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).

Social media writing challenges us all. So many platforms, so little time! Keeping a few easy tips in mind can help you focus on big picture goals.

  1. Be Yourself. Write the way you talk. Share what you think. Be authentic. If you write for an organization, be authentic to the character of the organization.
  2. Share Others’ Stories. Don’t only write about yourself, your work, your company. Share success stories of colleagues, clients, or industry innovators.
  3. Be Relevant. Post about issues that are current and trending. Look for hashtags to use that help your content break through the clutter and get reposted.
  4. Repurpose. Some content is too topical. But lots can be repurposed. A 5-minute live event video can be cut down into a 30-second webisode. A 7-second time Behind the scenes photos can accompany a tweet. Rework, reuse, recycle! Oh, and please make your media findable internally in your organization–label photos, put them in recognizable folders, metatag footage with names that people outside your edit suite can understand.
  5. Time it. Not every post will get equal views, depending on the time you post it. Weekend viewing is best for longer video clips. Late afternoons, later in the week will get you more forwards and shares. Post test messages on your favorite platforms and see what works best for your social community–each one is slightly different.

 

Amy DeLouise is a writer and video director working in short-form nonfiction that gets distributed at live events and via social networks. She speaks and writes regularly on challenges and solutions in communications, branding and video production. See her slides on social media from her workshop at #GVExpo on the speaker tab of this site.

Every fundraiser should cringe when offered a restricted gift. Sweet Briar College found out the hard way.
$56M out of their $84M endowment is restricted. That’s  2/3 of its endowment, but even more if you consider past, present and future earnings on those funds.  And so it makes sense that the recent reprieve for the women’s college, which was about to shutter its doors, included an effort to waive some of those limitations. 
Restrictions are popular with donors. Who wants to give millions for playing fields and find out they’ve been used to renovate the cafeteria? But the overarching driver should be delivering on mission. And tying the hands of leadership in making decisions for today’s students/patients/recipents etc. can, in fact, compromise the overall mission.
Of course, many donors have personal projects that motivate them to give. And tapping into those interests is part of Fundraising 101. But even when donors have the institution’s mission at  heart, changing times and future needs are hard to plan for–in Sweet Briar’s case, many gifts were made over 100 years ago.
So how can a nonprofit institution ensure that funds raised today support the mission tomorrow?
1. Pose the What If’s. When speaking to a donor interested in a restricted gift, offer some examples of unforseen, mission-focused challenges. Use examples from other segments of the sector: Food banks once conceived to serve the urban poor are rethinking how to feed suburban underserved populations. Girls schools are grappling with how to meet the needs of transgender students. Pediatric hospitals are figuring out how to serve HIV survivors now in their twenties and thirties. Environmental groups focused on once endangered species are now pivoting to tackle the massive implications of global climate change.
2. Be Proactive. Board leaders need to think ahead by staying engaged with donors. Before a donor becomes elderly or infirm, they should discuss how restrictions can be eased to support original intent (as tied to mission) without limiting opportunities (the vision for the future of the nonprofit).
3. “Self Insure”. If a substantial gift is permanently restricted due to the donor being deceased, the financial leadership should target raising a percentage of that base gift every year to “insure” the institution against too much imbalance in the portfolio, much like they already adjust the balance in stock, bond or real estate holdings.
4. Just Say No. Occasionally, institutions have bravely declined large gifts, because they knew the restrictions could substantively alter their brand for decades to come.
Restricted gifts can be a godsend. But they can also kill your nonprofit brand, which means how you deliver on the mission for those you serve. Hopefully Sweet Briar’s experience will be a shoot across the bow for any other nonprofits–not just colleges–with too much restricted giving putting their mission at risk.

Amy DeLouise works with nonprofits on telling their mission story through video and other content. She has chaired nonprofit finance comittees and knows what it’s like to be responsible, as a volunteer board member working with staff, for overseeing endowment finances.

When we watch cSigning a Checkharacters on the screen, why do they make us laugh or cry? And why does one story make us want to support a charity or social cause? It turns out compelling human stories trigger a chemical response in our brains. Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak has been studying the neurochemical oxytocin for years, and learned that humans have a chemical response similar to animals when we find another human trust-worthy: a spike in our oxytocin makes us feel connected to another human being. Even when watching the human on a screen, this response is triggered—what Dr. Zak calls the golden rule response: “if you treat me well, in most cases my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to treat you well in return.”

Most recently, Dr. Zak conducted a study with several short films from St. Jude’s Hospital. When viewers connected with the characters in a short film about a father whose young son is dying of cancer, they had an increase in cortisol and oxytocin. That chemical boost ran parallel to feelings of empathy with the characters, which was increased when there was a strong “narrative arc”—a powerful dramatic rise and climax to the real people story line.

This doesn’t come as a big surprise to those of us working in nonprofit direct response and impact story-telling. We know that to get donors to give and communities to care, we have to tell powerful stories. We know that viewers must connect emotionally with our characters, just as they would with characters in a fiction film. We do this through not just their words and images, but through lighting techniques, music scoring and the pacing of our edits. But building empathy isn’t enough. We have to create a dramatic arc that builds to a climax. We have to create suspense around some kind of obstacle that the characters must overcome, whether it is in their past or present. And our viewers have to relate to that obstacle, even if it is not precisely the same for them.

This is why pre-interviewing potential characters is so essential for documentary-style stories based on real people. Before they go on camera, we need to understand what will be compelling, what will not be relatable, and what will build suspense for our viewers.  And now it turns out that what we’re also doing is triggering those chemical responses in the brain that will make our subjects and their story connect to the brains of our viewers.  In the case of nonprofit storytelling, we need those chemical responses to be strong, because we are usually looking for a response that extends to well after the video ends: we want a viewer to get involved in a cause, donate money, write to their elected officials, or change some previous behavior (stop smoking, lose weight, etc). So it turns out that all these years I thought I was an English major-turned-filmmaker, it turns out that I’m in the neuroscience business: triggering a brain response that helps people act on the golden rule, and do great things for others and the world.

Amy DeLouise is a director and producer who tells real people stories to help viewers connect with causes and take action.

Creative Commons from allvectors.com

Creative Commons from allvectors.com

In a world filled with social media and mobile tools, your most powerful customer engagement device may actually be—the telephone! People rarely get personal phone calls these days (of course I’m not including those awful robo-calls and mass marketing). And the human voice brings so many more nuances to a conversation than a text or email. Plus, it’s more Efficient. I know, this sounds crazy. But here’s the thing: a phone call is Fully Interactive. It is way faster than emailing or texting. And it doesn’t have that annoying delay of Skype. That’s right, when I say something over the phone, you can respond Immediately, no waiting. And then I can respond to you Right Back!

Here are 5 ways to use your phone to ramp up your business:

  1. Key Deliverables. At any point where there are key deliverables in a project, I like to call the client. Is there anything we missed? Any concerns? Any new developments moving forward? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned information I’d never get in an email or through the many conversations we post on the cloud-based project management tool I often use.
  2. Setting Meetings. Have you ever been part of a spiraling email chain where people are trying to choose a meeting date and time? Huge time-waster! Put in a call to the key person, find out options, make a few other calls, done. Yes you can use a Doodle Poll. But people often hedge and put things down as “maybe” and then who knows where you are. So pick up the phone and set up your meeting now!
  3. Negotiating. Unless there is just one easy clause of a contract to adjust, any detailed negotiations should happen in person or by phone. You can more easily find out Why a party needs a particular clause. And you can better convey your own concerns and goals.
  4. Building Vendor Relationships. Building relationships with suppliers and team members is one of the most important things you can do to deliver better customer service. Having those conversations in person (you can still email backup in writing) is the best way to build and retain those connections.
  5. Thank You’s. Yes I often also Write These on a Notecard and send them. I know, that’s even more retro/radical. And yes, I send emails, too. But sometimes calling and saying “thank you”to a vendor or client in your real voice is yet another important human interaction that builds trust and long-term collaboration.

Amy DeLouise is probably on the phone, so you can also reach her on Twitter @brandbuzz, on Linked In  or via email at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.

It all starts in the field. Making sure that you have a good workflow for editing–and for managing multiple content outputs–is always a challenge. Here’s a presentation I gave at NAB with my colleague Rich Harrington that includes some of our top strategies and tools for edit prep.

Thanking donors through video has become increasingly popular. Too bad this effort from my alma mater falls flat.  Here are 4 ways to improve this student “thank you” from Yale. You can easily incorporate these strategies in your next video project.

1. Authenticity.  If the purpose of the video is to make donors smile, then it’s a fail. That’s because the students have obviously been asked to “look at the camera and say ‘thank you’.” We feel their awkwardness. Even throwing in the mascot dog doeLyndaAmyInterviewingCouplesn’t help. There’s a much better way to coax great performances out of non-performers. Have some conversations before you start filming. Don’t tell them exactly what to say. Give them context. Ask them some other questions first.  Ask questions that elicit the answer you need (“what would you tell a donor who made it possible for you to have heat in your dorm this winter?) rather than asking the subject “when I say go, say thank you”.

For more interview techniques, see my course on Lynda.com (The Art of the Interview). Here’s a snippet about building rapport.

2.Depth of Field. Every shot has students plastered against the same stone wall. What a missed opportunity to show off the campus and the students in their “natural habitat”! Lenses aren’t just fancy add-ons. They are vital storytelling tools. By adding context in the background of a subject, you convey meaning and increase impact on the viewer.Lynda2Amy

3. Energy.  Adding motion to the camera, and multiple camera angles, makes a HUGE difference in the energy and impact of a video.  Who knows why the Yale videographer felt he or she couldn’t move from that one spot. But one easy way to add energy would be following some of the subjects down the walkway (which would automatically create depth of field as we’d see action in the background).  I love having subjects talk while walking (or driving). Having different students pop up in a variety of places–the library, from behind a tree, from inside a classroom–would have added all kinds of energy to this piece. Plus alumns would have had a fun walk down memory lane seeing all these locations.  In this video about a Rabbi, we shot him walking, driving, leading prayer, on the telephone—all things he does in his very busy days.

4. Music. Music has a big impact on the impression your video makes. It affects edit pacing and rhythm. While the laid-back guitar vibe of the Yale piece is nice for a Friday afternoon Frisbee game, it doesn’t convey the dynamism of student life.  A catching music theme–and more variety in camera angles– leads to  (millions!) more views of this flash mob video from Ohio State (though I’m guessing they didn’t get music licensing rights for the song)

So before you launch into a “quick” video for any purpose, think about how you can use these 4 simple tools to add impact.

Amy DeLouise is a producer and consultant who has created hundreds of videos for fundraising and education.

Sky at Sunset When SilverDocs became AFI Docs, the once highly successful documentary festival did more than change its name. It changed its brand. And not in a good way.

For over a decade, SilverDocs was a roaring success. The public-private partnership between AFI and Discovery Channel brought groundbreaking–and often future Oscar-winning–nonfiction films to the silver screen in a well-regarded documentary festival that supported the active local DC area film community, while drawing thousands to a newly renovated Silver Spring, Maryland cultural district.  As a member of that local DC production community, I have been proud to see colleagues’ films screened, and see them debate with nationally known mediamakers on panels and in hallways. Our local chapter of Women in Film and Video, with 900 members, played an integral role in many of the events surrounding SilverDocs. Sky Sitney, the passionate and gifted director of the festival, took it to new heights of nonfiction program content and relationship-building.

Flash forward to the creation of “AFI Docs presented by Audi”—which already sounds like so many other corporate sponsorships such as FedEx Field and PNC Bank Arts Center.  The festival turned away from its warm hug of the film community and became a more “industry-driven” project, according to a Washington Post interview of Nina Gilden-Seavey, Silverdocs founding director. The result was not just a damaged brand in the eyes of the local community. It was a bad employment brand, because the new mission was one its visionary leader couldn’t support. So Sitney has quit to pursue other ventures.

Rebranding can be a tricky endeavor. It’s a balancing act between where you’ve been and where you want to go. The trick of any rebrand is to avoid New Coke syndrome. You want to be sure that your community, and especially your leadership, can come along for the ride.  (Hint: If you’re still being called “Formerly known as…” a year after your rebrand, it’s time to rethink the plan.) That’s not to say that change and progress aren’t a good idea for institutions.  But an organization without its people won’t succeed in today’s interconnected brand landscape.  And it takes more than sponsors to make a good nonprofit run well. Let’s hope AFI Docs will find its way to rebranding its rebrand, before it isn’t any brand at all.

Amy DeLouise is a multimedia producer who consults on branding and marketing for businesses and nonprofits. You can reach her at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.

Many nonprofits struggle with how to engage the board in branding and marketing. Sometimes staff even view the board as adversaries in this work, who think marketing is a distraction from mission. But the board may be your hidden asset if you give them the right tools. Consider these five ways to engage the board on behalf of this important work.

1. Connect Marketing to Mission. Board members are involved because they care about the mission and are connected to it in some personal way.  Set aside time at one meeting to have each board member identify a core aspect of your mission that they find most important and why.  Have each board member name one or two ways they could connect another circle they move in (social, work, alumni, etc.) to this aspect of your mission.

2. Find Examples From Other Spaces. Nonprofit board members often work in the for-profit world. Bring them examples they recognize–from banking or real estate or law.  A legal video that went viral on YouTube (there are some!), a business Twitter campaign, a newspaper story that generated web views and buzz. All of these can help your brand ambassadors understand the role of marketing in delivering on the mission.

3. Help Board Members Use Social Media. Many board members skew older than staff.  They may not be comfortable using social tools, or they may not consider using them to promote the work of the organization. Give board members monthly updates with hashtags, photos and other resources to help promote your upcoming fundraiser or event.  Give them examples of how retweeting or tagging and posting a photo on their Facebook page might net you hundreds of new views and real dollars.

4. Give Board Members Tangible Updates of Your Messaging Impact. Give board members an inside look at your social metrics–what pages on your website are most “sticky” and why, how many people follow your blog, what happens when you tweet, when you post a new item on Facebook.  Give them not just numbers but stories about who your communities are, what they need from you, and what they respond to.

5. Show and Tell. Do a live demo of as you interact with various communities and constituencies through your different social networks. Let board members see in realtime the kind of impact you have, and how the message can be multiplied exponentially.