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Legacy Day at Clemson University – Series of Short Films

One of my favorite projects to work on over the years is the Legacy Day Project at Clemson University. Legacy Day is an event dedicated to sharing Thomas Green Clemson’s legacy. It started a few years ago when Clemson released the new book “Thomas Green Clemson” exploring many aspects of the life of Clemson University’s founder.

The book was released in 2009 and shared for the first time during the first Legacy Day in November that same year. Many special donors were invited to the lawn of Fort Hill Mansion to interact with students, faculty, staff, and general public as an opportunity to share the life long legacy of Mr. Clemson.

Clemson’s Marketing Department wanted to create a video campaign to attract students to the event in November 2009. So we tried to capture and share the spirit of Thomas Green Clemson in these short films, showing Mr. Clemson helping students around campus. The theme was to represent Mr. Clemson’s determined spirit, how it was and still is all around us. Each short film was produced with student… and delivered via Facebook by students across campus. Each week, a new film was released showcasing the many ways Mr. Clemson is all around us.

This year, Clemson Marketing Department wanted to produce another series of short films to continue this storyline. The first film released shows Mr. Clemson helping Tanner Smith, a Clemson Basketball player, struggling during a weight lifting exercise. At the end, you will see Tanner getting excited giving Mr. Clemson a hug after being spotted during his bench press routine. Mr. Clemson stepped in to help.

More short films will be released over the next two weeks leading up to Legacy Day on November 11, 2011. The best part of this project, students were involved in the creation and execution. They are also a major part of the distribution of these short films using Facebook and YouTube as a way to distribute these videos across their network of friends.

Here is a link to the Facebook Event: CLICK HERE

Here is a link to read more about the “Thomas Green Clemson” book: CLICK HERE

Social & Digital Platforms – The New Documentary Film Platform

I am someone that loves to tell stories and I love to tell stories through the eyes of people. I like to take that journalistic approach to storytelling, documenting a topic and exploring the ideas surrounding the people engrained in a topic. We see so many great documentary storytellers, bring topics to the forefront…told in a journalistic approach.

Many times, documentaries tell a series of small stories connected by a common theme that make up the documentary. It could be a person or a host that guides us through the documentary, it could be voice over that ties all the pieces together…regardless, there is something that ties the pieces of the puzzle together fluidly. Let’s look at how Wikipedia defines documentary “film making”:

“Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record.”

I am starting to find more and more organizations are creating this in whole new way, using digital platforms as a method of connecting mini-documentaries, shorter pieces as a part of a bigger piece. Instead of having one big 30 minute to 2 hour documentary…I am seeing the opportunity to use blogs, YouTube Channels, and other online mother-ships as a place to connect these mini-stories. They are connecting these stories in a linear historical fashion, delivered over time to tell a larger story.

Here is a few reasons I think we are seeing more and more of this:

1) Reach
2) Time
3) Money
4) The Digital Effect
5) Audience Engagement

It takes a lot of time and money to produce one documentary, one complete video/film about a topic and distribute through traditional means. Organizations that have lots of stories to tell, lots of historical information to share, lots of issues to tackle can do so using online distribution and connection.

An organization can produce shorter videos/films that can be tied together via one simple website, providing textual information about each short film, then share these short documentaries via blogs and other social outlets.

The blog or web presence that house’s these short films creates the theme (or the red-string) that connects the dots between these short films. This allows the organization to tell richer stories over time, documenting a path, and creating an online voice that has a huge digital effect…a pipeline for audiences to find their message. Let me be clear, these series of blog posts in a web presence is the documentary housing the short videos and the text in one evolving documentary.

This concept combines all of the following:

1) The power of rich, visual storytelling using video
2) The SEO and technological power of YouTube
3) The strategic writing of blogs and web
4) Distribution power of Social Outlets

What makes this so powerful to tell a story over time? Well, it is the way to continually engage and build a community. Traditionally, we would produce one documentary film and distribute this one piece in numerous venues. We would spend years documenting a story then wait until the whole story is complete, then share. NOW, we can tell this story as it is unfolding, building a community around a message where ever people have access to online media.

This is the real shift in thinking and production. No more waiting til the end of the story to release the documentary…we can produce and release as the story is evolving, using blogs or web as the means to connect each piece together over time.

Let me share one example: InvisblePeople.tv. Mark Horvath (@HardlyNormal) is a documentary storyteller sharing stories of homeless people across the country. This is how Mark defines his mission, “InvisiblePeople.tv road trip keeps getting bigger continuing to be a catalyst for change in the fight against homelessness.” He has first hand knowledge about this topic, he used to be homeless.

I briefly met Mark in Chicago during SOBCON2011 and was extremely impacted and inspired by his ongoing passion. He has been traveling across the country, meeting more and more homeless people, documenting short videos, and sharing them on InvisiblePeople.tv. His story is linear in time, evolving in scope, and could be diminished by trying to produce one big, final video/film. He used the web and a blog to connect all the short documentaries together helping him build awareness and community. Then he used social outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace to share with his friends and followers. POWERFUL.

***Image from France24 International News where Mark Horvath was a guest contributor.

Finding inspiration for your blog…be yourself!

There was a wonderful discussion on #Blogchat Sunday night surrounding how do we find inspiration to blog when we are faced with writers block. Great discussion and great question. I think this is a bigger question than just blogging…it is a creative writing question.

Blogging is a digital display of  our most passionate thoughts. It is the place to share our ideas, our thoughts, our visions, our business…it is our editorial voice for online ownership. Blogging is very personal.

So how do we take something so personal and put it to paper, as the old cliche goes. What makes us sit down and type away, and share our thoughts with a mass audience. It comes from inspiration…it is the connection between our ideas and how we articulate these ideas in a digital paradigm. Most people think blogging is just about writing. Some of the best blogs are more that just words, they are pictures, videos, podcasts…they are the visual representation of our thoughts.

In order to understand the question how to find inspiration to blog or write…we must figure out what inspires us. Inspiration comes from connection…how we are able to connect with our ideas and articulate those ideas in a way for others to consume. How, when, where do I find inspiration? It is about trust and listening. We have to trust our instincts and listen to the little creative bug that says, “that is a great idea…so you better write it down.”

Blogging is more than just inspiration. Inspiration comes at the oddest times for me. It might come at 4am when I am laying awake in the bed. It might be standing in the shower. It might be when I am riding down the road. But when a creative thought comes across my mind…I know I must find a way to document and articulate that thought. If I am driving, I might try to record some audio of my thoughts. If it is in the middle of the night…I might pick-up my iPad and jot down some notes. If it is a visual image infront of me, I might pull out my camera and snap a picture.

Blogging is more than just writing…it is capturing and articulating media. So many people preach that we must use pictures, video, and other digital mediums to grab interest or even leverage SEO. Yeah…those are great thoughts. But as a documentary storyteller, I think we should use those mediums to articulate our thoughts. We should use video when video explains our thoughts better than the written word. We should use images or pictures when reinforcing our written argument. We should use audio from a podcast or MP3 when sounds bring meaning and depth to our explanations.

Blogging is more than just communication…it is illustrating our digital thoughts in a way so the visual world can see our world view. Blogging is the one time we can combine all the visual and digital means to share our thoughts. We have the ability to help our audiences navigate through our story.

So where do we find inspiration…make sure we are truly connected to why we write, why we blog, why we share. Trust that if we are not inspired to write, blog, or even share…to trust that inspiration will present itself again. We just have to be willing to listen to our creative inspiration…and share those thoughts.

***Image is from Christina Berry’s Blog: http://christinaberry.me/inspiration/

Content is Passion. Content is SEO. Content is King

Content is Passion
Write passionately…I say. So many people have the hardest time writing inside a blog, especially in the very beginning…why? They are searching for their voice. A blog is created for some reason, it could be for business or even for a personal reasons…we write because we have something yearning inside to share. We share it on a public space because we want to connect. We could write in a private journal, but there is some reason we write publicly. We have a passion and it drives our fingers across the keyboard.

Connecting our passion with focused writing generates an audience that can connect, engage, and share. This focused writing channels the passion into key words that begin to index inside the search engines. This allows like minded individuals to find you (YES YOU) based on topics and keywords. The more we write from the heart, the more people can connect based on the social search algorithms that drive Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other outlets.

Content is SEO
Your blog is your mother ship. It is the hub for almost all your digital media properties…why? It is so dynamic and content rich, it provides a rich field of words that Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines index daily. Your mother ship is the home base because we share what we passionately write in one single place…our blog. We share this blog via social outlets, distribution points like newsletters, word-of-mouth, and even email. We point people back to our blog because it is the home of our most creative, carefully craft thoughts.

We want people to read, so we will do just about anything to get them to read. Each time we share our content via distribution points, and direct them back to our blog…the search engines love us. The more we write, the more hits we get, the more we share, the more our confidence grows, the more we find our voice. The more we write…the more the search engines index our dynamic home base. SEO is driven by passionate writing!

Content is King
I hear more people say this is “bullshit”, specifically that content is king. I disagree…it is proven by the SEO and the community that finds you based on the passion you write. The more you write, the more you find your voice, the more you focus…the more you connect. As you focus your writing, you can use outlets like Wordle.net to create word clouds based on your writing.

Wordle.net will create this “cloud” providing indicators of the words most frequently used in your posts. This is an indicator of your passion, the passionate content that allows people searching the search engines to find you and connect. As you fine tune those key words, focus your passion…the better the content of your blog is shaped. Your voice matures and you begin not only writing for your audience…yet writing with your audience. Why…because your audience has found you, commented on your posts, and inspired you to write more. Content is KING.

Searching for Inspiration: Leadership Summit 2011 – Part 8

Here is a question that I think plagues us creatives…those times when we feel we lack creativity and passion. Enjoy the eighth question in this series from the Clemson’s Leadership Summit 2011.

Do you recall a time when you lacked creativity and passion, but needed it to be successful? What was your emotional response to the situation? What lessons did you learn from it? Do think those lessons are still relevant for today’s leaders?

Everyday I battle the ability to deliver creatively! I get paid to be creative and to be passionate in the way I deliver this creativity. Creativity strikes when I do not expect. I cannot force it to come to fruition…it is like an old, dependable friend who chooses to visit when you least expect it.

Some of my greatest ideas have come to fruition in the middle of the night. I have won all my awards from 3am inspiration. I remember working in Phoenix, producing a story of a lady who broke out of South Phoenix and welfare, working to get her life back on track. We had been following her story for months…tracking her progress from the rundown apartment with a littered front yard…to a new home and new job. I just could not figure out how to put it all together. To write the words, to weave the interviews, to expose the moments in time that bring an audience to the edge of their seats. I lived an hour away from the office and at 3am…I sat up in my bed, jumped in the car, raced to the station, and edited the story. This was when Avid and FCP were not available on cute little MacBookPros. We had large computer systems to edit.

We have to be willing to listen to our hearts and when inspiration comes to visit, just like that old friend, we have to be willing to capture that moment in time and exercise that creative passion.

Here is this story below that I was referring, big thanks to my partner Laurie Raymond from KPHO-TV for her great reporting!

Integrating creativity/passion into a leadership style. [Leadership Summit 2011 – Part 7]

Here is the question that was posed during the 2011 Leadership Summit last week at Clemson At The Falls.

What are the biggest myths and/or mistakes leaders make in how they interpret and integrate creativity/passion into their leadership styles? What do most leaders often get right? Wrong?

A good leader knows how to find the creativity and passion in his/her group(s) of people, and help them unlock their god given natural talents to lead. My mentor Leighton Cubbage talks about this concept of providing a team to tap into their greatest potential. I also think about the idea surrounding how the Dalai Lama embraces this mentality, stating “there goes my people, I am following.”

I have worked for a few large organizations across the country, and leadership has mistaken passion/creativity as a threatening attribute. Whether it is insecurity or maybe they considered a person’s passion a liability.  But, what if leadership spent time trying to fully understand where this passion originated inside a person. What if an organization’s leader learned to channel that passion/creativity, capitalizing that energy to benefit not only the organization…but the person who is craving to be a part of the team.

IMHO…leaders must learn to listen and recognize that they do not have all the answers. John Maxwell tells a story in his book “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” how a new leader (CEO) broke away from his corner office and put his desk right in the middle of the whole business. He allowed people to connect with him, share ideas, and allow the freedom of expression to thrive. He listened to his people and allowed his people to share. Once again…it is about language and the ability to communicate. I love the interview above as John Maxwell talks about the premise of his book.

I was also fortunate enough to work with a very smart leader, Mike Riordan. He wanted to start a blog to share his thoughts as a leader in health care and as the CEO of one of the largest health systems in the Southeast. His blog allowed him to connect not only with the outside world, but the employees of Greenville Hospital System. From topics of heath care reform, big budget decisions, to the new academic center in the Greenville, the employees of Greenville Hospital System began reading and connecting. Yes, he may have a corner office, but this tool allowed him to open his doors and engage in conversation with all walks of people right inside the walls of Greenville Hospital System.

It is more than communication…it is connecting. But…communication tools can provide the opportunity for leadership to share their passions and creatively connect with like minded individuals.

Can passionate leadership hinder you? [Leadership Summit 2011 – Part 6]

What does Leadership Passion look like? What does your own Leadership Passion look like? How has it helped you? Has it ever hindered you?

This was a tough question to answer…but one that must be posed to leadership. Here is my thoughts to the above questions.

I think I started answering this question in the prevision: Can Passion be taught? [Leadership Summit 2011 – Part 5].

Passion is language. We are built with passion inside us…it is a part of our pathos. It just takes someone, something, an event, and time period…something to give passion “language.” We have those feelings inside, we get excited about something, but we must learn how to communicate that passion. Some can find the right words, some communicate their passion through music, dance, drawing, or whatever…but the ability to share our passion is finding language to express. That is where leadership comes into play…how can we lead those to find and share their passion? We must be willing to equally share our passions. We help the people around us bring language to their inner most desires…that desire is leadership.

Passion can sometimes have an equal force in the equation. When we share our passion, we can attract a group of common minded people. We can also marginalize those that do not share the same passion. Sometimes our passion makes us stand upon solid ground where others choose not to go, and it can sometimes hurt the relationships around us. This idea of passion and marginalizing groups of people makes me think of Dissoi Logoi…the idea of opposing arguments.

Here is an interesting discussion centered around the idea of Dissoi Logoi:

By putting yourself as fully into each side as possible, you begin to see the internal logic of each position. This insight is important for several reasons. First, it may help you to be more understanding of your opponents’ position (they’re not always the fools we think they are when we haven’t explored their position carefully). Second, it may make it possible for you to find some area of common ground between the two positions that will produce cooperation rather than arguing to “win.” Third, even if you think the opponents’ view is wrong and must be defeated, you at least know what arguments they are likely to use, and you can figure out how to disarm those arguments ahead of time.

As leaders, we must be cognizant of our passion and fully understand the opposing viewpoints of those we marginalize. My passion may and has turned people off, hurt people’s feelings, or even created rifts in relationships. Learning to be a leader is learning how to manage that passion, channeling that passion when it is appropriate, and understand when it might have a negative effect on those surrounding us.

My passion has hindered me. I have lost friends, hurt family members, and even compromised business relationships. But those who stood by me during those times have been the ones that provided wonderful long-term relationships. Has passion hindered you?

Can Passion be taught? [Leadership Summit 2011 – Part 5]

I love this question! LOVE IT!

Passion does not need to be taught…it is already inside of us…it is part of our DNA.

It is embedded inside our very language…it is the discourse that cannot escape us. Think about one thing that if the world was going to end next week…what would you really want to do with your life?

What is the one thing in the world, in your world that makes you get up in the morning and smell the breath of life. The one thing that fuels your fire. This one thing that makes you do things that you never expected you would ever do if logic took complete control of your life.

Finding that passion is part of our coming of age. I remember the first time I found the entrepreneurial spirit inside of me. I was working for a technology company, and my mentor had passion like no other. He had the unbelievable ability to help me see life through his eyes. He taught me that there is no such thing as failure and that swinging the bat is a good thing. He has a passion for entrepreneurship.

Passion is language…it is like learning a new word, and once it has entered your vocabulary…it is hard to remove that word from your everyday routine. So how do you find that passion? You surround yourself with passionate people sharing a common cause. That is why you find great entrepreneurial leaders spending lots of time building great board’s of directors or advisors. They have a desire to surround themselves with the same, equally yoked, passionate people.

Passion is language and we have it embedded inside our hearts…we just have to learn the words to express those inner most feelings.

[Leadership Summit 2011] Creativity & Passion Means – Part 4

Here is the fourth post in my series of answering questions from Clemson’s Leadership Summit 2011, questions surrounding Creativity and Passion. Enjoy!

How have you incorporated creativity into your leadership style? Was it easy? Difficult? What are you still working on in the area of creativity & passion?

First of all, I do not consider myself a great leader. This is not a self-deprecating statement. It is the truth…I am a young professional with a lot to learn. But this is what I have learned about using creativity as a means to lead.

There is a lot of trust involved and you have to paint a great, tangible picture where the light at the end of the tunnel seems reachable. You hear many people talk about how business relationships are built on trust…HELL YES. I would not be where I am today if it was not for trust. But leading with creativity is not a tough idea to embark…it takes a plan. You have to have some sort of rubric in place that guides people through a creative process. Something that allows people to feel grounded in an approach.

John Warner tells a great story about Virginia Uldrick who started the Governor School for the Arts. Here is a school teacher who is teaching finger painting and positions herself on various leadership positions to create this high seminary of learning. In an interview, John Warner asks her how does she attract such fine teachers of ballet and hold them accountable to perform as teachers. Virginia has to answer to the legislature…so how does she hold such creative people accountable to perform. She states that she is an out-of-the-box thinker and John keys in on that statement…asking “What do you mean you are an out of the box thinker.” He wants to know how to harness this creative tension. She states to John…that if these ballet instructors can perform at the highest level…she will build the grandest stage for them to perform. John states…now who would not want to “work” for Virginia? Well…who would not want to work with Virginia, along side the vision of creativity?

*** Image is a Degas Painting from The Painter’s Studio Blog: http://thepainterstudio.blogspot.com/2010/04/my-love-of-ballet.html