Beam me up! The changing tools of our trade.

This week I flew to Las Vegas for a conference. When packing, I realized that I was bringing more electronics than clothes. Macbook, Ipad, Nook, Ipod, Flip Video camera, and digital recorder! Back in the “old days” I used to write with fountain pen and carry a Moleskine notebook!

However, the public relations professional today has the opportunity to communicate in so many ways that my “tool kit” has dramatically expanded. Podcasts are a great way to capture information that people can listen to while they travel. Flip video cameras make it oh, so easy to grab an interview and have it up on your website in minutes. And Ipads are great as presentation tools or to watch video. Certainly, my shoulders appreciate how much lighter they are to carry around than my laptop. In many cases I can now leave the laptop at home but when you need to crunch numbers and share documents the lack of a USB port on the Ipad is still too limiting.

In terms of lightening my load I also really like the Nook. Yes, I can read books on my Ipad, but not library books. The Nook is still the only mainstream e-reader that allows you to take advantage of books from your public library. It’s pretty cool to bring five or six of them along with you on a device that weighs less than a paperback.

If only I had room in my carry on luggage for a few more personal items!

Who needs traditional advertising when YouTube is available?

First Frito-Lay eschewed the Superbowl and started running commercial contest on YouTube, Crash the Super Bowl.

Now, Ray Ban is taking viral video marketing to to the next level. If you haven’t seen the most recent video in Ray Ban’s campaign, Guy has Glasses Tattooed on his Face, then you are rapidly becoming one of the minority.

The video was posted just a week ago; already there are 1,099,435 views! Not to mention the media coverage this has generated. Did he? or didn’t he?

Actually this is just the latest in Ray-Ban’s campaign. The videos are posted on Ray-Ban’s YouTube Channel under the moniker Never Hide Films.

Each of their videos is clever, entertaining and gets people talking.

So, what do you think? Is the tattoo for real? or is it a well done fake?

Video is changing writing forever.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a video worth? It’s incalculable. YouTube and the plethora of video that it offers are changing the way that we communicate and I believe will profoundly influence the course of mass communications.

Take for example, the simple communication of instructions.

With video you essentially have a private tutorial with an infinitely patient teacher. You can watch the difficult parts over and over again until they make sense. And with YouTube, you have the opportunity to interact with that instructor through comments so you can get answers to your questions.

I’ve seen this play out in small ways. When my son got a new calculator — one that allows him to solve math problems that I’ve never even heard of — he didn’t read the instruction manual. Instead, he went to YouTube where he found a demonstration of the exact task that he wanted to perform. In less than five minutes he was completely empowered.

I use YouTube for its instructional properties as well. I’ve been teaching myself how to knit and crochet. When I need help with a technique or a stitch, it’s all there — in slow motion and high definition. Instructions that were indecipherable in their written format become clear and (frankly) obvious when shown in video.

How will that impact mass communications? In general, I believe people are reading less and that by using video to communicate thoughts, ideas and instructions, this trend further diminishes the impact of the written word.

That does not mean that our job as communicators is becoming obsolete; rather we must learn how to use video as an effective medium. People listen differently than they read. We need to understand that dynamic in order to create videos that use words and images together in a way that both educates and entertains. Writing isn’t going away. It’s just taking on a new form. One that is potentially even more powerful and influential.

Make your video shoot successful

Recently I responded to an RFP to produce a “virtual plant tour” video. As part of the proposal each team was asked to identify best practices to follow and pitfalls to avoid. Here’s some of what I wrote:

Best Practices

  • Plan well: the videos that are the most successful are the ones that are planned properly. This means using storyboards and shot lists to plan out exactly how each portion of the script will be illustrated.
    Shoot additional b-roll while you’re on site. Today’s viewing audience is used to fast-paced video with many transitions. You never have too much video but it’s easy to end up with not enough.
  • Spend enough money to make the video look good. Your video will be around for a long time. Many of our clients are still using videos that we shot a decade ago. Hiring a cinematographer who knows how to light properly and use equipment that will produce a quality product that will warrant your investment.
  • Shoot in High Definition. Some clients believe it isn’t really necessary but we disagree with you. HD is now the standard – even on YouTube. If you shoot it in another format you immediately label your information as dated. Even when shown in smaller formats it is apparent as HD is a different aspect ratio than standard video.
  • Think small as well as big. YouTube is now the second largest search engine and one of the largest broadcast channels for video in the world. When you plan your big corporate video, think about how you can break it into modules and show them on YouTube. This approach will help you reach a broader audience very quickly. If you don’t have your own YouTube Channel, this would be a good time to set one up.

Biggest pitfalls:

  • Not hiring a professional scriptwriter. Conveying information via the spoken word is different from writing articles or brochures. Including a scriptwriter on the team – someone who is familiar with how to meld words and images in a package that is easy to listen to – makes a huge difference. I know many folks think they can do it themselves but if you’re hiring a camera crew and spending the amount of time necessary to do a video, don’t skimp on the writing.
  • Trying to shoot it yourself. Don’t kid yourself. Your customers can tell when you shoot your own video and they are generally not impressed. Think about the message that it sends: we don’t (or can’t) invest the money in doing this professionally. Flip videos are great but unless you’re going for that Blair Witch Project effect, will backfire.
  • Shooting “from the hip”: if you don’t plan your video shoot it’s easy to end up in the editing suite with not enough footage to illustrate your script.

Video is definitely making a comeback now that the bandwidth exists to watch it online. With some pre-planning and vision, your next video project will be a success that lasts for many years.