How to treat your own organization like a client.

The shoemaker’s children go barefoot.

This old idiom essentially means we neglect the things closest to us. As an agency, we know from experience that it’s hard to prioritize internal projects when it is our duty to provide a service to others. Despite it being a challenge, investing in your own development is essential to stay relevant, informed and ahead of your competitors.

How to prioritize your own projects.

You are busy. Everyone’s 9 to 5 is fully-loaded and there’s a long queue of to-dos. We’ve been there; we empathize. While it’s good for business to be busy, it makes it easy to sideline internal projects.

One way to navigate this is by committing time at the beginning of the year to focus on internal projects or employee education. By intentionally carving out a set amount of time that is non-negotiable, you can work time into your yearly plan for team development. Whether this manifests into quarterly company-wide meetings or department huddles, it’s already built into everyone’s calendar, so they won’t have to scrounge for time.   

Internal education

There are loads of evidence demonstrating that investment in training and education is smart business. Let your employees come to you with their requests for online classes, certification courses and conferences that set them up for success. Create parameters to support education initiatives for when employees inquire about furthering their skillsets. Companies also benefit from individuals who further their education when they bring back information that improves the team as a whole. When employees teach each other, it improves company-wide integration, and departments become more well rounded.

Focus on projects that have the most impact.

It’s easier to relegate time for little tasks and individual improvements. What about company-wide development and projects with large scopes of work that require a significant investment of time? These are the easiest of all to put on the back burner until resources free up (that’s code for never going to happen). Intentionality is the name of the game. Be sure that when you invest resources, you’re going to see a return on that investment

TJA’s most recent internal investment was developing a new website that embodies the values and capabilities of our team. Our company has grown and evolved over its 15 years, and the website is an essential first impression for potential business, employees and those looking for industry insight. Investing in our web presence pays dividends through lead captures and by acting as a resource for those seeking out agency information.

Get yourself some shoes.

There are consequences for neglecting to take care of your own operations, namely, becoming outdated. Be sure to consider the long-term benefits of updates and continued education. Of course, some projects are important to invest in but may not be in your organization’s wheelhouse to execute. Free up time by connecting with TJA for guidance and expertise on marketing, website development and more.

We’ll make you some sweet kicks

It’s time to start thinking about recovery marketing.

Plan your comeback.

When you’re in the thick of a crisis, it might be all you can do to deal with the fires in front of you. But the businesses most likely to succeed are already beginning to think about what comes next. The steps that your business takes when reentering the market will be a crucial differentiator. While it’s impossible to predict what will happen next and when things will return to “business as usual,” having a proactive plan in place will keep you ahead of category competitors who haven’t thought that far ahead.

Be nimble. Be quick.

We mentioned in our blog “Why having a marketing team in a time of crisis is crucial” that speed to market is going to matter. Your team won’t have the luxury of dawdling when the time comes to capture attention-share at the same time as everyone else. Having the outline of a strategy in place ahead of time will allow you to break to the front of the pack and lead the narrative for your industry.

Encourage your decision-makers to be light on their feet and adhere to one of TJA’s favorite mottos: embrace uncertainty. While it might be challenging to get a team of people who are used to dealing with hard numbers and strict deadlines to be flexible, you’ll find that there’s a lot of room for creativity when some of the rigid structures need to be circumvented. Listen to your marketing team with an open mind, as they’ve had their ear to the ground throughout the duration of the crisis.

Importantly, be sure to share your capabilities with your marketing team. Talk about ideas you’re open to, what your budget looks like, and any other important parameters. It helps your marketing team know how to create appropriate and realistic solutions for you.

What to include in your recovery marketing plan.

It’s important that your plan remains flexible. Make sure each section is amenable to change so that you don’t lose entire swaths of work as a result of a new update to the situation.

  • Content strategy
    Messaging is going to be an important part of how you position yourself to your audience as everyone readjusts to the new normal. Pretending that nothing happened comes off as disingenuous. Copy that isn’t thoughtfully crafted runs the risk of appearing insensitive in ways you hadn’t anticipated. Make sure you’re working with people who know how to entice your consumer base to reengage without compromising your integrity.
  • Targeting
    It’s possible that over the course of current events, your true following rose to the top. Maybe a new segment of consumers gravitated toward your offerings that you didn’t have exposure to before. Reassess who your business is attracting. Decide if you want to readjust your targeting strategies. A marketing team that’s well versed in analytics, persona composition and media targeting can help you through these conversations.
  • Media
    The way people interact with media is also subject to change. During the current example of coronavirus times, the rates at which people consume online content skyrocketed. Once consumers are given the go-ahead to resume their normal activities, we’re predicting that people will engage offline more often and for longer periods to make up for lost time. Depending on your business model and offerings, it might be worth reconsidering out-of-home advertising as people drive to see each other, and meet up at venues, restaurants and other social spaces.

Recovery starts with planning

We know it’s daunting to consider the long term when even next week is a complete unknown. With 15 years in the industry, The James Agency has weathered hard times before and helped put our clients in a position to succeed even through intense adversity. If your team has enough on its plate and wants to consider a strategic comeback, reach out; we’ve got the know-how to help you come out on top.

Start planning

How TJA stays accountable while working from home.

Navigating new territory as a small business.

We’re all in these uncharted waters together. Thousands of employees with little to no telecommuting experience are suddenly working from home with 24 hours of family, significant other or alone time. While there’s no shortage of helpful articles on how to set up a routine to maintain a sense of normalcy, we wanted to tackle another aspect of the work from home experience: accountability.

As a small-but-strong business, we have the privilege of being able to pivot with relative ease. As we get into the flow of the work-from-home dynamic, we’ve learned a few lessons that help keep the engine of our business running while maintaining our focus and upholding the quality of our work.

Virtual check-ins

Our team hops on the Zoom tube at 9AM every day. (We started on Google Hangouts but preferred Zoom’s grid-view option that allows us to see everyone’s face at the same time.) Making sure everyone is present, accounted for and visible on video helps us start the day feeling connected. We also take the time to convey any relevant updates from the previous day. As always, TJA likes to sprinkle some fun in with the business. Our morning video conferences have included glitter bombs, cats, and a company-wide rendition of “Happy Birthday” to our Account Manager Charlie Crews (and yes, it sounded as bad as you’d imagine).

At 4PM, each department conducts smaller video chats to discuss what they’ve accomplished, where they might need support and their goals for the next day. We also use this as a time to catch up and check in on stress levels.

Time tracking in real-time.

One of the first measures we implemented was real-time time tracking. An up-to-the-hour account of how we’re spending hours eliminates the risk of wasting time. It also builds internal trust knowing that everyone is working together toward a common goal. Our project managers can discern patterns of productivity that arise through this new pace of work. That helps them resource for the upcoming days while adapting to new needs.

Transparency in communications.

Over-communication is the name of the game. The TJA environment supports open and honest communication at all times, but never has that been more beneficial or critical than when we’re working remotely. Empowering the team to speak up when they have too much on their plate or are in need of a project helps maintain an even spread of work. it also prevents anyone from feeling overwhelmed or underutilized.

Simultaneously, the need for straightforward client communications has never been more apparent. By engaging in honest discussions about adapting to new business needs and rapid-response action, we’re better able to serve our clients with creative solutions. This, in turn, improves their ability to respond and recover.

Upholding our culture.

The administrative elements of twice-a-day check-ins and real-time time tracking help keep us accountable. Our team also worked hard to maintain our culture while practicing responsible social distancing. With birthday celebrations and Beer Lab hosted over Zoom calls, it brings a sense of togetherness to the company at large. Coming together for moments of joy and fun keeps spirits high and allows us to carry that momentum into our work.

Keep tabs on us.

Everyone is trying to make the best of the new situation we find ourselves in. Follow us on social to see more of our work-from-home strategies and shenanigans. We’d love to hear from you about creative working solutions you’ve seen.

Stay social (but distant)

Why having a marketing team in a time of crisis is crucial.

How companies can recover from an unexpected event.

No business is ever 100% ready when a crisis hits. While you’re reeling from a major event that impacts your day-to-day operations, it’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind. When time is of the essence and your company needs to think on its feet, you’ll be glad to have a marketing team behind you: they will deliver a quick and appropriate response to your audience, and you can focus on steering the ship.

The time for belabored, designed-by-committee strategy plans is gone. The agility of a specialized marketing team streamlines go-to-market initiatives, whether you’re in reaction or recovery mode. When the status quo is changing by the hour, decisive action is a priority, regardless of your industry.

Rapid response in an evolving environment. 

Publicize your actions and efforts without delay. Whether you’re fielding customer inquiries, putting out press releases, or posting digital content to keep your consumers informed and instructed, a dedicated marketing team can alleviate the pressure of saying the right thing in the right way. Maintaining an active online presence also conveys confidence to your customers and partners, providing a sense of security that your organization is prepared to weather the storm.

Importantly, if you have any pre-scheduled content that is supposed to go live, ensure your team evaluates and edits it for appropriateness. This isn’t the time for radio silence, but releasing tone-deaf or callous content is even worse.

Business as (un)usual.

Marketing helps drive commerce—yes, even during a crisis. While the messaging that accompanies a commerce strategy should be thoughtfully executed, carefully considered marketing encourages consumers to engage with your brand and the economy at large. Some of your business offerings may pivot to accommodate what the market requires under the circumstances. Lean on your marketers to promote these new services or products to the right audiences through defined targeting.

Go where the people are: individuals are likely to spend more time online and on social media during a crisis to stay informed, check up on friends and family, or take a mental break. Cater to this digital audience by communicating frequently and raising awareness about your brand in order to stay front-of-mind. Utilizing strategies like paid social media, paid search, email campaigns and more will put you in front of the right people as they spend even more time online.

This doesn’t apply to me.

If you’re operating in an industry that is less affected by the crisis, it’s still highly recommended that you take a moment to consider a long-term response with your marketing team. Think of the actions your company will need to take when this crisis comes to a conclusion; bring your decision-makers to the table and assess how your organization will adjust to changes in the economy at large; talk about how to modify campaigns and messaging to reflect the emotional state of your consumers.

Ethical marketing in a time of crisis.

Marketing with empathy and sensitivity will lead to positive associations with your brand. Fear mongering, misinformation, and preying on insecurities won’t go unpunished. Brand responses are monitored closely, and the public is not afraid to take down those who are tactless. Now more than ever, it’s critical to have a team of specialists who knows how to navigate the changing tides with sincerity and an in-depth understanding of your audience.

If your organization needs assistance with crisis communication, recovery strategies, digital presence or more, reach out to our team. We specialize in creative responses to novel situations, and can help you brainstorm ways to integrate new approaches. Whatever you need, we’re ready to support you.

Start the conversation

The billboard is still relevant to your marketing mix and here’s why.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. 

It all began when Dracula showed up on our team Slack channel. Our Boss Lady posted a billboard advertising the Netflix original series in a remarkably clever way. Take a look

Neat, right? As the sun goes down, the light source on the left edge of the billboard casts a strategically constructed shadow by refracting light off the “stakes” to paint a portrait of the notorious bloodsucker himself. Considering the subject matter of the show, this portrait in shadow seemed poetically appropriate. More than that, the advertisement took full advantage of the medium. We’re all existing in a digital world saturated with digital ads. Still, the Dracula billboard owned its medium by integrating elements that literally can’t be replicated online: an interplay between light, shadow and three-dimensional objects. 

Executions like these keep us believing in the billboard as a viable and sustainable media decision. The industry at large seems to agree, too. Over the past decade, while radio and print advertising took hard hits as companies flocked with their media budgets to digital advertising, out-of-home (OOH) advertising has seen 31 consecutive quarters of growth. Part of the reason for OOH’s continued success has been its ability to incorporate the same data-driven decision making that make digital ads so effective. Taking those insights and applying them to a medium that exists offline allows marketers to get the best of both worlds: an ad that boasts repeated exposure to a broad audience in their day-to-day lives, but is also specifically targeted. 

The right place. The right time. The right people. 

In order to capture the attention of the right audience, use tools and services created to layer data filters that enhance targeting and performance tracking. Our Senior Media Planner and Buyer chimes in:

“Understanding where your ideal target lives and where they work is key to getting on the right billboards, so working with a partner that can layer in census data and traffic patterns can make a night and day difference. Just because a board gets a ton of traffic doesn’t mean it’s the right board for you. It’s important to use all the tools to make sure the right eyes are seeing your billboard.” 

Instead of guesstimating where your optimal audience is looking, get pinpointed information on where they are and when, as well as where they’re heading. No ad exists in a silo, and billboards are especially context-dependent. Through diligent research and reliable partners, you can rake in the results by capturing the attention of your consumer base by being in the right place at the right time. Lean on the information that your company already has access to, because it can inform and support placement decisions. Then, consult with expert product partners to layer on advanced informatics that will accelerate goal actualization.

Omnipresence. 

Since billboards have the benefit of repeat exposure to the right audience, it is equally advantageous to have your message follow your audience once they reach their destination. Most quality digital partners will provide you with the capability to retarget the pool of people who passed by your sign. You can then further refine that pool based on behavioral or demographic preferences. That way you’ll capture IRL impressions through your billboard’s geographic placement, and accumulate a refined pool of consumers that you can put purposeful dollars toward since they resemble your ideal audience. Your message will pursue this target audience, giving them opportunities to reencounter your brand across multiple touchpoints. This multi-dimensional approach brings your audience into your world across mediums—both in the digital realm and in real life. Geotargeting with further filtering is a strategic tactic to strengthen your staying power and front-of-mind positioning. Some considerations to keep in mind though: with a narrower audience, CPM rates (cost per thousand impressions) will increase for digital ads that get served. If you’re going for a broad reach, this may not be the tactic to use. While initial exposure includes anyone who passes your billboard, remarketing efforts will be restricted to a narrow point on the funnel. This is a quality over quantity move. 

It’s a matter of scale.

Whether you’re aiming for maximum brand exposure or are hoping to capture the attention of a specific audience, billboards can help you maximize your return when they’re a part of your marketing mix. Knowing your end goal for running an OOH campaign is key—are you promoting a one-time event like a 3-day sale at your location, or are you launching a new product? There are effective tactics to accomplish wide range goals utilizing OOH and other mediums to complement those efforts. The good news is The James Agency has experience with mixed media campaigns and OOH placement. The experts on our team can help you wherever you are on the spectrum of broad reach to narrow targets. Start the conversation to begin exploring your options today. 

Get in touch > 

IRL: The power of face time in an email world.

In an industry where “fast” is often hailed as “good,” slowing down and taking the time to meet in person may seem like an outdated way to get shit done. Emails can be shot off with approvals, signatures and questions, and calls can handle anything requiring an extended discussion, right? Right. But in addition, there are just some things you need to see to believe. We’re going to lay out which instances merit some quality time face-to-face.

  1. 1. First engagement
    When engaging with destination clients like Travel Costa Mesa, pictures just won’t do it justice. Our team takes the time to get the ground-zero experience and internalize the look, feel, sound and scent of the place. Our clients give us first-hand accounts of why the people they cater to appreciate what they’re offering, and then we see it for ourselves. What gets them excited? How does the culture of the organizers align with the culture of the audience? Getting to experience the answers to these questions makes marketing them more authentic. It demonstrates there’s a genuine understanding between the brand and the people they interact with.
  2. 2. Campaign presentations
    The launch of a new campaign is an exciting time for everyone. Market research is translated into strategy, that strategy is executed by creative, web, media and PR. Due to their intricate nature, we prefer to present campaigns in person as much as possible. That way, clients can see tangible versions of logos and ads, visualize PR activations, and thoroughly understand media plans. Meeting in person prompts healthy dialogue, making it easier to ask questions and get answers for both parties. This ensures everyone is on the same page; if there is any confusion, it’s easily addressed in the room. Additionally, nonverbal communication comes across clearly, which enhances everyone’s understanding. By encouraging as much clarity as possible, campaign concepts can be delivered in the spirit they were intended.
  3. 3. Major events & milestones
    We love to celebrate big wins with our partners. Whether it’s a grand opening, a significant anniversary or a noteworthy happening, it’s exciting to see these functions in person, especially when they’re events that our team got to work on. Showing our support in person also strengthens the bond between our clients and us: we love to show up for them during moments when they get to see the fruits of their labor.
  4. 4. Ongoing touchpoint
    We have the privilege of working with several longtime clients. They know our rhythms, we know theirs, and this creates a productive harmony between our efforts and their goals. Even in relationships like these, where we’re familiar with what needs to be done and how, it’s important that we still treat the engagement like it’s on the front burner. Getting face-to-face temperature checks helps keep the work from stagnating. It also is a good time to course correct. Is the aim of the campaign aligned with upcoming goals? Have any objectives changed? Take the time to catch up and keep your longstanding clients happy.
  5. 5. “The Taste” by LA Times
    An example of how we go the extra mile to meet our clients, Travel Costa Mesa hosts an annual event called “The Taste” by LA Times. The event brings restauranteurs from all over Orange County together for an elevated food festival, complete with chef demonstrations, live music and limitless sampling from the stalls. Multiple departments were engaged in marketing efforts for the event, from our PR pros coordinating influencer engagement to the creative team making digital designs for media placements. Beginning with the inaugural event in 2018, the account manager from Client Services and PR Director went to see how the event was executed and ensure branding efforts went smoothly. In 2019, our Creative Director, Production Director and Content Strategist went to experience the event to capture footage and better convey it through creative. This boots on the ground understanding helps us create an even more authentic portrayal for the next event.

If you’re looking for an agency that actively pursues your best interest and takes the time to meet you face to face, then you’ve come to the right place. See our services and get inspired by what we can do for you.

We can help with that >

How to use decision filters to prioritize your life.

In good company.

TJA has the good fortune to welcome inspirational individuals into our fold. They share their hard-won knowledge so we can benefit from their expertise. During our most recent quarterly huddle, the whole company came together to review our wins and strategize for the upcoming months. Speaker and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Russ Perry of Design Pickle, was invited to give us the low down on an indispensable tool for prioritizing our objectives: decision filters. His insight resonated with our firmly-held beliefs about establishing boundaries, maintaining personal integrity and setting goals. If those are values you want to integrate more into your personal and professional life, read on.

Shiny object syndrome.

Decision making is unavoidable, especially when there’s a never-ending torrent of content, opportunities, challenges, to-do lists, obligations and indecisions. How much energy do you spend deciding what to do before you even begin a task? Does it add up? Does it weigh down on you? When your options are seemingly infinite, and the people, places and things demanding your attention are endless, you are forced to streamline and prioritize. It’s time to break the chains of shiny object syndrome.

Decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is real, y’all. The more you invest in making decisions, the more energy your body consumes, the more depleted you are at the end of the day. The real kicker is that longer sessions of decision making actually result in deteriorating quality of judgment. Here’s the science to prove it. Feel free to use this rationale next time you’re trying to get out of a long meeting, but don’t blame it on us if it backfires. Knowing that our attention is a precious resource that gets spent, how can we be more selective with what we dedicate our energy to? 

Use a filter.

Time to dig deep. The concept of a decision filter relies entirely on what you value in your life. If you’re looking at your aspirations from 30,000 feet, and are thinking about your long-term goals and overarching ambitions, what matters most to you? Where do you want to go? We broke the categories into personal and professional, but you could have a set of decision filters for any area of your life—family, finances, relationships, etc. The point of adding this tool to your cognitive arsenal is to increase your certainty in each move you make. With certainty, you can make decisions faster and trust their outcomes, which brings you closer to your dreams in a shorter period of time. Sounds like a good deal, no?

Make it personal.

Once you’ve done the soul searching and come up with your top priorities, apply your filter throughout the day. If one of your top values is to travel more, take a moment before each task and hold it up to your filter. Will spending the time, money or energy on this particular activity bring you closer to taking a remarkable trip? If your main ambition is to build your own business, will the conversations you’re having and people you surround yourself with help you get there? It’s impossible to live your whole life according to your filter, but one of the most useful traits of employing a decision filter is that it shows you how often you’re acting for (or against) your best interest. That knowledge in and of itself can encourage corrective habits to get you closer to your goals.

Scale it up.

Decision filters can go beyond the individual. We have agency-wide filters that keep us honed in on our objectives and keep us from straying from our purpose. Through clearly written mission and vision statements, the entire agency knows what matters, and every decision—whether it’s acquiring new clients or taking on new talent—is measured against our values. This sometimes means turning down enticing opportunities. It’s hard to rebel against shiny object syndrome, especially when it comes in the form of a promising prospect. Through experience, we’ve learned that even the best-looking possibilities can work against our best interests. Every organization stands to benefit from aligning their team over the goals and values that pave the path toward success. Here are a few of our filters to inspire you and prompt you to create some of your own:

  • Comparing potential clients and partners to our core values and making sure they walk our walk
  • Holding fast and steady to who we are and who we aren’t to vet team members
  • Ensuring there’s a “why” for every “what” to help us keep on the correct path as we grow as a business

Energy and attention are resources you can’t afford to waste, so utilize your decision filters wisely to achieve the goals you set for yourself. If your organization is looking to have a deeper discussion about how to accelerate toward its aspirations, we’d love to learn more about what your organizational filters are and how we can apply them to creative marketing endeavors.

Let’s strategize >

2019 Year-in-Review Highlights

Let our work speak for itself.

16 times on the podium:

  • Entrepreneur 360 | 2019 Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America
  • AZ Central Top Companies to Work For in Arizona, Small Company
  • Phoenix Business Journal Best Places to Work in the Valley
  • MarCom Award | Web Video/Marketing | Travel Costa Mesa
  • MarCom Award | Web Video/Marketing | National Harbor
  • MarCom Award | Marketing/Promo Campaign/Branding Refresh | Travel Costa Mesa
  • MarCom Award | Marketing/Promo Campaign/Branding Refresh | Spinato’s Pizzeria
  • MarCom Award | Web Video/Marketing | Travel Costa Mesa
  • MarCom Award | Marketing/Promotion/Guide | Travel Costa Mesa
  • Addy Award | Elements of Advertising-Logo Design | Loft+Manor
  • Addy Award | Branded Content & Entertainment | Travel Costa Mesa
  • Addy Award | Sales & Marketing | Hotel Valley Ho
  • Addy Award | Integrated Advertising National Consumer Campaign | Mountain Shadows
  • Addy Award | Print Advertising, Branded Content & Entertainment | The Cliffs Hotel & Spa
  • Spaces Arizona Awards 2019 | Best in show
  • 2019 PRSA Phoenix Award of Merit | Colleen’s Dream Foundation Butterfly Effect Campaign

6 Brand Videos:

10 Rebrands & New Brands:

  • Camelot Homes
  • National Harbor
  • Starfire Golf Club
  • Cabana
  • Mavrix
  • Spinatos Pizzeria
  • ECD Systems
  • ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho
  • From the Rooftop
  • Poppy

16 New Websites:

2020 promises to be filled with more of the exciting projects and people that make TJA so special. Cheers to the new year!

5 tips to help you calm the crazy during photo/video shoots

A big shoot is coming up, and you’re getting prepared for the fast-paced, rapid-fire action. If you haven’t read our blog on everything that comes before the shoot, go check it out now to make sure all your bases are covered. Shoot days are always sprinkled with a bit of mania since time is limited and there likely isn’t a second chance to get it right. This guide is here to help you make the most of your day, keep the cast and crew efficient, and minimize the guesswork involved when calling the shots.

Bring your bible.

You’ll live by your shotlist on the day of the shoot. It serves as the rough itinerary of your day, and has all the information that anyone involved with the shoot would need to know:

  • The contact information for the crew, client, talent and venue
  • Shoot schedule
  • Concept overview
  • Storyboard and moodboard
  • Keywords and messaging
  • Script
  • Model release forms.

Bring one for yourself, and bring a few extras for key members of the shoot.

The purpose of a shot list is to tell you precisely what you need to capture and how. It minimizes the time spent hemming and hawing over how to get the right angle, or whether you should do certain shots now or later. Of course, there will always be some in-the-moment decision making, and you’ll have to be flexible if the shot you planned isn’t executing the way you hoped. But the keywords here are “it minimizes time.” Often, you get one go-round at a big shoot. Do-overs are impractical and expensive, so pre-planning as much as possible helps you when you start rolling.

Scout. 

It’s a tale as old as catfishing: online pictures are not always faithful to the IRL experience. If you’ve only been able to see the shooting location online, make sure you take some time before cameras, cast and crew all show up to scope out the scene for yourself. Maybe things have moved, buildings aren’t as attractive as they once were or it’s much, much smaller than you had envisioned. Give yourself the chance to prepare for these new circumstances, or plan alternatives to make things easier. Doing this in advance saves some time. 

Hot tips: 

  • Google street view. It’s not like being there in person, but if you only have architecture shots from five years ago to go off of, the street view gives a more faithful day-to-day representation for outdoor settings. 
  • FaceTime. If you have someone on the ground you can call, have them give you a quick, virtual walkabout. 
  • Have a plan B. Even before you go scouting, do a little research on what other nearby areas could serve the same purpose if you need to make a last-minute switcheroo.

Get there early. 

We cannot emphasize this enough. Whatever you think is early, show up half an hour earlier than that. Murphy’s Law seems to apply in double doses for shoot days. Having a little extra time at the beginning to get your mind right, smooth the rough edges, make sure everyone is adequately caffeinated, relocate people who are sitting in a spot you have to set up, help crew with any questions, run over your shot list, etc. etc. etc. will help the whole process. 

What to do when people don’t show. 

Welp. It was bound to happen sooner or later. But now’s no time to panic: you brought those extra model release forms, right? Okay, great. Look around you. Are there people walking by who would be able to fill those roles? Approach them politely and ask them if they want to be in a movie. We’re entirely serious. This is one of those times where you just gotta roll with the punches and do the best you can with what you got, and sometimes who you’ve got is a kind stranger off the street.

Keep an open mind.

Having a flexible approach is your biggest strength. Be ready for anything (and we mean anything) and stay light enough on your feet to make quick decisions. If you see the potential for a better shot than the one you had planned, be willing to take that calculated risk. This is a creative activity, after all. Trust your crew and talent to do what they do best. Know when you’re needed to manage a situation, and otherwise, take a step back and let it flow.

5 things you have to do before shooting a brand video to make it a success.

Everything that comes before “Lights, camera, action!”

Creating a brand video is the ultimate creative project. Storytelling harmonizes with videography to become a money-making, movie-quality video the client gets to splash across their website, paid media and social media platforms. However, there’s more to creating a film than storyboarding and day-of shoots; myriad decisions that involve other departments are critical to the final result. In this blog, we’re highlighting four considerations that go into making our award-winning brand videos. Read on to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on behind the scenes.

How media buying influences videography. 

One of the biggest influences on a brand video comes from the media department. How will the video be used? Has ad space been bought that comes with sizing and timing constraints? Taking the endgame usage into consideration at the very beginning will eliminate many challenges during the editing phase. If you know you need a fifteen-second, vertical video for promoted stories on Instagram, writing that into the storyboard will align the creative process with the practical application. 

Add this to your to-do list:
Start a “future project” section part of your storyboard that lists all the applications for this video. Where will it be posted? How long will it be? What are the specs for social media platforms where it’ll go up? Usage can determine content, so having a written-out understanding can constructively guide creative brainstorming. 

KPIs and client objectives.

Keeping the measurable goals in mind is not a very sexy part of the creative process, but it’s essential. It actually makes telling your story easier by supplying queues on what to include and what to leave out. Understand upfront how the value of this brand video will be determined. Knowing what will be considered a success from the client’s perspective will prevent difficult conversations down the road. Better to course-correct toward the beginning than realize at the very end that your goals and the client’s objectives are entirely estranged.

Add this to your to-do list:
Before any work is done on concepting the video, agree upon three measurable KPIs and write them at the top of any documents relating to the shoot. Get a written statement from the client stating what they will consider a success and keep that as a North Star throughout the duration of the project.

How casting and data go hand in hand.

Did you know Google Analytics can help you narrow in on whom you should cast in your video? Here at TJA, we do significant research on target audiences to understand who they are and what they want. Casting decisions should take demographic and psychographic data pulled from reliable sources into consideration. Choose actors whom your audience can empathize with or aspire to be. 

Add this to your to-do list:
Have your team source information about your audience from your first-party platforms, like Facebook Audience Insights and Google Analytics. Combine that with third-party industry data to make data-backed casting decisions. 

Location, location, location. 

You’ve seen pictures online; maybe you spent some time on the Google Street View scoping out the area. Now it’s time to visit the locations IRL. It’s critical that you get face-to-face with your shooting spots. Assuming that the space will work without walking through it is like trusting a kindergartener with your dental work. Get a grasp on the variables, so that they don’t end up undermining the whole operation. 

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Walk through all of your pre-planned shots in the space so that you can check how angles, lighting and framing are going to turn out. Nine times out of ten, you’ll discover there’s a shot that isn’t quite as feasible as you thought. Do this far enough in advance so you can make edits to the shot list without throwing everything into chaos. 

So where does creativity come in?

Even with all these external considerations, the core of filming a brand video is to tell a story. The narrative thread will be the heart and soul for creative efforts. Media, target audience data and location provide the structure to build the story around. Additionally, once shooting begins, there will inevitably be improvisation. You’ll need to get creative with shots when timing gets tight, or when things on set don’t go to plan. Stay loose and go with the flow; it’s better to think on your feet than to force a shot just for the sake of the storyboard. Keep standards of quality high and the finished product in mind: an unexpected, dramatic sunset can be the money shot that pulls the whole video together. 

Add this to your to-do list:
During the lead up, think hypothetically about multiple ways you can achieve the same effect if an obstacle crops up. How will you handle talent running late? Adverse weather? Set malfunctions? Lost props? By employing problem-solving before you even reach the set, your mind will be primed to handle any situation you find yourself in. 

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