Five New Year’s Resolutions for Promoting Your Brand

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Yellow Hibiscus, Red Center 7_IGP0786 s.c Is updating your brand part of your 2014 New Year’s resolutions? Here are five ways to boost your brand recognition this year.

 1. Improve Social Media Engagement.  Google’s new algorithm not surprisingly puts the focus on Google +1’s. AccordingWishpond’s James Scherer (@JDScherer) writing for SmartBrief’s social media blog “While links are still incredibly important, equally important (and in the +1’s case, more important) are social endorsements such as Facebook likes and shares, LinkedIn shares, tweets and Pinterest pins.”   Building in ways for your donors, your followers, or your customers to engage with you and create those ever important endorsements is essential. Consider special discounts for conferences and events, or unique content for Twitter or Facebook followers to make the new SMO work for your brand.

2. Bring Your Executive Team on Board in Social Media. Gone are the days when your intern writes your blogs and Facebook posts. Customers and donors expect to follow the CEO’s twitter feed and get an insider perspective. Let the Thought Leaders in your institution–your C-Suite team and your Board leaders–build your brand by engaging in social channels. Sure, you can help them out with suggested themes, samples , and optimal timing around key events and product roll-outs. But their insider perspective and authentic voice is essential. A polished, corporate example is Bill Marriott’s On the Move blog. A slightly more irreverant blog is DuetsBlog, which belongs to a law firm. Ford’s chief digital communicator, Scott Monty, has a twitter feed worth emulating (@ScottMonty). But the examples you can offer are as endless as the kinds of personalities in your leadership circle.

3. Ask Movers and Shakers to Tweet About You. The tweet is the modern equivalent of getting an autograph, but more useful for your brand. When one of my nonprofit clients gave a facility tour to Justin Bieber (and encouraged him to tweet about it, which he did), they got 10,000 new followers in a matter of hours. Find out if any key personalities(or well-connected board members) are already known to your institution and encourage that they will Tweet, post on Facebook or blog about you.  And yes, specifically ask them to do it!

4. Make Your Video Content Multi-Platform Friendly. Right now, H.264 is still the go-to codec, but H.265 is on the way. And yet many organizations are still shooting standard def or stuck in the land of Flash.  If you want your content to be mobile- and web-friendly, make it a priority to upgrade your acquisition and output specs. For new content, shoot in High Def, at 1080p (29.97 frame rate, or 24fps which looks nicer in many cases and saves you some file space) for maximum flexibility and image quality. This larger acquisition size takes up more space, but storage is cheap. Whereas having your fabulous web fundraising video look horrible and pixelated at your annual conference could be an expensive mistake.

5. Multi-cast Your Content. Now it’s easy to share branded videos not just through Facebook, iTunes and YouTube, but also through Podcast Alley, MeFeedia, and more.  You can even reach the television-viewing audience by doing a direct-to-TiVO distribution. This allows you to bring more eyeballs to your content, and syndicate your branded content across multiple delivery platforms.

Merry Branding and a Happy New Year!

Amy is a frequent speaker, workshop leader, and an author on Lynda.com .

Social Web Advocacy: Do’s and Don’ts

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A canvasser knocked on my door last night to sign us up for a petition in a community clean water campaign.  On the same day, I got an email link to a new candidate’s YouTube Senate campaign video. Both campaigns offer case studies for things to do and those to avoid in issue advocacy.

An engaging, passionate, and very cold (it was below freezing outside) canvasser made a great case for lobbying our county council against development along Ten Mile Creek, which eventually makes its way into the Potomac. We asked for more information and he left us with a printed fact sheet. I wanted more information so I emailed a friend who works at an environmental organization and he asked me for the sheet. That’s when the problems began. I couldn’t find the talking points anywhere online–not on the organization’s web link provided, not anywhere on its website, not by Googling it.  Having a physical person come to my door to sign me up for the petition was great. No one loves those telemarketer phone calls–even for a good cause. And he was able to engage in more in-depth conversation about the issue. But the handout was too long (front and back of a page!) for today’s short attention spans and there was no way to share it other than scanning it. The website doesn’t feature any way to Tweet, promote on Facebook, or otherwise connect socially to this campaign–boo hoo.

Takeaways: Handouts are great. Emails are even better, with web and social links. But all physical page handouts should include easy ways to share the content in social forums.

The next campaign came via email. Shenna Bellows is running for Senate in Maine and looks like a great candidate from her YouTube campaign video. I love the personal interviews and the way they cut together people looking straight to camera to convey the variety of her prospective constituents. What I HATE HATE HATE (can you tell I hate it?!) is how she is reading “off-axis” from a teleprompter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had to do this reading from prompter thing. But the axis is entirely too severe to be believable as an interview setup. [Insert shameless self-promotion here:  See my Lynda.com Art of the Interview class for more on best interview setups.]  It would have been better to cull these points during a real interview. Or to just do the prompter-over-the-camera and have her deliver straight to the audience. Either way, the great techniques of the rest of the spot are undermined by this rookie mistake.

Takeaways: Real people, real interviews are key to believability in social web.

Art of the Interview: Making Personal Stories Work

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For mission-driven nonprofits, telling stories–obstacles to overcome, successes won–can be one of the best ways to show people you are delivering on the mission.  Human stories compels viewers and listeners in a way that other communications just don’t.   But if you’ve ever had to interview someone–whether for a podcast, video or audio program–you know that drawing out the best story can be difficult.

So I’m pleased to announce my new course on Lynda.com–taught with my good friend and colleague Rich Harrington– called the Art of the Video Interview (we also cover audio-only interviews).   We’ve put our years of experience into this practical course, and cover everything from location scouting and interview preparation, to how to build rapport with interviewees, what equipment to use for audio-only interviews, getting the best interview out of difficult subjects–people who are subject matter experts, young children, couples. And finally, we address all the things that will help you prepare for a better edit–including how to minimize narration and using transcripts effectively for workflow.  We had a lot of fun putting together this course, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

Budget Branding

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Nautilus-1 To quote @ScottMonty Global Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Company, “What’s the ROI of not putting your pants on in the morning?” He’s talking about social media marketing. But the same applies to branding. In other words, you can’t afford not to brand.

So if the ROI of good branding is huge, how do you minimize the costs?  Here are three cost-effective tools you can start using right away.

1. Email is Free Ad Space!

I often receive emails without any “signature” –what a lost opportunity! 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 with easily copied info.)

2. 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 pile, a box, a series of files that no one can find.  Graphics, photographs, audio interviews or videotape footage–these all have sunk costs, and can be re-purposed for much less than the initial investment. The key is to use metatags and an archiving and workflow system that makes sense to everyone in your organization. Avoid those awful automatic names (IMG_001) by batch renaming–but always maintain the original name in the data. (Adobe Bridge is a handy tool for this, though there are many others. Here’s a “how to” video by my friend @richardharrington on how to do this.) But whether you use a sophisticated archiving system or a spreadsheet,   the ultimate cost savings to promote your brand is large, since you will avoid re-shooting or re-acquiring images or footage where something from your own “stock” library would work to tell the story.

3. 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, and commissioning one to be made can be costly. So consider starting small, with a podcast. With just the investment in a digital audio recorder or a small digital camera, and some basic audio recording/mixing software (here),  you can give out some useful information, and cross-promote your organization’s other content–books, websites, conferences, upcoming events.

Just using these three low-cost or free tools can help you gain ground with your brand, which in turn can help you increase fundraising, sales, visibility, memberships or issue awareness.

Video Messaging Best Practices

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  1.   Connect Your Videos to Your Brand. That doesn’t mean you have to mention your organization or company every 10 seconds in your next web video. In fact, studies show that indirectly branded video content goes viral at a faster rate. But the stories you create should still be meaningful and connected to your overall brand story. If the video lives somewhere other than your website, such as Vimeo or YouTube, be sure you have some kind of tag and call to action at the end, so people know how to reach you/donate to you/take action on your issue.
  2. Know Your Target Audience. Think about sub-demographics and what kinds of content appeal to them.   Also consider the viewing environment for the video. One size doesn’t fit all, so plan ahead to create multiple versions of your content that are most appropriate for each target and viewing situation. If your story has multiple parts/levels, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings, links, and keywords in order to attract the right audience.
  3. Invest Now for More Rewards Later. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that if something is going to appear on the web, it can be produced on a shoestring because it’s a one-use item.  To the contrary, every penny you spend should be powerful, credible, and the source material can be useful downstream. But only if you’ve bothered to a) create it at a decent quality, and b) organize it so that more than one editor/producer can find what they need.  Having transcriptions made of interviews and keeping the PDF’s with the footage is very helpful. So is tagging all “b-roll” with keywords of time, location, and content.
  4. Shorter is Usually Better. In live event or conference environment, audiences can enjoy videos of 5-8 minutes in length. When viewing your video on the web, in a tiny box–most likely while it is competing with other content on the screen–a viewer will only tolerate 1-2 minutes of content. Mobile web viewers actually can be willing to watch content for longer, presumably because they are “stuck” using a mobile device rather than a larger screen. Either way, make every second count, using visuals, music, audio, graphics–everything at your disposal–to make a message with impact.
  5. Measure Impact. Speaking of impact, measure it! So many organizations produce video content without a handle on whether or not it is effective. Plan a way to find out. It could be counting how many venues you can locate posts with a link to your video. It could be a short email survey to a random sampling of people who received your web link via email. At live events, you can ask people to use a hashtag to tweet something about your content. Or you can drill down into data already provided by You Tube, Google, or other online services.  Number of hits is less relevant than what viewers DID after viewing your video.

Ask the Right Questions to Create Web Video with Impact

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With YouTube now the second most-used search engine, plus the exponential rise of mobile web and convergence technologies, organizations realize that producing video content is as important as updating the website. Here are a few key questions you need to answer to be sure your video has impact.

1.  How does the video fit with your brand? You have a great story—someone touched by your organization, or some important piece of information that needs to be disseminated to the public, a hilarious short video sure to get loads of follows. Great. But how does it fit into your overall brand plan? Will your name or the name of a particular product/service be mentioned? Do you want people to take some kind of action, linked to a new product roll-out or campaign? Are you trying to promote organizational recognition? Gain new supporters? Engage the existing ones?  What will support the video content? (i.e. direct mail and/or email campaigns to drive traffic?)  Will there be other lives for this content (see #4)?

2.  Do you know your target audience? Or, as often happens, do you have too many audiences for this video and need to break it up into multiple streams of content?  Think about sub-demographics and what kinds of content appeal to them.   If your story has multiple parts/levels, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings/links in order to attract the right audience.  If your story has multiple parts or levels of detail, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings/links in order to attract the right audience.

3.  Can you afford what you need? Can you afford not to produce this well? It’s like what your mother once told you about buying a dining room set–buy the best you can because you want it to last. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that if something is going to appear on the web, it can be produced on a shoestring because it’s a one-use item.  To the contrary, every penny you spend should be powerful, credible, and the source material should be useful in multiple ways. For example, if you have an interview-driven story, outtakes can be used for other projects. So can the background footage (“b-roll”). My personal preference is to shoot high definition, widescreen video because it makes a bigger impact when it is compressed for the web, since it degrades less.  But whatever your format, a polished production, professionally produced, will also allow you to “multi-purpose” the end-product more reliably, pulling parts for your website, your intranet, an email campaign, or a large-screen projection at a major donor event.   Many organizations have effectively teamed their in-house capabilities with outside vendors to achieve both cost efficiencies and good quality.

4.  Is it short enough? I produce a lot of short form projects for live event venues, but these are not short enough for the web, where the average drop-off comes after 90 seconds. When watching an event production, the audience is engaged together, with a common mission and few distractions. When someone watches your video on their laptop, desktop or mobile device, chances are there are other distractions in the room.   So make every second count. That means using visuals, music, audio, graphics–everything at your disposal–to make a message with impact.  And then cut the length in half.

5.  Are you prepared to measure impact? So many organizations throw video on the web and then have no real method for measuring its impact beyond views.  What is the drop-off rate? Where does it happen? Where do people go next after viewing? Do they return? If you can’t answer these questions, you’re losing valuable insights to help you refine your approach the next time.

Join me for social media and video production workshops at NAB/Las Vegas.

Interviewing for Great Results

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Perhaps you have to interview your boss for a video clip on your website. Maybe you are hosting a podcast. Maybe you have to interview a job candidate.  Whatever the reason, interviewing is an art form and not just a list of questions. Here are a few tips to creating a better outcome for both participants that I’ve developed over my 20+ years as a successful interviewer.  These tips apply primarily, by the way, to the friendly interview and not the “gotcha” news interview.

  1. Do Your Homework. Just like an attorney doesn’t ask a question at trial to which s/he doesn’t already know the answer, you should have a good sense before the interview of what the content will be. Spend time learning the narrative of the person, conducting a pre-interview by phone if at all possible, and be well versed in the important content points you want to clarify.
  2. Make Eye Contact. If you do your homework, then you shouldn’t be referring to notes too often, if at all. (It’s a point of pride for me not to do this when I do video interviews.) Breaking eye contact breaks the personal connection between you and the interviewee, which is essential to keeping them comfortable and focused. Even if you, the interviewer, are not seen, the interview will be significantly more successful if you maintain eye contact throughout.
  3. Understand Your Interviewee’s Learning Style. There is significant research on people’s learning styles, which broadly fall into three categories—visual, kinesthetic and auditory.  When you can identify which learning style best fits your interviewee, your questions can be better tailored to generate a good response from them. This all comes from the science of Neurolinguistic Programming, and I’ll let you do the internet surfing for more details. But basically you can develop several quick questions at the start of your interview which will help clue you in as to the learning style of your subject. From this you can craft better questions. “Describe what a typical day at your factory looks like” is not a great question for an auditory learner, for example. So, if I’ve got a visual learner, I might say “what does success look like to you at this company?” If she’s a kinesthetic learner, I might phrase it this way “How did you actually build the company for success—give me the steps?”  For an auditory learner, “What kinds of feedback do you hear from customers that tells you you’ve hit on a successful formula here  at Company ABC?”
  4. Plan the Arc of the Interview. Every interview has a beginning, middle and end much like a story. I never ask my most critical question first, but rather build a story line to the entire experience, that both my subject and I move through together. If you have to edit video, this is the most successful way to create editable content that won’t eat up valuable editing time.
  5. Know How to Get A Better Answer. The worst thing you can say to an interview subject is “can you repeat that?” because it generally makes people become self-conscious and/or entirely forget what they just said.  If you instead use body language to indicate you couldn’t hear the answer properly 9even if you did), or a simple “Sorry…?” people almost always repeat their answer and improve upon it.

For more interview techniques and hands-on practice sessions, contact me for one of my workshops. I bring these into organizations and also give them at major conferences and events across the country.

Branding on a Budget

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Nautilus-1“We can’t afford branding” is a frequent refrain I hear from smaller nonprofit groups.  In reality, you can’t afford not to brand.

The term branding seems to carry with it the image of an expensive and long-term contract with ad agencies and experts.  Advocacy groups are generally the exception to this rule.  Because they are trying to make bold changes in policy—whether towards the environment, social welfare or healthcare—they have learned that their brand alone can mean the difference between getting or losing a donation, a volunteer, or the attention of a lawmaker.   Greenpeace is an excellent example.  Whether or not you approve of their tactics, their name immediately conveys action on behalf of the environment.  If someone from Greenpeace approaches you about making a contribution, joining a petition, or setting up a meeting, you don’t need a lot of time to learn about what they do.  It is already conveyed by the brand.

Organizations of all sizes can benefit financially from better branding. And it doesn’t always have to cost a lot. Here are three cost-effective branding tools.

1. Email is Free Advertising

I often receive emails from executives at nonprofits without any “signature” that indicates who they are, who they work for, and how to reach them.  This is a missed opportunity for free advertising, which should be employed unilaterally—and uniformly–across the organization.

But e-mail isn’t just an opportunity to give out contact information.  An e-mail signature tag can be updated, creating a free way to notify all your email recipients about current events related to your issue, programs, or membership opportunities.  You can also include web links other than your main site. For example, if you have an upcoming conference, that website can be included. Here’s a simple and free way you can give donors, members and the general public a better sense of the “value” of being part of your cause.

2. Use Podcasts to Cross-Promote

One of the main reasons people become involved in nonprofits, whether as staff members, donors or volunteers, is that they believe in the mission and want to create change.  And one of the keys to creating change is educating ourselves about what needs changing. Millions of people got involved in the green movement because Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” made the case for climate change visually compelling.

Now you can do the same thing with a podcast.

With just an investment in a digital audio recorder, or a small digital camera, and some basic audio recording/mixing software, you can give out some useful information, and cross-promote your organization’s other content–books, websites, conferences, upcoming events.  Here’s an example of an organization that is helping to promote its cause and its members through podcasts

3. Mine Your Own Content

The other terrific resource nonprofits have—and rarely use—to promote mission and brand is their own media libraries.  The cost is essentially free, since you have already paid to acquire these materials, which include graphics, photographs, audio interviews or videotape footage.  The only investment is the time to organize it in such a way that it becomes useful to multiple people for a variety of projects.  The ultimate cost savings is large, since you will avoid re-shooting or re-acquiring images or footage where something from your own “stock” library would work to tell the story.

Just using these three low-cost or free tools can help you gain ground with your brand, which in turn can help you increase fundraising, visibility, memberships or issue awareness.

c 2009 Amy DeLouise