Mental health awareness at work: How to start the conversation

Stigma: a mark of shame or discredit  (Source: Merriam-Webster)

Mental Illness: a health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Often associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities (Source: American Psychiatry Association)

Mental Health: a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his/her/[their] own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his/her/[their] community. (Source: WHO

How do these three ideas work together instead of against each other? 

The truth is: they don’t. 

We need to do better to remove the stigma from mental illness and focus more on mental health as a whole. Mental health is not simply the absence of illness, and mental illness is not the absence of mental health. However, we need to focus more on health, diagnosing illness, and finding ways to manage all without the stigma attached. 

How can we accomplish this? 

It starts with yourself and in the various avenues of your life: at home, at work, with your family, friends, with your community… the list goes on. Mental health is woven throughout your life and the truth is – it’s never a perfect balance. 

A person can only find their own ways to continue to be self-aware and open to what is going on in their mental state. Mental health is not an absence of mental illness; it’s how we take care of ourselves. Just like you would take care of your diet, or your heart, or make sure you’re getting enough exercise – the same goes for your mental health. 

We recognize mental health and wellness as an ongoing opportunity to encourage employees to be in tune with their mental state, so they can bring their best self to work each and every day. From paid sick and safety time that can be used for mental health, to wellness chats and employee champions that are there to listen, Brainlabs is inclusive and open to keeping its employees healthy beyond their physicality and into their mental space. 

This May, we participated in normalizing Mental Health Awareness with initiatives such as:

  • Weekly wellness chats for a “brain break” on topics including:
    • Identifying stressors and how to cope
    • Music and Mental health, where we discussed the power of music and created a playlist in real time 
    • Mental Well-Being Care 
  • Live yoga sessions
  • Team-sourced ‘Calming Cues’: words to calm and recenter 
  • Spring Day: No-meeting days to take some time outside and enjoy being tech-free 
  • A water challenge to encourage good hydration habits 
  • A walking challenge and fundraiser for the Mental Health Foundation
  • Encouraging Brainlabbers to develop #Tools2Thrive to support their mental health on an ongoing basis
  • A space for Brainlabbers to share their own mental health stories to break the stigma around these types of conversations in the workplace. 

Employers must focus on each employee as a whole – their most authentic and true selves. This includes their mental health, physical health, work style… all the little things that make every employee truly unique. Tackling mental health stigma looks different for everyone, but we all have one central goal: to take care of ourselves and each other. 

One week or one month of mental health awareness isn’t enough. 

How are we able to break the stigma in the workplace, and globally for that matter? 

Mental health and mental illness should not be a big red splotch that you wear and try to cover up. We are all responsible for how we talk about mental health and mental illness in our personal lives, in the workplace, in our community and in the world. This is not a conversation that expires at the end of a month, or at the end of a week, or even a day. It’s a constant conversation and journey that we are all on individually and collectively. 

Be vulnerable and open. 

Even in writing this post, I struggle with being open and vulnerable about my own mental health. It’s easy to write passionately around actionable items regarding mental health and wellness as a whole, but it really makes you key in on introspection and reflection.

Be vulnerable with me and assess your own mental health and meet yourself where you are. No judgement, no stigma, be real.

So, where can we start as individuals?

Ask yourself, in no particular order:

  1. How am I feeling today? A loaded question, I know!
  2. What is making me happy at this moment? 
  3. What am I looking forward to? 
  4. How have I been sleeping? 
  5. What am I grateful for? (Morning Gratitude video for some inspo!)

Spending a little time on your mental health daily is just like taking a quick jog, or doing a cardio workout. It’s a work-out for your mental health and to see how you are at the moment, where you were in the previous time and where you are hoping to be. 

One step at a time, we can each be kinder to ourselves and help normalize mental health awareness in the workplace.

Mental health matters. Take a moment. Take a breath. Be gentle with yourself. You’re worth it. 

For more information about mental health, here are some great resources: 

  • Mental Health America: crisis resources, discussion communities, and tips for mental health habits  
  • Right Direction: resources to identify and manage depression for yourself and your loved ones
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness): learn more about mental illness, signs and symptoms, help to find treatment
  • 7Cups: feeling alone and need a chat? Connect with a trained listener who can offer an ear. 

The post Mental health awareness at work: How to start the conversation appeared first on Brainlabs.

from Marketing

A paid media expert’s perspective on dealing with depression

For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I want to open up the conversation around mental health in our industry and share my experience with depression because it’s such a common experience that people should feel more comfortable talking about openly. 

More importantly, I want to share the things I learned from my own experience, and give some advice on how to recognize and overcome depression. After all, the best thing we can do with a negative experience like depression is to learn as much as possible from it, and try to turn it into something positive.

Content warning: mention of suicidal ideation

My experience with depression

My battle with depression started during my last semester of college where I was obtaining my degree in Marketing Analytics. There were some key things that happened which lead up to it. The main factor being that I took an extra semester to graduate as I had changed my major – a few times! Because of this, all of my close friends had graduated and moved away, leaving me relatively isolated for that term. 

I was also deeply involved with a student organization, holding multiple leadership positions throughout my time at school, the terms of which happened to end before going into my last semester, leaving me without my usual sense of purpose. 

Both of these things caused me to have a less structured social life, and it also meant I wasn’t active with intramural sports and basically stopped exercising altogether. These are the conditions that set me up for the hardest year of my life. Not to mention the pressure of looking for a job after graduation after watching all of my friends land great roles at well-known companies.

Over the course of the next 6 months, I started to completely isolate myself. I frequently cancelled plans with the remaining friends I had. I skipped class most days, and dreaded going to work. All I wanted to do was stay at home and sleep, watch TV, or play video games. I was hardly eating (I had lost 40 pounds by that time), I had lost a lot of my self-confidence, and my motivation was non-existent. The search for a job after college wasn’t going well. I graduated, and it took me another 4 months to land a job. I took a front desk job at a hotel in Austin, which wasn’t what I had planned to do with my marketing analytics degree. At that point I still wasn’t fully aware of my deteriorating mental health, and kept pushing forward.

I was working long hours, 6 days a week, and living in a tiny studio apartment with my dog. I was stressed and anxious, still wasn’t eating much, and absolutely hated going to work everyday. I remember feeling so trapped in that apartment, not knowing many people in a new city, and the overwhelming feeling of wanting to just give up. At that point I realized something was wrong, I was not okay.

I quit my job, and I remember sitting in my apartment, weighing my options. I was deciding between calling my parents and telling them that I wasn’t okay and that I needed help, or suicide. It’s hard to describe how I felt at my absolute lowest point, but I remember just wanting everything to stop, I didn’t want to continue on with life. I felt like a failure, and I didn’t think I had any value to add to the world. 

Fortunately, I ended up making the right choice, and I called my parents and told them everything. This was the turning point for me.

I moved back home the next day and over the course of the next 8 months I started to work on my mental health. I went to therapy, began taking antidepressants, and went back to exercising regularly. I was surrounded by a great support network and slowly started to get back to feeling like myself. I started my job search up again and eventually landed my role with Brainlabs! Through that recovery process I learned a ton about myself, and actually developed an appreciation for the experience I had gone through.

What I learned about myself from depression

At the time, I hated the fact that I was depressed. I had an idea of what my life after school would be and it was frustrating for that to be completely disrupted. I didn’t like who I was at that point in my life. I wasn’t motivated, I struggled to feel any emotions, and I had lost all of my confidence. 

But, surprisingly, I’ve actually come to appreciate it. It helped me realize the things that are important to me, the things that make me who I am. It reminded me that I need to reach out to friends and family more often. Most of all, it made me a stronger person, mentally and emotionally.The knowledge I gained from my experience has made the pandemic easier to handle for me. I’ve definitely struggled this year, but at this point I know myself, I know the signs to look for, and I know the things I need to change in my life to make sure I’m mentally and emotionally well.

Therapy was a great tool for helping me understand what had led me into a state of depression in the first place, and it gave me an understanding of what I needed to change in order to get back to feeling like myself.

My therapist and I dissected what led up to my depression, and we ended up highlighting the things I mentioned before: social life, sense of purpose, and exercise. Those were the big factors in my decline in mental health. I went from having a robust, structured social life to having basically no social life for a time. I went from holding leadership positions in an organization to not being involved with the organization at all, leaving me without my sense of purpose. I went from playing sports and going to the gym multiple times per week to no physical activity at all. These are the things that are important to me, and they’re a few of the key things that make me who I am. 

When they all disappeared fairly quickly, it took a huge toll on my mental health and sent me into a deep depression.

My (unlicensed, amateur) advice for coping with depression

Here are a few tips that have worked for me. Please note, they may not work for you as every experience and set of circumstances is different, but I hope some of them are helpful.

1. Learn your warning signs

It’s not easy to spot the changes in yourself, they tend to be slow and can go under the radar. A big one for me: if regular things start to feel like an absolute burden, then I know I need to change something. For example: I always wash my dishes as soon as I’m finished eating, if I start to want to put something that simple off, then I know something is up. When small, easy things start to feel overwhelming, something isn’t right.

2. Make time for what matters most to you

Understand what’s important to you, and make sure to prioritize those things in your life! It could be your family, your hobbies, your job – anything that’s a key part of who you are. If you notice that you’re ‘defined’ by one thing, maybe your job, then try to add some new things in your life. If your whole definition of self is riding on one thing and that thing disappears, it can be really destructive for your mental health. I think of it almost like diversifying risk in an investment portfolio, having a healthy number of things from which you derive your sense of self can help mitigate the effects of losing one of those things. Of course be mindful not to over-do it and stretch yourself too thin.

3. Lean on your support network

You are not a burden! 

This one was hard for me as a man. We’re taught from a young age to toughen up and face things on our own, asking for help can be seen as a weakness, but it’s absolutely not. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help in whatever way they can. When I told my friends I got 3 types of reactions: 1. Friends shared their experiences with depression with me, and I never would have guessed they had been through that experience. 2. Support, overwhelmingly they offered support and wanted to help. 3. I had some friends who I could tell didn’t know what to say. They clearly hadn’t encountered it before, and I was not someone they expected to go through it. I don’t blame them for not knowing how to react, and this is a big reason why it’s so important to talk about depression more.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise

Exercise is an incredible tool for taking care of your mental health. It doesn’t have to be anything too difficult, just find something that you like to do, there really is something for everyone! For me, it’s walking (I hate running so I don’t force myself to do it) and lifting weights. During the first summer of the pandemic, I was walking over 2 hours a day and it did wonders for my mental health. Don’t be afraid to try things outside of your comfort zone, but definitely don’t force yourself to continually do things you truly dislike.

5. Understand the negative and positive feedback loops in your life

Here’s an example of a negative feedback loop: I get nervous before presentations, so I sound awkward and anxious when giving a presentation. As a result, I feel poorly about my performance, and next time I go to do a presentation I’m even more nervous, so on and so forth. This was eye-opening for me when I realized how much of an impact these things can have. It’s good to try to identify them and find a way to break the cycle for negative feedback loops, or maximize the positive feedback loops you have.

Rebuilding confidence from scratch

That brings me to the last point that I learned a lot about from my experience: confidence. When I started to feel like myself again, things like motivation and feeling more emotions came back to me. But the one thing that didn’t return was confidence. 

This experience made me realize that I had never built up true confidence in myself. Instead, I was ‘living paycheck to paycheck’ as it were – using small confidence boosts from being told I did something well or the occasional compliment to tide me over until the next confidence boost came along. I got by on this for most of my life. This isn’t a sustainable way to build true confidence in yourself, and my depression exposed that. It took a long time to build up some form of true confidence, and it’s something I’m still working on. It comes from trusting in yourself, and knowing that you’ve done all you can do to prepare yourself and be the best version of yourself!

I’ll leave you with some final thoughts. Every person’s experience with their mental health is going to be unique. Prioritizing your mental health is going to cause you to learn a lot about yourself! If you really want to see a change in your life then you have to change something about the way you’re doing things. In this case the cliche holds true: it will get better.

The post A paid media expert’s perspective on dealing with depression appeared first on Brainlabs.

from Marketing

Advertising on the cookieless web: 4 steps to protect your data now

Advertisers, your data is at risk.

From legislative changes like CCPA to technical developments like ITP, the foundations of data that digital marketing has been built on are crumbling. And this momentum is snowballing with more and more changes on the horizon: Apple is now requires opt-in tracking in iOS 14, and Google is following their lead by limiting third-party cookies in Chrome in early 2022 and possibly even cross-app tracking.

Unless businesses act now, marketers soon won’t be able to collect the data they’re used to, which will impact a number of key functions like planning, bidding, selecting and targeting audiences, attribution, and ultimately ROI… 

Luckily, there is still time to prepare. So buckle up, and make the leap into the exciting world of first-party data activation.

You have a year to sort your first-party data strategy out

In order to mitigate loss before it’s too late, you need to decrease your reliance on third-party tracking and invest in your first-party data strategy.

Look at it this way: where in the past, big tech firms like Google and Facebook did the work for marketers by tracking users around the internet, now marketers must do their own first-party data collection with transparency for users.

Chrome limiting cookies next year will be the final nail in the coffin for third-party data, so you need to get ready ASAP.

Before you get overwhelmed by all the literature out there and possible solutions, you need to stop and take stock.

Ask yourself the following question: is your business ready on a structural level and on a technical level? These are the two gaps in internal expertise that are likely holding you back from reaching that ideal state. 

Break the organisational barriers 

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, the biggest obstacle for businesses on the way to being data-driven is not technical, but cultural. Even when businesses invest in data-driven initiatives, they struggle to make progress due to legacy organisational structures, outdated processes, and inflexible cultures.

Data science is not a rigid academic pursuit, but a problem-solving mindset anyone can adopt.

First and foremost, it’s vital to address data sharing issues across departments. Otherwise, you end up in a situation where you might be collecting plenty of data but not doing anything with it. Relevant teams must have access to relevant data so that everyone can get on the same page to understand the full impact of privacy measures, settle on measurable KPIs, and set up a system for decision-making with data (e.g. are you measuring customer lifetime value?). This is a time-intensive, but completely necessary operation to undertake.

Review your organisation’s privacy awareness, and train employees on the latest developments or hire data-savvy talent. Be ready to go through a top-down cultural revolution, break down internal silos, and scrap familiar processes. Set up a specific team to oversee this transition, but buy-in from across the whole company and especially the leadership team is key for progress to happen. 

Tackle the technical obstacles

There are three key things that have to be re-evaluated on the technical side in order to ensure you are able to gather high quality first-party data.

First, you need to assess your current set-up. Start with a thorough audit of your current data collection processes: review your website tagging, and audit tracking across all your media platforms, from Google Ads to Facebook Ads. 

Next, you have to ensure your first-party data is being imported into the right platforms, and that your tech stack enables data sharing. For example, setting up a CRM data import into your analytics tools, and offline conversion imports into your ad platforms will enable you to connect the online and offline customer journey

Finally, for data to be accessed across teams, you need unified tech stacks that enable sharing and allow you to import rich CRM data into the right ad platforms. This will enable you to leverage that data in audiences and bidding, using advanced insights to execute advanced strategies.

It also won’t hurt to familiarise yourself with alternative measurement solutions such as econometrics and geo-testing, and know when/how to use them.

4 practical steps you can take to protect your business today 

If you understand what’s at stake and are ready to work on the above, here are a few tips to get the ball rolling on switching to a first-party data strategy.

1. Implement sitewide tagging

I recommend implementing Google Sitewide Tagging to maximise your use of first-party cookies across the Google stack. Use Google’s Global Site Tag set to first-party cookies on your domain to ensure that Google Ads can measure conversions more accurately, with Conversion Linker tags enabled in Google Tag Manager. Make sure you’re capturing as much data as you can from key events and tracking micro-conversions such as time on site, product views and cart adds.

2. Prepare Facebook for iOS 14

if you’re advertising on Facebook, your campaigns will be affected by the iOS update. There’s a few actions to take: verify your brand’s domain, update the Facebook SDK, and priorities pixel events to mitigate data loss. You might also want to look into Facebook’s Conversion API as a long-term solution to cookieless tracking.

3. Review cookie consent policies

Make sure consent mechanisms comply with legislation in your operating regions and that tracking is implemented according to this. If your business is using a consent management solution, you could test Google Consent Mode (which is currently in beta), which provides granular Google tracking options and will be used in future for conversion modelling algorithms.

4. Future-proof your analytics

Consider moving to an analytics solution designed for cookieless tracking. We recommend upgrading to Google Analytics 4 because in future it will include advanced machine learning that fills in gaps of data and preserves campaign insights, plus first-party audience integrations data will increase remarketing audience pools. It also comes with a free BigQuery data export which will let you link your analytics and customer data to measure customer lifetime value.

Change your mindset from threat to opportunity

Don’t get the wrong idea: although there is a necessity here to protect your business, this is actually a great opportunity to take ownership over how data is used within your organisation and improve it for the better.

If you can get your business in a place where you’re collecting high quality data on your customers and key business drivers, connecting that data across teams and platforms to share insights, and activating the insights from that data by feeding them back into your marketing strategies… Well, you’re golden!

But it’s important to be realistic about data, and your own limitations before you create your strategic roadmap. There are some amazing long-term benefits for advertisers who maximise their first-party data, but for many there’s a long road ahead. So take it one step at a time – but start walking today or you won’t make it on time.

The post Advertising on the cookieless web: 4 steps to protect your data now appeared first on Brainlabs.

from Marketing

How to produce high quality written content

If you own a website, you’ll undoubtedly have been told multiple times how important it is to write “high quality content”. In SEO terms, this goes hand in hand with the concept of E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness), which Google uses to assess the quality of content on every site.

This becomes even more important if you’re aiming to rank for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) keywords, or topics that could, in Google’s words,  “potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”

But how do we achieve that in practice?

In online and SEO terms at least, we’ve come some way in recent years to getting a fairly concrete answer. Not only have studies given us solid intel about how people read content online, but Google’s guidelines help us a lot too.

As we mentioned already, a 2019 Google update told us that quality – measured by expertise, authority and trustworthiness – is a big factor when it comes to ranking content.  

This doesn’t mean you need a PhD in every topic you write about. Expertise, authority, and trust can be relayed by how you write, not just what you say (although that’s really important too). Put simply: an information-packed blog post is no use unless it’s well written. High quality content means writing about things your audience will find useful in a clear, understandable way.

So if you’re wondering how to make sure that page or blog post you’re writing is high quality enough to engage readers and appear in search results, here’s some advice. 

Before you start writing

Many brands try to start writing web content before they identify why they’re writing it, and what purpose it will serve their readers.

1. Identify what your audience wants to know

Your content strategy cannot be “build it and they will come” (more here on how to create a content strategy). If your goal is to create content that people will find and use, then you need to identify the topics that matter to them, and the best way to give them that information. 

  • Write down why your product exists, and the problems your customers have
  • Search for the phrase you’re targeting and see what already ranks well
  • Ask questions to get feedback on social media channels
  • Use Google Find My Audience (this is aimed at YouTube, but still gives useful insights) 
  • Send out surveys (old school but still effective)
  • Analyse what keywords and topic areas your competitors are targeting

Really get to know who your audience is, by drilling down into the specifics:

  • What are the general demographics?
  • What/who influences them?
  • What does your audience want/need? (basic information vs. detailed tutorials, etc.)
  • What questions are your readers asking and what topics would they like to see covered?

2. Do your research

As we mentioned earlier, Google is actively rewarding content that shows expertise and authority. Once you’ve done the keyword research and have a good idea of the topics you’re covering, do the research to make sure what you’re writing is well supported. 

Start off by running through some basic steps:

  • Identify and develop your topic: narrow down the specific topic you wish to cover and flesh out the finer points.
  • Review what’s already been said: delve into what industry experts say on this topic –this will provide you with the backbone of your research.
  • Identify gaps: Once you figure out what’s already been said on the topic, identify what hasn’t been said. Great content is useful and unique. You can still target the same keywords and rank with a different slant to everyone else, but you need the research to back it up. 

The writing process

We know that writing for an online audience isn’t like writing an essay. There are a few best practices we can follow to make sure people stay engaged with the content you’re writing.

Create Credibility

Your content should be unbiased and non promotional as far as possible (if people wanted a sales pitch, they’d watch your ads). Not only because most readers are hypersensitive to brands trying to sell them something or endorse a particular product, but because credibility is a component of authority – and our aim here is to impress Google with our E-A-T.

In addition to creating non promotional content, here are a few ways to boost your credibility:

  • Cite all of your information/facts/statistics. Try to use a primary source whenever possible (linking to the original place you got the information) 
  • Qualify your experience or expertise: give an indication of your trustworthiness.
  • Link to other industry experts. Citing the experts signals to the reader and Google that you’ve done your research. 
  • Use attribution phrases whenever possible (i.e. “according to a recent report…”)

Tip: make sure the attribution goes after the fact and that the attribution phrase is linked to the original source. (For example: people are more likely to scan than read your content, according to the NN Group.)

Make your writing actionable

When you’re writing high quality content, the aim is to make it as useful as possible. Most Google searches are made by people searching for a solution to something, so put the reader at the centre: what do you want them to do or feel after reading?

Take a look at the actionable yoga content versus non-actionable yoga content below – you will see that the actionable example has clear step-by-step directions (plus a picture) as to what the reader should do to achieve the end results. The non-actionable example doesn’t give the reader any takeaways.

Actionable Yoga Content:

Image Source

Non-Actionable Yoga Content:

Image Source

If you’re having problems identifying what you want your reader to do exactly, use these tips:

  • Ask yourself: “What do I want the reader to think, feel, and do?”
    • Tip: Convert these points into calls to action in your content
  • Ask yourself: “What do I want to talk about and what are my main points?”
    • Tip: Use these points as your subheadings to create an informal outline that guides your reader through your content (this will also prevent your main points from getting buried)

Here are a few questions you can run through to make sure your writing is actionable:

  • Are there clear takeaways or points of action readers can get from your content?
  • Is there any call to action?
  • Are there steps explaining how to do something or where to find more information?
  • Does every section of your writing add value to your desired message?

Use plain English and a conversational style

There’s a time and a place for formal, flowery language: and that place was the academic essays you wrote in school. 

When you’re writing for an online audience, your primary goal is to be understood. The best way to do that is to write (more or less) in the language you’d use in everyday speech.

Writing in standard English means cutting back on jargon. This is one of the most important but often forgotten parts elevating your writing from ok to great.

When Google’s EAT evaluation process was released, many of the rules evaluated the simplicity of language. Google wants to see us get straight to the point. Featured snippets already direct people straight to the answer they’re looking for in search results and are so prevalent in search – we need our words to do the same thing on the page.

Even if you’re writing about specialist topics for an audience of experts, there’s research to back this up.

“…when given a choice, 80% of people preferred sentences written in clear English and the more complex the issue, the greater that preference. But second, […] the more educated the person, the more specialist their knowledge, the greater their preference for plain English.”

Consider this: which is easiest? 

“This guide will help facilitate the needs of users within your online vertical”

Or “This guide will help give your customers what they want”?

How to structure your content

If the main goal is to get people to read your content, one thing to avoid is big blocks of text. We know that users tend to scan content rather than read every single word, so we want to make sure important information stands out. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Use short paragraphs (between 1-4 sentences is a good range to aim for)
  • Use bullet point lists 
  • Make use of bold or italics to emphasise points
  • Add Subheadings to guide your readers through the article. Readers should be able to skim subheadings to get an idea of what your main points are
  • Get to the point; don’t include a lot of fluff or filler (e.g. As you may have seen,…)
  • Put the information up front (when structuring content, but also in subheadings and links)
  • Keep your content long enough to thoroughly cover the subject, but don’t drag it out (hint: if you feel like you’re done writing, you probably are)
  • Use images and visual examples to give your reader a “visual break”

As you can see in the examples below, the scannable content is broken up with a subheading, a bulleted list, short paragraphs, and bolded words. However, the unscannable example has large blocks of text (especially the last paragraph boxed in red), no lists, bolded words, etc.

  • Using clear, noticeable headings and subheadings to break up content and label sections so that people can scan to find only what they’re most interested in
  • Placing information up front (in other words, “front-loading”) in the structure of our content, as well as in subheadings and links, to allow people to understand the message quickly while scanning
  • Employing formatting techniques like bulleted lists and bold text to allow the eye to focus on the most important information
  • Using plain language to keep content concise and clear

Scannable Content:

Image Source

Unscannable Content:

Image Source

If you’ve done the work to craft a well written and well-researched article, take the take to make it scannable, so you readers are more likely to actually read your content. 


You’ll notice that this blog post touches lightly on SEO best practices, but doesn’t go into detail about optimising your writing too much. That’s because Google will always value content that follows these basic principles over a blog post that is optimised for every keyword, contains every single bit of information, but will never get read. 

The main points to remember are: 

  • Determine who your audience is and what they want to read
  • Research your work well and identify gaps in available information you can fill in
  • Make your writing actionable and useful
  • Use a plain language and standard grammar
  • Make your content easy to scan

Ultimately the best marker of high quality written content is that you want to keep reading. So if you’ve got this far, I’ve done my job.

Original author: Kyra Kuik
Updated by Jo Harris-Cooksley

The post How to produce high quality written content appeared first on Brainlabs.

from Marketing

How to spot unproductive behaviors your employees may be unaware of

Remote working and employee autonomy isn’t just a way of making your employees feel more in charge of their professional lives. It’s also a great tactic for your business, as the more engaged your staff are the better they’ll work.

But no autonomy can go unchecked for the simple fact that there are things we do without realizing it that aren’t necessarily the best way of operating. The result of which can be behaviors that are unproductive at best and unsafe at worst. 

This is why you need to look out for these things, and it’s why I’ll show you how to spot generally unproductive behaviors, hazardous attitudes, inefficient actions, and unsafe driving.

Each example is something that can help your business (pending on the precise nature of its work), so long as you implement them in the right way. 

Use anonymous feedback to show unproductive behaviors 

I don’t want your company to be a surveillance-driven operation. You should trust your employees to work at their best and giving this respect will lead them to be more engaged. 

But there isn’t a company around that doesn’t monitor its staff at all. One of the key reasons for this is that we all have blind spots and one of these is our own behavior. A great way of remedying this is to ask your employees to provide anonymous feedback on each other.

I know what you’re thinking — this is surveillance at its most pervasive. I understand your reservations but it can actually help people to be more autonomous, so long as you focus the feedback on how people can improve and not what they’re doing wrong. 

There are lots of great survey tools out there and Google Forms is one of the best. It’s completely free to use and has some really helpful features: 

  • Checkboxes 
  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Dropdowns 
Credit: Google Workspace

It’s a great option for a company that cares enough about its employees to show them how to improve their behaviors, so they can be more productive and (ultimately) earn greater autonomy. Try it out today, but make sure you focus the feedback form on leading to a positive outcome.

Use incident reporting apps to show hazardous workplaces 

I’m not here to ask you to micromanage your business’ workplace(s). That’s not conducive to an environment where people can work freely and independently without worrying if their keyboard is in the right place. 

But all companies have a responsibility to look after their employees. And health must come first on both a personal and professional level. The former because you have a moral duty and the latter because you have a legal obligation.

One of the key examples of this is on-site work that uses heavy machinery and you can use incident reporting apps to show if there are any potential hazards. 

Incident reporting apps are actually a great example of employee empowerment. The reason for this is you give workers the power to make their workplaces safer. They do this by logging an incident that could lead to a hazard, so you can then put a solution in place. 

These issues will often arise through nothing more than training gaps (people doing the wrong thing without knowing it). This means it’s a non-confrontational way of making employees aware of their unproductive (you can’t work on a site if it’s shut down due to safety issues) behaviors. Why? Because you can run a general training program, rather than picking on specific individuals. 

There are some brilliant incident reporting apps and SafetyCulture is one of the finest. It’s free of charge for up to 100 employees and allows you to do all these things: 

  • Carry out inspections
  • Flag any issues
  • Resolve actions
Credit: SafetyCulture

It’s a brilliant tool for a business that values its staff enough to give them the tools to change the behavior of their colleagues for the better, so everyone is working towards keeping the workplace safer. Check it out now, but keep in mind that if you use it you should never single out individual employees who need safety training. 

Use telematics software to highlight unsafe driving habits

I’d never make the case for excessively controlling how your employees behave when they’re on company time, let alone suggest you should start influencing their private lives. 

But there are some work behaviors that cross over into what happens outside of the workplace. A perfect example of this is how they behave when they’re on the road, as lots of people use vehicles for work travel. Telematics software is the ideal way of highlighting if your workers are behaving unproductively and even unsafely when they’re at the wheel. 

Telematics software is a way of tracking how people behave when they’re driving. The tech records three specific behaviors: speed, braking, and corner taking. These are all crucial components of driving safety — if you drive too fast then there’s a real risk you’ll have an accident. These driving behaviors are also not very productive because they put greater strain on vehicles and that means you need to repair/replace them sooner than you should need to. 

Your employees are probably completely unaware they’re doing any of these things unsafely. Why? Because the simple fact they’re doing it suggests that they think their behavior is fine. Using the data from telematics reports is an intrusive way of highlighting this to them but the simple fact is that it could prevent them from having an accident, which could be life-changing/ending for your staff or your business. 

There are plenty of superb examples of telematics tracking software and iCompario is a great way of adding it to your business. You can include telematics with a fuel card (a way of paying for gas) and it includes the following handy features:  

  • Journey playback 
  • Real-time tracking 
  • Journey history
Credit: iCompario

While using telematics software to look after your workers by highlighting behaviors that are both unproductive and unsafe is a good thing, it’s something that could impinge on their autonomy if you don’t handle it properly. So, when you do try this make sure the focus is on keeping them safe from accidents, not on protecting your vehicles. 

Final thoughts 

There’s no doubt that anonymous feedback, incident reporting apps, and telematics software are great ways of spotting unproductive (even unsafe) behaviors your employees might be unaware of. 

But there’s also no doubt that each of these things can undermine the autonomy of your workers if you use them incorrectly. And that’s something that could entrench these behaviors.

So, try these methods of spotting unproductive behaviors but make sure you do so in the right way. 

About the author

Rodney Laws, Ecommerce Consultant at Ecommerce Platforms

“Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. He’s worked with the biggest platforms in the world, making him the perfect person to offer advice on which platforms to build your website with. Check out his reviews on and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.

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from Marketing

Preventing employee burnout as COVID-19 persists into 2021

Not only has 2020/21 meant we have had to grapple with the perils of “You’re on mute”, “I can’t hear you, your wifi is down”, we have also had to navigate ourselves through a pandemic that has disrupted global businesses and economies. All the while living through a time where we are perhaps the most isolated from our loved ones than we have ever been before.

We’ve noticed that with the third (? I’ve lost count!!) lockdown we’ve seen an increase in our employees burning out, which given the circumstances above is not surprising and something we know many businesses are also facing.

It’s a challenge that, like many businesses, we had not anticipated. Our HR team and managers have learned a lot along the way about how to avoid burnout:

Leading by example

Arguably the most important way of avoiding burnout is to lead by example. Three aspects that have worked well for us are:

Have informal interactions

We’ve found that informal interaction and communication are key to avoiding burnout.

Why not try hosting daily “stand-ups” with your team? The important feature of these “stand-ups” is that they are regular, predictable calls that establish some normality and structure. They are a forum in which your teams can bring questions and concerns to the table. One thing that is also great about these stand-ups is that the invisible has also now become visible, with dogs/children/family members appearing on Google Hangouts calls – which has shown a human side to us all that is so valuable in a largely transactional virtual world.

Respect working hours

Think before you ping! Or email! If you are about to send an email outside of someone’s working hours, switch on the scheduling feature so you aren’t encroaching on someone’s personal life. 

Encourage breaks

Actively encourage your teams to take breaks throughout their working day. In a virtual world it can be easy to find yourself in back-to-back meetings, and wondering when you’ll be able to grab a drink or go to the toilet. Why not start using Google’s “speedy meetings” calendar function so that you have breaks between meetings and encourage those you are working with to adopt the same habit?

Regular 121’s

A huge cause of stress can be ambiguous and ever-changing goals. At Brainlabs our managers use a weekly 121 matrix to structure their catch-ups. Some of the most useful parts of the matrix include:

  1. Making sure deliverables, expectations, and deadlines are explicit and actionable.
    • Ensure your direct reports understand what your expectations are, you’re regularly checking in on progress, and you’re providing feedback when improvement is required. Provide examples of what success looks like and also give them a chance to tell you what their expectations of you as a manager are.
  2. Ensuring you’re using them for both wellbeing check-ins and also to provide work structure.
    • With teams now dispersed it’s important to get face time with your direct reports as well as providing written follow-ups.
  3. Asking how they are doing, and really mean it! If in doubt ask again. If you are consistently getting the same answer to the question try mixing it up:
    • “How can I better support you?”
    • “What’s the most difficult thing you’ve encountered this week?”
    • “Is there anything I can do to support you and your workload this week?”
    • “What can I do to help?”
    • “How are you finding working remotely?”
    • “What is one thing I could do right now to make your week better?”

Encourage time off

One of the final tips is to encourage time off: take a step back, put the laptop down, don’t reply to that email that comes in at 8 pm because, at the end of the day, we work in digital marketing, the world will continue turning and tomorrow will bring another day!

With lockdown restrictions, many of us have been resisting booking time off in order to save it for later in the year when the restrictions are hopefully lifted. Consider introducing an additional holiday day for all employees to truly take a break from work, and ensuring managers communicate about time off with employees to normalize holiday-taking.

Final thoughts

To summarize, lead with humanity during this period. As individuals, we are all juggling a thousand different tasks and emotions that a year ago we weren’t aware we would be facing. So be kind, lead with empathy, and remember to switch off and take a break yourself!

The post Preventing employee burnout as COVID-19 persists into 2021 appeared first on Brainlabs.

from Marketing

Four tips for future-proofing your Conversion Rate Optimization strategy

Your CRO strategy is likely no stranger to the all-important privacy changes that the internet has been experiencing in recent years.

We predict that in the next 1-3 years, your CRO capability will face major challenges to delivering impactful A/B tests and personalization across your Websites and Apps. But at the same time, a more private web will introduce new and attractive opportunities that your Optimization team can start preparing for now.

1. Embrace privacy and first-party data as an opportunity

From a CRO perspective, your user consent implementation should be transparent about what data you are asking to collect to personalise their experience on your site. But more importantly, it should be respectful of user choices (no means no) and make it simple to opt-out with effect to analytics and A/B testing tools. 

Of course, it will be normal to see visitors opt-out but your CRO team should worry less about the loss of visitors that they can target accurately, and instead they should focus more on creating remarkable experiences for those users who give you permission to serve them when they opted-in. 

Empower your team to:

  • Advocate for user privacy and to develop a close knowledge of your consent implementation and what 1st party data is collected throughout your marketing systems. 
  • Join the wider conversations about first-party data collection and integration across your tech-stack, you’ll be able to understand what data-sets are needed to be made available to the CRO testing tool and how that data is needed in order to enable testing and personalization with valuable audiences on your site, for example audiences synchronised between your CRM and Analytics platform.
  • Be creative and to think big, give them the freedom to explore for audience targeting and personalisation opportunities that make the most of first party data collected across your tech-stack

2. Leverage the power of predictive analytics

Google and Adobe are currently investing heavily in next-gen capabilities that leverage Machine Learning, seamless integrations with cloud data processing services and cross-platform data integrations features that give these Analytics suites an unprecedented ability to make informed predictions based on a limited amount of session data. 

This unlocks new audience targeting potentials for your CRO activities, for example:

  • Recommending products to users based on a predicted product affinity
  • Tailoring content and offers based on propensity to convert
  • Prioritise certain types of actions on your site based on predicted user behaviour

Motivate your CRO team to start planning for the benefits that GA4 and predictive analytics will unlock as part of your CRO strategy. This might involve activities such as updating your audience prioritisation plan to reflect new possibilities or updating your testing tool implementation so that it can tap onto these new Analytics features.

3. Align your CRO and Media strategies

Customers journeys are complex and span many devices and touchpoints. Gone are the days of expecting that every single visit should lead to a transaction on your site; now media strategies acknowledge that customers want to go through their journey in their own way and at their pace. 

So why is it that some businesses still judge CRO activity just by the last click conversions? And why do we still see many websites delivering the same standard experience for visitors regardless of what previous interactions they had with your digital properties?

We believe that CRO activity should be designed to enhance your media strategy:

  • Design CRO activity that directly targets visitors from different types of media campaigns (prospecting, retargeting etc)
  • Choose different KPIs and goals for your CRO activity depending on the stage of the customer journey that they are impacting
  • Develop attribution models to show how CRO activity impacted different KPIs for different media and at different touch-points
  • Create more communication channels between your media and CRO teams to enable them to collaborate on media performance goals together
  • When reporting A/B tests, share insights about how channels and campaign were impacted with media teams and include them in the winner declaration process

4. Upskill your CRO team to go beyond traditional A/B tests

The world of digital moves incredibly fast. It’s important for your CRO team to start upskilling in certain areas that will be key to their success. 

Core Web Vitals

These 3 important metrics that measure speed performance on websites (reference) are now more important than ever because as of May 2021, they will become ranking signals impacting your SEO strategy (reference).

Your CRO team can support your efforts to improve site speed performance and now SEO rankings by learning how certain aspects of the User Experience can be tested to impact  core web vitals measurements, for example the time that it takes for a user to interact with a page (First Input Delay). 

Google Analytics 4 

As Google Analytics 4 is becoming the new standard, it’s important that your CRO team starts to study and get some hands-on experience with the platform. Google has recently released a demo account to start learning with, and you can check out Google’s official documentation for further guidance.

Ultimately, as your team becomes proficient with the platform, they’ll be able to mine richer insights and locate better optimization opportunities in your data. And if they get involved early on in your migration process, they can flag needs so that your new GA4 implementation is also designed to power your CRO machine.

Machine learning

Your CRO practitioners don’t need to know how to write Machine Learning models, but they should be aware of what is needed to make that work and what use cases they would like to champion. 

It’s important to establish a workflow with data science and analytics teams to enable the data and the testing tools to make the most of machine learning as part of A/B tests and Personalisation campaigns.

Final thoughts

Just like any other digital marketing capability, future-proofing your CRO strategy to thrive on a private web is absolutely essential. If you’re not preparing your team, tech, and strategy yet – now is the time to start!

The post Four tips for future-proofing your Conversion Rate Optimization strategy appeared first on Brainlabs.

from Marketing

Ecommerce during the COVID-19 pandemic: How to turn challenges into online growth opportunities

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused knock-on effects on almost every aspect of our lives. The retail industry is no exception: 2020 has seen a 26% increase in online fashion sales as a result of consumers drastically shifting their buying habits towards digital channels. 

Many companies have been forced to respond innovatively, with the birth of websites like Bookshop offering a vital lifeline to independent retailers who previously relied on customer footfall for sales. 

This online shift has also caused the acceleration of tech advancements that were expected to take years to catch on pre-pandemic: the departure from cash, and the migration from chip and pin to contactless payments happened almost overnight in order to keep up with evolving safety guidelines. Businesses have been forced to keep up with these technological adaptations, while assuring consumers that their supply chain is in line with hygiene regulations. 

The challenges of transforming customer footfall into online growth

This digital revolution has presented a number of challenges for retailers. 

Independent shops and smaller brands face fierce competition from huge aggregators such as Amazon and ASOS, whose infrastructure has been prepared for the surge in online sales for years prior to the pandemic. 

Smaller businesses have been forced to upgrade their online offering in order to compete or even survive, which can incur huge logistical expenses in initially enhancing the order, delivery and returns processes. Additionally, the past year has seen an increased interest in sustainable responsibilities, so businesses are often expected to select more eco-friendly (and costly) options. 

The complete lack of footfall due to stay-at-home messaging also means brands are now missing out on the impulse buys that previously occurred at airports or on the way to meetings and events. As a result, businesses can no longer rely on eye-catching products and window displays to draw upper-funnel customers, and instead must turn their attention to innovative targeting strategies.

The future of online shopping

Although these challenges have caused a large amount of change amongst offline-focused businesses, this change presents a key opportunity for brands to harness the capabilities of their digital channels to maximise future gains. 

Even in the post-pandemic world, ecommerce is expected to grow, with Retail Economics analysts predicting that 53% of UK retail sales will be online by 2028. The convenience offered through online shopping is a prime reason for this, with the time-saving nature of online purchases encouraging people to stick to habits picked up during lockdowns. 

Additionally, hygiene concerns are expected to long outlive COVID-19 lockdowns and affect consumer behaviour as a result, meaning that online shopping will remain a preferable option for many customers. Online retailers are constantly improving their offerings in response to increased competition, encouraging customers to shop online instead of in brick and mortar stores.

Ecommerce opportunities in digital marketing

In the coming months, digital channels will be the main driver of growth for ecommerce brands, with huge opportunities to innovate and generate remarkable results. 

Social commerce is a goldmine, with reports showing 42% of Gen-Z consumers stating they’ve purchased fashion items directly through social platforms. Purchases through these channels are largely unplanned, so tapping into the likes of Instagram, TikTok and Facebook is the perfect replacement for the impulse buys that were previously made in store. 

Anyone with a social media account will have noticed the evolving nature of ad-formats, with brands creating seamless content that fits into audience feeds like never before. Brands are getting smarter with how they capture consumer attention, and formats such as ‘live shopping’ (Facebook and Instagram), ‘catalogue ads’ (Snapchat and Pinterest) and TikTok ‘shop window’ ads present exciting new chances to drive higher digital sales. 

There are also emerging formats that enable brands to bring the in-store experience directly to customers at home; through augmented reality and automated conversational chatbots, brands can emulate the personal assistance that consumers are used to receiving in-person, providing maximum contact without the physical footfall. 

It’s crucial for brands to recognise that online growth requires innovative and new approaches to driving offline sales. The recent closure of stores like Debenhams and Topshop demonstrate the importance of businesses reinventing themselves if their sales previously relied on in-person browsing. To translate these sales online, advertisers must upgrade their digital presence to remain front-of-mind for their target audience.

What should retail businesses do to maximize online growth

In order to shift consumer perception, drive new audiences online, and position themselves for rapid online growth, retail businesses must implement a strategy with tech at its core. By fostering a culture of experimentation, marketing teams will be best placed to use tech to adapt, scale activity more quickly, and flexibly shift business priorities to accommodate changes. 

Embracing technological advancements will also help businesses stand out from competitors: beyond simply upscaling their digital presence, advertisers need to critically assess the options they currently offer consumers, from introducing accessible payment options like Paypal and Klarna to a wider variety of click and collect options. 

Although national lockdowns and social distancing are (hopefully) short-term restrictions that must be accommodated, improving website experience and upgrading targeting strategy will only serve to keep customers returning to successful brands long past the pandemic. 

Now is the time for businesses to guarantee their operation is smooth from start to finish; using tech and data to maximise the user experience will keep customers visiting certain websites over their competitors. With this in mind, CRO teams should be auditing webpages to ensure the on-site experience is friction-free, with a simple user design that is effectively optimised for mobile or app functionality. 

It’s also essential to reevaluate the current logistical operation to ensure returns and exchanges are as smooth, accessible, and safe as possible so that customers aren’t being dissuaded from returning in the future.

A new ecommerce strategy for the future 

By adopting an omnichannel approach, brands will gain greater reach across their entire audience demographic, setting them apart from competitors by remaining front-of-mind while in-store shopping is unavailable. If they aren’t already doing so, performance marketing teams need to shift their focus to social channels in particular, experimenting with new features that could give a competitive edge.

In line with shifting focus to new channels, this is also a good time to experiment with budget allocations. Reassigning budget to funnel audiences towards digital channels as opposed to out-of-home advertising will increase viewability of advertising; soon enough there will come a time for eye-catching billboards and subway/underground campaigns, but while the majority of consumers are stuck at home it’s far more beneficial to funnel budget towards creating ‘thumb-stopping’ content that will drive users onsite. 

Businesses need to critically assess the current services offered, upscale their digital operation to keep customers at the heart, and ensure they can successfully transform footfall and in-person impulse buys to online sales.

If you think your digital operation is in need of some expert consultancy, full management, or anywhere in between please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

The post Ecommerce during the COVID-19 pandemic: How to turn challenges into online growth opportunities appeared first on Brainlabs.

from Marketing

We’re the #1 Digital Agency in the UK according to marketers

Wowzers, Brainlabs has been named the best digital agency by peers in The Drum’s 2021 UK census!

We’re super honored to be rated so highly amongst the industry’s top agencies by our fellow marketers – thank you to everyone who voted for us!

To celebrate this exciting news, our Global CEO Daniel Gilbert has written a piece on the behind-the-scenes of our company culture and how it has earned us our great reputation. Our UK CEO Joanna Lyall has also been featured in The Drum, discussing the value of reputation for modern digital agencies.

The post We’re the #1 Digital Agency in the UK according to marketers appeared first on Brainlabs.

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Brainlabs is an official Facebook Marketing Partner for Technical Services

Brainlabs has been accredited as an official Facebook Marketing Partner for Technical Services!

The new certification means Brainlabs is a recommended Facebook vendor for integrating, setting up, or troubleshooting Facebook ad tools for advertisers including Facebook Pixel, Facebook Catalogues, Facebook Advanced Matching, Facebook DPA, Facebook Conversion API, Facebook Marketing API and Facebook Offline Conversions API.

This accreditation recognizes our team’s huge technological expertise and Facebook Certified Marketing Developer certifications through Facebook Blueprint. As we move deeper into a privacy-first future, we are cementing our reputation at the forefront of tech-led services, recognising the importance of assisting clients with marketing platforms and the ability to build upon these platforms for further opportunity.

Mark Syal, our Global SVP of Product & Technology, commented:

“We are delighted to become the first full-service digital agency to be awarded this status. Facebook is a key global partner for Brainlabs and its clients, global and local. Our Global Tech Team has been creating technology and providing custom tech solutions to our clients as a way of creating a competitive advantage for them since the agency’s inception. Completing this certification underlines our commitment to helping our clients use data to improve advertising outcomes in an ethical and sustainable manner. We would like to thank Facebook for their support during this process.”

Get in touch if you would like to know more about how we can assist you with Facebook marketing!

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