Interface Designer/Front-End Development: Freelance

Zone 5 is seeking an experienced interface designer/front-end developer, on a freelance basis.

Responsibilities:

  • Designing clean, intuitive, responsive web page layouts that focus on the user experience
  • Developing functional prototypes/wireframes of proposed interface elements

Required Skills:

  • Demonstrated understanding of HTML/CSS
  • Experience with content-management system integration (Drupal, WordPress, etc.)
  • Experience using webfonts (Typekit, Google fonts, etc.)
  • Proven ability to create user-centered solutions
  • Proficient in information design including page mapping and user flows
  • Experience in responsive UI design and mobile UI design
  • Ability to work with internal teams, including creative, PR, marketing, and web
  • Strong problem solving and communications skills

Local candidates preferred. If you think you’re a fit, send a resume and portfolio to hr@zone5.com.

Drupal Developer: Freelance

Zone 5 is seeking an Upstate NY-based Drupal Developer to assist with the following types of tasks:

  • Write and update Drupal modules
  • Test quality assurance across browsers and servers
  • Monitor and improve site performance
  • Configure & optimize websites to achieve marketing initiatives
  • Coordinate with internal teams, including creative, PR, and marketing

We’re looking for developers who want a contract/freelance arrangement and have the following technical skills and experience:

  • Proficiency with Drupal 6/7
  • Building responsive themes
  • PHP, Javascript, HTML/CSS
  • Strong knowledge of Drupal-adjunct technologies such as the LAMP platform, HTML5, CSS3, and JQuery
  • Database design and optimization (MySQL, MSSQL)
  • Strong problem solving and communications skills
  • Knowledge of best practices to ensure:
    • Browser & device compatibility
    • Accessibility

Desired Skills:

  • General familiarity with Drupal 8
  • An understanding of how analytics, digital marketing (AdWords), SEO best practices, and social sharing influence choices for site architecture.

Local candidates preferred. If you think you’re a fit, email hr@zone5.com with the following:

  • Resume w/references
  • Rates
  • Example project URLs

The Digital Strategist Becomes a Spokesperson: Three Lessons Learned

  • Make-up for the shoot
    Make-up is not generally required in digital strategy world.

Sometimes life and work come together in ways I could never predict. One of the biggest attractions about working here at Zone 5 has been our focus on the healthcare sector – not because I had a lot of professional experience in this area prior to coming here, but because I have a tremendous personal attachment to the industry.

I was diagnosed at a Planned Parenthood with breast cancer when I was only 27 years old, with no family history of the disease. To say that the whole experience was bizarre would be an understatement. But I made it through and eleven years later, I am still in remission. I have also been asked by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to be a national patient spokesperson. I recently spent three days in NYC going through media training and participating in video and photo shoots.

I’m usually on the other side of that experience! In fact, I have a Zone 5 project going on with Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson right now. It’s been an honor to work with them as a communications professional, and it’s now an honor to illustrate their service offerings.

I had a lot of fun. I also learned some things. It’s been some time since I left the digital world to work on straight up media relations.

Lesson One: Trust between the subject and the communications professional is important.

“You are very comfortable in front of the camera, for a civilian,” my photographer told me. After laughing a moment at the idea I could easily slide into a world populated by models and entertainers, I concurred.

I wasn’t comfortable because I felt attractive that day. In fact, I hated the “natural make-up” look they gave me. Spending three days without eyeliner was some sort of record for me. I wasn’t energized because I felt glamorous either. We were shooting outside in NYC. They know what real models are like there – and I wasn’t fooling anyone, especially myself.

I was comfortable because I was 100 percent assured that the people behind the scenes – the folks that styled the shoot, did my hair, picked my clothes, and told me how to pose – all had the same goal. The goal was to make me look as attractive and approachable as possible.

No matter how silly I felt, I knew the communications professionals were looking out for me. No one was going to use that photo of me mid-sneeze, or spotlight the confused look on my face when I lost my train of thought on video.

All in all, when you trust in the communicators, and the communicators trust in you, the whole process goes a lot more smoothly.

Lesson Two: Don’t assume you’ll be asked again.

I fell into a pretty bad trap during the video interview portion. I’m familiar with my own story, as I’ve been sharing it for over ten years now in different forms. I’m intimate with the details, and knowledgeable of all the arcs, places of tension, and emotional pay-offs. When I tell my story, I do so with my kind of storytelling – a conversational back-and-forth and an unfolding of elements.

For some reason, I was assuming the producers would be as familiar with my story, and storytelling style, as I was. I kept baiting them and leaving open great opportunities for follow-ups, to which my replies would been stunning examples of my wit and storytelling skills, of course. I didn’t want to seem rehearsed.

But we just moved onto the next question.

After a few rounds of this, I realized what I was doing and was able to ask for a do-over, so I could share in a more complete kind of way.

Because this was a friendly environment, that was no problem. But in instances where one would speak to a journalist, or answer questions from a crowd, I learned to never assume there will be a follow-up question, or that you’ll be given a chance to clarify. Ain’t nobody got time for that, so leave the clever unveiling for a different time and err on the side of completeness the first time around.

Lesson Three: Passion still makes for the best stories.

Media training is all well and good. It helps save time and prevent PR accidents from happening. But sometimes there can be too much training and not enough time to practice all the techniques so they become seamless. The biggest challenge for me was putting aside my “professional communicator” brain in favor of the “grateful thanks” one.

Sometimes my insider knowledge was useful. I knew the pauses from the crew in shooting had nothing to do with me, and more to do with a muffled bang coming through the wall that may have been picked up by the microphone, or a stray shadow created by someone walking by. The starts and stops didn’t throw me off.

But I found myself overthinking it. Was that one of my messaging points? Was there a better way to answer that question? Did that example reinforce the brand?

My best answers came when I silenced the questions in my head and focused on how Planned Parenthood made me feel: grateful, happy, and alive. And as a professional communicator, I knew that’s what was needed – my passion, not my curated thoughts. For once, I just told my story, and left the editing to someone else.

Higher Education Focus Group Opportunity

Higher ed focus group flyer

We’re recruiting for a focus group on a higher education topic. You are eligible if you are:

  • From the Capital District
  • Between the ages of 25 and 45
  • Interested in continuing your education
  • Do not currently have a degree higher than an Associates

If this sounds like you, let us know!

Teen Web Trends: What the Data Means to Your Digital Strategy

GWI: Teen Audience ReportThis week, GlobalWebIndex released an audience report on teens (16-19 year olds), looking at:

  • How and why teens are going online
  • Usage of mobile and tablets
  • Engagement with social and gaming platforms
  • How teens are consuming media and content
  • The ways they interact with brands and discover new products
  • Regional- and country-specific trends

I’ll take you through three of their key conclusions and let you know how I am interpreting the trends.

You don’t get engagement without providing something in return

“Teens want brands that reward and entertain them… 56% claim that gifts/rewards increase the likelihood of them advocating a brand online.”

Rewards sounds like a great way to blow up your marketing budget, don’t they? Does this mean you need to host contests and give away swag? Nope. Think hard about what your teen audience would find rewarding, and what you can do to offer it.

Popularity/fame and identity are the two rewarding things that pop into my mind. And those are a lot easier to handle for my service-based clients (as you can’t really giveaway your product, can you?).

You’ll probably want to go beyond social badges and flash mob videos into fresh ideas. If you are a higher education institution, consider creating a Buzzfeed quiz that tells prospective students what famous alumni they would be. Sponsor a class project where computer science students create a game based on an event that happened at your college/university. Go the philanthropic route and donate a tablet to a local pediatric ward, preloaded with a slideshow of get-well wishes from your campus community. There are lots of entertaining and “rewarding” possibilities if you think about them creatively (I’m full of this stuff – so give me a yelp if you are stuck).

A decrease in activity on the large social platforms

“The biggest social platforms all lost active teen users during 2013 (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+)… However the numbers with accounts on these sites remained largely stable…”

Teens aren’t dumping the large social platforms, they are simply using them less. For content marketers, this means your message may be buried even more (not even getting into recent changes behind-the-scenes on Facebook that decide what shows up on walls).

To counter this, frame thematic messaging in your editorial calendars and campaigns to span longer periods of time, to ensure you are capturing the full potential of your audience. Don’t be afraid to rework a message a few different ways, or to repeat your most engaging messages. Also, look at your statistics and analytics in terms of these broader messaging groups, rather than by individual messages, to see the true impact. In short: think horizontal, not just vertical.

Mobile apps and micro-blogs are a solid source of information

“16–19s are less likely than other internet users to turn to platforms such as review sites, price comparison tools, search engines, or brand websites. In contrast, they are ahead of average on using newer channels such as pinboards, Q&A sites, micro-blogs, video/content sites and apps…”

None of Zone 5’s client sectors are in a position to abandon review sites, search engine optimization, or brand websites. And indeed, the data isn’t showing that teens don’t use these things, just that teens hit them up less often than adults. And it’s showing us that despite a decrease in activity on the big social platforms (that is what micro-blogs are – short social media posts), teens still regard it as a valid source of information.

I see two driving forces behind this data trend – one is that teens are just generally more active in a mobile/micro-blog space, so it makes sense that they would look there, and the other is that they are seeking peer-validated, truthful information in messages that haven’t been run through the PR office.

The message here is that it would be ideal to invest in those spaces where the un-sanitized truth can be found quickly. And I don’t mean take those spaces over with top-down brand messaging; I mean start living up to and scaling your brand. Communications is more de-centralized than ever, in terms of channels, which means you have to be more centralized than ever in terms of your brand’s messages. If all your messengers (professional or not) are aware of, agree with, and are focused on your brand strategy, you will be in great shape.

There is a lot more to discuss when it comes to interpreting teen web trends, and what it means to your industry, but I hope this post was a good start. You can download your own free summary of the GlobalWebIndex report or get membership for the full version.