in the habit of checking facts to fish out the fakery before blasting the latest rant to our audiences, or taking on and spreading what’s posing as truth.

Whether you’re designing an online course for academic credit or participating in an online conversation for marketing purposes, understanding how to evaluate a news source’s validity is mission critical. Teaching and practicing such critical thinking skills should be a given, but as we’re all (finally) learning, it isn’t– and, unfortunately, often there are dire results.

Reinforce New Fact Checking Habits

Fact-checking everything we read online is important – and tedious. We’d never get through the front pages if we sleuthed behind every little detail, right? The first step is to consume news only from reliable sources. The next is to incorporate a very simple practice in which you question the person/source, their knowledge on the topic and the potential for them to be incorrect. Next, you might feel compelled to pressure media giants to block lies. Both Google and Facebook have launched initiatives to help curb the proliferation of fake news in journalism and social media. Another savvy step is to share reliable sources and tools within your circles, including your e-learning and online business communities.

In the Virtual (and Physical) Classroom Context

E-learning is an effective vehicle for training people to evaluate the sources they come across every day. When designing online programs, no matter the content, you might find it initially helpful and continually engaging to present ideas and tools for assisting participants in identifying fake news. One simple exercise is to present two articles on the same topic – one from a valid news outlet, and one from a satire or bogus site – and discuss with participants how one can determine which article offers reliable information and is the most credible source. We’re starting to see more of this in all types of educational forums. For example, Common Core advocates are focusing on prompting more news literacy practices in the classroom. And, here’s a terrific lesson plan that’s adaptable for teaching media/news literacy in just about any learning environment.

A thousand years ago when I was teaching writing and critical thinking skills at the School of Business at CSUMB, one of my very earnest, fresh students cited The Onion (it is America’s Finest News Source, after all) as a reference in her persuasive paper. She had never been exposed to satire sites, and the article “supported” the view presented in her essay. This blunder led to a fantastic class conversation about evaluating sources, including how to determine the signs of satire in online articles and everyday language. We all know it’s not just young students who take satire for truth, as demonstrated in one of the recent news involving a sitting congressman. There’s room for all of us to learn.

Even More Tools You Can Use

For some more basics – checking sources, authors, headlines and ads – on avoiding foul fakery, stick with FactCheck.org’s pro tips.

Interested in diving into the psychology behind why we silly humans are so easily duped? The BBC offers up some keen insights. 

For faster journalistic fact-checking, look at what MediaBlog has to say.

For more tips on evaluating sources for teaching, training and learning scenarios in our post-factual reality (sigh), see this terrific New York Times article.

Plagiarism is a form of fakery, too! UNM Professor Cristyn Elder developed a super cool tool for teaching students how to avoid plagiarism.

Let’s all be vigilant in honing best practices to uncover and share the truth. And, please share your tools and pro tips with us!


ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.


The Gig Economy: False Promise?

The New York Times has recently published several articles about the gig economy. Last month the Times reported that Uber uses video game technology to incentivize its drivers to work long hours and accept more fares to expand company profit. This week, a longer piece appeared including the likes of Lyft, Handy and other businesses that rely heavily on a gigger workforce. It attacks the lack of contractual protections offered to giggers, and notes how most of them work full time hours without industry-standard compensation and little or no benefits. The issues the article described are correct, but the conclusion, in our opinion, is shortsighted.

Giggers use the resources they have at their disposal to make money. Got a car? Become a driver for Lyft or Uber. An extra room? Rent it out on Airbnb. Spare time? Become a tasker, providing help around strangers’ homes for a few hours at a time. At the beginning of the decade, gig work was brand new and its future was bright and buzzy. How ingenious to leverage available resources for a bit of extra cash, after all? We even considered our ‘smithies, our large force of freelance writers, designers, digital experts and strategists, as members of the gig economy, although increasingly the freelance economy and the gig economy are evolving differently.

As the New York Times have pointed out, things have taken a dark turn. Gigs are no longer activities done during spare time or in between full time employment. Giggers are increasingly treating this work as a full time job, relying on it alone for wages to support themselves and, quite often, their families. Companies in the gig economy rely on low wages and minimal benefits to sustain their business model, but giggers need steady work to make a living wage. These two goals are increasingly at odds.

Gigging might be having a dark moment, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. The companies listed in the article, and more, must take action to protect the rights of their workers, and treat them more fairly and equitably. But they also offer a variety of benefits that were completely overlooked in the article. Giggers can choose their own hours, a benefit that many other businesses and corporations cannot or do not offer employees. There is also a greater range of flexibility in the type of work chosen; for instance, Tasker allows its giggers to select the types of assignments they take on, and Uber and Lyft drivers can choose which jobs to accept because they know the customer’s destination before agreeing to a ride.

The nature of the gig economy is changing. It is no longer just a way to use extra time or resources for a little spare cash. The companies that offer gigs as a service need to recognize that more and more of their giggers are working full time, and change their business model to accommodate this type of workforce. But like all new concepts, things take time to change. We think the gig economy still holds a huge amount of promise for the flexibility and resources it can, and does, provide. However, we also hope that holding companies accountable- in any industry, with any business model- for the treatment of their employees will galvanize change. We’ll keep watching the space to see what happens in the future. With all the attention on the gig economy, we expect these changes to be seen rapidly. We hope they’ll be for the best.


ABOUT Khaleelah Jones

Khaleelah Jones is a digital marketing consultant who has worked with tech startups, educational institutions and non-profits on acquisition and engagement strategy, implementation and KPI modeling. When she’s not working, she can be found reading, writing, pontificating history, yoga-ing and making up verbs.


Authenticity: Now, More Than Ever!

Fake news abounds these days, and it’s both necessary and exhausting trying to determine what’s real. While you might be getting near the edge of your comfort zone over our current political climate, professionally speaking, you gotta get real and get to work. A common challenge in just about any line of business is how to best attract new audiences to your offerings without misrepresenting what you’re offering or sounding like a jerk.

As you plan crafting authentic messages about your biz, ask yourself:
• if my brand were a person, how would I describe them?
• how would this person behave at a cocktail party or networking event?
• is my brand voice warm, friendly, approachable and trustworthy?
• does my brand offer more value than just goods and services? If so, what are those additional assets?
• What are my target audiences most interested in? What do they value? Can my brand provide these things in addition to what we’re selling?

Answers to these questions will help you connect with your brand personality, providing insight into how to best represent your company both online and off.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

Honesty builds trust. And, in the world of offering goods and services, this leads to loyalty from enthusiasts who want to be connected to your brand. But how can you rise above the noise to reach target audiences authentically? Once you know who and where they are, and what types of messages they are most likely to respond to, you’ll be better equipped to engage people in a deeper way.

Attracting Audiences Authentically

Brand enthusiasts are made when you treat your customers like insiders. Sure, being creative and bold in messages about your business attracts notice, but in order to cut through the chaos and inspire others, you’ve got to connect with your people in a real way.

Pro Tips For Writing (Or Tweeting) Intentionally:
• Be better, not louder
• Be friendly and conversational – write like you talk, but make sure its spelled correctly and grammatically well-written
• Ask questions to spark conversation
• Recognize people and respond directly
• Humor works wonders!
• Promote collaboration
• Admit mistakes and missteps
• Deliver value at every turn

When you give people real reasons to engage with your brand by connecting, sharing and caring in tangible ways, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to gain fans.

For example, I recently saw a post about a remarkable fare sale on Icelandair, and tagged two pals interested in heading to Edinburgh via Reykjavik with me later this year. Within minutes of tagging, Icelandair responded to us in a super fun and welcoming way. This small but mighty gesture resulted in immediate goodwill for the company, and for the country (as if Iceland needs more props these days). Instant, easy connection leads to brand awareness and trust and (most assuredly) brand loyalty.

Missing The Mark

When your brand communicates in a way that’s out of line with who your company is, how it operates, or what it delivers, it does more than sting – it can completely backfire, causing you to lose loyal customers or even put you out of business. We can immediately tell when a company uses language or images that don’t align with its core offerings or voice. It feels icky.

For example, one of my bigger clients called the morning after a terrorist attack in France wanting to “do what Amazon did” and change the header of its corporate website to an image of the French flag with the words “Vive La France” underneath. Never before had my client presented any messaging related to world affairs. Thus, doing so would not only NOT align with its brand personality or mission but could come across to audiences as being disingenuous. (Showing solidarity in this way didn’t make sense for their website, but could have become a thoughtful, sensitive tweet or blog post.) Undeterred, they got another designer to make the changes. That same day, multiple confused customers contacted the firm, wondering if they had relocated to Paris, had merged with a French firm or were acting disingenuously post-tragedy by attempting to garner more attention. All good intentions to connect in a trustworthy way missed the mark.

Accessing your authentic voice to remain brand consistent via social media is tricky business. Yet to do so successfully builds trust and community, inspires enthusiasts and gives people a reason to engage.


ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.