STORYTELLING is a CRAFT...you have to have a PASSION for capturing, telling, and sharing stories. This blog is dedicated to that craft. What is your story? We are listening.

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There is something awesome about these pictures…something so normal. This is my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their children. They just had their third child. These pictures showcase their most recent appointment with the physician that delivered their third child, baby Miles.

Here we have one doctor’s visit with lots of smiles.

What makes these pictures so awesome, everyone in these images seem so comfortable, happy, and willing to have their pictures taken together. From the physician, the staff, the kids, everyone seems like family.

The role of the primary care physician, especially the physician that delivers a family’s child, is crucial to building a formative role in the health of a family. This is the entry gate for most hospitals. There is one thing that is hard to capture…images like these. Feeling completely unguarded, not worried about the technology, and willingness to share a moment in time…especially knowing these moments will be uploaded for all to see.

Before the days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and all the other social media outlets emerged…sharing moments like these could only be described in-person. Why am I sharing these moments…because we preach to our healthcare clients…if you create a positive culture of sharing…moments like these will naturally emerge.

Let’s unpack this moment!
How can we create a positive culture of sharing? How can we engage healthcare groups, hospitals, physician offices to engage in a positive culture of sharing? What does this mean?

I just finished training another department within one of our healthcare clients, and the one thing I stressed…create a positive culture of sharing. But before you can create this culture, you have to understand the rules, how the technology works, how images like these impact HIPAA, how to manage commenting, etc. This requires complete communication and transparency across the healthcare organization.

Not only do you have to engage, train, and have consistent conversations with all involved…but you have to listen to those who want to be a part of this social sharing opportunity. From physicians, residents, nurses, food workers, technicians, leadership, marketing, information technology, and so on; you have to talk about policy, procedure, technology, brand…but you also have to discuss the community and what a positive culture of sharing looks like.

Healthcare organizations have the greatest opportunity to engage happy faces like these.

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I just love these pictures!

I was sitting and meeting with a dear friend…and a great client. We were chatting about an upcoming group of projects, talking about the creative approach, budgets, logistics, etc. The more we talked, the more we began critically thinking about the visual message, the scripting, and the overall impact.

She looked at me and said, “I am just so thankful to work with you. You just get it…you are more than a video production crew, you truly are a storyteller. We know when we work with you…we know we get someone who truly helps us shape the story through out the whole production process.”

I was speechless and re-affirmed. She articulated what I have been preaching for so long.

Just the other day…I was meeting with another client and she was sharing the news they were hiring a senior level person for their business.

Their business is technical in nature, yet they value the idea behind creating a wonderful online experience. They hired someone who will focus on content…specifically a strong writer, a strong storyteller. There is a shift in culture that is happening. Groups we (here at Gray and SHI) are working along side are investing in stories, content curation initiatives, and taking ownership of their brand message. We are all storytellers…but we have to find the space, the platforms, and the willingness to unlock that capability.

We are all storytellers…but are we willing to allow those stories to come to the surface?

I have you noticed video auto-playing in Facebook when using your laptop, desktop computer, or even your mobile device like a tablet or smartphone. I have noticed the these auto-play videos on my iPad, iPhone, and my desktop using my MacBookPro.

The videos that are auto-playing are those uploaded directly to Facebook. This auto-play initiative is also a part of Facebook’s Premium Video Ads offering set to release to brands this fall, possibly October.

Video auto-plays were released in September 2013 with the goal to mirror, or closely resemble, the Instagram video and Vine experience. So this leads me to what type of video content might actually work using this new Facebook offering.

When you scroll through the news feed and a video auto-plays, the audio does not play…just the video. The only way to hear the audio of a video is to stop scrolling and click the video. The audio then starts playing.

So this is an indicator of visual cues…how can you stop someone from scrolling and intrigue them enough to click to play a video without sound?

Take a look at this video created by Mashable.com. This video auto-played when I was scrolling through my newsfeed, catching my attention. Why…the motion graphics and animation caught my attention.

I am a big fan of motion graphics and videos that utilize motion graphics to engage the audience. One of the reasons, you can tell a story visually if the person cannot hear the audio. I like to encourage video producers to not only create visually compelling messages but also videos that can stand alone if you could not hear the audio.

I have been recommending our clients create short videos for Facebook that include motion graphics. Why? When someone scrolls though their newsfeed, the motion graphics will catch their attention. This will stop them to want to click and explore. Then, include a link in the status update so the audience can watch the whole video or read more.

Short pieces of video content on Facebook I think can be a big win, if executed properly. Specifically, creating attention grabbing visual content that catches peoples’ attention then driving them to an action. If you read the release from Facebook surrounding their Premium Video Ads…you will see they are limiting the length to 15 seconds. I think this is smart. I think they have to include some visual cue, using motion to stop people and force them to explore.

Why are we using them? Are they fun? Are the cute? Are they just what we do…hashtag everything?

They were meant originally to help organize conversations, allowing like minded people to connect inside conversations. Now…there is a hashtag for everything…just because.

I see people posting Facebook using 15-20 different hashtags in one post…I wonder…how are they using this after they post this one piece of content. What are people doing with these hashtag initiatives?

It is time to ask ourselves a few questions:
1) Why are you using a hashtag?
2) Are your organizing a chat?
3) Are you trying to organize a community conversation?
4) If you are using a hashtag for a campaign, are you measuring the impact of the hashtag?

Twitter helped create this idea of hashtags and they are even consider dumping support for hashtags. Why…because users are using Twitter to search for content, conversations, and people based on search terms….not hashtags.

Via Mashable earlier this year, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo made this comment during a company earnings call in February 2014:

“By bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background, we can increase high-quality interactions and make it more likely that new or casual users will find this service as indispensable as our existing core users do. And we took initial steps in that direction with the introduction of media forward timelines and in-line social actions in October, and we’re already starting to see early signs that those initiatives are working well.”

Are we using hashtags like they were meant to be used or are we just creating more noise…more Chart-junk? If it is the later…then Tuft would not be happy!


I am not sure what Payne Stewart has to do with #blogchat, but it was a part of a verbal spat during the Twitter chat on Sunday, June 15, 2015. I was sitting watching television while following the chat when this little verbal disagreement broke out. Nothing more than a few heated words, but still this raised a concern for me. Why, I have help clients build communities using hashtag chats. I would hate for something like this to unfold during one of my client’s Twitter chats…but it could happen.

This weekly chat has been ongoing for a few years via Twitter, and it was started by Mack Collier. Mack, as the moderator of the chat, was a bit upset! Many of the chat attendees were calling the person who wrote the post above a troll and claiming that many of her comments as abusive. After reviewing the transcript…I did not see anything too abusive other the phrase “Shut-Up.” None-the-less…there was a disagreement, requests to contact Twitter for an abuse complaint, and maybe some hurt egos.

Bottom line…one person was not well liked and it was pretty apparent. This person kept on interjecting their opinion and it was perceived as abuse. So what is this a big deal?

Well, let’s ask a simple question…what is the policy of this chat? Specifically the commenting policy? And can anyone impose a commenting/chat policy when using a hashtag chat on Twitter?

This leads to an ownership question…who owns the rights to impose any chat/commenting policy inside a Twitter hashtag chat? Think about it…no one really owns the rights to this chat? Yes, no, thoughts?

There is no where to register a hashtag, claim ownership, or even purchase the use of a hashtag.

From TheVerge.com on Feb 7, 2013
“The hashtag isn’t a technology or even a platform service like the Facebook Poke. It’s more of an organizing principle, a way of opting into a larger public discussion. To get metaphorical: It’s more about the signal than the wire. It’s a good idea and it works. Everyone should be able to use it. And to Twitter’s credit, it’s not trying to lock down the hashtag. It hasn’t filed any patents or groused about other services ripping them off.

In part, that’s because it can’t. Twitter Inc. didn’t invent the hashtag, and it wasn’t even the first to use them in a tweet. By all accounts, that honor falls to Chris Messina, who picked up the hashtag shorthand from IRC protocols, and started using it as a way to organize discussions on Twitter in August of 2007. It didn’t even need any new tech: a simple character-string search would surface all the tweets with a certain tag. But the act of writing “#SXSW” instead of “SXSW” was enough to turn a jumble of search results into a meaningful, intentional conversation. At the time, there were plenty of skeptics, but the last five years have shown it to be a remarkably powerful trick.”

Forbes is reporting that brands might have a legitimate claim to a hashtag:
“Anyone with a legitimate claim to require targeted rights to a particular hashtag can secure that term for commercial exclusivity. If it’s used as a brand name – or a slogan related to a branded product or service – the hashtag then becomes protected from exploitation by other service providers in the same industry (as part of a phrase, like #ImLovinIt, but never alone). Even trademark protection won’t stop general users, and worse, spammers, from jumping on any trendy tag that gains momentum, but at least that carefully constructed brand identity is a little safer from unscrupulous competitors.”

What to do?
This is why if you are a brand or organization leading a Twitter based hashtag chat…there needs to be a section of your social commenting policy that addresses how to manage these chats.

We have always encouraged organizations leading hashtag chats to have a landing page with information about the chat, mainly for promotion purposes. But, now we should also include the commenting policy and rules for this chat on this same page.

Bottom line, you will not be able to force anyone from posting during a hashtag chat on Twitter. Managing a situation with un-wanted conversation can help, especially if there conflicting conversations taking place simultaneously. A good policy will help during these situations. Now it is time to go update all our social media policies and play-books.

Look above…that is the number of school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary School incident. That is 74 school shootings since December 14, 2012.

The biggest debate right now:

  1. 2nd Amendment
  2. Access to guns

I have one for you…how about the access to media, social media, and the velocity of the social share. We are content consumers…actually we are hungrier than a pack of wolves in the middle of winter. We crave content, we crave to share, we crave to be the one to post it to our news feeds…first.

We have evolved into narcissists and we have been adding fuel to this fire as the complexity and access to digital tools has pervaded our every minute of our every day.

We wake up and and check our phones and check our news feeds. We crave it and we are not afraid to glamorize those individuals who spray bullets through the halls of our schools. Our news agencies are even more a vital part of this equation. A what point does it make sense to stop reporting, stop posting, stop sharing the news of another shooting? This is a pubic information question.

As a young news journalist for a television station in Phoenix, our news management made a conscious decision not to follow police chases live with a helicopter, we did not want to glamorize and publicize such a hyper-volital situation.

It is my humble opinion…we need to stop clicking, stop sharing, and stop reporting these shootings unless it is absolutely necessary for public safety.

There is no reason I need to read about another school shooting in real time halfway across the United States. When it is posted, reported, and shared over and over and over again…it provides the realization that we are willing to place this situation upon digital alter for those to consume regardless of the recourse.

This is the very reason I do not like to click, share, or even slow down while scrolling when I see these stories. Why…I do not want to add to the digital fire that is erupting.

I am a gun owner, I have a concealed weapons license, I am a parent, and I am a concerned citizen. Information is king but the social share can be a dangerous weapon…just as dangerous as the loaded gun and the person pulling the trigger.

Next time…take a few minutes and look at your Facebook news feed and review what you have clicked, Liked, Shared, and even where you have commented. Take a look at your Twitter feed and see what you have shared, RT’d, clicked, etc.

Are you becoming a citizen journalist trying to compete with the local, regional, and national news outlets?

Our news feeds, our Twitter feeds, our social feeds are powerful influences. How can we use these tools to move away from reporting the horrific stories and create content that will out pace these breaking news stories and updates with content that will create positive change.

We live in one of the greatest eras where creating content and sharing organically can create influence that provides a language of change. It is time to quit clicking those news stories that reinforce the events of June 10, 2014…another school shooting in Oregon.

Here is a tweet from Governor Nikki Haley concerning education reform in South Carolina on July 9, 2014.

This one tweet became an instant case study for every social consultant, pr manager, and crisis communication manager.

This has become an example or even a great leading discussion to consider the following:

  1. Why/why not pushing across multiple channels should be a part of the strategy?
  2. What is an internal approval process for social media updates look like?
  3. Was this an honest mistake?
  4. Was this an opportunity to create a tremendous pr stunt the day before voting?
  5. How can the pr/crisis communication team turn this into a positive communication opportunity?
  6. Did she, Nikki Haley, post this herself from Instagram or was this from her communications team?
  7. If this tweet was posted from her communications team, is this considered authentic communication given her verified account status?

Did you watch the keynote address from Apple’s #WWDC14 opening day? Did you happen to see the first video before anyone walked onto the stage? I did and I was inspired.

How many story-lines can you list while watching this video? Here is what I came up with…I was typing in real time as watched and listened this video.

Story-lines:

  1. apps
  2. developers
  3. creativity
  4. drawing
  5. communication
  6. apps we cannot live without
  7. social media
  8. photography
  9. technology
  10. healthcare
  11. marine biology
  12. sailing
  13. databases
  14. global connectivity
  15. gaming
  16. baseball
  17. hope
  18. education/training
  19. dreaming for a better tomorrow
  20. music
  21. performing
  22. art of being a musician
  23. connecting apps to health
  24. bionic arms
  25. prosthetics
  26. intersection of technology and art
  27. inspiration

It is amazing how the use of storytelling and streams of themes come together in one piece…yet never really mention Apple. This is the power of connected content pulled together in one video, to tell little micro-stories that raise awareness for an over arching brand…one that we all can relate.

Powerful storytelling allows those who have language and passion to share their experience. Who are your storytellers?

So I found this on a pr/marketing firm’s website…and I think they raise an interesting question. Let’s look at this statement:

“Successful companies tell their stories well. Multiple channels today allow for storytelling on many levels. Our team helps clients tell those stories in the traditional way as well as through the digital and social media channels. It’s one thing to get good publicity and another to leverage it. We also help clients navigate the choppy waters of storytelling in less than ideal situations. Our advice to clients is simple: Tell your own story (good, bad or ugly) and tell it fast or someone else will.”

Yes…so who is telling your story? You? Your organization? The people in the organization? What is a good story?

Here is the biggest question of all…why do people really care about your story…your organization’s story. Why will they listen…or better yet…do *you* even know who the heck is supposed to hear your story.

Let’s go back to the above statement a few lines into this little statement:

“Our team helps clients tell those stories in the traditional way as well as through the digital and social media channels.”

What does that mean? What does it mean to tell a story in a traditional way? Does that mean we will be sitting down and listening from a book two weeks after it was published? And I noticed the dichotomy placed between traditional and social/digital channels. There is a huge fallacy in this statement…one that assumes social and digital are only channels for just sharing and not platforms for storytelling along with the multiple layers of curation opportunities.

Let’s move on to the next part of this statement:

“We also help clients navigate the choppy waters of storytelling in less than ideal situations.”

What does this mean? I am confused…what are the choppy waters of storytelling? Oh…you mean crisis communication…yeah…that’s it. So, it sounds like “we” are inferring that storytelling creates a crisis that needs immediate attention…oh…yeah.

What are we sharing about storytelling and the methods behind the craft. This makes it seem like that trials and tribulations arise from “bad” storytelling? Really!? What happens after a bad movie after you leave the theater? It is not a bad story…you just forget about it faster. But, you don’t create a crisis situation from your reaction…maybe if you cuss about the bad movie and offend someone around you.

HEADLINE…there is no such thing as bad storytelling. We are human and we are all attracted to different types of prose, visual communication, word-of-mouth stories…but who am I to say that your story is a bad story.

It is time to move away from this mainstream use of this metaphor that is turning into a buzz word…one that is as hollow as those who are selling these services. It is time to call a spade a spade.

Crisis Communication = Crisis Communication

So let’s wrap this dialogue up with the last line of this statement above:

“Our advice to clients is simple: Tell your own story (good, bad or ugly) and tell it fast or someone else will.”

My favorite part: “…tell it fast or someone else will.”

LIGHT BULB…there is no such thing as “else” in this or any situation. Everyone is telling a story, some are more well developed, some are in their infancy stages, and some have complex marketing initiatives behind them followed by tremendous organic/paid strategies.

So back to what this statement is really saying…PAY US and we will dump tons of money, time, and resources to make your story rise to the top beyond other well developed stories with limited paid efforts.

Regardless…
stories are still stories…
content marketing is still content marketing…
facebook/twitter/social ads are just like billboard/print/other ads…
organic search is just another form of digital word-of-mouth…
but…storytellers are still storytellers..some are just better than others!

So I leave you with this…from the American Storyteller Bob Dotson..

“Bob Dotson’s Storytelling tip: Tell me a story. Don’t give a speech. Don’t talk at me. Talk with me. Tell me something I’ve never heard before or tell it so well, I will want to hear it again, the way only you can tell it” 

We are all storytellers…not just highly paid, highly strategic pr/marketing firms!

 

I often wonder…how we truly understand Memorial Day. It is a day off for many…a day to cook-out, have family over to spend time, go to the lake, or just work in the yard.

What is Memorial Day? For years I used to mix up this national holiday with Veterans Day…until I became a journalist.

I remember the first time I was sent to capture a story of a family that just lost a loved one while serving. Serving in the Armed Forces was something I want to do…really bad. I was one of the first in my family not to serve. I wanted to fly planes in the Navy…but one little thing held me back. I have asthma and this 5’10” with a mathematics degree could not even get past the recruiter, even though majority of my family had served in each of the armed forces.

I remember that first time…that first visit. I remember knocking on the door, hoping that they would not be overly upset that a group of journalist wanted to interview them just hours after they learned they lost a loved one.

We knew…never go to the door with a camera. Always knock on the door with lots of compassion and earn trust. We always shared “our little pitch”…our goal is to help memorialize his memory.

Were we memorializing or just leveraging that moment in time to use as content to gain an audience. At the time…I did not have language for the ethical dilemma faced. But as time grew…stories were produced…I began to realize the distance between my ethical dilemma and the stories I was producing for digital equity was getting ready to crash.

What is Memorial Day? Is it a day to honor those who have fallen in order to provide the very blanket of freedom we enjoy everyday? Including that same freedom we call freedom of the press?

I remember this one story…always remember. His name was Staff Seargent Jason Ramseyer and his family will be forever changed. His family allowed a team from WCNC-TV to come spend the afternoon with them…to share a small piece of his story.

The photojournalist working on the story was only given a few hours to help produce this story for a same day turn around. This story needed a little more attention…a little more commitment than just an afternoon to produce this story.

Memorial Day has always stuck with me…and this story has always helped me distinguish the importance of this day from all other days in the year. I never met his family. But I knew on that day when it was decided to give this story a little extra something…I knew I had to help memorialize this one story. As my ethical dilemma wavered, I have always thought about this story, and that it would bring some resolve for all the other times I knocked on those doors asking a family to allow us to tell their story. I am glad I helped re-produce this story back in 2006.

Today is not like any other day…it is Memorial Day. I just hope we Memorialize those who lost their lives while serving this very nation we call home. No more…no less.

***This story was originally produced for WCNC-TV by a team including Anna Crowley, Kevin Ridley, Allison Andrews, and Bobby Rettew.  

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