That’s A Wrap! Now What?

mlp-countdown2Note: This is the second installment of our two part video production tips post. Read part one in Lights, Camera, Action, Oh My? 

So, you’ve finished your big video shoot and now you have an assemblage of footage that could benefit from editing. It’s important to understand that video editing is not just about trimming the footage; it’s also about creating flow and emotion, as well as making it entertaining. Editing a video that has good flow and some catchy music will make all that time you took shooting the video worth it. But first you’ll need to choose a video editor.

Video editors like Adobe Premier and Final Cut Pro are largely regarded as the most comprehensive video editing applications, but they are costly tools for beginners to learn on. Luckily there a number of free options available to everyone.

Mac users shouldn’t need to be reminded of iMovie, Apple’s movie editing software that is included on all new Macs. And Windows users can download Windows Live Movie Maker. Even YouTube has it’s own Video Editor. These tools all have pretty intuitive interfaces that allow you to easily trim video segments and drag-and-drop video segments along a timeline. They also provide the ability to add music tracks, text overlays and other simple effects.

Now that you have a video editor, here are some tips to help you polish your video into engaging content that everyone will want to watch:

  • Create a “rough cut.” Review all your footage and trim into usable segments, then organize chronologically.
  • Tell your story. Think about what you are trying to convey to the viewer and organize your segments to enhance that feeling. Don’t be afraid to try different things and to cut footage that just doesn’t fit.
  • Don’t make too many cuts. Try to use shots around 5 seconds each, this is roughly the time it take for the human eye to digest the picture. Any less time between cuts and your video may appear “strobe” like and this could make the viewer feel anxious. Longer shots could bore your viewer if there isn’t a good mix of interesting images and movement.
  • Add effects. Adding transitions and overlays can bump up the cool factor, but try not to overdo it. Use overlays to give viewers context and reminders, but only use them for the first 3-5 seconds of a clip. Adding transitions can enhance the beauty or feeling of your video, but keep it simple with cross-fades and forego the checkerboard wipes and twirling effects. Try different things, play it back a few times, and decide what effects are most appropriate for your audience.
  • Add intros and outros. Not only does adding title slides or credits make your video look professional, it’s a good way to set up the point of your video for viewers – and to spell out what you would like viewers to do after watching the video.
  • Use basic fonts. It is a much safer bet to stick with proven fonts like Times, Arial, Tahoma, Garamond, Helvetica, etc. Reason being, they are easier to read when watching a small video on a mobile device. This may sound contrary to flexing your creative side, but using decorative fonts can actually make your video look amateur rather than creative.
  • Add a music track. Adding an underlying music track can bring a completely different message to your viewer. Try different types of music to see how it impacts the mood of your video. Music tracks can also camouflage unintentional background noise in your footage. Before making your music selections, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with Creative Commons and Public Domain Music and Royalty Free Music.

Have some basic video editing tips of your own? We would love to hear them in the comments below.

Influencers Who Inspire: Interview with Jon Swartz of USA TODAY

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

In a special edition of our “Influencers Who Inspire” series, we’re chatting with award-winning technology journalist, author and avid San Francisco Giants fan, Jon Swartz. Jon shares his thoughts on smart phones and peer pressure, guerrilla marketing tactics that actually work and how reporting compares to baseball.

We read your article on BlackBerry’s Z10 launch and their plans for a comeback; so tell us, what is your ‘go to’ mobile device?

I used a BlackBerry up until two years ago when the trackball wasn’t working as well as it should. At the time, I faced some peer pressure from my colleagues in the Valley to get an iPhone. There used to be a lot of iPhone bias in Silicon Valley, but it has gone away now for the most part. More people are using Androids, and I would certainly consider a move to a BlackBerry or Android from the iPhone. I can live without the iPhone. I find the battery life is awful, and I have to have a charger with me at all times. As a result, more restaurants and bars have charging stations (at SXSW we saw this all over the place).

You know, BlackBerry CEO (Thorsten Heins) is right; he calls the iPhone passé and says they (BlackBerry) have the same problem that Apple did. “We need to earn our laurels back.” It’s true because in tech things become old fast; the shelf life of these things aren’t very long now. Apple has traditionally done a great job of that, making the old version obsolete as they quickly move on to the next thing. So it’s no surprise others are following suit here.

We know you are huge San Francisco Giants fan. How did your obsession with baseball begin?

When I was six I went to my first game. I also got to see Willie Mays play when I was a kid, so that got me hooked for life. I also loved playing the sport. You become infatuated with it, and it never loses you. Baseball also has a long season, and it takes a lot of patience. It’s a lot like reading a novel. It’s not like other sports where the season is more like a quick sprint. The upside is that you can go to a game and actually explain what’s happening. You can also count on always seeing something different. I have probably been to more than 1000 games, and there is always something new to explain or something you haven’t seen happen before.

Baseball is a half-year long, and it changes with the seasons. In spring there is so much optimism, and then comes the summer when things really heat up. In the fall when things wither away, it gets dark and cold and with it comes a sense of desperation when the season ends. That is the beauty of the game. It’s very logical to me and different to other sports in that you can’t run out the clock. You HAVE to finish the game. No matter how well you played and how many runs you are up by, you have to FINISH.

Are there any lessons from baseball that can be applied to business?

Yes, I would never assume anything about anything. Baseball teaches you that you can’t assume something is over until it’s over. Like in 2002 (World Series game) when the Giants had a five-run lead over the Angels with only eight outs left. They had to keep playing until the end and ended up losing the game.

It sounds a little corny but in baseball it’s a different sport. It’s hard to excel if you have to prove it every day. That’s the same as being a reporter; you have to prove yourself daily, but when it’s over it’s over. With so much content and so many articles, today the shelf life for stories is too short. You finish a great story and you are proud of it for about 20 minutes before you have to do something else. You have to move on.

We are all constantly inundated and bombarded with news from all different sources. So every day you have to reinvent yourself to always do more. It’s like Freddy Lynn (MVP and Rookie of the Year) – he came out of nowhere like a comet. But then pitchers found his weaknesses. Unless you can adapt and reinvent yourself every day, you will hit a rut. BlackBerry went through it, and Apple went through it, too. In tech it happens all the time.

Speaking of re-inventing, with the most powerful images getting clicks in social media today, do you find yourself framing your stories differently with visuals or video in mind now?

I do think more about storytelling and how to interest the reader, but rather than visuals, it’s more about the people and the stories. It is necessary to think that way, though, and I am trying to do more of it.

How has your job changed in the last six months?

It’s crazy. In addition to reporting, I oversee all tech coverage in the paper. So I edit and manage people, too. While I’m talking to you I’m editing a story. It’s actually a story on baseball, and it’s coming out next week. There is no shortage of data in baseball, but trying to figure out which data to use and how to use it is the challenge. Just like in reporting, in baseball they too are struggling with deciding how much time to give to data. I have ton of notes but the bigger problem is what parts to use in the story. People ask all the time, “Why you didn’t include us or mention us?” There is only so much you can do given bandwidth and the amount of content to sift through. I write for people who are on the go and always busy, and you have to find a way to keep your story succinct.

Would you tell a student today to go into journalism?

I would say if you are a good writer you can work anywhere, as everyone wants content today. It is so important to have good writers. Smart companies like Salesforce and Mark Benioff understand you need to tell stories to get your customers to want to buy your products.

Has working with PR people changed?

Not really; I have been working with the same people for the last 10 years or so, and pretty much the same good ones. I always work with a core group of 50 of them that I seem to always interact with. It is like cultivating any relationship you built it over time.

What kind of (PR) people do you like to work with?

They should know their company well. Most people I work with have been there a long time. I like working with internal people who can get you what you need faster. They are usually more responsive. I work with a lot of good people. People at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple; they are all on top of things and respond. Apple is much more responsive, and Yahoo is getting that way, too. They don’t have a choice anymore. Everyone used to have to wait to go to Apple, but now they have to cooperate with us and be responsive.

What was the nicest/most memorable thing someone has done for you?

I have so many stories of people doing something for me in my personal life. But in work life, I would say the most memorable “nice” things people do for me and/or others are services like the airport limos at SXSW and the SXSW survival bag. There was a company called Tagged that provided airport limos to drive us from the airport to town at SXSW. That was nice, convenient and smart.

If you had to cook one meal what would it be?

Pasta. Everyone likes and agrees on it in our family. Jackie is Italian, and pasta is the one thing that I would get no argument on.

What do you do when you’re not working, or at a baseball game?

We have four kids ages 12-25, so it’s a full house, and we are always going from one event to another with them so that means not a lot of free time. We do like to travel a lot to different places and really enjoy our time away.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Writing cover stories and features I can spend time on. It’s rewarding to do something that no one else is doing. Feature writing is a little different than what everyone else is doing. You always remember your great feature stories. They include more original thinking and have a long-term impact on things to come. They give you something to be proud of.

PR – A Great Thing, but Not a Miracle Worker

It’s a funny thing about PR…sometimes it’s viewed like other professions that people have a love/hate relationship with – like law enforcement, insurance providers, lawyers. Or like those that people expect magic from – beauticians, plastic surgeons, teachers.

Here’s the thing. Anything can be branded, marketed, promoted. Anything can get a first look. But public relations won’t make or break your business without a little help from you.

Stop making your PR department/firm/executive the scapegoat for your crappy products.

It’s not our job to convince people that your products are good when they aren’t. We don’t “dumb people down.” PR isn’t to blame if you can’t sell. PR isn’t to blame if your product doesn’t do what you promised – or told us to promise. Even Apple can’t pull that off.

I’m not being over sensitive. I’ve been in this business long enough – heading into my 15th year of owning my own firm – to recognize the unbelievable expectations that executives can have about PR. And I’ve seen many executives that don’t get PR at all – who have no idea that their CMOs are throwing money out the door jumping from agency to agency trying to find the right match.

I also know that PR agencies can seem like a dime a dozen. There’s one on every block like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. I know that it can be tough to find the right match – chemistry with the team – on your first try. But if you or your marketing head have gone through more than two agencies in 12 months, maybe it’s time to take a look inside.

Here’s a few things you can expect a good PR team to accomplish:

  • Get your products in front of the “right people” – those can vary, but for most companies it means reporters, bloggers, analysts and others who influence the buying decisions of your prospects.
  • Connect executives with these folks for personal meetings/briefings/interviews – beginning and helping to maintain a more personal relationship.
  • Get these influencers to listen – based on long standing relationships and/or the talent to understand what they want, how they want to be connected with, what they care about, etc.
  • Give you inside views on where to be (events, online and off) to connect with the right folks who can help you – whether it’s media, VCs, analysts, customer/prospects, partners – a good PR team can help with all of those, making sure your valuable time isn’t wasted, and that you’re not missing anything crucial.
  • Help you write, message, brand and promote what you want to say in a more eloquent manner.
  • Help “roll out the red carpet” for sales by spreading awareness of you, your company, your products consistently, and in the right places. Ideally, PR sets the stage so that when a sales executive walks into a deal, the prospect says, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you – I see you guys everywhere.” That’s always a nice start.

Here’s you should not expect PR to do:

  • Get people to keep using your product if it’s not working right.
  • Cover up bad customer service – certainly we can try to help fix a crisis, but this shouldn’t be the ongoing plan.
  • Work in a black hole – share information with your PR team and trust them to help you come up with the best, most strategic plan on what information should be communicated, to who, how, where and when.
  • Make reporters personally like you.
  • Tell reporters what to write. We can give them facts, we can encourage certain angles. But they’re not puppets and we’re not puppet masters.
  • Be responsible for repeat buyers. That’s your job – through great customer service, good products, stellar relationship management. We’re matchmakers of sorts – we get people interested but it’s up to you to maintain the relationship.

Of course, good PR executives can help with more than these things – it’s just a quick list. We can help you maintain relationships to a certain degree. But we’re not miracle workers. If your product or service isn’t working right or your customer service team isn’t treating customers well, don’t blame PR. Understand – and manage – the difference between positioning communications and information, vs product development, customer service and executive management. Too often, PR is blamed when all three don’t come together well.

What do you expect from PR?

 

 

 

10 Things I’ve Learned from Steve Jobs

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard the news that Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple yesterday. I’ll leave the detailed reporting to the journalists, but as a fan girl of Mr. Jobs and the products developed while under his reign, I thought it would be fun to share 10 things I have learned from following his career so far:

  1. Innovate, innovate, innovate – but only if it’s useful
  2. Stay hungry – don’t give up
  3. Listen to yourself – trust your gut
  4. Thing big, talk big
  5. Stick with what works – like a nice OS
  6. Be cool – be colorful
  7. Say what you think. (Wired gathered some of the greatest Jobs’ quotes.)
  8. Don’t settle – say no if it’s not right
  9. Keep going – as long as you can, but be honest with yourself and others when it’s over
  10. Go out on top – but stick around to see what happens, if you can

“The end of an extraordinary era,” indeed. (As Walt Mossberg reports on Jobs’s legacy of “Changing How we Live,” in the Wall Street Journal.)

When Is Your Product Ready to Launch?

Space Shuttle LaunchMany of our clients are passionate entrepreneurs and CEOs with brilliant ideas and products. Our role (or process for?) in bringing products to market begins as soon as we engage with a prospect. Below are five of the typical questions we ask each of our clients before we set a launch date and begin planning. If you are thinking of launching in the near term, ask yourself these questions to ensure you are fully prepared, before you make the investment in a launch and open the flood gates on PR activities:

  1. What is the value you offer to customers/users that no one else can provide?
    When launching any product the media and influencers covering the market will want to know what makes you unique. Be sure to do your market research and have at least 2-3 differentiators you can point to that set you apart from the competition.
  2. Who are your competitors? (Note: everyone has them)
    Competition comes in many forms. Direct competitors like Microsoft and Apple are to each other for example, and indirect competitors that are in a position to capture your market. These may be smaller players entering the space, with similar products, or larger players like Google that have a potential to erode your market share with a future offering currently in development. Reporters will ask and if you don’t have competitors in mind, they will find them for you. Be sure to know your position in the market and defend it with your differentiators.
  3. Have you beta tested? What references/user benefits/highlights can you talk about?
    Reporters and influencers will be interested in hearing about your product from your company spokesperson, but they will want proof that your product serves a real customer need. Hearing actual use cases from your customers adds needed credibility and increases your chances for positive coverage. Be sure to build positive relationships with your customers and have 2-3 in your back pocket that you can offer to the media as needed.
  4. Do you have an articulate spokesperson?
    Media training is an essential component to ensuring your launch messages are heard and understood. Be sure your company executives are well trained and prepared for media interviews and can convincingly articulate key messages concisely, enthusiastically and consistently. If not, consider holding a messaging session to refine messages, followed by media training for your key spokesperson. This should take place well in advance of the launch date.
  5. Can you confidently demo the product to media?No matter how articulate your spokesperson is, if the product has bugs in it and isn’t ready for primetime, your media coverage will certainly suffer as a result. Be sure to build a solid demo, highlighting the strongest features of your product, well in advance of launching. If your product is difficult to demo in a short time frame, consider building a product video demo/or screencast that can be sent to media to insert into their posts or articles.

Were these tips helpful? Are there any other questions you would add to the list? We look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credit: cosmobc