Advice to streamline your media workflow
Target audience: Content marketers, Web publishers, PR execs, journalists, producers, businesses, media organizations.
In just the first 20 episodes of my podcast “Hacking Media Production,” I’ve collected hundreds of tips from journalists and producers on how to produce content better and faster. What follows is my selection of the 55 creative content production hacks.
If you like what you see and want to learn more, feel free to click through on any episode to listen to the interview and see lots more tips on that subject. And if you want to learn lots more, please subscribe to “Hacking Media Production” via iTunes.
1If you can think of it, someone may do it for $5: The site Fiverr is filled with mini creative services available for $5 such as drawing a cartoon of your dad, recording a voice-over message in Sean Connery’s voice, or even a bogus video testimonial for your product.
2Crowdsourcing design work still requires an art director: Be aware that using services such as 99designs or Crowdspring will cost more than you expect because you’ll likely need an art director to spend hours of time managing the contest and interacting with the designers to get the final product you want.
3Write the headline first, before you conduct research: Don’t try to figure out how to make your research sexy after you’ve done the work. Your first task should be to write catchy story headlines that will speak to the research you’ve yet to conduct.
4Get more content bang from your research buck: Craft your study so it’s able to feed the creation of at least three or four different stories.
5Hire a statistician: Basic cross tabulations won’t tell the whole story of your research. You’ll need a real statistician to uncover stories and behaviors the average Excel user won’t be able to see.
6Don’t try to be clever: Being clever to dress up boring news doesn’t help. Neither does an opening icebreaker line such as, “Are you excited for the Super Bowl?”
7Be creative in what you’re offering: “Don’t be creative about how you package the pitch. Be creative about the news you’re trying to pitch,” said Harry McCracken, Editor-at-Large for Time.
8 Avoid disingenuous compliments: Many compliments to journalists today look as if they came through a database. Don’t think you’re fooling a journalist if you’re just referencing a recent story and saying how much you liked it.
9Configure your Eye-Fi card for social sharing: This SD card can wirelessly upload your photos with appropriate labels and hashtags to a multitude of locations such as DropBox, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. After you configure make sure you send a test photo to the feed and then delete it.
10Entice others to tag, specifically on Facebook: Photograph a few key connectors at an event and then tag them when you post the photos on Facebook. These connectors will know others at the party and will inevitably tag them as well, saving you a lot of work and exposing your photos to people who didn’t know you.
11Tweet out some of your photos in intervals: If you’re uploading 400 photos from an event, you don’t want to flood your Twitter feed with all those photos. Instead, use a service such as Twitterfeed and have it tweet out the latest photo in 10 or 15 minute intervals.
12News is something people don’t know: That doesn’t mean it’s new information. It means it’s information that hasn’t been covered. Services such as Google Patents are a treasure trove of weird and interesting information.
13Focus on patent drawings: The text in patents are filled with painfully long legalese. You’ll find a more interesting story a lot faster if you just focus on finding interesting drawings.
14Look for the current news hook to attach to old information: If it’s Christmas, look for Christmas patents. If a certain company is hot in your industry, look at their patents or patent applications.
15Would people pay for it: This should be the barometer of whether your talk is something people will want to hear. People are traveling to the event and paying for a ticket. This presentation better be worth their time and money.
16Your presentation should not be Googleable: If the same information from your talk can be found in a Google search, then it’s not worth presenting, and therefore it’s also not worth paying for.
17Put the conference name in the subject of the email. This shows that it’s not a mass mailed email, plus it really shows you’re thinking specifically about a certain conference that this speaker would be appropriate for.
18Emotion-based contests work best: If you give contestants a chance to express themselves, that’s often all they need to participate. The prize may not be a motivating factor.
19Do A/B testing on your contest question: To make sure you’re pushing out the very best version of the contest, do A/B testing and then push your marketing efforts toward the version that’s doing the best.
20Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on Facebook works: Contests have a very high click through rate on social networks with PPC advertising. Getting people to “Like” something because they’ll be entered into a contest is that little extra nudge most people need to actually click that “Like” button.
21Easiest laugh is the recognition laugh: A big secret in corporate comedy is you don’t actually need to write a joke to get a laugh. You can often get laughs simply by acknowledging people within the company, especially people of power. Just mention that person in a non-business situation.
22Non-actors can only be themselves: If you’re trying to make people in your office funny, don’t have them play other characters. Let them be themselves, but in funny situations.
23Map corporate lingo to dialogue of scenario: Bring accounting terms in a “Star Trek” script, or maybe database architecture terminology to a pirate scenario.
24Web content is iterative media: You change your content based on the behavior of the audience. You’re creating your media property with your audience.
25Authentic and real wins in Web video: On traditional television, people work really hard at not being themselves. That’s not true with Web video. Be direct, open, and yourself.
26Strive for velocity of comments on video launch: A lot of comments in the first hour or two of a video will help make it more visible to people visiting YouTube. To help juice that initial push, let viewers know the host will be in the comments for the first two hours of responses.
27Real-time search tools level the reporting playing field: Even if you don’t live in the area where most of the news is happening, you can compete with those locals by using real-time search tools to effectively uncover breaking stories.
28Subscribe to vendor RSS feeds via SMS or instant messaging: This lets you know about breaking stories the moment they become available. Email is too slow because it often doesn’t come when the story breaks.
29Follow aggressive users of Delicious: For the sites and companies you care about, follow the Delicious users who are the first to bookmark their hot stories.
30Create a shot list: Sounds basic, but even the most experienced producers forget to do this. Write down on paper the different shots you want to be able to tell your story. You’ll need this when you go to edit your piece.
31Listen for the details: Listen to specific things mentioned in the interview and then go get shots of those items.
32Zoom rule of 1-2-3: In post-production, the rule is don’t enlarge a shot more than 123 percent or you’ll start to see pixelation.
33Don’t syndicate your content: While it may sound like a good idea, Google may perceive your site to be a spam site even if it’s the originator of the content. Your search engine ranking will plummet and it will take years to fix with Google.
34Make social media participation part of the job: Hire journalists to write and participate in social media. Pay them for getting involved with the audience.
35Put as much above the fold as possible: Whatever the audience wants, make it super easy to find and consume. If you can, create a condensed version of quick to find content in the upper left-hand corner.
36Write a title for your subscribers first, and then one for everyone else: For the first version of your video have a simplistic title such as “Do this” that your subscribers will see first. The enticing title will drive a lot of traffic from your subscribers. After that plays for a week, go back and change the title and make it more search engine friendly.
37Content supersedes professionalism: Don’t spend as much time on professionalism but rather focus on the content itself. The content is far more important in driving views over the slickness of production quality.
38Collaborate with other YouTubers: Like rappers doing cameos on other rappers’ songs, find YouTubers in your same niche through a channel swap or just interviewing each other. You’ll be able to take advantage of your respective audiences.
39Write evergreen stories that become industry staples: Don’t let time pressures dictate the release of stories. If you’re putting so much effort on a single article, let that piece be the definitive piece on that given subject for at least five years.
40Publicity across multiple issues, not just the current issue: If your stories don’t have a short shelf life, you can publicize back issues.
41Let your audience have fun not knowing the answers: Even if the audience doesn’t know the answers, the process of the game and the information learned from the game should be entertaining in itself.
42A good question invites fun speculation: Even if you don’t know the answer right away, a question can be presented in a way that the players can make educated guesses based on the information presented.
43Triple check your facts: Don’t always rely on one source. Make sure you have multiple sources verifying your information. One comment on a website, even if it’s Wikipedia, doesn’t cut it.
44Have access to talent on all coasts: While some people are sleeping, those awake are doing research on the stories.
45Create timely content that’s evergreen: If you want your programming to be both popular and have legs, be timely on your content but let it have interest beyond the day it’s released. Weird news fits that description.
46Uncovering the best of trending stories: When big stories hit, who’s providing the best information in terms of the best article, photo, and video? Storify is now analyzing trends and usage of its product to see which content gets used the most.
47Prompt your audience for content: Instead of just searching for reactions, many journalists are using Storify as an engagement tool by first asking questions of their audience. Those social responses are then reflected in their story.
48Split your time between gatherers and publishers: If reporting at a conference, those at the conference will be the content gatherers and those in the back office can write and publish the content.
49Pre-write content: This is how you can “fake” 100 blog posts in one day. You start preparing the content beforehand. If you can, get embargoed content and write it off the blog. You don’t want to accidentally hit the “publish” button on information you agreed to embargo. It will ruin your chances of getting any embargoed content in the future.
50Take a picture of the specs: For accurate transmission of technical information to your back-office editors, photograph the specs in a trade show booth.
51Lead the video with the most critical elements: Deliver on the promise of the headline immediately. If you don’t deliver this in the first four or five seconds of the video, you will lose the viewer.
52Break complex down into the simple: Take incredibly complex issues, look at the very core elements that make up the story, and just deliver that information. This is unlike 24-hour news media which must deliver an endless stream of information, often trying to fill hours of time.
53Sometimes you can let the raw video stand by itself: Given the success of “in the moment” YouTube videos, you can distribute raw video content without contextualization. Let the video speak for itself first and if appropriate cut another version with your editorial spin.
54You can get quoted while never speaking to a reporter: Email-based matchmaking services such as PR LEADS and Help a Reporter allow reporters to issue queries and get email responses which they can copy and paste into their stories. That means so many articles never include even a single phone interview.
55Respond fast: One reason you won’t get quoted is if you don’t respond fast enough. Journalists have deadlines. Sometimes they’re within hours, and sometimes weeks. Often they won’t clarify a deadline. Assume immediately. You’ll improve your chances of getting quoted with a prompt reply.
If you like what you read and want to learn lots more, please subscribe to “Hacking Media Production” via iTunes.
Creative Commons photo attribution to TenSafeFrogs, Happy Monkey, and Exit Festival. Permission to post photo by Pinar Ozger of Alfred Spector granted by GigaOM Events. Stock photo of “Enter to Win” key courtesy of Bigstock Photo.David Spark, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.