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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Rescuing People in Danger Because of Who They Are

HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, may have been the spark that sent a man who spouted anti-Semitic views storming into a Pittsburgh synagogue killing 11 worshippers. 

HIAS stands for a world in which refugees find welcome, safety and freedom as they escape from famine, corruption and war. Learn more about HIAS at  https://www.hias.org/mission-and-values .

HIAS stands for a world in which refugees find welcome, safety and freedom as they escape from famine, corruption and war. Learn more about HIAS at https://www.hias.org/mission-and-values.

HIAS, which is based in Silver Springs, Maryland, began in 1881 to help Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. By 1904, it has set up an office on Ellis Island. During World Wars I and II, HIAS assisted Jewish refugees resettle. It played a role in rescuing Jews from Hungary, Egypt, Cuba, Liberia, Libya, Czechoslovakia, Poland and, more recently, from Iran, Ethiopia and Southeast Asia.

In 1975, the US State Department asked HIAS to resettle 4,600 Vietnamese refugees. In the past decade, HIAS expanded its work to assist non-Jewish refugees from Afghanistan to Haiti to Romania to Ecuador.

Inflamed by rhetoric about refugees, including a caravan of Latin American asylum-seeking refugees plodding their way on foot to the United States, a Pittsburgh man unleashed his fury against a congregation that actively supports the mission and work of HIAS. 

In tribute to that tireless work – and in memory of the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, we share this animated video that powerfully describes what HIAS does.

 

Photography, The Photo Ark and Great Visual Storytelling

Joel Satore has dedicated his life to capturing intimate, face-to-face portraits of animals that reflect the biodiversity of earth, as well as the dangers of animal extinction. His visual storytelling is strikingly artful, compelling to view and an example of how to show what you mean and feel in a way that connects with a wide audience. [ © Photo by Joel Satore/National Geographic ]

Joel Satore has dedicated his life to capturing intimate, face-to-face portraits of animals that reflect the biodiversity of earth, as well as the dangers of animal extinction. His visual storytelling is strikingly artful, compelling to view and an example of how to show what you mean and feel in a way that connects with a wide audience. [© Photo by Joel Satore/National Geographic]

The power of photography is indisputable. The art of photography involves harnessing that power to tell a story.

There is no better visual storytelling example than Joel Sartore and The National Geographic’s Photo Ark. “Species are disappearing at an alarming rate, but together we can help. The National Geographic Photo Ark is using the power of photography to inspire people to help save species at risk before it’s too late.”

Photo Ark’s founder, Sartore so far has photographed 8,485 different species of animals in 40 countries. Each photograph is an intimate, face-to-face portrait of familiar and not-so-familiar animals. His goal is to capture 12,000 species in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries to illustrate the earth’s fragile biodiversity.

Of his lifelong project, Sartore says, “I want people to care, to fall in love, to take action.” 

Few storytellers are as devoted as Sartore, but his project provides useful lessons to any visual storyteller:

Captivating Title
Photo Ark sparks immediate recognition of the original ark and its mission to save animals during the great flood. The title taps into our memory banks of books with illustrations of animals scrambling up the ark’s plank. We know what we are in for before we see Sartore’s first photograph.

Photographs can evoke emotional responses, but people have to take notice of the photographs to have an emotional response. A captivating title is like a finger pointing in the right direction.

Visual Story Template
Like any story, a visual story needs a plot and architecture that captures and directs the interest of viewers. Sartore’s plot centers on a staggering number of photographs with either a simple white or black background featuring an animal looking straight at the viewer. There is an inescapable connection, like looking at a photograph of a family member. The one-on-one scale of each photograph doesn’t favor larger animals over smaller ones such as insects. They all seem equal and equally important, which is the underlying theme of Sartore’s story.

Pictures with a purpose tell stories. Visual storytelling does not consist of random photographs strung together like a personal scrapbook. Visual storytelling requires forethought, consistency and competence. It requires a visual template that gives the photographs a harmonious meaning.

You can view 400 mesmerizing animal portraits in Joel Sartore’s photo album titled  The Photo Ark . Purchasing the book is one way to support Sartore’s efforts to raise awareness of endangered species and what can be done to avoid animal extinction.  https://www.joelsartore.com/gallery/the-photo-ark/

You can view 400 mesmerizing animal portraits in Joel Sartore’s photo album titled The Photo Ark. Purchasing the book is one way to support Sartore’s efforts to raise awareness of endangered species and what can be done to avoid animal extinction.
https://www.joelsartore.com/gallery/the-photo-ark/

Visual Depth
Photographs can convey depth better than text, especially to contemporary eyes that skim over pages of words. Sartore’s photographs gleam with color. The animals are expressive. You can stare at the photographs and see details a casual glance would overlook. The photographs have a mesmerizing effect. The detailed photographs convey respect for the animals and make each one appear special and worth saving.

Visual depth results from quality photography, which is more possible because of ubiquitously affordable high-quality cameras, even on your cellphone. However, seeking out relevant detail demands commitment by the photographer to look for it and find ways to capture it. Committed photographers aren’t satisfied with the first shot they take. They look for fresh angles, the best light and shots that advance a storyline. 

Tapping into Emotions as a Call to Action
Photographs activate our sense of sight, which may be the most direct link to our emotional selves. Photographs may make us cry. They also can relieve tension by clearly showing how to accomplish a difficult task. Sartore’s Photo Ark is intended to inspire action to save endangered species by showing why they are worth saving. His still-life photographs burst with emotional energy by putting viewers cheek-to-beak with animals Sartore illuminates as irreplaceable.

Photographs, photo essays and visual stories are almost pre-programmed to get an emotional response and can be molded into a call to action based on that emotional response. That’s why fundraising appeals for abandoned animals, disabled soldiers and malnourished children make their pitches through heart-tugging photography and videography. Words can only go so far in making people act. Photographs can make people go all the way.

Photographic Subplots
The Photo Ark conveys a significant subplot. Sartore’s photographic gallery of species wouldn’t be possible if the shots were taken in the wild. By capturing animals, especially endangered ones, in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, Sartore is underscoring the importance of their conservation efforts. One of his photographs is of a frog – the last of its species known to exist on earth. The frog would have slipped into oblivion if not for his photograph of it for posterity.

Photography can tell stories that go well beyond the pictures. The secondary stories can be subtle or blunt. They are often told as a story about the visual story.

This blog is essentially a story about a visual storyteller, his work and how his example can be emulated. 60 Minutes followed around Sartore to tell the story of how he engages with the animals he photographs.

The Everyday Power of Photography
Most of us won’t be on a lifelong photographic quest. But that doesn’t mean we can’t commit to a lifetime of using the power of photography to tell our stories, whether it’s in the form of visually compelling PowerPoints, origin stories or marketing campaigns.

Developing a visual story requires a different kind of thought process than sitting down at your computer and typing. But the thought process is actually a familiar one. It draws on our imagination and visual recollection. We need to see our story through our own eyes, then figure out how to tell it like we see it.

Even though sight is a very personal sensation, seeing a story can be a collaborative endeavor. Multiple insights can enrich a visual template, add meaningful detail and infuse emotion. It is the embodiment of seeing a story through the eyes of your audience. It expands the realm of curiosity and possibility. 

The excuse that “I’m not a photographer” is not true. If you can see, you are taking mental photographs all the time. You know what moves you. You may not know how to take great photographs, but don’t let that stop you from aspiring to tell a great visual story.

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.

Writing to Match Skimmer Reading Habits

More people skim rather than read, so it makes sense to write for skim-readers, especially purposeful skim readers who are looking for the maximum information in the least amount of time.

More people skim rather than read, so it makes sense to write for skim-readers, especially purposeful skim readers who are looking for the maximum information in the least amount of time.

In a world of smash-and-grab reading, you cannot afford to dilly-dally in writing to the point. Assume your target audience are skimmers who hop from article to article, video to video and outlet to outlet looking for something that makes them stop – or at least pause.

This isn’t PR jingo. It’s reality. Consider Swarthmore College’s advice to its students about skimming:

“The first rule, in some ways the only rule, is skim, skim, skim. But skimming is not just reading in a hurry, or reading sloppily, or reading the last line and the first line. It's actually a disciplined activity in its own right. A good skimmer has a systematic technique for finding the most information in the least amount of time.”

If colleges are teaching people to skim, we should prepare to write for skimmers, especially disciplined skimmers.

William Comcowich, writing for ragan.com, suggests tactics to satisfy skimmers. Most are obvious ways to package your message in digestible bites – informative headlines, subheads, lists, short paragraphs, key details and visuals.

However, these tactics are mostly crutches for undisciplined or impatient skimmers, who are turned off by long sentences and words they don’t understand. There is another, higher-performing level of skimmers who should drive our writing styles. These are the skimmers that schools like Swarthmore are training.

The Tracks of Skim-Readers

• 55% of page views last less than 15 seconds
• Readers on average read 20% of text
• People don’t read left to right, but skim in an “F” pattern
• Only 10% to 20% of readers make it through an entire article
• A newsletter opened in email has 51 seconds to make an impression

High-performing skimmers seek “the most information in the least amount of time.” They are skimming to find information of interest, utility and value. You might call them purposeful skimmers.

Purposeful skimmers include that group of people we refer to as influential, which is a group PR professionals should court by writing in sync with how they skim-read.

With that lens, one of the most important elements of writing for skim-readers is to provide a concise description of your core point. This requires mastery of a subject by the writer. It means doing more than simply moving information on a conveyor belt of sentences. Writers must have a command of their topics so they can squeeze out what’s important or unique and summarize it in a few words.

The bottom-line message can be contained in a headline, opening paragraph or cutline to a compelling visual. The key is making it visually accessible for the skimmer.

Once you grab a skimmer’s attention, your secondary or supportive points need to be easily accessible, too. Bullet points, pull-outs and cleverly worded lists can be useful to sustain skimmer attention. Readable charts work as well.

When skimmers turn into readers or deep-dive researchers, you need additional layers of information to satisfy them, such as short paragraphs with links or expandable content that’s revealed at a reader’s click.

Word choices, brevity and show-me content convey mastery while offering valuable cues to skimmers. Fluff, wordiness and foggy explanations are turn-offs, probably for more than just skimmers.

The best advice: write for your audience. Increasingly, your audience is full of skimmers. They want premium content, but don’t want to go on a treasure hunt to find it. Make your written content fit the reading habits of skimmers, especially purposeful skimmers. Make your content discoverable.

You won’t be indulging your skim-readers; you will be meeting them at the edge of your content and inviting them in.

 

Want to Attract Great Employees? Tell Your Origin Story

One of the most powerful, but often untapped resources you have is your own origin story. Tell it to attract talented employees and impress customers or clients. Tell it to underscore the values that inspired your enterprise into creation.

One of the most powerful, but often untapped resources you have is your own origin story. Tell it to attract talented employees and impress customers or clients. Tell it to underscore the values that inspired your enterprise into creation.

Remember the old saying, “good help is hard to find?” That statement perfectly describes today’s current job market. With unemployment hovering just below 4 percent in Oregon and the rest of the country, talented and highly skilled workers have the upper hand in the job market. 

Companies need to think differently about how to connect and make the case for their organizations. Crafting an effective origin story – for video and print – is a great way to stand out from the crowd. 

If You Want to Know Where You’re Going, Look at Where You’ve Been

Every organization – large and small – started with an individual or group of people who had an idea and a vision. The founder (or founders) operated by a set of values and guiding principles. The organization’s culture grew from these early values. As the organization grew, new market opportunities presented themselves. Perhaps shifts in the economy led to setbacks or an opportunity for re-invention. Or the original founders decided to retire, paving the way for new leadership and a renewed company vision. 

An organization can experience any number of growth spurts, setbacks, breakthroughs or retirements during the course of its existence. All of these events become part of a company’s story.

Start at the Beginning

The best way to begin the process of crafting an origin story is to look back to your organization’s early days. If the founders are still alive, interview them, either on camera or as an audio recording.

Ask them to talk about their initial vision for the company. What values did the founders hold dear? What was their mission? What inspired them? What early challenges did they face? What victories did they celebrate? Read newspaper clippings or other documents pertaining to the company for historical perspective.

Find old photographs, video or film clips of the company, its founders, early products or projects. Whether you’re producing a video, writing a book, or creating content for your website, including these images and interviews in your story will help humanize your organization. 

Connect, Engage, and Inspire

To connect with potential employees and make the case for your organization, consider targeting your origin story to engage with applicants for a particular position you’re trying to fill.

For example, if you want to hire entry-level production jobs in manufacturing, and your company founder started his or her career on the production floor, present that story on your company’s website or include it as part of your company’s job posting. If you want to engage and inspire current employees, focus your origin story on the way the founders’ values and vision positively impact the company’s current culture.

Whether your business is five years old or 50 years old, you have a story to tell. Take the time to share the story of how your organization came to be, and why it endures, and see if you don’t start attracting – and keeping – the types of employees you want and need.  

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 “Easy” as a Strategy

Marketing strategists and issue managers may enjoy greater success by making things easy for would-be consumers or advocates. Take the word of  Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist.

Marketing strategists and issue managers may enjoy greater success by making things easy for would-be consumers or advocates. Take the word of  Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist.

If you want people to do something, make it easy.

Sound advice from behavioral economist Richard Thaler, who won a Nobel Prize for “humanizing economics.” Thaler’s main thesis is that people don’t fit into classic economic models and often respond with emotion, not reason. One of the many human quirks Thaler identifies is an unwillingness to deal with complexity – or busy work.

In a 2009 column for The New York Times, Thaler wrote most people are willing to be organ donors, but don’t bother to fill out the forms. Donation rates would increase, he said, by simply forcing a choice or making the choice easy with a smartphone app.

Thaler said retirement savings rates would improve by making it easier for workers to save. To overcome the barrier of procrastination, he recommended creating retirement plans with automatic enrollment for workers, with an ability to opt-out. The Oregon legislature took Thaler’s advice and established OregonSaves, which is in its second year and already has 18,000 participating workers who save on average $103 per month.

Marketers and issue managers who want people to do something would be well advised to take Thaler’s observations to heart. The easier you make a customer journey or requested action, the more likely people will oblige.

The four Ps of marketing – product, price, place and promotion – form the basis for sound marketing strategies. However, customers may shy away from the product they want at a price they are willing to pay if the purchase is too messy or difficult. Long lines, indifferent service and clunky websites can discourage an otherwise eager consumer.

Richard Thaler was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics for his observations about human behavior that can be predictably irrational, especially when an action isn’t easy.

Richard Thaler was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics for his observations about human behavior that can be predictably irrational, especially when an action isn’t easy.

The same is true in the world of issues. You can explain until you are blue in the face that a construction project will ultimately be good for a neighborhood, but the short-term inconvenience may turn rational people into a community of discontent.

Buying a car has a well-earned reputation for being a disagreeable experience that takes too long and often feels manipulative and murky. Car dealers have responded by making it easier to find the car you want and buy it without wasting an entire weekend.

Politicians are constantly asking for campaign contributions, but many potential donors find it a hassle to drag out their checkbooks to write a $15 check. Campaigns now make it easier for donors to contribute online.

Retailers can simplify their customer journeys with self-checkout, free home delivery and easy-to-navigate online checkout. The issue manager on that contentious construction project can talk to neighbors, identify specific concerns and agree, for example, to limit construction hours and avoid truck traffic when children are going to and coming back from school.

Basing marketing strategy on price and value is smart. But it is smarter to recognize customers dislike a shopping hassle.

Developing solid content and persuasive arguments is essential to an effective issues campaign. But it is prudent to understand that people get confused or distracted with too much detail.

“Easy” should be a routine element of any strategy. Making something easy sells and convinces. Making something easy removes complications and excuses. Making something easy is a value many people can’t and won’t resist.

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.

 

Explaining Explainer Videos

Explainer videos are rising in popularity because they can boost Google rankings, increase conversion rates, entertain customers and be shared easily, adding some pep to a website or social media platforms.

Explainer videos are rising in popularity because they can boost Google rankings, increase conversion rates, entertain customers and be shared easily, adding some pep to a website or social media platforms.

There’s a new kind of animated and live action video appearing on websites and social media platforms. It’s called an explainer video and judging from the rave reviews this form of visual communication is getting (higher Google rankings; increased browser-to-buyer conversion rates; easy to share), it’s a must-have piece of digital content.

Here’s a snapshot of what this trend is all about and why you might want to consider using it in an upcoming marketing campaign.

The idea behind an explainer video is a quick explanation of what your business does and the problems you solve for your customers.

Explainer videos typically involve either live action video and/or some kind of animation. Examples are a series of whiteboard sketches; 2D and 3D cartoon animation, typography moving around on a screen (called kinetic typography) or  animated cutouts of people and objects. 

Explainer videos run up to two minutes in length and contain some or all of the following elements:

  • Written script highlighting a problem a potential customer faces; the solution the company provides and a call to action
  • Voiceover narration
  • On-screen graphics
  • Music
  • Animation style
  • Subtitles

Prices range from thousands of dollars to free software for the DIY crowd.

What the explainer video offers is an easy way for businesses to add a video element to their websites and social media platforms.

Like every other type of digital shiny object, the danger is relying solely on explainer videos at the expense of creating additional forms of personalized content. Savvy communicators know they need to speak to different audiences and the best way to do that is to develop content that is meaningful and memorable to each target group.

That said, here are two ways to decide which type of explainer video is best for your company:

  • If your goal is to humanize your company, using live action video is preferable to animation. You can use key company executives, employees and customers to communicate your message. Dollar Shave Club produced a hilarious live action video featuring the president of the company.
  • If you have a complicated topic or need to deliver a conceptual message, an animated video is a good way to visualize the subject and walk viewers through your process. Pinterest produced an easy-to-follow animated explainer video.

Explainer videos are the newest way for brands to make themselves seen and heard. And in this increasingly crowded digital landscape, getting noticed is a never-ending challenge. 

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 produce videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv and www.waveonegroup.com.

Personalize Content Marketing Through Staff Content Sharing

Add zip to a content marketing strategy by encouraging your own staff to share useful, relevant content with customers, clients and prospects at conferences, in meetings and even on cold calls.

Add zip to a content marketing strategy by encouraging your own staff to share useful, relevant content with customers, clients and prospects at conferences, in meetings and even on cold calls.

One of the best, but most overlooked channels for content marketing is your own staff.

Content marketing is all about providing useful, relevant information to your customers or clients. We tend to think of that information as transmitted digitally via a website, blog or social media.  Delivering it personally can be even more powerful.

Turning your entire staff into a team of content marketers could be your most cost-effective marketing strategy.

Savvy companies view their staffs as brand ambassadors. Converting brand ambassadorships into content marketers only requires taking the time to share the content you want customers or clients to receive.

Staff meetings can become more meaningful if they contain time for content sharing. Make staff aware of an upcoming thought leadership blog, new website features or a social media campaign. Make it easy for your staff to share your content, and encourage staff members to share the content.

Alyssa Patzius, vice president for Influence&Co., says content sharing can be a way to stand out from competition by offering something of value, not just your business card. Sharing useful information and associating the source of that information to your enterprise is nearly the same as third-party validation, Patzius suggest.

She says content-sharing strategy can work at trade shows, professional conferences or even cold calls.

Of course, sharing blah content could have the opposite result. Avoid self-aggrandizing pitches and stick with solid how-to content or meaningful storytelling that relates to your brand or business. Don’t tell would-be clients about your successes; share with them how you go about achieving successful outcomes for your clients.

Some content is evergreen and never goes out of date. However, fresh content can be more impactful. There is nothing like the rush of recent success to spark content sharing.

Don’t limit your content to something in print. Video and audio content can extend the personalization of content sharing by including visuals and voices from your colleagues.

The next time you are charged with creating an energizing agenda for a staff meeting or retreat, plug in a segment about content sharing. And make sure you are generating content worthy of sharing to inform and impress customers and clients.

 

A Story about Public Relations and Advertising

With its latest TV commercial, Subaru shows storytelling and advertising can combine to deliver a powerful brand message in just 30 seconds.

With its latest TV commercial, Subaru shows storytelling and advertising can combine to deliver a powerful brand message in just 30 seconds.

Public relations and advertising are separate disciplines. Sometimes fiercely separate. It is fun to see the virtues of both come together to tell a brand story.

Subaru is airing a TV commercial for its Forester model titled, “A Life Story on the Line.” In a brief 30 seconds, the ad traces the life of a young couple through school, marriage, the birth of twins and a devasting traffic accident. The family survives and credits their Forester for “keeping their story going.”

The commercial conveys the Subaru brand promise in a nutshell or, more precisely, in a story line.

In previous years, Subaru storytelling ads talked about their vehicle’s durability through the eyes of a dad cleaning out memories from a car he is giving to his grown-up daughter. In a well-known series of ads, a dog family puts a Subaru through its paces in human terms from vacation traveling to a front-seat first kiss.

TV advertising earns its way by pushing messages in a visual envelope. But the creative instincts needed to produce an eye-catching 30-second spot are closely related to those employed by filmmakers to produce movies. They also are the stock and trade of public relations professionals. Storytelling may not work to announce a furniture sale, but Subaru used it effectively to promote the safety of its cars in flesh-and-blood terms.

Mac Schwerin, writing in Adweek, pans the use of storytelling in advertising. He says globalization has eviscerated brand stories, which tend to be tied to a specific place. Stories, Schwerin claims, are parochial and advertising needs to be global.

“Advertising is an objectively terrible format for storytelling,” he adds. “Commercials are not given enough breathing room to reward characterization, voice, humanity and a bunch of other nuanced literary stuff.”

Ana Gotter of Disruptive Advertising disagrees. “Stories communicate messages in highly specific and emotionally impactful ways,” Gotter says. “They’re memorable and give us something to identify with and hold on to. Statistics tell us what the reality is – stories tell us why it matters and why we need to care.”

Subaru has taken Gotter’s advice, not Schwerin’s, when producing TV ads. A simple, fast-paced narrative with a beginning, a moment of truth and a happy ending gives viewers a potent 30-second brand message: Subaru vehicles are safe.

The ad doesn’t try to lure you to a dealership with a discount or special promotion. It only tries to convince you that could save your family’s life by driving one of its cars. By anyone’s measure, that’s a powerful story – and an effective brand story.

The age of content marketing has achieved a lot, including bringing PR and advertising professionals closer together. The notion of paid advertising no longer is the exclusive territory of the Don Drapers and creatives who work on beanbag chairs. Paid advertising extends to storytelling in print, video, audio and social media formats.

Stories can sell, often better than confetti, screaming typefaces, overbearing announcers and unbelievable celebrity endorsers. Check out your own brand story and think about ways to share it with your customers and prospects.

Get Ready for Your LinkedIn Close-Up

LinkedIn has jumped into the video sponsored content arena, posing yet another compelling reason to hone your on-camera skills so you appear confident, knowledgeable and easy to watch.

LinkedIn has jumped into the video sponsored content arena, posing yet another compelling reason to hone your on-camera skills so you appear confident, knowledgeable and easy to watch.

Does it seem like your LinkedIn feed is full of talking heads these days? It’s not your imagination.

In the past year, the world’s #1 platform for business lead generation has jumped into the B2B video arena in a big way, by introducing professionally produced video ads for sponsored content and launching a mobile app for iPhone or Android that allows users to record and upload their own video content.

If you’re using LinkedIn to grow your business, what could be easier than hitting the Record button on your smartphone and speaking directly to your tribe.

For most of us, speaking on camera is a stressful experience. The thought of looking into a camera lens and not knowing who will be watching – or what they might think of you – causes fear. And fear triggers a fight-or-flight response that causes many people to sweat profusely, turn red in the face and struggle to breathe. Call it stage fright on steroids.

A big part of my work is helping people become more confident speaking on camera, and I’m happy to say that with preparation and practice just about anyone can improve his or her on-camera performance. Here’s how:

  1. Figure out what you want to say before you hit the Record button. You don’t need to memorize what you’re going to say, but do prepare a few talking points ahead of time.
     
  2. Before filming, stand in front of a mirror and practice your presentation out loud. You’ll feel ridiculous. Do it any way. As you practice, keep your eyes focused on your reflection, as if you are speaking to an actual person in front of you. The camera will pick up any twitch, frown, grimace or involuntary eye roll. You want to minimize as many non-verbal tics as you can. 
     
  3. During your mirror practice, pay attention to your tone and delivery. Do you sound confident? Friendly? Are you speaking too fast? Video magnifies the way a person looks and sounds.
     
  4. After you’ve practiced a few times, record a practice take. Smile, make eye contact and stare directly into the tiny camera lens. It will feel unnatural at first, but remember that you’re making eye contact through the camera lens to your unseen audience.
     
  5. Play back and review. Resist the self-criticism and focus on things you can change. If your video looks too dark, record yourself near a window to capture more natural light. Pay attention to the way you look and sound. Ask yourself: what would your intended audience think about you and your business if they saw your video?
     
  6. Avoid recording endless takes. You’ll wear yourself out and lose your enthusiasm. Try recording two or three versions. Review. Revise. When you’re happy with one, upload it to your LinkedIn feed.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Then, take the leap. Speaking directly to camera is a skill, and the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Holly Paige Photo.jpg

About the author:

Holly Paige is a video content strategist and creator based in Portland, Oregon. She uses the power of storytelling to produce videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories – and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv and www.waveonegroup.com.

Branding Demands Drinking Upstream from the Herd

The University of Wyoming launched a new campaign aimed at appealing to out-of-state students, but the campaign’s cowboy reference has been panned as branding gone bad or, as cowboys would say, as drinking downstream from the herd.

The University of Wyoming launched a new campaign aimed at appealing to out-of-state students, but the campaign’s cowboy reference has been panned as branding gone bad or, as cowboys would say, as drinking downstream from the herd.

What could go wrong by promoting a university with a cowboy reference? Apparently, a lot.

The mascot for the University of Wyoming is Cowboy Joe, which happens to be a horse. That might explain why the University’s new marketing slogan – “The world needs more cowboys” – has met with a stampede of opposition.

According to the Laramie Boomerang, the college town’s local newspaper, criticism of the slogan ranges from sexist to racist to stupid because it is unlikely to appeal to out-of-state students, which was the express purpose of the new marketing campaign.

Associate Professor Christine Porter said the slogan harkens back to Western stereotypes and misrepresents the University’s current-day research and educational goals. She said the new slogan runs the risk of “embarrassing ourselves as an institution across the nation.”

Chad Baldwin, the University’s director of communications, defended the new slogan, calling it a redefinition of cowboy. “We’re basically throwing away the old stereotypes and updating what it means to be a cowboy and what it looks like,” he said. “A cowboy is not what you are, but who you are.”

That may be the way the new slogan was sold by the marketing firm that reportedly was paid $500,000 to come up with a campaign to recruit more out-of-state students.

A survey conducted by slogan critics produced some sarcastic alternatives, but also an intriguing one – “The world needs more trailblazers,” which seems like a better saddle to ride in redefining modern-day cowboys.

As the University of Wyoming campaign demonstrates, branding can be tricky business, even for a school known on sports fields as the Cowboys (and Cowgirls). Coming up with names, taglines and slogans requires, as cowboys say, not squatting when wearing spurs.

Branding experts start by gathering as much information and opinions as possible before plunging in. From all accounts, fact-finding didn’t occur in the creative evolution of the “cowboys” slogan. To quote another cowboy saying, that’s like digging for water under an outhouse.

Reaching agreement is hard enough when you have done your homework and is virtually impossible if you skip it entirely. Interviewing people doesn’t necessarily produce the perfect name, but it helps rule out the wrong choices. Interviews also offer clues and hints on the trail to the right choice.

Branding involves more than names and slogans; it rests on strategy. Communications don’t become strategic until they have undergone testing. Even a basic online survey of students from the target recruiting area could have warded off the “cowboy” slogan cow-pie.

As the University professor observed, ““I truly appreciate … the idea that who a cowboy is needs to be rebranded to be more accurate to the diversity of people who are cowboys, or who have been. However, you don’t do that with a marketing slogan.” 

It’s always wiser to drink upstream from the herd.

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.

Navigating the Twists and Turns of Effective Facebook Advertising

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With all its faults, missteps and ever-changing algorithms, Facebook still attracts a lot of daily eyeballs. Capturing a share of those eyeballs requires a combination of skill, diligence and circus acts.

Margot da Cunha, writing on the WordStream blog, offers some useful tips designed to help you target, inform and charm your intended audience.

Appropriately, her first tip is to “target an insanely specific audience,” which is something Facebook, with all its information-gathering, can assist you to achieve. “The super-sophisticated level of ad targeting is one of the main reasons to be excited about Facebook marketing,” according to da Guntha. Specific targeting requires a granular understanding of your customer or client personas – from who they are to what motivates them.

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You don’t have to start from scratch on targeting, as da Cunha suggests rounding up all your existing customers and leads, then entering them into Facebook’s Custom Audience feature. She also advises trying to clone your existing customer base using Facebook’s Lookalike Audience feature. For these “known” audiences, more specific ad content would be appropriate and likely persuasive.

Creating and sustaining the right content is another important ingredient of success on Facebook. Da Cunha recommends “short, enticing videos” that convey information quickly and with some entertaining frosting. To see effective videos, da Cunha suggests viewing and mimicking BuzzFeed’s approach. A beneficial byproduct of shorter videos can be ease and less cost in production, she says. The main benefit, however, is the right people view them.

Some of the skills da Cunha identifies are making your Facebook posts easy for the eye to navigate and only paying to promote your best content. “Focus viewers’ attention toward the most important part of your Facebook ad. For instance, if you have a strong call-to-action, you could show an image with a person looking at or pointing to that text,” she explains. Continuously generating fresh content is important to sustain interest, but you can maximize attention by promoting your best stuff, even if isn’t new, but remains relevant. This is a smart business decision, as well as savvy marketing.

Then there is the circus. Da Cunha urges the use of pictures of dogs or babies – or both. Stage contests. Post pictures of your employees having fun, which can humanize your brand. And don’t overlook emojis to connect with viewers who want to share emotions and feelings.

Advertising on Facebook will never be easy or obvious. Knowing how to navigate the twists and turns on the road to success of Facebook can save time and money – and earn kudos from your boss and clicks from your target audience.

Which Online Video App is Right for You?

Instagram introduces a new long-form video-sharing platform that underlines the importance of video content in marketing, public affairs and political campaigns.

Instagram introduces a new long-form video-sharing platform that underlines the importance of video content in marketing, public affairs and political campaigns.

Instagram, the popular photo sharing app, stepped up its game in a big way last week by launching IGTV, a mobile video app for iOS and Android. IGTV allows users to shoot vertical video on their smartphones, and upload an hour’s worth of video, up from its previous one-minute limit. IGTV is accessible from a button inside the Instagram home screen, as well as a standalone app. Users can create their own content, and access popular videos from Instagram celebrities.

By declaring “Game On!” to online video rival YouTube, IGTV could prove to be a worthy competitor in the video-sharing space. Some industry analysts are even predicting that Instagram, and parent company Facebook, are challenging the future of television with IGTV, pointing to the “TV” in the name of the app, and the “static snow” effect that appears in the app when users switch from one video to another.

Clearly, the impact of IGTV on the current state of television or online video remains to be seen. In the meantime, there are plenty of existing apps and platforms that B2B and B2C content marketers are using to create and post engaging video content. Here’s a sampling:

YouTube: This is the granddaddy of the free online video content-sharing sites. YouTube is owned by Google, so you can expect YouTube videos to show up well in SEO searches. On the other hand, the sheer popularity of YouTube videos can make it difficult for your specific video to gain traction with its intended audience. There are the annoying pop-up ads that appear on your video, and the so-called “related” videos that appear after your YouTube video ends. But if you want maximum SEO search capabilities, and don’t care about pop-up ads or other forms of brand clutter, YouTube’s your platform.

Vimeo: This video platform is preferred by filmmakers and producers of high-quality videos. Vimeo is a paid service for business, but the advantages include no ad overlays over videos and brighter video and cleaner audio. Unlike YouTube, you can make changes to a Vimeo video without creating a new URL link. This is a time and money saver, especially if you have a video you plan to update on a regular basis.

Facebook Live: This service allows users to broadcast live video from their mobile devices straight to their Facebook News Feed. Use this app to share up to 90 minutes of live events, interviews or other user-generated content. Users can access the Facebook Live option when they post an update to their Page. They’ll be able to see who’s watching their broadcast, as well as read and respond to any real-time comments. After the broadcast has ended, your Facebook Live video will remain visible on your Facebook stream.

Periscope: This is Twitter’s live streaming video app. You’ll need a Twitter account to shoot video with the app. When you download Periscope from the App Store, you can subscribe to the Periscope broadcasts of those you follow on Twitter. Periscope played a key role in American politics in June 2016 when Democratic members of the US House of Representatives staged a sit-in on the House floor to protest gun control. When the House session was halted, and the cameras shut off, Rep. Scott Peters (D-California) used his Periscope account to broadcast the sit-in and speeches, which was live streamed by C-SPAN.  

LinkedIn: In August 2017, the world’s largest online professional network jumped into the B2B video arena by launching LinkedIn video through its mobile app for iPhone or Android. Users can record their own video in the app or upload previously recorded content. In May 2018, LinkedIn introduced video ads for sponsored content. According to the company, the sponsored content video lives directly in the LinkedIn news feed. Similar to the Facebook Ad model, LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content video is a paid service, with pricing levels based on pay-per-click (CPC) or pay-per-1,000 impressions (CPM).

So, what does it all mean?

It means video is a huge part of the online experience, with as many different uses for video as there are apps and video platforms. It’s easier than ever to create and post your own videos, but the glut of online video content makes it hard to rise above the noise.

That’s why content marketers and professional communicators need to get crystal clear about the audiences they want to reach, and the messages they want their audiences to hear, so they can produce visual content that is engaging, memorable and meaningful.

Holly and Wayne Paige are video content marketing strategists and creators based in Portland, Oregon. They use the power of storytelling to produce videos for businesses and organizations that want to tell their stories – and tell them right. Visit: www.digitalwave.tv and www.waveonegroup.com.

 

Know Your Long-Tail and Fat-Head Search Keywords

Search engine optimization techniques can be puzzling, but underneath techniques such as long-tail and fat-head keywords are fundamental business principles of positioning and being the answer to your customer’s question.

Search engine optimization techniques can be puzzling, but underneath techniques such as long-tail and fat-head keywords are fundamental business principles of positioning and being the answer to your customer’s question.

A key to any business is being discovered. Most businesses don’t have massive budgets for brand-building advertising campaigns, so increasingly businesses rely on paid search as the red carpet to their physical or digital front doors.

Being found by search engines can be as tricky as giving directions to your brick-and-mortar store. Businesses don’t automatically show up on the first page of a Google search, even when they dominate their market. Being on the first page of a search usually requires paying to get there.

In relative terms for advertising, paid search is inexpensive. With search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns, you push keywords, promote content and pay for clicks. How much you pay is less important in many respects than the quality of potential customers who find you. That has led to keyword search strategies with interesting names such as long-tail search and fat-head search.

WordStream, an online advertising firm, demonstrates the value of long-tail search with this example: A classic furniture store is unlikely to be the intended destination for someone who types in “furniture.” It is more likely to be the target for someone looking for “contemporary Art Deco furniture.” That’s the basic concept behind long-tail search – focusing on longer, more specific keywords that give your business a greater chance to be on the top of a search.

Think of a long-tail keyword as a way to shorten the path of a customer to your window or website.

“Obviously, you’re going to draw less traffic with a long-tail keyword than you would with a more common one, but the traffic you do draw will be better: more focused, more committed and more desirous of your services,” explains Wordstream.

In addition, there is less competition for longer keywords, so they wind up costing less, even if they have a higher click-through rate. Wordstream says, “With shorter keywords, competition for rankings can be fierce, but visits can be scattershot and ROI can be low.”

Another strategy is fat-head search. The thinking behind this strategy is to sharpen your positioning so you are the singular answer to search questions related to your business. “Move beyond long tail search,” advises Brian Halligan of Hubspot. “Get good at fat head search. Be the answer to the question.”

Halligan’s example is that it is better to go beyond “shoes” or even “Nike running shoes” to “Nike size 8 running shoes in [fill in your location.]” You certainly will get less traffic, but Halligan says the visitors you get are less random and looking for something specific. This level of specificity plays well with the growing trend of voice search, which is more compatible with longer keywords.

The real secret behind fat-head keywords, Halligan insists, is moving past what a business sells to what customer question the business answers. “Alarmingly, many of the businesses we encounter still struggle to define exactly what they sell and to whom they sell it,” Halligan says.” It’s a problem that isn’t going to go away. in fact, it’s likely to intensify.” The more precise your positioning, the “fatter” your search keywords can be.

While basic marketing concepts remain in force, how you exploit your positioning has branched into new realms that may require professional assistance. Don’t be surprised if the expert who shows up to guide into the brave new world of online search success looks a lot like your granddaughter. You could do a lot worse than asking your granddaughter for help.