A Guest Post by Jendi Coursey, CEO, Jendi Coursey Communications

When I can muster the discipline to get up early and exercise, I love listening to my favorite podcasts while I work out, one of which is the daily current-affairs show from Economist Radio called The Intelligence.

Lead With Your Values

If you listen to podcasts, you know they generally include few short sponsorship ads during the course of the broadcast; The Intelligence is no exception. As I tune in to the podcast and take those first steps on my treadmill, I’m usually greeted by the voice of someone offering services from a financial institution like Capital One, Bank of America, or Bank of the West. All of them offer services that could be of use to listeners like me, but if I were looking for a new bank, I know exactly which one I would choose: the one that leads with its values.

Bank of the West has an ad stating that what they don’t finance is as important as what they do. They posit that banks can be a force for good in the world, that they can use deposits not only to finance home loans, car loans, and local business loans, but that they can also influence large-scale projects, which begs the question: which projects do you want your money to support?

Customers Are Choosing Values

More and more, savvy marketers understand that consumers are choosing products and services that meet more than a functional need. Consumers are choosing companies whose values align with theirs. So, if you’re responsible for your organization’s messaging, you may want to ask yourself: what is your company willing to stand up for? What beliefs are you willing to shout from the rooftops for the whole world to hear? Who wouldn’t you accept a check from?

Your Values Affect Your Bottom Line

If you do not know the answers to these questions, your customers probably don’t either—and that could be costing you money. A 2020 report by 5W Public Relations indicated that millennials, the generation born between 1981 to 1996, is the largest proportion of the workforce in the U.S. and will soon overtake Baby Boomers to become the largest living population of adults. Consequently, their purchase habits are shaping how business is done. 5W data indicate that 83 percent of millennials say it is important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values.

In its 2018 report, another communications firm, Edelman, stated that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue, and that number is trending upward.

Making Your Values Plan

If you haven’t already, it is time to take a hard look at your mission, vision, and values. Do they include a bunch of meaningless platitudes or can they be used as a guide for how each and every organizational decision is made? It is better to go narrow and deep than to have dozens of values that no one can remember. If you’re interested in a book to guide you through the process of establishing or updating these foundational pillars, consider Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage.

If you’d like help digging into this work, reach out to Jendi via her website above or on LinkedIn

Well produced videos are essential for informing and engaging audiences during virtual and hybrid events.  In this article I’ll take a look at some best practices to ensure your pre-recorded videos support the success of your virtual event.

1. Make Video Content Snackable – At a live event, you have a captive audience. Plus the dynamic that occurs when everyone is together in a room.  In this world, a 5 minute or longer video can keep the room engaged. Not so for virtual events. Everyone who tunes in has other distractions in their immediate area—children, pets, emails, and work on their desktop that needs attention. Enter snackable content—short videos that engage, entertain and inform, while propelling the theme of your meeting or event. Roll-in videos for live events, with the exception of panels—and we’ll talk about them in a moment—should be no longer than 2 minutes.  Better yet, a series of 1:00 spots that work to set the stage for a particular session, or act as transitions between sessions.  This length will also allow your video to be hosted natively on Instagram during or after your event—an added social media bonus.

2. Video Transitions are Key – At a live event, when a speaker is late, you can ask your MC to take a few more questions from the audience. At a virtual event, remote feeds can fail and tech problems can result in your team needing more time.  If you lose your audience now, you might not get them back. Having a few videos of various lengths available to you to play at any time can be helpful. This could be a Year in Review video, a light-hearted video put together by staff, or a promo montage of upcoming sessions. Having at least two videos of 2-3 minutes in length on standby each day of your virtual event will give you a little breathing room for those unexpected moments. You should also create a little animated “We’re having technical issues but we’re working on it!” video that you can play if all else fails. After all, you are effectively putting together a broadcast and you don’t want any dead air.

3. Ensure Your Video Plays Back Properly – It’s amazing how often organizations spend tons of money producing great video content, but forget to test the delivery formats prior to output. If you are streaming your event from a platform like YouTube, be sure your video is optimized for that platform rather than asking YouTube to convert your specs. The conversion process will introduce garbage—technical term!—that you don’t want in your video.  Unless your platform is a professional 4K streaming system or specifies otherwise, I’d recommend a frame rate of 30fps and 1920×1080 as your video delivery size, with an audio sample rate of 44.1Khz and bitrate of 128kbps.

4. Provide an Engaging Home for Your Videos – Where will your videos live after the event is over? Can you set up a hub on your website or the event site? You can still host the videos elsewhere, such as your YouTube or Vimeo page. But putting the videos on your website—with and without subtitles—can ensure more hits post-conference. Be sure you have already created written content that explains the context for each video, and any action steps you want the audience to take after watching. For example, if your event was a fundraiser, a video featuring one of your organization’s projects can include a link to a Donate Now button. Don’t wait until after your event to set up your video hub. Be sure to write the copy and links in advance, and have it ready to go.

While we hope for live events to be back soon, virtual and hybrid events will be the norm for the future. And well-designed pre-recorded video content will be a big part of those events.

Amy DeLouise is a producer, interviewer and moderator for live and virtual events and videos.

Coming up with client profiles can be a fun exercise in strategic planning.

As busy creatives, we are always racing the clock. We might be rushing to deliver a portfolio of new photos for a client. Or working overnight on a new website. Or finishing a series of final edits in order to deliver videos for a virtual conference. Whatever we are working on, we will probably do it again some time soon. So it makes sense when marketing our creative businesses to develop packages of products and services that help our customers get what they need, when they need it, and help us deliver quality for a consistent price. One of the ways we can do that is by planning ahead for common types of projects for predictable types of customers and organizations. In short, building customer profiles.

Creating prospective customer and project profiles can actually be a lot of fun. It’s a good strategic planning exercise for a company retreat. First step: put yourself in the client’s shoes. What are the problems they need to solve? What would be the financial and time pressures on such a project? What “pain points” could you solve for this type of company or organization?

Figuring out the answers to these questions before you are faced with the precise project can help you market your company and your solutions, and set yourself apart in a crowded field. They can also help you consider how much time and staffing you’d need to accomplish those projects quickly.

Let’s say you own a graphics design company. There might be four profiles that show the different problems your customers face and the solutions you can provide. You want to focus on different sized customers, because their structure affects the kinds of problems they face.  A small company might need help with a website design or refresh. They don’t have anyone in-house with the time to do it. They can update the content themselves, once you set it up for them, but they have a limited ability to do major design changes. For this kind of client, you can create a template approach that can be customized, since they won’t want to spend large amounts of money. But it is also a great gateway project for other, bigger projects.

By contrast, a large company with a big in-house design and communications shop might have a completely different set of deliverables for a website redesign. They may want not just a new website but an entirely new logo and brand redesign, along with brand identity elements for every channel, and a brand guide on how to use them. There might be feedback from multiple different departments along the way, with a more time-consuming workflow as a result.

As you think through all the different kinds of problems clients have, you can design a few profiles that fit. And that gives you the type of customer you are pitching to, so you can design appropriate marketing campaigns and sales strategies.  These profiles are also useful frameworks as you develop package pricing and bids.

Whether your creative business is large or small, creating detailed client and project profiles is a great way to jump-start your strategic planning for the New Year.

 

This blog post is adapted from Amy’s upcoming LinkedIn Learning course on Launching Your Creative Business. See LinkedIn Learning for more of her video courses. 

Photo by Gabriel Benois, Unsplash

Brands deliver value. To customers (a consistency of brand promise, or “knowing what you’ll get”). To shareholders (increased revenues, a shorter sales/conversion cycle). To employees (motivated and brand-engaged employees have less turnover, higher satisfaction, and deliver better on KPI’s).

So if the ROI of good branding is so high, why is it always so hard to keep the brand at the center of strategic focus?  One simple reason is cost.  If the opportunity cost of NOT branding effectively or efficiently isn’t factored in, decision-makers often think it is too expensive to expend time and financial resources on brand-building exercises.   Here are four strategies that are cost-effective ways to keep your brand alive and well.

1. Mine Your Own Content

A tool everyone has, but rarely maximizes is your own media library. Maybe because it’s not so much a library as a mish-mash of files that are not indexed, so no one can find them. Every graphic, photograph, video clip, newsletter article or blog post you and your team have created are already sunk costs. Properly archived and tagged with metadata, they can be repurposed and reused in multiple ways to put your brand front and center with customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders.   The key is to use a DAM (digital asset management system) or MAM (media asset management system–often for larger files like video and audio) and build workflow best practices into every time you create a digital asset. Create a consistent system that works for everyone in your organization, with anywhere anytime access–vital with teleworking–is essential, so that you can build and share branded content that everyone can access, not only the intern, editor or photographer who first created it. A photo DAM system can help you avoid those awful automatic names (IMG_001) for photos, for example, by batch renaming name on ingest. But always maintain the original name in the data. Adobe Bridge, Google Photos (heads up–free is over June 2021!) and Adobe Lightroom are tools for managing photo content. LuminarAI is out in Beta from Skylum* and has a number of great photo management tools built into its AI-powered creative engine. For video, there are a number of DAMs (digital asset management) systems out there–from Imagen to CATdv by Squarebox.  (If you are looking for a MAM, this is a handy guide.)  There are also brand-specific systems, designed specifically for the marketing department (as opposed to a video production company or broadcaster) such as Brandfolder, Bynder, and Cloudinary.

  • Bottom Line: If you can’t find it, you can’t use it. So whether you use a sophisticated archiving system or a spreadsheet, save money and create your own “stock” library of branded content to tell your organization’s story.

*disclaimer: I do some writing and marketing work for Skylum. I do not receive any fees related to sales.

2. Video Sells

According to IndieGogo, “Crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than those without.” Video certainly is one of the top-most searched items on the web. But producing a branding video in-house can be daunting. It’s a time-consuming process, and commissioning one to be made can be costly. With just the investment in a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder, a SONY FDR-AX100 4K Ultra HD video camcorder, and some basic audio recording/mixing software like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, you can quickly share useful branded video clips to your target audience. Or consider building your community by sharing useful content with a podcast. For a quick rundown on the latest podcasting software, check out this review.

  • Bottom Line: Build video into your brand strategy. It works.

    Photo by Sam Mcghee, Unsplash

3. Show Not Tell

So many people want to say WHAT it is they do, before really explaining HOW and WHY they do it. This is the core of your brand, and that’s the story you want to tell through any platform, whether it is a speaking engagement, podcast, blog post, or branded video.  BTS, or “Behind the Scenes”, is some of the top-shared content online. Why? Because as humans we are naturally curious and love to know what makes things work. So build “How to” or “How we made that” into every production or project.  That means adding a BTS camera. At the low end, could be a mobile phone. But for under $300 you could add a LOT of quality and pizzazz with a tool like the 4K DJI Osmo Pocket Gimbal Camera. Or if that’s too pricey, throw your mobile phone onto a gimbal with this little number, also from DJI. In a future post I’ll talk about good lighting and sound.

  • Bottom Line: Make shooting and sharing BTS part of your brand best practices.

DJI Pocket Osmo Camera in action

4. Email Signature is Free Branded Space

Lately, most of my incoming emails from systems like MailChimp and Constant Contact are going into my Spam and Promotions folders. So those are lost efforts to convey branded content. Why not supplement those efforts through a free space your contacts see every day: your e-mail signature. What a great opportunity to do a little brand storytelling!  A signature line doesn’t just give you a chance to tell your name and title, it gives you space for a blog link, twitter hashtag for an upcoming event, or YouTube link to your latest video.  This simple free advertising can be employed unilaterally—and uniformly–across your organization. (Send a “signature of the week” email to everyone in your organization with easily copied information and links.)

  • Bottom Line: Creating an email signature strategy builds brand awareness for free.

Using these four strategies, you can gain ground with your brand, and decrease the cost of creating or trying to find existing content to share with your audience.  More story. Less hassle. And that adds to your brand ROI.

 

Amy DeLouise is a video and virtual event producer, brand strategist, author and speaker. 

The global shutdown is forcing organizations to re-examine the value of their archives–an internal “stock image library” they already own.  Here’s a case study I wrote about last year that is even more relevant today, showing how you can create content with impact that tells an organizational story and propels your brand message–all with internally owned content.

Fulbright Prize Introduction from Amy DeLouise on Vimeo.

The project is a motion graphics opener I just produced for the Fulbright Prize event in Berlin, where this highly regarded international prize was given to Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. As these stories so often start, we had brainstorming meetings about how to tell the history of the prize in 2 minutes. In addition, we wanted to show the breadth of the work of the association giving the prize. Also, we needed to list past prize winners and years. Oh, and show all of their images, some of which were not available in the organization’s archives. Also, we needed to include quotes about the importance of the prize and the value of international exchange from well-known people and prize winners. And…we also needed to incorporate the thematic blue color of the organization’s logo, and create a look and font style that could be incorporated into the print, social, and other materials for the event.

This is all great stuff and just the kind of thing that gets my creative juices flowing! So here was our process:

Step One: Identify existing content that helps tell the story. This involved digging into archives for old footage, transcripts of old speeches, and old newsletter articles. Also pulling together archival images of past awardees, and more recent digital images of association events. We determined in this phase that the quality of archival clips were not good enough to pull footage (and it would make the show too long anyway), so we would look instead for quotes that told the story.

Before the magic begins, we start with raw materials–archival content from a variety of media sources

Step Two: We boiled down the best quotes from the broadest representation of past prize winners, and people who had spoken about the importance of the Fulbright international exchange program, and shaped it into a script. (Note: Scripts don’t have to include spoken words.)

Step Three: We identified the best images of awardees, and then we had to license and request some additional ones, so that we had a full compliment of images of past awardees at the high resolution required for large-screen HD presentation.

Step Four: As part of the image curation process, I pulled together those “action shots” I thought best exemplified the work of the association–as a convener, educator, and source of ongoing cultural exchange.

Step Five: I selected several cuts of music–pacing is critical for animation, and we “cut to the music”, so we have to choose this first. We settled on a piece we felt had rhythm, excitement, and momentum. I also like to lean towards more full orchestrations for videos that will air live in a large space, with quality speakers.

Step Six: Since this was airing abroad, which has different frame rate specs than the US, we sent a test file to the A/V company at the on-site location, to be sure it worked well from their end before we started to animate.

Step Seven (really steps 7 through 10): My graphics team and I went through multiple drafts of the story, honing and tweaking until we–with our client–felt we had the best representation of the story.

Step Eight: We rendered out our final files and shared them, making sure they had been proofed (so many names!)

Step Nine: We delivered the final files via link to the company in Berlin who was running all the A/V at the event.

Final Step: This step hasn’t happened yet, but we need to have the video audio-described, so that a blind or visually impaired viewer can still access this content. Accessibility is not just a matter of captioning, though captions are essential for videos with spoken words and narration.

Here’s the big takeaway: saving your archival assets is essential–you never know when you will need them. Digitizing them at high quality, retaining the originals, and metatagging them with important information is even more important. Your media archive contains gold, if you know where to find it.

Amy DeLouise is a video producer, author and trainer, helping organizations tell their best stories. She has a new LinkedIn Learning course out on Multi-Platform Storytelling, will be giving workshops at NAB Show this Spring (see Speaking page).

Everyone wants to get into video. It’s the most-shared form of communication on the internet. It’s a great way to deliver messages with impact. And it seems easy–you can shoot it with your phone! But launching a video production enterprise–whether a one-woman-band or a fully staffed shop–can be daunting. There’s much to consider: legal form, liability insurance, what gear to buy and where to store it, how to acquire and service clients, and how to yourself and what you do. In this article, I’ll tackle one element of video business ownership that often eludes those of us busy with creative work: branding.

Defining Your Brand

I live in Washington, DC, where you can’t attend any event without someone asking “What do you do?” It’s easy to fall into the trap of exactly responding to this ask. Telling the WHAT of your work. But whenever I’m at a networking event, I try to practice defining my WHY, which is the essence of any brand. So I say, “I’m a filmmaker. I make short films about important issues that make people cry and write big checks.” If people are still interested, then I continue “And I consult and teach workshops because I love to help others tell a better video story.” Sure, the WHAT is in there. What people remember is the WHY.  I always love this Simon Sinek Ted Talk that speaks about the importance of Why for leadership, and I think it translates directly into branding.

Your Brand Promise

No, this isn’t a tag line. It’s what kind of experience you deliver every time, to every client, on every project. It’s the HOW of what you do. And it should be integrated into every platform you use to promote yourself, including when you speak to people about your work (the famous “elevator pitch”).  How do you deliver your services? Are you lightning fast because you have all the latest integrated cloud-based systems and can easily work across continents with integrated teams? Are you a boutique shop that delivers personalized, customized work that focuses on one-on-one client relationships? Whatever it is you do, you need to explain HOW you do it, and what sets you apart from everyone else in the field (which is a lot of us!).

Your Brand Across Platforms

When launching a business, you may be focused on getting those first clients in the door, and maybe setting up your website. But be sure you are present across a couple of social media platforms. If you are targeting tech industries, Twitter is still the place to be. If you want to show off your creative chops, it’s Instagram. For the widest possible consumer reach, Facebook is still idea. And if you want to promote yourself as a professional, and make contacts across industry sectors (and be able to search for new clients among your connections), then LinkedIn is your platform. Tik Tok is making a fast break, but I wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket in terms of personal branding and marketing.

You will also need a portfolio page where you can direct prospective clients. This can be a page integrated into your website on a platform like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress, or it could be a separate link to your Vimeo or YouTube pages. And don’t forget the most important brand-messaging platform of all: your email address and signature line! I’m amazed at how many people overlook the value of the email signature as a place to tout your website, offer links to new work or special events, or simply include a tag line. Remember that your emails can and will be shared and forwarded, so they are an optimal way to promote your brand–for free!

For more information, try LinkedIn Learning including my new course “Running a Video Production Business”.

 

What happened at NAB? Join me as we review the emerging industry trends in an IBC365 Webinar today with Carolyn Giardina of the Hollywood Reporter,  dock10 CTO Paul Clennell and IHS analyst Przemek Bozek. Join us TODAY APRIL 18 as 4pm UK time (8am PDT / 11am EDT / 5pm CET) Click here for the webinar

On the show floor at NABSHOW 2018

 

Good communication is a top soft skill that can set you apart in a crowded field, and something I look for when hiring a DOP.

Everyone loves to talk about branding. But how do you brand yourself when you are self-employed?  There are a few strategies I’ve used over my years in the video production business that you might find helpful.  I’ll be incorporating these into a new Lynda.com course this year on being a successful creative freelancer. Let me know any specific branding questions you have, as I’d love to incorporate them into the course.

Why You Think People Hire You

Most freelancers promote themselves with the skills they think people are looking for. Their websites show software or tools mastered, areas of expertise, lists of equipment.  That’s fine. But did you know that your expertise is only a small part of why people hire you?  If I want to incorporate a fantastic animation sequence in my next video, I can choose from literally thousands of freelance designers working with all the latest software. What I need in addition to those skills and tools is someone who is a problem-solver, easy to work with, and a good communicator, as we are likely to have a lot of back and forth during the storyboard process.   If you are that person, then your portfolio page needs to communicate to prospective clients more than simply the last projects you worked on. They need to understand HOW you accomplished the work to be sure you’re a good fit for their new project.

Why People Actually Hire You

Soft skills is what we’re talking about here. So how do you incorporate “soft skills” into your branding? References from past clients are helpful–and guide them to talk about your “HOW” skills. Also be sure to describe the personal attributes and abilities that make you good at what you do. These might include your positive attitude, your communications skills, your ability to work with challenging personalities, or your ability to lead a team.  Case studies are another great way to explain the problem or creative issue was that you were presented with, and how you solved it for a client. Be sure to include soft skills in your resume along with lists of hard skills and gear. Also put them on your LinkedIn page and website. These are part of your unique brand value, and that’s what you need to be promoting!

 

 

As frBlue Glass c B. DeLouiseeelancers in the creative disciplines—graphic design, video, set design, etc.—we’ve got a lot on our plates. Every day we’ve got to be, well, creative out-of-the-box thinkers, able to leap small budgets in a single bound, staying on the bleeding edge of trends, and up on the latest hardware, software and teams that make it all possible. Plus we’ve got to run our businesses, paying our bills, invoicing our clients, and thinking strategically about our careers and where we want to go next. It’s a tall order.  Here are some ways we can break it down and get it done.

  1. Energize Your Creative Self. Take on a project outside your usual comfort zone. This might be a pro bono passion project (see #7 below). Or it could be a totally new approach to work with a regular client. Push your limits and create something you wouldn’t typically do.  Or check out work by others to inspire you. For example, this week I’m in New York City where it’s Design Week http://nycxdesign.com/ with all kinds of wonderful gallery and design-focused events.
  2. Connect to Creative Communities. Lots of independents get so busy with projects and life that we fail to make time for human connections. It’s too late to attend a networking event when you need the work. So get out and go to conferences, coffees and meet-ups. Get to know people in real life, not just in online communities. Real relationships are important, not just for business, but for our mental health as solo practitioners. Join a group like the aiga.org or www.wifv.org, www.aicp.com or www.asmp.org . If you are just getting started in your industry, many groups have a “junior” category with lower dues.
  3. Keep Learning. Take an online class. Attend a workshop. Read books and articles. Learn not just about the tools of your particular trade, but the fields that connect to your work. As a filmmaker, when I learn more about audio mixing, I’m going to do a better job directing field audio on my next shoot. As a filmmaker who’s been in the business for…ahem…awhile, I especially need to keep pushing myself to expand my horizons. It’s one reason I teach classes on lynda.com –to teach something you have to be sure you are up on the latest and greatest.
  4. Share. The corollary to learning is sharing. Share with your online communities. Share with your professional association. Share with a mentee. One of my favorite creative directors always has something interesting to share through his twitter stream. I’m much more likely to want to work with someone I can learn from.
  5. Give Back. Volunteer for the organization you join related to item #2. Or volunteer to speak on Career Day at your local school. Or mentor someone coming along in your business. Whatever you give, you will get back a thousand fold. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true!
  6. Get Tools. I see so many creative stuck in workflow of tools past. Don’t. So you used to edit on AVID but now you need to learn Adobe. I’m super-comfortable designing content to shoot with a C-series camera or FS-7, but now I’m pushing myself to develop storytelling that can leverage the power of 360 VR like this.
  7. Charge Appropriate Rates. I have left this one for last. Let’s face it, we creatives hate dealing with money. It’s not why we got into this work. Despite flat wages and the constant dilution of our various industries, we need to support one another by charging a living wage. When I see someone posting on a professional list-serve that they are looking to hire (fill in the blank creative position) at (half the standard industry day rate), I want to shout “doooon’t do it!” to all respondees. Sure, if you’re new to the biz and building your portfolio, you can discount your rate. But don’t go too far. For one thing, people tend to value your work by the value you assign to it yourself. For another, we’re all in this together.

 

Amy DeLouise is a video director-producer and author, and occasionally an industry speaker.

 

The brand word gets thrown around too much. What does it actually mean when you’re a freelancer in creative work? If you’re a photographer, art director, graphic designer, video producer or editor, how do you establish your brand versus that of other folks who use the same tools you do and have similar skills?

Why You Think People Hire You

Most freelancers promote themselves with the skills they think people are looking for. Their websites show software mastered and lists of equipment owned. That’s fine. But this is just the basics. Loads of your competitors have these skills. What clients want to know is what PROBLEMS you can solve for them. So to properly brand and sell yourself, you need to consider what sets you apart.

Why People Actually Hire You

When pitching yourself, describe the personal attributes and abilities that make you a good problem-solver. It might be your positive attitude, your communications skills, your ability to work with challenging personalities, or your ability to lead a team. This is your unique brand value, and that’s what you need to be promoting!

What About My Portfolio?

More and more, prospective clients want me to show them a video that is pretty much like what they want to hire me to produce. This is a tricky problem. I’d love to show them my skills as a director and concept creator for a wide range of productions. But they might not understand how a 5-minute video about a hospital is relevant to their 1-minute opener for a corporate event. So I post custom links to Vimeo–sometimes even password protected–so they can see just the  projects that connect to the problem they want to solve. And I sometimes have to generate a set of brief storyboards to convey my concept for their project. More on that in a future post!

For more about branding, follow my tweets @brandbuzz or join me at NABShow where I’ll be speaking about Essential Business Skills for Freelancers at Post/ProductionWorldatNAB

Freelancer Tips Amy DeLouise