Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Fresh Eyes: what can journalists learn from a branding expert?

Posted in Fresh eyes series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 3, 2010

What happens when you ask a film maker or a musician about the future of journalism? What skills can the next generation journalist learn from a coder? As part of Fresh Eyes experts in non-journalism fields cast their eye over the digital revolution and offer their wisdom.

Jon Moss, Marketing Consultant

After nearly a decade working for a FTSE100 company, Jon decided working for other people sucked and now runs his own marketing consultancy, theappleofmyi. He specialises in branding, online marketing and social media, and is the founder of the Hull Digital group, a meetup of tech lovers in East Yorkshire, UK.  Check out the HD website, for some great talks from the likes of Audioboo, TechCrunch UK and the BBC.

Would you choose your brand?

“Your brand is formed primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO.

Except when you are talking about a journalist, blogger, freelancer or anyone for that matter, it’s not the company, it’s you. That’s the big question.

What are you doing?

Brands have an incredibly powerful, emotive and frequent part to play in virtually every buying decision we make. Day in, day out, we are making decisions based on our current or historical perception of a brand, or a brand experience. It can be a good experience, a bad one, or a mediocre one. They all play their part. Whether using a Mac or PC, which toothpaste you choose, what pair of trainers, and what car you drive. Brands.

Brands used to be tied, or rather cemented to TV advertising and perhaps big billboards. Of course with the onslaught (and make no mistake, it is an onslaught) of digital communication and the rise of the connected online world, brand experiences have changed forever.

You probably haven’t considered TV advertising, but you almost certainly use the web. Which means that you compete with the big boys, the multi-million dollar companies. The internet is a great equaliser, nearly everyone uses it, and it is not going away in a hurry.

The way you answer the phone, your answerphone message. Your business card, your website, your blog, your email signature. You name it, it is all part of your personal brand

65% of consumers report having had a digital experience that either positively or negatively changed their opinion about a brand. Of that group, a nearly unanimous 97% say that their digital experience influenced whether or not they eventually purchased a product or service from that brand. Digital is not only a place to build a brand: it can also make or break it. (Source – 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Study).

So, we’ve set the scene on brands and digital brands. You are starting to understand that brands and brand experiences are not just for Apple, Coca Cola and Nike.

Your brand matters. It matters a lot, and, critically can help in your marketing flow. Marketing is simple. 5 words simple: know, like, trust, use, recommend.

So having a good brand can most certainly help with getting known, getting liked, gaining trust and being used. The web can exponentially accelerate it.

Your personal brand is something you should be considering, building and adding to on a daily basis, and it is not only online. Remember that your personal brand encompasses every single touch point that a client, friend, colleague, prospect or family member could have with you, or something that represents you. The way you answer the phone, your answerphone message. Your business card, your website, your blog, your email signature. You name it, it is all part of your personal brand.

Nine questions to ask yourself

How people perceive you, your service, your business is all part of your brand. There are a few questions you may like to ask yourself to see how your brand measures up…

  • Q. Can people find you easily online?
  • Q. Have you got an interesting and extensive web presence?
  • Q. If they can, is it professional?
  • Q. Are you valuable to people?
  • Q. Do you influence or are easily influenced?
  • Q. Do people remember you for the right reasons?
  • Q. Do you have an opinion?
  • Q. Do you contribute and participate?
  • Q. Do you listen and learn?

You must socialise with your peers, clients and prospects. It cannot just be push. You need to join in, contribute and have something to say, an opinion or view. People want to work with people who are doing something, that have ideas, that are joining in. It’s important to be practicing what you preach.

Ten things to do in 2010 to improve your brand

If you only do a few things in 2010, this is what you should consider as a minimum:

1. Own your name online (you do own your own domain name, don’t you?)
2. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you
3. Be memorable, and not for bad things
4. Contribute and engage
5. Do something different
6. Decide what you stand for, what makes you special and different
7. Start something
8. Meet people and volunteer your time
9. Be polite and enthused – ask, because if you don’t, you won’t get
10. Treat others as you would like to be treated

P.S. Have some fun :-)

Jon Moss is a marketing and branding consultant based in East Yorkshire, UK. He runs theappleofmyi.com and founded the popular Hull Digital meetup group.

Fresh eyes: what can journalists learn from musicians?

Posted in Fresh eyes series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 1, 2010

What happens when you ask a film maker or a musician about the future of journalism? What skills can the next generation journalist learn from a branding expert? As part of Fresh Eyes experts in non-journalism fields cast their eye over the digital revolution and offer their wisdom.

Christopher Ave, musician

Christopher runs the excellent Music for Media blog where he profiles great examples of music being used in multimedia pieces and shares advice on how to do it. A life long musician himself, Christopher is also a journalist with the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

Music and Journalism

Many if not most of us journalists who create content for the web came from a print background. Naturally, we are most concerned with quotes and images — things we can see.

Things we can hear? Not so much.

So when I talk about using music in a journalistic multimedia project, I often get blank stares — or outright opposition:

Music? That’s…. manipulative! How dare we FORCE viewers to feel something!

It’s not surprising that so many journalists fear using music in multimedia storytelling - a reluctance expressed here by legendary writing coach Roy Peter Clark and again here by Poynter’s Regina McCombs. Many journalists who come from newspaper backgrounds are by nature suspicious of new storytelling tools — especially those used by radio or — gasp! — television.

But the very attraction of multimedia is that it can engage all the senses.Think about the great documentarians like Ken Burns, who used original music so effectively to help tell the story of the Civil War. Does anyone feel they were manipulated by the lovely, plaintive “Ashokan Farewell”?

In an increasingly fractured media world where we find ourselves competing for eardrums as well as eyeballs, I would argue that we ban such a powerful tool at our own peril.

Still, can’t overwrought music manipulate listeners’ emotions? Can’t jarring music detract from the story narrative? Of course – just as badly chosen words or images can distract viewers.

It’s just as manipulative to lard a narrative with mournful adjectives, or to quote sources from only one point of view, as it is to use music badly.

So the real issue, in my view, is this: We should use such tools properly.

Five tips on using music for journalists

But how can a journalist without significant musical skills do that? Here are some suggestions:

01.First, this is not about the music. It’s about the story you’re trying to tell. The music MUST fit within the tone established for the story (unlike, say, a music video, where the images serve the music).

02. Don’t imply that the music you’re adding is part of the scene you’re documenting (unless of course, it is). That’s like using Photoshop to add something to a news photo. This can be a fine line, and might seem to conflict with No. 1. If you’re in doubt as to whether you’re misleading the audience by choosing a piece of music, always leave it out. Go with something else. Risking your credibility isn’t worth it.

03. Don’t steal someone else’s music. This seems obvious, but in the cut-and-paste age, the temptation is there. Don’t yield to it. Do some research – know the law when it comes to fair use, trademarks and the like.

04. So where do you find just the right music for your project? There are scads of people selling pre-recorded music online (search “royalty-free music” for an idea.) If you’re looking for something in particular, find someone who can create it for you. MySpace, despite what you’ve read, is STILL full of bands and composers who are looking to distribute or license their music; perhaps you can find the creator of some music you like who will allow you to use it for free, in exchange for the exposure. Just make sure you get the agreement in writing. Or…..

05. Can’t find precisely the right music? Try creating your own. With tools like Garage Band and Acid, plus the plethora of free and low-cost loops out there, this might be easier than you think, especially if you have some time and the inclination to play around.

Here’s some music composition advice from Jon Patrick Fobes, a picture editor for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a talented musician who often creates original music for the newspaper’s website:

Have a beginning, middle and end. Vary the instrument voices. Don’t be afraid to change gears. And don’t be afraid to go minimal. Let the music serve the visuals, not overpower them. Don’t be afraid of silence! Put in some drama.

And here’s some excellent advice from MediaStorm’s Eric Maierson, one of the most thoughtful users of music in the multimedia world.

Finally, there are many, many examples of the skillful, effective and ethical use of music in nonfiction multimedia projects. Watch, listen and study.

So yes, be careful when using music in any nonfiction project. But I believe we journalists should embrace music – that is, music used with skill and restraint. As we fight tooth and nail for viewers and readers,  I believe it’s a tool we can’t afford to do without.

Christopher Ave, who directs political and government coverage for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STLtoday.com, is a lifelong musician and career journalist. He blogs at christopherave.wordpress.com and creates music for a variety of uses at www.christopherave.com.

Tomorrow: what can journalists learn from a coding expert?

Putting some Fresh Eyes on journalism

Posted in Fresh eyes series by Adam Westbrook on February 25, 2010

What happens if you ask a cinematographer, a musician, a branding expert, a designer and a programmer about the future of news?

Might sound odd, but the idea of colliding disparate disciplines has a history of sparking innovation. Johannes Gutenberg, for example, wanted to come up with something which combined the power of the wine press, with the flexibility of the coin punch..and came up with the printing press. Mercedes-Benz brought in someone completely random – the watch maker Swatch – and together they came up with the Smart Car.

Getting an outsider’s approach sheds new light on old problems, and reveals tips, tricks and viewpoints those of us inside the bubble will ever think of.

So all next week I’ll be getting those very experts to cast their eyes over the future of news. What can us hacks learn from a film maker, or a branding guru? You’ll find out right here on Monday.

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