The Cost-Effective Benefits of Brand Ambassadors and Influencers

If you don’t have millions to spend on paid advertising, recruiting brand ambassadors and influencers may be the most cost-effective way to build your brand in an organic, authentic and durable way. Brand ambassadors and influencers have overlapping goals and qualities, but are actually quite different.

If you don’t have millions to spend on paid advertising, recruiting brand ambassadors and influencers may be the most cost-effective way to build your brand in an organic, authentic and durable way. Brand ambassadors and influencers have overlapping goals and qualities, but are actually quite different.

Brand ambassadors and influencers can be important parts of marketing strategies. While both seek to build trust, their roles can be confused, their motivations misunderstood and their value overlooked. 

A brand ambassador is a consumer who falls in love with your product or service. An influencer is someone with a large following who recommends your product or service, sometimes for a fee. 

Both are legitimate and effective strategies. Each tends to work best at a different point in brand evolution.

Influencers can jumpstart a new brand or a new brand offering by testing a product and giving it a thumbs up. Brand ambassadors can reassure fellow consumers that the brand is retaining or recommitting to its commitment to quality and responsiveness.

Recommendations from brand ambassadors tend to spread by word-of-mouth. Recommendations by influencers are typically promoted on social media.

Celebrities fall into the influencer camp. Experts can be an integral part of a brand ambassador program, such as a dentist recommending a specific brand of electronic toothbrush or a personal trainer wearing a particular brand of workout apparel. In this sense, celebrities and experts fulfill a similar role vouching for a brand. They both may receive some form of compensation in the form of payments or discounts. Brand ambassadors may be given product discounts.

Marketers directly contact influencers to explore product tests, with the understanding the influencer will produce a review. Influencers are chosen based on whether their following matches the target demographic of a brand. Some influencers accept free samples to test; others don’t. Some influencers are paid directly; others make their money on advertising on their platforms. The review by influencers is not guaranteed to be positive. Of course, a hired celebrity with a script is a sure thing.

Brand ambassadors are cultivated, sometimes by turning angry critics into brand zealots. They tend to be recruited to tell their own story about a brand. You might call them indirect spokespersons. Influencers also can tell a story about your brand that is more of a direct recommendation on why and how to use it.

Influencers come in all sizes. They can be well-known celebrities, macro-influencers with thousands of followers or micro-influencers that are connected to a network of bloggers and social media sites. A circle of friends can be an influencer starter set. In fact, many entrepreneurs have launched successful products by getting their friends jazzed up and spreading the word. This is where influencer and brand ambassador programs overlap.

They share other characteristics, too. Both can command respect from consumers and are capable of building trust in a brand. Both share content about a brand. Both exercise a level of autonomy in what they choose to tout, which gives both a sense of authenticity. Both speak with their own voice. Their recommendations don’t reek as marketing. Sometimes, a compensated influencer evolves into an unpaid brand ambassador. 

There are significant differences. Influencers are chosen because of their expertise that has attracted a following that matches a target market. Brand ambassadors are like invited guests into your house. Influencers test your product and are paid to rave about it; brand ambassadors love your product and are eager to talk about it.

Employees are the most obvious source of brand ambassadors. Nike and Columbia Sportswear make sure their employees have access to their respective company stores so they wear what they design and market.

Influencers and brand ambassadors can show consumers how your brand performs. An influencer on YouTube can demonstrate how to prepare a Sunday dinner. A brand ambassador might offer to cook a Sunday dinner in your home.

For brands unable to sustain or even start a paid advertising presence, influencers and brand ambassadors represent a cost-effective marketing alternative. Because both rely on relationships and seek to build trust, they pair well with the zeal of contemporary consumers to engage with the brands they buy. Both are organic and conversational. They aren’t intended to reach masses overnight. They are aimed at creating a solid base of consumer loyalty on which to build a thriving business.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling. 

 

Doodle Your Way to an Inviting Brand Story Logo

Telling your brand story in a logo is a tough assignment. Showing your brand story in a logo is even tough. But if you doodle ideas, you may surprise yourself that a picture emerges that shows off your brand – and shows why it’s unique and useful.

Telling your brand story in a logo is a tough assignment. Showing your brand story in a logo is even tough. But if you doodle ideas, you may surprise yourself that a picture emerges that shows off your brand – and shows why it’s unique and useful.

A great logo tells your brand story. An even greater one shows your brand story.

Story-telling logos go beyond recognizable trademarks such as Nike’s Swoosh, Target’s red target and Starbucks’ green siren. For example, the McDonald’s logo incorporates the golden arches that mark the beginning of the ubiquitous fast food restaurant along with the “M” in its name. The World Wildlife Fund’s logo features a stylized panda with a piercing gaze as if asking what the viewer is doing to preserve endangered wildlife.

A few logos go one step further and illustrate a brand story. They tend to come from nonprofits. A library in Pennsylvania created a logo consisting of books as the bristles of a paintbrush for a “Library Lovers Art Auction.” The African Wildlife Foundation’s logo is a galloping herd of elephants.

Government also has storytelling logos, including, perhaps improbably, the Internal Revenue Service. Its stylized, highly recognizable logo incorporates its familiar name along with a garland associated with Caesar (“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”) and an eagle with its talons holding the scale of justice. The message is pretty clear – it is your duty to pay up.

Businesses get in on the act, too. A restaurant in Newport Beach uses a cleverly constructed graphic to show it is a different kind of place to eat. A Louisville grocery delivery service makes it visually clear what it does.

One of the latest storytelling logos comes from Neuriva, a brain performance dietary supplement. Its logo is the twin hemispheres of the human brain, with the right half covered by an illustrated montage showing people working, recreating and thinking. The supplement claims it can promote better focus, memory, learning, accuracy and concentration.

Unlike a lot of drug and supplement logos that are fanciful and not especially descriptive, Neuriva’s logo provides a clear picture of what it purports to do. The name itself is descriptive, at least for people with a knowledge of Greek and Latin, by combining allusions to the Greek word for brain with the Latin word for life.

The Neuriva logo is designed to engage people and provide a convenient bridge to infographics that explain how the supplement is intended to work. Marketers launched the supplement with an app that showcases the logo while offering links to brain training, diagnostics and tracking. 

The logo also has built-in versatility. The right side can be varied with different illustrations that may appeal to segmented audiences without undermining the overall effect of the logo. 

The underlying value of storytelling logos is they can deliver a complicated message simply and with emotional impact, whether you are fundraising, inviting someone to a new hot spot or marketing a brain performance supplement. 

Designing a storytelling logo may seem daunting, especially for people with trouble coloring inside the lines. But anyone can doodle. That doodle could be the inspiration of an enlightened logo that tells your brand story in a unique and engaging way.

Storytelling Logos.jpg
Neuriva Storytelling Logo.jpg
Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

The Evolution of PR in the Digital Era

Public relations flourished in an era when there were lots of local newspapers and three major TV networks. In the digital world, PR has evolved to take advantage of more news channels, more communications tools and more viewer interaction.

Public relations flourished in an era when there were lots of local newspapers and three major TV networks. In the digital world, PR has evolved to take advantage of more news channels, more communications tools and more viewer interaction.

Before the internet, public relations was all about outshining the other guy. In the digital world, corporations, nonprofits and public agencies must communicate in ways that build trust. You still want your organization to stand out from competitors. But how you do it and where you do it have changed markedly in the digital era.

Traditional media no longer owns the turf. People get news from a mix of disparate sources, many of which have a point of view or even an agenda. There isn’t a national fireplace around which a majority of Americans gather to hear the news from a handful of trusted broadcasters. A lot of people open up their morning newspaper, if they still subscribe to one, on their smartphones.

Once upon a time, consumers had confidence in what brand leaders said. Now, people want a more personalized relationship with the brands they buy. They want to make sure brands walk their talk.

Skepticism about claims runs deeper, causing consumers to give more credence to reviews than advertising. Events and contests, long a PR staple, stimulate consumer engagement, but don’t automatically build trust. 

The reality: A digital presence is mandatory to connect with consumers, clients and contributors. Websites, blogs/vlogs and social media platforms are gateways into a brand, a cause or an agency because they can tell a more extended and authentic story than a press release.

Organizations are smart to recognize that a sharp online presence can pay dividends in terms of increased transactions, richer interactions and bolstered loyalty. Websites can be layered tiers of useful and relevant information that invite exploration. Blogs or their video siblings can raise awareness through demonstrated thought leadership. Social media can provide a comfortable conduit for purposeful engagement. 

Digital PR is all about seizing the opportunities afforded by an interconnected world to inform, engage and convince.

Digital PR is all about seizing the opportunities afforded by an interconnected world to inform, engage and convince.

Stimulating digital media doesn’t just happen by accident. It requires skill, patience and a deep understanding of your consumers, clients or constituents. You need to anticipate what they want to know or would appreciate knowing, then provide it in an appealing, even entertaining way. In the digital world, you have a larger palette of communication colors and a virtually unlimited lens to project your information and messaging.

A critical difference between your grandfather’s PR and digital PR today is linkability. A press release, event or contest could build interest, but didn’t have much shelf life – in part because there was no internet to archive them and make it easy to retrieve them later. Digital content shines because it can be linked to other digital sites, especially a website, the mother earth of an online presence. And it never disappears, even if it falls to page three of a Google search.

A press release or press statement organically has limited reach. When first utilized, they went to legacy media that dominated the public’s attention. That’s less true today. Breaking news, other than car accidents and fires, is more likely now to burst into public view on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Savvy organizations need to use these channels to dispense their big news – or respond to news about them – in real time, a luxury digital media affords.

Press releases have limited emotional appeal. Video and photographic content, which flourishes on digital media, isn’t limited. It can touch hearts, create associations and lead to loyalty. Visual and audio content can strike familiar chords and become sticky in people’s brains.

Digital media’s greatest appeal is its interactive character. Viewers can respond instantly, thoughtfully and impactfully. You may not always like what they say, but the interaction gives you a chance to build a relationship, to seize an opportunity to turn a critic into an ambassador. That’s something the venerable press release never could do.

Of course, the press release has evolved into a digital tool. They can contain rich content and useful links. The internet and social media such as Twitter make it easier to distribute your news and messaging to key digital media targets. 

The digital world doesn’t spell the end of traditional PR principles. Story pitches still need a sharp hook. Pitches work best when tailored and aimed at the most appropriate news outlets. Customizing a story for a particular outlet remains a smart strategy. Fresh content, a unique angle and a human touch still get the attention of news people.

You don’t have to toss all you know about PR out the window. Just open the window and scan all the possibilities the digital world affords to tell your story and spread your message.

 

Find and Share the Many Faces of Your Story

Discover a great story to tell, then think how you can share it uniquely and effectively across different outreach platforms such as your website, social media and email. Hint: think of your intended audience and follow where they lead.

Discover a great story to tell, then think how you can share it uniquely and effectively across different outreach platforms such as your website, social media and email. Hint: think of your intended audience and follow where they lead.

Sharing your story on multiple media is smart. But don’t assume a one-size-fits-all strategy for content. Discover the many faces of your story that align with your different outreach platforms.

Some story forms work on a website, but land like a thud on Instagram. Optimally, the story should conform to the audience that dominates individual platforms. The demographics and viewing habits of audiences vary greatly from Twitter to Facebook or from LinkedIn to Instagram. The content should be shaped accordingly.

Russell Working, writing for ragan.com, channels some of the secrets employed by Good Morning America, which he notes is the number one morning news show with a history of online success. Working pulls together some of the top tips from Terry Hurlbutt on effective content and distribution strategies.

One of his tips is to “adopt the story to the medium.” “What is the story we’re trying to tell?” Hurlbutt says. “What is the heart of it? And then how do we adapt that story to a different medium?” It could be as simple as using a video on Facebook and a selfie or behind-the-scenes look for an e-letter.

A story told by a TV anchor works for a network website. Taking the host out of the story elevates the same story’s interest on Facebook. Selfie-style video may pique interest of the same story on Instagram. Live streaming offers a you-are-there perspective that can appeal to viewers who want ultimate realism. 

Sometimes the variations are as simple as where the camera is pointed. For a cooking show, you want to see the chef, but your best view of a recipe-in-progress can be a top-down camera view.

Most brands and businesses don’t have all the resources of ABC or network news shows. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to creativity and maximize what you shoot for multiple outlets. Hurlbutt advises that an advantage of digital content is that it can be easily molded and folded to “feel natural” to conversations on different digital platforms.

Not every story lends itself to repurpose for multiple media. The stories that are most amenable tend to be inspirational and about real people. “The world is full of inspiring stories every day,” Hurlbutt says. “Find them and elevate those stories to a wider audience.”

It goes without saying the critical element in spreading around your story is careful planning. You can’t just wing it or hope it works out. That trivializes what could be a golden moment.

As Hurlbutt advised, look for stories with multiple facets that can be told through a mix of lenses. Identify the core of the story, which needs to be the mother rock of whatever variations you develop. Then do a 360 around that core to see how it looks or can be viewed from different angles. Consider narrators and story forms in the context of audience preferences or platform norms. Think about how to capture these different views. Finally, lay out how to optimize each vantage point to maximize your overall story reach. 

Yes, this involves some hard work and getting out of your comfort zone. Keep in mind, your audience will appreciate the effort and show their appreciation by sharing your story far beyond your immediate orbit.

 

Infographics are Eye-Grabbing Pictures of Information

‘Infographics’ is a seemingly new word to describe pictures of information, but the concept dates back to the days of cave-dwellers and is as common as a subway map. Infographics capture eyeballs and can be easier-than-you-think to create.

‘Infographics’ is a seemingly new word to describe pictures of information, but the concept dates back to the days of cave-dwellers and is as common as a subway map. Infographics capture eyeballs and can be easier-than-you-think to create.

image002.png

Marketers and PR professionals frequently refer to “infographics.” You may not recognize the word, but you most likely have seen more than one of them.

In the simplest explanation, infographics are pictures of information. They can include charts, illustrations, photographs and text designed to convey information in a more visual way than a series of dense paragraphs.

Infographics is a new coinage for an ancient idea. Cave drawings may have been the first infographics by showing through pictures significant events or achievements. Mapmakers have produced infographics for centuries that show continents, oceans, mountain ranges, rivers, trails and, more recently, highways. Public transit maps showing routes and stops are a perfect example of an infographic.

The surge in interest in infographics is tied to social media viewing habits. Infographics attract more clicks and are far more likely to be read than messages consisting of only text. Busy (or distracted) people want to acquire information as easily as possible without digging through dense prose. Infographics appeal because they package information so skimmers can pick out key facts and easily follow a short visual narrative. Viewers like infographics because they are easy to share.

Communicators should like infographics because they demand a disciplined approach to what you are trying to say – and forcing you to say it in more than words that you tap out on your laptop.

Like any other communication tool, the secret sauce of infographics is saying something worthwhile, then figuring out how to visualize what you are saying. That starts with your storyline. Yes, infographics are just another storytelling technique. Begin with an eye-catching piece of data to grab attention. Make sure your narrative is logical for your audience to follow.

Once you have a story to tell, think about how to illustrate your key points to keep the story moving. Use stick figures or scribbles to develop your basic design. If you need inspiration, Google infographics, look at some examples and select the styles that work best for your story. 

Some communicators shun infographics, despite their proven effectiveness, because they don’t know how to create them. That’s understandable, but very curable. There are plenty of tools that can walk you through their creation. If you have a teenager or young adult, they could whip one out with ease. You may have someone on your staff who can take your rough draft and turn it into a splendid infographic. There are plenty of graphic designers who will do it for you at a reasonable price. 

Have a point of view on how you want your infographic to work and look. At the same time, be open to other ideas about how to show your story. There is no formula for the perfect infographic. New ideas are being explored everyday – from squares instead of scrolls to 3D illustrations.

The constants in infographics include using color that is consonant with your branding, readable typefaces, social media sharing buttons, mobile optimization and a clear call to action. The design you put into your infographic should be repeated in other communications, so you have a consistent visual identity. 

To achieve its objective, your infographic needs to be promoted and shared. LinkedIn is an excellent platform, along with Facebook and Twitter. Instagram can be the right choice if your target is younger eyeballs. Don’t forget to post the infographic on your website or write about it in your blog.

Still not convinced? Read this infographic developed by Spiralytics about how infographics can benefit your business.

 

Backstories Forge Bonds with Internal and External Audiences

Backstories can inform fellow workers and impress external audiences. They are a form of storytelling based on authenticity that can convey human feelings and intriguing details as a way to build bonds to a brand.

Backstories can inform fellow workers and impress external audiences. They are a form of storytelling based on authenticity that can convey human feelings and intriguing details as a way to build bonds to a brand.

Think about how an inside job can become a revealing piece of content for the outside world. It could be doubly worth your time.

Going behind the scenes to tell the story of how one part of your operation works can be great content for your internal audience. The story also can be compelling content for your external audience.

Authenticity has always been important, but it has taken on deeper significance in the digital age with the specter of bots, fake feeds and deceptive or reimbursed reviews. Backstories convey authenticity to consumers by personalizing the employees and processes that produce the goods and services they buy. They can be about talented employees, unusual process or colorful personalities. They can appeal to emotions and feelings.

Internal audiences have a built-in interest in learning what their fellow employees do and how they do it. These backstories can be animated with human interest details, which, coincidentally, also hold appeal for consumers who like having a more tangible connection to the people that make a brand.

Antora Energy shares its backstory from the childhood of its founders to its emerging position as helping to create a cleaner electric grid for America.  https://medium.com/cyclotron-road/backstories-antora-energy-d06de388a388 .

Antora Energy shares its backstory from the childhood of its founders to its emerging position as helping to create a cleaner electric grid for America. https://medium.com/cyclotron-road/backstories-antora-energy-d06de388a388.

A smart approach to capturing interesting backstories is to create the equivalent of an editorial board. Its job would be to identify workers or parts of a business that lend themselves to backstory treatment – unique processes, intriguing personalities, unexpected successes. The editorial board then would assign someone or a team to go get the real backstory.

Most organizations have moved beyond a printed newsletter to an intranet or enterprise forums such as Yammer, Slack or Chatter. These platforms expand the range of formats that can used to tell the backstory. A mix of formats, such as video, infographic, photo gallery or podcast, can keep the storytelling fresh and inviting. Smartphone videos and photographs provide ample production values.

The same formats can conform themselves for external sharing through a website, social media or paid advertising. Backstories about your own employees can be a source of interactivity if you invite consumers to share their backstories involving your product or service.

Care needs to be taken to avoid contrived backstories. The stories should be real, even if they aren’t glitzy or heart-melting. If consumers or employees get the scent of hype, the magic of back stories goes poof. 

There is a lot of competing content to break through, regardless whether it’s aimed at an internal or external audience. Backstories can work if they are truly authentic and thoughtfully expressed.

The objective of sharing backstories is to generate bonding – among your own staff, with your consumers and for your brand. Like all forms of storytelling, back stories can attract and hold attention. They also can teach and touch people’s heartstrings.

Aim Digital Content at People, Not Search Engines

When you create marketing content, should you write for your audience or search engine algorithms? One expert says write for your audience, providing informative, useful and relevant content.

When you create marketing content, should you write for your audience or search engine algorithms? One expert says write for your audience, providing informative, useful and relevant content.

When you write a blog or some other form of digital content, is your target audience real people or a search engine? It is more than a theoretical question because without search engine optimization, your content may never reach the eyes of your intended audience.

Writing for Search Engine Journal, Sam Hollingsworth claims writing for a search engine is a mistake. He says digital content producers should focus on “the human beings who are actually reading the content” and let ever-improving search engines do the rest.

“Google’s role in the everyday lives of humans across the world becomes greater each passing minute, deeply rooted in its dedication to ensuring its search engine is giving users the best-possible answers to specific search queries, anytime and anywhere,” Hollingsworth says. “For these reasons, Google (or any other search engine) doesn’t need us to write content that is specifically designed for it. Google serves its users, and it wants content to serve them as well.”

That sounds good, but does it really work that way? It does, Hollingsworth insists, if you follow some basic rules of the road for search engines. Here are for writing “quality content:”

  • Quality content should have a purpose – a topic matched with an audience. The topic should be of interest, relevant and useful to the intended audience. It wouldn’t hurt if it also was entertaining and had some presentational value. Stick to a single topic in each piece of content so you can fully engage readers, not confuse them.

  • Quality content has a unique voice. If your content sounds like anyone could have written it, then you provide little incentive for readers to search for you. People may have favorite genres, but most people appreciate a variety of writing styles. The surest way to write in a unique style is let your writing reflect how you think and speak about topics.

  • Quality content is well researched. It should cover a topic thoroughly and not be limited to a specific word count if the topic demands longer treatment. Solid research should be showcased by effective packaging – headlines, charts and illustrations.

  • Quality content is well written. Copyediting is a must to catch typos and grammatical flubs. Editing for writing style and clarity is also important to put forward your best wordsmithing. Maybe most important, attack your story in an arresting way so it will seem fresh and inviting. It never hurts to make your first sentence the best sentence.

  • Quality content should have an author. Readers will want to know who they are listening to, so tell them. Bylines become reputational business cards attached to quality content. If people trust what you write and find it interesting and informative, they will follow you, which after all is the point of content marketing.

  • Quality content cites sources. Saying where statistics come from is essential to establish credibility. Citations also reflect the reliable sources you are monitoring to prepare your content. Relying on sources has the salutary effect of curbing any temptation to hype a fact.

To the extent content generators need to worry about search engines, they should concentrate on the relevancy of their content. This goes beyond the purpose of the content to the purpose of content marketing. What are your consumers or clients searching for and how can you deliver the content they search?  Your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness need to bend to the simple proposition that you must provide the answers for your intended audience’s questions. There is no other reason for marketing through content.

There are different strategies to consider. You may want to appeal to a wide universe and build a large following. You may increase your clicks and stimulate word-of-mouth engagement. Or you may zero in on a smaller group of people, who have specific questions that, depending on your answers, could convert them from readers to buyers.

Relevance written small or large doesn’t change Hollingworth’s main advice – quality content should aim at people, not algorithms. Understand how search engines work because they are critical to connecting with your audience. But really understand what your audience wants to know – and give it to them.

 

Hot Trends to Keep Content Marketing Fresh and Relevant

Target audiences keep moving and so should your content marketing strategy to reach them. Here are tips and trends that can enable you to keep your content fresh, relevant and easy to access by consumers.

Target audiences keep moving and so should your content marketing strategy to reach them. Here are tips and trends that can enable you to keep your content fresh, relevant and easy to access by consumers.

Successful content marketing involves a lot more than slapping a slab of content onto your website or into a blog. It requires a strategy, moxie and keeping current on evolving trends.

Brendan Gannon, who is the marketing and editorial coordinator at Ragan Communications and PR Daily, produced an infographic that tracks the seven hottest trends for content marketing. Some of them aren’t new, but have become even more important. Others stretch the concept of content marketing.

image008.png

At the top of Gannon’s list of trends is authenticity. This has always been an essential ingredient in content marketing. The spread of fake news has heightened consumer interest in brands they can trust. Gannon cites statistics to back up his point – 91 percent of consumers will reward brands for authenticity and 86 percent say authenticity is important in their decision of what brands to support. Transparency, he explains, is the best way showcase brand authenticity.

Another staple of content marketing are personal connections. The tried-and-true way to build rapport is through content that is relevant, informative and useful. Gannon suggests that can extend to social media by replying promptly to consumer comments or questions, hosting Twitter chats or Facebook Live Q&As and telling stories on Instagram. Content can be personalized, he adds, by showcasing your own staff so consumers feel comfortable they are in a relationship with people.

Gannon’s third hot trend is somewhat counterintuitive. He argues for augmenting video and podcast content, which draw the biggest online crowds, with long-form content, which attracts serious consumers and impresses Google’s algorithm so you move up in searches. Longer pieces, according to Gannon, also underscore you are an authority on a subject and someone worth consumer attention.

Placing content in multiple channels and formats is at once obvious and not so easy to accomplish. To cover all your consumer bases, Gannon says, you need to spread around your content. Video is the big dog, estimated to represent more than 80 percent of internet traffic this year. Some 75 million Americans watch online videos every day and viewers can retain as much of 95 percent of what see in a video. At the same time, nearly a quarter of Americans regularly listen to podcasts, some as many as five podcasts per week.

Social commerce offers a bigger opportunity than in-store searching and purchasing. Instagram and Facebook provide consumers with a real-time platform to share images and videos of people using and enjoying products. Product features can be highlighted. Mobile apps can become like online shopping buddies that offer advice and tag along as consumers roam the racks and aisles.

We tend to think of content marketing as pristine and unsullied by advertising. However, Gannon suggests perception doesn’t square with how shoppers shop. It’s true that consumers aren’t salivating to see ads, but they can absorb them when the ads deliver value and are integrated closely with the adjoining content. The key is to make ads look like an integral part of the content, not just the odd man out along for the ride.

Gannon’s final hot trend deals with collaborative content. This involves teaming with complementary companies that have common marketing objectives and the kind of products that can be combined with yours to spark consumer interest. The good news is that collaboration can relieve some of the burden of continuously finding fresh content. The bad news, if you can call it that, is it takes work and patience to pull off collaborative marketing because there are more people and egos to please. Collaborative marketing may work best in lifestyle and food spaces. But don’t let that dim your enthusiasm or curb your curiosity.

Thought leadership remains a stalwart part of content marketing, especially for professional service firms that sell what they know rather than what they make. The boundaries of thought leadership can be stretched, too. In addition to demonstrating mastery of subjects, thought leadership can showcase keen insight, empathetic perspective and the human dimension of serious issues. Put another way, thought leadership can display leadership as well as thoughtfulness.

Gannon’s underlying advice is to keep your content marketing strategy, tactics and execution fresh. Your target audience isn’t standing still. Your content marketing shouldn’t just be marking time, either.

 

Millennials Glued to TV as Much as Other Adults

Contrary to public perception, Millennials consume commercial TV programming as much or more than other adults and favor it over YouTube videos. Millennials forge stronger emotional bonds with programs and actors, which spills over into other digital channels and influences purchasing decisions, according to a report from the Video Advertising Bureau.

Contrary to public perception, Millennials consume commercial TV programming as much or more than other adults and favor it over YouTube videos. Millennials forge stronger emotional bonds with programs and actors, which spills over into other digital channels and influences purchasing decisions, according to a report from the Video Advertising Bureau.

Millennials like TV programming, even with advertising, as much or more than other adults. And Millennials have stronger emotional bonds to TV characters than YouTube personalities, according to a 2018 report by the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB).

The common perception is that Millennials have deserted commercial television. The data in the report indicates otherwise, noting Millennials watch TV as much as other adults, just less so on cable. This finding suggests marketers trying to reach Millennials shouldn’t entirely abandon ad-supported TV programming and dump all their advertising on Instagram and YouTube.

VAB’s members are pretty much the who’s who of broadcasting and premium video content. Nevertheless, the takeaways in the report titled, “Exploring Millennials’ Meaningful Relations with TV Programming,” are striking. The topline finds are:

  • Millennials feel a strong bond with TV programming and regularly set aside time to watch their favorite programs, prioritizing it as “me time.”

  • Millennial viewers are actively engaged beyond when TV programs air by sharing and posting video clips, following actors on social media, reading recaps and scouring the web to find behind-the-scenes scoops.

  • Motivated by their attachment to TV shows, Millennials buy products, select travel destinations and dine at restaurants they have seen featured or advertising on TV.

A key underlying theme in the report is that Millennials do more than watch TV; they engage with programs and actors that interest them. The emotion bond they forge carries over to digital platforms such as “liking” a program or actor on Facebook, sharing video clips and tweeting.

Millennials are often the cultural carriers of phrases or memes that originate on TV programs, including dressing up like a favorite character on Halloween. They also serve as the word-of-mouth ambassadors for programs that have appeal for Millennial audiences and are more likely to feel personal connections to favorite TV program actors. Sometimes the attachment is so strong Millennial viewers go through something akin to withdrawal when a season ends. 

The picture of Millennials sitting by themselves staring at their smartphones or tablets isn’t completely accurate either, according to the report. Millennials enjoy the communal dimension of watching favorite TV programs with their friends.

While Millennials consume lots of content on YouTube, the data from the VAB report indicates they enjoy live TV programming, despite advertising, significantly more (40 percent to 29 percent).

The Video Advertising Bureau report shows Millennials can be ardent viewers of TV content that appeals to them and enjoy sharing and taking about they see with friends and on social media.

The Video Advertising Bureau report shows Millennials can be ardent viewers of TV content that appeals to them and enjoy sharing and taking about they see with friends and on social media.

An Intranet’s Dual and Often Clashing Roles for HR, News

An intranet isn’t for every organization, but they are extremely useful for corporations and nonprofits with disparate, far-flung operations to build cohesion. Too often, organizations try to cram together a human resource portal with an internally focused news channel, which can be awkward and a source of friction. Both functions are important and work best when designed and managed separately like siblings.

An intranet isn’t for every organization, but they are extremely useful for corporations and nonprofits with disparate, far-flung operations to build cohesion. Too often, organizations try to cram together a human resource portal with an internally focused news channel, which can be awkward and a source of friction. Both functions are important and work best when designed and managed separately like siblings.

Organizations with intranets often struggle with how to maintain a site that offers human resource information and news content aimed at employees. The lure of a one-click online employee information center can actually be a mirage.

Managing an online HR portal versus an internally aimed news channel is distinctly different. The content needs for both aren’t in conflict, but how they are packaged and promoted can be very different. More fundamentally, they serve different needs for employees – and management.

Intranets are critical for sprawling organizations. They can create cohesion among far-flung employee groups with different jobs, clientele and languages. HR portals are invaluable tools for onboarding and departing employees. Internal news channels are a proven way to keep employees in touch with company news, upcoming events and a response to a crisis.

The HR portal carries sensitive information, which usually involves legal review and variations for employees in different states or countries. For example, health insurance coverage can vary widely for an organization that operates nationally or transnationally. The news channel should center on timely information that is relevant to employees.

Employees will seek out the HR portal to clarify benefits, learn about policy changes and find out the steps involved in leaving. The test for the HR portal is providing up-to-date, accurate and accessible information. 

Employees will go to the news channel if it delivers real news, not just acts as a conduit for bland management messaging. The test for a news channel is to offer brightly written, inviting content about their organization and some form of interactivity. Without interactivity, readership will be perfunctory and engagement nil.

For organizations with bargaining units, the HR portal may need to be segmented for covered and exempt employees. For organizations with international operations, the news channel packages need to be customized for various markets.

Information on the HR portal is unlikely to change often enough to warrant an app. But an app that allows employees to check the internal news channel on mobile devices for breaking stories or timely information is a must. Keeping the internal news channel newsy is necessary to sustain interest and viewership.

Some content, such as a video of a top executive explaining a new organization-wide policy, can be shared on both online platforms. A video of an executive describing the steps being taken to address a major incident or announce a huge new customer are more appropriate for the news channel, which can be designed to accommodate breaking news.

The audiences for an HR portal and news channel are not completely coincident. The HR portal should be constructed to state as clearly as possible organizational policy on behavior and benefits for the employees for whom those benefits pertain. The news channel can be an outreach vehicle for a wider audience that can include key stakeholders as well as employees.

The design of an HR portal should feature access to key information employees might seek. The design of a news channel should appeal to employees and draw them in as viewers and even active participants. Organizations that encourage employees working at different locations to “congregate online” would prefer the congregation on a news channel rather than an HR portal.

When employees depart, they typically surrender company-provided laptops, tablets and smart phones and are denied access to the main HR portal. However, former employees may require some level of continuing contact to monitor unexpired benefits. Access by ex-employees to an internal news channel is usually not a good idea because at least some of the stories – and certainly the interactivity – will have a for-employees-only quality.

As you can see, the purpose, management and day-to-day activity of an HR portal and an internal news channel vary greatly. Their coexistence on a single website can be problematic and an unnecessary source of friction. For both online platforms to be successful, they need to perform their unique functions well. Their overall design and functionality can be coordinated and similar, reflecting the organization they both reflect. There are off-the-shelf designs that can make it easier to start or reinvent an intranet. But it is a smart choice to treat, manage and customize them as separate and valuable avenues to reach employees.

 

 

Looking Behind the Camera at the Video Production Team

Video and visual storytelling are “in.” Before you jump in, you should understand what it takes to produce a professional video that will represent your brand and tell your story authentically and effectively.

Video and visual storytelling are “in.” Before you jump in, you should understand what it takes to produce a professional video that will represent your brand and tell your story authentically and effectively.

Producing a video is a team effort. But many times, clients don’t know what each team member does, or even what kind of help they need. So, here’s a guide to the key players on a video team, and the role(s) they play in the production.

Videographer: (Also called camera operator, photographer, director of photography)

This is the person with the camera, lights and equipment. He/she is responsible for capturing the visual images used in a video. Some of the necessary, and unseen, duties the video photographer is responsible for include: 

  • Scouting potential filming locations;

  • Lighting interviews and filming locations;

  • Operating specialized camera equipment such as a dolly, slider, jib, pole cam and drone;

  • Setting up audio and microphones for interviews (including shotgun and lavaliere mics);

  • Monitoring audio during interviews;

  • Conceptualizing interesting ways to film a subject, product or idea.

Producer:

This person is the conductor of your production. He/she oversees all aspects of the project, including but not limited to:

  • Budgeting;

  • Scheduling;

  • Hiring the video team;

  • Story mapping;

  • Story production;

  • Interview preparation and conducting on-camera interviews;

  • Assisting the video team during filming;

  • Reviewing raw footage and interviews;

  • Project management;

  • Script development and/or scriptwriting, if voiceover narration is needed;

  • Auditioning and hiring professional actors and professional voiceover talent, if your production calls for that;

  • Logistics;

  • Permit acquisition (if filming in public spaces);

  • Issuing waivers;

  • Booking out of town travel;

  • Working with the video editor to make sure the client’s vision is clearly communicated in the finished video. 

  • Also handles coffee and lunch runs for the crew.

Editor:

This person weaves together the raw footage, interviews, voiceover narration, motion graphics and animation into a cohesive video that reflects a client’s key messages. Editors are responsible for:

  • Selecting music;

  • Selecting interview clips and b-roll footage;

  • Resizing still photos;

  • Color correcting footage;

  • Selecting effect transitions;

  • Creating 2D and 3D animations;

  • Editing audio to remove clicks and pops;

  • Exporting a video file for Internet use.

Many videographers are also accomplished editors and are involved in the creative process from the beginning, which can help streamline the production process. Whomever you hire to edit your video must be proficient in editing software such as Premiere, Avid or Final Cut. 

Now that you know the players on the video team, let’s crunch some numbers.

It takes an average of 8-12 weeks to produce a three-to-five-minute video, and around 90 hours to produce the project professionally. If you divide the number of hours by three (for videographer, editor and producer), you’re looking at an average of 30 hours of work required for each team member. Based on that, these are the questions you need to ask:

  • Do you have a producer-videographer-editor team in-house that you can free up to produce your video? Can you get other staff to take on the additional 90 hours of work that your in-house team can no longer do because they’re working on your project?

  • If you have experience as a producer, do you have an additional 30 hours of unpaid time in your schedule that you can devote to working with an outside videographer and/or editor to produce a video? 

  • If you’ve never produced a video before, would you even know how to approach such an undertaking? 

  • If your specialty is filming and editing, would you be willing to devote hours of unpaid time to learn the production part of the process?

Once you determine how much time you’re willing to commit to producing a video, you can figure out the financial investment you’re willing to make.

Generally speaking, a videographer/editor will be less expensive than a producer/videographer/editor team. Occasionally, you can find “one-man band” video pros – people who can film, produce and edit. If you want to keep costs down, hiring one person who does it all might be a good fit for you. The producer-videographer-editor team would be on the high end budget-wise because you’re paying for producing expertise. But if you’re someone with little time to spare, paying a higher fee might be a good trade-off because of the time you save by not having to be so hands-on during each phase of the project.

Whichever option you choose, base your decision on the amount of time you’re willing to devote to the actual production of a project, as well as your experience in the nuts and bolts of video production.

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

About the author:

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She produces videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.waveonegroup.com

 

Google Veteran Job-Matching Ad Reinforces Value of a Useful Message

Google’s Super Bowl ad reinforced the potency of a TV ad with a straightforward message teamed with a clear call to action. The spot didn’t have glitz, celebrities, jousting knights or party-wrecking NFL legends, but it still packed a punch and made viewers pay attention.

Google’s Super Bowl ad reinforced the potency of a TV ad with a straightforward message teamed with a clear call to action. The spot didn’t have glitz, celebrities, jousting knights or party-wrecking NFL legends, but it still packed a punch and made viewers pay attention.

There are many things to learn from this year’s roster of Super Bowl ads (for example, never invite a bunch of former NFL players to a party), but perhaps the most important lesson is the continuing value of a useful message with a clear call to action.

Google earns my top award in this category for its minute-long spot aimed at assisting veterans match their military expertise to good-paying jobs back home. 

This is not a new undertaking for Google. It has sought to help returning vets for years. The 2019 Super Bowl ad managed to sum up its commitment with a sequence of images showing codes. For most of us, the codes are meaningless. For veterans, the codes represent the skill and specialization they achieved while serving in the military, which can easily be overlooked or undervalued by employers.

The ad’s message is that Google has used its vast online resources to align those military codes with jobs and professions in the domestic economy. It’s like translating French text into English as you read.

Google has teamed with RecruitMilitary, which bills itself as the nation’s leading veteran hiring company and talent recruiter. “We provide the spark that ignites organizations to excel by helping them hire and retain America’s best talent – its veterans,” proclaims the company’s website.

Google’s role is a feature called Cloud Talent Solution that allows veterans to search for job opportunities using their military occupational specialty codes. “The new search function is key to those service members who are actively seeking new career opportunities but are unsure of where to begin. It also delivers a strong starting point for newly transitioning veterans as they begin their post-military career search.” 

The Google Super Bowl ad wasn’t remotely glitzy and didn’t feature scads of celebrities. Instead, it relied on an intriguing message that resonated with transitioning military veterans – as well their families, employers and support communities. One of the greatest sources of untapped talent in the nation are military veterans who have skills. Those skills go for naught unless they have a job-matching map of where to look to apply them.

The ad served the purpose for Google of reminding viewers online searches combined with artificial intelligence algorithms can be a powerful tool that can reap very tangible benefits for individuals and businesses.

The simplicity and straightforwardness of the ad reflects a creative decision to let the message carry the day instead of relying on dazzling graphics or big stars. It reinforces the notion that a good message with a useful purpose is something people will want to hear. 

The military recruitment project by Google is commendable in its own right. The Super Bowl ad elevates the priority of the program while underscoring the value of technology in a complicated modern world. Many of us worry about our privacy and the mis-use of our online data. Google provides us an example of how the internet and machines that learn can deliver a great value to men and women who have earned it.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

 

Five Video Trends to Dump in 2019

Tucked too frequently in between good, informative online business videos are some real dogs, which prompted professional video producer Holly Paige to list five trends to ditch in the new year. Think boring talking heads and glitzy, distracting special effects.

Tucked too frequently in between good, informative online business videos are some real dogs, which prompted professional video producer Holly Paige to list five trends to ditch in the new year. Think boring talking heads and glitzy, distracting special effects.

As I review business videos on LinkedIn and other online portals, I see good, even great examples. I also see videos and trends that need to be kicked to the curb.

Here’s my list of five business-related video trends we need to wave goodbye to in 2019:

Lose the one-take wonders

Those stream-of-consciousness monologues that otherwise smart people launch into as soon as they hit the Record button on their smartphones. No. Just no. You’re not witty. You haven’t figured out what you want to say. And your audience doesn’t have time to wait for you to get to the point. Before you hit the Record button, practice, practice, practice. And practice some more.

Ditch the long-talking head video

Have you ever watched someone try to speak directly into a camera and not make a mistake? 

Unless you’re using a teleprompter, it’s pretty difficult to do. Yet I’ve seen many LinkedIn videos that consist solely of a person speaking extemporaneously into a camera for as long as five minutes in one uninterrupted take. Length is not your friend when it comes to producing a talking head video. Make it easy on yourself and your audience by creating shorter videos focused on specific topics. It’s easier on you, the presenter and your audience. Here’s a great example of an easy-to-produce, effective and short (57-second) video by leadership coach Simon Sinek.

Don’t put up with bad audio

Most people will ignore shaky video, but they’ll always notice poor audio. Investing in a wireless microphone is an easy, inexpensive fix. Your audience will thank you.

Gimmicks, begone

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Video is a creative medium, so it’s not surprising that businesses are tempted to push the limits when it comes to developing a creative approach for video content.

However, instead of embracing the latest visual effect, ask yourself: Is the creative direction I’m considering for my video in line with the goals I’m trying to achieve by producing the video? Or, do I want to try something edgy and cool just because I can? With so much online business video available, often the best strategy is to produce content that communicates a clear message in a memorable way.

Resist the urge to follow the video herd

I know this sounds odd coming from a video professional like me. But If you’re not ready to commit to producing video content, don’t do it. There are lots of reasons why businesses don’t use video, and that’s okay. The video medium has been around for decades, and it will still be there if and when you decide to take the plunge.

May the business video content you produce in 2019 be informative and engaging – and help you achieve your goals.

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

About the author:

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She uses the power of storytelling to consult with businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv; and www.waveonegroup.com

 

The Value of Fetching Value Propositions

Poo-Pourri is a perfect example of how a name and tagline can convey a product’s value proposition with a clear, cheeky and hard-to-forget personality.

Poo-Pourri is a perfect example of how a name and tagline can convey a product’s value proposition with a clear, cheeky and hard-to-forget personality.

Value propositions provide consumers with a critical first impression of any product or idea. Think of value propositions as consumer speed dating.

Value propositions are most effective when wrapped in a memorable phrase or tagline. The makers of Poo-Pourri, a pre-flush toilet spray, illustrate the point with their value proposition/tagline – “Before you go, so no one will know you did.”

The Poo-Pourri value proposition, like all successful ones, addresses an acknowledged problem: Answering the call without guilt, regret or an odorous trail. It also tells the product’s story with a cheeky personality that is hard to forget.

Of course, cheekiness is only as good as it is successful. Poo-Pourri markets itself to women, engages in inoffensive potty humor and claims more than 3 billion “stink-flushes” by users. By any standard, a stinking success.

There are many examples of successful value propositions. IMPACT, an inbound marketing agency that helps companies improve outreach and sales, has compiled an impressive list. Here are a few of them: 

  • MailChimp: “Send Better Email” – simple, easy-to-understand and useful.

  • Mizzen and Main: “Performance Fabric. Traditional Style.” – addresses a felt-need by men for a functional, good-looking dress shirt.

  • Vimeo: “Make life worth watching” – provides a window into what it does, with an unobtrusive elbow to its competitor, YouTube.

  • FreshBooks: “Small Business Accounting Software Designed for You, the Non-Accountant” – you couldn’t say it any more clearly.

  • Tortuga Backpacks: “Bring Everything You Need Without Checking a Bag” – this carves a niche in the luggage business that is easily recognizable for veteran travelers.

  • Ladders: “Move up in your career” – responds to a perpetual concern about how to climb the career ladder and make more money by harkening to familiar imagery.

  • Evernote: “Remember Everything” – a memory-refreshing app that helps you keep track of what you are prone to forget, a problem almost everyone faces.

  • DeskBeers: “Craft Beer, Delivered to Your Office” – don’t tell the boss, but applause from fellow employees for this directly appealing name and tagline.

  • Spotify: “Soundtrack your life” – a goodie no longer in use, but still a great mash-up example of a tagline that tells you everything you need to know in three words.

The world of politics has produced a comparable example with the Green New Deal, a proposed stimulus policy aimed at addressing economic inequality and climate change. 

In a noisy world with crowded store shelves and endless social media posts, you need a way to stand out. A vivid value proposition melded into a name and/or tagline is one way to distinguish your product or idea in the minds of potential consumers or fellow sympathizers.

 

12 Tips for Making Video a Reality in 2019

If 2019 is finally the year when you decide to make a corporate video, here are 12 things you should know that will make your video a hit instead of a snack room joke.

If 2019 is finally the year when you decide to make a corporate video, here are 12 things you should know that will make your video a hit instead of a snack room joke.

If 2019 is the year you’re finally going to start producing video content about your business or organization, here is a handful of tips to help you plan a flawless video campaign in the new year. (With a nod to the 12 Days of Christmas and all things fun and festive!) 

1.  Know why you’re producing a video

This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many otherwise smart professionals decide they want to produce a video about their company without thinking through their goals and outcomes. Don’t be that person. Get clear about the pain you want your video to relieve before you start imagining what you want your video to look like. 

2.  Decide who this video is for

Every video you produce needs to appeal to a specific audience. Taking the time to identify the audience you want to reach and the messages you want to communicate, will help you decide the type of video you want to produce, as well as the creative tone and style you want your video to convey. 

3.  Get clear about your outcomes

What do you want your target audience to do after they’ve watched your video? Visit your website for more information? Donate money online? Fill out an online job application? Whatever your outcomes, make sure your video has a strong call to action, directing viewers to take the next step.

4.  Be honest about the investment you’re willing/able to make

Successful video projects are an investment in time, money and talent. The average video project takes an average of 12 weeks from concept to completion. On the low end, a typical budget for a two-to-three-minute video starts at around $5,000 and can vary widely, depending on the complexity of the video you want to produce.

5.  In-house or outsource?

If you’re producing a video in-house, your main investment will be staff time. If you outsource your project, your investment will be in dollars, to hire outside video experts who can assist you in everything from story planning, project management and creative development, to filming, story production and editing. The deciding factor typically comes down to the amount of extra staff time an organization has (or doesn’t have) to devote to the amount of time needed to produce a video. 

6.  Plan, baby, plan

Leave winging it to the birds. Without a solid plan, your video project is DOA.

7.  Short, long or in-between?

There’s a lot of buzz around the “perfect” length of a video. The truth is, there is no perfect video length. However, there are guidelines, based on how a video will be used. For example: 60 to 90-second video testimonials of company executives or customers work well as email attachments, on a website or social media platform. Ditto for a two-to-three-minute product demos. Videos in the three-to-five-minute range (company culture videos, award videos, fundraising appeal videos or video case studies) work well in live presentations or on a website. My rule of thumb around video length is: make it long enough to cover your most important messages, but not too long that people lose interest. 

8.  There’s no “I” in team

Keep your internal team small and focused. Make sure everyone on your team shares the same goals and outcomes and is motivated to keep the process moving forward.

9.  Find video partners that work and play well with others

Every video company has a great demo reel. But look beyond the pretty images when evaluating a potential video partner for your next project. Find a team whose work ethic and values mirror yours. Seek out video pros who “get” your vision, are focused yet flexible, communicate well, enjoy the collaborative process, are easy to work with and deliver projects as scheduled. 

10.  Expect the unexpected

Scheduling snafus. Production bumps. Last minute script changes. Re-edits at the 11th hour. Something unexpected will happen during the life of a project. Having a solid game plan will help you overcome these bumps in the road. When the unexpected appears, stay calm and carry on.

11.  Think Vimeo for video hosting

Most people immediately think of YouTube for video hosting because it’s a free service. But Vimeo is a better bet, especially for business and corporate work. Vimeo is a paid service, but the investment is worth it for a couple of important reasons: First, Vimeo allows users to keep their original online video links, so you can make revisions to an existing video without having to create a new video link, as you have to do with YouTube. Second, Vimeo doesn’t paste unwanted ads over your video like YouTube does. These are small, but important distinctions, and worth paying attention to, if maintaining a professional visual presence is important to you, and your audience.

12.  Enjoy the ride

The video medium is such a powerful communication tool and there are so many applications for it that you owe it to yourself to at least consider producing a video sometime in 2019. And if you are already on the video bandwagon, here’s to another great year of creating video content that engages, educates and inspires. 

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

About the author:

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She produces videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories – and tell them right. Visit: www.waveonegroup.com

 

The Legacy of a President and Letter-Writer

President George H.W. Bush presided over critical moments in world history, laid the groundwork for understanding climate change and displayed what has become a rate amount of bipartisanship and civility. He also maintained the tradition of writing letters that put history into human perspective.

President George H.W. Bush presided over critical moments in world history, laid the groundwork for understanding climate change and displayed what has become a rate amount of bipartisanship and civility. He also maintained the tradition of writing letters that put history into human perspective.

The passage of President George H.W. Bush might well be remembered for the passage of letter-writing. His death reminded America of his legacy of letters, many of them written to his children, others to political rivals, all reflecting love and devotion to country.

Writing letters has receded as people nowadays communicate via email and social media posts. The loss is substantial because our communications tend to be transactional instead of reflective. A deeper loss will be the absence of primary source material for historians to sift through to find the history behind the headlines.

Few tweets will go down in history unlike Bush’s letter to Bill Clinton, the man who defeated him in his 1992 re-election bid.

“You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck. George.” 

The New York Times said Bush’s letter to Clinton cemented a presidential tradition in the graceful passage of power from one person to another, often to a person from an opposing political party. The letter exemplified, according to President George W. Bush, his father’s character: “Mission number one was the nation, not George H. W. Bush.”

Jenna Bush, his granddaughter who now works for NBC, shared private glimpses of Bush, many of them from frequent letters to his children and grandchildren. They underscored his love of family, especially when clustered around him at his revered Kennebunkport summer home. 

Bush wrote letters instead of a memoir. His letters contained encouragement and life reflections. “If I shed tears easier now, try not to laugh at me, because I’ll lose more saline and that makes me feel like a sissy. And besides, it’s okay to cry if you’re a man, a happy man, me. All Bushes cry easily when we’re happy or counting our blessings or sad.” 

The 41st President maintained a 25-year pen-pal relationship with a Gold Star mother in Florida whom he met and mourned with after the death of her Army Ranger son. She told reporters Bush empathized with her loss as a World War II pilot who lost buddies and a father who lost a child.

Michael Tackett of the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Bush favored the handwritten letter. He wrote them by the hundreds to family, friends, critics, colleagues and contemporaries. To read them is to take in a brief history of the second half of the 20th century – stories of war and peace, victory and defeat, musings on culture and sports, and expressions of deeply personal sentiments.”

Like many prominent individuals, Bush struggled in public to express his emotions and innermost feelings. As Tackett noted, he often mangled his syntax when speaking. But his writings provide a keen, behind-the-scenes view of significant historical events from World War II to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Bush’s letters put history into human perspective. Savoring a Coke during intense pilot training, conveying a presidential agenda (“Jobs, peace, education”) and consoling a reporter who criticized him when she was diagnosed with cancer.

Face-to-face interaction may be best. When that isn’t possible, letters aren’t a bad substitute, especially when handwritten and heartfelt.

Bush’s letters have been compiled in “All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings.”

 

Animation Can Tell a Story and Tug a Heartstring

Debate rages over whether organizations plunging into controversial issues are clever-smart or irrevocably dumb. The Salvation Army shows you can enter the great divide, make your point and earn respect from all sides.

Debate rages over whether organizations plunging into controversial issues are clever-smart or irrevocably dumb. The Salvation Army shows you can enter the great divide, make your point and earn respect from all sides.

The red kettle and ringing bell of The Salvation Army are a holiday staple. Now the venerable organization is featuring heart-touching animated videos that show how an ounce of empathy can generate a ton of good. 

The Fight for Good” campaign tells the stories of people facing hunger, homelessness and financial distress through three characters – Chloe, Gus and Emma. The Richards Group, which created the video campaigns, say they are intended to shed light on the battles faced by people who receive assistance from The Salvation Army and how contributions help. The goal is compassion, not guilt.

Animation is a perfect medium for treading that fine line between empathy and guilt and for somehow making uncomfortable topics more comfortable. Computer-generated animation has made the medium even more evocative and uncannily realistic.

However, the unique artistic DNA for animation is its ability to tell imaginative stories that would be harder or even impossible to convey in print or live video. For example, Pixar’s award-winning animated movie Coco transports viewers into the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos as a 12-year-old boy struggles to return to the land of the living. The movie was totally charming, whereas a film version may have come across as gimmicky or scary.

The Salvation Army, which has been around since the mid-1800s and still clings to its tradition of military-style uniforms for its bell-ringing “officers,” saw in animated videos an opportunity for a fresh take on its mission. Animation helped to make the age-old problem of people in need seem contemporary by telling contemporary, believable stories.

“We’ve used illustrative elements throughout the main advertising to convey the reality and desperation of need without the guilt-inducing face of it,” the Dallas-based advertising agency told AdWeek. “Through this visual vehicle we can show the harsh struggles of homelessness, child poverty and unemployment in a more approachable way.”

CFM strategic partner Cappelli Miles has created an eye-grabbing – and thought-provoking – 30-second animated video for OregonSaves that plants the idea people should start saving for their retirement sooner than later. It is hard to tell a complicated story in 30 heartwarming seconds, but animation can make it easier. Animation can travel back in time, create adorable characters that say anything you want and present perspectives that would defy drones.

Animated videos can be spendy because of the immense amount of work required to create them. Regardless of cost, the point of video content is to get noticed and be remembered, which animation can deliver, making it cost-effective for reaching eyeballs and tugging heartstrings.

Animation isn’t the answer for every marketing challenge, but it should be on the table as an option, just like illustration as an alternative to photography for print projects. Measure choices by their impact on your intended audience.

The Salvation Army made that calculation and chose animation for its “The Fight for Good” campaign, which tells a visually compelling story fit for holiday consumption.

 

Sticking a Wet Nose into a Messy Issue

The Oregon Humane Society expanded its message from being humane to animals to being humane to humans in a classy, subtle advocacy advertising campaign that began at the height of vicious verbal attacks on immigrants and asylum-seekers during the end of the midterm election campaigns.

The Oregon Humane Society expanded its message from being humane to animals to being humane to humans in a classy, subtle advocacy advertising campaign that began at the height of vicious verbal attacks on immigrants and asylum-seekers during the end of the midterm election campaigns.

Debate will continue over whether businesses and nonprofits should stick their noses into public controversies. Perhaps the debate should be over whether they can avoid sticking their noses into public controversies and remain on the cutting edge.

Rating these entries into the public arena should rest on the skill by which they extend their noses, as a new campaign by the Oregon Humane Society demonstrates.

Titled “A More Humane Society,” a 60-second video asks viewers to “imagine a place where kindness and love prevail. A society in which all beings have a place, a purpose and a sense of belonging.”

The imagery is of dogs, cats and chickens, but the message is inescapably aimed at humans.

image005.jpg

The timing of the #bemorehumane campaign coincides with a midterm election campaign that featured vicious verbal attacks on immigrants and asylum-seekers. That wasn’t just a coincidence.

image004.jpg

The video leverages the organization’s name that contains the word “humane.” We associate the “Humane Society” with animals, but the video encourages looking beyond our companions to ourselves as humans.

Speaking metaphorically through animals is not new. St. Francis of Assissi once freed a rabbit from a trap, advised it to avoid traps in the future and shooed it away into the forest, only to have the rabbit jump on his lap. Francis is known even today as the Patron Saint of Animals for his expression of love to all creatures.

The Oregon Humane Society has taken the path less trodden before as with its award-winning “End Petlessness” campaign that traded in grim pictures of abused animals for fetching illustrations showing how great life can be with a four-legged friend.

The Oregon Humane Society has taken the path less trodden before as with its award-winning “End Petlessness” campaign that traded in grim pictures of abused animals for fetching illustrations showing how great life can be with a four-legged friend.

The Oregon Humane Society jumped into the middle of one of the nation’s most divisive issues with a subtly compelling video that attests there is no difference between “us” and “them,” no matter who “us” and “them” may be. Coincidentally, the OHS video includes a quick cameo of a rabbit.

The video goes well beyond the common calls for greater “civility” and points to the common ground of life itself. Our differences aren’t so different after all. We love our pets, regardless whether they have fur or feathers. Why can’t we love other humans, regardless of their skin color, religion or politics? 

Unlike the Nike ad featuring Colin Kapaernick that sparked outrage and social media posts of burning shows with a swoosh, the Oregon Humane Society has remained mostly under the radar. It attracted only 7,000 or so views on YouTube since being posted in late September.

However, the video is now attracting wider interest, and it should. The video is a classy example of advocacy advertising. It doesn’t stray from the organization’s purpose – or name. It places its ongoing work in larger relief. It calls people to action, not just to support humane treatment toward animals, but also toward all people.

Hats off to the Oregon Humane Society for sticking its wet nose into the issue of humanity.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

 

Let Your Organizational Culture Tell Your Story

An organization’s culture says a lot about how it values employees and customers. That’s why your organizational culture may be your best storyline to tell.

An organization’s culture says a lot about how it values employees and customers. That’s why your organizational culture may be your best storyline to tell.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked for lots of companies. I’ve gotten fired from a few, too. Looking back, I realize the common denominator of these premature exit strategies had nothing to do with the quality of my work, and everything to do with whether or not I fit into the organization’s culture.

More than superior skills, a stellar work ethic or a stack of inside connections, an employee’s ability to fit into a company’s culture determines whether he or she will find success on the job, and in the organization. 

Every company has a culture, which typically reveals itself in the way an organization expresses its values, beliefs, vision, behaviors and shared experiences. A company’s culture shows up in the ways people inside the organization interact with each other and with clients or customers. Culture sets the tone for behavior, mindset and expectations. It dictates the way “things get done” inside and outside an organization. 

Which brings us to Clark Public Utilities in Vancouver, Washington. The utility promotes its ‘customer owned, customer focused’ culture every day in all kinds of ways. And the stories the utility tells about its culture gives prospective employees an authentic glimpse into what really matters to the organization. 

One particular story stands out, both for its humor and humble approach. What started as a typical day for a crew of utility linemen turned into a full-on rescue mission. We teamed up with the utility to produce a video about this story, and without giving anything away, it’s a fun story to watch and it speaks volumes about the organization’s culture. You can watch this story here.

If you’re ready to start telling your company’s story through a cultural lens, here are three ways to get started:

First, identify about your organization’s core values and beliefs. Why are they important to the success of your organization?

Second, explore how your employees bring these values and beliefs to life through their work.

Third, determine the kinds of communication tools that would be most effective to the employees you want to reach. 

Telling your company’s culture story is an effective way to communicate what really matters to your organization. Hiring employees that embrace the work, as well as the values, beliefs and shared experiences of your organization, is the key to long-term success, both for your employees, and your company.

About the author:

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

Holly Paige is a story consultant and video content creator based in Portland, Oregon. She uses the power of storytelling to consult with businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv; andwww.waveonegroup.com