The Art of Crafting a Meaty Media Pitch

By Kyra Newman

How many times have you scanned the aisles during a shopping trip to check out a new product featured on your favorite talk show? Or Googled an innovative startup after hearing its founder weigh in on your favorite news podcast? Or planned to stop by a food festival that a local events magazine plugged?

It’s no secret that the media influences public perception of brands—that’s why so many companies invest in media relations. Media outlets offer unparalleled reach when it comes to disseminating information to targeted, receptive audiences. What’s more, the public places considerable trust in the outlets they choose to follow, so a positive endorsement from a media outlet can lend invaluable credibility to a company and its offerings.

The real secret at the heart of media pitching lies in teasing out the most newsworthy, impactful brand stories and convincing a reputable outlet that whatever you’re plugging—be it a product, service or idea—is worth sharing with their audience. That’s where the art of crafting a media pitch comes in.

What is a media pitch?

To fully understand the role of a media pitch, it’s necessary to first understand the scope of media relations. Not to be confused with “public relations”—which broadly encompasses a company’s external outreach to any stakeholder—“media relations” hinges on outreach to a specific group of stakeholders: reporters and producers. Situated within the context of the fast-paced news cycle, a media pitch is any attempt to convince an outlet to cover your company.

Depending on your industry, resources and promotional goals, the angle of your pitch and the type of media coverage you achieve will vary. A bike-sharing startup might opt to pitch a highly visual story complete with graphics showcasing its new and improved bike-docking locations ahead of National Bike to Work Day, while an environmental nonprofit could offer up an interview with its lead scientist to assist a reporter in teasing out key points from a new, jargon-heavy piece of legislation.

While the content of a pitch depends on a brand’s specific strategy, nearly all successful pitches share a common format. They snag a reporter’s attention with a customized hook, clearly communicate how a brand story will benefit an outlet’s audience, provide any resources (such as product samples and expert interviews) necessary to bring the story to life, and specify a clear directive for the journalist to act on—all while keeping the message digestible and to-the-point.

Most pitching today starts via email, and journalists’ inboxes are flooded with dozens of requests each day. Reporters must sift through the clutter to pursue the most buzzworthy news items. So while the possibilities for companies to leverage media relations are endless, the success of a pitch ultimately hinges on communicating the brand story’s newsworthiness. But how does the media define a newsworthy story?

What journalists are looking for

More often than you’d think, clients make the mistake of pitching their company updates as “news.” But updates that are newsworthy internally—a sleek new website, the appointment of a new CFO—aren’t necessarily stories worth sharing externally. When reporters vet pitches for newsworthiness, they look for three key elements:

#1. Uniqueness

First and foremost, a story needs to be distinctive enough to merit the media’s attention. Launching a copycat product is hardly news, but unveiling a disruptive innovation? That’s much more likely to pique a reporter’s interest. If generating news coverage is essential to your promotional plan, define the points of difference that will break through everyday media clutter. From a never-before-seen feature to an outrageous event activation, pursuing a buzzworthy angle from the outset helps a brand story stand out during the media pitching process.

#2. Relevance

Even the most remarkable story risks falling through the cracks if a pitch doesn’t clearly motivate for its relevance. A generic mass email is destined for the spam folder—a reporter is much more likely to follow up on a thoughtful, tailored pitch that demonstrates familiarity with their outlet and applicability to their target audience. In crafting an initial message, spell out the connections that make your brand story worthy of publication or airtime. Whether plugging a groundbreaking packaging adhesive to a manufacturing trade journal or promoting an upcoming neighborhood wine festival to a local events blog, do your homework to ensure that your pitch resonates with the parties it needs to reach.

#3. Timeliness

Finally, when it comes to pitching a story, the adage about being in the right place at the right time holds true. Even the most unique, relevant stories might not make the news if the initial pitch hits a journalist’s desk too early or too late. And if a story is evergreen and could be covered at any time, a reporter will likely pass it up in favor of a more pressing, urgent piece. As you prepare to pitch your brand story, keep timing in mind. Maybe that entails strategically timing the launch of your pop-up restaurant to coincide with the annual restaurant week or fast-tracking a revolutionary redesign of your app so it’s ready in time for a blockbuster conference. Because the news cycle moves so quickly, time is of the essence in getting eyeballs on your brand story.

If developing your media relations sounds like a nuanced and time-intensive process, that’s because it is! Like any promotional initiative, effective pitching requires some legwork, and tapping an agency makes the process a bit easier. From expertise in pitch strategy and copywriting to extensive knowledge of the media ecosystem to long-standing connections with outlets and journalists, we’re here to help. Click here to reach out.

Tuesday Thought: Navigating Uncertainty with Certainty

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

The pathway to your greatest potential is often straight through your greatest fear.

Craig Groeschel

We are in a high growth phase right now at Dotted Line. The demands of our current account expansion are weighing on many components of the business and our team. We are all having to lean into the work for our clients in new ways and stretch ourselves.

But adjusting to new norms and unprecedented growth is nothing new to me. Several years ago, my husband, Shawn and I decided to move out of our townhouse into a more spacious, family-friendly home all while I was 7 months pregnant. We were trying to prepare for the baby’s due date, coordinate all the move logistics, and juggle our multiple businesses and family needs. Plus, the last stretch of pregnancy is emotionally and physically tiring. It was a stressful season for sure. We knew where we ultimately needed to be — in our new home before the baby’s arrival with our sanity still intact. But there were many moving pieces we were trying to manage through the process.

Create distance

During seasons of uncertainty, I find it easy to get caught up focusing on the things immediately in front of me.  Famous Navy Seal, Jocko Willink shares in his book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics, how he grew to create distance, both mentally and physically, before high-stakes military missions to gain the appropriate amount of perspective. He shares “I made it my goal to never be completely caught up in minuscule tactical aspects of a problem; my goal was to get a higher mental and physical altitude to see more…The more often I detached, the easier it became to see and understand the tactical picture, and the better I got.”  Being intentional about creating a certain level of distance in complex situations helps me to see the way forward more clearly.

This week, I am asking myself… how can I get above a challenging situation?

Make room for margin

When the future is uncertain, we are often our most vulnerable. A good friend and mentor once shared with me how important it is to give yourself twice as much space as you’d typically need in times of high stress. It seems counterintuitive when you think about it but creating lots of margin across multiple areas of your life provides space to be more prepared for opportunities and challenges that come your way. If I make a wrong move, I have the ability to quickly cover. The margin might be in terms of time, investments, a financial situation, or capacity to remain mentally flexible.

Are there ways in which I can create space within the demands of an assignment? Or with my schedule and time?

Keep things simple

Have you ever heard the saying, “you eat a giant elephant by taking one small bite at a time?”  When faced with a complex problem, keeping it simple and breaking it up into manageable, bite-sized pieces can help provide the guidance to move forward. For me, journaling, meditating or talking through how to simplify a situation are mechanisms to get to the bite-sized pieces.

When faced with an elephant, how can I simplify and create bite-sized pieces?

As a new leader, it can be easy to get caught up in trying to do our best, making the right moves at the right time.  Creating distance, making room for margin, and keeping things simple are small, tactical steps that can create a huge impact in our lives. As I continue through the rest of this week, I am thinking about how I can put these steps into practice to grow my abilities with focus and clarity.

Lauren

Dotted Line Drops Its First Non-Fungible Token

Unless you’ve taken a month-long, off-the-grid vacation, chances are you’ve noticed the massive NFT boom. From coveted “packs” of NBA video clips reminiscent of physical trading cards to a digital collage by graphic artist Beeple that sold for a whopping $69 million, everyone’s eyes (and crypto wallets) are opening to the baffling new world of blockchain-secured digital assets.

What exactly is an NFT?

If you’re still wondering what exactly an NFT is, you’re not alone.

For starters, the acronym stands for “non-fungible token.” “Non-fungible” means that something has unique value and can’t be substituted. For example, a dollar bill is fungible: you can swap one dollar for another and no one will notice the difference. A work of art, on the other hand, is non-fungible: if you swap Van Gogh’s Starry Night with a cheap gift shop replica, you’ll have a huge art heist on your hands.

A “token” refers to a digital asset (like an image, GIF, or video clip) registered on a blockchain. Every NFT corresponds with a unique bit of code, which stores an unalterable public record authenticating the token’s provenance (when it was minted, who bought and sold it, and for how much). This level of traceability is unprecedented for digital files—it enables clear ownership verification and commodification of everything from world-famous memes to iconic tweets, fueling a new market for rare virtual status symbols.

With even the most mundane of NFTs—like an image of a New York Times column about NFTs—racking up substantial press, all the buzz got us thinking. If anyone can make an NFT out of just about anything, why not make our own and put it up for sale?

Introducing Untitled 01 (1/1), an NFT by Dotted Line

Armed with a newfound appreciation for fungibility and inspired by the permanent, unalterable nature of tokenized artworks, we set out to create a digital time capsule for our inaugural NFT. As is our brand promise, we started with strategy. Our team met to discuss the tokenization trend, how Dotted Line could effectively demonstrate our creative capabilities within the NFT medium, and how best to engage the entire agency in the effort. After taking a little time to identify the intersection of the format and our marketing goals, Mitchell Jordan (our Associate Creative Director and digital art mastermind) suggested a digital collage of snapshots from the team.

From there, Account Manager Tom Hinkes gathered nearly 100 images of everyday moments from the Dotted Line team and clients. Mitchell then wove the shots into a collage memorializing where the agency stands at this specific point in time. The colorful brush stroke overlay speaks to both the diverse spectrum of people, interests, and stories at Dotted Line as well as the arts and crafts trend that we see as very “of the moment.” With our digital artwork finalized, we moved on to the critical step (or more literally, the convoluted series of steps) of actually minting the file to transform it into a bona fide NFT. 

The Nitty-Gritty of NFT Registration

Selling an NFT is a bit more complicated than traditional e-commerce since all transactions take place in cryptocurrency, not dollars. An array of different cryptocurrencies can be used to buy and sell tokens since multiple blockchains support NFTs. In an effort to be purists to the process, we selected Ethereum—the predominant blockchain network for NFTs—and its cryptocurrency, ether, to mint our token.

All NFT-related transactions require a digital wallet for storing, sending, and receiving cryptocurrency funds, so before we could acquire any ether, we needed a place to store it. We identified MetaMask as the ideal place to house our digital wallet—it’s a browser-extension that easily integrates with mainstream NFT marketplaces to simplify buying and selling.

With our new cryptocurrency burning a hole in our (digital) pocket, we could finally focus on transforming Mitchell’s digital artwork into a digital token by selecting a marketplace to house the creation. Several marketplaces facilitate NFT minting and trading, each with their own curatorial specializations buying and selling terms. We used Mintable, a free, open platform that streamlines the complex, technical nature of blockchain contracts and makes minting and selling an NFT straightforward and user-friendly. After linking our MetaMask wallet, we uploaded the collage to our agency account, set our selling price, and launched it on the marketplace.

Once we listed our NFT, we realized we couldn’t bear to part with it. To mark this singular milestone for the agency, we purchased Untitled 01 ourselves, adding an authentic, minted, NFT to Dotted Line’s digital portfolio. To buy our creation, we used a credit card to purchase ether through MetaMask and moved it to our digital wallet in the same way you’d transfer money to an external bank account. With enough ether in our wallet to purchase Untitled 01 and cover Mintable’s associated fees, we finally secured Dotted Line’s one-of-one digital collage. But we weren’t completely finished yet. The costs of trading assets on the blockchain aren’t just financial—there are environmental costs stemming from the energy required to generate complex code associated with the minting process. To offset our carbon costs, we purchased carbon credits from Aerial, a startup that distributes funds to forest conservation groups.

In a world of boundless NFTs, why does Dotted Line’s matter?

Everything we do at Dotted Line, from crafting a client’s repositioning strategy to dipping our toes into the digital art market, ladders back to our mission as an agency: to discover possibilities through creativity.

Our mission of discovery is just as embedded in our agency DNA as it is in Mitchell’s NFT design. That key verb—discover—means that we’re constantly on the lookout for groundbreaking innovations and planning ahead for the ways in which they’ll impact our clients’ businesses. To us, “discover” doesn’t simply mean skimming a daily news digest. It means rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty—in this case, setting out on the arduous journey of minting an NFT to get a feel for the process inside and out. Much more than simply creating a digital artwork, Dotted Line’s NFT was all about process. The transaction in and of itself—surveying the NFT market, digging into cryptocurrency, and putting in the grunt work to actually execute the sale and purchase of Untitled 01— became the essence of the creative journey. The artwork itself is just an album cover!

NFTs are already making their way into the mainstream advertising world as brands experiment with their rich storytelling potential. Taco Bell leveraged an NFT drop to simultaneously promote new menu items, raise funds for charity, and generate a burst of positive press mentions. Even more relevant, the blockchain technology underpinning NFTs has the capacity to revolutionize an endless list of everyday business operations—think buying stock photography, issuing coupons and discount codes, and more.

Whether you’re ready or not, buzzwords like “blockchain” and “non-fungible” will only become more commonplace, so drop us a line if you want to learn more about our NFT journey or explore the possibility of an NFT for your brand.

Tuesday Thought: Remember Tomorrow

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

“Remember tomorrow.”
Jesse Itlzer

After attending a tremendous Entreleadership Summit (for those that aren’t familiar with the program, the content is focused on equipping and developing leaders to grow healthy teams and small businesses) last week, I am reminded of one of my absolute all-time favorite speakers from a previous year’s event, Jesse Itzler. In his talk to the event audience, Jesse shares stories from building several high growth companies, his personal and familial adventures, and other life resume builders. Jesse shares how he focuses on living life with as much adventure and fulfillment as possible.

In his talk, Jesse draws on his experience inviting a navy SEAL to live with him for 30 days. Jesse wanted to learn the “secret sauce” of grit and mental perseverance from a figure who was operating at a level he couldn’t even comprehend. The first day the SEAL shows up at his house, the SEAL orders Jesse to the gym to tackle pull-ups. Having self-declared that he could only do 4 pull-ups at a given time, the SEAL coaches (or forces) Jesse to complete 100 pull-ups before they can leave. In his talk, Jesse shares that there is statistical research that shows when your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further, you’re only actually at 40%.

I love this story because it highlights that the limitations we put on ourselves are self-imposed.  Last year, when I started training for a half-marathon, I remember thinking “there is NO WAY I can run 13 miles.” And by taking it one mile at a time, working on my mental toughness, and building grit, I learned I could tackle it one small piece at a time.

Last Monday I had lunch with a friend, and we were talking about the importance of having an abundance mindset. Most people are conditioned with a scarcity mindset. Limited resources, short-term thinking, and lack of opportunity. Scarcity mentality is what keeps many of us from achieving our goals. An abundance mindset refers to the paradigm shift that there is plenty for everyone. Opportunity and abundance are born out of our grit. We each create our own luck. The small things we do daily, and the way we speak to ourselves, create the environment for what we are becoming.

As I head into this week, I am remembering Jesse’s words and training my mind to look for possibilities. If we don’t win this pitch, good – we’ll win the next one. If we have a failure, good – we’ll get it right next time. Possibility is everywhere, we just have to remember tomorrow.

Tuesday Thought: Shifting My Language

A weekly connection for quick bits of motivation, new perspectives or an uplifting story that align with Dotted Line as an agency.

As we deal with the ups and downs that last year has ushered in, I find myself thinking about my personal mindset and that of our team. How we communicate with ourselves can heavily influence how we communicate with the rest of the world.

In executive coach, Tommy Thompson’s, weekly blog, he wrote “Language has power. The words and phrases that we regularly repeat instruct us as to how we should feel and what we should think. Words are not harmless. Despite the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” words regularly break bones and crush souls. Often, our own soul is the one that our own words crush. Words we speak, whether to others or to ourselves belie what is going on internally. Words communicate stress, such as “I am just worried that….” When I hear someone speak those words regularly, I am usually looking at a person who struggles with anxiety. Words communicate discontent, like “I wish that…”

Sometimes, just a subtle change in language to reframe how I communicate to myself can make a world of difference. For example, instead of constantly telling myself, “I can’t wait…” I try swapping the phrase with “I look forward to.”This small shift starts to internally communicate optimism instead of discontent.

This week, I am working on making subtle shifts to my internal dialog and I encourage you to do the same. 

I am aiming to combat my own impatience and unhealthy mindset by following some of Thompson’s recommendations. 

  • Take a few moments; take several deep breaths and relax. It doesn’t take long to bring stress down one notch.
  • Decide not to rush today. Get started slightly earlier and take it a little slower. 
  • Work to reframe that distasteful task I have or that difficult meeting by deciding to fully engage in it.
  • Have the courage to leave behind negativity.

I have come to love the phrase “our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts.” What more can be true amidst another week full of meetings, presentations, and deadlines? 

To read Thompson’s full blog and his other insightful posts, click here: https://tommythompson.org/reflections/

The Indispensable Blueprint at the Heart of Your Communications

By Mitchell Jordan

I challenge you to think of a complex project that doesn’t start with a blueprint. An interior designer would never furnish a house without first consulting the master floorplan, and a novelist can’t delve into character development without at least mapping out a rough table of contents. The same logic applies when designing brand communications: no business leader should consider launching a television spot—or even uploading a new social media avatar—before establishing formal brand guidelines.

What exactly are brand guidelines, anyways?

Brand guidelines summarize the most important aspects of a brand and explain how (and how not) to communicate a brand’s essence. Not to be confused with simplified style guidelines, brand guidelines simultaneously govern visual elements (from logos and fonts to color palettes and photography) and lay out rules for structuring communications according to a brand’s philosophy, tone, and voice. When working with a remote team or collaborating with external partners, a set of clear, comprehensive brand guidelines anchors the creative process and helps forge a readily recognizable brand identity across multiple channels and different campaigns.

Prioritizing brand guidelines may seem like a no-brainer, but brands often bypass this step and jump right into creative executions. In the case of busy startups, a backlog of time-sensitive projects and a scrappy approach to budgeting can take precedence over the nebulous task of hammering out brand guidelines. In other instances, asset creation may fall to a single individual who already knows the brand inside and out and doesn’t see the need to formulate official guidelines.

While extensive brand guidelines may seem excessive or redundant for small, emerging brands, it’s important to keep your long-term growth plans in mind. As the scope of your communications broadens and the size of your team expands, brand guidelines save time and money by streamlining the creative process. Even more importantly, they ensure thematic harmony across all of your assets. Without any formal guidelines in place at the outset, the creative process can spiral into an organizational headache and a financial drain, and you risk producing disjointed creative that dilutes the power of your brand messages. Clarity and consistency are key when it comes to being taken seriously by clients and consumers, so adhering to brand guidelines is vital for establishing integrity in the long run.

Best practices for brand guidelines

There’s no universal template for crafting brand guidelines—they’re highly variable depending on a brand’s specific needs and the scope of its communications. But there are a few key considerations that every brand should focus on when developing its guidelines to ensure the final product is on-strategy, effective in the long-term, and simple to work with.

Start with strategy

As we say again and again at Dotted Line, always start with strategy. Since every brand approaches strategy from a slightly different angle, your brand guidelines may look totally different from examples you’ve seen before. For instance, incorporating highly technical photography standards into brand guidelines makes perfect sense for an interior design firm, but would feel out of place for a small IT startup. Furthermore, a brand’s strategy evolves over time as new opportunities emerge, so brand guidelines should be crafted with scalability in mind, ready to extend to a new application should the need arise. Whether pivoting from image-based social content to video or extending your new-age brand voice in traditional markets, accounting for upcoming strategic shifts ensures that brand guidelines bend—rather than break—as your business changes.

Play the long game

When committing to a set of standards that will steer your future creative projects, it’s natural to wonder how often you should refresh your guidelines and tempting to leave ample room to accommodate tweaks over time. But while brand guidelines need to be scalable, they should generally maintain a degree of rigidity and stability. After all, the whole point of a brand is to offer its consumers a sense of consistency and security over time. Exercising patience and continuously reinforcing foundational brand elements are key to achieving widespread and long-lasting awareness among consumers. When it comes to modifying your brand guidelines, augment them sparingly and thoughtfully as your brand grows, and resist the urge to make hasty changes every time a trendy new color palette or writing style crops up.

Focus on your team’s different needs

Even the most stunning, thorough brand guidelines can be rendered pointless if your team lacks the know-how or motivation to leverage them effectively. As a creative, I love it when clients hand over a hefty volume of brand guidelines for me to sink my teeth into, but most brands don’t have the need—or budget—for such expansive guidelines. And while your marketing department and creative partners require a certain degree of specificity, be realistic—your colleagues in IT don’t need ten pages of brand voice exploration to update the company-wide email signature. Consider developing smaller appendices to your brand guidelines tailored to different departments’ usages. Ease of use should be a primary consideration when rolling out your brand guidelines, so be sure to present assets to your team with accessibility in mind.

It’s short-sighted to think of brand guidelines as a tool that only large, unwieldy brands working with an array of partners need—they’re a must-have for any growing brand, regardless of size or industry. And while implementing any brand guidelines is a step in the right direction, the more comprehensive they are, the better. Between strategic alignment, long-term planning, and team-specific considerations, it’s no surprise that developing brand guidelines can be a daunting undertaking, and the process can often require in-depth theoretical knowledge or technical expertise depending on your brand’s needs. We’re here to ask the probing questions and formulate the best approach to create brand guidelines that work for your brand. Click here to reach out.

Dotted Line Q1 Updates

To our Dotted Line clients and friends,

As spring peeks around the corner, our Dotted Line team is looking forward to a new season, warm sunshine, and the next chapter. With the changing season, it’s often helpful to reflect, and as I consider the communications we’ve exchanged over the years, I see a collection of announcements, new work, ideas, and thoughts. On their own, I hope they provide value to you as an individual or your business.

However, looking at the complete collection, compiled together, it starts to become something bigger. Strung together, it starts to tell the story of Dotted Line. This season storytelling is top of mind as we think about you, our clients. We believe every company can have a tremendous impact on the world, whether you are trying to impact those on your payroll or become a rock star brand in your field. We believe the most successful organizations intentionally define their story and always try to refine their impact.

As we build in 2021, I am challenging myself and our team to ask ourselves…how are we creating more significant, more exciting, and more intense stories with you, our clients?

In today’s competitive world, we know each of us can’t just have a great product, good people, exceptional service, and success. Refining our storytelling approach is at the crux of brand power. Matthew Hussey says, “we often get obsessed with saying something that is new instead of focusing on saying something in a new way.” I hope this brings a fresh perspective and renewed focus as you continue to evolve your organization’s story.

With our feelings of hopefulness and a renewed sense of energy, we hope you will join us.

Lauren

Why No Two Website Strategies Should Look the Same

By: Jason Anderson

If there was ever a time to dive headfirst into a website design project, 2021 is that time. As stay-at-home guidelines push businesses further into the virtual realm, compelling online touchpoints have never been more critical. Plus, with so many big projects on hold, this unexpected downtime presents a great opportunity to undertake a website launch or refresh.

It’s tempting to seek out shortcuts to fast-track the website design process, especially with COVID fueling a particularly scrappy approach to business decisions. Perhaps you’ve considered repurposing one of your other brands’ site layouts or replicating features from a competitor’s website. But while those are great places to look to for inspiration, they shouldn’t be the primary drivers of your design process. Every company possesses a unique business approach and a distinct set of short- and long-term objectives, meaning that a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach simply won’t cut it when it comes to website design.

So where exactly should you start your website design process?

Start with strategy

At Dotted Line, we find ourselves constantly reciting the mantra “everything starts with strategy.” Strategy highlights which challenges a new website should address, and it serves as a gut check underscoring every phase of the creative process. When in doubt, asking “Is this on strategy?” can differentiate between which site features are truly essential and which are just flashy bells and whistles.

Sometimes a strategy-first approach requires hard cuts. When a client struggles to explain how a site component fits into their strategic roadmap, that’s a clear indication that a better solution exists, just waiting to be tapped. Business leaders must remind themselves that “all of our competitors are doing it” or “a customer suggested it” isn’t enough justification on its own. Committing to staying on-strategy pushes a company to think critically about the role its website plays in the customer journey and lays the foundation for the most relevant and effective brand storytelling touchpoints.

Flying Phase’s website is a great example of the branded through-line resulting from a strategy-first approach. While the world of financial consulting is often marked by rigidity, Flying Phase is anything but. From its cutting-edge name—derived from a pioneering America’s Cup design that literally lifts elite racing vessels out of the water—to their forward-thinking “business beyond the horizon” positioning, Flying Phase stands out from stiffer, more traditional competition. This differentiation strategy is impossible to overlook in their website design: marked by a stunning hero video and a vibrant color palette, Flying Phase’s sleek site goes hand-in-hand with their innovative approach to consulting. In this case, Flying Phase’s strong strategic backbone proved key to setting their site firmly apart from other industry players.

Take it in phases

We think of website design as a dynamic, phased process. A static site that only addresses a client’s immediate needs isn’t practical in the long-term—the most effective websites grow alongside a company as its business evolves and its brand story deepens.

A phased approach is especially crucial when we work with trailblazing startups launching a website for the first time. While established companies often initiate design projects armed with an arsenal of multimedia assets and branded copy, burgeoning startups enter into the design process virtually from square one. These websites need to be flexible enough to tell an abbreviated brand story in the short-term and accommodate new brand assets, features, and copy as they arise three, six, and twelve months down the line.

EDai’s new site accomplishes exactly that. After months of fine-tuning a tech-based approach to economic development, EDai celebrated its official public launch in early 2021, and is still in the throes of establishing its brand story. In the meantime, they needed a clean-cut, polished website to promote their proprietary LocatED tool and consulting services, while leaving room to expand their online storytelling in the future. The resulting design ticks both boxes, nimbly telling the story of EDai’s consulting firepower and laying the foundation for adding thought leadership content as the business and team grow. The clean, straightforward design mirrors the ease of use of their tool and the direct professionalism at the heart of their company ethos, all while remaining adaptable as EDai’s online content evolves.

A path to the most effective website design

Since no two companies approach their strategy or scaling plans in exactly the same way, it follows that no two website designs should look exactly the same. But developing a website from scratch that’s laser-focused on your business needs is no small task. Synthesizing strategy and anticipating future developments (while maintaining focus and staying in-scope!) almost always requires expert guidance, which is where we can help. We’re no strangers to website design, and we pride ourselves on meeting clients where they are, regardless of business stage, project timeline, or design complexity. Plus, we work to cultivate a diverse extended team with wide-ranging capabilities. Whether your focus is content strategy, user experience design, or anything in between, we tap the right experts to get the job done. At the end of the day, what matters most to us—and you!—is crafting the most effective website to support your specific business needs.

Have questions for us about how to kick off your website design project? We’re ready to help. Click here to reach out.

Achieving Success as a Marketing Leader

Prior to the internet becoming mainstream – along with its ability to help marketers draw a clear line connecting campaigns with sales – marketing leaders often struggled to demonstrate the power of brand and its impact on P&L. But as a marketing leader whose professional maturity occurred in the digital era, I’m a firm believer that strategic marketing can not only influence hearts and minds, but also serve on the front lines of driving business growth.

And while strategic thinking plays a central role in creating marketing impact, being a source of positive change for your team is mission critical. At Dotted Line, we talk at least on a weekly basis about marketing being a team sport – and I’d argue that this holds true not only in our agency setting, but also in the corporate world. Marketing leaders are responsible for working closely with team members from across the organization. We also work with peer business leaders to inform organizational strategy. And when the time comes for implementation, specialists from various marketing disciplines must collaborate with their peers from other disciplines to fully realize a holistic marketing program and, ultimately, the team’s greatest potential.

As one of our agency’s business development leaders, I come into contact with hundreds of marketing leaders who are new to their role. Combining insights from those interactions with my own experience, I wanted to share several important considerations for marketing leaders who are new to their organization, new to their role, or perhaps reimagining how they manage their team.

You’re a Change Agent

In my view, marketing at its core has always been about disruption (even before the term became overused). On a daily basis, we’re being asked to drive change: how a brand talks about itself, the tools an organization uses to communicate those messages, and the behaviors we’re looking to drive with our target audience.

And the same holds true as we think about our function within a business. Marketing leaders are often hired to drive change, whether it’s dramatic change at the business or brand level, or an organizational or executional transformation. It’s your responsibility to seek clarity on the magnitude and pace of change and how it will be supported internally. From here, it’s your team to build – and your obligation to find the right people, with the right skillsets and temperament to make your organization successful.

As you take on the marketing mantel, your first weeks in the role will establish your trajectory and hopefully accelerate success. To that end, sit down with your CEO or organizational leader to understand how best to focus your disruption, where the most immediate challenges lay, and the expectations related to the magnitude of change you’re being expected to drive. I’m a big fan of The CMO Manifesto, which provides some great insight and structure for those early days.

Remember, building relationships and trust early on with your executive peer set and their teams will make shifting from strategy to execution easier when it’s time for action.

Your Team Is Your Engine

Strong marketing teams are built on a sound process, collaboration, effective communication, and clear expectations. I start that list with “process” because it’s a foundational element here at Dotted Line and aids greatly in fulfilling the subsequent items. In my career, I have found that developing the process is the first step to creating focus for driving toward desired results, and when I look at the feedback we receive from our partners, our clear process often rises to the top as a valuable part of the Dotted Line experience. Knowing how you’re getting to your final destination – and recognizing the important milestones along the way – makes the process that much more enjoyable.

But the destination isn’t purely shaped by internal forces like process: There are certain expected outcomes that cost centers like marketing are held to. Your strategic imperatives, and the markers of their successful actualization, need to be a North Star for your team. That’s not to say that we should hold specific metrics over our team’s heads, reactively responding to any abnormalities. What I mean is that, as marketing leaders, it’s our job to ensure that our teams understand our goals and how their discipline fits into the equation. I often find myself feeling redundant, playing my role of Dotted Line brand advocate in our internal meetings by repeating our mission and guiding principles, but what feels repetitive to me, I’ve come to understand, is good reinforcement for the team.

When you look at our tax documents, our agency is actually listed as Dotted Line Collaborations. It was the moniker we first developed when we began the business and stands to demonstrate the importance of collaboration. Now, seven years later, as we weather a pandemic, often from remote locations, I’m reminded of the importance of collaboration – and the clear communication required to ignite that type of collective thinking.

The reality is that in a single moment, an individual has a limit to their knowledge base: We have the potential to learn more in the future, but, in this moment, we only know what we know. In order to go beyond what each of your team members knows individually, it’s imperative that your business creates a culture and a forum for collaboration. It takes great intentionality and creativity in these bizarre times, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.

Start with Strategy

If I could offer up one piece of advice – a pitfall to avoid in general, but especially in those early days – it would be to lean toward the strategic versus the tactical. Understand your organization’s primary goals and how they relate to the marketing function. Take the time to understand the voice of the customer and dig into market insights to guide future decision-making. Develop an approach that addresses core business needs and articulate tangible measures of success (even if it’s just one), internally with your team as well as externally with other facets of your business.

I often frame this by characterizing the type of change I’m leading and why the status quo is no longer right for the business. That type of clear communication will help you build relationships with executive peers and partners within your organization. It will also give you assurance in the event there’s an organizational shift in priorities since people will know what you’re doing and can help give you visibility when a pivot is required.

For those who know me well, you won’t be surprised at my ending this post with a few additional reads in case marketing leaders are looking for further guidance as they ease into their new role. Dotted Line came to existence after several informational interviews I conducted with fellow female business leaders who expressed a need for a more thoughtful, intentional marketing approach. If you’re looking for insight, reach out to marketing leaders in your network and ask them about their approach. I’ve found these types of meetings invaluable. Also, there are tons of great CMO podcasts out there, and I encourage you to take a listen. Here’s one of my favorites.

And, of course, I wouldn’t be an effective marketer if I didn’t share my own agency’s resources! Our team recently put together a reference guide for building strategic marketing programs. Once you’ve taken the preliminary steps outlined in this post, I encourage you to download it and read more about important considerations for turning your strategy into action.

Facilitating Effective Marketing Workshops

In February of this year, we had the opportunity to partner with PlanRVA and Sports Backers to lead a project that would result in the naming of a new trail extending from Ashland to Petersburg, Virginia. In our onboarding process, we learned that the trail would pass through seven jurisdictions within Central Virginia, reinforcing the importance of collaboration among localities.

As we took some time to plan for how we would lead our clients and the community through the process, we landed on the idea of inviting representatives from each group to a brainstorming workshop to learn about their visions for the trail firsthand. That way, their ideas, creativity, and potential concerns could be shared collectively, with guidance and structure from our team. A successful result required thoughtful planning for  how to structure the workshop. How would we make sure 20 people with different approaches could be heard – while promoting an environment of respect and learning from one another – and come away with a name everyone could be proud of?

With our goals clearly set, our team spent the weeks leading up to the event planning for a successful morning. We tested activities and brainstormed potential outcomes. We considered the time needed for the various exercises and thought through how to keep our community players engaged. Without careful planning, leading a team through such an exercise is like showing up to a big game without practice. In our “big game,” we needed to accomplish three things:

  1. Brainstorm and concept potential names
  2. Maintain a collective sense of community throughout the process
  3. Encourage participation from everyone in attendance

While we were incredibly passionate about the project, pulling the session together was no small task. Only by placing an emphasis on intentionality in our approach and execution were we able to set the stage for a successful outcome.

Whether you’re leading a session to inform a naming process, generate content ideas or facilitate communication between disconnected groups, the five key elements listed below can provide critical structure for driving productive dialogue among stakeholders with disparate goals. The elements work in conjunction with each other and act as a roadmap for encouraging discourse, helping groups reach their goals, and creating long-lasting relationships and impact.

  1. Know what you want to achieve. It sounds simple, but start with the end in mind. When all parties involved know what they’re working toward, it provides content, focus and clarity for individual contributors. It’s best to start your session by clarifying the ultimate goal and reinforcing that key objective as the day goes on. Tip: Have materials on the groups’ tables that reinforce the goal – and consider bringing a visual that supports the goal into the space to keep it front and center.
  2. Understand your audience. Who are you collaborating with, and what is/are their background(s)? It’s important to understand what your attendees’ day-to-day roles are and how you can engage with them. You may want to start by asking them to work in teams, which can help draw out those who are more reserved and get them involved in the conversation. Leaning into team work first, before sharing with the larger group, also allows for collaboration and trust-building to get the creative juices flowing. Tip: Choose groups that are diverse in both background and personality. This will hopefully lead to creative thinking and a mix of viewpoints
  3. Create the environment and define the rules of the road. It’s important to set the tone for the session so that participants will be engaged and inclined to add value. This begins with the facilitator, the space and the materials provided. Tip: Share with your participants what they can expect ahead of time, stick to your schedule (everyone’s time is precious), and acknowledge and encourage the group’s work along the way.
  4. Be adaptable: Not every activity will go exactly as you had envisioned, and that’s okay. It’s important to find a facilitator who is able to read the room, encourage teamwork, and pivot as needed. Sometimes it’s best to hold back and let the group work through its own obstacles, which may be a hidden opportunity to let them use their own momentum to reach the end goal. Tip: The right facilitator makes a difference. You may have the perfect fit in your organization, or you may need to partner with a research firm based on the size and structure of your workshop.
  5. Have fun! These kinds of workshops are meant to bring together individuals to work collectively toward a common goal. Tip: Bring in props and quiet fidget activities to keep participants’ minds clear. We gave our group Play-Doh, markers for coloring, and stress balls to keep their hands busy while their minds were doing the heavy lifting.

Workshops and brainstorming sessions are a great way to encourage collaboration and discussion, develop new ideas, and expand participants’ thinking. With the right planning and an adaptable structure for the day, you can achieve valuable results for everyone involved.