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Jez Kay from nowhouse guest blogs: Top 10 video tips April 23, 2010

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OK – so here are my 10 tips to put you on course for the kind of motion content you and your audience can be proud of. Some may seem obvious but it’s extraordinary how many forget or ignore the fundamentals. Remember, you stand a pretty fair chance of boosting your brand’s image and standing if it’s good. And of demoting it if it’s not!

1. What are you trying to say?
A clear message is essential, a necessary part of the planning process. One can get carried away. Brands often expect to cover all their ongoing key messages within one creative piece. Why is that? You should plan for coherence first and foremost. And non-brands are often just as guilty. Less is more. For the most part, your video will be largely promotional, so make the message clear, succinct and brief.

2. Who are you trying to say it to?
It doesn’t matter how good you are at documenting a moment (or even more than one moment) , think about who you’re addressing it to. If it’s decision-makers, put yourself in a buyer’s position. What would ring your bell. What is the call to action? If it’s an internal audience, say another department, what kind of messages are they after and are used to? What are the key triggers that will get the appropriate audience to react to your message.

3. Think of the first thing that needs to be done, then do it. Properly
Quite often video makers grab a camera, shoot, then hope for the best. Like reportage photographers, they’re waiting for the moment. For the most part, this will not work. Not in commercial surrounds, in any case. If you think that you’d like to shoot outside, pick the best location. If you think you’d like to incorporate other footage or brand imagery, then maybe you need green screen technology  to help you. Whatever you decide, it’s often this first decision that decides how successful your project’s going to be.

4. Make sure you understand your equipment
Whether it’s a flip or broadcast camera, freebie editing or funkiest new compositing software, it’s essential that you understand the fundamentals. Do you know why, for example, your mini camera isn’t focusing properly? Could it be the light? Are you using white balancing sensibly? Have you even thought about it? And do you understand how to pull a good chroma key , if attempting to replace the green screen?

5. You don’t need Pinewood
Whatever you decide to produce, remember that you really shouldn’t over-spec with production. The key things are how you plan your shoot (points 1, 2 and 3 above), direction and a good critical eye. Just because you don’t have the most modern cold lighting  or the latest HD solid state camera  does not on its own mean that you’re going to foul up your video creative. Work to your limits. You can achieve considerable amounts.

6. Think long and hard about the soundtrack. How are you going to produce it?
This is something very few videomakers think of when they produce. Of course, you don’t necessarily need a soundtrack. But if you’re making a promotional video, which involves creative thought and execution, then ordinarily you’ll need to consider it at the very least. Think of the mood and the context of the piece, then either a) create it yourself, b) get someone else to do it for you or c) download some royalty-free content  from the Web. Royalty-free still means that you just pay for the content and not (a royalty) every time someone watches your video.

7. Engagement is key
Essentially, your video should be engaging. For the most part you’ll be showing it online, in a fairly small rectangular section of your webpage. So ensure that the key subject of your sequence (whether it’s animal, vegetable or mineral) is prominent. And if it’s someone talking to camera (as is often the case) then ensure what they’re saying is interesting, articulated well, with good intonation. Interviews are particularly difficult to pull off convincingly, as the interviewee is not addressing the camera direct. So make sure you vary the camera framing. Zoom in, for example, when something particularly interesting looks like it’s about to be said.

8. A frame ain’t necessarily so. Is the subject centre, right, top, bottom?
Think creatively. It’s hard to be completely absurd with the camera. Sometimes the subject looks more interesting if they’re not bang smack in the middle of shot (this isn’t, professionally speaking, the done thing anyway). There are some “rules” you could apply but essentially the advice is this. Be confident. What do you think would be interesting?

9. Lighting is so important
It really is. Make sure you have good exposure. And, particularly when shooting someone indoors, get yourself some decent camera lights. Flat light on the subject can make them look dull, uninteresting. Shadow can be very compelling.

10. So is sound – use your ears
It’s very important to ensure that the sound quality is good, especially for online, where sound can be compromised in any case. If you have an audio input on your camera, it’s useful to have a good set of headphones with you. Again, be honest with what you hear. Is there background hum? Would you know what to do with this when it comes to post-production? Should you therefore wait until you’ve fixed the background hum?

There are so many more tips for video making. I’ve started with the ones I think are probably the most important. Because it’s at the outset of your project, then when you’re producing the source – the shoot – that are key to producing the best video content possible.

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Who’s the man? April 16, 2010

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by Jill

We had an historic moment last night.  For over 20 years, to my memory, the party aspiring to power has lobbied to have a televised debate during the election campaign and finally last night we had it.  The first of three no less. 

And something really interesting happened.  The outsider won:

ITV:                                        Clegg 43%,          Cameron 26%    Brown 20%

YouGov/The Sun:            Clegg 51%            Cameron 29%    Brown 19%

Channel Four:                    Clegg 58%            Brown 28%         Cameron 13%

Sky News:                           Clegg 37%            Brown 32%         Cameron 31%

And it got even more fascinating to watch if you were simultaneously following it on Twitter and/or ITV.com and could see people’s reactions as the ‘debate’ progressed.

It indeed sparked into life what has been a fairly sterile election campaign so far, moving from who owns the Quattro image/reference to straps trying to grab old style FUD for the other party’s plans and policies.

A real third player on the UK political scene?  It would be the first time for nearly seventy years.  A hung parliament?  For only the fourth time since 1923.  An aspiring leader expected to do extremely well on TV but not quite making the grade?  You can be sure there will be a different game plan for debates two and three.  Does ‘grey but solid’ win the day?

It all bodes well for gripping second and third debates: Sky News broadcasts the second debate on Thursday, 22 April looking at foreign affairs. The third on BBC One on Thursday, 29 April focuses on the economy.

And do remember to follow on Twitter at the same time #LeadersDebate

Guest blog: Monica from London Mums talks about the relationships between Mummy Bloggers and PRs March 24, 2010

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What do you believe were the most significant developments in UK mummy blogging in 2009?

Technology has now being made so simple to use that anybody can go online and start a blog. And this is what is happening. Every mum with something to say seems to want to share their stories online, more like a ‘brain dump’ than looking for interaction.

What are some of your predictions for this year?

2010 will see some consolidation in mummy blogging – There are too many mummy bloggers out there and mums do not have time to read all those brain dumps – too much to do at home, with kids etc From our own feedback mums prefer to meet face to face and have real interaction with their peers hence groups such as London Mums based on traditional communication and with a face to face approach will prevail in the end – this is the way forward although it seems a step back. We at London Mums use technology to make the communication easier but we prefer the traditional approach: more meetings less virtual comms. 

How do we Brits compare to the rest of the world in terms of mummy blogging?

Brits tend to use the technology / the internet a lot more. In Italy or Spain or Greece it is unconceivable that a mum stays at home chatting online or blogging versus going our with friends with kids to have a chat and exchange day-to-day information on bringing up children.

Do you think mummy bloggers are generally keen to engage with brands?  

Yes potentially to make money out of sponsorship.

What are your top tips for PRs looking to engage with mummy bloggers?

At the moment there is too much out there and PR companies and advertisers are getting crazy understanding how to go about targeting mums in the UK. My suggestion is to focus on the big conglomerate groups such as London Mums that are building local communities. It is more cost effective and less time consuming. London Mums for example are building strong relationships with local groups, edutainment centres, clinics and family orientated businesses across London.

You can take a look at Monica’s London Mums blog by visiting www.londonmums.org.uk

Photo courtesy of www.memorygate.co.uk

Next step, the world – part two March 23, 2010

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by Jill

So having outlined the first point to consider when constructing truly integrated campaigns, here are the final five:

1. How are you going to measure the return?
Campaign goals: they have to be SMART and also very focused. Too many or unclear goals (for the budget) can make measuring ‘moving the needle’ on any clear level near impossible. Also mixing ‘brand’ and ‘sales’ goals in an unclear way is also a classic.

Targets: measurement is an inexact science, but which ever techniques you choose if you haven’t set the targets beforehand you can’t measure against them. You’d be surprised how many campaigns don’t have clear targets set at the briefing stage.

2. How do you lead people to a call to action?
How many steps should/does it take to get people from knowing about your brand to ‘purchase’? You need to know this to know how your campaign should be structured and what tactics you should use.

3. How do you get a ‘viral effect’ online?
Often, the holy grail of online campaigns too many think good – or worse, any – content will naturally go viral. Often the ‘viral effect’ boils down to plain hard work in the right places. Don’t just rely on Facebook and Twitter to do the job. Lots of budget can help you cut this corner, but not many clients have this privilege right now.

4. Is your creative concept ‘conversational’ or ‘broadcast’?
Too many campaigns are built around old world ‘broadcast’ thinking. Making the core of your campaign truly ‘conversational’ and you are half way there. Build relationships, create content your community will value (not what you may think…) and respect.

5. Don’t dismiss the old
For example, despite the demise of print media it can still be extremely powerful. It’s the right blend that gets the right result. At the end of the day digital is a channel not an ‘either or’ alternative.

Sophisticated integrated campaigns will become de rigour for brands this year. There will be winners and losers. The winners will be those who have the expertise to know how to check and balance a campaign to get the best results. What will yours be?

Next step, the world – part one March 22, 2010

Posted by BCME UK in PR, Social media.
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by Jill

Just as most marketing and communications teams have got their heads around social media and can see below the surface spin of the many so called ‘social media experts’ or have learned that owning a Twitter account and/or Facebook page is in itself is pretty useless comes the next wave. 

Led by the brands and organisations who got ‘social media’ early come sophisticated and intelligent integrated campaigns.  A concept many smart agencies have been trying to persuade clients of the advantages of for a long while.

So for those ready to take the next step and really reap the reward of integrated campaigns six key pointers to be thinking about:

  1. Which agency should lead?

Advertising

Pros

Often used to spending the majority of your agency budget with them

Used to listening to their strategic insights

Cons

Inherent broadcast messaging mentality

Stuck in ‘spend 80% of total on advertising’ and rest follows

Digital

Pros

Often grown up in the online world

Ability to number crunch and produce ROI-like stats

Cons

Can be ‘digital is best’ in their recommendations

SEO and PPC thinking is at the heart of their ‘strategic’ thinking

Public Relations

Pros

‘Conversation’ is often at the heart of good campaign thinking

Often have been integrating (non advertising) activities for years

Cons

Media centric agencies often aren’t experienced in integrated

‘Brand’ thinking can dominate ‘sales lead’ thinking.

I would add that, of course, I am biased as I have a comms background.  I would also balance that comment with my twenty years experience across a wide range of briefs and having worked alongside both advertising and/or digital agencies on campaigns.

You could also apply the same thinking to in-house responsibility for social media.  Which team should lead digital, marketing or PR.  Time for some radical thinking here?

The second part of this blog will follow tomorrow