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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.

Sky at Sunset Who doesn’t want to polish up their brand for the New Year? Here are five issues and strategies to consider for your brand this year.

 1. Storytelling Still Matters. As more and more channels and platforms emerge, a compelling story remains the reason users/viewers stage engaged. Whether you are telling a story with info graphics, with photography, with words or with video, make the story Matter.

2. Beware of New Algorithms.   Gmail’s new message organization system is having a big impact on brands who drive customer and donor engagement through email campaigns (i.e. pretty much everyone). Be sure your writing and images (that will be pulled up in Highlights) help users decide your content is relevant to their lives.

2. Get Leadership Engaged in Social Media. Gone are the days when the intern writes your tweets. Customers and donors expect to a personalized experience with your brand’s leadership–whether that is blog posts, tweets or photos on Instagram.  Let the Thought Leaders in your institution–your C-Suite team and your Board leaders–have human personalities, and authentic voices.

3. Ask Movers and Shakers for Brand Mentions. 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, well-connected customers or donors might be willing to give your brand a shout-out.

4. Location-Based Content is Here to Stay. iHookupSocial.com and yikyak are the latest spawn of location-based apps. While their purpose is different than Foursquare, the motivation is the same–users want content that relates to where they are right at this moment. Think about how your brand can deliver this content in new ways for users–(re)think conference and events, sightseeing in a town, touring a college campus, and more.

Amy is a video content director/producer,  speaker and author who mainly cares about telling great stories.

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.

Is it time for a change in your career path? Butterfly We all have those moments when we feel the seasonal shifts in our professional lives. Sometimes these are triggered by personal life events–children, aging parents, an illness. Often they are part of bigger trends in our industry (boy has my industry changed from the days of shooting on film to 4K cameras!).

The three keys to a successful personal re-brand are the same elements needed for any strong brand:  Storytelling,  Community,  and  Authenticity.

1. Storytelling. Everyone has a brand story–even individuals and small companies. So tell your story. And if your story now includes a new service, or a new focus, or a new location–tell THAT story.  How?

Curate & Share-Help people sort through the clutter in your new area of expertise by tweeting about a new study, or build and share a useful resource list. You could write a how-to blog post on the topic (and send an email to your clients to better share it). You could build an infographic on a new trend and pin it on Pinterest and share through other social platforms. And don’t forget to curate for yourself by following thought leaders in your new area of work.

Even better, let your Community tell your new brand story. See next paragraph!

2. Community. My friends Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter in their useful book Humanize say “Everyone has customers, stakeholders, suppliers, members, constituents…but not everyone can honestly say they have a community.”  I would turn that a bit and say you probably have a community you haven’t really thought about. It might be your religious community, it might be people in your neighborhood, it might be friends through a music group–you are connected to many different communities and can reach out to all of them to let them know what changes you’re making and enlist their help.

How? Your community can help promote your new website, or retweet your new posts. They can suggest new contacts for you, or post endorsements on Linked In.  And speaking of Linked In, try their nifty new “In Map” feature, that lets you visualize your personal networks (mine look like a squid–with the head being my digital media contacts, and the tentacles being all the different communities that I participate in through work and play).

3. Authenticity. One of the most important components of a successful brand today is that you are who you really are, across all platforms and networks. There once was a time when people had personal Facebook pages separate from their professional ones. Those days are gone. (That doesn’t mean you can’t segregate which posts go to all your “friends” and which ones stay amongst a select group–take the time to break out your friends groups in Settings, people!  Google+ lets you do this from the get-go–much simpler!)

So if you are making a career shift–be transparent about it. In fact, engage your Community with your evolving Story by crowd-sourcing ideas you can use in your new field, or location or area of expertise.  You can do this easily through social platforms. But you can also do it In Real Life! Talk to people and ask for advice and believe me, they will share.

And now your new personal brand will be connected to lots of other personal brands that are evolving, too.

Amy DeLouise is a digital content creator who consults on brands and is always evolving her personal brand. Follow her occasional tweets on the subject (and #nonprofits, #video, #food, #fastcars ) @brandbuzz.

 

3 Glass Bottles-1b sGetting applause for your content isn’t enough. So while Facebook and YouTube likes are nice, it’s more important to know if you are engaging the right community, and causing them to change knowledge, beliefs and attitudes—the precursors to behavior change. You can use embedded polling, an online survey, a focus group or a full-blown pre/post study—anything that will give you some data to make decisions about what kind of content to create, and how to deliver it more effectively.

There are plenty of great tools out there to help you discover what motivates your audience.

—  www.websurveycreator.com

—  http://kwiksurveys.com/

—  www.surveymonkey.com

—  http://www.google.com/drive/apps.html#forms

—  http://www.zoomerang.com/

—  http://www.surveygizmo.com/

—  http://polldaddy.com/

—  http://www.formsite.com/

—  www.constantcontact.com

www.batchgeo.com    also helps you map your data–literally, on a map! (although it wouldn’t let me put US and international locations on the same map, hmm.)

Don’t forget you can also survey in person. For example, here are the results of a quick in-class survey from my workshop on Researching Your Audience for Better Content Impact this morning at #NABShow in Las Vegas. Thanks to my terrific—and, as you’ll see, geographically diverse—participants, we had a great session.

Sample size: 37

Average age: 36

US Geographic Diversity  

Geo Diversity Amy's NAB Research ClassTop reasons for coming to #NAB: Checking out post production technology, trans media, gear: camera, lighting and audio; digital publishing ; how to develop engaging material for internal audience; how to get more views on content; discover what production is like outside our country.

 Amy DeLouise is a content producer who cares about research and speaks at major conferences and events. She tweets @brandbuzz.

 

 

 

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.

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 .

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!

 

Coming up next month, I’ll be speaking on two topics near to my heart: how to develop a personal “brand,” and how to design video projects for a longer, multi-platform life span.  Both of these issues are front and center as we all launch back into fall busy-ness. I find the need to re-assess my workflows and systems, to accommodate new technologies and new platforms for production and distribution. It’s also important to  keep building our professional reputations–often across those same social media platforms.

I’m also excited about my upcoming class The Art of the Interview, to be available on Lynda.com. Watch this space for more details and free preview links!

October 9 – Brand U: The Art of Personal Branding Networking Consortium, Washington, D.C.

October 17 –  Repurposing Your Video Content: Efficient Workflows & Strategies Interagency Visual Media Group, Bolling Airforce Base IVMG Conference

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.