Welcome to Swirl Studios' new scribe series: Showrunner Strategies.
Showrunners are in charge of every aspect of producing a television show. From hiring the staff to approving locations, from addressing network notes to managing talent asks. We are, as they say, the chief, cook and bottle washer.
We get dirty and we don't stop until the job is done right.
Each article in our series features: advice, tips, moves, insights and business solutions from experienced television veterans. Our goal is to provide information for all those who are expanding their company's content.
Whether you're a CMO, a PR professional, or an entrepreneur striving to make an impact with your video content, we are here to assist YOU.
Providing quick reads, Showrunner Strategies targets unscripted formats to support storytelling objectives with a polished tone.
The world of branded content was birthed from television formats like reality, talk shows and documentary. Memorable branded, original content is actually tv in disguise, just shorter.
First up: Casting.
When considering who should to be the face of a video, remember...authenticity leads. On all vertical platforms, the scrolling stops when something or someone real stands out.
People will buy into messaging when they believe it's the truth.
Actors act. They have learned the art of transforming themselves for a role. And there are incredible scripts for them in film and commercials. But if your content is anchored by someone pretending to be something they are not, it will not fly.
Here are a few ways to find real people for your unscripted content.
JOIN FACEBOOK GROUPS
There are hundreds of thousands of niche groups on Facebook, with very targeted populations. Facebook is where people generally have their guard down. It is possible to get a sense for someone's personality by the tone of their posts. If the group's moderators require questions to be answered before joining, be truthful that you are scouting their population, and ask them for assistance locating members who fit your criteria.
SEARCH FOR A CERTAIN # (HASHTAG) ON INSTAGRAM
Let's say you need a middle aged dad and an adorable dog. Go onto Instagram and search for words under "tags" like: #dad, #dadlife, #nycdad, #dog, #dogsofinstagram. Millions of options are instantly at your fingertips. Send the results at the top of the list a direct message or comment on one of their posts so they can contact you back.
ASK YOUR NETWORK
Remember that people want to help other people. Many times marketing, advertising, television, social media is an alluring field to those working in other industries. So a simple email to friends and family that is specific can yield amazing results. Try making a flyer on Canva to include as a forward or post for others. Be sure to ask your network to forward your email to their people, too.
HIRE A CASTING DIRECTOR
Uncovering talent seems easy enough, but knowing how to mold each rock into a diamond can take some elbow grease.
Asking the right questions as it pertains to origin story. Knowing what motivates a human. Being able to assess how emotional and responsive someone will be once the camera rolls. These are all things that are nuanced. If you're project has a budget, hire a casting director.
Once you've identified talent for your content, schedule a zoom call with them and let them know you'll record it. Make sure to ask a few throwaway questions at the top to get them warmed up. Keep it to 15-20 minutes and save the videos to share with your colleagues.
It is an exciting time for video content. So much possibility. So many platforms. Let's Swirl!
Abbey LeVine is the Head of Content at award-winning Swirl Studios in NYC. She has launched and run television shows like: "Dr. Phil", "Beyond Scared Straight", "Love + Hip Hop" on network television. Now, an evangelist for leveraging social media and digital platforms to tell stories, LeVine's agency partners with PR Firms, Brands, Production Companies and Influencers.
High concept video is exciting. It’s flashy. It’s sexy. It’s mesmerizing.
But it isn’t REAL.
Advertising is a fantasy from the minds of creatives who want you to think a certain way. Their way. Commercials are created to sell...by design. Seems obvious, right?
But the psychology behind ads can be overlooked. We are so used to being spoon-fed commercials between every piece of content we love: shows, podcasts, songs on the radio, popped up during streaming videos.
The reason storytelling on social media is taking off is because there is a hunger for the authentic. Creative. Compelling. Consumable. But not controlled.
Speaking from the heart instead of from the pocketbook has a place in heavy rotation now. And there is a way to do it so it is still stylized. Or Comical. Or emotional. And filmed beautifully.
That’s a critical piece of it. Gear has gotten incredibly accessible. So are the people operating cameras and lighting and editing and graphics. All of it is much easier, nimbler, possible.
We see mavericks like Gary Vaynerchuk hiring trailblazers like Claude Silver to be his “Chief Heart Officer.” You know what Claude does? She manages the people and hires them for Vayner (and has a dozen other responsibilities, I’m sure). I heard her speak recently and she’s like a mix of your cool aunt and the best boss you ever had. This is who SHOULD be leading humans. The Chief Heart Officer. She chose that title, by the way.
I liked her instantly, then I listened to her. Isn’t that how you want your feeds to be?
Authentic connection with your audience is imperative. Our BS meters are high—we've been trained by years of slick ads. Because of that, expectations are ever increasing.
Brands being transparent in messaging builds trust. And it can be a little uncomfortable as a brand to take that leap. Start with your instagram. Incorporate your LinkedIn articles. Finesse your videos and distribute them wide.
SO MANY SCREENS, SO LITTLE TIME.
Video can be a confusing landscape. Traditional broadcast television is losing eyeballs as consumers opt for smaller screens, shorter shows and platforms many of have never heard of before.
With streaming services like YouTube TV, IGTV and Facebook Watch, people can find programming on their phones, computers and ipads. And coming this fall, Disney + will further the trend with their own on-demand service, a good bet to rival the others with their premium content.
Viewership is down up to 60% on major networks in prime time. Even large scale live events, like Superbowl 2019 lost viewers.
By 2021, it is expected that more than 81 million will cut their cable television…or simply never sign up at all. Thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, live TV has become more of a “bespoke” experience: Customers want to curate their viewing experience and have control over it. Power to the people!
WATCH AT HOME, ON THE SUBWAY, IN THE CAR, SUN TANNING, ON THE SKI LIFT,
With video content available on Instagram, Facebook, OTT channels and basically everywhere, viewers program to their patterns and habits. It's almost become a sport to find the best premium content. "Have you seen the video about the....?”
This is something evolving brands and can monopolize on and implement now with relatively small time and financial investment. Making your own quality content has never been easier. Short form, shareable content that earns eyeballs also builds trust with consumers.
No more programming marketing in :30 blocks between acts that costs millions on network television. Fortune 500 companies and boutique startups all have the same access on social and digital channels.
SEE IT ON TV!
While new consumers of streaming content are growing rapidly and the rate of adoption can seem stunning, the good ol' big screen has still found a way to stay relevant. After all, it has evolved from black and white, to remote control to cable.
So whose got odds the OG TV will be here in another 20 years? Netflix reported that 70% of its viewing happens on TV sets and YouTube’s content for TV sets has doubled year-over-year. And OTT is making a huge play.
The bottom line - consumers are eating up video content and want access to it anytime on any screen. Original content is King AND Queen of the prom right now.
It's possible to impact audiences with short and long form content. You can’t go wrong with video storytelling. Make an impact. Leave an impression. Grow your audiences. Distribution has NEVER been easier.
How video is converting to sales
In an instant, social media morphed from a “nice to have” tool to the cornerstone of an essential marketing strategy and—no newsflash here—it will continue to grow exponentially. How, you ask? By 2021, the number of people worldwide will reach 3.2 billion across all popular platforms. That’s more than half of everybody, everywhere!
Social media has changed the way we communicate, engage and do business. Its literally the Wild, Wild West—few laws, lots of room to grow and endless opportunities. Just like the advent of television, the web, (or electricity!) this is the next frontier.
3 Strategies for 2019:
MAKE YOUR OWN RULES
With fewer rules, brands have the freedom to create their personal voice and identity by developing original content and sharing with a wide audience. One example, the fashion retailer Everlane, does this with its #transparencytuesday hashtag, allowing the brand to share its bold philosophy on ethical, sustainable and honest business practices.
FREEDOM TO THE CONTENT
Story-based content not only provides an in-depth experience but also creates a space for brands to share their journies in an authentic way. Organic, “sticky" content like behind-the-scenes and new product launches help connect on a deeper level and build affinity. Its not what you sell anymore, its why you sell it.
BRIGHT, SHINY OBJECTS
93% of businesses reported landing new customers through their videos posted on social media platforms. Let that sink in. Video is the new killer app—the language everyone speaks now. Cover an event, a live interview, brand highlights and more…the blend of images and audio stays in customers' minds and deepens brand loyalty because they can be experienced anywhere, any time and full frontal action. That’s something that you, apparently, take to the bank.
Video Content is exploding.
Now brands can connect with as many viewers as cable and networks do - all accessible by mobile devices. There are 800 Million users, up from 700 million since IGTV launched in June.
IGTV presents a unique opportunity to engage with audiences on a deep level. IG (Instagram) TV is a newish feature of the popular app where users can post videos from :15 seconds to 60 minutes in length.
Brands such: Netflix, Bacardi, Warby Parker, Lyft and Reebok have already impressed their followers and established leadership positions on IGTV by producing original content in the few months it has been around.
Why Should Your Brand Should Be on IGTV?
Programming on Instagram leans towards lifestyle - and unlike broadcast tv or traditional ads, the boundaries are limitless.
Viewership analytics are available in real time, making it easy to measure engagement without lengthy reports.
The celebrities on Instagram - Influencers - those who have amassed more than 25K followers already - can help your brand get even more eyes just by posting on their IGTV.
Episodic is Trending
Meredith is developing 10 original shows for IGTV.