5 Tips for the Dreaded Corporate History Video

The request often brings shivers to any producer assigned the corporate history project. But these projects can be fun to work on and a great opportunity for creative expression. The “SAS Corporate Timeline: A History of the Analytics Leader” covers important company highlights in an entertaining way. Produced by Todd Johnson with animation done by Jeff McFall and the graphic and multimedia team at SAS, the program follows five solid design principles.

1) Keep it Short – In the age of on-line video keep the program short. That means prioritizing the most important information to go into the program. For organizations with a short history that might not be too much of a problem, but for organizations that have been around awhile it can be a challenge. Suggestion: When more information needs to be presented, propose a secondary project and build out a more complete timeline in multimedia format. Create a web deliverable to allow users to dig as deep as they like into the organization’s history. Develop a spin off project in print format that can be offered as a PDF download. Your client will appreciate the suggestions and it demonstrates the added value you bring to the project.

2) Select Interesting Content – This is fraught with as much political posturing and agendas as anything that goes on in the UN General Assembly. This is where having one client is so important. These projects will never please everyone, so be sure to please at least one client. The content should lend itself to development of interesting visuals. Text can be used in interesting ways to deliver specific messages while compelling visuals deliver the backstory. Suggestion: This format is ideal for creating multiple versions (i.e. new clients, additional projects, multiple billings!). For those parts of an organization that feel their content/message did not receive enough attention, sell them their own version!

3) Build New – Organizations with a long history are likely to have a storeroom of old photos, films, documents, awards… the list goes on and on. All of this stuff means something to someone. As the producer, it’s important to maintain creative control of the presentation and use, or not use, these materials. Nothing will drag down a timeline project faster than visual discontinuity. Without explanation they can be confusing or meaningless. You might be able to weave them into a background montage, but primary visuals should be constructed new. Suggestion: Historical assets can help bring to life web-based infographics and publication material where written information can detail their relevance.

4) MOS or Narrated – Why not both? Here is another opportunity to add value and build a stronger client relationship. Most clients requesting these projects will have a narrative in mind. However, in most cases these programs find their greatest value in environments where sound won’t work, such as at a trade show, within a demo center, or on a display wall. Build the program so the visuals can stand alone; accompanied by an optional mix track. Create a separate version with a narrative track for situations that are more presentation than environmental. Suggestion: A narrative track should not just drive text visuals. Allow any narrative to supplement the visual elements and add an additional layer of information.

5) Update/Change Flexibility – If an organization is successful the timeline project will need updates. If additional client departments want a modified version, that’s a change request – same with foreign language translations. A year or two after release there will be new history and most likely changes to the corporate message. The changes might be subtle, but changing any video project requires work. Changes need to be planned for ahead of time. Build the project in layers so selected elements can be more easily changed. And archive, archive, archive. Keep everything, label it well, and file it so future updates can be made simple and seamless. Suggestion: If the organization is global, text and language changes are likely requests resulting from a successful project. (Especially true if you market the program to others within the company.) If properly constructed, changes to these layers can be easily accommodated. Less obvious are changes to background imagery. Build into the original presentation the ethnic, gender, and geographic profile that best represents the company as a global organization.

For the corporate producer or the independent, these projects can provide visibility and showcase your abilities. They can be the springboard to additional projects and future opportunity.


Why Now is the Time for Professional Organizations

While campaigning for president, Bill Clinton reminded himself and his supporters, “It’s the economy stupid.”  During an earlier era, the 1928 presidential election turned on the campaign slogan “A chicken in every pot.  And a car in every backyard to boot.”  The economy and by extension jobs, is an issue that’s always front and center of any discussion.

So why is now the time for involvement in your professional organization?  Simple, it comes down to one word – jobs.  With one exception, every job I’ve ever been offered was the result of a connection made through MCA-I (formerly ITVA), a professional association that I’ve been part of for many years.

While still in college and before entering the workforce, I attended an ITVA Conference as a student ambassador.  That stood out on my resume and my first boss took a chance and hired me.  Six jobs, lots of career twists and turns, and the connections made through MCA-I are still an important part of my professional life.

But before the jobs came the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.  Professional organizations, like MCA-I, always need volunteers.  Committees need volunteers… local chapters need help… national organizations need people willing to become involved and make things happen.  Opportunities abound to develop technical knowledge, improve communication skills, or build experience manage people and complex projects.

So how did these jobs come about?  In one case it was the result of hosting a workshop.  Another job came about through a chance encounter on an elevator.  Simply put, connections were made, relationships established, and career opportunities were the result.

In today’s Web 2.0 world, coupled with social networking using a wide range of social media channels, many question the value of professional associations and contacts.  Without a doubt virtual networking plays an important part in building a professional network and remaining in contact.  But there’s no replacement for personal contacts, friendships, and relationships made and strengthened through personal contact.

While learning my craft at my first job in corporate communications, I was asked to moderate a workshop at a national ITVA Conference.  With encouragement from my boss, I agreed and assembled a panel of experts.  During the workshop the panel did most of the presentation.  My remarks were limited to introductions and giving directions to the rest rooms.  Still, I was on-stage with some very experienced veterans.  Several years later while seeking a new job, I sent a resume to a company looking to hire.  The department head recognized my name and recalled the workshop at the annual professional development conference.  I got the job and in the process learned the value of networking.

Several years ago I received a call from a producer located on the other side of the country.  He needed a shooter for a single talking head interview.  I’m not sure why he called me, but I gave him a couple of names and made recommendations.  As occasionally happens, one shoot led to another, then to a bigger project, and continuing on-going work.  As far as I know, the producer and the shooter have never met or even been on the same coast at the same time.  But they continue to do business together.

My current job is the result of a professional connection that goes back to the days of ¾” U-Matic and 1” helical tape.  A lot has changed since then.  Before coming to work at SAS, I got to know many of the people I now work with.  We attended events and conferences together.  We ran into each other at places like NAB and monthly ITVA/MCA-I chapter meetings.  When it became time for another career move, I reached out to some of the people I’ve known so long at SAS.  I was fortunate, an opportunity arose and I’m now on staff writing and producing video and multimedia for SAS.  Without the professional connections made and nurtured over years, it’s doubtful I would have had the opportunity.

If you want to know about opportunity created while riding an elevator, you’ll need to either give me a call or come by for a visit.  We can exchange business cards (yes, people still do that), if you bring your iPhone we can bump, or we can connect via LinkedIn.  Who knows, it might just open a new door.

News & Information in the Era of New Media

News, and the business of news, has changed.  Advances in technology, in parallel with changes affecting the business of broadcasting, have had a profound effect on how consumers receive news and information.  The June meeting of the Central Carolina Chapter of MCA-I explored these themes with a behind-the-scenes tour of WRAL and a look at how news and information is managed across multiple channels, technology platforms, and made available 24 hours a day.

Companies like Capital Broadcasting (parent company of WRAL) have long had multiple divisions and more than one way to reach an audience.  Station owners often had television and radio properties that ran as separate businesses.  Fast forward to the era of new media, and those lines have blurred.  The Internet and web-based media have given consumers new choices in how and when they receive information.  Accelerating this trend is the mobile web, with information available anytime and from almost anywhere.  To survive in this new environment, broadcasters like WRAL have made significant investments in on-line, web-based channels.  In today’s 24-hour information environment, content must be available from more than just static websites ‑ consumers also demand access from their choice of mobile platforms.

The changes affecting broadcast news are clearly visible when visiting the WRAL newsroom and touring the facility.  At every turn, traditional broadcast teams sit and work alongside the new media team.  Now undergoing a massive digital facility upgrade, WRAL is constructing a new master control room and streamlining the process of asset exchange between the TV and new media teams.

In the news room, news gathering and reporting producers sit side-by-side with their counterparts on the .Com side.  WRAL has 30 content producers assigned to the new media team.  Having both broadcast and new media channels available, breaking news is never embargoed.  Once verified, the station has the option of delivering the news through its website, on Facebook, or by Twitter.  “Our broadcast and new media teams work together in the newsroom every day,” said John Conway, Creative Services Director at WRAL.Com.  “We’ve created an environment for cooperation and sharing where WRAL-TV does the first line reporting and news gathering, which will then be used by the WRAL.Com Web Content Producers.”

From its website, WRAL.Com delivers over 40 hours of live video each day.  The website provides access to over 45,000 video clips in its archive and delivers over 60,000 video views per day.  For advertisers, WRAL.Com offers a highly targeted marketing opportunity.  Over 70% of the website users are within the local viewing area, putting ads in front of people who shop locally.  Traffic to the website peaked on the day of last presidential inauguration.  WRAL.Com supported up to 3,000 simultaneous connections and delivered over 890,000 video views.  That’s a lot of web traffic!

Thanks to the team at WRAL-TV and WRAL.Com for a fascinating inside look at how news and information is managed in the era of new media.  Great meeting!

Listening and the Art of Social Web Marketing

At the DMA 2010 Conference, Chris Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs, spoke about the importance of listening as an enabler of social web marketing.  Active listening is a critical skill in both life and business – just ask anyone who has a spouse or a boss.  [Fill in own joke here.]

What is active listening?  It’s a process that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.  In the context of the social web, active listening is what enables a business to understand, measure, and take action.  It’s the foundation upon which are built the four Cs of social media: Connect, Content, Capture, and Capitalize.

During his presentation, Brogan gave a personal example of the social web and the wisdom of crowds.  An impulse shopper, he used the collective intelligence of his broad network of followers to research an electronics purchase.  His search started on Google, friends offered their suggestions, and a tweet from H&H Photo in New York closed the deal.  “The next thing you know, I’m shopping.  I’m shopping, when I was just kind of complaining.”

In this short video clip, Brogan offers some very practical advice on how people socialize and interact with each other across the Web.  Learn how business can engage in the conversation, better connect with consumers, and nurture relationships.

Social media veteran Chris Brogan is a prolific blogger and co-author of the best-selling book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.

Social Media Meets Main Street

On Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, stores open early and shoppers stay late.  For those not wanting to fight the crowds, Cyber Monday shoppers go online in search of bargains.  Now, enter a new retail holiday tradition.  The inaugural Small Business Saturday, organized by American Express, encouraged holiday shoppers to support small, independently owned local businesses.  In this, the season of miracles, a new tradition is born.

Small businesses fight year around for a share of consumer spending.  This is never truer than at the holidays.  Local merchants in the village of Southampton, NY have turned to social media to share some holiday cheer and remind area residents why they should shop locally.  On Facebook, Shop Southampton, NY, promotes shopping events, sales, and the village’s picturesque setting.  Looking for other ways to promote local business, a group of merchants helped with production of a promotional video featuring local kids dressed as elves frolicking through the village and its quaint shops.  Posted to YouTube, the video has been well received by area residents.

Here’s hoping your holidays are bright and as cheerful as that of the Southampton Elves.  Click through to YouTube and share the magic of where social media meets main street.


Structure an Effective PowerPoint Deck

PowerPoint is the tool marketers love to hate.  At least that’s what I hear at almost every conference, seminar, and workshop.  At a conference I attended this fall, the moderator of the two-day event declared it a “PowerPoint free zone.”  Within five minutes he called up the event agenda… on a PowerPoint chart… so much for a PpT free zone.

There is a lot of good information on-line about PowerPoint design principles.  Here’s a tip about how to structure a good PowerPoint chart deck.  Use the onion approach, build content layer-upon-layer.  This approach can be especially helpful when as a presenter you may not be in control of your time on the agenda.

Chart 1 Title Slide: Often thought of as a placeholder, this could be the most important chart in your deck.  Use it to own the topic.  If this is the only chart people see from your presentation, it should convey your organizations expertise and leadership.  It should include your name and contact information as the thought leader on the topic.  If presentations are made available following an event, the only chart from your presentation some people might see is the title slide.  Make it good, capture attention, and take ownership of the topic.

Chart 2 Presentation Summary: Skip the agenda and bio slide, make this chart the elevator pitch.  Everything the audience needs to know about your capabilities should be summarized on the second chart.  That doesn’t mean using 3 point font and cramming in dozens of lines of text.  All the rules of effective design still apply.  (Large font, limited words per line, etc.)  Use images and bold text.  Drive home a single take away message about: 1) Features or Background; 2) Benefits or Opportunities; and a 3) Call-to-Action.  I’ve been in meetings where the audience (usually a group of executives politicking for advantage) has interrupted the presenter who never got past the second chart.  Structure your talk so that if your time on the agenda is hijacked by others in the room, you can still deliver the central message.

Charts 3-5 Key Points: Expand on the three points from the second chart.  If time is running short, these three charts provide a bit more detail and can quickly highlight your most important take way messages.  If time is not an issue, they can serve as an overview for details to be discussed later in the presentation.

Charts 6-20 Main Talk: If as a presenter you’ve reached this point in your talk, time on the agenda is yours.  Use the remaining 15 charts in your presentation to finish your talk.  In most cases, 20 charts should be enough to cover your topic.  Remember, the charts are not your presentation, you are the presentation.  Charts serve to illustrate and reinforce your message.

Charts 21+ Supplemental: If your talk is very technical in nature you may want to have a collection of charts that provide a very detailed, deep dive on the topic.  These can be helpful if the presentation ends with a closing Q&A.  They can also be useful information if the chart deck is provided in PDF following the conclusion of your talk.

PowerPoint is only a tool.  In my workshop I have hammers, saws, wrenches, and a lot of tools I have no idea how to use.  I don’t hate my collection of hammers.  When I need to drive a nail a hammer works quite well.  When used correctly, it’s the right tool for the job.  It’s not much different with PowerPoint.

Enhance Marketing Effectiveness with Actionable Social Media

We’ve all seen the statistics about the incredible rise in use of social media as a marketing tactic.  To be used effectively, social media must not only engage customers in two-way conversations, it must provide actionable information that helps build relationships and drives forward the selling process.

Social media marketing has captured the attention of publishers and an army of business writers.  Read the publication headlines or check your email for any of the dozens of webinars in praise of social media, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that all B2B and B2C marketing efforts are now social.  That’s not entirely true.  For most organizations, the largest percentage of the overall marketing budget is still dedicated to traditional (think outbound) marketing activities.

Today’s marketers are increasingly being asked to manage a growing number of marketing communication activities.  Each should play a specific role in meeting marketing objectives.  When done seamlessly, a marketer develops a number of touch points with both prospects and customers.  This is where social media fits in, as an enabler to enhance marketing engagement.  As a tactic, social media should be thought of along with other technologies that have social elements: wikis, social tagging/bookmarking, web feeds, and blogs.

A recent study from King Fish Media, Hubspot, and Junta 42 reports that nearly three-quarters (72%) of surveyed companies have social media marketing strategies.  As organizations embrace the use of social media, the amount of data available for gaining true marketing insight grows.  According to a Gartner Special Report, “There are millions of terabytes of data on the web (5 petabytes added each day) that reflect the attitudes, intentions and venues within which both business and consumer buyers are expressing their opinions and influencing the actions of their peers.”  It’s this wealth of resource that needs to be harnessed by marketers for social media to transform conversations into market opportunity.

With implementation of social media still in its early stages, organizations are seeking ways to track conversations and better gage their impact on brand perception and sales.  Organizations are measuring page views, the numbers of followers (fans), and the amount of traffic delivered to the corporate website.  It’s a start, but organizations need to do more.  Actionable information from social media channels requires a greater understanding of overall customer brand sentiment and the ability to proactively monitor social conversations on channels like YouTube and Twitter.

The Gartner Special Report points out the need for organizations to harness the power of social media to facilitate engagement with customers, business partners, and employees – to effectively capitalize on their investments in social media marketing.  “Over time, the boundaries between social and collaborative applications (such as, e-mail, instant messaging and “texting”) and business applications (such as, finance or sales) will blur, and transactional activities will be augmented by socially-enabled capabilities.”  This investment is largely one of human capital.  Many social media channels are available free of charge.  Its employees who listen to the voice of the customer that creates opportunity for engagement.

A growing number of software solutions are available to help organizations capture data and glean insights that can grow the business.  Such solutions help organizations monitor online conversations, understand customer sentiment, and react more quickly to customer needs and market opportunities.  As social media takes an increasingly prominent role within an overall marketing program, market leaders will turn increasingly to business analytics to convert social media data into strategic, actionable, information.

Employee Empowerment Lead to Profits

This week I had the opportunity to attend The Economist conference on human potential and developing ideas that matter to both society and businesses around the world.  There was great debate on the big issues of how to boost productivity by harnessing the potential of individuals and societies.

During the conference a new report released by The Economist Intelligence Unit focuses on many of the challenges faced by global organizations in the coming decade.  Sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the report is a wake-up call for what corporate leaders must do to prepare their organizations for the challenges of operating with a workforce spread worldwide.  Survey respondents report their organizations will become larger and more global in the next ten years.  They will be less centralized with local operations having the freedom to pursue opportunities that fuel the global organization.  Organizational hierarchies will become flatter.  At an earlier stage of their career, employees will have more responsibility and greater decision-making responsibility.  More contingent workers will reduce traditional organizational loyalty, leading to an increase in employee churn.

What does this mean in practice for how organizations will be managed now and in the future?  At Manpower Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Joerres spoke passionately about how the role of leadership must change, with senior executives serving as coaches – replacing the traditional role of mangers that control every aspect of their operation.  With an increasing number of younger workers, organizations must operate in new ways.  That is exactly what Scott Cook, Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee, has done at Intuit Inc, North America’s leading payroll service supplier.  Cook believes the role of the CEO is two-fold: first, set strategic direction and goals; and second, make available the resources necessary to enable employees to deliver on the objectives.  Creating such an employee-empowered organization is increasingly essential for workers worldwide to develop a common sense of purpose and belonging.  Dr. Jim Goodnight, Chief Executive Officer of SAS, believes in challenging employees to achieve great things and drive the company forward.  At the height of last year’s economic downturn, Goodnight made a commitment of no employee layoffs because of economic conditions.  The result, in 2009 SAS grew revenue through a dedicated global workforce, despite the most severe economic conditions in a generation.

The economic collapse of the past couple of years points out the difficulty of forecasting how market forces will affect companies over the next decade.  Regulatory changes, scientific breakthroughs, and geopolitical events will greatly influence how business executives set strategic direction and goals as Scott Cook is doing at Intuit.  Who will succeed?  Over the next ten years the businesses that thrive will be those that successfully manage the complexities and paradoxes of operating on a global basis.

The Buzz on Viral Video

Working at a high technology company often requires me to provide very specific, technically-detailed answers.  This is particularly true when a technologist wants information about what they consider the soft field of marketing.  It’s important to answer in their language in order to get your point across.

In a recent meeting about an upcoming marketing campaign, several people asked me how to go about creating a viral video.  We talked about this for awhile but I sensed those in the meeting were looking for more.  Later, back in my office I thought about the elements of a successful viral video.  I thought of the 4 Ps of Marketing and then offered the team a formula for creating viral videos.  My suggestion was:  (.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.

There are all kinds of viral videos, but for purposes of brevity this post looks only at the creation of viral video for B2B and B2C companies.

Product ‑ Delving into the formula, 60% of the effort in creating a viral video should go into creating the Product.  That is the content as well as the production.  It’s critical to keep in mind that a viral video does more than deliver a singular message, it represents the company brand.  There are many creative ways to create viral content, but not all fit well within a brand framework.  Common themes for viral video content often include: humor, surprise, interactivity, and of course sex.

  • Humor:  Everyone enjoys a good laugh and comedy is a frequent component of many successful viral videos.  Of course humor is very subjective and requires a deft touch when used within a corporate brand strategy.  The Mac vs. PC ads went viral because of the passion Mac users have for their computers and the clever use of humor to drive home the message.  Including Brazilian model and actress Gisele Bündchen added to the effectiveness of the spot promoting iMovie capabilities on the Mac.
  • Surprise:  The wow-factor that makes viewers want to share a video with friends and colleagues.  In the interest of fair play, Microsoft scored on the viral video charts with their fake Greatest Slide Stunt Ever video developed for Microsoft Germany.  Who cares if the stunt was fake?  That’s not the point… it’s all about the buzz.
  • Interactivity:  Many sites offer users the ability to dynamically insert pictures or names into an animated presentation for sharing with others ‑ turning themselves into virtual brand ambassadors.  Think Jib-Jab and the famous Elf Yourself campaign.  Office Max’s 2008 holiday promotion proved amazingly popular and was the viral hit of winter 2008.
  • Sex:  It sells, but won’t work for all organizations.  The Carl’s Jr. ads featuring a scantily clad Paris Hilton washing cars while devouring a burger created a lot of buzz, drove million+ web views, and the scorn of many.  What it did for burger sales, I have no idea.

Price ‑ Coupled with Product is the element of Price.  Developing outstanding creative content most often comes with an associated cost.  Producing a viral video may involve an outside creative agency; will require crew, equipment, and other below-the-line costs; and could involve celebrity talent.  A forewarning, in discussing viral video, someone is sure to mention a video created in 10 minutes, without a budget, and using low end equipment.  They’re out there, usually involving animal or pet tricks, cute kids, or a “thank goodness it’s not me” video.  The question you must answer is, would such a video reflect well on the company brand?  In most cases the answer is no.  As the viral video market has matured, you can point to a growing number of successful viral videos that both deliver impact and support brand attributes.

  • Creative Concept:  Viral videos can be conceived internally, or may require hiring an outside agency.  The key is the big idea, something perceived as remarkable and that communicates your message.  Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is one of the most successful web-based viral campaigns.  Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty.  For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.
  • Production Expenses:  Some believe that web video should have a decidedly low-cost look – inaccurately often referred to as a YouTube video.  My suggestion is to push back with reference to more traditional media.  A client would never permit their “official” product brochure to be written by a brilliant technologist from R&D, illustrated by someone’s kid known for drawing nice pictures, and printed on the copier down the hall.  The product brochure is viewed as a key sales tool, and production quality reflects on the product as well as the company brand.  The same holds true for a viral marketing vehicle.  Keep in mind the old adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.”  How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 20M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?
  • Celebrity Talent:  A viral video does not require celebrity talent, it’s a tactical decision.  But people are fascinated by celebrities.  There are countless websites devoted to following every aspect of a celebrity’s life and which will embed these videos and help extend the audience.  The cost of using a celebrity can be a major expense item, often beyond available budget.  And to prove that celebrities never go away, much as would like many of them to fade away, advertisers have turned to wrestling icon Rick Flair to WOOO state lottery players with jackpots of mega millions.

OK, it’s entertainment time.  The hottest viral campaign currently running is the Old Spice ads featuring a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa showing off his six pack abs.  The campaign is an excellent example of strong product and illustrates the issues of price as a component in delivering a viral video campaign.

Millions of views and major brand buzz

Placement – Viral videos appear in many places on the web.  Each media channel has unique attributes and publishing requirements.  The critical element of placement is less about the channel than it is about how you describe (tag) your video.  Tagging information is the metadata that search engines and viewers use to locate your video.

  • Title & Description:  Your video title and description should be both descriptive and engaging.  Review carefully the visible word count in the description field provided by each media channel.  Then limit the description to the visible information field.  Anything accessible only from the <More Info> section of the description will seldom be seen.
  • Tagging:  Add tags… lots of relevant tags.  The more keywords used to describe your video, the more likely your video will appear within search results and be found.
  • Single Posting:  If the video is part of a series of presentations, each should be posted to a single page with its own title, description, and tagging information.
  • Embedded Links:  These enable other content authors to link directly to your video.  The best example is the use of embed code from YouTube.  (As I did above in posting the Old Spice video.)  Many of the views of your video will be driven by blog posts, included in emails, circulated via Twitter, and on and on.

Promotion – Videos posted to the web with compelling title, interesting descriptions, and rich metadata tags have a head start in the battle for eyeballs.  Promotion takes work and is not an overnight process.  It involves multiple elements and communication tactics.

  • Thumbnail:  The major media channels all show a visual from within the video, along with the title and description.  Unfortunately, each media channel handles this in different and unique ways.  It’s well worth the investment in time to understand the unique way each video sharing site determines the thumbnail image deployed with your video.
  • Channels:  Of course there is YouTube…  and there are other channels as well, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Facebook Video, specific industry websites, and of course your company’s own website.  Publish to as many sites as are relevant and that you can support with follow-up communication.
  • Social Networking:  Create communities of interest for your content and share regularly.  As you befriend more people ask them to invite others to subscribe as well.  Reach out to bloggers and others of influence and allow them to help spread the news.  Send them the embed link along with some unique information (previously unpublished) and you may gain access to an audience you might otherwise not reach.  Promote your video project and keep the video front and center in as many communication opportunities as possible: blog, Tweet, post, comment, email, advertise… above all stay engaged.
  • Bubble Up Ratings: Videos that create a buzz (comments, ratings, views) will move to the top of the search listing.  Ask for comments and respond to those comments.  These actions not only drive views, but move your video higher in the results list.

So that’s my formula for a successful viral video.
(.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.
I would like to hear your thoughts and comments.  What’s been your experience?  Comments welcome.

For more ideas check out the post Make Me a Viral Video and Super-Size It!

Effective Crisis Management: Avoid Flawed Response

Last week I visited the pharmacy to buy some Tylenol for my mom.  Unfortunately, the shelves were empty of all McNeil Consumer Healthcare products because of a product recall several months ago.  At the time, Tylenol was front page news.  Months later, store shelves remain empty.  But news about Tylenol was pushed from the front page, first by Toyota’s problems; then by the crisis facing residents of the Gulf Coast because of the oil gushing from BP’s undersea well.

Waiting for another crisis to remove your organization from the 24 X 7 glare of the media spotlight does not substitute for an effective Crisis Management Plan (CMP).

In all three cases, this spring’s product recalls by McNeil and Toyota and the BP oil disaster, three elements of crisis management are obvious: 1) a clear threat to the organization; 2) the sudden emergence of an unanticipated situation; and 3) a very short window for making decisions and to react.  How organizations respond in a crisis is largely dependent on a comprehensive CMP.

Risk and Crisis Management Response

One of today’s hottest business topics is risk management.  Although related, risk management and crisis management are different.  Think of risk management as the process of identifying, assessing, and finding ways to avoid risk.  Crisis management is the formal process of dealing with threats after they occur.

In a growing number of organizations you’ll find the new position of Chief Risk Officer (CRO).  In some cases the CRO is responsible for development and execution of an organization’s CMP.  My belief is this responsibility properly belongs to a Chief Communication Officer (CCO).  Regardless of how responsibility is established, identifying risk and crisis response requires a comprehensive team with representation from all parts of the business: risk management, corporate communications, legal, operations, human resources, sales & marketing, and security.

Despite the best efforts of a risk management team, it’s not possible to eliminate all threats to the integrity, reputation, or survival of an organization.  That is why it’s essential to have a written crisis management plan and drills to practice responding to a crisis situation – because every organization will face a crisis at some point.

Crisis Management Best Practice

The unyielding spotlight of media attention requires organizations to respond quickly and effectively.  Along with traditional public media, the explosion of new social media channels complicates how organizations respond to a crisis.  Your CMP should include:

Executive Leadership.  In any crisis, leadership is essential.  That doesn’t mean the CEO must always lead the response or be the public spokesman.  Not all crises are equal.  A crisis of global significance, such as what’s facing BP, requires leadership from the very top.  The type and level of crisis will determine response.

Organizational Identity:  One of the most challenging issues in effective crisis management is protecting organizational reputation.  When a crisis occurs, everyone within the organization must understand the potential impact to the organization’s identity in the minds of the public.  Everything that is said, done, or not said/done, creates a public impression.

Coordinate and Connect:  The CMP should define how departments within an organization respond to a given crisis.  Each team has a role to play.  Stay connected.  When in doubt, pick up the phone.  Practice drills are the time to establish relationships, not during a crisis.

React Quickly:  In a connected world moving at “Twitter speed,” act quickly.  The public reaction to Toyota’s recent problems was exacerbated by their slow response to a growing list of problems.  The public can accept updates and clarifications, but delays always send the wrong message.

Communicate Constantly:  The nature of a crisis will determine how communication should be handled, and the channels to be used.  The old stand-by, the news release, is only one tactical element of a crisis management plan – and no longer the most effective.  Traditional media, along with social media channels, should be part of the plan to reach both employees and the public.  Web communication can be a vital link.  When other communication channels fail, the web is often the most accessible.

Direct Involvement:  Never underestimate the value of a physical presence.  Nothing will reassure customers, or the public, more than direct communication.  How much more effective would BP, and the Obama Administration, have been had they been present, on the ground in the gulf region as quickly as possible?  Employees with direct customer contact can be a critical component in restoring confidence during a crisis.

Language is Critical:  Spokespeople must be trained and sensitive to balancing legal and economic language against the public’s need for emotional and empathic expressions in all public statements.  This is always a fine line and a source of potential conflict between an organization’s legal department and others on the broader crisis management team.  Executive leadership is essential in communicating a message that strikes a balance between an organization’s legitimate concerns and the needs of the public.

Communicate Clearly and Openly:  Monitor news, information, and rumors across all media channels.  Even if the news is grim, communicate honestly and transparently.  You need to be perceived as the most credible source of information concerning a crisis.  Use your website to maintain an open channel of communication and to avoid having spokespeople responding to the same question multiple times.  Address rumors and misinformation as quickly as possible, using all available communication channels – including employees with direct customer contact.

Team Support:  Crisis response can be an incredibly stressful situation.  Some situations may last months or longer.  Make sure those on the front lines are well trained, provided a constant flow of up-to-the-minute information, and supported in every way possible.

There are many examples of organizations that have done an excellent job managing perceptions, and the business, during a time of crisis: Johnson & Johnson, Mattel, and Pepsi to name a few.  In each case the companies responded immediately and with a well-defined plan.  At no time are an organization’s mission and values more challenged, than during a crisis.  When the corporate brand aligns with actual behaviors, trust and goodwill result from shareholders and the public – even in a time of crisis.