Ever since my beloved Celtics were eliminated from the NBA playoffs, I’ve spent my extra free time catching up on my reading list and rereading some old favorites.
Guitar gurus say, “Tone is in your fingers.” You can buy the same guitar, effects pedals, and amplifier that Eddie Van Halen uses. But when you play that rig, it’s still going to sound like you.
Likewise, Eddie could plug into a crappy Strat/Pignose setup at a pawn shop and you’d still be able to recognize that it’s Eddie Van Halen playing. Fancy gear can help, but the truth is your tone comes from you.
It’s tempting for people to obsess over tools instead of what they’re going to do with those tools. You know the type: Designers who use an avalanche of funky typefaces and fancy Photoshop filters but don’t have anything to say. Amateur photographers who want to debate film versus digital endlessly instead of focusing on what actually makes a photograph great.
Many amateur golfers think they need expensive clubs. But it’s the swing that matters, not the club. Give Tiger Woods a set of cheap clubs and he’ll still destroy you.
People use equipment as a crutch. They don’t want to put in the house on the driving range so they spend a ton in the pro shop. They’re looking for a shortcut. But you just don’t need the best gear in the world to be good. And you definitely don’t need it to get started.
A lot of high-end production companies and agency elites will discourage the use “low-end” digital cameras when producing content for a business – a “corporate” video. The fact of the matter is: the concept of “corporate” video no longer exists.
Chris Theisen shared with me a great article from Fast Company entitled “Rules of Engagement, From the NBA Social Media War Room.” It describes how the NBA is using social media and video to promote the NBA Finals.
As reporters gather around a practice session for the Miami Heat…
…a lone media guy cut through the ranks, parted a black curtain and entered the glorious, shiny center of the arena, where Dwyane Wade was warming up by shooting long-range jumpers. The guy held up his iPhone from the sideline and took 57 seconds of video, then tweeted it out from @NBA: “#NBAFinals: Dwyane Wade is putting shots up by himself on the floor right now. Game 2, 9pm/et ABC. http:// twitvid.com/MJQS5“
This “lone media guy” is a member of the NBA’s social media team, a group of content creators who are utilizing “low-end” video to reach their 117 million followers.
More than 100 people retweeted it, and one guy, @rastastar09, even responded, “@NBA TUNING IN!”
That sounds like engagement to me.
The article goes on to explain the NBA’s strategy here:
The NBA joined Twitter in February of 2009. “When we first got on it, we looked at it as a quick, instantaneous way for us to alert our fanbase that there was something amazing going on during games,” said Melissa Brenner, NBA vice president of marketing. But the league also polled fans–an effort that now happens twice a season–and discovered that people wanted more than an alarm system. “If we’re not constantly putting forth clever, unique content and then evaluating its efficacy, it’s hard to scale,” Brenner said.
So the NBA built a team to create that content.
Thursday night, it operated like a small news organization. The group began the day, like every day, with an 11 a.m. meeting to cover the basics: how many sponsored tweets needed to go out, what NBA-related news needed coverage, and the schedule for the game. There were two guys working the arena (who the NBA asked me not to identify by name). One got on-the-court photos and videos; the other roamed the crowd. “People think we’re just random guys, taking pictures for ourselves,” one told me. “It’s like, no, I swear, it’s legitimate!”
The on-the-ground duo was helped out by a small group of guys in a New Jersey office, who gathered stats and monitored Twitter for NBA-related trending topics. Emails flew between them all night, and they each used their best judgment on what would be coolest for fans. “We want to give people a sense that they’re here,” one of the guys told me.
That’s not totally possible, of course, but the DIY nature of the iPhone operation works in their favor: That video of Wade shooting around before the game felt raw, almost illicit, in a way that a lingering shot on ABC never could.
Now, it doesn’t get much more “corporate” than the National Basketball Association, and yet they’re utilizing a highly portable, inexpensive and high-quality (HD) tool to create engaging content. Imagine what it would cost (in time and money) to hire a high-end production company to come out, film and photograph an NBA practice session, and then distribute it on the web. Even if it was inexpensive, it definitely wouldn’t happen fast.
Gary Vaynerchuck says: “It’s not the camera that I use, it’s not the blogging software, it’s not the widgets, it’s not the SEO. It’s the two C’s: content and community” (source).
I couldn’t agree more.
I favorited a tweet recently, from one business owner to another, that was in response to a complaint about the Flip: “u r doin’ it wrong. I’ve used Flips on pro shoots, nice cheap option.”
If you get a backlit shot while interviewing someone with a Flip: it is not the camera’s fault. It’s your fault.
“Corporate” video no longer exists. Just video. So don’t agonize over the tools. Agonize over what your audience wants, and how you can best get it to them. Maybe it is a high-end national TV spot produced with a RED digital camera. Maybe it’s just a quick clip of someone’s favorite ball player.