Posts filed under ‘video’

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

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

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

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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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