marketing PR

Shark Tank Case Studies of Good (and Bad) Brand Stories

Shark Tank  is a great place to check out good (and bad) brand stories that show how a product works, what problem is solves and why it was created.

Shark Tank is a great place to check out good (and bad) brand stories that show how a product works, what problem is solves and why it was created.

Shark Tank affords entrepreneurs a high-profile opportunity to seek a business-building investment. The popular TV show also serves as a case study for telling a compelling brand story.

Entrepreneurs typically enter the “shark tank” by showing how their product works and describing the problem it solves. In conversation with the investor-sharks, entrepreneurs share their back story, relevant financial information and the channel where their product is sold. In other words, they tell their brand story.

Sometimes, the brand stories click. Other times, they flop. The best brand stories hang together – from brand promise to value proposition. The worst brand stories break down because they aren’t convincing or fall apart under questioning.

Too often the concept of brand story is conflated with slippery marketing goo. Brand stories focus on why a product is wonderful and neglect explaining why it’s useful. Brand stories should avoid turning products into heroes and concentrate instead on demonstrating how a product can make users heroes.

Like any engaging story, a brand story needs to strike a chord with its intended audience. On an episode of Shark Tank, three Clemson University entrepreneurs told how as beer drinkers they grew tired of lugging heavy ice chests to events, so they invented a sleek, lightweight container that fits perfectly around a six-pack. For extra appeal, they add an exterior with logos from universities or sports teams. Their brand story featured an affordable, reusable and customized cooler you carry with a shoulder strap. [Mark Cuban invested in the company.] 

On the same episode, two entrepreneurs displayed their patented door block, designed to thwart a forced entry. They demonstrated how it worked by repeatedly kicking and ramming a door without it flying open. Even though the demonstration was impressive, the entrepreneurs went away empty-handed because the sharks viewed the price-point as too high to attract a mass audience. This was a case study of a brand story that didn’t prove its value proposition.

Interestingly, the door-block entrepreneurs mentioned off-handedly a recent purchase order from a school district looking for an affordable way of securing vulnerable classrooms from intruders. This throwaway mention would have enriched their brand story much more than the exhaustive demonstration of how the door block works by showing an unanticipated, scalable use.

Back stories can be critical to brand stories by humanizing products and their inventors. Back stories can illuminate how an entrepreneur came up with his or her idea or what expertise they bring to their nascent business. We live in a time when consumers, especially young consumers, want to associate with a brand. Back stories are gateways to such associations.

Brand stories are important because they convey values, not just value propositions. The sharks frequently decide whether to invest in a new product based on the values of the entrepreneur. Consumers make a similar judgment.

Nike’s embrace of Colin Kaepernick and Patagonia’s longstanding commitment to public lands protection are examples of value-forward brand storytelling.

Authenticity is critical for a brand story to resonate. You cannot assume consumers are gullible. Treat consumers as an invited audience into your brand living room to share real information. In sharing, steer clear of hype, hyperbole and self-aggrandizement. Save that, if you must, for the 30-second TV ad. Best advice, leave your ego back at your garage or wherever your startup started.

Emotive content fits better in brand storytelling than almost any other marketing tool. Who hasn’t bought a pair of TOMS shoes because the for-profit company posing as a charity donates a pair to children in poor countries. TOMS has taken pains to flesh out its brand promise with 360-degree videos of its shoes being delivered to delighted children in Central America. It wouldn’t be surprising if some asylum-seeking families at the US border have children with well-worn TOMS shoes.

The best brand stories – like the ones that capture investments on Shark Tank – are fulsome. They don’t stop with the “what” of a product; they continue with the “why” and the “how.” Entrepreneurs need to be prepared to go deep. Websites allow layered storytelling that can accommodate more complex and complete stories. So can videos.

It goes without saying that brand storytelling on Shark Tank is visual. There aren’t any fact sheets, backgrounders or instruction manuals. It is an entrepreneur facing a skeptical audience waiting to be impressed. What the product does is important. How the entrepreneur explains what it does is more important. Did I mention videos?

Shark Tank, for better or worse, is ubiquitous on television, so tune in and check out visual brand storytelling at its best – and often at its worst. The winners are the ones with a clear demonstration of worth and an equally clear picture of value.

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.

 

Clues to How and Why Chatter Can Matter

People get and give advice by word-of-mouth, but how this kind of networking actually works is still a bit of a mystery. Jay Baer brings his marketing touch to the subject, offering clues to why chatter matters and how to trigger effective word-of-mouth marketing.

People get and give advice by word-of-mouth, but how this kind of networking actually works is still a bit of a mystery. Jay Baer brings his marketing touch to the subject, offering clues to why chatter matters and how to trigger effective word-of-mouth marketing.

It’s no secret we seek advice from friends, family and people we trust before purchasing products, making decisions and casting votes. Yet, how word-of-mouth actually works still remains a mystery to most marketers, decision-makers and political operatives.

Jay Baer has a new book that seeks to roll back the curtains on how people rely on word-of-mouth and how marketers can create consumers through “chatter that matters.”

Baer endeared himself to marketers with his earlier work called Youtility – the concept that marketing should focus on help, not hype. Baer contended providing useful information is the best route to attracting consumers.

In his new book, Talk Triggers, Baer and co-author Daniel Lemin attempt to provide the same level of illumination when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing. In a companion piece, Chatter Matters, Baer and Lemin analyze research data gathered by Audience Audit to assess word-of-mouth trends and preferences by different age groups and categories of purchasers. They also studied whether online or offline word-of-mouth has the most impact and the effectiveness of celebrity endorsers.

Word-of-mouth is, of course, the oldest form of recommendation and customer acquisition, and it may be more important than ever,” Baer and Lemin say. “When receiving a verbal recommendation from a friend or family member, 83% of Americans are more interested in purchasing the discussed product or service.” 

While word-of-mouth is a preferred form of advice for nearly everyone, men and women, as well as people of different ages, rely on it at varying degrees. Data in Chatter Matters indicates women rely on offline word-of-mouth from friends and family 22% more often than men. White Americans are more inclined to try a product recommended by a friend or family members than non-white Americans.

The report indicates we may give as much advice as we receive, noting “55% of Americans make product or service recommendations to other once per month.” More than 80% say they have offered recommendations.

Younger Americans are more inclined to share “overheard word-of-mouth,” according to the report. Gen Z are the most likely to share (48%) compared to Baby Boomers (38%).

Chatter Matters touches on the trust level of celebrity endorsements. Research found 25 percent of respondents don’t trust any celebrity endorsement. Of the celebrities mentioned in the survey, the highest-ranking person was Oprah Winfrey at 4%. Donald Trump weighed in at 2.8% and Warren Buffet at 2%. No one else broke the 2% threshold.

Personal recommendations appear to matter more than ones on social media. “Americans value word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family 41% more than social media recommendations.” However, a failed relationship can sour the “trust quotient” – “66% of Americans trust an anonymous, online review more than a recommendation from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.”

Friends with personal experience count for more than advertising when it comes to major purchases. For example, the report says, “When planning a wedding, word-of-mouth from friends is 331% more likely to be relied on than advertising.”

Choosing a restaurant is different. Overall, 50% of Americans rely on recommendations from friends and family when choosing a restaurant. However, Gen Z and Millennials are 99% more likely to rely on social and online reviews than are their Gen X and Boomer counterparts.

Word-of-mouth is much more dominant force than advertising in influencing how people vote, especially for Millennials. Baby Boomers pay more attention to news coverage to inform their voting.

Chatter Matters is what you might call the appetizer to the full meal in Talk Triggers, which offers advice and examples of how to use word-of-mouth marketing effectively.

 

Video Story Pitches = the Steak in the Sizzle for Startups

The best asset for a startup business is the entrepreneur who risked everything to start it. Their face in a video story pitch can more than compensate for the money, skill and established rapport of larger businesses.

The best asset for a startup business is the entrepreneur who risked everything to start it. Their face in a video story pitch can more than compensate for the money, skill and established rapport of larger businesses.

Startups usually don’t set aside pots of money for marketing. To get noticed, they need low-cost options with a decent chance of success.

Writing for EntrepreneurJennifer Spencer offers some suggestions, starting with video story pitches.

Established firms with a PR agency or in-house staff have existing relationships with local reporters and key trade press publications. The best asset for most startups is the founder. There is no better way to pitch a story than in the voice of the founder.

A video literally puts a face to the pitch, Spencer says, showcasing the brains behind the new business. That can spark interest and stand out in a crowded queue of pitches written by public relations professionals.

Written press releases can include quotes from the CEO, while a video pitch conveys context in a conversational tone. It’s as if he or she is personally sharing their views or telling an interesting story, because he or she is personally sharing a view or a telling the story.

Standard story pitches have embraced multi-media. Video story pitches also can be accompanied by infographics, charts, images and B-roll video.

Video story pitches still need to be news worthy. No fluff or self-serving CEO quotes. And production values matter.

Video story pitches still need to be news worthy. No fluff or self-serving CEO quotes. And production values matter.

Well-conceived and engaging videos used for story pitches can be repurposed as social media content, which isn’t true of typical text-based press releases. Video content attracts more clicks and has wider generational appeal.

Creativity is useful in developing story-pitch videos. There aren’t really too many restraints. For example, a video might include short clips of endorsers for a new product or a visual explanation for how to use a product.

Another creative use of a video story pitch is to newsjack, the art of piggybacking on a trending story to gain attention for your brand. A lot of newsjacking occurs on Twitter, so a video story pitch can be an attention-grabbing variation that can make its way onto traditional media websites and social media platforms.

Think of video story pitches as teasers. Produce longer versions or a series of clips that can be shared in response to media inquiries or as extenders if the media picks up your story.

Video story pitches still need to be newsworthy. You need a captivating news hook. Fluff won’t cut it. Self-serving quotes don’t come across any better on video than in print. Poor production can undermine the effort.

As things stack up, lacking financial resources could even be an advantage. It will force you to be inventive, authentic and engaging – more or less, the steak in the sizzle of any good story pitch.

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.

 

Feedback Serves a Purpose; FeedForward Can Serve a Higher Purpose

Feedback can provide useful insight into how to make something or someone better. Feedforward offers a more dynamic perspective by looking beyond feedback to imagine other options that can be differentiating, disruptive and transformative.

Feedback can provide useful insight into how to make something or someone better. Feedforward offers a more dynamic perspective by looking beyond feedback to imagine other options that can be differentiating, disruptive and transformative.

We have been conditioned to seek feedback. Why not pursue feedforward?

Feedback, by its nature and name, focuses on the past. Feedforward, on the other hand, peers into the future with a sense of moving forward. Both can be valuable. Looking forward may offer the most upside.

It is a military truism that generals prepare to fight the last war, not the next one. The same holds true in public relations. You don’t conquer the next generation of communications challenges by fighting past battles.  

While feedback informs you of what went right and what went wrong, feedforward can inform about how to tackle anticipated future issues. Feedforward incorporates feedback, but projects it forward. Feedforward skips past guilt and resentment for failure dredged up in the feedback process.

The advantage of a feedforward perspective is widening the horizon of options. Feedback is limited to reactions of what actually happened. Feedforward allows you to imagine potential scenarios. Feedback has the quality of history. Feedforward is more like science fiction. Feedforward taps into an energy pool of what could be.

“Quality communications – between and among people at all levels and every department and division – is the glue that holds organizations together,” writes Marshall Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. “By using feedforward – and by encouraging others to use it – leaders can dramatically improve the quality of communication in their organizations, ensuring that the right message is conveyed and those who receive it are receptive to its content.”

“The result,” he concludes, “is a much more dynamic, much more open organization – one whose employees focus on the promise of the future rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past.”

Of course, Goldsmith’s view undersells the benefits of seeking candid feedback. Feedback isn’t always negative and recipients of feedback aren’t always put on the defensive. Reliable analysis of strategies, initiatives, output and products is part of a constructive feedback loop with a goal of continuous improvement.

Feedback loops are just that – loops. They are intended to improve what is, not explore other options. Honest feedback can surface other options, which is where feedforward comes in as a means to evaluate other ways of doing or making something.

The difference and interplay between feedback and feedforward is analogous to the management dilemma of correcting an employee’s weaknesses or leveraging their strengths. It is never exclusively one or the other. However, too often, correcting an employee’s shortcomings dominates interactions, with little attention paid to how an employee strength could be nurtured and maximized. 

Feedback serves a useful purpose. Feedforward may serve a higher purpose. Acknowledging that and learning how to incorporate both in strategy development and decision-making may turn into an unexpected organizational strength, creating a clear differentiation and disrupting the status quo.

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 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. 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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. 

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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