May 17th, 2013
It’s the end of the workweek here at The Reid Effect Production Studios. Like you, I’ve spent my days trying to accomplish as much as I possibly can, trying to make my work excellent and effective. It’s been a good week, but I’m tired.
If you’re a small business owner, your week has not only been about producing an excellent product or service. You’ve likely spent as much or more time agonizing over a way – THE way – ANY way – to get the word out about what you do. Me too, and it’s been tiring. Since I work closely with several businesses consulting with them on Marketing strategy, my brain occasionally nears overload as I also try to translate someone elses WHY into an effective WAY to reach the public.
The hard part for us small business owners is that there are so many options when it comes to marketing our business, and the options are growing every day. It’s a blessing and a curse that we all understand. New technology or social media allow us to work faster and more efficiently, but finding the right fit can take time we don’t have. Most of us can’t afford a marketing director to lead the way, so we attend conferences, read books and listen to podcasts to learn their job too. And one day soon we’ll carve out some quality time to implement all the new knowledge we’ve accumulated. Right?
Here’s where this particular blog entry may take a turn for the worse, because unfortunately I don’t have a solution to this problem. The truth is that it’s hard work. And it’s going to stay hard work. The challenges of a struggling economy, difficult employees, too much competition, and how to spread your message will visit you again next week – same time, same station.
So here’s what you do. You finish up for the week and head on home. Take some time out to appreciate the beauty of life and demand from yourself a few moments that aren’t consumed with the complexities that are your job! Maybe spend a few minutes remembering the passion and calling that brought you to where you are today and remember that there really are some very good reasons you love what you do!
Monday morning will roll around again soon enough. And you won’t be like the vast majority of the population, trudging their way through heavy traffic on their way to a job they hate. You, my friend will be trudging your way through heavy traffic on your way to a job you L.O.V.E. Because this is not a job, it’s a calling. It’s what you were made for and you are great at it!
So tackle those challenges as they come. You’ll take them on and come out the other side victorious like you have with everything else. Refresh yourself this weekend and then get back to your regular, awesome programing.
Fade to Black.
July 24th, 2012
As a producer, I’m quite often in the position of interviewing an on-camera subject. Sometimes I’m working with a professional who can knock it out of the park no matter how good a job I do at interviewing. But more often the on-camera talent takes their cues from me.
I have found over the years that the quality of an interview depends as much on the interviewer behind the camera as it does the person in front. I have seen interviews go from bad to worse as the interviewer drives the poor soul sitting in front of the camera crazy with redirects and nonsensical questions, often talking over the subject or cutting them off mid-sentence when they don’t get what they want.
Believe it or not, there is a wrong way and a right way to conduct an interview, and sometimes following a few simple rules can turn a tough interview into a Barbara Walters ‘best of’. Here are four keys to mastering the interview:
1. Be personable and conversational.
Nobody feels comfortable on-camera. The trick is to convince the subject that they are really just having a conversation with you. How do you convince them? – by really just having a conversation. This doesn’t mean you have to do half the talking. People love talking about themselves. Your job as the interviewer is to subtly direct their conversation, and you can do this in a friendly, conversational way that will open them up. Be the interested friend.
2. Stay away from yes/no questions.
This may sound obvious, but it takes some quick thinking on your part to get the response you want from your interviewee. Most interviews don’t use the audio fro the interviewer, so your viewers have no reference point for answers. Part of conducting a great interview is learning how to prompt complete thoughts from your subjects.
3. Follow the story.
Hopefully the whole reason you’re conducting an interview is because you believe the subject has something interesting to share! Remember that a great interviewer is after a great story, not just pre-packaged answers to your list of questions. If you want honest, heartfelt answers, then show some interest. Don’t cut great conversation short just to move on to the next question on your list! Follow the story – that is often where the amazing content is found!
We often forget that most of our subjects are not on-camera professionals and that they usually are volunteering their time to us. Don’t brow beat them with ongoing corrections about needing more energy or how to answer questions. If you do, they will shut down on you and the entire interview will turn into stale bits of dialogue. Gentle direction up front is ok, but if you’re not getting a particular answer, it’s more effective to come at the topic later on or from a different angle. Too much direction can be overwhelming.
The real art of quality storytelling lies just as much in your ability to draw out great content as it does in your ability to cut that content together. Always do your best to connect on a personal level with your subject and you’ll be amazed at how they open up.
What tips have you learned for capturing a great interview?
July 13th, 2012
There are lots of reasons that I think the use of video is a good idea for just about any kind of communication. Whether you’re promoting a cause, raising awareness, selling a product, or just telling a great story, video brings a lot of great benefits to the table.
Most people can be categorized as visual learners, so adding the visual element is a great way to pass on information. With the advancements in technology, video is also extremely accessible to a generation that wants to be entertained. They’re a ready audience. But more than any other reason, I think the biggest selling point of video is that it brings the emotional element to the table.
I was checking in on some of my favorite production houses during the lunch break and came across this just-released mini-doc from an awesome production company- Steelehouse Productions; http://youtu.be/0wmcCbnEGPY (check it out!!)
With a darling little boy in desperate need of medical care, the parents of Gavin needed a way to raise awareness and funding. Iâ€™m so happy they decided to do so by telling his story through Steelehouse! What this family needed was a way to communicate their heart, the urgency of their need, and the personality of this beautiful little boy.
There are times when box-loads of medical records and facts on any situation will fail to capture the heart of a story. How do you cut through all of that and communicate with total strangers in a way that truly penetrates their hearts? I believe that is the true power of video. It has the ability to engage so many of the human senses, tapping into the emotions through powerful visuals and the spoken word. By using the right music at the right time, a video can bring you down into the unbearable desperation these parents feel, and then raise you up with a song of hope as we see their determination and love for their little boy.
There are some who will argue that using all these elements within video evokes a false emotion, but I would disagree. We are emotional beings. Certainly the parents of Gavin are at times overwhelmed emotionally with the intensity of this situation, and my feeling is that the closer you can bring viewers to that emotional level, the more closely they can relate and truly understand.
A newspaper article, radio interview, or email blast could never convey the truth of this familyâ€™s story. But video can when done correctly. It’s why I love this medium so much. It is so very, very powerful at engaging us on every level.
What do you think about using the power of video to educate and persuade people?
June 20th, 2012
When I first began in production, I was shooting wedding videos. At the time, that was all I did – weddings. That was a niche. After about a year and a half of doing wedding videos, I began to figure out how to mass-produce these baby’s with minimal effort.Â The result was a template. Otherwise known as the kiss of death.
Too many in my profession, and I would guess in many professions make the mistake of confusing the template with the niche. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when we’re all so focused on the bottom line, and how to maximize profits. The temptation comes just as we begin to master our particular niche. We know more than anyone out there about our client and the product we’re creating, what works and what does not. It’s what sets us apart from the other guy out there who’s trying to be everything to everyone. We’re smarter than that. We know our clients like attention to detail, and thats where we shine.
And the work begins to pile up. Word is getting out that someone has mastered the perfect baby-shower cake, or designs the best real-estate websites, or makes the best wedding videos. Life is good, and very, very busy. This is where I entered the danger zone. Instead of approaching each wedding individually and creatively as a master of that niche, I began to combine elements I liked from different productions, arriving at the perfectly designed wedding video.
Here is the scary part, especially for us creative types out there. At first, the template works great! All the great design work you’ve done is paying off. Your customers rarely overlap, so they have no idea that the product going out the door is a widget you’re cranking out on an assembly line out back.
Ok, that may be exaggerating, but here’s the point.
What suffers first is not your product or service, but your creative intuition. It breeds laziness in the one area we cannot afford to be lazy. As a small business owner and/or creative talent, there has to be a steady whirlwind of creative thought going on. The template simply kills that process because no more creative input is needed.
And inevitably, that creative laziness will show up. Maybe not at first, but eventually the greatest baby-shower cake becomes cliche; or the technology changes, rendering your amazing real-estate websites obsolete without the newest app integration. And where oh where are the creative juices that used to flow so freely?
I no longer do weddings, but the danger is still prevalent in the work I do today. From TV show Pilots to Documentaries, all the way down to the basic corporate client I work for, I’ve learned to employ one basic rule of thumb to each project.
Before I begin developing any new content for a client, I devote some time to these questions:
what can I do on this project that I haven’t done before?
What is at least one thing I can do that would really make this project shine?
And finally, What have I done before that I need to let go of for this project?
Taking the time to ask these questions can keep a fresh approach to each project, each cake, each website, even if your work is within a specific niche. And most importantly, it will keep you growing and improving creatively.
What niche market do you provide to that has the potential of becoming template?
Are there any tricks you have learned to avoid this trap?
June 18th, 2012
This has been a busy month for my brain. There are times I’m just getting the job done, focusing on whatever is at hand. And then there are months when my mind is on fire, alive and on steroids with all the possibilities for growth in my business and personal life.
And last night while I was reading before bed, I realized one amazing fact; the sparks for these fires always come from the same place. Books.
When I began my production business, I had high hopes because I knew a lot about video production. What I didn’t realize until after I started my business is that I knew next to nothing about running a business. And surprise! It turns out that running a business is the hard part.
And this is what divides the successful and unsuccessful in my opinion. Too many small businesses fail because they make the same mistakes that thousands before them have made, not realizing that the map for the road to success is sitting on the shelf in their neighborhood bookstore.
Reading keeps your mind active, stimulates new ideas, and keeps you looking forward as you grow your business. I’ve also found that different authors speak to me in different ways. I’ve got a thick skull, and it takes a lot of reading to get some ideas to stick. I’m good with that, though. I’d rather spend a few extra hours reading up on how to handle my business taxes than get shut down for improper compliance!
The point is that none of us will do it all right the first time, and by studying the success stories, we can maximize our effectiveness early on. As long as I’m successful, I’ve got no problem giving credit to the great advice that got me here. In fact, let me share just a few that had great impact on my business.
- Thinking For A Change; @JohnCMaxwell
- The Total Money Makeover; @DaveRamsey
- Business Stripped Bare; @richardbranson
- EntreLeadership; @DaveRamsey
- The 4-Hour Workweek; @tferris (Timothy Ferriss)
- Platform; @MicahelHyatt (Currently reading and LOVING)
Authors like these and many, many others have saved me from so many huge mistakes that I know I would have made. And the crazy thing is that they aren’t even all about running a business. There’s just no way to know when the knowledge you’ve gained will come into play in your day-to-day work.
And while we’re talking about reading, let me confess that I read probably three times as many novels every year as I do non-fiction work. You may have something of your own that helps you relax and empty your mind of the days work, but for me a good novel is the key to unwinding. I’ve found that escaping into another world is one of the only ways for me to set aside all the clutter in my brain every night.
So keep it up! Never let your life get so busy that you stop taking time to learn from those who have gone before. It may just be the difference between success and failure on that next endeavor. And for those of you not currently reading, why not give it a try? Take one of the great authors listed above and see what happens. You may find, like me, that your mind ignites with the possibilities.
What are you currently reading? What are some of the books that have inspired you in the past?
June 15th, 2012
On a plane flight home from TN yesterday I was walking from the Lav at the back of the plane to my seat. On the way I got to spy on all the passengers â€“ to see what occupies their time when theyâ€™re stuck on a plane. What were people doing? Watching videos.
Of particular interest to me was what the passengers were using to view their media. It used to be laptops â€“ smashed into the little space available. Now itâ€™s mobile devices of some sort â€“ Ipads, Kindle Fireâ€™s, smart phones, etc.
I remember reading recently that by 2013 itâ€™s estimated that more than 90 percent of Internet traffic will be video based, and that by the end of the decade at least 1 billion people will access the internet solely from their â€˜smart phoneâ€™ or tablet.
Thatâ€™s great news for people in the video production business like I am.
It also means that the content I create needs to be accessible to mobile users. Last year, this wasnâ€™t an issue. This year, Iâ€™m running into this issue over and over. When I got back in town I had a message from a client who was trying to watch, from his Iphone, a video we produced. Because of a host of reasons, the video wasnâ€™t playing â€“ constant buffering, starting and stopping etcâ€¦ By the time I reached my customer this morning, he was pretty wound up, even though technically it has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the player and how the video is embedded in his website.
But this is my issue to solve. Period. In the end, how my product is viewed and experienced reflects back on my company. The client or viewer does not know who is really to blame for their bad experience. A yucky environment and bad customer service can ruin a movie and leave a bad taste in my mouth, even if the films producers have nothing to do with the environment.
I have to admit up front that I am to blame as much as anyone. At the writing of this, my website still uses only flash to show videos, which means that apple fans, including myself are out of luck when using mobile devices. Iâ€™m currently working on a new site, but itâ€™s no excuse in the light of such heavy mobile device traffic.
So here was the big take away for me, and an important step for my company; donâ€™t produce fabulous work and then dump it on your client to figure out how to use it. I donâ€™t get paid to take this extra step, but really I do, because if I can shepherd my client through all the details so that their video is maximized and used at itâ€™s greatest potential, I know I will see the return, both in customer satisfaction and potential new sales through increased viewership.
Take some time to understand the available technology, and how your production can harness these tools to deliver the best user experience across the widest platform possible. What are you doing now? Are viewers able to access your content easily from their mobile devices? What steps to you need to take to accomplish this?
June 12th, 2012
Right now I’m on my way to Nashville from Phoenix to help a producer with a very simple shoot. I’m flying to Colorado in two weeks to do the same thing again. And in both places, there are probably a hundred different production company’s that are perfectly suited to do the job.
So why is my client paying the extra dollars to fly me to these locations? It’s a good question with a simple answer; one that should serve as an important reminder to me of the power of customer service. In a nutshell, he trusts me. I’ve obviously done previous work for this client, and he knows he can count on all the basics that seem so simple, but are missing in the day to day practice of entrepreneurs throughout the country.
In any business, there are some basic rules you’ve got to follow if you want to build that trust with your clients. Here are just a few:
1. Be on time.
So simple, right? It really should be just common sense, but you’d be surprised how many small business owners have carried lazy habits into their interaction with customers. Your clients may be working on a tight schedule and the last thing you want to do as a valued part of their team is to show up late.
2. Dress nicely.
I’m in an industry that abuses this one to the max. For many in the video production industry, our training began in school or shooting live productions where the dress code is always black. And since we’re a bunch of techi’s with no interest in fashion, it soon becomes a smelly, wrinkled, severely faded black. Your client deserves better. And dressing nicely may well be the thing that sets you apart from your competition, strange as that may sound!
3. Behave professionally.
It may be that once again this apply’s mainly to my industry, but I go on way too many shoots where the crew is nearly unmanageable because of all the joking going on. If it’s my crew on a job, I expect a very high level of professionalism. That doesn’t mean that a sense of humor or well placed joke can’t serve a purpose, especially when we often have on-camera talent that is nervous and tense, but I want my client to know we take every production seriously.
4. Know your craft.
As a small business owner, it can be tempting to take on any project that pays – and learn on the fly. This can be the kiss of death to your reputation and should be avoided at all costs. In my industry, we videographers have a strange need to do everything ourselves. What we end up with are very few masters of anything. One of the biggest factors in the growth of my company was when I let go of this need and began instead to focus on delivering the best quality in every area of production, even if that meant bringing in a pro in a specific area. My clients don’t care how it happens, as long as they end up with a product they can be proud of.
It seems obvious and simple, and it is, so make sure you’re doing these things! I know the truth. I know I’m not better than all the videographers in Nashville. But why should my client take the risk of hiring someone who might be unaware of the obvious when they can pay a few extra bucks and count on professionalism every time? And there are a dozen more simple details that could be on this list. Just remember, it’s often the small things that can make the difference between growth and recession.
What are some of the small things you do to build that trust with your clients?