Posts filed under ‘video’

4 Easy Ways to Fix This Donor Thank You Video

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.

March 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

How Not to Rebrand: Avoiding the Silverdocs Saga

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.

February 19, 2014 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Promoting Your Brand

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 .

January 28, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

Social Web Advocacy: Do’s and Don’ts

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.

December 11, 2013 at 11:45 am 1 comment

Art of the Interview: Making Personal Stories Work

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!

 

November 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

4 Essential Tools for Your Brand Story

Sky at Sunset 1. Compelling Images.  Photos have been proven to increase click-through rates, and video is a highly searched medium on the web. And most organizations have access to digital photography, and even can make their own video clips. But one of the downsides of the digital revolution is Volume. When helping organizations produce effective multimedia outreach, I’m often faced with trolling through literally millions of photos that an organization has taken during various events in order to find the ones that might be effective in a marketing or fundraising video. Try to have someone go through images as soon as they are shot—or have the photographer curate them and only send you the best selects. Consider opportunities to crop and focus on what really conveys your mission, who you serve and how you do it. Here’s a great resource on how to design and use still images more effectively, from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC)

2. Compelling People. Personal stories are one of the best ways to connect an audience to your content. But getting authentic video interviews can often be challenging, even for experienced interviewers, if you are forced to conduct interviews in a conference room or other impersonal space. So your interview technique is critical. In my Art of the Interview classes, I go in depth on some of the tools of the trade, but here are a few areas to focus on:

-Build rapport at the start of the interview—preferably before the person walks in, by conducting a phone pre-interview. But worst case, chat with them before they come into the room with all the lighting and cameras.

-Memorize your questions so you can maintain eye contact at all times with your subject

-Create a “story arc” so that there is a beginning, middle and end to your questions, and both you and your interviewee have a satisfying conversation

-Don’t interrupt—with your voice. Rather, if an interviewee is going on too long, you can break eye contact and get a little squirmy. This will let them know they need to stop, without ruining your audio track for editing.

4. Cross-platform Story Strategy. When starting a communications project, consider different iterations that could help different communities you can reach through different mediums. You might tweet a great photo of a successful well-digging project in Africa. A video clip of the same project can be posted to Youtube and your Vimeo channel.  If you can boil your story down to 6 seconds, consider Vine–the new app for iPhone (promising to be released soon for Android) that allows you to make and post mini-videos. (Here’s a good explanation of how to make this platform work from @Mashable.)  An extended video of how the project came about, with interview clips from the well-users can be showcased at your annual meeting. A teaser 20-second clip can become an email embed for a fundraising campaign. The list is as endless as your imagination and your ability to organize and plan at the Outset of production. You can make a planning form like this ADeLouiseStoryPlanDoc when mulling all the possibilities for a project.

4. Organized Media Assets. Cross-platform storytelling is all well and good, but the problem is often wrangling all those image assets from multiple sources throughout your organization. Most DSLR’s (and even many prosumer video cameras) will create non-unique and sort of gobbledegook (technical term) labels for your images that don’t tell you anything about them. Lovely stuff like IMG_4033 and DSC1050.MOV. You can use a number of software systems to batch rename your files so that they include the original name, but also some useful information such as the date shot and the initials of the photographer/videographer.

Adobe Bridge is a handy batch renaming and organizing tool. It comes with Adobe Creative Suite and can work with your photo and video assets too.

If you need something free, you can try the Amok Exif Sorter, which I haven’t personally used but comes with high marks from the “Mythbusters” guys.

May 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

3 Ways to Make Your Corporate Video Suck (And How to Avoid Them)

1. Start With a Talking Head—Start your viewer’s experience with some words from your CEO or other corporate leader, preferably speaking directly into the camera, and not looking as comfortable as s/he would like.  Not!

SOLUTION: If you have to put in your CEO, try using snippets from him or her during a recent speech. These can be used to “voiceover” parts of your video so you are not spending a lot of time looking at someone’s head. Here’s an example in a USDA video

ANOTHER SOLUTION: If you’re leadership are really brave, and you’ve got a good writing team either in-house or with your production agency (and that’s a big if!), you could try what IBM successfully did with its Mainframe marketing launch. They spoofed The Office using their actual Vice President of Worldwide Sales. It’s still one of my favorite corporate vids of all time, and it garnered enough industry and mainstream press to skyrocket sales. As an added bonus, by showing the company’s hipper side, the video improved IBM’s employment brand, with increased high quality applications to jobs in the mainframe unit.

2. Avoid a Unifying Concept.  If you really want to confuse your viewer, be sure to include 4 or 5 or 6 or even more main ideas in your video. Not!  Three ideas is plenty. One is even better. A written script is essential (even when there is no voiceover), to map out the framing and delivery of your Main Idea.

SOLUTION: Here’s a great video from Facebook that starts with the concept of the Chair. The images are stark, beautifully composed, and devoid of the generic “b-roll” flavor of most corporate videos.

3. Make a Music Video – Everyone wants to use their favorite song as the score to their video. No problem! Except that you need to purchase the music “sync rights” and know how to direct and edit a music video—which is harder than it looks. Aside from choreographing every movement and person to a specific beat, you need to convey content that is relevant to your message.

SOLUTION: If you have a motivated staff person with the time to map out every move, then shooting your own music lip sync video can let everyone in the organization participate and have fun—which might in of itself achieve your communications goals. Here’s a really cute (although sometimes odd and sad) lip sync video by a retirement home that I think succeeds in showing they have spirit and might be a fun place to hang out

ANOTHER SOLUTION: If you have more complex goals to accomplish—like a training program—they you may need a professional team to help you map out the shoot and edit. This safety training piece I produced for a children’s hospital took quite a few weeks of planning, in order to tie in with a full training program. We shot a lot of it against green screen so as to include the maximum number of people without interfering with patients in the hospital. And yes we licensed the music for the correct usage rights.

Thanks for taking the time to consider three things to avoid when you make your next corporate video!

May 7, 2013 at 11:11 am 1 comment

Are Some Kids Branded Academic Losers?

thumbsdowniconIf failing finals is an indicator, then they are. In my county—with some of the highest-ranking schools in the nation—we just learned this shocking data  : 61% of our high schoolers failed Algebra 1, 62% failed geometry and 57% failed Algebra 2.  Wow. The thinking goes that since these are the “on-grade-level kids” (aka “losers” in our lovely system), they are less motivated to study than their “above grade level” peers, and therefore more likely to fail. But look at the  stats we are presented with for these supposedly more motivated kids taking honors courses: Geometry: 36% fail; Algebra 2: 30% fail. Seriously?

Here’s my worry:  too much relying on testing, which feeds into kids getting branded as certain types of students, which leads to their loss of self-confidence, which is then fed by not receiving the best possible teaching.

On a personal level, we got a little dose of this with our high schooler.  One semester, his (young and inexperienced) math teacher refused to take questions in class because she couldn’t do this and still get through all the to-be-tested material.  A previously favorite subject suddenly became a world of lost confidence. We were lucky enough to be able to work with a tutor, who answered questions and offered the missing support.  And the result was our student did just fine.  But while he was struggling, the guidance office–where we were already signing up for the next year’s classes–was already ready to demote him to the dreaded “on grade level,”  suggesting he couldn’t hack math. Fast forward to a new math teacher in the next semester who was more experienced and fielded questions in class, and voila, test scores improved.

How many other kids is this happening to every day? Probably plenty.

At a national education conference, I interviewed Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy . He shared his theory about how kids get branded as certain types of students and what we can do about it.  You can watch his video answer to my questions here…

Khan’s ideas have been revolutionary in changing the school systems that have adopted his platform.  One of the many changes his method has brought about is the “flipped classroom”—that is, where teachers let kids work on material in advance, often using technology to access tools and materials. With the outcomes of this work (Khan can provide metrics), teachers learn what their students’ strengths and weaknesses are BEFORE they plan their lessons, then plan and teach accordingly.  Children who need more work in a particular skill can then continue to do that work both inside and outside the classroom. That way, more students gain mastery of the material, the teacher becomes a guide rather than someone spouting facts, and students learn strategies they need to overcome challenges in the subject matter.

Wouldn’t it be great if my county could get on board with this new approach to helping children succeed as lifelong learners?!

May 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Musings from #NABShow

I’ve been giving workshops and hanging out at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters, for those of you who aren’t in this field).  Three questions I think worthy of consideration (and future blog posts by moi):

-Are ubiquitous digital tools causing us to overshoot photos and video (well, yes), thus making workflow overly focused on dealing with quantity as opposed to creative and quality…and what are we going to do about it?

-How are issue advocacy nonprofits leading the way in terms of the convergence of multi-platform media and communitiy-building, and what can the rest of us learn from them?

And a question for those of you here in Vegas: What’s the coolest “new thing” at NAB that will change the way we think and work creatively? Comment below!

(Shameless plug: See the post before this if you want to come to some of my remaining sessions!)

April 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm 2 comments

Older Posts


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.

Share on Google+

Share This Blog!

Bookmark and Share

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 403 other followers

%d bloggers like this: