Saturday, August 08, 2009

27 ways to Flip your PR visuals

For the most part, the tiny low-price camcorders like the Flip camera or the forthcoming Kodak Zi8 are simple and intuitive: The built-in USB port and uploading software, the small size and the simple operation combine to inspire--and take all the lugging, planning and setup away as barriers to capturing video. And while some communicators want to stick to their broadcast-quality equipment array, Flips and their ilk can inspire unusual approaches to communicating information about your company, organization or agency.

If you're trying to reboot your communications operation, getting your team savvy about online video's a must. (You know that, but for more ammo, ideas and data, see all my posts on online video here.) Got a reluctant team or one that's more versed in writing than video? Hand them this list of easy ways to break into online video--along with one of the ultra-compact camcorders--and make these options a weekly assignment, no matter what your staffers normally do. You may find that the best videos come from the most unlikely folks, and may uncover some new talent in the process. See how long these last you--and send me the results you think work best for posting on this blog, at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz:

  1. 5 views: Send 5 people out (at an event, on an ordinary day, to a meeting, on the showroom floor, to a lab, to a class), cameras in hand. Let each one choose a specific perspective, then have them shoot their video strictly from that view. Could be as simple as having them sit in different places in the room, or dividing the shooting directions (only left, only right, only to the floor, etc.), or at different times during the event. Mix the different views into a mini-movie.
  2. Abstractions: Shoot anything but the usual. Look for patterns, not people. Zoom in or out to turn a figurative scene into a series of shapes.
  3. Baby b-roll: Your website or blog needs just as many "b-roll" shots as any network television show. Shoot people walking down hallways, talking, playing sports, shopping, participating in what you're offering. Ultra-compact cameras make this easier than ever. The trick will be making sure your team captures these most ordinary moments.
  4. Birds' eye view: Record from above. You may need to get on the roof, a balcony, a ladder, or some other platform. Shake up the viewpoint. Things to shoot: crowds moving in or out, traffic patterns, desktops, architectural details, shop windows, you tell me...
  5. From the ground up: Do the reverse and shoot from below. Duct tape the camera to your shoe, if need be--get creative. Experiment and find out the results from shooting the ant's eye view at your building or your offices. (Just one example: In an animal hospital, shooting near ground level, aiming up, tells you what the pets see. What else can you discover?)
  6. Still life: Use the built-in function to capture stills from every video, so you can use them to extend the utility of having a camera on the scene. Stills can go into your blog, your website, or emails after events or interviews.
  7. Wheelies: Mobilize the camera on wheels. At a hospital, let patients in wheelchairs record as they roll through. Put the camera on a bike, cart, car, lawnmower, a rack of clothes, or a shopping basket, and see the view that rolls.
  8. View from the top: Give a leader a camera at a graduation, a meeting with top officials, a walk through your headquarters. Ask her to interview someone. (Yes, you can.) Instead of putting your top folks on camera, get their point of view and put them behind one.
  9. View from the middle: Find a middle manager, lab specialist, office manager. Ask them to share what they see, and what's important to them in conveying what your organization does. What do they want to share?
  10. Hallway interviews: At a meeting (on-site or not)? Just maneuvering through the workplace? Pull out a Flip and conduct an impromptu hallway interview (helps to have brainstormed your questions beforehand). At a conference, these can provide a great sense of "meeting buzz," and may unearth news. Keep it simple, not stilted.
  11. Handout videos I: In this version, hand out the camera--to customers, visitors, students, alumni, suppliers, business partners, colleagues--and see what they come back with. You can do this at a special event or just on an ordinary day. (If you order your camcorder direct from Flip, you can give it a custom design--perhaps one that says "Return to communications office?") Check out these videos from a Travel + Leisure contest in which visitors to Washington, DC, landmarks and venues are challenged to use Flip cameras to make their own guided tours. If the visitor doesn't have a Flip, several sites will lend them out.
  12. Handout videos II: If you're putting speakers out there, ask them to carry an ultra-compact camcorder--and record audience questions that can be answered later on a blog, Facebook page or website. Check out my own experiments in this vein here. It's how I handle all my "speech handouts" now. There's no replacing the freshness of an audience asking questions, and no better way to capture it than with a mini-camcorder.
  13. On-the-spot training feedback: Coaching someone for a media interview or speech? Use a small camcorder to record their practice...then plug it into a laptop and show it to them instantly for review. No cables, no fuss.
  14. Foreign correspondents: Sending staff to conferences? Have them check out a Flip and cover the conference, from capturing some speaker segments to capturing details of the venue, the exhibits, anything on which you need intelligence, easily captured. If you have visiting scholars, attendees or execs, ask them to record for a different perspective.
  15. Venue specifications: If your organization has its own conference facilities and they're booked by internal or external groups, make a video tour of the venues in your control, describing their capacity and features. Upload them to your website, or email them directly to inquirers.
  16. Scouting trips: Same goes when you're scoping out meeting facilities or event venues. Take a Flip and record your impressions and the visual sweep of the space, as well as any details you might forget.
  17. The one-question interview, 20 times: Send your team out to conduct one-question interviews from time to time--of customers, visitors, suppliers. Use the feedback to shape your communications, and in some cases, post it to share with others. Or, choose a question that gets to an issue you want to cover, and collect 20 responses. Mash them into a mini-video response.
  18. Right before you start: Catch a speaker or official just before he or she begins a big ceremony, speech or presentation. One or two questions will suffice for a spontaneous perspective.
  19. Right after you end: Same goes at the close.
  20. The river: It may be the parade of customers in your door (or past it on the sidewalk), the graduates marching toward their diplomas, or any other parade of moving people. Use the camera to capture the flow by following the crowd, or keep it stationary to see them go by for another unique perspective.
  21. The rock in the river: An alternative: Stand still with the camera and let the crowd/customers/grads/passersby swirl past and around you.
  22. Visitor/customer questions: Ask random visitors/customers/attendees: What's on your mind? or What's the biggest question you have for us today? Capture the answers.
  23. Walk me through it: What should I know about your business--as a customer, supplier, supporter? Take me on a tour and show me. If there's a process I have to go through as a patient, applicant, or visitor, clue me in and make me comfortable with it.
  24. Show me the shortcuts: From the secret hallway to the fastest way to find parking, show me how to make my interactions with you simple and fast. A compilation of staff suggestions--for reporters, visitors, customers--is a great way to do this.
  25. Show me the long way around: Do the opposite, and walk the perimeter of your campus, your warehouse or your meeting space. Take the time to see what visuals you get by avoiding the shortcuts you usually take.
  26. Show me the back room: Whether you're my favorite store or my favorite website, I want to see what you're hiding in the back. A little behind-the-scenes video is one visual no one else can copy. Use it to your advantage. What's new, what's next, what's in store?
  27. From the unexpected side: The first time I visited the Vatican, an architect tipped me off: Approach St. Peter's basilica not from the front, but the side, the better to experience the curved sets of columns flanking the front. What's the unexpected--and better--view of your business? Capture it on a video.

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