Seven Hills Communications
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QUICKIE DESIGN HACKS FOR NON-DESIGNERS

We're the first to admit that good design work cannot be rushed. Hiring a great designer for your logo, branding, website or other brand elements not only provides you with a more professional image, it can save you a lot of time and frustration. But in a time when we are pumping out tons of content on a daily basis, much of which has visual elements, we can't rely on a designer for everything we need. Every day, we find ourselves designing things like:

  • Social media graphics (Instagram, Facebook and more)
  • Email graphics or headers
  • Infographics
  • Coupons and flyers
  • Business cards

This type of design is so prevalent for small business owners, social media managers and marketing managers that we thought it was the perfect time to share some of our favorite tips, tricks and resources for getting good design done quickly and easily.

Canva
his "design for dummies" tool is by far our most frequently used designing resource. With both free and paid versions, Canva provides templates that take all the guesswork out of sizing your finished products for particular platforms or uses and allows you to export both web-ready and high-quality print ready end products. While lots of elements are free, we love the built-in affordable stock photography ($1 a pop) and upgraded templates that allow you to get nice-looking typography and image matches without a lot of design knowledge. (We used a ready-made template for the graphic at the top of this post, for example.) Also love that with an upgraded (yet still affordable) version, you can save images into different folders for quick access.

PicMonkey
While less robust than Canva, we like PicMonkey for the specific task of simply stitching photos together. We use this all the time when we need a collage-type image for an email, Facebook header or the like. PicMonkey also has editing capabilities that are a bit more basic than Canva but still fun and easy to use.

RGB to HEX
Working with clients, we work with a whole bunch of different brand guidelines, and these include the specific brand colors. Colors are often delivered to us in RGB or CMYK configurations, where we need to often enter HEX (#XXXX) for colors in different web photo editing systems. We've found RGB to HEX to be the easiest way to get the conversion done quickly and easily.

Quick Brand Reference Sheets in Dropbox
Being organized is just as important with design and photo editing as it is for any other element of your business. There's nothing worse than constantly searching for your color values or just the right logo. That's why we like having a quick reference sheet for each brand. Organize everything into one online folder (shared on Dropbox if you're working with a team.) Include a quick reference sheet with color values and any notes about logo use, clearly labeled logos and any stock photos you use frequently.

Kozzi
Stock photos can get pricey and we all know that proper licensing is essential for image usage. We use Kozzi for stock photos to grab pics for around $1 each. Their library is well-stocked enough and easily searchable to make it an affordable alternative to expensive stock photo sites, especially for day-to-day design work.

So, don't let the day-to-day design work get you down - there's no reason to put out bad design with so many great, low-cost and free resources available. If you use others, we'd love to hear from you!

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EDITORIAL CALENDARS FOR BLOGS & SOCIAL MEDIA

We manage lots of blogs and social media accounts for clients, and there is one huge key for ensuring that everything gets done on schedule and with the right focus: editorial calendars. If you're just starting to blog or schedule social media for your business, or you feel you've had a hard time being consistent with your blogging or social media posting, an editorial calendar is key to your success.

What is an Editorial Calendar?
In its most basic form, an editorial calendar is simply a list of the topics you'll be covering and the dates you'll be covering them. It can be as detailed or as high-level as works for you. We like to keep our calendars in Excel spreadsheets (more on what we track later!) but you could also simply enter them into your Google Calendar, your to-do list software, keep them on a whiteboard or in a Word document - whatever works for you.

The key is that you are planning out your content in advance. Whether it's a week, a month or a year, this planning process is the key to successful and consistent content.

Why Keep an Editorial Calendar?
We wouldn't dream of creating content without an editorial calendar. Here's why:

  1. It keeps you organized. An ed cal means that topics or important milestones (ex., a holiday that ties into your product or service) aren't forgotten, and that your deadlines are set forth.
  2. It staves off writer's block. If you haven't been consistent about writing blog or social content, we'd be willing to bet that the main reason is you dread sitting down at the computer and figuring out what to write about. By having that set up for you in advance, you simply have to sit down and create content - much less intimidating!
  3. It saves time. Like anything else, batching is key here. If you sit down and plan out a month or two of content at a time while you're in the right mindset, the process will go much more quickly than if you try to spend 20 minutes every day or week trying to do the same thing. At some point, you simply get into the flow.
  4. It allows you to outsource. If you are planning to outsource any of your content, having a solid editorial calendar helps you do that easily while still maintaining control over the content.


What Should Your Editorial Calendar Look Like?
Like anything else in life, you've got to make this work for you. We're sharing our editorial calendar strategy here, but if this is too detailed - or not detailed enough! - for you, or you'd prefer having your ed cal in something other than a spreadsheet, make this work for you. The important part is having a process. Here's how we do it for both blogging and social:

Blog Editorial Calendar
For a blog editorial calendar, we use a spreadsheet with the following details:

  • Posting date (the date the blog will go live)
  • Deadline date (the date by which the content needs to be complete for approval by the relevant parties)
  • Topic (we use general topic tags here so we can be sure we are diversifying content)
  • Title (we plan out the blog title - like "5 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Followers")
  • Keywords (we often include keywords that will double as the tags for the post)
  • Category (if the client is using Categories on the blog, we may also include the categories that will be tagged)
  • Notes (this is the place we put miscellaneous details on the topic that we need to remember)


Social Media Editorial Calendar
For a social ed cal, we are less detailed on each item because the content is shorter, but still recording as much helpful info as possible to get the posts batched quickly. (And when we are done with the ed cal in the spreadsheet, we simply copy/paste the posts into our social scheduling system like HootSuite.)

  • Post Date
  • Post Day of Week
  • Topic (ex., "Tip Tuesday" or "Taco Tuesday" if it's a food client, "Promo" or "Shared Content")
  • Content (the actual copy we're posting)
  • Image (if applicable - we include the file name of the image so we can find it quickly. We store all our social files in a specific folder for fast posting and we get these done during the editorial process)
  • Notes (again, if there's anything we need to remember when posting, like "tag XYZ on Facebook")


How to Use Your Editorial Calendar
Once you've set up your calendars, using them is simple. First, you've got to be consistent about batching your content. Whether you do it weekly, monthly, quarterly or even yearly, you need to set that task in your calendar and sit down to do it.

Then, you've got to set your deadlines (whether that is scheduling social or writing blog content) into your to do manager or calendar so that you follow through with the tasks on your editorial calendar.

And finally, you've just got to do it. You'll have your content mapped out for you, and now's the time to just get that content done. Give it a try and let us know how it works - does creating an editorial calendar help you get more done when it comes to content?

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