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Creative Blog

Issues important to discern and creatively explore!

Start asking real questions…

I have been following the Facebook posts of a friend who lives in Moore, Oklahoma. She has experienced first hand the devastation of the massive tornado that ripped apart the city she calls home.

I met Julie in Phoenix, Arizona in 1999 when I worked for KPHO-TV. She is probably one of the most talent photojournalists I have met. I still remember some of the amazing stories she produced. I am not sure if she remembers me, but she is one the many reasons I came to Phoenix. It was my hope to learn from talented professionals like Julie and many others that worked in the Phoenix market at the time.

Her recent posts this Memorial Day weekend had me thinking and reflecting:

Facebook Post from Julie Jones (Moore, OK) – May 26, 2013
“Businesses along 19th at Telephone Rd are starting to reopen. The 19th Starbucks (not the one across from Target that I shared earlier) opened late afternoon yesterday. The Tide group are finally getting people with the laundry. And the PR producers/photogs are finally getting real people to talk to.

Finding it hard to relate to you my observations about press coverage except to say – we really do ask stupid questions. A kindeogardemer (sp? iPhone thinks that is right) flatly told me years ago — after me asking what was happening — “don’t BE silly!”

She said it so strongly and condescendingly I had to walk away and sit for moment. True story.”

In the next Facebook Post from Julie Jones (Moore, OK) – May 26, 2013
“I am struggling to find the right advice for asking questions — cuz we have all witnessed, via the news coverage, all the sappy attempts to get emotional responses that the local, regional, and national press have used.

Really there only seems to be a few questions in my mind that should be asked of the people affected (I refuse to call us victims – we are far from victims):

The jones standard: what is _____ (fill in with “today, this event, this block etc”) and what does it mean to you?

Where is your house and how is it?

What are your steps today to move forward?

And, maybe, what is the thing you witnessed that caught you the most?

And off camera – what do you need? Most likely we just need info – where do I get my mail? Where are the FEMA trucks? Do u know if I have to stay at home for FEMA to find me (that has been my question as I search for Wifi)?”

As I was reading her thoughts…her observation and reflection as just applicable to my daily life as they are for press/journalists.

This thought makes me go back and look at a video I remember her posting the day after the tornado struck. More importantly, her Facebook post that coincided with this shared video.

Facebook Post from Julie Jones (Moore, OK) – May 21, 2013 4:18am

I think Julie has shared something most revealing, and more importantly, something storytellers should use regardless of our assignment, client, deadline, or purpose when capturing the moment…we should listen. We should listen with more than our ears, we should listen with our hearts. We should also listen and ask questions that are most natural, not ones that have the ulterior motive of sparking an emotion. The emotion is already there, it is our place to learn to listen *and* allow those emotions to fill the space when it is appropriate.

Thanks to Julie for this reminder.

Here is a little more about Julie, her career, and her work.

Julie Jones is associate professor at Gaylord College, co-founder of OUStormCrowd, national chair for the National Press Photographers Association News Video Workshop, and, in 2012, was one of ten professors nationwide named as Kappa Alpha Theta’s Outstanding Faculty. Jones earned her doctorate at University of Minnesota in 2010.

A former television photojournalist and producer, Jones brings a wealth of professional experiences to her academic work. Her research is focused on the participatory nature of online news and visual platforms. Her work has been published in New Media and Society, ACM publications, PBS MediaShift, and she is an active member of AEJMC’s Communication Technology division.

Marissa Mayer: Defining The Profession of Photography

The profession of photography took a huge hit on Monday. Well…let’s just say that highly acclaimed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer clearly defined something I have been pondering for a long time.

If you look at the picture above, she said these words exactly during a press conference on Monday. Yahoo made a few announcements specifically the acquisition of Tumblr and the release of the new Flickr. Tumblr is a popular blogging platform and Flickr is a popular photo sharing social outlet.

Below is the response from a question posed by a Fast Company writer during Monday’s press conference:

There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there’s no such thing, really, as professional photographers when there’s everything that’s professional photographers. Certainly there’s varying levels of skills but we didn’t want to have a Flickr Pro anymore. We wanted everyone to have professional quality photo space and sharing.” – Marissa Mayer, May 2013″

Here is the video to listen to the response in context with the question posed from Fast Company.

I get it…we live in a age of cameras everywhere. I just returned from my vacation in New York and I was surrounded by people all around me taking pictures with iPhones, Droids, professional digital SLRs, pro-sumer digital SLRs, and so on. We live in a time with the pervasiveness of capturing and sharing pictures.

I did not take my professional Canon camera to New York. I did not want to carry around a bulky camera while walking with my wife all over city. My iPhone 5 did a wonderful job capturing images then allowing me to immediately upload the images to Flickr.

Here is one of those images:
Untitled

It looks great and I think I am going to have it printed and hung in my office. Is it perfect…no! Could I have done a better job with my DSLR…yes. We have access to these technological tools and a price that allows the masses to capture beautiful images. Am I a professional photographer or videographer, well…yes. But…no. I do not consider myself a photographer, videographer, or any term that connects me directly with technology. I consider myself a photojournalist.

I was a journalist at one time working for news outlets all over the country. The I feel word photographer defines a person based on the technology used to capture images. I want to move away from that stigma…I want to associate with the idea of craft…the craft of capturing and telling stories regardless of the technology used to achieve that goal.

As I was standing on the boat taking the picture above with my iPhone 5, there was a guy with a Canon 1Dx. As I was watching him capture his images, I could tell…he was an individual that had not spent a lot of time around a SLR or DSLR. He had over $7000.00 in his hand as he was running around madly holding the shutter down to capture the same image everyone else was capturing with their iPhones. He was holding the shutter and pointing…you could tell there was no clear thought process by the way he was framing the image. Because he has an expensive camera, does that make him professional? Does it make him a professional photographer? Does it make him a photojournalist?

Should we as professionals that use our cameras to perform our jobs and run our businesses take offense to Marissa’s statement? Maybe or maybe not…if you term yourself a professional photographer? If you just take pictures and feel your space is compromised by those who access to these same tools including iPhones…then maybe this will piss you off. But if your craft is to tell stories…you should like the fact the Flickr just extended your account storage to 1 Terabyte. Then, sit back and watch everyone else moan and grown.

If anything…her statement is a statement of the changing in times. The fact more people have access to professional gear and professional editing software brings more value to what I do. There are many that take pictures and capture video…then there are those that believe in a craft of telling stories.

By the way…there has been a lot of backlash online from her statement, here are a few tweets surrounding this conversation:

*Photo credit to SLR Lounge

Stories Impact Conversations: Angelina Jolie’s BRCA1 Story

It was just last week, Angelina Jolie announced her radical mastectomy after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation. Her OP-ED appeared on NYTimes.com titled, “My Medical Choice.” Her story was one that brought tremendous media attention and awareness to an issue that is hard for many families to even discuss.

Over five years ago, my wife Sarah lost her mother to breast cancer…a very aggressive breast cancer referred to as triple negative, metastatic breast cancer. Her battle was beyond tough, creating many deep conversations and heated discussions after her passing. One of those conversations included the genetic testing for BRCA1 gene mutation.

The term “breast cancer” is one of the biggest marketing engines in the world of large hospitals, cancer treatment facilities, and organizations that raise funds for research. Families of those who lost a loved one to breast cancer even resist the marketing engine behind “breast cancer awareness” including the pink ribbon, cause marketing initiatives, and other marketing engines that leverage the conversation for their own gain.

Sarah is one of those women who has resisted for years not buying anything that uses the color pink to further the organization’s bottom-line. We focus our giving to organizations who can make direct financial for breast cancer research. Sarah even resists the conversation of being tested for the BRCA1 gene mutation. Why?

To many of us, the genetic testing is a no-brainer. But imagine being the daughter of a woman who died from one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Imagine being mother-less on Mother’s Day or even trying to figure out to raise your first child without your mother. Having “the test” is entering pandora’s box of finding out your “death” sentence, then not knowing what to do next. It seems so simple.

For the first time, we have a story that has brought mainstream attention to not only having the BRCA1 test but taking action after the test. Angelina Jolie lost her mother to ovarian cancer close to five years ago. This means “the idea” of being tested has been a part of Angelina’s thought process for some time. We know her mother did not die recently and we know she did not make the decision to have this surgery as a “knee jerk” reaction. She pondered, processed, and prepared for this decision over a long period of time.

Angelina explains in the NYTimes.com OP-ED:
“The truth is I carry a ‘faulty’ gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could.”

It is a huge set of hurdles Angelina faced. First, loosing her mother…then making the tough decision to be tested. After learning that she carries this specific gene mutation, making the decision to have a surgery that ultimately changes her visible appeal. A visible appeal that makes her one the most beautiful women on the big screen. Imagine the series of decisions she had to make. Now we are learning she will further her resolve by having her ovaries removed in the near future.

Her story has become a tangible path for many women to connect. Regardless of how she is viewed…we see the human side of Angelina and how she can empower others to to face this tough decision. Her story has given us language…given us context to frame the conversation.

Stories of courage bring paths of positive movement. These stories pave the way for women to not only make tough decisions but also impact the way women and families view medicine, technology, research, and the power of making healthy decisions.

As a male, it is hard for me to even begin to fathom this decision. But as a storyteller, it brings me tremendous empathy for those women who are faced with this decision everyday.

These are the stories that bring change, advocacy, and hope for the future of health care. May we all have the courage to make tough, healthy decisions that not only impact us personally but those that surround us…including the ones we love.

Case Study: AccessHealth SC – Communicating A Healthy Conversation

Access to quality health care here in South Carolina has consumed the public conversation over the last few years. From the Affordable Care Act to hospitals seeking to find new and innovative ways to deal with the growing needs of the uninsured…we are surrounded by the groundswell of health care discourse.

For the past few years, I have been working with the South Carolina Hospital Association to find and tell the stories of the uninsured. Initiatives like AccessHealth SC are special, focusing on those uninsured individuals to not only provide access to quality health care but also a continuum of care.

Over the last 5 months, we have been capturing stories of the uninsured across South Carolina. We have also been working with AccessHealth SC providers and administrators explaining how this healthy initiative can be a model for health care reform.

Purpose of the Video Project (from AccessHealth SC):
“The motivation for capturing AccessHealth SC client and provider stories was two-fold. The primary purpose of the video was to communicate what exactly we are doing through AccessHealth. The idea of collaborative networks of care for the uninsured and underinsured is a bit cumbersome; it doesn’t slip neatly into conversations or presentations and the evidence-based, logical model can get lost on people. This project allowed us to really unpack what it is our networks do and the good sense that they make. A model of providing medical care that addresses social needs makes sense, but when you package it up in a few words with little explanation-lights go out.”

“The project also allowed us to highlight the human impact of our work, the individuals who are using medical services more appropriately, who are better able to manage their chronic diseases, and who are living healthier lives. Even more than putting a face to an outcome, it provided our clients an avenue to share their stories and their hope restored; as cliché as it sounds, this video was an opportunity for them to be heard. As we work to promote dignity and respect in the services our networks connect to, this was vital.”

As we were developing the story line (along with crafting the script), we began having this conversation whether to include statistics and numerical information explaining the economic impact of the program. In the world of video production, many times it is hard to visually showcase information in a compelling manor.

We used graphic animation to bring the numbers to life. You will notice the following video is a smaller section of the video above. We felt this could stand alone as a simple explanation of the AccessHealth SC model and the value it brings to the State of South Carolina.

Purpose of this Information Video (from AccessHealth SC):
“Communicating the economic impact our of our work was important to us because of the stakeholders we are/were hoping to engage. Most often, the individuals within organizations in communities that have the push or say to actually catalyze change speak in numbers and outcomes. Not only was this speaking their language-but drawing their attention to significant results.”

These videos have been launched online and for internal presentational purposes. AccessHealth SC will use these videos to share the visual context of their mission as they present to stakeholders, hospitals, community groups, legislators, and other individuals interested in building a healthier South Carolina.

These videos will also live on the AccessHealth SC section of the SCHA.org website. Our goal, to educate and advocate to those searching for information concerning programs like AccessHealth SC. We want to be a part of the digital paradigm as people search for content related to health in South Carolina.

Lean Forward: Listening for those non-verbal cues

Interviewing individuals in the world of documentary video production is a journey…it is a journey that many times cannot be scripted or predicted. Starting a new project with a new client is often times sharing a philosophy. The interview process will shape the overall production.

Interviewing someone is probably one of the most rewarding parts of the production, but can be the most challenging. Sometimes these interviews leave the producer exhausted and mentally drained.

I am in the middle of a project for the Family Effect and I just finished a series of interviews with teenagers who are going through a drug rehabilitation program. The goal, to find and tell their story…their path, so those who donate will find value in their potential donation.

I typically work with the organization to pre-screen the interview subjects. I like to review their background information, understand their path which ultimately leads to the context by which they are tied to the story.

When I sit down with the individuals…I first have to build trust. Trust is a huge barrier…especially when you have the camera, lights, microphone and all the other production equipment that builds a wall around the interview subject.

Building trust is more than capturing the story, it is allowing the person to fully trust you as the gatekeeper. You have the power to capture and share that story! Yes…we carry that ethical burden. So we have to build a relationship with our interview subjects so they not only trust you to listen…but to capture, edit, and craft their story in a way that brings a larger meaning to their life for others to view. If not…you might as well not even try to ask the first question.

We carry this burden, find this tension between seeing and feeling the story…but keeping a critical distance so we can share it from our exterior perspective.

Reading those non-verbal cues many times is a critical path to gaining that trust. As I was interviewing one of the individuals for the Family Effect project, they started with their arms crossed as they leaned back. This barrier took a while to break down in the interview. The more we chatted, the more we shared, the more the camera and lights were forgotten.

The conversation moved from simple pleasantries and canned questions to open-ended conversation sharing rich details of life choices, courage, and failures, and goals, and hopes. The story emerged as trust was building…and before I knew it…we were both leaning forward talking face-to-face.

When we listen…we have to move away from just using our ears. We have to read those non-verbal cues as a path to build trust. Trust is critical to breaking down walls to find the inner core of the story.

Disrupt Hackathon Got Hacked – Own Your Media

Ownership of our media is something that I have been exploring and researching. As I was reading Techcrunch, I found these videos. Todd Bonnewell took to the stage to share his thoughts…that we must reclaim ownership of the content and media we create.

Todd Bonnewell took to the Disrupt Hackathon stage and hacked the 60 Second Pitches with his own pitch. This stage is typically for individuals to share new apps or concepts, but instead…he had a message for the audience of hackers, not for the judges.

Here is his interview after his message:

You can find him online at https://twitter.com/madeopen

Here is the link to the original article on Techcruch: CLICK HERE

There is something in these hills…Joe Sherman’s words brought to life.

There is something in these hills and for the past five months, I have been working with Clemson Alumni AssociationClemson Creative Services, and an amazing graphic artist/animator…Josh Stolz.

The video you see above is a 30 second advertisement being played in movie theaters across the region. But this is just a small portion of a bigger project enhancing the Clemson Ring Experience.

We produced a 3 minute video sharing stories of the Clemson Ring, all brought to life through illustrations and animation. I worked with a wonderful graphic artist/animator Josh Stolz bringing these stories to life.

The script came from Joe Sherman’s “There is Something in These Hills” written in the 1970’s. Mr. Sherman was the Executive Director of the Clemson Alumni Association and wrote this piece of prose based on his reflections of Clemson. We used this selection, altering just a bit to bring it into present day context, because we felt he accurately described the Clemson Experience and also painted a beautiful image of Clemson through his words. What better way to connect the stories of Clemson to the people that live this experience daily.

I hope you enjoy the video above and look forward to sharing more down the road. To learn more about the Clemson Ring Experience, visit the Clemson Alumni Website to watch and read more…or CLICK HERE.

To read the whole selection from Joe Sherman, CLICK HERE.

Content is KING: Leveraging 100% of your content for the 1%

Telling stories requires planning and focus!

Many times I get the call to consider working on a project that needs to be completed in less than a month…and the only focus for project is for an event. I always spend time meeting with the folks to listen to the project. We spend time thinking through the goals…but I have lots of questions and thoughts for everyone involved to consider.

Preamble:
Typically I like to work on projects that are more than just “emergent care”. What do I mean, the project has to have more than just the immediate “focus”. Many times I find the project only solves a small portion of what really needs to be communicated. I like to work on projects that have long-term thinking and provide long-term, residual value to the audience. More  than just one production that solves a short-term problem.

I am a business person and I am not-only try be a good steward of the resources provided to complete the project at-hand, but also be mindful of the content that is created beyond the production. I like to put together a comprehensive plan that leverage’s the stories that are captured.

Let’s Think Beyond:
I am a strategic communicator and the first thing I like to do is consider the overall communications plan from two perspectives: the campaign and the organization. I like to understand how this production fits into these plans. Why…because we are telling stories and we are capturing lots of content that *can be* used beyond the project. We probably use 15% of the content captured in the final production, that is 85% left over that is quality content…stories that can be used in other initiatives.

I like to think about the audience. There are many audiences within this particular project and across the organizations communication initiatives. I like to think…what audiences would connect with the different content we capture. What is the most compelling content from an interview we conduct and how can each response to a question fit into a bigger part of a communications plan.

I like to think delivery. We live in a digital communications era where sharing and consuming content has become a vital part of our daily lives. Let me share a few statistics:

From Edelman Digital:
“In 2012: 56% of consumer web traffic was video, YouTube users watched more than 36-billion hours of video and online video was the fastest growing ad format (up 55%).”

We are watching content  and consuming content through out the day. This content is helping us make decisions from the car we buy, to the physician we choose. But, also….this content cannot be consumed unless it is shared with a community. How about that 1%?

The 1% Concept:
This One Percenter concept is based on research from Jackie Huba’s book, Citizen Marketers. She discovered “that the most highly engaged particpants in a community make up a tiny percentage of the overall customer base but are vocal passionate evangelists who bring new customers into the fold through word of mouth.”

If you have wonderful content, wonderful stories to tell…why not leverage all 100% of that content to engage the most loyal fans…your 1%. This is why I believe that Content is KING. Yes…the stories we capture have more than a shelf life span…they are valuable stories to be told and used beyond on little event, one little campaign, one little production.

These stories are connections…emotions…words of advocacy. They do not deserve to be put on the shelf and used down the road when you think it might be appropriate. We should leverage all 100% of the content captured in a production to engage that 1%.

I want to work with people who want to do more than just one production…I want to work with people that want to treat their all their content as prized possessions, stories to be told beyond the one event, the one project, the one production. I want to help people capture and tell stories to create more than a movement…I want to work with people to create a series of movements over time…advocating using all the stories we capture.

Content is KING!

SCPRSA Awards – GHS Rocks The Show

SCPRSA Awards - GHS Rocks The Show

Congrats to Robin Stelling, Robyn Zimmerman, Sara Dereng, and Karen Potter for representing Greenville Health System during the 2013 SCPRSA Mercury Awards.

Here are the awards they won during Thursday night’s event at The Loft at Falls Park:

· Mercury Award of Merit: Greenville Health System (Greenville) for “Centennial Celebration”

· Silver Wing Award: Greenville Health System (Greenville) for “Report To The Community”

· Silver Wing Award of Merit: Greenville Health System (Greenville) for “Go. Hunt. Scan.”

Congrats friends! To see all the award winners, go to SCPRSA.org.

rest in peace coach…remembering clemson coach annie tribble

This past year, I completed a project for Clemson Letterwinner’s Association telling stories of the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees. One of the inductees was Karen Ann Jenkins who was recruited by Coach Tribble, but also played for Coach Jim Davis.

I think this is probably one of the last interviews captured on camera with Coach Tribble. It was such a treat to watch the interaction between Coach Tribble and Karen Ann Jenkins…Coach and Player.

I hope you enjoy this story and see the type of relationship Coach Tribble had with her players. Also…here is a great article by the Orange & White about Coach Tribble. CLICK HERE to read the story!

Own your media…from Television to YouTube

It is time…time to take ownership of our media. What do I mean…well, we have to take ownership of all our media properties and not allow outside forces to have control of our message.

A few weeks ago, Greenville Hospital System rebranded and became Greenville Health System. They put together a great strategic plan to “flip the switch” on March 18th. Literally the evening of March 17th, all websites owned and operated under their umbrella lost their individual identities and took on the new web look as Greenville Health System. All social media properties took on the same look across the whole system.

This took lots of preplanning, pre-creative design, and lots of code work…so over a six hour span…all became one. GHS went from a house of brands to a branded house in a one night switch.

This is taking ownership of media…except one little detail did not come together as “planned.” In all honesty, it was hard to foresee this small situation. On that Monday, the day of the switch, television stations across the region began playing their beautiful, new television spots sharing the new branded message.

Lots of time, effort, and resources were invested in the creation of these beautifully produced televisions spots. But…GHS was not the first to share these spots on the social space. A few days later, the video production company released these spots on their company YouTube and Facebook outlets.

As I watched the newsfeed…my heart sank. I asked myself, why were we (GHS) not the first to share these spots from our social outlets. How does this happen? Is it really a big deal? Is there someone to blame? I have no idea if we should get upset or even bothered over something like this? Or…do you get excited that the production group is proud to share your message. And guess what…they did a wonderful job on the production…here is a link to one of the spots and they are beautiful (btw they were shot with a Red Camera).

What Can We Learn?
In a perfect world, this is how I see this “should” have happened (this is based on my limited knowledge of planning behind the production of the television spots):

1. When the production company is contracted to help create and craft television spots, the contract should reflect ownership of media assets. Specifically, who owns the rights to the content and how this content can be shared publicly.

2. Companies/Organizations should require all production companies to provide final media assets to them for all electronic distribution. What do I mean, all television spots should be provided and ready for distribution on all media outlets from television to online at the same time.

3. Coordinated release schedule should be created and implemented. This plan stipulates the days and times when each outlet will release these elements from television to online. These should be a coordinated effort between the production company, agency, and organization. So if the television spot is scheduled to be released on YouTube the same day it is released on television, the “traffic” plan should detail this plan along with who needs to be involved in this distribution. Usually the organization is the only one who has access to their social outlets.

4. YouTube and social share is just as important as the television release. This was proven with the Audi commercials from the 2012 SuperBowl. Audi released the 30 second spots on television and YouTube at the same time during the 2011 Super Bowl. This created the opportunity for social share…the television spot had a hashtag #solongvampires … so when people watched on television, they went to YouTube to find the video then tweeted it out using the hashtag. Within the first week after release, this created over a million views on YouTube and many million impressions on Twitter.

5. Production company’s social outlets (like YouTube) should not be the place where an organization’s television spot calls “home” and are first released. Why…because the production companies are not the owners of the branded message. The branded company/organization has the right to capitalize on the digital impact of the television spots, especially since it represents their branded message. The television spots should live on the organization’s branded video social outlet (like YouTube & Vimeo).

6. Production companies should make it standard practice in their agreements stipulating who owns the rights to this content, which includes (but not limited to) social media/digital media outlets.

7. Companies/Organizations should make sure their production agreement stipulates the branded organization reserves the first right of online distribution. The organization should be the first to share, then invite production company vendors to share (only after the organization has publicly released).

8. THIS IS IMPORTANT – the production company must share the video from the organization’s YouTube/Vimeo video outlet. SEO is important in this game of digital brand equity.

What can we learn from this? Owning our media is important. Now a little disclosure…I work with GHS. I do not look at this as a critique of GHS but more of a learning experience that should help us plan for the future. Who would have thought that the production company would be the first to share these spots online *and* would it be a big deal? We learned…this can happen and will happen again if we (as digital strategiest) do not plan accordingly.

I learned something from this experience. I must be more diligent when putting together social/digital distribution plans. I will also make sure I write better contracts/agreements with my production clients.

For GHS…they do not want others to leverage their brand, their message, their digital equity. It is important to applaud production companies for sharing the work they create. We want them to share…but it should not be at the expense of the organization’s digital message.

* Image from webaholic.com <- THANKS! 

What does electricity have to do with health?

Interview with Mr. Russell Robinson

I had the tremendous fortune to be a part of the interview process with The Duke Endowment, capturing the story from one of their Trustees. Mr. Russell Robinson is one of those Trustees and he has many stories to tell.

I walked away  with a new perspective surrounding the legacy of the Duke Endowment and Mr. James Buchanan Duke. Mr. Duke was in the tobacco business establishing the American Tobacco Company in 1890, which becomes the largest tobacco company in the world.

“James B. Duke and his brother, Ben, work together in business and in philanthropy. Their sister, Mary Duke Lyon, is an early partner in the family endeavors. With the family’s influence and support, Trinity College opens a Durham campus in 1892. In 1896, the Dukes establish a $100,000 endowment for the school with the requirement that women be admitted ‘on equal footing with men.’ Later, Trinity College became Duke University.”

Mr. Duke was later forced to close the business in the early 1900’s. But, he had a vision of how he wanted to create a legacy for years to come.

His vision was to harness the power from the Catawba River and turn it into electrical power, using the proceeds from this business to fund initiatives that support the spirit, the education, and the health of North and South Carolina.

“Duke Energy began in 1900 as the Catawba Power Company when Dr. Walker Gill Wylie and his brother financed the building of a hydroelectric power station at India Hook Shoals along the Catawba River. In need of additional funding to further his ambitious plan for construction of a series of hydroelectric power plants, Wylie convinced James Buchanan Duke to invest in the Southern Power Company, founded in 1905.”

“They felt the South’s heavy dependence on agriculture was prohibiting growth of other industries. By developing an integrated electric system of hydro-powered generating stations, they envisioned linking customers by transmission lines – and creating new opportunities for economic growth.”

Mr. Robinson shared the history of The Duke Endowment and how it’s legacy was created through the income from Duke Energy. For many years, The Duke Endowment owned majority of the shares in now Duke Energy. They have slowly divested their interest over time, re-investing in other area of the market.

The goal was to provide the financial support to create a healthy, educated, spiritually connected community. You see this in the numerous benefitiaries that are supported by The Duke Endowment. From Duke University, Duke Medical, United Methodist Church to the three other institutions Johnson C. Smith, Davidson, and Furman along with numerous hospitals and other grantees carry out the vision Mr. Duke wrote in the initial Indenture of Trust.

Mr. Robinson spent hours sharing the vision and responsibility of the Board of Trustees, the burden to carry out Mr. Duke’s Legacy. Each year, the Board of Trustees reads Mr. Duke’s Indenture of Trust (his will) as a reminder of the vision they have been empowered to carry out.

Electricity has a lot to do with health. If you live in North or South Carolina, I would be willing to bet that your community hospital has been awarded or impacted by the financial support of Mr. Duke and The Duke Endowment. All this made possible by the first hydro-electric plant on the Catawba River. This flow of power has created a long term source of support that is invested in the future health of North and South Carolina.

Thanks to Mr. Robinson for sharing this story of legacy.

Here is a great video created a few years ago, the history of James B. Duke and The Duke Endowment.

*Sources: WikiPedia, Duke Energy, & The Duke Endowment

Ethos of Blogging – Building Credibility for Revenue


Why do we blog?
So what do I mean when I say the “ethos” of blogging? So ask yourself, why do you blog? Is it a platform to tell your story? Is it a place to journal? Is it a place to build awareness for your organization? Do you make money from your blog?

Ok…so let’s tackle the last question. More and more people I talk to…more and more people want to know how to make money from your blog. Many people place ads on their blog. Many people track clicks as they help direct traffic to products and services. I like to talk about how to build credibility.

Why is credibility important?
Credibility is one the biggest issues I think we should always bear in mind when it comes to representing our interests not only in the off-line business space but the online in the digital space.

A few years ago, I was working with an investment firm that had just created a new company with a new board a directors. Once of the biggest issues they faced…credibility. Great leadership running this group but lots of bad press online after the economic collapse, especially given the fact some of the individuals came from banking.

We needed to build some online credibility. Specifically, when people performed Google searches of these individuals, we needed to have links to articles that provided content beyond the bad press. We needed to take ownership of their online identity.

A simple plan to build credibility
The new website for this company was the typical postcard web presence. We added two things: a blog and a news section. We started writing blog posts from the leadership, content they created in their voice, and posted on a regular basis. We also started posting news releases consistently on the site detailing monthly items we wanted the public to know, positive content about the company that included the board’s names inside the copy.

The next thing we did was create a Twitter account for the company and a monthly email newsletter. With Twitter, we followed all the news outlets in the region along with local businesses, agencies, and organizations where the board had relationships. We were hoping they would follow us back. Then we started sharing our news and blogs, along with items from the life of the organization.

The email newsletter was a monthly email blast to investors and influential people in region where the board had relationships. This was just a simple newsletter repurposing content from the blog and news sections of the website. We only included the first part of the news item or blog with links back to the website to read more.

Over time with consistent writing, sharing, and directing people back to the website…we began building traction. We watched the hits increase each month and we also began to notice the blogs and news items rose in the Google Rankings, especially when people performed searches of the board of directors names.

Sharing our story
*We* were sharing *our* story, sharing the story from *our* perspective, and building online credibility. So, what does this have to do with making money? *We* did not have ads on the blog or news sections. *We* did not have a product or service we were directing our clicks for revenue. *We* were building credibility for the *sales* cycle. *We* were not talking about sales or investments in the blogs or newsletters…*we* were talking about leadership, entrepreneurship, and what it was like to build this type of company model during this financial climate. We were telling our story.

The Pay-Off
This past year, a potential investor met with one of the individuals on the executive team. He had attended few group meetings and wanted to have a one-on-one meeting with a person on the executive team. When the meeting began, this potential investor shared that he had learned a lot about this executive team member. He had been reading the blog, reading the newsletter, and had enjoyed getting to know him virtually. At the end of the meeting, the individual wrote a check for a large six figure amount. Let’s just say that this investment paid for blog and the digital media consulting services was paid back more than 20 times over.

In this model…building digital credibility was a huge part of their success. Ethos is everything in the world of blogging and it is more than just thinking about direct revenue from each blog post, click, or hit. Sometimes we have to think bigger for the big return.

The Story Behing Rescued By Love – A Portrait Fundraising Effort

A few months ago, Tiffiney Addis reached out to me to see I could help here with a little project. Tiffiney is a photojournalist and has been capturing Rose’s pictures before the day she was born. And now she has become the family photographer, capturing all the important moments in Rose’s life.

This week, she hosting a photo contest that is benefitting the Bryan NICU of GHS Children’s Hospital. Her daughter was born at 21 weeks and experienced first hand the depth of experience and care in the Bryan NICU. After that day…she decided to give back.

The video above is just a small portion of her larger story and drive to make a difference. If you go to www.RescuedByLovePortraits.com, you can vote for our daughter Rose (contestant #22). Each vote is one dollar and her goal this year is $20,000, so she needs 20,000 votes.

All the money from the contest goes directly to Bryan NICU of GHS Children’s Hospital. I hope you take a few minutes and vote.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite & Melissa Mayer in Socially Responsible Messaging

So when I first watched this commercial…I was first taken in by the little chit chat conversation between a guy and girl. Here the girl has the new Kindle Paperwhite and the guy right beside her had an iPad trying to read in the sun. Any of you iPad owners know…that is nearly impossible with the glare. I have one and I know. But…I am not going to take a device to the beach.

But as the commercial moves along, the little surprise in this commercial is the fact that a new Kindle was just released. The commercial claims the Kindle Paperwhite is smaller and easier to use outside than the iPad, especially in the sun. Yep…we have seen many of these Amazon commercials comparing the Kindle to the iPad, so nothing real new.

But underneath it all, we thought there might be some little conversation that might spark where a guy was using technology to “hit on the girl” beside him. But, our conscience would not allow us to consider the reality of that thought… especially since Amazon is about pushing products.

Guess again. They not only addressed the issue of this seemingly weird conversation where a guy hits on a girl…it turns to an acceptance of the other’s relationship getting them a drink. Both with husbands.

I think this is the first time I have seen a large company like Amazon address an openly controversial topic with such ease and matter of fact. This ad leaves us knowing that both gay and straight individuals are the center point of this new product launch.

From the Inquisitr.com:
“It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos and his wife are strong allies in the fight for marriage equality. Last year, according to Reuters, they donated $2.5 million to the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state. Referendum 74 was approved by voters in Washington last November.”

“It’s a bold move for Amazon to take such a big risk when pitching its Kindle PaperWhite to potential buyers, but clearly Amazon thinks the cause of Marriage Equality is worthy of that risk.”

This ad is about business and the commitment to their social responsibility. Amazon is a worldwide brand that serves numerous different communities including those who are gay and support marriage equality. This ad just makes sense especially given the fact that companies like Amazon have an opportunity to become leaders in this multilayered conversation.

From Amazon to Yahoo…these brands are tackling issues right in front of us everyday. From marriage equality to gender equity in the workplace…the conversation is in the forefront and it is time get with the program.

From Harvard Business Review Blog:
“Marissa Mayer is no fool. She didn’t take over as Yahoo’s CEO because the company was doing well; she came on board because the stumbling Internet enterprise was an underperforming underachiever that had lost its way.

“So when Mayer decrees seven months into the job that she wants people to, you know, physically show up at work instead of telecommuting — or else — I’m pretty confident this reflects a data-driven decision more than a cavalier command. In all likelihood, Mayer has taken good, hard looks at Yahoo’s top 250 performers and top 20 projects and come to her own conclusions about who’s creating real value — and how — in her company. She knows who her best people are.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Amazon and Yahoo…the fact of the matter  is they are making a statement. And they are leveraging the digital times….because now people are not only talking about these decisions over coffee, they are sharing their thoughts online, in social outlets, and blogs like this.

By the way, the Kindle Paperwhite video was published on YouTube on February 20, 2013 and on March 4, 2012 (12 days later) the video has over 583,000 views. They are not only making a product statement, they are making a social statement and people are consuming.