Category Archives: video

The Successful Message: Sincere & Relevant

Our president, Fran Hendricks, is a retired Air Force brigadier general and a 1979 graduate of our university .
A sincere Veterans Day message from him seemed like it would be appreciated by veterans and non-veterans alike. We wrote a script and he edited it. We shot it with a single camera in his office with the U.S. and Pennsylvania flags behind him. These were not props. They’re part of his office.
He speaks straight into the camera. We cut to B-roll of photos of MU graduates and area veterans from all branches.
It ends with him saying: “Veterans, thank you,” and a salute. We fade to an image of  raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
The music carrying it is “America the Beautiful.”
I had put a lot of thought behind this before we even started. We did not want him in uniform. He is a university president. But after serving the country for 33-years, Fran Hendricks is very much a soldier, and always will be. It’s a source of pride to him, faculty, students, staff, alumni and area residents.
Hendricks is a humble man and I knew that a “message from the president” would not pass muster. He’s a service-oriented person and the university is the greater body that he now serves. The message would be from Mansfield University.
Most importantly, there was no sales pitch. I repeat for all of you PR folks who need reinforcement for your superiors: no sales pitch. No website at the end telling veterans or potential students to check us out. It is a message, pure and simple, of appreciation to veterans and current service people.
The results were heartwarming, inspiring and revealing. We posted it on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Our ultra-savvy web person, John Maslar, targeted veterans and bases in a five-state circumference, as well as alumni and students
His stats show show that in a five day period, the video:
-was seen by 125,000 Facebook/Twitter users;
-was shared on Facebook 75 times;
-earned more than 700 likes;
-was retweeted 8 times
-Between likes/views/shares/retweets/clicks, we had about 2,500 interactions.
As John points out: “that’s 18 cents per person who took the time to read and interact with the message.”
The video worked for several reasons:
-It is succinct (1:12);
-Hendricks is straightforward and sincere;
-the message is simple and direct;
-There is no “extra message.”
It gained us appreciation from students, alumni, staff, faculty, constituents and introduced us to new audiences.
Yes, you can count on one hand the number of colleges who have a retired general as a president, but every college has a special person who can convey a relevant message on an appropriate occasion.
Just be clear, concise and don’t pollute it. A clean message has its own halo effect that lasts for years.

In other words, make the salute sincere.

Mansfield U Zombie Byte Goes International

Recap: I interviewed World War Z author Max Brooks when he visited Mansfield University  in November 2012.  Down-to-earth, direct and  honest, Brooks is an interviewer’s dream.

I had read the book in preparation and knew from hints in the pop culture press,  that the movie would generate international buzz.

I’ve described in the first two posts how we did two half hour TV shows, then pulled a five minute clip in which Brooks talked about how much the movie has in common with his book (none).

We posted the two full interviews.  In May, the Vanity Fair cover story on Brad Pitt and the movie World War Z hit the stands.   That was the opening shot of the international publicity and promotion for the movie.

That’s when we released the five minute clip.  Numerous bloggers and sites, including Fandango, linked our video and posted blogs based on their interpretation of the interview.

I talked in the last post about the mistake I made which probably cost me several thousand views.

Now for the bit of luck I had which gained us several thousand views.  That  came in June, when Brooks declined to talk with mainstream media.

That left them no choice but to reference the Mansfield University video interview for information.

Two of the biggest media outlets –the Associated Press and Yahoo News —  did articles on the movie and the book, using the Mansfield University interview as a source of information.
Both of these articles appeared on the same day, boosting the views of our video  by over 1,000 in 12 hours.

Higher Ed communications guru Dick Jones explained the implications of this.

“The fact that the Max Brooks interview at Mansfield University was referenced by Yahoo and The Associated Press resulted in worldwide media attention for the school,” Dick said.  “That’s because Yahoo and AP are important third-party indicators of quality to media outlets and individual news consumers everywhere.  If AP and Yahoo run with a story, then editors and news directors at all media outlets will view it in a much more favorable light and are much more likely to run it.  And so it proved with this story.  Once given that seal of approval by AP and Yahoo, there was no stopping this one.”

He added that there are a handful of traditionally credible news sources.  “The AP is right at the top.  Yahoo, while much newer, has great clout also due to its platform as the default news provider for millions of individuals.”

Dick concluded by saying, “One take-away from this project has been the affirmation that for AP and Yahoo—and by inference for many other media outlets—YouTube interviews are a credible on-the-record source for journalists today—given equal value with original reporting.”

The other take away is that while the media has changed, the core values of good reporting, honest interviews and solid facts, remain of utmost importance.

Putting The Public Back in Public Relations: Part 2

I enter part two of the review of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations reminding you that I think the book  is  valuable.

Putting the Public neatly summarizes the demise of the traditional media and the rise of the social media and PR 2.0.

It’s  ironic that the authors understand and capture  well the new media and the need to communicate ideas  in a quick, concise, clear way that’s tailored to our particular audience, and it takes them 300 pages to do it.

-A 300-page novel is not outmoded.

-A 300 page book on social media is.  With more thought and a good editor it could have been at least 50 fewer pages.

-As soon as it’s published, any references to Robert Scoble’s posts, or Chris Anderson’s blacklist is not news.  In the PR 2.0 world, this stuff is ancient history.

Granted, the  book is both a guidebook and history. But 300 pages is still too long.

The authors repeat things over and over.  I’m sure they’re doing it to drive home their points.  But I, like others, am reading this book because I already read the leading blogs,  listen to podcasts (which is where I heard an interview with them, leading me to buy the book), engage in Twitter, read AdAge and Wired and and follow Scoble.

In the larger picture, these are niggling complaints.  The authors have done a service to a profession in profound evolution, providing a pioneering work that’s  a textbook for the future of PR.

As the authors point out, we’re in the time of a huge transition.  PR is in an era of telling stories and being a part of a community that we understand and contribute to.

With each chapter I found myself grabbing a pencil to mark passages where Brian and Deirdre offer up insight, truth and a clearer way into PR’s future.

Just as importantly, I’ve subscribed to their blogs and sites to keep up with the conversation that they initiated.

Multimedia Blog, My Leap into the Norm

Okay, I’m sure others have done this but it was a big deal for me, a goal I’ve had for months.

Monday, August 31, I posted the latest installment of The MU Blog that utilized various social networking outlets.
It’s composed of 10 short graphs that can be read in two minutes.  There’s news, folksy gossip and teasers.

It contains  links to:
-an online  news release

-YouTube video created with a Flip camera

-YouTube video adapted  from a TV talk show

-two podcasts

-still photos on Picasa
I announced the posting on Facebook and Twitter and our internal daily online announcement network.

***

Background: With  my Zoom H2 and H4  audio recorders, I recorded the president’s breakfast remarks and the convocation speaker’s address. I yanked out my Flip to capture the marching band’s music and faculty procession for convocation.

After a video shoot with our president in her home, we sat on her deck and talked. She mentioned that her 79-year-old husband was taking a motorcycle test.  He’s also the boxing coach.  I used this tidbit to link to a podcast interview with him about coaching boxing.

* * *

I played with the concept for the MU Blog for nearly a year.  I was not at a point where I could put down on paper the concept of the blog but I knew the style.  I knew who I wanted to reach.  I knew I wanted a blend of news with a touch of the  personal.

And, finally, I knew that I just had to jump in, do it and let it evolve.

All this takes teamwork.  Our IT folks have created the technical pathways  to do these things– from podcasts in 2005 to content management systems, YouTube channels and my WordPress blog site.

***

Monday was deadline day.  I was writing the content for the blog (and a look at my revisions record shows that I revised about 20 times).  One staff member  (wearing headphones and munching Doritos between keystrokes) edited and mixed two podcasts and two videos while a student worker recorded intros to the podcasts from scripts I wrote in between working on the blog text, answering phone calls and running to meetings.

***

Most people, aside from this blog’s readers and a few others, understand the leap.

It’s now the norm.

My No Budget TV Talk Show Pt 2

“Conversations” has been airing for three months.  Our first guest was VP for finance Mike Reid about a new community relations committee and some of its goals.

I did this to show that  the university is very involved in the community and the region.   We interspersed information about Mike’s farm, his family who created a business selling maple syrup and apiary products.

Admissions Director  Brian Barden was another guest.  I wanted people to see how complex his operation is, how the admissions process works year- around, and some of the challenges he faces to bring in not only a diverse mix of students, but the challenges of filling certain programs.

I followed up on one request and interviewed Mansfield University President Maravene Loeschke and local optometrist and trustee Bob Strohecker about a new  college/community committee whose first project is to raise money for a movie theatre.

We took the equipment into the field and interviewed officials on a new business park and what it would mean to the community.

I have a roster of potential guests that could fill the next year.   I  do a show every two weeks so neither I nor my producer will be inundated.  The show airs four times morning and evening each weekend.

In the show itself, I take two breaks which we use  to air MU commercials.  Possibly, in time, I’ll seek commercials from area businesses, charge a nominal amount and turn the money over to our Foundation for scholarships.    (I’m thinking out loud here.)

After several shows aired, I wrote a news release and we sent it out to local media.    People on campus and around the area have stopped me to tell me how much they like the show and what a great community service it is.  This is the kind of word-of-mouth publicity you can’t buy.

Like everything else that all of us do, the producer and I have fit it into a crowded schedule.  But the payoff on a local and regional level is worth it.

We pull the audio, lay down a music bed and turn some of the shows into podcasts.  I also have an intern breaking the shows into four-five segments to upload on Youtube.  (I actually had requests to do this from people not on the local cable. I’m sure alumni will be interested, too).

Some of you have also expressed interest in seeing them so I’ll provide a link in a future post when some are up.

I emphasize again that this show is no budget.  No special effects.  No set design.  We use a few still shots when appropriate.  It’s exactly what the show title says it is, conversations.

As we do more shows, I’ll keep you posted on our progress and what I learn.

If you have thoughts or ideas, please share them.

CUPRAP Conference Highlight

The definite highlight of this year’s CUPRAP conference in Hershey, PA was the duo of Karine Joly of collegewebeditor.com and and Mike Richwalsky, assistant director of Public Affairs at Allegheny College.
Karine’s presentation was titled “It’s The Community Stupid! 7 Step Plan to Raise & Nurture any Community Online.”
She kicked off by noting that RSS and podcasting were new/hot in 2005. In 2006 it was blogs with video being the mover in 2007 and social networking and Twitter in 2008.
She also offered several messages building upon Marshall McLuhan’s “The medium is the message.”
In 2008 she mused that “The conversation is the message.” Later in the year she offered that “The conversation is killing the messenger, the message and the recipient.”
During the CUPRAP conference she debuted: “The message is dead, the conversation — diluted on a multitude of social media –is almost impossible to follow.”
How do you catch up and keep up? She asked. The answer: “You don’t.”
You need to define what’s important to you and your create your goals.
Her seven step plan includes:
-Finding your audience’s needs
-Defining your goals
-Participatory design
-Including exclusive, invaluable content in your conversation
-Listen, identify, empower
-Cross promote
-Treat your audience as stakeholders

We’re in a relationship building business and conversations build those relationships.
It’s a masterful distillation of a process that takes shared vision, discipline and a lot of participation.

Here’s the full Powerpoint and videos.

I saw people nodding their heads as Karine reassuring us that we can’t do everything and that we’re on communication overload.  The room full of PR, publications, Web and design people sighed in relief as Karine told us to stop, breathe and think.

Yes, somebody understood and was telling us to slow down.

Then Mike came on and deftly made us sit up, pay attention, take notes, and for God’s sakes, think.

More in the next post.

How I Blew the TV Interview

I’ve been on both sides of the interview table for 30 years.  I thought I was beyond being flustered.

But a few days ago, a junior communications major turned me into a babbling idiot.
The TV club member asked me if I do an interview about the podcasting program I created a few years ago. I said I’d be happy to.
I went up to the TV studio, sat down, endured the hot lights and smiled at the nice girl who tried several times to attach the lav mic to my lapel.
I enjoyed the moment, a studio buzzing with students full of energy and a little giddy with the excitement of working cameras, directing, interviewing.
I knew Ashley, my interviewer, a little. I had done a podcast with her two years ago. As a first semester freshman, she was ready to drop out when a friend insisted she go to a meeting of the campus radio station. She did, fell in love with communications and stayed in school.
Now she was interviewing me. I glanced at the teleprompter and scanned the intro and a few of her questions.
I sat quietly. I’ve done enough interviews and productions to know that you don’t know when you’re being recorded and all the unconscious moves like jiggling your knee, wiping your nose, gazing wildly around, make you look like an idiot, and with digital technology it can be around forever.
Finally we were ready. I did a sound check and they began rolling. Ashley asked me how I got into public relations. I told her, talking directly to her in a conversational voice. I could see she wasn’t with me.
She was thinking of something else.
When I finished she nodded. “What do you like most about your job?”
Standard question. I answered, talking to her in a conversational tone, seeing that I wasn’t really engaging her. She was staring over my shoulder at the monitor.
“What’s the most memorable thing that happened to you during a podcast?” She asked vacantly.
I related a story and as I talked, I noticed her trying to communicate silently, her face showing panic.   She moved her hands up and down and shook her head. Something was happening and it had all her attention.

And for the first time ever, I forgot what I was saying and where I was going.
My voice trailed off as I realized  that I was sounding like a blundering dolt.
“Sorry,” I said. “I was watching you and totally lost my train of thought.”
She nodded and asked me the next question, but the energy was gone, the concentration shattered, my answers as exciting as oatmeal.
When it was over, I turned to her and the camera crew. “Okay, tell me what was happening?”
Ashley shook her head. “The teleprompter, the word were backwards and upside down. I freaked out because I didn’t know what the next question was and if I didn’t ask them in order they wouldn’t make sense!” She thought a moment. “I guess I need to work on my impromptu. Or maybe I should stick with radio.”
“This is going to be edited, right?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Then everything will be okay.”
It was a good (and humbling) lesson which led me to some of the really simple secrets of interviewing which I’ll talk about in the next post.