February 2012

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2012.

I absolutely had to run Marla Schulman‘s interview this weekend because she is right in the middle of the Oscar action, taking pictures on the Red Carpet, and of course, this weekend is The Academy Awards. Marla is a TV host who knows her way around a video camera. She has some great video tips for beginners in this video.

But oh the irony…

This video has a couple of the technical challenges that we preach against right in the video to be sure and avoid like not great sound and kinda crummy picture quality. None of those are Marla’s fault, however. Like she points out, sometimes it just happens!



Making the news gets much easier if you remember to include video into the mix.

Why? Every news outlets needs content for their web, and news outlets love video:

  • All news organizations want to drive people to their websites as well and so many like additional or new content so that people have a reason to both watch and visit the website.
  • Websites with videos perform better than websites without video. People tend to stay longer on websites that have video and that’s important for any site trying to prove its worth to advertisers.
  • Video adds another layer to storytelling, and news people are, at their core, storytellers.

But making the news gets easier if you have thought through the video components for other reasons as well. TV and print rely on visuals. If you are not providing great video with your story (and even if you do, they will likely want to shoot some of their own anyway), you need to think it through from the perspective of how a camera will capture it.

That means:

  • Action – people doing interesting things filled with movement.
  • Locations – somewhere interesting, dynamic and logical to the story.
  • interviews – Interesting people who can offer insightful opinions on camera.

You can do something called a video news release. Essentially, you create a tv news piece as you would like it to be in a perfect world. In the US, some news stations will air them in part or in whole if they are very well done or they really need the content. In Canada, video news releases tend to be used more for background information and as a source for b-roll.

There are essentially two ways to get the word out on something:

  • From the top down – which means that you pitch a media outlet and, if you’ve done a good job, your key messages will come out in the story they tell.
  • From the bottom up – which means that your grass roots efforts reach a critical mass and media come to you.

Video is essential to both approaches for a variety of reasons:

  • People remember what they have seen more than they have simply read or only listened to. It’s one of the reasons that even if a television station has a smaller audience than a newspaper does, the television hit is often considered to be more valuable because a television appearance usually resonates more than a print story.
  • Video provokes a deeper response when it’s well done or thought provoking. We want to share that which has moved us and video is very shareable.
  • Once a movement hits a critical mass (a large number of signatures on a petition, for example or lot’s of people blogging or micro tweeting about it), the news will pick up on it. And video can be a very powerful force in creating a movement.
  • Video is something that more and more people are doing on their own as a way of expressing their own opinions and allegiances. People want to be involved with brands they love and organizations they care about. Given a chance, some of them will even create great content for you that may even help you in your making the news efforts. An unpaid supporter created these campaign videos for Openmedia.ca to help them in their grass roots efforts to fight a bill they felt was unjust.

Speaking of YouTube, it is the second largest search engine in the world and is also owned by Google. Ensuring that your videos are also keyworded properly both in the title and in the tags right in YouTube is very important.

When you upload your video to YouTube, you will need to choose a category (it might fit into “people,” “how to” or anyone of a number of other possible categories) and then you should add keywords. People search YouTube (did I mention it’s the second largest search engine in the world?) the same way they search Google. So if you’ve chosen keywords that people are looking for, you will come up in their returns.

You can watch this video with videotips for beginners featuring Marla Schulman for additional tips, but here are some additional shooting tips that will help you use video in your making the news with video efforts:

  1. Ironically, sound quality is more important than picture quality in video. People will put up with poor pictures but not poor audio.
  2. You probably have a better side. Look at the difference when I am shot from my left side versus when I am shot from my right side. These two videos were one day apart.
  3. Use natural light wherever possible.
  4. Keep a camera with you at all times. Pocket cameras like the Kodak Zi10, similar to what Marla Schulman is holding in this video with video tips for beginners. I rarely go anywhere without my Flip camera, and am so sad they have discontinued the model. And of course, you can always use your iPhone if you have one.
  5. If you’re interviewing someone, remember it’s about them. Make them look good, even if it means shooting you on your bad side so they can be on their good side (see point 2).
  6. Look for interesting angles when you’re shooting. Unless you’re doing a Skype video interview, it’s rare to put someone in the middle of the frame – usually if they’re alone, they’re off to one side or the other.
  7. To look at the camera or not?
  • The old rule used to be never. But that’s changed. If you’ve noticed in my interviews, I always look at the camera at various points of an interview, because I think of these interviews as a three way conversation between the interview subject, myself or whomever is doing the interviews, and you the person watching at home.
  • Increasingly even in television interviews, you will see those being interviewed look at the anchor and the camera. The same goes for hosts. While interviewing people, Dr. Oz looks at the camera as if to indicate this is a three way conversation.

Making the news gets harder with every passing moment. There is a lot of competition and an increasingly squeezed newsroom has very little time to entertain pitches that haven’t been thought out from all angles.

Invest the time thinking through video, both what you can gather and what news will need to be able to gather to make it particularly newsworthy. And if you have not yet started playing with video on your own, remember this: the best time to plan a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is now.

Get planting.



Tags: ,

What is a target audience? Essentially, your target audience are the people you need to reach or influence with a particular message. They may be grouped together by age, or by sex, where they live, by what they do, and a variety of other criteria in various combinations or alone.

Your target audience is essential to you achieving your business goals. Often, they are the people you need to buy your product or services or donate or support your cause. To check out the meanings of other PR terms, please click this link to PR Terms, Glossaries and terminology.


What is microblogging? Microblogging is simply any writing or updating one does using social media sites that allow a limitted number of characters per post, including Twitter, Facebook and Google+. To check out the meanings of other PR terms, please click this link to PR Terms, Glossaries and terminology.




You may have heard these terms used by PR folks and marketers engaged in the socially responsible movement space and wondered What is Top Down vs Bottom Up?

When you are trying to get your message out to the world, there are essentially two ways of doing it: Top Down and Bottom Up. Until the advent of Social Media, it was widely considered that Top Down, or via the media, was the way to go because it was the fastest way of reaching a lot of people.

In many cases, it often is. Increasingly however grassroots organizations and others are finding that they are able to reach the people they need through email marketing and social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, and through other sharing platforms like YouTube and Pinterist.

When those activities reach enough people or touch some kind of nerve or create an effective rallying cry or platform, the mainstream media come to the organization to cover the story instead of the organization or movement going to them. That’s what’s know as Bottom Up.

To check out the meanings of other PR terms, please click this link to PR Terms, Glossaries and terminology.


If you’ve ever worked with a PR pro, you may have left shaking your head a few times and asking questions like “just what are key messages anyway?” Key Messages are what you want your target audience to come away knowing or remembering about your brand through any and all of your outreach and PR activities. They are crafted carefully to help you influence the people who can best help you achieve your business goals.

You may have different key messages for different target audiences.


What are Video News Releases? Video News Releases are usually a news story created by an organization. In the US, they are commonly released to news stations and sometimes broadcast as news stories, as if they had been shot by the news organization. In Canada, that rarely happens and, when it does, the news organization usually identifies that the piece was produced by the organization and not the news outlet.

Video News Releases can be useful in getting media because they can show an outlet how a story could run and also, parts of it might be useful as b-roll or for use in related stories. Better video news releases are not overly promotional and actually have more of a neutral news feel, but many of them are easily identified because they feel commercial and more promotional than newsy.

To check out the meanings of other PR terms, please click this link to PR Terms, Glossaries and terminology.


What is b-roll? B-roll is the video that you supply or that a news team gathers that runs behind the intro that an anchor makes to a story or as the visual when a reporter or anchor is narrating overtop. B-roll does not include interviews. To check out the meanings of other PR terms, please click this link to PR Terms, Glossaries and terminology.

Tags: ,

Marc Pitman, aka The Fundraising Coach and I got together to talk about funding for charities and common mistakes charities make in their relationships. What I love about Marc’s approach is the humanity he brings to his work – and that he asks of each of us to bring to ours too.

I can imagine that the $10 test Marc talks about in the video, where he and his colleagues each send 10 $10 donations to charities to see how they respond, has a few of you wondering how you could possibly put resources and time into responding to a donation of $10.

My mail is filled with solicitations for donations from organizations I’ve never given to. And never will. Someone who has bought from you or donated to you is 20x more likely to buy from you again. That’s a qualified lead – one that’s much better to have some kind of return than someone in some neighbourhood somewhere who’s front porch is filling up with junk mail from charities she will ignore ever more.

So figuring out how to thank all donors, no matter how small, is not only doing the polite thing; it may actually be pure self interest. Want to learn more from Marc or hire him to help your board, staff or volunteers learn how to ask without fear? Check out his site, The Fundraising Coach.


One size does not fit all when it comes to non profit communications. It’s not unusual for big charities to have substantial in-house public relations departments with high priced outside help. On the other end of the scale, small and medium organizations, even those up to $10million dollars run the gambit from having a small in-house communications unit (often one person) right down to having communications duties taken on by committee, in rotation or by one already very over worked staff member or even volunteer.

Non Profit communications isn’t something that can be thrown on at the end. It’s key to how your major stakeholders do or will perceive of you. Here are a few essentials for non profit communications in today’s world.

Non Profit Communications – Internal Communications

In any organization, it’s important to treat your insiders like insiders or they will become outsiders and act accordingly. Smaller organizations so often have to do more with less and everyone needs to be moving in the same direction.

You may have good news, you may have bad news – it doesn’t matter. They need to hear it from you first before they hear it from the outside world. Demoralized people stop pulling with the team and they don’t have good things to say about the organization they feel beaten down by. It doesn’t matter what you tell the outside world you are as an organization. You will be killed by a thousand cuts if your organization has staff or even third party vendors who feel they’ve been treated poorly by your organization.

Organizations also frequently miss opportunities or create messes all the time because key departments or people aren’t talking to each other and fail to look for or find ways to leverage each other’s opportunities or mitigate potential problems.

There are technological solutions like intranets, Project Bubble, Basecamp and PBWorks where people can easily invite people from other departments to part or all of a project. Google Docs are another great tool that let people in different locations (down the hall or on the other side of the world) work on the same document simulateneously in realtime. These tools can be helpful in allowing for greater collaboration or even a fresh set of eyes, which can be invaluable.

And speaking of fresh eyes…Not every organization cultivates new ideas or sources for them and I think that’s a shame. Some management styles are hierarchical, or “tall,” meaning they have a very rigorous allegiance to top down management styles with little room for meaningful input from staff or other stakeholders.

There are efficiencies in this model, but so much gets lost along the way, including inspiration. Many talented (often young) people with fresh ideas leave because they feel undervalued. This style of management also contributes to the challenge of interdepartmental communications.

Non Profit Communications – Clients and end users

It is so easy to lose the focus of the real mission of why an organization exists, particularly in an atmosphere where time is measured against dollars in, but consider this. If the very people you serve turn against you, you may find fewer of everyone else supporting you in the end.

Processes are important but they should not completely drive out gestures that remind ourselves and those we serve of our shared humanity. At the very least, it is essential that end users are part of the visioning for any organization’s future. They have insights that no one else can possibly offer the organization.

Rage by an organization’s end users is easy pickings for a media outlet and a story like that can make everything else, including fundraising, much harder. Whether by survey or in casual conversation, it’s sometimes important to ask the harder questions, the questions that ask end users about how valuable they see the organizations as being and how they see it fitting into their journey.

Non Profit Communications – Volunteers

If you have a critical volunteer or panel of volunteers, make it easier for them to help you. Find out what they are hoping to get out of being involved and find whatever ways you can to help them achieve that.

Remember you are in a relationship with them and you must invest back in them, even in small ways, and not simply barrage them with requests for free work. If you are friends with them on social media, be helpful by re-tweeting and re-posting their posts, particularly the ones that advance their agenda and not just yours.

Work hard to understand the true value of what volunteers are giving. It will inevitably involve time and maybe things like talent and contacts.

If they are generous enough to open up their Rolodex, understand they will need to know that you can manage the relationship with them before bringing other potential relationships into the fold.

If they do introduce contacts to the cause, be respectful of their role in doing that and work out the parameters of future direct contact with the contact. It can take years to cultivate a good working relationship with someone and your volunteer may feel they need to manage the contact on your behalf.

Non Profit Communications – Donors

I love what Marc Pitman had to say in this interview and I think he’s a great fundraising coach. He’s absolutely right when he points out that no donor, particularly a significant one, likes to be treated like an ATM machine. It’s important that not every contact with a donor is an appeal for money.

As an aside, there is an interesting report just released about 2011 online giving trends with a good summary of it here. It might be interesting to compare your own results to those within your sector and in others.

Online donations continue to grow in importance even though in many organizations, they constitute less than ten per cent of gifts. Raisin is a great platform that makes non profit communications much more efficient along with the management of all kinds of fundraising and donor events. It is definitley worth checking out. Raisin is quite affordable as well when you consider that it is also a good database management system.

Non Profit Communications – Media Relations

This is worthy of a blog post or 10 in and of itself so I will just say this. A good cause does not make a good story. You need to have a good news angle.

You may think you are doing the most vital work in the history of the universe but the media are not your press agent and are not motivated in getting you exposure or helping you raise money.

In fact, some media outlets have been so besieged by non profits seeking media coverage, they’ve gone to great lengths to make it easier for them to quickly say no. Some have adopted particular causes and invoke a rule that they won’t cover causes outside of those they’ve chosen unless the event is really newsworthy on a variety of levels. The news angle they create or find (if you don’t give them a really strong one) may partially or wholly eclipse your non profit’s communications goal. In other words, they may cover some aspect of your event but not mention your cause.

Similarly, talk shows often blow cold on segments featuring non profits. Other non profits spend big money advertising on their networks and they kick up a fuss when other organizations go on and get great exposure right in the show. The push-back just isn’t worth it.

You can’t make the news come to you. You have to go more than half way and make sure you are giving them what they need to cover you.

It is a world unto itself, non profit communications. Bigger organizations have the advantage of resources and name recognition. But as it is in business, not everyone trusts “big” at the moment, which does give smaller and medium sized charities an advantage they don’t usually have.

The one thing that rings true no matter the size of your organization: it runs on relationships. Thoughtful communications will let you better manage and maximize your important (stakeholder) relationships as best as possible.


« Older entries