Getting Elected This Fall

August 9, 2018 — My old friend Susan MacFarlane is running for Sarnia City Council in the upcoming municipal election. Here is her digital poster, designed by yours truly. I’m also helping her with her promoted Facebook campaign.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’m really, truly, 110% behind Susan —I know she’s got the stuff— I’m also going to put in a plug here.

A-hem. Know someone who is running in the Ontario municipal election who might wish to delegate some of their campaign management? Hello there! We’d be happy to help.

Strategy -> Campaign planning, messaging, budgeting, scheduling, media and public relations.

Content ->  Media releases, newsletters, website content, researching, writing, copyediting.

Digital -> Promoted and organic digital (social media) campaigns, website development and maintenance.  Analytics, search engine optimization.

Design -> Develop your branding. Make it look consistently amazing, everywhere. Caveat: at the Tillson Group we’re all about minimizing waste. Yes you can achieve — and exceed — your goals while eschewing physical signage, printing, and disposable trinkets.*

*How, you ask? Direct your budget away from anything disposable. Talk about it, and talk about why you’re doing it. (And if you must, source green, local, and fair trade. And you can talk about that too.) 

Contact us at hellothere@tillson.ca or give me a call at 705-645-5225.

~Tamsen Tillson

PS. If you live in Sarnia, please check out the Susan MacFarlane for Sarnia City Council Facebook page, and consider giving her your vote.

PPS. Please vote!

 

Six Best Practices for your New Website

March 2018 – One of my clients is about to launch a new WordPress website, which got me thinking about best practices for safeguarding your digital investment.

Everyone should have these items on their check-list. Preferably before you get started on a new site, but anytime is better than never.

  1. Own your domain(s) and server account. So important! (Lord, am I sounding like Donald Trump?)
  2. There should always be at least two ADMIN (top level) users on every digital account about you or  your company. One of them should be you, the company owner. This is regardless of your level of tech know-how, and includes your website, and server account and all social media and online accounts.
  3. Plugins. They make sitebuilding easy (personally I don’t favour them. More on that another time) but typically create problems down the road with regards to updating and compatibility. I recommend getting your web developer to agree up front to a maintenance guarantee period that covers updating and compatibility of all plugins. A year or 18 months is probably reasonable. When your site starts to show its age it will probably be there.
  4. As with cars, websites require maintenance. Regular updating of WordPress, themes and plugins. Backups. A lot of that can be programmed to take care of itself automatically, but it needs to be accounted for.
  5. Let’s talk content. Start with a plan and preferably a schedule. Make it modest. Usually people start too ambitious, and hardly anyone keeps their blogs and websites up. Myself included. Don’t forget to maintain your other digital profiles, like Facebook and LinkedIn.
  6. A word about Search Engine Optimization: There’s no end to razzle-dazzle out there and you can really blow your brains out on this one. Here’s a really helpful blog on things you can do to improve your ranking while maintaining squeaky-clean practices. And here’s one on determining your actual Google ranking.

Once you’re up and running, the most important things to bear in mind for a great, long-lasting website are; be what you say you are, keep adding quality content,  keep it backed up and WordPress and any plugins updated, keep it loading quickly, links working and looking nice.

This would make a great haiku if I could get it to fit. I’m going to work on that.

Website out of date?

We’re very fortunate in the Parry Sound-Muskoka area to have a Fednor-funded government grant program that could pay for more than half of your website and e-business upgrades.

Website out of date?

If you are a small-to-medium-sized for-profit business in Parry Sound- Muskoka, up to 75% of your new or updated website or e-business upgrades could potentially be funded through a federal grant initiative called BEAM.

What is BEAM?

BEAM stands for Broadband for E-business and Marketing, a FedNor-funded program run by Parry Sound Muskoka Community Network.

What exactly would my business qualify for?

The idea is to support local businesses in upping their game online. You could receive the following:

Financial Support: grants of up to 75% of the cost to design, develop and implement a new or existing website, content, mobile applications and operational business applications. Up to $4,000 per business.

Education: work with a vendor to establish your web presence or by adding e-business tools to your current website. E-business can increase your sales and improve business efficiency.

How can The Tillson Group help?

As a local marketing + communications provider, we invite you to work with us to develop and/or execute your BEAM project. We can save you time and money by providing the following services;

  • write the BEAM grant application
  • design your website
  • develop content for your website
  • build your WordPress website
  • refresh/redevelop your currently existing website
  • create/develop an e-business plan
  • execute your e-business plan
  • provide digital training

We have successfully completed numerous BEAM projects in the past and are very comfortable with the process.

In addition, you qualify for a larger grant working with a Muskoka-based marketing and communications enterprise than with an organization from outside of the area.

What else do I need to know?

There are upcoming applications deadlines to be aware of:

  • September 15, 2017 > Bracebridge & area
  • September 30, 2017 > Huntsville, Lake of Bays & area
  • October 15, 2017 > Parry Sound & area
  • November 15, 2017 > Muskoka Lakes, Georgian Bay & area
  • November 30, 2017 > Gravenhurst & area
  • January31, 2018 > Bracebridge & area
  • February 15, 2018 > Huntsville, Lake of Bays & area
  • February 28, 2018 > Parry Sound & area
Old speed boat
Get ‘er up to date, PDQ.

We’re here to help you take full advantage of the opportunities that the online world and BEAM have to offer. Give us a call at 705-645-5225, or drop me a line at tamsen@tillson.ca. I look forward to speaking with you.

~Tamsen Tillson

Ten Common Sense Marketing Tips That Too Many Companies Don’t Follow

TEN COMMON SENSE MARKETING TIPS THAT TOO MANY COMPANIES DON’T FOLLOW

  1. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. This is so very important that I’ve made it number 1. This is not a David Letterman-style list in which the most important point is the last one. I’m a journalist trained in the inverted pyramid and this is online and I know about short attention spans, so the most important point is RIGHT at the top. 2015 was the year in which mobile overtook desktop on the wuh-wuh-wuh. Google updated its algorithm accordingly, sending mobile-compatible websites to the front of the line in search. Is your website mobile-compatible? Check it out on your device. Do you have to zoom in to see your menu? It’s not mobile compatible. Make it mobile compatible.
  2. Follow Through on Your Data. Is it important to you to understand your target market? (Nod here. Unless you’re wealthy enough to fill your hot tub with $100s or you’re about to retire so you just don’t care.) Whoever said the web is anonymous was either being ironic or didn’t know what they were talking about. If you have any online presence at all, chances are there is a truly scary amount of information about those interested in you available to you already. Dig that out. Use it. Add to it. This is FAR more efficient, FAR more reliable and FAR less expensive than a focus group.
  3. Open Source is the Way to Go. I view anyone pitching a custom-built website (aka not CMS and not Open Source) with deep suspicion. Is the website going to be updated? Who’s going to do it? How often and how much is that going to cost? And please don’t tell me that YOUR company is so special, your branding is so sophisticated, that it all has to be custom. If you believe that, you’ve been snowed, my friend. (Unless you own the agency, in which case you are doing the snowing.) What happens if your developer goes down in a fiery crash or heads off to the Cayman Island and there’s no internet connection? Think and prepare for worst-case scenarios.
  4. Look for TECK-KISS Principles. This is Part 2 of point 3. TECK-KISS stands for Teckys-Keepin’-It-Simple-Stupid. And it is the arch enemy of TECK-OFG — Teckys-Obfuscation-for-Gain, which is way too common. I have seen even WordPress websites built in such a way as to be almost useless and pretty much impossible to update unless you’re  (conveniently) a $200/hour coder. In addition to using Open Source software with CMS, your developer (if using WordPress) should be using Child Themes, as few Plugins as possible, and as little customization as s/he can get away with. Requesting that your designer ensure his/her expendability is kind of an awkward ask, to be sure. But you can keep an eye out for TECK-KISS, which I will argue is a key building block of trust and accountability. (Conveniently, that’s how I work!) On that note. Know also that there is no Santa Claus. No matter how nicely your WordPress website is built, it will cost money to run. It will need maintenance—backups and updates—and it will not live forever. Just like your car.
  5. Know Who’s Building Your Website. Some developers outsource the coding offshore. I found this out on one site when I noticed that the coding notes were in Ukrainian. Made for an interesting conversation. Ethically, I feel this should always be disclosed, and you should know that your developer (who might actually just be a project manager and not a developer at all) is taking precautions to protect your security. Because it absolutely does increase your vulnerability. ASK. Ask early. Ask often.
  6. Own Your Stuff. Have your own server account. Own your own URL. Have your own YouTube account. Not owning these is like giving someone else your bank card and password and asking them to take care of things for you. Some will, some won’t. And if it goes bad it can go really really bad.
  7. Have More Than One Administrator — On your website, on Facebook, on your server, on everything. And by Administrator I don’t mean Editor. “Administrator” is the highest level of control.  See last sentence on point above. This is like having insurance in case your house burns down. You probably won’t need it, but if you do, you really really really do.
  8. Shit Happens — AKA it’s OK to Develop a Website [Somewhat] Organically. If you’re developing a website, it used to be that you were supposed to have it all figured out, laid out, thought through, pre-packaged and wrapped with a matching bow before handing anything over to your developer. But I don’t care if you’re Coca-Cola; no matter how organized you are there’s going to be something you didn’t think of. I’m calling for a more fluid approach, one that acknowledges that there will be tweaks and changes will happen and are part of the process, not an unwelcome anomaly for which you pay through the nose and are made to feel guilty.
  9. Fill in Keyword and Alt Text Fields. Heard of Search Engine Optimization? You do not have to pay big bucks for specialized SEO. Just make sure that your developer fills in the fields as you go. It’s so stupidly easy that it often gets overlooked. You’re in a hurry and money doesn’t grow on trees. If you got an amazing deal on your website your developer is likely to be in a hurry too. I’ve seen websites with SEO plugins in which the fields were left blank.
  10. Get Your Working Files And Your Passwords. For everything. Too often, designers and agencies don’t share. Font names, working files, passwords. Sometimes it’s just an oversight. But it’s like asking for water at a restaurant. There’s no motivation for your agency to provide them, but one rainy day you are absolutely going to need them. Make it part of your plan to collect these, even if it’s only a couple of times per year, and keep them in a safe place. Because believe me, one day some rain will fall.

~Tamsen Tillson
January 2, 2016

First Annual Muskoka Calendar

December 21, 2015 — I’m so thrilled to have in my hot little hands the Premiere Edition of the Muskoka Calendar. This is a custom local calendar that realtors Sharon and George Aiken asked me to create and project manage.

Sharon (Merchant Hunter) Aiken has for much of her 30 years in real estate been giving beautiful calendars to her clients and friends at Christmas but this year she and George wanted to up their game and make it original and specific to Muskoka, using local scenery produced by local photographers.

IMG_3289-ps-rs

And here it is. A thing of beauty, this calendar features the work of  extremely talented photographer-artists Bev Clark, Marianne Dawson, Bev McMullen and Lloyd Walton. The printing was done by Smellies in Bracebridge and  yours truly managed the project and did the layout.

Calling all Muskoka photographers and entrepreneurs

Sharon and George are so pleased with the results that not only are we already talking about doing it again next year but we’re also considering franchising this layout.

[Here’s a low-resolution PDF of the entire calendar. It’s also got specific local events included.]

If you are:

  • a Muskoka photographer with beautiful pictures you’d like considered for the 2017 edition (yes we do pay. It’s awful that that question would even arise.)
  • a business owner who might like to have your own version produced with your logo and customized back page

then let’s talk.

I look forward to hearing from you.

~Tamsen
December 12, 2015

 

Walking on the wild side

image of twenty sixteen theme
Click on the image to learn more about WordPress 4.4 and the Twenty Sixteen theme. Be warned: This is computer geek porn.

News Entry: December 9, 2015 — Today WordPress rolled out its latest version, 4.4, which I immediately updated, because, well, that’s what you do if you have a WordPress website.

But wait! There’s more! There’s also a brand-new theme, Twenty Sixteen.

WordPress themes

WordPress themes are pre-loaded styles for your website, and the last few have come out-of-the-box in a mobile-friendly format. They are of course imminently customize-able, especially when used with a child theme, which I always use, natch.

The importance of mobile-friendly websites

Given that mobile has now overtaken desktop online and Google’s decision earlier this year to move mobile-friendly sites to the front of the SEO line, it’s surprising how many websites are still not mobile friendly.

(To see whether yours is, visit your website on your phone. Do you have to zoom in to see the menu? Then it’s not mobile friendly.) If you have a WordPress website, making it mobile friendly is not the traumatic endeavour that it can be when you have a custom-coded site.

Two thumbs up for Twenty Sixteen

I decided to check out Twenty Sixteen right away, which is super-easy since the site is still in development. I really like the layout, and especially the way the menu displays on desktops. So I have decided to give it a go.

So far so good!

Stay tuned for more.

~Tamsen
December 9, 2015

Launch!

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 2.05.31 PM
Here’s the General Settings screen. The primordial soup of any WordPress website.

News Entry: November 23, 2015 — Welcome to our new website, such that it is! I’m building it using WordPress, naturally, using the Twentyfifteen theme with a child theme to start.

The wonderful thing about WordPress is that it is so robust and flexible and that it easily integrates all the best of the OpenSource philosophy of the internet as a sharing community.

I’m setting up a skeleton with an “under construction” message on the home page to get started.

Thanks for your patience while I build live.

~Tamsen
November 23, 2015