After 30 years of roaming the country, reporting Scotland for a wide range of programmes on radio and television, David Calder is moving into a new sphere - online training.

A director of the online video production company, BITWeb.tv, he's been asked to advise firms on how best to use video as a marketing tool. So he's created a course that covers everything from the kit you might need to the content of the videos, from creating a digital marketing strategy to optimising and promoting the videos you make.

Working with his wife, Penny Haywood Calder of PHPR, he will also be producing a series of webinars on Public Relations as well. And to complete a trio of services, he'll be developing a series of media and communication skills courses as well.

Limited thinking

Posted by on 31 January 2011

We’ve just finished making a short, 4-minute video for a client, a trade association. What was surprising was that, when asked how they planned to use this, they said they wanted it for their website, nothing more. That is really very Web One! It doesn’t show any joined up thinking or even any joined up marketing.

The video described an event that’s coming up in about six weeks time. For the sector, it’s important, a global event. So how should an organisation like this use their video?

The video could become a key part of an online public relations campaign for the event. Every email they send out should include a link to the YouTube channel where the video’s hosted (not sure if they were originally planning even to do that). They should then create a Facebook page around the event and get all of their members globally to “like” that page — the video can easily be uploaded there as well or at least embedded in the page. They could use LinkedIn and Twitter to get the message out more widely. There are other things they could do because they’ve potentially a lot of material and information about the event.

All of this involves well-established, quite basic techniques. It’s sad to think that an organisation could even be passing up a great opportunity to get the world to pay more attention to the important work they do.

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The lesson of Andy Gray

Posted by on 28 January 2011

I’m not a football fan nor do I have Sky. But Andy Gray (the former Scottish football player and now former pundit for Sky Sports) should be a lesson to anyone who appears in front of a microphone or camera. It applies to business people who may find themselves taking part in a news conference – or for that matter, even using some video conference facilities.

The key lesson is that any camera or microphone should be regarded as “live” until told otherwise. Politicians have been caught out many times. Think of John Major’s “bastards in the Cabinet” comment when he thought he was talking privately to Michael Brunson. Think of Helen Liddle and Henry McLeish who called their colleague John Reid a “patronising bastard” when off-stage but wearing radio mics.

Think too of Gerald Ratner, the chief executive of the “jewellery” company which then bore his name. He told the Institute of Directors: “We do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, “How can you sell this for such a low price?”, I say, “because it’s totally crap””. He went on to say that some of the earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”. Again, it was recorded and the rest is history.

The lesson of Andy Gray and the others is not so much be careful what you say – when speaking on behalf of your business you should do that at all times anyway – but be especially careful when there are cameras and microphones anywhere near you. Don’t even trust them when assured that they’re switched off. When John Major was speaking to Michael Brunson, there wasn’t even a camera operator looking through the view-finder; but the camera was connected via satellite to the BBC, Sky and other news services as well as ITN. McLeish and Liddle were recorded by the Press Association’s reporter who was checking that the radio mic feed was working.

Radio microphones can also be picked up by the public with the right equipment which can easily be bought from Maplin. Executives who are waiting to give a major speech to (say) shareholders need to be aware of this and behave accordingly. Say nothing which could embarrass you or your organisation.

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Where the US leads…

Posted by on 26 January 2011

There’s a fundamental change taking place amongst senior American executives. According to Forbes Insights, business people are watching more online videos than a year ago. 60% of all respondents said they would watch video before reading text on the same webpage, and 22% said they generally liked watching video more than reading text for reviewing business information.

Especially among younger executives, likelihood of making a purchase was high. If you follow the link and download the report entitled “Video in the C-Suite: Executives Embrace the Non-Text Web”, you’ll see that older executives, those aged 50+ who haven’t yet embraced the video revolution. However, younger ones are increasingly interested in video as a communications tool and may even have purchased goods or services as a result of their viewing.

There’s still a certain reluctance to move down the video route in the UK, Scotland in particular. A number of organisations in both the private and public sectors have installed computers for their staff at all levels without a sound card. Others (including the Scottish Parliament?) have set up their systems so that users can’t see Flash videos — though they can watch (albeit silently) those using Windows Media files for some reason. The UK often follows where the US leads. If that is now to be the case with video, organisations need to supply equipment fit for the job.

Video – a long-term commitment

Posted by on 25 January 2011

One of the lessons learned from some of the online video experts is that video is rather like blogging – once you’ve started making movies online you have to continue. You have to continually keep the brand fresh in people’s minds. You have to give them a reason for coming back week after week.

A recent report fror Forrester Research in the USA confirmed this. The full report’s recently been made available by the online video platform, Brightcove. Called “The Best Practices In Online Video Across Industries“, it looked at the way in which larger organisations were using video to communicate with their stakeholders. In some cases (especially where politics were concerned), that meant streaming live video across the Internet. But what was clear from all of the examples given was that the organisations, private and public sector, all had regular updates. Just as important, these updates were part of their home pages, not tucked away under a tab marked “news” or even “video”.

Forrester also gave hints about best and worst practice. For THIS post, let’s focus on the bad.

The report said that far too often, organizations create video experiences that were “isolated, obtrusive, and barricaded”. Companies and organizations looking to use online video, it said, must avoid the following pitfalls:

Isolated experiences Too often, online video is isolated in a Web site’s “video” section or placed in an in an entirely new and separate “.tv” domain. Rather than sending users off to a disconnected experience, organizations should seek to integrate video into the natural path of the consumer. Just like images, video should be placed contextually alongside related content and text to provide a full multimedia experience.

Obtrusive experiences Users will reject video experiences that automatically start playing (particularly with sound) or that launch pop-up players that interfere with the user’s expected navigation mode. Even in circumstances where a pop-up player or auto-play may be appropriate, firms should include messaging that alerts the user to the pop-up and provide volume controls.

Barricaded experiences Far too many Web sites construct barriers that require users to download new software, register, or sign in before viewing a video. While users may accept such experiences for premium entertainment, such as TV shows and movies, auto manufacturers should not expect users to register just to view a car commercial.

Isn’t technology wonderful!

Posted by on 24 January 2011

It’s taken a surprising amount of time but we’ve finally managed to get all of the audio functions of the new computer working — and not all are even vaguely intuitive.

This machine is using Windows 7, which otherwise is a greatly improved OS from Vista. It has a RealTek High Definition Sound Card which is fabulous. However, to record anything (audio or video) from certain sources, including the Internet, you need to be able to see “Stereo Mix” in the “Recording Devices” window. In XP or the RealTek sound card in my previous PC for instance, that’s there by default. It’s not on the new machine. In order to find it, you have the RIGHT CLICK in any BLANK space in the “Recording Devices” window and check the box marked “Show Disabled Devices”, only then will you even get the option to display it. You then again have to click on the button marked “set default” before it will work. But what THAT means is, if you are going to use the computer for any other sound or video application such as Skype, you have to change the default setting to one of the built-in microphones. As I said, not exactly intuitive.

Then there’s the program I prefer to use for audio editing. CoolEdit’s an old program, I know — but it’s one on which I’ve produced long radio documentaries very effectively so why change. CoolEdit wouldn’t work under Vista, but that didn’t matter as previous machines either ran XP or were “dual boot” (ie: would load under either operating system). It loaded perfectly under W7 but didn’t run correctly. However, W7 offers a wide range of options under “compatibility mode”. CoolEdit runs happily under XP Service Pack 2 (though curiously not SP3 for some reason). However, that didn’t solve all the issues. The PLAYBACK settings under W7/RealTek HDA offer a range of settings. In order to record from the Internet (say: an interview conducted via Skype), PLAYBACK has to be set to “Digital Output”; to hear and thus edit the result on CoolEdit, PLAYBACK has to be set to “Speakers”.

This may seem rather technical but I know of other people who are about to go down the same technological route. This may save them some time and frustration!

A Scary Forecast for 2011

Posted by on 21 January 2011

I was at this afternoon’s Scottish Technology Forecast run by ScotlandIS, presented by the excellent David Mitchell of Ovum. He made a number of predictions based on existing trends, some of which made for quite scary listening. One of the most alarming was the idea that this would be the year when we saw a real, concerted cyber-attack take place on the UK and other Western countries. He said he’s already seen evidence of “cyber skirminshing” in some unlikely places.

He’d been looking at some of the latest technologies being deployed at Wimbledon — 3D television, augmented reality etc. But as part of that, he was shown the security in place to protect the organisation’s IT systems. They were under constant attack — at least 50 TIMES A SECOND!!! The software allowed the security teams to see where these were coming from. At the top were China and Iran. Some of these attacks, he said, may be Government sponsored.

He said that the UK was continuing to spend large sums of money, despite the deficit, on protecting the key national infrastructure. But will it be enough?

There will be more on his forecasts in the Caledonian Mercury next week.

Brand Awareness

Posted by on 20 January 2011

There’s a growing trend in some business videos for creating customer loyalty through creating “mini-series”. The idea is very simple. People are initially reluctant to look at long videos online. Anything longer than a couple of minutes is seen as a turn-off. However, what some companies have done is to produce a series of linked, short videos, each one lasting perhaps a minute or 90 seconds. The people taking part in each installment should be the same, giving continuity to the series. The subject matter can be quite simple, such how to do something. The important thing is that it should offer useful information to the viewer. For men, that could include “how to tie a bow tie”, something we may only have to do a couple of times a year. For an example of this, look at the video section of the website run by the men’s outfitter Thomas Pink (though it’s also up on YouTube, without the YouTube branding!): http://www.thomaspink.com/fcp/content/PinkTV/editorial.

Our Videos

Posted by on 17 January 2011

I was a little shocked at the end of last week to realise the impression that other people have of what we do. During a private meeting, I was told: “Oh! I thought you just made wee videos!” This person thought that our market was making 30-90 second clips for companies to put on their websites. Yes, we can do that — but it’s not even bread and butter.

We are primarily documentary makers. We want to document long-term projects as they grow. That was one reason why we enjoyed being involved with filming The Grouse Statue. We started when there were just a few claws in the ground (so to speak) and followed it all the way through to installation. That’s one reason why TIE employed TheNewsBiz — to have video produced of how much Edinburgh is changing as a result of the work they’re doing (or not as the case may be at present).

In business, we want to be able to make films about the impact (say) a trade mission can have on Scotland’s economic future. We want to show how this country’s talent for innovation will make a difference throughout the current decade. For Scottish Leisure, we want to make features about whole areas of Scotland, the food and drink you can find there and the fascinating things to see and do.

Our background is very much in broadcasting and, yes, we still harbour ambitions to make programmes — for the BBC, Sky, C4 etc. We just have to work harder to achieve all of that!

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Radio Scotland

Posted by on 14 January 2011

They’re looking for a production company to handle their overnight service. It will be five days a week, running from midnight-30 to half-past five in the morning. One hour will be an archive slot — the best of the day/week — but the rest will be essentially a live music-based show. Total budget for the YEAR = c£75,000 — or £300 a day to be split between producer, presenter and presumably someone to handle the quite extensive paperwork needed for such a show. These are seriously anti-social hours and yes, they are using this as a slot to develop potential new talent. But that does seem like a tiny pot for a size of the output expected.

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Scots Business

Posted by on 10 January 2011

The new website, Scots Business (http://www.scotsbusiness.net) is now online. I’ve uploaded a couple of videos on to it — the ones about Bob McDowell of Microsoft and Heidi Rozen, the now former Entrepreneur in Residence at Edinburgh University’s Business School. It’s now a question of populating it with brilliant videos and finding a way of monetising the result!

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