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At AHA, we understand the value of using video in communication initiatives. Some of the work we do in brand journalism has video segments as the central communication tool.

One of the challenges that we face is finding the balance between what the client wants to say and what the viewer really wants to see. And sometimes that is harder to do than it should be.

We have had some passionate discussions with clients about the content and length of their videos over this. (For the record, I believe strongly in passionate discussion – even disagreement. As long as it is respectful and focuses on the topic and not on the people, a discussion where not everyone agrees can be of huge value. Done well, it can create an exceptional end product or result.) It can be hard to get someone to move away from what they want to tell and focus on the other side – what people want to hear, how they want to hear it and when they want to hear it.

In working with clients, one of our responsibilities is to provide a strategic perspective. To me, this means that I must represent the perspective of the community, the audience and/or the stakeholder group during the planning, creative and implementation stages of the process.

During planning sessions, I often ask (respectfully, of course): “Why does that matter to this audience? Who will care about that point? Does that need to be included? Does that need to be said in that way?”

For the most part, at AHA we’re not big fans of overly produced, corporate style videos. It always depends on the client’s objectives, of course, but in all of the research we have done, for all of the videos we have made (as AHA and in our prior lives before we found the happiness of AHA), time and time again it comes back to creating compelling content that the target market relates to. That doesn’t mean you don’t need good production value; it does mean that you need to understand how to tell a story that is relevant to the person you are telling it to.

Too often, video becomes overwhelmed with corporate speak, too many messages and even becomes embroiled in the politics of an organization. (If VP Smith is in the video, we have to include VP Jones. If we film at the East Office, we have to also film at the West Office. And the list goes on.) This dilutes the value of the video and moves you away from the objective – to create relevant, compelling content that connects you to the viewer.

 

When you are producing video for your organization, it’s crucial to take the focus off what you want to say and focus on what your community wants to hear from you.

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We recently had a call from someone who wanted to hire us to “distribute a release and build media relationships” for them. Those requests immediately gave me concerns and I was pretty certain that we wouldn’t be a good fit for this particular project. However, we never want to shut someone down before understanding what they need. If we’re not a good fit, we will do our best to help them find someone who is.

I questioned this person a bit further. Even though AHA doesn’t distribute releases that aren’t written by us, I asked to see the release so I could understand what this person wanted to promote. It was five pages long, filled with corporate speak and industry jargon. And, as far as I could see, there was no news value. When I explained the fact that we aren’t a news release distribution service and identified the challenges in the release, this person then asked if we could just develop a media database for them of all the journalists we know and they would distribute it. He went on to explain that he needed to create some media relationships and wanted to do that as quickly as possible. I did my best to explain how it doesn’t work that way, but I am not sure that he understood what I was trying to tell him.

At our PR agency, media, blogger and social media relationships are an important component of what we do. We spend a great deal of time and effort on this. We have established strong, positive relationships in a wide range of areas including travel/hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, education, non-profit and government to name a few. As we build our relationships with journalists, bloggers and influencers, we build our clients relationships with them as well. We set up information meetings, we help our clients provide relevant information (which is not always about them), we provide access to interviews with senior people at client organizations, and we make sure there are images, information, facts and stats ready and available to their deadlines. We get our clients to participate in social media and to authentically connect with their communities.

We follow journalists on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn and even on Facebook (sometimes – but that’s a different blog post). We read their articles every day, we watch their newscasts, we listen to the radio shows and we spend a lot of time online to see what is going on. We engage on social media sites with influencers (never disguising who we are, by the way). It takes time and effort. We work at it. And we get results for our clients.

You can’t just casually hand over relationships like those and expect that it would work that way. And the fact is, even if you could, we wouldn’t.

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I came across this quote recently: “Public relations are a key component of any operation in this day of instant communications and rightly inquisitive citizens.” – Alvin Adams, diplomat, (1804-1877)

It’s interesting that in the 1800s, Mr. Adams thought they had instant communications and inquisitive citizens. I wonder what he would make of social media and our online, connected world.

It also reinforced a key element that we, at AHA, believe in and have been sharing for some time. That is: Good communication is a result of strategy, not technology.

Don’t get me wrong – social media, the online world, and technology have created much positive impact in the area of communication. And the use of these tools needs to be acknowledged and integrated into an overall communications strategy. But, it’s a part of the overall strategy – it isn’t the strategy.

You can have plans for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media networking site. We believe that is important; but these plans are components of an overall communications plan which should support your overall organizational objectives. How does that happen? With a communications strategy.

Communicators have a more complex role these days. It is important that we see the bigger picture, as well as the day-to-day details. We still live in a world of “instant communications and rightly inquisitive citizens” and it takes attention, effort and strategy to effectively and authentically connect.

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Over the weekend, I had dinner with friends and the talk turned to the ethics of public relations. Their son is in grade 10 and he wants to be a journalist, so we often have discussions about public relations, journalism and the shift that both fields are going through right now. We got onto the topic of the importance of ethics in a person’s life. Then it turned to what happens when an organization has an issue – how they are able to be ethical and manage their reputation.



The values of an organization and the ethics of the senior team are key drivers in how the organization does business. Having solid values and ethics doesn’t mean that they will never face an issue or a crisis, but it does mean that they will likely deal with it in a respectful, productive, transparent manner. As a communicator, our role is to communicate internally and externally about what is being done. Often, we are brought into the planning because we can provide the perspective of stakeholders and ask the tough questions that need to be asked.



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