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Independence Day

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

This month is particularly meaningful as I look back on the very first steps I took on my entrepreneurial journey (nearly 5 years ago!) and reflect upon where my personal “Independence Day” has led me since this day in 2011. 


Beautiful Young Woman with USA Flag

I declare today to be Independence Day—my Independence Day. I’m aware of the irony of celebrating my personal independence on a day that our entire nation also celebrates its independence. But what could be more appropriate?

There are two reasons that call for this special occasion. I am celebrating my last day  working a desk job AND my first day of being my own boss. Both are as exciting as they are scary. Since I like focusing on beginnings not endings, let’s place our focus on the latter reason.

Today is a date I first set two weeks ago with HR when I decided I was going to take the leap (hopefully not the plunge) to branch off and put my entire heart and soul into launching my own public relations firm, Bennis Inc. It was an arbitrary date at the time, but has since become my hope, my inspiration…and now, my Independence Day.

As per handbook policy, I had to give two weeks notice to leave the Department and remain within good-standing plus it was a payday so I knew I wouldn’t have to wait around for my final pay check. It made sense. For the past two weeks, day by day, it became the light at the end of the tunnel. Some days I felt like there was so much to get done before this day that it was like being sucked into a jet propeller. Other days I felt like time simply stopped moving altogether.

No matter what it felt like, it was 14 days, 336 hours, 20160 minutes of planning, preparing and waiting. In those moments, I grew by at least seven years. I did things that people decades older than me have never had to tackle, and maybe never will. I rolled over my minuscule retirement fund into a Roth IRA. I hired a tax attorney to incorporate my business and get me prepared for a whole new experience when it comes to taxes. And I started pounding the pavement, putting myself out there and finally telling people about this business I’ve been building from the ground up since college.

I realized I have never before officially declared my independence as an entrepreneur and business owner, though I have been one for almost three years now. I always felt like I had to hide it or refer to it as a “side business” so as not to appear like a conflict of interest with my day job or schooling.

Well, that all stops today.

Today, I am officially open—open for business and open to praise, criticism, success and defeat. But it feels great. I feel like I’ve finally woken up and am taking my first deep breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see where this Independence) Day will lead!

 

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How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

How to Use Natural Lighting When Taking Photographs

Last week on the Bennis Inc blog, we wrote about why the best photographers use the manual settings on their camera. Among the benefits, was that you gain a lot more control over lighting and are better able to harness the power of natural lighting. To keep our “photography theme” going, we’re now focusing this week’s specifically on how to (and why you should) use natural lighting!

When taking a photograph, one of the most important things to consider is the quality of your lighting. For example, balanced soft light helps set the scene for a beautiful portrait. Simply put, the right lighting can turn an ordinary image into an eye-catching work of art. But you have to first have (even just a basic) understanding of how to make the most of your natural light, as this will be the most common lighting you’ll have at your disposal. Take a look at these helpful tips!

Manual Settings

Knowing how to change your settings on your camera to adapt to your surroundings can play a big part in achieving a well-exposed photograph, especially when using natural outdoor lighting. Aperture and shutter speed are the most important settings to consider when working with natural lighting. Using these manual settings is imperative so that you can chose how little or how much light to allow into your lens. When it comes to exposure, F numbers are what control your aperture. It may seem lightly counterintuitive, but the lower the number, the more light you let. For shutter speed, the faster the setting, the less light that will enter in your lens.

Direction of your subject

The next step toward using natural lighting to your advantage is to know where to place your subject in regards to the sun. When photographing a person, it’s important to not have them facing the sun for several reasons. Doing so will impact your exposure and it will also cause your subject to squint, which doesn’t help produce a great photo either! Instead of facing into the sun, use your natural outdoor lighting as your back light by placing your subject with their back against the sun. Another way to creatively use natural lighting to your advantage is to play up the sun by creating shadows. You can create flattering shadows by using shade and/or shooting a “peak-a-boo” effect by photographing behind another object such as a flower or plant.

Using Natural Lighting Indoors

Some beginner photographers might think the only way to use natural lighting is during an outdoor shoot. This is simply not true, as there are ways to take advantage of natural lighting when shooting certain subjects indoors as well. The best locations for using natural lighting indoors is in a room where you have large, open windows to work with. Once you have found your ideal spot, place your subject a few feet away from the window to take full advantage of this type of natural lighting. Another expert tip is to have your subject face directly into the window or at least turn a 45-degree angle so that the shadowing appears softer and more gradual.

Editing Process

Once you devote a lot of time and energy into capturing hundreds (if not thousands) of shots, the idea of post editing all of these images can be a daunting task. This is all the more reason to pay special attention to your lighting and to use natural lighting to your full advantage. It will save you a lot of post editing work!

You photos will still need some editing to achieve their full potential, and that’s to be expected. When shooting a photograph on an overcast day, it is almost always necessary to touch up your lighting with editing software post-shoot. Don’t be afraid of the editing process! Tweaking your lighting ever so slightly can really make a difference in the quality of your final product, making the time you put into capturing and perfecting it all worth it.

Are you a photographer who likes to use natural lighting when shooting? If so, please share your best practices by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2016 in Photography, Technology

 

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Why the Best Photographers Use Manual Settings

Why the Best Photographers Use Manual SettingsAnyone can purchase a DSLR camera and photograph a basic picture using the auto button (or “the little green box” as some photographers call it). This doesn’t, however, ensure you’ll capture the best possible picture. Experienced photographers most always agree that you need to think outside that little green box and venture into manual settings to capture high quality images.

But what if you’re just beginning to dabble in photography? Learning about the different settings on your camera can be quite intimidating. This is all the more reason to push yourself outside the (green) box! With some time and patience, even the most amateur photographer can pick up on essential techniques for using manual settings to enhance the quality of their photographs. If you can relate to wanting to improve your photography skills, here are three reasons why you shouldn’t wait to learn how to use your manual settings!

Taking Control

Manual settings give you ultimate control. Even the top-of-the-line cameras on the market today can still produce images that are off focus or have dark shadows if left in auto mode. In fact, technology can work against you, especially if you’re trying to capture an artistic shot. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the various manual settings. After you have a basic understanding of what each setting does, this is the best way to practice. Even if you take thousands of terrible photographs to get to a half decent one, there’s no cost to learning through trial and error.

Lighting

When shooting a photograph under different lighting situations, understanding manual settings can be key to capturing a great image…or none at all. Lighting has a huge impact on your images. Too much is just as harmful as too little. If you don’t know where to begin, start with lighting. Knowing how to adapt your settings at least based on lighting can be one of the best tools you possess. As a photographer, you will not always have the benefit of choosing your setting, especially when photographing an event. Being able to manipulate the manual settings of your camera can really help save the day!

Allows you to be creative

Shooting with manual settings really allows you to be the most creative when capturing an image. Don’t be afraid of manual mode, embrace it and push yourself to create something outside of the green box. You can manipulate lighting to cast a cool shadow or focus on distant object, rather than one that is in the forefront. Sure, this may result in some awful images at first, but once you learn the ropes, it’s also likely to result in far more inspired images in the future!

What’s your opinion about using the manual settings on a camera? Do you agree or disagree with our viewpoint? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

Pinterest is a stand-alone Visual Social Network centered on sharing images that link to content. Depending upon your business and industry, Pinterest can be a powerful tool for marketing your products or services and growing your brand. Even individual people can grow their personal brand through the type of content they share or “pin” to their boards.

Whether you have a well-established and popular Pinterest profile, or whether you’re just getting started (like we are at Bennis Inc), there are many tips and best practices for growing your influence. Here are just a few of pieces of wisdom we have gained from our personal experience with establishing a business presence on Pinterest. Take a look!

Plan Your Pins to Win

Start by creating just a few board topics that are directly related to your business and brand. Focus on getting 3-5 boards filled with interesting and quality content before spreading out to create new boards. As potential followers explore your profile, they will be more impressed to see several quality boards than a ton of boards that are hardly utilized.

As you explore Pinterest for content to share (in addition to sharing your own content), you may come across other users that really sync with your brand. Follow them! Not only will this provide a stream of quality content for the future, you just might earn their following in return.

Establish Yourself as an Expert in Your Field

Remember, Pinterest is all about visual content! In order to get noticed, you need your pins to visually stand out. This may mean creating some custom graphics that include the title of your article within the photo. You’ll see this is a very popular way people share content on Pinterest and that’s because it’s effective! People easily grasp what your content is about, which increases the chance they will click and share.

While it’s okay to re-pin other users’ content, you want to also share your original content (i.e. blog, articles, images) to establish yourself as an expert in your field. For example, a photographer won’t get too much respect if he is only sharing other people’s photos that are not his own. Be genuine, just like you would on any other social media platform!

Share Your Content Across Other Social Media Platforms

Speaking of other social media platforms, you can really leverage the full power of your content by taking what you share on Pinterest and also sharing this on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

Additionally, you want to be sure people who are reading your original content, such as on your website or blog, have an easy way to find you on Pinterest as well as pin your content to their own boards. This is as simple as adding some social media buttons to the top and/or bottom of every post. Though it may seem obvious, it is often overlooked!

How have you navigated your business strategy on Pinterest? Share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below!

And don’t forget to follow Bennis Inc on Pinterest! We’re just getting started and have a lot of great things coming soon.

 

 

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So You’re Different…Just Like Everyone Else

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


So You’re Different…Just Like Everyone ElseAs I continue to define the scope of my Public Relations work – particularly the emerging trends and most effective strategies for my clients, I’ve been confronted with one reoccurring scenario. Every business wants to share the message of why they’re different from all the others. But so often the differences they provide me with read like every other brochure, billboard or tagline I’ve seen time and time again. “We care….We put our customers first…We provide you with the best quality of service.” If you’ve already tuned out while reading that last sentence, you’re not alone. In fact, your reaction is the same reaction such statements receive when they’re placed on any plethora of marketing materials. Either the message is forgotten as soon as something else catches our attention or it’s glazed over altogether, never standing the chance to be absorbed into our subconscious. Neither result is desirable for the businesses who are trying so hard to differentiate themselves.

What makes a business truly different?

Truthfully, at the end of the day…very little. For the most part, products and services can be replicated (even with the best copyright laws and patents in place). There are millions of family-owned businesses with “small town values” representing every size and industry. And words like loyalty, honesty and quality – while all very good things for a business to have – are often read as ambiguous marketing fluff by customers. In very rare cases, a compelling story of how you overcame mountains of adversity to start your business may draw a unique spotlight your way, but inevitably the light will fade and a story of such depth is hard to convey on a billboard or Facebook ad. By focusing your marketing and public relations on answering the question “What makes me different?” you’re missing the question that really matters which is “How can I get remembered?”

Recognize your lack of differences with honesty.

Simply put, people appreciate honesty. The initial and obvious reaction to this fact is to position a company’s honesty and integrity as a “unique value.” But I beg of you to take at least one step outside the box. Customers aren’t easily fooled into thinking that you’re the only honest business on the block. They likely do business with many other people who they would also classify as men or women of integrity. So instead, make yourself memorable by evoking an unexpected emotion or reaction from your audience. With the right communications strategy you can make them laugh, make them think or even make them blush. You may be bold enough to directly say “We’re actually not that different from the other businesses out there,” and catch your audience completely off guard. Being remembered is the end goal and by going against the grain just a little, you’ll have a much better shot at achieving this. So long as you remain honest and genuine with your customer base, the sky’s the limit for creativity!

Actions (and brands) speak louder than words.

Nike is far from the only company that makes and sells athletic apparel. This is a huge industry and really no advertisement or marketing that I’ve seen has fully convinced me that any certain running shoe or t-shirt is all that different from the rest. Even when a seemingly revolutionary product is launched, it’s only a matter of weeks or months until 10+ other companies release their own version of this product, claiming the same technology and benefits. So what does Nike focus on to position themselves as a leader in the industry? Their brand. It’s the swoosh, the “Just do it” tagline, the distinct style of commercials and the carefully chosen celebrity spokespeople who create this solid brand. Instead of contributing to the white noise of long-winded and confusing advertising jargon, Nike has instead chose to build a brand that is so powerful and well-defined that a big white smudge on an all-black billboard is enough for anyone to recognize that as the Nike brand. While they still strive to be “first” and “different” in many aspects of athletic apparel, they know this will only every last so long until the next big thing hits. So instead, they focus their communications efforts on building up what can’t as easily be knocked down – a timeless brand.

You may not be the only one, but you can still be the best one.

Finally, there is one area where you can truly stand out and that’s at the top. By being the best at something, you leave no room for a competitor to join you on this stage. However, in communications the term “the best” is overused, misconstrued and there’s really no form you need to fill out or ribbon you need to receive to make this claim. At all levels and in all industries, there are certain awards that can help back up your claim to fame and provide a great point of differentiation for your business. But regardless of whether you’re hoping to use this title as a future marketing campaign, you should strive to be the best for no greater reason than to serve your people and your business well. There may be many other businesses out there just like yours, but if your customers truly feel like you are the best based on the quality of your service or product, I promise you that they will be back for more!

Whether you’re trying to differentiate your business or yourself, remember that for no other reason than the sheer volume of competitors, being truly different is not always possible. Instead, focus your communications efforts of getting remembered. And with this thought, I’ll close with a final inspiration:

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel. “—Maya Angelou

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Work From Home with a Child

Sometimes food is a necessary incentive to keep the kiddos quiet long enough to make a phone call!

Sometimes food is a necessary incentive to keep the kiddos quiet long enough to make a phone call!

Working from home can be hugely beneficial to growing your business, increasing efficiency and saving money. Where things can get tricky is if you’re not the only one at home during the workday. Yes, I’m talking about those pint-sized “coworkers” called children that can’t yet understand the difference between work time and play time.

For some parents, balancing work and childcare from home is the only way they can make it all happen. If you’re among the lucky ones who can enroll your little one in caregiver program at least 2 days a week, even if just for a 3-hour block of time, you can get a ton done in these golden hours! But what about the other days when your child is home with you like snow days, sick days or holidays? These seem to pop up during the most inconvenient times, turning what should be a simple work task or conference call into an extremely stressful balancing act.

The good news is with a little creativity and flexibility throughout your day, you can indeed find balance in this work situation. Here are some tips to make working from home with your child a success!

Create Fun Activity Kits for Your Little One

Even if you only have a few hours’ notice that your little one is going to be at home with you on a workday (i.e. a stomach bug or big snow storm), you only need a little time to put together some activity kits that will keep those tiny fingers busy (and independent of your attention) as you tackle your most important tasks

For example, bust out the play dough and give them an “assignment sheet” of the shapes or objects you want them to try to create. Create a “craft kit” with all the necessary tools and ask them to create something specific, like a birthday card for a relative. Another idea is to assemble a dress up box with fun clothing items and accessories you have lying around the house (bonus points if it’s something they haven’t seen before!). If you have multiple kids at home, create a contest for the best costume that you will judge once you’re off your call or done with your project. Don’t forget about educational DVDs! Sure, some people may try to make you feel guilty for all that “screen time,” but when you’re in a pinch and just need an hour or so of peace and quiet, you do what you have to do!

Block Off Time for Undivided Attention
Have you ever been wrapped up in an assignment, trying to concentrate, but your toddler is literally tugging on you and begging you for some attention? This is when you know it’s time to take a short break from your computer or phone and give some undivided attention to your little one. Take time to get down on their level and play with your toddler for a while. Yes, this is time you aren’t getting work done, but by investing even just 20 minutes or so into making your kid feel noticed and loved, your reward will be a content child that is happy to play independently again until you can return to him or her.

Utilize Family

To say it takes a village to raise a child couldn’t be more accurate! When you have a young family, you quickly realize the importance of trusted family and friends who live close by. If you can foresee a big project coming up at work or an assignment that will need your full attention, don’t be afraid to ask for help with your little one

A family member, neighbor or friend who is willing to take your child on a walk or simply be an extra set of hands for you in the house, if worth their weight in gold! Not only will you feel calm and at ease while getting work done, your child will also enjoy some one-on-one time with a new “friend” who will make them feel like the center of their world. Even if you don’t have family nearby, build a network of friends and fellow moms who are willing to help you out in an emergency situation. You never know until you ask! I have found people are more than happy to help out a busy mom and give her a few well-deserved moments of peace.

Do you ever have to balance work and childcare on the same days? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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More Than Words: How Visual Content Improves Your Blog

How Visual Content Improves Your BlogBlog posts are one of the most popular and powerful ways to engage your audiences through online content. However it’s not enough to set up a blog, sit back and wait for your audience to flock to you. In order to grow a community of loyal readers, your blog needs more than just quality content. It also needs visual elements to grab attention, reinforce your brand and increase SEO.

Now, the Bennis Inc blog has room for improvement in this area as well! As we strive to do a better job of incorporating more visual content into our weekly posts, we thought we’d share with you five reasons why we know this to be so important. Take a look!

 

Visual content…

Grabs attention, especially when shared on social media

If you want to draw more readers to your blog, it’s important to make your posts look good when shared on social media. Without visual content, people will see a blank square and a snippet of content that may not be enough to stop them from scrolling on by. Set yourself up for social sharing success by always including at least one image per blog that clearly represents the theme of your post, so that when people see it as a thumbnail they know right away they want to read more!

Emphasizes your main points

Visual content is a powerful opportunity to highlight and emphasize the main points of your blog. Much like how we use subheadings to make content easily digested, images and graphics next to each main point help guide readers through your content. Visual content also makes your main points easy to remember and reference again in the future.

Visual content helps shine a spotlight on the main points you want to reader to takeaway.

Visual content helps shine a spotlight on the main points you want to reader to takeaway.

Reflects the style of your brand

Your blog is a direct reflection of your brand and therefore should use the same quality of images you would feel comfortable publishing on your website or social media. Everything needs to work together to reinforce the same message. Use visual content on your blog to create continuity for visitors who are likely to jump from your blog to your website and vice versa.

Captioning the photo with keywords gives search engines another way to find you

Most people know, but forget to fully utilize the fact that the photos you post on your blog are indexed by search engines. This makes visual content yet one more way you can improve your SEO. Make sure every photo you post is named and captioned with your most relevant keywords. Captions are also important for engaging readers and connecting each image back to your content.

Glowing Illuminated Love light photo lamp

We “love” this photo because we took it ourselves! It’s clean, simple and modern, much like the Bennis Inc brand. Plus, it represents something we get to see in daily life.

Provides an opportunity to insert a personal touch (by using your own photos)

Finally, visual content is a great way to let your personality and brand shine through your words. It’s a smart idea to build up your own stock image gallery of photos that share your story. Then, you will always have these available to use on future blogs. By using your own photos, you don’t have to worry about running into licensing issues, plus you’ll further engage your audience with visuals that are far more unique and captivating than those generic stock images.

How do you incorporate visual elements on your blog or website to attract visitors to your content? Share your ideas by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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