Anita Brightman

Often in life, we spend so much time working on the next project we forget to stop and take stock of our achievements. A 20th anniversary seems a good time to take pause and reflect. As I look around me, I see the walls of my Bel Air office and the hallways of the building covered in the national, regional and local awards we’ve won at A. Bright Idea. More important to me, however, remains the continued trust clients freely offer us to help them continue to succeed. I take pride in the achievements of A. Bright Idea over the past 20 years and the bright future ahead. I started alone.

In August 1996, I began A. Bright Idea with the simple desire to use my talents creatively and to their fullest potential. I decided to leave the corporate world behind and create my own business. It was not the safe choice with a newborn daughter, an uncertain economic situation and no prior experience as an entrepreneur.

With confidence in my abilities and a desire to approach things differently than in the corporate world, I flipped their contracting business model. Instead of hiring people to meet contract requirements only to eliminate positions when contracts ended, I decided to build a talented team and find multiple clients we could support.

During this journey, several key people played a role in building our success. My thankfulness to them remains everlasting. Here are just a few who helped along the way:

  • TJ, my husband, for planting the seed of starting my own business and always serving as my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He brought considerable marketing and management experience (as well as his best friend, Chad Mitchell, as our CFO) when they joined the team a decade ago.
  • Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, for hiring me out of college, exposing me to the Public Relations Society of America, and the government contracting arena and the PageMaker design software.
  • Dan Simmons, owner of Continental Search and Outplacement Inc., trusted me to help his business, and as I know from personal experience, a business represents more than just where we work – it represents our dreams and our time. Twenty years later, I still appreciate the trust and advice he bestowed.
  • The late Miguel “Mickey” Morales, then the public affairs officer for the former Soldier Biological Chemical Defense Command, pushed me to apply for the federal 8(a) certification program. I listened and was accepted into the business development program in 2006 and graduated last year.
  • John O’Brien and Jacob Cheiffo from the Office of Small Business Programs at Aberdeen Proving Ground for helping us get in front of government clients and demonstrate our capabilities.
  • Rosita Carosella, small business program associate director for the Defense Logistics Agency, for supporting us in the transition from a subcontractor to a prime contractor, which helped propel us in the right direction at the right time to allow us to grow at a sustainable rate.

This list above doesn’t even begin to capture the level of support I’ve received throughout the years from numerous professionals, clients, partners and friends.

The spark that began in my spare-bedroom-turned-office now serves as a beacon to draw others eager to perform to their fullest potential as creative verbal and visual communicators.

Nearly 40 people – Bright Lights as we call them – make up the A. Bright Idea team today. A. Bright Idea operates with team members in three states and maintains offices on the East and West Coast. I take pride in creating a space where they can do good work and find creative solutions for our clients. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” As we mark the 20th anniversary milestone of A. Bright Idea, our team uplifts each other and uplifts me. We work closely together, taking advantage of the diversity of our talents and experience to push our work to the next level. We’re supportive. We provide assistance to our clients and to each other, offering help, guidance and advice in areas critical to their success. We’re proactive. We take risks and look for opportunities to support the end goal, solving problems and building creative solutions without fear.

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I look forward to the next 20 years with the same excitement and desire as I did that August morning in 1996 when the future lay brightly before me.

 

Shawn Nesaw

Last month Instagram began offering users the option of switching to a business profile. Doing so provides profiles access to Instagram’s much-anticipated analytics features. Called Insights, these provide a slew of demographic data about followers, and the overall impressions and reach of posts. It’s a great opportunity for businesses to finally wrap their heads around how their Instagram content is performing and the ways they could potentially improve that performance.

We’ve long known that Instagram provides significantly higher engagement rates than other social media platforms. For instance, an analysis of the accounts of the top 50 global brands conducted by Forrester Research in 2015 showed that Instagram delivers over 10 times the engagement of Facebook and over 80 times that of Twitter. Up until now, however, determining who is engaging with our content, when they are most likely to engage with it and what types of content are most appealing to them was difficult. Insights can now answer all those questions for us or, at the very least, go a long way toward helping us figure out the answers ourselves.

Instagram Insights
Here’s a peek at Insights

For starters, Insights will give you graphs breaking down your followers by age, gender and location, the latter of which is a big help in figuring out what time zone you should be basing your posting schedule on. Even more helpful in this respect, however, are graphs that show when your followers are most active, broken down both by day of the week and hour of the day. Now, for instance, you can see your followers are most active on Tuesdays and Thursdays and between the hours of 1-3 p.m.

Insights also provides a selection of your top performing posts, ranked either by reach or engagement. What is particularly useful about this information is the way it’s presented, not in list form, but as a gallery. Presented in this way, it becomes much easier to tease out the common factors contributing to the high performing posts’ success. You might notice all your top posts are images of people. Or maybe you notice they all contain bright blues and greens. Now you can take action and start developing your content so your posts feature more people or specific colors or other characteristics you notice are driving reach and engagement.

Switching to a business profile is easy and can be accomplished from your phone in just a few minutes. Your posts aren’t lost in the process (you’re not starting a new account) and, in fact, you get an additional benefit beyond access to Insights – your business profile will contain a “contact” button that allows followers to easily connect with you via phone or email and even get map directions to your place of business. For brick and mortar businesses, such as restaurants or retail stores, this could certainly help drive sales.

So, while Insights does contain a few odd flaws – for instance, the reach and engagement graphs lack hard numbers, providing only relative data – the benefits are too significant to ignore. Any business wishing to truly maximize their Instagram efforts should definitely make the switch to a business profile. And if, for some reason you decide you don’t like the business profile, switching back is as easy as the initial switch.

A. Bright Idea specializes in strategic social media planning to ensure our clients brand and key messages stay top of mind for their audiences. If your business needs help transferring Insights data into meaningful, strategic next steps, A. Bright Idea is always here to help.

If you have something to add to this story, share it in the comment section below!

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Seth covers technology, social media, and strategic communication. Seth is a collaborative strategic communications professional with a breadth of experience in journalism, government affairs, public relations and event planning, Seth manages client communication projects for A. Bright Idea’s West Coast office

Tweet at Seth:  @SethDonlin

Shawn Nesaw

2 min read

By Ben Ford

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On a hot summer morning in late July, at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the generals inspected the assembled troops, standing in formation.

A distant siren faded. Except for the buzz of insects and jets high overhead, silence had fallen over Blue and Gray Field where the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s (USAMRMC) Change of Command ceremony took place.

The ceremony had reached a stage rife with tradition and symbolism. Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Rogers presented the command’s colors to outgoing commander Maj. Gen. Brian C. Lein. With a deliberate turn, Lein passed the colors to his superior Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, the U.S. Army Surgeon General, who held it firmly in her hands. With precision, she turned and gave the colors to Maj. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb, who took it firmly with her hands. Holcomb turned on her heel and passed the colors back to Rogers.28704086895_8b8214aeb9_z

The ceremony marked the start of a new commander while it paid homage to the continuity of the command. As the generals marched in line back to the reviewing stand, a slight smile of pride crossed Holcomb’s face as she passed her family and friends. The USAMRMC is a command filled with dedicated military and civilian researchers who strive to carry out the mission priorities of “Protect, Project, Sustain.” From researching new battlefield medical techniques and equipment to fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, USAMRMC is at the forefront of providing medical care to those who serve the Nation and the world.

Holcomb, Lein, West and the Soldiers who passed in review take great pride, and rightly so, in their work for USAMRMC. As an agency that provides contract support to the organization, A. Bright Idea assists the command’s public affairs office in a variety of ways, offering writing support for technical articles and speeches, as well as photography support and graphic design.

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While ABI’s purple flag did not fly at the ceremony, our ‘Bright Lights” always feel a sense of pride knowing we provide assistance to those carrying out such important, lifesaving missions for the people of our country and around the world.

 

If you have something to add to this story, share it in the comment section below!

 

Photos by Crystal Maynard, USAMRMC Public Affairs

 

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Ben Ford writes for A. Bright Idea covering government and healthcare industries. He began his career in journalism working as a writer and later editor of several news publications. He has won numerous awards for his writing from the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association.

Twitter_Logo_White_On_Blue @Ben_abrightidea

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Bach

The light bulb. It’s synonymous with creativity, ideas and innovation. If you haven’t noticed, we are infatuated with these inspirational glass orbs of light. Each employee has an original, personalized light bulb icon. In fact, when a new “light” joins the team their first assignment is to determine what their light bulb will represent about them. It’s a process that demonstrates our approach at A. Bright Idea — a true, first collaboration with other members of the team.

When creating these icons, the challenge is figuring out how to communicate someone’s interest or expertise within the limitations of a light bulb.  As with any logo or icon project, the goal is to create a clear, simple and recognizable graphic reproducible at any size.

The process starts with concept sketching. Whether it is on a Wacom tablet or hand drawn in a notebook, sketching allows us to toss around a lot of ideas to see what sticks. Oftentimes eliminating what doesn’t work, ends up contributing to the discovery of a successful concept. After the team has discussed and decided on an option, it’s time to take the concept digital.

Sketch book

We begin by importing the sketched image into Adobe Illustrator; this serves as reference for the final icon. Next we roughly trace the hand drawn image with the pen tool, allowing us to have a rough editable form to refine. Once the rough form is captured, we refine the illustration by creating/manipulating editable line paths, followed by applying separate layers of color for shading and highlights. Keeping the lines editable and layers labeled, keeps us organized and makes changes efficient. Since all of A. Bright Idea’s icons are one color, we must rely on applying tints in order to create a sense of dimension.  After the working vector icons are reviewed and approved, it’s time to prep and export the files for use in print and multimedia applications.

We hope you enjoyed this spotlight on our team light bulb icons! Take a look at these lightbulbs and try to guess who’s is who’s.

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BEHIND THE SCENES: The Light Bulb Icon

Katie MacNichol

Whether you are a small business, nonprofit or large entity, developing a creative campaign can be a challenge. You may be thinking: How can I stand out among the competition? How can I make sure my brand is represented well? Will the campaign effectively support my goals? How can I get my audience to respond? What do I want them to know about my business?

Let us break down the elements that go into making a strong, strategic and measurable communication campaign.

Based on the Dragonfly Model, we categorize campaign elements into four sections:

  1. Focus
  2. Grab attention
  3. Engage
  4. Take action

When you consider all four pieces (or wings) of the model, your campaign will come together to work at peak efficiency and remain rooted in meeting your end goal. Like when a dragonfly flies – it needs all four wings to work in tandem in order to get where it aims to go.

To start, we focus your campaign on a single concrete, measurable goal. This will ensure tools and tactics implemented through the campaign remain grounded and focused on one thing. So – what do you want to accomplish?

Next, we grab the attention of your audience. To do this, we make sure to incorporate a personal and visual call-to-action to engage your audience and make them focus on your brand.

Take Whirlpool for example. The brand’s most recent advertising campaign organically grabs the attention of their target audience by making a personal appeal, visually.

(PS – If you’re not on the verge of happy tears right now, you should be.)

Now, time to engage. When planning tools and tactics to most effectively engage your audience, empathy toward your audience helps to increase engagement – so long, of course, as the empathetic message doesn’t appear forced. (Faking empathy can make your audience feel betrayed, so, if you’re going to use empathy as an engagement tactic, always make sure to come by it naturally!)

And finally, it’s time to take action. One of the best tips for getting your audience to take action – less is more. Keep your messaging obvious but clever, telling your audience exactly how, when and why to take action toward what you want them to do. Make it easy for them!

When you’re ready to embark on your next creative campaign, A. Bright Idea is ready to help you fly to new heights!

Shawn Nesaw

Business owners are increasingly looking to the Internet for spreading brand awareness, boosting sales and optimizing performance. As a business owner, you’ve likely explored many different digital marketing approaches including social media, online advertising and email newsletters.

But what about SEO?

For many businesses, and especially small businesses with limited resources, the idea of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often a completely foreign one, one requiring time that doesn’t exist. Ignoring this key component, however, could cost you a large percentage of web traffic and a lacking digital presence against competitors.

Traffic drives a website.

So, how do searches work?

Considering all the options available to us via the Internet, it’s no wonder most turn to a search engine to help find reliable information most applicable to the question at hand. And while it might seem like those instantaneous search engine results appear through some magical process, it’s really algorithms, or long mathematical formulas, that dictate what information displays. So when you press the “search” button in your search engine of choice, that engine then filters a mammoth amount of material and presents it to you based on quality and popularity of content.

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So, how do you make your website relevant in filtered search results?

Basically – you have to make the search engines see your value and specifically what value you give to viewers. This relevancy and value depends largely on your website’s content and the effective use of keyword phrases. That means make sure your website’s functionality runs smoothly, using compelling content, and a backend with descriptive meta-tags, or content descriptors that accurately portray your products or services. And don’t forget to make sure your site considers “mobile first” – meaning, the design responds and adapts to the size of the viewers screen. Believe it or not, search engines give higher relevance to sites that integrate these elements into their site. See, it pays off!

Another tip – shared links will boost your popularity, and popularity is a key factor considered by search engines. Make sure your website has a clear message and that it’s geared towards helping visitors answer their questions. In turn, consumers will start sharing your website’s content. Establishing trust and consistency in your online business practices will lead to more shares and more website traction. As the site gains traction, it’ll begin to rank higher in a list of search results. Think of it as the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising.

Put website visitors first.

A well polished website cognizant of its purpose is sure to get on a search engine’s radar. Why? Because, when you put website visitors first, you’re proving your value and to search engines that’s bound to naturally increase your SEO. If you think about it, SEO isn’t much different from any other effort to improve user/audience experience. Keep your website up-to-date, consistent with branding, and teeming with well-written linkable material, and SEO will become an organic digital way to enhance your business.

With a continual focus of adding top talent to our award-winning team, A. Bright Idea is excited to announce the addition and promotion of our new team members to support the creative communication needs of our clients.

 

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Top from left: Kevin Hess, Crystal Maynard, Robyn Hicks; Center from left: Brian Lobsinger, Luz Esmeralda Mahecha Martínez; Bottom from left: Bridget Goldsmith, Mina Ta

 

Mina Ta

A. Bright Idea Advertising & PR is pleased to announce the promotion of Mina Ta to a senior creative position. Mina, who joined A. Bright Idea in November 2013, demonstrated strength and leadership in providing on-site creative support for an Arlington, Virginia-based government client.

 

Bridget Goldsmith

Bridget joins A. Bright Idea Advertising & PR as part of a team of graphic designers supporting a government client in Arlington, Virginia. Bridget held previous positions as a contractor for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the NAVSEA Ship Building Program at the U.S. Navy Yard. Prior to joining A. Bright Idea, Bridget worked as a graphic designer for the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs at the U.S. Pentagon where she developed the overall branding for the nation’s highest medal for valor, the United States Army Medal of Honor.

 

Brian Lobsinger, Senior Designer/Multimedia Specialist

A. Bright Idea Advertising & PR welcomed Brian Lobsinger to the Graphic Design team, as senior designer and multimedia manager. Brian is charged with managing design and web projects in both the Sonoma, California and Bel Air, Maryland offices. Prior to A. Bright Idea, Brian ran his own design firm, and most recently was the senior web developer at Flannel, Inc.

  

Crystal Maynard, Communications Specialist

Crystal Maynard joins A. Bright Idea’s Government Services Division, offering on-site support for a government client in managing a variety of communication and public affairs projects. Crystal offers extensive communications experience, previously serving as a public affairs specialist to U.S. Army clients, providing strategic planning, media relations, event planning and public relations support.

 

Luz Esmeralda Mahecha Martínez, Bilingual Communications Specialist

Luz joins A. Bright Idea Advertising & PR in the Government Services Division, providing on-site communications and translation support for the Public Information office of an existing government client. Prior to joining A. Bright Idea, Luz worked with the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Miami Dade College School of Continuing Education and Professional Development.

 

Kevin Hess, Communications Event Specialist

Kevin Hess joined A. Bright Idea Advertising & PR to support marketing and event coordination efforts for the firm’s government and commercial clients. Kevin joins this award-winning team offering event planning and management experience from the Sports Information Office at Towson University.

 

Robyn Hicks, Junior Graphic Design Specialist

Robyn Hicks recently joined award-winning Graphic Design team at A. Bright Idea Advertising & PR. Robyn, a Towson University graduate with a degree in digital fine arts and design, previously worked with the Harford County Boys and Girls Club as a graphic designer.

 

Katie MacNichol

By: Katie MacNichol, Assistant Director of Advertising & PR

Considering how brands can most effectively and efficiently engage customers, the recent webinar hosted by Social Media Today – Moving from Screen to Device and Back Again: The Omni-Channel Experience – focused on an omni-channel communication campaign approach versus one with a multi-channel concentration.

First, what does omni-channel mean and how does it differ from multi-channel?

  • Omni-channel – a well executed implementation of communication that provides a continuity of experience; how does each medium build on the others to continue the customer’s seamless and optimized experience
  • Multi-channel – communicating the same message across many different mediums with no particular focus on seamlessness

Ultimately, omni-channel focuses on the continuation of experience, whereas multi-channel focuses on frequency without necessarily growing the customer experience with the brand.

Within the webinar, Social Media Today highlighted five important steps for transitioning from a multi-channel approach to an omni-channel one, including:

  • Consider the customer journey
  • Identify the contributing elements
  • Identify the friction points
  • Identify the enablers (ones that can help to remove friction points)
  • Perform and audit capabilities (then fill in the gaps of the customer journey)

As strategic professionals, we use these steps at A. Bright Idea to better build plans that break silos and avoid segmenting a customer’s journey. This focus ensures all messaging, tools and tactics focus on the brand story and build webs, not funnels.

For example, when communicating to an audience segment a campaign should build a web of options for individuals to select how they want to learn about and/or engage with the brand. This provides the audience with choices, rather than a funnel approach, which only gives one hub and limits the audience’s options for engagement.

Most importantly in addition to these considerations, as with any communication campaign, research remains an important initial step, while also always keeping in mind the end-user and segmenting audiences in order to develop strategy that focuses on unique needs. Considering segments and pulling from research adds to the idea of “social care” – connecting with each audience segment where they already are (i.e. Twitter or Facebook versus a traditional call center).

Each of these elements come together to ensure an omni-channel approach to communicating a brand message to audiences remains most effective and efficient in creating an ever-growing experience, versus one that doesn’t expand past the initial engagement or provide anything of additional value to the customer.

At A. Bright Idea, social media trends, statistics, best practices and innovative ideas are part of our daily operations, and staying on top of these industry changes prove crucial for our clients’ impact across multiple social media platforms. Social media serves as a free networking and outreach tool to build awareness and rapport with an audience. Businesses can build interest in their brands by posting relevant industry articles, news, events, photos, products and more – but how do you stay relevant and compete in this growing competitive environment? Social media offers the ability for businesses to segment and specifically target audiences with offers or messaging based on user profiles. If used strategically, social media provides the opportunity to elevate awareness, generate and sustain loyalty and reach new audiences.

Here are some quick, recent facts about social media:

  • 72% of all internet users are now active on social media
  • 89% of 18-29 year olds use social media
  • On average, Americans spend 16 minutes per hour on social media
  • 71% of users access social media from a mobile device
  • One million websites are accessed using the “Login with Facebook”
  • 23% of Facebook users login at least 5 times per day
  • 47% of Americans say Facebook is their #1 influencer of purchases

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With not only more social media platforms than ever, each social media outlet is changing every day, from the way you can advertise, to the layout of your brand’s page, to the best tips for engaging your audience. Keeping your social media active and fresh requires your due diligence, so here are some tips to engage your audience across many social platforms:

  • Photos, photos, photos.
    • Studies show posts get 85% higher engagement on Facebook and 35% more retweets.
  • Utilize Facebook advertising, but target your audience, even just a little goes a long way
  • Engage with other profiles and users, comment/reply to posts
  • Ask questions, offer facts/tips and utilize contests or giveaways
  • Repurpose content across platforms and website
  • Show a brand personality
  • Utilize your analytics data to capture audiences, posting times and more

A. Bright Idea’s expertise in social media continues to engage audiences for our clients, either through social media strategies implemented by our clients, or allowing A. Bright Idea to implement a strategy for you.
Email info@abrightideaonline.com or call 410-836-7180 | 707-935-1377 for questions.