Category Archives: storytelling

ShapeUp NC Social Media Campaign

Check out my social media campaign for a mock company. Enjoy the Prezi!

Click HERE to view the Prezi presentation.

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Sound Scape, What makes audio compelling?

When it comes to videos or multimedia in general people are typically focused on the visual aspect. I mean come on, let’s face it, when they do the sound mixing awards at the Oscars you’re probably thinking, “Really, there’s a whole category for this?”. But in reality the sound is half the battle to a good video. The audio aspect of a movie, short film, or even a commercial is what completes the sensory experience as much as the commercial can, well until TVs can start producing smells to make us feel like we’re in the experience, but if you really think about it would you want to smell whatever scents might accompany Game of Thrones? I doubt it.

So what makes audio compelling?

  • In radio ads the sound tells the whole story, so I would say it’s important for sound to be narrative.
  • Really compelling sound is a mix of many different kinds and levels of sounds. Natural sounds mixed in with sound effects, or even just the seamless blending of contrasting sounds juxtaposed together can have the desired effect; be it fear, empathy, or even stimulating an appetite.
  • Somehow it seems fitting for a human voice to be present somewhere in an audio clip. We’d get on just fine without it but when it comes to the narrative aspect of compelling sound, I think sometimes just hearing the sound of a human voice is all we need to feel connected to the message being delivered.
  • A song or even a beat is sometimes the key to a great audio sample. People like songs, we like to sing or tap our foot along to the beet. Usually some sort of rhythm is needed to tie things together.
  • High quality natural sound. If you’re going to have the sound of a bee buzzing, it had better be clear and had better not just be a stock sound. Humans have a great ear for recognizing when sounds are contrived, and when they’re naturally occurring. Faking it isn’t good enough. But hey, we’re Americans and sometimes we have trouble deciphering what’s real and what’s not so if you’re going to use stock sound files you’d better be really good at editing!

Below are three examples of the points I mentioned above. 

The above video is titled “The new however-you-want-it Frappuccino blended beverage” from Starbucks. The audio is a brilliant mix of many different kinds of sounds mixed together with seamless editing. The rhythm of the sounds juxtaposed with the script creates a beat that gets you in the mood for a blended frappuccino. The crispness and clean cutting of each sound makes for an excellent auditory and visual experience.

So with this commercial there are very few sounds happening, I would say about three; the narrator, the beat and a little bit of tambourine at the end. Watching the video there’s so many different visuals that go along with the audio, but somehow if you close your eyes you still know what’s going on and you still get the point. The best aspect of the audio here is the rhythm. The narrator’s voice is smooth and crisp and the excellent script paints a clear picture of all of the different things you can buy and get 5% cash back! It’s pretty catchy, but so simple.

Now this one’s my favorite. It definitely has a niche market but somehow manges to hit two types of people with beautifully recorded sound. It starts off with the lapping of breaking waves and you think ok, I’m on a beach. Next you hear someone carving through beautiful powder snow and you think, now I’m in the mountains. The great thing about this video is that if you heard only the audio you would think one thing and it would still make sense. Then when you watch the video two different story lines make sense. The video combines a mix of clear recognizable sounds as well as narration that tells a complete story.

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What Makes for an Iconic Photograph?

When exploring the power of images and their impact on journalism and society as a whole, it’s important to examine exactly what it is about an iconic or epic photographic that qualifies it as iconic. I did some research and personal reflection and came up with the following list of my qualifications to declare a photo “Iconic”.

  • Excellent Composition
  • Emotional Connection
  • Readily Identifiable subject matter
  • Snapshot Of A Moment In Time

First I think it’s really important for a photograph to be all around technically, therefore visually striking. Taking into consideration the composition of the photograph as well as the artistic choices of the photographer and their relevancy to the storytelling aspects of the image. These choices might include cropping, lighting, color filter choices and presentation of the photograph. This is not to say that amateur photography isn’t welcome, however it would be difficult to pronounce a photograph iconic if the image was of poor quality.

Photographs that in some way evoke an emotional response from the viewer are often cited as iconic images. Photos that display raw human emotion, where people are caught in a moment of human tragedy or glory that we can relate to often strike a chord with the viewer. The photograph below of firefighters from the FDNY learning of the death of Osama Bin Laden could be considered an iconic photograph under the category of an emotional element. It could also be considered as an excellent composition, and additionally the connection of the FDNY to the 911 disaster is one that everyone in the United States and I would beg world-wide can easily make. For an image to qualify under this premise, it would have to be a big enough event that most people would be able to easily connect the photo to the iconic incident to which it is linked.

Firefighters of Ladder Company 4 — which lost seven men on 9/11 — perched together on their aerial ladder, watching a news bulletin in Times Square declaring that Osama bin Laden was dead on May 2.

Another photograph that generates a connection for the viewer is one of protesters being maced by riot police in California. People can typically unite in anger against the unjust actions of law enforcement and governments. Images like this where people are being subjected to unnecessary and cruel violence- especially an image as visually striking as this with the orange color of the pepper spray – generates a gut reaction in people that makes the image stick in their mind.

A University of California Davis police officer pepper-sprays students during their sit-in at an "Occupy UCD" demonstration in Davis, California. (Jasna Hodzic)

Another one of my qualifications for an image to be considered iconic is that it is immediately apparent what is happening in the photos. In both photos above it is immediately clear what is happening. You may not have to know exactly where or when the photo above of the students being maced took place, but it’s obvious what is happening. The photos below are iconic images because they are visually striking and it’s clear what’s happening. Both photos also feed the human fascination with the power of nature. Humans love to behold the amazing and awesome (however sometimes very destructive) power of mother nature, and harrowing photographs like these, that show just how helpless we humans are at the hand of mother nature never cease to evoke awe and wonder in the heart of the viewer.


Lastly another one of my qualifications for an image to be considered iconic are pictures that capture an iconic moment in time, an image that magically captures a person’s emotions through their facial expression. A photograph that people look at and think, “If this photo had been taken a second later, it wouldn’t be nearly as good”, is exactly the type of photo that can be defined as iconic. The image below of Ali versus Liston in the May 1965 iconic fight is considered one of the greatest sports photos of all time. Not only is the fight itself iconic, but the image sums up not only the result of the fight, but Ali’s fighting style and personality. Had this photo been taken a second before or after it was actually taken, it wouldn’t be nearly as great. Both boxers’ facial expressions and body positions tell a tale of a champion boxer who when he stated he was the greatest boxer in the world, he wasn’t bragging, he was merely stating a fact.

Ali vs. Liston, May 25, 1965 in Lewiston, Maine. Photo taken by Neil Leifer.

I wanted to also include some examples of photos that some may consider iconic, but that I do not in accordance with my guidelines I previously stated. The photos below do not meet my criteria of iconic photography. The first photos is taken of a woman quarantined for radiation after the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan. Although the photograph may strike an emotional chord on many levels, it has to be viewed in context. Knowing the back story of the tragedy and all of the horrible aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami (some of which we don’t even know yet that will continue to surface for years), we can certainly view this image as an upsetting consequence of an event that itself produced many iconic images. Again, my qualifications for an iconic image is one that requires no explanation.

A girl in isolation for radiation screening looks at her dog through a window in Nihonmatsu, Japan on March 14. (Photo taken from Buzz Feed).

Another photo that i don’t believe qualifies as an iconic photographs is the photograph below of mourners at a vigil for the 2011 Oslo terrorist attacks. Although the photo is beautifully shot and it clearly displays an element of emotion we cannot easily tie it to an event. Not to say the specific event itself has to be easily identifiable from the photograph (most tornado damage photographs could be interchangeable, like the photograph above of the man’s emotional reaction to the Joplin tornado damage) however it is the absence of any clues tying the emotional aftermath to the event itself that makes it fall short of my iconic list.

Friends and loved ones gather at the Oslo cathedral to mourn 93 victims killed in twin terror attacks from a bombing in downtown Oslo and a mass shooting on Utoya island on July 22. (Photo taken from Buzz Feed).

I would of course be willing to revise this list if someone proves it faulty. This is of course just my opinion subject to my own personal beliefs about art, photography and journalistic photography choices related to iconic photography. Photography may be just a hobby for me, but I hope some day my photos displays even half the importance in subject matter and conveys anywhere near the emotional quality of the photos above, iconic or not.

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This comic displays pretty clearly the variety in sales tactics. You’ve got the drastic desperate and pushy salesman who makes you want to run away. And then on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got the super helpful and informative guy who tells it like it is. The super helpful guy is great and all, but he’s lacking something; engaging information that relates to how to solve the customer’s problem with their super original product.

With the use of social media, marketers have had to change their strategy from company-centric (what are WE doing) to customer-centric (here’s what you’re up to and why we relate). People no longer care what your company is up to. There are so many companies out there offering the same products and solutions that you can’t just tell people why you’re number 1 and that they need to buy your product. You need to relate to your customer and make it about them.

Any time I even think about marketing tactics I turn to my trusted and favorite marketing resource blog, HubSpot. They offer so much useful information, and in the Information Age culture we live in when things change so rapidly it can be hard to keep up. That’s why when it came to researching social media best practices, I immediately turned to HubSpot for the quick and dirty details!

Of course the initial success of any social media campaign is to create multiple buyer persona profiles. You need to research in depth who your customers are. Finding out where they are online isn’t good enough anymore. You’ve got to read what they read. If they’re into a certain blog or publication, that means that blog is your new favorite source of information! Getting to know who your customers are on a daily level is so important to finding out what drives them and what problems they have. When you know what problems they have, you can creatively communicate why your problem is the perfect solution to their every day problems.

One of the important things they highlight in creating a successful Twitter campaign, is not to talk about yourself directly. That means, if you’re a company trying to sell oatmeal, don’t talk about the oatmeal itself. Instead relate it to something people care about. Like for instance if you’re an athlete, you care about staying full and fueled with a nutritious low-fat breakfast. That’s exactly what Gatorade did with the Be Like Mike campaign. They didn’t sell Gatorade, they sold the idea of being like Michael Jordan, an athletic icon. Had Gatorade tried to sell Gatorade, no one would have bought it, but they sure bought into Michael.

Another suggestion HubSpot makes is that you need to give people a reason to participate. Why do people care about re-tweeting your tweets or uploading a video to your Facebook page? There has to be a worm of the fish won’t bite. The best example of this is the Queensland Australia, Best Job in the World campaign contest. They launched a world wide contest for the “Best Job in the World” and asked applicants to publish videos to their You Tube account. They not only found an amazing applicant for the job but in the process generated so much buzz about their business in relation to the contest that media sources around the world were showcasing their business and essentially providing free advertising. This is the perfect example of a business who knows how to generate buzz, use the power of the media and get people talking about their product. All they had to do was lay the brick for a beautiful campaign and let the world do the rest!

Social media has allowed businesses to reach so many new clients and create meaningful interactions with followers, but the trick is keeping people interested. In order to keep people interested you’ve got to continually publish meaningful content related to your customers in a way that gets them talking back. It’s all about reciprocity baby!

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Still Photo Assignment

Check out my commodity rice photos! We were asked to choose a commodity and create a photo campaign using tag lines to create a unified campaign.