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Posts Tagged ‘Integrated Communications’

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?

 

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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

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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

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A couple of things make producing an online slideshow with SoundSlides as easy as 1-2-3. Using the tips below allow images to evenly flow along with the audio track. At the end are links to a tutorial and embeds, as well on thoughts on when a slideshow might be a choice medium.

First off . . .

Audio will be the foundation of the finished product, so complete and upload that first. An interview of perhaps 30 minutes can be trimmed to about three minutes to capture high points and hold the viewer’s attention. If you plan to start with a title slide, the audio track could begin with a few seconds of silence to allow viewers to absorb those few words without distraction. Or, search online for free music and use some of that as a lead-in.

To select enough photos, allow about 3 – 5 seconds per slide. So, if one topic takes 20 seconds of audio track, having four or more images that support the subject matter would be a comfortable amount to start. After you have gathered your images, you can rearrange and add or subtract a few until the sequence makes sense. As with video, you may want to show an establishing exterior shot of a location or crowd, then a close-up, and possibly a graphic or snapshot of an activity being discussed.

Compiling an album

Only jpgs can be used in SoundSlides, so you will want to convert other formats, such as giff or tiff. Also, the color profile must be RGB. An image that was saved in CMYK format, for four-color printing, will display distorted colors when imported into SoundSlides.

To quickly and evenly upload images in order:

Once you have decided the order for your images, use a number or letter to start the file name, so each subsequent image has the next letter or number. For instance, the first slide is 1_filename, the second is 2_another_filename, etc.

The great part about naming images in sequence is that the program will make them fall into place automatically, at distinct intervals. Although the software makes it simple to move things along a timeline, adding more images after importing compresses the final few. It may turn out that their icon is so narrow on the timeline it can hardly be grabbed with a cursor to manipulate. For altering the final quantity of images, it’s probably simpler to renumber them in the desired order and re-import the whole lot.

The beauty of the program is that it is fairly easy to use – having been designed by a journalist for journalists. And the software itself is fairly affordable.

If there are advantages in effectiveness of slideshows over podcasts or short online video, it may be when the goal is to present a broad overview or retrospective. An analogy may be the times that someone would produce a conventional slideshow or even a simple filmstrip, for an anniversary celebration or educational purpose rather than a quick news update. Online communicators are finding it quick and easy to carry a Flip camera and shoot a short statement for uploading, and news sites are presenting fewer online slideshows. Still, a slideshow is one option for a multimedia mix – and there certainly may be times when a narrated slideshow would be an optimum way to instruct, inform, or enlighten an audience.

More on how to produce – and embed – your show

The follow links provide a tutorial and the means to embed the finished product:

Tutorial: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/using-soundslides/

Embed for WordPress: http://support.soundslides.com/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=71

General Embed: http://tools.soundslides.com/embed/

Looking ahead, a comment on usage today deals with homonyms, those pesky sound-alike words that may pass your spell-check while still having the wrong meaning in context. Say, for instance, foreword – the front of a book – and forward – pointing ahead. They both have a sense of being prominent in a sequence or chronology . . . and nearly sound alike, too! And that’s the final word for today.

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I was speaking the other day to representatives of a public agency that intends to increase its social media engagement by moving judiciously into this arena. Going in, there seemed to be considerations about perception and resources.

My recommendation to this research organization, whose activities are distributed throughout a region, is to build a presence with the future in mind – including mobile platforms and geolocation services.

A phased approach seems best. Ramping up would entail identifying likely internal participants and establishing systems. Having clear processes and expectations facilitates targeting time and resources to provide frequent updates required by social media. A gradual approach would support researchers’ interests in retaining the estimation of their peers and limiting time on non-research demands.

In this example, an early phase would involve sharing, listening and guiding. Those aspects of establishing a toehold  are described below.

Share: A simple place to start would be to create a Twitter identity, or extend an existing one, and use that channel to send updates about new publications and related announcements. A sensible place to start following groups would be to begin with organizations in the same sector.

What happens then? Chances are many of the organizations will reciprocate and follow back, as well as forward along updates through retweets.

Some of their followers are likely to notice and expand their network by adding this newcomer to streams they follow. Other audiences will find these new posts through keyword and hashtag search.

Listen: Set up Hootsuite or a related monitoring dashboard to track mentions of the organization and/or issues that matter. Listen to what is being said and concerns. Use that knowledge to tune outreach topics or approches.

Promote your Twitter presence in existing media – for instance, send employees a recommended email signature file that includes this information. Add a follow button and/or other social media tagging and sharing widgets to existing web pages. Place the Twitter ID on news releases and other relevant printed material.

Guide: Draft an initial social media policy that encourages employees to act as ambassadors and offers resources (training or answers). Once the policy has been reviewed, approved and issued, keep it a living document that can be updated and refined.

In the middle phase, actively welcome participation. Below are thoughts on doing that through inviting, modeling, extending, building, tracking and reporting.

Invite: Suggest to researchers and others that they might share content, such as photos (might they be placed on Flickr, with a Creative Commons license to publish with attribution?). This spreads the reach farther. Images are already available for use there from public institutions, such as the military! Again, offer coaching/logistical support if needed.

Model: If respected individuals or agencies are already employing some social media practices, passing along those tidbits helps with acceptance of new approaches. Other public institutions, such as the Executive branch or Congress, could set the tone for the types of social media activity and outreach that is deemed appropriate or desirable.

Extend: The new social media program should extend and build on outreach already taking place through existing newsletters, announcements or events. Here’s an example – if a news release results in coverage, send a tweet with a link to the news article. Or, if a partner makes a discovery that creates a big splash, such as finding unusual wayward wildlife, offer additional multimedia and background resources in an online news page.

Share links with related organizations where appropriate – this boosts search ratings. Determine where the people you want to reach are interacting, and consider if there are any downsides to reaching out to engage with them there on occasion by commenting or participating.

Identify a small team within the organization that can provide backup for daily responsibilities and resolve issues raised through social media interactions, such as customer service questions.

Build community: Invite fans to add their photos to an organized Flickr community, started with researcher’s images. Moderate comments, but welcome them to foster a greater sense of involvement. Periodically remind audiences about this presence, via tweets or other outgoing messages.

Track & Report: Tools on YouTube and elsewhere allow providers to see who is accessing their content. Let internal stakeholders know how the effort is going through periodic summaries of tone, impact and measurement.

A mature program incorporates content creation and strong community interaction. Capturing presentations through recording and sharing can be straightforward to execute. With some coordination, additional material can be made available online for sharing, too. What to pick? Consider the needs of the audience, and factor in proactively fashioning opportunities to reach out with relevant information through events linked to online follow-up, or by creating and following an editorial calendar for fresh content.

As the program matures, there may be a small group that closely follows the organization and may function informally as ambassadors. Remote employees or trusted external supporters and advocates may serve as reporters or frequent commentators whose contributions help build community.

Meanwhile, new technologies will continue to evolve and be added to the mix. Below are thoughts on this phase.

Record and share: If resources exist, social media is excellent for sharing slides, podcasts, or other content from presentations that are already being given. The talks can be uploaded and commenting enabled and monitored.

Also, if resources exist to create or gather this content, strong outreach includes sharing multimedia materials with reporters, bloggers, educators, government officials, and event partners. The capability of adding multimedia through a “social media” release on PitchEngine is among the possibilities. The National Science Foundation is very active in encouraging contributions to its channels, such as Science360 – some of its offerings are not limited to research receiving NSF funding.

Serve their needs: An organization’s supporters and constituents may appreciate content that provides safety advice, how-to tips, or educational content. A publicly funded entity can also consider operating as a conduit for information to be made available in an even-handed fashion about policy and programs that may be subject to a diversity of views.

Consider new vehicles: There may be a time in which it makes sense to devote the time and resources to create new outlets – say, partnering on an education outreach event. There, organizers may capture email from attendees and send out an invitation to sign up for an RSS feed or to otherwise invite attendees to turn to the organization as a resource for information or activities.

One new-content-creation approach would be to create short biosketches of featured researchers, and build an annual editorial calendar to rotate periodically among each of them, creating updates about work in progress, research interests, or even a favorite factoid. Post these online, add related links to visuals or video/audio, and announce via social media channels. The goal is to personalize investigations a little and make the research interests generally accessible and engaging for non-specialists. The online posting could be a WordPress site linked off the traditional website – updating content on that blogging platform could be slightly simpler and more straightforward than altering the website itself.

Also, as more and more people participate in Facebook to the point that it is no longer considered a questionable diversion, it may make sense to have a fan page there, or possibly a company page on LinkedIn.

A Facebook thumbnail image could brand the organization’s outreach through using a pre-existing logo. Interactions on fan pages (and demographic breakdowns) are automatically tracked and reported to page owners each week. Employee ambassadors could become fans whose participation could informally influence keeping posted comments on point. Appropriate photos can be posted to generate excitement about the research thrusts, as well as links to more multimedia content.

Mobile is increasingly becoming a favored platform for accessing content, so traditional web pages should be built for clear display in small segments. Geolocation services, such as digital maps and social media tools, offer good possibilities for an organization with widespread activities to publicize.

Down the road, providing contextual information through augmented reality may be feasible and desirable too.

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The real and the virtual merged in some sense the other day on a social media-inspired trip.

I was taking BART into San Francisco the other evening for a holiday social event for the San Francisco-Silicon Valley Social Media Club.

The rail station was plastered on each side of the passenger platform with bright blue posters advertising the nano Flip camera — about 50 on each side, and that was all I saw advertised.

It felt like being immersed in a convergence of an actual ‘superhighway’ (well, a rail line) and a marketing blitz pushing a digital emergence.

Fair enough. Then, exiting the station back home, I glanced up to see a poster promoting an art college’s top tweets on Twitter. That coincidental sighting of a second digital technology splash made the excursion seem even more like whatever I and others are doing in a particular place could be likely to revolve around serving a virtual space.

At the  event itself, happily, people focused on mingling directly and digital devices were scarce, aside from taking a cell phone camera photos.

. . .

Speaking of devices, I heard of one convenience-inspired use of an iPhone the other day — someone I met bypasses using a copy machine and just takes camera-phone photos of financial documents.

. . .

It’s interesting to watch the emergence.

. . .

On a whole different topic of observation, it is also mildly amusing sometimes to spot drifts in usage. A case in point is when piquing interest becomes either peaking (like a zenith) or, even, peeking interest (like catching a peep of someone’s interest – ?)

If this were the New Yorker, I could end with a wry remark about the slip-up. But perhaps yours are even better?

//

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Tips on care and feeding of local media when your news is time-sensitive

  • Basically . . . the view from the trenches is, the easier you can make a harried news assignment editor’s job, the better. Keep content focused and make it ready to roll ASAP.

I used to feel my role as a journalist was like creating order out of chaos. Imagine a blender with a keyboard attached. Pour torn-up bits of paper describing facts in top, and out through the keyboard will flow a perfectly organized, 700-word story, on deadline, framing the issue at hand.

Managing that volume of information is even more challenging with smaller newsroom staffs and a greater expectation of immediacy (as if all reporters feel like they are producing 24-hour news radio), but Denver CBS-TV’s KCNC assignment editor Misty Montano shares a couple of pointers about the helpfulness of spoon-feeding in her recent blog about social media and mainstream journalism.

First, she would love to see immediate online news release postings and running updates from agencies when there is breaking news (more below). Second, she is serving as a valuable resource by trying to act as a centralized clearinghouse for community information, knowing people seldom navigate directly to every organization’s home page for information (see her explanation below):

“What I can do though is share your information on Twitter and Facebook.  When I get releases on events or info I know people want to know about, I Tweet.  People follow and friend me and the station because they want to know what we’re doing, what we’re covering, what we’re finding out.  They won’t take the time to look up individual organizations to find out what’s happening, but they do turn to the news station to tell them about it.

I share as much information as I can, but I don’t have time to make it all fit in 140 characters.  What I do have time for is to slap a tease or headline on the information and share a link.  More often than not I receive the press release without a link, not even to an events calendar.

. . . I’m going to take a slight tangent and make a plea with PR or PIO’s that deal with the media during breaking news situations. Please, if you have the capability, put updates online as you get them.”

Basically . . . the view from the trenches is,  the easier you can make a harried news assignment editor’s job, the better. Keep content focused and make it ready to roll ASAP.

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