The Ups and Downs of Video Production

The above piece was conceived by my colleague, Addie, during a meeting where we were discussing new ideas for employer branded content.  We chose Felicia to be our host because she’s adaptable and can make people feel comfortable in awkward situations…like when your elevator ride turns into an interview.

I love projects like this.

When I studied video production in college, the number one thing I learned is that projects never go exactly the way you plan them.  That’s probably why I tend to gravitate towards concepts that are unpredictable.  I love the challenge of adapting on the fly.  I love it when things go wrong and chaos ensues.

So naturally I was drawn to the idea of putting a potted plant, 3 cameras, two chairs and a host in an elevator and seeing how things played out.  And after two hours of chasing our set up and down four floors, I was very pleased with the outcome.

A Moment of Thought Leadership

April was a hectic month.  I spent a total of three weeks on the road shooting videos and managing several projects from a remote location, which is never an easy task.  It was grueling.  It was stressful.  It was self-gratifying.

The busier we are, the more important we feel.  Sometimes I think people secretly compete to see who can be the last one in the office just because they believe that the time they spend at work is directly proportional to their productivity.  You may just be watching YouTube videos or chatting on instant messenger until seven o’clock.  You may have arrived at work late or taken a three hour lunch.  You may just type slow and take twice as much time to do a typical workload.  Regardless of the reason, you still feel like you’re the king or queen of the world when you step out into that empty parking lot at the end of the day.  The lot that’s filled with the spaces of your slacker peers.

I used to use our office gym after work and it amazed me how satisfied I felt when I emerged at the end of the day to empty cubicles and dark conference rooms.  I wasn’t even putting in extra work time.  I was literally dragging my sweaty ass across a treadmill for forty minutes.  Yet I still felt, because I was the last to leave, that I was a better employee than everyone else.

The same thing goes for emails.  I still get a feeling of self-satisfaction when I send an email off at 10pm.  I might have just picked up my phone and responded with a simple “ok” to something and then went to bed.  That’s not the point.  The point is that somebody now thinks I was hard at work when I should have been doing personal things like playing video games, doing laundry, or organizing my record collection by the color of the album art.

And then there’s travel.  After returning from a long business trip, I usually set aside one day to gloat about it.  I did it on Friday after I got back from New England

“How was your trip?”  My colleagues asked.

“Just brutal!”  I said.  Then I went on to describe my busy itinerary using words and phrases like “whirlwind,” “jam-packed” and “but it’s part of the job, so…”

“Oh yeah?”  They responded, uninterested.

“Yeah.”  I said.  “I need a drink and then I need to take a few days to recover because of all the busy things I did.  It was so busy!  You don’t even know.  The amount of business that was done was simply staggering.  It was a whirlwind.”

I gave the same response to anyone who asked that day.   This would have applied to a child with Leukemia and a soldier who just returned from Iraq.

It’s misguided.  I’m first to admit that.  I believe an employee should be judged by the work they accomplish and not the amount they appear to work.  Is working late nights or weekends sometimes necessary?  Sure.  Can travel be a pain?  Absolutely.  But if nothing comes out of it, there’s no point.  And not having a life is nothing to be proud of because your hobbies, friends, family and outside experience is going to make you so much more than a mindless drone who brings nothing new to the table.  You might not be “productive” 24/7, but one groundbreaking idea can be worth so much more than a thousand PowerPoints and Excel sheets that are seen once and then tossed.

Do amazing work.  In the end it’s a lot more gratifying than timing all your emails to be sent out several hours after you fall asleep at night.  If you don’t do amazing work, that email trick is certainly worth a try.

Great Place to Werk!

My team and I recently came up with a concept for a video to promote our new company YouTube and Twitter channels. I say team, but it’s really just the two of us. I’m not sure how many people it takes to qualify as a real team. I just Googled “two person team” and “sniper team” came up, which makes sense as it takes one person to snipe and one person to spot. If they can be called a team, then my colleague and I can as well. Like a sniper team, my team takes risks. Unlike a sniper team, my team risks reprimanding from a higher authority and not death. We’re not like the sniper from Saving Private Ryan who gets blown up in the church tower by that tank. He sniped for most of that movie without a spotter, now that I think of it.

I can no longer tell if I’m off topic or if I ever had a topic to begin with.

Anyway, my team and I produced the most controversial video I’ve ever seen come out of our place of business. To be honest, it’s not that bad. It’s pretty tame. It’s just not something you would expect to come out of a global manufacturing company that often takes a more traditional approach to communicating.

But I like the thought of being different as you can’t really progress in life or as a company without trying new things, even if it means taking a risk. We were met with internal success, so it worked out in the end. But even if it did get us in trouble, I would still be satisfied knowing we tried it.

Take a look and see what you think.

The Legend of Eric: Communications Princess

The book

Here is what the book looks like.

I just finished reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal.  McGonigal makes the argument that certain aspects of our lives, our jobs, and our future as a civilization could be improved using game mechanics.  As a gamer myself, the thought of this intrigued me.  If you’re not a gamer, I would still recommend giving this a read as it doesn’t only make the connection to video games, but rather games in general since the basic principles still exist.

I won’t get into every detail.  The book ends describing how games can actually get us to start thinking about the future and solving real world issues.  I was more interested in why people are often more satisfied playing games than going to work when a game also involves using our brains and completing a task.

McGonigal argues that when we play games we are voluntarily working.  We as humans actually feel better when we’re doing something rather than lounging around and taking in a movie or television show.  There are many traits that differentiate games from work.  Good games have very clear goals and rules.  Good games provide instant feedback that tell you exactly how you’re doing.  Good games make you feel that you are part of something far greater than yourself.  Jobs can be vague without a clear direction and little feedback to show you how your actions contribute to the organization as a whole (not my job necessarily, but for many this will ring true).

The game

Here is what the game looks like.

Again, I won’t make this a book report.  I’ve just been thinking about it a lot lately, especially because I’m 23 hours into the 2006 Wii game, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.  In real life, I’m a young professional tasked with communicating core company initiatives internally through video production and various web-based tools.  When I come home from work, I am a hero tasked with finding a series of powerful artifacts that will allow me to defeat an evil god-like bandit from consuming the land of Hyrule in the Twilight Realm.  In real life, the projects I undertake will help the company I work for improve somewhere down the line with a few key metrics that might reflect the work I’ve done.  In my hero life, if I fail my quest the entire world is doomed.

I’m probably selling my job short in this post.  The truth is that what I do is quite exciting.  But referring to work in general, wouldn’t it be awesome if it functioned more like Twilight Princess?  What if after every project you completed you were instantly shown how your work has positively affected the company or the world?  What if every goal was a simple and meaningful as finding powerful artifacts to prevent the end of the world?

It’s certainly something to think about. In the meantime, you should consider having a look at this book.

What do I do, exactly?

I used to write every day in a blog that I created coming out of college.  That was when I first entered the professional world.  At the time there was a very large disconnect between my work life, which was dominated by performance appraisals, tax returns, conference calls, and career development; and my personal blog where I literally wrote an entry about buying a plunger after I clogged my apartment toilet for the first time.  I tried to keep the two as separate as possible.

It’s not as though this blog is going to be a professional blog.  It’s not.  However, now that a few years have passed, I am more comfortable combining my personal life with my professional life in a public way.  This job is now a big part of who I am as a person, just as who I am as a person is a big part of my job.  That is a long way of explaining that I can talk more about work now, so long as you know my thoughts on this blog are my own and are not reflective of the company where I am currently employed.  The company where I work would never clog a toilet.

Here is the LinkedIn-friendly description of what I do; I’m a Marketing and Communications Manager of a global manufacturing company.  My focus is internal communication as it relates to our thousands of employees worldwide.  I’m usually tasked with creating promotional campaigns for various company initiatives.  I specialize in the production of company video projects and I am a community manager on our internal social networking site.  Most recently I’ve been tasked with managing a Social Media Marketing Specialist as we make our communications push externally.  She and I formed our brand new Creative Communications Department because, as we’ve told our colleagues, we are creative millennials and we are entitled…to a title.

It’s an exciting time to be in this department.  It’s like being in the film industry during the rise of the “talkie” or being in television during the rise of the…television.  With social media on the rise for over a decade now, the way people communicate at work is changing drastically and my team (both of us) get to be on the front lines of that. It’s not an easy task by any means.

We are faced with some tough questions.  What are the benefits to using Twitter in a business to business company?  Why use social media internally?  What is the value of inserting humor in company videos?  Where is the home button on my phone?  How do I find iTunes on my Blackberry?

I love my job and every day is a new challenge.  It’s nice to be able to talk a little bit more about it on a public blog.  I hope to be able to share more about my career as time goes on. Also it will be nice to go back and find this post at any point when I forget what I do.