Smile, You’re On Candid Camera. That’s how Allen Funt started the reality television craze back in 1948. Oh sure, it took a few decades to really catch on, with a Gong Show here and a Dating Game there, but nowadays we’re awash in Big Brother, Survivor, and YouTube viral sensations.
Why, you might ask, are we such suckers for voyeurism? Well, first of all it’s cheap programming. And second, admit it, we all love to people-watch. Living vicariously through someone else’s triumphs and tribulations is effortless good sport. Why deal with my own drama when there’s some perfectly good schlep losing a contest on TV?
Weirdly, this has direct application to the corporate world. If your employees aren’t on camera often, you’re missing an excellent opportunity to show the world the guts and the glory of your organization. I don’t necessarily mean a good camera either; I mean the $150 hand-held or the smart phone variety.
Far too often I hear people say something like “I thought Bob was bringing the camera?” Argh! That’s an opportunity lost to develop good, grassroots content. I regularly tell my clients to record everything they do that’s fit for public consumption; you can always choose to delete the footage if it’s somehow no good.
CEO making a speech? Set up the camera. Marketing team building a home for Habitat for Humanity? Snap some pics. Aboriginal Relations team invited to a sweat lodge ceremony? Ask if you can do a short interview with an elder without disrupting the sacred nature of the event.
I repeat – record everything and throw away what you don’t like, but I guarantee if you fail to bring the recording device you’ll have nothing to publish. That’s when writers block sets in, and in corporate settings it can be brutal. When faced with filling empty space (blog, Facebook or Twitter posts) and without a reservoir of recorded human interactions to draw from, bureaucratese creeps in to fill the void, and that’s the death of social media.
The more natural, human, unvarnished and jargon free, the better; whether it’s text, audio or video content.
I’m a huge admirer of the YouTube videos produced by Potash Corporation. Some are polished and produced. Many are raw and unvarnished, even painfully so. They bleed authenticity. Ditto for Encana (disclosure, they are a client, though my firm does not produce video). The “Share your energy IQ” video they produced showing interactions with attendees at the GLOBE 2012 conference in Vancouver is tremendous. Compelling human interactions like these win versus sanitized scripts every single time.
This is what we try to do when producing content for another client, Operation Lifesaver. We can lecture you all day about rail safety, or we can produce stories of people tragically and dramatically affected by unsafe behaviour around trains. I dare you to watch the video on OperationLifesaver.ca of Sean Fowler, a teen who trespassed on rail property and paid the horrible price of losing an arm and a leg and not tear up. It’s heart-wrenching stuff, and it drives the point home about trespassing and rail safety better than most other forms of communication.
You could even say our Off The Rails contest last year was a little like Canadian Idol.
Another great example is Calgary Reads, a non-profit devoted to promoting literacy. In partnership with Chevron Canada they have produced a children’s book by local television personality Dave Kelly. C is for Calgary is an alphabet book starring Cal, a young boy who explores Stampede through his grandfather’s old photo album. The photos in the book are from the Calgary Stampede’s extensive collection of archives that date back to the first Stampede in 1912. Such material puts a human face on literacy and connects this organization directly to its community.
Compelling content that wins hearts and minds is unlikely to emanate from your cubicle, so the Big Brother shtick probably won’t work in a corporate setting. After all, who wants to see you on the webcam stealing another Timbit and cursing out Microsoft Office?
But the stuff you and your colleagues are out doing in the community? That’s golden. Record and publish that and you might just win the amazing race for audience attention.
Tags: Alan Funt, Calgary Stampede, Camera, Candid Camera, content, content marketing, corporate, Encana, Marketing, Operation Lifesaver, Potash Corporation, reality TV, recording, Sean Fowler, Social Media, writing, YouTube, YouTube videos