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I admit to reading most of the half-dozen-volume diary of Samuel Pepys, the 17th-century British administrator, whose collection was passed on to me in a stack of paperbacks and whose entries often ended with “and so to bed.”

Those few words come to mind with the recognition that the early days of blogging to explore being a modern-day diarist are past. Or, in the words of JD Lassica of Socialbrite at a recent Social Media Breakfast, “No one is going to go home and blog about this”.

Maintaining a lookout for potential topics, however, with the intent of mixing medium and message on a social media platform, has led to a few recent observations to share:

First, I was advising a colleague about selecting effective keywords for AdWords by combining a broad general term with a specific one. Later, I saw someone post that broad + specific = tailored in marketing in general, indicating that observation is not unique to one medium. (Just like finessing headlines was important even before the SEO days.)

Second, someone else was pondering the utility of having a social media presence. Does it equate earned exposure? Not participating is a lost opportunity to cultivate an impression from the standpoint of having a professional persona. Maybe the public portrayal lacks the panache of external validation by, say, a major media outlet. But it also is part and parcel of having a virtual identity in the days when distance is dead, audiences are fragmented, content gets forwarded fluidly, and mass channels are waning.

It can be a milieu for connecting to a constituency directly and developing a climate of transparency, trust, and interaction that sets a tone just like other hallmarks of an enterprise do – from its letterhead and utterances to its location, architecture and reception lobby.

Plus, managing perceptions by intentionally crafting a relatively uniform voice and approach indicates the organization is self-confident and responsive to appropriate opportunities.

In the days of crowdsourcing, people curious about your enterprise may be as apt to check your social media sites, or view posts by avid industry-watching bloggers as they would be to navigate first to your own home page. The validation comes from the crowd.

If you are already accessible and have built a trustworthy baseline, you do have an established path to disseminating information, perspective, and alerts when necessary.

Social media may serve as a resource among a stream of content that is shared, providing a different sort of credibility, esteem, and reach.

While participating in posts and comments may not be your main business pastime, the virtual connections made possible by curating your own content in a digital world still allow your organization to establish its unique niche, count for consideration, and wield a bit of influence at the same time.

The shift in perceived value is reflected in priorities evidenced by business sectors; among a cross-section of organizations, the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts reports that universities, followed by nonprofits, are the biggest participants, with large corporations apparently lagging in blogging, at least.

With that, this particular blog will officially draw to a close, while leaving archives up for future browsing.

Owning success

There is a saying that failure is an orphan and success has many authors. I like the leadership approach that when a task is accomplished, the people say “we did it ourselves.”

Change is definitely a time when the transition cannot be done alone, even if the call begins with a few voices in the wilderness.

In fact, movement may begin from outside your organization. With this in mind, an outside expert may more powerfully explain the need and benefit to the people whose support and participation is needed, while an insider can commiserate with the discomfort and soothe ruffled feathers.

Once the initiative is under way, visible recognition of active participants signals that new approaches are valued. While recognition often helps build toward a new direction, be aware there can be some sensitivity on the part of the recipients in what form of attention is most acceptable to them.

Finally, ideally, your organization will intersperse the periods of upheaval with phases of predictable operations. In the proper doses, a change initiative keeps an organization vital and high-performing. Veering too far toward continual transition can contribute to suspended animation or wheel-spinning during flux and uncertainty. On the other extreme, there is a risk of missed opportunities through inflexibility.

Able leaders will embrace well-advised moves. The following interview sums up much of what I endorse in pursuing wise change – from a leader who is transitioning to a larger campus within the California State University system, moving up from California State University, East Bay (where I have been busy lately) to head San Jose State University.

How transformational leadership takes companies to new heights in any economy | Smart Business.

Welcome opposition

Continuing on the topic of crafting communication around change, some proposals will require a showdown for participants to directly wrestle with a new idea. Resolving concerns requires a lot of up-front preparation, and being open to negotiation.

Anthropologist Angeles Arrien identified four universal rules for effective communications, which could be considered to come into play here. Essentially, they involve risk and influence, but not total control:

Show up and choose to be present

Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

Tell the truth without blame or judgment

Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

As a change instigator, having had time to prepare will help you remain in control of one thing – your own demeanor. Composure, as my acquaintance Mary Pool used to say, is power.

That power includes the ability to lower anxiety in others, who may be provoked since the idea of change causes discomfort. The more prepared, respectful, and unruffled you can be, the greater likelihood of ruling the day.

Although most people dislike confrontation, Buy-In authors John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead encourage welcoming objections so they can be resolved.

Their tips, primarily for meetings, were summarized in an Amazon.com comment by management consultant Robert Morris:

  • Those who oppose an idea should have the opportunity to explain their objections.
  • Their participation in the discussion should be welcomed, and treated with respect.
  • Before responding to an objection, offer reassurance that you understand it. Then offer a response that is direct, relevant, crystal clear, and sensible.
  • Over time, win opponents’ minds with logic and evidence and their hearts with respect.
  • Maintain frequent and cordial contact with opponents whom you respect; meanwhile, keep an eye on the few attackers who are potentially disruptive.

Although these tips are aimed for public meetings, they can be adapted to moves within an organization. For instance, tracking opinion correlates to taking climate surveys of employees’ moods.

As to considerations about what should be proposed, and who should do it, I offer a couple of parting words of advice.

I have learned through starting a press club that surveying people about what activities they want does not correlate to what they choose to participate in, after all. A better indicator of likely choices comes from modeling the experiences of similar organizations.

Meanwhile, more important than precise wording is who communicates the change, and in what form. Audiences will form an opinion that rests largely on the impressions created by the messenger and the delivery.

The final installment deals with reinforcing desired behavior once agreement has been reached.

 

I’ve heard it said that change begins by asking questions.

Some early questions may just involve assessing what reactions to a shift may be likely, and why.

Say communications has just become more formal and emphasized. Perhaps there is an instance of someone implementing their own outreach, or another of someone disparaging the aspirations.

Probe and you may find the first person simply didn’t know who to turn to and found it easier to just do it themselves, while the second person tends to strive for new accomplishments and is forestalling dashed expectations.

It’s helpful to recall that different people have different motivations, based on what matters to them.  Since most people are generally just trying to take care of themselves, anticipate a range of reactions.

Culture matters

Your assessment will suggest how to mold and shape the environment to reinforce desired behavior, such as these steps:

  • Link the change to values expressed by the prevailing culture
  • Enlist influential champions to demonstrate support, and
  • Look for chances for a respected leader to mention the new priorities

A soft touch may engender less resistance, and repeated exposure to the idea can help “socialize” it.   Altogether, such measures help percolate the change throughout the organization.

Meanwhile, in individual contacts, ask  questions. That allows people to consider alternatives and shift their position without feeling pressured, as well as providing time to adjust.

There are typically three reactions to new developments. About 10 percent of folks have a propensity to take a negative view. Another 10 percent seize opportunities. The remaining 80 percent are relatively neutral and open-minded.

Emotions behind those reactions must be acknowledged before new information can be absorbed. A few folks will resist out of fear. A few will embrace change early on. Many others will be somewhere in the middle, slightly confused or uncertain.

Recognize the temporary discomfort change causes, and then provide avenues for discussion. This phase could be compared to the hashing-out that occurs during political campaigns, say, by holding a debate prior to people casting a vote.

Use existing channels and new ones, such as dedicated Q&A sessions and email.

People will begin looking for concrete information, such as an explanation of how decisions are being made, the timetable and rationale.

Next: Facing naysayers

Introduction

I love the outdoors and have learned to not mind much if I don’t reach an ultimate endpoint when weeding. I’ve discovered, as friends used to say when doing dishes, it’s the process, not the goal.

Change communications has a similar rhythm. The need is part of natural cycles, since organizations must adapt and evolve to survive. Sometimes change communications efforts are more intense and concerted, other times they are quiescent but never far off.

Coming up

I’ll be sharing tips I’ve gleaned as a point person during dramatic changes in direction and traumatic retrenching.

It’s helpful to remember that change communications affects behavior, so it needs to win people’s hearts and minds. There are roughly three approaches, that range from subtle to overt, that taken as a whole facilitate moving people forward.

In a global sense, change can be encouraged by shaping the environment and reinforcing desired actions. This effectively coaxes people to new behavior without provoking resistance. Other times, people need to openly air issues in order to adjust and come to terms with new directions.

Meanwhile, advocates will encounter chances to nudge people to do what they know they should. Such gradual shifts can be a bit like performing aikido, where you take the other person’s momentum and redirect it.

The next few installments will discuss these pointers in more detail, so stay tuned. And please be willing to share your change story or challenge. Change can be painful at times. But as a wise adviser to those dish-washing friends liked to say, without pain, how can we grow?

 

Here to hear

Wrapping up the video production tips and tricks, this post addresses interviewing and capturing an audio feed.

One tip: You can subtly rephrase a question to get the most pithy and clear quote for a final edit — although covering the same material again may seem repetitive for someone who is used to interviewing for print. Along the same lines, when taping a video package, I’ve been advised to gather about 10 times the amount of the final product – including background visuals and cutaways, such as the reaction shots of a listener or audience to splice between quotes.

Approaching the interview

I liked producer Chris Bauer’s advice over at KQED’s QUEST. He sometimes tells subjects, “Your goal is not to impress people, it’s to communicate with people.”

Even kids may feel pressure and clam up, so it is best to spend extra time with them. Interviews may flow better if you take someone aside to a quiet, neutral setting. Away from peers and reminders of the daily routine, a person is more likely to be relaxed and speak in clear, jargon-free terms.

Interviewees can be prepped by reminding them the interview will be like listening to one side of a phone conversation, so it is important to speak in full sentences. To check sound levels while easing into the heart of the interview, a producer may chat a bit, or ask the subject to say and spell his or her name so that detail is captured right on the footage.

Attending to audio

Recordings pick up hum and undertones known as “room tone”. So it’s important to tape 20 – 30 seconds of silence that can be used underneath edits for a consistent transition.

Sound becomes another flavor to mix into the final edit. Natural sound provides ambience, while specific noises become sweeteners or punctuation. In the field, you might tape your own feet crunching in gravel, or a door shutting, and so forth.

Indoors, being conscious of the sound environment includes remembering to take phones off the hook, posting signs to keep visitors from bursting in, and otherwise avoiding noisy interruptions.

Equipment

QUEST’s Craig Rosa recommends a few options for external mics, which are far preferable to on-camera mics for capturing usable audio tracks:

  1. Lavalier mics clip on and can be hidden on a lapel; the versions with 12-foot wires provide scope and capture sound that is less echo-y than wireless.
  2. Shotgun mics can grab sounds from the environment – if it’s windy, use a fluffy, slip-on windsock to muffle the loud whoosh of strong gusts rushing past the mic.

Dual inputs capture audio from these mics on separate tracks, which is helpful when editing.

Rosa recommends plugging an XLR adapter into the camera for better sound. The sound level should be as loud as possible without having the indicator needle hover past the red or zero line. (See more on XLR here: http://videoproductiontips.com/video-equipment/audio-for-video-how-to-use-pro-audio-equipment-without-having-a-pro-camera/, http://www.videouniversity.com/shop/xlr-adapter-and-a-dual-channel-mixer).

Altogether, he estimates that assembling a decent video kit may take about $4,000, although borrowing equipment may also be an option.

The interview

Bauer frequently starts by asking, “Where are we today, and what are we going to see?”

Producers sometimes will forewarn interviewees ahead of time that they may be asked to restate something. Or they may simply ask during the flow of the interview, “That was really good – can you repeat that?”

To obtain an easy-to-comprehend response, Bauer suggests asking the subject to summarize a topic in a couple of sentences, as if talking to a person on the street or to a fourth-grader.

To learn the upshot of a topic, he may ask, “What does it mean to the future?” He also likes to ask researchers, “What’s your most favorite thing about what you do?”

A response delivered with some fire in the belly projects really well on the screen. I once interviewed a mild-mannered scientist who did not have expansive gestures but had quiet zeal. I noticed that glint in his eye seemed magnified on the screen.

Meanwhile, for my friends who decry the state of science literacy, I will add a link to a YouTube piece from earlier in the year that presents concepts in an engaging way, all while keeping minimal, “prosumer”-oriented production values: http://bit.ly/YouTube_EcoServices.

It’s by Hank Green, speaking to his brother, John Green. Together, they formed the so-called Vlog Brothers and committed to a year of non-textual communication – leading, this summer, to organizing the first conference for what they described as smart YouTube content, VidCon.

Finally, a vision of the future – highly portable video kits, with lights and external mics – were featured at the most recent Consumer Electronics Show: http://gizmodo.com/5443853//gallery/gallery/1

Lighting the way

In many respects, good visuals start with seeing in a different light.

Regardless of your gear, the human eye can see a far greater range than any camera. While we can distinguish a range of about 1000:1, the range of an inexpensive digital video camera may only be 100:1.

In preparing to shoot video, the goal is to have sufficient, and relatively even, illumination. You’ll want to avoid deep shadows, but still have the subject pop out. The concepts below should help you achieve your aims within the limitations of your budget and shooting environment.

Planning for color temperature

Indoors, tungsten lighting tends to have a warm cast, while outdoors, daylight is bluer in tone. Since cameras need to be set for one or the other, it’s best to not mix these sources of illumination.

Morning and evening provide the most pleasing outside illumination. During bright parts of the day, shooting in the shade will avoid harsh contrasts and unbecoming shadows.

If shooting inside, close the curtains and turn off fluorescent overhead lights. When setting up bright, makeshift studio,  lights at a house, use outlets leading to more than one circuit so you don’t blow a fuse. An average household circuit has about 1800 watts and lights for illuminating shoots can pull more than that.

When the scene is ready, zoom in on the subject to calibrate color balance, holding a white card as close as possible to the subject.

Light kits

Producer Amy Miller of KQED’s QUEST science unit recommends a Lowel brand tungsten kit that is one step above basic, and sells for about $1,000. Since these lights get hot, she brings gloves to use when moving the lights, and face powder to keep down the sheen on subject’s faces. Her other essentials are a grip clip, voltmeter, headphones, and small sandbags for stabilizing the base of the lights. A small monitor is also great for previewing how a scene will appear on screen.

For video interviews, setting up classic three-point lighting will provide a soft, even illumination. The components and their location are:

  1. Key light – positioned about 45 degrees to one side of the subject and about 30 – 45 degrees above their head. On this bright light, use a soft box for diffusion.
  2. Fill light – goes on the other side, also about 45 degrees away, and should be half as bright. She makes hers 2 -3 stops dimmer. Moving the light back twice as far would also halve its brightness. Good choices for the fill are a V-light or broad throw light.
  3. Rim (or shoulder) light – shines from above and separates the subject from the background by defining the edge.
  4. If available, a fourth light can be used on the wall – here, an omni light would allow the angle to be adjusted.

If you do not have lights, she suggested using daylight as a key light and a reflector as a fill.

Camera position

For added definition, having the background out of focus looks best, which means setting the subject as far from the background as possible. Move the camera far away too, take it off autofocus, and zoom in.

The interviewer will sit as close as possible to the camera, so the subject’s gaze across that space will appear natural to viewers.

Framing

Have the subject positioned slightly to one side of the frame, but not all the way to the edge. This framing is more comfortable to watch than dead center, and suits both wide and narrow formats (high-definition is wider than standard). For someone watching on a cell phone, frame fairly close, with minimal space above the head.

To envision some lighting guidance, see the following online tutorials. The final installment will wrap up with tips on interviewing and audio recording.

http://www.techlearning.com/article/1162

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcMX1RcNRYA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkUqBJoxZ-I