Yesterday we covered the question of how to engage publics via documentary and film making. This is part two of a conversation with Tom Clifford or Director Tom.
Energy and passion are essential when a company wants to take its brand from commodity to community. You'd want to do that to hire new talent and retain the talent you have, for example.
Valeria Maltoni: So if I understand correctly, you are viewing the story unfold from behind a lens -- unfiltered and personal. Is that always the case?
How do you insert the view from the top, what the management and leadership teams in a company are? Are managers willing to go the unscripted route? And if so, why have a communications department, what is *their* role?
Tom Clifford: Most of my films do feature corporate employees as "heroes," so the story unfolds right in front of your eyes...that's part of the appeal and quite frankly, the authenticity of the short documentary format. If people speak honestly from the heart about ideas that are important to them and we capture that footage in "real time," it creates a "reality" the audience can identify with; there's a level of honesty and emotion that a marketing department has a hard time re-creating (IMHO.)
Is this always the case? In my experience, most times, yes. But, of course, there are times I need to break outside that "hero" framework. There are situations where the information in a film may be more technical in nature. Having employees or executives deliver that information would not be the best choice. I rarely work with actors, but sometimes that is the best and most natural choice.
Inserting the view from "the top" can be fairly easy. If upper management insists on having a presence on screen, fine. I'll just make sure the "heroes" get as much screen time as possible. The "C Suite" can be captured and edited in a way that does not interfere with the stories from the employees.
Managers are willing to go the unscripted route and here's why: they realize the role of trust. It's unspoken. It's implied. My experience has seen managers implicitly trusting their people to tell their story that is unique to them. After all, it's their story, their experience. It cannot be duplicated anywhere and that's exactly what an audience wants to see and hear...a story that is different, take them on a journey of sorts and resolves itself.
What's the role of a communications department? Great question. When it comes to video, 99% of the people I work with do not have any working knowledge or experience producing a film; it's not part of their everyday work-world so it often gets done poorly or not at all. I worked as a producer and director inside a Corporate Communications Department for almost 10 years for a Fortune 500. Their role is critical in areas outside of video; annual reports, promoting events, etc. I do think their greatest role in promoting video is to discover their own "heroes" and start collecting remarkable stories about them and the organization in general. Then, when it comes time to produce a video, a story bank is available to tap into.
Valeria Maltoni: So you view communicators as facilitators of conversations, in the same way that I would. Their role is broader than just crafting messages and producing them. How do you propose they transmit some of the great stories you craft to external audiences as well?
Tom Clifford: Before I answer, picture this...
Imagine hearing an amazing story from your best friend. It's a story that immediately touches your soul; it's grabs you and makes you think. Imagine that story changing how you see your world; even how you see your best friend.
In a moment, your current frame of reference shifts; now your point of view is different. You feel like telling the world about your friend's story.
But there's a problem.
You can't. You can only share it with a few people...that's it. Only a select few will benefit from the story and experience. Would you feel disappointed? Sure you would. That's exactly what it's like when a company produces what I call an authentic story on film from their corporate storytellers--their employees--and they choose not to share that story to an audience outside their corporate brick and mortar. Disappointing? Again, I think so.
With the ultra-fast emergence of new social media tools and You Tube "look-a-likes," companies now need to think beyond their DVD as the end of the story. In fact, just the opposite is true: the DVD the are holding in their hands is the beginning of a new story. A new story where the video can instantly be published for all to see.
The thinking needs to go from: "commodity to community." A DVD is seen as a commodity by many. But that same DVD can create a community in an instant. Acquiring your corporate story on DVD should now be seen as the beginning of telling your corporate story.
Of course, I realize not every video is suitable for wide distribution. But for the most part, almost every film I have ever produced over the past 23 years could have played on YouTube with tremendous benefits to many.
If one of the goals of communicators (marketing/PR/sales) in corporations is to facilitate conversations and strengthen brand recognition, then why not embrace social media?
Now imagine the role of communicators as "creators of conversations;" "conversation architects." A role where discovering, creating and publishing meaningful personal stories from organizations is now designed from the ground up with the --intention-- to help others learn, grow and benefit.
Thanks so much for thinking of me and inviting me into your "conversational world!" I love your site and ideas...keep it rockin'!
Thank you, Tom. Tom's coordinates: