A quick guide to Canva

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While it’s widely understood that the best things in life don’t come easily, most of us would rather do things in the easiest and most straightforward way possible. It’s for this reason that web-based design tools like Canva have caught on, offering a simple approach to graphic design. But how effective is this tool and could it, and Google's Flourish, replace your graphic designer long term? 

By Carla Stanton, graphic designer at Stone Junction.

Canva was launched in summer 2013 and has since become popular with small business owners and marketers. There is an array of pre-made templates, tutorials and ideas available to use on the free, drag-and-drop website tool. If you don’t have a budget for an internal graphic designer or design agency, or you’re just experimenting with graphic design, Canva can help you create inexpensive design from a browser.

Content marketing relies heavily on images to convey a message and evoke emotion, so it is important to have some visual strategy. This is typically the role of graphic designers and design consultants, as there are some basic rules and principals for design that should be understood to deliver the best results. 

This is arguably one of the shortfalls of these web tools. If you are not a skilled designer and don’t understand these principles, the outcome will often look jarring or not achieve the intended result from marketing material. However, Canva is suitable for creating simple images for social media and self-hosted blog posts. 

Once you have signed up and logged in to the free version of Canva, you can select what you want to create from an existing template. Then simply drag and drop elements within your canvas and change fonts and colours to fit your branding. 

Extra images are also available, along with sets of icons and shapes that can be dragged into your canvas if you want to add infographic-style elements. You can then save and export your work as a JPEG, PNG or PDF.

One of the main disadvantages of using Canva instead of a graphic designer is that your designs can easily end up looking identical, as these templates are so easy to use it is a very popular shortcut for everyday designs. 

In addition, unless you pay a subscription for Canva for Work or Canva Enterprise, you are unable to resize your work, import specific fonts or export GIFs. The tool is also not suited to design things such as unique logos because there will be no value in your design if it is a repeat of someone else’s. Individual, creative and flexible design will only come from a skilled designer with the knowledge and creative thinking to make something unique for your brand.

While Canva can’t replace the need for a great graphic designer, it can save some time if you need some social media graphics or an artistic-looking pull out quote for a blog post. If you can afford a designer or are looking for some advice, you can contact me on +44 (0)1785 225 416 or e-mail carlas@stonejunction.co.uk.

Business etiquette in Latin America

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With over 20 countries, 643 million inhabitants and five official languages, Latin America is full of business opportunities.  There is a diverse range of culture across the region, which translates into business as well as leisure environments. Making the effort to learn about business etiquette before attending a meeting in a Latin American country may give you the competitive edge you need. 

By Alison Gardner, account executive and international PR specialist. 

Each Latin American nation has its own cultural traditions and nuances, so you should do your research on local customs before getting on the plane. However, these countries also share some opinions about business etiquette that might come in handy.

Dress to impress

If you look the part during a business meeting, people will treat you with respect. You should dress smartly and conservatively, with men in suits and ties and women in business dresses.

Top tip: You can wear your favourite watch but remember to take it off when the meeting starts. It shows other people that the meeting is the most important part of your day.

Get personal

Business owners in Latin America will usually want to trust you before they can work with you. Be prepared to talk about your education, family and interests before you get down to business. The more they get to know you the more likely it is that they will find you simpatico (that you have their interests at heart).

Top tip: Don’t forget to pack pictures of your family! This is often one of the first topics of conversation at a business meeting.

Body language

Remember that international countries may react differently to certain gestures. In some countries in Latin America, pulling on the earlobe is a sign of interest and pulling down the lower eyelid is a sign of distrust. As well as watching for their gestures, be wary of your own. Find out what gestures are considered polite or rude depending on where you are visiting.

Top tip: Hand signals that you use daily may not mean the same thing in Latin America, so do your research. For example, the thumb to forefinger OK sign is a rude gesture in Brazil.

No one expects you to arrive in a country knowing everything about its culture, tradition and language. However, taking the time to educate yourself about some local customs and general etiquette can help you build relationships in an international business meeting.

At Stone Junction, we have the cultural expertise you need to impress when working abroad. To find out more about how we can help you on an international scale, call me on +44 (0)1785 225 416 or e-mail me at alison@stonejunction.co.uk.

A year-long holiday

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“You must be so excited; it’s like going on holiday for a year!”
This is something I’ve heard repeatedly over the past few weeks, as relatives and friends discover I’m about to depart on a year abroad. But with my plane ticket booked, my suitcases packed, I think it’s worth considering the many benefits of a year abroad – which are much more than simply an excuse for a vacation.

Anna Olney-Smith, work experience at Stone Junction

The obvious one

The best way to learn a language is not in the classroom, but being surrounded by it, day in, day out. Immersion in a native language is one of the main and most obvious draws for wanting to study or work abroad in a non-English speaking country. Students return, sometimes not entirely fluent (what is fluent, anyway?) but certainly with a much more extensive knowledge of their target language.

Returning to the UK with these skills can also widen the range of opportunities post-graduation too. Here at Stone Junction we look to employ at least one foreign language speaker in each of our four teams. This help us to speak to journalists and clients in their native language, which builds trust beyond what Google translate and broken English can offer.

Beyond fish and chips

Ok, so maybe one of the less serious benefits of a year abroad is the new food you get to try. However, this represents part of the wider opportunity of spending time abroad – to experience a different culture first hand.

Different than when you visit a country for a holiday, living in a country for few months or more means you begin to understand how native speakers’ think, feel and act. This can prove invaluable in a later career as in an increasingly international environment, employers’ value a global outlook and familiarity of different cultures.

Overcoming new challenges 

Not only do you gain valuable language and professional skills from studying or living abroad, but the personal benefits cannot be overlooked. Uplifting your life and putting down roots in a completely new environment is no small thing.

The decision to live somewhere entirely different proves you are confident, resilient, and ultimately open to new cultures. To employers, and equally on a personal level, the self-awareness and adaptability to new environments this shows is so important.

Studying abroad is an invaluable opportunity that should be viewed as far more than an excuse for a year-long holiday. Personally, I hope that my upcoming year will be filled with new and valuable experiences à la française. And hopefully copious amounts of cheese.

At Stone Junction, we recognise the importance of understanding different cultures. That’s why we love international PR; our multilingual team fluently speaks eight languages and can offer cultural and market insight.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to experience a study abroad. If you’d like to work with a PR agency who can provide the international expertise that it represents, we can help. Email us at hello@stonejunction.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1785 224416.

Stems of stereotypes

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Women in STEM | A-Level results | female coders
As students across the UK anxiously awaited their A-Level results last week, certain subjects receive a ‘fail’ in terms of diversity. It’s probably unsurprising that women remain largely underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) occupations, but it’s important to look where this gap first grew its roots, and what is being done to build bridges.  

Courtney Cowperthwaite, account executive at Stone Junction

Women contribute to almost half of the UK’s workforce, however, a mere 23 per cent make up those who are in STEM roles. Although girls achieved success in A-Level subjects like computing – with 20.1 per cent securing A* or A in 2018 compared to 17.9 per cent of boys – they remained vastly outnumbered; with males making up 88 per cent of course enrolments. So, if females can undoubtedly excel in STEM subjects, why does the gap still exist?

The ‘science’ behind the stereotype

The nursey rhyme tells us that little girls are made of ‘sugar, spice and all things nice’, but does their genetic makeup mean that they are just not cut out for STEM subjects? Biological explanations for the shortage of females in the STEM industry tend to rely on research that indicates that boys excel in spatial awareness tasks, while females are stronger verbally. However, the actual difference between genders is minute and recent A-Level results prove that the link between biological makeups and STEM results is tenuous.

Socially speaking

Going back to the ‘nature and nurture’ debate, it appears that the gender gap doesn’t really start with our genetics. The finger seems to firmly point towards the enduring stereotypes that men are physically more able and women are creative thinkers.

Many people think of professions like engineering as hands on, manually difficult jobs that cater best to the physical strengths of men, whereas women are thought to shine in creative, arts-focused disciplines, which are not thought of as required in STEM roles.

In fact, STEM careers demand creativity, innovation and imagination – the very same qualities that may attract girls to arts-based subjects. Moulds need to be broken on many levels – the perception of STEM careers themselves and the perception of those who can progress in the industry.

Shattering the glass ceiling

Business leaders are crying out for experts in fields such as cyber skills and data analytics. With the tech industry booming, it is more important than ever that we work to smash the misconceptions of STEM professions.

Independent organisations, like WISE Campaign’s People Like Me Programme, are working on innovative new ways to connect employers and schools and to facilitate the recruitment of girls into STEM positions.

CodeFirst:Girls is another brilliant non-profit social enterprise working with companies and young women, with goals to increase the number of females working in the tech industry. As the UK will need another 1 million tech workers by 2020, their delivery of education for women not only bridges the gap of diversity, but will massively aid the negative impact that it has on the country’s economy.

From magnificent multilinguals and brilliant biologists, to tech wizards and PR pros, we’re a pretty diverse bunch here at Stone Junction. For more information about how we can use our expertise to build your next technical PR campaign email us at sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk or call us on +44(0)1785 225416.

Technology podcasts that are worth a listen

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According to Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), 4.7 million people in the UK download a podcast every week. 

Podcasts are a great way to stay up-to-date with the latest news and trends on the go. However, with over 500,000 podcasts on a range of topics, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

Here are some technology and engineering podcasts that we think you should try. 

By Alison Gardner, account executive at Stone Junction. 

If you’re interested in engineering

The Amp Hour Electronics Podcast is an unscripted radio show hosted by engineering blogger Dave Jones and founder of Contextual Electronics Chris Gammell. The episodes range from interviews with industry experts to discussions about hobbyist electronics.

For a more general podcast you can download This Week in Engineering that highlights the latest topics discussed in the industry, such as renewable energy, space exploration and robotics.

If you’re interested in technology 

There are lots of podcasts where experts discuss how new technologies will impact our future. On Talking Machines, for example, an industry expert joins the host each week to answer your questions about the future of machine learning.

You can also keep up to date on the latest technology releases on This Week in Tech where a panel reviews the latest products and trends each week. The topics range from reviewing the latest smartphone, to discussing the possible capabilities of AI.

Some others to look out for

There are also some general podcasts that are worth a listen. If you enjoy TED Talks videos, you can find them all on its podcast, with hundreds of episodes of people offering insight into their specialist areas.

Some publications are also releasing their own podcasts to help keep you informed about their news. There is the Wired UK Podcast that highlights its weekly articles or The Guardian’s Chips with Everything, a podcast that answers questions on digital culture, such as the future of smart cities or how technology can help dementia patients.

At Stone Junction, we stay up-to-date with the latest innovations and trends in technology to make sure our campaigns are topical and accurate. For more information about how we can use our expertise to build your next Technical PR campaign, which could include your very own podcast, call us on 01785 225 416 or e-mail at sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk. 

Five mistakes people make using Google Analytics

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Google Analytics can appear intimidating at first, and it’s often tempting to leave everything in default settings out of fear of pushing the wrong button. But I’ve got news for you — by not doing the tips below, you’re missing out on major opportunities to gain meaningful insight into your website traffic. It’s time to get down and dirty with Google Analytics.

By Carla Mateus, senior account executive at Stone Junction

Not using Google Analytics in the first place
It’s estimated that there’s 30 to 50 million websites using Google Analytics. Considering there’s around 172 million active sites on the world wide web, many website owners are missing out.

Without using Google Analytics, or an alternative, you cannot measure the effects of your marketing strategies. For example, you wouldn’t be able to see which pages are attracting the most views, or where in the user experience people are leaving the site. Isn’t that something you really should know?

Use it. It’s free.

Not having multiple views 
We recently spoke with digital analytics consultant, Andrew Bruce Smith, about this issue. He explained that, by default, you have one view on Google Analytics, and that’s the raw data. However, you should set up three views in total, the raw data view, test data view and master data view.

The names are self-explanatory, but in a nut shell, you trial changes to the test data before implementing them to the master data view. This is important, not only for comparing against baseline values, but to ensure changes don’t affect your high value, master data.

Not eliminating spam referrals 
You’re using Google Analytics because you want to know how much traffic is coming from real human beings. Including spam visits from bots will give an inflated view of traffic, rather than a realistic, meaningful view of potential customers or clients.

It’s a quick fix though. Go to admin, view settings, and tick the box underneath bot filtering. Do this to your test view and master view. Leave your raw data view including bots, so you can assess the difference.

Not setting up goals
I’ve done a whole separate blog post on setting up your first goals on Google analytics. Goals enable you to see if people are doing what you actually want them to on your site. This can be anything from visiting more than one page, to downloading an asset.

One example this feature allows you to do is put a percentage figure on how many people visit a product page then go on to visit the contact us page. By having this data, you can make changes over time to increase it, and hopefully generate more sales leads.

Not taking advantage of UTM links
Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) links are regular URLs with code attached that tells Google Analytics where the referral came from. This is particularly important for social media links, as social media referrals from mobile devices register as direct traffic. 

It’s also a great way of measuring success from content marketing. Tag each article with a different UTM link and you’ll soon find out which ones are bringing in the most traffic.

There are several ways to easily generate UTMs. The original method is to use Google’s own campaign builder tool.

So, there you have it. Things that you might not be doing with Google Analytics, that you really should be. We use loads of tools and tricks like this to help our clients get the most out of our measurable, digital PR campaigns. Want to know more? Email me at carla@stonejunction.co.uk or call +44 (0)1785 225416.

Trade show preview: PPMA and TCT

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Taking place between September 25 – 27, 2018, at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association (PPMA) and TCT exhibitions return for another year. Both firm favourites in the packaging, processing and additive manufacturing industry calendars, here’s a quick run down of what you can expect to find if you are attending this year.

Jade Ziola-Sammons, senior account executive at Stone Junction

Celebrating its thirtieth year in 2018, the show is set to be one of the largest and most comprehensive in its history. The event will welcome over 350 exhibitors from the processing and packaging machinery industries and will showcase some of the latest innovations across the food and beverage, pharmaceutical and personal care and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries.

Labelled at the UK’s leading production line event, there will be plenty to see, learn and do at the show, including several product launches.

As part of the show, The PPMA Enterprise Zone will include a series of workshops, presentations, interactive discussions, question and answer sessions and panel debates covering industry trends and topics. Top highlights include the Use of Smart Technologies and Robotics for Packaging Optimisation on Tuesday 25 and the Future of Food Manufacturing session running on Wednesday 26.

Another development for the 2018 show is the introduction of PPMA TV, which will see two film crews capturing the latest news and interviews around the show. It’ll also be broadcast live on YouTube, so even if you can’t make the show, you can keep an eye on what’s taking place.

Don’t miss:
  • ABB, a leader in electrification products, robotics and motion and industrial automation is exhibiting on stand F80. 
  • TM Robotics and RARUK Automation will be demonstrating the Flexibowl feeding system and Toshiba Machine’s THL700 SCARA robot on stand E20. 
The TCT Show is one of the world’s leading design-to-manufacturing events, with a focus on additive manufacturing, 3D printing, design and engineering technology. In 2018, the show will see more than 300 exhibitors take their spot to welcome more than 10,000 visitors across the three days from more than 40 countries.

The event hosts the largest concentration of advanced digital manufacturing exhibits in the UK and includes a bunch of learning zones, demonstrations and product launches as well as a comprehensive conference and seminar programme.

TCT main conference highlights this year include a session on September 27 from the Natural History Museum on how they 3D scanned a 23-metre-long blue whale, and a session on additive manufacturing in aerospace on September 25.

Don’t miss:
  • A presentation from engineering technologies company, Renishaw, on Tuesday, September 25 at 11:50am on the TCT Introducing Stage (H50) on how multi-laser additive manufacturing can boost productivity and reduce cost-per-part.
Of course, the Stone Junction team will be attending the show over the course of the three days to catch up with clients and journalists, take a look at the latest technology and meet new contacts. If you’d like to arrange to meet one of the team to speak about how we can support you with technical PR, please get in touch with Kirsty McMahon on +44(0)1785 225416 or email kirsty@stonejunction.co.uk.

Is this the end of the cookie?

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In the last few months you may have noticed that your internet browsing is almost constantly interrupted by cookie-consent pop ups. As cookies are being increasingly rejected, what does this mean for technical PR and marketing? 

By Leah Elston-Thompson, senior account executive 

When a website sends a small data file to be stored on your computer it is known as a cookie. Not all websites use them, but many do to keep track of an individual’s interactions with their sites. Companies can use them for personalisation, analytics and advertising purposes, for example to help understand conversion paths or to offer targeted ads to an audience that has previously performed a certain action.

Cookies have been used in digital PR and marketing since the 1990s, collecting data about individuals to improve the convenience of online shopping and remember preferences. But user’s concerns about privacy, increasing cross-device and internet browsing and regulations are starting to shake this up.

Cookies and consent
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced in May brought with it several new requirements for the handling and storing of personal data. Some cookies, such as registering someone’s IP address, which may be useful for insights into location, are considered personal data and therefore covered by the regulation.

Under GDPR, the company now requires a lawful reason, or consent, for personal data to be stored — that’s why you’re being overwhelmed with cookie consent requests. Individuals now have the power to reject a website from storing information about them — and they are. 

If an individual rejects a cookie or deletes their cookies, it means they will be registered as a new user. The result for the marketer is that returning visitors will be flagged up as new ones, showing an inaccurate result in Google Analytics. The results will appear as if the site has reached more people than it may have.

As well as this, web browsers are also blocking tracking cookies. A report by Flashtalking found that 64 per cent of tracking cookies were blocked or deleted by web browsers, with higher results on mobile devices. Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer have all started to limit third-party cookies. Apple is introducing a new default feature called intelligent tracking prevention, that clears all third-party mobile and desktop data.

Is the cookie crumbling?
This, and the growing inefficiency introduced by a cookies’ inability to transfer between mobile apps, means that the cookie is no longer a reliable tool. Cookies can lead to inaccurate visitor metrics, either not counting people correctly or registering returning visitors as new visitors. For online retail businesses, it can make conversion data inaccurate and it can also lead to unreliable advertising campaign reports.

According to a survey by Viant in the US, over 60 per cent of digital marketers believe that in two years’ time they will no longer be relying on cookies for most digital marketing work. Persistent IDs and device graphs have been suggested as new identification tools, but the search is on for a new, reliable tracking tool for marketers and advertisers.

For more information on PR and marketing in the age of GDPR, contact Stone Junction on 01785 225416 or e-mail leah@stonejunction.co.uk. 

Keywords, keywords everywhere

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SEO for technical companies, digital marketing tools
We’ve been posting a lot recently about the range of helpful search engine optimisation (SEO) tools available to help you get your business soaring on the web. Whichever technology tools you’ve tried so far, you’ll have noticed a common theme — the importance of keywords.  
But how do you pick them? 
You’ve guessed it, we’ve got another tool for you to try.

Jade Ziola-Sammons, senior account executive at Stone Junction

Coming across the Keywords Everywhere Chrome add-on tool has been like finding a forgotten ten-pound note in your favourite pair of jeans.

This free search volume, cost-per-click (CPC) and competition data extension helps ease the process of finding the exact keywords your audience is looking for. There’s no need to spend time researching and comparing keywords across multiple platforms either, as Keywords Everywhere pulls through data from sites like Google, YouTube, Amazon, Answer the Public, Moz Site Explorer and many more.

Once installed, you can change the settings to make the keyword search more specific. You might want to look for the keywords for a new country you’re looking to target sales in, or you may want to add in your favourite keywords to refocus your search results.

There are also two ways of using the tool.

Either head over to google and search for a keyword or phrase you’d like to analyse. When the search engine results page (SERP) loads, you’ll see an analysis bar underneath the search area that tells you the search volume, CPC and competition rate of this search query. You’ll also get new boxes appear on the right of the screen showing other related keywords that people are also searching for, again with the volume, CPC and competition rates. There’s also the opportunity to export all this data to a CSV file.

The second way is to visit a specific website and click on the Keywords Everywhere icon on your screen. From here, there’s an option to Analyze this page, which will pop open a new window and analyse the specific URL. This provides useful insight including where specific keywords are found on the page as well as the page title and meta description. It’s great for identifying any SEO gaps.

Why not start by dipping your toes in the water of digital analysis and SEO by downloading the Keywords Everywhere tool for yourself.

Of course, you can always give us a call and talk to the team about this, or any of the other plugins, apps or pieces of software we’ve suggested recently. You can get hold of us on +44(0)1785 225416, or if you prefer a more digital way, you can email sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk.