Sky at Sunset 1. Compelling Images.  Photos have been proven to increase click-through rates, and video is a highly searched medium on the web. And most organizations have access to digital photography, and even can make their own video clips. But one of the downsides of the digital revolution is Volume. When helping organizations produce effective multimedia outreach, I’m often faced with trolling through literally millions of photos that an organization has taken during various events in order to find the ones that might be effective in a marketing or fundraising video. Try to have someone go through images as soon as they are shot—or have the photographer curate them and only send you the best selects. Consider opportunities to crop and focus on what really conveys your mission, who you serve and how you do it. Here’s a great resource on how to design and use still images more effectively, from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC)

2. Compelling People. Personal stories are one of the best ways to connect an audience to your content. But getting authentic video interviews can often be challenging, even for experienced interviewers, if you are forced to conduct interviews in a conference room or other impersonal space. So your interview technique is critical. In my Art of the Interview classes, I go in depth on some of the tools of the trade, but here are a few areas to focus on:

-Build rapport at the start of the interview—preferably before the person walks in, by conducting a phone pre-interview. But worst case, chat with them before they come into the room with all the lighting and cameras.

-Memorize your questions so you can maintain eye contact at all times with your subject

-Create a “story arc” so that there is a beginning, middle and end to your questions, and both you and your interviewee have a satisfying conversation

-Don’t interrupt—with your voice. Rather, if an interviewee is going on too long, you can break eye contact and get a little squirmy. This will let them know they need to stop, without ruining your audio track for editing.

4. Cross-platform Story Strategy. When starting a communications project, consider different iterations that could help different communities you can reach through different mediums. You might tweet a great photo of a successful well-digging project in Africa. A video clip of the same project can be posted to Youtube and your Vimeo channel.  If you can boil your story down to 6 seconds, consider Vine–the new app for iPhone (promising to be released soon for Android) that allows you to make and post mini-videos. (Here’s a good explanation of how to make this platform work from @Mashable.)  An extended video of how the project came about, with interview clips from the well-users can be showcased at your annual meeting. A teaser 20-second clip can become an email embed for a fundraising campaign. The list is as endless as your imagination and your ability to organize and plan at the Outset of production. You can make a planning form like this ADeLouiseStoryPlanDoc when mulling all the possibilities for a project.

4. Organized Media Assets. Cross-platform storytelling is all well and good, but the problem is often wrangling all those image assets from multiple sources throughout your organization. Most DSLR’s (and even many prosumer video cameras) will create non-unique and sort of gobbledegook (technical term) labels for your images that don’t tell you anything about them. Lovely stuff like IMG_4033 and DSC1050.MOV. You can use a number of software systems to batch rename your files so that they include the original name, but also some useful information such as the date shot and the initials of the photographer/videographer.

Adobe Bridge is a handy batch renaming and organizing tool. It comes with Adobe Creative Suite and can work with your photo and video assets too.

If you need something free, you can try the Amok Exif Sorter, which I haven’t personally used but comes with high marks from the “Mythbusters” guys.

Blue Glass c B. DeLouise1.      Build in Time for Your Brand Story

Board members are obviously committed volunteers, but sometimes they are connected to your organization through only one pathway (i.e. a child with a disease that you are trying to cure, a son at your school, they are a member of your association, etc.)   So board members need to be briefed on your big picture “brand promise” to your customers and constituents. They also need to fully understand the experience you promote for your donors, your staff and your other volunteers.  A retreat is a great opportunity to build in time for board members to share their own experience of your brand, and to practice their “elevator pitch” – connecting your key brand talking points to their own personal experience with your organization.   Let them practice presenting, both one-on-one and to the full group.  This way, your board members can be better—and more comfortable—brand cheerleaders.

2.      Teach Board Members how to Share Their Passion Through Social Media

Many board members are not digital natives. They may need some help both understanding social media platforms and learning about the tools that make them effective. A retreat offers a unique time away from the bustle of everyday life to demonstrate how you are using social media to promote your organization, and how board members can help. For example, provide them with the hashtags of your upcoming fundraising events or keywords you want associated with your brand. Show them sample tweets, Facebook posts and Linked In updates. You can even break into smaller groups for working sessions with different social platforms. Finally, offer a link where board members can download approved photos or logos to use for such posts. And encourage them to share their personal stories about your organization. Your board members are ambassadors in the community both in person, and online—use them!

3.      Collect Stories of Your Brand in Action

People give to people, not causes. Connecting at the level of hearts and minds has always been critical to building long-term relationships with donors as well as grassroots supporters. The best way to do that is through storytelling.  Now that YouTube and other Web 3.0 tools are giving so many nonprofits a “channel” for their stories, personal narrative is being rediscovered.  Use your board retreat as an opportunity for sharing personal stories, and collecting those details that you can use in your next e-newsletter, Facebook posting or future web video.

Red Wheel

  1. Results– A professional video producer or photographer is only as good as her last happy client. The focus is always on what will make your message most compelling, effective and memorable.
  2. KnowledgeProfessionals need to know how to work with a wide range of technical tools  and creative techniques. A professional keeps up with new developments in everything from lenses and cameras to font design and animation trends—all to know the best equipment and techniques to tell your story with impact.
  3. Releases—There are Rights of Privacy and Rights of Publicity to consider—among others—when doing a photo shoot, even when it is on your own company’s property. A professional photographer or video producer will know what releases are needed for your project.
  4. Liability— Professionals carry liability insurance to cover any property damage during your photo or video shoot.
  5. Gear — Professionals have the right equipment to get your job done, even if there are variables like a sunny day turning cloudy, or a sudden change of location (which may change the lighting and sound environment).
  6. Efficiency— Professionals are experienced at working in “real world” environments, and will know how to design the shoot for minimal disruption at your workplace or event.
  7. Budget – Professionals document the scope and cost of each job. They work to stay on budget and inform you immediately if a change will alter the price.
  8. Copyright— Professionals understand copyright law and how it impacts the use of images and music. Ignoring these laws can cost you much more than the price of your professional hire.
  9. Customer Focus— Professionals treat you, your staff, your vendors and your clients with courtesy and respect.
  10. Deadlines — Professionals meet deadlines.

Thanks to the American Society of Media Photographers website for inspiring this post with their great list.


© Amy DeLouise and Amy’s Brand Buzz, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy DeLouise and Amy’s Brand Buzz blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Video content may be copyrighted by others and may not be used without written authorization. Seriously.

1. Start With a Talking Head—Start your viewer’s experience with some words from your CEO or other corporate leader, preferably speaking directly into the camera, and not looking as comfortable as s/he would like.  Not!

SOLUTION: If you have to put in your CEO, try using snippets from him or her during a recent speech. These can be used to “voiceover” parts of your video so you are not spending a lot of time looking at someone’s head. Here’s an example in a USDA video

ANOTHER SOLUTION: If you’re leadership are really brave, and you’ve got a good writing team either in-house or with your production agency (and that’s a big if!), you could try what IBM successfully did with its Mainframe marketing launch. They spoofed The Office using their actual Vice President of Worldwide Sales. It’s still one of my favorite corporate vids of all time, and it garnered enough industry and mainstream press to skyrocket sales. As an added bonus, by showing the company’s hipper side, the video improved IBM’s employment brand, with increased high quality applications to jobs in the mainframe unit.

2. Avoid a Unifying Concept.  If you really want to confuse your viewer, be sure to include 4 or 5 or 6 or even more main ideas in your video. Not!  Three ideas is plenty. One is even better. A written script is essential (even when there is no voiceover), to map out the framing and delivery of your Main Idea.

SOLUTION: Here’s a great video from Facebook that starts with the concept of the Chair. The images are stark, beautifully composed, and devoid of the generic “b-roll” flavor of most corporate videos.

3. Make a Music Video – Everyone wants to use their favorite song as the score to their video. No problem! Except that you need to purchase the music “sync rights” and know how to direct and edit a music video—which is harder than it looks. Aside from choreographing every movement and person to a specific beat, you need to convey content that is relevant to your message.

SOLUTION: If you have a motivated staff person with the time to map out every move, then shooting your own music lip sync video can let everyone in the organization participate and have fun—which might in of itself achieve your communications goals. Here’s a really cute (although sometimes odd and sad) lip sync video by a retirement home that I think succeeds in showing they have spirit and might be a fun place to hang out

ANOTHER SOLUTION: If you have more complex goals to accomplish—like a training program—they you may need a professional team to help you map out the shoot and edit. This safety training piece I produced for a children’s hospital took quite a few weeks of planning, in order to tie in with a full training program. We shot a lot of it against green screen so as to include the maximum number of people without interfering with patients in the hospital. And yes we licensed the music for the correct usage rights.

Thanks for taking the time to consider three things to avoid when you make your next corporate video!

thumbsdowniconIf failing finals is an indicator, then they are. In my county—with some of the highest-ranking schools in the nation—we just learned this shocking data  : 61% of our high schoolers failed Algebra 1, 62% failed geometry and 57% failed Algebra 2.  Wow. The thinking goes that since these are the “on-grade-level kids” (aka “losers” in our lovely system), they are less motivated to study than their “above grade level” peers, and therefore more likely to fail. But look at the  stats we are presented with for these supposedly more motivated kids taking honors courses: Geometry: 36% fail; Algebra 2: 30% fail. Seriously?

Here’s my worry:  too much relying on testing, which feeds into kids getting branded as certain types of students, which leads to their loss of self-confidence, which is then fed by not receiving the best possible teaching.

On a personal level, we got a little dose of this with our high schooler.  One semester, his (young and inexperienced) math teacher refused to take questions in class because she couldn’t do this and still get through all the to-be-tested material.  A previously favorite subject suddenly became a world of lost confidence. We were lucky enough to be able to work with a tutor, who answered questions and offered the missing support.  And the result was our student did just fine.  But while he was struggling, the guidance office–where we were already signing up for the next year’s classes–was already ready to demote him to the dreaded “on grade level,”  suggesting he couldn’t hack math. Fast forward to a new math teacher in the next semester who was more experienced and fielded questions in class, and voila, test scores improved.

How many other kids is this happening to every day? Probably plenty.

At a national education conference, I interviewed Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy . He shared his theory about how kids get branded as certain types of students and what we can do about it.  You can watch his video answer to my questions here…

Khan’s ideas have been revolutionary in changing the school systems that have adopted his platform.  One of the many changes his method has brought about is the “flipped classroom”—that is, where teachers let kids work on material in advance, often using technology to access tools and materials. With the outcomes of this work (Khan can provide metrics), teachers learn what their students’ strengths and weaknesses are BEFORE they plan their lessons, then plan and teach accordingly.  Children who need more work in a particular skill can then continue to do that work both inside and outside the classroom. That way, more students gain mastery of the material, the teacher becomes a guide rather than someone spouting facts, and students learn strategies they need to overcome challenges in the subject matter.

Wouldn’t it be great if my county could get on board with this new approach to helping children succeed as lifelong learners?!