The Bat-Signal is an iconic part of the Batman mythos. Whenever the Gotham City police department requires help fighting a particularly tough villain, they turn on a searchlight and project the Bat-Symbol into the sky, summoning the Dark Knight to their aid. This way, Batman can intervene whenever the authorities need him.
We may not have a branded searchlight or snazzy capes, but the Black Lake team does actually work a bit like Batman. Let me explain how.
I’m sure the Gotham police force loves having Batman around so they can call him in when they’re in deep trouble. But would they want him involved in every case? They don’t exactly need his help with every carjacking or purse-snatching, and he’d get stretched awfully thin if they used the Bat-Signal for petty crimes. Plus, if they kept summoning Batman when they didn’t really need him, they’d develop an unhealthy dependency. The officers themselves would never perfect their crimefighting skills if they knew that Batman would back them up at any time. Lighting up the Bat-Signal in emergencies is a great way to keep the city safe, but if overused, it would actually hurt the cause of justice.
Likewise, clients come to Black Lake when they genuinely need our services: developing or reassessing their business model, brand messaging, and communications media. But then what? What happens when the project is over, when the brand campaign is created and successfully launched?
Black Lake doesn’t abandon its clients after a project, but it doesn’t micromanage them, either. We help clients put systems in place to manage their brands by themselves with whatever level of support they feel is necessary. We call it STAR Support:
- System Build: We help clients make internal adjustments, including hiring and restructuring, so they’re organizationally equipped to carry on their brand.
- Training to Operate: Imagine that Batman personally trained key members of the Gotham police force, who then used their newfound Bat-Skills to bolster the entire department. Black Lake trains key personnel on how to maintain and update their communications assets, continue communicating their brand message, and follow their business model effectively.
- Adapt Over Time: As organizations grow, messages evolve and media assets need to be modified. That’s why Black Lake transitions into an as-needed support role. We’re on-call if you should need our help making adjustments—it’s like having your own personal Black-Lake-Signal on your building’s roof.
- Reach Forward: Black Lake helps organizations grow and develop, to overcome challenges and meet the requirements of a changing world. That doesn’t have to stop when the project is finished.
Brand management is a day-to-day affair requiring a level of vigilance that exceeds the capacity of a lone vigilante like Batman. Businesses and nonprofits have to be able to manage their brands independently. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t need help from time to time, and that’s where Black Lake’s ongoing campaign management services come in.
If you need me, I’ll be on the roof, watching the sky.
I was happy to take part in Artists in Transition by being a juror for their art show in South Haven, Michigan, in January. Artists in Transition exhibits art created middle and high school students. The show had a variety of art in different mediums and showcased the creative talents from the schools. The art consisted mostly of painted and graphite mediums, but a few pieces were sculptures and collages.
I, as well as two others, received the chance to pick three pieces each that stood out to us. This was extremely tough, since there were many pieces that were not only aesthetically pleasing, but also well executed technically. There was also a people’s choice and the art center’s choice of winners. Continue Reading…
Feelings are helpful and shouldn’t be ignored—but they’re not always the most accurate things in the world when it comes to determining what you really need. I’ve observed that this issue often boils down to the difference between what we feel we need and what really need.
For example, if you’re walking down the cereal isle at the grocery store, you might feel quite strongly that you need to buy a box of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. After all, sugary cereals are fun, and who doesn’t need a little more fun in their life? The reality is that you’re not seven years old anymore, and you ought to decrease your sugar intake and consume more fiber. Something with lots of bran or granola probably suits your body’s needs much better than pure high fructose corn syrup.
But who cares about that, right? The Sugar Bombs’ packaging has flashy colors and friendly cartoon characters that remind you of the carefree days of your childhood. On the other hand, the box of bran cereal is mostly white with some muted accents; it’s kind of boring. Your emotions are pulling you toward the swirl of primary colors, artificial flavors, and marshmallows. Your grown-up senses are apparently out to lunch. Should you go with what you feel you need, which looks a lot more appealing, or buy what’s good for you, which doesn’t sound like much fun at all? This seems like a no-brainer. Continue Reading…
Previously, I posted about Kate Turabian, The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), and how they’re relevant to our work of verbal storytelling here at Black Lake. (You can find that post here.) CMOS’s rules are designed to increase the clarity of your writing. After all, the clear communication of ideas is one of the main purposes of written prose, especially in the business world. You’ll do no one any favors if your writing causes confusion instead of understanding and engagement.
Another aim of CMOS is imposing consistency, both internally (within a single written piece, or within a single organization) and externally (between organizations that subscribe to CMOS’s standards). This may sound uptight and oppressive, but it’s really a matter of professionalism. If the same word is spelled differently in two different places on the same brochure, or the headline formatting on your website is all over the place, you’re going to look sloppy and unprofessional. And if too many different style guidelines are being used by different organizations, or if these guidelines differ too widely, mutual intelligibility will suffer.
To summarize, style guides like CMOS help us write clearly and professionally, and they foster consistency between organizations. However, in your efforts to comply with CMOS, you may run into some tricky style issues. There are a lot of rules, and they can be hard to keep track of. Here are the top four that I’ve run into, with some tips on how to get them right: Continue Reading…
When I was studying history at Hope College, the name Turabian was used with near-religious reverence and fear. You didn’t ask why you were supposed to do something with your footnotes—you simply did it because “that’s what Turabian says.” Our professors enforced the inflexible edicts of Turabian exactly as they were set down in the book we all had to live by.
Who (or what) was this Turabian creature? In actual fact, she was a woman who lived between 1893 and 1987 who had a great impact on American English style. However, she is better known as the vengeful, near-immortal demigoddess of footnotes, the patron saint of history students and editors, and the un-photographable supreme arbiter of style. (Seriously, there are no verifiable photos of her on the Internet. I looked. She may have been a vampire.)
Many little girls often dream of their perfect wedding. For me, that meant an outdoor wedding in a flowery meadow, with the entire bridal party astride beautiful white horses. We would all ride up the aisle in a perfect line, and my soon-to-be husband, Ronald Weasley, would be waiting for me at the end on his own stallion, happy as a clam.
Of course, dreams tend to change as you grow up. The thought of getting married outdoors grew to feel like more of a hassle than it was worth, my love for horses returned to more socially acceptable levels, and I was hit with the crushing reality that Ron Weasley, or Rupert Grint for that matter, could never truly be mine. I grew to have a new dream as I went through college years: to design everything in my wedding.
Here at Black Lake, as in many other U.S. companies and institutions, we use the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as our standard for the spelling and definition of English words. It’s the ultimate source of all the vocabulary used in our work, and whenever there’s a question, we default to Merriam-Webster. But how did this dictionary come to be a common standard? Let’s take a look at some history to find out.
It turns out that the dictionary dates back to Noah Webster (1758-1843), a master lexicographer and linguist who was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up during the Revolutionary War. Webster was an advocate of the Constitutional Convention, and he wanted to cultivate a distinctly American culture and language to set the new nation apart from Europe.
This led him to dedicate his considerable talents to writing A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1806. With 37,000 entries, this tome was the first truly American dictionary. He later followed up this effort with his magnum opus, An American Dictionary of the English Language, in 1828. Webster actually learned twenty-six languages, including Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit, so he could work on the etymologies of the words in his dictionary. The volume was a bold declaration of America’s linguistic independence, and it set a new standard for American English.
Gesture studies are quick drawings that capture the movement and rhythm of a figure. Gesture work is a lot like how athletes warm up. Gestures help an artist get loose.
These scribbles are not supposed to take a long time. I have practiced getting a figure down in thirty seconds to two minutes. The idea is to try to capture the motion of the figure. It trains the brain to see a rhythm to the body and stop analyzing the excess information.
When you let your brain take control before you find the rhythm, it can lead to stiff work. When you are working with a stiff piece and are already close to finishing your work, it is very difficult to go back and fix the mistake. This is why warming up with a gesture study is important. Continue Reading…
This past week, we had the opportunity to observe a client in action to help determine the best plan for his business design and structure. Our goal was to observe a cohort retreat to figure out how to leverage his content onto an online training program.
The retreat was held at a picturesque lodge in the woodsy area of Greenville, MI. We arrived in the middle of a communal breakfast. I suppose now is the time to mention that, while I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, I was picturing something more along the lines of a conference room in an event center. The cohort retreat turned out to be a much more intimate experience, with the members staying overnight together in the lodge. They even participated in corporate worship, prayer, and facilitated discussion.
I wanted to make sure I was observing the right things and making the proper connections between the experience and the solution. One way I looked at the cohort was in terms of what would be the most effective way to get members engaged in it. Keeping in mind that the end result would be a training program to market to different groups of leaders, I noted that the audience members were big drivers of conversation and ideas. Throughout the morning, everyone had responses to the presentation slides and examples to discuss. Continue Reading…