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.
When I was working in Special Projects for WCNC-TV back in 2006, we were putting together a special show for fallen heros during the Iraq Conflict. A story came across our radar, one that was done for the News Department on a nightly turn around. This story touched my boss Allison Andrews and she came to me to see if I could re-edit the story, add some touches to it for a special show she wanted to put together.
Some of you do not realize, but in larger television markets; some stations have Special Project/Investigative Units staffed specifically to take stories that had more layers to investigate and invest for in-depth review and production. These stories had a little something different that was worth the extra time and effort. The News Department was tasked to find stories to find and produce within the same day. Sometimes they needed more attention. This story caught our eyes, ears, and hearts. This takes a lot!
You see, I have visited more houses during my time as a journalist, interviewing families who have lost loved ones serving our country. I have conducted more interviews, edited more stories about loved ones lost during their service. More stories than I choose to remember. But I should remember, because it is their service that provides the mere freedom and luxuries that I take for granted during my daily life. I am the only male on my father’s side of the family that did not serve his country. I was a mathematics major at Clemson and should have been in the Navy flying jets. But, I had asthma and the armed services threw up a red flag. Because of this…I try to find some way to honor those who have served in my place.
This Memorial Day, I remember a story from 2006. Marine Staff Sergeant Jason Ramseyer from Lenoir, North Carolina lost his life in a road side bomb in Iraq. It was April 20, 2006 to be exact when his mother and wife received the news that he had past away. He had two girls. I remember you Staff Sergeant Jason Ramseyer, and I am forever grateful for your service to this great nation. You have laid down your life in front of this altar of freedom, more than I could ever do for this great nation.
Here is the story we produced in his honor.
As they stand…
As we sit in services across this great nation
and we ask them to stand
they stand for us
to remind us
how many who stand for us.
We sit and wonder who are these people that stand around us
Each has a story
Each has a plan
Each has a time they have served.
We have asked in so many services
across this land of vast liberty
in our homes
to ask those who have served to stand
to be recognized.
We asked them to stand and serve
to serve what for what they believe
to serve for what others believe
for what we as a nation believe.
As they stand…
We remember those who are not with us
thankful for those who still stand with us
reminded of what they stand for
reminded for what they stood for
proud of their time served.
As I sit…
what have I done today
to serve this great nation
that provides this fertile ground I call home.
As I sit…
I look at those who stand
honored to be among great leaders
those who stood strong
and carried the altar of freedom
in their hands
holding firmly to protect
lightly enough to not to shatter.
As I sit…
I remember to recognize
those who stand!
As they stand!
I wrote this in the middle of church service today, the day before Memorial Day 2010. I was struck when the preacher asked for those who have served this nation, stand to be recognized. Men and women of all ages stood, hundreds of them from all walks of life, those with different ethnicities, ideologies, ages, branches of service, and times served. I was struck by the visual of those standing, as I sit in the pew wondering the true definition of Memorial Day. So my pen took over and I filled up every white space possible on my bulletin. But as I wrote, I was inspired three times in the service: when they stood, a passage from the litany*, and the chorus of the hymn**.
* From the Litany of Psalm 90
“People: May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.”
** From “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!
I memorialize those who faithfully served this great nation, to provided the very freedom I enjoy daily!
I leave you with this letter by President Abraham Lincoln to a Mrs. Bixby, one I think of all the time. So eloquent the words I feel explains the true blessing this nation has been afforded by those who we memorialize.
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
What does it mean to really tell a story? What does it mean to be in the zone? To feel totally connected with the idea you are trying to reach into, understand, taste, smell, iterate? What is the zone…that common place that we feel extremely connected to something not beyond our reach, but beyond our discourse, the language that describes.
Telling rich stories is finding the zone of understanding, comprehension, imagination…and turning that realization into pieces translated so others with like minds comprehend and give language. Language is symbolic. Opposing arguments create connected drama.
I am always in search of a good story. One that puts me in the zone. I am in search of people that want to tell their story, regardless if they admit it or not. I am in search of people and organizations that have a story to tell but yet have no discourse by which to translate so others can see their viewpoint through their lens.
I am looking for layers. Stories with layers engage and are memorable. It is easy to tell the beginning, middle, and end…but what about the stories that are not that simple. Stories, layers, richness that require thought, context, and multiple viewpoints to bring the audience into the zone of complete and utter comprehension. Connection.
What is the zone…the true commonplace. The space that is closed between your idea of comprehension and the place where the orator brings you to see his/her viewpoint. You know that place. It is the place similar to the movie theatre when slowly but surely you loose your peripheral vision and you are totally and completely engaged with the storyline. You forget your surroundings so much that you can almost smell the flowers in the screen, you can feel the water around you. Have you been there before. What does it take to create you own theater? An emotional connection.
The zone is the place where the author/orator meet the audience and they dance to this merry little song where you can recite the words just the way the writer meant for you to sing. That moment at a concert where the singer on the stage pauses during a common part of the song and the audience sings without skipping a beat…you know the zone. The place where audience and author/writer/orator are in complete cadence.
What does it mean to tell a story? Well…it is helping the audience find your zone, their zone and see the same red-string, the same theme in complete agreement.
Over two years ago, I ventured into this world of Social Media by opening my first Twitter account. I remember being on Facebook and watching my friends simply updating their status with “I am Twittering”. I was wondering, what the hell are they talking about. I had just opened my Facebook account a few months prior. So…off I went and I was trying to figure out this crazy world of Social Media and the technologies that support this crazy interaction.
I think I remember engaging in the Social Media Club here in Greenville, SC and attending one of the early Monday morning events. It was a new crowd that I have ever been exposed and thought, I need to figure this out quickly! As I navigated this new paradigm, I realized that the only way I was going to figure this mess out is find thought leaders in my community…to not only engage online but meet in person. I quickly starting using this new found 140 character communication pathway to follow people. Those who had lots of followers and were relatively close to me in my area.
I met so many interesting and diverse people. We had a common theme…figure this crazy thing out! Along the way I met this one person via Twitter. This person walked to a similar beat as myself. I started following this person’s Tweets and began to realize he not only had something to say but also had a good sense of business…and this crazy new paradigm shift. As I followed him, I started going through who was following him and who he was following. Honestly, I followed as many of people he was following as I could. I spent the first three months just watching the conversations. Learning the lingo, understanding the relationships in this place, figuring out who was doing business and who was just shooting from the hip without a leg to stand on!
This was right before the market “crash” and the marketing world was turned upside down. As I began to watch the conversations and see who was chatting, I quickly learned who the “thought leaders” were and who were those that were capitalizing on others ideas. I also learned how to leverage online relationships. Engage in thoughtful conversations and at the same time ask questions to help me figure out this new exploratory art, but not ask for too much info. You know, that free consulting thing that no one wants to give out.
I began to notice that this one individual had some street cred and he also shared some similar passions, using digital media and visuals to engage audiences. He was a photojournalist at heart! So I dropped him a DM and said, hey…can I buy you a cup of coffee. He agreed and one morning over two years ago in the Coffee Underground, I sat at a table and wondered if online business relationships could translate to in-person conversation. My new friend (and now colleague) and I shared a cup of coffee and a bunch of war stories about storytelling, photography, and this thing called Social Media.
Over two years later, we catch up, talk some business, have a few beers, and chat about dreams and possibilities! From branding, photography, documentaries, and even some local gossip…that beer every so often has turned into mutual trust. We have traded business, referred each other to potential clients, shared billable knowledge, and just shot the shit. Trust.
So, how can you measure your Social Media experience? He is actually one of the thought leaders when it comes to Social Media ROI. I think he is getting tired of talking about this broken record debate, but he has a consistent valid point, it is more than numbers. So what is my Social Media ROI after two years of engaging with this new fangled technology? Well…here it is: I have made a few friends, learned some cool knowledge, gained some followers, and even increased measurable web traffic to my site/blog. But here is the true Social Media ROI…I have made a good friend! I am blessed to have friends like Olivier Blanchard not only in my contact list, but in my quick dial to have a beer! I am fortunate to be able to say hey, this is more than all of this marketing bullshit! I have gained a colleague, one I can look up to and even call on for a favor! Ok mister @thebrandbuilder … I have an iPad waiting! Enjoy your trip to France!
So here is my question…who have you met via a Social Media and truly created a real relationship? This is not a corny question! Who? Who can you say you met online using one of the technologies and now have taken the relationship beyond the digital interface? What is your Social Media ROI?
The big debate and controversy is when people choose to tell the world when and where they are using Social Media. Basically checking in via Foursquare or Gowalla. Beyond this, using the geo-location option in Twitter via updates. So I have been thinking about when to use Foursquare and Gowalla to tell my location, and Twitter to tell what I am doing and where. My thoughts:
When I will not use Twitter, Foursquare, or Gowalla to update my status:
- When I am home – I will not allow these geo-location media’s to pinpoint my location at my house or say I am home and here it is on a map.
- When I am working with a client – unless it is used to educate the client via potential use of this technology.
- When I am at my family’s houses – I will not use geo-location to pinpoint my location. Their privacy is just as important as mine.
- When I am away from my house for an extended time and no one is there to watch the house. Even when I am on a vacation, I will not update my status using geo-location unless I am sure someone is watching the house.
Why have I sat back and made these distinctions? Well, last year I was robbed at my house in the middle of the night. I had over $13K in camera equipment stolen. The person only stole this equipment specifically and nothing else. They knew I where it was and watched my movements. The only way they knew my movements was based on some Twitter updates stating what I am doing and how I would be traveling. I do not want to disclose anymore, but after lots of research and retracing my movements…I know almost for certain that this happened because of my Twitter updates. I was new to the game and was not thinking through some of my comments and posts. I have learned a VALUABLE LESSON.
Have you sat down and thought through how and when you use Social Media’s and geo-locators? Here are some questions I think you should ask yourself or thoughts to ponder:
- When will I disclose my location via geo-locators?
- What places warrant updates, letting the wide world know where you are currently.
- Do you understand when you are updating your location at one place, you know that it means you are not somewhere else?
- Do you think there is an audience that can leverage the knowledge of your location to benefit them positively and impact you negatively.
- How can you benefit from this geo-location service? What benefit does it bring to your routine?
Geo-location is fun especially when checking into Starbucks, getting a badge, and then getting a discount. It is fun to find friends and others via geo-locators…it is like “being in the in-crowd.” But, can this fun new tool cause you more harm than good? I have learned and will continually learn how to leverage these fun tools and create a system of checks and balances for my daily use.
I know this is a business blog with business related topics, specifically storytelling, video, new media, and social media. But tonight I am at an interesting crossroad. This is a post about technology. You know I love my iPad and all of it’s relevant uses. About a month ago I received my iPad 3G in the mail. Ever since then, I have found so many uses beyond just content creation. From reading books, social media, games, drawing, mapping, even writing blog posts.
One of the uses I am looking forward to this fall is using the iPad to teach my Business Writing class at Clemson University. I will not only be able to download the books but also attach it the overhead projector and interact with the class as well.
But here is the cross road, I also use my iPad to read books that I like including the Bible. I have downloaded the Bible HD application that has this most popular text in numerous translations and version. I also take part in a class before I go to the church service. Some call it Sunday School, well we do not. It is one of those unspoken classes during the traditional Sunday School time period. It is kind of hidden away and we like to discuss religion from a whole new lens. I am probably to youngest person in this class…actually my wife has that claim. All of the other members of the class have 30 years minimum on us. Our class is known to many as the Heretics. We call ourselves the seekers.
Right now we are reading “The Soul of Christianity” by Huston Smith. It is not trying to counter or be skeptical of the past but Huston Smith tries “to show how the first-millennium Christianity can surprise the present with new life.” Great book and it makes me think.
Why am I writing this? Because I am debating whether to take a piece of technology into a Baptist church, as a reference to the Bible and this book we are reading. Walking into a class of 20 others where we are the youngest by 30 years with an iPad to take part in a discussion???Hmm…Martin Luther pissed off the Catholic Church by mass producing the books of the bible for others to read. He used technology to mass produce Bible for others to read.
Jesse J. Anderson in his blog talks about “How the iPad Will Change the Church” in his utilitarian explanation of how each piece of functionality will enhance the church experience. Jesse Orndorff in his blog post entitled “iPad for the Church?” talks about how he sees this tool helping pastors and the church. He talks about sermon research, media creation, and he says this “…now imagine what you can do with a iPad app. Embed full size video, sermons, notes, and bible verses. This could be really big for churches in this area.”
So I am torn. I do not want to be flashy yet unassuming. I am learning to use this piece of technology based on utilitarian opportunities. But, I do not want to piss off a church whom might be opposed to something they may not understand. Bringing technology into a southern church will be interesting. It is one thing to take into the class, but how about a southern church sanctuary.
What does this iPad represent? The changing role of technology? What has Apple brought into our lives? Just the other day I watched a movie with people walking around with thin like screens, thin as paper that represent portals of information. Will these mobile pieces allow us to educate and empower tomorrow’s quest for understanding? I will let you know after church tomorrow! I am still seeking…regardless of the technology.
So you want to start using video in your blog? You either have a camera, know someone with a camera, or willing to hire someone to produce it professionally? OK…stop, drop, and roll! Seriously, the fire is raging and you better take a chill pill before you pull out the camera!
First…ask yourself this question, why must you use video in your blog? Are you doing it because every other Tom, Dick, and Harry blogger is doing it and the peer pressure to keep up is so overwhelming that you can’t stand it anymore? Are you doing it because you feel like it will bring value to your audience, your customers, or your prospects? Why do you want to do a video blog?
Second, ask yourself…what is your vision for the video blog. Is it going to be this five minute monologue tyraid of you standing in front of the camera re-iterating the very same thing that could bring more value if you just wrote the darn post, and you were too lazy to write it in the first place? What do you really want to communicate? What is your vision?
Third…how do you want this video message to really impact your audience? Do you want to engage the audience with some educational piece that can bring value to their business or life? Or do you want to try to fill them with more useless knowledge that will add to the video noise currently out there competing in this vast space of social media.
Fourth…will the production quality of the video message(s) match the quality of the content? If you hire some jam-up production group to make it look awesome, provide you with high quality deliverables that will look awesome, but the content stinks…atleast they will say it looks good.
OK…now let’s get away from the sarcasm. Before your start a video blog…step back and think about what you really want to communicate and why are you choosing this medium. The video blog needs to bring value to the audiences’ experience and can compliment current content, especially if you have built a readership. The video in the blog needs to be short and sweet and give a true reason why someone will stop and watch. It should be no more than a minute and half! Really 1:30! For it to be effective, you need to do it consistently and provide some sense rhetorically why this blog post warrants a video to accompany the post.
Some of the most successful integration of video in blogs are ones that are unique in content, provide quick usable pieces of information, or shed some light on a subject. They are used on a regular basis where the audience knows there is a reason why someone is talking to them.
I worked with a lawyer where we used a video blog as a means to provide a series of FAQ’s or tid-bits about the law that inform individuals about specific legal statutes. We produced enough video content for close to a year where each video was released once a week. They had a branded introduction and we stored them on YouTube, embedding them on the blog. This provided great SEO especially since we used appropriate tags within YouTube and each blog post. Each one was no more a minute long and we positioned each of them with either a topic, event, or a case.
A great use for video in a blog can be a series of interviews. You can interview a subject and split each video up based on an individual question and response. This will allow an individual to have multiple videos from one interview, then you can spread out a series of post to promote your blog and the topics covered.
So…before you pull out that camera and try to one-up the next person; STOP, DROP, and ROLL. And do not roll the camera. Sit down and plan out the strategy for the video. Think audience, message, and delivery!
At the beginning of this year, one of my major initiatives when starting my new company is to offer high-quality video content for my customers and not be restricted specifically with Flash Video codecs. Why…well, it is heavy, takes for ever to encode, and does not maximize the high definition image my clients pay me so dearly to deliver.
First stop, go mobile. I did tons of research on companies providing solutions for mobile video delivery. From Brightcove, Kaltura, Sorenson and host of others were on my choping block to sift through and see what fits me best. Right now, 360 by Sorenson has worked well providing rich media delivery to not only web interfaces but also to iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. They have more to come and waiting on the HTML5 release.
But one of the major places I have been watching is the HTML5 discussion. I am currently using an HTML5 player on my homepage for video delivery. This allows different browsers select with video codec to use whether it may be Flash, Quicktime, or even OGG.
So…today was a big day in the video delivery arena. Google announced it’s acquisition of On2 Media and the release of the VP8 codec as an open source codec. As a part of this they announced the WebM Project as a part of the release of the VP8 codec as an open source codec.
***FYI, below are some links that explain all this stuff like HTML5, VP8, etc.
Now…what the hell does this mean for the end consumer. Web video delivery is changing faster than I can find a new gadget to buy. Also, Flash video is not the main gig anymore and I am thankful. With VP8 and other codecs that can be wrapped by an HTML5 player, high quality video will be delivered faster and to more browsers including mobile platforms. The big boys are openly acknowledging that offering video to the standard desktop is the wave of yesterday and the consumer demand to watch video over any mobile device is crucial.
So…when you are thinking about working with a video production group or a video technology group to distribute your video content, the game is changing fast. It is more than just burning a DVD and compressing to play on your website. It is now outputting the right flavors of your project and getting them to your audience. Seriously, audience and wear they watch the video content is the crucial equation to this game. If you are trying to reach people on an Android or and iPad, you better be able to distribute that message to that technology! Audience and Distribution is the crucial question!
A year ago, it was all Flash Video or some Quicktime for web. Becuase of that, you could not access this content on most mobile devices and some browsers. Now, with all the new mobile devices whether be in your pocket or on the door of your refrigerator…the next generation codecs and players like VP8, H264, HTML5 will allow you to get a message to a targeted audience regardless of the technology! Are you working with just cool video producers or are you working with peeps that can create the message and understand how and where it needs to be delivered?
Today’s Google Annoucement from the Google I/O 2010 Conference
Mashable’s 5 Tools for Integrating HTML5 Video into your Website
What is HTML5 Video from Wikipedia
What is VP8 from Wikipedia
The WebM Project
The Digital Media Update from Sorenson’s CEO Peter Csathy on VP8
I have been really enjoying the conversations lately on #blogchat, hosted by Mack Collier (@mackcollier) on Twitter. The weekly Sunday night chat is wrapped around blogging, and this past week was specifically geared towards monetizing your blog. Why do we blog? Seriously.
Businesses and organizations use blogs for many reasons, but I think it is specifically to position themselves as thought leaders in a specific discipline or arena. It is a great way to have an immediate position on a topic or ideal and generate traffic when audiences are looking to consume information. The ulitmate goal, drive traffic to your “mothership” in the hopes to gain some monetary goal or position a viewpoint to raise some awareness.
My wife has been blogging for over two years. She has no reason what-so-ever to gain any type of moentary position from her posts. She used it as an outlet when dealing with the loss of her mother and our two children. It has become her outlet to articulate thoughts, connect with others, and theraputically sooth the soul.
So why do we blog? I honestly think…we as humans just want to be heard and we want to connect with like minded individuals. Whether it be gaining business from our thoughts or connecting with loved ones, we use it as an outlet to organize thoughts.
So why do we as business owners blog? This is why I am writing this post. It is more than just the SEO perspective. It is more than gaining business from blog posts…even though we will not admit it. Blogs are a place to articulate our thoughts and help us keep focused in our business. This iterative process requires time and thought to critically think, “why are we dedicating time to an outlet in the hopes to generate cash?”
Blogging takes focus! It requires us as business leaders to write a mission statement for the blog. The blog is our sounding board for business, our credibility platform to justify to the world we know what the hell we are talking about. It requires us to define a goal for each post and justify whether it warrants a post, then focus it to specific key words that closely align with our business objectives.
Blogging is our creative outlet to work through creative ideas. Through this online discourse, we find ourselves creating an argument for a great project, a great proposal, a great business plan, or even just get some responses on an idea.
Some of the smartest marketing gurus and most successful business people have successfully found a focused voice in their blog. They have a community of followers, a one stop focus group (or usability testing facility) for ideas and thoughts. They have used their blog as a platform to successfully write their business plan. We should learn from them…because it has probably taken them lots of time and diligence to refine their blog, their online business plan.
Big-box business have a hard time wrapping their heads around how to “monetize” a blog because the voice is way to big. They are having to go micro and use individuals within the organization to focus the objectives. But…they use other marketing platforms to generate their own equitable “SEO”.
Our thoughts are our voice, if focused they will engage those with like minds. When you hear the heavy blogging gurus talk about focus…it is more that just focusing the blog, it is focusing the business of writing the blog.
After spending two days attending the InnoVenture Southeast Conference in Greenville, SC…I started to think about one of the speakers from the CHPRM’s Conference I attended last week. OK…let’s back-up for a second. Two different conferences, how in the world am I relating these two totally different topic areas: healthcare marketing and innovation/entrepreneurship?
CHPRM’s is the Carolina Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society who puts on two conferences each year, one happened this Spring. The opening speaker was a man by the name of Scott Regan who was talking about how to build a better brand. He said one thing that stuck out in my mind,”Be authentic! You have to be aligned: your head, your mouth, you heart, and your feet.” Hmm…makes sense. He then charged us with seven questions:
- Who are you?
- What is your product?
- How is it special?
- How is it different from others’ similar offerings?
- How can I demonstrate it’s trustworthiness?
- How can I demonstrate I am contemporary?
- How can I demonstrate cool?
As I walked through the InnoVenture Conference this past few days, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs, medium size to large companies, non-profits, etc. giving 15 minute presentations. These were more than just presentations but more like pitches. Each had to tell what made them special and what they needed to be successful, their elevator pitch. Some real good, some not so articulate. As I sat there…I thought about those seven questions and Scott’s quote: “Be authentic! You have to be aligned: your head, your mouth, you heart, and your feet.”
Creating messages with groups, whether it be a video message, direct mail piece, web landing page, or even a print piece…you have to think as it being a mini-elevator pitch for that particular situation. You have to get rid of the clutter.
I compare writing and executing a 30 second television spot and even 140 character tweet the same as an elevator pitch, asking myself those seven questions. It is easy to sit down and write a presentation for a pitch knowing your time is unlimited or even more than 30 minutes. But imagine having to to trim it to 5 minutes. It is just as hard as writing that same message in a 30 second spot or even a 140 character tweet. You have to be aligned, head, mouth, heart, and feet.
I was writing a script for a small business the other day and one of the first things I asked them to do is write out a one page description of their company’s message. From there, I sat down and spent time talking with them, challenging thought, presented opposing view-points, and began extracting a message. I am looking for that pitch, that memorable piece that if you were riding the elevator with Donald Trump, you would shake his hand, tell him what you do…enough so that you leave him with a taste in his heart to want to ask you to jump off the elevator and talk more.
I would much more prefer writing a memorable pitch, a memorable script, or a memorable piece of marketing that can achieve more in 140 characters (or 30 seconds) that two pages of boring non-sense. OK…I have written 2 hour documentaries and produced long form work that warranted story development, but the principal is still the same.
So what is my point here in this long drawn out madness? We have to be memorable, authentic to survive in this crazy game called business. It is healthy for us to ask ourselves those seven questions and not only apply it to our message, but how we do business. From state supported universities to major big box companies to small businesses…we are trying to leverage what we can to succeed. We have to be aligned in-order to be authentic.
I was talking with Russ Davis from Sandler Sales Institute today as he was explaining how he helps groups become successful. I felt like he and I were speaking the same language, helping people define their objective, understand their audience and goals, and refine the message…drill it down until it is memorable. That Russ Davis…he is a smart guy and so is Scott Regan and John Warner of InnoVenture. Where do you want to go and what do you need to get there? Ask yourself the seven questions and remember to “Be authentic! You have to be aligned: your head, your mouth, you heart, and your feet.” I need a dose of my own medicine!