Are you seeking the handouts used at our workshop at the IABC World Conference in Washington, DC? If so, they can be found on The Zombie Business Cure Website here.
Thanks everyone for attending the workshop! We had fun taking zombies and communication strategy with you!
Please use and/or share any of the following items with others.
- Slides from my talk "What Would A Trauma-Informed Website Look Like?"
- Editable One Page Communication Plan
- Editable Action Plan Handout
- Hemingway Editor (Use Free Version)
- Broken Link Checker (Free)
- Spell Checker (Free)
- Google Speed Test (Free)
- Pingdom Speed Test (Free)
- WebPageTest Speed Test (Free)
Great book for further learning about UX: Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug
The webinar on August 11 will be on NCCADV's webinar page soon.
Let's make trauma-informed websites a trend so we can better help survivors!
Videos can be very effective for marketing, but they aren’t cheap to make. And low quality videos have poor return on investment. Research by the Content Marketing Institute looked at 200,000 YouTube business videos and discovered that more than 50% of them had less than 1,000 views. Many videos created by businesses and other organizations are boring, poorly made, or just blah. When investing in video, you should aim for high-quality results that support your marketing objectives.
So how do you create the best video possible for your money?
The key to creating a terrific video and having a great relationship with your video team is to get everyone the same page - and keep them there. So says the experienced team at StoryDriven, a marketing firm with a specialty in documentary-style video located in Durham, NC. The group has made videos for organizations such as Harvard Business School, CrossComm, Durham Academy, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina.
I sat down with Nathan and Bryce of StoryDriven to understand how we can do a better job of working with videographers, keep on the same page, and end up with impactful videos. Learn from them in our interview below:
What are your goals as videographers?
Bryce: We want to make sure that we are communicating the message that truly needs to be communicated. We need to take time to understand what the client is trying to say and get all the important information before we start shooting. Success often depends on the pre-production work - figuring out the right structure of the story, doing pre-interviews, and so on - you should have a clear idea of how the video should be laid out before you start producing it. This makes for an enjoyable experience.
Nathan: Also we want to be a strategic content partner that goes beyond video. For example, we can take your video and transcribe it and then you have tweets for days or weeks. We can pull still frames with quotes overlaid for easy social media posts. We want to see that your video has maximum impact, so you can reach your business goal and feel you got the most of your investment.
What things do clients do that annoy you?
Nathan: It's frustrating when we get called in, and the client has already decided on all the things that make a story good or bad. If we don’t have the chance to give input and bring our expertise as storytellers through video, we are limited from the get-go. Some clients would rather have their video vendor execute than be a collaborative partner. And we’ve realized that videographers start to expect this. But we help our clients get more out of their video when we develop ideas together. We’ve seen what works and doesn’t over many years and types of videos.
Bryce: Good communication is key to any healthy relationship. Part of that communication is aligning expectations. Assumptions about responsibilities and workload is a formula for disaster. Our job is to educate our clients and be their guide throughout the process. Take workload for example, oftentimes clients don’t realize that even a small change to a video will require us export, compress, upload and deliver it again - changes should be sent in batches so the process isn’t bogged down with a continuous stream of minor tweaks.
What do you wish clients did more of?
Nathan: Provide positive feedback along with negative feedback - that’s always nice, we are human beings too.
Bryce: Patience is important. If someone were to come to us saying, "We need this next week," that’s just not realistic for success. Video needs to be incorporated into your strategic communications plan. Give your video partner a three month window.
How much do high quality videos cost?
Nathan: It depends on the complexity of the story being told and the length of the video. It’s actually harder to make a shorter video than a longer one. There is a wide range in the industry, but the best videographers in our area might price a video with three characters anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000.
Bryce: It's always going to cost more than you think it is. If you are deciding who to use based on a bid war, you might luck out and find someone early in their career who charges less. But, you want to make sure that you are working with someone who “gets it,” wants to understand who you are and where you are coming from, and can expand upon your brand. Keep in mind that big equipment does not equal value. Value is understanding and being able to collaborate with a trusted partner.
Do you have any other advice for those hiring videographers?
Nathan: Always give your video person a deadline even if it's arbitrary. This helps us prioritize our other work and get it to you in a reasonable time. And be sure there is one contact person for us who can consolidate feedback so we aren’t getting different direction from various team members.
Bryce: If you work with someone to build a relationship, every time you do a project together it's going to get better since both parties come in with more knowledge and understanding of the situation. We love what we do and think that not only can we produce terrific videos, but the process itself can be fun for all.
Nathan: Yes, we love what we do and especially like finding partners to work with for the long-term. View your video team as a relationship, treat them like you like to be treated, and you are going to get more exciting video and care on your projects.
Thank you, StoryDriven team!
Check out some recent work by StoryDriven:
Top content strategists and technical communicators from companies such as Google and PayPal showed up in New Orleans for the Lavacon 2015 Conference. The conference organizer, Jack Molisani, put on a useful, inspiring and quirky event - jazz bands and coloring books included! There were a number of great speakers at Lavacon, including David Dylan Thomas of EPAM, Sarah O'Keefe of Scriptorium and Emily Shields of Facebook.
Here’s a recap of just one of the sessions I thoroughly enjoyed:
When Easy Isn’t Enough: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Content Strategy and UX by John Caldwell and Ria Hagan of Inuit
Who would have thought that the people behind TurboTax would turn to video gamers for direction?
These content creators at Inuit had one goal in mind:
To increase emotional engagement with TurboTax customers
They knew the video game industry was killing it in this realm. So, the Inuit team spoke with video game designers and others in the gaming industry to learn how they achieve that emotional response from users.
The four main conclusions from their research are:
1) It’s the customer’s story, not yours.
The customer is the hero, while TurboTax is the supporting character in the game. It’s up to the customer to determine how much they want to learn, and it's TurboTax's job to anticipate players' desires.
2) Give them what they want. Not what they don’t.
Just like gamers skip stories called “cutscenes,” users skip items they don’t want. Sometimes it’s not about making the content more efficient. Even if it’s a well scripted video or a short paragraph, if users don’t want it, it will be skipped. Just give users what they want - and offer optional learning for anyone who would like to go deeper.
3) We must accept that people are crazy.
We use our lizard brain to make decisions (there’s no way around it) so we need to plan for this. The book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely is a good start to understand people’s illogical nature. Side note: Ariely is from my hometown of Durham, NC and very nice!
4) Get comfortable with being (really) uncomfortable.
“Can we do more than just talk about actions?” Ria asked. She suggested that perhaps TurboTax could acknowledge the shame around money and empathize with customers' vulnerability as they do their taxes.
To this end, the software now asks customers how they feel about doing their taxes today and gives them some buttons to choose from. Depending on which button you select, an appropriate empathetic message is shown. This human touch is unexpected from tax software.
For each of their main points, the presenters gave terrific examples from both video games and “real life” to explain their learning. The result of their research and newfound knowledge is revamped content within the TurboTax product. The voice and tone are now more human and empathetic.
For example, the title “Education Expense” has become “Let’s get you some tax breaks if you went to school.” In time we will see the degree of success of these changes. But many of the folks in the room were Turbo Tax customers and seemed enthusiastic.
Despite rarely playing a video game in my life, I still found the presentation intriguing and may even considering switching to TurboTax to do my taxes. I heard authenticity and care for customers from both of the excellent Inuit presenters. Thanks, John and Rita!
And I’m going to pay attention to their lessons learned and see how they might apply to the content on my latest project, a website related to sanitation. This topic might typically be subject to the same low enthusiasm as taxes.
Can you apply any of these video game ideas to your business or projects? Do you think this could improve the UX for your customers and increase their emotional engagement?
If you have questions on the presentation or want to talk about one of these ideas, please get in touch with me.
Here's the content managers pledge I presented at LavCon 2015: I pledge in front of my esteemed LavaCon colleagues for the superior content for which we stand,
to always have a project goal to communicate clear deadlines to provide organized feedback promptly and to treat my content authors with the care they deserve
so our one project together can become many, with unicorns and rainbows for all.
One photojournalist in Iraq narrowly avoided death by explosion when she declined to get in the first vehicle of a convoy. Another woman was mugged twice in a short trip to Africa. As I listened to these photographers speak, I thought about how easy my job is helping people improve their websites. I spent a recent weekend at the National Press Photographers Association Northern Short Course to further my multimedia storytelling and photography skills. I was awed by the amazing images that people sometimes risk their lives to get. I was also able to glean many pointers that apply to anyone who owns a website.
Here are five important things relevant for any website owner or content manager:
1. Seeing is believing. Photojournalists and videographers are providing visual evidence to give weight to facts, statistics and stories. Whether it’s the war in Syria or poverty in Tennessee, seeing images makes things real. Whatever service or product you provide, using photos and videos can have outsize impact on your viewers.
Are people’s lives transformed by your work? Get them on video talking about that. Show what their lives look like now. Is it really easy to use your product? Demonstrate that visually. If you’ve created a big happy community, give us genuine pictures of joyful people interacting on your website. Show, don’t tell, when possible. It’s so much more compelling when we can see the process and/or the results.
2. People need to get the idea from one picture. On the safer side of photography is portrait specialist Greg Heisler (pictured, right). He has shot more than 70 Time magazine covers including most celebrities you can name. Heisler explained that he makes sure that he has that one image that encapsulates the main message of the story. Although he will shoot other photos for interior pages, his audience needs to get a strong sense of that famous person by looking at one photo.
Similarly, the pictures you choose for your website, especially your homepage, have to represent what you do very well. Your photos must capture the main messages you are trying to send. People make very fast decisions about websites and move through them quickly – you often have only a few seconds to make an impression. Finding the perfect pictures for your website takes time, but it's worth it. And please, don’t use carousels (aka sliders) – users usually ignore them or find them annoying.
3. You have to have a good reason to produce something longer than a minute. This gem is from Ben Garvin, a photojournalist based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Currently I've noticed that video is a favorite content tactic. Yet attention span for viewing video is very short. Abandonment rates on video are tremendous – in fact, research from the Nielsen Norman Group states you lose 20% of your viewers within the first 10 seconds of a video.
If you are using a promotional video on your website, keep it as short as possible! Spend the money to hire a great videographer. Watch this terrific example of a well-made video created for a non-profit organization. If you have audio stories or testimonials, edit them down to be short and powerful.
4. It's important to avoid jarring the viewers. This idea came from photojournalist John Kirtley of Asheville, North Carolina, as he explained his editing process. (You can see a particularly inspiring news video he produced below.) He really keeps viewers in mind and is careful not to startle them as he puts together his stories. You need to apply the same idea to your website.
Pop-up windows, auto-playing music or videos and even anchor links can startle website users. These are not the kind of surprises we enjoy, yet I encounter them regularly. If you aren’t sure if something is jarring, try it out on a few honest friends. Check out their reaction to make sure you aren’t hindering instead of helping your website users.
5. People remember what they feel. If something makes you smile or feel some sort of emotion, you pay attention to it, Kirtly explained in his session “Making the Most of the Mundane.” Keep this idea in the forefront of your mind as you plan your website - how are you making your users feel?
Improving user experience for website visitors is on the rise but remains a competitive advantage. Your focus should be on your website user. Help them feel trust, ease and happiness when they visit your site. Can they accomplish their goals quickly and easily? Is it possible to delight them along the way? MailChimp does a great job of this with not only with a great product but also a high-fiving monkey after you send out an email blast. It’s a small but memorable touch that puts a smile on my face.
You don’t have to risk your life to help your website users, you just need to pay better attention to them. Channel your inner photojournalist, and start now.
For some extra inspiration check out this video produced by John Kirtley:
As much as I dislike the cold weather, when snow falls, we all slow down here in the South — and that I secretly love. We have to pause because most of us don’t have experience driving in snow, and our area isn’t well prepared for “wintry mix” or serious snowstorms. There’s usually a flurry of activity at the grocery store in the 24 hours before a storm, but then a hush falls over the town I live in.
There is great value in this forced slowing down.
When I think about websites, content and technology, I deeply believe the best experiences don’t come from hurrying. I’m not just talking about the final results — perhaps a beautiful, responsive website — but also the process for the people who create these things.
There is a quote I love that I refer to often:
“We live by slowing down and saying with our lives that the world will not be saved by frantic activity.” – Stanley Hauerwas, theologian, Duke University
This is written on top of my digital to-do list. When I’m hurrying to create content, it’s not fun. It's evident in the final product. I do better work when I listen, consider, reflect, reconsider, then act.
Especially on social media, it can feel like lot of pressure to produce things quickly – for example, another blog post or more tweets. “Don’t just sit there, do something!” sometimes seems to be the message.
But when I look at the people and organizations I really value, they aren’t bombarding me with information or running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Two examples come to mind:
- Smashing Magazine who only emails me once a month with a newsletter. I look forward to it because I know it will have thoughtful, interesting and useful content in it.
- Twitter member and usability expert Steve Krug tweets every few days or less. I like reading what he tweets out, and I don't need him to tweet 5 times a day.
Much of the time on Twitter and other online spaces, there are organizations and people spewing information about nothing of value. If I came across these overly talkative folks at a party, I would likely scoot to the other side of the room.
Now you can be that person at the party who talks all the time to hear themselves talk, or you could be the person who speaks up less frequently, more deliberately and more thoughtfully. At least for many professional service businesses and organizations, the second option may serve them best (e-commerce might be another story). I value those people who are ok with the silence and the slowing down, who trust that frantic activity isn’t going to make our websites better or our lives better or the whole world better.
I vote we slow down more frequently to do more impactful work and have more meaningful conversations. We can make this world a better place to be.
Let it snow!
A few weeks ago I wrote about how it’s important to determine your story first, then choose a good format to tell it. Your story will give you clues as to the best way to share it. If you are a business, you might be telling the story of your founding or sharing a customer experience. If you are a non-profit, perhaps your story offers why your work is important or how donations make a difference. When should you use video for a story? Based on my experience, here are some signs that video may work:
- A process is involved that you can show. For example, you could showcase how people use your product or the way your product is made.
- People in the video are engaging and confident on camera.
- Movement is included. I literally mean things are moving in the video - people walking, flags fluttering, children jumping, etc.
- Kids or animals are subjects - they are usually appealing on camera.
- Hearing emotion in the voice and/or showing emotion in the faces of people is important to the story.
Let’s look at a great example of an engaging and effective video:
This might be the best public service announcement I’ve ever seen. According to the non-profit’s website, this ad was created to raise awareness of the importance of wearing a seatbelt. The organization stated it didn’t want to go with the “shock and awe” approach commonly found in road safety ads. Despite a fairly simple concept and camera set up, the emotion, surprise, and slow-motion make this video very memorable. It was a creative and interesting idea executed really well.
Another place you can go for inspiring and interesting video stories is Kickstarter.
Now, think about the stories you could tell about your own business or organization. Which story can you tell via video?
If you remember nothing else about this blog post, take away this:
Story FIRST, then format
I talk with small business owners every week who have this backwards. Recently, I had a typical conversation with a retail business owner who had a few online videos on his website:
Me: “Tell me about these videos.” Biz Owner: “We had to create videos. You know, people really want to watch videos, we had to do it.” Me: “I’m not getting any of the important things you told me about your business in these videos. They don’t match your branding or feel or have a clear message. I was confused when I watched them.” Biz Owner: “Oh. Hmm. . . . . But people like videos so I had to do something.”
Like many business owners, he had it backwards - he was choosing to use a video to tell others about his business, BUT he wasn’t clear on the story and message that he wanted to share
We know videos have extremely high abandonment rates - many viewers will leave after 10 or 20 seconds. Bad videos aren’t going to help your business at all. In fact, they just undermine your credibility.
FIRST determine what story you want to tell. Think of stories that best tell what you do and how people’s lives are changed by your business. (If you are having trouble with this, consider checking out The Story of Telling blog by Bernadette Jiwa.)
After you are clear on what the story is, THEN choose the proper format - text, video, graphic, photos or some combination of these.
Your story will give you clues as to the best way to tell it. For example, if you are explaining a process, a graphic or video might be great. On the other hand, if you are talking about a decisive moment in your business history, a photo and text combination might work.
For example, a young woman I know wanted to start a cape business. Knowing kids and beautiful capes would be involved, she made a great video for a Kickstarter campaign. Her campaign goal was $15,000. She was wildly successful and raised $45,000 to start her business. That video really helped her.
Story FIRST, then format
Burn this idea into your consciousness and make your content decisions by it. Take a moment right now if you can to think of a story you can tell about your business. Send me an email if you want to run it by me for feedback.
In my next post, I’ll talk in more detail about when a video format may be the best way to tell a story.
Content strategy is a relatively new term that began to be used in web circles in the late 90s. It's commonly used by many professionals now. What is it? Why should you care? Here's my short explanation of what content strategy is:
Content strategy provides useful information to your audience so they get what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. It's the planning, creation, and management of content in all forms.
If you bother to make content (create a website for example), it's worth thinking about content strategy. Simply put, you are more likely to get your goals met if you do some planning first.
Is content strategy the same as a communication plan? No. A communication plan would contain a content strategy. A communication plan is broader - it will specify overall goals for your organization, audiences, timelines, measures of success, etc.
You may be a very tiny business, perhaps a one person show, and wonder if you should be worried about this stuff. The answer is yes. You are more likely to be a successful and lasting business if you plan your communication. You will also then ensure you won't look like a zombie (book forthcoming on this topic).
If you don't have much time to devote to communication planning or content strategy, you can head the right direction by answering these questions:
- What is important to my organization? What values do I/we hold dear?
- What are my goals?
- Who is the primary audience I need to reach with my content? What are they like?
- How can I best reach them? What would they like to see?
This is a start toward a communication plan and content strategy. Let me know if you have questions or need help!