The Casual Academy

Posted by Nick Francis
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You may have noticed that a couple of weeks ago we ran our first ever Academy from our new office in the San Francisco Bay. As it's Thanksgiving and the holiday season is a great time for being charitable, we thought we'd share a bit more information on what the Casual Films Academy is...

 

What is the Casual Academy?

We set the Academy up back in 2012. We wanted to do something which had a benefit to the world. We saw the potential of a win:win in video production, as both the process of production and the final output can be beneficial.

The main aim of the Casual Academy is to broaden access to the media industry. It provides 16 to 25 year olds with hands-on film training while making films for charities. This training is provided by filmmakers who mentor them through the production of a film for a small local charity. The charity gets a promotional film and the young people a piece for their showreel, and the experience of working to a brief from a real client.

Casual Films Academy Back On My Feet

Back On My Feet - New York, 2016

The course is designed to give the young people experience of the four main roles in the production process. Namely: creative/scriptwriter, producer, director, editor. This helps them to understand the different skills involved in each role, so that they can understand where to focus their energies to effectively enter the industry. The finished film is then presented to the charity at a premiere, which is attended by the young people’s friends and family. There is then a further career advice session to help them understand where to go next.

Casual Films Academy Beating Bowel Cancer

Beating Bowel Cancer - London, 2016

Why is this necessary?

For most people the way into the creative industries is via a three or six month unpaid internship. This limits access to all but the significantly privileged - particularly given the living costs in our home cities. This theme is reflected by the relatively limited variation in socio-economic backgrounds among those working in production, creative and media companies.

If our industry is the mouthpiece for business and culture, how can it be representative if it fails to properly reflect the views, ideas and backgrounds of all people?

Casual Films Academy Manor Gardens

Manor Gardens - London, 2015

What’s the plan?

We've run the Academy 10 times over the past six years. It has potentially global appeal, with young people, charities and professional filmmakers who are willing to give some of their time to help. If you fall into one of those groups, do please drop us a line. We're always looking for new people to work with.

Topics: Purpose driven video, Casual Academy

The value of purpose in recruitment and engagement video

Posted by Nick Francis
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In our blog on Building Trust in the Era of Fake News, we discussed the increasing importance of purpose in all of your communications. Here we take a moment to look at why purpose is important, particularly in the realm of recruitment and internal engagement.

Casual Films Vodafone Belonging Purpose Film

Your business' purpose or 'why' is an extremely useful resource when looking for content to broadcast or campaigns to run. This doesn’t mean that all the content you create should suddenly be about charitable causes or that it should be about ‘do-gooding’. It also doesn’t mean that all your content needs to be about your corporate purpose. It means that all the content that you create should have a tangential relevance to your ‘Why?’ as a business. This will provide an underlying coherence to your content at the same time as reinforcing your brand identity. It is a step towards your purpose being about actions, rather than just words.

While purpose is extremely valuable to corporate communicators, it must be ingrained in your way of doing business. It is not enough to simply talk about it: it must become part of your DNA. Your customers and employees will thank you for it, as will your shareholders in due course, so everyone ends up happy.

Purpose and the Zuckerberg generation

Purpose has become particularly important, given the evolutions in employment patterns in the current century. Speak to most employers, and they will complain that today’s youthful workforce has become less loyal and more flighty, but the facts don’t entirely bear this out. According to LinkedIn, millennials – those born between 1982 and 2000 (and among the 500 million who use the platform) – change job four times on average in their first ten years in the workplace. There is disagreement over whether this represents a significant departure from previous generations. A US Bureau of Labor Statistics study of the baby-boomer generation found that they had held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. This is certainly more than the baby boomers’ grandparents would have had at the turn of the 20th century.

What has happened, without question, is a shift in what the workforce want from a job. Millennials have seen their contemporaries overturn convention and earn billions as the creators of global technology brands. From Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber to Malala Yousafzai, they have seen how a compelling story can pluck anyone from obscurity and plaster them across the global stage. They mainline videos that show them what is happening in the world – their world – and how they can and must play a role in shaping it. ‘Shape the world’ is what they plan to do.

Young people naturally find it easier to pick up new things (which is just as well). This has meant that they have been disproportionately empowered by the Technological Revolution. This is upending traditional power structures. They know they have this power, and want to know what the brands they interact with – as their suppliers, employers and broadcasters – will do for them. Young people no longer live to work, they work to live. Work is something that the modern employee does as a part of their life. They expect to live the life of their choosing, which means that all employment is viewed through a ‘What’s in it for me?’ prism. Each job has to be a stepping stone or stamp to their career passport, enhancing their skills and experience to enable the next leap onwards.

Millennials have never known a world not negatively affected by human impact. Climate change, the ‘plastification’ of the oceans, mass extinction and social inequality all play on their minds. They want the businesses that they have a relationship with to be part of the solution to these problems. This explains why business purpose is so specifically important to them, particularly when choosing an employer.

They believe that business can be a genuine force for good in the world. Of the 7,900 young people surveyed as part of the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2017, 76% view ‘business’ positively and believe that it has a positive influence on society. This rose to 89% among those considered ‘hyperconnected millennials’; i.e. those identified as being highly digitally connected compared to the average in their own countries. Nine out of ten of the most influential millennials believe that business has a positive influence on society. As the guardians of big business, you should seize this opportunity and build on it.

Why should this matter to you?

This matters because the millennials are becoming the most powerful generation in history. They are the largest generation (92 million in the US), surpassing the baby boomers (77 million US), and are entering the workplace and their prime earning/spending years. By 2025 they will make up 75% of the global workforce. They already control US$2.7 trillion in annual expenditure. In the West, over time, they will inherit the wealth of their baby-boomer parents, much of which has been protected and built by final-salary pensions and significant real-estate-asset inflation. They are the future of business and our planet.

Young people want purpose, belonging and ownership of the brands they interact with – your brand. They want to take part. They have grown up surrounded by social media and technology in the post- 9/11 world. Having a purpose to work towards makes them more-engaged employees, more-loyal customers and more-active advocates for your brand. They want you to be part of the solution, and they want you to be the enabler.

For employees, the ability to take part in charitable causes at work leads to an increase in loyalty. Deloittes’ aforementioned survey found that of the 54% of millennials who were provided with the opportunity to contribute to good causes or charities, 35% stayed in their job for 5 years or more (vs 24% without the opportunity). They were also more positive about the role of business in the world and optimistic about the social situation generally.

It’s not just employee engagement that makes this a good area for your business to get involved in. There’s also the direct-profit motive. Around 89% of millennial consumers have said there is a strong likelihood they would buy from companies that support solutions to particular social issues, and 91% said that this fact would increase their trust in the business. This would explain why market-research firm Nielsen identified that, in the financial year 2015, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability grew more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%.

How can this work for you?

As we saw in the Building Trust blog, it is essential that you don't just talk the talk. It is essential that you walk the walk. Take the work that Vodafone have been doing on promoting themselves as the number one employer for women and LGBT+ people. First they have to take the steps in that direction and then tell the world about it - in that order. Of course there will always be a degree the marketing driving the reality, but tangible steps towards the new reality have to come first. The great thing about this type of film is that it makes for really powerful, engaging outputs. Ideal for recruitment and staff engagement:

 

We'd love to hear what you think of our blogs. Whether there is a certain subject you'd like to cover, or if you'd like to discuss the topics in more depth, please leave a comment below or email us on: hello@casualfilms.com

Topics: Purpose driven video, Attract and retain the best candidates, How-to, Being a better commissioner

The Casual Films Academy charity comes to Oakland!

Posted by Nick Francis
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We have recently completed the first outing of the Casual Films Academy Charity in our new spot in California. We worked with a number of young people from Guardian Gyms to make a series of films to help the non-profit to expand into a second larger space.

Back in 2012, we realised that the process of producing films gives the opportunity for a double win. On the one hand, the film itself can be used as a valuable promotional tool for a local charity that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford one. On the other the process of making the film gives the opportunity to give access to young people to experience the many benefits of working in a creative team and making something. Since then we have worked with well over 100 young people. This year, with the help of our excellent staff, we brought the idea to Oakland, San Francisco Bay, CA.

Casual Academy Oakland

The Cause

The local cause we decided to work with was Guardian Gym - a non-profit martial arts gym based. They offer free classes to kids in the community, where they practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing and are mentored, gain self-confidence. This helps them to develop important life skills like discipline. It works in a similar way to Tom's Shoes - one paying adult membership also pays for a young person’s membership. 

Guardian Gym’s model has been so successful that they have outgrown their space. They need more funding to help them to open a second, larger facility to accommodate more members – both adults and kids. The videos we made with our academicians (if we can call them that!) are intended to promote and raise money for this second location. 

15s Instagram teaser of Diego's film

The Films

We created five 30 second videos, each focused on a different young person. They filmed and edited these with minimal direction and guidance from CF resident filmmaker James Fair. That's worth repeating - these films were shot and edited by our Academy students. Each video tells the story of how Guardian Gym has helped them overcome a challenge they faced. You can see the films by clicking here.

The young people seemed to really enjoy the community atmosphere and collaboration of the production. They got proper hands-on experience and were really able to take control of what they were making. Watching them, you wouldn't guess that they were shot and edited by kids between the ages of 10-13 (and 18). They turned out to be amazing, and showcase how committed and dedicated these five kids are to both Guardian Gym and the Academy. 

 

15s Instagram teaser of Kadijah's film

"Capturing some of our kids while they participate in a project to learn how to film, edit, and tell a story with the Casual Academy. Such a great learning experience for them to find a potential passion early in life. We can't tanks James, Lydia and Sanica enough."

- Guardian Gyms 

A massive thank you to everyone involved in the the project. It wouldn’t have been possible without the time, effort and energy that our Oakland team put into it. If you want to make a donation please click here.

If you want to learn more about the Academy - if you have a local cause you think would benefit, or a young person in one of our home cities who is interested in getting involved then do please let us know. If you want to make a donation to the Academy - nothing is too small (or too big!) - to help us to help more special cause please contact us on hello@casualfilms.com

Topics: Purpose driven video, News, Casual Academy

Cause marketing - actions matter more than words...

Posted by Nick Francis
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Cause marketing - marketing with the dual aim of bettering society and driving profit is more important than ever. Important because frankly, society and world need all the help they can get, and because it’s a really effective way of improving the way your audience think about your brand.

Casual Films Cause Marketing

Cone Communications has been running an annual study on the efficacy of cause-related marketing. It found that this is no longer a differentiator, unless it is also accompanied by a genuine effort by the companies to demonstrate they are achieving an actual impact.

 “[Cause marketing] is no longer a competitive differentiator unless it is also accompanied by a genuine effort on the part of companies to demonstrate how their efforts were making a real impact on achieving results.”

– Cone Communications

Unfortunately, this shows it’s not enough to simply talk about the great projects that you are putting money into. Audiences are far more likely to talk about what a brand did than what they said. This means that, in order to make taking a more conscientious approach work for you, you actually need to get your hands dirty. You must ‘live your purpose’. It should shine through in everything that you do. Failure to do this leads to a perceived lack of authenticity in the eyes of your stakeholders, which, thanks to social media, will do disproportionate damage to your brand.

It is also important to get intricately involved in the causes that you wish to benefit in order to avoid the charge of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, as Pepsi found with their Kendall Jenner protestors spot...

 

Getting it wrong: Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

Whatever cause you decide to get involved in, it’s essential that your brand has an authentic attachment to the cause. This cannot just be lip service. It is also extremely important that you understand the nuances of the issue and don’t trivialise it through superficial understanding. Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner commercial shows her giving cans of Pepsi to police officers, seemingly with a view to reducing tensions at a Black Lives Matter protest. The idea that Jenner, who is white, could turn up and solve the situation with a can of soda was seen as extremely insulting and out of touch. Social media did the rest, culminating in the 18-year-old model sharing a video, with her crying and begging the forgiveness of the masses.

Casual Films Kendall Jenner Pepsi

It might be tempting to move away from cause-related marketing as a result. The key point here is that if you are going to take this route, which you should, you need to get involved at the root, make a difference and then tell that story. It is not acceptable to simply say, from a disconnected position, that you ‘believe’ in good causes. It is necessary to actually become involved in them, to understand them and to benefit them; to use your considerable might to work towards a solution, no matter how small the step you enable might be.

 

Greenwashing

greenwash

/ˈɡriːnwɒʃ/

noun

Greenwashing is marketing that intentionally overemphasises the green credentials of a business activity, while downplaying the actual negative impact. As a term, it was first used by Jay Westervelt in an essay criticising the hotel industry for their habit of leaving cards in their bathrooms asking their guests to reduce the amount of washing that is done by not leaving their towels on the floor, from where they would have to be washed. Westervelt showed that, far from being motivated by the environment, the hoteliers were in fact motivated by the reduced costs it would incur, thereby increasing their profits.

It is not a new thing though; in 1969 alone, public utilities spent more than US$300 million on advertising their green credentials – more than eight times what they spent on the anti-pollution research they were touting in those ads.

Greenwashing became more elaborate through the 1970s and 1980s, to the extent that in 1990, on Earth Day 20, one-quarter of all goods launched in the US were marketed as being “recyclable, ozone friendly and compostable”. In 1985, Chevron launched their People Do series, which was aimed at those who were societally conscious and hostile to the company. The ads featured bears, eagles and animals, and underlined how hard the company’s people were working to protect wildlife during their work. These ran for 15 years and became a textbook case of how successful greenwashing can be, leading to a 10% jump in sales and a 22% jump among the hostile audience target group.

Greenwashing in the current ‘post-truth’ age is alive and well. The bottled-water industry, for example, leans heavily on imagery of the natural world in its marketing, and trumpets the reduction in plastic used in its bottles, while its products continue to have a severely negative ecological impact. Only 31% of plastic bottles consumed in the US are recycled. With so much demand for ‘green’ products (72% of millennials will pay more for environmentally sustainable products), it’s not surprising that businesses are keen to stress their credentials.

 

If you're interested in getting a few more tips on how to make better, more effective videos,

you can download our our TOP TEN tips right here:

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Topics: Purpose driven video, Being a better commissioner, How-to

Building trust in the era of fake news

Posted by Nick Francis
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The ‘Age of Transparency’

The Technological Revolution has changed the nature of communication: it is no longer simply the few with the means broadcasting to the masses without. Communication is now omnidirectional: everyone is broadcasting, commenting on and sharing each other’s messages. This environment presents significant challenges for corporate communicators in particular – consistency of message is key. Out of sight is no longer out of mind. In the globalised world, eyes and cameras are everywhere. Blue-chip megaliths can lose billions in market capitalisation from a single incident, with their reaction magnified to the world by omnipresent smartphones. This ‘all-seeing eye’ has illuminated areas that were closed off before. We have become more familiar with the workings of authority. With this familiarity, contempt has crept in, which has led to a general crisis of trust.

Nick Francis Buidling Trust in the Era of Fake News

Scandals in almost every field – for example, sexual harassment/#MeToo, politics, corporate malpractice, police mistreatment (e.g. Black Lives Matter) and hacked answerphones – have led to historically low trust ratings for the traditional pillars of power. Traditional broadcasters are suffering from an onslaught of new media and a resurgent, divisive political movement intent on dismissing discourse; this increases and aims to capitalise on the trust gap.

Set against this backdrop, it’s not surprising that trust has become a, if not the, watchword of business communications. Every business function – from product launches to temporary-staff induction – has to be performed as if the world is watching, because, frankly, it could be.

There is now a constant check on all of your operations and communications. Would-be citizen journalists armed with camera phones are everywhere, as United Airlines found out in April 2017 when their security staff forcibly removed a passenger from a flight at Chicago O’Hare Airport. What was once an anecdote shared among friends now has the potential to become global news, aided by the power of moving image. Put a foot wrong and whistle-blowers – both internal and external – have the means to call you out in potentially ruinous ways. This phenomenon has made various commentators describe the modern age as the ‘Age of Transparency.’

 

“Trust is built on authenticity.”

– Brian Tracy

Beyond the obvious complexities of operating in this ‘Age of Transparency’, lie the challenges of dealing with ‘fake news’. The ability to broadcast has been used by some to share their own ‘alternative facts’. These are then shared and amplified, undermining the public’s faith in everything they see online. While this has impacted traditional media and governments more significantly, it is still a key concern for those in business communications.

Have faith though. All new technology takes a little time for people to understand and use effectively. Think of the men with red flags running in front of early cars to warn pedestrians, or cell phones ringing all the time before society discovered the vibrate function. We are living through an unprecedented period of technological advancement, so it’s unsurprising that there will be some growing pains. As I write, some of our brightest minds are working on solutions to these challenges.

Credibility is essential. This is particularly true given that, according to PR giant Edelman’s Annual Global Trust Survey, 69% of those questioned believe that the most important role for the CEO is to make sure that their company is trusted. It is essential to build and maximise the trust of your audience – your employees, your customers and your shareholders – but it can feel like you are swimming against the current. So, how can your communications help you to do that?

 

1. Make it about the audience 

The most valuable thing you can do to make your content resonate, is to make sure that it is right for your audience. They know themselves better than anyone, so they instinctively know what rings true and what feels false.

 

2. Be mindful 

Be careful where you allow your brand to feature online. The whole online environment is not as low trust as might appear at first. There are trusted pockets. It is important to seek these out, and to avoid sharing content on large international platforms that are failing their users and advertisers in providing a space free from lies and hatred.

 

3. Act with humility 

Be prepared to share the challenges as well as the successes. The greatest stories, with the greatest heroes, are not defined by unremitting success. They are made great through adversity. Share your adversity; you will enrich your narrative and the audience will come with you.

 

4. Be transparent 

Brands have been forced to deal directly with complaints and criticism of their online profiles for several years now. Those who have taken an ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach have suffered significantly as a result. It is not an option to not engage, and yet very few, if any, companies have actively welcomed that negative feedback at a deep level and used it to improve themselves. There are, of course, huge challenges in operating a global business. The audience understand this. As with the previous point, put your hands up and explain that you don’t have all the answers, but that you’re doing your best. They will love you for it.

“Being transparent is what gives our business its most important asset – trust. At a time when there is a crisis of trust in many institutions across the world, there has never been a more important time for business to play a leading role in restoring it.”

– Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

 

5. Be consistent 

You will gain the trust of your customers through delivering quality and value in both the content you produce and your products/services. Consumers like to know what they’re going to get, and will prefer to go with something that they know will be a 7/10, rather than shooting for a 9/10 and risking ending up with a 3/10. This desire for the ‘known’ explains the success of business chains to a large degree.

 

6. Deliver on what you promise 

Don’t say anything that you can’t back up with action, again and again. 

 

7. Have a higher purpose

For organisations, these are aspirational by their nature, grounded in humanity and go beyond the profit motive. A business’s purpose is often referred to as its ‘North Star’ – an unattainable, guiding light, against which all activities are measured. It provides clarity for all the decision- making in the business, from the significantly strategic to the day-to-day tactical.

“Purpose is a long-term, forward-looking intention to accomplish aims that are both meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond.”

– Bill Damon, Director, Stanford Center on Adolescence

 

Purpose has come to be referred to as the ‘Why?’ for a business, as outlined by Simon Sinek in his excellent book Start with the WhyIt should clearly articulate the stance of the business, allowing everyone who comes into contact with it to identify whether it aligns with their own value structure and aspirations. As this alignment grows, it graduates to a state that stakeholders are able to describe as ‘belonging’.

This desire to belong to a tribe answers a base yearning within us all. Many of the most successful businesses of our time – Zappos, Ben and Jerry’s, and Apple – have grown through the successful propagation of a tribal belonging among their staff and customers. This is only possible through a powerfully articulated, clear purpose.

This success has led to purpose becoming en vogue for much of the business world. It’s no longer enough to exist to ‘maximise shareholder value’. In the post-2007 world, purpose- and cause-driven business is more important than ever.

We'll return to the purpose of purpose to the content of your content very soon. Watch this space.

 

Topics: Being a better commissioner, Increase brand awareness and appeal, Attract and retain the best candidates, How-to, Purpose driven video

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