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

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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."

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“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.

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“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. 

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Michael Martine, Blog Alchemist, Remarkablogger.com 


Does Your Company’s Video Have a “Mismatch” Problem?

A “mismatch” problem?”

What the heck is that?

I had the same question as I watched Malcolm Gladwell’s recent video presentation at the 2008 New Yorker Conference.

What exactly is a “mismatch” problem?
According to Gladwell, a mismatch happens “…when the criteria we use to assess someone’s ability to do a job is radically out of step with the actual demands of the job itself.”

Malcolm’s main example points to how professional sports teams hope to draft the next future legends by measuring an athlete’s performance. The problem is these tests often fail. Why? Because the tests are measuring the wrong things. Real life is more complex than a series of tests.

Re-framing the “mismatch” problem
This got me thinking. What would happen if we re-framed Malcolm’s “mismatch” problem to your company’s video story? We would have something that looks like this:

A company’s video has a “mismatch problem” when the video story we think we need to produce is out of step with the video story our audience wants to know.

Does your company’s video have a mismatch problem?
It’s tempting to think you have the correct perspective (or criteria) to assess the demands of your audience. Perhaps you do; perhaps not.

How to avoid a mismatch
Here are a few questions you might want to think about to see if you have a mismatch or before your organization produces its next video:

  • Is your brand assumption in alignment with your audience’s perceptions?
  • Are your core values being expressed and resonating with your audience?
  • Are your passionate employees sharing emotional content?
  • Does your story reflect your audience’s expectations?
  • Can you commit the resources to support your efforts and expectations?

What do you think? Would you add or change any questions to this list?


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


7 Sure-Fire Steps for Creating Your Company’s Documentary

“Our company decided to make our own documentary.”

Sounds easy enough, but do you know where to start?

“Let’s just roll some tape and see what happens.”

Sounds exciting, but how much more will it cost you without using a plan?

In my last post, I wrote about three styles to consider when filming your company’s video story.

Of those three styles, I’ll now show you a process you can use to discover and capture your organization’s mini-documentary; easily and effectively.

Many people find the documentary style attractive because it has a sense of reality and rawness to it; real stories from real people.

Filming your company’s story in a mini-documentary format is a compelling way for you to highlight your culture, values, strengths and uniqueness and share it in a way your audience will appreciate and connect to.

So where do you begin?

I’ve used this blueprint for years to produce many videos for companies.

I call it, “STORIES.”

Select: your storytellers (interviewees)
Talk: to your storytellers (interviewees)
Organize: your material (your potential story)
Realize: your story with a script (your intentional story)
Imagine: the supporting footage (describe what you will see in your video)
Express: the supporting footage with engaging video (capture it)
Shape: your story in editing (your vision on screen)

You can use the “STORIES” blueprint too, to produce your own company’s mini-documentary.

Want an example?

Let’s take a peak into how the STORIES process is used for your company. You decide your video story will be five – seven minutes long.

1. Select. Your interviewees are your storytellers. Select five or six people who are as diverse in as many ways possible; their length of time with the company, their discipline, their passion to share their knowledge, their backgrounds, ages, etc.

2. Talk. Now, with the camera rolling, talk to your interviewees (storytellers) and get their story directly. Remember: it’s their point of view you’re after. If you’re not sure what to ask your storytellers, use these 11 questions as a guide to kick-start your possibilities.

3. Organize. Once your interviews are completed, transcribe them and put them in a binder. Being organized allows you to highlight and arrange your best sound bites easily and quickly.

4. Realize. Your script is realized after contemplating and arranging your best material from your storytellers. Copy and paste these quotes into a new document. This becomes your working script.

5. Imagine. Your script has been crafted. It has a natural flow from beginning to end. But what will your audience see while the story is being told? Imagine the footage you want captured in the appropriate areas of the script. Write it down in your script.

6. Express. Now it’s time to put visuals to your script. The goal is to capture compelling footage that expresses and compliments your narrative. Remember: your audience can sniff out gratuitous footage; make every scene count!

7. Shape. In editing, you shape and eventually crystallize your story using music and
all the visual tools available into an emotional narrative. A story uniquely yours.

Whether you plan to create your mini-documentary yourself or hire a professional team, having a blueprint like STORIES will take you out of the guessing game and into the story game.

Now I’d like to ask you:
• What do you think?
• Is this something that might be useful in your next project?
• Would you tweak it if you could?
• What has worked for you before?
• Is it adaptable for other projects like podcasting?


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


2 Years in a Visual Word Cloud

I was curious what two years of posts summarized in a word cloud would look like.

Wonder no more, thanks to Wordle. :-)

Have a great weekend.



See How Easily You Can Film Your Company’s Story. Naturally.

Are you hearing this a lot?

“Be real.” “Be authentic.” “Be yourself.”

I certainly am.

These days, being “real” and “authentic” seems to be on everybody’s mind.

While appearing natural on camera sounds simple, it is easier said than done.

When it flops, you roll your eyes. What happened?

Maybe everything was too perfect; too right; too set. That “something” was missing. What was it?


Adding a dose of reality will elevate your story from feeling staged, artificial, and contrived to feeling real.

Here are three video techniques that can successfully capture your organization’s message naturally.

Of course, there are many other approaches to consider. Just think of these styles as creative jumping off points the next time you’re considering capturing your organization’s story on video.

1. Fast Story: Take me there
Have you ever watched a documentary wishing your organization had its own mini-documentary to show potential customers, recruits and shareholders? Well, it can.

I call my mini-documentary format a “fast story.” A “fast story” lends itself particularly well to capturing a sense of “being there” for your viewers. The filming is slightly kinetic and the editing moves quickly. In most cases, without using a narrator, it is possible to capture your story through interviews of employees (or “heroes”) and other staff members: naturally and without coming across as having a “corporate voice.”

2. Virtual Story: Take me somewhere else
Have a concept that’s hard to describe? Prefer not to have a film crew arrive at your company? Feel like creating your own unique world for your message? Green screen, or chroma-key, is your solution.

While it may not appear to be “real,” featuring your employees and customers using this technique is a perfect solution for creating a unified “voice,” theme and look for your company or particular message.

3. Soul Story: Take me inside
Need a technique to capture the essence of someone in a completely natural, personal and soulful manner?

Interviews are the heart of many corporate films. Interviewing your “hero” so they speak directly into the lens is eye-catching.

Your audience will feel as if the person talking on-camera is speaking directly to them. Eye-to-eye. Me-to you. One-to-one. It’s a great technique for many types of organizations, especially non-profits seeking to share an emotional and personal story.

We’ll dive a bit deeper into each of these styles in future posts.

What do you think? Will one of these three approaches connect your brand story to your audience in real and compelling ways?


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


Are You Afraid Your Corporate Video Interviews are Boring?

What's the "heart" of almost every corporate video?


Since I've spent 25 years interviewing hundreds of people, I thought sharing my top interviewing tips would help readers put a "face" on their company's video story.

I did just that when Valeria Maltoni invited me to write a guest post for her "Conversation Agent" blog.

"Will Your Corporate Video Fail? 5 Simple Steps for Success with Stories" will help you get the most out of your interviews from your employees (or anyone, for that matter!)

You can think of interviews as the "backbone" or "spine" that gives your video life. Interviews can give structure and meaning to a company's message.

Imagine interviews "breathing life" into your video.

Since employees are often the "voice" and "backbone" of these video stories, you wold think it's pretty important to know how to "breathe life" into these interviews.

  • Want to know my five secrets that will "breathe life" into your company's video?
  • Want to avoid the classic boring interview?

You'll find the answers to these questions and more on my guest post.

Thank you, Valeria, for the invitation to guest post!


P.S. Be sure to grab the free eBook Valeria produced as a result of our conversation. "Ask(?)Away: Take Your Brand from Commodity to Community."