Brochure copy and design: capturing summer camp magic

We had so much fun designing these nifty brochures for Camp Gallagher, an amazing summer camp for middle schoolers and high schoolers in Lakebay, WA. 

Retro fonts, stunning photos (Megan McMackin photography), campfire song lyrics, parent quotes and Sharpie-drawn icons (drawn by a former Camp Gallagher camper) all do a great job of capturing the spirit of Gallagher and the magic of summer camp. 

Need print materials for your business?

Don't hesitate to get in touch

Oral history video project: preserving the past through employee voices

We were recently fortunate enough to film two very inspirational women as part of Northwest Kidney Centers' oral history video project. The project seeks to capture the history of the organization through the voices of key figures who helped make it what it is today. 

Both women were at the forefront of kidney dialysis innovation here in Seattle. It was a pleasure hearing their stories and learning about their life-saving work.

Together with Northwest Kidney Centers, we wrote a list of interview questions that would help jog memories and get the conversation flowing. From there, we conducted the interview, filmed it with our Canon XA10 and edited the footage into a brief, 4-minute video.


The completed video will be shared on the client’s website, in their electronic newsletter, and across their various social media channels. To date, we’ve produced 15 videos for the oral history project and are looking forward to filming more in the upcoming months.

5 surprising truths we've discovered about video production

1. The shorter the video, the longer it takes

Huh? This seems wrong. The shorter the video, the longer it takes? How does that make sense? The answer comes down to the editing process. Editing is a cruel mistress. It forces you to cut fantastic footage—amazing footage that you've grown to love. You have to be brutal with your decision making. The shorter the video, the more brutal you must be. It's agonizing and time-consuming, but most often makes for a better end product. 

2. Chronology doesn't really matter

The beauty of video is that you don't have to tell the whole story to understand the whole story. Video makes exposition easy. Instead of explaining what happened next, you can convey the passage of time through a montage of still shots, a brief time-lapse sequence or with a text slide that says "5 months later."

Often, you don't need any of these tricks. Viewers can figure things out on their own. For example, if a shot of a pregnant woman and her husband cuts to a shot of a delivery ward, then to a shot of the same woman holding her newborn baby, the viewers understand what's happened. They didn't need to see the rush to the hospital, the Lamaze breathing, the pushing...

3. A perfect backing track is a needle in a haystack

Gee whiz. Have you ever embarked on a royalty-free music hunt? It ain't easy! Even if you're willing to spend the big bucks to license a track, finding the perfect song to complement your footage takes patience, determination and time. Lots of time. 

Sourcing the right backing track always comes down to the "guess and check" method. You may hear a song that seems perfect, but once you place it behind the visuals, it just doesn't fit. The only way to really know if a song works is to test it out behind your footage.

4. Want great shots? Record in the great outdoors

Shooting video outside—particularly an interview—has a lot going against it. The neighbor's barking dog, the roar of Boeing 747s overhead, the shifting sun casting crazy shadows over the subject's face—there's a lot to contend with. Yet, despite the hangups, we can't deny that outdoor video shoots make for more interesting, eye-catching footage.

The camera loves the outdoors! It soaks up the vivid greens, the warm light and the pleasant movement of wind through the foliage. 

5. Scripts are double-edged swords

A loose script is a useful way to stay on track during filming and make sure the client's message comes through. However, sticking too closely to a script can make the video seem corny, overly promotional, stiff and ultimately, not very compelling. 

The more you can use a subject's own words to tell the story, the more engaging their interview will be. Key to achieving this is asking well thought-out questions and being willing to go wherever the interview takes you. To make sure you get your all-important opening and closing lines, you can ask the subject to rephrase a particular point or say snappy, pre-written sentences. But having them read from a script is not recommended.

We're a content marketing agency serving the greater Seattle area.

View our recent video work

'Tis the season for festive content

From gift guides to holiday greetings, companies large and small use the festive season as a way to connect with their customers on a deeper level. Here's a taste of what's kept us busy in the lead-up to Christmas:

Camp Gallagher Holiday Greeting

Camp Gallagher is an historic summer camp, but this is its first Christmas under new ownership. After an inspiring campaign to save the camp, the Friends of Camp Gallagher nonprofit wanted to reach out to its members (and donors) to wish them well during the holiday season. 

Fortunately, the nonprofit has a plethora of brilliant, high-resolution photographs featuring its gorgeous property on the south Puget Sound. We chose one that perfectly captured the Gallagher spirit and decided on the message, "Happy Everything," as the Camp Gallagher community has so much to celebrate this year.  

Sherwood Forest Farms 'Season's Greetings' Video

Sherwood Forest Farms, which offers a wreath fundraising program for nonprofits, is certainly our most 'Christmassy' client of all! They wanted us to create a short, cheerful video that gave their customers a glimpse behind the scenes at their wreath warehouse.

Sherwood wreaths are handmade from the finest evergreen boughs of the Cascade Mountains. It was important to them that the high-quality of their products shone through in the video. They also wanted to show just how many people are involved in the wreath fundraising process. To achieve both goals, we chose to take viewers through the lifecycle of the wreath—from forest to doorstep.

Our Own Holiday Greeting

Don't forgot, it's also our first Christmas as Cascadia Content! We wanted to give something of true value back to our clients. In addition to our well wishes for the holiday season, we threw in a gift voucher for $500-off one of our content packages.

From all of us at Cascadia Content,
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Want to boost your content strategy in 2016? Get in touch to see how we can help. 

Content Marketing Lessons from Late Night

Over the past decade, the world of late night has changed significantly. The end of the Leno/Letterman era ushered in a new batch of hosts keen to attract the next generation of late-night viewers. What can us content marketers learn from their tactics? 

Image by Daniel Semper via  Flickr

Image by Daniel Semper via Flickr

Brevity is the soul of wit…

What the new era of late night understands is: today’s audiences don’t watch TV like they used to. We get fidgety and start to zone out faster than you can say ‘attention span’. The late-night hosts—particularly Jimmy Fallon, with the others soon following suit—zeroed in on this change in audience behavior and adapted the late-night format into a series of short segments that could be chopped up into easily digestible YouTube clips.

From Fallon’s ‘True Confessions’ and ‘Lip Sync Battles’ to Conan’s ‘Alex Trebek Has Gone Insane’, millennials finally had some late night they could sink their teeth into! Let this be a lesson to all us content marketers: for social, viral success (particularly with video), keep it short! 


...but don’t be afraid of a deep dive

Every rule has its exceptions, and when it comes to the brevity rule, John Oliver’s show ‘Last Week Tonight’ is one of them. John Oliver’s success hasn’t, in fact, been due to short, snappy segments. Instead, the former Daily Show correspondent excels in thoroughly-researched presentations on life’s rage-inducing, yet under-reported, controversies.

Oliver’s comedic lectures are evidence of another important content marketing lesson: in the clickbait age of Buzzfeed listicles and Upworthy headlines, audiences crave quality. Perhaps best exemplified in his unexpected interview with Edward Snowden, Last Week Tonight gives us the substance we seek. Most impressive is Oliver’s follow-through—his commitment to his viewers. When he founded his ‘Church of Perpetual Exception’, donors were thrilled to discover an actual ‘thank you’ letter in their mailboxes, complete with cartoon sketch of the prophet himself.

Establishing your unique voice is key

Just like the web, late night television is a crowded space and audiences aren’t as loyal as they once were. Whereas the generations before us picked a show and stuck with it for sixty years, viewers these days follow the funny wherever it may lead them. For each host to get noticed, cornering their niche—their unique brand of comedy—has been vital.

Like a bit of self-deprecation? Conan’s a good bet. How about some silly SNL-style sketches? Fallon’s your man. With Kimmel, you’ve got your mainstream likability. Or there’s always Colbert for some intelligent character comedy.

Remember, essential to defining your brand is defining your audience. That’s where your brand story must begin.

Audiences love user-generated content

When presented thoughtfully, user-generated content often does a better job of showcasing your brand than any fancy ad campaign ever could. Content created by real customers is inherently more authentic and relatable. Better yet? It’s free! Jimmy Kimmel tapped into this with his now-iconic ‘Celebrities Read Mean Tweets’ segment. The simple sketch has now been borrowed by everyone from the Drag Race queens to the National Hockey League.

And Kimmel’s user-generated success doesn’t stop there. His YouTube challenges—from asking parents to film their kids unwrapping terrible Christmas presents to urging kids to serve their dads breakfast in the shower—are some of his most successful bits to date. Hmm, I think it’s time Kimmel gives his viewers a raise!

It’s all about timing

Finally, there’s something late night has always done well: relevance. With most shows airing every weeknight, late-night writers pull from the day’s hottest news stories to create an entertaining show that matters to viewers right now.

Although 'evergreen' content plays an key role in content marketing, fresh, timely content is equally important. From real-time video streaming via Periscope to quick-thinking tweets that capture a cultural moment in time, being agile is crucial for quality content marketing. Essential to this is a short sign-off process, and therefore a trusting relationship between brands and their marketing teams. 

Read more about our content marketing services and get in touch to find out how your company can benefit from a thoughtful content marketing strategy. 

What’s PR got to do with it, got to do with it?

As it turns out, a lot. PR maven and resident content strategist Francie shares her views on why public relations and content marketing work great together.

Image by Niuton May via  Flickr

Image by Niuton May via Flickr

Content marketing establishes brands as experts—PR spreads the good word.

You can write the best press release there is but if there’s nothing to back it up, it’s not going to get any traction. The media, and the public, want to hear from a brand that’s established and nothing establishes a brand more than original content that resonates with its audience and proves it's an authority in the industry. 

Original content gives your brand its identity—it showcases your values and proves that you're worth listening to.

Step one: produce original content on a regular basis. Step two: use PR tactics to spread its message far and wide. Good content inspires conversation and helps build relationships. By creating original content that helps/interests/entertains your audience, and by sharing it through owned channels, your organization will start two-way conversations with your audience and begin to foster customer loyalty. This supports many PR goals—it raises awareness of your brand, inspires buy-in and, overall, gives people the opportunity to feel more invested in your organization. 

A PR campaign is more likely to be picked up if it’s backed by a solid content strategy.

Media outlets are often drawn in by PR, but stick around because of content. Members of both traditional and untraditional media outlets want to know that the organization they’re hearing from is legit. After a pitch goes out, a journalist will often head straight for your website. Once there, if they see an up-to-date blog, educational guides, videos and other pieces of original content, they’ll clearly see your company is a customer-conscious authority in its field.

Linking PR and content marketing doesn’t take much.

Chances are, you're already combining PR and content marketing in some way. But, with a little strategic planning, you could make these efforts go a lot further. Want to promote an upcoming event? Use PR and content marketing to spread the word better and faster. Create a hashtag, include it in the press release and build content around it. A PR campaign that integrates social media and original content is more likely to, as those PR pros like to say, ‘have legs.’

Content lives on, continuing to support PR goals over time.

The power of the internet! A good infographic, a thought-provoking video, a funny GIF—if done right, these will continue to be shared time and time again and thus continue to build brand awareness long after a campaign has wrapped. (We all remember the Oreo tweet heard ‘round the world.)

It’s true—content marketing and PR can not only be friends but could soon, with a little effort, find themselves inseparable. So, marketing folks, take your PR frenemies out for lunch, bury the hatchet and start working together to create a cohesive strategy that supports both your goals.


Get in touch to find out how we can support your PR strategy with high-quality content.

Photography tips for everyday living

From increasingly affordable digital SLRs to ever-improving iPhone cameras, there's never been a better time to be an amateur photographer. But capturing stunning images requires more than high-tech tools. To get truly snazzy snaps, check out these simple tips from photographer in residence, Anna G. 

Hint: don't let the goat eat your camera.


1.     Always carry a camera.

I may not have coined the phrase, but I will repeat it with vigor.

 “The best camera is the one that’s with you”  - Chase Jarvis. 

Be it an SLR or an iPhone, you can’t capture that special moment if your camera’s at home. Sure, you remembered to pack your lenses for your trip to the Grand Canyon (where you will no doubt get beautiful pictures), but what about when your three-year-old decided a mud puddle was a bath? Some of my favorite pictures were taken on my phone for just this reason—it was in my pocket when I needed it!

2.     Find natural light.

Whenever possible, seek out natural light. For the casual photographer, shooting without a flash will almost always improve the photo’s outcome, especially when using a point and shoot or camera phone. Create a bright room by opening blinds and turning on lights. Back-light your subjects by standing with your back to a window. When outdoors, attempt to bounce reflecting light off water or light-colored buildings. The brightness from the natural light will reflect off your foci and create beautiful, natural-looking images.

3.     Candid means candid!

Capture moments as they present themselves to you. Real life is beautiful and funny and surprising. Focus less on making sure every toddler in your PEPS group is smiling and more on preserving the real moment, even if that means faces are turned, babies are crawling away or noses are being picked. Let people be who they are and you’ll be amazed to see how your pictures preserve true memories. Living in an increasingly perfect Pinterest world, it’s easy to lose sight of just how bright real laughter will radiate, so leave the perfectionism behind and focus on reality. 

4.     Move around.

Not sure what camera angle is best for a certain shot? Afraid your lighting is too harsh? Get up and move around! Try new positions, experiment with standing on a chair or lying on the ground.  Learn as you go by remaining fluid in your approach. As you gain experience, your style and methods will emerge, but until then, change up your angles every few shots until you find what you’re looking for. Every camera has a delete button on it for just these situations, so take advantage of it and shoot away!

5.     Live a life worth photographing.

No one wants pictures of people slouching on their couch—so get up and get out! You’ll be amazed how photo-worthy situations emerge when you’re out amongst the living. Sunsets, camping trips, birthday parties, festivals, hikes, dinners with friends, neighborhood walks—let life inspire your to find moments worth preserving. Go live it up, and just remember to take your camera!

Including candid photos on your website, in your blog and throughout the content you create will go a long away toward ensuring it's eye-catching, authentic and engaging. Read more about what we offer and get in touch to see how original photography can boost your content strategy. 







The science of content marketing

Think 'content marketing' is just more jargon? Ever the skeptic, I decided to approach it like a scientist.

Me, back in the lab days.

Me, back in the lab days.

Let's be honest...

It’s time to own up to a few things. Although I’ve been a copywriter for several years, I didn’t fully understand the term ‘content marketing’ before I joined forces with my sisters. GASP. To me, it sounded like another marketing buzzword. A flash in the pan.  

For those that know me, this probably isn’t that surprising. Before starting my copywriting career, I worked as a cancer research scientist. I spent my post-college years donning a white lab coat and peering down a microscope. I've been trained to question everything!

So, I’ll admit it—I Googled the heck out of the term ‘content marketing’ and asked my marketing-savvy sisters to explain it to me in our early meetings. How exactly is it different than advertising? What's a blog post have to do with ROI? 

Turns out, I was overthinking it. Simply put, content marketing is creating and distributing high-quality content in order to give your audience a meaningful experience with your brand. It's those meaningful experiences that drive profitable customer action and inspire customer loyalty. As a web copywriter and blogger, I'd already been practicing 'content marketing' for years. 

Finding the perfect formula

When it comes to producing successful content, there are several variables at play, including:

  • Clarity
  • Relevance
  • Usefulness
  • Entertainment value
  • Authenticity
  • Credibility
  • Curb appeal (metaphorically speaking)

Another important one? Honesty. See—I'm practicing what I preach!

Although there isn't an exact formula for creating impactful content, making sure it contains several of the above variables will increase its visibility and 'shareability' significantly.

Refining your hypotheses

During my research years, the more time I spent in the lab, the better I became at predicting what experiments would work and what wouldn't. The same is true of content. The more content I produce, the better I get at hypothesizing what audiences will enjoy and find useful. 

However, it's important to note that, in both fields, it pays to think creatively. As much as I want to boil content creation down to a science, some of the best examples of brilliant content marketing are those that caught me by surprise—the ideas nobody else thought of or could have predicted. It's with these 'so-crazy-it-just-might-work' ideas that you can really make a breakthrough. 


For more information on how content marketing can boost your brand, don't hesitate to get in touch


6 cures for copywriter's block

Drawing a blank? Relax! It's all part of the creative process (best. excuse. ever). Take a break from your brainstorming and try these six tricks for finding inspiration. 

Image by Leonid Pasternak via  Wikimedia Commons

Image by Leonid Pasternak via Wikimedia Commons

Ugh. Of all the days to run out of words, it had to be today. The day before the big deadline.

This isn’t good. The only thing emptier than your Google Doc is your brain. No ideas. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. Nada.






The cursor blinks—nay, it taunts. What was that brilliant idea you had the other day? The one you told yourself to remember? It was so good. Award-winning. What was it!? 

Time is speeding up. There's a bird squawking outside your window. You can't stop checking Facebook. Too much caffeine. Aaaaaaaahhhh!


OK, stop. Enough with the anxiety. You’re not some tortured artist, you’re a professional copywriter for Christ’s sake! Pull it together! YOU CAN DO THIS.

Walk to the sink, splash some cold water on your face and try the following:


1. Create an outline.

Make your fourth grade teacher proud and sketch out a bubble map of your key points and themes. Include any important information (facts, statistics, product details, etc.) that you think is important. Even if the fancy words aren’t coming to you, it’s easy enough to input subheadings, calls-to-action and notes like [INSERT JAZZY TAGLINE HERE].


2. Talk it out.

First, give yourself permission to be annoying. Once you’ve made peace with that, talk through the subject matter with anyone—your husband, your mailman, your mailman’s husband—who will listen. Chatting through the topic with an objective bystander is a great way to figure out how to break your message down into simple terms (particularly if you’re writing about something complex or highly technical).


3. Take a walk.

This is the classic cure for writer’s block because it really works. Studies have proven that walking inspires creativity. So get those legs moving! And while you’re at it, eat something. It’s impossible to concentrate on an empty stomach.


4. Visualize the copy.

One of the biggest struggles of web copywriting is that it’s often difficult to imagine how it will look on the site. Nice-guy web developers will send you wireframes ahead of time to give you an idea of how much copy is needed and where it will sit. But others may expect the copy to drive the design. If this is the case, use PowerPoint to throw together a rough mock-up of how you think the words should be arranged on each page. Adjust the font style and size to indicate headers, banner copy, body copy and calls-to-action.

Visualizing the layout like this—even though it's certainly subject to change—can help unearth all those glossy slogans and catchphrases that you have buried in your brain. 


5. Look at the competitors. 

Take a break to study the competition. Have a gander at how others in the industry have described similar products and services, and how they've framed their messaging. Whether it's good or bad, the work of other copywriters can be a brilliant source of inspiration. Excellent copy reminds you of what works. Terrible copy reminds you of what doesn't. 


6. Just write.

No matter how clunky, full of clichés and uninspiring it is, just get some bloody words down. If you truly can’t stomach the mediocrity, pretend you’re someone else—some terribly inexperienced, right-brained non-writer. Whip out a first draft, leave it for an hour or two, then take up the role of professional copyeditor. You may find that approaching the copy as an editor, not a writer, is easier. 


Feeling better? Good. 

You got this.

Better yet, leave the writing to us! Get in touch to find out more about our copywriting services.

Editing by committee: when too many stakeholders spoil the broth

At what point should you reconsider your content sign-off procedure? When it starts to inhibit, rather than promote, creativity.

I believe in democracy.

And boy, do I love a referendum. Having just moved back to the US from Scotland, I’m super into them. A massive public vote where every citizen gets his and her say—what could be better than that? It’s democracy in its purest form.

I also believe in content marketing that’s of the people, for the people and by the people. The editing process is a fantastic way to collaborate, build on each other’s ideas and create something that’s better than the sum of its parts. But every system has its limits.

In theory, democratic content creation is brilliant. In reality, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare. [Tweet this]

When a single blog post goes through seven rounds of feedback emails, a new person cc'd each time, you end up with content that’s a shadow of its former self. Like a ghost-written celebrity memoir, it’s safe, watered down and devoid of all personality.

The solution? When it comes to content marketing, try thinking more ‘democratic republic’ and less ‘referendum’. You elect your leaders (savvy marketing experts) and place your trust in them to get the job done.

Here’s what that looks like:


✓ Limited revision rounds

Reduce the number of feedback sessions to two. That gives stakeholders one round for initial feedback and then another round to ensure any required changes were made correctly. When they view the content for a third time, it should be in its final, pristine state. Any new ideas or last-minute concerns? Too bad. Too late. You missed the boat. Sorry, not sorry.

To develop a successful content strategy, you need to produce regular, relevant content. A lengthy revision process makes this impossible. Being strict about your two feedback sessions will force stakeholders to narrow feedback down to specific requests rather than aimless questions like “Is this paragraph necessary?” or “Should we check with Legal on this?”


✓ Relevant stakeholders

Why is the HR Director giving feedback on an infographic? What does the Head of Finance have to do with a blog post on cool, new industry trends? Why is the Office Manager cc’d on an email about blogger outreach strategies?

Internal stakeholders are an integral part of content marketing, but only if their role is relevant to the content. If you’re writing a product guide, the product manager is a key stakeholder. If you’re producing an HR training video, he’s not. Adjust your stakeholders on a project-by-project basis and only include those that actually play a role in that project's subject matter.


✓ Smart delegating and outsourcing

Key to successful content marketing is knowing your limitations. Instead of piling into a conference room for a three-hour meeting on a single web page, hire a copywriter who specializes in filtering detailed information into catchy taglines and concise calls-to-action.

Working with agencies and contractors that you trust makes your job, and that of your colleagues, easier. It gives you a huge head start on producing high-quality content in a reasonable timeframe.


For more content marketing tips, follow us on Twitter, or get in touch about creating a content strategy for your organization.