Movies aren’t just for the silver screen

A few months ago I attended a training day with BBC Scotland and sportscotland about using shortform film to tell stories. Whenever I am in meetings and refer to it people ask if I have anything I can share. Well, I have six pages of scribbled notes so I decided I should try to get it down in a blog.

Shortform is generally anything up to 90 seconds and used most effectively on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Some simple rules before we get down to business:

  • avoid talking heads
  • it should be able to be understood without sound
  • use text overlays but keep each screen short and snappy
  • if you are using text, use Plain English

One of the easiest ways to schedule film work (and any other social media for that matter) is to look for ‘tent pole moments’. These are the dates in a calendar when people are likely to be looking for online content. Examples include Blue Monday, the Queen’s birthday, Wimbledon. These moments aren’t necessarily big events but occasions that may spark conversations which end in people looking up Google. Can you create content that will tie in and maybe even appear in those Google search results underneath the ubiquitous Wikipedia entry.

You then need to CODE your content:

  • Content – what is the objective?
  • Optimise – make it the best and most sharable it can be
  • Distribute – use the right channels
  • Evaluate – did it achieve its objectives?

Shortform rules:

  • Jump straight in – get to the point within 3 seconds. That means no messing about with logos or scene setting. People scroll quickly on their phones and their eye is subconsciously scanning for what’s coming next. If you haven’t got to the point by the time they have moved your film to the centre of their screen, chances are you’ve lost them and they’ll scroll straight past.
  • Any movement in the first 3 seconds should be towards the camera.
  • Tell audiences how to feel straight off the bat. Go straight for the emotion you need.
  • You don’t need the traditional crescendo at the end – the payoff should be 2/3rds of the way through because after this point people are beginning to think about what to watch next.

Shortform tools:

  • 1 Second Everyday – tell a story in a second or join them together for a longer story. Great for travel journals or ‘lifetime’ stories.
  • Boomerang – the Instagram child of a photo and a gif
  • YouTube cards – these let you collect live feedback while your film is playing
  • YouTube Creator Academy – tutorials by YouTubers for YouTubers
  • Google Trends – helps you identify topics for evergreen content
  • Giphy – a place to create and share gifs. A great example is the #blacklivesmatter gif – simple but effective. It makes your news feed look busy

This photograph is from the Australian War Memorial’s collection

Making content sharable

In a similar way that movies have just 7 storylines there are 7 qualities that will make people want to share your content.

It needs to:

  • be amusing
  • be inspiring
  • be illuminating
  • be shocking
  • make people fearful
  • make people angry
  • be controversial

There are also 5 rules to follow.

  1. Appeal to the audience’s key motivation – the need to connect to each other
  2. Keep your message simple
  3. Appeal to the positive emotions above
  4. Embed a sense of urgency- Snapchat is perfect for this as it is built in
  5. Spend time listening to a community then establish credibility. If you can add value to a conversation you will gain credibility

Tools to make sharable content

  • Combine apps – use a Boomerang within an album. this will create movement within the album and draw the user’s eye, making them more likely to stop and take a look
  • Facebook Canvas – Canvas uses a combination of video, photos and call to action buttons

Distributing content

  • What are people actually searching for? Capture users’ intent by playing with the predictive search box in social media platforms such as YouTube then create and tag content that fits.
  • Create recurring episodes to keep viewers coming back.
  • Schedule around tent pole events
  • Release content at the right time of day to suit the target audience. Many organisations have found that weekend posts perform better than office hours posts.
  • Get content embedded in 3rd party sites looking for stories. CBeebies got a better reaction from film embedded on NetMums than they did on the CBeebies site.
  • Try newsjacking where appropriate. This is the art of inserting yourself into a news story.  However this can be risky but if you’re willing to try you should: 1. have a process with sign off in place because you have to move fast. 2. monitor the news using tools such as Google Trends. 3. Create your response. 4. Promote it across appropriate channels.
  • Breathe new life into old content.

Digital storytelling
It’s not just about movies though, it’s about great content combos like words and photos or film with text overlays.

Great examples
Humans of New York
Body on the Moor which is built on the Shorthand storytelling platform

Digital storytelling tools
FiLMiC Pro – turns your mobile camera into a broadcast quality high-definition video camera
Lanparte gimbals – turn your phone into a steady cam
Smartlav+ microphones – broadcast quality wearable mics for mobile phones
Quik – free editing app that uses content from your phone’s gallery, albums, Google photos, Facebook, or GoPro Plus footage
BBC Taster – a place to try, share and rate new ideas

Intranets are hard work

When Wedge asked me to do a lightning talk at Intranet Now about user experience testing on a budget I jumped at the chance.

We’d just inherited our intranet from IT and an upgrade to the platform, a new task-based approach and a new design all made the task a bit daunting. I could soak up as much learning as I could then apply it back at base.

Luckily I was on pretty early in the programme so I could concentrate after I’d done my talk and scribble copious notes which I will now share. There were common threads:

  • intranets available to all staff on all devices, at work, at home and on the move
  • intranets as digital workplaces
  • the importance of UX

James Robertson of Step Two Designs (Australia) – How to make the most of the emerging digital workplace

Technology should allow your intranet to be delivered to staff not on the network.

Business solutions should integrate with the intranet to create an efficient workforce.

The intranet is not a thing – it’s a family/collection of interconnected digital tools.

Design should add value and should be task driven.

Intranet teams should be experts on :

  • change management and adoption
  • how the business ticks and what the pain points are
  • usability, UX and web design

Paul Zimmerman of InvotraIntranet of Things – innovation in the workplace

Just like the Internet of Things collects data for improvement and innovation, so should the intranet collect data to optimise workplace processes.

The Intranet should be a connector of people, content and things. Rooms, desks, fire extinguishers, printers – all are trackable and provide info on their status. Could the intranet be used as part of their management process?

We live in an attention economy where internal comms needs to compete for employee attention.

Kevin Cody of SmallWorlders – Bridging the intranet adoption chasm

There are the three levels of engagement:

  • laggards – need a reason to log on
  • majority – need a reason to return i.e. the tools to help them work efficiently
  • early adopters – need a reason to lead e.g. social features, self-service, collaboration, user blogs

Create credible KPIs to measure engagement.

Intranets need to provide the basics for maximum engagement.

For more information and loads of great whitepapers see

Kristian Norling of Intranätverk – Tips for intranet search

Search is not a project – it’s a lifelong commitment. That’s why it’s called WORK.

You should delete as often as you contribute. Have Delete and Donut Fridays. (I quite fancy Corrs and Cake Tuesdays.)

Watch out for information ROT – Redundant, Outdated and Trivial.

Dates are the most important part of metadata. Based on the date you should delete, archive or keep.

Susan Quain of Care UK – Bringing your organisation with you

As the project changes around you keep the scope clear and continuously revise the comms plan. Tell them what you are going to do. Tell them you are doing it. Tell them you have done it.

Make sure you have some quick wins to gain employee confidence.

Don’t call it a project – call it an initiative.

Lisa's notes

These are @lisariemers rather nifty notes from my presentation

So the rest of my notes didn’t make much sense but here are the soundbites:

  • staff have the right to see organisational news first on the intranet before it hits the papers
  • compliance with business processes is directly related to how far away the employee is to HQ
  • profiles + tagging = tailored content + learning
  • can your intranet be trusted – people only trust things that work so do the basics well
  • is your staff directory up-to-date? Every now and again force staff to update their details before they can use the search
  • the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory – normal person + anonymity + audience = idiot
  • tone does not travel well online. Keep an eye on debates and step in if needed but as a mediator understand all perspectives
  • just making your intranet look good doesn’t mean people will use it
  • turn off the magazine and newsletter and give your intranet a chance. Switch off the offline and the old way of doing things
  • replicate the way people interact with technology outside of work
  • is it time to drop the term intranet? What we really mean is a digital workplace – a digital space that enables employees to work more effectively and efficiently

And there you have it. A full-on day of intranet learning. A huge thanks go to Wedge and Brian for organising such a great event and for recognising that it is needed. Also a massive cheer to the great speakers who passed on their wisdom and to the audience for their feedback and support.

The full line-up and slides are on the Intranet Now website.

Employees are family

This is the last of three posts from the MOOC Content Strategy for Professionals.

I have seen two exceptional presentations from IBM employees about how they use social media as part of the company’s intranet and internal comms plan. One was Stuart McRae and if you don’t already follow him on Twitter you should. Both times I was blown away so I was over the moon when the last set of lectures on the course was a series of interviews with Jon Iwata, IBM’s Chief Marketing Officer and Mike Rhodin Head of Software Solutions. Unfortunately these videos don’t seem to be on Northwestern University’s YouTube channel but if you search YouTube for Jon Iwata there are plenty of similar presentations by him about the future of comms which should inspire you. In the meantime here’s what I gleaned from Jon and Mike from the MOOC.

Your intranet

Provide the tools and environment for employees to network and create their own content. This will flatten the organisation’s hierarchy. Everyone has an opinion but if they’re going to share it they have to be aware of the consequences. Over time this creates social norms. It’s the democratisation of information sharing with a purpose – collaboration and problem-solving rather than just broadcast communication.

IBM marketing

Big data blows mass communication out of the water – now we can talk to the individual. Based on what we know about you, here’s what we think you’ll need.

Employees are family

Have a social media policy. It should begin with ‘We think it’s in your best interest to get good at social media. Are you speaking as yourself or on behalf of the company? If you wouldn’t say it in a meeting, don’t say it on social media.’

Give employees messages that they can pass on via their own social media.

Millennials work well in teams because they have grown up collaborating – they share everything.

Design content to be shared, rather than consumed.

Not all social media channels are the same, have the same audience or the same culture. Master the language and culture of the channel before you try using it.

If you know the customer and tailor the content and channel to suit your content won’t be adding to the information noise – it’ll be adding value to the customer’s life.

What tools and skills should a content strategist have?

Embed from Getty Images
  • a knowledge of data analysis and stats is essential to help look for the patterns that influence decisions. These days data should drive comms
  • storytelling
  • and interest in human behaviour, social psychology and behavioural economics

And guess what – there are free MOOCs in all of these things available through the Coursera database. Go look. Come and join me.

Tune of the week

I can’t think of a better storyteller than Gil Scott-Heron so here’s I Think I’ll Call It Morning.

Don’t tweet me in that tone of voice

This if the second of three posts gleaned from the MOOC Content Strategy for Professionals which I recently completed.

Tone and voice

The voice you use in your content should be the same as that of a phone call from a trusted friend.

The tone is the quality or mood of your voice – be yourself, be direct and be specific.

These are things I’ve always stressed when talking to people about creating content for the web. You want the web experience to be like sitting next to a really warm customer services person, otherwise why would they choose the web over the other channels.

Media platforms

Each platform is a different opportunity. What is the best media window for your information? Think especially about the commute and which platforms would work best with this captive audience.

Storytelling changes across multimedia. The format should follow the story – let the story tell you which platform to use.


Design is a never-ending cycle of improvement. Users need to be studied using your content, at the prototype stage and all through your content’s life-cycle.

Deciding what is a successful outcome will allow you to measure the improvement of your content.

Users should be the ones to evaluate your content design, not senior managers.

What is social?

Go beyond social networking and check out We Feel Fine.

We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a blogs since 2005. Every few minutes, the system searches newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds them, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence. The age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day. Feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like:

  • Do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans?
  • Do women feel fat more often than men?
  • Does rainy weather affect how we feel?
  • What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s?
  • What do people feel right now in Baghdad?
  • What were people feeling on Valentine’s Day?
  • Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

The interface to this data is a self-organizing particle system, where each particle represents a single feeling posted by a single individual. The particles’ properties indicate the nature of the feeling inside, and any particle can be clicked to reveal the full sentence or photograph it contains. The particles careen wildly around the screen until asked to self-organize along any number of axes, expressing various pictures of human emotion. We Feel Fine paints these pictures in six formal movements – Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds – artwork authored by everyone.

Virtual communities – understand their mission and the nature of the challenge they face. Create a guiding policy – how can you help them. Plan coherent action – create a set of actions they can perform to help them accomplish their goals.

Find out where are people talking about your topic so you can take your content to them.

Work smarter not harder. People don’t have time to read but they can watch or listen.

Differentiated messaging

Use A/B testing to test the success/shareability of your messages. You can use a tool like Bitly for this.

I have one last instalment to content strategy which I’ll do next week. Till then have a tune which will get you dancing. I’ve decided to keep the recipes off this blog but I can’t resist sharing a good tune now and then 🙂

Do you have a strategy for that content?

Holy cow, it’s been a while since I blogged but I was made to publicly promise that I’d knuckle down and get on with it so here goes.

I’ve been MOOCing again – Content Strategy for Professionals at Northwestern University. It was a tad slow to start with but there were some nuggets in there I thought I’d share. There’s too much for one blog so I’ll split it up a bit. I thoroughly enjoyed their content and their video lectures were just the right length to fit in a coffee break or eating sandwiches at lunch so I could do it at work.

You can add it to a watchlist over at Coursera and they’ll let you know when the next one is due to start.

People are being bombarded with more and more information but we have the same 24 hours in each day to process it. The world is getting more and more complicated. This why we need content strategy.

Decide on your organisations main goals and objectives. All content should be aligned with these.

Understanding your audience

People will only learn about things they want to know. There is no such thing as a mass audience any more.

Organisations need to understand the step before motivation ie. understand self-interest and social identification. You should understand your customers’ interests and lifestyles so well that you can predict their need before they know they need it.

Creating personas

Spend time with the target audience to find out what motivates them and how they spend their time. The media you use should meet people where they are, not where you think they are or you want them to be.

Targeting the audience with experiences

Once you understand the audience’s self-interest you can tailor the message to create soft-touch time-out experiences – those moments that people turn to their device for time away from work, the kids, life.

Understand the target’s definition of storytelling – it will be different to the organisation’s.

Marketing and branding content

Content is a product and should help your product/service. Brands relate to experiences – see a classic Coke bottle and think long, hot childhood summers. How does your brand/content relate to an experience?

Create a positioning statement:

  • to (target) ————————- —- who (characteristic) —————————–,
  • this brand (what it’s like) —————————–that is (different from) ———————–.


Experience = emotion

What do you want people to feel. Engagement is about emotional experience with your content, not just page hits or likes.

All content creates a user experience and experience drives usage. Content strategists have control over user experience. The audience’s concept of the experience maybe different to what you intended.

Content should:

  • make the audience smarter
  • look out for the audience’s interest
  • be easy to access
  • give the audience something to talk about or share

I think that’s enough to be going on with but next I’ll cover tone and voice, design, what social means for content strategy.