Meet the Expert
President, Jon Dann Communications
- 30-year TV news career, including staff producer for NBC’s "Dateline," encompassing new delivery platforms for digital storytelling.
- Recipient of three Peabody Awards, three duPont-Columbia Awards, and a Certificate of Special Merit from the Academy Awards.
- Won his third duPont-Columbia Award for producing the PBS special "War Stories from Ward #7D," which followed the struggles of Iraq War veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury. In 2011, he was a finalist for a Gerald Loeb Award for financial reporting.
- Produced the highest-rated program in CNBC history, "Marijuana Inc: Inside America’s Pot Industry." Hour-long documentary has aired more than 100 times and was nominated for a national Emmy.
- Other productions include "Tom Brokaw Reports: Boomer$!," two-hour documentary on the legacy and challenges of the baby boom generation, reported by NBC Senior Correspondent Tom Brokaw, with whom Dann collaborated for nearly a year as program creator and senior producer.
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President, Jon Dann Communications
- We are seeing a democratization of communications media.
- Until recently, video mass communication was centrally controlled by a few powerful TV networks. They owned the delivery systems, acted as gatekeepers, and made billions of dollars delivering "eyeballs" to advertisers. It was an ideal environment for mass consumer goods from large-scale manufacturers, but few others could participate due to the exorbitant cost. They simply could not afford the enormous price of commercial production nor the hefty network advertising rates. This kept video mass communication out of reach for most small to mid-level companies.
With the advent of the Internet, however, all this has changed. The communications process has become more democratized. Virtually every company has a website and a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn. Some are even starting their own video "channels" via YouTube and other platforms.
- Everyone has access to a video camera but few understand how to use it effectively.
- Access to a video camera was once very limited. The cameras were expensive and bulky and very few people knew how to operate them. Editing programs were expensive, too. That's all changed, however. Just about everyone now has access. A startup can shoot a video on an iPhone, edit it on iMovie, and raise $50,000 on Kickstarter. Companies that could never have afforded TV advertising can now use this very powerful tool online. More than one has created a video that has gone "viral." These are the exceptions, however. The lesson: There's plenty of access to the tools, but few who can actually tell stories effectively with them.
- Storytelling is more central to marketing and communications.
- Right now, the concept of “story” is a hot topic in advertising and marketing. People respond to stories, and every company has one: their origin, the obstacles they've overcome, the company's unique vision, mission and culture. Many companies don't know their own stories however. They're so busy with the day-to-day, this isn't something they think about too often. But it's important. It can be a big selling point externally -- and also a big rallying point internally.
- There's a shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting.
- With production now so much more affordable, it's easier to create videos targeting small groups of key people, or even to reach a single individual. We're moving away from an era of mass communication to one that is more customized and web-centered. It's a massive transition: from broadcasting to "narrowcasting."
It's all a matter of who you want to reach. Is it a handful of investors? A group of potential employees? Key clients? A lightbulb has gone on inside individual companies, and various individuals within the organization are realizing the power. It's the CEOs, it's HR, it's marketing. Once they define their audience and what it is they want to tell their audience, they're seeing a wonderful opportunity.
- There's growing awareness that the digital environment is different from print.
- Research shows that most of the sales cycle takes place long before a customer ever calls or emails the company. Customers are researching and checking out products and services online. The same is true with potential employees. When a company's website is hard to navigate or is basically just a glorified annual report, this can hurt the company's image with the people they most want to attract. In the digital sphere, the opportunity to be creative and engaging is enormous and one of the best ways to do this is with video.
- Ever-shortening attention spans require stories to be more compact.
- People are impatient. On the web, shorter videos tend to get more play. There's a need for more compact storytelling and to create videos that grab and hold attention. This is a specific talent. It can be very hard to do without assistance. Companies have their sell sheets and marketing collateral. But it's usually too much data to process and doesn't translate to effective communication. Videos should be simple, clear and brief. They should have impact. They should motivate people to take action.
- Sponsored content is on the rise.
- Sponsored content has been gaining ground. What began in print is now happening more in video. It's not always a predictable connection and the subject matter may not immediately drive profits – but it can serve an important strategic goal. For example, a big bank recently hired producers with well-established credentials to do a full-length documentary on what the poor go through when they borrow money, often paying exorbitant interest rates. The bank had a strategic interest in halting the worst practices of its low-level competitors: fly-by-night organizations that charge higher rates to those who just want to cash their paycheck. The bank used a video to shape public discourse by bringing an important issue to light that affected the bank's bottom line, while at the same time promoting a social good.
- Everyone is trying to figure out the best way to tap into new media.
- There's a lot of excitement about social media marketing on a mass scale, but as the New York Times recently reported, it may not be as focused and effective as some would hope. As with television advertising, however, it's only going to work well if you have a big budget. If you have only a small budget, you're not necessarily going to get the viewers you think you're going to get. There's a randomness as to who sees an advertisement displayed on sites such as Google and Facebook. This is not to say that the videos are not extraordinarily powerful. But in terms of market reach, the expectations may sometimes be unrealistic, particularly if used in a scattershot approach.
Digital Storytelling: Key Trends