MSK Partners


Design, communication and what's on our mind


As part of our ongoing work for the University of Pennsylvania, we’ve developed the next in a series of email newsletters – this time a weekly, automated email promoting on-campus events to those within the institution. Our process included project planning with University communications and technology staff, graphic design for the template, setting-up a development environment for testing, integrating the events RSS/JSON feed with the newsletter template and listserv distribution; configurations and testing, and final roll-out with University staff. Having already developed a weekly email for campus news, individual e-newsletters for each school, and custom invitations for events, this project utilized additional skills within our range of communications technologies.

Filed under: Higher Education, Technology

A Digital Year

2018 was a banner year for email newsletters that we’ve developed and mailed for various clients including the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins Medicine. In each case, these have been highly targeted (both audience and content) and therefore are producing strong results. Whether directed at donors, patients, staff, or parents, these have grown to become a vital part of the media mix for clients looking to engage an audience on a more regular basis – particularly where video can add an new element to supplement our print magazines that continue to reach the same audience. Let us know if we can help enhance your digital reach or recommend new ways to create a print and digital balance.

Filed under: Communication, Technology

Social Media Insights from Sprout’s Social Index

Figuring out a social strategy that’s right for a specific organization’s mission, audience, and goals can be tricky. Thankfully, companies like Sprout Social have done loads of research and were kind enough to share it with our friends at Maven Communications. Here are some of the most important takeaways from Sprout’s Social Index for social media marketers.

Filed under: Communication, Technology

VC Trends

PitchBook has released their latest report showcasing what went on in the US venture capital industry during the third quarter of 2017. A couple of key takeaways:

  • As of the end of the third quarter, this year is set to reach a decade-high in terms of total VC investment—but deal activity is on pace to decline sharply for the second year in a row.
  • Software is the most popular industry for VC investors, a trend that’s remained unchanged as the years have gone by. Other industries are maintaining historical figures, too.
  • The West Coast has been home to the lion’s share of completed deals and deal value, followed by the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes New York. A visual summary and link to the full download is here:


Filed under: Technology

Digital Ink

We continue to publish new editions of various alumni and research publications on iTunes Newsstand for a variety of clients, including Johns Hopkins Medicine, for whom we also design and distribute the print edition.

TabletImage copy

Three iPad editions of Promise & Progress for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins can be downloaded for free via this image.

Filed under: Communication, Technology

Look Up in Piccadilly Circus

British Airways have a couple of new billboards in London that take interactivity to new heights. Created by the team at BA’s agency Ogilvy 12th Floor, the little boy really does know when it’s a British Airways plane. And that really is the actual flight number and where it’s flying.

These billboards, installed in London’s Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick, interactively display information about the flight that appears immediately overhead. Using custom-built surveillance technology the billboards display the flight number and route information in sync with a recorded video of a child who appears to be pointing at each plane as it soars above. A great way to engage viewers with the BA brand and demonstrate the many places the airline flies to and from.

Filed under: Communication, Technology

The End of the E-Reader?


In 2007, the must have gadget for any avid reader was either Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook. These E-Readers were revolutionary in that they allowed users to store and read multiple books on a conveniently sized device that was modestly priced. Although it seems like just yesterday that these devices were flying off the shelves, today E-readers are on the verge of extinction.

Two main problems are playing a role in the demise of these gadgets. First, users simply do not see the point in upgrading to a newer device. Julie Curtis from Ohio, was quoted in a Wall Street Journal Article as saying, “It works fine, I really have no reason to get a new one.”

Julie continued, “If I ever did want to upgrade, it would probably be to a tablet, like the Kindle Fire.” This brings us to the biggest problem, the emerging popularity of tablets. In 2007 the idea of tablets were still being tossed around a boardroom somewhere but that’s not the case today. Tablets, like Apple’s iPAD Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, are affordable and more technologically sophisticated than most E-readers.

The trends are showing that by 2015 E-readers might in fact be completely obsolete despite major advancements in the technology. The manufacturers of these devices will need to come up with a strategy to target a niche market, and keep E-readers afloat.

Click Here for the WSJ article

Click Here for the WSJ video

Filed under: Technology

Hit the (iPad) Newsstand

MSK Partners is a now a licensed Apple Development Partner and we recently published a client magazine app available for download from Apple Newsstand. It is the first of a number of magazines we hope to launch this year – still designed for print, now repurposed for the iPad.

The iPad is a little more than 2-years old and it’s the ideal time for institutions and non-profits to make publications available on this platform. While ad-driven publications such as Wired and Popular Science leapt into the forefront with multi-media graphics and stunning visuals, the trend for magazines has been towards a simpler, user-friendly approach.

Institutional magazines with long cover articles are perfectly suited for the iPad. Much like a print publication that you can hold and take with you, readers spend time with an iPad publication because it is formatted for that same purpose. Smart phones and even websites are better used for quick sound bytes and short news items and therefore do not offer the same potential for extended reading time.

In 2011, iTunes and the App Store added a new feature – Newsstand, which aggregates publications from around the world for easy download by iPad users. For marketers, this opens up an enormous new audience – making content available year-round and worldwide for immediate download. Typically reaching readers way beyond the scope of a mailing list for the print version.

Please contact us if you would like more information on the benefits of an iPad magazine and a demo of how we are delivering this new audience for our clients.

Filed under: Design, Technology

Are websites doing their job?

After more than 12 years of evaluating websites, Forrester reached a new milestone completing 1,500 website user experience reviews. The results are, shall we say, less than positive – the research suggests that a whopping 97% of all websites are not prepared for the job to be done.

Forrester came to the conclusion that just 45 of those 1,500 earned a pass mark.  That’s just 3%! The main cause of failure included poor text legibility, poor task flow, poor use of space, and unclear links to privacy and security policies

Forrester used 25 criteria to judge websites, with scores marked from +2 (very good) to -2 (very poor).  Passing all of the tests therefore would have given a website a total score of +25.  Unfortunately just 3% of the sites met that score, with the average score of all of the sites a pitiful +1.1. An average score of just +1.1 suggests that many websites are failing miserably to even get close to where they need to be in terms of functionality.

The research also revealed that B2B sites do worse than B2C sites, although this gap is narrowing. The only positive aspect to the findings…scores are getting better.

Filed under: Communication, Technology

Codes for contact

QR – or “quick response” – codes are finally starting to pop up around the country. While still not fully mainstream, QR codes are appearing in print publications, on bus sides, and plastered on storefronts. At this rate, it won’t be long before most people can immediately recognize and use QR codes. So how are colleges and universities taking advantage of this technology? We’re seeing them in a wide variety of applications. From codes on math worksheets that direct students to video tutorials of how to solve problems…to QR codes on literary magazines to lead people to a gallery of all the artwork that was submitted but couldn’t fit in the print version. Our primary usage? On alumni magazines to direct readers to alumni events and community. On campaign case statements to link donors to leadership videos. And of course in viewbooks, for prospective students to see all kinds of up-to-date content. Are you interested in using QR codes for your institution? Please let us know so we can share samples and ideas with you.

Filed under: Communication, Higher Education, Technology