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ConversationAgent.com & DirectorTom.com 1 Take Your Brand from Commodity to CommunityAsk(?)Away is a candid conversation between two people published on ablog. This transcript includes comments from the readers and space for yournotes. Our second guest in this format at Conversation Agent is Tom Cliffordof Bringing Brands to Life!Valeria Maltoni: I don’t know about you. I always thought that being in a movie wouldbe fun. Many are in love with the idea of having their ﬁfteen minutes of fame. Soﬁlming corporate videos should be a great experience, right?Not quite. Many corporate videos do not bring your brand to life, says Director Tom.Your story is often not told in a clear and authentic way. Why is this important? So itcan stick. You want your story to jump off the screen and into your customers’ hearts.Credits: Logo design courtesy of Ryan Mesheau via Mark Goren. PDF design and light edits by Valeria Maltoni.
ConversationAgent.com & DirectorTom.comThomas R. Clifford, Director Tom, ispassionate about enlightened corporate 2 remarkable organizations tell their story and bring their brand to life. This is the transcriptﬁlm making. He has been producing and of a conversation I had with Tom by email.directing corporate videos for over 22 years. As we’ve done in the past, I look forward toTom has won awards because his videos are including your take (pun intended) in Partenergetic, engaging, compelling, meaningful, Two.and authentic. Valeria Maltoni: Tom, despite the skepticismHow does he do that? He sees himself as we’ve reached from most forms of advertisinga documentary ﬁlmmaker who can capture -- print, online banners, billboards -- and whatcorporate stories on video. He does that by some call internal propaganda -- newsletters,sitting down with your best storytellers -- your Intranets, memos -- there is one medium thatemployees -- your “heroes.” I’ve seen boring continues to captivate us: video.and staged corporate videos; Tom promisesshort “PBS ﬁlms on caffeine!” The success of YouTube is not accidental. It is anchored to the wonder we associate with ﬁlmHe has directed videos that tell the stories of and the use of video narrative to tell a story.Deloitte, Honeywell, the Epilepsy Foundation, In 2003, BMW pioneered short ﬁlms with itsThe Hartford Financial Services Group and campaign The Hire (Fallon Worldwide) thatLoctite, as well as local non-proﬁts. The results saw the debut of British actor Clive Owen.have been memorable experiences that have The shorts were offered online only andstrengthened and extended the recognition managed to stir a lot of buzz.of those brands by igniting conversations andconnections. The quest for talent is one of the challenges organizations face today. I receive at leastCustomers do not buy products -- they two calls and three email inquiries a day frombuy stories about who you are and what recruiters asking me to connect them withyou stand for. Tom’s passion is to help talent on behalf of companies -- I’m sure I’m♪♫
ConversationAgent.com & DirectorTom.comnot alone. To ﬁnd and retain talent, companiesneed a new way, one that can convey messages 3 Think about this for a minute. Story. Film. In many corporate ﬁlms, what happens whenthat are energetic, engaging, compelling, two of the most powerful and emotionallymeaningful and authentic. And you help them engaging mediums collide? What getsdo that with ﬁlm. produced? A talking head. Boring pictures. Dispassionate narration. How can a companyTell me how you do it. possibly inspire anyone this way? They can’t.Tom Clifford: You are absolutely right about My ﬁlms focus on people and their story.companies needing a new way to communicate Sounds simple, but it’s rarely done. Here’stheir messages in an authentic and meaningful what I mean.way! Pick a topic...let’s say, diversity. And let’s say, anBefore I tell you how I help companies organization is seeking a way to tell their storycommunicate messages that are energetic, on diversity.emotional and meaningful through theshort documentary format, let me ﬁrst “set The classic corporate video approach isthe stage” with some quick background on to write a script based on the marketingcorporate videos in general. department’s talking points. Then you might interview some senior level executives toOver the years, corporate videos has had a bad pontiﬁcate what the voice-over has alreadyrap...and rightly so. said. Film some footage that is clearly staged, perhaps with actors, and call it a day.Many corporate videos have been poorly There’s something terribly wrong with thisexecuted simply due to a lack of story; not picture...there is no story. No drama. Nobudget. I’ve worked with the tightest and tension.largest of budgets, and I can tell you this: storyrules. I actually had to produce and direct this ﬁlm♪♫
ConversationAgent.com & DirectorTom.comfor Deloitte as part of their national kick-offcampaign on embracing diversity. Here’s a real- authentic, emotional and engaging. 4life example of what I did and how I typically In editing, the story told itself. I just enabledcraft a corporate ﬁlm, no matter what the an invisible story to come to life.subject. Documentaries by their very nature areFirst, I spent time with my scriptwriter personal in their approach. The viewer caresdiscovering four employees, or “heroes” as I a lot more about a personal story than acall them in my ﬁlms, who had very diverse corporate story. So capturing several personalbackgrounds and who could really articulate stories helps shape and tell the corporate storytheir personal views on diversity. I pre- in a way that a narrator just cannot do.interviewed them over the phone to get asense of their story. When it came time to ﬁlm Valeria Maltoni: So if I understand correctly,them, I interviewed them at length with no you are viewing the story unfold from behindscript; no questions were sent ahead of time a lens -- unﬁltered and personal. Is that alwaysfor studying corporate speak; no one over my the case?head second-guessing everything the heroessaid. What was captured was real, personal How do you insert the view from the top,and from the heart. what the management and leadership teams in a company are? Are managers willing to goBut I also went out on a limb: I wanted to ﬁlm the unscripted route? And if so, why have aour heroes not only in the Deloitte ofﬁces communications department, what is *their*but outside the ofﬁce. I really wanted to role?capture our heroes engaged in their hobbies orpassions to showcase their entire self; not just Tom Clifford: Most of my ﬁlms do featurethe “ofﬁce worker.” After a week of ﬁlming, corporate employees as “heroes,” so the storywe captured some absolutely remarkable and unfolds right in front of your eyes...that’sunexpected scenes...all totally spontaneous, part of the appeal and quite frankly, the authenticity of the short documentary format.♪♫
ConversationAgent.com & DirectorTom.comIf people speak honestly from the heart aboutideas that are important to them and we of trust. It’s unspoken. It’s implied. My experience has seen managers implicitly 5capture that footage in “real time,” it creates trusting their people to tell their story that isa “reality” the audience can identify with; unique to them. After all, it’s their story, theirthere’s a level of honesty and emotion that experience. It cannot be duplicated anywherea marketing department has a hard time re- and that’s exactly what an audience wants tocreating (IMHO.) see and hear...a story that is different, take them on a journey of sorts and resolves itself.Is this always the case? In my experience, mosttimes, yes. But, of course, there are times I What’s the role of a communicationsneed to break outside that “hero” framework. department? Great question. When it comesThere are situations where the information to video, 99% of the people I work with doin a ﬁlm may be more technical in nature. not have any working knowledge or experienceHaving employees or executives deliver that producing a ﬁlm; it’s not part of their everydayinformation would not be the best choice. I work-world so it often gets done poorlyrarely work with actors, but sometimes that is or not at all. I worked as a producer andthe best and most natural choice. director inside a Corporate Communications Department for almost 10 years for a FortuneInserting the view from “the top” can be fairly 500. Their role is critical in areas outside ofeasy. If upper management insists on having a video; annual reports, promoting events, etc.presence on screen, ﬁne. I’ll just make sure the I do think their greatest role in promoting“heroes” get as much screen time as possible. video is to discover their own “heroes” andThe “C Suite” can be captured and edited in start collecting remarkable stories about thema way that does not interfere with the stories and the organization in general. Then, when itfrom the employees. comes time to produce a video, a story bank is available to tap into.Managers are willing to go the unscriptedroute and here’s why: they realize the role Valeria Maltoni: So you view communicators♪♫
ConversationAgent.com & DirectorTom.comas facilitators of conversations, in the sameway that I would. Their role is broader than 6 corporate storytellers--their employees--and they choose not to share that story to anjust crafting messages and producing them. audience outside their corporate brick andHow do you propose they transmit some of mortar. Disappointing? Again, I think so.the great stories you craft to external audiencesas well? With the ultra-fast emergence of new social media tools and You Tube “look-a-likes,”Tom Clifford: Before I answer, picture this... companies now need to think beyond their DVD as the end of the story. In fact, just theImagine hearing an amazing story from your opposite is true: the DVD the are holding inbest friend. It’s a story that immediately their hands is the beginning of a new story.touches your soul; it’s grabs you and makes A new story where the video can instantly beyou think. Imagine that story changing how published for all to see.you see your world; even how you see yourbest friend. The thinking needs to go from: “commodity to community.” A DVD is seen as aIn a moment, your current frame of reference commodity by many. But that same DVD canshifts; now your point of view is different. create a community in an instant. AcquiringYou feel like telling the world about your your corporate story on DVD should now befriend’s story. seen as the beginning of telling your corporate story.But there’s a problem. Of course, I realize not every video is suitableYou can’t. You can only share it with a few for wide distribution. But for the most part,people...that’s it. Only a select few will beneﬁt almost every ﬁlm I have ever producedfrom the story and experience. Would you feel over the past 23 years could have played ondisappointed? Sure you would. That’s exactly YouTube with tremendous beneﬁts to many.what it’s like when a company produces whatI call an authentic story on ﬁlm from their If one of the goals of communicators♪♫
ConversationAgent.com & DirectorTom.com(marketing/PR/sales) in corporations is tofacilitate conversations and strengthen brand 7 Since I do a lot of presentations coaching and have a media background, I work withrecognition, then why not embrace social a number of clients who are on TV/Video.media? Trying to convince them to just relax and go with their stories is often a tough sell.Now imagine the role of communicators as“creators of conversations;” “conversation Tom’s documentary model would servearchitects.” A role where discovering, creating executives well regardless of what theyand publishing meaningful personal stories had in mind to begin with. The day of thefrom organizations is now designed from the talking head is long gone. It’s the Age ofground up with the --intention-- to help others Conversation and storytelling.learn, grow and beneﬁt. Just imagine... ►Thanks so much for thinking of me andinviting me into your “conversational world!” I Watch a selection of Tom’s ﬁlms here.love your site and ideas...keep it rockin’!▼Tim Johnson: Having met Tom in person atSOBCon, the passion shows through in everyinteraction and conversation he has, so it’s nosurprise that he’s a huge success in his life’scalling.Steve Roesler: Tom’s take on corporatevideos as documentaries is right on the money.I became enthused just listening to him.♪♫