It is Worth Being a Content Creator?

Amyonthedollyweb2“If you can help it, don’t be a creator. Be the exploiter. They get rich.” That’s the advice of Keith Giffen as told to the New York Times. He’s an artist and author who co-created with Bill Mantlo the Marvel comic character Rocket Raccoon now featured in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a film that grossed $172 million in its first four days of release. Neither creator was notified that the movie was in production, let alone given a piece of the revenue pie. (And only due to the efforts of fans, his brother and his attorney has Mantlo now received any financial benefit.)

Like comic book artists and writers and a vast majority of my fellow content creators—artists, writers, filmmakers, graphic designers—I often work under contract in work-for-hire arrangements that don’t include residuals for the use of our creations in the future. In the 1970’s, when Giffen and Mantlo created Rocket Raccoon, the only downstream uses for those characters might have been TV or movies. Today, content can appear on dozens of platforms in social media, apps, e-Books, and online videos, to name just a few distribution outlets. And “television” itself has diversified beyond the networks to include Netflix and Hulu to Amazon Prime, alongside myriad cable channels. If you can exploit these distribution channels for content, then yes, there’s a big up-side financially. (And as any investor in a film or book property can tell you, there’s also risk.)

Where I disagree with Giffen is his implicit suggestion that content creators can’t also be the same people who exploit their works. Sure, it’s hard to make such a deal when you’re just getting started. But I know many experienced content creators who’ve developed what I’d call hybrid deals. For example, I work with a composer who is often in a work-for-hire arrangement. For a reduction in fee, we can agree that he may re-work any melodic themes created for my project for one of his future compositions. Depending on the distribution of my show, we might create a “waiting period” before he can do this. So he can exploit his composition more than once, in effect. Another hybrid example is my own content.  I develop workshops, then sometimes get paid a fee to teach a customized version of them at conferences or retreats. I then might rework that content again for publication with a royalty arrangement, such as in my recent course on The Art of the Video Interview for Lynda.com. I am essentially exploiting my own original content for multiple distribution platforms and audiences.

In a multi-platform, multi-media world, we content producers have to become more saavy about exploiting the value of our own creations, talking Raccoons and beyond.

Some of Amy’s work-for-hire and original content can be seen on Vimeo.

August 7, 2014 at 9:47 am Leave a comment

How Colleges Market Themselves…or Don’t

2014-ElonAfter 5 college tours in 3 days, I can tell you a lot about the best and worst of college marketing. We took our oldest on his first round of tours, and as a video and multimedia producer, I was particularly intrigued by the use (or lack) of audio-visual storytelling. One school got high marks for its all-visuals slide show supporting a dynamic speaker. He knew his material well, had gone to the school himself, and delivered lots of insightful anecdotes. He gave us some stats, too, but understood that those are easily found on websites and print materials, so he  focused on painting a vivid picture of the undergraduate student experience.

At another elite school—which shall remain nameless—the presentation couldn’t have been more different. The speaker said “uh” every other word. He held on a single slide for more than 3 minutes at a time–deadly! And each slide contained text in a poor layout so that while it was very large, it was still hard to read. Of the two videos he showed, one was a fun “trying to be viral” piece focused entirely on one athlete in one very popular (nationally recognized team) sport. It was cute. But the fact that it was 50% of the content shown conveyed the message that this particular team is central to the college culture, and maybe that was the intent. The other video we saw was supposed to be more all-encompassing about the university, but clearly had no script other than “get a bunch of students to talk to the camera and edit it all together as quickly as you can.” This video was filled with poor quality shots–blown out lighting, sound you couldn’t hear– along with a terrible “corporate” repetitive music bed that made it hard to follow. The editing was poor quality, too, and a last freeze frame was on the wrong field, resulting in a weird blur on a student’s face. What this show conveyed was “we’re such a great place that we don’t really have to invest in this video because you’ll probably want to come here anyway.” Mission accomplished.

The school that impressed my son the most likely did so in part because of its emotional, effective and high quality admissions video:

The #Elon video is effective for many reasons—I won’t bore you with a film lecture—but one of them is the original music being performed by students and the thoughtful edit sequences and camera setups. This is not just a mash-up blizzard of images of the school, but a story well told, and it had its intended effect on one prospective applicant. What it told his mom is this: we respect the story enough to approach filmmaking (and its various crafts of writing, directing, editing, music composition, etc.) with creativity and professionalism, just like any other academic discipline.

A school we didn’t see, but might on our next jog north, could be University of Rochester, which took a very different but equally compelling approach to an original music composition, with this well-made admissions rap video:

My take away from this experience is this: if you are marketing yourself, whether to prospective students, customers or donors, how you tell your story matters. A well-planned and executed project—whether a speech with slides, a rap video or a documentary-style piece—will convey your passion. A poor one undermines your message.

 

July 10, 2014 at 10:33 am 1 comment

What Brands Can Learn from Eric Cantor

labyrinth copyright B.DeLouiseWe’ve had a seismic shock here in Washington, DC. What can be learned from Eric Cantor’s historic loss of his seat and his position as Majority Leader?

Inside the Beltway, everyone thinks this is the first upset of its kind. Maybe in the annals of politics. But this kind of stuff happens every day to consumer brands. It happened when Tropicana tried to roll out a new look, and outraged its base consumers.  It happened when New Coke forgot what Old Coke had done for the world.  On the successful side of brands expanding their base, Miley Cyrus has been doing a pretty good job of transitioning from Disney Good Girl into a grown-up singer, MTV Awards twerking and all.  Not that I would recommend this approach to Members of Congress.

So what lessons can a brand draw?

  1. Know who your “grassroots” supporters are. Even when you have dreams of national expansion, or a re-brand, be sure you are not straying too far from your core competencies.
  2. It’s OK to try to shift your niche or broaden your appeal, but then you have to be sure your core constituencies—whether they are voters or stockholders or parents of a school or donors and volunteers of a nonprofit—will come along for the ride. OR, that you can do without them.
  3. And don’t attend a big-ticket fundraiser while your volunteers and supporters are sweating in the trenches, as Eric Cantor did on election day.  Your rank and file supporters/volunteers/consumers are actually part of your brand, so don’t diss them.

Amy DeLouise is a digital media producer and brand strategist.

June 13, 2014 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

Your Phone: A Marketing Power Tool

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.

May 22, 2014 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

Prepping for Your Edit

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.

May 6, 2014 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

Spring Cleaning for Your Personal Brand

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.

 

May 2, 2014 at 8:59 am Leave a comment

8 Vegas Eateries Not To Miss

AmysDinner2014-04-06The Las Vegas brand certainly includes great food. But if you’re in Vegas as I am for #NABShow, you may enjoy getting away from the big name restaurants. So here are a few tasty spots to try this week:

1. Lotus of Siam. Excellent, authentic, and seriously spicy–thai cuisine. Try te spicy prawns or the sea bass in any of the three sauces–I had the ginger sauce with mushrooms on Saturday night and it was divine.

2. Kaizon Fusion Roll. Asia fusion with interesting (and gigantic) sushi roll combinations in a low-key, hip bar atmosphere. Just across street from Hard Rock Hotel but not nearly as pricey as their famous sushi place.

3. Sen of Japan gets rave reviews and is more authentic Japanese, for purists.

4. Pamplemousse. Locals go here for special occasion, reasonably authentic French fare. Haven’t tried it myself, so give me your feedback.

5. Lindo Michoacan. A local Mexican 3-restaurant chain well regarded, including by my local friend whose wife hails from Mexico.

6. Echo and Rig Pick out your cut of steak, then have it grilled up at the restaurant next door. Talk about “on-demand” dining!

7. Piero’s. A Las Vegas institution and close to the Convention Center where we’re all living for this conference. Dinner only.

8. The only Vegas eatery on the strip that makes my list is Beijing Noodle No.9 at Caesar’s. Try the soup dumplings (they’re not IN the soup, the soup is IN the dumplings!) and a bowl of Lanzhou noodle soup.

April 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

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About Amy

Amy produces video content to help people connect with great brands--mostly nonprofit ones. She's a frequent guest speaker and workshop leader and can be reached at amy [at]amydelouise[dot]com. On Twitter, she's @brandbuzz.

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