Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Wish We Had a Photo of That: Plan Ahead to Ensure You Have the Images You Need

“Downtime” isn’t really an accurate description of the winter months for an ag retailer. Certainly, you’re not moving at the frantic pace of planting and harvest. But winter is the season to repair and prepare in expectation of the heavy demands ahead.

Winter is also a great time to prepare for next year’s marketing communication program. More specifically, to map out a plan to capture the essential communications resource regularly overlooked in many organizations—quality images. Quality images in ag are often missed because when the best photo opportunities arise, nobody was prepared to be capturing them.

Let me explain using a common ag example. Late fall and early winter are the selling seasons for seed. Logically, you’ll want to include an article on the topic in your newsletter, post it on your website and social media, perhaps create a flyer or postcard to promote an informational meeting. What would be the perfect shot? A planter rolling through a field, or a farmer filling his planter. Unfortunately, no one took that shot in the spring when the action was live. That’s where planning comes into play.


There are two approaches to gathering images that work well. The first—create an editorial calendar for the year. As you determine what topics you want to cover, you can also determine which images best illustrate those stories and when to capture them. Then create a seasonal shot list.

The second approach is less structured. Look at your business, identify the business segments that will be promoted, then determine the types of images that best illustrate each segment. Like the first approach, put together a seasonal shot list with the goal of creating a photo library that you can access whenever you need just the right image.

[caption id="attachment_1804" align="aligncenter" width="800"]winter-barn Photo by VistaComm senior journalist Burke Perry.[/caption]

By the way—winter is a great time to update staff portraits, capture indoor events and document regular winter activities like equipment maintenance. You’ll also have some days when conditions are right to grab some good winter scenic shots out in the country.

But how? And who?

Now to the mechanics. How do you capture all these images? There are several options. The first, best option is to find someone on your staff who actually enjoys taking photos—with a camera, not a cell phone (more on this shortly). Generally, there is someone who has the bug. Make them the official photographer, because they’re probably going to capture better photos. And they’re right there at work when photo opportunities occur.

[caption id="attachment_1808" align="aligncenter" width="800"]sunset-farm Photo by VistaComm senior journalist Burke Perry.[/caption]

Second, hire a professional. At VistaComm, we handle the photography when we’re onsite. The resulting photos can be added to your library. The drawback: Any professional is only on site occasionally. By scheduling them strategically, you can add a lot of good shots to your library. But you’ll never catch every event, every crop stage and every time you happen to drive by the perfect shot on your way home.

Third, everyone’s a photographer these days. If you have a smartphone, you have a camera, and that means more people are taking more pictures than ever before—many more pictures. Earlier, I mentioned that a camera is the best way for quality photos. That is absolutely true for print. But cell phone pictures are fine for most web use and, clearly, social media. Your force in the field is often at the heart of the action, so encourage them to capture action shots in season.

[caption id="attachment_1809" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by VistaComm journalist Connie Smith.[/caption]

Good images breathe life into your communication. They help the writer tell the story or, in some cases, they tell a story all on their own. For more basic tips on taking better pictures, take a look at the blog article "10 Tips for Improving Your Photos to Make Your Marketing Rock!" by Dary Maulsby.

Need help capturing professional-quality, captivating images? Put a VistaComm journalist to work on your publications. Contact us today.

Article Source Here: I Wish We Had a Photo of That: Plan Ahead to Ensure You Have the Images You Need

Monday, December 19, 2016

Website Content: Give your readers what they want . . . in a format that’s easy to read.

There’s a certain way people read website content. It’s not the same as sitting down with the newspaper, or reading the latest edition of Farm Journal. People who visit your website are scanning. They don’t want long articles. They want information–FAST!

When writing website content, think like you’re a potential customer.

Why would they go to your website? What specific words would they type into a Google search in order to get there? Are they looking for information about products, services or agronomic practices? Figure out those answers, then give them the information they’re looking for.

Keep it short and sweet.

Make it easy for visitors to scan your website by using these writing techniques:

  • Use headlines and subheads that guide the reader through your content.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs SHORT.
  • Use bullet points. 70% of people look at lists with bullet points.1
  • Sidebars are good for emphasizing important information.
  • Incorporate simple and direct calls to action.

A variety of content works best.

Content is more than just words. Visitors to your site appreciate variety, so keep your site fresh with multiple forms of content. Here are a few examples:


Read Your Web Copy Out Loud

If a sentence is so long you cannot read it in one breath, then it’s too long.
If you don’t know where to pause, then the sentence needs punctuation. Or better yet, divide it into two sentences.

On the average web page, users have time to read
at most 28% of the words during an average visit.3



If the overall message doesn’t sound like your company’s personality, then it’s time for a rewrite.



If you stumble over a word or a phrase because it’s too complicated or awkward, find a simpler way to say it.



69% of web users spend 69% of their time viewing
the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half.4



microphone-iconIf the wording seems like “corporate speak,” try adding pronouns like “we” and “you” so your website communicates more personally with your reader.


sleep-iconWrite it, then put it aside for a few hours...or preferably overnight. It’s surprising how much you can improve web copy when you look at it with “fresh eyes.”


VistaComm has put these and other great website and digital marketing tips at your fingertips in a handy e-book, WEBSITE KNOW-HOW: Grow Your Agribusiness with a Hard-Working Website. Access this valuable resource.



  1. “How People Read on the Web: The Eyetracking Evidence.” Nielsen, Norman Group.
  2. Burnes, Rick. “Study shows business blogging leads to 55% more visitors.” Hubspot.
  3. “How little do users read?” Nielson, Norman Group.
  4. “Horizontal attention leans left.” Nielson, Norman Group.

Read More Here: Website Content: Give your readers what they want . . . in a format that’s easy to read.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Website Optimization: Fine-tuning content so your website works harder

It’s not enough to judge your website based on how it looks or what it says. The real test is whether people visit your site . . . and how they interact with your site once they get there.

Put it to the test.

Take a look at your website and see if it accomplishes these tasks:

findCan prospects find your website?


How does your website rank on search engines?


Once people find your site, do they stay and interact with it?

accept-ctaDo site visitors accept your call to action?


seo-optimizationPay attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

There are entire books written about SEO, but it boils down to this: When people search on Google, Bing or another search engine, can they find your content? It’s all about anticipating what your audience wants—then skillfully (not heavy-handedly) inserting appropriate keywords into your content so search engines can find your site.

Create landing pages that inspire readers to act.

A landing page is a page on your website that has a form for a visitor to fill out. It’s there for one reason—to capture information from website visitors.

On the average web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit.1

Keep in mind that the landing page must offer them something in return—such as a product guide or e-newsletter, an easy way to RSVP for a field day or a request for more information. The better your landing page works, the more leads you get.

heat-mappingHeat Mapping: Finding out where your visitors are looking...and where they’re not

Mouse tracking and eye tracking analytics help you visualize how customers interact with your website.

  • When people are clicking on your website
  • How far they scroll down before leaving a page

69% of web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half.2

Heat mapping provides a visual display of your website design performance. This helps you make your website design decisions based on actual user experiences. It also helps you optimize your website to ensure the best results from your website’s content and landing pages.


VistaComm has put these and other great website and digital marketing tips at your fingertips in a handy e-book, WEBSITE KNOW-HOW: Grow Your Agribusiness with a Hard-Working Website. Access this valuable resource online.


  1. “How little do users read?” Nielson, Norman Group.
  2. “Horizontal attention leans left.” Nielson, Norman Group.

Originally Published Here: Website Optimization: Fine-tuning content so your website works harder

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When it comes to marketing your agribusiness, are you a horseshoes and hand grenades communications planner?

This time of year many agribusinesses stress planning.

“Plan for next year’s hybrid placement and effective fertilizer use. And make those plans by tapping the knowledge of your local agronomy expert, the person who knows your operation.”

That’s excellent advice for creating next year’s communication crop, too. Let me sweep aside the accumulated seed corn guides on my desk so we can set guidelines for your 2017 newsletter and magazine harvest.

Say your first goal is making the ag journalism process easier and more effective. Working with communication experts to take advantage of their marketing services is an obvious step. But there’s the question of directly interfacing with the professionals who interview, photograph, design and proofread your publication. Do you really have time to come up with a list of possible stories and schedules the interviews for impactful content that will meet your marketing communication objectives?

If you put a value on personally working with your out-sourced ag marketing communication team, that’s great. Otherwise, designate a liaison within your organization, and grant this liaison some of your authority. A stand-in without backing from the top will be ignored, and your publication process will stall. When your staff dodges interviews or forgets to send photos, the pre-determined objectives of the newsletter or magazine process quickly erodes and you start missing project deadlines. Eventually, your chosen delivery date dies a sad little death.

Unless, your mailing deadline is the real problem. Did you choose a time for interviews—the typical start of a publication process—in a busy season for many of your employees? You can either reevaluate your mail date or help your staff come to grips with the value of timely ag marketing communication for customers and prospects. (Just a quick shout-out to the marketing services provided by VistaComm: Our ag journalists are willing to make the interview process EASY! We typically take no more than 30 minutes to gather information from a division manager or other interviewee and we’ll meet your staff or customers wherever is most convenient for them.)

Now, let’s talk a little about your mailing schedule as a whole. When did your agribusiness newsletter or magazine actually hit mailboxes last year? That’s the reality of the process. Typically, a newsletter requires four weeks from interviews to mailing and an additional 5-7 days for standard-class delivery. A magazine takes six weeks. Think about it. If you want to get those pre-harvest messages or year-end pre-pay information to your customers, you’ve got to plan for it then stay on schedule with your publications that outline this critical information. Design your mailing schedule with this one question in mind: What do we want our customers to do when they read the newsletter? If, for instance, you want them to make input booking decisions, plan for communication that arrives while they’re still making those decisions. You know what they say about horseshoes and hand grenades...

Contact us today

Read More Here: When it comes to marketing your agribusiness, are you a horseshoes and hand grenades communications planner?