I'm Tom and welcome to my site.

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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 


My Story Part of The "Story Practitioner" Project

It's probably fair to say we often don't get a chance to tell our story to others.

I mean the full story; not the sound-bite version
Twitter, blogging and micro-blogging are all the rave but it makes getting our full story told a bit difficult, ey?

My story is part of the "Story Practitioner" project
If you're interested in knowing more than just me as a filmmaker, it's on Kathy Hansen's site, A Storied Career, as part of her series called "Story Practitioners."

As part of the project, I was asked to answer five Q&A's that taken together reveal how I got where I am today and what I value.

Kathy's website explores a wide variety of storytelling forms in media, careers, journalism, blogging and more. It's one of my favorite sites because she discovers the most unique findings on story anywhere.

A few things covered in my story...

  • Spiritual masters influential to my thinking
  • Responsible corporate video storytelling
  • The day my rock 'n' roll dream vanished

I want to give a Kathy a huge "thank you" for inviting me to participate. It was a blast!

The Five Questions

1. How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative?
What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?

2. What people or entities (such as Web sites, blogs, books,
organizations, conferences, etc.) have been most influential
to you in your story work and why?

3. How important is it to you and your work to function
within the framework of a particular definition of "story?"
(i.e., What is a story?) What definition do you espouse?

4. You've written recently about "responsible corporate video storytelling."
Why is that important, and how does storytelling fit in?

5. Many practitioners agree with the idea that corporations need to tell their stories, but not that many of them are doing it with video. In your view, why is video important to the equation? Are you seeing other uses of storytelling in video that excite you?


Age of Conversation: Take 2

Big news, folks!

The second edition of the "Age of Conversation: Why Don't They Get It?" is finally published and available for purchase. It's available in hardcover, softcover and as an e-book.

My chapter is under the manifesto category: "It's That Simple: How smart people in smart companies use real video stories to create real emotional connections."

The book features 237 authors, marketers, bloggers and writers from 15 countries. The project (and, wow, what a project it is!) has been spear-headed by Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan. If you're not familiar with them, don't dilly dally...put them on your radar.

So what's inside the AOC2? Here's a peak at the different categories:

  • Manifestos
  • Keeping Secrets in the Age of Conversation
  • Moving from Conversation to Action
  • The Accidental Marketer
  • A New Brand of Creative
  • My Marketing Tragedy
  • Business Model Evolution
  • Life in the Conversation Age

These two books are simply remarkable in that they are the first ever, virtually collaborated, independently published books.

OK. I'll stop writing. You go buy this book. You'll be glad you did. :-)

P.S. Just like the first edition, the proceeds for the second edition go to Variety, the children's charity.


Isn't the Problem Defining a Solution?

Ultimately, yes.

But first, it's about defining the problem.

Let's say you're starting a new video project. You might be solving the wrong problem by spending too much time on the solution (the video) and not enough time defining the problem. Then you might wind up with a mismatch on your hands. Oops!

For most of us, it's a lot easier to jump to solutions, isn't it?

"Let's do this." "Let's do that." 

Defining the problem accurately may be more challenging than coming up with solutions; and it takes more time.

What does this have to do with your video story?

During initial conversations with your filmmaker, the solution may get a lot of attention.

It's tempting to focus on the solution

It's natural. It's like someone is focusing the spotlight on the "solution" while the "problem" goes wandering off the stage. And yes, I still fall into that trap, too. :)

Solutions are solutions because they solve a specific problem

Seems obvious, but you can't create a solution until the problem is clearly defined.

Move off the solution

If, at the beginning of a project, you find yourself focusing more time on the solution than the problem, move off the solution. Ask yourself: "What exactly is the problem I'm trying to solve?" Defining the problem clearly gives you a direct path to your solution. 

The problem isn't defining the solution.

The problem is defining the problem

Then the solution is right around the corner. :-)

What do you think? Do you first start with solutions? Or do you start with defining the problems? What works for you? Drop me a note.  


Are You Using Your Ears to See Your Company’s Video Story?

You might not believe this, but video isn’t everything.

The fact is, until you discover your company’s story first, video doesn’t mean much.

One of the secrets to discovering and eventually “seeing” your company’s video story before you produce it is by first “hearing” it.

There are five common ways to imagine your video story through sound:
1. Interviews
2. Themes
3. Hooks
4. Feelings
5. Ambiance

The ears have it.

Let’s say you’ve recently been commissioned to produce a recruiting video. You bend over backwards determining what your company’s video story will look like.
Your team begins picturing everything they want to show in the film; the general facilities, people, training rooms, classrooms, call centers, weekly team meetings and so forth.

Then you hit a wall.

You realize seeing the scenes do not tell your story. What do you do? Do what I do.

Forget about the video.

Forget about the visuals. Forget about the scenes. Forget what it will look like.

Think about the sound.

Imaging the sounds you want to hear in your video is a powerful technique that puts you on the road to developing your company’s story or message.
Here are five ways you can “see” your company’s video story by first imagining the sounds you “hear.”

5 Ways to See Your Company’s Video Story by Imagining Sounds

#1 - Imagine hearing the interviews
Since interviews are the backbone for most corporate videos, write down phrases or points you are hearing from the interviewees, or “heroes” as I call them, in your film. Imagine hearing the answers to these 11 stimulating questions. Once you capture these ideas, you might be at the heart of your message.

#2 - Imagine hearing the themes
What topics will your heroes talk about if you were to interview them? What themes come up? Customer service? Performance metrics? Mentoring? Training? Culture? Career advancement? See what common themes reoccur to help you decide what to address. You might think about using themes that are less frequently shared.

#3 - Imagine hearing the” hook”
Here are a few questions to help think about your “hook;” the thing that gets your audience to pay attention!
• What is that “thing” that first made you think you might have an interesting story?
• Why would someone else care?
• What unique comments do your customers keep telling you?
• What myth do you want to crush?
• Do employees have a common thread in their conversations?
Any of these are signals pointing to your potential hook. The hook is already there. All you have to do to catch it is to keep an open mind!

#4 - Imagine hearing the feelings
An engaging interview can easily capture emotions that are otherwise difficult to share. What emotions do you want to hear? Joy? Frustration? Hope? Inspiration? Confidence?

#5 - Imagine hearing the ambiance
NPR uses atmospheric sounds for business stories better than almost anyone. Their ambient sounds have a “take you there” quality. Pay close attention to the sounds surrounding you. How can you use different sounds to tell part of your story? For example, are there sounds of people teaching one another? Helping one another? Is music part of your story? Are there mechanical or technical sounds? Animal sounds? Nature sounds?

There you have it. Five simple ways to “see” your video story a bit differently. All it takes is a little imagination!

P.S. You may find NPR’s book, Sound Reporting: The Guide to Audio Journalism and Production a nice addition to your library.

Originally posted on Tom's FastCompany.com column, "Let's See That Again!"


7 Habits of Highly Effective Corporate Video Clients

So you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll on your next video project, right?

Budgets are approved. Management is on board. They bought your vision.

Whoa! Not so fast.

You and your team may think your ducks are all lined up. But are they really?

Is your team on the same page?

I mean both teams. Don’t forget, you have two teams: one at work and the team capturing your video story. I bet you can imagine the disaster when two teams aren’t in sync. Ouch!

What habits contribute to smooth running productions?

How do you, as a client, keep two teams in sync? What few habits can you practice that will ensure your project run smoothly for both teams?

As I thought more about this, I wondered where I could go to get another opinion. I went to where the rubber hits the road. Where every show finally ends up: in the edit room.

With a cup of tea in hand, I stopped by the edit room and asked my editor this simple question: “What habits do you consistently see in clients and our video team that contribute to creating successful, smooth-running projects?”

Here’s a short list summarizing our conversation. It is certainly by no means complete, but the essentials are here and it will get you thinking before the camera rolls.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Corporate Video Clients

1. Discover interesting storytellers.
No matter what your message is, you can “breathe life” into your video with interesting storytellers. Sharing several points of view from interesting people tells a story that can instantly capture the imagination of your audience. Different points of views also adds dimensions to your message that would otherwise be flat and monotone.

A word of advice. It’s easy for politics to determine who appears on-camera. If you take this course, remember you may wind up with people on-camera who aren’t necessarily sharing a point of view your audience needs to know or even cares about.

2. Check your ego at the door.
Is your message bigger than yourself? I bet it is. Then remember your audience. There’s only one person you need to touch. If you can touch one person, in doing just that, you can effectively touch dozens, hundreds or thousands. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

3. Get all conversations transcribed with time-code.
Transcripts = Efficiency = Cost Savings.

I shared this tip in an earlier post, "7 Sure-Fire Steps for Creating Your Company’s Documentary" but it's worth repeating.

Interviews that don’t get transcribed can potentially waste hours in the edit room (at a substantial cost). The reason? Sound bites take time to find from the original tapes. Finding sound bites that could have been done for free before the edit begins winds up costing you money during the edit. Ouch!! I’ll say it again in bold type: get all interviews transcribed with time-code stamped every 30 seconds.

4. Create a script from the transcripts.
Now that you have transcripts from all your interviews, you can start crafting a narrative; your story. Once you put a draft script together, you might discover a few “holes” in your message. Perhaps you need to write a little narration. If so, keep it to a minimum! The “voice” of the film is told through your “heroes,” your storytellers. Too much narration distracts from the “personal voice” you are creating.

5. Lead by sharing a clear vision.
Your story needs a leader. Someone who can take your company’s team and guide them through the process of getting the vision onto the screen. Perhaps that leader will be you. Now add to the mix, you’ll also have a director and/or producer on the project. Sharing your vision with clarity to your “second team,” the production team, is just as critical, if not more so, than your internal team in capturing your message accurately. Lead clearly.

6. Talk more. Email less.
You just sent an email to your producer. You assume they received it and are acting upon your request.

Ooops. Their email is down. Uh-oh. And you never followed up on the phone. Now what?

Try this method instead. This model works extremely well and my clients love it.

First, I have conversations on the phone. The conversation is immediate. There’s a give-and-take, a “dance” that happens. Things get resolved and acted upon quickly. Then, if necessary, we follow-up by email. But here’s the difference. Now both parties know what to expect if email is required as a follow-up. The guesswork is eliminated. Remember: your video story is a co-creation. It’s a dance. Not a one-way street.

7. Think about how you want to make people feel.
It’s not so much about being right or wrong. It is about what feels authentic; true to your message and story. A video story does not have a balance sheet. It has a heart. If you combine your images, sound and story in an engaging way, it will touch people’s emotions, even at the most basic level. Your mantra throughout the entire process should be, “How do I want to make people feel after they see our film?” Answer that question. Write it down in a few words. Tape it on the cover of your project binder. Bingo. It becomes your internal compass.

There you go. “7 Habits” to help you simplify your journey through the story process. I can think of several more that I left out.

What did I miss? What are some of your habits that you’d like to share? What would you change? Drop a note in the comments section. Thanks!