The interview…the art of listening and the need for transparency

As I sit here and work on a story for the SCMission2012 project, I am reminded the importance of listening. Many people have many different strategies when conducting on camera interviews for stories. I can remember working with a seasoned journalist who would spend hours outlining his interview questions, making sure he delivered the right question at the right time.

For years, I have never taken a list of interview questions with me to an interview. I rely more on the art of listening when trying to capture comments for a story. I spend lots of time researching the person, the cause, the initiative, and the purpose behind the story. I spend time thinking through the relationship between the person and the story. But when it is time to roll the camera, I let the conversation direct the questions.

The camera is intimidating for many people and sometimes it means that everything we ask will end up in the final version of the story. I guess the digital age has taught us that anything we say can end up on YouTube. So the approach of asking questions based on the conversation can be concerning for most interview subjects.

A few weeks ago, I was working on a story where the interview subject was not expecting a series of questions. Specifically, I started with a series of warm-up questions to allow us to get acquainted with the camera. Conducting an on-camera interview is all about relationship building and trust. This person thought that the initial series of questions were going to end up in the final story, thus revealing something that the person felt was a little to personal for the story.

A few days after the interview, this person called me concerned. I re-assured this person, that these questions were not going to end-up in the final story and I was going to delete these comments from all the digital copies.

We have to listen and we have to be transparent when conducting interviews for video use. We have to explain our process and provide our intentions in a transparent manner. We have to listen and we have to be prepared. The camera is there to capture moments very personal for people and our burden as storytellers is craft the story with utmost compassion.

50 States 50 Stories

I am so excited to announce that I am launching my 50 States 50 Stories initiative today. I have been working on this concept for close to a year. As a storyteller, I like to capture and share people’s stories. This initiative will give me the opportunity capture stories, interviews from people I have never met and may never get a chance to meet.

I am dropping this box in the mail today. It is off to Arizona to the first entrepreneur. Hopefully during this year long initiative, we will be sharing 50 entrepreneur’s stories on a website to be launched soon. It is up to these people to share their story and send the package to another entrepreneur who they think has a great story to share.

Soon…I will be launching the website where we will share these stories as I receive them. You never know…you might receive this box in the mail.

Stories that give you hope!

There are not too many times you get to tell a story that not only gives you hope for a brighter future…but inspire you to create change. I met David Liu this past summer while working with The Duke Endowment on a project call Profiles of Service.

Jeri Krentz of The Duke Endowment writes:

“In his classes at Duke University, David Liu tackles problems in multivariable calculus. He studies circuit analysis. He builds robots.

But this summer, as a teacher with Freedom School Partners in Charlotte, he learned from 10 year olds. As David helped his scholars sharpen their reading skills, they taught him a few things about patience, and what it means to be an adult.

The experience was thanks to DukeEngage, a program that supports Duke students in volunteer service around the world. Since it was launched in 2007 with $30 million of support from The Duke Endowment and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DukeEngage has enriched the undergraduate program for more than 2,000 participants.

In Charlotte this summer, three DukeEngage students worked as Servant Leader Interns for Freedom School Partners, along with undergraduates from other colleges across the Southeast.”

If you want to read the whole story…CLICK HERE. I hope you enjoy the story and I hope you venture on to read more about David Liu and his journey from China to Duke University…ultimately finding his summer passion, to help children learn how to read.


What is the difference between Marketing and Communications? Sound Off

For all my friends, clients, colleagues, and partners out there…I want to hear your thoughts! What is the difference between Marketing and Communications, specifically in the context of social/digital media. How would you differentiate the two?

I hope you will share your thoughts! Use the comment section below to share!

GoPro and Audi GET IT! It Takes a Culture Change!

I just read a blog post from Mickey Plyler concerning the future retirement of Clemson’ Athletic Director. In his article, he built an argument articulating what the new leadership will “have” to look like when Mr. Terry Don Phillips retires.Regardless who follows, big shoes to fill.

Plyler states in his blog:
“Social media has become a bigger part of athletic departments across the country and Clemson needs an upgrade. Schools are trying to control the message more now than ever and Clemson needs a progressive thinking business person that understands how to create a brand in the modern business world.”

Guess what Mickey…this applies to more than just Clemson Athletics, it applies to many large organizations across the country. As I sat through a strategic meeting for a large organization yesterday, this all day conversation surrounded social media. To quote a person in the room…“It is a culture change.” I agree.

Organizations are having to trudge through a culture change from the leadership all the way down to those who are on the ground level. And it is not just social media or even the digital media strategy, it is an integrated communication approach. Social and digital media are no longer just a tool in the tool box, they are integrated strategies that warrant just as much, if not more, attention that your traditional marketing efforts. (This statement depends on organization and audiences goals.)

To be blunt, it is time for organizations to start curating content ONLY for social and digital efforts. Why…the audiences are looking for this content.

Look at Audi and this year’s Super Bowl, they created content specifically for the social space. They used the #SoLongVampires hastag in the Super Bowl ad that received over 2 million YouTube views and tens of millions of Twitter impressions a week after the ad appeared during the game.

After the 2012 Super Bowl, Murrey Newlands wrote“Capitalizing on vampiremania, they showed an Audi driving up to a vampire bonfire party and accidentally frying the vampires with its powerful headlights! The vampires immediately turned to ash, (unlike TrueBlood vampires who for the most part slowly burn to death once exposed to the Sun).”

They built excitement for their target demographic around the Audi brand, and it is still paying dividends with over 7 million YouTube views to date! That is what I can integrated marketing.

Look at GoPro and their photo of the day initiative on Facebook.  Each day, they share a photo of the day from one of their fans using their GoPro camera. LOVE IT! Talk about engagement, they have over 3 million fans and people love their product. This effort is all on Facebook.

Organizations are learning that it is no longer “just” a push marketing mentality. Brand management involves building community and leveraging word-of-mouth efforts. For the first time, social and digital media efforts provide an opportunity to engage digital word-of-mouth and a measurable outcome. We can build a community and track success. We can build sustainable efforts leveraging online tools and use them in specific tactical methods, then look back and see how we performed.

Organizations are also learning…they must take control of their own brand. Ed Bennet who manages web operations at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) understood this strategy. He brought all web/social/digital efforts in-house. He built a team, he built a culture, and how is a leader in the hospital digital media space.

The Clemson Family is a large family and they engage in many online communities. It is obvious if you look at the Clemson University main Facebook Page and Alumni Page.  And even though many organizations like Clemson Athletics have built many online communities, it is now time to really see if they can build sustainable efforts. No more just pushing the message to a group, but engaging in online conversation.

It is a culture shift, not only for leadership but for those working these efforts on the ground level.

FastCompany: “You Must Be A Storyteller.”

Fast Company’s Kerrin Sheldon wrote a wonderful blog last month titled “Why Short-Form Video Is The Future Of Marketing” and I have to agree.

Let’s Talk Audience
Kerrin went on to make a powerful statement: “To create truly high-quality content, you must be a storyteller. You must be able to pull together a large selection of shots and content and pare it down into a manageable short-form video that will engage an audience.”

This conversation takes me back to a dinner I had with Bob Dotson of NBC. Bob is what I consider a master storyteller and his reputation is obvious from the numerous awards and speaking engagements across the country. He took me to dinner after we worked together on a story in Charlotte. I took this opportunity to become a human sponge and soak up as much knowledge as possible.

Let’s Talk Purpose
Bob explained anyone can tell a story…but if you really want to tell a story that engages an audience, you must find an tell stories with layers. As the storyline progresses in a video…the audience peels back the layers, revealing each little nugget of the storyline. Stories using video are visual communication tools…you just have to know how to find them, especially inside/outside you branded organizations.

I love this short little video interview with Bob:

Bob’s comments get you thinking, why we tell stories and how to find those stories with layers. But back to Kerrin Sheldon’s point about short video content.

Kerrin continues in the Fast Company article to share about this growing market of storytelling:
“I predict the next 5-10 years will be huge for video marketing online. Brands are moving further away from direct advertising, whose metrics that are hard to calculate, and into original video content–content that is created not to sell but to engage. They tell a story and they create brand loyalty. The days of direct consumer advertising is dwindling, and the advent of marketing through storytelling has arrived.”

Let’s Talk Delivery
Let’s at the numbers, here is an online video consumption from June 2012 (Based on ComScore Report):
1) 84.8 percent of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
2) The duration of the average online content video was 6.8 minutes.
3) Video advertising reached another all-time high in June as 11 billion video ads were viewed.
4) Google Sites, driven primarily by video viewing at, ranked as the top online video content property in June with 154.5 million unique viewers, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 51.5 million, with 49 million, VEVO with 46.2 million and Viacom Digital with 38.9 million. Vimeo moved into the top 10 ranking for the first time at #10 with 21.4 million viewers.

So let’s look at the channels to share your content:
1) YouTube: “Everyone knows YouTube and it continues to dominate the market. But unless you’re a professional musician or are looking to score the new huge viral video showcasing your friends firing off bottle rockets from a made-at-home cannon, there are plenty of other places to showcase your videos. “

2) Vimeo: “ is the finest collection of artistic videographers on the web. Without outwardly deleting poor-quality content, Vimeo’s homepage and search results make it easy to find awesome content and avoid the endless amounts of useless crap that often plague the YouTube experience.”

3) Pinterest: “Along the same lines, Pinterest’s new video feature gives curators great opportunities to pin videos to their boards. Even more so than Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest has created a sharing experience so simple and effective, it makes the potential or virility even higher.”

So as Kerrin says, “With ever-increasing YouTube lunch breaks and Vimeo dinner dates, online video is becoming a constant companion–one that every brand is rushing to take advantage of. “

***Image from