Here are more of the key points from sessions I attended at the IABC World Conference in Chicago in June:

Darin Diehl and Katherine Fletcher: Content marketing in action
The session described Sun Life’s creation of a helpful (unbranded) site for consumers called Key takeaways:  We need to think like a media company, providing rich, valuable content to educate, inform and amuse. Make content discoverable, portable and shareable. Every piece of content should have a call to action. Publish original content but also link to other influencers. Gather insights from awareness, engagement, time spent on the site and lead generation. One of the best lines: We need to create “magnetic” content to attract attention.

Jason Lindstrom: Best practices for websites
A great site is always changing and improving; look at eBay, which is good at making tiny incremental changes. Measure success by traffic and conversion (such as newsletter signup). A case study mentioned a bankruptcy trustee who improved both measures with a debt calculator and calls to action, such as booking a counselling session. Key takeaways: A great home page reassures visitors they are in the right place, has no more than seven categories across the top and has a call to action on every page. Free tools to analyze websites include, Alexa and SocialMention. Check your analytics; how many visitors are using mobile devices, and is your site set up for them? People spend more time above the “page fold” (first screen), but a long page isn’t a barrier if the information is good.  Some of the most striking lines: 80% of consumers do online research, so reviews matter. Don’t make visitors think; get rid of half the words on the page, and then half again.  Recommended reading: Don’t Make Me Think: A Commonsense Approach to Web Usability, by Steve Krug.

Suzanne Salvo: New age show and tell
My business is words, but photos often go along with them, so I was interested to hear what Suzanne had to say. Key takeaways: Actively look around you and borrow from the best ads, TV, magazines, YouTube; what makes it good, why does it grab your attention? Creativity means change, not necessarily something completely new. In a group shot, don’t show feet; we want to see faces. For award photos, take them before or after the actual presentation and use closeups. Target time for a corporate video is 90 seconds. Recommended reading: The science behind the mind-body connection. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey. (For more details, see Matt Wilson‘s great summary for

Lyn Heward: Igniting the creative fire
As head of Cirque du Soleil’s creative content division, Lyn knows a thing or two about creativity! Key takeaways: With clips from various Cirque shows punctuating her talk, Lyn encouraged us to trust our senses, walk outside our comfort zone and apply creativity to everyday life. A nurturing environment is important; it’s hard to be creative in isolation. Constraints like budgets can become creative catalysts. Our fears hold us back but complacency is the biggest risk. (For more comment on Lyn’s talk, see the post by my friend Martha Muzychka, ABC.)

Ann Wylie: Write for readability
I always like to attend a session that reinforces good writing, and Ann’s sessions never disappoint. Key takeaways: The easier we make it to read, the more people will read, understand, retain. Long words take longer to read, are less likely to be shared and more likely to seem dishonest. The fastest way to increase understanding is to reduce sentence length; 8-14 words on average equals 90% comprehension. Also aim for no more than three sentences per paragraph, in words of one to two syllables. Some of the best/most striking lines: Four of 10 Americans have below literacy skills, meaning they would have problems finding an intersection on a map. Reading using mobile technology cuts understanding in half; it’s “like reading War and Peace through a keyhole.” A sentence 44 words long means less than 10% comprehension, or “a net loss of understanding.” Free online readability tools: Edit Central; Gunning Fog Index; Juicy Studio; OKAPI!;; web page readability; STORYtoolz; WordsCount: SMOG. A good way to use these is to measure readability before and after the approval process.

One more post to come, because we need to talk about food!