Social Media Marketing

Add Drama and Depth with Custom White Balance

Have you ever struggled to take a classy (yet natural) family picture?
Or photographed an incredible wilderness scene, only to be sorely disappointed by flat results? If the world has so much wonder, why is capturing that majesty so tricky?
Many photos are simply too dark or too light, with awkward shadows, blinding background rays, or glaring reflections (think Grandma’s glasses!). The color can seem artificial or just washed out. But photos with proper lighting come alive, creating a drama and depth that resonates with viewers on a heart-stirring level.
Whether you adjust your camera on the front end or edit the photo later, here are some tricks to getting the photo balance just right!

Adjusting Your Digital Camera Settings

Different sources of light have varying color hues, so a picture taken with a normal white balance under artificial lighting conditions transmits low heat to the camera’s sensor, resulting in dull yellow or orange shades in the photo.
Though human eyes can automatically adjust lights and color temperatures to “sense” the right color, a camera needs to be adjusted to different lights for accurate color reproduction. By adjusting the white balance setting of your digital camera before you start shooting, you can produce the most accurate colors in your image.
Most upscale digital cameras include presets like these:
Tungsten: Best for indoor shoots under a little light bulb.
Fluorescent: Grabs brighter, warmer shots while compensating for cool fluorescent tones.
Cloudy: Warms up a subject and its surroundings when natural light is limited.
Shade: Useful for warming up the surroundings that have a cooler, bluer tone.
You can also adjust your camera manually by setting a white object as the reference point.
To manually set the white balance in your image, take a photo of something white in the same location (and under the same light) you intend to shoot. Then go to your camera’s shooting menu, choose white balance settings, and select the image you just photographed by pressing the “set” or “Ok” button. This will enable you to customize a white balance setting for your next round of photos, resulting in more neutral, natural shades and less post-production editing.

Mastering Post-Production Tints and Temps

Suppose you get the perfect photo, but the colors aren’t quite right.
Adobe Lightroom can help!
Adobe Lightroom is an inexpensive post-processing program used by designers worldwide. In the past, developing exquisite images required excellent photos, nuanced darkroom abilities, and expensive equipment. In contrast, Lightroom allows even beginners to normalize light tones they weren’t able to land in-camera.
When you’re ready to edit the balance in a photo, here are three methods:
Option 1: In Adobe Lightroom, adjust white balance with the eyedropper tool or use the preset menu that best describes the lighting conditions you shot in.
Option 2: Using the white balance drop-down list, manually drag the “temp” and “tint” sliders in the WB panel to adjust how warm or cool your image is.
Option 3: Select the “White Balance Selector” tool in the White Balance Panel (or for a shortcut, press “W” and scan across your image to locate an area that has a neutral grey color to serve as a reference point). Once you click this grey or neutral area, the appropriate white balance settings will be applied to the entire image.
If you don’t like the result, simply use the reset button to remove all adjustments.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Sound tricky?
Don’t sweat it. There is really no “perfect” white balance because the best contrast is what looks pleasing to YOUR eye. In the end, learning and experimenting is half the fun! Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about adding the perfect white balance to your next piece.

The Power to Help in Times of Need

I went through a fast food chain drive-through today to pick up sandwiches. As I made it through the line, the car in front of me pulled out and drove off. I was next in line and asked the cashier if everything was okay. She said the driver didn’t have enough money for the food. I asked, “why didn’t you just give it to her, or let her come back with the money?” She said that she was not a manager and didn’t have the authority to do that. I pointed out that the the manager was standing twenty feet away, so why hadn’t she just asked? Her response: “have a good day, sir.”  End of conversation.

By contrast, the employees at Stafford Printing are empowered to help you. They don’t need to ask me, as the owner, whether we can extend terms – 90 days same as cash, for example – for the privilege of serving you. If you need print, a sign, a poster, or even a floor graphic, please let us help you. We are willing to help by donating, settling up later, or simply bartering a meal for a “We’re Open” banner!

We’re thankful that Stafford Printing has been designated an essential business by both the governor of the state and the United States Postal Service. But more importantly, our customers have deemed us essential by continuing to send us work. We thank you, and look forward to the day when we can talk about the virus in the past tense.

Not All Business Cards Are Created Equal

Does your business provide business cards to its employees? Stupid question, you say. So how do you order them? A lot of companies email them to the printer or an online service, after which proofs go back and forth, there could be several rounds of approval, and then finally the cards go to print . . . it’s a process than can take a week or two instead of a couple of days.

Or maybe you order online, get pdf proof approval on the fly . . . but when the cards arrive you find them a bit disappointing. Only then do you read the fine print about how the color is “pleasing” and that uncoated paper is not an option.

Let’s answer a couple of questions. First, why do so many online print companies not offer uncoated paper? The reason is simple: their digital press doesn’t print well on uncoated stock, because baking toner on uncoated paper doesn’t work. Stafford Printing, on the other hand, uses the HP Indigo digital press, which means that uncoated paper prints beautifully because we use liquid ink rather than toner.

The second question concerns the mysterious description of “pleasing” color. What exactly does that mean? It means your business card is batched and printed with about fifty other card orders, so your particular color won’t be matched exactly – it will only be close to what you expected. For one order the color might be a little darker than it should be, and the next order will be a little too light. At Stafford Printing, our process doesn’t require “ganging,” i.e. printing multiple different orders on a single sheet, because our digital technology exceeds what is the norm in the industry. We usually print your order by itself to guarantee color accuracy, a claim few in this industry make.

The best way to see the process is to schedule a plant tour, and we will print and cut your cards while you wait.

Consistent color and paper are important when it comes to branding, which means that the printer you order from is also important. Stafford Printing offers the convenience of a global online printer, but with the standards of quality that only a local service can provide. And today, more than ever, it’s comforting to know where your printed materials are coming from – from the paper to the local people who produced your job to the box in which the cards are packed.

So remember Stafford Printing for your online print ordering and business cards!

Is Print Really Dead?

How many obituaries do we have to read proclaiming that print is dead? I call BS on that, and here’s why.

No matter where you look, print is everywhere. You see it all day long, from the moment you wake up in the morning – it’s on everything from your tube of toothpaste, to the cup of coffee you bought on your way to work.  Pretty much every item you encounter in your daily life has print on the label, the box, or the instructions. You can’t avoid it!

For well over three decades I’ve been hearing about the paperless office, and while it’s an interesting idea, it doesn’t fully reflect the reality of how businesses actually operate. Granted, you can email an invitation, a brochure, or a newsletter, but print delivers more, and I can prove it.

We had a client call us in a panic. After months and months of advertising, marketing, public relations – all digital – seats remained unsold for an event. Obviously this was a huge cause for concern. The client called us and said that they needed postcards, thousands of them, as quickly as possible. So Stafford Printing produced some snazzy postcards that could be returned without a stamp . . . and suddenly the responses flooded in. Within the first week there was a 3% response rate from prospects saying that they wanted to buy seats, at an average price of $1,000. With an anticipated conversion rate of 10% – meaning one out of every 10 respondents will purchase – a minimum of $100,000 in revenue is anticipated on a campaign that cost $19,000 to produce. It will be interesting to see the final numbers . . . but print came through in a pinch to generate revenue for the client.

The key to the program was a targeted audience. This was not a shotgun approach, but rather a purchased list identifying demographics that would be interested in the product.

Print isn’t dead; it’s just being utilized differently. The value of print is not only that it’s beautiful, but that it can evolve along with the marketing landscape.

Clients have a vision for what they want to achieve; it is up to print service providers to demonstrate how print can be the best way to make that vision a reality.

Eight Practices for Effectiveness to Reach Your Business Goals in 2020

Now that January is almost history, it’s time for a quick reflection. The first month of the year can be a little overwhelming. You’re recovering from holiday break, looking back on the prior year, and thinking of the million goals you have for the current year . . .  all while you’re in quicksand!

As we prepare to celebrate 33 years of Stafford Printing, I know how time can become a blur. I don’t know exactly where I picked up these “eight practices for effectiveness,” but I want to share them here because I think they can be helpful when you’re trying to get organized and move forward on your plans for the year.

  1. Ask yourself, what needs to be done now? Choose just one big task, or two maximum. Most people don’t have the capacity to focus on multiple major projects simultaneously, so it’s better to work on one thing at a time and give it your full attention.
  2. Another question: what is right for your business? Be brutally honest with yourself about this one. Chasing silver objects is great in fiction, but not so much in real life.
  3. Develop an action plan for each project, or what some call a “statement of intent.”  This should be a written plan detailing exactly what steps you intend to take to accomplish your goal, and in what time frame.
  4. Take personal responsibility for decisions. Don’t just raise the flag – make sure there is buy-in, direction, accountability, and follow-up.
  5. You also need to take responsibility for communicating. Though technology has taken us to outer space and back, it hasn’t come up with a way to transmit the information in our brains and hearts to interested parties.
  6. Focus on opportunities rather than problems. This goes back to accountability – problem-solving does not produce results. Exploiting opportunities does.
  7. Run productive meetings. Kill the PowerPoint. The end.
  8. That old saying “there is no I in team” may be trite and overused, but it’s also true. You have to think in terms of “we,” and make decisions through that lens.

The first two practices give you knowledge; the next four convert knowledge into effective action; the last two ensure that the organization feels responsible and accountable. This is a great recipe not only for getting projects done, but also for staying true to your company values and taking care of your team in the process.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a bonus tip that comes from personal experience: listen first, speak last.

What’s the Best Path to Accountability?

I once had a friend whose business motto was “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”  It’s not surprising that he eventually closed his doors – that management style went out of fashion about a century ago, and it was never effective to begin with!

In business we’re always focused on accountability. Naturally, we want everyone to be doing their job correctly and to the highest possible standard, but how we get to that point matters. Sure, you can demand accountability from your employees, but a forced approach is almost certainly going to backfire. You want your employees to feel encouraged and engaged, not criticized, distracted, and likely looking for another job behind your back.

The first book I’m reading in 2020 is Inspiring Accountability in the Workplace by Elaina Noell. Noell is the founder of a management strategy consulting firm that utilizes neuroscience to empower leaders to design company cultures that increase employee engagement, productivity, and accountability. Essentially, her firm’s goal is to help businesses override old patterns to carve new pathways toward success.

The title of the book sparked my interest because traditional accountability models leave a lot to be desired. Leaders often feel frustrated and out of options when employees don’t live up to established standards, while the employees feel scolded, discouraged, and uninterested in trying any harder. In Elaina Noell’s system, on the other hand, a foundation of neuroscience and human dynamics helps inspire productivity and results. It’s a much more appropriate approach for the 21st century, and avoids a lot of unnecessary friction and damaging conflict between managers and employees.

So if you’re looking for the best way to implement a strong, healthy culture of accountability in your own business in 2020, I encourage you to read Noell’s book, or listen to it on Audible. The book’s toolkit is robust, and the strategies will pay dividends as we navigate a workforce that has many options in today’s economy.

Does Everything Need to Be New in the New Year?

It’s amazing how quickly the holiday season is flying by. New Year’s Day will be here before we know it! With 2020 closing in, so is all the advice from experts, overflowing with recommendations for everything that you need to do and change to make your business more successful. They’ll tell you that you “should” overhaul your marketing strategy, that you “have to” start preparing for changes in search engine optimization, or that you “absolutely must” learn to navigate new developments in social media. The suggestions are endless, and they all follow a common theme: throw out everything you did in 2019 to make room for 2020.

Is it necessary to take such a drastic approach, though? Is running a successful business in 2020 really going to be that much different from 2019? Does it make any sense to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch?

The truth is, how much you need to change your business in the new year depends on how well things have been going for you up to this point. It’s certainly important to identify problem areas, and if your system for doing things is not helping you connect with and serve your clients in the best possible way, then of course that needs to be addressed. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; you simply have to look at what is working and what isn’t, and make your adjustments accordingly. Throwing everything out and starting over is rarely necessary, but occasionally certain aspects of your business will need a more major overhaul.

There’s one thing that definitely doesn’t change from year to year, though, and that’s the importance of keeping your clients at the center of your business strategy. The whole point of being in business is to provide services and products that make life easier for the people you’re serving. Without that as your number one priority, all the marketing advice in the world won’t matter.

In reality, when we’re back at work in January, how we bring value to our clients won’t change all that much. It will still be about relationships, service, innovation, and erasing friction so that interactions are as seamless as possible. Sure, there will be adjustments to the process along the way. There may be some new tools that come in handy, or a new type of software that helps streamline the work. But at the end of the day . . . your fingers will still have to do the walking, your mouth the talking, and your actions delivering on your promises!

How to Grab Attention with a Fund Appeal

When you work in the non-profit sector, there’s a constant struggle to be heard above the noise of all the other organizations trying to raise funds. Most donors have a set budget that they put aside for yearly charitable contributions. With so many worthwhile causes out there, the deciding element in where the money goes often comes down to the presentation and “wow factor” of a particular fund appeal.

We have a non-profit customer that works globally in the environmental field. Every year their fund appeal is innovative and amazing . . . and their results prove that what they are doing is effective.

They recently wanted to show their clients the value of a $1 contribution, by demonstrating how we spend a dollar in the United States compared to the value of a dollar in third-world countries. Their focus is protecting the rainforest, stopping habitat loss before it begins, and saving endangered species. They are GuideStar Platinum rated and have a track record of more than thirty years of conservation successes.

They designed a wonderful infographic for their donors. It was printed on a 20 x 29 sheet of paper that was folded to 10 x 14.5. Unfortunately, there isn’t a stock envelope available to handle that size. In order to accommodate their needs, we developed a custom envelope that would contain the infographic, an appeal letter, a magnet, and other information collateral. The envelope was then digitally printed and die cut. We were even able to address the envelopes during printing, which meant that after die cutting and finishing, they were immediately ready to be stuffed and mailed.

The result was an oversized and unusual envelope that stood out in the mail and screamed to be opened. Inside the envelope were beautifully printed pieces, each personalized to the donor. Imagine receiving something like that in your mailbox. Certainly it would be the very first thing that caught your attention, the piece of mail that you’d be most curious about opening. The contents would not disappoint, either – impeccably designed printed materials with a personal touch to add to the impact of the message.

This time of year is especially important and especially challenging for non-profits. Your job is to come up with a creative fund appeal concept that will stand out above the rest and grab your donors’ attention.  Our job is to help you make that concept a reality.

The Importance of Giving Back to the Community

The holiday season is very nearly upon us, and for most of us that also means it’s gift-giving season in some capacity. While family, friends, and coworkers are usually at the tops of all our lists, it’s also important to give back in a wider sense, and as business owners there’s a particular responsibility to keep this in mind.

Those who are familiar with the 32-year-plus history of Stafford Printing know of our commitment to the community. Whether through monetary contributions or donating our services, we have a longstanding tradition of supporting our local community in any way we can.

The list of who we support is long, but here are a couple of examples.

  • We received acknowledgement today from Legal Aid Works (@legalaidworks on FB) for being a long-time sponsor of their Jazz4Justice event. We feel it’s important for low-income area residents to have equal access to legal services, and the organization’s dedicated and experienced staff work hard to help clients fight for their rights in many different types of cases, such as housing, family law, consumer rights, unemployment benefits, and immigration.
  • Another organization we proudly support is Loisann’s Hope House, a shelter whose mission is to take families from homelessness to permanent housing. I serve on the Board of Directors and am part of a team that coordinates the annual Concert of Hope, a fundraiser that brings world-renowned performers to the stage to benefit the shelter.

There are many other groups and agencies we work with; these are just two recent examples. The Stafford region is exceptional when it comes to support for our civic organizations, and as a small business owner it’s incumbent that we donate our time and talents to help our community.

If you haven’t already, take some time this week to plan out exactly how you’d like your business to give back this holiday season, as well as the rest of the year.  You can donate money, offer free services, or even arrange for you and your employees to volunteer your time at a local organization.  Whatever way you choose to contribute, you’ll be not only helping the community, but also enriching the culture at your own place of business.

How Can You Assemble Your Dream Team?

One of the issues businesspeople face every day is human resources – hiring and firing. How do you find the right people, retain them, and keep them inspired? Naturally the ideal would be to have a team of employees who are engaged, motivated, and working together toward a common goal. The reality, of course, can be a little more complicated.

There are two resources that help shape my thinking on this topic. The first is a book that was given to me by Linda Bishop of Thought Transformation, entitled How to Think like Leonard da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, by Michael J. Gelb.

Gelb uses da Vinci’s works and methods as a foundation to introduce seven principles that are the building blocks of creative genius. Whenever I’m interviewing a candidate and any of the seven traits from Gelb’s book surfaces, I sit up and take notice, but the one that captures my attention most readily is curiosity.

Curious minds typically make great employees. They always want to learn, they want to understand the process, they are motivated to improve processes, and usually they are optimistic, glass-half-full types. They tend to be detail-oriented and eager to get things right.

If you’re interviewing a candidate and they already seem enthusiastic not only about being employed, but also about your company and how they can be useful to the team, that’s a great sign. In turn, it’s immensely helpful if you can tap into your own sense of curiosity to find out what your employees need to succeed and thrive.

The second resource is from the Harvard Business Review. It’s an interview with Claudio Fernández-Aráoz about his book It’s Not the How or the What but the Who. The main takeaway is that hiring based on experience is not necessarily as important as hiring on potential.

To use Stafford as an example, given today’s tight job market and considering our relatively niche needs, we can’t always expect to find experienced press and bindery operators. In a sense that doesn’t matter, though, because those are skills that can be taught. What we’re more interested in is finding people with the right mindset – those who have an innate desire to learn, those who follow their curiosity as described above, and those who enjoy taking on a challenge and making it their own.

If someone shows that they have the potential to excel and flourish, the rest is simply down to training them well and guiding them in the right direction.

Keep these ideas in mind when you’re seeking out and vetting candidates, and remain open to the possibility that the candidate who looks most impressive on paper may not be the automatic right choice. You never know who might surprise you with their ability to think outside the box and bring something new and innovative to the table – those are the employees that you’ll truly cherish in the long run.