Meet Two Pens’ Visual Wit and How She Uses it to Build Our Brand

Posted By on June 17, 2014

visual brand image by Cynthia Hartwig of callas lily superimposed on a sunset by the Dubble App

Cynthia Hartwig’s obsession with developing a great visual brand means she’s constantly shooting imagery wherever she goes. Her callas lily went through the Dubble App and became something more than just another flower photo.

Out walking in Seattle yesterday, I bumped into Cynthia photographing a rain-soaked clump of blue bells at a park overlooking Lake Washington. Her camera was about 1 mm from the flowers as if it were an octogenarian’s reading glasses. Now what is she seeing, I wondered. I ask the same question every time she pulls her camera out of her purse and points it at just about anything, which is frequently. (Read her post on A Camera is an Unsung Creative Writing Tool.)

I also felt lucky. I knew she was stocking her already bursting collection of digital photography, and that every time I would need an image to help a headline tell a story–voila!–she would have the perfect fit.

Cynthia is a master at putting photos and other visual images to work. In the process, she has developed a visual brand for Two Pens that is unpredictable, quirky, fearless, colorful, unusual, and definitely as opposed to stock photography as we are to being marketing hack writers. Here are a few of my favorite examples of how she uses images to tell stories, and in telling the stories, how she is building Two Pens’ brand.

An Alternative to Stock Photography: Three Tips on Using the Dubble Photo App

Posted By on June 10, 2014

Visual content example from Dubble App using pan frame and yellow flowers

A slightly soft image of yellow blossoms fills the frame of my pie pan shot with a diagonal spray of color. The Dubble App gives it a lush, painterly feel that few stock photos can match.

Stock photography has become the new wallpaper. Bloggers, people who post on social media, designers, email and e-newsletter creators plus a host of other “communicators” are all using the same images. The net result? Visual content (one of the most powerful assets on the web) gives away its social power because none of it is new or surprising. That’s why I’ve become obsessed with the Dubble App, a clever and quick way to create branded visual content. (more…)

Circulating Poetry on Social Media

Posted By on May 28, 2014

Social media technology is an insane librarian circulating poetry in ways never imagined. Copyright @ Jarrett J. Krosoczka (

Social media technology is an insane librarian circulating poetry in ways never imagined. Copyright @ Jarrett J. Krosoczka (

I went on way too long about my pet peeve when someone asked me about the negative impacts of social media on poetry. I was at the Skagit Poetry Festival on a panel about technology and the future of poetry. Many poets believe that social media will catapult them into the limelight if they learn to work its levers. We become dutiful, mini-marketing machines, shilling our books, reviews, workshops and readings.

This is very bad for poetry. Self-promotion has the opposite of its intended effect; almost all of us completely ignore promo-posts. You can learn effective ways to promote your poetry on social media if you get curious about what’s out there. The social media network in the poetry world is really just an insane librarian circulating poems on the Internet. Here are some random tips on whirling in the vortex.


Presentation Tip: Find the Human Story Behind the Numbers

Posted By on May 20, 2014

Most audiences suffer math anxiety not because they’re bad at numbers—but because they’ve sat through too many presentations that have gone off the rails with incomprehensible financials or statistics. Presentation tip 101: never show a spreadsheet with itty-bitty numbers without a human translation.

If You Are Presenting Numbers, You Have to Connect The Dots

The problem with a sea of numbers on a spreadsheet is that an audience doesn’t know where to look. As the presenter, your task is to chart a path through the thicket of data so people can easily follow your logic. (more…)

When Facebook Notifications are Driving You Crazy, Use Groups

Posted By on May 13, 2014

group animal figures for facebook
Facebook is hard on bloggers. They continually update their services and immediately outdate posts explaining how the previous version worked. That’s what just happened to me. Last year I showed you how to use Facebook Notifications to keep your hundreds of FB friends from driving you crazy. Then Facebook made changes to Notifications, driving me crazy. Then last week, they released an update to their Groups feature, which makes it easier to control Notifications. Sanity restored, at least for a minute.

Build a Lexicon to Sound Like an Expert on Anything

Posted By on May 6, 2014

Perch, buffalo, gaspargoo, pike, trout, herring... Lexicons are lists of words on a topic or from an industry. You're writing about either get more real if you start compiling a lexicon of your own.  Copyright @Cynthia Hartwig 2014

Perch, buffalo, gaspargoo, pike, trout, herring… This list of words is a lexicon about a specific industry. Building a lexicon helps make your writing abut an industry more real. Copyright 2014 Cynthia Hartwig

Business writing is often bland. It’s rarely grounded in sensory or precise language. Think white bread and you pretty much have the gummy nature of corp-speak. So how does a business writer tackle a new technology or industry she knows nothing about? Don’t fake it. Create a lexicon, which is just a fancy term for a word list. (more…)

How Long Should a Blog Post Be? The Five Best Answers

Posted By on April 29, 2014

no one asked how long medieval manuscripts shown here should be

Is this too long for a blog post? The medievalists would think we were speaking Greek.

One of the longest running discussions in the Content Strategy LinkedIn Group I’m a member of is about how long should a blog post be. One of Two Pens’ most popular posts offers one answer. But there are about as many opinions on the subject as there are bloggers. I decided to do some unscientific research–I read the top-ranked posts about it–and drew my own conclusions. (more…)

How to Make Customer Testimonials (and Reviews) Work Harder

Posted By on April 22, 2014

Cynthia Hartwig's selfie proves she's a real Rivet and Sway customer

My #selfie proves I’m a real customer in my sassy new Rivet and Sway sunglasses.

Most customer testimonials live in the land of awful rather than artful. Yet they’re amazing sales tools if they’re done right. Studies have shown that testimonials and reviews above the fold make everything from landing pages to your LinkedIn profile more effective. (more…)

How Harriet the Spy Helps You Show Up in LinkedIn Search Engine Results

Posted By on April 16, 2014

Scribbling your story in notebooks could you get noticed on LinkedIn. Drawing by Robin Tatlow-Lord Copyright @2014 (

Scribbling your story in notebooks could you get noticed on LinkedIn. Drawing by Robin Tatlow-Lord Copyright @2014 (

Google = Search. Right? Yes, if you need to find a black box in the Internet information sea. But LinkedIn is awash in data, too, and has a search engine to help us navigate it, and just as importantly, introduce ourselves to others. Unlike Google, we create much of the LinkedIn data through our profiles, connections, and LinkedIn activities. Its search engine, according to LinkedIn, delivers results based on “who you are, who you know, and what your network is doing.” If you’re looking for a job, or want to find like-minded colleagues, understanding how it works gives you a leg up.

Why Blog Graphics Should Be Proprietary

Posted By on April 8, 2014

proprietary graphics example

The minimimalist imagery and design at Baubauhaus reinforces what the blog stands for. The proprietary graphic style builds brand one image at a time.

Everybody knows that visuals power social media shares. So why is it that so many bloggers depend on words to do the heavy lifting when establishing an interesting and consistent graphic look can do it better?

Proprietary Imagery = An “Ownable” Look That Builds Your Brand