Converting Passionate Writing/Blogging…

As I took part in #BlogChat Sunday night…I was so pleased to see the conversation move away from technology, which blog platform to choose, and other topics sometimes I browse through. Finding passion in your blogging and writing has always been my position. Regardless of you blog for advocacy, business development, or even to generate income…you have to have some passion behind your message.

Above is what I think…”Passion is food for the soul…if you can blend that passion into your writing…it can become infectous!” So tell me, what blogs do you connect with…that touch you daily. Is a photo blog, video blog, a business blog, one of advocacy, what is it?

As I was thinking through this topic, the one thing that always finds a way to make it’s way from my subconscience to the forefront of my thinking, how can we convert passionate writing into revenue and a business development tool. I even wrote a blog post about this very topic: Does Passionate Writing (Blogs) Generate Revenue? These is a method to the passion, writing content that passionately connects…thus the SEO argument.

Regardless…this has made me look back at my work and do an assessment, an assessment of my writing and my direction. So the best way I know how to do a simple assessment, create a word cloud from all my writing in my blog.

Here is a word cloud from this blog, my business blog:

Here is a word cloud from my personal blog (http://bobbyrettew.com/personal-blog):

I chose not to do a word cloud from my tags, because that is just measuring frequency of the words that I deem searchable for each blog post. This is a subjective viewpoint of my writing, looking through a lens completely focused on SEO. Instead, I used Wordle.net to pull all the words from all my posts to assess frequency of the actual content I am actually writing. I am focusing solely on the content in this simple assessment.

So begs the question…are the largest words in the word cloud (which shows the largest frequency of usage my my blogs) match the purpose and mission behind my passion for both my business and personal blogs. My business is based on video, media, blogs, people and those are the largest words in the business blog word cloud. But…based on this simple assessment, I can see words that are apparent that I might want to focus more in my writing. I also see areas in my personal blog that I might want to re-focus a bit…I am wondering if I am talking too much about business in my personal blog?

Passion can be focused!

Is video tape media really dead? Is SD media cost effective? [techy blog post]

With the announcement of the new Final Cut Pro X and other Non-Linear Editors (NLE) like Avid Media Composer moving more consumers into the pro-sumer market…the question begs an answer: is tape media dead? Outside of more consumers using non-video tape recording cameras, more and more pro-sumers and professionals are moving from tape media to SD media.

In a recent review by USA Today of the new Sony NX5U along with the emergence of using Digital SLRS to acquire video images…the claim is that video tape is dead. It is in the first line of this article: “Review: Sony NX5U video camera”. Jefferson Graham states, “The big takeaway from this week’s overhaul of Apple’s Final Cut Pro video editing software is that tape-based media is dead.”

Well here are my thoughts?

Storage costs money! Yes! Higher Definition images need more space to store these images! It all comes down to work flow…what do I mean, well we will address that in a second.

Traditional image acquisition in the video production world use video tape to record the image captured by the lens and processed by the camera. Once recorded on the tape, it would take equal amount of time to play and “ingest” into a computer’s non-linear editing suite (like Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer & Adrenaline, Adobe Premiere, etc.). Basically, if you recorded an hour’s worth of video, it would take an hour to put it into the computer.

With solid state media, video cameras are able to record the image as a file. The better the image, the better the camera, the larger the files sizes. Instead of just playing the video back for the computer editing suite during “ingest”, you could just transfer the file, the same process typically as copying any other file from a thumb drive to your computer. This cuts down time in the production process, huge amounts of time. BUT!!! Once you transfer the files to the computer, you can erase the media in the camera and reuse for the next production.

When you use video tape, many production shops do not erase the original tape and save just in-case the original video information needs to be accessed. More video tape means more money. Thus, the transition to cameras that do not use video tape, it appears to cut down on cost.

BUT…here is the thing that keeps me still acquiring on video tape and recordable media like SD cards simultaneously. Once you put the video from a camera that records it without video tape into the computer, you have to save the original media somewhere. It requires hard drives to store this original media…because you erased it from the camera and it is not on an original video tape.

So…for the production house and the consumer, you have to find a place to store this original video media. For a production house…this turns into Terabytes and Terabytes of storage of this original footage. Now this storage costs can be passed off to the client…but it takes space. Bigger and bigger storage servers…and if you are storing on servers that use hard drives with moving parts, they can fail. Yes, you can RAID these drives…but I have met more and more and more major universities, production houses, etc. where the RAID’s fail and the original media is GONE!

Yes…I was at a major university that lost a whole season of football footage to a failed RAID system. Those hard drives are moving parts. Yes…there is solid state storage but it so damn expensive, it is hard to justify the costs with the new technology.

Avid’s NLE’s allow you to erase media that is unused in the editing process, but keep the parts of video production used in the final product. BUT…what if you want to re-access that un-used media for  another project?

Here is what I do…my current solution.

1. I use a camera that can record on video tape and solid state storage simultaneously. The video tape is there just in-case the solid state media fails. It has happened before during my ingest. I have lost a whole day of shooting on an SD Card, but had the tape as a back-up. If not, it would have cost me time and money.

2. I ingest into the computer using Final Cut Pro with the solid state media card. Why, because it converts to a Quicktime (.MOV) that is widely excepted by most major NLE’s. I can also ingest 83 minutes of HDV in 7 minutes compared to the 87 minutes it would take for me to play that tape into the computer. Then…if I want to edit in Final Cut Pro or Avid…I have the original raw media digitally. (Avid has to convert the files to their proprietary codec)

3. I save the original HDV video tape as a back-up…properly labeled. So, if I loose the raw media on the hard drive, I can open the project and use the tapes to re-ingest the media.

4. I save the project files from both Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer in two other spots outside of the edit suite: a back-up storage drive and my online back-up space in the cloud. So, if I loose everything digitally, I have the original project files in two places and I can pull the tapes out to re-ingest the media.

5. I back-up my raw media files of the current years’ productions at a un-disclosed storage facility on consistent basis. This allows me to save time if my systems go down…just go get the media and transfer the files.

Why do I do this…because I do not trust moving parts in hard drives. I have had more NLE systems and their hard drives fail with media. I have watched major broadcasting units not be able to put on a show because files got corrupted with lost media. Tape is a physical media that provides a great back-up solution for original media.

Now, this is not always going to be a great solution long-term…but I am researching and working with partners on solutions that will provide me and my clients a great solution.

* Image Credit: Westside Media Group & Ken Rockwell

(Lessons Learned) Blogging inside a large hospital & organizations…it is all about stories!

For the last year and a half, I have been working with Greenville Hospital System (GHS) integrating the idea of blogging inside this major medical system. First off, let me just say there is not a perfect strategy (IMHO) for something that is such a subjective initiative to integrate.

Before I began presenting the idea of finding people inside the organization to blog at GHS, I spent a good bit of time talking and consulting with GHS and their Marketing/PR Department and also a long-time friend who runs all of the New Media Initiatives at Clemson University, Jacob Barker. We found many similarities between a large hospital system and a major, state supported university. First, their are many different departments/colleges at a University that match the many departments and service lines of a major health system.

The first thing Jacob and I agreed upon is that it is more than just a formulaic strategy to implement across an organization, it is all about engagement and learning from each other. We knew it was best engage a Social Media Advisory Committee or a Social Media Team. GHS had already established this team.

About the same time, President and CEO Mike Riordan began inquiring about starting a blog as means to engage with the employees and to clearly define his message as a leader of a major medical system. With healthcare reform all around us, it made sense for him to write about this topic and many others in a public, transparent manner. This is very similar to President Barker’s blog at Clemson. The only difference, Mike Riordan wanted to allow people to comment, he wanted to respond to people’s thoughts.

So this is where we started. I worked closely with the leadership in the Marketing Department along with Mike and his Chief of Staff to create a frame work for which he would write. Before we started, we had to really think about the mission behind the blog, what he was interested in writing about, and how often he was willing to commit to this social outlet. It was great…he began writing immediately. Over the last year, he has written close to two blog posts a week, sometimes more!

We set-up a streamlined approach to the technology utilizing WordPress which allowed him to write from his iPad with the WordPress App. I work with him consistently to clean-up the formatting and also integrate presentations and video into the blog posts. I wanted him to focus on his writing and I take care of the technology issues. He writes everything! Since we started the blog, over half of his traffic comes from the employees of GHS. His ability to write passionately as a leader translates to the employees and the local community of GHS.

This was the beginning, since then we have started other blogs across the system from physician practices to patients/community advocates who have special voice in healthcare. From a patient writing about her family dealing with Diabetes (http://ourhamandeggs.com), the head of PR writing about Women’s Health (http://ungirdledtruths.com), and even an Internal Medicine Physician Group writing about running a small practice of all female doctors (http://cypressinternalmedicine.com/blog). We have been proud of our growth and what we have learned.

These experiences guided us and we learned a few things as we began engaging other blog opportunities.

1. You have to find the internal ambassadors who naturally fit the blogging paradigm. These people naturally write in a social voice and genuinely want to connect with others.

2. Not all blogs have to carry the corporate look of the organization. Mike Riordan’s blog represesents GHS and the best interests of his leaderships position, so we gave it more of a corporate look. It matches the style of GHS’s color schemes and branding. BUT…there has been research presented that consumers find blogs that present a corporate look seem less credible and are not willing to engage in the conversation…that is why the “Our Ham and Eggs” Blog is a little more personalized.

3. You have to have a mission from the beginning that focuses the writing. As time moves along (and you have installed analytics to track the traffic), you can evolve the writing based on audience response, evolution of the organization’s mission, and topical public issues that bridge the audience to the organizations message.

4. You need to track success. We have found installing great analytics packages like Google Analytics and GetClicky Analytics allows you to compare traffic results with blog posts and campaigns…plus, GetClick is real time.

5. You have to share your blog using social outlets and other marketing pieces. We like to use our Twitter and Facebook presence to share blog posts with the consumer, but we also share blog posts using internal communication tools for employees. This was done using internal newsletters and intranets…which was vital during the passage of healthcare reform related issues. Also…put the blog URL on brochures and other physical media for people to see. And last, be sure to advertise the blog on the home page of your website.

6. If you decide to allow people to comment on your blog, you have to be willing to respond. These are people who are reaching out and want to engage in a conversation. Take advantage of this opportunity.

7. Write passionately and straight from the heart. People want to read stories and know your honest thoughts and opinions. This is an opportunity to take a stand on issues, ideas, and topical items relevant to your audiences and your mission. They can go to your website for corporate marketing generated content, but in the blogs…you have to write passionately. As Robbin Phillips of Brains On Fire says…”It’s people stupid.”

8. Do not be afraid to get personal. Some of the biggest traffic came when blog posts were written that allowed the audience to learn more about people’s personal side. Yes, you have to decide what your boundaries may be…but allowing people to see you as a person and not a position gives them a chance to relate to you.

9. Use pictures, video, and any other visuals to reinforce what you are writing about. People like pictures and it allows them to see how you smile or relate to a topic. Also…video gives a third dimension to the topic.

10. Transparent writing…what do I mean? Well Mike Riordan writes his own blog content and so do each of the bloggers. These posts come straight from the horses mouth, not from a series of over-site committees. It is all genuine content.

I am extremely fortunate to work with a smart staff at GHS, their smart direction and innovative thinking has allowed me to try new things with them. They are fun!

Final thought…Blogging is all about Telling Stories! Nuff Said.

Foursquare & Gowalla for Large Hospital Systems

To begin…my friend Reed Smith does a great job of explaining the steps to get your organization going with Foursquare and Gowalla. Here is his step-by-step process for Foursquare (CLICK HERE) and for Gowalla (CLICK HERE).

Here are a few things we have found when setting up Foursquare and Gowalla at Greenville Hospital System (GHS) in Greenville, SC.

First of all, GHS is a large hospital system with multiple campuses serving the Upstate of South Carolina. When beginning to tackle this project, we noticed immediately it was necessary to engage using this social outlet. Why? Well, we found close to five different spots created for the main hospital each totaling close to 2000 check-ins. Each location had in-complete information about the hospital. This fragmented information was not best serving the hospital and the individuals using these outlets. None of the locations had a correct phone number, web address, and physical address. So we knew immediately we had to begin taking control of these check-in points, consolidate, and update with correct information.

The next thing we noticed is that a hospital might have multiple places for a person to check-in, including the hospital main entrance, emergency department, labor & delivery, rehabilitation services, and even nationally branded restaurants inside (Starbucks, Chic-Fil-A, etc.). While accessing these possible check-in points, we began to consolidate places for people to check-in. We wanted to only have destination points that supported the interests of GHS’s customers as they align with certain service lines. So we began with the main entrance, emergency room, and labor & delivery at the main hospital. This is still a working progress.

When consolidating locations at one campus, proximity of geographical check-in points was key. Foursquare and Gowalla only work in a two dimensional space…meaning if the labor & delivery was one floor above the main entrance…it might not make sense for both check-in points. We want the check-in process to be fun and social, not become a hindrance when trying to decide which point to select.

The key to beginning is to follow what Reed Smith describes in his posts, but it is important to create business Foursquare and Gowalla account separate from your personal account. When claiming these locations for your business, you want it tied to a single account that you can manage. You will be able to edit and manage each location from this user account. We also decided to start with Foursquare and Gowalla first, then we are slowly moving to Google Places, Facebook, and Yelp.

Patience is key when setting up and managing these location based outlets. You have to spend time working with Foursquare and Gowalla to remove and merge duplicates, keep information updated, and engage with the community. Each location has the possibility for individuals to not only check-in but also comment about their experience. This is a great way to engage in healthy conversations.

I like thank you phone calls…

There is nothing better than a thank you phone call. We creatives live for the day when our clients call us and say thank you. But not only those thank you calls that just say thanks for our hard work, but when the client shares with you something where you can tell they can see the final product through the same lens as you so passionately created it.

Today was one of those days. I had worked hard on a 25 minute documentary, telling the stories of thriving rural churches in Western North Carolina. These stories were shown at an annual conference for close to 2000 people to enjoy. The purpose, to reinforce that the United Methodist Church is thriving in rural communities across the western part of the North Carolina.

From stories of communities teaming up to provide free dinners to communities, to churches in the middle of farm land creating communities around pre-school child care. In the middle of all these stories, there was one very special moment. A special interaction between a pastor and child.

They call it the Welcome Table in Andrews, NC. All are welcome to come and enjoy a free dinner. Many come because they enjoy the fellowship, many come for a good, home cooked meal. Many faces, many people, joining together to provide a sense of community at the table of good food. The pastor of Andrews United Methodist Church agreed to chat right in the middle of the big gym where close to 100 people were enjoying dinner. During a very passionate part of the interview, a young boy came up and gave the pastor a hug and said thank you! It gives me chill bumps as I write this post.

Today, I received a call from my friend who hired me to take on this project. The first thing he wanted to share was the heart felt reaction from the room of 2000 people when the boy hugged the pastor. The Bishop leaned over and told him, “you can’t stage a moment like that!” No you can’t…you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

I am thankful for phone calls like these…just thankful!

This just made my day! Just made my day!

Social Networks’ Digital Divide…Too Much Amplification?

When we reach out to our social networks, are we using them to reach out to our friends on these networks OR are we using these networks to market and share our information?

Looking through a purest lens, social networks should be used to build relationships, have original conversations, build connections just as we would with those “friends” in person.

As I look through lens as a marketer/digital media professional, we find ourselves not only reaching out to these communities…but pushing our information to these groups of people. This digital divide creates physical moat between us and our virtual friends. It allows us to sometimes forget these people on the other end of these devices are the ones who receive our updates, tweets, and emails. They are human.

I was sitting in a meeting the other day listening to a friend describing social networks, specifically Twitter. He described this social outlet as medium to amplify our message. The marketing, digital media persona inside me agreed with this observation; but the purest, socially driven human was a bit disturbed by this characteristic.

So many of us are not afraid to use social aggregators like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and many others to schedule Tweets, posts, and updates. We turn into our own traffic department, setting up message distributions for the week. It is a bit addicting, we track results using our analytics, chart success, create metrics, and before we know it…we have social media marketing panic attacks.

I am not advocating for the extreme use of either lens…but I am more thinking through the audience’s experiences. Is the conversation starting to die out? So why did Facebook loose 5 Million U.S. users last month? I am not sure? Makes you wonder…too much amplification?

So, how is your usage of social networks changing? Is it purely business, monetary gain, creating traffic, etc? Are you using it to connect, build relationships, find connections, or even reinforce in-person relationships. Or, are you using it as a combination of all the above? Regardless…has your view point of social networks changed?

Do we need the 4G speed for all our devices?

Ok..Ok…the big ole hubbub across the mobile communication spectrum is all about 4G and 4G LTE. It is all about speed and the network. Yes, Verizon is leading the way with their LTE rollout across the country. AT&T and other groups are playing catch-up, well from a technology standpoint. AT&T is surely leading the pack in a clear concise message with their “Rethink Possible” campaign.

But what does this really mean for consumers, well I am still trying to figure this out. Seriously, why do I need 4G LTE speed on a mobile device. Why do I need to be able to upload and download at speeds twice or three times 3G speed on my iPhone or Android device. I can already watch video on the device, I can do video chat with my device, I can check email, download a document, etc at the 3G speeds.

What advantage do acquire when I buy the new iPad or iPhone with access to a 4G LTE data transfer rate? Now, look at the MiFi devices (the mobile hotspots) and this makes sense. I am a video guy and I need to be able to upload Gigabytes of video content and access to these speeds will trump most business and in-home data speeds.

At my house, I currently have my Charter data plan for Internet access that provides 25 Mb/s download and 3 Mb/s upload speeds. That is pretty fast…the 4G LTE mobile devices will be able to provide close, if not better upload speeds and similar to less download speeds. This is great for uploading large files from my edit bay and home workstation. So why does the average consumer need access from a smart phone to these speeds?

Verizon just released a press release today announcing that the Galaxy Tablet will be 4G LTE enabled. Jeff Dietel, vice president of marketing for Verizon Wireless stated in the press release, “The tablet market is exploding as customers are discovering new uses for the technology that features a large screen, powerful processing speeds and access to Android Market™’s 200,000 applications. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is perfect for customers who want to take advantage of Google™’s new movie rental option and view their favorite film on-the-go.”

Well, we are becoming a more connected community of technology enthusiasts. Everywhere you look, someone is looking at their smart device. They are texting, tweeting, looking at Facebook, checking email, watching video, chatting, uploading pictures. The days of the laptops and home workstations are slowly drifting away for the consumer. I bought my wife an 11 inch MacBook Air and it is close to the same size as my iPad. Those big ole bulky home computers are almost extinct. And with Cloud Computing…people are able to acces and store files virtually.

Look at the new release of iCloud by Apple. Yes, the ability to store and access all of your music in the “Cloud” and not have to worry if your home computer crashes, loosing all your music files. I can list numerous friends that have experienced this “life changing” trauma. My sister-in-law cried for days as she tried to recover a small percentage of her thousands of songs. I can still hear her saying…”There goes Bonnaroo…their goes Death Cab….GONE!”

So what does iCloud have to do with all this…we are becoming more dependent on the virtual community, connectivity, and off-site storage. Bigger server farms are providing access to storage and information. This also means that all of our devices, not just home computers, need to be able to access and alter these files from any device. I can now, shoot, edit, publish, and distribute video from my iPhone4 on YouTube and Vimeo using 3G, all in 1280×720 resolution. If I was still in the news world, I would be killing my competition…maybe?

Bottomline…our mobile devices are going to be moving more and more from content access devices to content creation devices. These devices will fit in our back pocket and we will be able to do more on the go, not restricted to our home/business/office computers. Access to servers and mainframes can be done anywhere…and their needs to be more bandwidth across the platform for more and more people to access and create content on the go. Also…files sizes are growing from HD video and larger picture quality.

One concept that I have not even touched is Healthcare IT. Yes…with the emergence of EMR’s and Cloud computing, more and more healthcare professionals will need to access large healthcare records in a mobile setting. Whether it is in the “field” like an ambulance or even rural healthcare networks. This type of speed and infrastructure will provide this access.

So, right now I am not sure if the consumer needs access to these speeds, but soon yes. Because all of their traditional computing will be done in devices that are the evolution of our iPhones, iPads, Laptops, Desktops…combined. Speed and access is key for tomorrow’s connectivity.

***Image from the Daily Galaxy, thanks a bunch!

One size does not fit all…planning for video messaging!

There are so many times I get a call about working on a video related project and the belief is that video production is a one size fits all. Many of the organizations that reach out with these types of requests are small businesses or even non-profit organizations. They ask me, “We want to do a video, can you help?”  Many times they have no idea what they want to produce this or how it will be used. It usually comes up in a marketing strategy meeting or even a board member makes a recommendation.

Mind you…I am not being critical of these organizations. I am happy to help and more than willing to help create a plan to execute a project. But here is the dilema that I am finding, there is a misconception that one video project is going to be the solution. There are too many variables. Especially if this small business or non-profit is investing money that might be a good portion of their marketing budget, a one shot deal could really make or break a company/organization.

This morning, I sat with a wonderful non-profit organization who wanted to work on a project. I think I spent close to 2 hours just listening to them and brainstorming. They have so many wonderful stories to tell, so many wonderful opportunities to leverage…a one size fits all project just is not what the doctor ordered. Many times, it could be more costly to the organization in the long term if all their eggs were thrown into one basket.

So…here is how I think we as practitioners and storytellers can help these organizations move past this common thread. Here is the exercise we worked through this morning:

Step One – Answer these questions:
1) Who is the audience(s)? List all the people/organizations/constituency bases that you feel would benefit from your message. Get extremely specific, as specific as possible. You want to be able to paint the picture of the audience(s) you want to reach. You want to try to see the world through their eyes and ears.

2) What is the purpose(s)? Why do you really want to use video as a medium to reach these audiences? Look at the audience(s) listed above, and try to identify each audiences’ specific purpose and how it is different from others.

3) How are you currently delivering your message(s)? List all the current mediums you are distributing your message(s). Are you emailing these audiences? Are you blogging? Are you using direct mail? Are you creating events for speakers to deliver your message? List them all. Even if it is a fax machine or in-person meetings, they are all relevant.

Step Two: Discover Context:
Take all the information above and lay it out so you can see everything. Create columns of information where the you can pair each audience with a specific purpose and a specific delivery method. Get your staff involved and have them go through this exercise with you. Once you are done organizing the information from Step One, then it is time to start finding themes and a mission statement(s) for this project.

Step Three: Identify Context:
From the information in Step One and Step Two, try to write a mission statement for this project. Begin identifying if there are multiple video projects, messages or just one big project. If you are finding that your organization has numerous initiatives and the potential to tell multiple stories, begin listing each video message. Then write a mission statement for each, a micro mission statement for each little video project and the audience you want it to reach. Then pair each video message with a distribution method in the third question of Step One. Yes…this might be the way you can use each video. You might have a video to show at a meeting and it might be different from the video(s) that are sent out via email or Social Outlets.

Now…take a break! Step away from this for a while. Maybe go to lunch or go home for the day. When you come back, it is time to move on to the final step…Step Four.

Step Four: Reality Check:
Ask yourself, why are we doing this? Really, why do you want to invest time, money, and energy to produce video projects to tell stories. Do you have the budget to meet these goals? Do you know of a vendor who would be willing to work with you…maybe as a non-profit? Will these vendors be the right match for your needs?

Now…this is my opinion and my practice. It does not mean that my method is the correct method to use. But, this is only the beginning of the planning, but what this does is it prepares you for the conversation of identifying your message(s) and if video as a medium will work for you.

Also…Step One is based one my research of the Rhetorical Triangle as it applies to Llyod Bitzer’s “Rhetorical Situation.