What's it like filming in a rainforest in London?

Posted by Nick Francis
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We’ve recently delivered a series of films for London Zoo on Behalf of Evening Standard Independent Group. It’s been a real labour of love for the crew, particularly Olly Atkinson, who has always had a bit of a soft spot for our furry friends. In his rich and varied careers before Casual he produced none other than the Secret Life of Hedgehogs. David Attenborough watch your back.

To find out a bit more about the process of shooting in the zoo we caught up with Olly to ask him about some of the challenges of shooting in a synthesised rainforest. Misty camera lenses and plastic cased GoPros watch out – the climbing anteater is about…

London Zoo Olly Interview

Casual's London MD, Olly Atkinson, who produced the films explains some of surprising challenges of shooting in a zoo! Keep watching to see the film at the end


Whatever you want to make a video about or expert global team are on hand to help. Fill in your details and thoughts on the form on this page and one of them will get back in touch very shortly. We've produced work from the Canadian Arctic to the Iraqi Desert (and a fair few conference rooms in between), so our staff understand your challenges and how to translate them into effective video content efficiently, whether your films subjects are going to try to break open and eat the camera, or not.

You can find the book a call back form here.

 

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Production process, How-to, About Casual

How to make your content last longer

Posted by Nick Francis
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How to make content last-2

 

It's a really common question - it takes time, headspace and money to create content that is worth sharing. So we thought we would share a couple of thoughts on how you can maximise your content's mileage...

1. Shoot Plenty

Whatever you are producing the more material you can shoot the more options you are giving yourself for the future. You may choose to use that extra material to create social cuts now or to hold them back to refresh the content with a reedit in the future.

2. Tell the Production Team

It helps if the people making the videos know that you want them to last as long as possible. This will allow them to work this into the creative/production.

3. Use Animation

It's great - reflecting brand and looking professional and is infinitely changeable - we have an animation from 2009 that we are still making reedits to for a client. Oh yeah - and the characters don't usually resign.

4. Does it Really Matter?

Usually, you get bored of your content before your audience do. They may be coming to it fresh.

5. Deliver Lasting Value

Just like Steve McQueen, really great ideas, information and entertainment don't go out of fashion.


What's the best length to guarantee engagement online? Well, one way to find out is by downloading our What's the Right Length for Video Online? Whitepaper.

Which is good because it's right here:

Download Casual's Right Length for Video Online Whitepaper

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

How we defined our values & built the culture at Casual

Posted by Nick Francis
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One of the most valuable things we ever did at Casual was define our values. This helped us to understand exactly who to employ and promote, and who was not quite right and might do better elsewhere. It is amazing how many business problems stem from people problems. Get the values right and so many things take care of themselves - particularly for a services business.

Culture and Values at Casual

 

How did we do that?

1. With management write down the attributes that make each of your 5-star/top performers great.

2. Which of these are shared?

3. Condense these to around 5 main ones which don't overlap too much.

4. Assess all staff against these values. Do they exhibit them: most of the time? Some of the time? None of the time?

5. Have a conversation with each staff member discussing the values and their grading. Be honest.

6. Help them to understand what they need to do to exhibit the values most of the time.

7. This gives you a clear framework to help challenging employees to succeed. Give them time to come back with examples.

8. If they can't get there, be prepared to say that this is not the right place for them - the ones who do fit will flourish.

9. Follow through. Recruit, incentivise and promote those who exhibit the values.

10. Over time this should build a strong and thriving culture.


CASUAL FILMS VALUES
 
What attributes make our Casual Filmers great?
 
Passionate about making our clients happy
There are lots of ways you could choose to have your project produced. We’re extremely grateful that our clients choose us. In gratitude, we employ people who are naturally passionate about delivering and delighting those who made that choice.
 
Can-do and proactive
Filmmaking is about continual problem solving. We require our staff to think on their feet and act on initiative. Our team are solution focused, taking much of the weight off you, our clients. 
 
Team spirited and accountable
 We work closely together so that you get the benefit of the experience and skill of our whole crew. We hire and promote people who show the personal leadership required to happily take accountability for their actions.
 
Doing more with less
We produce work which our clients believe is tangibly more effective. To do this, every penny invested needs to show in the final product. We are only able to do this by employing staff who think creatively and with thrift.
 
Open and positive
Video production is not the most important job in the world, but it might be one of the best. The process of working with Casual should be enjoyable for everyone involved. Having a positive mindset, even at a 4am call time, is central to this.

You can read more about the Casual Films team here: Great People.
 
If you want to speak to a 'Great' Casual person, click here to book a call:
 
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Topics: About Casual, Culture & Values

What is Big Rock Content?

Posted by Nick Francis
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“What you’re really seeking is to be trusted, to be heard, to be talked about, and to matter. And if we look at any brand that’s succeeded, that is what they have done.”
- Jason Miller, Content and Social Marketing Leader, LinkedIn

The term ‘Big Rock’ content was initially coined by Jason Miller, LinkedIn’s Head of Content. He describes it as a piece of content so substantial it allows the brand sharing it to ‘own the conversation’. This is the ultimate extension of Google’s hero content. Red Bull’s ‘Stratos Jump’ is a perfect example of this; it’s so audacious and the brand’s ownership is so complete that it excludes anyone else from getting involved.

 

However, this is maybe pushing the realms of possibility for 99.99% of brands. Nike’s ‘Breaking 2’ was one of the standout pieces of content in 2017, where the brand got together three of the fastest marathon runners in an attempt to break the 2-hour barrier. The attempt created a large amount of support - atomised - content, and earned large amounts of online coverage.

Talks at GS Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell on Talks at GS

A slightly more accessible example of this is Goldman Sachs Talks at GS series. These productions – reminiscent of TED talks in their approach and quality – feature presidents, actors, and business and charity founders, who are some of the most interesting thinkers and personalities of our time. The interviews are up to 20 to 30 minutes in length, which means that there is loads of content that can be repurposed into shorter outputs to be shared elsewhere. The channel sets the bank up as a powerhouse for global business and financial success, and has earned over 30 million views on YouTube so far.

Whatever you decide to make your ‘Big Rock’, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Make it really big and really desirable. It needs to be audacious and eye-catching enough for your audience to share their personal details with you to get involved. This may just be an email address, but it could be so significant that they will actually pay for it. Whatever the goal – make it big.

Consider two points: What conversation do you want to own? What is the number-one question on your audience’s minds? Where do these two questions intersect? They may well not, in which case you need to think about how you can transpose the two without compromising too much. This is where you should place your ‘Big Rock’.

Once you’ve made the investment in your ‘Big Rock’, you can repurpose parts of the output again and again - 'atomising' it if you like. You can use these smaller pieces of content to drive engagement with the central story. This can, in turn, massively increase your return on the original investment.


Whether you want some guidance on what your 'Big Rock' might be, or if you just want to make sure you're sharing the right kind of content in the first place, a free consultation call is a great place to start. Click here to book a call back with one of our content experts and learn just how much more your content could be doing for you.

 

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Being a better commissioner, Content Strategy, Brands as broadcasters

Learning from Nike : How context supercharges content effectiveness

Posted by Nick Francis
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Timing, they say, is everything.

Your audience are faced by a deluge of content every time they browse their social channels. Which is why it is getting harder and harder to cut through to them. Like random banner ads before them, so much content is subconsciously filtered out before they even notice it. The only way to get around it is by creating work that your audience are predisposed to engage with at the moment they see it. This is why the context in which it is viewed is essential in landing your content with them.

Subconscious Filtering?

This filtering of information is essential to allow us to focus on what is important and to stop us from going crazy from monitoring the huge number of stimuli that our bodies sense at any given moment. From thousands our brains limit us to being aware of only around 40. To do this, our RAS or Reticular Activating System (the brain’s CPU) instantaneously filters out anything which our subconscious judges to be extraneous information. This part of the brain learns very quickly what to look out for – it is why when you are looking at buying a red Volkswagen you suddenly see red Volkswagens everywhere. It, of course, also works for the things that we have learned to ignore.

1280-reticular-activating-systemThis is why we can see a hundred different ads while scrolling or browsing and never really notice them, but then one pops up with just the right thing at just the right time and boom, we click-through and buy. This is the essence of context. This is the importance of timing, which is why programmatic retargeting has been so successful (the process that continues to advertise products to you after you have visited a certain webpage). It’s why Google has grown to be, well, Google.

Get the timing right and an ad which cost you pennies to place can become the most valuable piece of advertising you do that day.

Nike put Tiger Wood's Masters win in context

Last weekend you may have noticed that Tiger Woods staged one of the most impressive career come backs in the history of golf, if not sport. He was once the global megastar of the sport, winning 14 major titles and being accused of ruining the game by making the rest of the world's best compete for second place. His implacable, uncompromisingly focused facade hid some challenging truths which came home to roost in dramatic fashion. He fell from grace, he lost his game and dropped out of the World's Top 1000. Most people wrote him off. Last weekend, he came back back and won his 5th US Masters - one, if not the, of the hardest fought tournaments in the sport - at the age of 43, the second oldest winner ever. It was a stunning moment in a story that has captivated the world of sport for nearly over 20 years.

Nike's Same Dream Spot - shared in the moments after Wood's win

Behind the scenes on Sunday, there was another level of genius/fortunate planning at work. In the moments after Woods donned the cherished green jacket of the Masters winner Nike shared an ad on their social channels which nailed the feeling of the moment. A relatively inexpensive edit which allowed them to capitalise on the estimated $22.5M worth of publicity that the brand received while Woods completed his final round. Sunday was the most watched round of golf in history. As far as content goes the edit was pretty basic – a few recuts of old footage of Tiger playing with some inspirational interview audio from his early life. For a brand like Nike the production of a piece of content like this is almost as basic it gets – it was after all a punt on their man actually winning– but it paid off in spades. 

Oreo - You can still dunk in the dark Super BowlOreo shared this image on Twitter when the lights famously went out during the 2013 Super Bowl

Like the Oreo – “you can still dunk in the dark” tweet – it smashed any goal the brand might have set because it was timed to utter perfection. It was amusing and impressive that they were ready with someone who knew what they were doing to be able to create and share it. But it was the timing that really nailed it. That was why it was retweeted 10,000 times in the first hour and was regarded by many as the prestigious 'ad of the night', beating out competition from spots which cost literally one million times more.

How to think about Context

Given the depth of data now available about your audience online, traditional demographic data – the meat and gravy of traditional (pre-digital) audience targeting is fairly lacking. This is because you ultimately want to target anyone who might buy your product or be the right fit for your job - it doesn’t matter where they live or how old they are. A more effective way of thinking about audience targeting is through Behaviours, Emotions and Moments or BEMs:

Behaviours:
Have consumers demonstrated (or exhibited proxy behaviour) that indicates interest in a specific or related product area? Have they actively sought out or mentioned a particular product or service? 
Emotions:
Has a particular product or service suddenly become more relevant to them? Are they posting emotional responses that suggest they would be receptive to certain brand messages? Ice cream can be great for lifting the spirits, a new job for those dissatisfied with work, a glass of champagne for someone feeling elated.
Moments:
What event might trigger a desire to buy or interact? Possibly changes in weather, transport strikes or sports events? Has the consumer entered a specific location which might make them more susceptible to your message - there is always a surge in job searching and relationship breakups around and immediately after Christmas.

Thousands of golfers will have been thinking: "I wonder what putters there are on the market at the minute?" Bang. That was the moment the video hit. That is the essence of context.

The reason this timing is so essential is that it allows the marketer to take advantage of the specific triggers that will lead your audience to engage in any given moment. How many people reached for an Oreo while watching the Super Bowl after seeing that tweet and in all the press it got afterward? More to the point, the Nike video was perfectly timed because it was shared at the moment that the audience are at their most inspired. Thousands of golfers will have been thinking about dusting off the clubs and maybe replacing their putter before playing a round. "I wonder what putters there are on the market at the minute?" Bang. That was the moment the video hit. Building on the positivity and oozy feelgood-ness of the moment and tying the brand into his glory. Making sure it was front of mind for anyone thinking of getting back out there and 'spoiling a good walk' - as Oscar Wilde would have said.

How can you find out about the BEMs of your audience?

The best way to work out the BEMs that work most effectively for your target audience is through testing and measuring. Make some sensible assumptions and then try them out. How can you use the information that you know about your audience to create content that will hit them while they're doing just the right thing, at just the right time, in just the right mood to engage? Test, measure, reiterate and improve.


Wherever or whenever you are targeting your audience, according to Google/YouTube the key to effective content campaigns is really great content. Download our free ten step guide to making sure the material you share is as good as it can be right here:

DOWNLOAD COMMANDMENTS

Topics: Attract and retain the best candidates, Explain or promote products and services, Increase brand awareness and appeal, Boost sales and encourage donations, Being a better commissioner, Content Strategy

Atomised content: The rise of the chicken sized horse

Posted by Nick Francis
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As filmmakers we sometimes need to kill time - in airports, interview rooms, watching render bars. One-way of doing this is by playing the game would you rather? The options are only limited by the imaginations of the crew which can be fairly ‘expansive’. Most of them probably shouldn’t be shared here. A classic though is:

Would you rather fight one chicken the size of a horse, or 100 horses the size of chickens?

It’s a poser. Brand-film wise, the horse-sized chicken used to rule the roost: a single monolithic piece of content that promoted your brand with a knockout punch. It was shared everywhere – the AGM, at pitch meetings and conferences. Everyone would watch it and marvel as they were told how amazing the company was.

 

Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle

 

Breast Cancer Now - Chantelle 90 second cut

Now, things have changed. Online content is all about multitudes of chicken sized horses. You need volume because your audience are so fragmented, over stimulated and time poor the only way to be sure your message gets through is via a carefully directed stream of multiple pieces of content. Much of your content may not be seen but you’re playing the numbers game. As long as your brand and the narrative is consistent your message stands a far greater chance of getting through.

Breast Cancer Now ChantelleBreast Cancer Now: Chantelle - Instagram

Take our good friends over at Breast Cancer Now, they knew that in order to grab and maintain their audience’s attention you had to hit them, not once but again and again and again. Muhammed Ali didn’t win his fights with a single punch he danced around the ring and landed perfectly timed shots. Your video content strategy needs to do exactly the same thing. Atomised content isn’t about spending more to get more, it’s about getting more from what you already have.

Breast Cancer Now utilised their budget to ensure they had enough content to keep their audience engaged across multiple platforms for a longer period of time. Let the horse sized chicken slowly fall whilst you produce Instagram stories, Facebook posts, Twitter videos, subtitled content, banner ads, email marketing campaigns the list goes on and on. Loads of tiny horses streaming out towards their audience.

 

UK5060BCN_FactFilms_C_01_MB

 

Breast Cancer Now Chantelle Video Banner

On average we shoot between 15 and 40 minutes worth of content per interview. This content is then condensed to a 30, 60 or 90second film. That leaves loads of unused material which can now be used to create supporting content. Take those clips which were just a bit too long winded to include originally and see if it could work as a stand-alone film, pull stills from video content and create new social media posts, turn the audio into a podcast. Once you stop viewing your video budget as a single deliverable you start to get much more bang for your buck!

Producing content in this way gives you flexibility. You don’t have to blow all your budget on that one piece of content which needs to tick all the boxes, instead you can focus on the specific needs of your target audience. Make a film that speaks to each group individually, get personal and your brand and message will start to grow strong roots.

BCN_CHANTELE_970x250_02

So, next time you raking your brain trying to think of the next best all singing all dancing chicken sized horse surprise your audience with a hundred horse sized chickens, they won’t see that coming. Or maybe they will - and that's kind of the point.

...

Whatever the size of your future content project, set off on the right foot with our guide to writing better briefs. You can download it here:

DOWNLOAD BETTER BRIEFS

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, Repurposed content, How-to, Atomised content, Content Strategy

How much does a film cost?

Posted by Nick Francis
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Creating content costs less than ever. New technology has put the power of production studios in our mobile phones. We are all savvier than ever about how a film goes together. You have everything you need to create and share content right now. Even for professionally produced content these advances have fed a drastic reduction in the time and cost of creating a like-for-like piece of work over the last decade or so.

That having been said, in order to ‘cut through’ to our audience online we should be sharing more content than we ever have before – so it’s just as well it’s cheaper. Because of this there has been a significant move towards getting as much mileage as possible out of all the content that we create. ‘Content atomisation’ – taking the central piece of content and then reediting and repurposing it to maximise the mileage. The cost of each output has fallen, even if the cost of the overall project is often the same.

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How much does a film cost?

This is one of the most common questions people ask. There are a few different ways of answering it but to save beating around the bush, the simplest answer is that an average Casual Films project for the financial year to 2019 was $18k in the US and £15k in the UK/EU.

The key word there though is project, as often these can entail a number of different outputs and reedits. More usually we will create a series of films that cost more in the $/£60k -100k region. Some projects extend into the hundreds of thousands, but these tend to be many outputs in one.

What’s the reason for the average film value?

Because at around $18k/£15k we begin to be able to add significant value to the project with our proprietary production process. Our pricing is defined by the amount of time that it takes to create each project. Different roles in the process cost differing amounts depending on their experience, expertise and impact on the project. At this budgetary level there is enough budget for two or three days of creative - to get a great idea - some producer time to make it all happen, a day or two to shoot it and then editing, sound design and some animation if necessary. They will be able to create something fairly sparkly, as long as they don't need to work around too many fixed costs - travel, talent, specialist equipment.

What’s the cheapest film we can make?

The lowest that we tend to start a project is around $/£8k, although if we have an existing relationship then we can and do go a little lower. We tend to not compete for projects at the really low end because there are lots of smaller producers and freelancers out there who do a decent job at this level. We’re not able to add the same value we are when the projects have a little room for a bit more creative thought and sparkle.

As a rule, if this is your first question we’re probably not the right company for you. We compete on being able to create things happen for your business with video – optimising for return on investment rather than being as cheap as possible.

Can you work to my budget?

The process of filmmaking is creative, so the budget becomes an additional constraint that the creative thinking needs to work around – like the timeframe, branding or specific messaging. Because of this, it can be extremely flexible – it’s possible to fulfil the same objectives for significantly different investment levels. On the other hand, quality, in-depth thinking and delivery take time, and time costs money. If you need to shoot in a number of different locations or include significant amounts of complex animation these are hard costs which are challenging to work around.

Promoting your content

For years, there has been a disconnect between where marketing money gets spent and where the real potential lies. In studies, researchers have found that the quality of creative messaging is responsible for up to 75% of a campaign’s success. In spite of this, as much as 90% of the overall spend is often still focused on the media budget.

"75% of a campaign’s effectiveness is defined by the quality of the creative messaging"

- Google

Traditional television marketing became so successful largely because of how strong the metrics that were available to support it were. One of the major challenges that online content has faced over the years is the challenge of showing direct causation between money spent and the return on that investment.

But this isn’t necessarily about spending more money on marketing than you already are. Creating and executing a comprehensive and effective content strategy can be about redistributing the money you’re already investing. Why, for example, are you spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on the production of TV commercials when the vast majority of your audience watch them for the first time as a small image on their Facebook feed, momentarily pausing before scrolling onwards, and paying very little attention to them?


We'd love to talk to you about this or anything in the production process. Drop us a line or send us an email: projects@casualfilms.com to book a call back with one of our producers.

Topics: Production process, Being a better commissioner, How-to, Project management

Content gives you wings: what can Red Bull Media teach us?

Posted by Nick Francis
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As we covered in this post, advances in technology give us all the ability to create and share so much content that we are effectively – whether we like it or not – the owners of our own media channel. That post covered the mindset shift required to take full advantage of that.  This time we look at a brand which has grasped this and benefitted from it as much, if not more than any other...

Energy-drinks manufacturer Red Bull have built a brand presence for their content so significant that it almost transcends the association with their original product. With its Red Bull Media House, it creates thousands of pieces of content, has correspondents in 160 countries, distributes one of the most popular magazines in the world and has its own TV channel. They have generated brand equity which can be valued in the billions. We're not suggesting that you need to go that far to see a return from content. It’s more that this is a useful guide as to just how much like a traditional broadcaster a brand can end up being.

Nearly all the content that the Red Bull Media House produces is only obliquely relevant to the original product. The link is with the initial core aim of the brand, in that Red Bull gives wings to people and their ideas – ‘Red Bull gives you wings’. But there are three things that you can take from Red Bull’s approach to content production:

  • Take the leap
  • Prepare for the long term
  • It needs to come from the top

Red Bull Media House Art of Flight Content ProductionWe finally get an in context snowboard shot into the Blog! Whoop!

Take the leap

Like a motocross rider about to pull a backflip on Red Bull’s channel, if you’re going to do it, you need to commit. Their failure to do this might mean they land on their head; you may just end up wasting your time and money. For many companies, though, this will require a real step away from what they are used to. Red Bull really went for it and has built an entirely new multi-billion-dollar category as a result. This culminated in Red Bull Media House’s crowning achievement, which is arguably Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space, which was watched by a live global audience of nearly 8 million. The photo of him having landed safely on the Red Bull Facebook page was liked by 466,000 people. That is a lot of engagement! All of the additional material that the jump generated enabled members of the audience to take, repurpose and own elements of the story.

Prepare for the long term

Red Bull first launched its content wing in 2007 – it has taken it 10 years to achieve the dominance in the space that it has now. Over that time, it has taken a sustained approach to building its audience and the loyalty of its many followers; this has led to a significant and measurable increase in the value of the Red Bull brand. The problem with trying to account for this using a traditional marketing framework is that it’s almost impossible to calculate the increase in brand value on a piece-by-piece basis. While any brand can benefit from having a more joined-up content strategy, being a brand broadcaster is a long-term investment in your company’s future value.

Red Bull CEO Dietrich MateschitzRed Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz

It needs to come from the top

One of the main challenges for businesses wanting to capitalise on the opportunity that is on offer to them is misunderstanding or fear among the executive team. There is no reason why any company that chooses to can’t achieve excellent returns, but it has to be driven from the senior team. Red Bull has two shareholders – the original entrepreneurs who set the business up. That means it has the freedom to make the decisions that are in the long-term interest of the brand. It can choose to take the calculated risks that are necessary to make this stuff really work, without having to answer to the drive for short-term returns. So many companies want to be Apple – they love the Apple brand, the precision of its operations and the adoration of its users (and its profit margin!) – but no one is prepared to be Steve Jobs: risk taking, brave and uncompromising in his pursuit for perfection. To expect one without the other is unrealistic and naïve.


Whatever you are trying to achieve it is essential that you start your project off on the right foot. You can access our guide to writing an effective brief (which includes a briefing document for you to use as you choose) right here.

We're always interested to hear what you think. Let us know in the comments section below...

Topics: Being a better commissioner, Content Strategy, Brands as broadcasters

Your business is now a media company. What does that mean for you?

Posted by Nick Francis
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No matter what your business does, advances in technology mean you now have the ability to create and share more content than ever before. This puts you in charge of your own content channel. Your audience expect you to use it. This post will show you how.

Media company?

Advances in technology have put the power of production studios in the palms of our hands. At the same time, global distribution is easier than ever. This has major implications for all of us, particularly those in business communications. Many brands have taken advantage of these evolutions to take on the role of broadcasters in their own right – the leaders in the space have generated brand value which challenges that of the actual product.

Nearly every business is creating and sharing more content than they have in the past. Whether you like it or not, your audience – customers, staff, shareholders – expect you to use the channels available to you to communicate with them. To capitalise on this you need to make a series of mindset shifts about the content that you share:

  • Your content is a product
  • Your purpose is your cornerstone
  • Increase your timeframe
  • Combine different content threads
  • Think multichannel

 

1. Your content is a product

The most important shift towards operating like a media company is to value your content like any of the other product that your organisation produces. Traditional broadcasters, of course, have to think like that as it’s their only output. Whatever your company produces, if you’re serious about building your brand’s cachet, you need to think of your content as additional element of your product offering to your customers.

Autodesk - 3D Printing

Your content should be TRUE - Timely, Relevant, Useful, Entertaining

Why is this? In your audience’s minds, it’s difficult to unpick the different elements that contribute to your brand’s value. If you create and share material that hasn’t been properly thought through, incoherent or poor quality, what does that say about the rest of the things that your business produces? There was a time in the early days of having video online when you could be forgiven for sharing substandard work. That time has passed – with modern tools almost every member of your audience has the ability to create and share quality content. They are also used to consuming high quality content through YouTube and Netflix. The material you share has to be of value to the audience in order to cut through to them.

 2. Your purpose is your cornerstone

Like any traditional media channel, there needs to be a degree of coherence to the content you share. Think about watching BBC2 or Channel Five in the UK, or Fox News or HBO in the US. They have a feel about them, which if you’re familiar with them, you will be able to pick up on. The branding and tone of voice of your channel is a post for another time (or maybe a call). For now, suffice to say that all the content that you share should have an association with your purpose as a business.

Your business purpose is useful for defining your content because it leads to that important coherence and more impactful content. Most businesses now have a purpose which goes beyond the simple profit motive – what Simon Sinek calls their ‘Why’. This forms an excellent jumping off point for all of the content that you produce. It doesn’t necessarily mean your content need to all be about your purpose, but there should be a straight-line association between the two.

3. Increase your timeframe

Another shift to make is to understand that to see the returns that this approach offers you need to be prepared to build your audience following over a longer term that you might currently be used to. Traditional marketing tends to take place on a seasonal cycle. Spring follows winter follow autumn etc. This is largely the effect of the quarterly and annual business reporting cycle. It will take a longer period to build the following and brand affinity with your audience that being a broadcaster can generate.

Traditional broadcasters tend to think in decades. They aim to engage viewers in their mid-to-late teens, and then keep them, with different types of programming, throughout their lives. Now, of course, this is completely unrealistic as a timeframe for the majority of businesses, but the evolution of content that a network offers over a lifetime can be condensed into the different types of content that you should share over a prospective customer’s sales/engagement-lifecycle journey.

Long-term business value relies on finding, keeping and growing customers who come back to our brands for years. We do that by becoming so much more to our consumers than just a soap or shoe supplier. We want our products to be as useful to our customers as they possibly can be, so why not aim to make the content that supports them as helpful as possible too? We want to provide the customer with as much value as we economically can – whether that is in the quality of your physical product, or in the material that you share to support and promote it.

These businesses don’t think in discrete, cyclical campaigns, but in a rolling, evolving journey for their audience – much like a traditional network TV channel. There are – of course – quick wins to be had, and video can drive very immediate results, which is all that the majority of businesses are going to use it for, and that’s fine. There is no reason why your business can’t positively transform its standing in the market on the back of a carefully considered, creative content strategy. To do that, you need to start thinking a little longer term.

4. Maximise your content

In terms of engagement rates, video is the most important type of content for you to share, There are many different types which can back this up, providing engagement in different spheres on the many different platforms. These might include written blogs, Instagram posts or podcasts. It is often possible to repurpose or reedit content to maximise the return for your investment. This might include pulling images for Instagram or ripping audio to be shared as a podcast. The production of video and blogs take time so you want to make sure you get the maximum mileage from them.

Social MediaIn the old cliché - 'fish where the fish are'

5. Think multichannel

Your audience engage with different platforms in different ways at different times of the day. You need to share the content in the way that they want to consume it – not the other way around. For example, your audience might engage with short form ‘snack’ content on Snapchat in the morning but be prepared to watch a longer piece of content on YouTube in the evening. They don’t necessarily see the distinct definitions between different platforms that you do. Whatever the platform you are sharing content on, it is important that the underlying brand narrative is consistent (See point 2). 


Whatever stage you’re at in your content journey we’re keen to help you get to the next level. Drop us a line and we can help you make 2019 your best year yet.

If you want to read more about how to create a content strategy, or if you just want to learn about the difference between a Gaffer and a Focus puller you should check out Nick’s new book: The New Fire: Harness the Power of Video for Your Business.

Topics: Increase brand awareness and appeal, Being a better commissioner, Content Strategy

What is a story and why do they matter to communicators?

Posted by Nick Francis
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“Story Story Story”

- Sir Ridley Scott, one of the greatest living filmmakers/storytellers, opening the New Directors’ Showcase at the Cannes Lions in 2018.

Stories are all around us. We use them to entertain, to amuse and to inform. They also form the underpinnings of nations, companies, families, teams and even money. Storytelling has become a buzzword in corporate communications. A search of LinkedIn finds that nearly 800,000 people describe themselves as storytellers, or list storytelling as a skill. But there is good reason for this.

Stories are central to how we define our reality. They define belonging, and the concept of ‘them’ and ‘us’. This is because every cultural arrangement relies (no matter how loosely) on a shared set of understandings. This makes an understanding of stories essential for those interested in creating and strengthening cultures of any kind.

What is a story?

Simply put, a story is an encapsulation of cause and effect. Our brains link facts – A leads to B, B leads to C, and so on. This gives rise to the three-act structure: the ingredients, the reaction and the outcome. The reason this is a more effective form of communication than just giving facts is that it mirrors how our brains have evolved to process information.

Story structure activates the brain in a way that simple facts do not:

“Don’t drink the water, it’s not safe” isn’t as memorable as... 

“Sarah drank from that smelly stream, and she has been in bed, writhing in agony, ever since.”

When we hear the facts linked as a story, we can’t help but visualise Sarah’s experience. This creates an emotional reaction over and above the simple facts and embeds it into our brains. Because of this, information relayed as a story is far more likely to be remembered than the same information shared as bare facts.

Conflict is essential to great stories…

Good stories are about conflict; they include a degree of jeopardy in the achievement of the effect or outcome (i.e. A plus B could lead to C, but it could also lead to D, E or F). The greater this unpredictability or jeopardy, the more powerful the emotional connection, and therefore the greater the impact of the story.

This gives nearly all great stories a recognisable structure. Look at any of the great myths – ancient or modern – and you’ll find the personable figure of the underdog, who sets out against great odds to achieve a significant (and almost unattainable) goal. In doing so, they enhance themselves and grow. In his excellent book Into the Woods, renowned screenwriter John Yorke examines the mechanics behind story structure. He argues that, while the subject of the story (the protagonist) might not get what they initially wanted, they achieve the thing that they actually needed, and that is far more valuable.

The reason for the success of this type of structure is that it mirrors an insecurity that lies at the heart of all human beings. Built within our psyches is the belief that we are the underdog facing the challenges of the world. Different types of stories resonate with different target audiences, but the underdog against the world resonates with us all.

John Yorke Into the Woods Casual Films

Story and Memory

The paradox of the online world is that, while it has never been easier to reach an audience, it’s still difficult to connect with them. There is so much noise in modern communications, but great stories give you the opportunity to reach past your audience’s overstimulated heads and reach their hearts. Emotive stories do this. Used effectively, they enable you to get people to take note and remember what you want them to.

The facts that stories lace with emotional connections become far more memorable. Bear with me here… In the early days of Casual, I used to go to breakfast networking groups, to meet and learn from other entrepreneurs. At one meeting, the topic of the conversation was, “What makes great customer service?” As we went around the table, the various business owners present gave their two-cents’ worth: “Well, I think it’s about sharing my mobile phone number and then not letting it ring more than twice when they call” and “I think it’s about sending a card for your clients’ birthdays”. Each business owner took their turn to give their ideas. When it came to me, I had a story about something that had happened recently and was fresh in my mind.

“A good client of ours rang our office at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon. They had a very important pitch, and, for one reason or another, the film that they had been waiting for from their internal video department hadn’t come. She told me that the pitch started the next morning at 9am, and it would be severely compromised without the video. I told her not to worry and that if it was humanly possible, we would get it done. Four of us stayed and worked until 2.30am, finished the film and sent it over to her. She played it and they ended up winning the business. “This is what I think is good client service.”

About a year later, I was at a conference and I introduced myself to one of the other delegates. I was slightly taken aback when he said, “I know you; you’re the guys who are really good at client service.” He had been at that networking group, and had heard the story I shared. It had stuck in his mind long after the associated facts of the rest of the group had faded. I’m telling you this to illustrate the enduring nature of information that has been made to resonate with a broader narrative.

Making the intangible tangible – brand, values and the ‘foundation myth’

The previous example illustrates another key asset of stories in the business context: they allow the communicator to make relatively intangible ideas – such as customer service, brand or values – tangible. It can be challenging to communicate what is meant by an abstract brand slogan. If the communicator builds that definition out with a story, it gives it a form and context that is accessible and ‘sticky’ (or memorable). In this example, the relatively abstract concept of ‘customer service’ is given a clear form through a simple story.

Apple Big Brother 1984 Casual Films

Apple’s iconic Think Different’ slogan is perfectly encapsulated by Ridley Scott’s equally iconic 1984 commercial for the launch of the original Mac computer (even though the slogan itself didn’t feature for the company until 1997). The spot features hundreds of drone-like, monochrome men in boiler suits all captivated by a large, Big-Brother-esque face on a screen in front of them. From the back of the room, a young woman in running kit, including red shorts, runs in and hurls a large hammer at the screen, destroying it. It ends with a voiceover saying, “Find out why 1984 is not going to be like 1984” – a clear, if implicit, punch at the established order represented by IBM. Anyone who saw that ad could see the essence of what Apple stood for then and what it continues to stand for now. To explain what was meant by the slogan could have taken many hundreds, if not thousands, of words, but video allows it to be captured and understood simply, in a handful of seconds.

This attribute makes the format really useful for internal/employer communications. Every company now has a set of values, which it expects its staff to live their working lives by. These values are far more effectively communicated through a story than a slogan. A value with a story becomes a behaviour. A behaviour is easier for the employee to understand and act on. Saying, “This is what we mean by excellent customer service, integrity, give more, etc.” is a great way to get staff to exhibit those values. Video is an effective way of illustrating these stories to them.

The powerfully aligning nature of narrative is part of the reason that foundation myths hold such a powerful sway in the business world. Yes, the company may now be a global behemoth, but, once upon a time, it was just a small group of people with an idea and a desire to go against the system. These founders faced almost impossible odds (conflict/jeopardy) but overcame them with guile and a belief that what they were doing was right. No matter how large and successful the company becomes, there will always be the underlying narrative, which can be mythologised, and used to engage and motivate staff and other stakeholders.


If you find this interesting check out Nick's book: The New Fire - Harness the Power of Video for Your Business. You can preorder it hereNew Fire Book Image

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, How-to, Content Strategy

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