I'm Tom and welcome to my site.

Want to learn how I went from writing nearly nothing to writing thousands of words a month?

($37 value). Read more here.

Enter your email address here for free updates and your free eBook. (Guaranteed 100% privacy.)

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz
E-Book Testimonials

"Thomas Clifford has made something useful here. This report will give you some really catchy, useful ideas.

It made me reconsider how I do what I do, so you might give it a look-see, too!" 

Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works 

"Tom Clifford is by trade a filmmaker. For most of his life, he rarely wrote anything longer than a brief comment in the margin of a script. 

Now, though, he's producing tens of thousands of words a year, first as a Fast Company "Expert Blogger," and then as a writer for the Content Marketing Institute. 

How did Tom go from a non-writer to a prolific and much-read one? His eBook, '5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways . . . , ' holds some of his secrets."

Mark Levy, Author of "Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content"

“Tom is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet—if you have the privilege to meet him. And he does sterling work as well. But don’t just take my word for it.

Read this free report and you’ll not just love its tone and content, but learn a lot as well.”

Sean D’Souza, Psychotactics.com

“Anyone who wants to improve their writing needs this e-book. A lot of ebooks are short because they just don’t have much substance to offer. They’re not worth your time (and so are many of the long ones, too, for that matter). Tom’s is short because he’s so good at giving you only what you need to know. 

‘5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier’ lives up to its promise by example as well as in the words themselves. Tom used the very same techniques he teaches you to write this book. 

And what’s in here is not just a rehash of the same tired ideas you find coming from people who have suddenly fancied themselves as writing gurus. There are tricks in here I never heard of (like the Writing Funnel) and some I had forgotten about and was glad to be reminded of (like Sporadic Writing).” 

Michael Martine, Blog Alchemist, Remarkablogger.com 


Tom's SpeedLink #11

Got a short but great mix for you this time. Enjoy!

1. Ira Glass interview
My favorite storyteller, Ira Glass (This American Life and NPR host), gave a a neat interview back in January.

2. New Product Launches (5 second MBA)
A timely (and funny) graphic summarizing product launches from 1980's to the 2000's.

3. Is it time for companies to hire a Social Media Administrator?
David Meerman Scott has a thought-provoking post on an emerging trend in companies.

4. The 140 Project: Filmmakers Capture 140 Seconds of Home
Twitter + filmmaking = The 140 Project. 140 filmmakers in 140 locations filmming 140 seconds of unedited footage all starting at the same time! Gotta love that idea. =)



Three Keys to Good Storytelling 

I'm delighted to bring you a guest post from Bluedot Productions, the filmmakers behind the amazing documentary, "The Quantum Activist." We met a while ago on Twitter and I invited them to write a guest article.

Bluedot's bio: "Holding down the Left Coast in the rain forests of Oregon, BlueDot Productions offers its collective talent & wisdom to projects that both empower as well as celebrate living." This post is by Ted Golder, Storyteller, at BlueDot Productions- Creative Media for Life. Ted's three tips will help your videos soar– not bore! Thanks, Ted, for writing this guest post.

Stories, stories, stories.

In the end it is all we have, in truth, it is what we crave.

The venue or genre is not important; whether we are writing a book, making a movie, talking to a friend or making a corporate video – we are telling stories.

After reading blogs and talking to people in the corporate video industry, I am under the impression that most are aware of the need to bring storytelling to their video in order to keep it from becoming boring.

Then why, I ask, are so many corporate videos boring?
The answer is that storytelling is a craft, and the reality is that there is good storytelling and bad storytelling.

Here are a few crucial points to focus on to make your video soar rather than snore:

1. Tension

We want the audience to have moments where they say or think something like, “How the heck is he going to pull that off?” or “That’s interesting, but I don’t see the connection” or “If that’s true, she better explain how so”. The narrative of your story must incite the audience to really want an answer. You wouldn’t be in business if you were not offering an answer to some question. Don’t give them an answer until you have generated a field of tension surrounding the question.

2. Unpredictability

Don’t be predictable. Great filmmakers are always one step ahead of the audience. In Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn there were many moments when I wasn’t immediately sure what I was looking at due to the camera angle, lighting or just an ambiguous subject. Is that an oddly shaped boulder or a deformed monster or a corpse? Oh I see it’s a boulder. If the narration is about a hammer – show a nail. Keep them guessing as to what is coming next. This technique should not be arbitrary or chaotic; there should be a method to the madness. The unpredictability should be full of suggestion, foreshadowing and recall. Not gimmicky shots and tricks, rather the video should be strategically designed to tell a story in a way that is not predictably sequential. We don’t want to confuse the audience; we want them to be slightly unsure of what’s coming next.

3. Personality

The narrator, whether third person or an interviewee does not have to be eloquent or overly graceful, but they should be charming and endearing if not charismatic. Someone to whom we naturally would want to listen. It can be the slickest production in the land, but if the storyteller (narrator) does not have some type of magnetism which draws us to them, the whole thing will lay flat. (The salesperson sells herself before she can sell her product).

With a friend, I recently watched a documentary which presented the esoteric philosophy of a famous physicist.

The film was aimed at the educated lay. My friend, completely unfamiliar with anything even remotely related to the subject matter didn’t understand the physicist’s message. But he liked the film, even recommended it to his friends. I had to ask, “What did you like?” He liked the physicist. The film had a flow and was well put together he said, but above all he liked the physicist and was willing to sit through two hours of something he didn’t understand because he found the narrator/star of the film captivating. So, make sure your narrator/interviewee is someone to whom we want to listen.

If you can implement these three keys to good storytelling:

  • tension
  • unpredictability
  • personality

...along with a technically sound production, your video will soar– not bore!

PS. If you enjoyed this article, share it with the "Share Article" below.


Improving Performance: Integrating Stephen Covey’s Ideas in Video

“Most of your team members want to make a valued contribution– to find purpose in their work.” Stephen R. Covey.

I’m in the middle of reading Stephen Covey’s new book, “Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times.” Being a Covey fan for nearly 20 years, I can tell you this book is another winner. While it’s only 94 pages, the book is jam-packed with simple yet powerful ideas. It’s co-written by Bob Whitman, FranklinCovey’s CEO.

“How can I get more people to do the things we already know how to do?”
Great question, isn’t it? Covey’s question grabbed me because this is where business videos excel. Let me explain it through the eyes of Covey.

It’s a simple fact of life
Some people and teams within organizations work extremely well; say about 20% (to the right of the middle). Some under-perform; another 20% (those on the left side). The rest fall in the middle- roughly 60%. That 60% could easily move to the right, towards excellence– if only they knew how.

Covey suggests that one of the most effective ways a leader can improve the performance of people and teams is to “move the middle” “righter and tighter,” towards higher performance. Can you imagine the outcomes if just 5% or 10% of your teams started moving to the right towards higher performance?

But how do you move “the middle” to the right?
Covey suggests two steps :
1. Identify islands of excellence
2. Ask the team how to improve performance

1. Identify islands of excellence
Every organization has top performers and top teams. Identify them. Visit and talk to them. Find out what they are doing that sets them apart. Ask these top performers to share their success stories. Finally, invite these people to mentor “the middle.”

2. Ask the team how to improve performance
Start generating success stories from “the middle” instead of focusing on their failures. Get input from the team members on ways they can improve key performance areas. Involving the team on a consistent basis by setting new goals can go a long way to moving them to the right.

What’s all this have to do with video?
Using these two steps, you now have a template to create a series of video success stories to drive “the middle” “righter and tighter.”

Video template: Produce two short videos

1. Video #1 Identify islands of excellence
Let’s say you’ve identified a team that really shines. Spend a few hours capturing on-camera interviews with the team members. Capture their success stories. Capture their emotions. Video reigns supreme when showing emotions so capture the team’s passion and let’s see what makes them so successful.

2. Video #2 Ask the team how to improve performance
Spend another few hours capturing the high performance team mentoring a team in “the middle.” Interview team members from “the middle” so the audience can see and hear how they’re stuck and how intend to move forward. Let’s see how mentoring in action can tap into the greatness of a team and propel them forward.

Now you have a glimpse into answering Covey’s question:
“How can I get more people to do the things we already know how to do?”



Thomas Clifford and 40+ Story Practitioners in Storytelling eBook

Last summer, Dr. Kathy Hansen, publisher of A Storied Career blog and leading storytelling proponent, invited me to participate in her "story practitioner project."

I was interviewed (along with 42 other professional story practitioners) in a series of Q&A's related to my storytelling experience and corporate filmmaking. Kathy then posted all the individual interviews on her blog. Now the interviews are finally collected under one roof.

I'm totally thrilled to share with you Kathy's new free ebook:
"Storied Careers: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk About Applied Storytelling."

As Kathy says, think of this 88 page book "an international conversation about many applications of storytelling."

Here's a sampling of the 20 chapters in the book:

  • Defining Story
  • Social Media Storytelling
  • Change Your Story, Change Your Life
  • Story Techniques and Tools
  • Storytelling in Marketing, Sales, and Branding
  • Storytelling and Career

The back of the book has a complete directory of all 43 practitioners, mini-bios, web and blog addresses, email addresses, Twitter IDs and photos.

Go grab this ebook now! It's a delightful read with much depth, breadth and diversity rarely found in any publication.



Tom's SpeedLink #10

1. Defiant: A Social Media Project
"Defiant: Practical Tips to Thrive in Tough Times" is a free 90 page ebook put together by entrepreneurial leader, Rajesh Setty. The ebook was influenced and powered by social media, written by 50+ contributors and features more than 80 tips to thrive in these times. Beautifully designed; brilliantly executed.

2. Build your employer brand through your employees
A fabulous post by Mario Sundar, Community Evangelist at LinkedIn, reminding us how employees are quickly becoming the storytellers for their company.

From Mario's post: "In today’s networked world, no one would be surprised that companies have come to regard their employees as the key “story tellers” of their brand’s unique value proposition to the outside world."

Exactly! Well said, Mario.

3. Documentary Watch: September Theatrical Releases
Wow- September is looking great for new documentary releases. Among the more anticipated ones is Michael Moore's latest documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story."

4. Recently Released on DVD
New documentaries recently released on DVD.

5. Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Ethical Challenges in Their Work
A fascinating report on ethical challenges facing filmmakers today.