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Prestige Conference: In Review

Inspiration. Process. And tactical takeaways. That's what I am emerging with, after attending Prestige Conference this past weekend in Minneapolis. 

When looking at the big name speakers on the list, I felt a wee bit out of my element. "Wordpress expert" was a common title, and frankly - I'm a novice at best, and not looking to get into it at all for my business. I thought, "Great. It's going to be a weekend of code talk, that ends in me crying in frustration over skills I don't have." 

Boy, was I wrong. This had something for EVERYONE. 

Yes, the speakers had a ton of accolades in the development world, but they weren't there to talk code. Common themes from these successful speakers were: culture, risk, and attitude. As someone who usually speaks at events, it was truly a much needed shot in the arm to get off my business butt and put some new processes into place. :) 

Don't have time to read the entire post? Here is a quick video wrap up about my 2 favorite speakers:

SESSION 1: 
The day started off with Lea Newman with "The Whole Person Concept: Finding Balance In Our Work, Our Lives, and Our Successes." Some really great tips about changing your mindset or "state" as she put it, at work - and finding balance. She walked us through a great exercise regarding a "circle of life" to test whether or not we were actually in balance. Good stuff. Tons of energy, too!

SESSION 2:
Next up, was Tony Perez. And wow, did the room sit up and take notice.  Now we see why he was stretching, yes...stretching, on the ground - before his talk. 
He touched on building solutions that solve problems and the nitty-gritty of running a multi-million dollar business (gulp, no pressure, right?). It's pretty impressive that his security company is mitigating 350 million attacks/year! Here is one of Tony's most talked about slides: 

If you want more information on this amazing ball of energy, here is a great article.

SESSION 3: 
Next up, the fearless dudes Nick and Travis from WestWerk (also hosts of our amazzzzzing after party, thanks guys) took the stage to talk about the value of having a business partner. One of the big takeaways (and hey, common sense that a lot of us may have overlooked) was to work with a potential partner first, before you decide to become business partners. Bring someone on in a working capacity, and see if you gel - because sometimes friends, aren't great business partners. 

westwerk.jpg

OH hey, then lunch was upon us...carbs, sweets, and socializing...oh, my! 
But, enough about food...now we're back for an amazing afternoon.

SESSION 4: 
With everyone in a bit of a lunch coma, it was going to take a heavy-hitter to keep us all awake and ready to rock, and boy did Prestige deliver. Nancy Lyons had folks rolling with laughter, and saw the biggest flurry of quotes on our twitter stream. She spoke about "Technology's Dirty Little Secret" and schooled us in company culture. Her team is obviously doing something right, since they were recently featured on the national evening news for that very thing! Congrats, Clockwork

clockwork.jpg

The rest of the afternoon flew by!

SESSION 5: 
Next up was Vasken Hauri teaching the crowd about how to scale yourself. He also scored some bonus points with the X-Files fans in the audience. ;-) One of the quotes that stood out was, "Don't assume silence means people understand, when you are assigning work." Good call.

SESSION 6: 
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Shane from Modern Tribe at the speaker dinner the night before (I helped with social media this weekend while I was there), and boy does this guy have a way with words and storytelling. It carried into his presentation, for sure! Concentrating on how to land big clients, I know personally - this session was really helpful for me. I'm not necessarily trying to land more "big" clients, but...hearing his thoughts on when it's time to throw in the towel, and when to keep the relationship going, was really valuable. I also loved his response when asked about responding to RFP's. "I only respond if we know someone in the decision making process in that company." Amen, Shane...amen!

moderntribe.jpg

SESSION 7:
We ended the day with Prestige Co-founder Kiko Doran taking the stage with Dre Armeda of WebDev Studios.  The two walked through Dre's story, and even traded some Jiu Jitsu knowledge (we thought they were going to throw down on stage!).
"There is no 'losing.' There is just 'winning' and 'learning." -Dre 
 

drearmeda.jpg

---- DAY 2 ----

SESSION 1: 
OK, this workshop with Jennifer Bourn on branding was spot freakin' on, people! Simple. Clear. Concise. And this, coming from someone who's been working in the branding space for 10 years. Having a key workshop takeaway was a huge hit, and I even decided to change a bit of my positioning with Puke Rainbows. Gotta love it! Our photographer Mike caught this great shot of Jennifer in action. 
 

 photo: https://twitter.com/TheArtofMx

photo: https://twitter.com/TheArtofMx

SESSION 2: 
Lisa Sabin Wilson was up next, and she gave us all the feels. It was so refreshing to see a conference encourage a titan in the industry to share her personal story of triumph over adversity, tragedy, and how to do it with grace. The folks at GoDaddy put it well: 

godaddy.jpg

Hearing Lisa talk about working as a nurse full time, creating her company at night, and raising two kids, all while dealing with death, was amazing. Her big tip when transitioning careers? When she consistently made, in her side biz, what she made for a monthly salary in her 9-5 job, for 6 months straight - she made the jump. Very very smart. 

SESSION 3: 
Ok, disclaimer here...I know this presenter, too! Eric Johnson and I used to work on the same floor back in my BringMeTheNews days. He is over at local innovator GoKart Labs. Touching on how to stay agile in process, and what to tell clients who are used to big agency approach, was really great to hear. He took us through building a product team, step by step. Uber valuable.  
 

ericjohnson.jpg

SESSION 4: 
After meeting Jason Cohen at the speaker dinner and Westwerk party, I knew we were in for a treat to finish out the day. True story: while I was asking folks in candid conversation the question, "If candy were currency, which type would you choose?" Most of us just chose our favorite flavor, Reese's, kit kat, etc.....but, Jason? A true businessman and strategist. He asked right back, "Well, which candy can provide something that is a system of value? We could make something out of runts." Lol. So practical and smart. Kudos. 

jason.jpg

He walked us through where A/B testing fails, and what it actual "does"...which, I feel is something missing in our everyday conversations. Jason also wins the day for most jokes dealing with shooting or killing something. True talent. ;-) But, really...there were so many nuggets, I can't choose just a couple. Great job!

SUMMARY: 
Overall, the weekend was awesome. I highly recommend this to anyone working on growing a small-medium sized business, and entrepreneurs of all sorts. You definitely did NOT have to have a wordpress background to attend. Also, I came away feeling like this community really took me in. So nice to an "outsider", and helpful in exchanging information. I really hope to run into many of the speakers, team, and attendees in the future! 


Sidenote: shout out to Jen Jamar for being my partner in crime all weekend, and to Kiko Doran for bringing me on board to help here and there with social. Jen handled most of it and was the strategy brains of the operation, but it was a blast to help tweet here and there. :) Thanks, guys! 

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Competitors? More like, collaborators.

This past week I had the honor of speaking at the first ever MINBOUND conference in Minnesota. It was an absolute blast. The thing I love about opportunities like this, is that not only did I have a chance to share, crack dumb jokes, and talk about some cool work done with my clients...but, I had the chance to learn, as well. 

 Social Content: it's a two way street - was the title of my session. Here I touch on the importance of engaging influencers, not only at the beginning of the process, but as a brand - the value of continuing that relationship with them online. 

Social Content: it's a two way street - was the title of my session. Here I touch on the importance of engaging influencers, not only at the beginning of the process, but as a brand - the value of continuing that relationship with them online. 

Heading into the conference I noticed something. A former co-worker of mine, Gregg Litman was presenting a session just before lunch. "Cool!" I thought. (I knew he would absolutely nail it, because Gregg knows his stuff.)
But, a friend of mine brought up a different point, "Aren't you afraid that you'll be competing? I mean, you do similar jobs and probably are looking for the same type of clients."  
I sat there, thinking about it. And finally said, "You know what? I don't think we are competing. If anything, I think we have completely different skill sets that would suit two very different types of clients well. I'd gladly refer someone to Gregg, because I know they'd be well taken care of." 

 Gregg demonstrating how video blogs out performed written blogs for a client. Great info, why not share it with everyone, right?!

Gregg demonstrating how video blogs out performed written blogs for a client. Great info, why not share it with everyone, right?!

But, to be honest -  for a minute I second guessed myself. Was a being naive? Everyone I speak to spends so much time worrying about their competition. So, I asked myself,

"Should I be worrying more about what the other guys are doing? Should I be "protecting" my business from competitors? Should I be afraid?" 

This, quite frankly...bummed me out, and left a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I truly believe that being aware of your competitors is smart, of course - but, I know way too many people who spend SO much time analyzing what others are doing, that when the time comes to innovate, they are sucked dry by fear of being bested by the competition. This type of fear in the creative process can be paralyzing. It creates roadblocks, and makes it impossible to try new things. And, in many cases...the approach that should have been used for a client, is pushed by the wayside - because of what the "other" guys are doing, and the desire to not rock the boat "too much." 

Collaboration With Competitors
I started thinking about other relationships I have in town with talented people. Like Elizabeth Giorgi, a fellow girl boss. We've had this conversation many times, that we "technically" should "hate" each other, and avoid trading industry secrets, if we knew what was good for us (haha). But, to be honest - I'd like nothing more than the chance to work with her on a project someday. The cool thing about our relationship, is that we can be honest with each other about things. I remember her saying to me, "Was I bummed when I saw you got to work with Science Museum? Of course. Was I happy that it was you? Of course. I also know that I'll end up getting projects you'll probably want to work on, and we'll go back and forth like this as long as we're in business. I know I've probably gotten projects you would have loved to be on as well." Truth, amen sista. And we've even tossed around the idea of collaborating on an upcoming project - that would be GREAT! The same holds true for dozens of production pals in town. I am part of a freelancing group, dubbed "The Clutch" by founding members Zach Peterson and Tom Forliti. Last year we all pooled resources and shot a project for fun, it was a blast. Yes, a lot of us are competitors. But, in the end, it didn't matter - because we were all learning something new we could take back to our own individual clients, anyway. Win win. 

At MINBOUND, I asked Gregg what he thought about people thinking we were competitors. He laughed, and said, "No way. We do two completely different things, different styles." I agreed and pointed out, "I think you're right! And, in the end...my style doesn't work for everyone, and either does yours. I want to work with people who gravitate towards what I do so we speak the same language, and I'm sure you want the same." Gregg, "Exactly!" 

So, I'm going to continue to post content from my "competitors". Cool stats like this from Gregg's deck at MINBOUND15. 

 A slide from Gregg's deck at #MINBOUND15

A slide from Gregg's deck at #MINBOUND15

Why? Because I'm not the only creative director or speaker in town, and because there IS more than one way of doing things. It would be a disservice to the folks I work with, if I DIDN'T bring them this info. 

Maybe, just maybe...if we spend less time "fearing" that our clients will find another provider, and MORE time trying to bring them value and perspective from ALL sources, the relationships will naturally fall where they make the most sense. 

For more information on anything in the article, feel free to e.mail me directly at: erica@pukerainbows.com 
 

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Why Video?

I love to read. Really, I do. Clever copy on a website brings a smile to my eyes, and a brilliant billboard always makes me laugh. There are a ton of ways to get your message out, and a great written tag line can definitely gain attention. That's why I think a lot of folks are skeptical about video. It's a question I get on a weekly basis, 

"Why should someone do a video?" 

The truth is, maybe they shouldn't do a video. Because, video...emphasizes who you really are. And for some businesses? Yeah, that transparency probably isn't a good idea (we all know the unethical types). Video is great for people who have a story to tell. A real story. Not just a made up tale to sell stuff. Visuals are superb if you need to teach something, or make a point really easy to understand. But, above all - even though these things are great...it's not "why" I love video so much. The number one reason is this: 

When people read a message, they assign the tone in their head.

When you deliver a message on camera, you are in charge of the tone and brand feeling. 

 Mike Ryncheck - CEO, Spyder Trap  outtake from video shot for Celarity.com (client)

Mike Ryncheck - CEO, Spyder Trap 
outtake from video shot for Celarity.com (client)

Inflection. Sarcasm. Delivery. Empathy. These are all things up to the reader if we're talkin' text. But, a good director can help bring your brand to life in an authentic way on camera, that is unforgettable. Ultimately...you are in control. 

I'm not saying that other ways of advertising are "bad." I use social media, and sponsorship for events for my own biz. They work great! But, when it comes to telling a story, and being sure that the right tone is getting to the humans you want to reach? I still think video is king. 

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Helpful Tips for Journalists on Periscope

Periscope has been gaining popularity the past few weeks, and with all of the 'scopes coming out of Baltimore - the impact of live streaming apps is more apparent than ever. 

But, with new technology comes questions and learning curves. Obviously I'm still a newbie on periscope as well ( @meeterica is my handle) but, since I worked in a newsroom for 10 years I can feel the pain of journalists everywhere trying to learn how to work this in the most efficient way possible, quickly. 

 photo: periscope via the stream of @paulLewis 

photo: periscope via the stream of @paulLewis 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when "scoping." 

Periscope Pointers:

1. People can hear you. All of the time.

Remember when you were taught that the mic is always on? Yes, remember that from J school!

Example: This seems like a no-brainer, but I saw a stream from a TV station the other day shooting a monitor with pool footage, and in the background the producer was asking questions about Antiques Roadshow. During the Baltimore protests. Ouch. Be careful.

2. Answer questions if possible. 

It's a social platform. If you don't answer questions, and ignore your viewers - people will get angry, quickly.

In a way it's like having a press conference, but standing at the podium in silence. If you are not allowed to answer questions, tell them, kindly.  Make sure they know you aren't ignoring them. Being polite goes a long way. 

3. Comments bothering you/obstructing your view during a stressful situation? Hide them.

Do this by swiping right, scrolling down, and hitting "hide chat."

Keep in mind though, that even though you can't see it, doesn't mean others can't. The chat is still there, but invisible to you. If you think the chat may be disturbing to others as well, clue them in on how to hide it - they may just tune in longer. 

4. Is someone harassing you? Block them.

Yes, you are a journalist and should listen, but I would argue that if you fear for your safety, and the person won't have a rational conversation and is distracting you from doing your job, they should be blocked.*

Etiquette: rule of thumb would be to warn them first, if you go by social media etiquette - simply saying, "NickelbackLover213, if you contribute in a rude or threatening manner, you'll be banned." I've actually had people apologize to me, and beg to be kept on the stream - mainly because sometimes sarcasm and intent doesn't translate well in comments, and they are simply joking. 

*Please note: blocking someone does not block them from the current broadcast that is open. They will still be able to participate, but you won't see it. The good news? They can't see any of your broadcasts after the current one is over. 

5. You can send your broadcast to limited/certain people.

Do you want only certain co-workers to see your broadcast? Perhaps your producer or reporter? Make it a private broadcast (the icon that looks like a padlock).

Select the people from your friends list, that you hope will see it. Send it to them. It will not be sent to the "watch now" tab. But, as with any new app, keep in mind...flubs can happen. Still keep the "mic is always on" demeanor, and if you see screen names you don't recognize entering the scope, you know something is up and it's accidentally been pushed out.

6. Watch out for yourself.

As Paul Lewis said on his stream tonight in Baltimore (to 2.3k viewers), "For every moment I am holding this camera, I am not looking out for my well-being. I need to log off. Thank you." 

7. You can save your broadcast!

Hit "save to camera roll." 

8. Your video doesn't immediately disappear from the stream. 

It should be available for reply up to 24 hours after you shoot it.

If you don't want people to be able to replay your video (for example: you were just shooting a test), simply open it, scroll to the bottom, and hit "Delete Replay." 

9. Show people love. Hearts are positive. 

People like what they see and/or want you to shoot more of it. Pretty simple. If you want to give someone a heart, just double tap the screen of their broadcast. But, please...don't beg for hearts. You look desperate. 

10. My scopes aren't pushing to twitter, even when I hit the tweet button?

I talk about this in my tutorial video (about 3 minutes in). More than likely it's in your device settings under twitter. 

11. Get quicker answers from followers. 

This is simple. Ask a multiple choice question, and ask them to choose 1 or 2 as their answer. Much quicker than making them retype. Example, "Should I buy a Creed record, or Nickelback you guys? 1 for Creed. 2 for Nickelback." (the answer should be no, to both, btw. ewwww.) 

Any other questions? Feel free to tweet me at @meeterica or email me at: erica@pukerainbows.com 

---

I am a former Creative Producer/Director for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. Currently I own this lovely company (Puke Rainbows). It's a blast. Need a speaker? I like talking. And Nickelback jokes. I've graced the stages of: 

National Press Photographers Association Workshop, Best of the Midwest Journalism Convention, The Midwest Journalism Conference, Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Social Lights Bootcamp (keynote), AdFed 32 Under 32 (keynote), Social Media Breakfast, Minnesota Association of Government Communicators, and many private speaking events/workshops for companies/news orgs about video production, tease writing, social media, and
even online dating stories if you really want to be entertained. 

 

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Periscope: a Tutorial for Beginners

Have you downloaded the new Periscope app? I'm totally in love. Live streaming video is now accessible to anyone (well, if you have an iphone anyway). Now, I may be a high end video nut - of course, it's what I do for a living. But, what you sacrifice in quality here, you gain in authenticity and pure awe. It's so great to be able to connect with people all around the world and learn about their cultures, without spending a dime! 

Now, let me be clear - yes, this could affect potential business-by encouraging people to handle live streaming on their own. But, honestly-the benefits of you learning about this, far outweigh my biz concerns (plus, this isn't an arena where I play often). 

Here is a quick tutorial about the app itself! I'd still suggest hiring a professional if you want to stream an event, mainly due to reliability of the stream, clarity of picture, and the fact that the app really encourages vertical video...which, is the only dumb functionality thing I don't agree with. haha! 

For those of you who are unable to watch the video...because, let's be honest - you're peeping this at work, and don't want your boss to see -  here are answers to a few questions I get frequently: 

q. what is periscope? 

a. an app that allows you to live stream straight from you mobile device. 

q. how do people use it? 

a. it depends - many people use it to talk to people. They answer questions about their occupations, country, etc... Other people become tour guides of sorts, and like to show what is happening around them - events, beautiful sights, etc...

q. what should a newbie know?

a. periscope, like most social platforms - thrives on conversation. If people ask you questions, answer them, and ask questions back. 

q. what about trolls? 

a. they are everywhere. Simply click on their photo, and hit "block." Problem solved. 

q. anything to beware of? 

a. the titles of broadcasts can be deceiving. If you are browsing with your children, it's a good idea to open the stream first, then show them after you make sure there is nothing dirty or scandalous happening ;-) Also, keep in mind that it makes it easy for people to know if you aren't at your house/are at your house. My rule of thumb is that I never show my house number, and keep my location vague when I talk about where I live. 

q. what is the coolest thing you've seen? 

a. i had a wonderful conversation with a journalist from Kuwait about women's rights the other day. Really eye-opening. MC Hammer (yes, that MC Hammer) has a great stream, and since there aren't a ton of users yet, he tends to remember repeat viewers/names of them. It's cool. Also, I'd recommend BradManTv -he is a lifecaster, which means he keeps his device on 24/7. 

q. any other cons?

a. it will suck your data plan dry, and your battery. So, it's best to use it if you're connected to wifi, with a full battery. 

q. what are the hearts on the screen for? 

a. it's basically a quick way to tell whomever is broadcasting, that you love what you see or what they've said. Simply double tap, and a heart will show up. 

Here are some photos/screenshots of cool things I've seen so far: 

 Curling in Raleigh (by my pal @jfmecca) on periscope!

Curling in Raleigh (by my pal @jfmecca) on periscope!

 Live music from Nashville, Tennessee on periscope!

Live music from Nashville, Tennessee on periscope!

 Joshua Malina (one of my favorite actors from the TV show Scandal) talks to his fans and answers questions between takes. 

Joshua Malina (one of my favorite actors from the TV show Scandal) talks to his fans and answers questions between takes. 

 A man feeds a hummingbird out of his hand on periscope!

A man feeds a hummingbird out of his hand on periscope!

I've already noticed a lot of people using this app around Minneapolis to shoot video and show our beautiful city to the world, and it makes me so happy! Hopefully you will be able to check it out soon, and travel the world without spending a dime (as long as you don't go over on data, haha). Enjoy, and happy scoping! 

 

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Nobel Peace Prize Forum - How Do You Peace it Forward?

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Nobel Peace Prize Forum - How Do You Peace it Forward?

In less than a week, world leaders, scholars, dignitaries, and even plain old Minnesotans like yours truly, will be attending the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. It is, honestly...a breathtaking event. I always ugly cry at least twice, and meet the most intelligent, amazing people. And, in times like these when it seems like we're surrounded by posts on social media about racism, sexism, human trafficking, terrorism, and war...it's really tough to know where to start when it comes to seeking peace. 

 My #peaceitforward statement for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. - erica hanna 

My #peaceitforward statement for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. - erica hanna 

That's why I think it's so awesome that this year, the forum is the catalyst for the beginning of an amazing movement: the #PeaceitForward campaign. The concept is simple...think about what you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis that helps build peace. We all make a difference, seriously! Then, write it down on a sheet of paper - and take a photo of yourself holding it up with the hashtag #PeaceitForward :) Being part of a movement is an awesome thing, and your impact is NEVER too small. Think about it, what is the cheesy old saying...? Something like...a ripple becomes a wave? Truth. 

(click the above pic to see other examples of the #peaceitforward campaign)

So, you've decided to #PeaceitForward (hopefully), now what? Well, maybe you should come hang with me, @studioloraine, @lisadubbels, and @RoshiniR at the forum this weekend! (yup, tickets are still available for certain days) This is my 3rd year as a Social Media Delegate for this event, and it honestly blows my mind that more people don't know about it. Seeing folks like the Dalai Lama, Muhammad Yunis, Tawakkol Karman, and this year...President Jimmy Carter, it's just, I don't know...there are no words for how moving the entire weekend is, I tell ya. Each year I wait, fingers crossed - and hope I'll be able to attend/be a part of the team again. It's THAT amazing. 

(click the photos above to see more pics from years past at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum) 


I know I didn't provide a ton of info in this post, probably because I'm too busy gushing about how excited I am, eh? But, for more details go here: Nobel Peace Prize Forum or check out this recent article in the Star Tribune. A huge thanks to Stephanie Weiss for all of the hard work she's put in! 

Oh, and also...since I'm receiving tickets to the event as trade for being a Social Media Delegate, I'm required by law to tell you that I am not paying to attend (seriously, feeling way lucky here...but, the price is also worth it). Also, I haven't been paid in any other way, and every poorly written word in this post, has been on my own accord. Yay, FCC regulations! 

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Does the Word "Client" Hinder Collaboration?

"I never want to work in sales, and I will never...ever be a client facing DIRECTOR/producer."

I said these words 5 years ago, to a co-worker of mine. And, they'll never let me forget it. haha. You see, the creative team at most larger market TV stations is typically split into two sides: client facing, and internal branding. I was always on the internal side. My job duties included: writing copy, directing, shooting, and editing promotional campaigns for the station. In a nutshell, KIMT, KSTP, WCCO, or wherever I was at, was my client. The co-workers who were commercial client facing would take on advertisers who needed video content for media ad buys during commercial breaks on our station. 

Throughout this time, I'd watch from the outside as different producers working on the sales side of things would take on new client after new client, juggling multiple projects, direction, and taxing rounds of revisions. My co-workers in the sales/marketing video area, were amazing! SO good at their jobs. And, after hearing frustrations over nightmare clients demanding 5-6 rounds of revisions on spots I swore I just didn't have the patience they did, to be able to handle being pulled in so many different directions with clients that, from my perspective (very young at the time), just didn't "get" creative, and were being difficult. I swore that I'd never find myself on that side of things. It seemed way too stressful.

So, naturally...what did I do?

Start my own business!!!

Working with clients.

100% of the time. Haha! 

As I was talking with a friend the other day they asked me about my current and potential clients and the pipeline I had in place. I just sat there. Thinking, "Yes, I do keep a running list of people I need to connect and follow up with, but there is something about calling it a "funnel" or "pipeline" that gives me the visual of people being herded and thought of, like cattle."  Gross. 

That got me thinking...what do I really do? Who do I work with? "Clients?" Ewww. No. In my mind, the word "client" reminds me of the nightmare gajillion revision/snotty disagreement scenarios. Although, technically the word client means someone who "pays another for services rendered." OK, OK....when you look at it that way, I guess it's accurate. But, here is the truth: 

I can't provide those services...without communicating and working WITH the person who is hiring me. They know their business, project, idea and goal. I don't. Not yet, anyway. They know what they want to accomplish. I don't. Not when they come to me. And, the same goes for most of the people I work with. They don't necessarily know anything about video. So, it's my job to not only work WITH them, but teach along the way...so that each project is easier and easier, as far as workflow goes. Really, nobody is servicing anyone. It's collaboration. 

 My project partner (client?) and friend, Shaun Johnson - of Tonic Sol-fa, and The Big Band Experience. 

My project partner (client?) and friend, Shaun Johnson - of Tonic Sol-fa, and The Big Band Experience. 

So, the term "client" does a disservice in my eyes. Sure, I'm technically being paid by this person. But, they are also being paid to work on the project, so...doesn't that make us partners? What is the disconnect here, in the collaboration world? Perhaps money? I hire subcontractors to be on my crews for a lot of shoots, does that make me their client? No way. We're a team.  It's no different than any other relationship with a human, really. The frustration comes when there is a break in communication. Breaks in communication happen because goals aren't set, a plan of action isn't clear, or...because we just don't listen. 

Listening. Eeeek. It can be a scary thing. What if your project partner doesn't like what you have to say? The direction you want to go?

As creative types, I think it's easy for us to get lost and forget...that if the beautiful idea doesn't align with the vision/goal of your partner, it doesn't matter how gorgeous it is. It will fail. Just like a relationship, or...dare I say, sex or foreplay, right? (Yup, threw this in here...because your eyes were starting to glaze over, I can tell!) For example: you could be really good at french kissing, but if your partner wants to cuddle - it really doesn't matter how good you are at tonsil hockey. They want none of it at the time. Communication is key. 

In all my years of TV news, the anchors were, in a way...my clients. As were the producers. The general manager. The news director. Such a varying level of skill sets, and understanding for what we were trying to accomplish. But, what made it work? We never looked at a project as "servicing" someone. Or, trying to please someone. Instead, it was about the bigger picture. The collaboration. The partnership. The love of news. The love of creative. 

Do I push back when clients ask for certain things? Nope, not really. I'd rather just make a point of a possible different approach, and the reason why it might be more effective. It's not about me. It's not about my idea. It's about our idea. Our goals. Our project. And, since they are paying me...OUR company. 

Because when someone trusts you enough to hire you to contract for a job, that's what they are doing: welcoming you into their company family.

Partners. Collaborators. And eventually (I hope, anyway), friends. So, how about we stop talking about people as if they are simply cogs in a wheel? Whether it's the term client, or user, or service provider. We all have names. We're all human. We all care. 

And as the famed musician Vanilla Ice put it so perfectly, we need to, "Stop. Collaborate. And listen." 

;) 

 

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Space: What All of Us Can Learn From a NASA Astronaut

It just hit me. Five days ago I had the privilege of directing one of the few people who have been in space. (More about the shoot later...it was for Science Museum of Minnesota, and videos are on the way!)

Holy. Cow.

After my friend (and go-to audio dude) Tom Forliti took this photo of Commander Fossum and I, we were walking back to gather our gear and Tom turned to me and said, "That guy. Forget celebrities. He's a real hero." I stood there, letting it sink in. He was right. Wow. Just...wow. A real astronaut. Amazing. 

 NASA Commander Mike Fossum

NASA Commander Mike Fossum

But, what left me in awe of Mike Fossum wasn't his witty intellect or patience on set. It was something I couldn't put my finger on until now. Something, that came from inside. 

 L to R: Director/Producer: Erica Hanna, Director of Photography: Scott Hoffman, Commander Fossum, Actor: Jack S, Assistant Director: Sean Skinner, Audio: Tom Forliti

L to R: Director/Producer: Erica Hanna, Director of Photography: Scott Hoffman, Commander Fossum, Actor: Jack S, Assistant Director: Sean Skinner, Audio: Tom Forliti

You see, as we were running through scripts with him we explained that most of the people watching the videos would be a bit lost if he went into great detail about experiences, so we were going to try to keep things easy to understand. He simply smiled, and shortened up his answers. But, throughout the process one thing never changed. Whenever he talked about his experiences, the energy around him shifted and he got a distinct sparkle in his eye. Sure, all of this may sound cheesy...and honestly, I don't care-because it's true. 

We kept asking him questions about the "tough" parts about being in space. He talked about being required to learn Russian, and even fixing a toilet in orbit. But, no matter what he talked about...whenever he brought up his job, and any task that had to do with his job, he'd just smile with a calm, contagious grin. 

I left the shoot on a high, and to be honest...that's how I leave all shoots.

Excited. Grateful. And shaking my head in disbelief, realizing that this is my full-time JOB now.

Wow. Creating beautiful things...as a JOB.

I really hope all of us can find that thing that makes us feel an inner glow and grateful grin, whether we're directing/being on a space walk...or, tearing down gear/fixing a toilet. Because I don't care what anyone says, the "worst" parts of your job can still bring a smile IF you're living your passion.

And as I think of the lights, cameras, creatives, collaboration, and the magic happening on set at each shoot I realize one thing: this...this is my "space." 

 

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Why is Video So Expensive?

With iPhone stepping up their video "game" and other fun cameras making visual content more and more accessible these days, how are folks in the video industry still able to justify charging what they do? Honestly, I don't blame you for wondering...the shoots can get spendy. But, we're not just pulling numbers out of the air, we promise (ah-hem....full disclosure: I own a video strategy/production company). But, like most specialities, video can be a bit tough to understand. So, here is an attempt to break things down. 

1. Gear: when you hire a professional, you are also (depending on the shooter) renting their gear for the day. I've directed shoots in the past where gear alone (without someone to operate it) will total well over $20,000 to rent (yes, for a day), so when I bring my heavy-hitting pals like Scott Hoffman to a shoot, you're honestly getting a deal when it comes to gear, since he includes a bunch of that uber fancy stuff in his "day rate." 
"What is tough to explain, is that when you hire someone with 20 years of experience...my day rate isn't just an hourly rate for my time. It's taking into consideration that I own $250,000 in gear, as well. And not only do I own it, but I've researched it, tested it, and have backup gear to make sure we maximize every second of the shoot." -Scott Hoffman

Scott brings up a good point, backup gear. Let's talk about that a bit.

2. Your Butt is Covered: ever wonder why most photography packages for weddings come with 2 photographers instead of just one? Or, why professional photographers at sporting events have an extra camera on their hip? Well, usually they have two different lenses with different focal lengths (read: zoomed in or zoomed out) ready to rock, but also...backup. Yup, even these spendy pieces of equipment break. At the WORST TIMES POSSIBLE, haha. And, it's an unwritten rule in professional production land that it doesn't matter if we're getting paid 3k or 30k for a shoot...we always want to make sure we have backup gear, because we understand that getting everyone needed in place on a different day, would be a nightmare. So, if it ever looks like we're packin' way more gear than we need, it's because we are. In order to make sure that we won't have to reschedule the shoot, due to a gear situation. Because we'd rather front the cost up front to have backup gear, instead of risking a shoot reschedule - because that means more work for our clients, producers, talent, and everyone. Boo hiss. Backups are important! This also saves you money in the end, because coordinating another shoot day can be...well...hell. And it happens more often than you think. We're always (well, most of the time) just really cool about it, ha!

3. Efficiency: for 8 years it was my job at WCCO-TV to write, shoot, edit, direct, and make the magic happen for 6 promos (little commercials about the news) per day. While training in professionals for this job, it would take them twice as long. Yes, professionals. A person who is a novice? It would take them probably 2-5 days to do what I/my fellow specialists can do in 2 hours. Many production folks are used to wearing multiple hats, and changing direction quickly. This is why it's (shameless plug) possible to hire someone like me, who will put together a team of 5 people that can do the job of 10 people. Yay, half the cost for you. More fun for us. Another item in the efficiency category is storage and file transfer options. Harddrives aren't cheap, friends. To the cloud! But, still-we need to make sure all of our media solutions are reliable, so most of us spend well over what is "necessary", to make sure we're not in a pinch in the future.

4. No Distractions: poor production quality isn't *always* such a horrible thing. I mean, look at Blair Witch Project. But, think about what the filmmakers were trying to do there. Distract you. The last thing you want is something detracting from your message. With the average digital attention span of only 7 seconds, most viewers don't have time for things like: flickering video, horrible audio, hums in the background, shaky cameras that make you sea sick, or graphic design that is so tough to read it looks like your uncle Larry scrawled something across the screen with a sharpie. We'll help you cut through the clutter and relay what you're trying to say.

5. Outside Perspective: we've all heard the stats...8 gajillion seconds of video (OK, I'm slightly exaggerating) uploaded to the internet each millisecond. How the heck are you going to get someone to give you the time of day? Well, depending on how seasoned the professional is...we've seen most of the tricks out there. Visual storytelling is what we love and live for, so allowing us to give you outside input from a creative and prospective viewer position, holds value. Heck, I had professionals give me feedback for my own launch video, and they were honest, "Try that line again. But less, weird." Cool. Done. That was easy. Of course, it's more than just changing a line here or there. We just want to make sure that your objectives are driving the ship, and it's easy for us to tell you if, as humble, normal, video viewing/making professionals...we think you're hitting the mark or not.

 photo: Jonn Robinet

photo: Jonn Robinet

6. Resources and Time: today I spoke with an awesome gentleman from an agency in town who was looking for a certain type of photographer. I knew right off the bat, that my style didn't match. But, sent him the names of two people I knew were a good fit. Researching things like that takes a lot of time, and is a lot of guesswork if you don't know the professional personally. That 20 minute phone call could have saved someone a full day or two of research, and when it comes down to billable hours, we all know time is money. Good content producers know other good content producers, even if we have different styles, prices, or skill sets. It's the same reason why I would go to my accountant to ask for a bookkeeper, instead of calling around in the yellow pages (do those still exist?). Trust. The nice thing about the folks I work with, is that most of them are my friends as well, so we trust each other, and do favors for each other. Little things like discounted gear rental, location scouts, and quick idea-bouncing sessions. To make sure things on shoot day are as fun and effective as possible for the client. Man, that sounded gross and "sales-y" right? Meh, it's the truth. We like you guys.

7. All That Legal Stuff: Insurance for your gear? Check. Insurance for on-set liability? Check. Insurance for everything else under the sun? Check. Oh, don't forget health insurance, dental, and all the things. We've got it covered. With great gear, lights, and shiny things...comes great responsibility. Which, means shelling out extra moola every year to make sure everyone is safe on set...or anywhere near us, for that matter. (And yes, this is one of the expenses that caught me a bit off guard when I jumped recently. You guys, being responsible for the lives of people is stressful. Yikes.)
Oh, and taxes! I remember cutting checks for contractors back in the day when I worked 9a-5p, and thinking, "Whaaaaa? They get how much!?" But, I didn't think about the fact that they had to take taxes out themselves. Sometimes those who are hiring us see the initial "check", and assume that's how much money we're taking home. (haha, so funny. No.) :)

8. Unaccounted for Time: us production/creative folks are silly. Half the time we only bill a "day rate" for the time it took to actually shoot your content. What you don't see on the backend, is the time we spend sitting at our computers, uploading, compressing, and re-uploading footage so you can actually watch it on your 1997 Dell Computer without crashing it. This can take hours. Depending on the codec and footage type, even longer in some cases. We don't tell you about this, because we are a proud, proud, bunch. We want you to think we are magicians and that we can upload video with our wands and fancy spells. Another thing we do a lot of? Analyze. Video professionals working at a top level analyze everything. I've already spent nearly 10 hours going over in meticulous detail with my two crew-mates, a shoot that is only going to take 5 hours total to shoot. Why? Because (can't say it enough) we LOVE the dance. We love putting things together, and we want to know that when we get there, we can unload and unleash our creativity. No details to hash out as we are setting up, that is all done by the time we get there. We're on the same page as far as style, tone, direction, positioning, etc... Did I bill those 10 hours to my client? Nope. Did the two subcontractors I hired? Nope. Not, technically. But, I guess you could say it's one of the reasons why our day rates are what they are.

9. Good Chemistry: a good producer (head honcho of the shoot) knows how to assemble a crew, and this takes a lot of time when it comes to getting to know the individual subcontractors in town. A certain videographer or sound engineer would be perfect for one project, but perhaps not another - just based on personality types. Voila! Producer = On-set Matchmaker! And ya know what that means? Your talent will be more relaxed, instead of being creeped out. Well, we might creep them out a little. But, sometimes that's fun, right? No? *jazz hands*

In conclusion, we're basically looking to make visual experiences enjoyable and easy to navigate in the production process. Because, the easier we make things when we're working with cool folks, the better the chance that we'll get an opportunity to make more magic with them again down the road. I mean, we LOVE doing this. But, we're in it for the long haul. After all, one-night-stand clients are everywhere, but most of us are looking for that super cool long-term relationship when it comes to storytelling (shout out to @Garyvee for the metaphor). D'awww...video romance is in the air. Thanks for reading.

Erica


ps. Not sure if you should hire a crew or not? It's not always the best decision (shhhhhh...don't tell the other production folks I said that!) Here is a post about when it makes the most sense shoot things in-house.

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Happy Holidays! (cheesy alert)

As I sat here this afternoon, beginning a blog post about my second full month as a small business owner, I began to hum. Jingle Bells was the tune of choice, since it was on spotify, and before I knew it...my brain couldn't keep my blog post or the carols separate. 

So, I thought, "It's the holidays, I'll just roll with it." Then, this happened. ;-) Jingle Bells, the entrepreneur version!  Enjoy! 


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Specialize, or Learn All The Things?

The dorky kid who liked school. That was, and has always been...me. When college came around, I still didn't "really" know what I wanted to do. A little radio here, video production there, directing, drinking, and dating. Tah-dah. My first job was at a tiny TV station in Iowa, where I quickly learned...I had to be as self reliant as possible. 

That? Sucked. 

But, the lessons were priceless. Did I become a pro at troubleshooting for computer problems, and beta tape issues? Not exactly, but the process forced me to be resourceful and to seek out hotlines for help (this is before you could find *everything* on the internet...yes, I'm that old). 

So, enter the move to the big city 9 years ago. It was the first time someone offered to cut video and audio for a promo for me. I almost didn't know what to do with myself. I felt...lazy. But, also free to do things I had a stronger skill set in, like writing headlines and positioning promos to entice viewers to watch. The nice thing was that the editors appreciated having someone who understood how long it took to cut video. The need to give them specific timecode. It created a bond over shared knowledge. 

Then, came a conversation I will never forget. Chatting with a buddy who was in advertising. I shared that my heart told me I would be a better fit in an agency, than at my current job in TV. I'll never forget his response, 

"I'm sorry, but...that just won't happen. You're not specialized enough. People in advertising won't know what to 'do' with you. Video, writing, producing, social...it's too much. Also, most advertising folks classify TV people as lacking in creativity. So yeah...good luck." 

I was, to put it lightly, absolutely heartbroken. Grieving the loss of a dream I had held onto for years. The tears flowed freely, and doubt settled in. But then, a big change. I became...pissed. 

Since when was it a bad thing, to understand how multiple jobs fit together? It didn't mean I wanted to "DO" all of the things. Just that knowing how the cogs, gears, and wheels fit together...made sense. Why not have respect for what the other person on your team does, by at least learning the general idea about what they look to accomplish? And creativity? Creativity, is about believing you can create. Knowing that you are an artist. Trusting your intuition, and backing it up with data and belief. 

"Screw this," I thought...it's time to BE creative, and to CREATE things for one reason only: 

Because I can't NOT create, any longer. 

Eyes open, I embarked on a lovely project that opened many doors. Directing a my first music video for a young lad named Dan Rodriguez. When Dan and I first met, his content was getting roughly 50 hits on youtube, with each post. His Red Flags video we made, has 188,000 views now. And, last month? An amazing song of his was featured in a Budweiser PSA that has now racked up almost 20 MILLION (yes, million!) hits. He is a star. Is it because of our video together? No. But, it was really fun to be a part of his growing career. I look back now at that video we made, and think: oh jeeeeesh, why didn't I do "this, this, this, and this" differently? But, that's the beauty of learning. Using old work as a benchmark for growth. If you can look back at something from 5 years ago and say, "Yup, that was the peak. I'm done." Then why continue to create? 

Anyway,  to the point. On Dan's shoot, we didn't "specialize." Carry gear? Yup. Pick up coffee? Yup. Direct, edit, produce? Sure, those are my favorite things! Lighting? Shooting? I observed. Because Joe Berglove was the pro. But, knowing ins and outs of what he was doing made it easy to help adjust a light, grab a battery, etc... knowing the basics, made it easier to not be an asshole to my hard-working crew. The rest of the team? Did the same, and more. Our director of photography took on prop/set building. Our graphic artist helped with concept. We had a blast. 

So, here I am today. Ready to make things. A lot of folks in production think it's weird that I spent a year at Director level jobs in the social media/content space. A lot of social media folks give me strange looks when I talk passionately about production. I think it's weird, to pretend to fully understand one thing without the other. When you're coming up with an idea, it's nice to understand who will be watching it, how it will be made, and how in the heck you'll be able to get it to people. Does that mean EVERYONE in the business should have a baseline knowledge for all of those things? No way. In the same way that I try to maintain a baseline level of knowledge when it comes to marketing/digital, production folks maintain the highest level of knowledge when it comes to their specialized skill. Lighting? Audio? I shouldn't touch it. But, I do need to know enough to be able to communicate what I'd like the end result to be, to make sure the creative vision a client signs off on, is fulfilled. 
 

Back to the question: specialize, or learn all the things? I guess it's not that cut and dry. Either way, just choose the side you feel most comfortable on, and hustle like crazy to be the best in that position. I love being a creative interpreter, of sorts. Others love being the top expert in one thing. Neither is right or wrong. But the beauty is seeing folks on both sides of the fence, attempt to step out of the box. I've had a few high level Directors of Photography ask about digital strategy lately. Why? Because they want people to see the beautiful things they make. Walking them through those things? So fun. In trade? They geek out with me over gear, offering a "cliff notes" version of what is up and coming, and how certain cameras will give my projects different looks. Man, those dudes are smart. 

So, keep learning. Whether it's specializing with awareness of what is around you...or, immersing yourself in all of the things, but taking time to drill down deep enough periodically, to know what will give you the best result. People fear things they don't understand, so let's reach out to each other to help bridge that gap, and make new things fun again. 

Thanks for reading, rainbow pukers. 

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The Big Leap!

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The Big Leap!

It's amazing how life changes, when suddenly failure doesn't equal fear. This month, I decided to pursue my dream of having my own company. It has been terrifying, exhilarating, and an amazing ride already. 

I cannot say "thank you" enough, to all of you. Truth be told, I cried for the better part of 2 hours today, as well-wishes and comments poured in from across the country and the globe. My friends, I always knew you'd be supportive...but this? This is breathtaking. Currently, I feel like the luckiest, most supported person in the world. I truly do love you more than Nickelback and Chipotle. (ok, so...Nickelback doesn't take much-but, c'mon! Chipotle! That's a lot.) 

ericablog.jpg


The most common phrase people write is, "I wouldn't have the guts to do that." Weird, I still feel that way. Except, one major thing has changed. A few people in my life have gotten really bad news lately. Health complications, and sadness about how short life is. And with that sadness, came perspective. We only have ONE life. If we don't do what is burning deep inside of us, no matter how risky it is...aren't we taking an even bigger risk, by ignoring that calling? 

I may fail. And for once, I'm OK with that. Because either way, there are lessons to be learned, and growth to experience. Could I slide into debt? Sure. But, the last suit you wear...doesn't have pockets, right? You can't take money with you. So, failure? Yeah, it's suddenly not so scary. 

Either way, new things are on the horizon...and that is so exciting! What I do know, is that right now I can't stop thinking about creating beautiful, compelling shit. But, above and beyond video...it's about something bigger. It's about showing the world how to puke rainbows. To create things that have a greater purpose than just selling a product or pushing a purchase. Puking rainbows is about making the best out of everything we are handed, and making a difference. Communicating messages of hope, laughter, and kicking ass...with art. Because, as Prince once told me, "Never call what you do 'video', girl. It's art. Call this art from now on." And we all know, nobody says "no" to a legend. 

So, thank you. I'm humbled, and touched to the point of tears. Without you guys, I wouldn't be here. Hearing suggestions and encouragement day in and day out from close friends, strangers, and twitter pals...framed things in a different light. Sometimes it's as simple as listening to the very wise people around you, when your gut would rather listen to the coward we call fear. 

I owe you, rainbow pukers. Let's do this. 

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Puke Rainbows...the movement.

So...the day is here. The website is up. And I have a small confession to make. 

I've had this domain name reserved for, well...YEARS. But, I didn't act on getting my site up until now.

Why?

Timing. Vision. And a small dose of fear. 

You see, since the day the "Puke Rainbows" concept was spewed out on twitter between myself and a few buddies...I knew it would drive my life. I just didn't know exactly how. But, with time came clarity. 

It's as simple as this: 

Everyone has the ability to puke rainbows. Whether it's looking at a shitty situation and making it better, or being taught that you really DO have it within' you to star in a stunning photograph. Other examples: is your company lacking a voice, or direction? Let's puke some rainbows and turn things around. Video flat? Actors stiff? Concepts boring? Boom. I'm in. With you. Together. Let me help you read the situation, and activate the best in everyone involved. Puking some rainbow video magic.

We all can do things we didn't think we were capable of, with a little help.

My web pal and hosting buddy Steve Lack helped me puke rainbows, and get this site up. It's his thing, he knows how to make shit happen in the tech world. He simplified the process, explained it, gave it life, and then suddenly...this little website, was alive (mwah hahahaha). Whoa...

My point is...we're all in this together.

My hope? That Puke Rainbows isn't only the name of my company, but that it's part of a movement. To join together, and help everyone make something, out of what they THOUGHT was nothing...or, a bit of something that just needed a boost to be a beautiful experience. To expose the rainbow, and kick some butt in the process. 

Thanks for visiting. Y'all come back now, ya here? 

Erica (@meeterica

 

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