Step by Step, How I Launched a New Brand

When the agency Reaction Digital (where I work 👍) decided to refresh their identity, we knew we needed to launch fast and hit the ground running!

The project kicked off in late November, 2020. Although the Christmas holiday break was coming up soon, as a team, we hashed out concepts for our updated logo and overall style. The plan was to completely rebuild a new WordPress website, and have it ready for launch with the new branding in Q1 of 2021. Which is something we strive to do for our clients when they come to us for a new website – get a lean website with a modern design online in roughly 90-days, and plan to build and improve over time.

What we delivered in the new brand launch

  • 8-part launch video series
  • New key message
  • A Storybrand language framework doc
  • A custom WordPress website
  • Multiple promotional emails
  • 60+ social posts

1. Create a brand campaign and cool concept

For me, it was about sharing the story of what changes Reaction went through to merit a cool new look. We unofficially labeled it the “behind-the-scenes series of our agency’s rebrand”, and I planned, shot, and produced an 8-part video series all about it on YouTube.

I planned a campaign stretching over 60-days, releasing 1-2 videos per week along with storytelling social posts to fill the gaps throughout the week.

Video 1 – With a perfect clickbait title, we show a brief look at our history, and how we’ve doubled-down on what we do best.

Video 2 – Explains a little bit about audience personas, and we walkthrough who our most ideal customers are.

Video 3 – We now have a new look and narrowed focus on the people we want to do business with, naturally we need a new key message and tagline.

Video 4 – Mike Szyszka, the CEO, explains the challenges with of our current website and brand, and how we plan to tackle them with our new identity.

Video 5 – The big reveal! We officially show off our new logo, brand colours, iconography, fonts, etc, and how the new brand can be expressed across our digital footprint.

Video 6 – Nerdy, but very cool! We show off how we documented how to use our brand in a purely digital format publicly available at brand.reaction.ca

Video 7 – It wouldn’t be a rebrand with out a brand new website. In this video Mike gives a live walkthrough of the new site.

Video 8 – Producing this behind-the-scenes video series was a blast, and there were a ton of funny moments captured so I knew a final “thank you for watching” video with a handful of bloopers would wrap things up nicely.

2. Use a content calendar

The story didn’t end with just 8 videos on YouTube. Over the course of 8-weeks, I coordinated over 60 pieces of custom-curated content across Reaction’s marketing channels. Including juicy sneak peaks of the new logo, carousels of mockups, and addition teaser videos to generate more brand awareness.

Courtesy of reaction.ca

3. Onboard the whole team

With the new brand identity solidified, it was time to fully brief the team on our new look. I put together a 20 slide presentation to show off the new brand, new audience personas, mockups of the new website, and how the 8-week launch will roll out. The presentation was nothing fancy, but the team (aka, the lifeblood of any company) all needed to be on the same page with the new image of the company.

Courtesy of reaction.ca

If everything always goes smoothly without a catch, you’ll never learn how to view problems from multiple perspectives and quickly adapt to new plans.

Me, I said this

4. Prepare for roadblocks

Throughout the 8-week launch, it was inevitable that some aspects of the project would go sideways. For example, that’s why contractors quote 10% more in materials incase of complications. The brand launch for Reaction Digital was no exception. In the digital service industry, time is your greatest asset. The 8-week schedule was originally a 5-week launch but it was extended due to a handful of roadblocks to overcome.

  • I had to remake the third video because we revised our new key message when we started writing website content
  • The live database of the new website was accidentally overwritten, and I lost almost 4 days of work
  • Over 30 planned and scheduled pieces of promotional content had to be pushed out as the launch extend by a few weeks

The moral is that it’s just not realistic to think everything will go perfectly according to plan. You have to quickly come up with new plans and adapt the project around them.

5. Design and share some awesome looking swag

It wouldn’t be a rebrand without some awesome company swag. Coaster, shirt, mug, pen, candle, and a cookie (which I ate 🍪) were custom designed and sent to staff and clients all over the world.

6. Plan a virtual launch party

In the final week of the launch, we hosted a virtual party over Zoom. We send out a pile of personal emails to our clients and close contacts inviting them to the launch part.

It was a challenge to thinks of something different and exciting to do virtually. We found a professional mentalist entertainer through the hashtag #zoommagic who put on an amazing interactive show that left all of our guests with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen online.

A big shoutout to Nitin Ramal at https://www.nrmind.com/ for putting on an amazing show!

Conclusion

What I Learned Working From Home for One Year

On Friday, March 13th, 2020, I packed up my laptop and a few personal items from the agency and left the office with my co-workers for a seemingly unknown amount of time.

COVID was doing horrible things to our U.S. friends down south. Still, it hadn’t yet made its way to Canada much. However, following Sunday, our government announced a country-wide state of emergency. So it was a wise call of my brother (also the CEO) to call a vote that day for if we should all start working from home until “things settle down”.

The first 12 months in a bullet points (in order)

  • I documented what I learned in the first 90-days of working from home in a blog here
  • My wife and I started bulk cooking meals and bulk buying groceries more than we ever have
  • Video calls or “Zoom fatigue” didn’t wear me out as much as other people. Probably because I’m used to being in videos and live streams.
  • My coffee intake is now only a few big cups a week, and I switched to mostly drinking earl grey, chai, and plain black tea for my daily caffeine
  • Reaction (the agency I work for) officially closed its office in downtown Red Deer in December 2020 and fully embraced a digital remote-work business model
  • I build a new custom desk with a floating hutch. The office will get repainted soon. 🤞
  • Christmas and New Years were peaceful and memorable..We made the most out of a pandemic holiday
  • Still regularly stretching and doing many fitness ey things, I purchased a set of dumbbells and a rowing machine so I can have better workouts at home
  • I started configuring my new computer build in September 2020, and now 8 months later in April 2021, I’m still waiting for 5900x and 3060 Ti inventory.

If it takes work to maintain a work/life balance, you’re doing something wrong

Not everyone is going to love working in the same place they live. I think it’s a common misconception about this lifestyle. But I learned that it’s ultimately up to you to define your own work mentality. For me, it’s not uncommon to still have our company Slack open on the evenings and weekends, not to mention work-related notifications have been going to my phone for several years. I also enjoy thinking about clever new business ideas or video edits to polish off a final export while I’m in the shower, and that’s perfectly okay.

I am confident in the line, or at least my hybrid area where my work ends and personal life resumes, and I know that I can move it any time. The truth for some is that working from home might be an absolute terrible scenario for them and their family. To repeat to the headline, “If it takes work to maintain a work/life balance, you’re doing something wrong.”

Don’t waste the time you saved from not having to commute

I was thankful to have a short 25-minutes round trip drive to the office, maybe add 10-15 minutes in the winter. With a bit of routine building and habit stacking, I was able to optimize the fuck out of my mornings to leave time for:

  • Catching up on news
  • Making my wife and me a healthy breakfast
  • Working out or stretching
  • Of course, showering and getting ready
  • Work on building my personal brand
  • Make coffee, tidy up, and say goodbye to Rachel
  • Plan out my tasks for the day
  • Poor a coffee and join our team scrum meeting at 9:15 am

The gift of time is not something to be wasted. I don’t think anyone would ever look back on their life and wished they had spent more time procrastinating on doing things they knew were important.

Everyone is a live streamer now

Whether you work for an online business or not, being on camera in a live setting is becoming more expected. Hopping on a quick video call to give a potential custom a first look at a new vehicle or fridge is no longer a secret sales tactic. Clothing stores like Lululemon have personal shopping experiences for their customers.

On the web, I’ll be on 4-hour+ working sessions with the team over Google Meet. Sharing screens, making mistakes in real-time, but it’s excellent, and it’s how we deliver work that our clients love.

On the client-side, they love screen share calls where you can show them in person how to do something. As an alternative, sending a quick explainer video through a service like Loom attached to an email will make your way more memorable, and everyone knows that’s just good business.

I might be the first to ever say this: I wonder how long it will take for grocery stores to have virtual meal planners that can help you coordinate all the food and recipes you need for the week? 🤔

People have been working from home long before COVID

Real estate agents, contractors, freelancers, coaches/instructors, psychiatrists, consultants in every industry, regional company reps, content creators, freelancers all have a full or part-time element of their work at home. Whether that’s for an employer or working for themselves.

In my opinion, I think working from home became a hot topic when businesses were required by health authorities to literally size up their offices, which arose honest questions around overall workplace hygiene as well as confined workspaces. Maybe it no longer makes sense to have small collaboration areas or a lines of desks along a walls with people working side by side?

6 Easy Ways to Live More Productively (work from home tips too)

Take inventory of your clothes and plan an easily repeatable wardrobe for a full 7 days

The vast majority of people will never realize you wear more or less the same thing every week. and if you continue this habit you will save yourself time and money for the long-run.

When you exclusively shop at one or two clothing stores, finding items that go well with each other will be nearly effortless because their product designers have consistent styles to coordinate within their stores.

TipTop and Lululemon are two perfect examples of this.

Invest in a mechanical keyboard & productivity mouse

Using high-quality and modern tech will make everything you do on the computer better. You will also be able to automate tasks with custom macro buttons that come equipped with so many gaming and productivity accessories.

I wrote a blog on my experience with gaming keyboards for professional use that you might find interesting.

Create a routine to optimize the end of your day

You’ll find TONS of resources online on the best ways to start your day, but it’s quite a bit rare to think about the best way to end your day.

My routine is simple, make a tea, stretch or meditate, clean up my desk, make sure to escape into a show/game/book/etc. and do it every day. No exceptions.

Upgrade your surrounding

I am a big fan of switching things up, and if you have any pictures, books, or trinkets in your office that no longer inspire you, I’m not saying toss them, but change them out for something else.

If you don’t already, I recommend having a small desk lamp that will fit a standard A19 bulb. Buy a colour change LED smart bulb and set it to a soothing ambient glow. I often cycle through various earthy greens, ocean blues, and flickering candlelight.

Don’t overthink things or be too hard on yourself

Statements from leaders, big brands on social, and publishers that get millions of website visitors all REGULARELLY make typos and forget to use commas. Silly mistakes will happen; how you react to them is the only thing you have control over.

Consider using Notion

I can truly say that Notion has changed my life, in a small way but changed none the less. Notion can be for anything you want, taking basic notes, writing books or blogs, project management, or all of the above.

My wife has a houseplant database with simple species and care information. (we have a lot of plants).

Some use Notion as their Life Operating System; check out August Bradley on YouTube. Notion is not quite there yet for me, but I have a feeling I’ll be using Notion for a very long time.

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My Experience With Gaming Keyboards for Professional Use

I have spent a lot of time thinking about keyboards lately, feel free to have a laugh lol I sure did, but none the less, I have a few thoughts on what are commonly marketed as Gaming Keyboards.

What makes a keyboard worthy for a professional gamer? Well, mostly this means 2 things:

  • Mechanical key switches
  • Custom RBG lighting

I recently picked up a Corsair K95 XT keyboard, and it’s an absolutely magnificent piece of hardware! You can check out a full list of specs on their website, but a few highlights are the aluminum deck, a soft braided USB cable, and Cherry MX Speed Mechanical Keys. But like many others, it’s also labelled as a gaming keyboard.

Even though I consider myself a gamer, more specifically a PC gamer, my full-time career occupies a healthy workload. My gaming time is very much on the casual side in comparison.

Why did I buy a gaming keyboard?

I take pride in my work, and I want to feel good doing it.

In addition,

  • Backlit keys reduce eye strain throughout different lighting conditions
  • Mechanical switches make it easier to build muscle memory do to the tactile feedback
  • Mechanical switches absorb the impact of your fingers better than low profile keys like Apple’s keyboards or similar
  • Custom macro keys increase workflows by simplifying repeated shortcuts or commands
  • When you have 5 hours of solo heads-down working time ahead of you, RBG lighting can sometimes be that twinkle that helps you keep going (I’m serious)

Dealing with the status quo

I find it interesting when you search for an office keyboard either online or in-store, you generally find many standard builds that look like this.

Logitech Keyboard K120

Spending a decade working in a professional trade was a good indicator on the importance of having quality tools to work with, and working for a digital agency is no different.

My Call To Action for You

Scenario 1: If you spend more than 4-5 hours a day using a computer, I would consider upgrading your daily driver to something with at least mechanical switches and backlit keys.

Scenario 2: If you aspire to have a workspace built for optimal productivity, focus, and comfort, upgrading your keyboard is not a bad place to start.

What keyboard do you use now? What Gaming Keyboard would you consider buying after reading my point of view? Let me know in the comments.

Best Note-Taking Categories | My Top 7 Shared

You’re in search to work more productive and stay organized in your digital note-taking.

While working from home, it’s a very realistic scenario to manage a fast-paced workload, a lane of professional development, and some personal passion projects.

Who used a Palm Pilot growing up, or remembers someone who did? Seriously, If you still have one of these, post a picture in my Discord or leave a comment below!

Like the scholars of our past, I’ve been writing things down since the beginning of my time on earth. My only regret is that I didn’t keep track of my note-taking better in the past.

I’m here to help you avoid that mistake so you can start organizing your thoughts and documenting areas of knowledge, both personally and professionally.

Most people think their lives are too complex to conform to any sort of note-taking system, and they end up giving up or over thinking the process, and then ultimately fail. I have developed 7 categories that support a useful knowledge database.

Other terms and expressions for a knowledge database can be a:

  • Personal wiki
  • Life OS
  • Second brain

There are other knowledge database systems such as PPV or PARA, but they require a learning curve that not everyone is interested in.

The Last Note Taking Categories You’ll Ever Need

Before we get into this here, I want to set the tone real quick. You have to learn to enjoy the process of documenting and creating to get the full benefit from developing a knowledge database. It might be boring or even a struggle to get into a groove, but that immediately goes away the moment your system saves your butt from forgetting something super important!

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

David Allen

The blow categories are displayed as:

[category title]

Description.

  • sub-category
  • sub-category
  • sub-category

1. Learning

Plain and simple, anything you learn goes here. I like subcategories for an additional layer of organization and below you’ll find a few of mine. Still, I encourage you to add your own for specific personal/professional development areas of learning.

Side note: For professional development, even if you attended a webinar to learn something for your work, or read a book on interior design to improve the flow of your living space, I highly recommend you consolidate the notes from everything you learn into one central database.

  • Books
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Courses

2. Travel

As life goes on, you will want to remember those premiums camping spots in the mountains or memorable cafes on road trips.

  • Vacations
  • Resorts
  • Camping
  • Hikes
  • Bike maps

3. Content Production

Any content you plan to produce, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, courses or guides, etc., goes here. These five basic sub-categories are an excellent starting point.

  • Personal blogs
  • Resources
  • Guides
  • Videos
  • Social

4. Family and Friends

Use your Google Assistant (or equivalent) to keep track of quick reminders. But, if you are planning a party for someone or need to write special care information down for a loved one, those notes go here.

5. Home

It doesn’t matter if you rent or have a mortgage, live in a house or a high-rise; there are things to keep track of if you intend to be a reasonable property dweller.

  • Property info
  • Projects

6. Health and Fitness

A pretty straight forward category here, but not any less important. I will save kettlebell routines here, smoothie recipes, favourite teas, etc. You can find third-party programs online to even sync your fitness watch data with a notebook, but I don’t currently do this.

  • Recipes
  • Workouts
  • Supplements
  • Meditation

7. Personal Admin

Everything that portrays to you and your personal life goes here.

  • Routines
  • Goals
  • Inspiration
  • Finance
  • Journal

Note Taking for Personal and Professional Use

When you start using my top list of top note-taking categories, you will quickly see the ease of my system. After a few short months, you will begin reaping the benefits, and you’ll never go back. I am actually very serious, everything from backyard projects to your computer accessory wish list lives in these categories, and as long as you have access to the internet, you’ll never lose the notebook.

What About Customization?

Absolutely!

In fact, there are 10 categories I can introduce you to, but the last 3 require some personalized modelling to use at its max potential.

I can coach you.

I can also share cool apps and strategies that can help manage personal projects, organize files on your computer, and completely change the way you work.

Schedule a discovery chat. Care for a tea over Discord?

I produce content to answer questions, solve problems and eliminates roadblocks.

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Community Discord Server for People Working Remotely

Welcome to my Discord server!

Who should join my work from home community Discord?

  • Content creators
  • Digital marketers
  • Freelancers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Virtual assistants
  • Developers
  • Designers
  • Writers
  • Gamers welcome too!

3 Benefits of being a part of an online community:

  • Gives you a window into the successes and lessons learned of others
  • Makes you a part of something bigger
  • Promotes passion and importance of personal and professional growth

Join my forever-free community Discord server for people that work remotely and work from home

Derek's Discord server for remote workers button

There’s a better way of doing things

The server is small but growing, and I invite you to come along for the journey!

Public Speaking Tips, But Over Zoom Video Calls

You want to sound more confident on video calls, after all, how much different can it be to a group in person?

From discussing 5-figure business proposals to leading groups of mighty gamers to victory over Discord, I have a few tips that will help.

Fear of speaking to large groups of people is one of the largest phobias in the world.

Some statistic online

Sit Up, But Remain Comfy

Work on developing a mental cue so at the moment you’re going to speak up, you simultaneously shift in your seat to an upright position. Your audience will read that part of your body language and subconsciously take what you say more seriously.

Always Have Water On Hand

Take a sip if you need a moment to collect your thoughts. Presidents, actors, comedians, athletes, you name it, they all do it.

Talk With Your Hands

Hand gestures help put visual context to something that might be hard to describe. Some behavioural scientists even believe that talking with your hands is a quality of being a great leader.

This includes raising your hand if you have a question or need to interject.

20 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using

Show You’re Great At Listening Too

Don’t be afraid to lean in and even clutch your chin with a few fingers. If you’re taking a note, feel free to tell the person “great take, I need to write that down.”

Look The Part

When you look good, you feel good, and people can tell, trust me. Most phones, laptops, and webcams newer than 2016-18 can output a pretty decent video source, (did you know that you can use your phone as a webcam?) but it doesn’t end there. Audit the background behind you, get a quality mic, and definitely don’t wear pyjamas. 

Final Note

I challenge you to try at least one of my techniques each week, or for 5 important meetings, and have this guide open on a second monitor for quick reference. 

Keep expanding on what sticks, learn from what doesn’t, and never accept being average.


I produce content to answer questions, solves problems, and eliminates roadblocks.

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My Unique List of 7 Free Online Tools

Welcome to a sneak peek into my personal bookmarks!

Speed up workflows and look professional doing it with my list of free tools. (Not your average blog telling you to start using Zoom and Evernote)

I use a handful of these tools on a weekly basis when sending emails, managing projects, taking notes, etc, and I hope you can too!

My unique list of tools will help you fine-tune a unique tasks and add a higher level of polish to your projects.

1. Title Capitalization Tool

https://capitalizemytitle.com/

Having proper capitulation in your writing not only makes you look more professional, but it shows that you put extra effort into your work too.

2. Aspect Ratio Calculator

https://calculateaspectratio.com/

In simplest terms, aspect ratio is the relationship between the width and the height of a canvas. Just about every piece of media (pictures, videos, gifs, etc.) you see online is perfectly sized to a specific aspect ratio.

I recommend using a simple aspect ratio calculator with a few common presets and the option for custom ratios for specific projects.

3. Conversion Rate Calculator

https://theonlineadvertisingguide.com/ad-calculators/conversion-rate-calculator/

Conversion Rate is the percentage of people who completed an action/purchase/conversion out of the number of people who did not. There are actions to be completed everywhere! Websites, emails, apps, video games, social media posts and campaigns, and of course, proposals and sales initiatives.

4. Audio Clip Trimmer

https://audiotrimmer.com/

I often record client Zoom calls or training sessions and find myself needing to clip small sections for reference purposes or just cutting out dead silence as everyone joins the call. Although I am an active Adobe Suite user, loading up Audition or its free, open-source alterative Audacity, can take several minutes so I prefer a quick web-based tool.

5. Percentage Calculator

https://www.calculator.net/percent-calculator.html

Percentage Total | Percentage Difference | Percentage Change

I use these percentage calculators to quickly figure out the growth of month-over-month leads and campaign clicks for a report.

Other random data to compare:

  • Engagement between two social posts
  • Link clicks inside an email
  • Attendees of virtual events or live podcasts

6. Colour Schemes Generator

https://coolors.co/

It’s important to note that you should always follow your companies brand standards documentation when creating new media. But if you don’t have branding standards to follow, you can upload an existing image (like a logo or branded marketing material), and Coolers will create a palled based on the colour theme.

Other projects that could use a custom colour scheme:

  • Designing an infographic
  • YouTube thumbnail styling
  • Personal website or side project

Tip – Upload a stock image that you love and use that for a complimenting colour pallet for a project.

7. Free Stock Media

There are piles of free stock media websites on the internet, but many are behind some sort of marketing wall that wants your email/phone/or a social media share before it will let you download the file. I keep this list clean and update it as I add more to my tool kit.

Tip: If you know how to use the inspector inside Chrome, you can sometimes bypass data walls. It’s worth a shot!

Pexels

https://www.pexels.com/

Unsplash

https://unsplash.com/

Final Takeaway

Now you can spend less time Googling for tools and use a few on my list.

Know of a web-based tool or app I should try? Leave it in the comments. If it makes my bookmarks it will make this list!

I create content to answers questions, solves problems and eliminates roadblocks. I hope this article provides you ongoing value. 

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