Sound Stories #018 – The Do’s and Don’ts of Audience Centric Storytelling

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    If you want to create stories that sell, you need to “throw your assumptions of who your audience is out the window” according Jordan Scott Price, Creative Director at Flying Canvas Productions. In this episode, Jordan goes over how he and his team get to the heart of a client’s story – and how they help them tell it well. Spoiler alert: it’s not all about creating a ‘good’ video.

    Listen in to learn how you can flip your script into tangible ROI.  

    Links:
    Flying Canvas Productions: http://flyingcanvasproductions.com/
    Jordan Scott Price on the Voices.com Blog: How to Cast Your Voice Over Project like a Pro: https://www.voices.com/blog/casting-your-voice-over-project-like-a-pro/

    TRANSCRIPTION SOUND STORIES #018

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Hi there. And welcome to another episode of Sound Stories, an inspirational podcasts for creative professionals and storytellers who want to improve their lives at home and at work. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli, your host and co-founder of Voices.com. Storytelling is more than a creative pursuit. When it’s mixed with business, a good story is expected to deliver tangible results. However, creating a compelling piece of content that connects with your audience delivers a brand message or a product offering and demonstrates tangible ROI, is easier said than done. Jordan Scott Price, co-founder and creative director of Flying Canvas Productions, helps businesses navigate all of the above with a process that matches a method to the madness. So welcome to the show, Jordan.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Hi, thanks for having me.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, I’m so glad that you’re here. So first off, now on your website, it says that you’re an artisan video marketing studio. Can you tell us more about what artisan means to you and also how it is in fact that you are living out the artisan way?
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Sure. It’s kind of a common word in marketing for a lot of brands nowadays, you see artisan sort of everywhere and we’ve sort of co-opted it for our own purposes and artisan in a nutshell, it’s handmade. It’s something, it’s handcrafted, it’s unique. It’s probably one of a kind and that’s how we approach video marketing. So for our clients, we really don’t like to do some sort of package of, okay, standard to this plus stock that with a template, one, two, three, ABC, for the simple reason that everyone kind of subconsciously as a viewer, picks up on, oh, I’ve seen this before. And part of our brand promise is setting our client’s brands apart from everyone else. And we really can’t follow some sort of template or a cookie cutter to get them there.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    We approach things through discovery, then creating a sort of theme that grounds everything again, before we’re even talking about what the videos are going to look like or what we’re going to shoot, we ground everything in a theme, which is just a word or short phrase that is kind of like the slogan for the whole video project. And then we work out the concepts from there and it’s a whole lot more sort of genuine and let’s say, sort of favorable to the brand at large, that we’re not just trying to shoe horn the brand into a particular style or type of video, but instead thinking about the audience, what the brand is, and what it needs to achieve, and then working from there into what is the right way to basically fashion that into a story that we can then tell a particular way.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I love that. So along those same lines, Jordan, just understanding your audience, as we know, it’s a huge theme among storytellers and we all want to create something that’s going to resonate with our readers listeners or viewers. But that, as we know, too, can be challenging. So how do you help your clients achieve this?
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Well first off, I have to say that I don’t think anyone has the magic bullet yet to understanding and the audience perfectly. When we say things like, well, you need to understand your audience, of course, we are grossly over simplifying something that is the general pursuit of pretty much everyone in marketing or advertising. So I wouldn’t say that we have like some simple, easy solution, here’s a three step process to perfectly understanding the audience at large. But it is critical, it really is, I would say for almost anyone, even if you’re not in marketing, if you’re just creating something that will be seen, there there’s no gallery that doesn’t have doors.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    I mean, you put art out there. I’m going to use the word art here for a second, which I know it causes some people to shutter, but there’s no art that’s put out in the public without expecting it to be seen. And you’re always thinking in mind with how is this going to be perceived? And because of that, just logically, you’re thinking who will be the ones perceiving it. What we kind of noticed with, especially a lot of new clients we work with, some of them come into the room with the sort of a video centric approach or the idea centric approach of, “Hey, here’s what we think we want to do. Can you do it?”
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And my answer is always yes and no. Yes, we can do it. No, we really shouldn’t though. Because first we really need to understand who we’re talking to. There’s a couple of things that we say right off the bat with every client before we sit down and do anything, two critical things I would say. The first one is you are not your audience. And if you don’t understand that, I don’t think we’re going to be a good fit working together because you have to understand we aren’t your audience and you are not your audience, your audience is your audience. We have to understand that we’re not the ones who are going to determine if a video project is successful, it’s the audience. Do they watch it? Do they like it? Do they share it? Do they follow through with the call to action, whether explicit or implicit and do the thing that will then say, “Hey, yeah, that video was successful.”
    Jordan Scott Price:
    You must understand your audience. If it’s your customer, you got to understand your customer, but it isn’t always your customer. Let’s say if you’re a services business, the C-suite person who signs on the dotted line at the end of the day, and may even be like the main person you’re working with once you make a sale, they may not be the right audience for a video because they may not really be swayed by video as much as they will be swayed by a conversation. But maybe their subordinate, who let’s say mid-level person, who needs to look good, they may be swayed by your video. And then they can use that video to then go to that C-suite person they work for and present that and say, “Hey, what do you think about this vendor?”
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Well, if you can create a good video that makes that mid-level person look good and helps you make the sale, so you’re really killing two birds with one stone. So the second thing I would say then is you got to throw assumptions out the window. The first one is you are not your audience. And the second one is throw the assumptions out the window about who your audience is and kind of approach it from a unbiased and objective point of view as you can sort of muster. Don’t make the assumptions of just being in your business, thinking you know who your audience is automatically. Now I will say with all of that, that can sound a little foreboding for someone who maybe is interested in doing this for their own brand, their own business, and just doesn’t know where to start.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    The first thing I would say is this. At the end of the day, the things that make, let’s call it a good story, the things that make a good story enjoyable are practical universal. So it’s not like you need to make something so specific for such a specific audience all the time that if you don’t nail it, you miss them completely and you waste the video. So very long winded answer to your question because it is most certainly not a simple topic, but it is so critical to understand your audience right from the outset before you do a single thing before you spend a dime. And I tell clients this all the time, don’t waste a dime on us unless you understand that we’re going to have to really invest the time to understand that audience before we know what we’re making for them.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    The very first thing we do is a pretty lengthy discovery session? It’s not for the faint of heart, usually they run about four hours or so. But that’s really where we sit down and figure out, okay, let’s talk about this audience. Tell me who we’re talking to, lay it straight, what’s your sales process, what’s the sales funnel look like, give me kind of a day in the life with one of your sales members or what’s your customer’s journey like, let’s try and understand them. And usually just asking those questions, the client will say things that, they may be thinking them, but once they say my loud, they realize, “Oh hey, I don’t know that I’ve ever quite articulated it. It does seem like a lot of our customers have this particular stigma or misperception, or a lot of them are sort of making this mistake whenever they come talk to us. Or we are wasting a lot of hard time turning away people who were never viable prospects.”
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And all those things kind of flip to the surface and then it’s pretty clear where video makes sense by the end of the day, just because the audience has a particular need or particular pain point, or there’s a particular inefficiency in the sales funnel. And all those things are great little problems that a video can address, and then you get really specific with it.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That was amazing, Jordan. You’ve just given us so much to think about I’m going to dissect it now, if you don’t mind.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Go for it.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. So some of the points that really I relate to is the whole understanding your customer and how crucial that is. So for us, that’s kind of like, well, what does the customer journey look like? I’m sure that’s what you are mapping out to and in the discovery session. And that’s something else that you said, aside from all these wonderful tips about what to do, what not to do in the process of understanding your customer and getting to the heart of their story is really to know, and this was probably more helpful even before you’ve landed the contract, but they’re coming to you to fix a problem. I think that’s where I’m going. You know that the problem is we need this campaign made or this video, but what’s underneath that.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    There’s a whole other layer of psychology probably going on there, but just curious to know how it is that you can tell that, as you mentioned before, that maybe that younger producer really needs to look good. So I’m going to help them do that, and by creating this and their boss is going to think more highly of them and possibly give them more responsibility or promotion.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    I think I have two answers to your question. The first thing is, whenever we’re sitting down with a client in discovery, which like I said, not for the faint of heart, it’s definitely something that is fairly intensive because we dive into understanding the audience, like we just talked about, the brand of the company we’re working with their company and then their goals, what do they want to achieve with video? What’s the purpose? Why do this? How do you know when it’s succeeded? What we distill all that into is one discovery report. Again, we’re not reinventing the wheel here, this has been done many, many times, but why it’s sort of specific for us is that usually you don’t see this done with video. Usually with video, it’s like we talked about before you come in the room, a client says we want X video made, we say it costs Y dollars, and then we just go do it.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And we don’t feel like that’s really treating the client properly nine times out of 10, because usually there are underlying issues. There are other things that are not being stated because there isn’t just the sort of venue to get everything out in the open, to air all the dirty laundry, that gives them that space to basically throw everything at the wall and say, well, this is actually what’s going on. And to be truthful, part of the reason why this process takes, the discovery takes so long, is it is sort of wearing down all those layers of trying to make the… maybe let’s say you have someone in there who is strictly sales, and then you have CMO and his or her direct reports.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And with bigger companies, there can be sort of a great divide between sales and marketing. Over the years, sales and marketing have really started to become one thing, but there can be sort of this unspoken disagreement or division because sales is seeing one thing and marketing is seeing another. Or you could also have other departments in there, especially if you have a very technical kind of product or service that they’re selling, you’re going to have someone in there who’s more technical. And so everyone’s sort of weighing in and throwing things at the wall and then you start to see immediately, everyone starts to see, okay, there’s problems, there’s disagreements, there’s divisions, there’s even misperceptions from the customer and just stigmas to address. And then it becomes pretty clear what the actual problems are that video then makes the most sense to address. It’s usually fairly in line with what they already saw it, but now it’s really clear what the issues are.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    So then what we do is from that we will create a discovery report and basically that’s our foundation for the video project going forward. Who is the audience we’re looking at? What are these viewers? What’s the brand? Do we all understand it and make sure that we’re understanding what your company is and is not, and how it is perceived and how you want it to be perceived? And then what are your goals? What do you want to achieve with video? And then from there, we figure out what the videos will be. Now to kind of answer your question all at once, in order for us to sort of get the buy in of the client, because that discovery can be fairly undressing, it can be fairly, not personal, but it exposes a lot about a company and the company, it’s been around one year or 40, that discovery can really reveal a lot.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And that’s the point, it is called discovery after all. And in that sort of revealing, we then come back with probably what is my favorite part of whole process, which is what we call, theme and concept. And again, seeing kind of not something you’re going to see with a lot of production companies, but we create a theme that isn’t like a phrase or just one or two words is that distills the audience and their needs, the goal, and the sort of message of what we’re communicating, and the brand and its values all into one single rock bed phrase or word that we’re going to use to drive the project going forward.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And that’s how we sort of get the whole group’s buy-in into, okay, this is what this project is about. It’s almost like the slogan for the videos basically. Because the danger with video is, nowadays it’s heavily democratized, lots of people can do it, and lots of people can make it look really pretty too. The danger with video then is that you just do because you think you need to do it and you check the box, okay, now I got video, it’s a cool little video, and then it does nothing. You put it out there and no good comes from it. There’s no measurable return. And you just sort of wasted your money on something that’s kind of just eye candy at best, and that’s really it.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And so what this does is the discovery report is basically our foundation, and then the theme is that sort of bedrock this is the driving slogan going forward. Everything, the concepts are derived from the theme, any decisions we make, if there’s like a did we do this or do we do that? Well, what does the theme thing say? Okay, this option fits better. Every little minute creative decision to the bigger production decisions, all sort of bring back to the theme so that even if the client has a change of heart, or if there’s, we’ve got to make a pivot in the middle of the project, we come back to the theme. We don’t just scrap the concept and go, I don’t know, we have no idea what we’re doing, we just go back to the scene.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    So I’m not sure if that answers your question, but to basically get the buy-in of the client after a very thorough discovery process, that can be pretty exhausting, we come up with that theme and then move on from there, and that’s not something you find with a lot of production companies, but it’s something that we found is very important with a project that… we don’t do video the standard way because you really can’t nowadays, everyone can do video. So what sets your brand apart is not going to be, did you do video? That might’ve mattered 10 years ago, but now it’s, do you have a good story to tell and can you tell it well? And that’s really what it comes down to.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Well, absolutely. I mean, there’s so many little gems in there, Jordan, and I’m going to just share some that kind of stuck out to me. When you’re talking about the discovery process and how you might have any number of different people in the room from different departments, maybe somebody who has the overall say, and then others who are really the creators. And they’re like, well, these are my concerns and someone’s got this concern. And of course, as you said, knowing the sales funnel and what are the goals and expectations for this story? Do we even know what matters to them? Is it new user signups? Is it some kind of another product being sold and they want to see more of something happening? Or getting people to come out to an event? You really have to know why you’re creating this video or whatever it might be, but to know what it is that they expect to see in terms of those practical, tangible outcomes. Is it a dollar figure? They’re looking for return on that. Is it a number of impressions or views?
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Maybe it’s more of a vanity thing, like so many comments, so many shares, but we really do need to understand also, as you’ve pointed out and I invite you to share even more on this, but to know, and to understand what the appropriate medium is for that message. And as you said, sometimes video isn’t always the right vehicle, but in the instances that it is, then you have to have something that sets it apart, not just that you have a video. It feels to me like this discovery process, as painful and enlightening as it is, is really critical to someone having a successful campaign or at least feeling as though the work that they have done with your firm or someone else’s was worth their time and it helped them to have a voice and to achieve their goals.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Yeah, you’re dead on. And I may be a terrible businessman for saying this, but I’ve told clients in the past a video may not be right for you right now. So there’s a lot of issues that video simply cannot fix and discovery sometimes reveals that and it may just be that your brand is not right, or you don’t have your messaging figured out, or your product is not very competitive in your market, I mean, just general business stuff. And video can help, but it cannot replace things like just someone talking to a customer. Video can’t replace that. And so there are times where it’s like, “Hey, we’d be happy to take your money, but at the end of the day, you’re going to be disappointed because we can make the greatest video known to man, and if it’s not right for the audience and what you want to achieve, it just doesn’t matter. And everyone’s going to walk away unhappy.”
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And so I’d rather basically press pause or walk away before I take a client down that fairly lengthy process, only for everyone to realize this was a mistake. So that’s just sort of our lessons learned of not endangering a client because kind of getting back to what you were saying just a minute ago, a lot of our clients, especially new ones, do come to us and just say, “Hey, we know we need to do video, but we don’t know what to do.” And that’s where it starts. Some of them are fairly well versed and know what they need and know their audience, and so this is just par for the course, for them, it’s like, hey, here’s the goal, here’s the message, here’s the audience, here’s the problem. Here’s their pain points, and we fly right through that discovery, we get right into the project and we’re off.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    So every client’s a little different, but it is so critical. I mean, we just can’t throw away that discovery process, because it really is where we’re all sort of coming together to understand what it is we’re doing. And that really is for the client’s sake. We don’t do that just to waste time or just to charge more. We do that because it is so critical nowadays that if you’re going to do a video, you’ve got to do it right. And you have to do it in a way that isn’t just checking a box because no one has an attention span anymore.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And so if you’re going to ask someone to sit down and watch a video, even if it’s 15 seconds, where’s your call to action typically, if it’s let’s say standard internet video. Where’s your call to action? Probably in the last three seconds. So you got to get them there, which means you need to hook them and then you need to hold them. You got to hook their interest in about three seconds and you’re going to hold it for the duration of the video. That’s a tall order nowadays. And so if you don’t understand that audience and when they want the video, how they want it, where they want it, and you don’t know really what your goals are. I mean, you are doomed to fail from the beginning, and that’s really what part of what the discovery process is there to prevent is sort of making the same old mistakes every company usually makes with video from the outset.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, wow. So that’s awesome. I’m just thinking back and I hope that everyone’s got their pens and pencils ready because I just want to recap this a little bit. There’s just been so many good things. So on our don’ts list, because you don’t want to do certain things as we’ve just discussed. I’ll just sum up here to don’t make assumptions about your audience. So we all know that no one likes having assumptions made about themselves, let alone a whole group of people. So the tip there is to be thinking about the audience, think about who’s going to see it and how you want them to perceive you all of these wonderful little goodies. So know who your audience is and don’t make assumptions of them. You got to kind of understand them and create the content around that understanding. The other don’t was, don’t make a video or a storytelling product for everyone because as we know it will dilute the message.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And as you so cogently put it, when you’re telling a story, you need to know the audience, the audience is not a one size fits all. Next on the list where your dos, and I really love these, we talked a lot about this. But do understand the sales funnel. So understanding who in that company has a purchasing power and who you need to influence. The next thing would be to know what the goals and expectations are for that story. And we did go into a bit about that, about objectives and how to measure them. And lastly, to understand what the appropriate medium is for the message. So that’s a lot to think about Jordan. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us, perhaps a quote that has inspired you?
    Jordan Scott Price:
    Sure, yeah. I always have a hard time narrowing it down to if I had just one quote I wanted to share, but one that’s kind of always been relevant for us and one, we kind of like to share with our clients, especially after a fairly exhausting discovery session is one from Orson Wells. “The enemy of art is the absence of limitation.” So again, I’m using the word art, which I know causes much panic among those who do not fancy themselves to be artists or those in the corporate world who think art is nothing but a frivolous pursuit. But at the end of the day, even the laptop, you’re probably looking at the phone, you’re holding is all the results of artistic principles, so videos is no different. But really with, like I said before, the danger with video is, is the sky is the limit nowadays.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And the danger with that is you can just go in a million different directions, especially with a smaller company that maybe hasn’t done a lot of video. If you just sort of jump into it and go, well, let’s make a video about us. Well, let’s make a video about our history. Let’s make a video about how great we are greater product is or something, you can easily just go down the rabbit hole into doing anything and everything in and making a video, that’s just kind of, it doesn’t have a purpose, it’s not grounded. It maybe has the latest cliches or trends, and then it’s just forgotten. And it was never made for anyone, it was just made to sort of do it. And so part of the discovery and the theme and concept in our process is to impose those limitations for everyone’s benefit.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    And no one thinks of limitations typically as a beneficial thing, but they are the guard rails. They’re the rebar than the concrete. They’re the thing that allow us to set our restrictions. Here’s the audience, here’s what we need to achieve. The goals, the message. And all of that then starts to kind of build a structure. I mean, you can’t have a painting without a canvas, can’t have a canvas out of frame, or else it’s just paint floating in space. So it’s the same thing, you need some sort of limitation to help you then scope in, focus on the issue, structure it. And then the video is honestly helped to sort of write themselves at that point. So again, Orson Wells ahead of his time, but the enemy of art is the absence of limitation. Definitely one we ended up living out with our client projects.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I love what you said about limitations. Because honestly I have a whiteboard and I’m going to put that quote on it, first of all, we want you to know that Orson Wells is going up there. But you know, I had the option when we were redoing our office space kind of move in new spot to either have whiteboard paint on my wall. So I could go crazy just right, all over the place or to simply bring over my whiteboard and use that. And some people thought it was a bit odd, my choice, but I chose the whiteboard because I thought, you know what, creativity happens within boundaries. You need it. Awesome. So obviously we want to have people discover more about your work and what you do. So what’s the best way that they can do that?
    Jordan Scott Price:
    I would say you can visit our website, which is just flyingcanvasproductions.com. Our email and phone number and everything is on the contact page there and you can read a little bit more about this illustrious process we’ve been talking about that sounds somewhat intimidating, but I promise you, it really isn’t. It’s actually a lot of fun.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, I would love that. I’m going to check it out myself. Well, thank you so much, Jordan. Wonderful to have you here on Sound Stories.
    Jordan Scott Price:
    My pleasure. Thank you.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Thank you for tuning in. And if you haven’t already done. So I’d like to invite you to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, as well as give us a rating. We love hearing from you and gathering your feedback. Once again, I’m your host, Stephanie Ciccarelli, and I hope you can join us for our next Sound Stories podcast.

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