Posts filed under ‘video’
After 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.
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.
When Coca Cola’s Executive VP Joe Tripodi spoke at Georgetown University’s alumni center recently, he focused on how to engage millennials (Gen Y), who make up 62% of employees in American organizations. Let’s break down some of his key points in terms of how a content development strategy can help an organization engage this generation of future leaders.
• A relevant brand must consistently earn trust.
Content should show what you have achieved on your mission. Results, not Plans. That’s not to say that you can’t show—through interviews and images—how your most vested community members want the world to be.
• Instead of being the best in category, a great brand needs to also be best for the community.
Corporate brands also need content that shows how they are being community partners and leaders in positive social change.
• Consumers are looking for more than a product that satisfies their needs. They are looking for human connections and powerful stories. So if your content isn’t telling stories (i.e. you’re using too many corporate talking heads), you’re failing to connect. And if you can’t connect, you can’t engage.
• Innovation builds brands.
Your content can certainly show your own innovations in action (before and after’s are great fun on video). But you can also engage your audience by having a conversation about what innovations will impact their lives. Challenge your customer/donor/audience to bring innovations to you–from themselves or other communities to which they are connected. Now, you’re talking engagement and action.
Amy DeLouise is a video producer and brand consultant who creates content that engages different audiences to change attitudes and lead to action.
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 doesn’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.
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.
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.