“You are a moron.” “Please get professional help.” “The only thing I understand after reading this Op-Ed is that critical thinking is no friend of yours.” “Congratulations! You are now in bed with Neo Nazis. Yay for you!” “Ms Craven, you are an idiot.” “I think this woman has p.o.o.p for brains.” “…aaaaand you’re dumb.”
This is some of the incendiary commentary that was written in response to my first-ever Op-Ed revealing coming out and quietly voting for Donald Trump. Need I say more about why some people chose to stay in the closet?
Name calling is not the answer. Having a dialogue and genuinely listening to one another is. Let us be reminded that civility matters.
Unfortunately, it seems that hard fought elections today are more like watching a modern-day cock fight with the allure of seeing animals peck themselves to death. Both candidates lacked civility during this campaign and it would be preferable if the candidates and their surrogates had lived up to the words Michele Obama delivered at the Democratic National Convention, “When they go low, we go high.”
In this web-of-inclusion world, news travels fast. Surprisingly, the Op-Ed resonated in ways not imagined. I have heard both positive and negative commentary from people all over the United States and from far-away places like Lisbon, Portugal. But one of the most touching and heartwarming personal email messages I received, was from a gentleman from my past. He was from Eastern NC and I had come to know him during my college presidency. It brought back a vivid memory of our shared experience when we successfully dealt with differing viewpoints and a sensitive conflict. It has some relevance here. Allow me to share.
The college had received a grant that allowed us to purchase materials on Islamic culture for our library and to host several lectures for students and the public, which were intended to enhance understanding of literature, art, religion, etc. To provide some context, Craven County is home to Cherry Point Air Station, an incredible installation servicing the Joint Strike Fighter and other aircraft. Many of our beloved Marines stationed there had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and they had families who had been touched by the Middle East conflict. Craven is also a rural area with fundamentally good people and families who hold strong faith-based values and traditions.
Soon after the grant was announced, US Representative Walter Jones sent a letter that was critical of us, members of the Christian Coalition were quite upset, and the Sun Journal was covering the story. Over time, through one-on-one conversations and group meeting dialogue, however, we genuinely listened to one another and we managed our differences. Here is an excerpt of an email I received this week from the head of the Craven-Pamlico Christian Coalition during that period. He searched and found me through the Yellow Cape Communications website.
The main reason I wanted to contact you was to say thanks for your boldness and courage with your recent letter to the Charlotte Observer. My daughter told me about it last evening and sent the link. It’s sad that it takes courage to articulate positions as you did, but we live in some very strange times, politically speaking.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise though, because we met when you stepped up and defused a situation that you could have ignored. It’s a character trait in you that is obvious and proves exceptional leadership abilities.
Hope you and your family have a very Merry and Joyous Christmas Season!
I recommend an article entitled “A Time for Listening” written by David Brooks who is a New York Times journalist and NOT a Trump supporter. Perhaps it would be wise to take a deep breath, to calm down, to do some self-reflection and to open our heart. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle-Centered Leadership influenced me greatly. The 5th habit seems especially fitting. Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
I suspect we are all a work-in-progress on this front, regardless of whether it is this political campaign or any relationship for that matter.
A final cyber response to the article and one to give us pause. “My wife and I come from countries where there is real political fear, intimidation and violence and now that we are U.S. citizens we’ll be damned if we’re going to cower again. Am I supposed to be impressed that this lady hid in the closet until it was safe to come out in America land of the free?”
(Dr. Catherine Chew is a consultant with Yellow Cape Communications and she would like to hear about the experiences of other “closet” Trump voters. Connect with her via the contact page at www.yellowcapecommunications.com )
Writing this op-ed was important because I believed it might help others (including 95 percent of my friends, family and colleagues) who are so distraught by the outcome to understand the rationale of a college-educated woman who “quietly” cast a vote in favor of a Trump presidency. Let me explain.
As an unaffiliated voter in North Carolina, during my lifetime I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans. Voting for Barack Obama in his first term, I was proud that we had elected the first African American as president. I voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Extremely conflicted during the 2016 primaries, some days I considered supporting Bernie Sanders (he was authentic and a disrupter) and on another day Hillary Clinton (she was prepared and experienced). In the early days, I never considered Trump a serious contender. But as the campaign evolved, a significant change in mindset emerged. Listening more intently to the messages of both Clinton and Trump along with analyzing revelations from WikiLeaks and the FBI investigation led me to believe the system was way beyond badly broken.
It became clearer and clearer that we needed to shake things up and restore people’s trust. We needed a “bull in the china shop” to break some glasses, not someone who needed to shatter the glass ceiling.
While most uncomfortable with some of Trump’s inappropriate and disturbing rhetoric, I like many others chose to take his comments seriously but not literally, as Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist, so aptly described. After eight years of ineffective leadership, it was time for an epochal change.
My biggest priorities in this election were the economy and national security. Trump’s pro-growth agenda will address much-needed tax reform, massive challenges of the Affordable Care Act and it will restore equilibrium between accountability and burdensome regulation. Unleashing the potential of individuals and businesses will create greater prosperity and innovation.
Lastly, I was attracted to a Trump presidency because I sincerely believed only someone as unorthodox and bold as he could take on the deeply infested establishment and extremely dysfunctional system that exists in the federal government. As a non-career politician and businessman, he thinks differently and his unconventional and nonconformist campaign proves it.
The earthquake election results have offered a very clear message and mandate for Democrats and Republicans alike. Change is needed and action is expected.
A well-crafted story unites internal and external stakeholders under common causes and provides a cohesive vision for success. They also spark curiosity (see my blog titled Curiosity Building), nudging viewers closer to change and/or action by providing audiences space to personally interpret your organizational narratives.
To apply the CIIS Model to your next storytelling effort incorporate the following tips:
Context is also described as level setting. Provide your audience enough background information so they have a frame of reference for the story-line you are about to reveal to them.
Inference picks up where context stops. In short, weave in ambiguity and uncertainty so viewers have the opportunity to assign their own personal meaning and interpretation to your story.
Insight equals “viewer payoff”. The point of your story is not just disseminating organizational messaging or promoting services. Your ultimate goal is teaching the audience something new that makes their personal or work lives a touch better.
Spreading your organization’s vision, values and mission is paramount. To do this organically, focus on shifting the behavior of your audience from messaging consumer to brand evangelist.
To learn more about the essential strategies for effective organizational storytelling, read the rest of the 4 part series here:
Part 1 - Essential Strategies for Organizational Storytelling - Curiosity Building
Part 2 - Essential Strategies for Organizational Storytelling - A Framework for Trust
As I discuss in the video, Annette Simmons reveals how a “Values in Action” story is powerful for building faith and trust. You can see the technique in the following 4-minute video I created in support of Urban Ministry Center’s (UMC) 2010 fundraiser.
My goal was to reveal UMC’s values of compassion and support in action by creating a docu-narrative that focused first on the authentic homeless experiences of Ronald and Leslie (the main characters in the story) and then UMC’s role in assisting them. Here are the reasons this approach is powerful for building trust between stakeholders and UMC.
Values in action videos are the quintessential storytelling method for creating trust with stakeholders. Use the strategies I employed in The Power of Hope in your next video production and focus on revealing and articulating your organization’s work through the stakeholders’ personal experience.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Don’t know how to make your own video or where to start? Connect with me to learn about our video production training services. We can cost effectively equip and train your organization.
Simmons, A. (2006). The story factor: Inspiration, influence, and persuasion through the art of storytelling. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.
Clients rely on Yellow Cape Communications to solve their toughest organizational development challenges. From custom strategic communications planning and development to training programs that utilize the latest employee and consumer engagement techniques, to broadcast quality media production services for learning and change initiatives - our solutions deliver high impact results.
In this 3 minute video I address the foundational elements of powerful digital stories. Watch the video and continue reading for a simple to use digital storytelling approach.
With that learning in mind, let’s focus on curiosity building.
Behind the Scenes (BTS) videos, blogs and podcasts are a great place to start engaging internal and external stakeholders with stories. BTS narratives active viewers’ fundamental human desire to understand the world they (we) live in. They educate and enlighten audiences, revealing answers to unknowns.
A great Behind the Scenes example is the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) BTS video, The Conservation of Henri Matisse’s The Swimming Pool.
Here’s what makes this video a great Behind the Scenes example.
And here are some potential problems with the video.
As you explore your organization’s story options remember to focus on curiosity building. Revisit the list of positive attributes associated with the MoMA BTS video and incorporate them into your own efforts.
Never forget that all good stories have conflict – challenge yourself to be genuine and transparent about the everyday uncertainties your organization faces.
And above all, produce your digital stories to the highest production value possible. Don’t know how to make your own video or where to start? Connect with me to learn about our video production training services. We can cost effectively equip and train your organization.
Public speaking events and professional conferences are becoming increasingly prevalent in our everyday lives. Thought leaders, experts and entrepreneurs deliver speeches and seminars to add value in their field and drive marketing efforts.
When I present at, or attend conferences I’m always surprised how many speakers and organizers don’t record their seminars for video.
Many presenters and organizers make the inaccurate assumption that filming a live event is too expensive or too complex. And in most cases they fail to recognize the unique power and value of using pre-recorded events in (future) marketing and new business development efforts.
In this video tutorial, I show you how to record your public speaking event, conference or seminar on your own and on an affordable budget. You don’t need to be a media pro to utilize this technique – nor do you need to own (or buy) the equipment I talk about here.
Hopefully this video tutorial gets you off to a great start planning and producing your own public speaking events for video. If you have questions post in the comments section or connect with me.
And if you decide that a multi camera production for your next conference or public speaking event is needed – connect with me for pricing and service options.
Tripod – Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT
Tripod Head – Vanguard GH-100
Camera One – Panasonic HPX170
Camera Two – Canon EOS M + EOS M Adapter + Canon EF 28-135mm lens
Audio – Sennheiser EW-112P-G2 Transmitter, receiver and lav mic package.
Memory – P2 (Panasonic HPX170) + SDHC Class 10 (Canon EOS M)
Human beings are visual creatures and data supports this fact. One study showed that 190 million Americans watched a total of 75.6 billion online videos in January 2014 alone (cite).
The rise in video consumption is just one of many reasons why creating videos that have good "shelf life" is so important.
Here are 3 tips to help you produce videos with long shelf life:
Storyboard - Lay out a detailed and visualized plan for all of your videos before you start producing them. A well-designed storyboard reduces errors and eliminates confusion in pre and post production, resulting in higher overall production value.
Modularize Messaging - Too often organizations make videos that are too long to be effective, packing too much information into one piece. To generate big impact with your media, create a series of shorter videos that fit under topic areas or themes. Now, keep each video under 2.5 minutes in length. For best practices associated with creating modular messages, watch this short 1:50 video.
Produce Timeless Pieces - Create content around organizational qualities that are unlikely to change soon. Show the audience who you are by being transparent about what you value. Stories or testimonials from your organization speak to your impact and illustrate the importance of your mission.
To request a complimentary storyboard template for your in-house video productions, connect with me.
For more practical advice that supports this topic, check out these additional resources:
How To: Simple Strategies for Making Great Video Visuals
3 Step Leader's Guide to Implementing Media Into Change Initiatives
The Secrets to Great On-Camera Interviews
On-camera interviews are the single most critical element to an organization's video communication efforts. Soundbites shape and guide the organizational storytelling process, inspire natural learning through human connection, and drive and support branding efforts.
When produced with thoughtfulness, video interviews can inspire change and engage viewers in unique ways other mediums and modes cannot.
Here are five common pitfalls I see every day:
1. Asking simple questions that illicit predictable answers.
If you're being predictable with your messaging, you're not being valuable. If you're not being valuable, you're marginalizing yourself - giving your audience sufficient reason to disengage from you and your brand.
2. Utilizing a narrow range of stakeholders for organizational "voice".
Social media and the internet democratized the workplace and flattened hierarchical structures. Audiences want and expect to hear from a broad range of internal stakeholders at varying levels of the organization. When sourcing interviewees cast a wide net that covers those in the board room and the break room.
3. Explaining the how and what before developing, in personal terms, the why.
Often, we're too eager to cut to the chase, selling our product or messaging without effectively selling the "sizzle" first. The perfect amount of anticipation, story-line development and need creates a deeper level of understanding for the viewer during your "reveal".
4. A lack of clear and consistent messaging "tie-through" during interviewee responses.
Your responses should build upon and support one another. If you're on the business end of the camera, you're most likely an expert in the topic area. Frame your talking points around the (viewers') "beginner's mind" by level setting, contextualizing information and expanding understanding.
5. Low energy during performances.
In my 15+ years of producing for television and film, I understand that cameras and microphones steal energy from their subjects. When producing interviews I always share this point with my talent. I encourage interviewees to increase their natural non-verbal, body language and verbal communication energy levels between 15 and 20 percent. This allows them to come across (normally) energetic, warm and most importantly, approachable to the audience.
Whether you're the CEO, head of your communications/marketing department, the interviewer or the interviewee, you'll discover the secrets to creating and producing powerful on-camera interviews in this short 2-minute video.
The video is packed full of industry insider info, know how, and proven expertise. Make it a point to connect with me for the free quick reference guide to this segment.
Since starting Yellow Cape Communications in 2008, we continue to serve a broad range of clients and industries in strategic and marketing communications, digital storytelling for brand engagement, training, development, and internal and consumer education initiatives.
Given the choice to work with celebrities or partner with senior leadership and organizations to create training and development that impacts employees' every day work life for the better - I'll always choose the latter. Simply put, the work and most importantly, the outcomes are far more rewarding.
For many HR professionals, managers and leaders pursuing video production for training, development, and change-based communications seems confusing and difficult. But creating video for your organization doesn't have to be overwhelming.
In fact, when approached systematically, it's a process that's no different than many work functions we tackle every day. Once you've considered creating video in support of your communications, branding and/or training efforts, and have gained senior leader buy-in, use this Top 3 List to get your project off to a great start.
1. Engage Your Audience Authentically - Contemporary media consumers are accustomed to authentic video communication messaging. The embedded and broad use of YouTube (as a learning tool) in our culture spawned the "connect with me as you are" movement. Above stylized or slick production value, quality, timely and useful content paired with an approachable, humanized and down to earth delivery is paramount to media consumers. When creating video learning and change communications, organizations must incorporate an authentic engagement model for maximized learning impact and employee brand affinity.
There is no better way to promote and instill distrust and dissent in the ranks than to communicate disingenuously. When organizations are transparent and real with their viewers (even with unpopular messaging), they move the needle in a positive direction. Organizations inhibit learning and damage employee trust when they sprinkle in even an ounce of untruth. As you create your media communications prioritize authenticity, contextualized content and concise messaging to achieve your desired outcomes.
2. Assess Needs - There are three avenues to creating media for your organization. Do it yourself, partner with a communications firm to create media for you, or, blend both approaches.
Before settling on how you're going to create media, first determine (A) the scope and purpose of your video communications effort (B) the audience its intended to reach and (C) the level of project profile (low/medium/high). What's revealed here helps determine the range of support required for your media creation needs.
Now, identify key (internal) stakeholders and form an interdisciplinary team that brings a broad, yet specifically functional range of skills sets and organizational perspectives to the table. If your effort is medium to high profile, reaches external audiences and addresses a change initiative, consider a robust internal team that utilizes outside resources and support from a skilled multimedia communications firm.
If your objectives are lower profile and are intended for small internal groups you may choose to scale your initial resource investment, adding more support later if needed.
3. Identify a Strong Media Communications Partner - After your assessment phase begin exploring available resources. If your needs require outside support from a communications firm specializing in media production, start the identification and due diligence process early. When interviewing firms look for the following key differentiators that will ensure the success of your project.
First and foremost, seek a communications firm with deep expertise crafting video messaging across a wide array of industries and sectors. Too often, decision makers engage firms who specialize with narrow focus, missing the opportunity to maximize on the cross pollination skills/expertise a firm with broad experience brings to the table.
Choose a provider who has the unique ability to tell any story - with clarity, creativity and style - no matter how complex, seemingly boring, or told a million times over. If they've worked successfully in every business environment, they'll provide you with a competitive edge you can't buy.
Second, request the communication firm's Executive Producer(s) be present during your due diligence meeting. The Executive Producer (EP) is the lead that's assigned to your organization's communications work.
The EP is the single most critical component in the above mentioned human resources mix. They are the crucial bridge between the communications firm, your organization and all employees contributing to the work (internal and external).
A seasoned EP will have a balanced blend of creativity and boots on the ground media production acumen required to achieve your desired outcomes. Furthermore, a great EP will have (1) a calm, unassuming energy about them (2) a comforting, all knowing demeanor and (3) an open and upbeat personality that can connect with anyone. If you have good chemistry with the firm's EP you can rest assured you've found your organization's service provider.
There's much more to successfully producing videos for your organization but these points should get you moving in a positive direction. For three additional tips watch the following 1.5 minute video. And of course, connect with us to learn about our multimedia training solutions to get your organization trained and equipped to produce your own in-house media in less than three weeks.
In recent years, personal and professional development training seminars are increasingly accessible to the masses.
With the economic recession of 08-13 and the whole scale realignment of our workforce; employees, managers, entrepreneurs and the c-suite realize the critical importance of continued personal and professional innovation.
Roll up your sleeves and work - When I say "work" I mean "sweat". Visible rewards come from exerting all you've got (emotionally and intelligently) in a meaningful direction. The more discomfort you experience from elbow grease the more likely you are to benefit from growth challenges you set in front of yourself. Reinforce and apply your learnings while being authentically invested in the possibility of a newly discovered personal/professional direction. This isn't easy and it can be unsettling. You must actively push yourself to move beyond your existing boundaries of understanding and familiarity while challenging your own dominant narratives. Remember - if it doesn't feel good, chances are the biggest opportunities for positive change are within your grasp.
Put your empathetic self in overdrive - Place yourself in your cohort's and teachers' shoes. Relate to their stories, life experiences and problem solving processes as you would a loved one or close friend you're completely invested in. In my case, the artists' life experience and trajectory of growth created the most profound learning. I paid close attention to how they approached problems and formulated solutions with scarce or unfamiliar resources and how they developed "one off" solutions that could then be replicated in other areas of their work/life. Then, I said to myself, "Given my resources, circumstances and current understanding, how is their approach similar to my problem solving strategy? How are our approaches different and why? How are they similar? What did they do that I can apply in my own world?"
Focus on the mechanics of the problem solving process itself - Replicate, imitate, modify, adopt and apply the processes, mechanics and strategic visioning that worked for the artist/cohort/teacher in your own work and personal life.
Less talk, more do - Too often we're content telling ourselves we're working on a pain point when in actuality we're only talking about working on the pain point. Quiet yourself and get to the heavy lifting (doing) at hand. Stop talking about it, be about it. If you know what needs to change, let your actions be your voice, right now.
Set yourself up for success when the development experience is over - Often we do the work in sessions like Innovation Institute only to indefinitely shelve the learning after the experience ends. Take digestible notes during your training - things you will understand about your learning and the experience 2 weeks, months or even years later. Plan ahead - what can you do now in your development experience that will set you up for success later? Spot potential barriers right now? Take action and formulate a plan in the moment to mitigate future problems. Quickly detail a potential strategy and set a reminder for yourself to revisit the approach/learning long after the development experience is over. Now, follow through on your follow-up commitment and be aware of the potential barriers to your desired behavior change that you identified in your session.
Openly face your imperfect self - Being publicly vulnerable is incredibly difficult and scary. During the Innovation Institute we were tasked with creating one (of many) representative works of art. As a Director of Photography, Producer and art collector I have a thorough understanding of aesthetic and artistic value/worth related to every form of visual art. The "art" that I created during our assignment was, understatedly, atrocious. Hideous. Disgusting. Vile to the eye and all appropriate sensibilities. No adjective(s) adequately describe the horrendous work I created during that exercise. And my massive shortcoming was unabashedly heartbreaking to me. Not for the off-putting nature of my creation, but for everything the deeply unpleasant work represented about what was (and is) completely and utterly broken and dysfunctional in my personal and professional life. Yet there was tremendous beauty in this publicly and personally trying time. Acceptance. My work, was the very best that I had in the moment. It was, in short, all of me. Imperfectly. This imperfection left nothing else for me to do in the moment, with my cohort, Facilitators and Master Artists but immediately and publicly accept my shortcomings. While the experience was extremely painful, it was, more importantly, freeing. Now for a moment, reflect on when you were most free - most prideless - most accepting of your simple, human, undeveloped self - was the entire world and all its beauty not within you?
Condense the entire experience into a single takeaway - Your takeaway must be short, a single sentence that when spoken to yourself, reminds you, instantaneously of your desired change. This sentence is your trigger to act differently in your everyday life. In my case, Innovation Institute revealed that I suffer from analysis paralysis. Thus, my single sentence takeaway is "Trust your do". Now, when I realize I'm over analyzing, I simply repeat to myself, "Trust your do" - acting on it immediately. In those moments of behavior change I am creating and living a refined, more positive approach to my personal and professional life.
My Innovation Institute experience was and is incredibly valuable. The lessons I learned will stay with me forever for two main reasons. First, the Artists and my cohort made a tangible impact on my life through the stories of their personal lives, experiences and emotions. Second, I choose to briefly revisit my Innovation Institute learning journal on a month-or-so basis to keep the learning fresh in my mind. Apply the 8 takeaways I list above in your next personal/professional development work and you'll be more effective in your change efforts on the whole.
All Images Copyright: Ben Premeaux