[Video Blog] Content Can Be King with Focused, Passionate Writing! A Success Story!

The video above talks about my buddy Marty Boardman and how he is using his blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to build his real estate investment business. He has done this through writing great content, storytelling, and keeping a focus on his mission. Ultimately his passion shines through these social outlets.

About two years ago he had hit rock bottom with his real estate business, after generating millions in business. He and I are very close, he was best man in my wedding. So I taked with him about using a blog to start taking control of his message and use it as a focal point to educate the public about his business. Every two weeks on a conference call, we would chat about his successes. He started using his blog to write passionately about real estate investment, his business, and his goals. He started using Twitter to build relationships online and research other real estate investment news and opportunities. He started using Facebook to build a community of people with the same interests and used YouTube to show his properties and also as a video blog.

By writing and generating great content, writing passionately, connecting with others…he has leveraged these tools as a major business focus. Via these tools, he has built quality relationships that have led to over $250K in investment opportunities over the last year. He is a storyteller and he used his storytelling skills to engage his audience with passionate writing and focused content. Because of this content, the community found him and engaged with his passion.

Hats off to you Marty Boardman! To see his blog, go to http://freerealestateeducation.wordpress.com/ or his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/freerealestateeducation. You can also find him on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/MartyBoardman

Customer stories…powerful!

You know…sometimes it is better to just let your customers do the talking. Yes sir, in this world of marketing…sometimes it is better to get it straight from the horses mouth. Well, that is what Young Office thinks…so they set out to tell their story through the eyes and ears of their customers.

Building customer relationships is key in this world of business, especially in a service industry. Customers talk and they share. My grandfather always preached to me the importance of his customers and the personal relationships he forged. These relationships were not forged just over business deals and exchanging of goods/services for payment. These relationships were forged by listening, taking a personal interest in the lives each one of his customers.

Just yesterday morning, I got up early just to go sit and chat with one of my customers. It was not about business, it was not about projects…we chatted about life, good books to read, and just being entrepreneurs. Their is something to be said for getting to know your customers on a level beyond the daily grind of business. Some people like to keep business and personal separate, and I respect the way they forge relationships.  I choose to share a little about me and hope that my customers will share a little in return. Hopefully over time, that mutual respect for business will turn into mutual respect on a personal level.

That is what I think Young Office has…mutual respect on both a personal and business level with not only their customers but also their vendors. As I was going from customer to customer, interviewing each business person for the video project above…I learned a lot about Young Office. I did not learn about furniture or office environments, I learned about their relationships. I learned that they know how to listen and they know how to work on a level of partnership with each person/group they serve. Each person I interviewed from oobe, Greer Memorial Hospital, the bounce agency, USC Upstate, and Delta Apparel; the message was the same. They had an earnest trust for Young Office, trusted them with not only a costly investment for their office environment expertise…but also they trusted them with their relationship.

You can learn a lot from talking to one’s customers…that is why customer stories are so powerful. You are letting your customers spread your message and empowering others to take notice of your belief in relationships.

Video and Blogs together…hmm, great combo

There is a reason why video and blogs work together…well, it brings personality. People want more than just a reading experience that is based on search-ability and getting information; they sometimes want to connect. As much as they hate to admit it…they want to learn more. They want to learn what makes the writer tick.

Video is such a crazy thing in this world of blogging, online media, social media, and mobile connection. Video provides depth. It takes us further than the textual words, those words that writers work so hard to bring color inside each syllable. Video does that…it brings texture.

There are a few reasons I work with clients to bring video into the everyday web experience, here are a few reasons:

  1. It brings emotion to the screen. People get to see how someone talks, breaths, laughs, sighs, expresses, etc. It reveals the true emotion behind the written word.
  2. It brings texture. The written word is a two dimensional field where we write our thoughts and hope that our ability to craft sentences provides depth. Video provides a three dimensional look into the screen that Brenda Laurel describes as the “theater.”
  3. It connects social platforms together. If video is placed on YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, or any of the other social video sites…it connects rich media outlets together creating a great SEO experience for the user looking for information.
  4. It breaks up the monotony. As bloggers and writers, we get into a habit of just filling the screen with text within our blogs and web experiences. Bringing video into this online experience can bring a depth beyond the words providing connection points. People get to see who they are reading, and hear those words that are typed.
  5. Video reinforces the brand experience. It allows the user to see the branded message in action, connecting those visual cues to the written word.
  6. It takes the pressure off writing too much content. Sometimes it is better for something to be explained visually in video form, those ideas that are sometimes normally hard to explain in the written word. This takes the burden off of the copywriting or creative writing experience; allowing visuals, music, interviews, graphics to take the place of the written word.

There are many times in the world of blogging, people have a hard time articulating thoughts in written form. There are many times that a thought comes to mind, but we are not in a place to write. We are surrounded by devices that allow us to capture video. We can capture a special moment, an interview, an emotion, or we just want to talk into the camera. What ever presents itself, sometimes the camera is better suited to capture the moment than trying to write down the thought.

Use the media, do not be afraid. Video is a powerful tool especially if you want to supplement the written word.

Here are a few people who do it so well in the blogging context:

Organizations that do it well:

So bottom-line, do not be afraid to use that camera and integrate some video into your online experience. You can provide the rich insight many people are seeking.

What is social video???

So I have been thinking what makes video social? Yes….what makes our video content connect with audiences in a social, fluid environment. Well, it is my opinion that it comes down to technology and content. Seriously, there has to be relevant content that relates to an audience in a way that makes them have the desire to share. Then, once they want to share…it has to be supported by technology that does not prohibit the ability to share.

Recently I have been harping on Flash Video and how it marginalizes certain audiences…and this is all about technology. If I have a device and a friend shares a video with me, I click to watch and cannot view the content because the technology does not support Flash…then the video is not social.

So when I think about the technology aspect of social video, it can be broken into two arenas: enabling the ability to share the video and enabling the ability to search and find the video. But before we get to technology…let’s try to talk about characteristics of social video. So let’s think through this a bit…ways we can make our video content social.

Content:

  • The video message has to be compelling.
  • The video message has to have an action item.
  • The video appeals to our emotions.
  • The video message makes us want to share.

Technology:

  • The video has to be hosted and compressed so that it plays fluidly in majority of online environments.
  • The video player that displays the video is using the latest technology to meet your target audience’s devices needs. If it is HTML5, Flash, Quicktime, or what ever…it needs to be able to reach the largest section of audiences to consume the video content.
  • The video content has to be associated with searchable terms. We know what it means to make our webpages rich with searchable words…but now our video has to SEO rich. So whereever it is hosted, it must support searchable tags and video descriptions.
  • The video content must have a permalink to link directly to that video. You do want people to share your video, so it must have a link to post on social sites and email for reference.
  • The video content must have rich embed options. You want the masses have the ability to embed your video into your blogs, websites, and other online media outlets.
  • The video content needs to have the ability to have a title that is associated with the video. Places like YouTube and Vimeo provide that option to make the content searchable.

Let me give you two examples:

1) IT-oLogy Open House:

I worked on a project a few months ago with the sole purpose of telling the story of a new brand at an open-house. IT-oLogy was formerly the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management. They were launching their new brand at the open house for their new building. So we produced a video that had all their partners and supporting agencies describing IT-oLogy in their own terms. We made the video fun, goofy, yet appealing to the 250 plus people that would attend.

When I showed up to make it play on their new big screen, the people were still installing the technology that supported video playback. So…we uploaded it to YouTube in full 1080p and played it on a big 50 foot screen from YouTube. They had the bandwidth to support the higher quality and it played well. When we uploaded it to YouTube…we made sure we named it properly, gave a rich description, and implemented logical tags. When people left, they wanted to go find the video. Why…because it was cool plus most of the people in the room knew the people in the video and wanted to share with their co-workers. They were able to embed in their blogs, email the YouTube link to their friends, share it on social outlets. A quality message maximizing technology to enable sharing.

2) My Class at Clemson

I was putting together a presentation about finding your passion. I found this great video called “Where good ideas come from.” I wanted to share it with my class during my afternoon session. I like to use my business Facebook page as a place to save cool links that I might want to comeback to later. So I posted the YouTube link to my Facebook page with a description of it’s intended purpose. So when I got to class, I pulled up the video from my Facebook page and played it for the class and they loved it. Afterwards, I noticed that a conversation started happening on Facebook under the link I posted.

The conversation was around entrepreneurship and where great ideas come from. People from the academic world, business world, entrepreneurs, etc. were commenting and discussion the underlying theme behind the video. At the same time, before I could email the link to my students, one of them posted the link to their Facebook page thanking me for sharing in class. That means that they were able to do a Google search for the video, find it, grab the link from the video, and share with her friends. Steven Johnson was the speaker in this video and a group called RSA Animate produced the visuals. These people not only inspired me to share with my friends, students, and colleagues….but they also inspired and enabled others to share. The content was engaging and inspiring and the technology was seamless to enable the ability to share.

What are your thoughts? How are you using video socially?

Social Video – Get with the program!

What the heck do I mean by this? Well…for many of us digital geeks out there, this might be a no-brainer. But…the world is changing in the Social Video space faster than someone can upload the next YouTube video.

If you want to compete in the viral, social marketing space…then just go ahead and give in to YouTube and Vimeo. Seriously…if you are self-hosting content or have vendors hosting video for you, then you are in a DARK DARK ROOM.

Over two years ago, I was pitching to clients to be skeptical of YouTube, Vimeo, and other free video hosting outlets. I was telling them that “they” own your content that is uploaded and you would have to worry about protecting your brand. Well…I was saying that because I was trying to sell video storage, compression, and distribution like I was the next big venture. GUESS WHAT…that game, that technology is just a commodity.

If you are a marketing department, you really need to know the following about your video content:

1) The ability to play your content over a wide range of devices from Windows, Macs, and Linux based desktops and laptops is necessary. You also need to be able to reach the real growing crowd…MOBILE DEVICES. With 4G here…we will be watching video content like we are drinking our favorite frosty beverage…GUZZLE, GUZZLE, GUZZLE.  So…if someone cannot watch you latest marketing video because it is hosted using a Flash or WMV player…the you are marginalizing a large portion of your audience. HTML5 players are the next innovation for playback of your video content. Why do you think YouTube, Vimeo, Brightcove, Sorenson, and many others have implemented this technology.

2) The local production shop who is hosting your video DOES NOT have the SEO like YouTube and Vimeo can provide. Seriously, when you embed a video hosted on these two platforms…you are connecting some of the largest search engines to your page via the video content. When you upload the video to YouTube and Vimeo, you can provide a detailed description, tags, location where it was shot…and all of this follows the video when you embed it into your website. The local shop is not owned by a search engine, so they do not specialize in SEO. So if you are paying to host content on their private servers, then pay to have the final video released to you and upload it to your YouTube channel.

3) YouTube and Vimeo also come with a community. Yes, people are searching these sites for video content based on their interests and comment right below the video. So…the community is built around the content, engaging audiences beyond the website you have it embedded. The search engines like this!

4) The quality of the playback is great. You can look at HD quality video right over your home network. That is backed by huge teams of technology experts that make it their mission to make your picture quality look great. Why do you think Hollywood uses these outlets to release Trailers…hmm?

5) It is so CHEAP. YouTube is free and Vimeo is $60 per year. So why are you paying monthly fees for hosting when your marketing message cannot be viewed on some the latest mobile devices? I do not know, but you might want to reconsider.

This post is truely meant for viral marketing efforts for video. There is TREMENDOUS value in using private hosting and Flash video for private video messages. You not only can control the distribution, but you also force individuals to watch the content in specific types of technology. There is value in this model.

Thoughts…think I am crazy? There are some business that would like to scream at me…but oh well. Why am I writing about this…because large organizations are still operating in yesterday’s thinking.

Marketing Departments- Say NO TO FLASH VIDEO, please

Seriously, the debate is the debate…Flash Video, HTML5, H264…I get it already. We still have not decided on a standard for web video. But seriously, Flash just is not working. I do not care if you think it is the best thing slice bread…instead, take that sliced bread and make a PB&J while reading this post.

So why is Flash not working, seriously? Because we are in the world of mobile users. Yeah, those smart phones that your audience is enjoying right now.

If you have a marketing department and spending tons of money on video hosting for your public marketing video…then you are getting freaking bad advice. Dump the video hosting for your marketing video and put everything on YouTube and Vimeo. Seriously…if the White House and every other major marketing group out there is doing it, then you should too!

Here is why:

1) YouTube and Vimeo are in the business of providing high quality video content to the masses…it is their business. So they are going to have the latest technology when it comes to players. Bottom-line, you will be able to watch the content on just about any device out there!

2) YouTube and Vimeo will have better SEO opportunities than any other private hosting option out there!  Why, because most of the video content out there is on their servers and it is their business to optimize for searches. Oh yeah, last year…YouTube was the Number #2 search engine.

3) YouTube and Vimeo provide a multitude of options for embedding in web outlets and social sites. Every time you upload a video to YouTube or Vimeo, they provide an easy embed option into your website and blog. They provide easy click options from playing solely in HD, changing the size, etc. Also…the share link makes it so easy to populate into Facebook, allowing the user to watch the video inside Facebook without having to leave to go to another website.

4) YouTube and Vimeo have figured out this whole compression thing for you. You can practically upload just about any video file and it convert the file for you and give you thumbnail options, so you do not have to manually choose and upload some image as the pause screen.

5) YouTube and Vimeo display HD Video content and it looks ROCK SOLID! For a huge conference in Columbia, we uploaded a completely uncompressed HD video to YouTube, and played it for an auditorium for a dignitaries from YouTube. Why, because the computer in the conference room was having a hard time working with about every video file we put on the Windows 7 desktop. So, since it looked great in HD and it played nicely without pause via YouTube…it was displayed in 1080p over a 50 foot screen. The crowd cheered at the end!

6) YouTube and Vimeo offer private viewing of video content. So, if you want to restrict the audience and move away from totally public consumption, the option is there. Yes…you can even restrict to private links so that you have to have that specific link to watch the video content.

7) If you are a large organization, you can create categories to separate video messages according to topics, departments, etc. You can create your own video vault without the hefty price tag! Seriously…YouTube is FREE! Vimeo is also free but offers a premium package for $60/year! YES!!!! Between FREE AND $60/YEAR. Compare that to your monthly spending on your pretty server for marketing video.

Why did I write this…because I was irritated the other day when I tried to open a video message on my iPad and the video was Flash. The video link was from a Twitter and Facebook post of a major organization. I went to my desktop and the video message was intended for a mass audience. Now I realize that iPads and Apple devices are only a finite portion of the user audience. BUT…Apple users are a major audience in mobile video usage. WHY MARGINALIZE YOUR MESSAGE! Just put the dang thing up on YouTube/Vimeo and take advantage of the community.

So if you are  spending tons of money to host video content for marketing purposes…RE-NEGOTIATE! If your marketing message needs to hit a broad audience, take advantage of the technology, SEO, and community of these outlets. BTW…YouTube is one the top search engines…NUFF SAID!

Done with my rant.

Creative Approach to Storytelling



I have had numerous people ask me, what is your approach to your business…your creative approach. Well, I could talk or even lecture about my approach. It comes from years and years of experience, training, education, and teaching. So…here it is in two paragraphs.

Bobby Rettew, llc – Creative Approach to Storytelling
Storytelling has been and will always be the major focus of how we work with our clients. Every organization has a story to tell, so it is up to us practitioners to find and tell that story. We work with organizations to identify the audience, the purpose, and the delivery of each and every message. Then we create a plan that best identifies the message within the organization, and work with the organization to deliver that message.

We bring a documentary approach to production, looking within and allowing the individuals within the organization to become the voice of the message.  We have the ability to write and craft a traditional-style message, but we find that if the organization and its members are a part of the message, then the audience connects with the organization. We use the storytelling approach to building relationships.

4G LTE Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Hospitals.

4G LTE Demonstration Let’s just say I was amazed by the Verizon 4G LTE demonstration today at Verizon’s Corporate Office here in Greenville, SC. As I watching them describe and demonstrate the capability…I was thinking, man this is going to change the way we do business.

The 700 Mhz is where the LTE network will exist, the part of the spectrum that will penetrate walls and buildings further than any other part of the spectrum currently in use. Also, the speed of the 4G LTE network is just as fast as my home connection, if not faster than my Charter home network of 8 Mb/s download and 3 Mb/s. Yes…over a wireless connection! The demonstration test using Speedtest.net showed the speed of the 4G LTE card in the laptop was running 14 Mb/s download and 8 Mb/s upload speed…THAT IS FREAKING FAST! Fast enough to do full 720p video calls over the wireless, mobile network…with plenty left over for the video grid demonstration.

My iPhone4 phone with 3G probably is running at roughly 2 Mb/s download speed and 0.3 Mb/s upload speed. So, in the next few months, the Greenville/Spartanburg area will see this new network released with a whole new set of devices tapping into this speed. Many of the major metropolitan areas like Atlanta, Charlotte, LA, New York already have access. 38 markets and 60 airports currently have this network. So what does any of this have to do with healthcare?

First…more connectivity to the grid. Devices will be a part of everyday life in healthcare.  From tablets in emergency departments to ambulances with streaming content/video back and forth, assessment of patient care during transport. This is just one of the areas healthcare will see this change. But here is another, hospital administrators will have a harder time restricting access to the Internet and social platforms.

Yes, many hospitals have been debating whether to “open up the pipes” to employees, allowing them access to Internet sites and social outlets. Two major concerns, bandwidth and employee performance. Well guess what…the hospital’s Internet and  Social Media policy just became harder to write and enforce. LTE technology not only provides speed but also hospital building penetration with the 700 Mhz spot on the spectrum. Yes…it can get through more think walls.

These devices are going to become even more necessary, as a part of the connected network for making diagnoses. Also, who is going to provide these devices to healthcare professionals? Will the hospitals pay part of the bill, splitting it with the professional. Then which part of the content created on the device is owned by the hospital? Then, can the other part can be used for personal reasons?

But let’s put aside the concern over hospital employee productivity. How about the patients and patient families. They will have access to the these devices, speed, network, and the spectrum. Now, they can get online, post pics, maybe do some video over Skype. But with this upgrade to LTE technology…more pictures, videos, and information will be shared inside the walls of the hospital. How about patient privacy? How about the media outlet that dresses up in street clothes, walks into a hospital, and streams video content from inside the walls of the hospital. Now, these are extreme cases to consider…but access to the network and speed will no longer be an issue. And hospitals are not the only major organizations facing this change in accessibility and connectivity.

Yes…LTE technology is going to force us to rethink…A LOT! I know I am going to re-think my current AT&T plan, but it looks like they will be releasing their own LTE network. How about our home Internet providers? Especially given the comparable speeds. And many business will be rethinking their internal policies, what employees can do while at work and what devices they can use.

The Clergy Health Initiative is Creating a Sustainable Change



I am always amazed with the stories when I start working on a new project. There are so many stories all over. I am not sure if you have taken the time to visit Duke University’s campus, but it is absolutely beautiful. But in the heart of the campus is the chapel. “A magnificent Gothic sanctuary with a landmark tower located at the most prominent point on an impressive university campus.” It reminded me of touring Europe and some of the beautiful chapels in Rome and France. But what makes this trip so special is the story of Clergy Health.

The Duke Endowment states, “Studies indicate that clergy are among the nation’s most overworked people, and that the long hours and constant stress of the job weigh on their health and lead to many pastors failing to take care of themselves. Another factor: The average age of clergy is rising, which brings with it more health issues.”

We met with Robin Swift who is with the Duke Divinity’s School Clergy Health Initiative, and she talked on camera about the overall importance of this initiative and the broadening effects.

Bottomline, “The Duke Endowment has awarded $12 million for the creation of a Clergy Health Initiative administered by Duke Divinity School and focusing on helping United Methodist ministers in North Carolina tend to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.” That is a huge investment for the Duke Endowment, not only in financial resources, but in the foresight to see and understand the need for health initiatives to better serve future congregations and their clergy.

New York Times wrote an article in August, 2010 talking about this very issue of Clergy Health, specifically in the New York Region. “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”

Robin Swift said during our conversation that it is a challenge for ministers given their “job description.” Many travel, go into congregations’ homes, sometimes offered un-healthy dinner options, and little time to exercise. Also, the United Methodist Church require clergy to constantly move, changing churches between every 7 years and sometimes every 2 years. As they serve their flock, it is harder and harder to pay attention to their own health, because they are trained to put their congregations first.

The Duke Divinity School is researching this issue and working with Clergy to find better ways to create a healthy lifestyle. The one thing that really stood out to me, this initiative is not just telling Clergy what they think they need to do; they are spending more time asking how they can help. Listening is a major part of this initiative, searching for ways to help each Clergy and meet the needs where they exist.

Over the next month or so, I will be working with the Duke Endowment to tell the stories of the Clergy Health Initiative and how it is helping create change in the lives of the Clergy in North Carolina.

These are the type of impactful stories I like to tell, stories that are creating change in lives of people around us!

To learn more about the Clergy Health Initiative,  here are some links below:

Duke Divinity’s School Clergy Health Initiative Blog – CLICK HERE
The Duke Endowment’s Commitment to Clergy Health – CLICK HERE
NY Times Article: Taking a break from the Lord’s Work – CLICK HERE

Finding stories in your organization. Where are they?

As the year begins to come to a close, what are the stories you have told over the last year. Now, I do not necessarily mean what book have you read out-loud to a group of people…but stories have you sought out to find and share? In the world of marketing, branding, and pr…we find ourselves wrapped up in mission statements, branding guidelines, and style guides. Stories break all conventions…they tear down the walls of the status-quo.

I recently connected with a talented photojournalist on Twitter. Her name is Debbi Morello (@debmorello) and she is one hell of a photojournalist. Take a few minutes to check out her website here: http://www.debbimorello.com/. To me, it is hard to find people that share the same visual interests in the visual storytelling medium, taking a documentary style approach to marketing and pr…to bring the human element into the visual medium, provide a voice for those who know the story best.

When I was a young journalist, I attended many workshops with the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA.org) and Poynter Institute. These groups helped break down all the conventions and instill in me the need to always listen for the story. Think about it for a second, how many times did you think you wanted to tell a story one way, and it ends up taking an evolution of it’s own. The subjects/people shape the story.

When I walk into situations, I always listen for the story…not just look for the story. Now I realize that I am visual storyteller, but our ears are the most powerful sense. I remember going out to Wenden, Arizona after hearing reports of a town being flooded after a big rain. You see…when it rains for an extended period of time in the desert, the dry ground does not soak up the water…it has to flow somewhere. It typically flows into the valleys of the desert where southwestern towns are centralized.

I remember pulling out my camera and and listening for people, people struggling to figure out this disaster. They shaped the story. There was no need for some fancy writing, just real people telling real stories.

We can apply these same concepts inside the walls of our organizations. We can use our social skills and our senses to listen for the stories that reinforce and strengthen our organization’s message. We can move away from marketing backgrounds and become more PR/journalistic. We are storytellers inside. We like to document life. Why do you think Facebook is so successful? It is because we want to share, share our story with our friends, family, and colleagues. We take pictures, video, write our thoughts, and upload for all to see. We are writing our life story. We like to share stories.

What if we took that same initiative within our organizations. Listen for the stories within the organization and share them. Imagine just taking one or two hours a week, and walk through the halls of your workplace. Listening to the conversations, the stories. Imagine writing them down and sharing them with the world. They might want to share with their friends…more stories…bigger community of like minded people. Stories are fun. So…what stories have you told this year?

What are the stories you are telling within your organization? Please share…I am interested!