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Simple Web Design Tips

Posted in Best Practices, Creativity and Design, Morningstar Communications Updates, Online Marketing

According to Nielsen, the average internet user visits a whopping 2,646 websites per month. While the majority of our time on the Internet is spent visiting familiar websites (e-mail, social media, search engines, etc.) we also navigate unfamiliar, terribly frustrating websites. We know a bad website when we see it, but what characteristics make up a good website?

I’ve been taking Fundamentals of Web Design, a continuing education course at the Kansas City Art Institute, and it’s made me look at websites in a whole new way. Here are some tips the class has taught me about web design:

Always start with your audience in mind. What information is your audience searching for? Don’t make them jump through hoops to get the information they need. Start by really trying to understand your audience. Plenty of research, strategy and planning should happen on the back-end before you dig into developing the site.

Simplicity is key.
Think about the simplicity of Google’s web interface- no frills, just what we need. Make the navigation on the site as natural and intuitive as possible so that pieces of information are available right where the user thinks they should be available. And just because you can create a website full of technological bells and whistles, doesn’t mean you should.  Minimalist web design is refreshing.

Think about what’s inside the box- not just the package.
Writing content for the web is not the same as writing for a brochure or newsletter. Website content should be concise, scannable and captivating. Content should be optimized for search engine optimization (SEO) but also human and engaging.

And lastly what I learned from my class…

Drink caffeine and try not to space out if you want to learn code.
Seriously, it’s like learning another language.

Web design should be about keeping your audience and their needs front and center.  Want to learn more? There are countless blogs out there on web design; check out Web Design Ledger and Vandelay Design for more tips.

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Comments Off Posted on by Holly Eckold

When the Stars Align

Posted in Community Leadership

For the last few years KC Business magazine has recognized “Rising Stars.” It’s an amazing group of professionals who have really made a mark on the Kansas City business community.

I was honored to be included in the 2012 Rising Stars class with 33 others. Each of the individuals has done amazing things in their career and in the community.

The biggest take away of the lovely reception was the true commitment each of us has to Kansas City. It is our time to set the stage for the next round of growth and development in our community. It is a delightful responsibility and privilege to continue to work to make Kansas City a great place to grow in career and life.

Take a few minutes to read the profiles of each of the Rising Stars, there is an abundance of talent in our area in so many industries and organizations. Kudos to each of the Rising Stars. Can’t wait to see what everyone does next.

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Spear

Your Favorite Store

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Shanny's Posts

One of the cornerstone principles at Morningstar Communications is Think Excellence, Not Difference(TEND). In fact, here is an article that Eric published in 2004. The TEND philosophy is based on the fact that consumers don’t make their buying decisions because of a Unique Selling Proposition – consumers decide what to buy based on who they believe will satisfy their needs the best. As marketers our job is to determine how our clients and customers define excellence, figure out a way to provide it and then communicate our message of excellence in a proactive and integrated way.

United Parcel Service’s ‘What Can Brown Do For You?” is an excellent example of putting the TEND philosophy into action.  All State has been using the “You’re in Good Hands” slogan for more than 60 years. And the latest proponent of the TEND philosophy is jcpenney.


My sister-in-law, is an assortment planner for the top-selling Worthington line at jcpenney. She sent me their new catalog to get my reaction and I am honestly blown away by how well it was done. The look is clean, and bright and exciting without going over the top or being too cheesy. The copy is absolutely terrific. I love how jcpenney has simplified its pricing strategy.

According to Second Wind, “the new brand strategy, is solidly based on consumer research regarding how jcpenney’s middle-class shoppers actually shop. Research revealed that only one in 500 items sold at full price, and 72 percent of revenue came from merchandise sold at 50 percent off or more.”

In her Forbes article about the jcpenney rebranding Sarah Heller wrote, “It’s refreshing, daring and probably exactly what the retailer needs. It’s probably what a lot of retailers need but few have the leadership and support to do it.”

When Ron Johnson, CEO of J. C. Penney Company, Inc. said “We want customers to shop on their terms, not ours,” he truly was embracing Think Excellence, Not Difference.

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1 Comment Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Attraction Marketing: A success story.

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC)

In recognition of Valentine’s Day, Google posted the following video. A cute love story, it also demonstrates the trials and triumphs of successful attraction marketing.

Attraction marketing is the philosophy of engaging in proactive marketing and communications in order to beckon the right clients to your company. A topic Eric Morgenstern frequently discusses, successful attraction marketing leads prospects through four stages:

Awareness. Prospects must know your organization exists.

Familiarity. They should be generally aware of the products or services you offer.

Consideration. If you successfully build awareness and establish familiarity, you will be in your prospect’s top-of-mind.

Trust. Finally, prospects must understand and trust that you are their best choice.

As in the case with the love story, you must have the right message delivered in the right way at the right time. Once you clarify your message and show how you are your customer’s best choice, they will come to you.

In the end, it is important to remember that not every prospect is right for your company. Attraction marketing helps gain the attention of and build relationships with those that are a best fit. And that’s a win-win for all.

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Comments Off Posted on by Michelle Boyd

The Power of Being Face-to-Face with Colleagues

Posted in Admin, Suchitra's Posts

Hello from Frisco, Texas. Yes, that’s where I live and work from for Morningstar Communications located in Overland Park, Kan.

As an executive admin it would seem very inconvenient for me to be working remotely, miles away from the base where all the activity happens. With open communication in the form of emails, iChat messages and phone calls (but we can all admit that this is not only relegated to remote working situations), a lot of help from willing colleagues who are my arms, legs and eyes at homebase, and up-to-date technology tools, we have successfully made it work.

Recently I read an article ( that had suggestions for better communication with employees who work remotely. Almost every single tip was being followed to the letter – either by my employers and colleagues or by me at my remote office. I am proof working remotely can actually work.

The last tip in the article, Be Inclusive, advises the employer to make every effort to ensure the remote employee feels like an inclusive part of the team even though they are miles away.

Morningstar makes me feel a part of the team every single day. I am conferenced in to the weekly team meeting, and they involve me in all activities. I even get sent the activities for our birthday celebrations so I can participate over the phone or via web camera. Once I was even offered a virtual cookie – Appreciated and very low cal.

However, nothing tops being able to physically see and interact with your co-workers and employers. We all know there are many pros to working remotely (casual attire, anyone?) but it can get lonely and isolating. Morningstar Communications manages to resolve this challenge too. They bring me in town every other month so I can meet and socialize with everyone and get some work done in our proper office environment. These trips are so important to keep me connected with the team and allow me to keep connecting with my colleagues and clients.

My next visit to Kansas City is in a couple of weeks and I am so excited to meet everyone and work in my other “true” office. I am so lucky to have the best of both worlds!

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1 Comment Posted on by Suchitra Kamath

Pathway to Great Messaging

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC)

When people ask, “What do you do?” does everyone on your team answer the same way?

When people visit your website or social media, can they quickly understand, and then tell, your story?

When your salespeople interact with prospects, do your RFP responses, ads, articles, mailings and collateral all reinforce their story?

The good news is that every company and organization can ensure everyone and everything is on the same page. The key is to create consistent and powerful messages, the result of a six-step process we call, “The Pathway to Great Messaging.”

We have honed our process to develop great messaging, which we suggest you think of as the “DNA” of your story. It will be intertwined with every aspect of your story. Have you identified the DNA of your messaging?

Regardless of how your messaging is delivered (through the Four-Channel Media Model, the combination of paid, earned, shared or controlled media), it’s essential all of your communications tools harmonize from the audience perspective. (See Message Orchestration to bring this concept to life).

But that’s usually easier said than done.

It all starts with your message. All of your messages should be grounded from the same place – an authentic and true position. Picture a diamond. It’s always the same jewel, but it can be described from various aspects (cut, color, clarity…).

Our Pathway imagery shows the six steps to create great messaging. The first three describe the content of the message; the next three explain the context. All great communications programs are six for six!

Here are the six steps, in order:

1 – What. Start with the most important facts, features and benefits. In America, we’re really good at “what” messages…we know how to describe the facts. 

2 – So, What. Now the recipient asks the all-important question, “What’s In It For Me?” Tell them why they should care. Specifically, what’s in it for them?

3 – Now, What. Tell the recipient exactly what you want them to think or do. Don’t hold back: lead them to create a change in thought or behavior – or both.

4 – Simple. We don’t read much, and we don’t listen very well, or very long. Be certain that your message is direct and easy to understand. Shorter always trumps longer.

5 – Recipient-oriented. This is my particular favorite…it’s not what you want to say; it’s what they need to hear. Think about going to the store to buy a new clothes dryer, and asking the salesperson, “Can you deliver it on Tuesday?” He responds by telling us about the terrific extended warranty, or the color options, or the special deal if we also get the matching washer. All great features, but you really want to know if it can be delivered on Tuesday. Your audience expects you to communicate directly to them.

6 – Everyday Language. Use short sentences and little words … the way people actually talk. When you add lingo, jargon and corporate-speak, you only serve to confuse the recipient. Keeping it simple increases the chances of understanding and action.

With a clear and consistent message, you have established the basics of a solid communication program. You’re now ready to begin telling your story to the people who matter most to you.

Onward and upward.

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Comments Off Posted on by Eric Morgenstern


Posted in Community Leadership

Last week, I was honored to attend the FiberKC event, Inside KC-Tech – 2012 and Beyond, on behalf of Morningstar Communications and KCnext. The event focused on the ways KC can leverage Google Fiber to increase the tech workforce pipeline and grow Kansas City as a whole.

If you aren’t familiar with Google Fiber, it is the first ultra high-speed fiber-to-the-home network coming to Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO, later this year. Google Fiber will deliver Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, 100 times faster than most Americans have today. The arrival of Google Fiber in 2012, date still to-be-determined, promises to be a game-changer for the KC metro and is causing many companies to quickly take advantage of the coming opportunity.

The FiberKC event included an impressive list of panelists ranging from Cerner’s senior vice president to the director of IT at Kansas Board of Public Utilities. Rachel Hack, Kansas City’s Google representative, also gave a brief presentation on the status of the Google project.

The main theme each and every panelist stressed was the focus on the growth of Kansas City’s presence nationally and globally. In order to position Kansas City as an IT and technology hotspot and to attract top tech companies and talent, Kansas City needs to change its overall perception of a cow town by emphasizing the creative and innovative culture of the city. And Kansas City is doing just that with the region’s new America’s Creative Crossroads national marketing campaign, the recent Gigabit Challenge, and many other great initiatives in the city.

With much innovation in store for the year, it certainly appears to be an exciting year in Kansas City. What excites you most about living in Kansas City in 2012?

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Comments Off Posted on by Meg Schulte