Archives for category: Content Strategies

Content Strategy, as a defined discipline and true necessity, is all about assessing (analyzing), planning (designing), constructing (building & placing), and curating (maintaining) content on a web property or properties. Wherever you have influence over your company’s / client’s content, you have to be acting in all 4 of these ways.

That’s kind of the baseline of a Content Strategist’s job description. But, let’s take a drill-down look at the “planning” and “construction” portions of this Content Strategist’s role (and yet another element of why it’s so critical to have this position in your organization, or partnering agency!), where video content is involved. You’ve already gone through your website and determined what content assets are available and their quality, as well as what’s needed and how it should be constructed (designed, branded, written, intoned, sized, etc.). You did the same process for all of your video content, right? And maybe now you realize you need new video content!

Words Go Here preaches about how Content is the currency of the web, and not as much the “King” that it’s been touted as for so many years. In terms of content as a currency, it’s all about a video’s relevance to users so they will not just appreciate it and find value in it, but so they will also recommend it to others via word of mouth, posts, links, “likes,” and embedding. In the old school (and unfortunately, still somewhat the current) SEO practices, “content is king” often translated into content for content’s sake. The idea being “If we have more pages, more microsites, more links, more posts, more tags, more mentions, more links! more! more! MORE! MORE!!!” then we’ll grow and succeed. But, if the quality of your content is bloated, written for crawlers – not people, and is difficult to wade through, it will have no value to the recipient. So, someone please help me understand how quantity matters when quality is ignored? No one’s going to care. You’re just taking up space and wasting their attention. #ContentFail.


So, on to quality of video. Just because you, or your client, or your friend, or your friend’s friend all have a video camera (phone) on hand, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically produce some sort of P.T. Anderson masterpiece about how completely mind-blowing your current hot product is. Video is a powerful medium for translating value relative to your brand, but, should be carefully planned and constructed.

If there was one thing I learned after 4 years in television production, it’s that video production quality matters. It serves to legitimize your value proposition, separate you from your competitors, reinforce your brand, highlighting the product or service in it’s absolute best light. Pun intended.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the critical production components that are required for successful video content strategy and creation. Feel free to treat this as a “Directional Quality Checklist” resource ::

  • Resolution ::
    • Hi Def? HD is great in that it provides the highest quality on the front end so when it’s compressed and formatted it will still look it’s best.
    • However, it may be cost prohibitive depending on the size of your production (ex: a quick 1-camera interview vs. a 5-camera, 90-second TV style commercial “spot”)
    • HD might also be “overkill” in terms of the end use of your video project. If you just need a little introduction clip for the sidebar of your homepage, you may just want something lightweight
  • Framing ::
    • How intimate, personal, or grandiose do you need this to be? Think about your interview shot styles:
      • Tighter (just shoulders and head or just a “talking head”)
      • Wider (full body)
      • Mid shot (ribs to head)
      • Left, Right, or Center?
      • A mix of all of the above?
  • Set Lighting (and Shadowing) ::
    • Soft, comfortable, inviting
    • Harsh, stark, contrasting
    • And remember the set backgrounds… they get their own consideration
    • Wait, are you even shooting this inside?  Outdoors is another animal (like a giraffe versus a lion)
  • Video editing ::
    • Smooth transitions
    • Hard cuts from shot to shot
    • Fast paced edits, or longer shots
    • Transition styles (please, no more star fades, a la the 80′s!)
  • Audio / Sound ::
    • Soothing, unnoticed, spa-like and forgetful music?
    • Brash, pulsing music that helps drive a point?
    • Orchestral and regal, swelling to pull an emotional response?
    • No music, just speaking voices?
  • Graphic Overlays ::
    • Titles – product names, guest/host names and titles
    • Corner “bugs” – sale notices, calls-to-action
    • Branding registrations or trademarks
    • Animations – product demos (“B-roll”) or motion diagrams
  • Background Setting (not just lighting), but the “stuff” ::
    • Plants, chairs, candles, pictures (living room, office)
    • Products, people, storefronts (retail environment)
    • Blank or textured wall (a spokesperson backdrop?)
  • Product / Talent – Who’s the “star” here? Who’s the “hero?” Make them / it look the part ::
    • For people:
      • Clothing choices (style, age, quality…)
      • Makeup and hair styling
      • Model / acting agency or someone from the company (careful there!)
    • For Products:
      • Set dressing (plastic stands, clothe throws…)
      • “Before” and “After” examples, ready made
  • Closed Captioning – Consider your audience! ::
    • Hearing impaired?
    • Translations?
    • If you’re not sure about this one, I recommend our earlier post on the usefulness of CC in SEO efforts.

I realize most, if not all, of you are not super familiar with these components. Sure, you may notice them from time to time while you’re watching the latest iteration of CSI, or American Idolatry, but they’re not the sorts of things you regularly lend your rapt attention. But when you need quality content, and especially when you’re paying high $$$ for it, this is a critical set of considerations to have in mind. They’re a good list for thinking though the video content construction process. And, as a word of experience, do your best to define everything on the front side. It will help remove subjectivity from the process, as well as avoid increasing expense from production “scope creep,” just the same as it can occur in web design.

Please hear me when I say you do not have to be a video producer to make your online video content work. If you have a Content Strategist, they’ll be helping you with this, and perhaps you won’t be thinking about it (wouldn’t that be nice)! But if you’re your own Content Strategy department, then be sure to vet the potential video vendors the same as you would any other provider. Do the samples they provide strike you as too frenetic, too sleepy, too corporate, etc, for what you’re looking to accomplish? What is their expected turn around time on a project like yours? What is their approval process to ensure your satisfaction? Think, “Is this the sort of style that I want to use to represent my brand and product?” If you do this, you’ll start to notice more of the little things that DO make a difference.

And all of the above goes for regular ol’ still-shot cameras too, folks.

And when it comes to the video end of things, don’t forget about the usability and high SEO value of your Close Captioned options. I think its fair to say that its very rare that you ever want to alienate anyone from your brand. So give consideration to the 508 Legislation.

For another viewpoint on this topic, I recommend Mitch Joel’s recent post on video creditability. And as always, provide us with your thoughts about content strategy. Especially along video or rich media lines. Let’s discuss it, for the greater good of the web (and our clients).

With the ever growing popularity of video content for professional businesses and services, there has been an equally growing alienation of certain audiences from this content. Specifically, the lack of Closed Captioning for videos that are leveraging the major video platforms as their principle means of distribution. To this point, and much to my disappointment, Vimeo, a beautiful video platform, does not support Closed Captions (CC) at this time, though they are working it. And YouTube has only recently been making some genuine strides.

As part of your Content Strategy, simply “having” video is not quite enough. Especially if you are using video to distribute any exclusive content. Creating text-based CC appropriate for the video is critical. One of the biggest obstacles at the moment is the differences in formats for the caption files. If you are doing something hosted on your site that leverages the Quicktime player, there is one format for captioning. If you are using YouTube, there is another. They are not a one-for-one port. For this post, I’ll outline a few of the things you should know to be fast and effective at creating text-based CC for your video content on YouTube.

Let’s take a few minutes to get an understanding of the different file formats you can use with YouTube. Then we’ll get on to the how-to parts.

Caption File Format for YouTube Video

A caption file includes the time code in context with the dialogue. Consider time code like the rhythm of the conversation tandem with the pace of the edits. When, and at what pace, should the captions be changing to provide the greatest and most natural readability with the movements of the subjects lips, or the imagery being used. Take a quick look over at Wikipedia for a few more geeky details on time code if you like.

The time code format for YouTube is pretty straight away. Its basic structure is a start and stop marker, each including Hour, Minute, Second, and Thousandths of a Second. The two markers are separated by a comma. The comma tells the system to display the lines of text between these time markers via the linear timeline of the video.

youtube time code format

The format of the file is also rather simple, but important to get right. Open up a .txt text file (sorry, no Word docs). I like using TextMate. Its format should be:

  • time code start point
  • comma (display text until)
  • time code stop point
  • appropriate amount of text to flow in the alloted time, using line breaks as needed

An example:
Caption File Format Example

As a best practice, try to limit your captions to about two lines per sequence. Try to call out key message statements on one line whenever possible.

Once you have the bulk of the sequences done, you can save the file as .txt (text) or a .srt (SubRip Subtitle) file. Then, proceed to the upload feature. (skip to the upload instructions) It is likely that you will upload your file and find that a few tweaks will be required given the pace of the dialogue or the edits. Don’t sweat it. Just be sure to negotiate some time, upfront, in the project timeline to make those adjustments.

Transcript File Format for YouTube

YouTube, via a beta offering, has this lovely little feature that will allow you to upload the transcript of the dialogue for your video, minus the time code. (skip to the upload instructions) It will then process the file. Using its language recognition software, it will add the time code. This is hands down the easiest and fastest way to go.

Just like the caption file, pace your sequences about two lines at the time, placing callouts on a separate and single line when possible. For a three minute video, it usually takes the algorithm less than 5 minutes to process. Please keep in mind, that the longer the video, when using this transcript file format, the more you are asking YouTube’s algorithm to do for you. The more you ask of it, the longer it needs to process.

An example:

YouTube Transcript Format Example

This being a beta offering, there are still a few hiccups here and there, so expect to need to a few extra minutes to clean up a few sections for the sake of timing. This is quite easy to do. Once the file is done processing, simply download the .srt file that now has the system added time code and make your edits. Save the file. Then upload and preview. Seeing as how the file has time code now, the upload is pretty much instant as there is no processing required. You can do this as many times as needed to get it just right.

Adding a Text-Based Closed Caption File to a YouTube Video

  1. Login to your account on YouTube => Go to My Videos => Select the video for which you want to create captions.
  2. In the top navigation you will notice the “Captions and Subtitles” tab. Select it.

  3. Just down on the right, there is an “Add New” button. Click through.

    YouTubes add new captions or transcript button

  4. This is the main interface for uploading your caption or transcript file. The options are for a Caption file, which has the time code pre-populated, or for a transcript file, which is a file that has the text minimally formatted to indicate the flow of the dialogue in the video.

    Simply choose the file, select the file format type you chose to use, name it, and upload.

    YouTubes Caption and Transcript Upload Interface

Though this post is specifically covering the how-to for English language closed captioning, YouTube provides the ability to included captions for sub-titles in other languages than that of the main audio track. As a simple example, you could easily add Spanish or Chinese dependent on your client base and your specific needs. The guidelines above will have you pointed in the right direction to accomplish this as well!

Richard Ingram recently published an extremely fascinating infograph about the various approaches to web content strategy. One visitor to his site commented that the lower right-hand purple area should represent the corporate approach to content strategy. The comment frightened me as it immediately exposed a direct disconnect between the Search team and the Message Map.

I appreciate that for the sake of the graph, it would be impossible to get all of the ‘dotted lines’ in place. Regardless, after a lot of years as an SEO, these dotted lines are critical to consider for coordinating the implementation and governance for sustainable content strategies. Especially in a corporate environment.

3 notes on Message Maps…

  1. Don’t confuse a Message Map with Message Architecture. Though related, they are separate things.
  2. Message Maps are designed to provide your visitors with answers to their most likely questions (relative to the offerings of your site).
  3. Message Architecture is designed to keep those answers on brand.

A Message Map most often runs on the rule of 3. 3 key points. 3 supporting points per key point. Repeat the key points 3 times. Being considerate of your time starved visitors, you should never require them to try to uptake any more than 3 points. Reinforcing your key points 3 times helps get your point across. The big point for you; a Message Map should be developed to help define how you will overcome the primary obstacles to a visitor’s potential purchase / engagement. The easier it is for a visitor to connect with and process your content, the more likely and quickly they are to engage with you.

Back to the Dotted Line

This is where the dotted line between Brand Strategy and Search comes in. The Search team is working hard to help attract qualified users to your site. The Search team should already understand your brand (i.e. Message Architecture). With this in mind, its critical that the Search team does not have to spend time reconstructing the site’s/product’s Message Maps. These key value statement should be discussed with and accessible to the Search team from the start. You aren’t going to run a company and not tell the staff what the overall goals are! (right?) So, don’t leave the Search team out of the loop on this (commonly) traditional marketing team function.

The Search team will be able to use the Message Map to positively influence their keyword research, competitive analysis, link analysis and general strategic planning. Part of their success is evaluated by being able to attract high quality visitors to a site. Knowing what your site is answering – selling – expecting etc, allows the Search team to spend their time working to attract the right kind of potential visitors. Being able to attract quality visitors translate to greater success. And, at the end of the day, being successful is why we do this in the first place.