Denver Direct: Colorado Sen. Mike Johnston “gets it”.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Colorado Sen. Mike Johnston “gets it”.

Sen. Mike Johnston and his team are using YouTube to keep his constituents up to date, and they’re doing a great job. Finally, an official who “gets it”, i.e. understands new media and how to use it.

I’ve been telling candidates and elected officials to get with it since 2005 when YouTube first started. It’s pretty simple, but Mike is the first of our local officials to embrace the concept fully.

Here’s what I tell them:

1. Do it yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to run the camera and computer yourself, but you want as few people as possible between you and the viewer. Don’t rely on “media consultants” unless they are camera people who can edit and post the vidie.
2. Don’t rely on reporters and press releases to present your info. Today’s video hardware plus YouTube makes it easy and cheap.
3. Don’t “make a production” out of it. It’s not an ad, it’s a direct one-to-one communication, for the viewers benefit. (But if it’s done right it is an ad, in the sense that it gives the viewer/voter a good feeling about you.)
4. Talk directly into the camera as you would to a constituent. Tell a story, keep it simple, and do a single topic in each vidie. Give the viewer some of “you”.
5. Don’t read a script or rely on notes, or memorize anything – it always shows in the delivery.
6. Keep it short – 3 minutes max. Later, you can use Google Analytics to see how long viewers stuck with your vidie.
7. Shoot in HD – 1080p, and post in 720p. Use a good lens and manual focus – note the slightly out-of-focus background in Mike’s video.
8. Good sound is essential, so get close to the camera or use a wireless lavaliere mic for that close-in effect, but keep it hidden so it doesn’t seem artificial.
9. The essential part is the link of honesty that you create with the viewer. Be advised that not every one can pull this off. It’s difficult when a camera is staring at you and if you fumble or falter it will hurt your image. Practice can really help here, and no one will know that it took 10 takes to get it right.
10. Doing this successfully actually takes talent and, sad to say, good looks. You don’t have to be beautiful, but if you have a disgusting face, no amount of video will help. However, a smiling, honest and enthusiastic face can overcome less than average beauty.
11. Use as little editing as possible. One scene with no edits is best but it helps to get some camera movement into the picture. Note the pan to the fan and the zoom out at the end of Mike’s vidie.
12. Set up with an interesting background so it doesn’t look like a studio shoot. Mike has this nailed by shooting in the Senate chamber.
13. And then, when your vidie is up and running, blast it around with email, Facebook and Twitter.

Just like Mike does. Mark my words, this lad has a career ahead of him.