Why The Best Creative Marketing Ideas Are High Concept

Posted By on January 21, 2015

Creative marketing ideas up-end expectation by showing not a scantily dressed women but a flabby and hairy researcher who doesn't spend much time at the gym.

Dice, the recruiting agency, goes high concept with this creative marketing idea. Their outdoor board featuring Matt, the tech hottie, was placed at the entrance to South Lake Union, or Amazon Gulch in Seattle.

When I started my career in advertising in the late ‘70s, a “concept”—the creative marketing idea behind the headline and image—was the Holy Grail. Every copywriter and art director (we always brainstormed in teams) spent hours on assignments from lowly direct mail post cards to :30 TV spots, trying to come with that magic combo that hooked, surprised and stuck with our readers or viewers.

Today, in a world where so much content blasts audiences from so many more places, the idea of High Concept has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo. (more…)

When to Upgrade Your Blog Design? Three Questions to Help You Decide.

Posted By on January 15, 2015

side-by-side comparison of two blogs: before and after

Notice how much cleaner and crisper the After version is compared to the Before. So much easier to read and navigate. The photo is more personal and therefore more engaging. We want to read to find out who these people are and what they’re doing. The format changes contribute to the blog’s content.


In Design Land, the goal is to create logos, brands, and marketing collateral that are meaningful, memorable and lasting. Designers are trained to do this. They love the challenge. But you are not a designer. You’re a writer, blogger and if you’re like most Two Pens readers, a business owner. As such, maintaining your blog’s “look” while keeping up with current design trends can be befuddling.

Every 12- to 18-months, new web tools and designs become available making your blog look out-of-date. You must upgrade your blog’s design regularly. But when? And which components? Do you revise the whole blog or small pieces of it? The new year is a great time to evaluate for change. Not necessarily big changes, but changes that reflect where you and your message are now. (more…)

Our Top Five Most Popular Posts in 2014

Posted By on January 5, 2015

New Year's Wish Lantern

While Cynthia was sailing on the Andaman Sea off Myanmar this December, she lit up Happy New Year wishes for all our loyal blog readers. Photo 2014 copyright Sonia Betschart.

Most of our blog’s traffic comes from people in distress searching on Google for an answer–at least that’s our take on the numbers. Their distress is typical of the times: few people remember grammar or style rules, or know how to use Twitter or Facebook without being overwhelmed by information. The majority of our most popular posts in 2014 offered solutions to these practical problems. But this year Cynthia also addressed a different kind of distress–grief at losing a loved one to suicide. We were surprised at how many people came to read her story. To date, over 5000 readers read about a man they didn’t know because Ken Booster’s death struck a chord through Cynthia’s poignant words. They found her words of solace at this inexplicable death, not by Googling but by seeing it on social media, then passing it along on their own social media networks.

1. What’s the Difference Between Retweet and @Reply?
Obviously, people still don’t get how to use Twitter, either because a new ship of beginners docks or because tweeting is just difficult to grasp. Knowing the difference between retweeting and replying is where people seem to get stuck. Hence this quick primer’s popularity. (more…)

Starting a Blog Isn’t an Extreme Sport: Three Tips to Get You Going

Posted By on December 11, 2014

Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Hoch, a writer and designer we admire.

free photo of David Bowie with orange building

Don’t let all the options for blogging software and hosting solutions make you bug-eyed when starting a blog. Copyright Cynthia Hartwig

“I’m taking the plunge. As a writer and designer, it is high time I have my own blog. I’m excited. My own place to write!”

My upbeat mood lasted about as long as snow in Seattle. It melted away when I realized I had to tackle the complexities of hosting sites, template providers, and the WordPress dashboard before I could start to write. I jumped in anyway and made some decisions that quickly cleared the way for me to write my first posts. (more…)

Common Blogging Mistakes That We Were Uncommonly Successful At

Posted By on December 1, 2014

common blogging mistakes fail meter
I’m a big fan of blogging. There is no better way to establish thought leadership and credibility for any individual–nay, any company. Two Pens has been blogging for four years and I can say without any doubt that our blog has helped us build our reputation as gifted (and sometimes funny!) bloggers and trainers for companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. That said, Two Pens has made all the common blogging mistakes –and probably some of the uncommon ones. If you’d like to learn from our mistakes, here are ones you can avoid. (more…)

Four Quick and Easy Type Tricks that Make Blog Readers Dive Deeper

Posted By on November 25, 2014


Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Hoch, a writer and designer we admire.

Blog writers typically play with text and word choices to get readers to read deeper into a post. But there are two other T-words-—can you say, type tricks!-—that encourage readership even more. Consider working with typography so that your choices help rather than hinder readers.

type tricks showing two different kinds of type

Try this simple test: read each text box and decide which type face matches the meaning better.

    Type Tricks: 1. Choose a Primary Typeface Beyond Times New Roman

type trick showing personality differences between a serif face and a sans serif face (more…)

Baby Steps: How to Tweet for Complete Beginners

Posted By on November 11, 2014

Tom Magliozzi, one-half of NPRs' Tappet brothers, died on November 1, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Car Talk)

Tom Magliozzi, one-half of the Tappet brothers, died on November 1, 2014. I wanted to add my own words to the conversation about his loss on Twitter. (Photo courtesy of Car Talk)


Lots of people sign up for Twitter accounts then quit. One primary reason is that it seems complicated even though the concept sounds simple. Twitter consists of just two things:

  • Writing and sending your own tweets
  • Responding to other people’s tweets (retweeting)

That’s clear enough, right? Well, no, because for every tweet and retweet you compose, you can add a few things to add to help get others talking back to you.
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Blog Karma: Free Photos That Don’t Look Like Anyone Else’s

Posted By on November 4, 2014

free photo of green silhouetted hiker
So few bloggers get the concept of branding themselves with visual imagery, I thought I’d do a public service this week on the Two Pens blog. Here, for the taking, are six free photos that don’t look like anyone else’s because well… they’re mine. Feel free to use them to give your blog an interesting and unique visual look that’s anything but stock. (more…)

Advice from Susan Orlean: Using Twitter to Engage with an Audience

Posted By on October 28, 2014

Susan Orlean using Twitter to engage an audience

Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief and Rin-Tin-Tin,is also a Social Media Queen with over 279,000 Twitter followers. I interviewed her before her appearance at Seattle Arts and Lectures a while back and decided to pass along this :39 second gem of her wisdom in audio form.

Susan is a proponent of using Twitter beyond self-marketing and glomming after a following. She makes a stellar argument for using Twitter to engage with an audience and connect people to your writing. She advocates using the giant water cooler conversation that is Twitter as a tool for both listening and having conversation with the people who read your work and as a way to get one-on-one feedback. Think instant feed-back loop. (more…)

It’s Not Just Photos and Infographics. Using Text as a Visual to Make Your Content Easy to Read

Posted By on October 21, 2014

Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Hoch, a writer and designer we admire.

F-Shape eye-tracking patter on a web page

Text is a visual element, too. Include it when you’re thinking through how you lay out your webpage for readability. Tip: F-Shape is how our eyes track patterns on a webpage. Red and yellow indicate where the reader’s eye spends the most time. These areas are where your main points need to be.


Photos! Graphs! Blinking GIFs! They sell your web-based content, right? Nope. Text does. However, as writers, it’s easy to forget that text has artistic characteristics. It has form and shape. It has texture, personality and flow. Becoming aware of text’s arty nature and how our brains respond to it can help you make your content easy to read and showcase what you have to say.
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