Friday, January 29, 2016

Can Postal Automation Save You Money?

You’ve heard the advertisements. “When we save money, YOU save money!” When the retailer gets a deal, they pass the savings along to you. The United States Post Office is no different. There are certain mailing sizes and formats that process through the USPS equipment more efficiently, so when you save them money, they save you money. That’s what automation discounts are all about.
Even if you don’t have the volumes to qualify for automation discounts, staying within these guidelines will ensure that you get the most out of your mailings. By following the guidelines, you can prevent your mail pieces from being delayed or undeliverable.
Here are the categories to keep in mind:
Format Size: To qualify for automation discounts, First Class postcards, letters, and flats must be within a certain size range. For example, to qualify for discounts, postcards must be ½” x 5” to 4 ¼” x 6” and range from .007” to .016” in thickness.
Addressing: For the mail to process most efficiently, the address block must be placed in the right location. For letters, it must be ½” from the left and right edges. For non-barcoded mail, it must be 2 ¾” from the bottom edge. For barcoded mail, it must be up to 4” from the bottom edge.
Font size: For maximum readability, the USPS prefers that the address be printed in font that is a minimum of 10 points. If it’s a san-serif font, all the better. If you are using window envelopes, make sure that the entire address is visible. If the city-state falls below the window, the mail piece may disappear too — as undeliverable.
Background contrast: While bright envelope colors can grab attention and increase open rates, you need to be sure that the contrast between the envelope and the printing is sufficient to be read by the postal machinery. If the address is not readable, you will lose your automation discount and, potentially, the mailing could be rejected. You can’t get a response from a mail piece that is never delivered.
No 3D objects, please: Anything that renders the mailing less than completely flat will eliminate your postal discount. This means no clasps, buttons, or other 3D closures. Sure, those things may look cool, but they will not run through the automated equipment.
Looking for more ideas to maximize your postal discounts? Give us a call.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Getting Tri-Fold Documents Right

Tri-fold brochures and other printed documents contain several traps for the unwary. Let’s look at how to avoid common folding pitfalls and create documents that look and fold perfectly.
1. Set up all folding documents (z-folds, gatefolds, c-folds and so on) as two pages the exact width and height of the unfolded document.
The most common size for a three-fold brochure is letter, so let’s use it for our example. Create a new letter-sized document with landscape orientation. On the pasteboard, put the text “front” next to the first page and “back” next to the second page.
2. Tri-fold the paper and mark the front.
On the front page, the front panel is on the right. The right and middle panels are the same width, while the left panel is shorter. Turn the brochure around and you will see that on the back page, the left and middle panels are the same width and the right one is shorter.
3. Make page guides to reflect the correct panels.
There are two ways to do this:
1) Have us make a folding dummy, then you can measure each side and set up your page guides based on the dummy. This will always work perfectly.
2) Make both of the wider panels 3.7” wide and the narrow one 3.6” wide. This works well in most cases.
If you use our rule of thumb, on the “front” page, the left panel would be 3.6” wide and the middle and right ones would each be 3.7” wide. On the “back” page, the left and middle panels would be 3.7” wide and the right panel would be 3.6” wide. Once you have set up the panels, give each one the same margin. This centers your text within each panel.
To make a tri-fold brochure or any folded document work properly, remember that the inside panel must be a little bit (between 1/16” and 1/32”) shorter than the ones around it.

Need help? Just ask!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Follow the (Typesetting) Rules

There are many details of print design that separate the professional from the amateur. Understanding the rules of type is one of them. While headings, graphics, and logos can push the boundaries, body copy should follow some basic rules. Let’s look at five of them.
1. Eliminate widows and orphans.
Widows and orphans are when small words or parts of words fall by themselves on their own line. These should be eliminated through editing or tracking.
2. Fix floating lines.
Every paragraph should have at least three lines. If a column or page break divides a paragraph so that only one or two lines fall on the next column or page, adjust the spacing.  
3. Don’t stack words or hyphens.
Sometimes strange things happen in paragraphs. Hyphen will occasionally fall at the end of the line, and even more occasionally, this will happen on two lines in a row. The result is visually uncomfortable. (Designers often call this “pig bristles.”) A similar thing can occur when two identical words fall at the end of a line right above and below one another. When these anomalies happen, tweak the spacing to shift things around.
4. Fix rivers and loose lines.
Justified spacing works well in most cases, but occasionally, it creates giant gaps and awkward spaces in the middle of lines. “Rivers” are visual gaps that run down a paragraph of text as a result of these gaps. “Loose lines” are individual lines containing poorly spaced elements.
5. Pretty up the rags.
When you have left aligned text, the right-hand margin of the paragraph will have uneven line spacing that can either be visually attractive or highly unappealing. You want the rag pattern to be attractive to the eye, but not with giant differences between line lengths, sloping alignment of lines, or with rags that create diagonal shapes.

These typography no-nos can be fixed using simple tracking, light editing, or resizing of elements. When you take the extra time and effort, it can make the difference between a piece that looks professional and one that doesn’t.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Are QR Codes Your Best Fundraising Tool?

Okay, QR Codes probably aren’t your best fundraising tool, but they certainly can be a critical part of the mix. Adding QR Codes to your fundraising letters, in-store displays, and other fundraising materials can increase your donations significantly. Why? QR Codes make donating easy and immediate. They take advantage of the spontaneous desire to give.
According to the Razoo Foundation, an IRS-recognized public charity that manages donations for other charities, scanning QR Codes is one of the most popular ways to donate money. Razoo recommends four ways for donors to “scan to give.”
1. QR Code links to PayPal. By using PayPal, donors don’t have to manually enter their credit card information. PayPal is simple, secure, and a known quantity. By posting QR Codes at the registers of its stores, for example, Cinnabon was able to raise $3,800 for Share Our Strength, an anti-hunger organization.
2) QR Code links to a merchant account. The donor scans a QR Code and enters his or her credit card information. Anyone with a credit card can make a donation immediately.
3) Text-to-Give. Donors scan a QR Code and charge the donation to their cellphone account. Most cellphone users are familiar with this method of payment and have a comfort level with it.
4) QR Code triggers a cash or in-kind donation. Instead of donating money, individuals can support the organization by scanning a QR Code on printed pieces or in-store displays. For each QR Code scanned, participating businesses will donate cash or product to the nonprofit. For example, Heinz ran a fundraising campaign in which diners were invited to scan bottles of Heinz ketchup. For each scan, Heinz donated $1 to the Wounded Warriors Project.
There are multiple ways to use QR Codes to tap into spontaneous generosity. Which one will work best for you? Give us a call and let us make it easy for people to support your cause.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Data Security in 2016 and Beyond: What Your Business NEEDS To Be Prepared For

We now live in an era where the vast majority of our personal and professional lives are playing out on the Internet. This is particularly true in terms of business, where cloud-based collaboration tools and hosting providers make it easier than ever to access our mission-critical documents from any location on the planet provided you have an active Web connection at the time. Because of the increased amount of faith that we're putting into the digital realm, data security is of the utmost importance. There are a few key issues regarding data security that your business NEEDS to be prepared for moving forward.

Passwords are Going Away

Simple passwords have long been considered by experts to be woefully inadequate as far as actual data security. This is especially true now that everything from bank account statements to medical records are being stored electronically. All it would take is someone with a little knowledge and the right hardware to guess even the most stringent of passwords, which is why the practice is poised to go away for good sooner rather than later. Many businesses are turning towards other options, like SSH-key authentication, which uses a security key in conjunction with encryption to increase the safety of information stored digitally.

With SSH-key authentication, all data is essentially scrambled via encryption algorithms both in transit and at rest. In order to "decode" that information and gain access to the data inside, a computer needs the appropriate SSH verification key. Without that key, even someone who had the password for an account would essentially find all of the data unreadable, which is why this is one security trend that is increasing in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Security as a Service

One of the main obstacles regarding maintaining security in the digital world has to do with the massive effort required on behalf of business owners. Maintaining security patches, upgrading and monitoring network-based security hardware and more can be a full-time job for an IT employee - if you have an IT employee to begin with. Instead of constantly engaging in the uphill battle of trying to maintain security on their own, many businesses are turning towards third-party security as a service for this very reason.

Under this type of situation, you would pay a third-party company to take over complete control of your network security infrastructure. They would be responsible for auditing, disaster recovery, real-time detection, maintaining security patches and more - giving you complete peace of mind as a business owner knowing that A) you are as protected as you can be against cyber threats and B) you don't have to devote a huge amount of time, money, and energy in order to get to that place.

Device Policies

Allowing employees to bring their own devices to work is increasingly common, but it is not without its disadvantages. If an employee accesses mission-critical information on their personal iPhone and then that device is stolen from them, the data they were accessing is potentially compromised. This is one of the many reasons why businesses are enacting strict device enforcement policies governing what types of personal devices can be used at work, what information can be accessed on them and what happens to that device if an employee suddenly becomes an ex-employee for whatever reason.

These are just a few of the important factors to consider about data security in 2016 and beyond. The Internet and technology, in general, brings with it a host of different benefits for businesses that can't be ignored, but there is a seedy underbelly to the proceedings as well if you're not careful. The key to cyber safety involves knowing what type of battle you're engaging with and making smart, actionable decisions in a proactive way.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bridge the Gap to a Successful Resolution

In its simplest context, a bridge is a solution for getting from point A to point B. The best bridge is one that accomplishes that task with the least amount of difficulty. But bridges, even the metaphorical symbolic ones, come in all shapes and sizes.

In northern India, the roots of the banyan fig tree are used by the indigenous population to form bridges across ravines and streams. As solutions to problems, these living root bridges are quite successful. It is not known who first built these amazing structures, but the trees are known to live for more than 500 years. With that knowledge, at least as far as bridges are concerned, you don't have to worry too much about the decay of your infrastructure.

These aerial roots grow perfectly well in the air, and the young pliable roots are trained to travel through hollowed out tree trunks laid across whatever must be crossed. The process can take up to 15 years, but once the roots attach themselves to the other side, the bridge is usable and simply must mature with a hardening of the roots to become fully functional. Some of the best solutions take time, but if you have one that is going to perform for 500 years, you have a pretty good solution.

Exemplifying another kind of bridge, in 2014, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, received an award of distinction for its leadership in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness. In fact, the award presented by the Greater Baltimore Committee is actually called the Bridging the Gap Award.

Led by Dr. Richard Bennett, Bayview's Diversity Council was recognized as one of the nationĂ¢€™s top ten such councils. In this case, bridging the gap involved uniting business interests with community interests with the bridge of commitment toward generating summer employment for minority students pursuing health care and life sciences careers. Bayview was also recognized for its efforts to support leadership initiatives among the medical centerĂ¢€™s under-represented minority and female staff members.

One of the most innovative and successful business leaders to emerge in the past 50 years was Steve Jobs. One of the primary problems he routinely addressed was how to do business with a focus not on his product, but on the utility of that product, and how clients received and used that product. Steve Jobs was focused on people, not products. As a result, his energy was poured into solving the problems of people rather than solving the problems of making products.

Clearly one of his biggest success stories was the iPhone, as it performed the functions of three or four machines with one device. That solves a people problem creating a bridge between multiple needs and utility. But it didn't stop there for Jobs. He went further by creating an environment in which the iPhone was not merely an industry leader. Other companies in that industry were creating applications to use on his iPhone. In essence, he created an ecosystem in which his product sales were now being driven by other companies through their software marketed specifically for the iPhone. Steve Jobs built a bridge between multiple needs of people and the obvious solution to those many needs with a single product. And then, he widened the bridge by getting other companies to basically market his product for him.

Business has always been about solving problems. The best bridges solve problems the most effectively. Like the famous folk-rock group Simon and Garfunkel said in their Grammy-winning song, "like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down." Successful bridges make the journey over troubled water a much easier task.