Social Media Leverage for Small Businesses

Small business owners know that it takes community interaction to create growth. As the social media community continues to increase in size, small businesses are becoming interested in an online community strategy. At Gray Web Tech we’ve helped many clients navigate the world of social media to promote everything from happy hour specials to health and wellness events.

Alexis Lamster, VP of customers at Postling, created an infographic that shows how small businesses are using social media tools such as twitter and facebook to connect with consumers on another level.

How can social media leverage your business goals?

10 Question Interview: Welcoming Mark Berry, Video Producer to Gray Digital Group

A few months ago, we hired Mark Berry to join Gray Digital Group’s video production and content development team. I have known Mark for about two years and finally had the opportunity to leverage his whole skill set by bringing him to Gray. The best way to welcome someone is to ask him a few questions…so here ya go, welcome to Mark Berry!

Where are you from?
Piemont, SC.

Where did you go to school?
?Lees-McRae college in Banner Elk, NC.

What project have you worked on that has impacted you the most?
At first I thought this question was going to be difficult to answer, given that I have worked on hundreds of projects in my career. However the story of Beverly Odum very quickly made it’s way into my pondering. Beverly Odum is the widow of the locally popular Michael Odum, who owned and operated a wildly successful car dealership for many years in the Greenville area. I will not disclose the entire story, but I will say that Beverly has overcome more trials and hardships than most people would ever dare to fathom. Hers is a message of hope, and is in my opinion evidence of the good in the world. It was an honor to play a small part in the telling her story.

What is your favorite gadget?
Well, besides Busby…
I have to say  that the Adobe Creative Suite is my favorite technological interest. While not technically a “gadget,” the shear breadth of it’s capabilities are awe inspiring, and I just love discovering new and exciting tricks and techniques. Learning is a passion of mine, and considering the fact that it’s nearly impossible to learn it all, Adobe keeps me very busy!
What is your favorite movie and why?
My favorite movie is by far “The Christmas Card,” which is a short kid’s movie that I made for my niece and nephew in 2010. My shameless, self promoting link is below:

What is your favorite book?
My literary favorites are vast and numerous, but for the sake of this interview I shall pick “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S. C. Gwynne as my favorite (excluding the Bible).
This riveting non-fiction work delves into the rise and fall of the Commanche nation. It differs from other books on the subject by it’s detailed look into the social dynamics of the Tribe’s day and age. Instead of following a formula of simply stating facts and giving commentary,  Gwynne’s work gives the reader a thorough understanding of both the historical and human elements that played into this important time in history.
(And almost all of it takes place in Texas, just thought I would throw that out there.)
What is your favorite ice cream!?Peppermint. The End.

Why did you join Gray Digital Group?
My decision to join Gray Digital Group was influenced by many factors, the most prominent being my desire to stay on a fulfilling trajectory. Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied it to do what you believe is great work.” I believe this quote to be inherently true. Before I officially joined Gray Digital Group, I was involved in a large amount of contract work with the company. During this time I worked on a variety of video pieces that dealt with all sorts of stories, some of them being very emotionally touching. It was these projects that convinced me that this was indeed great work, and extended beyond simply fulfilling the duties of employment. I think most can agree that when that sort enrichment is brought into the workplace; it stops resembling work and starts to become a truly meaningful endeavor.

What type of projects do you like to work on?
The ones that pay the Big Buck$!
Just kidding…
My favorite projects are ones that address some sort of social or religious issue. I find the projects that have both of these elements to be particularly fulfilling! For example, I’ve done several projects for Anderson Interfaith Ministries. This faith based organization does a lot of work to fight poverty, domestic violence and many other social issues. It is always an honor to be involved in stories such as these.

Tell us about Busby the Drone!
Busby the Drone is the newest addition to the Mark & Bobby Arsenal. He has had several near death experiences, most of which were no fault of his own (no names will be named). His capabilities extend far and wide, and he has made many tools of the past such as Jibs and Dollys obsolete. So far he has exceeded expectations and has yielded amazing and aesthetically pleasing results. I see a bright future for Busby (if he survives), and am very excited that he has joined us here at Gray Digital Group, SC.

25 Stories for 25 Years – Comprehensive Content Strategy Through Storytelling #AIM25Years

Telling 25 Years of Stories…that sounds like a lot! It was a bit overwhelming, but a huge opportunity to embrace a powerful narrative right here in Anderson, SC. I was hired to help find, tell, and share 25 stories for 25 years…and what I found were passionate stories told by passionate people!

It is hard to completely wrap our heads around what it means to operationalize a digital content strategy. There are so many barriers to execution, ranging from the operational portion of generating content, finding unique stories that are consumer friendly, training people to share unique narratives, and even just getting the written word on digital paper.

I have found myself in 2015 actually training three different organizations how to operationalize a content strategy three different ways:

1. Content First – Finding and Telling Rich Stories (Focus on the written word)
2. Technology First – Distribution Methodology (Focus on a platform specific approach)
3. Content Marketing First (Leveraging internal content for generate reach for product marketing)

All three can be successfully executed; yet fun to implement all three simultaneously watching the real time impact.

I started working with a small non-profit here in Anderson, SC called AIM (Anderson Interfaith Ministries), mainly because they have a wonderful story to tell. Here is a little bit about their mission from their website:

Anderson Interfaith Ministries is an efficient nonprofit organization that meets the needs of struggling individuals and families in Anderson County. AIM was founded by churches to eliminate the duplication of assistance to those in need. For more than two decades, AIM has stabilized the community and continues to do so using its hand up, not hand out philosophy. AIM is known for doing a lot with a little and continues to significantly help its customers positively change their lives long-term. AIM is unique because of its numerous efficient programs and passionate, committed volunteers. AIM is well known in the Upstate for giving hope and changing lives and continues to do so with unparalleled levels of energy, efficiency and reliability.

Here was our objective: Build awareness in the community for the 25th Anniversary Gala celebrating 25 years of service. We did this by finding, capturing, and telling 25 stories for 25 years of service.

We found strong storytellers inside AIM to help us find 25 stories; then putting pen to paper writing and sharing each story, starting 21 days before the event. As we wrote, more stories emerged and we began stockpiling more stories to be shared after the 25th Anniversary Event.

The night of the event we revealed the final four stories through short videos. But before the reveal, each attendee was able to walk around the room and see all the stories on easels, each with a QR code so they could scan and read the whole story from the blog.

Yes, two days before the event, we emailed the attendees to download the QR Code Reader app on their smartphones. As the event started, the final four videos were played on the screens as we pulled a black sheet off each of the four as they were revealed.

After the event, AIM was able to take full control of their story:
1. Identified more than 25 stories, they ended up capturing close to 50 stories.
2. Produced four stories via video, stories many knew well, sharable stories from the blog.
3. Had a completely updated website putting content first via a dynamic blog and news feed.
4. Complete understanding how to find, capture, document, edit, publish, and share their stories.

What did I learn? Organic storytelling can grow faster and spread quicker, allowing your audience to become a part of the narrative in real time. The stories grew like wildfire on social media, not needing any paid advertising to reach those who love the AIM story. But the biggest take away, always start with content first! Help people find their inner storyteller, providing them the space and the platform to tell their story from the inside out.

I hope you go to the AIM blog and read! I hope you find some amazing writing, storytelling, videos, and content that speaks to you. They sure were lots of fun to help find and tell!

Here are the four video stories:

Lanieka Musalini: Bigger Tomorrows

James Morrison: What is your ministry?

Perry Noble: Embracing Our Path

Beverly Odum: The Texture of Christ

I hope you enjoy!
Bobby

Community Management/Managers: Do we take ourselves too seriously?

I have always been caught in this dilemma…when it comes to managing a brand’s community or community within a brand, what is best for the community? Who should be really managing the community? One with experience with the Message? Community Management? Social Media Management? Brand Management? The actual brand employee(s)?

From the agency side, the business model says that it is the best interest of the agency to stay tightly woven into the community so that the brand can purchase the expertise of a community manager.

From the brand side, is it the best interest of the brand (and the community they are supporting) for the community manager representing a digital agency…to manage the day-today operations of the community voice?

From the community side, do they really see the community manager on a regular basis and is possible for that community manager (paid by a digital agency) to mange the best interests of that community?

Interesting questions to consider, and there are probably many, many more! I think we are always surrounding ourselves with these questions, especially those who take community management very seriously. These are the ethics we live in daily and continue to have long-term conversations/questions/thoughts when growing and sustaining communities.

Now…I hope you notice I have not mentioned that these communities are online? Maybe? It has always been my position that the technology is an extension of a vibrant community, yet the digital landscape can foster connection and create a platform for rich engagement.

I have found myself many times for large health care groups called into a crisis situation (or shift in internal resources) to take over management of a community. I typically resist (I say this with caution) the notion of getting into granular position of posting on behalf of the brand. But, I have made a few exceptions.

One recently, I managed South Carolina Hospital Association online, social communities for a few months during a transition from one community manager to the current team management approach. In that process, I candidly told them I did not want full control long-term of this community, that in order to foster long-term success…I would need to train their staff and hand back over the day-to-day operations of the community. The only reason I agreed to take over day-to-day management is because I completely understood and knew their messaging, their communities, and their politics extremely well. I knew what public policy statements were off limits and how to truly advocate on behalf of the hospitals messages. I also knew the community very well when management online conversation, what healthcare policy advocates would emerge…especially in a state where Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion, and other topics were volatile hot topics.

I have helped build large digital/social media ecosystems with healthcare groups (hospitals), advocacy based non-profits in the healthcare space, and very small affinity groups inside secret Facebook groups for patient support. I understand HIPAA and the constraints of engaging patient conversation online.

I work with a great person who managed the Livestrong Foundations’ Community during Lance Armstrong’s departure and very public situations from the Oprah interview to when he finally admitted to the board, staff, and survivors he had been lying the whole time. Brooke McMillan’s case-study is absolutely amazing how they managed millions of fans online during a very public situation.

She and I debate all the time, what is the role of community manager who works for an agency and supports online communities for brands. This debate, discussion, conversation is one that I think is emerging more and more given the velocity of conversations online as brands try to reconcile real time situations.

At the end of the day, I am a teacher. Yes…I am a storyteller and as a part of what I do, I have to truly live inside a brands messaging. To create video, copy, content, narratives, engage social communities…we must truly understand narratives. But as a former journalist, we must find the parallels as journalist do everyday…who cuts the paycheck and does it best represent the community we are trying to engage?

How to Grow an Online Community with Facebook Ads

It is getting increasingly harder to create an authentic community on Facebook. I spent 5 years at LIVESTRONG painstakingly nurturing a supportive and loving online space where cancer survivors and their loved ones could safely come and share their stories of triumph and loss. Since the organic reach has declined and the rise of the “pay to play” model has become the way of the world, I have to be honest – I’m not sure if Facebook is the way to go for online communities who don’t have a dime to spend or a beginning base in which to start. That, however, is another post for another day. Today’s post is working within Facebook’s new reality. This is for organizations still wanting to make an impact and to engage and attract new people to their pages. Here are some do’s and don’ts to making the most of your advertising dollars.

Picture me on a mountain somewhere in lederhosen with one of the horns from a Ricola commercial yelling…

DO NOT BUY LIKES!

This is an absolutely terrible plan for two reasons:

  1. So you have bought people based upon some sort of self-selected personal identifiers. 99.9% of the people I have seen come through a pay for likes campaign have either appeared to be bots or somehow involved in the porn industry. I’m not sure if there is a statistical method to explain this fact. Maybe people in the porn industry tend to like more pages on Facebook. Who knows? Just do not waste your money – unless, of course, your page is indeed about creating community for the porn industry….even then I’m thinking an affinity community is where you need to go.
  2. They’ve clicked like. You paid. Now they click unlike 10 seconds later. Damn. You are out 30 cents. Way to go.

DO promote amazing content that your current audience has proven they really like.

nurse

How do you know they like it? There are tons of likes, of course! Most importantly, comments, shares. Shares are social media currency. That is really what proves your message needs to be seen outside of those currently in your community. This is the perfect opportunity to share your post to others. We assume that most people have at least a few friends and family members in common with us on Facebook. That is why many marketers choose to target “Friends of Fans”.

It’s usually a fairly easy one click option to find a generally similar group of folks. However, if you want to really get the message out to more and more people and broaden your reach, targeting people similar to your fans across all of Facebook is probably an even better way to go. How does this increase your fans? Check out this promoted post above? What is in the top right corner?

Everyone knows how important having a great nurse is during a really frightening time. This video was a compilation of actual nurses from the hospital system in honor of National Nurses Day. We felt it deserved to be seen by more than just the fans of the page, but by the whole community in which the nurses serve. Fans of the page had already liked and shared and commented so much that it reached 4 times the amount of the page’s organic base, so we boosted it from the ad center to reach the whole city. It performed very well and we added 33 page likes as a product of sharing viral feel good information about the hospitals. Although the cost of purchasing 33 fans would have been significantly less than this method, the fans obtained during this content push are much more likely to be interested in what your group has to say and much more likely to share related content in the future.

ADDENDUM – So how do you know when an organic post is ripe for boosting? What is the saturation point? That is a fantastic question. I think there are several ways you can quantify this point:

  • It is blowing every other post you have ever created out of the water.
  • It was posted a few hours ago and has already hit the average lifetime organic reach of your other posts.
  • You see a whole bunch of shares on the post a few hours after posting.
  • The content was created by your organization (not a link out to another source) and it is integral to who you are and what you do.

Now you know what to do and what not to do on a one off basis. Need a bigger plan? Want a strategy? Need some help creating an end of year campaign? Email us. Our experts are here for you!

Web style guides have gone mainstream

Below is a quick list of some well known digital companies who have launched online style guides over the past year. Most of these began purely as internal tools. As the resources proved more and more valuable, they’ve all become available for public use.

What are the benefits of an online style guide?

  • Gives viewers a quick and digestible overview of your brand
  • Faster integration with/of your products through reusable code and real-world branding samples
  • Less technical support required, which frees up valuable employee resources for other means
  • Proves your companies’ dedication to, and support of, your tech base
  • Shows off your creative and technological abilities
  • Builds a community around the company
  • Creates a potential conversion funnel for organizations who become power users

Most large organizations have already gone through a branding process and have a style guide for their marketing efforts.

What online guides allow, that traditional ones don’t, is much greater connectivity to your brand, in a modern format, quickly navigable from anywhere in the world.

In conclusion, by providing public access to your brand materials through either static content, code snippets, downloadable assets, or re-usable templates, you are doing a couple things:

  • Decreasing the burden on your employees, contractors, and partners who usually have to create new materials from scratch
  • Allowing your brand to be dispersed rapidly and broadly, while remaining true to your standards.

F is for Facebook in Google’s Alphabet (I bet!)

Yep…I am talking about this very specific relationship one that has been riddled with miscues and online battles of digital lines in the sand. It was last year our health care digital team launched a Google Hangout embedded inside Facebook, since that successful campaign..it has been a lot harder to pull off technologically speaking.

But I am not really thinking through the lens of how to make these digital properties talk to each other when deploying campaigns, but more of the relationship between these two audience giants when it comes to digital content marketing.

We have found a few things through evidence based testing:
1) Facebook is an awareness tool
2) Google is conversion tool

*Now…their is a caveat to this premise, we have successfully launched and deployed specific health risk assessment tools inside Facebook. This is where the user can take a risk assessment survey inside the Facebook platform allowing us to capture the user’s contact information into the healthcare organization’s CRM. Then we can attribute the user data to downstream revenue, calculating ROI for this patient acquisition initiative.

What I get really excited about…is real content marketing inside Facebook/Instagram to influence the user’s Google search, thus capturing them into the CRM. Yes…Facebook and Google work well together.

Facebook provides the audience reach and Google provides the search and pull capturing that very keyword search influenced by a campaigns keyword branding inside Facebook’s content engine. So let’s get specific.

Let’s take a video you may deploy inside Facebook for your audience to enjoy. Many people put a link in the status update hoping the person will either click the link in the copy or at the end of the video. This link many times is used to capture someone to make a purchase or sign-up for a service.

We are finding something different, the keywords used in the text of the video and the copy below will influence the Google search, so we are deploying Google Adwords to capture that search. People search to take action, so we use Facebook as the awareness tool to influence that search, branding keywords over and over again so the audience thinks of those keywords when search for that product or service.

Bottomline…we are finding Facebook has been a great way to not only make the community aware of a new product or service, but also educate and influence the audience which keywords to use when searching to make a purchasing decision.

I see this performing really well with customer testimonials where a third party shares their experience with a brand. As a part of the video and text, make the search terms available via Google Adwords very apparent in the content, creating top-of-mind awareness for those terms.

I can see the video playing with a customer sharing their experience and as they are talking, the text of those relatable terms appear in the video next to the person talking. This not only forces people to stop scrolling to engage visually, but reinforces the search terms purchased to drive the audience to specific digital property.

Bottomline, it is all about content! Yes…content is once again a key component. We can scale digital advertising buys up and down, but you have to create rich content that is engaging for the audience. Content is the equitable position here, and without any equity…you are borrowing from other tactics to influence an audience that is becoming more and more skeptical of digital advertising.

Shifting Your Digital Ad Budget —> Match Ad Dollar Spend With Content Curation Investment

The role of B2B digital communications has challenged me in so many ways, every day as a storyteller. I am attracted to the projects that brings audiences new places to explore, learn, feel, connect, and share. I have struggled to think through the marketing lens, actually…it is quite hard for me.

Over the last year, we have been working with groups ranging from large national clients to smaller business/organizations…and many things are ringing with the same tune. Digital marketing is a lot of damn work because people just do not like digital ads. We have to tell stories and put digital ad dollars being content for more effecting impact.

The Next Web just released a story reporting close to 200 million people are using adblockers, up 41 percent from 2014. It is estimated this will cost publishers roughly $21.8 billion in lost revenue.

 

From The Next Web: “That’s just six percent of the global internet population, but it’s worth noting that their adblocking habits account for 14 percent of the global ad spend. The report adds that in 2016, it will cost publishers over $41 billion.”

Just last year, I was working on a project with an extremely large monthly Google budget. The trends were indicating that they had bought up too many adwords, over saturating the market loosing ground against the competition. Bottomline, their competition is getting smart, buying up more market share, shifting the tide showing diminishing returns on SEM and SEO investments. 

Imagine, taking those half of those millions and investing in people, stories, groups, and sharable content. Imagine leading the charge in content curation and less in just digital ad placement and reach. Reach is good, but imagine if that reach does not allow you to attract the right audience.

BHPhotoVideo.com Example
As I was browsing my favorite website, I found something interesting. BHPhotoVideo.com is one of my favorite sites and I know they like to use the same digital advertising tactics. But, when I search for a gadget, I do not go to Google first to search for that particular item…I just go to BHPhotoVideo.com.

As I scrolled down…I noticed some interesting, a trending section at the bottom. Lots of social updates from consumers, bloggers, trending products, consumer images…content showcasing products in their context. I expected when I click a trending item that I would go to read more about why it was trending, but actually I was taken to a product page. This allowed me to see the consumer conversations along side actual products, then allowed me to click to see the product.

Manfrotto Facebook Example
Another company I follow is Manfrotto’s Facebook page.  I am a huge fan of Manfrotto bags and tripods, especially after they bought my favorite bag company Kata.


 I started following their Facebook page where they share images from their consumers, specifically how they are using their bags and tripods in their everyday life.

Each day, you see these products as they are being used in real life, not just a product with a “For Sale” sign. The hardest thing about buying a bag or tripod is size, does it fit my situation, and is it affordable. These social media posts/updates allow me to see these products being used everyday by people like me.

Canon #BringIt Example
Finally, I love Canon’s #BringIt initiative on Instagram. People are sharing pictures taken with their Canon cameras and including the #BringIt hashtag. Canon selects images daily that they feel live up to the #BringIt mantra and post these images on their BringIt website: https://bringit.usa.canon.com/. If you go to the website, you might see lots of pictures of Rosebud!

This allows you to see others and how they are using the cameras and the types of images captured everyday using all types of Canon cameras, from people just like me.

 

Concerns of Auto-Pilot Mode of Scheduling, Digital Automation, and Digital Ad Buys

The time is now! Telling rich stories has become ever more important in the world of organic storytelling. It is providing a much needed balance to digital content marketing efforts inside agencies and inside organizations. With more and more access to digital marketing tools and automation, the temptation is to put more thrust behind reach rather than substance.

We are finding more and more groups and willing to jump the digital ad buys quickly and begin to ignore the far reaching sustainable efforts of organic storytelling they have built. It is easy now…to create budgets with digital advertising dollars and completely ignore the organic portion of the social/digital space. With the announcement of that Hootsuite has added Instagram into their distribution dashboard, they are claiming “Love”.

We know what is coming down the pipe, Instagram is about to open up the digital ad network so medium to small brands will have the same access as large brands like McDonalds, Taco Bell, and many others.

Hmm…this concerns me not only from a tactical position but also a longterm strategic position. Here are a few thoughts:

  1. This begins the process of moving Instagram from a community based platform where imagery is curated and shared upon inspiration…to a platform where content marketing broadens the strokes for brands and brand marketers to leverage content specifically for metric based engagement.
  2. There is a simple puristic value in exploring IG though the eyes of the curator, when inspiration matches delivery…so now will delivery happen when metrics say they happen or when rich content is being exchanged. If so….where will we as social media lovers find the balance as social media marketers…specifically where we enjoy the organic nature of connecting with content.
  3. This is further allowing content “marketers” to just focus on digital communication only through a marketing lens and forget the idea of being part of a larger digital/social community.

So here is my challenge to the larger digital/social media community. How can we challenge ourselves to grow our organic business strategies and services just as much as we grow our digital advertising business vertical(s)? Also…are we really prepared from a community management position when we are hitting people with our ads and marketing and they start talking back with the unwanted fussing?

We must tells stories of people and not brands!
It goes back to one simple concept, we must seek and tell stories from inside our organizations. We must tells stories of people and not brands. People want to know their story is so important that it will be told, which then ignites their communities to watch, read, and share.

We have to remember what it means to use our listening ears, and tell stories that has layers. It is more than just sharing a picture of an important date or event, but what makes that important date so meaningful. We have to remember what it means to bring a tribe of followers together and provide them the tools to share these stories, thus igniting a more meaningful engaged audience.

We have to understand that CTR will increase as a richer, more targeted community is engaging content; content they choose to see versus content content marketers are speculating they want to see/read/watch.

We have to also understand that “reach” is only about the number of people that “will” see this content…with the hopes that the target audience will exceed a 2.5% CTR on social media and digital ad buys. Guess what, how about boosting well crafted content that is already seeing increase in organic traffic, thus allowing the curated content to meet the needs of the audience. This agile method of boosting content (already seeing engagement) allows the content marketer to spread content that is already providing already above average results.

We need to stop the auto-pilot mode of just stacking our social media distribution/aggregation tools like we are stacking the dying 6pm newscast. We need to act more like community managers and less like content marketers, ultimately staying in-tune with the community…providing rich stories and content that brings people to action.

Here is the caveat:
Potentially, I know I will be talking out the other-side of my mouth when we talk with our partners about potential ad buys for well curated content and digital marketing initiatives offers. I even get the fact that our clients are reading this right now. But it does not mean I will resist the notion of punching the clock…I firmly believe in well curated content that provides rich stories, and then putting money behind the initiative and potentially automating the distribution *ONLY* if the stories are powerful and ethical.

The truth behind the on-camera interview

It was just the other day as a storyteller and I sat through another amazing interview…an interview that not only brought me to tears, but the people around me. Laneika is a more than a domestic violence survivor and her story is one of purest of crystal balls…you have to carefully take care of her story or it will slip through your fragile fingers and crash all upon the floor.

Storytellers have a tremendous burden, one of not only crafting the story…but finding the right characters and helping them find the right words at the right time. It is a special dance and we carefully step around the ballroom. The largest part of that dance, those steps, is finding the path through the interview.

Typically, I never bring a list of questions to an interview. Why, because the interview for me is a conversation…and we humans do not have wonderful, honest conversations with the assistance of notes and pre-conceived questions. We are curious beings with the natural inclination to wonder, learn, understand, and engage in rich discussions…especially those discussions where we find our deepest passions.

I spend lots of time preparing for the on-camera interview. I spent lots of energy researching the storylines, the background of the interview subject, the potential narratives, the areas of the story that people do not want to wonder, and even critically challenge the stakeholders in this quest for the truths.

I take pride in my preparation, even meeting the person whom I will be interviewing on-camera before that special day. I will sit down, study their methods of engaging in conversation, watch how they react to uncomfortable conversations, see when they fidget or even get on the edge of their seat waiting to respond. I share with them my intentions, specifically I am purposefully avoiding all conversations related to the topic of the interview and divert the conversation to other topics, including personal topics. I am sizing them up, building trust, and allowing them to see me (the interviewer) as more than the person sitting next to the camera surrounded by lights.

We do hold a burden…because during the interview…we hold something very true, very real, very palatable…we are the gatekeepers of their story. It is our ethical dance we must step carefully through as we are shaping the reality of their story for the consumer to watch, judge, share, engage, and fully take part in that dance as they feel the words come across the speakers next to the screen.

Our goal as a storyteller is to create a theater, a place where the audience forgets they have peripheral vision and become fully invested in this story…so much they forget their is a world happening around them. Our mission, our truth…to make them (the audience) feel like they are actually inside the screen…the experience…the storyline…and that this is actually their storyline…their reality…their truth. We bear this burden and we must hold it carefully like that crystal ball…not too tight…not too loose.

When we sit in the interview and the camera is capturing every movement, every sound…we must help navigate the interviewee through a process of not only forgetting their are lights and cameras, but we are here to tell their story. The first five or so minutes are really throw away questions, allowing the production crew and myself to make sure all the audio is perfect and the lighting is consistent as the interviewee moves around in their seat. But as those walls begin to come down during those first five minutes, I being to dive into the heart of the subject.

I love the interview…I love it more than actually writing and editing the final product. The interview is truly the place where the story unfolds. It is the place where we guide the interviewee down a path of conversation…where we help them articulate those most important moments in complete thoughts, well articulated thoughts, thoughts that are honest, real, and undeniably truth, their truth!

There is always that one big question. This narrative emerges in the preparation. That one big moment that must be revealed in the interview. It is that one statement that pulls it all together. It is that one story inside the whole storyline we are waiting to hear, we just don’t know when it is the right time to help it emerge from down deep, below the surface. I love that part of the interview…getting the person ready to unveil that one truth that will set the story free. You know it when it comes out and you know…at that moment in time…you better not peep a word, sneeze, let your chair make a noise…because that moment is when you want to capture it without the slightest technological barrier.One of the best interviewers I know taught me to bite my lip during the interview. When the person is talking and sharing, do not make a sound.

And then…when it is time…when there is a moment of silence, let the interviewee fill the silent void, let them articulate, let them share…because at the end of the day…it is their story we are telling, not ours.