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Ed Martin for Congress

Ed Martin for Congress is website for a political campaign.  The client had a wide variety of potential needs for their website as the campaign unfolds.  The challenge was to develop a site that was highly flexible and extensible to adapt to new online opportunities.

The site is the hub of a larger online effort that includes a comprehensive social media strategy including Facebook, YouTube, Email, Blogging and Twitter.  Goals include voter and constituent outreach, name recognition and communicating the candidate’s policy positions.  I have been monitoring activity and both suggesting and making adjustments to the frequency and timing of communication efforts.

There is steady, organic growth in Twitter followers, Facebook fans and unique visitors to the site, surpassing in many cases incumbent and challenger statistics.  Running in a district historically held by the opposing party, these efforts have been recognized as an early indicator of the competitiveness of the candidate.

Key Features

Featured Content Navigation – From the home page users are presented with a dynamic slide show & navigation tool that features content on which the campaign wants to focus.

Online Video – The candidate posts video of himself as well as interesting videos from other sources that serve top make points of benefit to the campaign message.

Social Media – The campaign makes very effective use of social media tools, including email, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to drive traffic to the website and increase the width of the net being cast for the campaign message. It is further used to accept feedback and questions to engage constituents.

Content Managed – The site is running on a content management system that allows the quick posting of routine updates as well as the safe deployment of new features.

RSS SEO – I have deployed Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds to the site to provide state and local news relevant to the campaign.  The added benefit is that search crawlers find a large volume of relevant keywords that update regularly.

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Medicine Shoppe International

I served as Webmaster for three years at Medicine Shoppe International (MSI).  MSI offered two separate franchise brands, Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy and Medicap Pharmacy Stores.  When I arrived, MSI’s web presences were running on a very outdated content management systems.  While the franchise offered individualized web sites for each store, they were very time-consuming to update and maintain.

The key challenge was to develop a comprehensive web strategy, then select the web technology and staff resources to maintain it.  The deployment of an up-to-date web site for both the franchise and franchisees was only the first step among many that included search engine optimization, localizing the franchisee’s web page and providing content from a national and local level. Additional efforts included Google Adwords campaigns, email marketing and social media.

After reviewing a series of proposals, we selected a vendor – Habanero – to develop and execute the installation and population of a content management system.  We deployed SiteCore CMS.  SiteCore was selected for its capacity to manage multiple domains, run on a .NET platform and high-level of flexibility in its template system.

Franchisee interest in using the web as part of the marketing mix varied widely.  Many wanted a highly localized and customized web pages.  Others were content with an online business card.  Over time we developed a series of features that allowed franchisees to quickly and easily select various promotions and apply them to their scrolling navigation.  Other options allowed the franchisee to include special RSS feeds, customized pages and the addition of images from their store.

Franchisees adopted their new websites, and made excellent suggestions for new features.  As part of a program of continuous improvement, we developed and launched these new features, adding them to the stable of online marketing tools.

The improvements were an unqualified success.  Ancillary work to drive traffic by managing Google’s Local  Business Center and engaging vendors to update and maintain our franchisee’s online directories helped local users find their business.  Many franchisees noted that people were impressed with the quality of the site and that it figured in the decision to stop by.  The improvements of the marketing web in turn improved the relationship between franchisor and franchisee.  The success of these efforts prompted international franchisors to adopt both SiteCore and the broad elements of the web marketing program.

Thompson Coburn LLP, St. Louis, Chicago, Washington D.C.

Thompson Coburn LLP

This is the marketing website of Thompson Coburn LLP, one of the largest law firms in the United Sates.  I was webmaster at TC for seven years primarily responsible for this site, but working on other projects as well, such as a customer relationship management system.

The current site is the last iteration that I worked on and has been in place largely unchanged since 2006.  The focus of the site is to maximize the availability of information specific to practice areas an attorneys and to present the firm as a leader in premier legal services.

Key Features:

Clean Design – The design and layout was developed by a very talented artist at Thompson Coburn and translated into a flexible web layout that performs well in multiple browsers and window sizes.

The site is spare and modern in part to aid cross-browser compatibility as many corporate clients still use legacy browsers such as Internet Explorer 6.  The site “degrades” gracefully and is still very functional if the user selects larger text for their own legibility.

Attorney Indices – These indexes are dynamically generated allowing users to sort alphabetically by first and last name, by practice and by office.  This addresses the key visibility goal of allowing users to find attorneys with minimal information . Visitors can review the site, locate an attorney and print and download their resume iin Acrobat.  Clients regularly used these features to select determine that Thompson Coburn had the legal experience to meet their legal challenge.

Special Content – I illustrated and programmed two Flash presentations to inform the user about issues when purchasing commercial property.  The “Virtual Walk Around” presentations demonstrated the expertise of Thompson Coburn’s commercial real estate practice in helping firms purchase warehouse and restaurant property.

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Endodontics South LTD

Endodontics South LTD is a dental practice in Jefferson County Missouri specializing in performing root canal therapy.  As you can imagine, promoting root canal therapy is a unique challenge.

The majority of Endodontics South’s clientele are women, either as patients or making appointments for their family.  I also learned that fellow dentists would likely use the website as part of a vetting process before referring a patient to the practice.  These two market segmentation realities would inform the design decisions.

For fellow professionals, we determined that membership in professional organizations would be an important promotional matter.

We reviewed the websites of other endodontic practices as part of our development process.  This look at professional colleagues around the country provided ideas and direction.  I helped develop an information architecture that separated information offered to professionals and patients, giving each a particular path to follow from the home page.

During the selection of a design the client consulted with women who were either family or colleagues at work.  The client provided some very attractive images that were used in the featured content scroller on the home page.  These images serve to soften the website and lend visual interest to the site.  Clicking on these images will lead the user to specific content providing an additional navigational path to content the client deems most important.

Within the site are links, biographies and curriculum vitae for the doctors of the practice as well as images and short bios for staff members.  I spent a few hours at their office taking shots that are used on the site.  An RSS feed from a prominent journal in the endodontics is providing periodic keyword-specific updates on the site providing search engine optimization.

Finally, the site is running on a WordPress content management system.  This empowers the doctors or their delegates to maintain and update their own site on their own terms.

Please visit the site EndoSouthLTD.com, and see your dentist.

Recover a Deleted WordPress Post

Oops – I’m clearing out the daily Twitter updates on my blog and I realize I deleted a post I wanted to keep.  I imagine there is a plug-in you can install on WordPress that helps you recover a lost post or page, but it was too late.

I do have an XML sitemap, which is in turn registered with Google’s Webmaster Tools,  so I went to Google and did a site search to find it.  Fortunately,  I knew of a unique keyword to use in the search.  Here is the search string:

Site: timmcnabb.com stlscooterguy

The “Site:” operator narrows your search to just the specified domain.  Anything that follows the domain is searched for within that domain.  Bingo!  The original link was a 404 (naturally) but Google had a cached version of the page.  I clicked on the cached link.  Once on that page, I was able to “view source” and locate the exact HTML code of my post, right down to the images.

Using Google Cache to Recover Missing Blog Posts/Pages

After that, it was a fairly simple matter of creating a new post and pasting that code into the new post on the HTML tab.

Now, I am glad in this situation that I was able to recover my post, but it does remind me to be circumspect in my blog posts.  Even if I go off on a rant, hit “publish” and then think better of it a few days later,  if Google gets hold of it, your “oops” may live long after you delete your mistake.  Today is May 30, the cached version was just from May 26.

Mind Your Manners in Business

A document crossed my path the other day.  It was a scathing letter sent to the management of a local firm.  Crabby customers are part of life, and many times the anger is justified, but in this letter the business owner expressed not only contempt for management, but some very contemptuous opinions about their own client base.  Those familiar with the characters involved were mightily amused and had a good time pointing out the incandescent foolishness of the sentiments in the letter.

This letter was 12 years old, and it occurred to me that had this been sent as an email last week rather than last decade, the writer of the letter might have seen it plastered all over the blogs and forums in their community.  In my opinion the reaction would have had somewhere between a serious to devastating impact on the business, particularly if a local competitor decided to make an issue out of it.

The recipients of the angry broadside were responsible and professional enough to keep the offensive remarks to themselves and redacted identifying information.  However, imagine if the person receiving the nasty indictment was less professional.  The world is full of hotheads.  Having borne the brunt of irrational fury from supposedly college-educated professional businesspeople, I can see someone being mightily tempted to get a little payback.

The takeaway.  Never write down and send anything you would be embarrassed to see on a local blog, forum or email sent all over the country.   The web never sleeps and it never forgets.   To paraphrase Shakespeare, The Evil that men do is cached by Google…

Twitter Promotions – Scooter Guy

stlscooterguyA colleague of mine runs St. Louis Scooter Guy, a service that allows you to drive to a party or event and get your drink on here in River City without worrying about driving under the influence OR leaving your car at the establishment where you demonstrated your ability to power-slam high-octane booze. His crew are equipped with fancy, fold-up scooters that will fit in the average trunk. At the appointed time, a Scooter Guy shows up and you say your goodbye’s to your friends and the Scooter Guy drives you, his scooter and your car home. Nobody gets hurt.

I am not much of a drinker, but I do know the tragedy of drunk driving. I also realize that it’s often not the hard-core drunk driving 85 the wrong way on a suspended license but an average Joe who underestimates how much he’s had. I very much appreciate the work Scooter Guys do.

The owner is on Twitter (see STLScooterGuy). I’ve been thinking about how I would use Twitter to get people to use the service.

First, go to WeFollow.com and search for STL and St.Louis, and follow a bunch of people from The Lou (as the hip kids call it these days). Most will reciprocate and you’ll begin to generate a list of followers.

Go to News.Google.com and run a search on “Drunk Driving”. It will give a list of unfortunate or tragic stories about drunk driving (See this example). Use this as a source for links to use in Tweets, sort of a grim inspiration. “Don’t let this happen to you…”

Next, go to HootSuite.com and schedule your Twitters to go out in the days and hours preceding your normal drinking days, like Friday and Saturday, or in the run-up to holidays where drinking is part of the event.

Having observed how people re-tweet posts, and the genuine good being done by the service, I think St. Louis Scooter guy will get lots of support from the St. Louis Twitterati. Please leave any other suggestions in the comments below.


Creating Links to Files in WordPress

I am posting this for my own reference and that of my clients.  Originally from LenaShore.com

Adding links to files in your WordPress pages and posts is just as easy as adding images. Follow these instructions below to add links to your own files.

I need to upload my file.

  1. Login to your admin area.
  2. Navigate to the page or post you want to insert the link/document.
  3. Place your cursor where you want the link to appear.
  4. Click the “Add media” icon next to “Upload/Insert”. (It’s the last icon that looks like a sun right above your editing tools)
  5. Choose “Select Files” and find the file you want to upload from your computer.
  6. When it is done uploading you will see a small thumbnail of your file and some areas for you to fill in.
  7. In the “Title” area, choose the title of the link you want displayed.
  8. The “Link URL” should already be filled in, but if it isn’t click “file URL”
  9. Select “Insert into Post”.

I have already uploaded my file.

  1. Login to your admin area.
  2. Navigate to the page or post you want to insert the link/document.
  3. Place your cursor where you want the link to appear.
  4. Click the “Add media” icon next to “Upload/Insert”. (It’s the last icon that looks like a sun right above your editing tools)
  5. Navigate to the “Media Gallery” Tab
  6. Select the “Show” link that is next to the file you want to link to.
  7. In the “Title” area, choose the title of the link you want displayed.
  8. The “Link URL” should already be filled in, but if it isn’t click “file URL”
  9. Select “Insert into Post”.

These instructions are assuming you are using WordPress 2.7.x