Virtual Reality vs Traditional Video: 7 Differences You Need to Know

ThinkstockPhotos-545792146-517239-edited.jpgVirtual reality is the hot new video marketing tool disrupting business plans and budgets across the planet. Audiences are loving it and want more: a 2015 study found that 81% of consumers would tell their friends about their VR experience, and that 79% would seek out additional experiences. The demand is so huge Deloitte predicts that by 2020 the global market may be worth around $30 billion.

Because of this growing demand everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and offering VR production as part of their services. I get it – as an integrated marketing agency with an in-house video production department, becoming a virtual reality agency was a natural next step for us, so we sent the team on training, hired in specialists and acquired the kit we needed.  

We’ve learned loads on our long VR journey; it truly is a different beast to 2D and takes some serious skills to tame. We’ve outlined 7 important differences to help you prepare for your own VR adventure – consider them carefully, they could save you buckets in tears and pennies.

1) You need specialist equipment

VR production requires some specialist equipment that can seem incredibly intimidating, not to mention expensive. At the very least you will need a 360 camera rig and editing station (with an i5 processor or above), as well as a PC and headset to review the footage. 

In terms of camera gear, there is a range of options to suit different levels of budget and ambition. The Samsung Gear 360 is one great option at entry level that consists of two cameras with a 180-degree view. It’s priced at around US $460.

If only the best will do, consider the 8K, waterproof, six-camera GoPro Omni. It captures everything – and its resolution is almost faultless with minimal stretching. The price for this fancy rig is around US $4600.

If you want movement in your video, you need to budget for extra gear like drones and dollies. 

Now that you’ve got your camera gear sorted you need to think about your editing equipment. At TopLine Comms, we recently bought a beast of an editing machine to deal with the sheer amount of high-res footage that each camera rig produces. This machine can process footage with resolutions ranging from 720p to 8K and is completely customized for VR production.

2) Avoid the danger zone

VR film sets have their very own ‘danger zone’ – usually a radius of 1.5 meters from the camera rig. Anything filmed in this zone will come out weird and blurry so your production team will need to keep it clear of any people or objects that could distort the shot.

Stitch lines can have a monstrous effect on your VR content so make sure you’re working with a crew who pays attention to where they are and keeps focal points as far away from them as possible.

But remember, even if the danger zone is kept clear, the different angles of footage will still have to be stitched together using specific software like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga.

While some VR equipment – like the Samsung Gear 360 on the Galaxy s7 smartphone – have an automatic onboard stitching function, there are some drawbacks you have to bear in mind: the footage you get will have a lower resolution and the processing time will take longer.

If you want higher quality footage – Samsung Gear 360 can still do it, but then you have to use a computer and specialist stitching software. Ultimately, you need to decide what will work best for you and your budget.

3) Think about people on set

We know that when you commission your first VR project, you will probably want to be on-location. With normal video production, this is fine. With VR video production, it’s not fine. Remember, these cameras are filming 360-degree content which means everything will be in the shot. Even if you stand behind a tree and don’t breathe, you’ll get picked up.

This means that if you insist on being on set, the director will likely ask you to get in character, put on a costume and blend in. No joke. Crew on the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, had to do it.

So if dressing up is your thing, by all means attend the shoot. If not, you can’t be on set. Sorry.

4) Give the voice over direction

Scripting voiceover for content that can literally go in any direction is tricky. Unlike 2D, your audience can look anywhere at any moment. So, if the VO is talking about something happening on the right, best the script directs them to look right. Rather than record the VO before filming, work with your production agency to do it afterwards.

You also have to keep in mind that most cameras focus on visuals at the expense of audio quality. To fix this you can hire special recorders for 360-degree sound, like Core Sound’s TetraMic and Brahma Tetrahedron, for example. This will, of course, be an additional expense.

5) Be patient with the edit

Post-production is where the true magic happens but be prepared for it to take time – much more time than editing 2D footage. Merging stitch lines will take at least a week, more if your production has used multiple cameras.

The edit begins by uploading the footage into specialist software, like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga. The content is sync’d and then the angles are stitched together.

Once the videos have been stitched together, your editing team will often have to fix the horizon. During the stitching process the software will automatically merge the different angles to reduce the appearance of seams. However, sometimes this results in an image that is off centre or off axis. This can only be corrected by manipulating the video.

What’s more, all objects directly above or below the camera (like tripods) will have to be ‘disappeared’ using skilful editing techniques such as superimposing a reference photo over it. Or, the editor can opt for the cruder method and stick a relevant graphic over it.

We once attached one of our 360 camera rigs to the front of a skateboard, but the clamp holding the camera up was visible in the footage. To edit this out we had to manually lay another image of a skateboard over the actual skateboard in the shot.

All of this makes VR editing a much lengthier process than traditional video editing.

6) Prepare to pay more

VR is relatively expensive to produce. It costs more than 2D but not as much as a Spielberg blockbuster (unless you’re referencing one of his epic films from the last century). Truth is, it doesn’t pay to cut corners – ultra-low-cost equipment and crews often result in ultra-low quality.

To put the costs in perspective it helps to look at the requirements in terms of time, people involved and post-production process. For a 2D filmed video you will usually need a producer or director, a camera operator and a sound recordist. Then the post-production process will involve and offline edit, motion graphics and colour grading. All of this will take about 5 weeks could cost between US$6 500 and US$10 000.

With a 360-degree video, however, you’ll need more crew members, including a producer or director, a camera operator, a digital imaging technician a sound recordist and a runner. As mentioned above the post-production process is also more extensive with VR. It will typically include stitching, offline editing, plating, motion graphics and colour grade. This pushes the project timescale to around 7 weeks with costs ranging from US$ 9 000 to US$13 000. 

But remember, VR projects don’t all cost the same – productions with bigger kit, multiple days of filming and some basic graphics could be around US$13 000 to US$20 000. A high end VR experience with lots of animation could be upward of US$130 000.

With VR it’s worth investing in an agency that won’t mess up the postproduction process, and that will be able to advise you on the best shots for your video. You might think that it’s a good idea to have a camera on the floor while people zip past on bikes. While this sounds dynamic in theory, the shot’s perspective will place your viewer on the floor too – which might not be the most comfortable experience. A good VR video agency will point these things out to you, so you can make better, more informed decisions.

That said, your VR project also should not eat your entire marketing budget – what good is cool new content if you can’t afford to take it to market?

7) Make it audience friendly

Almost everyone wants to watch VR content but not everyone has the required headsets. If you’re producing an experience to showcase at an event or in the office then no problem, you’ll have the relevant equipment on-hand.

If you’re assuming that your viewer has an Oculus Rift at home, your amazing VR experience will fall flat. The best you can do is make sure that your audiences can immerse themselves in your VR content through as many platforms as possible: from Google Cardboard to YouTube to Sulon Q.

When producing content that has to be viewed with a headset, give some thought to motion sickness and make sure your viewers won’t feel too nauseous (remember Nintendo’s first attempt at VR that had people literally throwing up?). Relatively static shots are best as they allow viewers to move their heads freely and enjoy their immersive experience without unpleasant side-effects.

If you’re still not sure if VR is right for you, consider what you want to use the video for. Will an engaging, immersive video experience get the job done better than a traditional video? If the answer is yes, then you should consider VR. However, you also have to keep your budget and project timeline into account. While VR videos create a great experience they do take longer and are more expensive to make.

If you analyze your prospective project according to the 7 characteristics of VR videos listed above, you should get a good idea of whether what you want to achieve can be done through VR and whether you have the budget to make it work. The great thing is, should you decide to attempt VR you don’t have to go at it alone. You don’t have to be a VR expert if you work with an agency that is able to advise you on everything from shooting location to sound effects.

If virtual insanity is getting you down and you need some expert guidance, download our Marketer’s Guide to Virtual Reality.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE MARKETER'S GUIDE TO VR

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/virtual-reality-vs-traditional-video-differences-to-know

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How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

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Imagine you own a business that films and produces yoga routines for at-home practice. As search engine results pages become more crowded, your chances of ranking for a popular industry keyword — such as “yoga” — begin to diminish.

But as it turns out, that’s not the end of the world. These days people are actually conducting more specific, conversational queries — think: “how do I teach myself yoga?” — to get the information they’re looking for, faster.

Unsurprisingly, Google responded to this change in behavior by introducing RankBrain — a machine-learning artificial intelligence system — as well as Hummingbird — a search algorithm designed to focus on the meaning behind the search terms being used.

The result? An increased number of long-tail keyword variations that are regularly searched within a topic. Jackpot. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

But with more topic opportunities on the table, how can you be sure that you’re going after the right ones? To help you avoid wasting time on topics and keyword plays that won’t generate a meaningful return for your business, we’ve put together a simple process for validating your ideas before you start writing. Check it out below. 

How to Validate Your Blog Post Topics: A 3-Step Process

1) Get to know your audience really well.

Ideally, you’re already conducting market research and thinking about your audience before you start writing a piece of content. But in case you’re not, or you need to refresh your memory, here are a few questions you should be asking when you’re brainstorming blog content ideas:

  • Who searches for information on this topic? What are their ages, job roles, and demographic traits?
  • What emotions do you want to evoke? What are their goals?
  • What do you want viewers to do with your blog posts once they read it?

When you have a clearer idea of the demographic and psychographic traits of your ideal audience, you can then use this information to substantiate your list of ideas. Chuck the ideas that don’t fit their mold, and keep the ones that do — it’s that simple.

2) Create a topic cluster based on your persona research.

Once you know who you’re writing for, figure out what questions they need answers to. To start, think about providing solutions to challenges your audience is facing.

For example, in the yoga example above, your audience’s problems might include: not having enough time to go to the gym, a lack of nearby gyms, an inability to afford a gym membership, or high levels of stress.

From there, marketers should ask questions to determine the specific angle of their content. What’s the best way to deliver this information — a blog post, an infographic, or a video? What content has already been published about the topic, and what angle can I pursue to differentiate mine?

One of the best ways to organize your thoughts and finding here is through a topic cluster a new way to strategize blog content geared toward how search has evolved.

Continuing with the yoga example, you’d want to create a topic cluster centered around “yoga” as the main topic. Then, you’d come up with subtopics that are related to yoga but based on long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for in search. These could include “at-home workouts,” “exercises for stress relief,” “yoga for beginners,” and “online yoga classes.”

Here’s an example cluster that HubSpot’s Head of Growth & SEO Matt Barby created. Notice that while the core content topic is “workout routines,” the cluster content — referred to as pillar content — spans a wider variety of related topics.

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By clustering ideas around one core topic that is relevant to your audience, it become easier to generate content that you know will resonate.

“This is a very simplistic overview but can work as a light framework for prioritizing content ideation and production,” explains Barby in an article detailing the full process. “The role of the pillar content is to cover the core topic broadly and also perform well at converting visitors into leads (or whatever your conversion goal is). The cluster content that is built for each of the subtopics will focus on gaining greater topic visibility and funneling traffic through to the pillar content in order for them to convert.”

3) Use tools to gut check your topics.

Once you have topics in mind for blog posts, do some testing: Just because you think the topic is interesting and good for search engine optimization doesn’t always mean it will resonate with your audience.

Here on the HubSpot Blogging team, we propose blog topics and titles alongside a reason why we think they will perform well. Here are some of the tools we use to determine if an angle is worth writing up:

  • TitleTester: As the name of the tool suggests, TitleTester allows you to plug different title options into its tool to analyze which has the highest clickthrough rate. Use this tool to test different angles on a topic to see which generates the most interest.
  • Twitter Polls: Ask your followers to vote for topics they’re most interested in reading more about using Twitter Polls. Use that data to guide your topic choosing before starting to write.
  • Twitter Chats: Figure out which Twitter Chat most closely aligns with the topics you’re writing about, click on the hashtag, and see what types of questions people are asking about. That will give you an idea of a content gap that your blog post could fill with resources for your audience.
  • BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo analyzes how many times a URL has been shared via social media or linked to by another domain. Do some quick competitor analysis by dropping in links to content on the topic you’re writing about to see how different angles have performed in the past.
  • Blog Comments: Does your blog have commenting enabled? If not, it should, because feedback from your subscribers is the exact answer to the questions you’re asking — what content is my audience interested in? Take positive and constructive feedback from readers to inform your strategy.

Once you’ve aggregated responses to different tests and questions you’ve asked your audience, choose a topic and title with the greatest level of engagement and response, and start writing your blog post.

Quality > Quantity

The biggest takeaway for marketers is to emphasize blog post quality and relevance over quantity. Instead of writing multiple blog posts without a review of the strategy behind them, it will be difficult to rank in search and achieve lead generation goals.

For HubSpot customers, HubSpot Content Strategy will help guide you through the process of creating a topic cluster. Based on data from the HubSpot Keywords App, Content Strategy and the Blog Topic Generator will recommend topics that you should create content around, and advise against topics that will be hard to rank for or are unrelated to your central topic. It’s coming soon to the HubSpot software, and users can sign up for early access now.

How do you decide which topics to write blog posts about? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/validate-blog-post-topics

Keyboard vs. Pen: What’s the Best Way to Take Notes?

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Growing up, I was fascinated by my mom’s shorthand notes. The cryptic symbols she’d write blindly while listening through our 1980s-era phone with a 12-foot cord were a different language — vestiges of a different time. 

“You’ll never need to learn shorthand because you’ll type all your notes,” she explained.

And as it turns out, she was right. These days, many of us have traded in our mechanical pencils and fancy notebooks in favor of laptops to ensure that our every word is perfectly spelled and neatly tucked away in “the cloud.”

It wasn’t until I attended a Bold Talk at INBOUND 2014 about note-taking that I put much thought into the difference between writing and typing notes. In his session — “The Pencil and the Keyboard: How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think” — New York Times Magazine writer Clive Thompson explained why handwriting is better for taking notes and remembering big-picture thinking, while typing is better for composing your ideas and communicating with others.

Ever since I attended that session, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was he right? Were we doing this all wrong? To get some answers, I dug into some research on handwritten notes versus typed notes. 

Keyboard vs. Pen: What’s the Best Way to Take Notes?

TL;DR: As it turns out, understanding how your mind captures, retains, and recalls information can help you become more productive. Writing notes by hand in long-form will force you to synthesize the information, which helps you remember and recall it. So next time you head to a meeting, consider just a notepad and pen.

When we take notes by hand, we typically can’t keep pace with the information being presented to us. As a result, our brains are forced to quickly synthesize the information into two categories: “important: write this down” and “not important: don’t write this down.”

That simple neurological process is valuable to us, as it begins to stamp those important notes in our memory. In other words, when we’re forced to mentally prioritize information, it becomes a little bit stickier in our mind.

In his Bold Talk, Thompson described a series of experiments conducted by researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer that demonstrated the benefits of handwritten notes:

A couple of scientists decided to test this. They set up an auditorium of people. Half of them took notes on keyboard and half of them took notes handwriting while someone spoke. They wanted to figure out who would remember the most, who would retain the most. They tested them afterwards. It turns out that handwriting won, hands down, pun intended. Handwriting completely won out. People understood more, they retained more, they remembered more when they wrote by hand.”

There are times when typing is optimal, however. Thompson goes on to explain that typing is better suited for communicating information to other people. (Think: Handwriting is for input, while typing is for output.)

Fast-typing, referred to as transcription fluency in this context, correlates to better writing skills because there is less interruption between your thoughts and the composition. Stephen Graham, a scholar of literacy, described this phenomenon as follows:

You can think of the ideas in your head as rushing along and you’re trying to transcribe them onto the page. The faster you can do that when you’re in the act of writing, the less likely it is that words and ideas will escape and get away from you.”

7 Handy Tips for Taking Better Notes:

At the end of the day — with all research aside — the most productive way to take notes will ultimately boil down to what works best for you. But whether you’re typing away or jotting things down by hand, we put together some handy tips and tricks to keep in mind that’ll help you stayed organized. 

  1. Know the purpose of your notes. Do you just need to remember a few key things to follow up on from a meeting? Or are you preparing for an exam that will test you on the details? Knowing your purpose will help you craft the right amount of detail.
  2. Use a lined notebook and *try* to use good penmanship. The extra time you put into your handwriting will save you time later when you’re searching through your notes.
  3. Underline, embolden, italicize, and highlight. Introduce some textual hierarchy into your notes so that you can decipher them more easily later on. Need help mastering italic handwriting? Check out this self-instructional course.
  4. Get the big ideas down on paper. Trying to keep up with a fast-talker? Try just recording any numbers and facts that you know you won’t be able to recall. As soon as you get the chance (as in directly after the lecture) fill out your notes with everything you can remember while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  5. Try a tablet and stylus. Want the memory benefits of handwriting, with the collaborative benefits of digital? A tablet and stylus — like Apple’s iPad Pro and Apple Pencil — can help you speed up the note-taking process.
  6. Learn the ins and outs of bullet journaling. According to the website, bullet journaling is best described as a “customizable and forgiving organization system.” You can learn more about this approach (and other helpful strategies) here.
  7. For meeting notes, record the initials of the person who made the noteworthy comment. This makes it easier for you to follow up with them. Date, time, who’s in attendance, meeting topic, and project are all housekeeping items that add context to your notes for a future — possibly more forgetful — version of yourself.

Ready to Improve Your Skills?

If note-taking is not your strong suit, consider it a skill worth developing that will have compounding effects on your productivity throughout your career. Remember: Typing is best for getting your thoughts on [digital] paper, with as little interference between idea and text as possible. And for content creators, learning how to type quickly will allow you to get your point across with less edits later on.

Want to work on developing your content skills even further? Check out HubSpot Academy’s first-ever Content Marketing Certification here.

Pre-register for HubSpot Academy's all-new Content Marketing Certification Course

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/best-way-take-notes

How Your Agency Can Prevent Data Overload and Build a Streamlined Reporting Approach

Love it or hate it, data is essential to any agency professional’s existence.

And where there’s data, there’s reporting. Marketers can’t and (shouldn’t) avoid reporting, so they have to increasingly become proficient with it.

As clients have become more knowledgeable and demanding about reporting, their analysis and insights expectations have become higher. This adds additional stress to agency teams trying to manage more data, more frequently, and from more media sources. Subscribe to HubSpot's Agency newsletter today.

Data analysis can often seem like a painful burden, and marketers today are either avoiding it, or going crazy trying to make sense of the data overload by purchasing reporting tools to solve their problem.

This leads us to wonder how the Marketing Marys and Analytics Annies of the agency world are solving their own marketing data reporting problems. With the sheer number of data sets to analyze, decipher and review, the life of marketing reporting analyst is becoming ever more complex.

So how are agencies approaching this data problem? Let’s take a look at a day in the (reporting) life of Marketing Mary and Analytics Annie, each responsible for client reporting at their respective agencies.

The Story of Two Marketers

It’s the first day of the month and Marketing Mary is starting the “Data Death March:” the painful task of manually gathering media channel data for month-end client reporting. This can take days — sometimes weeks of effort — only to spit out a basic report recapping what happened last month that the client will hopefully read.

For Analytics Annie, the first day of the month is no different than any other day. She opens a client report (automatically refreshed with current media results), begins to analyze performance and develops timely, insightful recommendations to share with her client.

Annie’s reports aren’t just a spreadsheet of numbers — they are factual bits of information organized in an easy-to-read report that shows not only the state of the union — but what and how to improve their marketing efforts.

Data First, Then Reporting

So what’s the difference between Marketing Mary and Analytics Annie? Many might say Analytics Annie has a fancy data visualization tool to make her reporting automated. And they may be right — or she could actually just be looking at a report in Excel.

The real reason Analytics Annie is able to spend her time on impactful analysis for her clients has nothing to do with her reporting tool of choice. It’s because she solved her underlying media data collection problem by way of automation.

Mary, at some point, likely succumbed to using a data visualization tool for her reporting that promised all the bells and whistles. It looked good, seemed simple to use, and was going to take all the pain away to allow her agency to make reporting for all her clients effortless.

But the tool wasn’t even collecting the necessary data to begin with. The challenge Mary was facing wasn’t a tool problem, it was a data problem. Without having the underlying data in a usable format to begin with, she was still manually gathering and preparing her media data, leaving no time for analysis.

She put too much faith in the tool to solve her reporting problems that in the end, all she had was prettier dashboards, but not better or faster ones.

Because Annie knew that she had to solve her data collection problem first, it made finding the right reporting tool much easier to justify and use, freeing up her time for analysis.

A Single Source of Truth

Solving the underlying media and marketing data aggregation problem is both simple and complex. The simple part? You need one single location (like a data warehouse or a marketing data management platform) to store all of your media data together.

The hard part? Automating the data collection into the warehouse, building relationships between the disparate data sources, cleaning up jacked campaign tracking parameters and maintaining the integrity and accuracy of the data.

A few agencies with large teams dedicated full-time to managing the agency’s data platform can do it in house using a data warehouse, like Amazon Redshift. If you do it yourself, you need to input the data in an automated fashion. Typically this will happens in two ways:

    1. Build APIs into the source systems.
    2. Create an ETL process to upload source files.

APIs are usually preferred, but not all source systems have APIs. Often times, they simply aren’t very good. In other cases, some data (like TV buys) lives in files instead of in a system.

Most agencies, however, run very lean and instead rely on external marketing data management platforms. These platforms already have all the API and ETL connections in place so that agencies are able to authenticate their media sources and get access to their consolidated data very quickly.

Move from Reporting to Analysis

Regardless of the solution, the Marketing Marys of the world can reduce their reporting prep time by up to 90% once they fix their data collection problem.

A marketer’s time shouldn’t be spent collecting the information, or even reporting on it. It should be spent using that information to optimize their marketing efforts and increase gains (achieving goals).

That’s why Analytics Annies are the stars of the marketing world. They have the time to dive into the meaning of the data, develop insightful recommendations and do actual analysis, not just build reports. Analytics Annies are so successful in their role because they:

  • Automatically update their reporting nightly.
  • Optimize budgets across all channels with clear attribution modeling.
  • Consolidate their offline and online media performance to a single chart.
  • Roll up all their agency-wide metrics into a single holistic view.

Using History to Drive Planning

When you fix your agency’s approach to data and integrate all media channel data for all clients in one single location, the agency’s ability to drive data-driven media planning and forecasting exponentially increases.

For Mary, client media planning revolves around crawling through monthly presentations, tracking down historical spreadsheets from different team members, and pulling an all-nighter in a conference room with bad takeout food to piece together some sort of educated plan for the client — only to know that this exercise is the first of many to come.

For Annie however, simply accessing her single source of truth to analyze all media performance over a number of years, visualize media mix patterns and changes, and aligning these patterns to spend and performance, happens dynamically within a few minutes.

Not only does this approach yield real data-driven planning grounded in accurate data, Annie is spared the heartburn and fatigue from the all-nighter and greasy takeout food.

Building a Winning Data Approach

In this scenario, Marketing Mary represents what most agencies are struggling with today. In fact, I think it is safe to say that most agencies have historically treated analytics as a means to justify their strategies and tactics. This lack of focus has created thousands of exhausted Marketing Marys everywhere in the agency industry.

To fix the marketing data problem, agencies need a data engine and a solid analytics strategy. The steps below are a good place to start:

  1. Pick a “good” client that utilizes the majority, if not all, of the data systems used to support their media strategy.
  2. Gather the account and media teams that support this client around a whiteboard.
  3. Build a measurement strategy. The teams should work together to review/develop the key performance indicators (KPIs) needed to demonstrate value for this client.
  4. Build a data strategy. Identify all of the data systems that contain the key data metrics needed to support the measurement strategy and make a list for each system.
  5. Build a reporting strategy. In a single page dashboard, mock-up a report design of what the elements would be to demonstrate the value of the campaign.
  6. Launch a data engine. Implement a process to bring all of this data together into a single source to enable the use of any reporting/data visualization tool to make these strategies come to life.

While I have used this recipe for success for the past ten years, success ultimately begins with a change in thinking and a desire to have your agency operate like Analytics Annie. Without this desire and commitment, the agency simply won’t be successful in analytics long-term.

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from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/agency-data-approach

How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide

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Blink. Blink. Blink. It’s the dreaded cursor-on-a-blank-screen experience that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.

I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the pomp and circumstance with this dag-blasted introduction?

Here’s the thing — intros don’t have to be long. In fact, we prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult, but they do have to exist. They prepare the reader and provide context for the content he or she is about to read. Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

Let’s break down exactly how to write an introduction that’s short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you’re ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.

How to Write a Good Introduction: 3 Components to Consider

As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post’s introduction as an example of how to write an intro. But it contains different components that create an introduction “formula” — you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.

1) Grab the reader’s attention.

There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic (“Don’t you hate it when…?”), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke (“Ha! This is fun. Let’s read more of this.”). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat (“Whoa. That’s crazy. I must know more!”).

For this intro, I went the “empathetic” route.

Intro for intros

Writer’s block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who’s with me?

2) Present the reason for the post’s existence.

Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.

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Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn’t mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It’s your job to validate your post’s importance, and give your audience a reason to keep reading.

3) Explain how the post will help address the problem.

Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it’s time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.

In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don’t want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction. But if I hadn’t clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That’s okay. That’s why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it’s valuable.

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The underlined sentenced is a way of saying, “Keep reading.” We already established that there’s a problem — here’s how I’m going to make it easy for you to solve.

Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketing content — don’t feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you’re just getting started, or if it’s just one of those days when the words aren’t flowing.

But what are some examples of great introductions in the wild? We thought you might ask — which is why we picked out some of our favorites.

5 Introduction Paragraph Examples to Inspire You

1) “Confessions of a Google Spammer,” by Jeff Deutsch

Google Spammer Intro

There are a few reasons why we love this introduction. Immediately, it grabs our attention — how the heck did this guy make fifty grand every month? And just from 10 hours a week?

But unlike some spammy comments that might contain a similar sentiment, he almost immediately serves us something unexpected — he tells us not to do that.

Then, he states the true purpose of the blog — to explain why we should “never, never ever follow in [his] footsteps.” In just three sentences, this introduction has captivated us and validated the story’s existence with a looming life lesson. The takeaway? Keep it short, but powerful.

2) “Announcing the public preview of Azure Advisor,” by Shankar Sivadasan

Azure Advisor Intro

Here’s a great example of an introduction that presents a problem and a solution to it. Sure, it’s easy to build apps on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform — but maybe you had some issues with its setup. Well, wouldn’t you know? Azure Advisor is here to address those challenges, and you can preview it for free.

But wait — there’s more. The introduction not only immediately presents a problem and a solution, but it concisely summarizes just how this product provides a fix. And, it explains why the text will be helpful, with the sentence, “In this blog post, we will do a quick tour of Azure Advisor and discuss how it can help optimize your Azure resources.”

That’s a best practice for brands that have made a mistake — even a small one. Technology is great, but it can come with bugs. That’s where an intro like this one can be so helpful. It acknowledges the problem, states what the brand has done to address it, and alerts the reader to continue to learn how that solution will work.

3) “Taste the Season at Sushi Sora,” by Chris Dwyer

Sushi Sora intro

Strong introductions aren’t just important for blogs — they’re essentially to quality editorial pieces, too. That’s why we love this introduction to an article from Destination MO, the Mandarin Oriental’s official online magazine.

Remember that thing we said about a captivating start? In addition to being empathetic or funny, visuals can be huge — not just an actual picture or video, but words that actually help the reader envision what you’re describing. This introduction does just that, with expressive phrases like, “the magical silhouette of Mount Fuji on the horizon.” Well, yeah. That does sound magical. But where can I go for such a view? None other than the “Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo,” the author tells me, especially “from the sushi counter at Sushi Sora.”

Here’s the thing about this intro — it gives the reader something to aspire to. We’ve briefly discussed aspirational marketing before, but this instance is one where it can be used in a brief introduction. After reading this first paragraph, I want to go to Tokyo. And when I’m there, I want to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. Then, I want to take in the views from its high-end sushi restaurant.

With just two sentences, I’ve gone from reading an article with my morning coffee, to fantasizing about a thousand-dollar vacation. So whenever possible, use your introduction to paint a picture, and to help your reader dream.

4) “The Secret Club of Admitting You Suck,” by Janessa Lantz

admitting you suck intro

Let’s read through this introduction from ReadThink together.

I know. I know! I once moved very far away to escape my own failure, too! But I couldn’t admit at the time that I sucked, either! Wow. Janessa Lantz really gets me.

See that? That, right there, is a resounding example of how empathy makes a profound introduction. But how did the story end? Did they buy the house? Did she admit that she sucked? Does she still suck? (Spoiler alert: I work with Janessa and can say, with great confidence, that she is far from sucking.)

The point is, I wanted to keep reading for two reasons — first, I related to the author. Second, it was just plain interesting, and it left me with a cliffhanger. It’s okay to tease your readers. Just make sure you ultimately give them what they’re seeking.

5) “Be a responsible tourist: a PSA from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” by Out of the Blue

responsible tourist intro

I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for a good travel blog, which is why JetBlue’s official blog appeals to me. But at the same time, I also geek out for almost anything that promotes sustainability. In this piece, those worlds collide.

What makes this introduction work? Honestly, it’s scary. “Decline” and “extinction” are strong words, and absolutely present a problem. But research shows that we’re actually more inclined to keep reading bad news — in fact, a few years ago, our media consumption habits suggested that we prefer it.

But it’s not all bad — and JetBlue quickly turns around a potentially devastating situation with the language of this introduction. And, it includes the reader, by inviting travelers to be part of the solution, but joining the brand in its promotion of responsible tourism.

That’s another formula for presenting bad news to your audience, especially if you’re not the one causing it and you have a solution. Scary information + how you’re helping + how the reader can do his or her part = compelling intro.

Let’s Start

Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation.

How do you write a good intro, and what are some of your favorite examples? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to writing well

 
free guide to writing well

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-write-introduction-quick-tip-ht

How to Turn a Bad Day Around [Infographic]

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“I had a bad day.”

How often do you find yourself saying that? Once? Twice? Several times throughout the day?

If it’s more than once each week, you’ve got company — 29% of people say that they have at least two bad days at work every week

Well, shoot. That’s not good. I mean, I can understand having a “bad day” after you’ve spilled coffee all over your new jeans, or got a wicked papercut. But that same study says that these bad days go beyond little accidents — they’re caused by factors like negative co-workers, a lack of recognition, or generally poor work-life balance.

This stuff has got to stop.

But what is a person to do? It turns out, it’s possible to turn around a bad day — and, some might say, kind of easy with the right kind of approach. And luckily, the folks at Headway Capital put together this nifty infographic that shows you all the ways to do just that. So go ahead — turn that frown upside down. Today doesn’t have to be bad.


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free productivity tips

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-reverse-a-bad-day

Traveling Teddy Bears, Reckless Cats, and Lots of Butter: 10 of the Best Ads from November

The days are getting shorter, the air is getting colder, and the airwaves are awash with holiday spirit (and sales!). 

This month’s ad roundup includes some top picks from the first wave of holiday ads, but there were also plenty of non-holiday gems for those of us that would prefer to keep the pine trees and snowflakes at bay for another few weeks. Subscribe to HubSpot's Agency newsletter today.

Read on to get the scoop on the most sentimental, adorable, and unexpectedly funny ad campaigns from the past month.

1) Temptations

In this clever ad for a brand of cat treats, agency adam&eveDDB created the perfect holiday wonderland — complete with sparkling trees, a Christmas roast, and even an electric train set. Then they invited 22 cats to rip it all to shreds in spectacular fashion.

“The internet is full of cats being cute and fluffy, but in reality cats are incredibly mischievous,” client marketing director Denise Truelove said to AdWeek. “That tension led to something quite fun in this Temptations holiday video and campaign.”

Unsurprisingly, the cat actors weren’t super easy to work with. It took three weeks for handlers to train the feline hoard for their dramatic entrance and exit, and three days to collect shots of them gleefully destroying the set. 

2) Georgetown Optician

In this bizarre but undeniably charming spot for eyewear retailer Georgetown Optician, a family of oddball opticians (inspired by the company’s real founding family) visit their formidable matriarch, Grandma Ida, at her lavish Gothic residence.

When the family’s heirloom pair of glasses suddenly goes missing, a fantastic whodunnit ensues, complete with a pack of evidence-sniffing hounds and plenty of surreptitious sideways glances from the quirky cast.

The meticulously designed ad was produced by DC-based agency Design Army, whose nearly obsessive attention to detail pays off. The Wes Anderson-style characters, wacky, well-paced plot, and wonderfully exaggerated narration combine to create one of the most delightfully unique ads we’ve seen in a while.

3) Organic Valley

This ad from the folks at Tennessee-based agency Humanaut combines two great things: deadpan humor and butter.

When a June 2014 cover of TIME Magazine declared “Eat Butter,” the farmers at Organic Valley rejoiced — their time to shine had finally come. This cheeky spot chronicles the end of the “war on butter,” interviewing farmers about how they’ve cultivated better organic butter over the years when consumers shunned the “rich, creamy semi-solid gold.”

Organic Valley and Humanaut are no strangers to producing quick-witted campaigns. Back in May 2016, the pair parodied artisanal coffee shops by selling $2 shots of half-and-half coffee creamer. The stunt was number eight on our list of creative branded pop-up shops.

4) Les Sauveteurs en Mer (National Maritime Rescue Organization)

Have you ever heard the folktales about beautiful mermaids luring unsuspecting sailors to their death? This animated ad for France’s National Maritime Rescue Organization offers an imaginative spin on the classic legend, inviting us into the mind of a lovesick mermaid. When she spots a drowning sailor, her mind runs wild. 

As the mermaid imagines the perfect life she’ll share with the sailor, she leaves out one crucial detail: He can’t breathe underwater. Luckily for the sailor, he’s wearing a life jacket.

French agency Publicis Conseil worked with a team of graphic designers and 3D animators to create the mermaid’s whimsical underwater world.

5) Ketel One

Agency Barton F. Graf is known for their endearingly unusual campaigns, and their latest spot for Ketel One Vodka is no exception.

In their quest for absolute perfection, the Vodka connoisseurs at Ketel One have a complicated, multi-step approval process in place. It starts with a signature from a member of the distillery’s founding family, and ends with an identity theft expert interrogating the company’s real-life chairman, Carl Nolet Sr.

6) Heathrow Airport

If you’re in need of some warm and fuzzy feelings this holiday season, look no further than this pair of traveling teddy bears. Havas London produced this Heathrow Airport ad, which follows a couple of elderly teddies as they traverse the terminals of the massive British airport, from landing to baggage claim.

When the bears finally meet their family at the arrivals area, they’re magically transformed into real human grandparents. The biggest miracle though is making a journey through the airport look like a whimsical adventure.

7) John Lewis

A roundup of November’s best ads wouldn’t be complete without a much-deserved shoutout to John Lewis. The UK department store just dropped their much-anticipated follow-up to the Cannes Lion-winning “Monty’s Christmas,” and it’s already gained over 17 million views on YouTube since its release on November 9th.

Produced by adam&eveDDB, the ad begins with a dad setting up a trampoline on Christmas Eve for his daughter. After he retires for the evening, a curious parade of suburban critters discover the trampoline, and proceed to have the time of their lives. The only one left out of the fun is the family dog, but — as you’ll see in the spot — he eventually gets his chance join in on the fun. 

8) Poo-Pourri

If you don’t appreciate a good poop joke, stop reading now. Toilet deodorizing company Poo-Pourri released an extended ad that chronicles the evolution of bathroom decorum, lamenting the pungent unpleasantries our ancestors must have endured without Poo-Pourri to mask the smell of, ehem, “Zeus’ thunder.”

Poo-Pourri’s in-house marketing team created the ad as part of their ongoing campaign featuring Scottish actress Bethany Woodruff. If nothing else, the ad gets major points for coming up with some creative euphemisms for going number two. Our middle school selves are very impressed.

9) Alibaba

To remind consumers that they sell thousands of popular brands online, retail giant Alibaba worked with FRED & FARID Shanghai to cram 21 famous slogans into a single ad.

It would be a stretch to say the end result has any narrative, but their use of so many taglines to construct a form of super-ad is inventive and fun to watch. AgencySpy wrote up a transcript of each slogan if you have trouble catching them all in the ad.

10) Lexus

Kids get to ask Santa Claus for presents every year — but where does that leave parents? This ad promoting Lexus’ December sales event finds two mischievous parents cheating the system by forging a note to Santa in their young son’s handwriting. Anxiously scrawling the note out in crayon, they ask Mr. Claus for — what else? — a brand new Lexus.

Produced by agency Team One, the piece is part of a light-hearted series depicting parents asking Santa for Lexus.

Want to see more great ads? Check out 10 of the best ads from October here. If you’ve seen any great ads lately, let us know in the comments or tweet us at @HubSpotAgencies.

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from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/november-ad-roundup