Updated drone laws and licensing, what does it mean for content creators?

On June 21, 2016 the FAA officially released Part 107 of section 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). I would not recommend saying that three times fast. When I first learned of the new law, little did I know that its confusing title was only the beginning of what would be a confusing journey. I don’t say “confusing” with a negative connotation. Drones burst onto the scene with such audacious speed that it left content creators, drone manufacturers and even the Federal Government in an initial state of shock.

The dust has largely settled now. Across the country, drone manufacturers and pilots alike are taking Drone Law more seriously, especially as the regulations themselves become more fine tuned. That is not to say that there is complete clarity. Drones and Drone Law are very similar to other areas of technology these days, in which the modern axiom applies: “If you’re not confused, then you’re not paying attention.”

But the “why” of drone law is no longer the question. It is here to stay and anyone wishing to be apart of the age of Unmanned Aircraft must embrace it. What matters now is the “what.” What does drone law mean for us as content creators? What does it mean for our clients? Lucky for us, we find these questions extremely fun to answer!

Simply put, drone usage and drone laws mean two things: greater potential and greater responsibility. The potential for drone application is ever expanding. In this era of mass online engagement, production value is set to grow in terms of getting your content noticed. Drones provide just that: enhanced production value. We are constantly experimenting and researching new ways to implements drones in a way that both makes sense, and brings true value to our clients. Anyone with an iPhone can capture and broadcast content, but strategically placed production value using tools like Drones can truly make the difference.

However, this new exciting wave of potential comes with some responsibility. Airspace that was once used only by airplane and helicopter pilots is now shared with anyone who chooses to buy and fly a drone. While this is indeed a real responsibility, it is by no means an obstacle. If anything, it helps us by enabling us to offer even more to our clients. It is now on our shoulders to ensure that the airspace is legally accessible, all permits have been applied for, and that the operation is conducted in accordance with FAA safety guidelines. Luckily for us, we love this stuff! Luckily for our clients, they don’t have to worry about it!

In summary, we truly believe that drones can provide serious value to production. In our modern digital lives, it is easy to glance over this new technology. With the flood of media that we are exposed to every day, things like drones can almost seem like just another gadget. But Drones are not a gimmick. They are serious tools and we are striving constantly to push the limits on what they are capable of!

A Journey for a Domestic Violence Victim

This has to be one of the most powerful stories we have captured since we started working with Safe Harbor. Each year, we have pushed the boundaries, getting to a place where real, raw emotion translated into such palatable words. Jenita is such an inspiring woman, with an amazing ability to share emotion in a way that we could truly see into her soul.

It only took her only two times to read the script she wrote, staring into a teleprompter literally three feet away. She was nervous about “letting loose”, sharing the graphics words that truly showcased her inner struggles and path. I am so glad she found the space to let loose; and truly share her heart.

Telling stories is more than just creating something for the consumer to feel the depth of the story; it is also knowing when to step back and letting the story be told without stepping in the way.

I am thankful for Jenita’s strength. If this message upsets you or offends you; then maybe Jenita’s story truly achieved it’s goal…to make you think and see the inner soul of a survivor. We should be so honored to know that she is willing to expose and share her inner being to us!

How can we be champions for women like Jenita right here in Anderson County, South Carolina?

Executive Producer: Bobby Rettew / Chief Storyteller at Gray Digital Group
Producer/Editor: Mark Berry at Gray Digital Group
Client: Safe Harbor

Becoming an FAA Pilot

It is official, I am certified as FAA Remote Pilot, and I have the license to prove it. While this was a big moment for us at Gray Digital Group, it might be helpful to explain what this means for our clients. But first, let’s quickly talk about why a license is needed in the first place!

It’s no secret that drone ownership has increased exponentially.  Not only have they exploded into the consumer’s space, but in the professional space as well. Video footage and photographs that once required a helicopter are now possible for anyone who can afford a drone, which are becoming increasingly affordable. Ever since DJI released it’s “Phantom 1” in January of 2013, drones have spread like wildfire throughout the video production industry. There have been many advancements in video technology over the years, but drone technology is unique in that in crosses the line into another industry: aviation.

Aviation via motorized flight is still a relatively new endeavor. The first sustained powered flight occurred in 1903, and the first commercial aviation industry didn’t spring into existence until 1925 with the “Air Mail Act.” What makes Commercial Drones so unique is the speed with which they flew into the scene (pun intended). In years past, most technological advances kept pace with legislation, and vice versa. Airspace was by and large reserved for large airlines, with the occasional exception for model rockets, kites and so forth. With drones now sharing airspace with everyone else, regulation was needed.

As I went though the process of becoming certified, I noticed that the primary objective of the FAA was to ensure that Drone Pilots respected and understood airspace laws. The whole point of requiring a license is not to create barriers of entry, but to equip pilots with the knowledge to fly safely and legally. Furthermore, an official FAA license allows us to bring even more legitimacy to our drone product offerings.

Aside from simply becoming a legal requirement, a drone license demonstrates to our clients that we are proficient in all aspects of drone operation. Details like airspace classification, waiver applications, drone laws and safety requirements are just a few facets of the commercial drone process. Luckily our clients don’t have to worry about any of these details, they can focus solely on the content they wish to capture and allow Gray Digital Group to do the heavy lifting. We are proud to offer this service to our clients, and even more excited to see what the future holds!

Mark Berry

Contact us here to start your drone project today!

Gray Digital Group Recognized as One of San Antonio’s Top Local Agencies

This month Gray Digital Group was recognized by UpCity as a Top Local Agencies in San Antonio. As you may know, we at Gray have been providing high-quality digital marketing services to our clients since 2001, and so we are excited to celebrate this accomplishment!

UpCity helps scout out the best local agencies around that United States to provide small businesses with recommendations of only the most qualified and trusted agencies in their cities. Not all agencies qualify and must be nominated and vetted before making the list.

“We [Gray Digital Group] pride ourselves on giving only the best services and customer service to our client’s so it’s exciting for us to be apart of UpCity’s Top Local Agency list,” said Brad Gray, co-owner of Gray Digital Group. “Our goal is always to think of new and innovative ways to help add value to each client’s business. Each client is unique and has a different goal in mind for what success looks like so we emphasize customer service and customizing our services for each business. It seems like a no-brainer, but you don’t see that with all agencies. One size does not fit all when it comes to digital marketing and we understand that.”

We would like to thank all of our clients and staff for making this opportunity possible and hope to continue to provide our clients with high-quality digital marketing. Check out our profile on UpCity here for an overview of our services or contact us to find out how we can help accomplish your business’s digital marketing goals.

Aerial View: Demolition and Rebuilding Homes in Greenville

Blog Post by Mark Berry / Producer & Director for Gray Digital Group

The craft of telling visual stories differs from other disciplines in that it is forever married to the advancement of technology. If a writer possesses the necessary talent and vision, it makes little difference whether he uses Microsoft Word or a Quill pen and powdered ink. Visual storytelling is different. As technology advances, new horizons are opened up. New tools give us new ways of better constructing the narrative we hope to convey. This being the case, we are always on the lookout, keeping a watchful eye on the digital technology market. Technology creators realize this, which has naturally led to a world where digital video tools are perpetually burgeoning. Every day now it seems like a ground-breaking, tradition-shattering tool arrives on the scene. This comes with both good and bad attributes. As content creators, we must be intentional about not focusing too much on which tool is the most provocative, but which one practically and tangibly contributes to the story we are telling.

A lot of things are happening in the digital world, and fast! When DJI released the “Phantom” drone in January 2013, they forever changed the landscape of digital video. Video footage that use to cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars was now available to anyone that could afford the drone and a GoPro camera. It seemed like everyone had a drone in the sky, filming everything from scenic landscapes to fireworks. It wasn’t long before we acquired our own drone, the Dji Phantom 3. Admittedly, our excited got the best of us as well. We filmed anything and everything, sometimes for no other reason than to have an excuse to fly (which is fun enough on its own, let alone obtaining amazing footage).

After using the Drone for several projects, we began to take note of how it can add production value to our work. At first, we saw it’s obvious aesthetic potential. There is just something about aerial video that looks good. It has in innate ability to demand one’s focus, grabbing attention on footage that otherwise might not seem that interesting. While this is all well and good, and more than justifies having a Drone, there are other more dynamic applications.

Homes of Hope is a local client of ours that helps provide affordable housing to low income families and individuals. However, to say that is all they do would not just be an understatement, it would simply be wrong. The unseen effects of their work ripple through our society in numerous beneficial ways. I have met many of their “graduates” and they’ll be the first to tell you that affordable housing is barely scratching the surface. These are people with diverse backgrounds and challenges, but have all benefited from a better life trajectory, all thanks to Homes of Hope.

These are real people with real struggles who were willing to put forth the effort, and Homes of Hope was willing to meet them halfway. I could easily dedicate this entire blog post to the transformative effects Home of Hope has had on our local community, and still not cover all the bases. In the end, that’s the point. In order to even vaguely understand the full impact of Homes of Hope, one must take a bird’s eye look at all they have done. This is where we have found the absolute best application for the Drone. How else could we capture the sprawling neighborhoods, the community Barbecues and the scope of housing construction? It was these questions and these projects that we realized the Drone has far more to contribute than aesthetic trimming to a video. This was a situation in which the use of the Drone was actually broadening the scope of our narrative, giving us new creative freedom to fully tell the Homes of Hope story. You can’t see Homes of Hope at eye level, you must journey to the sky in order to understand the heights they have reached.

This past week I had the privilege of filming the demolition of some condemned properties in Greenville. Homes of Hope will soon be replacing the condemned houses with new, livable houses. As I was flying the Drone back and forth over the site, I couldn’t help but realize the symbolic nature of what was happening. Even though a physical house was being destroyed, a rebirth was taking place. I was reminder of the many Homes of Hope graduates I have met, who were intent on dismantling the destructive habits of their old lifestyle and making way for the new bright future ahead of them. Whether it’s with the freshly painted houses, or the glow of a graduate’s face when they get hired to their first full time job, Homes of Hope is changing the face of our community. It’s a story worth telling.

Strategy: Owned Media Before Earned & Paid #OwnedMediaRocks

Once again I sit through another meeting where a public relations professional’s performance is based on the number of print articles earned in the local newspaper. This has driven me to finally write this post.

Owned media can be a huge influencer for earned and paid. Let’s be honest, earned media is about relationships. Organizations can have the best stories, provide the best value for the community, and have the most topical items to influence media outlet’s bottom line…but without relationships this means nothing. ZILCH! That’s why you see organizations hire PR firms, mainly for their relationships leveraging their?sphere of influence.

Organizations that do not know how to tell their story (and tell it well) can have great relationships with earned media outlets, but do a horrible job of communicating their message. That is why I love the owned space. LOVE IT!

Investing in storytelling is not this hypothetical catch phrase that can make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, yet it is a practical, strategic approach that can influence ownership of messaging. It is an operational way of taking ownership of the stories that happen on an internal basis, funneled through digital properties as pitch mechanism, and influence media relationships to broaden the storytelling strategy. Plus…I think journalists are competitive and sometimes want to prove they can write better than the organization.

If you tell your story well, influence your community to engage with your story, people want to share. Creating a digital storytelling strategy as an internal focus can be executed very simply:

  1. Create blog
  2. Create a news area on the website
  3. Create a content plan
    – Create a content calendar
    – Capture and write an organization’s story through first person narratives via the blog
    – Capture and write third person news articles via the news section
  4. Write consistently (leverage content calendar)
  5. Share through social and digital outlets
  6. Leverage content as pitch narratives for earned media outlets.
    – Email blasts to media contacts
    – Have coffee/lunch/meetings with media contacts with story ideas from blog/news.
  7. Integrate paid promotion around content boosting performance (reach and funnel metrics)
  8. Track and report

This is the owned approach, putting a focus on telling your “own” story leveraging the organizations’ content for earned and paid media strategies. This allows organizations to focus on content on the tactical level (specialist, managers, directors) and the true function of PR, building long term relationships (director and vp level).

The best part of this approach is once the tactical strategy of content creation funneling through the organizations digital outlets…you can measure, refine, then scale.

Refining is the fun part! Measuring content that resonates with digital audiences then comparing the content narratives that support the communication/marketing focuses of the organization’s growth goals.

Now, I can hear you out there…”how do I get my internal team to focus on creation of quality content?” That is a whole other discussion, but it comes down to creating a commitment to this strategy, incorporating into individuals job functions/titles, and hiding them accountable. It also includes inspiring and recruiting the right people on your internal team that has a passion and voice for your organization, including outside the communications team.

Great Digital Approach to Zika Virus by Mayo Clinic #digitalhealth

This is one of the best updates from a hospital when it comes to the Zika virus. It comes from Mayo Clinic, and here is why it is works extremely well:

  1. It is simple!
  2. Dispels the myths
  3. Provides information in written and video form.
  4. It is sharable.
  5. It provides media outlets video content to download for use in broadcasts and online via the media section where they have to sign-in to download.


We are seeing more hospital leaders jump in front of the public discussion surrounding Zika Virus. Google Trends is continuing to show a large uptick in online conversation. Google Trends is also making it EXTREMELY easy to create a content plan. Google Trends lists for anyone to see the top five questions being searched online.

  • What is Zika virus?
  • Where is the Zika virus?
  • Is Zika virus contagious?
  • How long does Zika virus stay in your system?
  • How is Zika virus spread?

It is also showing which cities in the US are bring the largest search for Zika Virus: https://g.co/trends/t8yo

Here are the top twenty cities with highest search on Zika Virus:

  1. Des Moines-Ames, IA
  2. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  3. Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, FL
  4. New York, NY
  5. Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC
  6. Wilmington, NC
  7. Washington, DC (Hagerstown MD)
  8. Seattle-Tacoma, WA
  9. West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL
  10. Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, IA
  11. Columbus, OH
  12. Baltimore, MD
  13. Ft. Myers-Naples, FL
  14. Boston MA-Manchester, NH
  15. Charlotte, NC
  16. Omaha, NE
  17. Sioux City, IA
  18. Hartford & New Haven, CT
  19. Gainesville, FL
  20. Milwaukee, WI

It is important for hospitals to start embracing and empowering their communications departments to do the following when getting in-front of public health situations.

  • Listen – Watch/Listen Social and Digital Trends
  • Create – Create a content plan
  • Roll Out – Distribute content to advocates that is accurate and transparent
  • Quit Stressing – Stop the worry about what might be and focus on how to effectively empower your community with accurate information.

Digital and Social Media Impact of Zika Virus: Strategy Recommendations

There is increased search on Google for information about Zika virus, based on data supplied by Google Trends. Charleston, SC is leading the state geographically with increased Google search about the virus along with our neighboring state (Georgia) seeing an increased amount of search. Bottom-line, people are searching and seeking information.

Over the past few days, articles are being released by local South Carolina media outlets including two articles of note from the State Newspaper on Friday indicating 15 people in the State of SC have been tested along with an article in Anderson’s Independent Mail piggy backing off the same data. These articles are creating an uptick in search for content online in South Carolina.

This is what I am learning from these experiences:

  • Hospitals need a solid public facing content plan. This does not mean we need to start posting content, but start building a strategic communications plan that includes digital and social media along with media outlets.
  • Need a comprehensive plan to handle responses from media and public, including on social media. These means understanding the virus, understanding how the virus impacts South Carolina, and empowering member hospitals to be the ones how are thought leaders in the public face.

Here are the top five questions being asked on Google right now:

  1. What is Zika virus?
  2. Where is the Zika virus?
  3. Is Zika virus contagious?
  4. How long does Zika virus stay in your system?
  5. How is Zika virus spread?

Digital Strategy Recommendations (Dedicated Zika Content Page)
I have pulled together resources that might help us frame what the pubic is searching for online, creating opportunities to frame responses based on other hospitals and health care resources. I can see a whole section of a healthcare organization’s website dedicated to Zika with information for the public. This could be a combination of resources below based on content already created from credible resources.

This does not mean I am recommending going public with a part of the website immediately, yet recommending the creation of content in a unified spot on the website…and when ready, launch as a resource for member hospitals and the public. The following content can be leveraged or can serve as a guide for member hospitals to create something similar.

1 – Great video from WHO with question and answer video showcasing an epidemiologist answering the following questions on camera:

  • What is Zika virus?
  • What are the symptoms of the Zika virus disease?
  • Is there treatment for Zika virus disease?
  • Should I avoid traveling to areas where Zika virus is occurring?
  • What can I do to protect my family?

2 – Here is another great video from Healthcare Triage’s Aaron E. Carroll, MD, MS, a Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Dean for Research Mentoring at Indiana University School of Medicine.

He discusses in great medical detail with consumer friendly graphics defining what the Zika virus is all about and whether we should or should not be concerned.

3 – There is also lots of connected conversation and Google search surrounding the connection between Microcephaly and Zika virus. Here is a great videos from WHO’s Dr. Anthony Costello who is the Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health:

He addresses these questions in the video:

  • What is Microcephaly?
  • As a pregnant woman, how would I know if my baby is affected?
  • What support would I need if my child has microcephaly?
  • What steps can I take to protect myself and my baby from Zika virus?

4- Here is a new video about the Zika virus from the CDC called “Zika Virus 101” with Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director:

She tackles the same questions with informed responses:

  • What is Zika?
  • Statistics of who will become ill if infected.
  • Symptoms of Zika virus disease.
  • How to avoid getting Zika?

5 – Here is a wonderful blog post from Seattle Children’s Hospital tackling many of the questions and concerns for parents. I can see numerous blog posts from member hospitals tackling each of the topic areas from this blog post link:

  • What is Zika?
  • Potential birth defects
  • Guillain-Barre from Zika
  • What is Dengue?
  • Risks from Dengue for pregnant women & newborns?
  • Testing for Zika when you are worried.
  • Recommendations for men and their pregnant partners.
  • Bottom line advice about Zika, dengue, and pregnancy.

6- I can also see hospitals and create and display similar to content to Harvard School of Public Health’s Zika in the News webpage:

Should hospitals use social and digital to talk about Zika Virus?

I am watching the digital curve surrounding Zika virus from inside Google Trends alongside monitoring the amount of conversation on Facebook using the Signal product. It was just yesterday that we noticed that Zika Virus moved to the trending position in Facebook after the media covered President Obama’s announcement surrounding funding to attack Zika virus.

It is absolutely fascinating to watch disease specific and public health matters emerge through the use of digital search and social media conversation. We know that digital listening has become a key component to engage the consumer, taking part in the the digital path as the consumer is using Google to search for information and going to social media channels like Facebook to have conversations with their friends and other thought leaders.

Hospitals and health care organizations have learned from many health crisis that the digital path is key to engaging the consumer, providing information that will ether empower the decision patterns or dispel myths. We also know that leveraging digital listening is another pathway in the decision pattern whether to release public information from hospitals about these large public health issues.

Digital listening should not be the only determinant whether to go public, but can play a vital role how to frame the release public information, when to release, and how to frame the conversation for the community.

I have been watching the Zika virus in two specific areas:

  1. Google Trends – Indicator of consumer search
  2. Facebook Signal – Indicator of consumer conversation

When looking at Google Trends, here are a few things I noticed:

1) Google search for Zika virus has been up and down over the last few weeks, and began another up-tick on Monday, February 8th when it was announced that President Obama was going to request $1.8 Billion dollars to address this public health issue.

Why should we care about this as an evolving trend? This showcases the intensity of engagement online as it relates to Zika. When people are interested in information, they use Google as a mechanism to seek information. This showcases the consumers interest over time and using search to find information that is relevant to their daily lives.

2) The Top Five Questions being asked on Google about Zika Virus.

Why is this important? This is a key guide to see what the consumer is asking, a guide for hospitals and health care organizations to frame content as a means to answer the questions consumers are searching for online. So much time is spent inside content strategies trying to figure out what content will be relevant to the consumer, here is a clear guide to what the consumer is truly interested in learning.

3) The intensity of search based on geographic areas in the United States.

Once again, why is this important? I spend lots of time working with hospitals in South Carolina and Texas. This interactive chart allows me to hover over geographic areas, seeking to understand the intensity of search surrounding Zika. Right now hospitals in Texas (specifically in Austin) are showing that there is an increased level of search for Zika (68) compared to the top level of interest in Florida maxed at 100. In Greenville, SC the level of search sits at 36, Columbia, SC is 40, and Charleston, SC 43. This is a scale from 1 – 100.

As you see the shades of blue become darker, the increased level of search is getting close to the max number of 100. If you look at Florida where the Governor has expanded state of emergency to the fifth county, you can match the areas impacted with the level of search. The five counties under a state of emergency are Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee and Santa Rosa. Each of these counties represent areas of Florida with the highest search level for information.

With increased levels of search in Texas, and the fact there are ten confirmed cases diagnosed, you can see there is a high level of search in Austin (location of the legislature) and Dallas areas.

South Carolina hospitals need to watch the search in our geographic area surrounding Zika, and if it looks like it is starting to increase dramatically, implementing a content strategy that leverages content and Google search to dispel myths and concerns. Let’s take this to the tactical level, using the top trending questions in the Google search:

  1. What is Zika VirusBlog Post and/or Video from Clinician answering this question.
  2. Where is Zika VirusInteractive map showing where the Zika virus is being found as it relates to your geographic area.
  3. Is Zika virus contagious?Clinical expert sharing thoughts via blog and/or video about the virus and how impacts the local consumer.
  4. How long does Zika virus stay in your system? – Clinical expert sharing thoughts via blog and/or video about the virus and how impacts the local consumer.
  5. How is Zika virus spread?Clinical expert sharing thoughts via blog and/or video about the virus and how impacts the local consumer.

Right now…major news outlets are dominating the content games in these areas, providing new information about the virus in these geographic areas and across the nation. Hospitals have a HUGE opportunity to do the following:

  1. Create a robust content strategy presenting hospitals and health care organizations as thought leaders online.
  2. Create a social media strategy to not only deliver content, but to engage in conversation online positioning thought leadership directly from health care leadership.

Hospitals MUST decide if and when they talk about the Zika virus online (website, blog, social media, and through earned media outlets). Hospitals have an opportunity to leverage listening tools to gauge the level of consumer interest on the Zika virus, and decide if that is a determining factor to release information digitally, empowering the public with accurate, real time information that does not create pandemonium, but empowers the community to become educated about this public health situation.

Here are some resources to leverage:

Explaination Video from WHO:

Here is the dedicated site to CDC:

Here is a link from Scientific America indicating 10 cases have been reported in Texas and none in SC:

Own Your Earned Media on the Web

In a recent report by Forrester Research called “No Media Stands Alone” media is broken up into three areas:

  1. Earned Media: Editorial influence of your brand, like a blog post which mentions your brand or product.
  2. Paid Media: Usually advertising space that is paid for, such as online banner ads.
  3. Owned media: Described in this study as a corporate website.

Did you catch that? OWNED media. We love this terminology! Your website is a form of media that you own—you have complete control over what it says, where people see it, and how often it is updated. You can (and you should) use your paid media to drive traffic to your owned media. Banner ads, print ads, billboards, radio spots. Your web address should be omnipresent on all.

We also think it is important to point out that social media, which has become a very powerful form of “earned media,” has the greatest potential to also become a form of “owned media,” too. Your company can absolutely leverage the power of social media by engaging in and directing the conversation about your product or service. For this to work, though, you need to be sure you are fully invested in your social media strategy:

  • Do you have the tools to communicate with your audience, and do they know where to find you? Which influential bloggers should you align with? What form of micro blogging are you using—Facebook or Twitter?
  • Are you listening? Do you have an understanding of what is being said about your product or your service—today—at this moment?
  • Are you engaging your audience? Are you ready to address positive and negative comments with equal exuberance?
  • Are you taking the time to generate conversation and ask for their input? Are you leveraging all the tools at your disposal? Are your social sites hooked to your blog? Is your blog prominently placed on your website? Are you using social media tools as part of your website?

Whatever your business, whatever your product, we say OWN it. Own your website and your earned media too. It will take some work, ownership always does.