Posted in blogs, creative writing, Digital printing, graphic design, newsletters, political fundraising, printing, publishing, Uncategorized, web design

Psychopaths and the Cost of Proofreading: Be Bored for a While, Rewarded Later

Here’s an expensive mistake: A town in New Jersey was applying for grant money to develop a public park. The grant application was done by converting voice to text. Some words sound the same, as is in this sentence:

“The park will have many psychopaths….” (say it out loud and it could easily be cycle paths, as intended).bikegirl2

Sadly, the grantor did not have a sense of humor.

So, what of it? Have you ever done any proofreading? Now, more than ever, with Twitter, texting and e-blasts, proofing your text and images is critical. Clicking on words that link elsewhere compounds the importance.

How many times have you clicked on an image only to be whisked away to an unrelated site?

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How many times have you clicked on a sale offer and then landed on some FAQ or Home Page?

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How many times have you typed an e-mail address that bounced back as undeliverable?

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How many times have you clicked on an icon that responded “not found”?

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Blame it on the lack of proofreading and testing.

Proofreading is a big issue in our business of graphic design, printing, website creation and signage. When rushed, most people give a quick glance at a proof without really checking phone numbers, dates, links, e-mail addresses or captions. Sometimes we catch errors, but most often there is no way of knowing the correct spelling of proper names.

With the power of MSWord and other programs, there are tools available to help you avoid errors, automatically proof and make it easier to catch mistakes.

Here is a great blog article that sums it up, with some neat tricks I never thought of:

Proofreading – 28 Step Guide to Doing it Right

A Middle Eastern woman lying down reading

Even the comments are helpful.

Still think proofreading is a forgettable chore? Some errors are almost earth-shattering. This misfired Tweet nearly caused a catastrophe:

City of Yokohama Mistakenly Tweets of North Korean Missile Launch

smallmissile

The most common (usually not earth-shattering) mistakes we encounter are with business cards, for a simple reason: most text is unique, so the “burden of proofing” falls on the business cardauthor.

The second most common text error is the calendar day does not match the date or the year has not been updated. These are basic error and ones which are easily overlooked.

We all know that once something is printed, posted on a website or sent via social media, it is very expensive and difficult to correct. (If the faux pas is serious enough, we suggest posting an “apology video”). But there are other costs along the way that are caused by not editing and proofreading thoroughly, before it goes to a designer:

deanheadache

  • –        Added time for layout when text and graphics are added or deleted
  • –        Time and costs for additional proofs
  • –        Time needed to share with other editors, writers and proofreaders
  • –        Re-reading previously proofed copy
  • –        Re-sizing graphics to make them fit
  • –        Expanding or shrinking the number of paper or web pages
  • –        Pushing deadlines
  • –        General increase in irritability!

So, maybe the next time you compose that business e-mail, or look at your new business card content, or finish writing that eloquent article for a newsletter or blog, just hesitate a moment before you hit “send” and re-read. You may save the world a lot of trouble!

 smallmissile

Thanks for reading. And proofreading. Corrections welcome. I’m not perfek.

Ray

RayRenBall

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Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, political fundraising, trenton nj

That Warm and Fuzzy Feeling In Small Business.

“Message to small business owners around the world: If you want to be loved, move to America.”

hearts

What a great lead for an article about a normally boring topic! Well, it caught my eye, so I clicked on it, landing on Small Business Trends:Trust. The article highlighted two bits of research on how people feel about big and small business in different countries.

No food, no sex, but maybe a nice lump of trust.

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smilegirl  In the business of print-copy-design-websites, not much can be thought of as “appetizing” or “sexy” and therefore, it is a challenge to be of interest in the social media. But, for every printing press there is a skilled operator, for every graphic design assignment there is a person thinking creatively, for every mundane mass mailing there is someone concentrating on getting it done accurately and quickly. Maybe this is a yawn, but it does earn your trust. And, judging from the article, customer trust is what we small companies earn.

Big or Small, Cheap or Costly

So, why do people trust small businesses more than large ones? I can’t speak for industries other than my own, so here are some reasons we have been given in the form of customer feedback:

–        Personal service. We tend to know, face-to-face, each one of our customers, including followers of this blog.

–        Each customer and each order is important because the customer volume is small.

–        Low error rates. (goals of large corporations actually set a high error rate expectation)

–        A good business relationship: anticipating upcoming orders, solving problems before they happen and knowing what is expected.

–        Part of the fabric of the community: we go to PTA meetings, buy Girl Scout Cookies, volunteer for local events, vote, and pay local taxes.

–        Honesty. The study showed people believed that big business is far more fraudulent and corrupt than small business. Surprise! We agree.

Is it all good? Not really. There is a downside to being small, also gleaned from feedback:

bigguy

–        Pricing is somewhat higher or inconsistent on some items.

–        We are not equipped to serve a large number of walk-in customers.

–        Though orders may be placed online 24/7, our public hours are weekdays, 9-5.

–        We do not have a legal department, a sales department, an accounting department, a fleet of delivery trucks, or a waiting room with Hi-Def tv and espresso.

Deadline Driven

Like many businesses, government agencies, non-profits, and many individual consumers, our products and services are subject to deadlines, due dates and time crunches. “Not enough people or resources to get things done in the time allowed,” is a lament we hear frequently.  And, lateness is not an option. Consider:

An ad book delivered after the event? Trash.

A website that has not been updated since dial-up? Sad.

An e-newsletter opened with last month’s save-the-dates? Useless

A 5-foot high poster snapped in half by Hurricane Sandy? Well, maybe insurance will cover it.

You get the point. Trust applies in all cases. And, it’s a good reason for having a 4-wheel drive delivery vehicle.


What About Tomorrow?    binocs

Part of customer trust relates to the permanence of the company. Many businesses fail within the first five years. You would probably not buy from a company if you knew it was teetering on bankruptcy. Big businesses tend not to disappear but to be acquired, absorbed, merged or re-invented, often without advance notice to the general public. But the rule is the same for big and small: adapt or die. We are not the same business we were in year one and neither are you. Simply stated, we change with you or because of you.

Thanks for reading. (And trusting)

-Ray

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, trenton nj, Uncategorized

Outsourcing: I Can’t Do it All!

My first job was in government research and grant proposal writing.

copierThe small firm I worked for started with a Xerox machine the size of a refrigerator. It made about 2 copies a minute. I spent a lot of time with that machine. It kept me warm at night while I copied hundreds of pages that needed to be submitted before an unshakable deadline. But, was that the highest and best use of my time? Could I have been of more value to the company writing and doing research? One thing was certain: you could not seek new clients while running a copier in the back room.

The same principle applies today. Should you be managing your own e-mail campaigns? Can your organization’s image best be presented with a do-it-yourself website?  Do you really have so much available work time that you can spend hours on line designing your own business card?

I know you can do it all. It’s the independent spirit we were all born with. But, there are times you need help. We at Capitol Copy outsource or sub-contract when it makes good economic sense and is clearly more efficient. We can fix machines and trouble-shoot computer problems, but only to a point. Our goal is to meet customer demands, not fix things. So, we have a support team that helps keep us up and running. Sometimes a print job is just too large for us to do profitably so we rely on other vendors to the trade, with the same end result: deadline met and production quality preserved.

So, what is good or bad about outsourcing?

First, the bad news

√        You give up some control of your operations

√       Security and information management could be at risk

Businesspeople in Meeting

√        Added expense to your bottom line

√        Oversight and coordination of tasks is required

And now, for the good news!

♥       Gives you a great opportunity to explore new products and services with minimal risk

Office workers in meeting

♥       Less staff to be hired over the long term

♥        Frees up your time to focus on priorities

♥        Reduces repetitive tasks

♥        Potential for huge savings for one-time or highly specialized services

♥        Cost savings on overhead

♥        Get things done: faster, better, cheaper

What was that again? “A great opportunity with minimal risk?” Yes, that can happen. For example, we sensed an increase in demand for posters and signs, especially for trade shows, conventions, meetings, etc.  We were providing the printing and web-based design, but there were frequent requests for display products. So, we first offered that service as a broker, built up the market and then bought the equipment to produce all of it in-house. Faster, better, cheaper…..and more profitable.

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A few cautionary pointers before you outsource. Here they are:

√        Be fully aware of what you are paying for. If there is any doubt about the services or products you expect, draft an agreement, unless the subcontractor normally provides one.

√        Be certain that outsourcing is consistent with your organization’s image and goals.

√        Agree on a payment schedule and terms. You are your subcontractor’s client; they do not work for your clients.

√        Since it is your name and reputation at stake, see who takes responsibility for any meltdowns, missed deadlines, uneven quality and the like.

√        In some cases, a close working relationship between two firms raises questions about copyright, ownership, creative control, and liability. If this is an area of concern to you, seek an attorney’s opinion or rethink outsourcing.

√        Be wary of outsourcing online services to someone in a foreign country. They are subject to a different set of laws, if any. Do your research before e-mailing them a username and password. Is there a physical address? A phone? Trusted referrals?

More info?  SeeSBTrends Small Business Trends.

Now, get back to thinking great thoughts with fewer burdens!

Thanks for reading.

-Ray

RayRenBallRay@Capitol-Copy.com

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, political fundraising, trenton nj

Political Printing: Hurry Up and Wait!

The campaign season is upon us. This year, in New Jersey, there will be many legislative contests, energized by the race for Office of the Governor. From our 30 years’ experience with all types of printing for political purposes, we’ve come up with a few brief, to-the-point, pieces of advice for preparing  your, or your candidates’ next campaign.

Here they are:

Foresight.votegraphic

Stake your claim on a slogan, theme, logo and color scheme right away. If photos are part of that, have them done professionally. Experiment with different sizes and media to make sure they work just as well in e-mail as on a billboard.

First Strike.paperboy

Since you have established your approach, be the first to let the voters know you are in the race!  Envelopes, letterhead, door hangers, postcards, should all be lined up, ready for your message.

First out of the gate might be EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail). Introductory video, showing comparative media is here.

YouTube Video

Funds.paperworkwoman

Sure, you can solicit contributions on a website or through a Facebook page or with e-mail, but direct mail with a reply envelope is still the most effective method, and much more secure with no fee load. Ask Dave about campaign mailing. Print@Capitol-Copy.com.

Flexibility.

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As the campaign evolves, so does your message. But, your logo, color scheme and other identity basics should not.

Filter and Clean.cleanbucket

Don’t waste your limited campaign money on bad addresses! Your mailing list should be scrubbed, de-duped (eliminate doubles) and checked with the NCOA. USPS Info Page

Follow the Rules.

legalguy   If your direct mail requires disclaimers, include them only after legal vetting. The opposition is reading your fine print! NJ ELEC Rules  Legal Resources, NJ

Facebook it.68051_10151509108346729_1731694342_a

Your message and communication must be present in the social media. Include your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn connections on all printed materials, even if it simply connects the clicker to your website. Should you choose not to use a social media platform, you should at least stake a claim there and MONITOR any activity. Respond promptly to legitimate inquiries or complaints. Ask us about a social media campaign, Ray@Capitol-Copy.com. And, here’s some sound advice: Lying, Cheating No Good Crook!!

Follow Through.

tunnel Save some energy, funds and time for the last push in the campaign. Have envelopes, mailing lists, and a crew ready to go.

Final Recognition.

     Win or lose, there are many people to thank. Have a way to do that…. letters, postcards, phone calls or whatever conveys sincerity….. and you will be banking good will!

Low angle view of two business executives shaking hands

Of course, you’ll need more than a few pointers to run a successful campaign. There are a million or so bits of advice we can offer along with recommendations for professional fund-raisers and managers. So, what are you waiting for?

Thanks for reading.

RayRenBall

Ray

Feel free to e-mail me for more help. Ray@Capitol-Copy.com. Or, get things going by consulting with Dean, our wizard of design. Design@Capitol-Copy.com.

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, trenton nj, Uncategorized

My Top Thirteen Info-Sources. Are They All Good?

photo (13)

The daily avalanche of news and comment.

I try to stay informed, don’t you? Here is what I look at every day. What should I add or delete?

logo_NYTimescom

New York Times, digital edition. And, print editions, Saturday and Sunday. Why? I like the quality of the writing and getting the full story; outstanding source of world and regional news. Oh, and the headlines usually do not scream: Panic Now!

NJ.Com.  NJ.comThe Times of Trenton, and the daily print edition. Why? A good source for local and State news.

PolitickerNJ.com. b1ef2cf5-4d63-44d0-a1f2-8f9847aec502Why? NJ political news and an amusing forum for all things political in NJ. Goes deeper into a political story than mainstream media. Important for us to know since we do political printing.

Facebook. Why? More than one billion people are on facebook and most of my 68051_10151509108346729_1731694342_acustomers and vendors have a business presence. I log on for some social time but also to see what others in the business world are doing.

LinkedIn_Logo60px

LinkedIn. Why? Increasing and sustaining business relationships is so important. I can track career moves, new opportunities and, of course, communicate.

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IcelandReview.com. Why? My personal interest. A small nation’s perspective on the world events, in English.

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Twitter. Why? When there is no time, Twitter boils down the news to 140 characters, fed from the sources I have listed above. To balance the normally bleak news, I get regular, funny tweets from Jim Gaffigan.     412HVXj7P2L._SX500_

NWS-logo

National Weather Service. Why? The cold and rain slows our walk-in business. The wind makes it difficult to deliver fragile posters.

Printowners.org. Why? This is a world-wide, e-mail subscription service for owners of POL_headerprinting companies only. We share information, purchasing advice, pricing strategies, problem-solving and industry trends. Often heated discussions of graphic design, direct mail options, new binding techniques, signs and poster production and all the other fun stuff that we do.

Client websites. Why? We monitor our client websites. Sometimes they just don’t work, become horribly outdated or just need some TLC. Also, a good source of client news, staff changes, new services and so on.

ColorQuora. Why? Ask and answer today’s pressing questions. Fairly serious-minded and well written.

 EnviroPolitics Blog. Why? Brief, to the point and well-written articles concerning issues of importance to all of us.

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Blogrank. Why? Top 100 blogs, indicating trends and popularity. I don’t think this blog is in the top 100 yet, but maybe…someday.

Thanks for reading.

Best for the New Year.

RayRayRenBall

Ray@Capitol-Copy.com

Posted in Digital printing, trenton nj, Uncategorized

Going Postal: 5 Ways to Make Sure your Mail Does Not Bounce

You Have Mail!

Many don’t like snail mail because it’s slow, bureaucratic, complicated, expensive, time consuming and old fashioned. Many continue to use snail mail because it is effective, reliable, legal, hack-proof, portable and attention-getting. Whatever your view is, here are steps to avoiding bounces:

– Weigh and measure. This is a simple guide available from Capitol Copy or the main post office. Use the rule of 10: bundle ten identical pieces to be mailed, weigh them and divide by ten. This is a quick way to get an accurate reading.

–        Visit. Obvious but reliable: Take your mail piece to the Post Office, ask them to weigh it and price it different ways. West Trenton post office in Ewing and the main distribution facility on Route 130 in Hamilton are recommended.  Directions here

–        Web. Go to US Postal Service website and search for answers.

–        Look. Examine mail you have received, even bulk mail. How much postage was on it? What type of paper was used? What is the exact size? Are there sealing tabs on it? If so, how many? Was the piece mangled or damaged in any way?

Standard. Use standard sizes, paper and weight. Capitol Copy Service can help you with that.

Happy Mailing!

-Ray

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design, Uncategorized

Story of a Story (e-book)

This blog article is not about writing a book, it is about the process of self-publishing an e-book. Entitled “Katja’s Medallion,” this historical novel has been through three rounds

of editing and several casual reviews. To visualize the book in final form, fifteen were printed and bound, but not published.

The next step is to obtain clearances, permission to quote and check character similarity to real persons. In a traditional print version, it may take years for a person, fact or figure to become an issue. With e-books, it is possible that a Google search will reveal the same text in seconds!

So, what does this mean?

Check facts, sources, and all proper names. Some of the names in the book, even though quite common, may be too close to real persons, living or dead. And that means someone at some time, after the book is published, may have objections about how the person was characterized.

Music notes

A few lines of song lyrics written by the Canadian folksinger Stan Rogers, were used to introduce a chapter.

Of course, permission must be granted by the composer, author or publisher to use those words. In this case, the songwriter was deceased, so permission was sought from the licensing company, who then referred us to the songwriter’s widow. She retained the rights to the lyrics and provided written permission to use them, and even provided the proper credit wording. Obtaining the rights to music can be costly and complicated. Even a few lines from a popular song can cost thousands of dollars to use.

Victory! A few months after our request, the songwriter’s widow granted permission to use a few lyrics in the book.

Next step: Formatting for e-book.

Posted in Digital printing, graphic design

Staying out of jail with your new logo

Arctic Tern

How Capitol Copy developed a new, original logo with no copyright issues. (So far!)

There as many logos, mascots, and branded images as there are drops of water in the ocean. So, how do you come up with a unique one that no one will claim as theirs and sue you for copyright damages?

Well, here are some tips on how Capitol Copy did it:

  1. Choose a suitable, easy-to-remember image. Animals are very popular.

We selected the arctic tern because of its reputation as a “globe-trotter”. Each year it flies more than 20,000 miles (wow!) in normal migration. It is an agile and graceful bird.

  1. The color scheme is important for print and screen uses. The tern’s basic colors are: black, white, gray and reddish-orange.
  2. Consider the source. My wife is a birder and wildlife photographer and was willing to contribute some of her slides of the tern.
  3. Modify, improve and adapt. Dean, our wizard of design, took the photo images, outlined them by hand, scanned the new image and imported into Photoshop. He added color, then developed several versions and sizes for multiple uses.

So, now we have original artwork. What next?

It’s on to registering the trademark bird.

Flying tern

See you next time. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

-Ray

Ray@Capitol-Copy.com