New Websites Launched for MPA Networks and the Greater Broadway District

November 13th, 2013

We’re pleased to announce new websites designed, developed and launched by Placemaking Group.

Celebrating MPA Networks‘ 30-year anniversary with a new site and commemorative logo design. Learn more on our portfolio »


Sacramento’s Greater Broadway District’s new website showcases its unique style and eclectic businesses. Learn more on our portfolio »

Six Ingredients to Creating an Engaging Speech

October 31st, 2013

Why are some speakers very engaging and inspiring and others leave their audiences searching for a way to exit the room? What the are the key ingredients to delivering an engaging speech that is persuasive and motivates people to action? Here are six key elements for giving a speech that will engage the audience and keep people in their seats.

  1. Build Interest Immediately
    To grab the audience’s attention right away, begin your speech by telling a story, a humorous observation (be sure it’s in good taste), or a fascinating statistic that relates to your topic.
  2. Present A Preview
    Now that you the audience is attentive, give them a bullet-point overview of what you are going to talk about and what they will learn.
  3. Showcase Your Credibility
    Show the audience that you are a credible source by referring to an actual example of your work that highlights your expertise. Share industry research to let the audience know that you are current in your field. When executives at San Francisco Bay Area business IT consulting firm, Clare Computer Solutions, speak to audiences on topics such as cloud computing, disaster recovery and business continuity, they share real world stories that businesses have experienced.
  4. Show How the Topic Impacts the Audience
    People often attend a speech because they want information on solving a problem, accomplishing a task, or gaining an understanding of a situation or issue. Be prepared to provide how-to information. When Placemaking Group’s CEO, Dennis Erokan, gives his Get Famous speech, he directly  interacts with the audience, helping them to fill out a Branding Blueprint document, providing them with what we call “Brand Therapy,” or  a road map to set them on a path to define their brand, the first step on the quest for gaining notoriety.
  5. Use Social Media
    Add to the audience’s level of engagement, and at the same time earn some free advertising for yourself, by suggesting they tweet information in your speech that they find useful.
  6. Ask Questions
    Before you conclude your speech, take time to ask the audience to state what they found useful and what they learned that they can take immediate action on. After you do this a few times, you may discover specific statements that are expressed by most audiences. List those on one of your final PowerPoint slides and show it following the audience discussion to review and add any further thoughts or ideas.

Speaker Coaching
Are audiences glazing over, or worse, falling asleep when you give a speech? Need help organizing your presentation? Scared to speak in front of groups? Stage fright? Dennis Erokan provides speaker coaching. Call 510-835-7900 ext. 203, or email him at: to schedule your speaker coaching appointment.





Who’s in charge of social media?

October 8th, 2013

SocialMedialogosWho is in charge of social media in your company? That’s a question that is still stumping people all over the country! The Creative Group recently did a survey asking marketing and advertising executives that question. The results were all over the map. No surprise there!

As Erik Sass reported in his blog, The Social Graf, 39% thought that social media belongs in the public relations group. But, 35% thought it should be in the marketing department, 15% thought it should be in customer service, 5% thought the CEO should be in charge, and 6% didn’t know! Read the rest of this entry »

Good Communication and Messaging Can Help Lead to Change

September 27th, 2013

Fear of change is always something that is an issue when you are running a company or a team. This can be tough to deal with when someone new comes into a leadership position or when the world around you needs you to change. Your group usually wants things to remain the same.

The world of healthcare is going through that world of change right now. And what the successful change leaders are doing is making sure there is a lot of genuine communication going on. That is one of the best ways to make cultural change happen.

HFMA_logoLast week, at the Northern California Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association conference four people dealing with change right now led a panel discussion. The panel included:

* Deborah Aronoff – Vice President, Performance Excellence, Kaiser Permanente, Northern California Region
* Stephen Chun – Managing Director, Lean Consulting Associates LLC
* Cynthia Chiarappa – Vice President Strategy, Children’s Hospital of Oakland
* MJ Marijane White – Director, Performance Excellence at University of California-San Francisco Medical Center

Read the rest of this entry »

Creating SEO Programs That Equal Business Success

September 17th, 2013

For most businesses, SEO or search engine optimization is essential to online success. Businesses offering products or services to the general public, or business sectors that target the public, should implement an SEO program. Companies or individuals  not primarily relying on web traffic to build their businesses, and that are marketing exclusively through direct face-to-face contact, or receiving abundant referrals, might not need to invest as heavily in SEO. However, they can still benefit from an SEO program in order to build awareness of their services.

The reason to invest in SEO is that if potential customers or clients are looking for your type of business, they are going to do a search on Google, Yahoo or Bing. They are going to search via their laptops, desktops or smart phones. They will search with keywords that they think relate to your kind of business, and they will most often search with their location (city or county) as part of the search, as that keeps them local. The results of this search will be displayed by the engines in pages of ten listings on each page. You want your business to be on that first page of results, near the top of the results, as high as possible so that you are noticed most quickly by the person doing the search. And when they click through to your site, you have your first opportunity to sell to them. In addition, visitors assume that since your site is near the top of the rankings results,  you are there because you are among the best.

There are two processes that are key to online business success.

The first of these is excellent search engine ranking. This is your first level of advertising, and that is very important to realize. SEO is targeted advertising, and it is extraordinarily valuable to bringing in new business.

The second process is your site’s visitor-to-customer conversion—the total elements of your site design, copy, call to action, special offers that psychologically convert a visitor to a customer. This is akin to having a brick and mortar environment that is compelling and comforting to your guests, clients or customers–so much so that they want to buy your wares or services. The SEO is a targeted advertising campaign that brings them to your door.

Developing high caliber SEO brings potential customers or clients to your online door because you’re ranked in the top positions on the first two pages of Google, Yahoo or Bing. Achieving that SEO ranking is a true joining of art and science. Art, in that the copy on the pages of your site needs to be written using keyword phrases that people will search for and that the engines recognize as relevant to the authentic service you are providing. Science, in that the engines are coded algorithms, just statements and statements of code that are analyzing billions of pages of content. No human looks at your site to determine how you are to be ranked. The algorithms do that. So SEO science requires an expert knowledge of how to speak to those algorithms.

At The Placemaking Group, we successfully combine the art and science to build effective SEO programs that drive traffic to your website and can result in new customers and increased sales.

Post written by James R. Acker, SEO Specialist

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A Commemorative Logo Conveys Clear Brand Message

August 30th, 2013

MPA_IT_STRONG_horz_WhiteBorder_WEBIn October 2013, our client MPA Networks is celebrating 30 years of providing above-and-beyond IT managed services to companies in San Francisco and the Peninsula. Business longevity such as this is no small feat for any company and is a key differentiator  for MPA in the highly competitive Bay Area.

To commemorate the event, MPA Networks came to us with a request for a 30-year logo mark they could use on their website, email signature, marketing materials, work shirts and assorted specialty items. We responded with a strong brand message integrated into a logo design that’s graphically impactful and quickly conveys the service they offer and their company’s 30 years of service. The client loves it. We do too.

Our hats are off to you MPA Networks.  Here’s to another 30.


Blog post by Dianne Newton-Shaw, Account Supervisor

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Brand Message You Remember

Build your Brand with Video

Get Readers to Your Blog: Content Marketing

August 21st, 2013

Why do most people visit blogs? Caren Kagan Evans said on a post on LinkedIn that, “The truth is that people visit blogs because they want to find valuable information that serves their needs. So, if you write self-serving blog posts then you will lose big time.”

ReadBlogThat’s an important bit of information. If you want people to read your blog, it has to be educational. You have to give them good solid information.

As Annetta Powell writes in her blog,  “Provide Valuable Resources in Your Blog. If you want to attract visitors and convert them into exuberant readers then you should provide FREE useful resources in your blog. There are quite a number of things that you can provide free. You can write and share a free downloadable eBook, a white paper, a market report, or a podcast. You can also share links to valuable resources located in partner sites or 3rd party sites. When you share valuable resources, you will give readers a reason to want to join your mailing list and to share the link to your blog with others.”

So the key to writing a blog comes back to the reason YOU go to the blogs that you regularly go to. You’re readers want good information. Information that is easy to understand, and easy to use. Make sure you use great graphics and tutorials. Another good thing is to write for other blogs and get them to link back to yours.

Content Marketing in our history! — I love the fact that Jello salespeople back in the beginning of the 1900′s used to go door to door giving out a free cook book that had various recipes using Jello and showing how versatile it is! That  is always a winning plan. If you want people to take you seriously and believe you are an authority, you have to give them solid ideas and examples.

Now, go off and start your content marketing plan!

Looking Your Best for Video

August 15th, 2013

iStock_000004174522SmallVideo is still a really great way to engage with your client base, present yourself and company as leading experts in your field, and gain followers. Looking your best for video will allow your viewers to focus on your message rather than your appearance. If video is part of your online marketing plan, it’s essential that you think about your personal presentation before you start recording.

Here are a few quick video shooting tips for having a great presence on camera.

Styling Tips

Keep your outfit neat and avoid distracting stripes and garish patterns. A shirt or blouse with some color can be more flattering on screen than a plain white shirt, and be sure to iron before going in front of the camera. Take a good look in the mirror to check for minor imperfections that can be easily tended to: an unruly cowlick or lock of hair can be tamed with a bit of hair spray; a bit of spinach between the teeth from today’s lunch can be flossed away; a tie or scarf can be tidied up for a sharp and stylish appearance.

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Frequently Asked SEO Questions

July 24th, 2013

We hear a variety of questions about SEO (search engine optimization) from clients in our day-to-day work as a marketing communication agency. Here are the top 5 most frequently asked SEO questions that our staff hears.

1. What is SEO?
Very simply, SEO (search engine optimization) is the process by which a website is set up to make it easy for search engines to determine what your site is about and gives people searching for information the best results for their search. The way to optimize a site keeps changing as search engines change their algorithm. The best advice currently is to research keywords for your site then write meaningful content with appropriate title and description tags to help the search engines recognize when to serve up your site. This is a very simplified explanation. There are entire books and blogs on the subject. We have a staff person who is an expert in SEO and that’s all he does.

2. How long will it take to get good rankings on Google?
Like many things in life, the answer is: it depends. We recently re-optimized a client’s site and found it moved up substantially within a month for many of the keywords that identify a local location. This may be due to the fact that this is an established site, already indexed by Google and with over 400 pages, including a WordPress blog. A new site, however, can take over a year, because establishing a good reputation with Google is slow. Additionally, developing good quality incoming links takes time, and generating blog posts can also take time. The most important thing is to make sure your site has good, usable content. That’s really what Google is looking for. And start as soon as possible, if you want shade, plant the tree now and nurture it.should-i-optimize-for-other-search-engines-word-cloud

3. Should I care about search engines other than Google?
In December 2012, Google handled 114 billion searches worldwide. All other search engines combined conducted 30 billion searches. Google has 67% of the search market in the U.S according to a ComScore report in April 2013. As demonstrated by this word cloud – Google is a lot bigger than anything else. You can worry about the other search engines, but make sure Google is where you put most of your effort.

4. Why do I need to pay for SEO?
You don’t have to. But like anything, there are people who are really good at it. They have spent many hours learning how to analyze keywords to determine which ones to optimize for, and how to write tags and content so search engines will rank your site. It takes time and expertise to be effective with SEO. If you have the time — go for it.


5. How do I get links to my website if most link exchange services are not valuable?

This is a subject for an entire blog post. However, we will tell you that it all starts with a high-quality, educational or entertaining website. Then, use your social media outlets to share important blog posts, articles, white papers and event notices. Another option is to write guest blog posts for other high-quality related sites. PR – news releases, video and article placement are also great ways to generate links and drive traffic. But at all costs, avoid the link building services where you pay for links. These can hurt your search rank. Do you have a question about SEO? Please leave us a comment and we promise to answer it.

If you have any questions about SEO that you would like answered, please post a comment below and we’ll have our SEO expert respond. Thanks.


Post by Barbara Irias, Vice President.  Here is some other information about SEO and your website.

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SEO and Content Marketing
Thoughtful Design and SEO
Tips for optimizing a Press Release

Using ALT tags to your advantage

July 18th, 2013

What is an ALT tag?

An ALT tag is essentially a text alternative attached to an image on your website. It is a way of describing an image to a visitor that cannot see the actual image. Adding ALT tags to your images makes them more accessible to non-visual users as well as users who prefer to view pages with graphics turned off for speed-of-viewing or spam safety reasons.

Apart from helping you meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for users that are unable to view images, these ALT tags are equally important in SEO (Search Engine optimization).  Search engine spiders use the ALT tag attached to a particular image to decipher what it is portraying. Therefore, cleverly constructed ALT tags can really help with SEO and direct more people looking for your particular services to your website.

So what does this ALT tag look like?

Well, it’s pretty sexy, here take a gander at the source code (HTML) that inserts an image with an ALT tag…

<img src=”images/dairycows.jpg” width=”400″ height=”269″ alt=”dairy cows”>
dairy cows

SIDE NOTE: Some browsers also offer up a cursor tool tip of your alt tag which is kind of nifty, these are often handy when you are unsure what the image is and being able to place your cursor over an image and get more info is super-cool.

Now, I hear you saying “why should I spend time optimizing my images, they are just cows, can my ALT tag just be ‘dairy cows’?”  Yes, your ALT tag can just be “dairy cows”, but why stop there when it is so exciting to keep going! Lets make them really work for you and think about:

  1. Why did you choose that particular image to put on your website? What message do you want your viewers to take away from this image?
  2. Are you the owner of a free-range dairy farm in California and you strongly believe that happy cows produce better milk? Of course you are!

Let’s take advantage of the ALT tag attached to this image and use some powerful and searchable keywords that speak specifically about your industry:

<img src=”images/dairycows.jpg” width=”400″ height=”269″  alt=”California free-range dairy cows grazing happily on a hillside”

California free-range dairy cows grazing happily on a hillside

Ah, now that is better, those cows sure do look happy, and your non-visual users will be able to imagine the scene with more accuracy now. AND, an added bonus, this clever optimization of your images’ ALT tags make them work harder and more effectively by giving search engine spiders some specific keywords to dig their claws into, helping direct the right traffic your way.

Next time you are thoughtfully choosing images for your website or email marketing campaigns, also direct some thought into popping in those descriptive keywords that distill the essence of your image. You will get twice as much bang for your buck when using the ALT tag to describe your image and also help your non-visual users at the same time. Caring is Sharing.

Just a quick note on “keyword stuffing” :(

Be careful not to go overboard and “stuff “all of your image ALT tags with a long list of keywords –  keep them relevant and meaningful to the image, otherwise the search engine gods will get angry and it may lead to a temporary or permanent search engine ban – eeek!

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Post by Jannah Lyon, Creative Director, Placemaking Group.