What’s my Digital Brand Personality?

Posted on September 19, 2013 | No Comments

This week’s blog is about content. As different digital screens increase in number (think connected refrigerators and smart watches) your brand’s message can get a little messy.

One of the challenges most companies face when producing content for a variety of different channels – from web to social to print – is maintaining a consistent voice. This is particularly true as the person updating your YouTube channel might be different from the person creating your mobile app, etc.

Even if you’re not a ‘marketing person,’ you can undertake small steps to ensure you’re providing an experience to your audience that makes sense for your brand.

First you need to answer: What’s your Personality? Take a step away from the office with some coworkers and establish three personality tones of your brand.   This is important because it can help ensure your brand’s personality is consistent across your website, your app, and your social media page (and connected fridge…).

A great method to develop your personality tone and voice is to split it up into a chart. Decide on your brand’s three personality traits and clarify further by deciphering what that tone is like, and not like. Here’s an example using today’s Talk Like a Pirate Day.

 

Personality ToneLike ThisNot Like This
RoughDrink up me hearties – Jack SparrowLet’s jump on board, and cut them to pieces – Blackbeard
SlangYarrr matey! Aye! Aye!OMG, this is totes cool
SillyLet’s go digging for treasure! My imaginary parrot friend knows the way!Let’s run around and trip over each other to find a treasure. Oops! The treasure is actually a bag of sand!

Now that you’ve established your tone, you have basic support to create your brand’s voice across your media channels.  What does that mean? The voice you use to describe your show and capture SEO opportunities on YouTube could be different from the voice used for your website’s FAQ – but they should both live and breathe your brand’s unique personality. This short task will save you loads of time as you create more content for more screens.

Automatically Create Storyboards with Amazon’s New Tool

Posted on June 11, 2013 | No Comments

This blog appears on Kidscreen.com, targeted to kids entertainment professionals – but this info is helpful for all!

This week’s blog will look at something that’s super cool for us in the entertainment industry. While it’s currently targeted to movie scriptwriters, it can potentially be used for anyone looking to create a compelling story. Amazon Storyteller automatically turns any uploaded movie script into a storyboard, complete with graphics, for free. So cool! And no, I don’t work for Amazon!Amazon Storyteller

Right now, the system’s backgrounds and props work best for dramas and romantic comedies, but they’re looking to add more backgrounds, characters and props to expand genres.

So, if this isn’t targeted to kids and it’s strictly for film scripts, how will you use this?

If you’re a traditional TV producer, you can quickly develop a rough storyboard for an upcoming meeting to help provide clarity to your script.

Or how about using a storyboard differently, like creating personas for your next digital project? Rather than creating a basic profile and scouring Google Images for a random picture, develop a story about your key target persona and create a rough storyboard to help your team better understand and relate to the target demo of your project.

It’s also a good way to crowdsource your storyboards and see where you may have missed important details. Anyone can download a RTF formatted script from Amazon Studios and create a storyboard. You could put a call out on your social media channels and ask fans to storyboard scripts. Luckily, it can’t be published without the author’s permission, so there won’t be any weird versions of your script for public consumption, but it’s a good marketing tool that could help your potential fans be a part of the process.

To test it out, sign into Amazon Studios and click on “Find a movie script” here.  When a title has a script uploaded in RTF, click on “Create Storyboard.” Using lines from the script that you choose, the program pulls together some backgrounds, characters and props to create a rough storyboard – and you can further customize the images and texts.

I’d love to hear other ways this could be used, or if there are alternative storyboarding programs out there. Add your comments below!

Grow your kid-targeted IP with Vine

Posted on May 4, 2013 | No Comments

So, I’ve been out of commission lately as I had a baby in January. Veronica is a great kid and like every new parent, I naturally gravitate to Facebook to share her latest adventures.  One of the easiest ways for me to do this has been through Twitter’s Vine app.

Vine App

Vine is a mobile app that records and publishes six seconds of video. This length of video is perfect because I can tell you firsthand, most people have no desire to watch long videos of your offspring, even if they are the cutest thing.

Using the app is super easy – touching the screen starts the record function and releasing your finger acts as a cut-edit.  Once the recording is completed, the video is then looped so your viewers can watch the action over, and over, again.

Hmm… watch over and over again, I say? Why, isn’t that a typical request of the average preschooler? “Again! Again!” Methinks there might be an opportunity here for this industry to really take this app and make huge waves.

Given the firmly established passback phenom, where parents are handing over their mobiles to kids to play games and watch videos, there’s an opportunity to use Vine as a means to promote some fun features about your IP within the social media space.  It also gives a reason for more parents and kids to follow your brand on Twitter or Facebook if you’re regularly posting these quick and entertaining videos.

For inspiration, social media success story Oreo has some great examples on Vine. And feel free to also follow me – though fair warning, most of the videos will be about the baby or my dog.  For example: https://vine.co/v/bQHjDMtTmrE

Real Life Analytics

Posted on January 7, 2013 | No Comments

Google Analytics or Adobe SiteCatalyst can do much more than just tell you how many visits you had to your site, or where in the world they came from. Google recently published a fantastic and very entertaining series of videos called “Analytics in Real Life” to show how a website’s usability can ruin everything:

While all these funny videos target online shopping sites, they’re important to watch because they can open your eyes to other metrics that help determine whether someone is loving, or completely frustrated with, your site. Most importantly, understanding analytics can help you determine ROI and make you look REALLY SMART, which I’m sure was on everyone’s resolution list this year.

What analytics are important to know? It really does depend on your site and your goals, but here are three areas you should become familiar with:

1. Landing Page Report. This is the first page your users end up on, and should be AWESOME. If the majority of your visitors are coming to your homepage first (yay!) but the bounce rate is higher than 40%, that means a lot of people are coming to your page and not even bothering to click on one thing before leaving. If this is happening, take a look at this page with your team and see if there’s any low hanging fruit that can be fixed (broken links, the page is not mobile optimized though that’s where the majority of your visitors are coming from, etc.).

If you’ve purchased advertising, this is also another area to see how those who click on your paid or display ads are engaging with the content you’re directing them to.

2. Mobile Devices Report. In Google Analytics, this is a standard report that does exactly as it suggests: what mobile devices are people using to access your site. The default view is mobile device, but I suggest also clicking on the Operating System so you can see how many Android and iOS users are coming to your site. This information is valuable if you’re having conversations to create a mobile site (or better yet, an adaptive website that works on any device).

3. Site Search Terms Report This report is imperative, not only so you can laugh heartily at spelling, but also see what your customers can’t easily find on your site. Find this in Google Analytics by looking under Content>Site Search> Search Terms. Of course, this will only work if you site has search functionality.

There’s a lot more to analytics, but this should help give you a kick start beyond visitors. If you have any questions about Analytics and how to make it work for you, give me a shout.

Start Your Digital Strategy in Five Minutes

Posted on November 27, 2012 | No Comments

Do we need a digital strategist before we create a social media plan/new website/mobile app?

OK, full disclosure, I AM a Digital Strategist – so you may think the first thing I’ll say is “Yes! Of course you need a digital strategist! Now give me some money!”

But the fact is, sometimes you just need to take a step back and look at your online plans from a different perspective before considering engaging outside help.

Applying digital tactics before accurately determining a business problem you’re trying to solve (be it loyalty, preference, growth etc.) can be a big waste of money.  Falling in love with the idea of launching an Instagram account because it’s cool and “all the kids are on it” rather than using digital methods to help answer your business problem is rife in many digital plans I see.

So what’s an easy fix? Step away from the shiny new digital channel and set aside five minutes to define an important business problem you want solved.

Our Business Problem: the broadcaster needs us to create a website to support our new show but we feel no one will visit this page.

Great! Next step.  Answer the WHY.

Why is this our Business Problem? We’re concerned about spending money to create a website that no one will go to. We want to explore other promotional channels to drive visitors and figure out how to make money from it.

Nice work. That helps define your strategy and explores the business problem in a bit more detail, which is crucial. Next part is easy – or it should be…

Who is our Target Demographic?  Kids ages eight to 12.

What does this tell us? These simple three questions gave you a goal and a target: You need to create a supporting website for your show, and you want to make sure it gets visits and explore potential ROI. Great.  Now share this with everyone who might work on this digital project so everyone understands the goal and can participate in the solution.

While this is very simple, five-minute exercise can create more questions than answers, that’s the point. You’re ready now to enter the second stage, where you can look to a digital strategist to help make sense of it all, or you can get your hands dirty and figure out what content is needed for kids to visit a show page, or engage in a competitive analysis to see how others drive visits to their showsites and make money. This is putting the cart after the horse, which ensures the time and effort your team spends to make a digital project will be worth the money and solve your problems.

Keep in mind: very few companies actually ask these three questions before diving in.  If you answer them honestly, you’re already on the right path.

Is the iPad Mini a Game Changer for Kids Entertainment?

Posted on November 11, 2012 | No Comments

This weekend, I went to look at the iPad Mini at my local Apple Store. Three tables on display, each with about eight new devices for everyone to check out… but each brand new iPad Mini was being used – very enthusiastically – by children aged between six and eight years old. It took about 10 minutes (when one parent dragged their child away) before I could pick one up – talk about stealing candy from a baby.


The way these kids played on the iPad mini was different from what I’ve observed with the traditional iPad. The 7.9” screensize and lighter weight (53% lighter than the traditional iPad) enabled their small hands to pick up the device and really engage with the screen.

What does this mean for your projects?

We Have an iPad App already – do we need to reconfigure it for the mini?
Luckily, not right now. I would recommend getting your hands on a Mini to see how well your game plays. You may want to consider some minor adjustments to take advantage of how players approach and use the smaller screen size, but won’t need a full re-do.

And be sure to ramp up your app promotions around and just after the Holiday season, when this device becomes the hot gift of the season and parents or kids want to use up their gift certificates on your app.

We’re thinking of building an iPad app – what’s different?
Since little ones are more easily picking up this device to play, your designers and usability experts may want to take advantage of the lower or midscreen side navigation so thumbs can easily direct the gameplay, and your developers will definitely want explore the accelerometer to bring enhanced movement and activity in your game. Observing youth with an iPad mini, they were picking it up, shifting it from side to side – really engaged with the device. Whereas with the traditional iPad, many kids play with this while it’s sitting on a table or on their lap.

Keep in mind this release of the Mini doesn’t feature retina display, meaning your app won’t be in HD. Just something to consider long-term as you may need to invest in an upgrade once the iPad Mini with retina display eventually comes along.

It’s still early days, but it feels like this device was made for kids. What do you guys think of the iPad mini? Is it a game-changer… literally?

Assigning Responsibility in Content Strategy

Posted on October 3, 2012 | 2 Comments'

One of the biggest roles for a content strategist is to tear apart a website’s content piece by piece, take out what’s not needed, highlight what’s missing, and create appropriate user flows based on key audiences. But that’s not the hardest part. The hardest part of the job is helping the poor person who is charge of the daily content of that site.

Too often, there are hundreds of pages of web content assigned to one person in a huge organization. Why? Because that person showed an interest in the web. That poor, poor person.

Excuses, excuses

We all know a website is more than a brochure, and it should help support your company’s business goals – so why are some businesses so afraid of expanding this role of content responsibility beyond one, overworked person in marketing and his/her student help? Here are some of the excuses:

  • I don’t understand the web
  • I don’t know how to write
  • I’m working on building our business and don’t have time for that additional responsibility
  • I trust her, and if something is wrong, we’ll fix it afterwards

Really?

The content strategist you work with will recommend important workflows and assign work to various departments in your business to help contribute content to the website. It’s not about adding work to people’s already full plates, but creating a workflow so the content is efficiently added to your website.  The one person you have who is responsible for the website is likely really good at their job, but there are many roles to play in content – writing, reviewing, approving, providing the data and pretty charts, coming up with an awesome idea for a video post… you get the picture.

The good news

If everyone in your organization is working towards a business goal, you’re already half way there. These are the people who own their work – why would they want it on display publicly if they haven’t had a say?

The caution

With the workflow management often comes the big ideas. “Let’s recreate Facebook, but for our industry!” etc. With great power comes great responsibility, and that’s where your friendly content strategist can come in to help assign the workflow – and help you and your team realize when online projects might be out of scope simply because you don’t have the manpower to support them. Many a project has launched and failed because there was no strategy – only a rush to get things done.

Also…

Don’t underestimate how long it takes to write, approve, edit and post a page of web content. If you’re the poor person who’s making the content, be transparent about the work involved, and also clarify how the process would be easier with more hands on deck. Take a real look at everyone’e work schedule and see where things might be able to shift to accommodate content.

Need more help? Contact me.

It Costs How Much to Create a Game?!

Posted on October 2, 2012 | No Comments

If this guy is your connection at the game developer studio, you may want to explore other options.

This blog post appears on Kidscreen.com’s Hey, Digital Geek on Wednesday, October 3. Here’s a sneak preview. If you have any insight to add, please post them in the comments by end-of-day October 2nd and I might add it to the Kidscreen blog:

Here’s the setup: You have a great idea for an online game to go with your TV show. You approach gaming companies to help quote out the costs associated with its development and you’re told it can cost, say, $100,000 or higher. What’s your reaction?

If you cringed, please read on.

To help you understand why a game may cost more than you expected, here is a very loose rundown of what happens behind the scenes to create a game. Having this in your back pocket can help you ask the right questions to get the game you need:

1. Pre-Production: Here’s where the Technical Director, the Creative Director, a Project Manager and other team members pull together their resources to create documentation and guidelines for the game. They will develop a document that represents the games’ guiding vision. It can include things such as gameplay mechanics, concept art, user flow diagrams, target audience research, an outline of the game’s story, list of characters, the “user interface” (meaning, how a user will navigate the game), music/sound considerations and prototypes, among other elements.  This document can vary in size and scope and is important.

2. Development/Production: This can involve a team from one person to well over 50, depending on the complexity and scale of your game. This part can include programmers, project managers and designers.

The Programmers not only inserts code into the computer, they also figure out important elements such as physics of the game, manage and consider how the player would make the game work, consider ways to keep it fun, input sound, and make sure the game runs smoothly. He or she is typically run on a heavy diet of coffee and patience, and they’re usually perfectionists. There can be more than one programmer on your game.

The Project Manager will be your best friend. He or she will be the person who makes sure things are running on schedule and on budget, while also ensuring quality. This person will be under stress about 90% of the time, and if you decide to add a new character or element to the game during this stage, expect exasperation.

The Designer, not surprisingly, creates the visual aspects of the game.  He or she can create original animations and art based on your live-action TV show to make it appear in a game, or can take assets from your animated series to bring them to life in a game environment. Designers produce concept art, character art, backgrounds, animations and work with the programmer to consider the user interface. Every designer I’ve worked with takes constructive criticism well, and they can be trusted to know what they’re doing.

3. Post-Production: this part is all about testing and deployment. The Quality Assurance tester (QA tester) will often play a role during the production/development phase. Things never run smoothly during online development. Bugs happen easily. The game can work perfectly on one computer and then as soon as it’s on the testing environment, things can go horribly wrong –  and sometimes it can take a team of sleuths to go through the code, line-by-excruciating line, to find a solution.

Gaining insight into why things may cost the way they do will definitely help you negotiate a price and game that works for your needs. Asking the right questions will help ensure your online experience is everything you and your audience wants – making it worth every penny.

Tips on Viral Video Content

Posted on September 18, 2012 | No Comments

This blog post also appears tomorrow on Kidscreen.com’s Hey, Digital Geek.

How do I make a viral video?

With two days worth of video content uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s really challenging to create something that will become viral. There’s actually no guarantee that what you create will break through and become massive or viral, but executives from YouTube have suggested there are some of the tips and tricks that can improve your chances.

Parody an Already Viral Video
Sesame Workshop does this so well. If a video has broken through and become viral, you can guarantee that Sesame has created a parodied video response. Creating your own version of an already viral video can help coattail on its success and get you some great view numbers, while also providing you a simple opportunity to promote your brand.

Grover Smell like a Monster

If you go this route, be sure to include SEO (search engine optimization) keywords that relate to the original viral video. That way, searchers can come across your work more easily.

Be Surprising
This one is pretty obvious. The execs at YouTube have used this video about a guy protesting bike laws in New York city as an example of how to produce something that’s unexpected. While its topic is seemingly uninspired, check out this video to get a sense of why it has over 5 million views:

Those are just a couple of ideas. Most importantly, if you make a piece of content that people are looking for, you’re already on the right path to promote your brand on YouTube.  Share your ideas for creating viral content in the comments below!