One of our brand values, and something we often talk about internally, is trying new things. We strive to think critically and never settle for the safest or most traditional approach. Because of this, we are often early adopters when it comes to new technologies and software. We are a nimble organization which allows us to quickly test and experiment with the right digital solutions for not only our clients but also for our own internal use. We wanted to share a few of our favorite digital tools that we use every day to get our job done.
Project Management and Communication
Google has everything, or at least almost everything, which makes it so valuable to us as an organization. We use Google Drive to store and collaborate on documents and files. We use Gmail for email, Google Calendar for scheduling and booking conference rooms, and Google Meet for virtual conferencing. We also use Google AdWords to run digital advertising. Having one system that is interconnected, consistent, and easy to use both internally and externally is very valuable. (Outside of just their apps, we are big fans of the Google Design Sprint which we talk about here.)
I mentioned that most of our team uses Gmail for email, but the truth is we don’t send many emails internally. We have been on a mission to help make our workflows as efficient as possible and a big part of that has been intentionally trying to kill long email chains. We do this by using Slack for all internal communication. Slack allows our team to organize ongoing conversations and collaborations by topics, project, or client and quickly share updates, ask questions, file share, and send funny gifs too. This has saved hours of time sifting through obscure email threads and is way more fun too.
We manage a lot of projects with many moving pieces at the same time. Asana is a project management app that helps us keep it all organized. Simply put, it helps us get stuff done. It takes our ideas and turns them into concrete plans with tasks scoped out so we know what we need to do to accomplish our goals as an organization. It is the single most powerful tool we use for implementation. Similar to Slack, we organize our Asana by client and project and build out a wide variety of projects from start to finish within the platform. It’s great for one-week projects and one-year projects and everything in between.
This is a tool, similar to Google, that really could go under any category in this blog post. We use Hubspot for building and managing our websites, creating forms, managing contacts and conversations, and sending marketing emails. Hubspot's power comes in its integration of all these different things to your contact database. Our marketing automations, emails, and website interaction are all automatically connected to user contacts and help us take all of our information on our customers and partners and put it in one place where we can make the best use of it.
Adobe allows us to take our creative vision and make it a reality. Through tools like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Lightroom, Illustrator, and Indesign we can build and manage creative assets for a wide range of projects. Storytelling is a major part of our work here at Render and almost all of our storytelling efforts in one way or another touch Adobe Creative Cloud. Podcasts, videos, photo stories, whitepapers, case studies, and more are all made with these tools. It is a must-have for any creative team.
We mentioned that we use Hubspot to send emails, but we send so many external emails and work with a wide enough variety of clients that we like to have options. Mailchimp serves as another great email marketing tool for us. With its user-friendly interface and built-in marketing automations it is a go-to tool for creative teams. We also use Mailchimp to run website retargeting ads for certain campaigns and have found it to be extremely effective.
At Render, we build a lot of things from scratch, which means we have a lot of rough drafts. Like, a lot. Figma is a creative tool that helps us take our creative ideas and start building these drafts in an easy and efficient way. You can design a wide variety of things in Figma and quickly and easily collaborate and leave feedback with your team. And increasingly, there are more and more third-party integrations which make it even easier to take an MVP design in Figma and quickly turn it into the real deal live on your website or app.
Miro is another great collaborative design tool similar to Figma where you can “whiteboard” out new ideas and creative projects quickly and receive feedback. We have Miro especially beneficial for print projects. I mentioned we make a lot of drafts and iterate quickly. Below you can see an example of a draft board of a client’s annual report we made using Miro.
We talked about our love of Google earlier, but one thing that we are admittedly not a fan of is Google Slides. Don’t get us wrong, it gets the job done and integrates nicely into the rest of their services, but we found that we wanted more creative control and intuitive design options for taking our slide decks to the next level. This is where we use Pitch to make slide decks that look good and are easy to make. It has all the best collaborative aspects of Google Slides with a much more user-friendly, design interface and aesthetic. We are able to create our own slide templates inside Pitch to create brand consistency across presentations. They also have a large library of their own pre-built templates to choose from as well. (The only improvement suggestion we would make: please add “export to .ppt” :).)
When you add up the different brands, and the different channels for each of those brand’s social media presences, our team manages over a dozen social media feeds. We do not have a full-time social media marketer on our team who can spend 8 hours a day on social posting and monitoring so we have to find an efficient way to work smarter and not harder online. This is where Buffer comes in. Buffer allows us to manage all the social feeds across all of our brands in one place. And, most importantly, it lets us schedule these posts ahead of time so we can work ahead. We also use Buffer’s powerful built-in analytics tools to measure the success of our campaigns.
We love podcasts and we love video. Riverside helps us bridge these two mediums and makes them work together to create best-in-class content. We record a lot of podcasts and Riverside allows us to create a virtual recording studio with our guests from anywhere in the world, record high-quality audio and video, and then edit and publish that content quickly and easily. Audiences like taking in content in a variety of ways so we try to meet them where they are. That’s why we post many of our podcasts in video form on YouTube as well. Even when we don’t post the video, we have found that the conversations we get are more engaging when your guests and host can see each other’s faces.
As the name implies we use SurveyMonkey to send surveys out, but more commonly we use SurveyMonkey for our program and competition application process. It is easy to design custom application questions and logic models and consolidates the information in an easy-to-digest way on the back end. We also have found that compared to other platforms it is easy for judges to see information, review applications, and make decisions.
Security and privacy are becoming increasingly important. This is why it is important as an organization for our passwords to be top-notch secure, or in other words, long and hard to remember. OnePassword allows us to create, store, and share strong passwords in shared and private vaults. It remembers these strong passwords so you and your team don’t have to and automatically fills them in for you on the associated sites upon login load. It’s easy and safe and helps us sleep better at night.
What’s the vibe at your office? How do you measure the cultural health of your organization? Officevibe is a fun digital tool that Render uses to keep a check on how we as a team are feeling as an organization, about our organization. Officevibe has a user-friendly platform that engages employees, receives feedback for improvement, recognizes accomplishment, and sends encouragement. All anonymously. It allows our leadership team to make informed decisions and improvements from the feedback we receive directly from our employees. Bonus tip: it also integrates directly in Slack and sends our team weekly surveys straight to their inbox so we constantly have a fresh pulse on how we are doing.